A Sierra Leonean businesswoman testifying for Charles Taylor said today that while she helped Sierra Leonean rebels during the country’s 11 years civil conflict, she did not assist Mr. Taylor’s rebel forces in Liberia during its own war.
Lead prosecutor, Brenda Hollis, today sought to establish that the witness, Isatu Kallon, was an influential figure and provided assistance to both the RUF and Mr. Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel group in Liberia. The witness, while admitting her support for Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF), denied any suggestions that she had links with the NPFL.
“Did you or did you not provide support to the NPFL during the time NPFL controlled Herbel?” Ms. Hollis asked the witness today at the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
“I did not help them,” the witness said.
When Mrs. Hollis pointed out that NPFL fighters used to eat the food that the witness cooked for sale without making any payment, the witness responded that “that is not direct assistance.”
When confronted with the suggestion that while she was based at NPFL headquarters in Gbarngha that she did provide assistance for the rebel group, the witness said that she only “used to work at the market” in Gbarngha.
She admitted that when a rival rebel faction attacked Gbarngha in the 1990s, she “fled Gbarngha with NPFL fighters and supporters.”
Mrs. Hollis also pointed out that when the RUF signed a peace agreement with the government of Sierra Leone in 1999, the witness was one of the persons selected by RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, as part of a delegation to attend a meeting with Mr. Taylor. The witness agreed that this was the case.
“You were selected because of your close association with both Foday Sankoh and Charles Taylor,” Mrs. Hollis suggested.
“No, I don’t know about that one,” Mrs. Kallon said.
The witness denied claims that during the conflicts in both Sierra Leone and Liberia, she was known by the code name “Iron Lady.” According to Mrs. Kallon, nobody ever called her that name and if they ever did, it probably could have been behind her back.
“And they referred to you as Iron Lady because you were such a strong liaison between the RUF and Charles Taylor, correct?” Ms. Hollis asked.
“No. Nobody ever called me that name,” the witness said.
The witness agreed that she carried the code name “Sensitive” — but while admitting that she used that name to communicate with the RUF while she was in Guinea, she denied using the same name to communicate with the NPFL while she was in Danane, Ivory Coast.
“I did not communicate with NPFL,” she said.
In her testimony today, the witness also told the court that after the RUF invasion of Sierra Leone in 1991, her business dipped because she had spent a huge portion of her money to finance the RUF. Ms. Hollis retorted that the downslide of her business was because Mr. Taylor and the RUF leader Mr. Sankoh stopped paying her for supplying food to RUF and NPFL trainees at Camp Naama in Liberia.
“No. I only had money business with Foday Sankoh,” Mrs,. Kallon replied.
As in her testimony yesterday, the witness again today stated that she never heard that Mr. Taylor supplied arms and ammunition to the RUF.
“Someone in your position — helping the RUF, having given assistance to the NPFL — you know this was going on,” Ms. Hollis said to the witness.
“If I saw it, I’ll say it but I did not see it, nor did I hear it,” Mrs. Kallon insisted.
The witness also today told the court that while she travelled from Herbel to Camp Naama, where RUF fighters were being trained in Liberia, she did not see human skulls displayed at checkpoints as suggested by prosecutors. She did see small boys with guns among those manning the check points, she said.
When asked whether she saw small boys at these check points on her way to Camp Naama, the witness said that “well, these children, they were there, those children, yes, they had weapons but I was not there when they shot them.”
Mrs. Kallon’s testimony continues on Thursday.