October 28, 2008
Prosecution Counsel Christopher Santora continued his examination in chief and established the following. The witness accompanied Kamara to Small Sefadu. Then Sesay returned to his wife and children under the mango tree. His wife was preparing food behind the school.
Burning, rape, murder and amputation
Suddenly there was gunfire all over the town of Penduema, his children came close to Sesay. Some civilians tried to escape and were shot. Sesay did not want to leave his children behind, so he stayed with them. They were all captured by the juntas and RUF rebels. The rebels said they were waiting for their colonel. Then Staff Alhaji came from the direction of Tombodu. The witness recognised Alhaji because they grew up together in Kono. The witness greeted Alhaji but he did not respond. A junior commander slapped Sesay because he called Alhaji by his first name. Then the witness said down and kept quiet. The civilians had to stand in different lines. He was in a line of nine persons, all men. There was a line of pregnant women. The children sat close by. There was a line of non pregnant women. The wife of the witness was put among the women who were not pregnant. She was naked. Staff Alhaji was sitting on the root of a big tree. He had a staff in his hand. He used it to point at the first group. This group included a Fullah man who had an amputation in 1971 because of a car accident. This group was taken into a house and the house was set on fire by Staff Alhaji’s men. The witness heard them crying and screaming. Then there was silence and the rebels came back. A bag was opened and knives came out. The rebels took one knife each. The second group was taken behind the school. Two men tried to escape and they were shot. The throats of the others in that group were cut off. Later the witness saw their corpses so he knew how they had been killed. The group of pregnant women, the children and suckling mothers were released. Staff Alhaji pointed at the group of non pregnant women and said to his boys the women were theirs to do with what they wanted. The women, including his wife, were raped; his wife was raped by eight men. The children were sitting not far from there. After the raping two rebels, Junior and Tamba Joe, stabbed his wife to death. Some other women were also killed, others were taken along. Staff Alhaji was still sitting on the root of the tree. The witness pleaded with Staff Alhaji, as the two of them grew up together. Alhaji told the witness to wait until he would amputate his feet. After his wife was killed, Staff Alhaji ordered the feet of the witness to be tied, saying he didn’t want the witness to play football again. Then Alhaji started to amputate hands and did this to two men. Alhaji ordered the feet of the witness to be untied and told the witness to take of his watch and give it to him. The witness was nervous and could not get the watch off quickly enough. Alhaji held the watch, took it forcefully from the wrist and the watch broke. The witness still has a mark on his wrist as a result from this and the witness showed this mark on his arm to the Court. Alhaji took up the machete from his back and wanted to amputate him, but the witness removed his hand. Then Alhaji hit him on his forehead with the machete. The witness showed the mark on his forehead to the Court. Alhaji was furious and the witness put his left hand down. Alhaji hacked the hand of the witness eleven times and the hand came off and fell to the ground. The witness left but then came back for his hand, as he thought the hand could be attached to his arm again. When he reached down to pick up the hand Alhaji hit him on the back with his cutlass. The witness showed the Court the mark on his back. His children witnessed their mother’s rape and killing and their father’s amputation. Alhaji said that the hand belonged to him, Alhaji, and told the witness to go to Pa Kabbah and ask for a hand, because Kabbah had a lot of those. The witness left but after a short distance he fell down. His children tried to help him up, but failed. Alhaji’s boys were laughing. His children urged him to get up, which he did, but a little further he fell down again. He got up again for the second time, he was in serious pain and left for Small Penduema. He passed Penduema Barracks, here he fell down again. He was bleeding profusely. There he was found by ECOMOG and taken in a vehicle to Koikuima hospital. He spent three days there together with other amputees, including Mohamed S. Kamara. From there he went to Makeni Hospital. Then they drove him and others to Freetown, to Connaught hospital. Medecins Sans Frontières was there and a female doctor operated him.
How his life was affected
Gibril Sesay stated: “It affected my life in a very bad way. It has installed very serious worries into my heart. No matter how I dress up, I always look awkward amongst my other fellow human beings. For this reason I say, war is not good for any country. I am talking to the international community to stop war all over Africa. This is not going to help. For my girl children, if I had died, they would have become prostitutes to support themselves. I can no longer do the job of mining. Sierra Leone used to be a peaceful country. When I was small it was a peaceful country. They moved me back and forth because of this war. I plead to the international people to help prevent this from ever happening again.”
