Prosecutors Say That Charles Taylor Lied Under Oath When He Testified That RUF Leader Foday Sankoh Was Not Based At Gbarngha, Liberia

Prosecutors today said that Charles Taylor lied under oath when he said that Sierra Leone’s rebel leader only visited him in Liberia for a few days, but did not stay there for months during the civil conflicts in both Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Fayia Musa, a Sierra Leonean rebel insider, today told the Special Court for Sierra Leone that at some point during his country’s brutal 11-year conflict, rebel leader Foday Sankoh spent about six months with Mr. Taylor at his National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) headquarters at Gbarngha in Liberia.

Prosecutors said this account by Mr. Musa, former spokesperson for the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel group, contradicted Mr. Taylor’s own account. The former Liberian president, during his own testimony, had denied suggestions that Mr. Sankoh used to stay at NPFL headquarters at Gbarngha. Mr. Sankoh was only a visitor there for a few days, Mr. Taylor had told the court. According to Mr. Musa, this was not the case.

“You see Mr. Witness, I believe you told us the truth — I believe Charles Taylor lied under oath,” prosecution counsel, Nicholas Koumjian, said to the witness.

“He [Mr. Taylor] was asked “did Foday Sankoh base with you in Gbarngha?” He [Mr. Taylor] answered, “well again, Foday Sankoh was not based with me in Gbarngha.” He was asked “please explain what you mean when you say he was not based with you in Gbarngha.” And he answered, “well to be based means to be permanent from my understanding, so it was not permanent. If your question is, he visited me in Gbarngha, yes, but he was not based with me in Gbarngha, no,” Mr. Koumjian said, recounting to the witness the earlier exchange with Mr. Taylor.

Mr. Koumjian asserted that Mr. Taylor lied in his testimony when he said that Mr. Sankoh would only spend a few days with him at Gbarngha and then he would return to Sierra Leone.

“So we see here, Mr. Taylor lies and says that Foday Sankoh would only stay two or three days. You told us that Fooday Sankoh and Mr. Tengbeh went to Gbarngha for six months before they returned to Sierra Leone, isn’t that correct?” Mr. Koumjian asked the witness.

In his response, the witness said that “it is correct.”

“They [Mr. Sankoh and Mr. Tengbeh] were there up until the end of the Top 40.”

The operation code named Top 40, according to Mr. Taylor and several witnesses, marked the end of collaboration between Mr. Taylor’s NPFL and the RUF in 1992. Prosecutors, however, allege that the relationship between Mr. Taylor and the RUF continued even after 1992 and that the former Liberian president continued to provide support to the rebel forces in Sierra Leone. With Mr. Taylor’s support and advice, prosecutors say that the RUF committed widespread atrocities against the civilian population of Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor has dismissed the allegations as false.

Earlier in court today, Mr. Taylor’s defense counsel Courtenay Griffiths informed the judges that the defense will be incapacitated to present witnesses next week due to the problems faced by airlines in flying in and out of Europe caused by volcano ash spreading across the continent’s airspace. With only one more witness after Mr. Musa presently in The Hague, it may be difficult to transport witnesses from West Africa to Europe unless there is a significant change with flight availability, he said.  

“As a consequence of the disruption to airline traffic into Europe, we will have problems progressing the trial next week because currently there is only one further witness in The Hague, and we know not how long the current travel difficulties will persist or whether indeed flights will be coming in from West Africa at anytime soon,” Mr. Griffiths told the judges.

Presiding judge, Justice Julia Sebutinde, conferred with her colleagues and then responded that the problems affecting airline traffic into and out of Europe is disappearing gradually. If progress is made with airline traffic by next week, then the challenge envisaged will not affect the trial, she said.

As Mr. Musa concluded his testimony today, Mr. Taylor’s ninth defense witness took the witness stand. The witness, a Liberian national, Martin Flomo George, told the court that he fought for the RUF from the start of the conflict in Sierra Leone in 1991 to its conclusion in 2002.

