Former RUF Officer Testifies about Extensive Links between Taylor and AFRC/RUF

The Hague

May 8, 2008

Crime-base witness TF1-028 completed her testimony this morning, and the Prosecution called its next witness TF1-571, Karmoh Kanneh. Kanneh was forcibly recruited by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) at the beginning of the war and later became an officer. He offered testimony today linking Charles Taylor to the RUF in various ways: as its most senior commander, a recipient of diamonds mined through forced labor in Sierra Leone, a contact for ammunition purchases in Burkina Faso, and as an instigator of attacks by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and RUF on Kono and Freetown.

Outside the courtroom, the Special Court for Sierra Leone announced today that Taylor’s former vice president, Moses Blah, is scheduled to take the witness stand next week. Blah has received a subpoena from the prosecution. The testimony is expected to begin on Tuesday, depending on when the prior witness finishes. Chief Prosecutor Stephen Rapp himself will lead Blah in his testimony.

Witness TF1-028 concludes her testimony

The day began with Defense Counsel Morris Anyah continuing his cross-examination of protected prosecution witness TF1-028, a woman who testified that she had been abducted by rebels in 1998 and held for over a year. Anyah alternately highlighted the witness’s testimony that most of the forces in the group that abducted her were AFRC and not RUF, called into question the clarity of her recollection, and sought to discredit her testimony and that of a previous witness by pointing to a possible conflict in their accounts.

Anyah covered the following main points:

  • Although the witness testified this week and in March 2006 in the RUF trial that a commander named Tito came to Colonel Eddie Town in a separate group from AFRC commander SAJ Musa, Anyah confronted her with notes from an earlier statement to the prosecution that reported her saying that Tito came together with Musa. The witness denied having said this to prosecutors.
  • Anyah attempted to clarify the witness’s account of the composition of the Red Lion Battalion that came to Colonel Eddie Town. The witness confirmed her earlier testimony that it was a group of 100, containing fighters and civilians. She said the total number of fighters was 70, all Liberians, together with 30 Sierra Leoneans. However, she also said that some of the Sierra Leoneans had guns.
  • The witness agreed that she had not mentioned the Red Lion battalion to prosecutors in her first interview in 2003, saying she had been afraid of the investigators because she did not know who they were, and could not tell them apart from RUF and soldiers. Anyah noted that she had given them the names of commanders at the time.
  • Anyah asked why the witness had not mentioned that members of the Red Lion Battalion were Liberians when she testified in the RUF trial in 2006. The witness insisted she had mentioned it, but Anyah said it was not to be found in the transcript and the prosecution did not contradict him on this point.
  • The witness agreed that she did not know what the Red Lion Battalion did in Freetown in January 1999.
  • The witness confirmed that after SAJ Musa’s death, she did not see the commander of the Red Lion Battalion, Mohamed Bajehjeh, again. However, she said she did see members of the group.
  • The witness said that Five-Five had been the commander of the group she was with until SAJ Musa arrived at Colonel Eddie Town. She said that after SAJ Musa was killed, Five-Five and Gullit had been the senior commanders, but she hadn’t known which of them was in charge. Anyah read from the transcript of her testimony at the RUF trial, in which she said that Five-Five had been in charge after Musa’s death. The witness denied having said it.
  • The witness confirmed that after SAJ Musa’s arrival in Colonel Eddie Town, he and Five-Five had addressed a meeting of commanders that she overheard. She said they told the commanders they were going to take Freetown to reinstate the army.
  • The witness confirmed that she had been in the same group with Five-Five and Gullit from the time of her abduction in Karina all the way until the group entered Freetown. Asked by Anyah if she knew a commander called “Ice T”, she said that she had seen him in Colonel Eddie Town, but not after that. Anyah told the witness that Ice T, Alimamy Bobson Sesay, had recently given evidence in the trial, and said he had been part of the same group with Five-Five and Gullit along the same journey leading eventually to Freetown in January 1999.
  • The witness reiterated that she had been with the group in Rosos for seven months. When Anyah said Sesay had testified that the group had been there from August to October 1998, however, she agreed that it had been that time span.
  • The witness confirmed that she had traveled with the group through a number of villages on the way to Freetown, and again said that she had seen Ice T in none of them.
  • Anyah asked the witness about her testimony that she had spent six days with the group in Mandaha, where she said her brother had been hacked to death by rebels with machetes. Anyah asked why she had told the Prosecution in her first interview that she had been in Mandaha for two days, and had not mentioned the killing of her brother. Anyah also noted that she had not mentioned the killing of her brother when telling the RUF trial about her time in Mandaha. The witness claimed that she had both the prosecutors and the RUF trial chamber. She confirmed, however, that she had not told the RUF trial about the rape of her 12-year-old niece at Mandaha.
  • The witness said that of all the people abducted in Karina, only one had been trained by the rebels as a fighter.

Court went into a brief private session requested by Anyah so that he could conclude his cross-examination by asking questions that would reveal the identity of the witness.

