Fifth Day of Cross-examination of Prosecution Witness Isaac Mongor Focuses on Arms, Ammunition and Loose Ends

The Hague

April 4, 2008

The week ended with prosecution witness Isaac Mongor still under cross-examination by the Defense. Defense Counsel Terry Munyard spent much of the morning asking about arms shipments from Libya and Burkina Faso, and seeking Mongor’s aid in bolstering the Defense’s contention that the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) received no arms or ammunition from Charles Taylor from 1993 to 1998. However, Mongor insisted that an arms shipment to the RUF in 1998 had come from Libya through Liberia. Munyard sought to discredit this testimony. He spent the latter part of the trial day asking a series of unrelated questions.

Supply of arms and ammunition to the RUF from 1993 to 1998

Continuing where he left off yesterday, Munyard asked Mongor about an attempt by the RUF to buy arms in 1996. Mongor testified that RUF leader Foday Sankoh had told him after his return from signing the Abidjan peace accords that he had sent his adjutant, Jonathan Kposowa, to Ghana to collect money for the arms and ammunition. Kposowa spent the money for his own purposes and was afraid to return to Sierra Leone. When Mongor said he didn’t know from whom Kposowa was to have received the money in Ghana, Munyard introduced a document purportedly signed by Sankoh (Mongor claimed it wasn’t Sankoh’s signature), which thanked a Libyan government official based in Ghana for past money for arms and ammunition, and requested 1.5 million US dollars more.

Mongor explained that although Kposowa had spent the money for his own purposes (he would not say Passawe had “stolen” it), he had returned to Sierra Leone with Foday Sankoh following a meeting in Liberia after the signing of the July 1999 Lomé Peace Accord. Sankoh subsequently made Kposowa the RUF’s Secretary General.

With regard to another incident, Mongor confirmed telling investigators that Johnny Paul Koroma, the leader of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), had contacted Taylor to request a connection in Libya for purposes of buying arms and ammunition. When Munyard suggested that Mongor, as a senior RUF commander, must have known that Sankoh had direct contacts with Libya, Mongor stated that he knew nothing about arms and ammunition from Libya.

At this point, Munyard confronted him with a prior statement to investigators in which he had told them that he understood an arms shipment by plane to the town of Magburaka in 1998 had come from Libya. Asked how, then, he could have earlier said he knew nothing of supplies from Libya, Mongor replied that he knew nothing about arms from Libya for Sankoh and the RUF, but that the shipment to Magburaka had been for Johnny Paul Koroma and the AFRC. It had been arranged by Charles Taylor and the plane had first passed through Liberia. Mongor testified that he knew the arms came from Libya because Koroma had told him.

Munyard sought to discredit this claim, presenting Mongor with notes from a previous statement to investigators, which stated that Mongor didn’t know where the plane came from, but he’d known that the RUF/AFRC were expecting materials from Burkina Faso. Mongor claimed that the investigators had made a mistake in writing “Burkina Faso” instead of “Libya”, and that for some reason it hadn’t occurred to him to correct the investigator when the notes were read back to him.

Mongor confirmed telling investigators that he thought Ibrahim Bah (identified in previous testimony from several witnesses as a General in Taylor’s NPFL) had been involved in arranging the air shipments of arms and ammunition from Burkina Faso and Libya, including the shipment to Magburaka. Mongor testified that during the time of the AFRC/RUF junta (May 1997 – February 1998), he had accompanied Bah to Johnny Paul Koroma’s house, where Bah and Koroma held a closed door meeting. Koroma later told the assembled commanders that the two had made arrangements for arms shipments. After the AFRC/RUF were dislodged from Freetown in February 1998, Mongor said that new supplies arrived, but he didn’t know whether they had come from Burkina Faso.

Munyard appeared eager to demonstrate that the AFRC/RUF maintained direct links with Burkina Faso, and recalled Mongor’s earlier testimony about a trip by RUF commanders Sam Bockarie (“Mosquito”) and SYB Rogers to Burkina Faso regarding arms. Mongor said that they had gone there at Taylor’s urging, and that Taylor arranged for them to meet with the Burkinabe president (Blaise Compaoré). While Munyard suggested that the large arms and ammunition shipment with which they had returned to Sierra Leone came from Burkina Faso as a result of this visit, Mongor said that this wasn’t the case and that the visit had just been to establish the contact. When Munyard sought to move to another topic, Judge Sebutinde interrupted to say that she wanted to hear the logical conclusion of this explanation: if the supplies hadn’t come from Burkina Faso, where had they come from? Mongor said that Bockarie and Rogers had traveled back through Liberia and had received the arms and ammunition from Taylor.

Loose ends

Munyard then shifted to various issues at different periods of Mongor’s account:

