Decision To Keep RUF Commander Sam Bockarie In Liberia Was Taken By West African Leaders, Issa Sesay Testifies

The decision to relocate a fellow rebel commander from Sierra Leone to Liberia in 1999 to promote peace in the war-torn country was not taken by Charles Taylor alone, but rather by West African leaders acting jointly, a former Sierra Leonean rebel leader told the Special Court for Sierra Leone said today.

Today, Issa Sesay – former interim leader of Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF) – said that after his group signed a peace agreement with the Sierra Leonean government in 1999, Sam Bockarie, who was one of the rebels’ top commanders, resisted disarmament.  Mr. Bockarie then moved to Liberia. According to Mr. Sesay, a meeting in of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) leaders – including Nigeria’s former president, Olusegun Obasanjo — decided it was best for Mr. Bockarie to stay in Liberia as he had become a hindrance to the peace process in Sierra Leone. This information was told to Mr. Sesay, he said, by the rebels’ then leader, Foday Sankoh.

In his statements to the Special Court today, and consistent with his testimony since taking the witness stand last week, Mr. Sesay today continued to distance Mr. Taylor from the Sierra Leonean rebel group — and from prosecution charges that the former Liberian president controlled the RUF and its actions.

“He [Sankoh] went to Monrovia and they had a meeting about Sam Bockarie’s issue and that himself, president Taylor, president Obasanjo of Nigeria attended that meeting and they decided, because Sam Bockarie was an obstacle in respect of the Lome Peace Accord, Sam Bockarie should stay in Liberia and Foday Sankoh should implement the peace process,” Mr. Sesay told the court.

“Was the decision for Sam Bockarie to go to Liberia made by Charles Taylor alone as alleged by this prosecution?” Courtenay Griffiths, defense counsel for Mr. Taylor, asked Mr. Sesay.

“No, it was not Charles Taylor’s singular decision,” Mr. Sesay responded. “Obasanjo was involved in the decision for Bockarie to stay in Monrovia, including Mr. Sankoh,”

When asked whether Mr. Bockarie had gone to Liberia “on the invitation of Charles Taylor,” Mr. Sesay said “No.”

“Sam Bockarie went there because he had a quarrel with Mr. Sankoh. He knew that what he was doing was a bad thing that is why he left to go to Liberia because he knew that if we had met him, we would have disciplined him,” Mr. Sesay said.

Mr. Sesay also told the court that Mr. Bockarie lambasted Mr. Sankoh when he left Sierra Leone for Liberia in 1999, telling other RUF fighters that the Mr. Sankoh was ungrateful for not listening to his advice that RUF fighters were not supposed to disarm to Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) soldiers, who were meant to oversee the disarmament process.

“Bockarie said he had never come across somebody who was ungrateful as Mr. Sankoh,” Mr Sesay said. “He said he had maintained the RUF in Mr. Sankoh’s absence, when Mr. Sankoh was arrested in Nigeria, he was the one who ran the RUF, he had fought and defeated ECOMOG, he had secured the release of Mr. Sankoh and now Mr. Sankoh did not want to listen to him. He said Mr. Sankoh was the most ungrateful man on earth.”

Mr. Sesay also explained that when Mr. Sankoh was arrested in May 2000, after having ordered RUF fighters to abduct United Nations peacekeepers in Sierra Leone, Mr. Taylor sent his Director of Special Security Services (SSS) Benjamin Yeaten to invite Mr. Sesay to a meeting with him (Taylor) in Liberia. Mr. Sesay said that upon arriving in Monrovia, Mr. Taylor was very angry about the action of the RUF.

“He [Taylor] looked very angry,” Mr. Sesay told the court.

“He [Taylor] said if Foday Sankoh and I thought that we can fight the UN — He said that other people will be thinking now, like America and Britain, they will be thinking now that this is the handy work of Charles Taylor but as long as God almighty knows that my hands are clean,” Mr. Sesay continued.