Mr. Taylor has previously said that Liberian nationals could have fought in Sierra Leone as part of the RUF but that he did not send them there. He said that he had no links with the Liberians who fought in Sierra Leone. Liberian nationals now testifying as former members of the RUF seek to corroborate Mr. Taylor’s account that they were indeed part of the RUF in Sierra Leone but with no links to Mr. Taylor.

Mr. Flomo’s testimony continues tomorrow.


  1. What a case that was build on LIES by the prosecutor and Taylor and his defence team are defending their case on LIES and even Taylor witness Mr Musa LIES until some true out finally. This case is all about LIES LIES LIES LIES the prosecutors LIES in their case and Taylor and his witness are telling LIES also. Why can just help the poor people SL and Liberia who are the real victims of Taylor NPFL and RUF rabel I hope and pray that one day JUSTICE will previle for the Polple of SL and Liberia

  2. Alpha,
    did the witness say when this 6-month stay occurred. Was this a straight 6 months or a total of visits that equal to 6 months? Mr. Koumjian is confusing his own self. No one would believe 6 months out of 11 years is being based somewhere. I think one would believe that was a visit.

    1. Ken , this is not Math that is been spoken here but English . Did Musa in his own words say that the cummulative time of visit by Sankor to Gbarnga was six months?

      1. VEM,
        I ready do not know at this time, I am behind in the reading of the transcripts. When I get to that part of the testimony, I will surly let you know if Mr. Musa said in his own words that the cumulative time of visit by Sankoh to Gbarngha was six months. At this point and time it will be best to ask Alpha Sessay if those was Mr. Musa own words or read the transcripts as I will be doing.

  3. Hey! do you all know that the Dutch supreme court has overturned a 2008 ruling by the appeal court that cleared one of the most talked about in this trial and Charles Taylor’s chief criminal conduit Guu Kouwenhover? the saying around is that he is ready and willing to cut a deal with the prosecutors and admit that the most talked about OTC Timber company was owned by Charles Taylor and he was only an employee!

    1. Ziggy,
      THEY SAY is what and why we’re in this court. Where are you getting your LIES from about cutting deal?? To add, his case is not about Sierra Leone but his dealing in Liberia if my memory serves me correctly.

    2. Ziggy Silas,
      Wishful thinking there is no deal to be cut. The Dutch Supreme Court only ruled that the Appeals Chambers have to hear from two new witnesses for the prosecution. This is strange since the initial trial was over but internatinal law is strange. Anyway given the weak witnesses for the prosecution in Guus’ case I don’t think Guus Kouwenhoven is too worried.

      Ziggy the fact that you are hoping so much for Guus to testify against Mr. Taylor makes it clear to all of us that you are worried that there just isn’t enough evidence against Mr. Taylor.

  4. Mr Taylor got a bloody nose today no doubt. for the first time in this trial Mr koumjian did what we lovers of justice expect a prosecutor to do during cross examination i.e confront a witness with a contrary testimony to counter what he has said. today Mr koumjian was able to expose at least 2 areas of inconsistency between Mr Fayia Musa’s testimony and Mr Taylor’s testimony. I have presented the 2 areas of contradiction that I have identified and my views on them below:

    Mr Taylor during his testimony constatntly maintained that he had no further contact with the RUF after Top final in 1992 May when he sent Dopoe Menkarzon to Sl to repatriate all NPFL solders deployed there untill 1998 when he met Sam Bockarie in Liberia in connection with the peace process.

    Mr Fayia Musa on the other hand, said although Mr Sankoh severed all relations with Mr Taylor in 1992 May after top final, 2 Members of the external delegation paid a visit to Mr Taylor in Gbanga upon his invitation in 1995. and also the external delegation had another contact with Mr Taylor on the day the book “footpaths to democracy” was launched in Abidjan.

    My View on the inconsistency:
    I think Mr Fayia Musa is saying the truth here. Mr Taylor either mispoke or he did not remember these occassions. But in the way Mr Taylor answered those questions he created the impression that he was sure of what he was saying that he “absolutely had no contact” with the RUF after May 1992. that may be damaging to his credibility with reagard to the believablity at least of that aspect of his testimony.

