11/02/21 [Finland] Day 5: Mr. Massaquoi is Heard
NOTE: During today’s hearing, there were persistent difficulties in hearing the various names, places, and acronyms referenced, even for the Judges. This resulted in the Court providing Mr. Massaquoi with a board, upon which he could write the various names, places and acronyms that were difficult to hear. The board, however, was not visible to the audience. Where we were unable to accurately capture statements that seemed relevant to Mr. Massaquoi’s defense, we have indicated that there is a gap in the information with [information unclear].
The fifth day of public hearings opened with the Judge announcing that Mr. Massaquoi, the Accused, would be heard today. He explained that the Defense, led by Mr. Gummerus, may ask questions first, and following that, the Prosecution, led by Mr. Laitinen, may also ask questions. The Judge stated that the Accused is under no obligation to answer the questions or to answer truthfully.
Mr. Gummerus began, explaining that the hearing will consist of several parts. The Defense would start with the history and background of Mr. Massaquoi’s life, and then focus on relevant places, times, and dates. Additionally, the Defense would go through the persons involved. Mr. Gummerus explained that the events will be addressed chronologically and at the end of the questioning, there will be individual questions related to the investigation.
Personal background and joining the RUF
The Defense proceeded to ask Mr. Massaquoi about his background, including when and where he was born, where he was from, and what his educational background was. Mr. Massaquoi answered that he was born on 17 October 1969 in Kenema, Sierra Leone. He elaborated that he attended primary- and secondary-level schools in the southern part of Sierra Leone and that he began teaching in 1991.
After explaining Mr. Massaquoi’s background, the Defense followed up by asking him when the RUF attacked. Mr. Massaquoi answered that the RUF attack happened in April 1991, when he was teaching. A few days after the attack, the RUF began opening offices there in order to take care of administrative matters. Mr. Massaquoi explained that he was one of the persons who started working in these offices.
Mr. Gummerus then asked Mr. Massaquoi why he was one of the ones who was chosen to work in the office. Mr. Massaquoi responded that he was actually chosen quite randomly to work in one of the offices. Following the question of whether he was working there voluntarily, Mr. Massaquoi confirmed that he was not paid for working there. The Defense asked him whether he joined the armed activity and whether he had any military training. Mr. Massaquoi confirmed that he did. He mentioned that he had once left the office to return to his mother’s town after hearing she had been threatened. Upon his return to the RUF office, he was accused of providing information to the government and sent to military training with a few other men.
Mr. Gummerus proceeded to ask Mr. Massaquoi what his activities were after the military training he received in the RUF. In response, Mr. Massaquoi explained that the military training lasted for three weeks. After the training, the Government troops attacked and the RUF had to retreat towards the Liberian border. Mr. Massaquoi explained that the RUF was close to the Liberian border, when Government troops also moved towards the border. Mr. Massaquoi stated that he was in one of the units pushing the Government troops back.
Roles within the RUF and 1997-1999 imprisonment
The Defense then asked Mr. Massaquoi about his position in the RUF and the battles he participated in, as well as the years in which he took part in the combat. Mr. Massaquoi stated that he was first a Deputy Commander and was later promoted to Commander. He explained that Alligator Forces were responsible for one of the main roads and the surrounding areas in 1993 until 1994. After being asked how his position in the RUF evolved, Mr. Massaquoi explained that, in 1995, he was relocated north by the leaders of the RUF, where he was a Commander. He stayed until 1996 when he became sick. Mr. Massaquoi explained that at this point in 1996, there was a ceasefire between the Government and the RUF. He was sent to the Ivory Coast to receive treatment. In 1997, Mr. Massaquoi had recovered and the RUF made him their spokesperson.
The Defense then proceeded to ask Mr. Massaquoi about his role as a spokesperson. Mr. Massaquoi responded that during that time he did not attend armed activities, as he lived in the Ivory Coast. While he was no longer an RUF commander, people still called him a commander .
