Court Resumes after Lunch Break: Witness TF1-459 Describes Operation Clear the Way

The Hague,

September 25, 2008

Death of the “old Pa’s”

The witness continued his testimony and related that also his relative Titus, at the time about 11 years old, was selected by a rebel by the name of Mattia (spelling?) and taken away by the group of Baiburreh. Witness TF1-459 did not see Titus again until a year and four months later, when he met A and B again. The witness stayed with this group for about a week. Sometimes the rebels had meetings and the civilians were told to go to another part of the house. During these times the civilians had discussions on how to escape. After one such meeting the rebels told the civilians they wanted to move the old men (the witness referred to the old men as “the old Pa’s”) to Bumpeh, because the rebels did not want to have inactive people around, people who did not work and therefore were useless to the rebels. There was a woman rebel, Esther Koroma, who told the witness that the old men would not be moved to Bumpeh, but were going to be killed. She helped get the witness’s father away from the other old men and hid him in the kitchen of one of the small houses in the yard. The rebels took the old men, about seven, away from the house in a direction that was not the direction of Bumpeh. Shortly after the witness heard two gunshots and shortly after that the rebels who were supposed to have taken the old men to Bumpeh, came back. Among them Cobra and a rebel called Bobby. The witness never saw the old men again.

Leaving Njaimeh

One evening they heard Alpha Jets dropping bombs, some rebels left the house to find out what was happening. When they returned they had seen ECOMOG soldiers and vehicles advancing. The rebels were in a uproar, Esther and others was packing, she had a black bag with a lot of money. Esther told him that she was the sister of Johnny Paul Koroma, though the witness never had that fact confirmed. She gave the bag with money to the witness. The rebels decided to move the whole group of about a hundred, about half civilians and half rebels. The group left in the direction of Koidu, not by main road but using a bypass. ECOMOG was using the highway; the rebels used a bypass, later reaching Baiama at the back of Koidu Town. By that time many had joined the group, the group was now about 500. Foday Bangura and Jah-Spirit were two of the commanders. Jah-Spirit was RUF according to witness TF1-459.

The next morning the group the witness was originally with coming from Njaimeh, split into two. One group with Jah-Spirit as Commander went to Baiama. Witness TF1-459’s father was in this group. The witness went in the other group with Esther under command of Kallay Amara to halfway between Baiama and Woeama (spelling?).

At this point the witness marked on the map the routes taken by the two groups from Njaimeh to Woeama and Baiama.

The witness continued his testimony saying that his group arrived at the place between Baiama and Woeama at about 1 p.m. When Jah-Spirit came back with his group, his father and his nephew Thomas were not with this group. The group had been attacked by Kamajors. The witness later heard from his father that his father and nephew had been able to escape during this attack. Now the two groups were united again, in total about 50 civilians and 50 rebels. The civilians consisted of men, young men like the witness and small boys of about 14, a few middle-aged women and many young women and girls. They looked for shelter at a coffee farm hiding under the leaves from the coffee plants, hiding from the Alpha Jets.

Combat training

The rebels now started to train some young men and young boys for combat. The witness was included in this group. The training was for about two weeks. The first week the training included weaponry, how to assemble and load guns and learning the names of different guns. They taught the witness how to go on food finding missions. He would go with some gunmen and trainees as himself, to a farm and take food from the owners.

By this time witness TF1-459 was regularly asked to pray and he was called “pastor” or “man of God”. He stayed in this camp a month and three days.

Food finding mission and amputations

A man called Hosana was a commander. One day Hosana was leading a food finding mission, the witness was in this group. They reached a location where they found a lot of food and they captured two male civilians. Witness TF1-459 witnessed Hosana amputate one man’s two arms both just under the elbow. The witness turned away his eyes and left the scene. A few minutes after, he heard a gunshot. He was later informed that the second captured man had been shot to death. As to why Hosana did this, the witness testified that according to statements of Hosana, it was to give a message to the ECOMOG forces and the Kabbah government, that the AFRC/RUF was still active and would not give up the fight.

Other operations

During this time witness TF1-459 was sick with malaria and still had to do the heavy combat training while they were not given food. After the two week combat training the witness and the other trainees were informed they would be used for operations. By then it was May 1998. Every day the witness heard about operations being carried out. In one operation a journalist from the BBC called Smith was killed. This operation took three days of which 1,5 day ambush. The witness was not involved in this operation but heard about it from others in the camp. The witness also heard about Operation “No Living Thing” and explained that after having carried out a mission no human life should be spared apart from the civilians who would be captured and would be taken to their camp. Witness TF1-459 heard this from the commanders Kallay Amara and Jah-Spirit, who in turn said it was the command of Baiburreh.

Attack on village at Kenema End

The witness now described his first combat mission. Foday Bangura appointed him as one of his bodyguards and he had to carry his ammunition bag. After two days walking they reached a village at Kenema End,  the witness did not remember the name of the village. It was known that Kamajors were in that village. There was fighting between the AFRC/RUF rebels and the Kamajors. Another commander called Fuckya had the lead. The AFRC/RUF rebels set fire on houses and a church. The AFRC/RUF rebels, including the witness, chased the Kamajors. Witness TF1-459 heard Fuckya shout, as he spelled it, “Lawakubar”, to which Lead Defense Counsel Courtenay Griffiths rose and suggested it may have been “Allah Akbar” (note: “Allah Akbar” is Arabic and means “God is Great”). The witness continued his testimony. At that moment Fuckya was hit and fell to the ground. Foday Bangura told the witness to carry Fuckya and follow him, which the witness did, trying to take refuge behind the back of Bangura. Later they returned to the base.

Operation “Clear The Way”

Foday Bangura forced the witness to go on another mission as his bodyguard, even though he at that time was very ill with malaria. It was a big mission with 61 rebels and trainees involved. In an open field close to Woeama (spelling?) on their way to the mission, Major Amara (not to be confused with commander Kallay Amara) announced that the men could not come back unless they had “100 hands” amputated from civilians. Amara’s further instructions were: take as much property as you can; let civilians carry it for you and kill all the other civilians. This operation had to take place in a village where ECOMOG was not deployed. ECOMOG at that time was deployed around Koidu Town. This way ECOMOG’s attention would be shifted to another area, their attention and manpower would be divided and this way they would be more easily attacked and overcome. The commander used the word “sara”, a word meaning “sacrifice”, as the lives of many civilians would be sacrificed. Subsequently a Muslim prayer was said and witness TF1-459 was asked to say a Christian prayer, which he did with the words: “God, we are going on a mission, let your will be done and let your angels be in charge over us”, to which the whole group shouted “Amen!”.

As the witness was explaining what he meant with this prayer, it was reaching 4.30 p.m. and Court was adjourned until tomorrow 9.30 a.m.