9:30am: Prosecution counsel Brenda Hollis continued the examination of witness TF1-388. The witness, in his testimony spoke about Charles Taylor’s alleged relationship with the RUF, Issa Sesay’s numerous visits to Liberia, the release of United Nations peacekeepers held hostage by the RUF, the change of leadership in the RUF, through the help of ECOWAS leaders and attacks on Guinea by RUF and Liberian forces.
The Release of United Nations Peacekeepers Held Hostage by the RUF.
The witness was asked whether Issa Sesay made any trips out of Sierra Leone in the year 2000. The witness explained that Issa travelled to Liberia at the end of May 2000. He said the purpose of this visit was to see Charles Taylor and discuss the release of UN peacekeepers help hostage by the RUF in Sierra Leone.
Defense counsel asked to know the basis of the witness’s knowledge of these events, whether such knowledge was based on hearsay or direct evidence. Prosecution counsel explained that at some point in the witness’s testimony, the basis of his knowledge will be determined without disclosing his identity.
The witness said that when Taylor and Issa met in Liberia, they discussed the release of the UN hostages. He said Taylor told Issa he had been promised that if he secured the release of the peacekeepers, he would be made Chairman of ECOWAS and that in such position, he will be able to offer more help to the RUF.
The witness said that after the meeting, Issa called the other RUF commanders in Sierra Leone via radio set and asked them to take the Zambian peacekeepers to Manowa Crossing Point from where they were taken to Liberia and handed over to Taylor.
Change of Leadership in The RUF
When asked about whether Issa made another trip to Liberia in 2000, the witness aid that Issa did so on invitation of Charles Taylor. The witness said that upon arrival in Liberia, the RUF delegation met with four West African Heads of State:
1. Obasanjo of Nigeria
2. Eyadema of Togo
3. Yayah Jammeh of Gambia and
4. Alpha Oumarr Konare of Mali
During the meeting with the heads of state, Taylor told them that they were supposed to discuss the change of leadership in the RUF. The witness said Obasanjo also addressed the delagation and told them to maintain a good relationship with Charles Taylor. The witness said that Obasanjo told them Taylor was a very good leader and that if we had ten other heads of states like Taylor, Africa will be a better continent. The witness said that the other heads of state also spoke to the delegation.
The witness said Taylor spoke to the delegation about the necessity of change of leadership as Sankoh was now old and was already under arrest. He said that Taylor originally suggested the idea of having Sam Bockarie get back into the RUF but that Issa Sesay refused this suggestion. He said that Taylor then suggested that Issa should take over the leadership of the RUF. He said Issa told them he was going to consult the other members of the RUF before confirming his acceptance of the leadership.
The witness said that after the meeting, Taylor had a seperate meeting with the RUF delegation between 11:00pm to 12:00 midnight. In that meeting, the witness said that Taylor told them they should not be moved by the suggestions of the ECOWAS heads of state as they were British elected presidents and were remote controlled by the western powers. He said Taylor told them not to take what the heads of states said. He said Taylor told them that if they asked them to disarm, they should refuse. He said Taylor told Issa that he should work to keep the revolution together and that they were assured of his support. The witness said Taylor gave Issa $15,000.
Sankoh Approved Issa Sesay’s Appointment as Interim Leader of the RUF.
The witness said that when Issa travelled to Kono to inform the other RUF members about what had obtained in LIberia, Obasanjo and Oumarr Konare travelled to Freetown to meet with Sankoh in detention and get his consent on the change of leadership in the RUF. The witness said that a few days later, Issa met with Taylor and the other ECOWAS leaders in Liberia. He said Obasanjo and Konare handed a letter to Issa, written by Sankoh. In that letter, Sankoh gave his blessings to Issa to take over the leadership of the RUF and told him to take all orders from Charles Taylor. He said that Issa returned to Sierra Leone and reported to the RUF membership accordingly.
Movement of Diamonds from Sierra Leone to LIberia
The witness said that on numerous occassions, Issa took diamonds to Taylor. He said that the first time Issa took the diamonds, Taylor told him he was going to keep the diamonds and hand them over to Sankoh upon his release. He said that Issa told Taylor that they were getting disturbances from Kamajors and UN Peacekeepers. He said that when going back to Sierra Leone, they took along arms and ammunition and other materials for the RUF. The witness said that in early 2001, Issa again took diamonds to Taylor and he returned with arms and ammunition for the RUF.
The witness said that in April/May 2001, when Issa took another set of diamonds to Liberia, Taylor cautioned him not to be travelling with diamonds to Liberia regularly because the UN were montoring his relationship with the RUF. He said Taylor said he was going to get an individual that will get the diamonds from the RUF and provide materials for them.
The witness said that during this visit, Benjamin Yeaten introduced two Belgian’s to Issa. One of the Belgian’s, he said, introduced himself as Alpha Bravo. He said Issa identified the two white men as people who once travelled to Kono with Sam Bockarie. The witness said he saw Issa give diamonds to Alpha Bravo, who inturn gave him $300,000. He said Issa gave Taylor $150,000 for safe keeping and took the remaining $150,000 to Sierra Leone.
Taylor told RUF not to Disarm
The witness said that during one of Issa’s visits to Liberia, he told Taylor that the UN peacekeppers had spoken to him about the disarmament of child soldiers. He said Taylor told him not to allow the RUF to be disarmed. He said Taylor told them that if they disarmed, they would be arrested later. When Issa was returning to Sierra Leone, the witness said he told other commanders that he was not going to take Taylor’s advice and that he was going ahead to cooperate with the UN and disarm.
Taylor Ordered RUF to Attack Guinea
The witness said that at some point, Benjamin Yeaten invited Issa to Liberia. When Issa went there, the witness said Yeaten told him Taylor wanted the RUF to attack Guinea. He said that Issa accepted and the attack was planned. The witness said that it was agreed that the RUF will attack Pamalap and Kissy Dugu in Guinea while the Liberian forces will attack Kekedou. He said that both RUF attacks were successful. He said that the Guinean forces, however, reppelled the RUF from Kissy Dugu immediately while they occupied Pamalap for mabout three weeks.
Court adjourned for mid-morning break.