A 300-strong force of Liberians and Sierra Leoneans were based in Liberia and trained under a top Sierra Leonean rebel leader before attacking Sierra Leone in 1991, a protected Liberian witness told the Special Court for Sierra Leone today. Former Liberian president, Charles Taylor, however, denies knowledge of Sierra Leonean rebels training in his country.
Testifying in open session but whose name and personal information were not shared with the public, the witness told the judges that he was part of the rebel force that trained under Revolutionary United Front (RUF) leader, Foday Sankoh, at Camp Nama in Liberia in the early 1990s. The witness also recalled the names of other rebel commanders with whom he underwent training at the camp, some of whom have been prosecuted and convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for their role in the crimes committed during the Sierra Leonean conflict.
“I can remember Sam Bockarie who is Mosquito, I knew Sam Quelleh, I knew Issa Sesay, I knew Morris Kallon, I knew Augustine Gbao, I knew Jonathan Kposowa, they were many, I can’t recall all of their names now,” the witness said.
The witness explained that on March 20, 1991, RUF leader Mr. Sankoh took about 150 trainees from Camp Nama to the Liberian-Guinean border in Lofa County. He said that on the orders of Mr. Sankoh, 100 men attacked the town of Koindu in Sierra Leone’s Kailahun District. The 100 men who launched the first attack succeeded in capturing several boxes of ammunition and military radios from the police station in Koindu.
Prosecutors have alleged that with Mr. Taylor’s help, RUF rebels, among whom were Sierra Leoneans and Liberians, were trained at Camp Nama in Liberia before the 1991 attack on Sierra Leone. Prosecutors say that RUF commanders such as Sam Bockarie, Issa Sesay and Morris Kallon were all trained at Camp Nama. Mr. Taylor has denied the prosecution allegations, saying that he did not provide any support in training RUF rebels and that he had no knowledge of RUF rebels undergoing training at Camp Nama.
This is the fourth witness to testify in defense of Mr. Taylor who is on trial for allegedly providing support to RUF rebels in Sierra Leone during the West African country’s 11-years civil war. Mr. Taylor has denied all prosecution allegations against him.
Meanwhile, a Sierra Leonean witness told the Special Court earlier today how Sierra Leonean government forces executed suspected rebel collaborators without trial during the country’s brutal civil conflict – and chose which suspects to kill based on the way they looked.
The Sierra Leonean witness, DCT 068, said he feared for his life and fled Freetown after his government’s forces started summarily executing about 20 suspected Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels a day after the country’s war broke out in 1991.
“For fear of my life, I fled Freetown and joined the RUF in the Sierra Leonean town of Zogoda in 1992,” the witness said.
Zogoda, also known as Camp Zogoda served as the headquarter base of the RUF until it was attacked and destroyed by forces loyal to the Government of Sierra Leone in 1996.
Describing how government forces carried out summary executions of suspected rebels and collaborators, the witness explained that “anybody they see, they just say one, two, three, four, five — you come out. Then they take them to the cemetery and give them summary execution without going through any judiciary process and I witnessed that in Kenema.”
The witness added that the manner of one’s appearance was a determining factor in deciding whether to associate one with rebel forces.
“If you are not well dressed, you know that is how they use to associate you with rebels. If you are in coat and tie, you will not be executed,” he said.
The testimony of the protected Liberian witness continues on Tuesday as the court room will be used for other International Criminal Court trials on Monday.