[10/20/2022] Day 9: Child Soldier and Battalion Commander
The presentation of the facts committed between Foya and Solomba in 1993, to the detriment of JTC and SFC, continued with the hearing of SFC.
FCS hearing as a civil party
SFC introduced himself by stating that he was a farmer in Foya and that he was in his fifties. He confirmed that he was a village chief at the time of the events. When asked about his position in relation to EP, he stated that EP was the intermediary between the soldiers and the villagers and that EP was superior to him.
Before giving the floor to SFC, the President said SFC was heard by Chief Warrant Officer Peruggia on February 25, 2019 and was confronted by Kunti Kamara on March 6, 2019 before the investigating judge.
SFC explained that in 1993, ULIMO troops arrived in Foya on a rainy day and took over the area, which was occupied by Liberians, Sierra Leoneans and Guineans at the time. One evening, SFC was alerted to Kundi’s arrival in his area, prompting him to flee into the bush. According to SFC, Kundi was looking for labour.
One morning, bodyguards sent by Kundi knocked on the window of SFC’s room and asked him to follow them to Borma Hospital. There, the soldiers ordered the civilians to take the hospital’s power supply parts to a tractor. SFC reported that the group was then forced to push the vehicle to the Guinean border. He explained that the guards had warned the civilians that anyone attempting to escape would be executed. At nightfall, all the civilians slept in the same place. The next day, they pushed the tractor to the border. In the village of Fassapoe, the load was divided into two parts and carried manually by two groups of 25 people. SFC reported that he was the taller and stronger of the group and that Kundi was kicking him and hitting him on the head to keep him upright, as he was bending under the weight of the load. According to FCS, Kundi wanted to continue instilling fear in him and threatened to kill him and eat his heart if he did not comply. SFC added that the soldiers did not give them anything to drink. At the border, new arrangements were made for civilians to take bags of rice back to Foya, without even having time to eat, drink or rest. SFC said they then returned to their respective homes by the grace of God.
SFC said that he decided to take refuge in the bush so that he would not be forced to make another forced march. After a week, he had to return to the village to feed his children. On his arrival in Foya, he learned that a meeting had been called for the next day and that everyone was to attend. The meeting was held between the old police station and the old market place. According to him, the purpose of the meeting was to identify all the young men and put them in jail. SFC reported that one man present, who was a Jehovah’s Witness, tried to run away as he did not want to witness bloodshed. A “Papay” was accused of colluding with the rebels and was imprisoned. Kundi’s men, along with Ugly Boy and Fofana, caught 15 young men and put them in jail. SFC was spared and fled to another village that evening.
On the way, FCS reported seeing two dead bodies lying on the ground and scarred with initials and symbols. According to FCS, these people were forced to drink boiling oil because their intestines had come out. SFC said that his life was in danger and wanted to flee to the bush, but his wife preferred to stay in the village and pray.
SFC then recounted that women were forced to thresh rice while men were requisitioned to carry loads to the border. According to him, if a pretty woman was noticed, she was forced to have sex. He said that one of the sisters of a man named Joseph was taken as a wife by Ugly Boy, who forced her to have sex with him. Joseph tried to defend his sister and was killed by Ugly Boy. When ULIMO soldiers asked civilians, including FCS, to bury Joseph, FCS noticed that he had been disembowelled. After the burial, SFC ran back to his house and told his wife what had happened. His wife then agreed to run away. SFC explained that the ULIMO soldiers raped two or three women and that by the grace of God his wife was not raped because she was too ugly according to him.
He went on to say that Kundi’s men had twice taken him to the border to carry oil, while others carried coffee. The soldiers who were leading the march sang a song: “If you get tired, if you get tired, we kill you”. He explained that they had not been killed because they were strong enough.
SFC then recounted that the district commissioner had asked Kundi to let the men return home and had drafted a document to that effect which Kundi signed and stamped. This document authorized the people to return to their villages. On the way back, two men from Kundi came up behind SFC and the other civilians. According to SFC, one woman had a daughter who was seriously ill and died. As the people watched over the dead girl, Kundi and his men came and asked who the mother of the child was. The mother came forward and Kundi accused her of being a witch. He shot her and ordered the men to take palm leaves and burn the body. SFC stated that he was not present at the time of the events, but had heard the story. He had gone to the wake that evening to support the family.
Finally, SFC recounted an incident that had taken place one day at his home, when he was very busy. Kundi asked to see the village chief and his bodyguards came to fetch SFC from his home. They ordered him to sit on the floor and Kundi hit him on the head with the butt of his rifle. SFC started bleeding. A young boy present ran away and Kundi shot him in the thigh. Both SFC and the boy were taken to Foya for treatment.
SFC concluded its spontaneous statement by stressing the large number of abuses committed by Kundi at that time and the impossibility of being able to tell everything at the hearing.
The Court questions FCS:
When asked about Ugly Boy’s role, SFC explained that he was killing people and that he was very close to Kundi. When asked to describe Ugly Boy, he described him as handsome, with skin a little lighter than the others, and strong. According to him, Ugly Boy had given himself this nickname because of his bloodthirsty behaviour.
When asked about Fine Boy, Mami Wata and the other ULIMO commanders, SFC said that Fine Boy had not done anything wrong and that he had heard that Mami Wata was bad, but had never been confronted with him even though he was in Foya. He added that C.O. Deku also came to Foya and was popular because he did not take orders from anyone and committed many abuses.
SFC then confirmed that he knew Kundi well and had seen him often. He stated that his presence caused him to flee into the bush. The President then recalled the physical description that SFC had given of Kundi during his hearing. He had indicated that Kundi wore a full uniform, had very ugly teeth and a small problem with his eye, was ugly and a little shorter than he was, that he inspired terror and was about 20 years old. When asked by the President about Kundi’s height, SFC said that Kundi was muscular, thin and had one eye that went to the side. He confirmed that Kundi’s hair was ugly and that he wore his hair like a woman, with braids. He stated: “When we saw him, he was the devil for us”. When asked about the weapons Kundi carried, SFC said he had heard that he carried an RPG and a G3.
