International Community Sanctioned RUF Commander Sam Bockarie’s Relocation To Liberia;ECOWAS Leaders Changed Rebel Leadership In Sierra Leone, Not Taylor Acting Alone

Charles Taylor this week told Special Court for Sierra Leone judges that he had the approval of the international community to grant political asylum to Sam Bockarie after the rebel commander left Sierra Leone in December 1999. Mr. Taylor also told the judges that West African leaders unanimously agreed to change the leadership of Sierra Leone’s rebel group when the group’s leader Foday Sankoh was arrested in 2000.

On Monday, Mr. Taylor told the judges that Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) leaders realized that Sam Bockarie’s continued presence in Sierra Leone was a hindrance to the peace process in the country and a unanimous decision was taken that he should leave the country and obtain political asylum in Liberia.

“Bockarie did not voluntarily leave Sierra Leone. ECOWAS extracted Bockarie from Sierra Leone. That’s how he left. He did not leave Sierra Leone voluntarily. He came to Liberia in December of 1999. People did not know the inside story. But this is what happened. It was an ECOWAS extraction, they took him out of Sierra Leone, he had no choice,” Mr. Taylor said.

When the government of Sierra Leone and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels signed a peace agreement in June 1999, the disarmament of combatants started in the country. Reports indicate that while RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, wanted all his forces to be disarmed, his deputy Sam Bockarie was opposed to such a move. This led to a conflict between Mr. Sankoh and Mr. Bockarie, and at the time, according to Mr. Taylor, “it appears Bockarie wants to challenge Sankoh.” Mr. Bockarie eventually left Sierra Leone for Liberia with about 400 rebel fighters who were loyal to him.

As part of the arrangement to get Mr. Bockarie out of Sierra Leone and relocate him to Liberia, Mr. Taylor said that the United States government agreed to provide scholarship for Mr. Bockarie to undergo military training in the United States.

“The United States promised that they would assist, not the upkeep of the people but the discussion was held as to what to do for Bockarie and they had said that they would probably help to give him a scholarship to do extended military training at one of their military bases in the United States but that did not come to pass,” he said.

Mr. Taylor also said that Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, gave a sum of 50,000 United States dollars to sustain Mr. Bockarie and his men in Liberia.

Mr. Taylor said he later on found it strange when the United Nations and the United States opposed Mr. Bockarie’s presence in Liberia. “This is strange. The man has just come in after agreeing with me and now you want me to throw him out? The same US had said they would give Bockarie training so he will cease to be a rebel.”

Mr. Taylor said that once Mr. Bockarie and his men were in Liberia and had obtained Liberian citizenship, his government decided to recruit them into the security sector. They were all trained and became part of Mr. Taylor’s Anti Terrorist Unit (ATU)–an elite force that provided security for Mr. Taylor. The ATU was headed by Mr. Taylor’s son Chuckie Taylor, who himself has been convicted in the United States for crimes of torture committed in Liberia.

Several prosecution witnesses testified that in 1999, when Mr. Bockarie fell out with RUF leader Mr. Sankoh, Mr. Taylor willingly offered to host Mr. Bockarie in Liberia, providing houses for him and his family and sending him and his fighters to launch attacks in Ivory Coast. Mr. Taylor has denied these allegations.

On Tuesday, Mr.  Taylor explained how he successfully negotiated the release of United Nations peacekeepers who were held hostage by rebel forces in Sierra Leone.

In May 2000, when RUF rebels took United Nations peacekeepers hostage in Sierra Leone, Mr. Taylor said that he was mandated by ECOWAS leaders and the United Nations to negotiate with the RUF rebels and secure the release of the hostages. Speaking on behalf of the international community, Mr. Taylor said he expressed his anger to the RUF rebels and told them the hostages needed to be released without any conditions.

Mr. Taylor said he called Issa Sesay, the RUF commander who was in possession of the UN hostages, to meet him in Liberia where the release of the peacekeepers was agreed. Mr. Taylor said ECOWAS leaders, UN and the United States Embassy officials were all informed that he was meeting with Mr. Sesay.

“I was very tied up with this particular situation. I made it clear to Issa Sesay that the UN peacekeepers must be released unconditionally and voiced to him the outrage of the international community,” Mr. Taylor said.

“I was not speaking with Issa Sesay as Taylor but I was speaking for ECOWAS, the African Union and the entire international community. I told Issa that the worst they could play with was the United Nations. I was very upset and thought they were very stupid. I told him the UN people had to be released unconditionally. This was not a friendly chat,” Mr. Taylor explained.

Mr. Sesay, Mr. Taylor said, eventually facilitated the release of the hostages to Liberian authorities in Liberia before they were all handed over to the UN.

