RUF Radio Operator Details Joint Fighting, Unified Command of RUF and Liberian Forces

The Hague

April 9, 2008

Protected prosecution witness TF1-516 testified for a second full day today, adding detail to his previous description of the relationship between the RUF and Charles Taylor, as well as relating new accounts of his experiences during the war. Under questioning from Prosecutor Mohamed Bangura, the witness again testified about communication between Revolutionary United Front (RUF) commanders and Liberian officials, including Taylor, during the January 1999 invasion of Freetown. Likewise, the Prosecution sought clarification from the witness on several points raised in testimony yesterday regarding the provision of arms and ammunition from Liberia to the RUF. Much of the day was spent with the witness offering testimony of occasions on which he said RUF personnel had been summoned to fight Guinea and anti-Taylor rebels in Liberia and Guinea. The witness also described diamond mining operations in the Kono District of Sierra Leone.

Taylor’s role in the January 1999 invasion of Freetown

Prosecutor Bangura began the day by seeking clarification from the witness regarding his testimony yesterday on communication between the RUF and Liberia at the time of the January 1999 invasion of Freetown. The witness said he knew of radio contacts at that time between RUF leader Sam Bockarie and radio station “020”, located at the Executive Mansion in Monrovia, because he monitored some of the discussions from his radio set. Asked to give examples of orders given by Bockarie to commanders in the field at the time just following communication between Bockarie and 020 – as he had related yesterday – the witness said Bockarie’s instruction to Gullit (Alex Tamba Brima, senior commander in the AFRC), to burn government buildings in Freetown, came after one such discussion. The witness also gave an example of Bockarie issuing an order to Gullit following a discussion between Bockarie and “Base 1”, the radio set of Benjamin Yeaten (the director of the Special Security Service in Taylor’s government, and Taylor’s immediate neighbor in Monrovia) to bring prisoners freed from Pademba Road Prison to Bockarie’s location in Buedu.

Bangura asked whether the witness received any reports of atrocities in Freetown following Bockarie’s order to initiate burnings. The witness replied that he received reports from an operator with the forces in Freetown, who said the troops had gone on a rampage, capturing a large number of women and wounding civilians. The Prosecution appeared eager to show that the atrocities were not only ordered by Taylor, but that he knew of them. Asked whether Bockarie reported on the situation in Freetown to any other party, the witness said that Bockarie had made numerous calls to Base 1 on the radio and satellite phone, and sometimes to 020 by satellite phone. The witness said he personally had called Base 1 a number of times at Bockarie’s instruction.

More details on the supply of arms and ammunition from Liberia

Bangura asked again about whether Bockarie ever went to Liberia for ammunition, and the witness said that Bockarie would be called by Base 1 (Yeaten) to go to Foya, Liberia to meet a helicopter with ammunition to bring back to Sierra Leone, and that another time Bockarie had returned from Monrovia with a truckload of ammunition. He said that during the period of the Freetown invasion, Bockarie brought arms in from the Foya route, which had landed there by helicopter. The witness said that upon Bockarie’s return, commanders from the frontlines were summoned to pick it up. He testified that this was the routine any time Bockarie came from Liberia with materials.

The witness described Foya as being a strategic rendezvous point for high-ranking RUF and Liberian officers. When the witness was sent to Foya, he reported to Zigzag Marzah there. He added that Issa Sesay send an RUF commander named Takpo to oversee security of the airfield in Foya.

Bangura asked how the witness knew that the station in the Executive Mansion coordinated the supply of materials to the RUF when these were requested by Bockarie. The witness explained that he was able to monitor communications between Base 1 (Yeaten’s radio) and 020 (Taylor’s radio). He said that sometimes Bockarie, through him, would call Base 1 and get a response from 020, and sometimes would call 020 and get a response Base 1. He said that he could hear those two stations transmitting the RUF request between themselves. With requests for ammunition, the witness said that Bockarie would talk directly with Benjamin Yeaten.

Asked how he knew that arms and ammunition were brought to Sierra Leone by Liberians including “Zigzag” Marzah, “Jungle” (Daniel Tamba), Dopoe Menkarzon, Sampson Weah, and Roland Duo, the witness said he used to see them at the RUF base in Buedu. When supplies were brought, he said that he saw Bockarie signing for them. The witness said that all of them were under the command of “Fifty” (the code name for Benjamin Yeaten), and ultimately, of Taylor.

The witness further testified that when he went to Liberia in June/July 1999 to work directly with Benjamin Yeaten, he received requests from Bockarie for ammunition. Yeaten would sometimes respond to Bockarie that the message had been sent to “his father”, and that Yeaten would reply later. The witness said that materials were sent to Bockarie every time he requested them, and that it was the role of the witness to radio to Bockarie about when, where and how they were to come. The witness also sent messages from Yeaten to General Issa Sesay, the new RUF leader after Bockarie left Sierra Leone for Liberia in 2000, to inform him about materials being provided and to tell him to move to Foya or Monrovia to get them.

RUF assistance to Taylor’s forces

In addition to receiving supplies from Liberia, witness TF1-516 testified that the RUF was sometimes ordered to participate in fighting the Taylor government’s enemies in Liberia and Guinea.

The witness recounted several RUF operations in Liberia, beginning in 1993, when RUF commander Morris Kallon was sent to take strategic towns in Liberia that had been seized by anti-Taylor forces. The witness said that Kallon initially failed, and returned to Sierra Leone for reinforcements from RUF leader Foday Sankoh. Kallon then used this force to push all the way to Taylor’s position at Gbarnga (this was before Taylor was president of Liberia). The witness said he knew about this at the time because he was in Buedu, and saw that the RUF was gathering fighters to send with Kallon.