The President then asked him if he remembered the person sitting in the dock and if it was Kundi. SFC confirmed that it was C.O. Kundi and that it was him he had seen in Foya. He also confirmed that Kundi had inflicted violence on him, including hitting him on the temple with the butt of his gun. He also confirmed that Kundi had threatened him and others to eat his heart.
When asked to elaborate on the song he mentioned in his spontaneous statement, SFC explained that the song “If you get tired, we kill you” gave civilians the strength to continue. He confirmed that he had mentioned a forced march for the generator at Borma Hospital and that the machine used to transport the generator had tyres but no engine and had to be pushed. According to him, it was a trailer. He also confirmed that the trailer broke during the journey because the load was too heavy. The civilians therefore divided the trailer and the load into two groups of 25 persons. On questioning, he said that there were about 52-53 strong men. When asked about Kundi’s presence, SFC said that Kundi was in charge of the group during this operation and had ordered several other forced labour manoeuvres. He added that the women had to produce oil which was then transported to the border. Upon questioning, SFC confirmed that they had seen men die during these marches.
When asked about the meeting he referred to earlier, SFC confirmed that the men were accused of being rebels. Asked about the two mutilated bodies he had seen, he said that ULIMO soldiers claimed responsibility for the killings, saying that they were the result of the rebel crackdown in the bush.
On questioning, SFC then clarified that the girl who was forced to have sex with Ugly Boy and who was defended by his brother Joseph, was his nephew’s daughter. According to SFC, Joseph was killed by Ugly Boy in the presence of Kundi. He said that sexual slavery was widespread in Foya, and that he had heard several accounts of women being abused. He confirmed that women were used by ULIMO to produce palm oil, to thresh rice and to have forced sex.
Asked to confirm his statement that Kundi had four bodyguards, SFC explained that Kundi had many bodyguards, sometimes as many as 10 to 20 when he travelled. On questioning, he confirmed that Kundi was an important leader and stated that no one in Foya had any control over his actions. They used to call him battlefront commander. According to SFC, he was autonomous and could kill whoever he wanted without being accountable to anyone. SFC added that Kundi was a powerful man, who destroyed many lives and property in Foya.
When asked about the practice of removing organs, which he mentioned during his hearing, SFC said that he had not witnessed such acts, but had heard about them. However, he said that he noticed that Joseph had no intestines when he was buried. He added: “When we had access to the bodies, we regularly saw that the organs had been removed”. According to him, these atrocities were aimed at decimating the Kissi population and had no connection with ULIMO’s opposition to the NPFL. The President summarized SFC’s statement by saying that the abuses committed were against civilians who were not engaged in the war. SFC stated that during the NPFL occupation, villagers had continued to live normally, but that this had changed completely with the arrival of ULIMO.
Upon questioning by a juror, SFC stated that he had not been able to hear properly since the day Kundi had hit him in the temple with his rifle butt. When asked about the initials he had seen on the bodies, he said that he could not read or write and that he had only seen signs on the bodies.
The prosecution questions FCS:
Upon questioning, SFC confirmed that he was hit by Kundi during the forced march from the Borma hospital generator. The witness mimed kicking and hitting him on the back, and said that Kundi had grabbed a mango branch and hit him on the back. He added that he was still in pain as a result of the abuse.
When asked about Ugly Boy’s nicknames, the witness said he did not remember them. Counsel for the prosecution then asked him if he remembered the nickname “Saah Chuey. The witness recalled it and explained that the nickname referred to his practice of extracting the heart with an axe. He said that he did not witness the events, but that he heard the account.
Upon questioning, FCS indicated that they had buried several bodies, including Joseph’s.
Counsel for the prosecution asked the witness if any of Kundi’s bodyguards were children. The witness said some were tall, some shorter, and added that some were young “but not that young.
When asked about Alhaji Kromah, SFC said he was the supreme leader of the ULIMO. Civil party counsel clarified her question by asking the witness how Kromah behaved after the war. The witness explained that after the disarmament, Kromah ran for president of the country. He added that he campaigned and asked people to vote for him. According to SFC, Kromah brought cows, but the people did not accept his gift. They told him that they were not going to vote for him considering all the harm he had caused the people.
Invited to address the Court, SFC began by expressing its appreciation for the welcome it had received and thanked the Court for making such arrangements, as the acts committed during the war were not minimized here, unlike in Liberia. SFC also thanked all the people who took care of them, including Kundi’s lawyers and his own. He concluded by saying, “May God grant you prosperity in this country.
Prosecution questions FCS:
The general counsel began by asking the witness whether the Borma Hospital generator march took place long after the ULIMOs arrived in Foya town. SFC estimated that the march took place about a month after their arrival. On questioning, he confirmed that the march took place during the rainy season and that its final destination was Solomba.
When asked about the arrangements made by Kundi when they arrived in Solomba, the witness explained that Kundi made contact with the people who were to buy the generator and that in the meantime, other people were crossing with rice bags. On questioning, SFC confirmed that the goods were being put in boats to cross the river. He also confirmed that he was captured at his home in the early morning to make this walk.
The General Counsel then returned to the statements of one of the witnesses that the ULIMOs had instituted a curfew so that they could find people in their homes and commandeer them for the forced marches. SFC confirmed that this was what was happening. He explained that as soon as the curfew was declared, the men in authority would come to the houses to grab civilians by force.
When asked about the ULIMOs’ phrases “Till go” and “Any bush shake, your heart,” the witness confirmed that the soldiers were singing these songs behind them as they carried the loads. On questioning, he confirmed that he heard them.