Mr. Gummerus then asked Mr. Massaquoi what happened in 1999 and why he ended up in prison. Mr. Massaquoi explained that he and the leader of the RUF, Mr. Foday Sankoh, were in Nigeria at that time. At the instructions of Mr. Sankoh, Mr. Massaquoi returned to Sierra Leone in 1997, where a new government had been formed. RUF was part of the new government. Two months into his return to Sierra Leone, Mr. Massaquoi had left the capital and was heading towards the countryside when he was arrested on allegations that he had acted for the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). During his detention, Mr. Massaquoi was asked whether the RUF planned to overthrow the Government.
Mr. Gummerus than asked Mr. Massaquoi how long he was imprisoned during this time. Mr. Massaquoi noted the internal conflict within the RUF and stated that he was imprisoned from October 1997 until 6 April 1999.
Organization of the RUF and Mr. Massaquoi’s evolving role
Following this exchange, Mr. Gummerus asked if Mr. Massaquoi could describe what the structure of the RUF was like during his imprisonment. Mr. Massaquoi described RUF battle commanders and area commanders he had known before going to prison. The Defense asked Mr. Massaquoi to explain his relationship with people within the RUF. Mr. Massaquoi replied that the commander of the western area, Dennis Mingo, was one of the people he was closest with in the RUF, along with one other area commander. He elaborated that he did not get along very well with the other members of the RUF and highlighted that these people tried to kill him when he was released from prison. The Defense requested the names of these other people, and Mr. Massaquoi gave three names.
The Defense moved on to ask what the chain of command was like when Mr. Massaquoi was released from prison. Mr. Massaquoi responded by stating that the chain of command consisted of former members of the AFRC who attacked Freetown and released them. Mr. Massaquoi stated that he was with them for a week and then left for the mountains, where he got information on the chain of command. When he returned, there had been many changes. For example, a Commander had become Chief of Defense Staff, and the colonels were now all generals. The Judge asked for a clarification of the names since it was very difficult to hear. Mr. Massaquoi repeated himself and clarified that the structure of the RUF was completely different from how he knew it before he was imprisoned.
When asked what position he held in the RUF in 1999, Mr. Massaquoi replied that he had no position. He explained that he next arrived in Waterloo, Sierra Leone, where he met Dennis Mingo (identified by Mr. Massaquoi using his alias, Superman), one of his friends. Mr. Massaquoi stayed there with Mr. Mingo, where they both were under threat of arrest. Mr. Massaquoi explained that there was an internal dispute dividing the RUF. Mr Massaquoi clarified that he was on Mr. Sankoh’s side. Meanwhile, the internal fight continued as ceasefire negotiations were underway. It was agreed that Mr. Massaquoi would go to the negotiation events.
As some parts of Mr. Massaquoi’s narration were difficult to hear, Mr. Gummerus began to ask Mr. Massaquoi whether he could spell something out. At this point, the Judge informed the parties that there would soon be a break.
Peace Negotiations and work with RUF chief, Mr. Foday Sankoh
When asked about the essential conditions for the RUF for the Peace Agreement. Mr. Massaquoi explained that these included Mr. Sankoh becoming the vice president and the RUF receiving four ministry positions. Since it was mentioned that Mr. Sankoh would become the head of mineral resources, Mr. Gummerus asked what the main mineral sources were. Mr. Massaquoi stated that there are many, including gold and iron.
The Judge called for a break of ten minutes, attempting to find a way for the judges to hear the names and locations Mr. Massaquoi was saying. After ten minutes, the hearing continued. Mr. Massaquoi had been given a writing board for writing names when they are difficult to hear. The board was not visible to the audience.
After the break, the Defense picked up from where they left off, asking Mr. Massaquoi to continue talking about what happened after the Peace Agreement. Mr. Massaquoi explained that in September, there was a meeting in Monrovia, Liberia. He and his companions traveled to the meeting, taking detours for safety. The Defense asked where he had been residing before this trip. Mr. Massaquoi answered that he had been living in Makeni. The Defense interrupted to ask what his position was in Makeni. Mr. Massaquoi responded that his position was somewhat unclear, but he was a secretary in the Commission for the Management of Mineral Resources (CMMRE). He also participated in the peace negotiations, which included meetings with officials from the commission that worked on disarmament and recovery.