    Mr Taylor in his taestimony many times said Sankoh “was going and coming” and that he was not based in Gbanga. However when pressed further on that issue Mr Taylor said that Foday Sankoh spent 90% of his time in SL and between 5 and 10% of his time in Liberia.

    Mr Musa on the other hand said Mr Sankoh spent majority of his time in Gbanga and spend the rest in SL. And that he was “always in Gbanga”. He went further to say that at a time Foday Sankoh and somebody sent with him spent aproximately six months in Gbanga but were only able to meet with Mr Taylor once.

    My View on the inconsistency:
    There is obvious inconsistency between Mr Taylor’s testimony and Fayia Musa’s testimony in this regard. I also think Mr Fayia Musa is saying the truth but I do not see this as causing serious damage to Mr Taylor’s credibility in this case since even Fayia Musa said that it was reported to him and others that during the 6 months stay in Gbanga, Foday Sankoh and those sent to Gbanga with him were only able to see Mr Taylor once briefly. so its possible that although they were in Gbanga Mr Taylor was not aware that they have not returned to SL.

    Generally Mr Fayia Musa’s testimony was good although sometimes I think he gave speculative answers to some questions and then asserts that his speculation was correct.But his testimony in conjunction with other defence witnesses did not cause any fatal damage to the defence case. Infact his testimony largely corroborated the testimony of many prosecution and defence witnesses who have testified before him. since he was the 8th defence witness called and given the fact that there are still about 50 or more defence witnesses to be called, we can say at this point that the defence case is still young. we will have to wait for the defence to close its case before we will be able to pass any judgement.

    However the burden of proof in a criminal case is on the prosecution to prove its case “beyond reasonable doubt”. all the defence needs to do is deny and cast as much doubt as it can on the prosecution case. in the case at hand, even staunch supporters of the prosecution will agree that the defence has cast sufficient doubt on the prosecution case that it will really be difficult for one to say conclusively that the prosecution is having an upper hand in this case more than the defence.

    1. The prosecution all the time stresses the fallout and contact between Mr. Taylor and Mr. Sankoh until Mr. Musa came on the scene. Now the prosecution want to change coarse and say the fallout and contact was between Mr. Taylor and the RUF. I believe Mr. Taylor said there was no contact with him and Mr. Sankoh after May 1992. The contact Mr. Taylor did have with the RUF seems to be in line with peace for SL and not war according to the witness.

      The prosecution read testimony of Mr. Taylor about Mr. Sankoh been based in Gbarngha
      Mr. Musa said, “that at some point during his country’s brutal 11-year conflict, rebel leader Foday Sankoh spent about six months with Mr. Taylor at his National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) headquarters at Gbarngha in Liberia” according to Alpha. No one would believe 6 months out of 11 years is being based somewhere. I think one would believe that was a visit. Did the witness say when this 6-month stay occurred? Was this a straight 6 months or a total of visits in 11 years that equal to 6 months?