When asked how some people had died during the marches, SFC explained that he had not witnessed the executions, but had heard that those who were too tired were killed. He said that he had carried out four marches, two of which were under the command of C.O. Kundi. The first was to carry the electric generator and the second was to carry food, coffee and palm oil.
The General Counsel then went back to SFC’s estimate of Kundi’s age, which indicated that he was approximately 20 years old at the time of the incident. SFC reiterated that this was an estimate and that Kundi may have been 25 years old. Asked whether one could be young and have responsibility and be impressive to civilians, SFC replied that Kundi had impressive power. He explained that because he was armed, everyone was afraid and no one could resist.
On questioning, the witness said that the women threshed rice for the soldiers’ families and that a stock was built up to be sold in Guinea.
When asked about the installation of ULIMOs in the houses of civilians, the witness said that they took the houses by force. He added that when ULIMOs arrived, the population fled into the bush and the soldiers took over the empty houses. SFC explained that the civilians had no choice but to be slaves.
When asked about C.O. Kundi’s place of residence when he was in Foya, FCS indicated that he remembered where Ugly Boy resided [i.e. Darma Road], but that he did not know where Kundi resided. He added that C.O. Kundi regularly came to Foya to patrol. On questioning, the witness clarified that when he talked about Foya, he was referring to Foya City, the big city.
When asked to comment on his statements during his confrontation with Kunti Kamara, during which he indicated, upon questioning by counsel for the accused, that he had no photographs of Kunti Kamara, SFC confirmed them. On questioning by the General Counsel, he also confirmed that he did not have a camera at the time.
When asked about the failure to file a complaint in Liberia, SFC explained that it did not know where Kundi was after the disarmament and did not have the funds to file a complaint.
Defense questions FCS:
Defense counsel returned to the witness’ identification of Kunti Kamara. She recalled that SFC was questioned by Chief Warrant Officer Peruggia and that no photographic plate was shown to him. She asked SFC to confirm that the first time he was asked to identify Kunti Kamara was during his confrontation with him before the investigating judge on March 6, 2019. The witness confirmed that no photo was presented to him when he was questioned by investigators. However, he said he recognized Kundi very easily, as he had not forgotten the face of the man who had inflicted the treatment on him.
Defence counsel read out FCS’s description of Kunti Kamara and stated that she did not notice any of the details described by FCS in the accused (i.e., ugly teeth and hair, outward-looking eye). When asked to confirm that he was sure he recognized Kunti Kamara, FCS agreed.
When asked how the generator parts were divided after the trailer broke, the witness explained that the soldiers were equipped to dismantle the equipment. The ULIMO soldiers therefore proceeded quickly to separate the equipment.
The defence counsel expressed surprise that parts heavy enough to break a trailer were then transported on canoes. When asked about this, the witness explained that even cars could be transported from one shore to the other. This answer was met with astonishment by the defense counsel.
Asked to confirm that when the NPFL was present, everything was fine, the witness explained that civilians lived normally, apart from the fact that the NPFL sometimes took their animals. The defense lawyer pointed out that some witnesses had said it was terrible under the NPFL.
Presentation of documents and exhibits from the file. Rehearsal of the FCS situation.
The Court questions FCS:
The Chairman began by showing aerial views, including of the Borma Mission and the location of the broken trailer. Photos and sketches of the river and the location of the dugouts were then projected.
On questioning by the President, SFC explained that it was the Makona River. The president asked the witness if he knew about the Po River and the witness replied that he only knew about the Makona River on the border between Guinea and Liberia.
When asked about the boats used to cross the river, the witness explained that they used boats of varying sizes depending on what they were carrying. Upon questioning, FCS indicated that it had not seen any boats with cans on the sides.
When asked about a photograph of a house, the witness said it was the house where he was sleeping when the soldiers sent by Kundi came to pick him up to transport the generator. He said they had gone over a hill to Borma hospital.
The President then showed the witness a photograph of the location of the generator. He pointed out that the current construction was not the same as it was at the time. When questioned, the witness confirmed that the construction at the time was similar to the current construction. Upon questioning, FCS also confirmed that Kundi was present.
A sketch of the trailer on which the generator was dropped was then presented to the Court. When asked about it, FCS explained that it was a trailer that someone was holding in front while the others pulled the part that was normally pulled by a vehicle. The witness went on to say that it had tires and was quite large.
Shots of the house where the civilians slept, the place where the trailer broke, and the house where they went to get boards to carry the generator on their shoulders were then shown. SFC explained that it was harder for him to carry on his shoulder than on his head because he was taller than the others. He added that he had been hit several times.
The Chairman presented a photograph of the banks of the Makona River, in which dugout canoes are visible. SFC indicated that the dugout canoes in the photograph resembled those used at the time, but stated that he had not witnessed the crossing of the generator. Upon questioning, he indicated that civilians were not allowed to cross the river.
The prosecution had no questions. Neither did the prosecution.
Defense questions FCS:
Defence counsel asked the witness about the number of people needed to carry the generator. The witness said that it took 10 to 25 people on each side depending on what was being carried. He added that the logs were tied together to form a platform on which the generator was placed.
When asked how they were able to keep pace with 10 people on each side, the witness explained that the journey took 10 hours and that the taller ones carried the loads on their shoulders and the shorter ones on their heads.
* * *
The President advised the parties that witness SB, who was to be heard that day, spoke only the Kissi dialect and that the sole Kissi interpreter had failed and was currently in Belgium. In view of the formal prohibition on using the services of witnesses and civil parties, the hearing of SB was postponed to the following day.
With regard to the witness Abraham Towah, who was also scheduled to be heard today, the President recalled that it was too late to issue a warrant for his arrest in Switzerland and sought the views of the parties. The parties agreed to dispense with the hearing of Abraham Towah and to be satisfied with the reading of a number of passages from his hearing by the Swiss authorities.
