Defense Cross-examination of Former AFRC Combat Commander Focuses on Abuctions and Attempts to Undermine his Credibility

The Hague

April 25, 2008

This morning, Defense Counsel Morris Anyah resumed his cross-examination of Alimamy Bobson Sesay, a former combat commander in the AFRC. Anyah asked a series of questions designed to demonstrate that the witness was not accurate in his description of events with regard to  abductions and the witness was not aware of Charles Taylor’s role in securing the AFRC’s involvement in the government.

Defense challenges Sesay’s understanding of the significance of the abductions of ECOWAS, United Nations, and Religious Officials

Defense Counsel Morris Anyah began by laying a foundation of why these abductions took place: to secure the release of Johnny Pauk Koroma, the lack of recognition of the AFRC at the Lome Peace Accord, as well to ensure that the AFRC would be part of the new government.  The witness agreed with this explanation for why the abductions occurred. Prior to meeting with Charles Taylor (discussed below) the witness claimed that he felt secure in going to Liberia because “as long as the hostages were with us, nothing would happen.” The Defense attempted to undermine this argument by reading from a series of articles that claimed that Sesay was safe because Charles Taylor was facilitating peace through a meeting between Foday Sanko and Koroma that was mediated by Charles Taylor.

Questioning the testimony of Sesay’s meeting with Charles Taylor

The witness decribed being escorted by ECOMOG to Freetown to the Solar Hotel where Nigerian General Maxwell Khobe, Chief of Army Staff in the SLA, came to visit him as well as Kenyan General Daniel Opande, who was the overall force commander in the SLA, as well other officials from the government of Sierra Leone.  Anyah questioned Sesay about how he travelled from Sierra Leone to Liberia and who paid for his hotel and then shifted to questions on whether the RUF was with him during this stay. Once Sesay met with Johnny Paul Koroma in Monrovia, he was told that Charles Taylor was paying for Koroma’s residential facility and then Sesay noticed that Koroma was being guarded by the RUF. In an attempt to undermine the witness’s recantation of these details, Anyah  read a statement the witness made to the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) in 2003 that failed to mention that the RUF was with Johnny Paul Koroma.

Sesay testified that the fact that the meeting with Charles Taylor took place in Liberia and not in Ghana demonstrated Charles Taylor’s influence over both the RUF and AFRC.  In an effort to show that the witness did not know much about the peace process or Charles Taylor, Anyah got Sesay to admit that he was not aware that Charles Taylor was a member of the Committee of Six of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and that the RUF delegates going to Lome were transported by UN aircraft.

Anyah then shifted to Sesay’s prior testimony that during the meeting, Charles Taylor gave the group $15,000 USD. The witness claimed that the money was given to Koroma for “logistics and clothing,” but would not concede that it was for goodwill. Anyah then recanted other details that the witness provided to the Prosecution in prior testimony only to show that these details were missing from the witness’s statements in 2003.  In an attempt to save his credibility, Sesay explained that his responses in 2003 were lacking detail because the questions asked at the time were narrower and did not touch upon these details.  Furthermore, Sesay was afraid to elaborate on details while Charles Taylor remained president.  Anyah pointed out that Sesay met with the OTP 31 times and that at no time prior to the trial did these details come out.

Defense uses media report to demonstrate that the RUF and AFRC were distinct entities

The Defense then focused on a BBC transcript from 1999 where the kidnappers claimed to be part of the AFRC and that the RUF and AFRC retained “distinct identities.” Sesay strongly disagreed with this statement.  To further demonstrate their distinct identities, Anyah went on to read from a series of media reports that claimed that the invasion of Freetown on January 6, 1999 was reported as an exclusive AFRC affair, that the AFRC was excluded by the peace process but the RUF was included, and that the RUF  leaders ignored the AFRC’s interests. Sesay replied that they were different organizations but their aims were the same and they coordinated operations. Sesay also testified that  he agreed that the AFRC was initially left out of the peace accord.

In a further attempt to show that the RUF and AFRC were not the same organization, Anyah referenced an article by Christo Johnson, a former hostage of the AFRC, who claimed that he only saw AFRC members during his captivity and not RUF soldiers.  Sesay claimed Christo Johnson’s description was inaccurate because his movement was limited within the camp and therefore he did not know all that was going on around him.  The Defense went on to read that the commander in the camp told Christo Johnson that it was the RUF that arrested Koroma.

Anyah asked about the Westside Boys arrest of two RUF hostages – Mike Lamin and Dennis Mingo (“Superman”).  Although the witness claimed that AFRC leader Koroma ordered the hostages’ release, the Defense claimed that it was Charles Taylor who facilitated their release. To prove that it was Charles Taylor who secured the hostages’ release, Anyah continued with a series of questions regarding the timing of their release. Not only did this paint Charles Taylor as a peace mediator, it also called into question Sesay’s credibility and his knowledge of what actually occurred.  Furthermore, the Defense claimed that it was Charles Taylor that secured Johnny Paul Koroma’s position as CCP in the government and secured the AFRC’s position in the Sierra Leone army.  Sesay strongly disagreed and held steadfast to his story that it was not Charles Taylor who facilitated this but the fact that the AFRC held hostages which swayed the course of events.

At this point Court was adjourned; proceedings will continue on Monday at 9.30 a.m.