        1. Sam,
          I agree with you on the word visit. I have a different look at it being a straight 6-month visit. This is what I will base my opinion on: Prosecutors said that Mr. Taylor lied in his testimony when he said that Mr. Sankoh would only spend a few days with him at Gbarngha and then he would return to Sierra Leone. That Charles Taylor lied under oath when he said that Sierra Leone’s rebel leader only visited him in Liberia for a few days, but did not stay there for months during the civil conflict. The evidence, Mr. Taylor testimony the prosecution read to Mr. Musa to dispute Mr. Taylor claim was about Mr. Sankoh being base with Mr. Taylor in Gbarngha. The question the prosecution asks Mr. Taylor was “did Foday Sankoh base with you in Gbarngha?” Mr. Taylor said, “Foday Sankoh was not based with me in Gbarngha.” Mr. Taylor goes on to say, “If your question is, he visited me in Gbarngha, yes, but he was not based with me in Gbarngha, no.” Mr. Musa did say that Mr. Sankoh and Mr. Tengbeh went to Gbarngha for six months before they returned to Sierra Leone, and they were there up until the end of the Top 40. What Mr. Musa did not say was that Mr. Sankoh and Mr. Tengbeh was in Gbarngha with Mr. Taylor for six months as the prosecution alleged. Mr. Musa was not in Gbarngha during this time. So he did not know whether Mr. Sankoh and Mr. Tengbeh was at the NPFL headquarter in Gbarngha with Mr. Taylor or at Mr. Sankoh RUF training base, which Mr. Taylor has already said he was not aware of. Mr. Musa did not say nor was ask by the prosecution how he knew that Mr. Sankoh and Mr. Tengbeh were even in Liberia or Gbarngha. As Mr. Musa testimony went on, he talked about what he came to know about Mr. Sankoh as a leader. One of the things he clearly made know was that Mr. Sankoh was a liar. Mr. Sankoh lied to the people he was leading, so it leave no hesitation he would and did lie to other including Mr. Taylor. Reading and listen to members of the RUF under Mr. Sankoh leadership including Mr. Musa, who stated that Mr. Sankoh would say all the time “the right hand should not know what the left hand is doing or vice verse.” It is very probable that Mr. Taylor did not know that Mr. Sankoh was training his organization in Liberia at Camp Namma in the NPFL control area. Mr. Taylor may have well believed when Mr. Sankoh visit him at NPLF headquarter Mr. Sankoh was coming for SL and not within Liberia. Mr. Taylor’s NPFL organization was not base on one common goal that everyone adheres too. There were several groups within the NPFL with their on motives to dethrone Mr. Doe. The commander of Camp Namms could have had his own motives to allow Mr. Sankoh to set up his training base there without Mr. Taylor knowledge as Mr. Taylor claim. Maybe it will become known during the defense case why Mr. Taylor claim he was not aware of Mr. Sankoh and his organization in his NPFL area and the real reason that Mr. Taylor and Mr. Sankoh had such a bitter fallout that the two organization began killing each other in such a short time after becoming friends.

    2. Sam,
      Your analysis is thoughtful and I agree with most aspects. Please remember that Mr. Taylor is now in his early sixties . For a man that has been under tremendous pressure for the last twenty years. It is conceivable that he would not remember all people he met in the last twenty years. One must also take into consideration that this contact after 1992 was for peace not war. So this may actually work in Mr. Taylor’s favor. However the main point of Mr. Musa Fayia’s testimony was that there was no military help or contact by Mr. Taylor after 1992. This corroborates what the other defense witnesses have said.

      I must say that Nick Koumjian is making the best of the bad hand he was dealt by the lack of evidence. If it weren’t for him the prosecution team probably would have been fired by now.

      1. Aki,
        Quite frankly,
        You made a very sound point about Koumjian. Myself have noticed his smartness and the line of questioning he chooses….good observation.

  5. I thought Martin Flomo George was the logistic person for Charles Taylor during the war. It looks like he was fighting for the RUF and at the same time working for Charles Taylor.

    1. Sunshine,
      Martin Flomo George has never worked for Mr. Taylor in a logistics position as you think. Keagbo and Karr were the one in control of logistics for Mr. Taylor, don’t worry its most likely that you see one of them in court soon.


      Harris K Johnson

  6. WOW, his own witness is digging his grave, good job MR. Prosecutor. I want to see Taylor supporters will try to twist this fact. I hope they do not try to use the “permanant stay” argument because we all know that was put to rest by the prosecuter.

    Taylor say Sankoh on stay with him few days at a time and Taylor witness saying Sankoh stay with Taylor for six months, WOW. I think this witness might be playing CT or he’s not up to par with the case and Taylor’s lies on the stand.

    1. Mr. Thompson,
      The witness did not say “Sankoh stay with Taylor for six months.” The witness said Foday Sankoh and Mr. Tengbeh went to Gbarngha for six months.