Reading from the hearing of Abraham Towah
The President recalled that Abraham Towah had been called as a defence witness in the trial of Alieu Kosiah. The President said that Abraham Towah was a Muslim and currently a political refugee in Switzerland. However, his application for asylum had apparently been rejected. The President read out certain elements of Abraham Towah’s hearing of 17 June 2015, which appear to be useful for the determination of the truth in this trial.
The Court reads out certain passages from the hearing of Abraham Towah by the Swiss authorities:
When asked about his travels abroad before coming to Switzerland, he indicated that this was his first time in Europe and that he had been to Sierra Leone, Guinea and the Gambia. He stated that his village was called Towah’s Town because it was founded by his grandfather, and that ULIMOs had entered Todi District in 1992. It was at that time that he left Todi District with the ULIMOs and met Alieu Kosiah, who was one of the commanders of the ULIMOs. He added that when he joined the ULIMO group in 1992, Alieu Kosiah took him on as a child soldier. He took care of him and Abraham Towah considered him as his father.
When asked about the practice of tabé, he said that the ULIMO group practised tabé in Todi Barracks and that he had also seen ULIMO soldiers practising tabé in Voinjama, Zorzor, Foya and Salayé. Some of the people tabed were civilians and some were captured NPFL soldiers. According to Abraham Towah, sometimes the civilians were tied up and tortured and sometimes the soldiers let them go if they saw that they were not NPFL soldiers. Sometimes people who were beaten up decided to join ULIMO. Abraham Towah added that the time he saw the tabé in Foya, Alieu Kosiah was present but did not attend. The tabé took place at the ULIMO headquarters outside the building. As a small soldier, Abraham Towah would inform Kosiah when he saw something wrong. If he reported to Kosiah that someone had been beaten up, Kosiah would often go and talk to the soldiers about releasing the people.
When asked about Kundi, Abraham Towah said he knew him and that he was also a former ULIMO fighter. He added that they had spent time together in Voinjama and Foya. Kundi had seen him during a visit to Lola, Guinea, where he had relatives, and they returned together from Lola to Voinjama. According to him, Kosiah and Kundi knew each other very well as former ULIMO soldiers and Kosiah was a senior officer of Kundi.
When asked about Ugly Boy, Abraham Towah said he knew him very well. He indicated that Ugly Boy was also a former ULIMO fighter, from the Mandingo ethnic group. Abraham Towah did not spend time with him, but they knew each other as ULIMO fighters. He stated that he did not know his rank and that he was in Foya. Abraham Towah first met Ugly Boy in Voinjama and then met him again in Foya. According to him, Ugly Boy and Kosiah knew each other very well and Kosiah was Ugly Boy’s senior officer. They fought together on the front line. He added that Ugly Boy died in prison in Guinea after the war. He committed criminal acts and was arrested and imprisoned by the Guinean government. Asked if Ugly Boy also committed criminal acts in Liberia during the war, Abraham Towah said he only knew him as a ULIMO fighter.
When asked about the location of the S2 office in Foya, the person concerned said that he did not know where the S2 office was located since he was only passing through Foya. Upon questioning, he indicated that he stayed with friends when he was in Foya. He added that sometimes he slept in Kundi’s house while Kosiah slept at the headquarters where Deku was. Abraham Towah said that since Kundi was his friend, he had gone to his house several times, even when another house had been made available to them. On questioning, he said that Kosiah had slept at the headquarters at Deku’s house until he was given a place where they all stayed.
Asked if Kundi was a bodyguard of Kosiah, Abraham Towah answered in the negative, stating that Kundi, like Kosiah, commanded a company and was a captain. He added that Kosiah was promoted from captain to colonel and Kundi was promoted to major.
The President concluded by stating that the person concerned had recognized Kromah, Mohammed Tebbe, Alieu Kosiah and a certain Cobra in a photograph. He was also shown photographs of child soldiers and indicated that the oldest was 13 years old and the youngest 9 years old.
The prosecution read out certain passages from the hearing of Abraham Towah by the Swiss authorities:
When asked about Alieu Kosiah, Abraham Towah said that he was not the only commander present and that there were other commanders above him, including the battalion commander Jungle Jabah. According to him, Kosiah played an important role in saving their lives. Abraham Towah recounted that after the fighting, the ULIMO commanders took 100 to 200 people out of the buildings and lined them up outside. They asked everyone questions. According to the person concerned, the people who answered well were put on one side and the others on the other. The ULIMO commanders asked them who the NPFL commanders were and if anyone had any connection with them. Abraham Towah explained that it was to find out whether the people were members of the NPFL or not, since they had found them in one of the main barracks. Those who would not answer the questions correctly were tortured. Sometimes the ULIMO commanders tied their arms with a rope behind their backs, sometimes they laid them on the ground and beat them with the butt of their gun. According to him, they wanted to know who was who and if there were any NPFL soldiers among the civilians. On questioning, Abraham Towah said that the way they were tied up was also called tabé and that he had witnessed the arrival of the ULIMO at Camp Todi. He said that he himself was not tied or beaten and did not know why he was spared, but that perhaps it was God’s will. According to him, Alieu Kosiah arrived while the ULIMOs were asking questions.
Abraham Towah went on to say that he was not assigned to a specific frontline commander and that there were different frontline commanders. He said that this could change from day to day, depending on which frontline they went to, as each frontline had its own commander. He said that he had Abu Keita and Pyj and that he had also been on the frontline with Pepper & Salt who was a frontline commander.
When asked about his role with Alieu Kosiah, Abraham Towah said that he was his bodyguard and when they went to the front or any other place, he would go there first to inspect the area. Also, he would take the food that the women had prepared for Kosiah and taste it before Kosiah ate it. In short, his job was to make sure that Kosiah was safe.