Mr. Gummerus then asked Mr. Massaquoi whether he could tell the Court more about his time there between 1999 and 2000. Mr. Massaquoi said that he remembers attending meetings in November 1999 and plans to work on disarmament activities in early 2000. When asked, Mr. Massaquoi described a few meetings he attended in late 1999, including an attempt to travel to the Kailahun area that was aborted for security reasons. Mr. Massaquoi said that Mr. Sankoh was ‘a crazy person’ by mid-December 1999.
The Defense moved on to 2000, and asked about his position as a Special Assistant to Mr. Sankoh. Mr. Massaquoi clarified that this was from October 1999 until October 2000.
Mr. Gummerus started with a question about a trip to South Africa. Mr. Massaquoi explained that the group first went to the Ivory Coast and then to South Africa with Mr. Sankoh. The trip was to inform a group of companies in South Africa, particularly mining companies, that they were interested in conducting mining operations in Sierra Leone. Mr. Massaquoi explained that they came back the same route but spent three days in the Ivory Coast since Mr. Sankoh wanted to meet the former Prime Minister of the Ivory Coast. Mr. Sankoh also met other Ivorian officials. Mr. Massaquoi reiterated that these meetings were the reason for their three-day stop. He then returned to Freetown.
The Defense next asked whether anything remarkable happened in the spring. Mr. Massaquoi explained that over 500 United Nations Peacekeepers were kidnapped while he was in Freetown. Mr. Massaquoi said that they did their best to calm the situation. The Defense asked Mr. Massaquoi who was responsible for the kidnapping; he responded that it was RUF troops from the north. He elaborated that almost all members of the RUF were imprisoned in Freetown at this time. Demonstrators, supported by armed troops, demanded that Mr. Sankoh come and speak to them. When Mr. Sankoh did not, the demonstrators became violent. Several people died in these demonstrations on 8 May 2000.
Mr. Massaquoi explained that he had managed to climb a fence during the gunfire and escape towards the Peninsula Mountains. A few days later, Mr. Massaquoi heard that Mr. Sankoh had surrendered and there were attempts to start new peace negotiations. He noted that this meeting was in June of 2000. For this meeting, Mr. Massaquoi was appointed to lead an outside delegation, which was based in Monrovia, Liberia.
The morning session ended at 12.04.
The afternoon session started at 13.00.
More travel to Liberia, Mali, Nigeria in 2000
The hearing continued with the Defense questioning Mr. Massaquoi about his travel to Monrovia, including the route taken to reach the city and the time period in which it took place. Mr. Massaquoi explained that he had left for Monrovia sometime in August of 2000. Along the way, he had learned the names of some of the villages, but he could not remember all of their names. Additionally, Mr. Massaquoi noted that certain routes to Monrovia were controlled by the Government and thus inaccessible.
Mr. Gummerus continued this line of questioning by asking Mr. Massaquoi for details about the journey. Mr. Massaquoi explained that in order to cross the border to Monrovia, one must cross a bridge which leads to Grand Cape Mount. Additionally, he noted that he is very familiar with the territory, as it is the area he is from and where he had been teaching. He explained that the trip to Monrovia would take approximately 24-30 hours, depending on whether one started in Kono District or Makeni. Finally, Mr. Massaquoi noted that they had taken breaks on the way to Monrovia, but that he had no recollection of the villages in which they stopped.
The Defense then proceeded to question Mr. Massaquoi about his time in Monrovia. Mr. Massaquoi stated that while in Monrovia, he lived in the Sinkor area with a member of the RUF delegation. The Accused also had a girlfriend in Monrovia called Etna. Mr. Massaquoi stated that he and the RUF delegation arrived in Monrovia on 20 August to participate in peace negotiations. Mr. Gummerus asked Mr. Massaquoi about ECOWAS (Economic Community for West African States) and its importance to the visit. He replied that ECOWAS was responsible for the peace negotiations, and that while they were in Monrovia, the RUF delegation met with President Charles Taylor several times.
Following this, Mr. Gummerus asked about a trip to Mali and subsequent return to Monrovia. Mr. Massaquoi stated that the RUF delegation was in Mali for two days in October, and that they met the President of Mali before returning to Monrovia. Mr. Massaquoi stated that they had returned by road, but that he could not recall the villages they had passed. He also explained that the RUF delegation had arranged meetings upon return to Monrovia, including another with President Taylor. Following these meetings, the RUF delegation travelled to Abuja, Nigeria.