When the proceedings resumed in open session, prosecutor Shyamala Alagendra conducted a brief re-examination of the witness:

  • Alagendra sought to counter doubts raised by the Defense about how the witness could not have seen previous witness Alimamy Bobson Sesay after leaving Colonel Eddie Town if they both claimed to have been part of the same group that went through numerous villages on the way to Freetown. Asked how large the total group of fighters and captured civilians had been, the witness said there had been 1,500 of them.
  • Alagendra asked what the witness meant yesterday when saying that in the Red Lion Battalion there were boys on whose chests they wrote “RUF”. The witness said that the commanders carved “RUF” on the chests of the 12-14 year-old boys with a blade.
  • Asked how she knew that the fighters with Bajehjeh were RUF, the witness said they wore red headbands, had “RUF” written on their guns in red ink, and that the boys had “RUF” carved on their chests.
  • Asking about an apparent contradiction raised by the Defense yesterday relating to the make-up of the Red Lion Battalion, the witness said that she did not know what the terms “STF” or “Special Task Force” meant.

Prosecution calls its next witness TF1-571: Karmoh Kanneh

Prosecutor Julia BaLY called the next witness, who had agreed to have his protective measures removed and testify openly by name. The witness said his name was Karmoh Kanneh, and that during the war he had been called “Eagle”.

Kanneh testified that when rebels came to his village in 1991, he was abducted with 16 others and sent for military training. They were told that if they tried to escape, they would be killed. Kanneh said the training had been conducted mostly by Liberians who belonged to Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL). Kanneh said the training commanders told him that they were there to assist RUF leader Foday Sankoh so that afterwards “they could hand the war to us”. The witness said the training camp had about 500 trainees who had been captured, including men, women, and about 50 children between the ages of 10 and 15. In the six-week training, they learned how to use a gun, set ambushes, attack, and “make an area fearful”. Kanneh explained that this meant clearing a town of all of its inhabitants.

The witness said that following his training, he was sent with a group following a Liberian commander to attack the southeastern Sierra Leonean town of Joru. After defeat there, and continuous pressure by government soldiers, the witness’s group came to Zimmi, where he described seeing a number of RUF commanders, including Liberians and a Gambian who had entered Sierra Leone through Liberia. From Zimmi, the group retreated to Bo Waterside, on the Liberian border. There, RUF leader Foday Sankoh complained to the soldiers that the NPFL members who had come were no longer fighting, and instead focused on looting. The witness said that after a short posting in a nearby village, his group was attacked and they again retreated to Bo Waterside, and then into Liberia.

Direct evidence of Taylor organizing the RUF

In Liberia, the group went to Bomi Hills. Kanneh testified that a number of commanders were there, and that Sankoh joined them. Then, he said, Charles Taylor arrived. Taylor and Sankoh addressed the 500 RUF troops in formation. Kanneh said that Taylor told them he had come with armaments and ammunition and that they should prepare to return to Sierra Leone. According to Kanneh, Taylor then divided the RUF group into two, naming the group of 250 fighters into which the witness was placed “Black Gadaffa”. The witness said that Sankoh then addressed the group, reiterating everything Taylor had told them. Kanneh said that the Sierra Leoneans in Black Gadaffa were called “junior commandos”, denoting that they were the first group of RUF trained in Sierra Leone.

According to Kanneh, Taylor and Sankoh told the group that the mission of Black Gadaffa was to sabotage the movement of the enemy in Sierra Leone by setting up ambushes and making areas “fearful”. The witness said that Taylor and Sankoh ordered them to attack the enemy, and if they came to villages where there were no enemy soldiers, they should remove all the civilians from them. It should be noted that these alleged events precede the jurisdiction of the Special Court and the temporal scope of Taylor’s indictment.

From Bomi Hills, the witness returned to Sierra Leone as a member of Black Gadaffa in early 1992. The group set a successful ambush and captured ammunition from the Sierra Leone Army, then based in Mano River. He said he left at the end of 1992, and the group was no longer known as Black Gadaffa.

Becoming an RUF officer

Kanneh said that the RUF established a base in the totality of Sogbewema Chiefdom in Pujehun District. He remained there until the end of 1993, involved in keeping guard and setting ambushes on a highway. From this base, the witness said he was called to join Foday Sankoh at his headquarters in Zogoda. Sankoh made the witness a Lieutenant and made him commander of a company of over 200 RUF fighters. The witness spent a year there, maintaining defensive positions.

Kanneh was then sent to Peyama, where he joined RUF commander Sam Bockarie (“Mosquito”). He said Bockarie had been demoted from colonel to sergeant for killing a soldier without an investigation, and was now the battalion commander in Peyama. After a month, in 1995, the witness moved with Bockarie to the town of Giema, in Kailahun. Kanneh said he served there as a crack force commander, to reinforce troops under siege by the enemy.

