Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Witness Disagrees That Charles Taylor's NPFL Had a Small Boys Unit

Written by Alpha Sesay Source: allAfrica.com

As his cross-examination moved into a second week, Charles Taylor's 20th defense witness today disagreed with prosecutors that Mr. Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel group had a Small Boys Unit (SBU) during Liberia's civil conflict.

Prosecutors allege that the SBU comprised of children, who were forcefully conscripted and used for combat purposes by Mr. Taylor's rebel forces in Liberia. These children did not only fight in frontlines, but were also used to man NPFL checkpoints and served as bodyguards to NPFL rebel commanders, prosecutors say.

It is also alleged that this practice was replicated by Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in Sierra Leone, who Mr. Taylor is alleged to have controlled and supported during the 11 year conflict in Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor has denied these allegations.

In his testimony as a defense witness for Mr. Taylor, DCT-008 has told the court that the NPFL did not use children in combat or to man checkpoints. According to the witness, commanders only lived with their younger brothers, who helped them perform domestic chores, and these were the ones called SBUs. They neither took part in combat, nor were they made to man checkpoints or to serve as bodyguards to rebel commanders, the witness said.

Today, Chief Prosecutor Brenda Hollis challenged the witness on the NPFL's use of SBUs.

When asked whether "it is true that the NPFL did indeed have a unit called SBU," DCT-008 said, "No."

When the prosecutor stated that "these SBUs were used at checkpoints," the witness said, "No."

"My testimony is that the NPFL did not have any unit called the SBU. The SBU was the name given to those young boys who were with their big brothers and sisters, but they were not part of the NPFL," DCT-008 said.

"They were not soldiers, they were not gun carriers," he added.

Ms. Hollis read a portion of the statement made to defense lawyers by Mr. Taylor's first witness, Yanks Smythe, a Gambian member of the NPFL who later attained Liberian citizenship and was appointed Liberian ambassador to Libya and Tunisia. In the statement, Mr. Smythe was quoted as saying to defense lawyers that the "SBUs were underaged but part of the NPFL rank."

When this was presented to the witness with a suggestion that he also knew of the SBUs being part of the NPFL, DCT-008 said, "I don't know that, I don't know of a unit called SBU and there was no unit in the NPFL called SBU."

Put to him again that Mr. Smythe said in his statement that "SBUs will bear arms to protect gates or checkpoints but not to go to the frontlines," the witness said, "I don't know that."

The witness also refuted allegations that Mr. Taylor personally had SBU's assigned to him, telling the court, "Mr. Taylor to my knowledge never had SBU's around him."

Ms. Hollis also quoted John T. Richardson, a former member of the NPFL and National Security Adviser to Mr. Taylor who in a 1994 news interview said, "The NPFL used children to fight for their own protection."

The witness still insisted, "I am not aware of that."

Earlier in the morning, the witness attempted to make corrections to certain aspects of his testimony given to the court last week about being present when RUF commander Sam Bockarie said that Vamunya Sherif, a previous prosecution witness and a member of Mr. Taylor's security apparatus, had sold arms and ammunition to the RUF. The witness also told the court last week that the Special Security Services (SSS) communications office was located on the 4th floor of the Executive Mansion, an account that is contrary to that given by Mr. Taylor himself that the communications office was located on the 5th floor of the mansion.

Today, as his cross-examination was about to recommence, the witness told the court, "I want to make a correction on my testimony regarding Vamunya Sherif and also some clarification concerning the 5th floor."

Both Ms. Hollis and the presiding judge of the Trial Chamber, Justice Julia Sebutinde, told the witness that any clarifications to his earlier testimony will be made during re-examination by defense lawyers.

Ms. Hollis took further steps to suggest that the witness had notes in his room which he uses to cross-check his daily testimony, a suggestion which the witness denied and to which defense lawyers objected.

"Do you have notes in your room? Because this is the second time you have said you want to clarify something...because when you go back and study your notes, you realize you have deviated from your notes and you come back and try to rescript your evidence," Ms. Hollis questioned the witness.

"I do not have any notes in my room," the witness responded.

When defense lawyers objected to this line of questioning, the presiding judge upheld the defense objection and cautioned Ms. Hollis not to put such questions to the witness when there was no evidence to support suggestions that the witness did indeed have notes in his room.

DCT-008's cross-examination continues on Tuesday.

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Inside Liberia with Bernard Gbayee Goah

Everyone is a genius

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah


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