Upon his appointment as head of the Committee of Five by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Charles Taylor regularly communicated and held meetings with members of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), but all these contacts were done with the consent and participation of ECOWAS and the United Nations, he said in his testimony today before judges of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
“Subsequent to my appointment on the Committee of Five, I spoke with the RUF many times. I held meetings with them with the knowledge, consent and acquiescence of ECOWAS. The United Nations knew because for most of my discussions with the RUF, I spoke with Kofi Annan directly or through his Special Representative in Liberia. Everything I did in Sierra Leone was done with knowledge and consent of ECOWAS and I have documentary evidence to prove that,” Taylor said.
The Committee of Five was set up by ECOWAS with representatives from five West African countries whose mandate was to facilitate a peaceful end to the conflict in Sierra Leone.
Mr. Taylor told judges that he was appointed as Chairman of the Committee of Five because ECOWAS leaders believed he was better placed to negotiate with the RUF rebels, having been a rebel himself. He said that he was actively involved in efforts geared towards bringing Sierra Leone’s conflict to a peaceful conclusion.
Mr. Taylor also told judges that, like other West African leaders, he was part of the decision that foreign governments should not recognize the junta government of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). For this reason, he said that Liberia did not recognize the AFRC junta regime in Sierra Leone. “There was a decision that the junta should not be recognized. My government did not recognize the junta,” Taylor said.
Mr. Taylor denied allegations that he supplied the AFRC/RUF with arms and ammunition from Liberia, arguing that Liberia did not even have any arms and ammunition for its own armed forces. He said that “everybody in West Africa and the United Nations knows that Liberia is disarmed and all arms are under lock and key. Security of Liberia is still handled by ECOMOG.”
Mr. Taylor described allegations that he used the RUF rebels to plunder the diamond resources of Sierra Leone as nonsense. Describing with use of a map areas in Liberia where diamonds could be mined, Taylor told the judges that his country is rich in diamonds, bauxite and uranium and would therefore have no reason to turn to Sierra Leone for its own diamond resources. ” I know our potential. I know our wealth. What am I going into Sierra Leone to do? It is beyond my imagination that anyone would believe that the President of Liberia would go into Sierra Leone. He wants to “terrorize” the people and take their wealth when the vast wealth that we have I have not even touched. It doesn’t make sense. It did not happen. Why do I need to do that? What do I do with the wealth of my own country?” Taylor said.
Mr. Taylor is accused of supporting the RUF rebels in Sierra Leone by collaborating with them to plunder the country’s diamond resources in return for the supply of arms and ammunition. The prosecution alleges that by his acts or omissions Mr. Taylor is responsible for the crimes committed by the rebels in Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor has denied all the allegations.
Taylor also dismissed prosecution witness Zig Marzah’s testimony that Taylor dined on human intestines as nonsense and blamed the witness’s illiteracy for coming up with such an allegation. “I felt like throwing up when I heard that nonsense from him, and I think even the prosecution were shocked at listening to that foolishness,” he said.
Taylor said that all these allegations against him are “statements of lies, statements of deceit and deception.”
Mr. Taylor’s testimony continues tomorrow.