He said Mr. Taylor informed him that he had received a mandate from West African leaders that “he should talk to the RUF to facilitate the release of the peacekeepers.”

Prosecutors allege that since Mr. Taylor was in control of the RUF, he used his powers over the rebels to secure the release of the peacekeepers. Mr. Taylor has insisted that he was only acting on the instructions of other West African leaders. Mr. Sesay, as he testified today, supported Mr. Taylor’s position.

“Was he [Taylor] talking to you because he was in control of the RUF or because he had a mandate from the guarantors of the peace process,” Mr. Griffiths asked Mr. Sesay.

“He talked to me because he had mandate from the guarantors but he was not controlling the RUF. RUF was under the control of Mr. Sankoh,” Mr. Sesay said.

The witness said that his meeting with Mr. Taylor after the abduction of the UN peacekeepers was the first time he had spoken to or met with the former president.

Mr. Sesay’s testimony continues on Thursday.


  1. Give me a break! If Sankoh and Boakerie were alive, Sesay’s testimony would have been different, I bet! Why is sesay only quite sure of Taylor not being involved and each time blames Sankoh or Boakerie, who are not around to refute his lies? This brute is the most despicable individual with twisted tongue I have come to know! I wonder what benefit he gets from this testimony beside free accommodation and a waste to the tax payers! Please wrap it up so he can get crossed before heading back to the dungeon in Rwanda, where he belongs! Sesay knows very well,as alleged, that taylor silenced Boakerie long ago in anticipations of possible investigations by the U.N. Who doesn’t know Boakerie’s end had to do with how much he knew?

    1. Fallah,
      We are in court where evidences are put forth… of today’s date, you must admit, Mr. Sesay has been the GREATEST WEAPON for both sides….the difference between you and I is, he is on the RIGHT SIDE. His words are back up by DOCUMENTS…he is even telling us the WHY and HOW some of those documents were formated. Maybe YES, Bockarie or/and Sankoh might have told us differently but they are gone and the prosecutors are HELPLESS due their own CARELESSNESS in bringing up this case; poor investigations and loose brains. They seriously believe after years of telling us Mr. Taylor is the BEAST of West Africa, we all were going to say HANG HIM…..

      Do you still believe Mr. Taylor is guilty?? No need to ask for my judgement….HE IS NOT GUILTY!!!

    2. Hi there Helen,

      Good to hear from you but I am afraid that I have to ask you to revise a post that I received from you on July 15 at 9pm. If you can take away the sentences focussed on another individual and refocus the comments more closely on your points about the issue, it will then be in line with our policy for comments and I will be able to publish it. I’ll look forward to seeing the revised version — just let me know if you need a copy of the comment you sent in and I can send it to you via email.


  2. Mr John Thompson

    A man who is responsible for the death of many people in liberia indeed,according to what i’ve learnt from various articles the current leader of liberia could also be implicated!

    But why try him for Sierra Leone..i would like to think i am quite read on the sierra leone civil war and i’m a sierra leonean, i know he could not be possibly be responsible for the sierra leone civil war,i however give these worlds prosecutors the benefit of the doubt and i’ve been struggling to follow the logic, the evidence and witnesses presented to date in this court is making me more convince of this misplaced justice.i am finding it very hard to link Mr Taylor to this charges.I find people like you however wittingly or unwittingly and some in the western countries (UK/USA) a complete insult to the intelligent of the people of sierra leoneans.


    1. Cee,
      Can I buy you a deer please. Where is the LINK we’re told was there?? Even the mute, deaf and blind can talk, hear and see that this case was just a show of INJUSTICE.

