International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Charles Taylor: The View from Sierra Leone

As the glamor and intrigue continue today in the trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor—with a Hollywood actress and a supermodel’s former agent testifying in The Hague about diamonds and a diva—the view from Sierra Leone looks decidedly less chic.

Charred buildings lined the street going east out of Freetown, the country’s capital, with young men lingering on the roadside, despite the heavy rain.

“See those boys?” asked Desmond, my taxi driver and an evangelical pastor. “A lot of them were child soldiers. I have no pity for them.”

We were weaving through traffic on the same road that Sierra Leonean rebels had marched down eleven years ago, burning houses, looting, and terrorizing civilians as they launched an attack on the city in 1999.

Desmond started recalling his memories of the brutal 11-year conflict. He remembered rebels splitting open the stomachs of pregnant women to settle a bet on the sex of the unborn baby; frightened men and women jostling to sleep in fresh graves among dead bodies because the cemetery was the safest place to be at night; the fear he felt during the curfew while scavenging for food for his family.

“You can’t even imagine the things they did—they were on drugs, it made them crazy, they did not even know what they were doing,” he said, shaking his head in disgust.

We arrived at the house of Jusu Jarkah, a double amputee whose arms were cut off below the elbow during the war—a signature crime committed by rebel forces. Jarkah said he hopes that Charles Taylor will be found guilty of the 11 charges he faces, including war crimes and crimes against humanity. Taylor is being prosecuted for his alleged role in supporting rebels in a campaign to inflict terror, destabilize the country, and get rich from Sierra Leone’s diamond wealth.

Jarkah also wants to go to The Hague to see the verdict handed down, which is expected next year. He’s been there once before to watch the trial, and encountered Taylor through the glass window of the courtroom.

“Taylor looked at me and I held up my arms to show him what the rebels did to me—he just turned his head and looked away,” Jarkah said. “He did not want to acknowledge it.”

Jarmah had followed the testimony of supermodel Naomi Campbell last week, when she said she had received “dirty little pebbles” after a charity dinner hosted by former South African president, Nelson Mandela in September 1997. She had assumed the pebbles were rough diamonds from Charles Taylor, though she did not know who the two men were who woke her that night to give her the gift.

(Prosecutors hoped Campbell’s story would strengthen their allegations that Taylor exchanged weapons for diamonds, as the dinner took place a month after rebels allegedly delivered him diamonds, and a month before a weapons shipment landed in Sierra Leone.)

Jarkah said he was pleased she told her story because it brought attention to the issue of blood diamonds and “the activities of Taylor during the war.” He pointed to the example of Kono, a diamond rich district in the country’s east. There, he said, shipments of diamonds would be flown out to Liberia, and the same helicopter would return back to the country with weapons.

Taylor, however, has denied all charges against him and has said he neither received diamonds from the rebels nor supplied them with weapons.

In the lead-up to Campbell’s appearance last Thursday, young men also debated the issues behind the supermodel’s testimony while I passed through Kono district.

Sitting on a long bench on the verandah of a ramshackle house in the diamond-rich town of Small Sefadu, a heated exchange broke out among the youth, some of whom were former child soldiers. They had not heard of the supermodel, nor that she was coming to testify. But sitting in midst of a town overtaken by rebels—with burned out houses all around them—their views on Taylor’s alleged exchange of diamonds for weapons warmed up.

“Liberian rebels were here—they were sent by Charles Taylor,” one said. “They captured many people here and forced them to work in the [diamond] mines without feeding them and in terrible conditions.”

Another disagreed that Taylor was behind the crimes.

“There is no proper evidence for Charles Taylor—we never saw him here,” he said. “So it is our Sierra Leonean brothers who did this.”

“Let them try Taylor for Liberia’s war and let’s blame our own brothers for ours.”

Today, actress Mia Farrow and Campbell’s former agent, Carole White, testified about that night in 1997 when the alleged diamond gift was given. As they did so, the world again focused—fleetingly—on the Taylor trial and the horrific crimes committed during Sierra Leone’s long war.

