“Taylor was afraid Mosquito would expose him to the Special Court and as a result ordered his killing” Witness X5
By Gerald Koinyeneh and Alpha Kamara
MONROVIA-FREETOWN-NEW YORK – A witness testifying before a Finnish Court in the ongoing war crimes trial of former rebel commander Gibril Massaquoi has told judges that the former Sierra Leonean rebel leader Sam Bockarie also called Mosquito was shot, stabbed and beaten to death. He said Mosquito was killed by Benjamin Yeaten, former Director of Special Security Service (SSS) in 2003 under the orders of former Liberian President Charles Taylor in a village in Nimba County.
The witness, codenamed “X5” for security reasons, said as soon as Taylor learned that Bockarie was intending to go back home to Sierra Leone, he ordered his security director Yeaten to stop him. At the time, the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone had begun investigations and Taylor believed that Sam Bockarie might testify against him or reveal some of the gross human rights violations that might hunt him. Bockarie’s death, the witness said, paved the way for Massaquoi, another Sierra Leonean rebel commander who was stationed in neighboring Ivory Coast, to cross over to Liberia to help Taylor fight the LURD rebels.
“Taylor sent Benjamin Yeaten to Ganta to put things under control,” said X3. “When Yeaten and Bockarie met, he asked Bockarie to take a walk with him to brief him about his mission. On the walk Yeaten’s deputy was the first that stabbed Bockarie on the back. He escaped in a cocoa farm but was overpowered and beaten to death.”
Samuel Sam Bockarie, widely known by his rebel codename ‘General Mosquito’, was a Sierra Leonean commander who served as a leader of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), the rebel group that fought a failed 11-year war to overthrow the government of Sierra Leone. He fought closely with President Taylor who was aiding the movement. Bockarie was infamous during the Sierra Leone civil war for brutal tactics, which included amputation, mutilation and rape of women.
It was reported at the time that Bockarie, then a fugitive wanted by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, was offered sanctuary in Liberia by Charles Taylor. This is not the first time a witness has accused Taylor of giving the order to kill Bockarie. The government, at that time, said he was killed in a standoff with Taylor’s forces by militias who wanted to turn him over to the Special Court.
However, in his testimony before the Special Court in 2008, President Taylor’s Vice President, the late Moses Blah, told judges Mr. Bockarie was killed by Yeaten on the orders of Taylor to “destroy evidence” of Taylor’s secret support for the RUF. Taylor later denied his former VP’s accusation.
Ironically, Bockarie’s death was pivotal in Massaquoi’s return to Liberia from neighboring Ivory Coast where he had linked up with Bockarie and fought in the Ivorian civil war. Massaquoi went on to give information about Taylor to investigators in Sierra Leone.
While in the Ivory Coast, X5 said Bockarie and his men captured the town of Mahn, and seized weapons which they brought to Liberia and helped Taylor’s forces recapture Ganta, a commercial hub in Nimba County, from LURD. Bockarie, the witness said, died shortly after the Ganta operation.
Witness X5 said he had earlier fought on the battlefront in Lofa County where he headed the ‘Wild Geese,’ a militia group that was supervised by Roland Duo, the commander of the Navy Division. While in Lofa, he said the RUF leaders including the late Foday Sankoh and Bockarie commanded their men and fought alongside Taylor’s forces. He claimed that some of Taylor’s generals in Lofa were Roland Duo, Jack-the-Rebel and Mark Guam. He said some of these men ate humans to instill fear in their enemies.
“When they got there, they ate human beings,” X5 told the four-judge panel in his second appearance. “It’s no joke. That’s war tactics. They killed, roasted human bodies and ate them. That’s what make them fearful when they are fighting.” X5 added.
The court is in Liberia for the second time when it became clear that dozens of witnesses in the first hearing in March were referring to battles that took place in 2003, outside the dates the indictment had originally listed for Massaquoi’s alleged crimes.
Massaquoi, 51, is standing trial in Finland where he was living under an immunity deal with the Special Court for Sierra Leone when he was charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity during Liberia’s civil war.
In 2020, Finnish judges began touring northern Liberia as part of the trial of the former Sierra Leonean warlord accused of committing atrocities during the country’s civil war in Sierra Leone and Liberia. They were there to gather witness testimonies for a case against Gibril Massaquoi who also fought in Liberia and committed several atrocities.
Gibril Massaquoi before his arrest
Massaquoi, has lived in Finland since 2008, but was arrested there in March last year after a rights group investigated his war record and found several crimes committed by him during the Liberian civil war.
A case against the 51-year-old began on February 3 in the northern European country, where he is accused of responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed between 1999 and 2003. Around a quarter of a million people were killed between 1989 to 2003 in a conflict marked by brutal violence and rape, often carried out by child soldiers. The inconsistencies of witness’ statements have been a major problem for both the defense and prosecution teams.
During recent hearing, Kaarle Gummerus, Massaquoi’s defense lawyer spent nearly three hours grilling the witness, and pointing out inconsistencies in his testimony.
The account of Massaquoi’s return to Liberia from Ivory Coast is in contrast to his previous testimony when he said he brought in Massaquoi from Sierra Leone at Bo Waterside in Monrovia.
He also claimed that while celebrating their victory against LURD in 2003, he and Massaquoi took several pictures that were damaged by the rain. Earlier, the first witness, a Sierra Leonean, said he was brought to Liberia by a friend named Emory who asked for his help to drive his truck. It was in Liberia that he discovered that Emory was one of Massaquoi’s soldiers.
The witness said, although he did not come too close to Massaquoi because he was not a soldier, he saw him at few places including White Flower- Taylor’s Monrovia residence and at Massaquoi’s relative’s house in Congo Town.
Meanwhile, former Liberian warlord-turned-president Charles Taylor, jailed for five decades for war crimes, has filed a lawsuit against his country’s government over its ‘refusal’ to pay his pension and retirement benefits, according to a court statement.
Taylor sparked a 13-year civil war in Liberia when he led a rebellion in 1989 to oust President Samuel Doe, which deteriorated into one of Africa’s bloodiest conflicts.
He currently serving a 50-year sentence in a UK prison after being convicted in 2012 by a court in The Hague of fuelling civil conflict in Sierra Leone.
This story was a collaboration with New Narratives as part of the West Africa Justice Reporting Project. © 2021 – FrontPageAfrica and Mountain Waves
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