Charles Taylor Did Not Have Control Over Liberians Who Travelled To Sierra Leone; Says He Expelled RUF Collaborators From Liberia

As Liberian President, Charles Taylor did not have any control over Liberian fighters who travelled to Sierra leone to join rebel forces there, and further, he expelled a British National and a Sierra Leonean diplomat from Liberia when he suspected them of collaborating with rebel forces in Sierra Leone, Mr. Taylor told the Special Court for Sierra Leone this week.

In an effort to distance himself from allegations that he supported and controlled rebel forces in Sierra Leone during its conflict, Mr. Taylor explained this week that many former combatants from Liberia’s own conflict, who had migrated to Sierra Leone after Mr. Taylor came to power in Liberia in 1997, joined either the group of Liberians known as the Special Task Force – a group aiding the Sierra Leonean army – while some joined the Sierra Leonean rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), he said. Some, Mr. Taylor said, became prey for mercenaries due to their lack of food or jobs.

Mr. Taylor said that he, however, had no control or command over these fighters who had migrated to Sierra Leone and become part of fighting forces there, and could not have punished them for any crimes committed in Sierra Leone, nor prevented the crimes from happening.

“How do you punish someone when he is not under your control?” Mr. Taylor asked the court. “You can only be responsible for people under your direct command.”

“Nobody can say that Taylor ordered me to do X, Y or Z. I did not have contact with them and there was no control over them. I did not help them in anyway,” Mr. Taylor told the judges.

Asked by his defense counsel Courtenay Griffiths what he did as newly elected president of Liberia to control such situation, Mr. Taylor said that the “only thing I could have done was to get international support to build schools and train people or engage them in projects to become productive citizens.”  He said this was not possible because he did not have any international support.

Mr. Taylor has been accused of supporting RUF rebels in Sierra  Leone by supplying them with arms and ammunition in exchange for Sierra Leone’s diamonds. The prosecution further alleges that in addition to sending Liberian fighters to join the rebels forces in Sierra Leone, he also provided safe haven for RUF rebels in Liberia. Mr. Taylor has denied the allegations.

On Tuesday, Mr. Taylor told the court how he expelled two individuals from Liberia, one from Britain and the other from Sierra Leone on suspicion that they were collaborating with RUF rebels in Sierra Leone through a company operating in Monrovia called Red Deer International.  According to Mr. Taylor, when security forces raided the premises of the Red Deer International company, they discovered several items which, intelligence sources suggested, were for use by RUF rebels.

“We saw some suits of uniform, military uniform, the police seized hand-held walkie talkies, the Government of Sierra Leone was fully briefed about what was going on,” Mr. Taylor said.

Mr. Taylor said the arrested persons were in touch with certain individuals who were connected to the RUF.

Mr. Taylor also gave a chronology of steps he took to assure Sierra Leone and the international community that he was not supporting RUF rebels and that he wanted a peaceful end to the conflict in Sierra Leone.

On May 5 1998, Mr. Taylor said he wrote a letter to the United Nations Secretary General  denying allegations by the Nigerian Ministry of Defense that he was involved in the conflict in Sierra Leone.

On June 24 1998, Mr. Taylor sent a delegation to meet with former Sierra Leonean president Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, a step Mr. Taylor called a “diplomatic move to assure your neighbor that these are just false allegations and there is no need to worry.”

President Tejan Kabbah also attended Liberia’s independence celebrations in Monrovia on July 26, 1998. Mr. Taylor said this move by President Kabbah proved that there was no animosity between the two leaders.

“If this conflict was so serious, Kabbah would not have visited me. Presidents at war with each other will not pay visits,” Mr. Taylor said.

On December 28 1998, Mr. Taylor said he issued a statement asking for the establishment of a commission of inquiry to look into allegations of Liberian involvement in the conflict in Sierra Leone and he asked the government of Sierra Leone to be part of a joint patrol to monitor the Sierra Leone-Liberian border.

On January 6 1999, Mr. Taylor sent a letter to the United Nations Security Council saying that Liberia wanted normalcy in its relationship with Sierra Leone and asking for the deployment of United Nations personnel along the border between the two countries.