But for those who lived through it, the reminders of the crimes are constant and everywhere. Only time will tell whether Taylor will be held responsible for them or not.

37 Comments
  1. An article worth reading if you like the defense team. They give scores like I think Noko4 use to do..

    http://www.cityjournalistdirectory.com/event/courtenay_griffiths_mia_farrow_naomi_campbell_carole_white_charles_taylor__8387/

    • Thanks Aki, hopefully this link will provide a useful connection to Mr. Taylor’s defense team.

    • Ha ha ha……
      Aki,
      Now you see WHY I stop giving the score….really, I cannot see why these judges vote GUILTY…..this was the prosecutors’ LAST HOPE and if the defense is smarter than me…..we REST after Mr. Sesay. Unless there is a witness that will pluck the HEARSAY HOLES from the prosecutors…..REST YOUR CASE!!!!! There is nothing more to gain.

  2. Classic!
    Sick People,
    Taking advantage of this poor man’s misfortune.

    Here is a poor man who suffered horribly during the civil war in Sierra Leone,these sick men of the world and their mindless,fickle and desperate followers in Sierra Leone have given him money and ushered his thought pattern to think that Mr Taylor is responsible for his amrputated arm.Marched him to the hague to support this ghastly rituals of the West.

    WHAT ABOUT THE PEOPLE IN LIBERIA CHARLES TAYLOR IS MORE LIKELY TO BE GUILTY OF OFFENDING.

    You are all sick!!!!

    • So you hate to see people who suffered the most tell their side of the story, Cee? God bless those who care and feel the sorrow, allegely, caused by your savior, taylor gankay mc arthur the rebel leader!

      • Fallah what has Charles Taylor got to do with the suffering of the people in SL? we have seen through out this trial that there is simply no evidence whatsoever to Link Charles taylor to the crimes in SL. So Let the west support the setting up of a war crimes tribunal for Liberia so that ALL those responsible will be brought to justice.

      • Fallah ,
        There is a saying…Don’t cut your nose to spite your face.

        Even after reading my postings,you still seems to think i support impunity,just because i oppose the principle of Mr Taylor being tried for the war in Sierra Leone,i am feeling vindicated as this trial unfold.Infact he and others currently sitting in power in Liberia should be answerable to a liberian court for war crime….But i strongly suggest you reconcile and put this behind you.

        You seems to think the people that are moving this case cares about Liberian or Sierra Leonean,or are you actual part of the team that are moving this case?

        I worried about the state of mind of some of our Sierra Leone and Liberian brothers and sisters with this tendency of been a mindless,lazy pro-colonialist whose instinct of wisdom and justice is based on the teaching of an unjust actor.

        Fallah where you born in colonial times?maybe i’m too young to understand your spirit sometimes…well if you are infact an african.

        • I am a Labanese, Mr.Cee. Let’s focus on the crimes, including rapes and sexual slavery,alleged by the Sierra Leone Court, committed by taylor and probably, associates. Yes, I was born during the colonial period that might probably be why I appear better informed, well educated, and civil enough to know between right and wrong! I am not African enough for people like your type that seem to have problems with people who disagree with your twisted views of the world and others. I wish you had wisdom to re-evaluate your comments about others and how that impacts how you are viewed, in return..boy I save some ..thanks anyway Cee.

        • So focus on Israel Fallah or are you one those israeli spy nasrellah was talking about?they are on your case the people that are supporting your tormentors are making this mess.

          lebanese eh,have’nt you people profit enough….i’m sure you are comfortable with the staus quo been restored.Busy playing devils advocate silly!!

          You are operating like a demi-colonialist,Enjoy Fallah Enjoy…because you will be paying tax very soon.Don’t worry there won’t be anymore wasr,but what i can assure you is the next generation that will be occupying powers in that region are gonna be in spirit like Mr Taylor.

          And fallah,i am not what you are used to in the region i was born there but i moved away since i was a child.

      • They should tell their story to the people who did that to them…………………..this is a misfire!

