International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Issa Sesay Distances RUF From the January 1999 Invasion Of Freetown

Former interim leader of the Sierra Leonean rebel group that Charles Taylor is accused of providing support for today made considerable effort to distance his rebel group from the 1999 invasion of Freetown, an attack which saw the commission of heinous crimes including murder, rape, amputations of the arms and limbs of civilians, and the looting and destruction of civilian property.

According to Issa Hassan Sesay, the present witness testifying for Mr. Taylor, the attack on Sierra Leone’s capital city of Freetown in January 1999 was undertaken solely by members of the Sierra Leone Army (SLA), who in May 1997 had overthrown the democratic government of Sierra Leone and formed the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). After the May 1997 coup, the AFRC teamed up with Sierra Leone’s main rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).  Together the two groups ruled Sierra Leone until they were forcefully removed from Freetown in February 1998 by West African peacekeepers under the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG).

As the rebel forces retreated from Freetown, they occupied various towns in Sierra Leone’s countryside, and in January 1999, the rebel forces invaded Freetown again. Prosecutors have alleged that the 1999 attack on Freetown was a joint operation undertaken by the AFRC and the RUF, an allegation that Mr. Sesay denied today.

“It was an AFRC operation, it was an independent operation that they carried out,” Mr. Sesay told the court in reference to the January 1999 invasion of Freetown.

Mr. Sesay explained that “they [AFRC] fought from Koinadugu [Northern Sierra Leone] right up to Freetown on their own.”

According to Mr. Sesay, the action of the democratic government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah to execute members of the Sierra Leone Army (SLA), who had been found guilty by a Court Martial for their involvement in the coup, was the main reason why the AFRC decided to attack Freetown.

“That is why they attacked Freetown, they said their colleagues had been killed,” Mr. Sesay told the court.

Prosecutors on the otherhand have insisted that the 1999 Freetown invasion was a joint operation undertaken by the AFRC and the RUF in pursuit of their joint criminal enterprise in Sierra Leone. Prosecutors hope that by proving the RUF’s involvement in the Freetown invasion, Mr. Taylor would be held liable because according to prosecutors, when Mr. Taylor allegedly provided arms and ammunition to the RUF to attack the diamond rich town of Kono in December 1998, the rebels used that operation and the same arms and ammunition to advance to the northern part of the country before they proceeded to Freetown in January 1999.

Mr. Sesay has denied these allegations, telling the court instead that the AFRC troops that attacked Freetown took off from Koinadugu under the leadership of Solomon Anthony James Musa (SAJ Musa) but that when SAJ Musa died before the troops entered Freetown, Alex Tamba Brima, aka Gullit, (also now convicted by the Special Court and serving a jail term in Rwanda) took over the leadership of the troops. It was at that time that he made contact with RUF commander Sam Bockarie.

“According to [my radio] operator, it was Gullit’s name that was mentioned to Sam Bockarie’s operator. He said Gullit told Sam Bockarie that SAJ Musa was dead. Then Sam Bockarie told Gullit that they should wait for reinforcement to come so that they will attack Freetown,” Mr. Sesay explained.

Mr. Sesay added that Gullit did not wait for the reinforcement to arrive when he led his troops into Freetown.

When asked whether it was Mr. Bockarie who offered to send reinforcements to support Gullit’s troops, Mr. Sesay said, “That is what my operator told me…based on the instruction he gave Gullit to wait to get reinforcement for us to attack Freetown, but Gullit did not wait, he did not go ahead with what he was told.”

Mr. Sesay told the court that the RUF was not involved in the plan to attack Freetown because the AFRC’s SAJ Musa and the RUF’s Mr. Boackarie were not on speaking terms. When asked why Mr. Bockarie was “offering to send reinforcement to this renegade group,” Mr. Sesay said that “when Gullit told Bockarie that SAJ Musa was dead, since Gullit was his friend, Bockarie was ready to work with him.”

Mr. Sesay said that the RUF fighters who moved to reinforce the AFRC could not enter Freetown because ECOMOG forces stopped them at Waterloo outside Freetown.

“ECOMOG was in Hastings and Jui and so they [RUF} could not go to Freetown,” Mr. Sesay said.

