RUF’s “Operation Free The Leader” Was Not Planned In Monrovia, Issa Sesay Testifies

An alleged operation which aimed to free the leader of Sierra Leone’s main rebel leader from jail was not planned in cahoots with Charles Taylor in Liberia, but was instead a series of independent attacks planned by Sierra Leonean rebel forces themselves and disconnected from their leader’s incarceration, the Special Court for Sierra Leone heard today.

Issa Sesay, a defense witness for Mr. Taylor who is serving a 52 year sentence for his own role in the 11-year Sierra Leone conflict, continues to distance Mr. Taylor from the activities of his rebel force, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).  In his testimony today, Mr. Sesay dismissed prosecution allegations that the RUF’s “Operation Free The Leader” – a plan to attack Kono and Makeni towns before the capital Freetown to put pressure on the government to release their leader, Fodah Sankoh — was devised in the Liberian capital Monrovia with Mr. Taylor’s involvement.

In 2008, a protected prosecution witness had testified that top RUF commander, Sam Bockarie, had met with Mr. Taylor in Monrovia in 1998. Mr Bockarie had told his troops upon his return that the former Liberian president had hatched the plan, the witness had told the court.  The prosecution witness had also said that the attack on Kono was to be lead by Mr. Sesay (the current witness), the Makeni attack was to be led by RUF commander Superman, while the final attack on the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown, was to be spearheaded by former Sierra Leonean soldier, Soloman Anthony James Musa (SAJ Musa) from the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC).

Today, Mr. Sesay, who has admitted that he led the attack on Kono, told court that the prosecution witness had lied about Mr. Taylor’s involvement.

“The decision to attack Kono, Mr. Sesay, was that designed by Charles Taylor?” Lead defense lawyer for Mr. Taylor, Courtenay Griffiths asked Mr. Sesay.

“No, not at all. It was a mission planned by Sam Bockarie at the meeting we held at Waterworks [a place in Kailahun, an eastern Sierra Leonean town] and he never said that the plan was designed by Charles Taylor,” Mr. Sesay said.

When told by Mr. Griffiths that the prosecution witness had told the court that “the decision to attack Kono, Makeni and Freetown was planned in Monrovia, brought to Sierra Leone by Sam Bockarie and Sam Bockarie gave the order to SAJ Musa to lead the Freetown leg of the operation,” Mr. Sesay responded that “this is a bloody lie.”

“Did Sam Bockarie send a message to SAJ Musa giving him the role of moving to Freetown?” Mr. Griffiths asked Mr. Sesay.

“No, not at all,” Mr. Sesay responded.

“The attack on Freetown was an AFRC affair and before December 1998, Sam Bockarie and SAJ Musa were not even talking to each other.”

The prosecution witness who testified in 2008 told the court that when SAJ Musa refused to take instructions from the RUF’s Mr. Bockarie about the implementation of the operation, the RUF commander made a complaint to Mr. Taylor.  The witness had also stated that Mr. Taylor had control over both fighting groups who had joined forces in Sierra Leone – the RUF and the AFRC.

“Do you recall Sam Bockarie making such a complaint to Mr. Taylor about SAJ Musa’s refusal to take instructions for this operation?” Mr. Griffiths asked Mr. Sesay.

“No. This is my first time hearing about this issue…until December 98 when SAJ Musa died, they never had any business of operation,” Mr. Sesay said.

Mr. Sesay denied the assertion that an operation code named “Operation Free the Leader” had even been planned at a meeting of RUF commanders.

“I do not recall any operation we named “Operation Free the Leader”…you know that sometimes when you carry out any successful operation, fighters will give it any kind of name but to say that we named any operation or Bockarie planned Operation Free the Leader, no,” Mr. Sesay explained.

According to Mr. Sesay, the plan that was discussed at the Waterworks meeting had nothing to do with Mr. Sankoh or a plan to attack Freetown. The said meeting focused mainly on the attack on Kono, Mr. Sesay told the court.

“We did not have any discussions about Mr. Sankoh and we did not have any discussions about attacking Freetown during that meeting. The only thing that was discussed at the meeting was attacking Kono,” Mr. Sesay said.