      • Fallah
        It is disappointing if not stupid, to seek public views on Mr. Taylor trial in Freetown without balancing such views with what people think about the trial in down town Monrovia. This only proved that you guys are not objective in your reporting.

        Harris K Johnson

        • Down Town Monrovia is still infested with taylorites, except if we find a way to flush them down the drainage system! That is why it wouldn’t be prudent to seek their views..this is my opinion on that Harry k johnson. We can tell how silly you guys argue, much more these guys that have no schooling and had only known how to rub and live on others’ belongings! This to me this is objective as sad as it may sound!

  3. Ken,
    Here Kayode’s own account of why he stop criticizing Obasanjo and became Obasanjo supporter as explained by a Nigerian writer

    Sometimes last year, I watched an interview-programme on AIT called “Zoom Time”. In that particular episode, Femi Fani-Kayode was the featured guest. In the interview proper, the presenter of the programme asked him why he was so pesky and vexing in his contemptible profession of being the unconscionable Rottweiler of the directionless Presidency. Femi Fani-Kayode said it was “GOD”! When the presenter of the programme himself, Charlie Boy, got chagrined with this abysmal profanity, he demanded elucidation from Fani-Kayode. After adumbrating his successful and undefeated boxing career, Femi then embarked on excursion of rhapsodizing how his existence was assailed by “woes” just because he was against President Obasanjo! He narrated how he was personally involved in two separate car accidents in which his two cars somersaulted at different times and he nearly lost his “Life”. He said he then realized that his “woes” and “tribulations” were somehow spiritual. So, he sought spiritual succour and prayers from a certain powerful man of God in Ghana – a man who had previously predicted back in 1998 that Obasanjo was destined to be Nigeria’s next President even though Obasanjo was still in jail and totally unknown to this Ghanaian bishop. Anyway, so, after numerous fasting periods and many rounds of fervent prayers, “GOD” finally spoke through this Bishop to our brother, Femi Fani-Kayode. GOD’s words were that Femi Fani-Kayode should stop criticizing President Obasanjo and he should physically go and make peace with him at Aso-Rock. When they met, “Mr. President” then explained things better to him. It was then that he realized that he was wrong to have gone against the President initially and, therefore, anybody that criticizes the President is wrong and against God!

    Hearing this hogwash, I was hit with very powerful vertigo which left me fuming in convulsion and seized me in seething revulsion on how Nigerians could easily prostitute themselves when ensnarled with inconsequential twinkling of counterfeited silver and gold – even to the extent of dragging God into their iniquitous and shameless existence. At a time during the airing of this programme, being a Christian myself and believing that nothing is impossible for God to do, I prayed to God to either endow me with power of “ofe” (teleporting magical power) to instantly zap into my Television set and confront his blasphemy live on air, or to extricate him from my Television and give him a ass-whipping he will never forget but I heard an inner Voice (I can’t say whether it is God’s Voice or not because I am not “HOLY and RIGHTEOUS” like Femi) whispering to me that “hey, this man, remember that Femi Fani-Kayode is a great boxer and he could just smack you o”. So, obviously, just like anybody else, I didn’t want to be beaten-up in addition to my frustration of Nigeria’s perdition, so I just keep quiet and continued watching the interview with simmering impuissance until “God” asked NEPA (or PHCN) to lay credence to the ingenuity and brilliance of Obasanjo’s administration by shutting down electricity supply to my neighborhood in Ibadan. (Anyone who wants to verify the veracity of this Interview can call AIT or Charlie Boy and request for Interview with Femi

    http://www.nigeriansinamerica.com/articles/1258/2/The-God-of-Obasanjo-and-Fani-Kayode-Versus-God-of-Nigeria/Page2.html

    • Morris,
      I love to read your essays but why are they so LONG?? Can you just go to the point please??? Thanks!

  4. Tracey,

    I think this story of yours is premeditated. It appears as if this story has been on your mine for a while, but you were waiting for the appropriate time to get it off. You are visiting Freetown concocting story similar to that of Ms White and Ms Farrow.