When the January 1999 rebel invasion of Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown took place, Mr. Taylor declared a unilateral ceasefire on behalf of the RUF rebels. The prosecution has alleged that Mr. Taylor helped the RUF rebels to plan the January 1999 invasion of Freetown. Mr. Taylor has denied these allegations.

Asked by Mr. Griffiths why he took the lead to declare a ceasefire on behalf of the RUF in January 1999, Mr. Taylor said that “Liberia, Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana are charged with the responsibility of engaging the RUF and the junta. I am the point guard, so to speak, on this effort, the contacts are being made by me. Why? This time Sam Bockarie has already been to Liberia for the first time, the second time, and has come through the third time. So it is obvious that these contacts are being made and the information shared with my colleagues.”

Mr. Taylor said he was actively involved in efforts to get President Tejan Kabbah and RUF leader Foday Sankoh to the negotiating table which ended with the signing of a peace agreement between the Government of Sierra Leone and the RUF in the Togolese capital, Lome, in June 1999.

On Wednesday, Mr. Taylor told the court that he was only interested in achieving peace in Sierra Leone for the people of the country, not for the benefit of the country’s rebel leader Foday Sankoh.

“My plan to bring peace to Sierra Leone was not for Foday Sankoh but for the people of Sierra Leone,” Mr. Taylor told the court.

Mr. Taylor explained that when he became president of Liberia in 1997, he was anxious for peace to return to Sierra Leone in order to bring development to his own country.

“This has never been for Sankoh but for Sierra Leone. I was in a hurry to do something for my people in Liberia and this cannot move ahead without peace in Sierra Leone,” Mr. Taylor said. “If there is no peace in Sierra Leone, there will be no peace in Liberia.”

On Thursday, the court heard that a key military intelligence document, written by and for high level Sierra Leonean rebel commanders summarizing their group’s activities during a brutal time in the Sierra Leonean war, made no mention of any assistance by Mr. Taylor with their efforts.

Mr. Griffiths read from a ‘Salute Report’ written by former RUF commander Sam Bockarie to his returning leader, Foday Sankoh.  The report was written after Mr. Sankoh’s absence from the rebel group between 1997 and 1999, while he was imprisoned by Nigeria . The document provided a detailed account of the RUF’s activities while Mr. Sankoh was gone.

Reading from the report, the defense sought to rebut prosecution allegations that the RUF was controlled by Mr. Taylor during Sierra Leone ’s war while Mr. Sankoh was imprisoned in Nigeria , and that during this time, Mr. Taylor promoted RUF commander Sam Bockarie to the rank of Brigadier General. Witnesses have further testified in the trial that diamonds mined by the RUF were taken to Mr. Taylor and that in return, he supplied the rebels with arms and ammunition. Mr. Taylor has denied these allegations.

Asked by his defense counsel whether there was any mention in the report of him giving orders for the RUF to join the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC)–a group of Sierra Leonean soldiers who overthrew the government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah in May 1997–Mr. Taylor said “No. I was not privy to any of this information. From what I got, this was an instruction from Sankoh on tape that was played on radio.”

On his promotion to the rank of General in the RUF, the Salute Report quoted Sam Bockarie as saying “I was promoted to General by Johnny Paul Koroma [former leader of the AFRC].” Mr. Taylor buttressed this point by saying he never promoted Mr. Bockarie to such rank, saying that “in fact to the best of my recollection, when I met Bockarie, he was already a General.”

Mr. Taylor again blamed Western Powers for the state of affairs in Liberia after he became president in 1997. He said the western powers encouraged him to disarm all fighting forces in Liberia , burning all arms and ammunition and thereby rendering him powerless only for the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebels to launch an attack against him.

“It ended up with an insurgency by LURD after we were led to burn our arms. After we burnt all our arms, LURD attacked,” Mr. Taylor said.

Mr. Taylor told the court that more needs to be done to solve the problems of conflicts in the West African sub-region than putting him to trial.

“The trials in Sierra Leone or the trial of Taylor will not end the problems in that region. They can only be resolved if we go to the root causes of these conflicts,” he said.

Mr. Taylor’s testimony continues on Monday.


