Charles Taylor did not support Sierra Leonean rebels in the early 1990s, but worked with them inside Sierra Leone to fend off attacks from a rival armed group in Liberia, he told judges today at the Special Court for Sierrra Leone.
Taylor began working with the Sierra Leonean rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) between August 1991 and May 1992, after a Liberian armed group started attacking Taylor’s forces, he told the court today. The rival group, the United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia (ULIMO), was supported by the Sierra Leonean government, Taylor said — but this did not mean he wanted to helping the RUF rebel leader, Foday Sankoh, to attack Sierra Leone in the early 1990s.
“My relationship with Foday Sankoh was for security purposes to fight ULIMO in Sierra Leone so as t0 prevent fighting them in Liberia,” Taylor said today while giving testimony in his own defense.
Taylor told judges that “I never harboured any intention, never planned any such intention, there was no reason to plan such intention” to support the RUF and he refuted all allegations that he was present at the meeting where the RUF attack on Sierra Leone was planned.
“The whole issue of what is going on in Sierra Leone is none of my business. If ULIMO had not attacked Liberia from Sierra Leone, you will never have heard of all this foolishness,” Taylor said. He went further to tell the court that “Sankoh and his people are a bunch of idiots” and that it will be “foolish to believe that Taylor who had had no military training will be advising Sankoh who had been a trained soldier in the Sierra Leone army.”
Responding to questions that Sankoh fought alongside Taylor’s armed group, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), in Liberia before attacking Sierra Leone, Taylor said that he “was not aware of Sankoh fighting alongside the NPFL.”
” If he had, I would have known,” Taylor said. “No evidence has been presented by the prosecution that Sankoh fought alongside the NPFL in Liberia.”
Taylor also denied allegations that he used children as NPFL combatants in Liberia. He explained that while many children were in NPFL controlled territory, “there was no official policy of the NPFL to recruit, train and arm children for combat.” He said that he even had one of the largest orphanages in Gbarngha during the war and that “whenever there is a crisis anywhere, you will always see soldiers moving around with children.”
Taylor also denied allegations that he supplied arms and ammunition to RUF fighters in the early 1990s. He explained that the flow of arms between the NPFL and the RUF would not have been possible at this time because from 1992 to 1993, ULIMO fighters occupied all the major routes between the NPFL controlled areas in Liberia and the border with Sierra Leone. He further said that from 1994 onwards, peacekeepers of the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) occupied all the airports and seaports in the country through which arms and ammunition would have been transported.
Taylor also said ECOMOG forces had been biased against Taylor’s forces in Liberia, with an aim to stop the NPFL from taking power in Liberia. He accused ECOMOG forces in Liberia of “deceit and hypocricy” and said they were arming the Liberian armed forces in order to halt NPFL progress. Taylor defended attacks against ECOMOG peacekeepers as necessary because the NPFL “wanted to take the capital and end the suffering of the people.”
“They were not peacekeepers,” he said about ECOMOG forces.
Taylor’s testimony continues tomorrow.