Charles Taylor did not provide arms and ammunition to Sierra Leonean rebels to attack Sierra Leone’s diamond rich town of Kono — and diamonds mined by the rebels were not taken to the former Liberian president, Mr. Taylor’s defense witness told Special Court for Sierra Leone judges today in The Hague.
Martin Flomo George, a Liberian national and former member of Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel group, refuted prosecution claims that the former Liberian president gave weapons to the RUF, instructed the group’s senior commander, Sam Bockarie, to attack the diamond-rich town of Kono in 1998, and then received the diamonds mined from the town. Mr. Taylor has dismissed the allegations as false.
Mr. Taylor’s defense counsel, Morris Anyah, asked the witness today whether Mr. Bockarie had said “anything about receiving instructions from Charles Taylor to attack Kono.”
“Sam Bockarie never told us anything in relation to Charles Taylor,” Mr. George responded.
The witness added that Mr. Bockarie never told them about receiving arms and ammunition from Mr. Taylor for the recapture of Kono, as alleged by prosecutors.
“Charles Taylor had his own problems to solve. He never told us anything about Charles Taylor giving us ammunition or sending us ammunition to recapture. No,” Mr. George said.
Asked what be meant by “Charles Taylor had his own problems,” the witness explained:
“What I mean about Charles Taylor having his own problem, he was elected in Liberia in 1997, he as not fighting, there was no war going on in 1997. How could he have given us instruction? How could he have given us ammunition? That’s what I’m saying.”
The witness added that the arms and ammunition used by the RUF to attack Kono in 1998 were bought from the United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia (ULIMO) rebels, a rival rebel group to Mr. Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel group. Mr. George said that shortly before the attack on Kono in 1998, ULIMO commander, Abu Keita, delivered boxes of ammunition Mr. Bockarie, who was at the time based in Sierra Leone’s eastern town of Buedu in the Kailahun District. The witness’s account about ULIMO selling arms and ammunition to the RUF corroborates an account given by a previous defense witness on the same subject.
Also in his testimony today, Mr. George denied prosecution claims that diamonds mined by the RUF were taken to Mr. Taylor in Liberia. The witness said that he never heard of diamonds being taken to Liberia. As far as he knew, Mr. George said, all diamonds mined by the RUF were given to RUF commander, Issa Sesay, who in turn took them to Mr. Bockarie. Prosecutors claim that when Mr. Bockarie received the diamonds from Mr. Sesay, he handed them to either Mr. Taylor or his former Director of Special Security Services (SSS) Benjamin Yeaten in Liberia. Mr. Anyah sought to clarify this issue with the witness today.
“Were diamonds mined in Kono by the RUF sent to former Special Security Director Benjamin Yeaten in Liberia?” Mr. Anyah asked the witness.
“All I know, all diamonds were given to Issa and from Issa to Sam Bockarie. But I never heard that a particular set of diamonds packed were sent for that particular person whose name you are calling,” the witness responded.
“How about Charles Taylor? Did you ever hear someone say diamonds that were recovered by the RUF in Kono, when you were Brigade Commander there, were being sent to Charles Taylor in Liberia?” Mr. Anyah asked.
“Never,” the witness responded.
“Nobody ever told me that they were taking diamonds to Charles Taylor for arms or ammunition or food or what have you. All I knew was that I was focused on my frontline and the miners were focused on their mining. I did not have anything to do with the mining activities. I only had business with my frontline,” Mr. George said.
Since the start of his defense, Mr. Taylor has had both Sierra Leonean and Liberian nationals testify on his behalf. Mr. George is the ninth defense witness who has testified for Mr. Taylor.
Mr. George’s testimony continues on Monday.