The leader of the military junta that ruled Sierra Leone from May 1997 to February 1998 did not have any communications with Charles Taylor, former interim rebel leader Issa Hassan Sesay told Special Court for Sierra Leone judges in The Hague today.
Prosecutors have alleged that when members of the Sierra Leone army overthrew the democratic government of Sierra Leone and teamed up with Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels to form the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) regime in 1997, the regime’s leader, Johnny Paul Koroma had communications with Mr. Taylor, during which time Mr. Taylor gave advise to Mr. Koroma and assured the AFRC junta regime of his assistance. Today, Mr. Sesay, who was a senior RUF commander and member of the AFRC’s highest decision maknig body, the Supreme Council denied these claims, telling the judges that there was no contact between the two men.
“Did Johnny Paul Koroma ever indicate to you or the Council [AFRC Supreme Council] that he was in telephone contact with Charles Taylor,” lead counsel for Mr. Taylor, Courtenay Griffiths asked Mr. Taylor today.
“No. Johnny Paul never indicated to the Council that he was in contact with Charles Taylor,” Mr. Sesay responded.
Mr. Sesay denied claims that Mr. Koroma sought advise from Mr. Taylor after allegations surfaced that AFRC and RUF fighters, including Mr. Sesay himself had looted the Iranina embassy in Freetown. A previous prosecution witness testified in 2008 that after the said incident, Mr. Koroma had informed Mr. Taylor and that the former Liberian president advised Mr. Koroma to set up a board of inquiry to investigate the incident and punish all those responsible. Today, Mr. Sesay said that while it is true that a board of inquiry was set up to look into the incident, such advise did not come from Mr. Taylor.
“Now Mr. Sesay, as far as you are aware, did Johnny Paul contact Mr. Taylor about this incident?” Mr. Griffiths asked Mr. Sesay.
In response, Mr. Sesay said that “No. Not at all. He did not contact Mr. Taylor concerning this incident.”
Mr. Sesay explained that while the board of inquiry was set indeed up, he was not subjected to any investigations after he had been originally asked about the incident by AFRC leader Mr. Koroma. He said that he was, however, suspended from the Supreme Council and he did not attend council meetings anymore.
According to Mr. Sesay, claims that AFRC leader Mr. Koroma sent a delegation led by former Chairman of the RUF War Council SYB Rogers to meet with Mr. Taylor in Liberia are false. He said that such an issue was never discussed in Liberia and that Mr. Rogers never travelled to Liberia during the AFRC’s reign in Sierra Leone from 1997 to 1998.
“I never heard of such a discussion in a council meeting and throughout the AFRC, Pa Rogers never went to Monrovia. I knew of Pa Rogers taking a delegation to Abidjan but he never went to Monrovia,”Mr. Sesay told the court.
Mr. Sesay further refutted claims that AFRC leader Mr. Koroma sent a delegation to Liberia, led by RUF commander Mike Lamin to obtain arms and ammunition. A previous prosecution witness testified that since the AFRC did not have money, they had given diamonds to Mr. Lamin to deliver to Mr. Taylor in exchange for the arms and ammunition.
“During the AFRC, Mike Lamin did not go to Monrovia. Johnny Paul did not send Mike Lamin to Monrovia,” Mr. Sesay said.
When asked whether he recalled “any occassion when Mike Lamin took diamonds to Monrovia,” Mr. Sesay said “No.”
“That did not happen,” he said.
When asked again whether the Supreme Council ever put a delegation together to obtain arms and ammunition from Liberia, Mr. Sesay said “No, i never heard that in a council meeting.”
“I did not know of a delegation sent to Liberia by Johnny Paul, i did not know, i did not hear about it and infact it did not happen.” Mr. Sesay added.
According to a previous prosecution witness, when the AFRC regime was forced out of power by West African peacekeepers in 1998, Mr. Koroma informed those present that he had spoken to Mr. Taylor who was going to send a helicopter to trasport him from Sierra Leone. Mr. Sesay said today that this did not happen.
“Johnny Paul did not tell me that,” Mr. Sesay said.
“What Johnny Paul told us was that he had spoken to Sam Bockarie and that he had told Sam Bockarie that he would go to Kailahun,” He added.
Mr. Sesay also denied other prosecution cliams including that Mr. Taylor sent men to Sierra Leone to repair a heavy artillary weapon that was captured by RUF rebels from West African peacekeepers, and that Mr. Taylor had been in radio communication with RUF commanders in Sierra Leone. According to Mr. Sesay, he never saw Mr. Taylor’s name in the log books in which radio communications were recorded by the RUF.
Mr. Taylor’s testimony continues on Monday.