Some commanders in Charles Taylor’s Liberian rebel movement formed a renegade group to undermine the revolution and overthrow Mr. Taylor, a defense witness told the Special Court for Sierra Leone today. This testimony sits in tension with prosecution allegations that the Black Ghadafa group was set up by the former Liberian president, who then sent it across the border to help out Sierra Leone’s rebel forces.
Karnah Edward Mineh, a former commander in Mr. Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel group, told the court about his training at the Libyan revolutionary camp, Tajura, in the late 1980s and his subsequent deployment to fight in Liberia.
His testimony covered an issue which has been a source of much disagreement between Mr. Taylor and prosecutors — the establishment of the renegade group: Black Ghadafa.
Prosecutors have claimed that it was Mr. Taylor who created the Black Ghadafa group and that he sent them to provide support to Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels. Mr. Taylor has told the court that Black Ghadafa was established by commanders in his rebel group who were bent on overthrowing him as NPFL leader. The former president added that members of Black Ghadafa were arrested and investigated and after they confessed that they had established the group to overthrow Mr. Taylor, they were subsequently executed. These NPFL commanders included Oliver Varnie, General Dibong, Anthony Menkunagbe, Timothy Moriba and One-Man One. Prosecutors say that Mr. Taylor executed these men because he did not want to entertain any opposition to his reign as NPFL leader.
Today in court, Mr. Mineh corroborated the former Liberian president’s evidence. According to Mr. Mineh, Mr. Taylor deployed him to the Cape Mount region during the war in Liberia. There, he said he joined Mr. Varnie, General Dibong and others to fight against United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia (ULIMO) rebels, who were attacking the NPFL from Sierra Leone. The witness explained that while he was the commander at Cape Mount, Mr. Varnie and others started conniving against him and supporting ULIMO rebels to fight against the NPFL.
“Oliver Varnie, Dibong and One-Man-One conspired against me,” Mr. Mineh said.
“All supplies sent to me were given to the enemy. Dibong will send all supplies to the enemy ULIMO and ULIMO began to attack us,” he added.
Asked by defense counsel for Mr. Taylor, Mr. Silas Chikera, to explain why the NPFL commanders had given NPFL supplies to ULIMO, the witness explained that “they joined ULIMO and they formed a unit to fight against us.”
“They called the unit Black Ghadafa,” he said.
Explaining that Black Ghadafa and ULIMO were united, Mr. Mineh said that “these people turned against us. They conspired to fight against Mr. Taylor.”
“They were arrested. When they investigated them, they confessed” that they were planning to overthrow Mr. Taylor, according to Mr. Mineh.
Mr. Mineh also told the court that the men who formed Black Ghadafa had asked him to join them and when he refused, they threatened to kill him.
Witnesses have given different accounts about the group called the Black Ghadafa. While some have said that they saw members of the group in the RUF headquarter town of Buedu (Kailahun District, eastern Sierra Leone), other witnesses have said that the group joined the Sierra Leone army and helped fight against the RUF. During Mr. Taylor’s testimony, Mr. Taylor’s lead defense counsel, Courtenay Griffiths, read a portion of the statement made by former Sierra Leonean president, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, before the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In Mr. Kabbah’s statement, he said that the Black Ghadafa was a group formed in Liberia which provided support to the Sierra Leonean army and that many of the group’s members found their way in the country’s security forces.
Also today, Mr. Mineh tried to dispel allegations that the NPFL did not punish its members when they committed crimes against civilians. The witness said that he had no knowledge of the NPFL providing support to the RUF in Sierra Leone.
Mr. Mineh’s testimony continues Monday as the Special Court will not sit tomorrow.