When asked about the acronyms “SBU” and “RTO”, he stated that “SBU” stood for “small boy unit” and “RTO” stood for bodyguards. He stated that he did not know the meaning of the acronym “RTO”. On questioning, he said that SBUs were also fighters and that all factions, NPFL and ULIMO, had SBUs. According to him, all teenagers within ULIMO were considered SBUs. He confirmed that he himself had been classified as an SBU, as he was a child, and stated that all children fell into the SBU category. He was therefore an SBU with the specific function of an RTO. According to him, not all SBUs were RTOs, but they were all soldiers.
When asked about the forced marches, Abraham Towah said he had never seen or heard of it, before stating that all factions had done it.
The defence lawyer intervened to read out part of the answer given by Abraham Towah concerning the forced marches. He stated that the transportation was done by car and that the generators were already in Foya and Zorzor. According to him, the civilians only helped them to load the generators into the cars in Zorzor or Foya, and then the transportation was done by vehicle by road.
The lawyer for the civil parties continued to read about the forced marches. Abraham Towah stated that the civilians transported to Solomba, to the edge of the Makona River, and canoe-type boats came to pick up the merchandise to take it to the other side.
The General Counsel quoted a supplementary passage in which Abraham Towah indicated that the canoes were very large and that two could be put together to carry a car. According to him, the canoes were rowed and were made from hollowed out tree trunks that floated.
The lawyer for the civil parties continued the readings. When asked about his role during the forced marches, the person concerned stated that he was not going to lie and confirmed that he had participated. He said that he remembered the transports from Foya to Solomba and added that at the time they had to fend for themselves because they were not paid and were poor.
When asked about the atrocities committed by ULIMO, which consisted of cutting up corpses and putting the pieces in wheelbarrows and forcing civilians to buy them, Abraham Towah said that he had heard about these acts but had not witnessed them. He recalled that he arrived in Foya two or three months after the capture of the town.
Asked whether when ULIMOs were on the job, civilians could know the name of the commander in charge, Towah said that during the fighting, civilians ran away and did not care who was in charge. On the other hand, when the ULIMOs had captured a town for one or two weeks, everyone knew the name of the commander. On questioning, he said that during the transportation of goods, civilians could not remember the names of all the commanders who organized the transportation. When asked if during the transport of goods, ULIMO soldiers crossed the Guinean border with their weapons, he replied in the negative and specified that they could not cross with their weapons and that they left them before the border to other ULIMO soldiers. He added that they were not fighting in Guinea and that Guinean soldiers searched them before they could cross the border. He said that Solomba was the last point before the border from Foya.
Asked if other big men in Lofa had small soldiers in their group, Abraham Towah said all the big men in Lofa had small soldiers assigned to them, including Alhaji Kromah. According to him, all the ULIMO commanders had small soldiers with them.
When asked about the time he spent in Foya, he said that he did not remember exactly, but thought he had been there for four months. He said that he went back and forth and that it was in 1994-1995 during the rainy season. On questioning, he said that he sometimes stayed in Foya for a few days during this period of going back and forth, sometimes even between 1 and 2 months. He also indicated that while he was in Foya, Deku was the commander and that Deku was higher in rank than Kosiah.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office read out certain passages from the hearing of Abraham Towah by the Swiss authorities:
He spoke about the effects of the war on child soldiers. In this regard, he indicated that the war has affected many Liberians, including himself. Because of the war, many young people in Liberia cannot do anything for themselves. He added: “We, the Liberian youth, are angry with those who brought the war, including the commanders who took us to the front lines because they used us and we did not know what we were doing. We are victims of people who abused us and took advantage of us. Take me as an example. Look at how old I am, I am disabled because of the war. The war in Liberia has not been good for us.
On why he joined the ULIMO, Abraham Towah explained that he was not the only one who had his life saved after being captured by the ULIMO. There were many and many, including himself, voluntarily joined ULIMO because of the benefits. According to him, the advantages were not seeing his sister raped in front of him, not seeing his brother killed in front of him, not having to carry charges. He added that it was also safer for his own life to carry a weapon.
The defence read out certain passages from the hearing of Abraham Towah by the Swiss authorities:
On questioning, Abraham Towah said that he had neither been recruited by the NPFL nor been a member of the NPFL and that he had only been recruited by the ULIMO. According to him, when the NPFL arrived in the villages, they sometimes killed chickens, beat and raped civilians or forced them to carry loads on their heads. He added that he remembered that an NPFL commander wanted to have a sexual relationship with his older sister. When she refused, the fighter beat her in front of her. He added that they were mere civilians and could do nothing against the NPFL. He himself was forced five or six times to carry loads by the NPFL, as they were armed.
When asked why he took up arms against the NPFL, Abraham Towah explained that he wanted to defend his country against the destruction, rape and murder perpetrated by the NPFL.
Update on the hearing of witness NS
Regarding witness NS, who was hospitalized, the president said that according to the Paris Aide aux Victimes association, the witness’ health was not improving and that a rapid return to Liberia was recommended. The civil parties’ lawyer asked for a few days’ delay to determine whether NS wanted to be heard. NS’ case was therefore reserved.
Reading of the testimony of witness Omaru Musa Kelleh
Defense counsel proposed to proceed with the readings regarding Omaru Musa Kelleh. The president agreed and said there were two documents concerning this witness: the minutes of the hearing conducted by the investigating judge on January 12, 2020, and the minutes of the hearing conducted on September 9, 2017, by the Swiss authorities.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office read out the full minutes of the hearing of Omaru Musa Kelleh conducted by the investigating judge on 12 January 2020:
On questioning, Omaru Musa Kelleh confirmed that he was now blind and that he had been the commander of the Alligator Battalion. Asked about Kunti Kamara’s role in ULIMO, he said that Kunti Kamara was a child soldier, adding that he was small but could fight. Asked about his statements to the Swiss authorities that Kunti Kamara was a commander, Omaru Musa Kelleh said he did not say that Kunti was a commander, but that he was called to be with the commander.