He agreed that their purpose was to enter Freetown.

Mr. Koumjian then played in court a January 1999 audio clip of a BBC interview by a Colonel FAT Sesay in which the Colonel told the interviewer that “we have again overthrown the SLPP [Sierra Leone People’s Party]…the combined forces of the AFRC and the RUF forces.”

In response to this, Mr. Sesay said, “I knew that he was lying because at that time, the RUF were in Makeni.”

Mr. Sesay insisted, “I was not part of the planning, nor was I part of the execution of the attack on Freetown.”

When told that  RUF’s Mr. Bockarie had “called his papay [Mr. Taylor]” to inform him that the rebel forces had entered Freetown, Mr. Sesay said, “I didn’t know about that.”

Mr. Sesay’s testimony continues on Monday as there will be no court sitting on Friday.

23 Comments
  1. Big , you are so correct that Koumjian is boring the trial with all kinds of faulty propositions. Imagine today in open court:

    1. Koumjain has consistently argued that RUF and AFRC planned and attacked Freetown in a joint criminal manner. Today , he played a BBC interview of one Colonel FAT Sesay to prove that RUF collaborated with the AFRC to attack and take over Freetown. In the interview on Focus on Africa with Robin White, Colonel FAT Sesay made two key statements. Colonel FAT Sesay claimed that AFRC and RUF had combine forces in Freetown. But Colonel FAT Sesay also stated clearly that on their way to take over Freetown, the rebel forces did not see any ECOMOG Forces . They freely walked into Freetown and took over without any resistance from ECOMOG.

    Issa Sesay said that Colonel FAT Sesay was lying about RUF and AFRC joint attacked on Freetown but Koumjain disagreed. Koumjain said that Colonel FAT Sesay was telling the truth. So if we believe that Colonel FAT Sesay was telling the truth, then it means that Koumjian himself has been lying all along that RUF and AFRC fought against ECOMOG to takeover Freetown. Koumjian cannot have it both ways.

    2. Today in open court, Koumjain attempted to impeach Issa Sesay’s credibility by presenting a key prosecution witness’ statement. King Perry testified for the prosecution. Koumjain used king Perry statement to also proved that RUF and AFRC jointly planned and attacked Freetown. But King Perry statement exposed a shocking hole in the prosecution case. King Perry was a key radio operator and said in his statement that after taking over Freetown , Alex Tamba Brima, aka Gullit called Sam Bokarie and said to the effect, he (Gullit) had taken over Freetown and needed Sam Bokarie help and that God had blessed the AFRC to accomplished their mission, although Sam Bokarie was opposed to the attacked on Freetown.

    Again, we see a clear contradiction of a prosecution witness supporting the defense position that the RUF and AFRC did not planned together to attack Freetown. King Perry , a prosecution witness cannot be clearer that Gullit told Sam Bokarie that although you was opposed to us taking over Freetwon but we are successful and we need some help. Kinfg Perry statement shows that Bokarie did not jointly planned the attacked on Freetown with AFRC because according to Gullit , Bokarie was opposed to the attack. Koumjain is a loser again , he ought to rest his cross against Issa Sesay .

  2. Well People, where do we go from here? Ms Hollis has even abandoned Mr Koumjian to deal with the embarassement of cross-examining Issa Sessay because she obviously knew that the prosecution will get nowhere with this.

    Infact the prosecution should get ready for more trouble and sleepless nights because by the time the defence calls DCT092 (the real diamond dealer of the RUF)after Issa Sesay’s testimony, who will come to tell the court who he was doing business with, and where the Sierra Leonean diamonds were going, and how the prosecution tried to bribe him to lie against Charles Taylor in this trial and how he received the prosecution money but refused to lie, the prosecution will have to close shop because there is no way they can get anything out of this case.

    • Sam,
      How do you get such information way in advance ?

    • Sam,

      You must have shot yourself in the leg on this one.

