Defense Cross-examination of Former RUF Commander Karmoh Kanneh Continues

The Hague

May 13, 2008

The Defense cross-examination of former Revolutionary United Front (RUF) commander Karmoh Kanneh continued throughout the Court session today. Defense Counsel Terry Munyard highlighted numerous discrepancies between Kanneh’s testimony in Court and notes from his previous statements to the Prosecution. However, Munyard also sought to use portions of Kanneh’s testimony to support elements of the Defense theory of the conflict.

A spokesperson for the Special Court for Sierra Leone notified journalists yesterday that the testimony of Charles Taylor’s former vice president, Moses Blah, is expected to begin on Wednesday. Blah will take the witness stand once Kanneh’s testimony is complete, but it is impossible to know when exactly that will be.

Inconsistent prior statements

Munyard spent most of his cross-examination today confronting the witness with notes from his prior statements to the Prosecution. Kanneh explained multiple contradictions between his testimony in Court and prosecution interview notes by saying that the Prosecution had made mistakes. At times he even agreed with Munyard’s suggested possible explanation that the prosecution had invented inconsistent information in the earlier statements. Asked repeatedly why he had not made corrections to these notes when they were read back to him, Kanneh either denied that portions in question had been read back to him at all, or said that he had made a mistake in not following closely when these were read to him. Asked why he omitted to tell the Prosecution about important details that emerged in his court testimony, at times Kanneh claimed to have told these things to the Prosecution, which failed to include them in the interview notes. At other points he explained omissions by saying that a lot had happened in the conflict, and he was never able to say or remember everything in his interviews.

Inconsistencies highlighted by Munyard included the following:

  • Kanneh testified in Court that he had seen “Zigzag” Marzah eating human flesh in 1998. Although he agreed with Munyard that this was shocking and the most important thing he could tell people about Marzah, Munyard established that the information was not included in notes from any of Kanneh’s interviews with the Prosecution. Kanneh insisted that he had told the Prosecution. Munyard suggested that Kanneh had first learned of Marzah’s cannibalism through widespread news coverage of Marzah’s gruesome testimony in this case last March, but Kanneh said that he did not follow radio or printed news, and had not known about Marzah’s testimony.
  • Kanneh testified that he had only seen “Zigzag” Marzah once in RUF territory, not three times, as stated in prosecution interview notes. He also denied telling prosecutors that Marzah mostly traveled together with “Jungle” to Sierra Leone. Asked whether prosecutors just made up those elements of the interview notes, Kanneh answered “yes”. Asked why he hadn’t corrected these falsehoods when the notes were read back to him, Kanneh said that perhaps he had not understood.
  • Munyard produced prosecution notes from March 2008 reflecting Kanneh telling the prosecution that “Zigzag” Marzah accompanied General Ibrahim Bah to visit RUF leader Sam Bockarie in Buedu in 1998. Kanneh denied ever telling the Prosecution that Marzah had come with Bah. Munyard pointed out that Kanneh had later made corrections to the same paragraph of the notes containing that sentence, and asked why Kanneh had not corrected this too, if it was wrong. Kanneh said he may not have understood.
  • Kanneh testified that on his last visit to Liberia in August or September 2000, he had not gone for materials, had not gone with Issa Sesay, and that Sam Bockarie and Issa Sesay had not met on that occasion. Munyard read notes from a prior statement to the Prosecution reflecting that Kanneh had earlier told the Prosecution contradictory things about all of these points. Kanneh said that if he had said these things earlier, then they were mistakes.
  • Kanneh testified that in 2000 Sam Bockarie told him that Charles Taylor had faced pressure from the international community to hand over Bockarie. According to Kanneh’s recounting of what Bockarie told him, Taylor was concerned about how much Bockarie knew of the connections between himself and the RUF. According to Kanneh’s testimony, Taylor worried that Bockarie might explain everything to the Special Court. Munyard pointed out that in 2000 the Special Court was not yet in existence.
  • Kanneh testified that Issa Sesay passed an order to him from Charles Taylor not to allow disarmament to take place in Kailahun. Munyard confronted him with an earlier statement to the Prosecution in which he stated that he did not know of any orders from Taylor during disarmament. Kanneh agreed that this was true, but after additional questioning it remained unclear how both of these contentions could be true.
  • Kanneh testified that a meeting he had attended in Giema at which RUF leader Foday Sankoh spoke had taken place in late 1996. Munyard produced notes from one of Kanneh’s earlier statements to the Prosecution which reflected him saying that it had been January or February 1997. Kanneh said that this was wrong, and denied that the Prosecution had ever read that part of his statement back to him. Munyard noted that Kanneh had made corrections to notes from other parts of the same statement.
  • Munyard read from notes of one of Kanneh’s interviews with the Prosecution, which reported him saying that maps had been shown and discussed at a meeting in August or September 1998 in the bush outside of Buedu. Kanneh said that this had occurred at an earlier meeting, not this one. Asked whether the Prosecution had invented the question and answer written in the notes, Kanneh said, “Yes, that’s the idea I’m going with”.
  • Kanneh testified on Friday and again today that 12 rebel commanders attended a meeting at Sam Bockarie’s house in December 1998 at the end of which he said Bockarie had placed a call to Charles Taylor. Kanneh named some of the 12, but could not name all of them. Munyard read from prosecution notes of an earlier interview with Kanneh, which stated that there had been 16 commanders present at that meeting. Furthermore, one of the names Kanneh listed in Court was not on the list of 16, and Kanneh said that four people on that list of 16 had definitely not attended the meeting. In addition to pointing out this contradiction, Munyard noted that Kanneh claimed SYB Rogers had not attended the meeting, while other witnesses had already placed him in the same meeting.
  • In his testimony in Court, Kanneh stated that he had spent one month in Tongo Field, but Munyard confronted him with notes from a prior statement showing that he had said it was two months. Kanneh said this was wrong, and agreed when Munyard asked if the Prosecution had simply invented.