  1. Again I ask, did the prosecutors know about ALL these documents??? If so, how are they seeking JUSTICE???? I think it’s time they apply RULE 51.

    1. Why are we wasting money and time on this case? From the onset I knew that there is no way the court would be able to find Mr. Taylor guilty. The prosecutors don’t have enough evidence for all the charges against Taylor. Yes, they put false witnesses on the stand that said things that had nothing to do with the trial. After looking at the SALUTE REPORT, I think it’s time for the court to declare the poor man is innocent.
      Perhaps they could be lucky to find him guilty if Liberia decides to sue him for what he’d done in Liberia. But again, this would be difficult because there are so many players involved in the Liberian civil war, including the current Liberian president, George Bush Sr. and numerous other western powers.
      As a Liberian, I say we should forgive Taylor and let him go. Instead of wasting money and time on him, let’s focus on rebuilding our country. Lierra Leoneans, I know what happened to you was horrible, but Taylor is not the man to blame. Prince Johnson would be your best bet! Taylor, you are brilliant! and I love you for that

  2. Let’s get to the point. Does the court really mean business? Why are they throwing stone and hiding themselves? They have getting all the fact about Taylor even to the poing where they produced written documents to that effect. They should be able by now come up with thier verdict. Charles Taylor is innocent. We sierra leonean are responsible for what happened in our country. What happened in sierra leon did not happened in Liberia. Let the court stop fooling people around here. This is not a soccer game. They should be talking about what mr. Taylor did in Liberia. Let the innocent man go.

  3. I believe this case is no longer about Prosecution VS Defendant (Charles Taylor). It’s now (on the inside) more about the Justices thoughts about the trial, so far, VS the people who wanted to see Taylor ousted from day one. The judges already, now, know that for the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt there has to be a miracle that has a less than .0000099% degree of confidence.

    In the court of law, when judges arrived at such conclusion; they already know that the trial is not worthy, that the prosecution has failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt, and the case needs to be kicked out. Heartbreakingly; in this situation, they appear not to have the stomach to attempt that; thus, the docket of the trial has now evolved into “Justices of SCSL VS the People who wanted to see CT falls from grace”. Instead of kicking the trial out, they (judges) appear to be troubled about how the framers and financial supporters of the trial will think if they ever do that.

    Long before Taylor ever became president of Liberia it was concluded that by the CIA in its classified report that:

    “In terms of the May 30, 1997 elections, all transmissions from Capitol Hill and 1600 Penn seem to not favor any of the current candidates in Monrovia. Mr. Taylor is out of the question due to his double dealings with international shady figures, including his ties to Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. Mr. Matthews on the other hand is very inconsistent and unreliable. He is too close to many of the problems in the country. Mr. Tipoteh is a card-carrying Socialist. He is the type who will turn away from the U.S. and align with Socialist nations. Mr. Fahnbulleh is a very divisive figure with a narrow support base. He tends to be a sectionalist. He has close ties to China, Cuba, and other Socialist nations. According to classified reports, the U.S. opposes almost all of the standing politicians in the country. They are generally corruptible and short on vision. Should any one of them become elected, immediate action will be taken, including threats of a war crimes tribunal, to bring down the government”.

    With all these known and on minds, couple with the inexistence of credible evident to convict CT, I believe the judges would soon be entering into a three way unorthodox plea bargain with the Defense and the people who wanted to see CT ousted in order to get Taylor to accept an asylum in another country, as mean of getting him off the hook.

    He is seen as a threat to western inference, and they are determined not to see him go back to the shore of the land of his nativity. By him accepting an asylum – probably to go to Libya with certain conditions that he will not be involved in Liberia’s politics for as long as he lives; that will be his only way of getting out of jail.

    This trial should have been a “Guilty – Guilty” occurrence as was in the case of “WMD – WMD” that took Sadam down, but the prosecution didn’t do her homework well. The “Not-Guilty” phase was not and is still not written any where in the minds of those that framed the indictments. That’s why, since the prosecution has blundered, the “unorthodox plea bargain” would come in to balance the reputation of the SCSL in the eyes of the many observers, because the character of the international court is at stake here.

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