    • Sam, let me use your well thought out, I supposed, piece here on how the new witness; DCT092 is going to confuse the Prosecution;”Infact the prosecution should get ready for more trouble and sleepless nights because by the time the defence calls DCT092 (the real diamond dealer of the RUF)after Issa Sesay’s testimony, who will come to tell the court who he was doing business with, and where the Sierra Leonean diamonds were going, and how the prosecution tried to bribe him to lie against Charles Taylor in this trial and how he received the prosecution money but refused to lie, the prosecution will have to close shop because there is no way they can get anything out of this case.” Now pray tell me how someone like you have not only preached “fairness” but had called for “justice” yet happy that justice is being tempered with as clearly indicated in this piece! I nothing further to say about you from now on, Sam. You sound like an “Opportunist” just taylor had been all his pathetic life!

      • Fallahmenjor,
        What do you mean justice has been tampered with? Do you know the meaning of justice? In the court of law every plaintiff is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

        Why do you like to always assignate people characters instead of focusing to the facts and evidence and them making your evaluations?

        I believe this form is the setting for all stakeholders to analyse and discuss finding from the court room to assess in whose favor (procecution or defense) the case is going but you seem to be distorting the facts by attacking personalities like Sam etc. in the name of Taylor bashing which is very immature.

      • Fallah,
        Can you tell us how “justice is being tempered with” in the piece I wrote? For your information and your fellow anti-Taylor commentators who did not believe my comment about DCT092 (actually it is DCT097. My mistake) well you need to know that the allegation about payments made by the prosecution to him is currently the subject of a motion by the defence requesting the court to compel the prosecution to disclose details of the payments they made to DCT097 and the details of the statements he made to global witness which the prosecution is in possesion of but are currently refusing to disclose to the defence.

        Read the motion here. click on case no. SCSL-01-1039, SCSL-01-1046, SCSL-01-1052
        http://www.sc-sl.org/scsl/listCasesdefendant.asp?caseno=1

        To get a summary of what DCT097 will testify about and who he is, click the link above but search for SCSL-03-01-T-957-1 Defence witness list and sumaries version V. you will see who DCT097 is and what he will testify about although his name is not mentioned.

        I am not like the prosecution and their supporters who distort the truth and trive on defamation and half truths.

        • Sam,

          I withdraw my statement “you shot yourself in the leg” you are the man.

          BRAVO!

        • Dear sam,

          Below is the information I found concerning DCT097.

          Background: The witness was a senior member of the AFRC/RUF junta government. No statement has been taken from the witness yet. It is however anticipated that the witness will talk about his alleged role in diamond transactions for the RUF.

          See link: http://www.sc-sl.org/scsl/public/SCSL-03-01-Taylor/SCSL-03-01-T-957/SCSL-03-01-T-957-2.PDF

          I am assuming that there is an index that list Prosecution Witness Summaries of Fl-354; if so, would you provide the link Prosecution Witness Summaries?

  3. More confusion today caused by the Prosecution presenting unclear images instead of topographical maps. I do not think Mr. Sesay would be using Google Earth in 1998/9 and Mr Koumjian should stop trying to confuse the witness and the Court. The Judge made the point that some documents presented were of no added value to the trial.

    J

  4. Sekou,
    here is my reply to your comments On August 19, 2010 at 5:27 pm. Just in case you did not see it in view of the fact that many other comments have now been made since then.

    Sekou,
    That exactly is my point. Remember that the prosecution did not appeal the said decision of Trial Chamber 1 in the RUF case. Neither did they appeal the decision of Trail Chamber 2 in the present case when the chamber set out the procedure to adopt (based on an application the the prosecution) when using new evidence in cross examination.

    My understanding of the two reasons giving by the prosecution for appealing the oral decision giving by Justice Lussick is that:

    http://www.sc-sl.org/scsl/listCasesdefendant.asp?caseno=1
    click on Case Note SCSL-01-1050

    1.) The trial chamber erred in simply adopting the decision of Trial chamber 1 (in manifestly distinct issues) instead of deciding on the matter based on evidence before it. In my view this ground of appeal is untenable since the decision of the trial chamber in disallowing the use of the documents (in my understanding of the judgement) is not based on the decision of Trial chamber 1 but instead on the decison of this trial chamber based on the ruling of the application filed by the prosecution on the legal standards to be adopted on the use of fresh evidence, wherein the chamber set out a two pronged test that must be fulfilled before the document can be used, one of which is that the evidence must be new in that it must not have been in the possesion of or in the knowledge of the prosecution before or during the currency of the prosecution case. clearly the prosecution cannot pass this test since they were in possession of these documents before the commencement of the Taylor trial. So their application must fail in that regard.