Was SAJ Musa’s death ordered by Taylor?

Munyard spent considerable time reviewing Kanneh’s testimony about the December 1998 death of SAJ Musa, a senior commander in the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). In the trial so far, the Defense has highlighted witness testimony that Musa refused to take orders from senior RUF commander Sam Bockarie as evidence that the AFRC was not operating together with the RUF. The Defense has sought to portray the Sierra Leone conflict as a civil war in which many of the worst atrocities, especially during the invasion of Freetown, were committed by former soldiers of the Sierra Leonean army rather than by the RUF, whose alleged connections to Taylor may be easier for the Prosecution to prove. Kanneh is among the witnesses who testified that SAJ Musa refused Bockarie’s orders. Further, he confirmed an earlier statement that Musa wanted to beat RUF units to Freetown in order to seize the city and become president of Sierra Leone himself instead of RUF leader Foday Sankoh.

However, Kanneh also testified that because of Musa’s refusal to cooperate with the RUF, Sam Bockarie complained to Charles Taylor about him. According to Kanneh’s testimony, Taylor advised Bockarie to have SAJ Musa killed during a military operation. Kanneh said that indeed Musa had been killed during a military operation – through an explosion in the town of Benguema in December 1998, shortly before the Freetown invasion.

Munyard asked why Kanneh had never previously told the Prosecution about the plot to kill Musa, and Kanneh insisted he had. Prosecutor Julia Baly noted that the notes cited by Munyard contained an incomplete sentence about the meeting beginning, “Sam Bockarie said…” and then breaking off. According to Baly, it did not necessarily follow that the witness had said nothing from that point.

Support for the Defense theory of the conflict

In addition to pointing out inconsistencies in Kanneh’s descriptions of events, Munyard appeared at times to use Kanneh to underscore elements of the Defense theory of the conflict.

With regard to provision of arms and ammunition to the RUF, Munyard sought to underscore the provision of weapons from sources other than Liberia. Asked about arms shipments from Burkina Faso, Kanneh said he knew about an arms delivery to the RUF in late 1998, but that the material had come through Liberia and that its transport had been arranged by Charles Taylor. Munyard asked Kanneh if he knew anything about arms and ammunition arriving from Libya, and Kanneh said he didn’t.

Kanneh testified that as far as he knew, there had been no relationship between Taylor and the RUF between mid-1992 and 1996, when he saw Foday Sankoh introduce “Jungle” to a group of RUF commanders as being Charles Taylor’s “eye in the movement”. He agreed with Munyard that the anti-Taylor Liberian faction ULIMO had controlled the border between Sierra Leone and Liberia from mid-1992 until the end of Liberian disarmament in 1997.

Kanneh confirmed an earlier statement that during the December 1998 meeting with rebel commanders, Sam Bockarie had rejected a suggestion that fighters should be sought from Liberia due to past problems between the RUF and Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL). Kanneh explained that Bockarie preferred to seek the assistance of former members of the disbanded anti-Taylor rebel movement ULIMO-K over that of Taylor’s NPFL. Kanneh agreed with Munyard that after Taylor’s 1997 election as president, the NPFL fighters were called the Armed Forces of Liberia.

Cross-examination of Karmoh Kanneh will continue tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.


  1. This witness Karmoh Kenneh has backfired on the Prosecution. His testimony on cross examination has really helped the Defense.

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