The judge then told the witness that Kunti Kamara had explained that he was a battlefield commander. The witness said that in 1992, Kundi came as a ULIMO soldier to defend an abused religion. As he defended it, he became a commander and Omaru Musa Kelleh was his commander because Kundi was in his battalion. According to him, Kundi achieved the rank of 4th colonel in his ranks. In 1994, Kundi was a commander and was sent to Gbarnga for a mission because that was the location of Taylor’s base. During the battle, ULIMO ran out of ammunition and Kundi was sent to fetch some. So he left Gbarnga and went to Voinjama in Lofa. He then returned to Gbarnga with arms and ammunition, which enabled ULIMO to secure the area. Kundi then requested permission to return to Lofa to rest. He left for Kolahun before returning to Foya. According to Omaru Musa Kelleh, when the RUF attacked ULIMO in Foya, Kundi was there to bring the situation under control.
Omaru Musa Kelleh went on to say that when Foya’s oldest, named TT, was arrested, all of Liberia knew about him. When the United Nations went to pick him up and bring him to Monrovia, Kundi said the mission was accomplished. Foya was secured and Kundi went to find Omaru Musa Kelleh in Gbarnga. Kundi told him, “General there was an incident without your knowledge but I have it under control. I want to go to Voinjama to return to Guinea and see my family for a while. According to Omaru Musa Kelleh, Kundi left for Voinjama and returned to Guinea to see his family. The president of the Republic of Guinea Lanssana Conte personally called Kundi and General Langasa. When the NPFL rebels crossed Guéckédou, Kundi was a commander and went with the Guinean military to successfully fight the NPFL rebels. The Guinean President called them to Conakry and asked them what he could do for them to reward them. Some said they wanted to travel, others asked for money. Kundi decided to leave the country and travel, which brought him to France.
The witness then went back to the years 1992-1993 and indicated that Kundi was especially with him in Bomi County. He said that he himself was tasked by ULIMO to take over Todi district and that this mission lasted 6 months. His frontline fighters, including Alieu Kosiah, were with him. Kundi and Kosiah were his battlefield commanders. They took the villages of Neyma and Kantan, then the 3 camps of Todi. They looted automatic weapons and trucks and decided to open the asphalt road that was blocked by the NPFL. They fought with ECOMOG forces for a day and a night, then negotiated because the ECOMOG troops were better equipped.
They were then ordered to take Kakata town, but objected that their leader Alhaji Kromah should be informed and the decision should be his. They went to the ECOMOG base at the port and Alhaji Kromah had a meeting with the ECOMOG leader. At the end of the meeting, Kromah ordered them to do what ECOMOG had asked. ECOMOG therefore deployed to Kakata.
The witness said that Kundi and Kosiah asked his permission to do business and he agreed. They explained to him that their pockets were empty and they wanted to take palm oil to town and sell it. Omaru Musa Kelleh gave them the green light and told them not to take arms because the area was pacified.
When asked about Kundi’s promotion as a 4th colonel, the witness said that Kromah decided on promotions and that he simply recommended Kundi. On questioning, he confirmed that Kundi was a good soldier.
Asked about Kundi’s personality, Omaru Musa Kelleh said he was very obedient and had a good character. He had a good attitude and was respectful. He added that Kundi never stopped in front of him to insult him and that no civilian ever came to him to complain about Kundi. According to him, Kundi never harassed people.
Asked to explain Kundi’s role as a batteflied commander, Omaru Musa Kelleh said Kundi always asked to go with the military to bring the areas under control. He said sometimes there were untenable fighters, others were fearful, and others said they would never use weapons. According to Omaru Musa Kelleh, Kundi was there to keep the situation under control and defended the witness’s position as commander in chief. He added that a colonel could never attack a group or individual without an order from his commander.
When asked about the alleged torture of civilians by Kundi in Foya in 1993-1994, Omaru Musa Kelleh said: “Between 1993 and 1994, if someone tells you that Kundi did such evil, he has lied to you. I was the commander of Kundi”.
When asked about his statements that Kundi had collaborated with the enemy, the witness explained that there had been an incident in the organization and that some of the soldiers had intended to form their own group. Kundi was sent to bring the situation under control. According to the witness, this caused TT to leave the bush. He added that Kundi never left ULIMO and that those who wanted to leave ULIMO and form their own group in Foya fled to Guinea when Kundi arrived. Among the traitors were Pepper & Salt, General Varmuya Sherif. Kundi was sent to chase them out of the country and he did. Omaru Musa Kelleh added that he therefore did not understand what treason was being referred to since Kundi had never betrayed.
Asked whether Kundi had bodyguards, the witness said he did, and that good fighters had many bodyguards, unlike bad fighters.
When asked about Kundi’s use of the tabé method, the witness replied, “On whom? When there is a war, all civilians flee to the forest. He then stated before God that Kundi never used the tabé method and never allowed a soldier to tie up a civilian with the tabé method. According to him, Kundi had mercy on the people.
When asked about Ugly Boy and Pepper & Salt, Omaru Musa Kelleh said they were both dead. He said Ugly Boy’s surname was Sherif and Pepper & Salt left ULIMO and joined the NPFL, which led him to his grave. As for Ugly Boy, he went to harass people in Guinea and was killed in N’Zerkore.
When asked about the ages of Kundi’s bodyguards, the witness said they were between 18 and 26 years old.
When asked about the commanders Deku and Fine Boy, Omaru Musa Kelleh said he knew Deku and Fine Boy was a 4ème colonel commander. According to him, Deku, Fine Boy and Kundi were not together because Kundi was not part of their group. He added that Fine Boy and Deku were harassing people in Foya, constantly bothering civilians and had never been to a battle in the frontline. He said that both of them had died and that Deku had been killed by Taylor’s troops.
