Morning Session: 80th Prosecution Witness Sheku Bah Kuyate Testifies to “Operation Pay Yourself” and “Operation No Living Thing”

The Hague

October 31, 2008

This morning Prosecution Counsel Mohamed Bangura continued his examination in chief of 80th prosecution witness TF1-201 Sheku Bah Kuyate and subsequently Defense Counsel Morris Anyah began his cross-examination.

ECOMOG intervention in February 1998

Prosecution Counsel Mohamed Bangura continued his examination in chief of the witness and established the following.
When the people in Koidu Town received the news that ECOMOG had removed the junta government from Freetown, the soldiers and rebels looted for two days. On the third day the youths of Koidu Town mobilised themselves to fight the AFRC/RUF and chased them out of Koidu Town. Some of the youths had guns, the witness had not, he was at the back and his only weapon was a stick. With the youths of Koidu Town he meant the ones who were brave enough to fight, young men but not boys. These youths chased after the AFRC/RUF, but did not kill any of them. The rebels knew ECOMOG was coming and were on the run anyway. Then the civilians invited the Kamajors to come because they were afraid the junta would come back. The Kamajors stayed for a week and five days, and then they left.

Operation Pay Yourself

Two days later the civilians heard gunshots and they all fled to another village. Two days after that the witness and some other brave civilians came back to check on the situation. An RUF commander Akim and his men were busy with “Operation Pay Yourself” and were looting all over. The witness knew they were RUF because they did not wear uniforms and had guns; some spoke Krio as it is spoken in Sierra Leone; others spoke the “Liberian Krio” or “Pidgin English”. The witness had been to Liberia and he recognised the language as such. After two days of looting the witness heard rampant firing coming from the direction of Freetown. For four days he locked himself up in his house, which was situated at the outskirts of Koidu Town. Then he went looking for food as he had not eaten during these four days.

Operation No Living Thing

He met a rebel of about 21 years old who halted him. The rebel spoke Liberian English, so the witness concluded he was Liberian. The witness told the rebel he was a mechanic and the rebel took him to Kainkordu Road where the rest of the group of rebels with their commander CO Matthew were assembled. From this commander the witness heard that a large group of AFRC/RUF was coming from Freetown under the command of Mosquito and that they were carrying out “Operation No Living Thing”. In Kabala a Fullah man had been captured, who was also a mechanic. From February to April 1998 the witness and this Fullah man worked as mechanics for CO Matthew and his men. During these months there was rampant looting and burning of houses. In April 1998 the witness was taken by the rebels to Peyima village. There the rebels heard there was fighting in Kabala and infighting was going on between the rebels about whether or not to return to Koidu. In this period the witness was able to escape and left for Small Sefadu to then go on to Kokuima, because he had heard that ECOMOG had reached Kokuima.

Amputation of right hand and both ears

On a Saturday in Small Sefadu he met five men who looked like civilians and they advised him to return to Peyima, because ECOMOG would not reach Koikuima until the next Monday. The witness returned to Peyima. There he met with rebels, three of them the same men as had been in the group of five who had advised him to go back to Peyima. These rebels had captured six civilians including the witness. One rebel had an AK-47, another rebel had a machete and yet another had an RPG. The three rebels whom the witness had met in Small Sefadu said that the witness was the one who had invited ECOMOG to Kokuima and who was going to tell ECOMOG where the rebels were hiding. A rebel called Junior was told to get a mortar and the witness was told to lay his hand on the mortar. Junior amputated the witness’s right hand; Junior had to chop six times before the hand was severed, the machete was blunt. The witness was told to go to Pa Kabbah to get another hand. With the same blunt machete Junior then cut off both ears of the witness, first his left ear, then his right ear. Then the witness walked and saw Staff Alhaji, a soldier whom he knew to have been in the SLA. The witness said to him: “Staff, look what your boys have done to me”. Staff Alhaji hissed his teeth at the witness and told him the next group coming would finish him. Then the witness “went crazy” as he put it, ran and went into the bush. Other civilians took care of him and took him to Kokuima. ECOMOG gave him a tetanus injection. He was in Koikuima for a week and a few days. He and others were then taken in trucks to Connaught Hospital in Freetown. It was a group of 56 civilians who were taken there from Kokuima: amputees, some with shot wounds, some who were hacked, and some with burns. The witness was at Connaught Hospital for some time.

The witness held up his arm to show the Court: his arm is amputated between the wrist and the elbow, close to the wrist. The witness also shows both sides of his head, the right and left ear are cut off.

Three photographs are shown to the witness and he identified the person in the photograph as himself. The photographs are marked for identification as MFI-1, MFI-5 and MFI-6.

His life now

Before the events he was a security guard for a mining company in Kono, but now he can no longer do physical work or be employed by anyone. He sells firewood from home; it is his wife who does most of the work. Life is not easy for him.


Defense Counsel Morris Anyah began his cross-examination by saying that it is obvious that the witness sustained severe injuries in Sierra Leone in 1998 and 1999 and that, by asking the witness questions, this does not mean the Defense disputes this. Anyah established that the witness has not testified in any other trial before the Special Court. The witness gave statements to the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) on September 11, 2003, made corrections to this statement on August 11, 2007 and again met with his lawyer Mohamed Bangura on October 26 and 27, 2008 here in The Hague.

At this moment in the testimony Court is adjourned at 11.30 a.m. for the mid-morning break.