    2.) The prosecution contended that the trial chamber was wrong to conclude that it is not in the interest of justice to use the said statements in cross examination as it will breach the fair trial rights of the accused. In my view, in determining wether the fair trial rights of an accussed will be breached by allowing the prosecution to use the said statements, there is noting stoping the judges to take judicial notice of the circumstances under which those statements were obtained as found by Trial chamber 1 in the voire dire it conducted. hence I think the trial chamber was right in concluding that since the statements were obtained under undesirable sircumstances, it will not be in the interests of justice to use them in cross examination.

    • Dear sam,

      I was not aware that the public has access to such detailed information from The Special Court for Sierra Leone. It further enhances the people’s awareness; Thanks.

      I have read the decision published in SCSL-04-15-T-1188 and see that the court found:

      1. Predicated upon the several considerations herein, the analysis of both law and facts, and our significant findings the Chamber is of the opinion and so holds, that the statements taken from the First Accused during the interviews referred to earlier in a custodial setting were involuntary having been so obtained out of “fear of prejudice and the hope of advantage” especially that the First Accused would be a witness and not an accused person.
      2. The Trial Chamber also find, as a matter of law, that the waiver of his rights on the part of the First Accused to the presence of Counsel at the said interviews was informed and voluntary.
      3. THE CHAMBER ORDERS, pursuant to Rule 95, that all the confessional statements given by the Accused during his interviews with the Prosecution Investigators are not admissible and accordingly excluded from evidence even for the limited purpose of cross-examination of the First Accused, as their admission would bring the administration of justice into disrepute, as they were obtained in violation of Article 17(4)(a), (d) and (g) of the Statute and Rules 42 and 63 of the Rules.

      It seems to me that in order for Mr. Sesay to have a fair trial, (according to what the prosecution is saying in this case) he must be given a new interview so that he can correct his prior false statements concerning his knowledge of the Sierra Leone conflict, and in particular, as it relates to Mr. Taylor.

      I do not recall the prosecution challenging Article 17(4)(a), (d) and (g) of the Statute and Rules 42 and 63 of the Rules in order to overturn the denial of their motion. It appears that they are stating that Mr. Sesay’s case should be reopened; but my concern would be, will he be allowed to present evidence in his defense. See Page 8, SCSL-01-1050:

      • The result is that the Trial Chamber is denied crucial contradictory evidence when assessing the credibility of the witness and the merits of the case. The Impugned Decision gives rise to “irreparable prejudice” because there will be no cure available upon final appeal. The only remedy would be to re -o pen the trial phase of the case in order to allow for further cross-examination o f Issa Sesay in relation to the statements made by Issa Sesay in his custodial interview, and to allow re- examination in relation to the same. Re-opening the case, post appeal, would patently be highly undesirable. Furthermore, it is not a possibility that the Appeals Chamber has so far entertained in its judgments.

      It appears from Case Note SCSL-01-1055 the Defense is arguing Res Judicata; I am not sure as to what the term Impugned Decision indicates; this term is used in the International Court’s and I am not familiar with their terminology. Perhaps it means judgment under attack.
      However, I am rather certain that when the Defense state “The only issue which arises here is the discretionary application by the Trial Chamber of settled law,” they are asserting the doctrine of Res Judicata.

      “The Trial Chamber was also fully entitled to judicially note the factual findings of Trial Chamber I in reaching this conclusion in the Impugned Decision. The Prosecution suggest that the Trial Chamber erred by adopting legal findings adjudicated in another case,” yet the Impugned Decision does not actually say that it adopted the legal findings of Trial Chamber 1. Rather the Impugned Decision makes its own legal findings based on the factual findings adjudicated by Trial Chamber I (which the Justices are able to do pursuant to Rule 94(B)) and then acknowledges that Trial Chamber I also made the same legal findings based on the same underlying factual findings …

      See Page 6, at 20. The application of this jurisprudence by the Trial Chamber does not give rise to a serious issue of fundamental legal importance'” which needs further explication by the Appeals Chamber of the Special Court. The only issue which arises here is the discretionary application by the Trial Chamber of settled law. In this regard, the Defense refers to its submissions above, especially at paragraphs 14 and 15.”