Another link to Taylor

Kanneh testified that while in Giema, Foday Sankoh came from peace talks in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. According to the witness, Sankoh told the assembled forces that a peace had been signed but the war was not over because times of peace meant preparing for war. Sankoh promoted Kanneh to captain, and gave Bockarie back his rank of colonel. Following the general meeting, Sankoh convened a meeting of senior officers that Kanneh said he attended. Other commanders present included Bockarie, Issa Sesay, Jungle, AB, and FOC. Kanneh said that at this meeting, Sankoh gave Bockarie his satellite phone, saying that he was leaving for Libya and that now Bockarie would take instructions from Charles Taylor. Further, Sankoh introduced Jungle to the commanders as Taylor’s representative to the RUF.

Account of RUF diamond mining for Taylor

The witness said he went with Bockarie to Benguema following the AFRC coup (in May 1997), and accompanied Bockarie on daily trips into Freetown, where Bockarie participated in meetings as a member of the ruling council. After a month on another assignment in Freetown, the witness was taken by Bockarie on a mission to clear the Bo-Kenema Highway of enemy Kamajor fighters. In a village called Koribundu, the RUF group killed captured Kamajors and looted property from civilians. They successfully cleared the Bo-Kenema Highway, and waited in Kenema until AFRC leader Johnny Paul Koroma sent them a helicopter full of ammunition. The RUF group under Bockarie then proceeded to clear the road of enemies all the way to the Liberian border at Bo Waterside. After he returned with Bockarie to Kenema, they were sent to take Tongo Field, a diamond mining area.

Kanneh said the group of RUF he was with took Tongo Field, and he remained there for a month. After taking the area, he said he heard Bockarie call Taylor on the satellite phone to inform him. Kanneh said that Taylor thanked Bockarie. During that month, Kanneh said he was involved in ensuring that civilians did not escape and that enemies were repelled. Civilians were forced to dig diamonds for the AFRC and RUF for two days a week, and were beaten if they refused. On four days a week, when civilians and soldiers were nominally allowed to mine for themselves, if a civilian found a large diamond, it would be taken by the rebels anyway.

Kanneh said some diamonds mined by the civilians were given to the AFRC. At one point, the AFRC diamond commander fled with over 1,000 diamonds and was never found. Other diamonds were taken to Sam Bockarie. The witness said that during the month he was there, he was twice summoned with other officers to Bockarie’s residence to assist in packaging diamonds. After counting the diamonds and putting them in parcels, on both occasions Bockarie called Charles Taylor on the satellite phone. After he told Taylor the number of diamonds, he passed the phone to Jungle, who confirmed the number. Kanneh explained that over a satellite phone it is possible for others in a room to hear the person on the other end. He said he heard Taylor thank Bockarie, and tell him to give the diamonds to Jungle to be brought to him. After both of these conversations, the witness said that Bockarie sent an escort with Jungle to the Liberian town of Foya, from where a helicopter took him to Monrovia.

End of the junta period

After a month in Tongo Field, Kanneh said he was assigned in the rainy season of 1997 to brigade headquarters in Kenema with Bockarie. Kanneh kept defensive operations and was also available for other operations. The witness named a number of other RUF and AFRC commanders who were present in Kenema. He remained in there until the ECOMOG intervention in Freetown dislodged the AFRC/RUF regime in February 1998. As ECOMOG forces were advancing on Kenema from Bo Waterside, the witness withdrew with Bockarie. At Baima, Bockarie promoted Kanneh to Lieutenant Colonel and made him a battalion commander. At this time Bockarie was the acting leader of the RUF because Foday Sankoh was in detention.

Account of Bockarie issuing Taylor’s orders to the AFRC/RUF

The witness said he remained in Baima until the end of 1999, and that Bockarie moved on to establish a headquarters in Buedu, 40 miles away. However, the witness said he often visited Buedu and saw Bockarie.

Kanneh recalled one eight-hour meeting convened by Bockarie with over 600 RUF commanders and fighters in around June 1998. It was held outside Buedu, in deep forest, out of fear of ECOMOG air raids. Senior commanders present included AFRC leader Johnny Paul Koroma, Gullit, Jungle, Issa Sesay, Eddie Kanneh, AB, FOC, SYB Rogers, Superman, Morris Kallon, and Akim Turay. According to Kanneh, Bockarie reported that he had just returned from seeing Charles Taylor in Monrovia.

Bockarie stated that Taylor had made decisions and sent messages:

  • he had promoted Bockarie and Issa Sesay to the rank of general;
  • he had given instructions that the AFRC was now subordinate to the RUF, and that wherever there were AFRC commanders in the field, their deputies should be from the RUF. According to Kanneh, Koroma agreed to this;
  • he asked Bockarie to make clear to AFRC leader Johnny Paul Koroma that Jungle was his representative;
  • he ordered the “Fitti-Fatta” mission to take the mining areas in Kono so that the RUF could get money for materials;
  • he told the RUF to forgive Issa Sesay for having diamonds go missing when he was taking them to Liberia;
  • he pledged to send Bockarie with General Ibrahim Bah to visit the president of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore, to buy ammunition. Kanneh said that Bockarie ended up going to Burkina Faso that same month, after the Fitti-Fatta mission;
  • and he told Bockarie that the ammunition would be needed to take Freetown from ECOMOG and free Foday Sankoh from prison.

Karmoh Kanneh’s testimony wil continue tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.