Charles Taylor did not formulate a plan to destabilize West Africa, according to the former Liberian president’s first witness who said he trained with Mr. Taylor’s rebels in Libya in the 1980s.
Mr. Yanks Smythe, a Gambian, today said that he was part of the Gambian dissident group which underwent revolutionary training at a Libyan military training camp called Tajura along with Mr. Taylor’s rebel groups. But while leaders of the Liberian, Sierra Leonean and Gambian rebel groups all stayed at the same guesthouse during this time, and their fighters trained in the same camp, they did not have any plans to collaborate in attacking their respective countries.
Prosecutors have alleged that Mr. Taylor met Revolutionary United Front leader, Foday Sankoh, and Gambian dissident Dr. Kukua Sambasanja (known as Dr. Mani) in Libya in the 1980s and that the three men formulated a common plan to destabilize the West African sub-region, starting with Liberia. Mr. Taylor has denied these allegations, saying he never met Mr. Sankoh in Libya – only Dr. Mani and Allie Kabbah, a Sierra Leonean student leader who led a Sierra Leonean rebel group that was undertaking revolutionary training in Libya at the same time. Today’s witness also said that Mr. Taylor did not meet Mr. Sankoh at the training camp.
Asked by Mr. Taylor’s defense counsel, Morris Anyah, whether he “knew of any meeting that took place at the Mataba where there was a discussion amongst these three leaders [Mr. Taylor, Mr. Kabbah and Dr. Mani], regarding an invasion of Liberia,” the witness said “no, no, no.”
“Do you know of any meetings that were held during the time you were at Tajura — I’m referring to meetings held at the Mataba or at Tajura — between Foday Sankoh and Charles Taylor during which they discussed the invasion of Liberia?” Mr. Anyah asked the witness.
“No,” the witness responded.
Mr. Anyah further asked the witness whether he knew “of any such meetings held between Foday Sankoh and Charles Taylor either at the Mataba or Camp Tajura during the period when you were there when they discussed the invasion of Sierra Leone?”
The witness responded with another resounding “No.”
“Do you know whether Mr. Taylor held such meetings at either location with Allie Kabbah discussing the invasion of Sierra Leone?” Mr. Anyah asked again.
For the fourth time, the witness said “no.”
The witness also denied prosecution allegations that Dr. Mani provided Gambian fighters to joined Mr. Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel group when it attacked Liberia in 1989. The witness said no Gambian fighters were involved in the attack on Liberia when the West African country’s civil conflict started in 1989, but that Gambians later went to Liberia in 1990 to provide security to Mr. Taylor.
“Dr. Mani asked Mr. Taylor if he could send some of us, some of his men into Liberia to help provide security for him, since Prince Johnson has broken away,” Mr. Smythe said. “I know the situation, you know, became volatile. Mr. Taylor at the initial stage didn’t agree for us to go in…Mr. Taylor agreed later on.”
The witness’ account of Gambian fighters providing security for Mr. Taylor corroborates Mr. Taylor’s testimony that when some members of the NPFL broke-away in 1990, he had to rely on Dr. Mani’s Gambian fighters to provide security for him.
Mr.Taylor, who is on trial for his alleged support to RUF rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone, concluded his testimony as a witness in his own defense last week. The former president’s lawyers started leading his other defense witness in evidence today.
Mr. Smythe’s testimony continues tomorrow.