He dismissed as lies the assertion that after the meeting, Mr. Bockarie called Mr. Taylor and briefed him about the plan.

Mr. Sesay insisted that Mr. Taylor had no involvement in the plan which focused mainly on attacking Kono.

Mr. Taylor is currently on trial for his alleged role in 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law.

Mr. Sesay’s testimony continues on Wednesday.


  1. Oh well, there you have it folks, what more can be proven for doubters to change their minds and understand Taylor had nothing to do with the whole SL RUF. Wise men changes but fools never! With all these first-handed evidences, its about time to let-go of the myths and guess-work. Taylor in innocent!!!! Holdup, what happen to all those media houses? They had so many investigational evidences we were seeing on Tv and print media, Oh I guess they’ve all disappear , No evidence, No prove

  2. This is just a thought, but what if Mr. Bakari received advice from Mr. Taylor before attending the Waterworks meeting? What this witness is saying is not necessarily in conflict with the account of the earlier prosecution witness.

    1. Do you know what Mr. Thought thought Paivy??? I’ll save the answer for another day….but you are amazing…..the man who was involved…telling his role in the operation and Mr. Taylor nor Sankoh were NOT discussed…yet still you are THOUGHTING as my three years would say??? lol -:

    2. Good Morning Paivy, one would want to agree with you that the testimony of Sesay could not necessarily be in conflict with the account of the earlier protected prosecution witness. But what we need to understand is that Mr. sesay did not say a plan was PRESENTED by Sam Bockarie rather a mission was planned by Sam Bockarie in a meeting with Mr. sesay present. What remains also is that, the prosecution could asked Mr. Sesay these questions during the cross:
      1. Did Bockarie present a plan for the Mission or what was the plan presented by Bockarie during the meeting?
      2. Where did Bockarie return from before the meeting?
      Now, looking at the prosecution’s protected witness, one would also want to know his role, relationship, and status with RUF in comparison to Mr. sesay. More to that, how is the court going to be convince that this prosecution protected witness testimony has any legal substance?
      Before closing, let me ask Alpha and Tracy to help if any, to tell me if the presecution presented any physical evidence of this witness testimony such as a written order from sam Bockarie to Saj musa or a written communication to Former President Taylor about the refusal of Saj Musa to obey the orders?
      I reserve furher comments.

      1. Johnny Ndebe,
        The prosecution did not present any physical evidence of the witness’s testimony as it relates to Sam Bockarie’s alleged order to SAJ Musa or alleged communication with Mr. Taylor about Saj Musa’s refusal to ober orders. The witness claims to have been present when these events took place and this is what he explaned in his oral testimony in court.
        Hope this helps.

  3. what’s up Mr. Koumjian you seem to be losing your head; come on Mr. Griffiths you are a genius in the game. sit down J. Fallah menjor I’m not yet finish we need some decorum on this blog, please bring me more drama B. Joe

    The ways things are looking I’m of the view Issa is more reliable than paid prosecution witnesses.

  4. Listen to this new garbage on why people should believe taylor has nothing to do with what happened in Sierra Leone:”On July 29, 2010 at 10:36 pm, GreBo said: Oh well, there you have it folks, what more can be proven for doubters to change their minds and understand Taylor had nothing to do with the whole SL RUF. Wise men changes but fools never! ”
    And then this from a new commer, who seems to be old bloger but under new name:”On July 30, 2010 at 10:44 am, Joe3 said: what’s up Mr. Koumjian you seem to be losing your head; come on Mr. Griffiths you are a genius in the game. sit down J. Fallah menjor I’m not yet finish we need some decorum on this blog, please bring me more drama B. Joe.” Oh yes more attacks instead of debating the main reason we are here for: people of Liberia, we are here to find out if the charges brought against taylor are true or not. We are not interested in who fallah is nor malice Joe3 has in mind to vent out. What Grebo thinks about others opinions has little to change the objectives of the Court of Sierra Leone’s final decision! Please get this in your skulls my people of Liberia. This is the simplest explanation I can do for you. Grow up and accept responsibilty of those who destroyed your Homeland!

  5. This is just one side of Issa’s testimony, but wait until he passes cross examination by the prosecution. Then we all can make logical conclusion and pinpoint the lies or truth, until that can be done let us be still.

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