    Why there is a big difference between your story and that of Alpha’s when he (Alpha) reported on the views of the Sierra Leone people during the early part of the year? Are the Sierra Leoneans more opened to you then their own kinsman? In order for your story to have any credibility you need to go next door to Liberia and asked the views of the Liberian people and how they feel about President Taylor and the 11 counts indictment.

    The Sierra Leone people and their former president Kabba are responsible for their own mayhem.

    • What?, All I can say is that I totally shre you views on this.

    • What is what? Or what should Tracey report to what? Since what is reported is what happened. Now what,what are your accusations here? Taylor is what it’s all about that’s what what is asking! go to school and what that means is rational reasonning about what needs to be done in voicing out what one thinks and not bordering about what others think! Hope you understand my point, mr. what.Who are you to pre-judge others contributions to this trial? It sounds so immature for anyone to think the world revolves around them! What, let me tell you that liberian, such as fallah is here and telling the world how he feels and you don’t need Ms Tracey to go and interview Liberians..we are here on the blogg what!

  5. What an excellent posting by our own Alpha, especially the conversations of texi cap driver Desmond during the visit to Sefadu in Kono district, Sierra Leone. what a revalations this is! and yes Mr. Jusu Jarkah the whole world is sadden by the suitation created by Charles Taylor which lead to your amputations and many others that met their untimely death, in his greed for wealth and power among west African leaders. He will be found guilty and rest assured Mr. Jarkah that no world leader has been brought to a forum as such and let go free. There is too many evidance here to ignore! and the people shall prevail!

    • This story is so one sided set up to galvanize hatred for Mr Taylor by playing on the sympathy of the audience. What a very cheap trick. Sorry I am not sold on the idea.

      This is so typical of the kind of nonsense that the western media would come up with. They already have their preconceived notion of africans and refuse to change it regardless of how glaring the reality is.

      Alpha and Tracey,

      I expect more neutrality than this. I was also very disappointed with Alpha taking sides on the interview on BBC. What was that about? Why didn’t he maintain his neutrality? I know you are Sierra Leonean and need to keep your job, but your neutrality will keep your self respect and your honour.
      You really disappointed me and sever people who read this site.

  6. SierraLonne should take responsibility for their own action,we all know Taylor brought war to Liberia but there is no evidence that show Taylor in SierraLonne with gun gaving command to SierraLonne rebels,Taylor is guilty for what happen in Liberia.prove Taylor guilty by showing us voice recording,video or picture with Taylor in SierraLonne,don’t rely on they say,and please know tha tTa yl or was president for Liberia and Liberia is rich with diamond also,so he had access to Liberia diamond,he will not leave that and go to SierraLonne for diamonds.

  7. The spokesperson of former Nigerian President Obasanjo publicly commented on the situation President Taylor is in:

    http://234next.com/csp/cms/sites/Next/Opinion/5604709-148/charles_taylor_a_man_betrayed.csp

    with other comments offering a somewhat contadictory point of view afterwards. An article worth reading, I think….

  8. I think the prosecution has lost the case. They bring in their own witnesses who are supposed to bolster the prosecutions case and yet they completely rip it apart. They give differing accounts of events taking place that evening. They clearly remember what they want to remember which would help the prosecutions case and yet proclaim to have forgotten other details which would not help the prosecutions case. Carole white for one is completely on a different level. She does not appear to be telling much truth in her testimony. Her testimony seems to be more out of hatred for Naomi Campbell than anything else. Mia Farrow on the othe hand seems to hate Charles Taylor with a passion. She also does not convince me as telling the entire truth. One thing we should not forget is that she is an actress, a good one at that. Her appearence and testimony then needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. I beleive she is putting on an act for the most part. Finally, I salute Charles Taylors artoneys. they seem to be doing a fairldecent job. They ask questions which are seemingly irrelevant, only to zero in and quash the witnesses story. Whether Taylor is guilty or not, his defence team is fantastic. A parting shot, the presiding job is doing a great job. Nuff respect for the sister!

  9. Let Charles Taylor be free from all this false allegation that no good evidence to prove that Taylor supported rebels in Sierra leon.