      The following on Page 6, remind me of the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Doctrine. “The concept of “fairness” to the Prosecution should not be so expansive that it would allow them to purposefully manipulate the investigative process to their advantage and later be allowed to rely on the fruits of that manipulation.”

      See link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fruit_of_the_poisonous_tree

      I will not comment on the links below, I will leave that up to you.

      http://www.douglasfarah.com/reviews/press-release.shtml

      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/as_thailand_us_arms_suspect

      • Sekou,

        The Douglas Farrah allegation has already been adequately rubished by the defence in this case. Infact parts of the book is already a defence exhibit during charles Taylor’s testimony.

        The fact that the prosecution did not use any evidence from the book during their case, shows that even the prosecution did not believe the absord allegations made by Farrah who is only seeking to take advantage of the terror climate in 2003 to sell his book. It was the defence that introduced the book to show the many lies that the western countries have peddled about Mr Taylor even the prosecution did not cross examine Charles Taylor about any aspect of his testimony pertaining to the allegations in the Douglas Farrah book.

  5. Why not play an audio clip of Mr. Taylor ordering RUF to attack Freetown, but a BBC audio clip? Well…we stay waiting.

    Harris K Johnson

  6. Mr. Issa Sesay, thank you for your contineous lies in court. Even the dead who lost their lives and properties including the living that were under seize are aware that, the January 6th 1999 invasion of Free town was a plan coup by AFRC/RUF second phase to overthrow the legitimate government and to free Foday Sankoh who by then was in custody at the Pademba road maximum prison.
    Of course, ECOMOG was at Jui and Haston, but your men from Makeni and their AFRC coleagues bypassed them by using the Waterloo- Penisular axis and they emerged at Newton from where they moved to the city at 12:00 mid-night, using civilians as human ceil.
    Let your bloody wealth sustain your forced married wife and children, but surely it is only your corps that will return to Sierra Leone. In 1999 you killed university students on the pretext that they demonstrated against your uncontitutional government on August 18th. 1997 and today you are denying the non- involvement of RUF in that devilish attack of which unarmed civilians and ECOMOG personnels lost their lives in the heart of the city and its environms.
    May God pity you as you will continue to lie to this court until the dooms day when you will actually speak the truth for the hearing of mankind. That day, you will have no defense but only the prosecutors(Angels) to read your crimes against creation and the Judge is the creator. May he have mercy on you on that day.
    To the prosecutors, no matter what you do, this hard core criminal will continue to deny until the end of the world. However, I am impressed with some areas were some of his testimonies as a witness to his godfather are aper from the ones given by his godfather.
    May God guide and inspire the Judges who are acting on behalf of the supreme creator on earth to critical look at all allegations and counter allegations and their own understanding of the conflict and take a honourable decission. May God bless you and your future generations. Please note, the deads are awake and their spirit are around the Hague and are waiting for the last days before they could return to their respective tombs to rest until the dooms day when each and every soul will be accountable to his master of creation.
    May God have mercy upon the human soul.

  7. Mr. Koumjian,

    The fact that you have played an audio tape in court to support your fake case against this innocent man, President Taylor, which of course has nothing to do with Taylor, clearly shows that you are hustling and you are fully aware of concrete evidence such as audio clip. If you can play an audio clip with the voice of Colonel Fat Sesay in a BBC interview in which he said “AFRC and RUF have combined forces in overthrowing the Government of Sierra Leone” in this inherently flawed and fake court, why can’t you play the audio tape and even show the video of President Taylor serving or playing the role as a convening authority of the RUF?
    However, I know why you can not play any audio or video showing Mr. Taylor bearing the greatest responsibility as the result of criminal liability responsibility whereas his so-call “subordinates” committed these heinous acts. The reason is very simple. He was never the head of the RUF or being in the command and control structure of the RUF. You wish Mr. intellectually superior and nuanced prosecutor who disowned, disbanded and attempted to impeach the credibility of your own witness, Super Model Ms. Naomi Campbell. However,give it up Mr. Koumjian and just cut it as a loss, because the evidence is just not there. Notwithstanding, the first prosecutor in person of David Crane set you guys up for massive failure. He left this fake case with you to solve this inherently flawed and fake case. Good luck with that.