  3. Hi everyone. This is My first time on this site. I have been following Issa Sesay testimony since his stand his defense witness for Mr. Taylor. I don’t know what the court is going to say about because he was one of the top men for RUF and his testimony is breaking and bringing things to light. If another person throws a stone from a direction and hide himself, and out of a sudden an innocent person was right from where the stone came from he will be consider the one who threw the stone. He will be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The entire Taylor case is just a waste of resources. Let the come with her verdict. Are they confused or lost their course. Sasey is in jail for 52 years and yet he’s giving the court all he knows about the war in sierra Leone most especially he’s well known as a senior commander of the than RUF. Do the court wants dog or cat to come from everywhere, Liberia, sierra Leone, Gambia, and so on to testify? Men have lost their reason. I only share tears for those innocent people and Animals who lost their lives and body parts. Is this a game that will be played without end. I pause to recollect my mind because I’m in tears.

    1. Dear Aka Jusu — I just wanted to welcome you to the conversation here. I’m glad you have joined us.

  4. Hi, J Fallah.
    Thank you. Your words are dispeakable. You are on the right track. This Sierr Leone-Rwandan prosoner serving 52 years jail sentence can say anything about Sankoh and Bockarie because they are not alive.
    This guy was a jungle fighter and killer who was taking command from the top members of the movement. Issa sesay only came to the spot light when SANKOH and BOCKARIE fell apart as things fall apart and the centre cannot hold and moreover DENIS MINGO was a foreign national that is from the period ending 1999 to 2002 when SIERRA LEONE got final peace.
    ISSA SESAY is just buying time because he is getting fresh air and he has never travelled to the West.
    For the detractors of universal peace and justices, woe be onto you for the day you will meet your own predicament, you would like justices to prevail on your behalf and today you are crying faul for your godfather whom you all know well, that he committed mahem and destructions to lives and properties of innocent unarmed people in the two sisterly neighbouring countries (Sierra Leone and Liberia).
    God have mercy on you all for the last days are getting closser.

    1. Well then Fuad, you and your western backed prosecutors should save us emotional speeches that have a tendency to brainwash the gulible about the guilt of this man in this fake case. if the west do not want TRUE justice then they do not need to bring Taylor to court, they have the power, they can easily just shoot him and he dies and the case will close. pretending to be working in the interest of justice for the unfortunate people of SL by prosecuting this innocent man is honestly an insult to their sensibilities. If the west claims that they alone know how to conduct a free and fair trial then they must demonstrate it for all to see rather than mere rhetorics. Now that the case is not going their way, it remains to be seen what stunt they have left in their arsenal to pull.

  5. j. falah menjor, what do you want for Sesay to say again. Sesay will profit nothing to talk in favor of Taylor, he is already in a dungeon as you said. this man is talking nothing different, but the plain truth. so if the case is going against you Taylor haters just give up becuse no case now…

    Only Liberians have case against Taylor, but for sierra leoneans, noooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Thank you!
      This is waht we have been saying all along that prosecuting Mr. Taylor for what in Sierra Leone is an insult to the people of Sierra Leone!

  6. Can Mr. Sesay conviction be appeal Tracey??? If so, I will ask Perry Mason to help the brother out….as I watch at the trial, Mr. Griffith is cleverly telling Mr. Sesay, your trial was done in a kangaroo court….evidences hidden and witnesses bought.

    1. Noko4 — Issa Sesay already appealed his conviction by the trial chamber (a different one to this one trying Mr. Taylor) – and his appeal was quashed. The Appeals Chamber upheld his conviction for 16 charges and the sentence of 52 years. Mr. Sesay is not entitled to appeal the appeals decision, so that is the one that stands.

      1. yes but of course Tracey, if my memory serves me right I think by the statute of the court he is entitled to apply for a review of that decision within one year or so after the decision if fresh evidence emerges that may impact his case even after his appeal has been dispensed with.

        1. Ah yes Sam! Good point. You are speaking of Review Proceedings when new facts come to light that were not known at the time of trial or appeal and which could have impacted the final decision. You are indeed right (except there is no time limitation on it).