On Wednesday, Mr. Taylor denied allegations that he used his personal influence to change the leadership of the RUF in 2000. He explained that after the arrest of the RUF’s leader Foday Sankoh in 2000, the ECOWAS heads of state needed a leader for the RUF with whom to negotiate and at a meeting in Liberia, they all agreed that Mr. Sesay was to take up the leadership of the rebel group.

“After the release of the UN hostages, we were concerned about who was in charge of the RUF in Sierra Leone,” Mr. Taylor said.

Mr. Taylor said that at a July 26, 2000 meeting in Liberia, six ECOWAS leaders asked Mr. Sesay to take over the leadership of the RUF since Mr. Sankoh was no longer in a position to run the rebel movement. Mr. Sesay, according to Mr. Taylor, told the West African leaders that he needed to get the approval of Mr. Sankoh, who was imprisoned in Sierra Leone. He said that Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, and Malian president, Alpha Oumar Konare, traveled together to Sierra Leone and met with Mr. Sankoh in his prison cell. They obtained a letter from him which approved Mr. Sesay as the RUF’s interim leader.

The prosecution has led evidence that when Mr. Sankoh gave his approval to Mr. Sesay’s leadership of the RUF, he told Mr. Sesay to take instructions from Mr. Taylor, and ordered Mr. Sesay not to disarm his rebel forces in Sierra Leone. A number of prosecution witnesses also testified that it was Mr. Taylor who changed the leadership of the RUF. Mr. Taylor dismissed this allegation as “total nonsense.”

Mr. Taylor said that the “circumstances surrounding Issa Sesay’s appointment was public knowlege.”

Mr. Taylor said that ECOWAS leaders, including Sierra Leonean president Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, saw Mr. Sesay as the most ideal person to work with in order to bring peace to Sierra Leone. “We saw him to be a very good fellow,” Mr. Taylor said. “Some credit is due to him for getting on with the process of Lome [The peace agreement between the government of Sierra Leone and the RUF was signed in the Togolese capital Lome in June 1999].”

On Thursday, Mr. Taylor again denied allegations that he had individual influence over the RUF rebels in Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor reinforced to the judges that he was only able to convince the leadership of the RUF rebels to yield to the demands of peace in Sierra Leone because he had “built the confidence and trust which is necessary in any mediation efforts.”

Asked by his defense counsel Courtenay Griffiths whether he exercised any influence over the RUF rebels, Mr. Taylor said “none whatsoever.”

Mr. Taylor told judges that the rebel leadership listened to him just like they did to other West African leaders who were involved in facilitating a peaceful end to the conflict in Sierra Leone.

“Nigeria had very good contact with the RUF. Burkina Faso and Mali also had very good contact with the RUF. We built confidence and trust with them. They therefore took us seriously,” Mr. Taylor said.

Mr. Taylor also discussed a September 9 2000 Guardian Newspaper article which reported that Nigerian peacekeepers in Sierra Leone were involved in diamond trade with RUF rebels. “There were indications that Nigerian soldiers were involved in the trade of diamonds,” Mr. Taylor said.

Mr. Taylor said that Nigerian military commander, Maxwell Kobe (who was head of the Sierra Leone army) received up to 10 million USD from the RUF, and that former Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) commander General Kpamber (also from Nigeria) worked with RUF leader Foday Sankoh. Mr. Taylor said that “some people referred to Kpamber as Sankoh’s ADC [aide-de-camp].”

Mr. Taylor is being tried on allegations that he provided support to RUF rebels in Sierra Leone through the supply of arms and ammunition in return for diamonds. Diamonds, the prosecution says, were used by Mr. Taylor and RUF rebel leaders to fuel the conflict in Sierra Leone and that through his acts or omissions, Mr. Taylor bears responsibility for the crimes committed by RUF rebels in Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor has denied the allegations. He is presently testifying as a witness in his own defense.

Mr. Taylor’s testimony continues on Monday.


  1. What is going on?? I cannot watch the trial from any of the links provided. I went to SCL site and cannot also. Tracey couldn’t you please find out. Thanks.

    1. Hi Noko4,

      I checked with the Special Court on Friday about the problems people had in watching the trial – they said that they had technical difficulties that they hoped would be fixed by today. Seems like they are still having problems. Hopefully tomorrow it will be better. Let’s check in again then and see. I know it is frustrating for a lot of people trying to watch the trial.


  2. How can anyone take the International Community serious? They double talked, double faced, two sided two sets of rules for two different kind of people, and very inconsistent. Will they hold Obasanjo responsible for Hosting President Taylor also, since the rule is when you play host to any perceived bad man you are reponsible for all the alleged carnage meted by this peoson?