Lead Defense Counsel Courtenay Griffiths cross-examined the witness and began by saying that he agreed with the witness’s sentiments. War is horrible and the witness suffered immensely from it. Griffiths said he was not here to suggest that these terrible things have not happened, but added that he is saying that Sesay has embellished his story, meaning, there is a core of truth in it, but things have been added to his account. The witness denied this and maintained he had told the truth in Court. Griffiths established the following.
Time frame of atrocities committed by the junta
Sesay grew up in Kono District and in 1991 was still living there. Between the beginning of the war in 1991 and the coup in May 1997 his life was affected by the war, but not to a great extend: there was no freedom of movement. Sesay agreed that things did not get difficult until 1998. From statements that Sesay gave to the Prosecution Griffiths established that from May 1997 the junta took gravel from civilians in Kono, but that the raping and looting actually only took place during a three month period from February to April 1998. The witness agreed that prior to 1998 houses were not being burnt, however in Court the witness stated that he knew of one case that a house was burnt.
Atrocities committed by the Kamajors
In Koidu the civilians were tired of the junta and the rebels and their raping and looting: the chiefs and some Lebanese collected money to pay the Kamajors to come and chase the junta and RUF out of Koidu. And they did chase them out. Griffiths compared the situation to getting from the frying pan into the fire: the Kamajors treated people just as badly. The witness agreed. The Kamajors put up a big pot where they killed, cooked and ate human beings. In one statement Sesay said that during those two or three weeks the Kamajors killed 15 people and sometimes ate their livers raw. Sesay confirmed this and said that the junta and the RUF did not commit this particular form of atrocity. The witness confirmed he was shocked when he saw Kamajors doing this and agreed that the civilians had to pay the Kamajors with money and food as a form of tax. After the two, three week period the Kamajors were driven out of Koidu by commander Akim and his men and the junta and RUF once more were installed in Koidu.
Who abducted the sister?
In a previous statement it was written that the witness had said that lieutenant Jalloh abducted the 16 year old sister of the witness. Sesay said that this account is not true. Lieutenant Jalloh wanted to abduct his sister, but Sesay quarrelled with him and was able to prevent Jalloh from abducting his sister. The ten girls that were abducted and were in the land rover were not from Wendadu, but from other villages. It was Captain Barbureh who later abducted his sister. Sesay did not know how this mistake came into the statement and agreed that most of what is written in the paragraph was wrong.
Who was a soldier in the SLA?
Griffiths read a statement to the witness where Sesay said that he knew Staff Alhaji, who was in the SLA from 1975, while he himself was in the SLA in 1977. They were both in the SLA until 1990. The witness testified in Court that this was a wrong statement and that not he, Gibril Sesay, was in the SLA, but his brother RSM Maxwell Sesay. Maxwell was his elder brother and is no longer alive. Sesay confirmed again that he did not say he was a soldier and that the statement was not correct.
Present position of Staff Alhaji
The witness agreed that Staff Alhaji was a wicked man and responsible for many horrible things: the things he did or ordered to be done to the witness and his family as well as to many other people. The witness is aware that in 2004/2005 this same Staff Alhaji was still serving in the Sierra Leonean Army and that as far as he knows Alhaji is still in the SLA.
Whereabouts of the family during amputation
Griffiths took Sesay over his testimony given today in Court about the situation during his amputation. Sesay maintained that his hand was amputated in Penduema, and that he and his children witnessed his wife being raped and murdered and that his children were present during his amputation. Griffiths took the witness to a statement where it is written that the witness said that he took of his watch and gave it to Staff Alhaji. The witness maintained that the watch was ripped off his arm and that the statement is not correctly reflecting this detail.
Griffiths took the witness to an interview with the Prosecution where the witness was shown a video. The witness identified himself as being in the video. Griffiths read from a transcript of what the witness said in the video: Sesay took Kamara to Small Sefadu. When he returned he could not find his family. He left and later met Staff Alhaji who amputated him. He fell into a stream which woke him up and he drank from the water. He went to ECOMOG. Up until that moment he had not seen his wife and children. At the bottom of the statement Sesay declared that the statement was accurate and true. When asked which was the true account, Sesay answered it was the testimony he gave in Court today that reflected the truth of the events that happened.
At this moment in cross-examination Court is adjourned at 4.30 p.m. until 9.30 a.m. tomorrow when the video will be shown in Court.