          Here is what Article 21 of the SCSL’s statute says about this issue:
          1. Where a new fact has been discovered which was not known at the time of the proceedings before the Trial Chamber or the Appeals Chamber and which could have been a decisive factor in reaching the decision, the convicted person or the Prosecutor may submit an application for review of the judgement.
          2. An application for review shall be submitted to the Appeals Chamber. The Appeals Chamber may reject the application if it considers it to be unfounded. If it determines that the application is meritorious, it may, as appropriate:
          a. Reconvene the Trial Chamber;
          b. Retain jurisdiction over the matter.

          And given there is no explicit time limitation, a key question for the court will be what happens when the Special Court shuts down if a new fact comes to light — how will it be addressed? The court and donor countries are now actually in the process of working out a mechanism that can be put in place to deal with these sorts of issues once the SCSL has shut its doors.

          Thanks for raising this Sam!


      2. Thanks Tracey…..from looking at his testimony, I think he was blind to some of evidences against him.

      3. Hi Tracey,
        I understand your ground of thoughtfulness on this site when members of the family in the conversation – room are sometimes out of touch in their post (s). Any group of people seeking justice, in my definition, are a civilized people who should be treated with respect regardless of their point. But you don’t always have to respond to their demands because they say something than expected or, respond to them because you deleted a post that did not stay inline with rules of this room. If you keep being too nice or constantly thoughtful to them, some people might take or see you different in you humble profession. You have the right to delete any post if it has a line that is not strict or irrelevant to the topic.

        My humble suggestion,

        1. Hi Tomas — I do appreciate your advice very much. I totally understand your point, and I agree it is a difficult line to walk, and I don’t know if I always walk the right line here.

          What I can say is this: I’ve made a deliberate and conscious decision to respond to people on this site whose comments I do not post. This is in part because I want this site — and my role in it — to be as transparent as possible so that readers know that I will always post their comments unless there is an explicit reason that does not accord with our policy for comments, which is also intended to be transparent (it is on this site, so anyone who wants guidance on what will and won’t be posted can find it here). Apart from anything else, I hope it can help diminish any appearance of bias if people know why their comments are not being published, and that it is not based on their point of view on Mr. Taylor’s guilt or innocence.

          I do understand that this conscious decision of mine may leave the impression that I am being too weak or too nice, and I agree with your concern about that. I grapple with that issue too. At the same time, I have considered it a price that is worth paying for the type of forum and discussion that I want to promote here: one which is truly democratic, respectful and operates according to transparent rules.

          It will always be a work in progress and maybe I will never get quite the right balance. But I am trying, and I continue to welcome your thoughts and advice on how to do it better.

          Best, and thank you,

  7. I ready want JUSTICE for the people of Sierra Leone and Liberia but from what I heard so far for the houses own mouth (I mean Issa Sesay) Taylor should not be hold RESPONSIBLE for what happen in Sierra Leone, if the Special Court for Sierra Leone ready think Mr. Taylor responsible all what happen from 1996 to 2000 than let the Special Court Bring in other West African leader who was inviod with Mr. Taylor during the so-called Peace process ( the Lome Accord) to come testify before this court and let the UN and the Western World stop this partial JUSTICE, WE WANT JUSTICE FOR THOSE PEOPLE THAT LOST THEIR LIVES IN SIERRA LEONE AND LIBERIA.

  8. If this is really what Griffiths asked:
    “Was he [Taylor] talking to you because he was in control of the RUF or because he had a mandate from the guarantors of the peace process,” Mr. Griffiths asked Mr. Sesay.

    Then this is an OUTRAGEOUS case of leading the witness.

    Did the prosecutor object?

    Was the objection over-ruled?

    If so, this is pretty poor court room control on the judges part.

    1. questions,
      please read the transcripts well so that you can fully understand the dialogue that ensued in court leading to that question by the distinguished counsel Courtney Griffiths QC. the transcript is written in plain and simple english which is not difficult to understand. you will observe that as ussual Mr Koumjian tried to interfere with the logical flow of the evidence of Mr Sesay but he was just ignored by the judges when he objected to that question because his objection holds no water. there was no leading in that question Mr Griffiths was merely seeking clarification on two points the witness had earlier made so in effect his objection was overuled!