  10. What,
    As you can see, I truly believe Tracey and Alpha believe and still do that Mr. Taylor is GUILTY!!! Unfortunately for them, the evidences speak otherwise and they cannot believe or willing to accept that. I strongly believe when this site was set up, it was to tell us the case but little did they know that we were prepared to weather the storm. Alpha slicing hearings we all saw just to fix his mindset and now we see Tracey opening OLD WOUNDS….for what purpose???

    Tracey and Alpha do have an opinion about this case but when asked……their excuse….WE CANNOT BECAUSE THE CASE IS STILL ON GOING…one does NOT have to wait for THE END to see which side is putting up a better presentation in a courtroom….but I will still wait for them to FINALLY tell us how they felt when we moved from the very witnesses.

    • @ Noko
      I am not a loyal follower of this blog. Nor do I favor one side over the other. However, I am disturbed that Alpha and Tracey are dubious about their position and purpose on this site. When I read the caption “the view from SL”, I immediately knew it was intended to stir up crap. Unfortunately, neither Alpha or Tracey are interested in their professional integrity.

      I could go blow for blow with the slanting and violations contained in the summaries Alpha and Tracey post. But, I don’t waste my time when I realize I am talking to a wall. Mostly when I post is to help illuminate certain points for fellow bloggers. In closing, one of the oldest tricks in the art of war and debate is – to convince the other side they have already been defeated.
      One more point…don’t waste another second wondering what Alpha and Tracey think b/c they are not thinking for themselves.

  11. Hi Tracey

    I will rather appreciate you upload the cross examination up then to post the view of the sierra Leone.
    because you know that we all are aware that the Sierra Leone interest in this case has die.

    Evident from the fact that only 9 person went to the Special court head office in Freetown to watch Campbell testimonies, what this imply a lack of interest even a Sierra Leonean Lawyer was interview by the BBC and he express his disappointment in this Trial.

    so please keep us update with current even unfolding at the trial

    Bye

    Zobon

  12. No matter if Charles Taylor is found innocent or guilty the trial has opened to the world the struggle both in Sierra Leone and Liberia. The world that relies solely on television news can now further investigate by reading articles both in NGO groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights or newspaper articles from that period.

    I will readily admit that I was complacent in my world and not really thinking of things beyond shelter and food. I had heard of the armed struggle but paid little mind as the day to day minutia of my life. I read and watched as millions died in Rwanda, glued to my television. Shocked and dismayed I wrote papers for school and actively tried to influence my government’s involvement. This was the only time and has been the time I was an activist.

    My younger daughter who was only seven when that genocide happened was changed, she is now in university and wants to devote herself to change, her passion is Africa. Her passion became mine as she brought home books and documentaries on various states in Africa that have undergone such devastating horror for reasons of money and power, sometimes for reasons of “democracy”. I have now gone to Africa and witnessed first hand in refugee camps in Uganda and Kenya the horrors that those who must be protected but aren’t suffer.

    I can’t say Charles Taylor is innocent nor can I say he is guilty. What I can say is I’ve read every line of transcript from the date it began, complaining bitterly to the SCSL about the computers changed over and transcripts weren’t put on in a more timely manner. I have visited this site frequently, reading with interest the daily summaries and comments made by those who lived the conflict. I will keep my personal opinion to myself and say I call to whichever diety that those who experienced and still experience the pain and suffering of that era that peace can be found (and maintained).

    The team who works so hard to bring this information to you has done and is doing a wonderful job.

    Thank you

    • Brenda,
      I enjoyed reading your post very much. You should try and take part in the discussions more often. Would appreciate your view on who you think is doing a better job the prosecution or defense ?

    • @ Brenda
      You can’t believe everything you read. Please remember, information contained in a transcript is not always the truth. By the by, have you been privy to the transcripts from the chamber testimony. If so, the absence of directly observing a witness marginalizes your or any one ability to weigh credibility accurately or fairly.
      I feel your point about Rawanda, Kenya etc. Most times my heart becomes heavy when I think about the suffering that has happened and continues to this day.