  8. WHAT ARE THE AMERICANS UPTO?

    ARE THEY TRYING TO SOW A SEED OF HATREDNESS BETWEEN THE PEOPLE OF SIERRA LEONE AND LIBERIA?IF SO, WHY?

    (BECAUSE IF CHARLES TAYLOR IS FOUND GUILTY IN THIS TRIAL WHEN ALL THE EVIDENCE IS POINTING TO LIBYA,IVORY COAST & BURKINA FASO,IT WILL LEAVE A BAD TASTE IN MOST AFRICANS MIND)

    SO ARE WE UNDER ATTACK?

    ARE LIBERIAN & SIERRA LEONE IN THE PROCESS OF BEING RE-COLONIALISED IN THE 21ST CENTURY,IN A MULTI-POLAR WORLD.

    THIS TRIAL IS ABOUT PURE POWER GAME …..THEY CAME AND SUGGEST NONSENSE!!BECAUSE WE ARE POOR WE DO AS THEY WISH,OF ALL THE PEOPLE IN WORLD,WE SHOULD BE VERY MINDFUL….

    WEST AFRICA MUST STOP IT POOR SPIRITED CULTURE OF SELLING OUT !!!!!

  9. It is just to a certain extent ill-fated that the prosecution has run out of everything to link Mr. Taylor involvement in Sierra Leone. At this point, even a request for a divine intervention is not possible for the prosecution. Drop arm and surrender to G H A N K A Y

  10. This is portion of prosecution witness King Perry who tesitified against Charles Taylor on Feb 6, 2008. People should paid close attention to this from prosecution witness King Perry: “Gullit told Sam Bockarie that ‘You said we should not enter but, however, we are now entered and thanks to God we were able to get State House, Pademba Road and the National Stadium.”

    So King Perry said, “Gullit told Sam Bockarie that ‘You said we should not enter .” Well, there you have it, Sam Bokarie did not have a common plan with AFRC to enter Freetown because the prosecution itself has tesitied to this fact. “Gullit told Sam Bockarie that ‘You said we should not enter.”

    It was Koumjian who referenced King Perry’s testimony yesterday during his cross examination of Issa Sesay. This is the full exchange:
    (Koumjian) Q. Let’s look at the testimony from 6 February 2008, page 3229. A witness testified in this case, King Perry, and he said this, beginning on line 7 – 6, excuse me.
    “A. Yes, as we entered Freetown we were based and settled. The authorities got settled at State House. They were able to communicate with Sam Bockarie about the situation. Gullit told Sam Bockarie that ‘You said we should not enter but, however, we are now entered and thanks to God we were
    able to get State House, Pademba Road and the National Stadium. Our men are still advancing, we are still fighting. We are still under fighting. And we were able to release JS Momoh, Gibril Massaquoi, Hilton Fyle and some other prominent authorities’. In response, Massaquoi, I’m sorry, Mosquito, told Gibril Massaquoi, ‘Do as a military man’.”

    The second aspect to this is that King Perry also impeached the prosecution evidence from Colonel FAT Sesay that there was no fighting in Freetown. King Perry had this to say: “Our men are still advancing, we are still fighting. We are still under fighting.” So which one of the prosecution own evidence will they value. The one from Colonel FAT Sesay that there was no fighting in Freetown or King Perry’s account that “Our men are still advancing, we are still fighting. We are still under fighting.”

    This POLITICAL TRIAL is “TOTAL TOTAL NONSENSE!”

  11. So the prosecutor have no evidence but try to confuse the witness and the court and us,is this how they going to find this man guilty.well if u can play bbc audio tape,then play a audio tape of Taylor gaving orders to Ruf,I think the prosecutor is running out of idea.