Tag Archives: ULIMO

Issa Sesay’s testimony

For almost 2 months former RUF leader Issa Sesay has been testifying for the defense at Charles Taylor’s trial, but you could be forgiven for not knowing this. (Google news hits for “Issa Sesay AND Charles Taylor”: 18. Google news hits for “Naomi Campbell AND Charles Taylor”: 1,862.) Sesay, convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, is serving 52 years in a Rwandan prison.
At first, it seems odd that Sesay would testify for Taylor. One of the prosecution witnesses alleged that Taylor ordered Sesay killed in 2008. The prosecution says Sesay is testifying because Sesay thinks Taylor might be able to help him get out of prison if acquitted. Given the extraordinary spiritual and political power West Africans attribute to Taylor, I bet this is true. I also imagine Sesay’s family in Sierra Leone might benefit, somehow, through Taylor’s associates, in exchange for his supportive testimony. But that’s just a guess. Lapsing into a Taylor-esque habit of referring to himself in the third person, Sesay said his motivation for testifying was that: “I heard my colleagues saying a lot about Issa, things that Issa didn’t do.”
Highlights from Sesay’s testimony:
-Despite testifying for the defense, Sesay’s account of how former-former RUF leader Foday Sankoh and Taylor differs from Taylor’s account. Taylor says he met Sankoh only after he realized he would need to collaborate with the RUF to fend off domestic attacks from Sierra Leone government-supported ULIMO. Sesay said Sankoh told him that he met Taylor when they were both training in Libya. This testimony is good for the prosecution, which wants to show that Taylor and Sankoh had a relationship before the RUF invasion of Sierra Leone.
-Prosecution witnesses had testified that Taylor told Sesay that if Sesay released UN peacekeepers Taylor would help the RUF overthrow the Sierra Leonean government. Sesay agrees that he was under pressure from Taylor to release the peacekeepers, but denies there was a quid pro quo.
-Sesay testified that his meetings with Taylor were never to exchange diamonds for weapons, as the prosecution alleges, but rather discussions about how to make peace. This supports the defense painting of Taylor as a regional peacemaker.
-So how did the RUF pay for weapons, if not buy trading in diamonds? Sesay says, among other things, that the RUF sold produce harvested from civilian farms.
-Sesay’s account of how he became leader of the RUF goes against the idea that Taylor had command control of the RUF. Sesay says that when West Africa leaders decided that Sesay should lead the RUF after Sankoh was imprisoned, Taylor suggested that Sankoh be consulted on this. Sesay testified that Sankoh was against the idea of Sesay taking over.
-Sesay admitted that the RUF committed many of the crimes Taylor is accused of committed through joint criminal enterprise (eg rape, murder) but denies that Taylor told the RUF to do these things. This is in line with previous defense arguments.

For almost 2 months former RUF leader Issa Sesay has been testifying for the defense at Charles Taylor’s trial, but you could be forgiven for not knowing this. (Google news hits for “Issa Sesay AND Charles Taylor”: 18. Google news hits for “Naomi Campbell AND Charles Taylor”: 1,832.) Sesay, convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, is serving 52 years in a Rwandan prison.

At first, it seems odd that Sesay would testify for Taylor. One prosecution witness alleged that Taylor ordered Sesay killed in 2008. The prosecution says Sesay is testifying because Sesay thinks Taylor might be able to help him get out of prison if acquitted. Given the extraordinary spiritual and political power West Africans attribute to Taylor, I bet this is true. I also imagine Sesay’s family in Sierra Leone might benefit, somehow, through Taylor’s associates, in exchange for his supportive testimony. But that’s just a guess. Lapsing into a Taylor-esque habit of referring to himself in the third person, Sesay said his motivation for testifying was that: “I heard my colleagues saying a lot about Issa, things that Issa didn’t do.”

Highlights from Sesay’s testimony:

  • Despite testifying for the defense, Sesay’s account of how former-former RUF leader Foday Sankoh and Taylor met differs from Taylor’s account. Taylor said he met Sankoh only after he realized he would need to collaborate with the RUF to fend off domestic attacks from Sierra Leone government-supported ULIMO. Sesay said Sankoh told him that he met Taylor when they were both training in Libya. This testimony is good for the prosecution, which wants to show that Taylor and Sankoh had a relationship before the RUF invasion of Sierra Leone.
  • Prosecution witnesses had testified that Taylor told Sesay that if Sesay released UN peacekeepers Taylor would help the RUF overthrow the Sierra Leonean government. Sesay agreed that he was under pressure from Taylor to release the peacekeepers, but denied there was a quid pro quo.
  • Sesay testified that his meetings with Taylor never involved exchanging diamonds for weapons, as the prosecution alleges, but rather involved discussions about how to bring peace to the region. This supports the defense portrait of Taylor as a regional peacemaker.
  • So how did the RUF pay for weapons, if not buy trading in diamonds? Sesay said, among other things, that the RUF sold produce harvested from civilian farms.
  • Sesay’s account of how he became leader of the RUF countered the notion that Taylor had command control of the RUF.  Sesay said that when West Africa leaders decided Sesay should lead the RUF after Sankoh was imprisoned, Taylor suggested that Sankoh be consulted on this.
  • Sesay admitted that the RUF committed many of the crimes Taylor is accused of committing through joint criminal enterprise (eg rape, murder) but denied that Taylor told the RUF to do these things. This is in line with previous defense arguments.

All of this is from The Trial of Charles Taylor blog.

More evidence Liberians participated in Guinea massacre

AFP is reporting quite definitively that Liberians participated in the massacre of protesters in Conakry at the end of last month.  It has sources from the army, an international African NGO, and of course the opposition guys.

“It was the presidential guard … with elements from ULIMO and the NPFL that did that, that massacre,” a military source in Conakry said on condition of anonymity…

“ULIMO members currently surround the head of the junta, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara,” the military source said, adding that ex-NPFL fighters were simply looking to work as mercenaries…

Conte had supported the creation of ULIMO and oversaw training of some of its members in Guinea, which neighbours Liberia.

Meanwhile, residents of Guinea Forestiere – an area near Liberia’s border — fought on the side of Taylor’s rebels in the 1989-2003 war. Many soldiers recruited since Camara took power come from the same region, the source said.

Both the rights group and opposition source use as evidence charms they saw that were common during the Liberian war.  I find this, in addition to the language evidence, persuasive.  I do not find this persuasive:

Another opposition leader, Francois Lonseny Fall, said “we have never seen such a massacre in Guinea,” with the violence including women being raped with guns and sticks.

“It recalls the techniques used in Liberia,” he said.

Also, check out the updates I added to the previous post to reflect two excellent comments from readers.