Mr. Gummerus proceeded by questioning Mr. Massaquoi on the RUF delegation’s visit in Abuja, and the RUF delegation’s subsequent return to Sierra Leone. Mr. Massaquoi stated that the RUF delegation stayed in Abuja for a day or two and took part in a meeting that resulted in the completion of the Abuja Ceasefire Agreement. The Agreement contained specifics on releasing UN Peacekeepers and ending hostilities in Sierra Leone. Mr. Massaquoi stated that the trip from Abuja to Sierra Leone took approximately 20 hours by road. The RUF delegation stayed in Sierra Leone for a day or two.
The Defense continued by asking Mr. Massaquoi to describe how he came to know someone called “Colonel Eagle”. Mr. Massaquoi stated that the RUF delegation met Colonel Eagle in the city of Voinjama [Lofa County]. He noted that on the way to Voinjama, there were several checkpoints, but the RUF delegation were let through easily; all the soldiers along the way were armed.
Mr. Gummerus continued by asking about events which occurred in November in Monrovia. Mr. Massaquoi stated that they had many meetings related to the peace process in Sierra Leone over the course of several days, including another meeting with President Charles Taylor. Following this, Mr. Massaquoi stated that he visited Monrovia again in December, where he met some Arabs with someone named Ibrahim Bah. Mr. Massaquoi explained that he gave diamonds to Ibrahim Bah and then returned to Makeni to spend Christmas with his family.
Defense counsel asked about the diamonds and more travel around Liberia and Sierra Leone. Mr. Massaquoi stated that Ibrahim Bah had taken the diamonds to President Charles Taylor for safekeeping. Additionally, he noted that he (Mr. Massaquoi) took a helicopter to Liberia, landing in Foya, Lofa County. Following this, he traveled back to Makeni into Sierra Leone, for a meeting requested by a special forces soldier called Benjamin [Yeaten]. Mr. Massaquoi then returned to Lofa County and then went on to Monrovia. This all likely happened in January.
Peace Agreement developments, 2001
Mr. Gummerus questioned the Accused about the political situation in January in Monrovia and the relationship between the RUF and the Liberian government. Mr. Massaquoi explained that it was peaceful in Monrovia and the relationship between both sides was free of conflict. He added that he returned because nothing was done in regard to the peace negotiations. The Defense then asked about “Abuja II” and its significance. According to Mr. Massaquoi, “Abuja II” was a follow-up agreement between the RUF and the Sierra Leonean government pertaining to disarmament. It was very significant and following that, they had tri-party negotiations. Mr. Gummerus asked what he did after the negotiations. Mr. Massaquoi answered that they spent a night in Monrovia. They then flew to Abuja by private plane and stayed there for two days.
Following a break, Mr. Gummerus continued the questioning about Mr. Massaquoi’s involvement in the “Abuja II” negotiations and the details surrounding it. Mr. Massaquoi explained that the negotiations were a tri-party meeting involving the RUF, the Sierra Leonean government, and the United Nations. The objective of the negotiations was disarmament and recovery. The negotiations started in May 2001 in Freetown. They were held once every month until December 2001. Most of the meetings were in Freetown, but they also took place around the country, including in Makeni. Mr. Massaquoi stated that he did not recall the number of times they had been summoned; however, the disarmament started in May 2001. As the RUF representative, he was involved in almost every meeting.
The Defense then asked Mr. Massaquoi if he could recall not attending any of the meetings [information unclear].
Final trip to Liberia was in 2002
When asked about his last time in Liberia, Mr. Massaquoi said that it was at the end of June 2002 and he was only there to pick up his car and things he had left behind. On this trip, he heard about the death of Dennis Mingo. He later met General Benjamín Yeaten who told him the same thing. According to Mr. Massaquoi, Mr. Mingo was killed because he went to the American embassy. He noted that the “Arabs” he had met earlier were gone, but on this trip, he met a Senegalese man who was involved in the same diamond deals.
Mr. Gummerus asked about the significance of Mr. Mingo’s death. Mr. Massaquoi said that he had mixed feelings about it. General Benjamin Yeaten told him that enemy troops had killed Mr. Mingo when they came over the border. After this, Mr. Massaquoi affirmed that this was the last time he was in Liberia; the date he remembered is 28 June 2002.