  7. Now the World can see how the prosecutors are get confuss with their questions to the witnesses, the witness said Mr. sankoh traveled to Gbargbah, but did he really spent six month in there with Mr. Taylor? Look, I can say to you I’m going to work, how will you determine that I spent all day at work? Let the world watch and see.

    1. Salient points Alex. Look the People are trying to find all sort of crimes and or lies on the old man

    2. Alex Tweh, who seems confused here? You, the defense, or prosecutors? It seems as you being a bit disoriented over the facts that are gradualy coming out in open to the great disappointment of your kinds! Taylor is not only losing the battle here but for those who totally depended on this man’s benevlonce, rendered to them and their families, the end is near! Besides, they don’t know how to take cover after all the noise and bragging over what they did and are capable of continuing to do to others upon the release of thier notorious leader, charle gankay taylor mcauthur, the thief!

  8. Leave Taylor for atrocities caused in Sierra Leone. If you really want to get at Taylor then set up a War crime court for Liberia.

    1. Hi Magbollah — we have been discussing this very idea of a war crimes court for Liberia since the TRC made the recommendation for one. Do you think a war crimes court as a concept is a good idea for Liberia? And what do you think it will take for one to be set up?


      1. Tracey,

        Why do you continue to invite debate on this Liberia war crime court issue. It is far fetched. Which crimes will be included and which ones will be excluded? when were these acts documented as crime? who are the witnesses? What is the evidence?

        Look Tracey, this is a pandora box not only that, but it is filled with fire.

        Remember TRC controversial report? where is it? it is lingering in court. What would the outcome be?

        They copied Desmond Tutu styled commission, but could not measure up to his efficacy of work.

        1. Hi Andrew – yes, I do understand your point. These kinds of courts are often so controversial when they are proposed — sometimes either because they go ahead, or they don’t go ahead but the idea languishes and the momentum dies out.

          In terms of why I keep bringing it up: I had thought many readers on the site were interested in this issue and that it was potentially still a live possibility in Liberia. It is also one that people here keep raising — I tried to generate debate this time in response to another reader’s comment on the possibility.

          Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Andrew.


      2. Tracey,
        As you rightly said, we have been discussing this idea of a war crimes court to be set up in Liberia but the only way this will happened, unless those who took part in the Liberian war are all prosecuted for thier role.
        When I say those who took part, I mean those who created, sponsor and led the killing of liberians and the distruction of Liberia. The international Community cannot choose to prosecute few and leave the rest moving freely in Liberia. That’s the big problem about this idea.
        I mean, Mr. Taylor, President Sirleaf, Former president Sawyer, Prince Johnson… just to name a few.

        1. Hi Jocone,

          I completely hear what you are saying — justice cannot be selective. Here’s the challenge to think about with any of these types of courts: budgetary restraints mean that these courts tend to be set up for a shorter amount of time (3 years – although they often stretch much longer) and so they have to only pick a few people to prosecute. In Sierra Leone, there were eight others, apart from Mr. Taylor, who were eventually tried by the Special Court for Sierra Leone (and another three — two of whom died in custody, and another was never arrested with many presuming he may be dead). What the broader international community is looking at now more generlaly in relation to international justice issues is ways to see if national systems can take on the others who may not be captured by a hybrid court. I wonder if that is a consideration for Liberia — or whether a hybrid war crimes court could be seen as part of a transition to the national system eventually prosecuting all the individuals who were alleged to bear responsibility for crimes?

          Another thing for us to think about for a hybrid war crimes court: the UN or Liberian government cannot pick and choose who to prosecute: one of the tasks of an independent prosecutor is to identify targets for prosecution, and he or she can choose who that might be based on the laws and the evidence they collect. So it may not include all individuals whom you, me or others think should be on a list.

          My question then to you and others: even if a hybrid war crimes court (that is one that includes both national and international staff) was set up as proposed by the TRC recommendations, what are the chances that the national justice system could take over the war crimes prosecutions during and after the hybrid has set up shop, if more people need to be brought to accont for their role in the crimes committed during the Liberian conflict? What would need to happen — do you think it is feasible?


