West African peacekeepers sold diesel supplies to Sierra Leonean rebel forces as they prepared to launch an attack on their country from Liberia in the early 1990s, a defense witness for former Liberian president, Charles Taylor, told the Special Court for Sierra Leone today.
Isatu Kallon, a Sierra Leonean woman who was based in Liberia when Revolutionary United Front (RUF) forces were preparing to invade Sierra Leone in 1991 has explained how Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) peacekeepers did business in Liberia. Mrs. Kallon said she bought a barrel of diesel on behalf RUF rebel leader, Foday Sankoh, from ECOMOG forces in exchange for palm oil.
“The people that you did business with, who were those people?” asked Mr. Taylor’s defense counsel, Morris Anyah.
“ECOMOG,” the witness said. “There were boats there, in the river, but during the war, all those boats were under ECOMOG.”
“but when you wanted to do business with it, you’ll take a white piece of cloth and wave it, then they would know that you wanted to do business and they will come,” she explained.
“Are you telling the court that ECOMOG was engaged in business, commercial activities in Liberia?” Mr. Anyah asked again.
“yes, we were doing business with them,” the witness said.
Asked whether she had “to pay money for the diesel when you bought it,” the witness said “I did not pay money, I sent palm oil.”
When asked to tell the court what she did with the diesel: “I gave it to Pa Foday Sankoh.”
Prosecutors have alleged that Charles Taylor was the main source of support for RUF rebels. It is alleged that Mr. Taylor provided support for the rebels while they prepared to invade Sierra Leone in 1991 and that such support continued during the West African country’s 11 year conflict. Mr. Taylor has denied these allegations and, like some of his witnesses, the former Liberian president has accused ECOMOG peacekeepers of being involved in trade of arms and other materials with rebel factions in the West African sub-region.
Today, Mrs. Kallon again spent much of her testimony outlining the support she provided to the RUF forces while they were training in Liberia. The witness also told the court today that Mr. Sankoh had asked her to start up trade fairs in RUF-controlled territory in Sierra Leone after the group’s invasion of the country. These trade fairs were successful, she added.
Mrs. Kallon’s testimony continues tomorrow.