Today, a Sierra Leonean witness commenced his testimony in defense of Charles Taylor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The witness told the judges that the former Liberian president provided support to Sierra Leonean rebel forces but that such support ceased in 1991 when Mr. Taylor withdrew his Liberian fighters from Sierra Leone.
Charles Ngebeh, a Sierra Leonean who was a member of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel group, a group that Mr. Taylor is accused of supporting, today testified that at the initial stages of the war in Sierra Leone, Mr. Taylor did provide support to RUF rebels through the supply of manpower and materials, such as food, medicine, arms, and ammunition. The witness said that such support, however, ceased when RUF rebels and Mr. Taylor’s Liberian fighters in Sierra Leone clashed in what has been called “Top 20, Top 40 and Top Final.”
Prosecution witnesses testified during the presentation of the prosecution case that in 1991, members of Mr. Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), who were fighting alongside rebel forces in Sierra Leone, had a conflict with their RUF counterparts that led to the Liberian fighters leaving Sierra Leone and returning to Liberia. In Mr. Taylor’s testimony as a witness in his own defense, the former president addressed the same issue, telling the judges that he did have Liberian fighters helping RUF rebels along the Liberia-Sierra Leone border but that such fighters were withdrawn when they had clashes with the RUF. Mr. Taylor also said that within this period, he did help the RUF with arms and ammunition because they were fighting a common enemy in the United Liberian Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO), who were attacking the NPFL with support from the Government of Sierra Leone.
In his testimony today, the defense witness, Mr. Ngebeh, told the judges that when he was captured and taken to the training base in 1991, he was trained by RUF and Liberian NPFL fighters.
In response to a question by Mr. Taylor’s defense counsel, Terry Munyard, about who conducted his training when he was taken to the training base after his capture by RUF rebels in 1991, the witness said that “it was a combined forces of RUF and NPFL.”
The witness affirmed that at the initial stages of the conflict, Mr. Taylor did provide some support to the RUF but added that such support ceased when the RUF had clashes with the NPFL fighters in Sierra Leone.
“At the initial stage of the war in 1991, RUF used to have assistance from Mr. Taylor. After that infighting, Mr. Taylor withdrew all his men and the weapons they had,” the witness said.
Asked to tell the court what kind of support the RUF used to receive from Mr. Taylor, the witness explained that “we used to get food from Liberia, they used to send us medicines and some few ammunitions.”
The witness explained that the two sources of ammunition for the RUF at that time were supplied from Mr. Taylor and those obtained after attacking enemy forces.
“There are only two sources that we used to get ammunition from: Mr. Taylor and attacking our enemies,” he said.
He explained that after Mr. Taylor withdrew his support from the RUF in 1991, RUF leader Foday Sankoh returned from Liberia and said “he’ll never step his foot on Gbarngha [NPFL headquarters at that time] because Taylor had sent an order to arrest him.”
“Minus Taylor, plus Taylor, I will fight my war,” the witness quoted Mr. Sankoh as having said at that time.
Mr. Ngebeh’s testimony continues tomorrow.