    1. Jose,

      What is happening now is just a tug of war of words. Until CT and the prosecution can bring some of these people to verify or debunk what CT is saying, this trail is becoming one of hear say. Many believe that CT is saying things to save himself and would say anything. Frankly, I am not sure how much of it is true, but I find it hard to believe that everything was done with the sanction and consent of the UN or ECOWAS. Then again, I could be wrong. The evidence and credibility of witnesses will determine the validity of his testimony. I just want a transparent trail.

      In regards to the situation with CT in Nigeria; If you can recall, the US was supportive of CT going to Nigeria. Yet, within few months, they were pressuring Nigeria to turn him over for prosecution. I vividly remember that the US congress also included a line in their budget of 2.0 million for the capture of CT for war crimes from Nigeria. Nigeria was outraged and accused the US of state sponsored terrorism. A British contracting firm (former called mercenaries but for political expediency they are now called contractors. You know like Blackwater, oh they changed their name to XE–XE is an undetected gas) even proposed a 3.5 million pounds deal also (links below). So the tongue twisting is not uncommon in politics.

      Here are some good reading, they might help either add credibility or disprove CT testimony. Enjoy!

  3. Good job to all you guys who have been defending true justice to both the defendant and the prosecution in this trial. King Gray, Aki, Noko5, Noko4, Andrew, Harris, Helen, Zobon, Nii, Bnker, Banker, Geobo, and the rest of you guys that I can not remember your name of the top of my head right now, I say thank you very much for standing tall and promoting real justice.

  4. Tracy this is to let you know that I just was able to connect to the Link at 2.30pm this afternoon. I hope tomorrow it will be fine from morning.

    I will want to say thank you very much for all the effort you are playing for us to be able to follow this trial on the internet. The whole of last week I could not watch here in Ghana.

    Thank you and I say God Bless you and your team.

    1. Hi Nii,

      I’m so glad you were finally able to connect – thank you for letting me and other readers know. I hope also that this means that the problems are fixed and tomorrow goes more smoothly. Let’s see and keep our fingers crossed!


  5. Since last Wednesday, Ive been unable to watch the trial. Some have suggested overloading or server problem. If memory serves right, I don’t recalled this being the problem when prosecusion presented their case. Is this a double standard or what? I’ll wait and observe what will take place tomorrow. I’ve tried every link, but all effort proved frutile. I’m sure the court is capable of having this problem solve
    Lastly, is the court concerned about public opinion? I don’t think so. It appears you’re guilty until proven innocent… not the other way around.

    1. Abe,
      If this is their goal, thinking we will be hoodwink, a MISTAKE. This case has too much feathers to be pluck out of the air.

  6. Tracey,

    I requested last week that you kindly ask Mr. Moribia to give us name of radio snd television stations in Liberia that he sent raw footage and audio-visual summaries to for screening. I have not heard from you on this. Can you please double check this information and get back to us? Thanks for your usual understandings.



    1. Dear Harris,

      Thanks for your reminder. I have asked Mr. Moriba about this and also about whether there is internet access to archival footage for the daily live feed or for the summaries that are sent to Liberia. I hope to have news for you soon.


      1. Thanks, Tracey,

        I can’t wait to hear from Mr. Moriba. I would really appreciate where possible to get hold of one or watch any on Liberian TV station. Please keep up the hard work. History will surely be kind to you. Have a nice day and God bless you.



        1. Thank you so much, Harris. I will be sure to let you know as soon as I hear from Mr. Moriba.

  7. Tracey,

    You have always been on time in responding and addressing our many concerns that we appreciate. But I’m a little down hearted that you are taking too much time to hear from Mr. Moriba on this matter. I’m now feeling that this information is another Rapp story. I repeat again that I live in Monrovia and usually follow the media be it electronic or print, but have never heard or read about such until Mr. Moriba told us on this site. Tracey, please I’m upset but…I can also be reached by this address Have a nice working day and God bless you.


    Harris K johnson

    1. Harris — I completely understand how eager you are to hear from the Special Court, and how upset you are about not being able to find out more information about the trial in Liberia. Let me follow up with them again today and see if I can get some news. We will keep trying until we find out, I promise.

      1. Tracey – you are a wonderful person for all season. We are greatful that you acknowlege how we Liberians are hungry for every piece of information about this case involving the life and respect of our former President Charles G. Taylor. We want to avoid any future problem with our brothers and sisters in Sierra Leone. This is why we want to make better use of every information coming from the Special Court in order to remain objective to the dead end. You will agree that the people of SL have more access to information from the Special Court then Liberians, which is not fair. We know that Mr. Moriba comes from SL, but if he can not help us, he shouldn’t hurt our broken hearts by misinforming us. Remember that wrong information is more or equal to a bullet. It kills too. We are waiting yah?

        Harris K. Johnson

  8. Tracey,

    Thanks for your good time and efforts. One thing I can asure you is that the answers will never come because they are just another group of Rapp stories without bases.

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