Asked where Abraham Towah and Lamine Kenneh were, Omaru Musa Kenneh said he thought they had left Monrovia.
The judge mentioned in the record that the witness was singing a song to his own glory in which he claims that he always tells the truth.
The Court proceeds to read out certain passages from the hearing of Omaru Musa Kelleh by the Swiss authorities:
Asked to describe the appearance of Alieu Kosiah, Omaru Musa Kelleh said he had rather large eyes and was a little taller than he was. He was very muscular and had an imposing build. He added that he played football and had muscular thighs.
He went on to explain his role in the war and that his mission was to cover 3 counties (Bomi, Bong and Margibi). He instructed his fighting commanders, including General Kosiah that if an enemy was captured, he should not be shot at, but brought to him. According to him, all captured territories were kept under control for 7 days before handing them over to the West African peacekeeping forces. Once the territories were handed over to the peacekeeping forces, the ULIMOs no longer had command over the civilians. If they wanted to make the civilians work for them and the civilians refused, they were punished by the peacekeepers if they forced them. One day Kosiah told him that he wanted to lay down his arms and become a civilian again. Omaru Musa Kelleh told him that he would only order him to lay down his arms if he brought him boys from the bush, which Kosiah did.
When asked about Kundi, he explained that Kundi was a “commander”, but that he had collaborated with the enemy, General Langassa. Kundi and Mohamed Sheriff wanted to overthrow General Alhaji Kromah. However, Kundi got scared and fled to Guinea. On questioning, he said that it was Mohamed Sheriff who convinced Colonel Langassa to turn against the ULIMOs. They were supposed to form their own faction to kill Alhaji Kromah, but they thought they had to kill Omaru Musa Kelleh first or else they would have no chance.
Asked about Deku, Omaru Musa Kelleh said his name was Action Deku and his full name was Action Deku Musa Kamara. His nom de guerre was Deku. He also stated that he was deceased and that he was a ULIMO fighter who was not part of the Special Forces in Sierra Leone. He added that Deku joined ULIMO at the Po River bridge between Bomi and Monrovia when people from Monrovia came to greet them. According to Omaru Musa Kelleh, Commanders Varmuyan Sheriff and Steven Dorley, who was then commanding general, welcomed him at the Clay Junction base. On questioning, he said Deku was a general.
Asked whether Kosiah was already a general at the time of the capture of Todi, he replied that Kosiah was appointed general after the capture of Gbarnga, when he brought the news of that capture. At the time of the capture of Todi, Kosiah was frontline commander, expecting general. This means that he called himself general when the general was not there, and that this appellation ceased when the general returned. According to Omaru Musa Kelleh, the expecting general was a person who aspired to be a general.
When asked about the Lofa Mission, he said it started in November 1993 and was led by Commanding General Steven Dorley, who had Pepper & Salt and his Strike Force Battalion under him. According to him, there were also Mami Wata, Deku, Cobra, Small Donzo and Big Donzo. He said he was not part of the Lofa Mission.
Asked where ULIMO went to capture Lofa, Omaru Musa Kelleh said they first went through Bo Waterside before capturing Tubmanburg in Bomi. From there, they sent their forces across the country, including to Lofa through Lofa Bridge. He said from Lofa Bridge, they could not take vehicles and had to walk hundreds of miles to Kolahun, Vahun, Foya and then Voinjama.
On questioning, he said that Zorzor was part of Lofa and that Foya, Voinjama and Zorzor were close to the border with Guinea. He added that Zorzor was captured during the Lofa Mission. He said on question that Zorzor was the first town captured in Upper Lofa. The second was Kolahun, then Foya, then Vahun and finally Voinjama. According to him, the enemy was weak.
Omaru Musa Kelleh added that after the capture of Lofa, he went there himself because the chief of staff was there. He said that since he did not like to take a vehicle in a guerrilla war, he preferred to go on foot through the bush roads. He arrived in Gondolahun and was so exhausted that men had to carry him in a hummer to Kolahun. He then took a truck to Voinjama.
On questioning, Omaru Musa Kelleh said Kosiah was still with Dombuyah in Voinjama. According to him, Kosiah did not have the power to decide where he went. It was the chief of staff who gave him orders. Asked where Kosiah was when ULIMO split, he said the split took place in Tubmanburg in Bomi County. The Krahns and Mandingos started shooting at each other and that was where they were all. According to him, at a time like that, you don’t look to know where your friends are, you fight for your life and to escape the bullets. He added that this happened at the ULIMO brigade, where everyone was and no one understood what was going on.
When asked about TT, Omaru Musa Kelleh said TT was not a prophet. According to him, he was the oldest man in Liberia. He had reached the age of 115 and that was why he was respected by the government. On questioning, he said TT was Kissi and lived in Foya District during the ULIMO period. He added that TT was not involved in any armed group that he knew of and that he was protected by the Kissi.
When asked about the crimes committed by ULIMO against the civilian population, he acknowledged that he was aware of them and said that ULIMO soldiers who attacked civilians paid the consequences. According to him, those who committed rape were executed. Rape was the most common crime and the only one for which soldiers were executed. He said that soldiers who had been in the forest for a long time wanted to have sex and if the women refused, they would rape them. In that case, they were executed. He added that there were very strong “S.O.P.’s” among the ULIMO.
When asked about the rapes committed by ULIMO in Lofa, Omaru Musa Kelleh said a soldier committed rape and was arrested and imprisoned until the arrival of Chief of Staff Dombuyah. According to him, the decision had to be taken by all the generals. A message was sent to them warning them that a soldier had committed rape. According to the S.O.P., he was to be executed, but not shot. He had to dig his own grave, in which he was buried.