    2. Question,
      Who started off that thought?? Mr. Sesay or Mr. Griffith?? No need to dance around the bush, Mr. Sesay was the one who told the court about the “guarrantors” and Mr. Griffith did his left hook and a striaght jab from the right on it….BAM BAM BAM…

  9. With all of this he say , they say , he did the almighty know it all. And he is the best know who innocent.he is monitoring everything.and when his time is right , his decision will come wwe will know the truth.

  10. Faud, you made a great statement,” This guy was a jungle fighter and killer who was taking command from the top members of the movement. Issa sesay only came to the spot light when SANKOH and BOCKARIE fell apart as things fall apart and the centre cannot hold and moreover.”

    Should we conclude from your statement that Taylor was not in charge of RUF but it was Sankoh and Bokarie who was in charge? I hope you realize your confusion to see Mr. Taylor guilty?
    Questions: you asked an important question regarding the Defense leading the witness. The defense did not lead the witness, it was the witness who first told the court about the “mandate from the guarantors of the peace process.” Mr. Griffins was only using the witness own statement to ask his question regarding the “mandate from the guarantors of the peace process.”

    Here is how the discussion began like this:
    Q. And just to be clear, Mr Sesay, because these are extremely important matters, who made the decision that Bockarie should stay in Liberia?
    A. Well, according to Mr Sankoh, he said it was Obasanjo because they were the guarantors to the Lome Accord. Mr Taylor was a guarantor, Obasanjo himself was a guarantor. He said it
    was the guarantors who decided that Sam Bockarie was to stay in Liberia so that Mr Sankoh would implement the Lome Peace Accord.
    Q. Help us, who were the guarantors to the Lome Peace Accord?
    A. The ECOWAS leaders, like President Obasanjo and President Taylor, President Blaise Compaore, representatives from the Ghanaian government. The ECOWAS people, they were the
    guarantors. I cannot name all of them now.
    Q. And at the time that Foday Sankoh told you that this decision had been made by, amongst others, himself, Obasanjo and President Taylor, did Foday Sankoh tell you to keep that fact secret?
    A. No. It was not a secret. He said it. It was not a secret.

    So Issa Sesay knew and was already aware about the guarantors of the Sierra Leone peace process. The discussion continue for sometime reagrding the point of Issa’s visit to Liberia when Taylor invited him to negotiate the release of the hostages. Please note that Issa was quoting Taylor in this exchange:

    Q. And you told us this, page 148 line 21: “I said no, sir. He said these people have a mandate from the guarantors.” Which people had a mandate from the guarantors?
    A. No, I said he told me that the ECOWAS – the guarantors who were the ECOWAS leaders had given him mandate for him to facilitate the release of the UNAMSIL peacekeepers and he said the ECOWAS leaders had also got mandate from the Security Council for them to negotiate with the RUF to release those people. So he said that was the reason why his colleagues had said that he should talk to the RUF to get the UNAMSIL released.
    Q. So the colleagues were to talk to who to secure the release of the UNAMSIL?
    A. I said the ECOWAS leaders, his colleagues, who were Heads of State, told Mr Taylor that Mr Taylor should talk to the RUF to secure the release of the UNAMSIL, that he should contact the RUF to facilitate the release of the UNAMSIL.

    Then we come to the issue that Question raised. It was a continuation of this last discussion above:

    Q. Now I want to be clear about this, Mr Sesay. Was Mr Taylor talking to you because he controlled the RUF, or was he talking to you because he had a mandate from the guarantors?
    A. Well, he talked to me because he had got mandate from the guarantors, but he was not controlling the RUF. The RUF was under Mr Sankoh’s control.

    So we can clearly see that Griffins did not introduce the concept of “mandate from the guarantors of the peace process,” It was the prosecution own document they presented in court that first discussed this issue as far back as when the prosecution presented its case in chief.

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