Charles Taylor today told Special Court for Sierra Leone judges that when he became president of Liberia, he arrested and expelled a British citizen and a Sierra Leonean diplomat who were secretely collaborated with rebel forces in Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor also gave a chronology of steps that he took as president of Liberia to bring the conflict to Sierra Leone to a peaceful conclusion.
Mr. Taylor told the court that the British citizen and Sierra Leonean diplomat who collaborated with Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in Sierra Leone did so 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 has been accused of providing support to RUF rebels in Sierra Leone through the supply of arms and ammunition. The prosecution has also alleged that he helped RUF rebels plan attacks on civilian populations in Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor has denied these allegations.
In his testimony today, Mr. Taylor went through a list 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 his defense counsel Courtenay 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.
Mr. Taylor’s testimony continues tomorrow.