Today, judges pushed back the cross-examination of a former Liberian fighter for another 11 days, as prosecutors prepare to challenge his account of the role foreign agents played in trying to bring down the government of former Liberian president, Charles Taylor, during the West African regional conflict in the 1990s.
Prosecutors started to question DCT-190, the fifteenth defense witness for Charles Taylor, this morning about the establishment of the Liberians United Democratic Forces (LUDF) and the United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia under the leadership of Roosevelt Johnson (ULIMO-J), both groups to which the witness belonged and said were set up in Sierra Leone to attack Mr. Taylor in Liberia.
“We joined ULIMO for our own safety in Sierra Leone. The second aim, as I told you, was to overthrow Mr. Taylor,” the witness told the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Asked by prosecutor, Katherine Howarth, whether he had told defense lawyers that “once Charles Taylor became the president of Liberia, ULIMO-J became the target,” the witness said no.
“I told my team that ULIMO only became a target after the Njala House incident,” DCT-190 said.
Njala House was where ULIMO-J leader Mr. Johnson lived, and the incident relates to skirmishes between Mr. Johnson’s forces and troops loyal to Mr. Taylor. West African peacekeepers based in Liberia provided support to ULIMO-J forces to ensure the safety of Mr. Johnson, to attack the Barclay Training Center to get arms and ammunition, and then to attack and capture Mr. Taylor, the witness said.
Earlier this week, prosecutors had asked Mr. Taylor’s defense team to disclose all statements by DCT-190 – by today, the defense team had handed over more than 30 pages. Prosecutors asked that they be given more time to investigate the content of the witness statements in Sierra Leone and asked for cross-examination to start in earnest on June 21. The judges agreed.
This witness had testified in chief with partial protective measures and spoken extensively about his involvement with various fighting forces in Sierra Leone and Liberia. When Mr. Taylor’s rebel forces attacked Liberia in 1989, the witness became part of a team to start a rebel faction LUDF, a group which later morphed into ULIMO-J under the leadership of Mr. Johnson. The objective of ULIMO, the witness said was to fight against Mr. Taylor’s forces. The witness said he was later recruited into Sierra Leone’s Civil Defense Forces (CDF) which aimed to forcefully remove from power, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and Revolutionary United Front (RUF) junta, which had overthrown the democratically elected government of Sierra Leone in 1997. Prosecutors allege that Mr. Taylor provided support for the AFRC/RUF junta through the supply of arms and ammunition in exchange for diamonds. Mr. Taylor has denied the allegations. According to the witness, with support from Sierra Leonean and Guinean authorities, he was also recruited into the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebel group, a group which launched a rebel war against Mr. Taylor’s government in Liberia around 1999/2000. Mr. Taylor who has denied sending fighters to Sierra Leone to assist the RUF has said that the West African region had become volatile due to the conflicts in the region and so it became very easy to move fighters, arms and ammunition across borders. The former president accused foreign powers of helping dissident groups to bring his government down while he was president of Liberia. This witness corroborates Mr. Taylor’s account about the conflict in the West African region.
A new defense witness will appear tomorrow.