  9. Sir,
    With all respect, I think the International Community is waisting too much money on this case that is politically motivated.

    It sadden me, Those millions of dollars could have been used to better the lifes of Sierra Leoneans. The persecution did not really present evidence to indict Mr. Taylor and Mr. Taylor witnesses in some instances are trying to save their oldman from the lion’s den.

    One thing I know, the court and the international community will not permit Mr. Taylor to go off their hook simply because he was already a wanted man by them.

    The case is not about justice. God save africa! Why should people hide behind precious lifes that were lost to get to their enemy in the form of bringing justice to us?

  10. Dear Sam,

    Thanks for the good job at analyzing what went on in court. I do not know which side of the divide you are but I think you are a neutral who is sharing his opinion. How are wish most of our arguments on this site was as constructive as yours. Keep it up. I think you should be call upon by Tracey and Alpha to help a bit in the analysis.

    1. For the records Emmanuel George. I do think this trial is politically motivated and is unnecessary to indict Mr Taylor for crimes committed in SL rather than crimes committed in Liberia. I do not see myself as a “supporter” of Mr Taylor because quite frankly if he was charged for crimes in Liberia I would have joined a host of others to shout guilty! guilty!! guilty!!! but in this case I definately do not support the prosecution in any way given the fact that they have failed in my opinion to prove any of their allegations against Mr Taylor in this case. The onus lies on the prosecution to prove its case “beyond reasonable doubt” and not on the defence to prove its innocence.

  11. Charles taylor is a great man, one thing he did was unite the tribes in his civil war also Mr.taylor showed how the greed for liberia’s precious commodity, oil and timber was gotten cheap by the usa he sold it on the world market for higher prices, companies like firestone took advantage of the people of liberia and right after charles taylor ouster i see the united states opened up the continued sale of precious timber that they had an embargo on its said how the CIA plays with african leaders for there own interest but could not play with Charles G. Taylor!!!!!!!

  12. “So we see here, Mr. Taylor lies and says that Foday Sankoh would only stay two or three days. You told us that Fooday Sankoh and Mr. Tengbeh went to Gbarngha for six months before they returned to Sierra Leone, isn’t that correct?” Mr. Koumjian asked the witness.

    In his response, the witness said that “it is correct.”

    “They [Mr. Sankoh and Mr. Tengbeh] were there up until the end of the Top 40.”

    Case close, Taylor own witness has buried him alive. Did or didn’t Taylor say Sankoh didn’t stay in Gbarnga permanantly, it sounds like someone need to get their story straight.

    1. Mr. Taylor did say Mr. Sankoh did not stay in Gbarngha permanently. Mr. Taylor was asks ‘what you mean when you say he was not based with you in Gbarngha.” Mr. Taylor said, “to be based means to be permanent from my understanding, so it was not permanent.” So Mr. Thompson who need to get their need story straight and straight about what?

  13. what is the big deal in this? Sankoh basing in gbarnga is different from basing with taylor in gbarnga. Sankoh wasn’t staying at taylor’s house.
    Taylor know while he said with me.

    3 A. Well, again, Foday Sankoh was not based with me in
    4 Gbarnga.
    Q. Please explain what you mean when you say he was not
    6 based with you in Gbarnga?
    7 A. Well, to be based means to be permanent, from my
    8 understanding, so he was not permanent. If your question
    9 is he visited me in Gbarnga, yes, but he was not based with
    me in Gbarnga, no.

    Mr taylor is not out there to know if sankoh is gone or around in gbarnga looking for woman. So take based with me seriously!!!

  14. Folks,
    I guess we discussed this particular subject in detail a few months ago and I offered my take on Sankoh’s stay in Bong County…so I am skipping this one.

  15. The witness did not contradict Mr. Taylor, If any one carefully watched the proceeding you would have heard that this very witness said that Sankoh used to go and come sometimes every two weeks. I will look for the exact quote in the transcript and present it.

    Like someone said, Mr. Koiujaim is doing his best with a bad case. Brenda Hollis is not up to the task.

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