  • Asked whether Bockarie and Taylor ever talked by radio, Mongor said they had. He said that field reports had not been sent directly by Bockarie, but given in writing to a radio operator who then encoded them. He said there had been other discussions, however, and that after Bockarie had received a satellite phone, he also had used that to speak with Taylor. Munyard asked whether Mongor had ever overheard a radio discussion between Bockarie and Taylor. Mongor said he had, but said he couldn’t provide any estimate for the number of times.
  • Munyard asked about Mongor’s earlier testimony regarding a meeting he said had occurred in Voinjama, Liberia on the eve of the invasion of Sierra Leone in March 1991. Mongor had testified that Taylor came to that meeting of RUF and NPFL forces to speak with them. Mongor also said that Taylor called him into the house, where Taylor had thanked him for the job he’d done and told him to “keep the ball rolling”. Munyard confronted Mongor with notes from a previous interview with investigators, which stated that in the meeting with the troops, Taylor had not spoken specifically with Mongor, and that he had told the troops to “keep the ball rolling”. Mongor confirmed saying this to investigators, and explained that during the meeting with the troops, Taylor had not spoken with him directly – but only in the smaller conversation later. He said that Taylor had used the expression “keep the ball rolling” in both the larger talk and the smaller discussion, when he had addressed Mongor personally. Munyard suggested that the meeting had never happened. Mongor said it had, and that the troops had spent the night there before moving to Foya the next morning to enter Sierra Leone.
  • As he did yesterday, Munyard again asked about tension between the RUF and NPFL in 1992. Mongor confirmed that he had been injured at the time of the two operations against the NPFL: “Top 20” and “Top Final”. He received a cut to his head with a machete, saying he thought the NPFL fighters had meant to kill him, and then was detained in Liberia for three weeks. At the end of that time, Mongor said his captors – some of them previously NPFL colleagues – told him that Taylor had called to order his release. Munyard expressed disbelief that NPFL men would have tried to kill Mongor if Mongor’s claim were true that the head of the NPFL, Charles Taylor, really had been the one who had recruited him to train the RUF. Mongor replied that it was some members of the NPFL who tried to kill him, not the organization.
  • Mongor confirmed that prior to these “Top” operations, Sankoh had ordered him arrested for a time because they had been interested in the same woman. It was after his release that Mongor himself organized “Top Final”.
  • Munyard returned to a topic raised yesterday: Mongor’s participation in a massacre of civilians at the village of Sandiaru. He asked Mongor whether he had given an order to the survivors that they should not bury the dead, but rather throw the corpses into the bush. Mongor said he didn’t recall giving that order. Munyard then suggested that Mongor had received the nickname “Tombolo” after the massacre, roughly meaning “someone who can destroy a whole family”. Mongor said he never had that nickname.
  • Munyard asked about the village of Giema, and whether the RUF had treated civilians there “like bush animals”: beating them, keeping them in cells and forcing them to work. Mongor said he hadn’t been the commander there, but had only gone there occasionally to visit his wife and children. He said that the RUF forced civilians in Giema to work for them, but that he had never seen any beatings there.
  • Asked whether Foday Sankoh had used a special name for him, Mongor said Sankoh simply used his given name, Isaac. Munyard asked whether Sankoh had ever called him “Papay” or “Uncle”, and Mongor answered “no, never”.
  • Asked about aspects of his account of fighting with the NPFL before the war in Sierra Leone, Mongor said that the town of Bong Mines had been captured from his group by Prince Johnson’s faction (the Independent NPFL), but could not say how long the NPFL had held it before this happened – only agreeing it had been “several days”. He said he could give no estimate of when the NPFL had captured Bong Mines or reached the Coca Cola factory on the edge of Monrovia.
  • Jumping forward to 2002, Munyard returned to Mongor’s testimony that an RUF delegation sent by Issa Sesay to Taylor to seek campaign funds ahead of pending elections in Sierra Leone (during disarmament, after fighting had ended) had been arrested, returning with nothing. Munyard consulted with Taylor, who appeared highly interested in the proceedings, then asked whether Mongor was aware that Taylor had given the delegation 150,000 US dollars for the 2002 elections, and that nobody had been arrested. Mongor disputed this.
  • Munyard asked whether Mongor had been aware that the Sierra Leonean government of Ahmed Tejan Kabbah had recruited child soldiers during the war, but Mongor insisted he knew nothing about the national army. He said he had never seen a child soldier opposing him in the field. Munyard then asked whether he had ever seen that ULIMO put human heads on sticks. Prosecutor Nick Koumjian objected that it was irrelevant to the case whether other parties had also committed crimes. Munyard said he simply wanted to know whether this was common practice in the region and Judge Doherty allowed the question. Mongor said he hadn’t been aware of ULIMO placing heads on sticks.
  • Asked whether Sankoh and Taylor had really maintained contact from the beginning of the war to the time Taylor became president, as Mongor had testified, Mongor said they had. Munyard expressed doubt, given the bloody “Top” operations in 1992 that pitted the RUF against the NPFL. Mongor said that Sankoh and Taylor were friends and that only death could end that friendship. Munyard asserted that Mongor was wrong – that there had been no communication between Sankoh and Taylor from 1992 until Taylor’s election. Mongor did agree that there had been a disruption in their communication in 2000, but that this had been restored before Mongor’s own arrest in Sierra Leone in May 2000 (which he earlier testified had preceded Sankoh’s arrest by a day). Munyard suggested that the contact had been renewed because Taylor was making an attempt to free UN hostages from the RUF. Mongor said he didn’t know about that.
  • Munyard concluded the day by suggesting that the AFRC and RUF had had a tense relationship from the start of their joint rule following the May 1997 coup. The Defense seemed particularly eager to establish this, and Munyard asked about several angles: whether the AFRC high command had treated RUF commanders equally; whether there were two separate command structures; whether Johnny Paul Koroma said that some members of the RUF were plotting to overthrow him; whether the organizations had separate supplies of arms and ammunition; whether during the February 1998 intervention by ECOMOG, the AFRC command had abandoned the RUF to fight; whether members had felt loyalty to their original organizations; and whether Bockarie had ever expressed dissatisfaction with the AFRC or hostility toward its leaders. Mongor provided no satisfaction to the Defense on any of these accounts. He insisted that the two organizations had worked well together in an integrated command and had shared supplies. He denied knowledge of any tension, suspicions or resentment between the groups. Of Bockarie, Mongor said “he was also part of the AFRC”.

The cross-examination of Isaac Mongor will resume on Monday at 9:30 a.m.