When asked about the practice of Tabé, Omaru Musa Kelleh said that on his part, the soldiers were very disciplined. On question, he added that there was a man with them who had magical powers. His name was Zina. One day, he told Omaru Musa Kelleh to beat him up and throw him into a swamp, betting that by the time he got back to his office, he would already be outside the door. Omaru Musa Kelleh said that he tied him up tightly and threw him into the water. When he returned to his office, he saw the man dancing outside the door. He added that this was the only tabé he had practised.
Asked if Alieu Kosiah, nicknamed “Physical Cash”, had planned to engage in palm oil business, he said that it was he who gave Kosiah the nickname when the latter told him he wanted to do palm oil business. According to him, Kosiah got along well with the civilians. Sometimes he would leave and stay overnight in the villages. Omaru Musa Kelleh found this risky, but Kosiah told him that the region was calm, that the war was over and that he always had one or two men with him to escort him, which reassured him. On questioning, Omaru Musa Kelleh said that Kosiah was taking the palm oil from the village and taking it to Monrovia.
When asked about the ‘Zebra’ and ‘Alligator’ battalions, he said ‘Zebra’ was the mother unit of the ULIMOs when they came from Sierra Leone to Liberia and it was this unit that gave birth to the other battalions. According to him, when ULIMO split, ‘Zebra’ also split and gave birth to ULIMO-K with the battalions ‘Strike Force’, ‘Alligator’ and ‘Lo Pizo’. On question, he stated that Kosiah was in the “Alligator” battalion with him. Kosiah was not a battalion commander, but was following the orders of Omaru Musa Kelleh. According to him, ULIMO-K and ULIMO-J each had an “Alligator” battalion and a “Zebra” battalion: “Alligator A” for Kromah’s ULIMO-K and “Alligator B” for Roosevelt’s ULIMO-J. He added that only Strike Force was unique to ULIMO-K.
The prosecution read out certain passages from the hearing of Omaru Musa Kelleh by the Swiss authorities:
When asked about Pepper & Salt, Omaru Musa Kelleh laughed and said, “May he rest in peace”. He said Pepper & Salt was a great commander, a strong man for the ULIMO and that he was the one who captured the Lofa with his men. According to him, his real name was Ousman Konneh.
When asked about Alieu Kosiah’s role in ULIMO, he said his role was to be a frontline man for him or, in other words, a battlefront commander, the man who leads a group and tells them where to go.
When asked about his nom de guerre, Omaru Musa Kelleh sang “Zo Kele Kele you talking the truth” and said his name was in there, so the children wanted to follow him because he was telling the truth.
When asked about HB, he said he knew little about him. He said that HB was a famous petty criminal journalist in Liberia. According to him, HB came to Europe to make money by making others suffer. Omaru Musa Kelleh believes he heard about HB in 2015 and referred to an article in which HB allegedly spread lies about Alieu Kosiah. According to him, HB cannot easily return to Liberia because there are other fighters waiting for him. Omaru Musa Kelleh wondered how HB knew what he was saying since he had never been to the frontline. He said HB just stayed in town and asked civilians to give him information, even being willing to pay them.
When asked about Mami Wata, he said his real name was Duana Kamara. According to him, he was an excellent fighter of the Strike Force Battalion, which went to capture Lofa County, the largest county in Liberia. Omaru Musa Kelleh added that Mami Wata had died. Asked about other fighters in the Strike Force Battalion, he said there was Ugly Boy Sheriff and that he was ironically called that because he was rather handsome and “tall bright. According to him, Ugly Boy was killed in Guinea because of his bad behaviour.
When asked about the circumstances under which the song “Zo Kele Kele” was sung, the person concerned said that the song was his own and was intended to motivate the fighters when they moved to the enemy, since he had no money to pay them.
Asked if the name Skyface Kabbah meant anything to him, Omaru Musa Kelleh said, “Ah, Scarface? Scarface, like Al Pacino. Scarface Kabbah was a colonel in the ULIMO. He was a very handsome man.
When asked about the identity of the former soldiers waiting for HB in Liberia, he said that he himself had been against HB from the moment he learned of his newspaper article. He wondered how HB could have attacked a brother by spreading lies about him. According to him, many people were against HB and even when he is talked about in the ‘hatay shops’, voices are raised to ask on which front line he had gone to be able to talk about a brother like that. Omaru Musa Kelleh added that HB only sat in Monrovia and sought recognition from the West before he went there.
On questioning by the President, the director of the NGO Civitas Maximas, Emmanuelle Marchand, clarified that a hatay shop was a meeting place for discussion, like a café.
Asked to comment on Kosiah’s statement that Foya had not yet been taken when he arrived at Voinjama, Omaru Musa Kelleh said that Foya was at the border with Guinea and that TT was in that area, near the border with Sierra Leone, where the RUF were protecting him. The RUF were crossing the river at Solomba and ULIMO did not have enough men in Foya to repel them. According to him, the main road ran from Kolahun to Voinjama and Foya was in a very active combat zone. He had been asked to go there, but he had refused to go into that trap. According to him, Pepper & Salt had gone over to the enemy and Dombuyah had to base himself in Voinjama to support the men.
When asked what kind of work civilians were forced to do, Omaru Musa Kelleh said it could be cooking for him, cleaning, washing his clothes or polishing his shoes. He said that he always asked politely and that people were not slaves.
The General Counsel noted the reference to the phrase “till go” in a note to the minutes.
When asked about the payment of civilians for services rendered, he stated that he was not paid to come and save civilians and that when civilians served him, they were paid with some rice or soup.
Neither the General Counsel nor Defence Counsel requested further reading.
The President added that Omaru Musa Kelleh was clearly an important man in ULIMO. Counsel for the plaintiffs stated that Lofa County was divided in two in 2003 with Gbarpolu County. On questioning by a juror, the presiding judge, the prosecuting attorney and the general counsel indicated that Omaru Musa Kelleh had been heard as a defense and prosecution witness two years earlier in Monrovia. He had stated that he was born in 1965 and lived in Congo Town.