When the witness first started working with Yeaten, he said that Issa Sesay had not yet replaced Sam Bockarie, and that Yeaten sent a request to Bockarie for “manpower” to assist Liberian forces in the fight against insurgents for the Liberian town of Voinjama. At the time, Voinjama was under attack by an anti-Taylor rebel commander called “Mosquito Spray”. The witness said that around 100 RUF fighters were sent with artillery pieces. The operation was successful, but the rebels soon re-took the town. This prompted Yeaten to request another force from Issa Sesay. Sesay dispatched Colonel Sherrif with over 150 troops, and they recaptured Voinjama. The witness said he himself was with Yeaten when all of the mission reports were sent to him. When Voinjama was again retaken by the insurgents, Yeaten sent for the RUF commander “Superman”, who in the middle of the rainy season of 2000 came with a force and heavy guns to assist in successfully taking Voinjama once again. But when he left, Voinjama fell again. This pattern was repeated, with other RUF commanders coming with fighters to assist in the battle for control of the town.

The witness testified that in December 1999, Bockarie crossed into Liberia with a good number of RUF fighters, who were brought to Monrovia and then sent for training. After this, they were assigned as presidential bodyguards. The witness named several of these individuals.

In early 2001, according to the witness, he flew with Yeaten from Monrovia to Foya, from where an attack on Guinea was to be launched because that was where the rebel Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) forces were based, who were attacking Liberia. Issa Sesay came to Foya with a large number of armed men and artillery pieces. The joint attack by Liberian and RUF forces coincided with an attack of RUF forces on Guinea from Sierra Leone, under the command of Superman. Both attacks failed and both groups of attackers had to withdraw from Guinea. Yeaten summoned Superman and his fighters to Foya.

The witness said that after these defeats, the strategic town of Foya came under attack by LURD forces, and the joint RUF-Liberian forces set up defenses there for one or two months. Foya then fell to LURD, and Superman was wounded. He ordered the joint force, including the witness, to retreat into Sierra Leone.

The witness said that when the town of Foya fell, Taylor associate Roland Duo (alias “Amphibian Father”) came to Buedu, where the witness was now based again, to organize the joint RUF-Liberian effort to retake Foya. The witness testified that Duo claimed to be there on the orders of Charles Taylor. The witness told of many deliveries of ammunition to Beudu at this time, by helicopter and by road.

When the witness was summoned back to Liberia by Yeaten late in the rainy season of 2001, he testified that Yeaten ordered Superman to participate in an attack on LURD near the town of Vahun. Superman refused the order because, the witness said, Yeaten had reneged on a promise to introduce him to Taylor. The witness testified that Yeaten grew angry, and began openly suspecting Superman of cooperating with Guinea. Shortly thereafter, the witness learned that Superman had been shot to death by “Zigzag” Marzah and some of Yeaten’s bodyguards, at Yeaten’s command. A bodyguard of Superman’s who escaped the scene in Liberia told the witness in Buedu that Superman’s hand had been cut off and his belly opened.

The witness was again ordered to Liberia, and he said that following Superman’s death, the Sierra Leoneans there were dejected. Two, Colonel “Bomb Blast”, and Colonel Sherrif were in a “dungeon”, a hole in the ground, and Yeaten told the witness that he had suspicions about a third, Abu Keita (a previous prosecution witness).

Shortly after this, the witness fled Liberia after being accused by a bodyguard of Yeaten’s of communicating with Kamajors. He testified that communication between the RUF and Yeaten stopped once the Sierra Leonean disarmament program reached Kailahun.

Testimony about Monrovia

The witness gave details on how new codes were distributed to RUF radio commanders from Liberia, and from RUF commanders to Liberian radio operators. The witness said that when he was sent to Liberia in 1999, he personally took with him a new code that he gave to the Liberian operators, including those for Yeaten’s set and the Executive Mansion.

The witness said that Yeaten took him to the Executive Mansion, and that before they went to the radio room, they saw Charles Taylor addressing a muster parade of RUF personnel who came to Liberia with Bockarie to assist in the Taylor government’s fight against rebels for the town of Voinjama.

In December 2000, the witness said he was sent to Monrovia when Yeaten became ill. He said that he went to Base 1 in Congo Town, just outside Yeaten’s house, where the radio was in one room and he shared another with a wounded soldier named Colonel Sherrif.

While in Monrovia, the witness said he saw various RUF commanders pass through, including Issa Sesay. He said that Yeaten brought Sesay into the radio room and said he was taking Sesay to see the president.

Diamond mining

Late in the day, Prosecutor Bangura shifted gears and began questioning the witness about his knowledge of diamond mining. The witness testified about his time in Kono District, when he was tasked with overseeing a mining operation. He gave names of the RUF and AFRC officials involved in diamond mining in Kono, and testified that civilians were forced to undertake the mining. Those who refused, he said, were beaten. During his time in Kono, ECOMOG intervened in Sierra Leone (in February 1998), and the witness testified that AFRC commander Gullit told a parade muster of AFRC/RUF forces to undertake “Operation Pay Yourself” – the wholesale looting of Kono – before withdrawing. The AFRC/RUF later came back to Kono and restarted their mining operations.

At this point Court adjourned at 4.30 p.m. until tomorrow 9.30 a.m.

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