Sierra Leone’s rebel leader paid an amount of 30,000 United States Dollars to a West African peacekeeping military officer who was based in Liberia as payment for the supply of arms and ammunition to Sierra Leonean rebels, but these arms and ammunition were never delivered by the officer, a defense witness for Charles Taylor told Special Court for Sierra Leone judges today in The Hague.
The witness, identified only by Pseudonym DCT-292, was a former executive member of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel group in Sierra Leone, the group which prosecutors say that Mr. Taylor helped to wage war in Sierra Leone and in the process committing heinous crimes against the civilian population of the country.
The witness explained that RUF leader Foday Sankoh personally gave him (the witness) an amount of $30,000 which he took to a soldier in Liberia, who was an officer in the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) peacekeeping force in Liberia. The amount was for the supply of arms and ammunition to the RUF. This arrangement was facilitated by a Liberian national called Saye Boayue. Defense counsel for Mr. Taylor, Terry Munyard, sought to know how the witness and his RUF counterparts intended to transport the arms and ammunition from Liberia if they were supplied by the ECOMOG officer.
“I was supposed to receive the arms and ammunition from the ECOMOG man, he has to make sure that he leads me to the border of Sierra Leone and Liberia, then hand those arms and ammunition to a man called Michael Mike Lamin,” the witness explained.
Mr. Lamin himself was a senior Commander in the RUF.
Asked by Mr. Munyard whether he knew “how much, what quantity of arms and ammunition you were expecting to accompany to the border,” the witness said, “I didn’t know how much.”
The witness explained, however, that the arms deal with the ECOMOG office was futile because the officer had failed to deliver the arms and ammunition after receiving the money from him.
Prosecutors have argued that it was Mr. Taylor who supplied the RUF with arms and ammunition in return for blood diamonds mined by the rebels in Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor has denied the allegations.
The witness, who served as a member of the RUF External Delegation, explained that he was based in Liberia when Mr. Taylor’s rebel forces attacked the country in 1989. He was arrested by the rebel forces and detained, along with other Sierra Leoneans inside a container, he said. One Pa Morlai, who he later came to know as RUF leader Mr. Sankoh, took them from their detention to a training base named Camp Naama in Liberia. The witness told the court that the RUF ideology urged them to treat civilians well and not to kill surrendered enemy forces. When the rebel group invaded Sierra Leone in 1991, several civilians were killed, something which he said caused RUF leader Mr. Sankoh to shed tears.
“He [Sankoh] was having a small Bible, he prayed and what I saw, he started crying for the number of people that were killed at the initial point. I cannot say who really did that but I believe it was war time, so he prayed for everybody and he told them “‘I have come with this fighting group,”” the witness said.
The witness, who only commenced his testimony yesterday, concluded his direct-examination today. Prosecution counsel Nicholas Koumjian commenced the cross-examination of the witness immediately. Mr. Koumjian sought to know about what happened to the diamonds mined by the RUF especially in the late 1990s, to which the witness said that the only person who can answer that question would be Issa Hassan Sesay, the former Interim Leader of the RUF, who is now serving a sentence of 52 years imprisonment in a Rwandan jail after Special Court for Sierra Leone judges convicted him for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law in the territory of Sierra Leone from 1996 to 2002.
“Diamonds that were reserved by the RUF, these diamonds, the only one that can tell about the whereabouts of these diamonds is Issa Sesay himself,” the witness said.
He said that Mr. Sesay had kept some of the diamonds and told them he was doing so for RUF leader Mr. Sankoh who at that time was incarcerated in Nigeria. The witness agreed with Mr. Koumjian that diamonds mined by the RUF in Sierra Leone had not been of any benefit to the people of the country.
“My Lord, I did not see any benefit, there was no benefit for the people of Sierra Leone,” the witness said.
DCT 292’s testimony continues tomorrow.