      Your daughter is blessed and highly favored.

    • Brenda,
      Thanks for sharing. Its awesome that this trail and other events had such an impact on you. That means that this trail is not a waste of time and resources as many claim it is. Even at my job because of the recent testimony of Farrow and Campbell my colleagues want to know more about Sierra Leone Liberia, Taylor and this trail.
      -Cheers

  13. Tracey Gurd! Tracey Gurd!! Tracey Gurd!!!

    SOMEONE TELL ME THE PURPOSE OF THIS ARTICLE?

    Is it to raise emotions or what? The Tracey Gurd you have failed!

    who ever did this has failed BIG TIME! because the best person(s) who you should have gone was those who lead that “brutal war” in Sierra Leone!

    Has every right-thinking living being forgotten that the real living actors in the war are walking free?

    Where is Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah (born February 16, 1932) the 3rd President of Sierra Leone, serving from 1996 to 1997 and from 1998 to 2007? All through the war?

    Where are those brutal British forces sent to Sierra Leone to liberate Tejan Kabbah? No one will say anything about their atrocities they committed there!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahmad_Tejan_Kabbah

    Look this western propaganda from the west will not work!

    “Taylor looked at me and I held up my arms to show him what the rebels did to me—he just turned his head and looked away,” Jarkah said. “He did not want to acknowledge it.”…this is what makes me so made that victim should go to Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah home and show it to him because he was in person in that civil war with the support of Britain and must tell him to take responsibility.

    Tracey Gurd this trick did not work on us we are just too smart!

    This trial is in a court of Law and the Judgement will be determined by the “rule of Law” not on peoples emotions!

    So far everything shows that the prosecuting team has not provided evidence in “court” to prove their ELVEN (11) charges in against the defendant Charles Taylor!

    NOTE: Nobody should get me wrong, It’s my view that Charles Taylor should be tried in Liberia for all crimes he committed in that country that is if the people of Liberia wish so including the current President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and all who where involved in the war in LIBERIA!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellen_Johnson_Sirleaf

  14. Cambell said on bbc on August 10 2010,five days after she testified at the court,as I quote from her,I have no motive of lying,I told the truth at the court I am a black women who have love for africa,I donate to Africa and help the needed there,I understand their situation ,I told the truth,as for the words been inconvenience at the court that was a poor gesture of me but I was responding to the ignorant question post to me on the stand,I should have use much better words.this is Campbell speaking on the 10 of August on bbc after her testimony.go and put the date on bbc and check it up.

  15. Tracy and Alpha, if u like don’t post my reply to Fallah. Its obvious that several comments that were posted after mine have been moderated. Indeed, it is all clear to readers now where you two stand. What a shame! I thought you both were lawyers and trained journalists, what a show of lack of professionalism. Am ashamed to be a member of this profession that has been so highly dsgraced and dishonoured at this trial. Anyway, without Taylor on trial, you both might be out of job and consequently out of earning. One day the chicken will come home roost!

    • What is this supposed to mean, Sylvanus; a threat? You sound like a fool to threaten Journalists for their views and opinions, just like taylor would. You see, this is were I do not separate type like you from taylor. You would probably be worst had you the opportunity taylor or chuckie had over their brothers and sisters. I can’t believe I am hearing this direct and silly attacks from some one like you. Shame is all I can say..Jfallahmenjor says so…

  16. Tracey,
    I’ve wanted to know how Sierra Leoneans think about this trail for a while. It seems as if they share the same opinion as many, some believe he’s guilty others don’t. It would be nice hear more about non-participant of the war. I was also struck by some of the similarities of events in Liberia, like the people hidding amongst dead bodies, or the rebels splitting the stomach of pregnant women.
    All in all this trail is defintely raising dialgues about issues in Liberia and Sierra Leone and hopefully other African nations. I just read an article about conflict diamonds being sold in Zimbabwe. I hope that this trail brings attention to conflict resources of African nations that is usually sold to Western nations despite the repercussions the procuring of these resources have on the citizens of the specific nations.