Defense returns to 2001
Asked about his return to Sierra Leone, Mr. Massaquoi replied that he continued the tri-party negotiations and lived in Makeni until the end of October 2001. Mr. Massaquoi stated that he was involved in many things. When he was in Freetown, he was involved in the activities of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee of Sierra Leone. He also attended several meetings with the United Nations and was involved in ECOWAS meetings in Kono. He also drove a taxi in Freetown. He remembered an incident which involved a certain Alhaji Usman Kamara. According to Mr. Massaquoi, Mr. Kamara said he wanted to help Issa Sesay. Mr. Kamara stole money from Mr. Massaquoi and also stole his car so Mr. Massaquoi had to chase him in Freetown. Mr. Massaquoi states that he got his car back and submitted a police report.
The Defense then played a video showing an interview in 2001. Mr. Massaquoi confirmed that he remembered the interview and said that it related to the Government’s statements about releasing prisoners. The Government intended to release the prisoners before the tri-party negotiations but it only happened afterward. Only 16 of the prisoners were RUF soldiers; the rest of around 40 prisoners were normal criminals. Mr. Massaquoi stated that he gave the BBC an interview about this via his satellite phone.
Mr. Gummerus proceeded to ask Mr. Massaquoi about his return to Freetown. Mr. Massaquoi stated that he first stayed at a friend’s place in western Freetown. After that, he spent two weeks at his cousin’s place, a clay factory in eastern Freetown. He then got his own apartment in Kissy, Freetown. His family escaped Makeni and came to Freetown later.
The Defense then asked about the political situation in Sierra Leone at the end of 2001. Mr. Massaquoi said that by December 2001, the RUF was already disarmed. The war ended on 17 or 18 January 2002 and there was peace.
Elections in Sierra Leone, 2002
Mr. Gummerus then questioned Mr. Massaquoi about whether he played any role in the Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP). Mr. Massaquoi stated that he had no role; they all met at the party office as individuals. Mr. Massaquoi was running for parliament but cancelled his candidacy a few weeks before the election because, according to the Sierra Leonean Constitution, only a person chosen by the party could represent it in parliament. He did not want to take part in it and wrote to the national election committee about it. He explained that his relationship with the RUFP executives was not good and he had criticized them for recruiting people into positions they had not been elected for.
Mr. Gummerus, referencing the documentary evidence, next asked about an attack on Mr. Massaquoi’s car. Mr. Massaquoi stated that his car was attacked by the former security person of Issa Sesay, who smashed a large rock into his windscreen.
Mr. Gummerus then went on to ask about the RUFP party house acquisition. The Accused replied that they went to Freetown to acquire a party house for the RUFP and the money was paid to someone in the UK. The Accused stated that the disagreements regarding acquisition of the party house lasted from August 2001, when the man in the UK was paid, until March 2002.
Life after the 2002 elections
When asked about his life after the elections, Mr. Massaquoi stated that he continued his normal life with his family. The only thing he remembered is that the RUFP was not elected. He also met with the staff of the Truth Commission in his house. They questioned him for 5 days about the RUF. He also wrote a project for the NCDDR (National Committee for Disarmament Demobilisation and Reintegration). Following that, he wrote about a fishing project that included the education of 120 former soldiers in order to integrate them back into society.
Mr. Massaquoi noted that, at some point, he received a phone call from a woman. He met up with her in Freetown in June or July 2002. She told him that a special court was going to be set up in Sierra Leone and she wanted him to participate in the trials.
Mr. Gummerus then asked Mr. Massaquoi about Etna, his ex-girlfriend in Monrovia. Mr. Massaquoi stated that they became friends in Freetown and he got a call from her in July 2001 – she had a child. They met frequently in Freetown from 2001-2003.
Finally, the Defense referred to a book, The Secret Behind the Gun, that had been confiscated by the prosecution. The book was about the RUF and the economic situation of Sierra Leone at the time. Mr. Gummerus asked Mr. Massaquoi if he had written the book. Mr. Massaquoi said he tried to write everything he knew, starting in 2000 or 2001, but some parts of it are written by other contributors.
The hearing ended at 16:02 and will resume on Friday, 12 February 2021.