Charles Taylor's former deputy testifies

Charles Taylor’s deputy testified in the war-crimes trial of the former Liberian president on Wednesday, describing how a Sierra Leonean rebel leader answered to his boss.

Moses Blah was Taylor’s vice-president from 2000 until he took over as interim president for three months in 2003 after Taylor stepped down and accepted asylum in Nigeria as part of a peace plan.

Blah was subpoenaed to testify in Taylor’s trial for instigating murder, rape and terrorism in Sierra Leone’s 1991 to 2002 civil war, arming Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in return for diamonds.

More than 250 000 people died in intertwined wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone. The fighting in Sierra Leone began when former army corporal Foday Sankoh and his RUF took up arms.

Asked about relations between Taylor and Sankoh dating back to the 1980s, Blah told the court: “He called Mr Taylor ‘chief’.”

Blah also described his first encounter with Liberian child soldiers, some aged 13 and even younger: “Little boys were dragging their weapons behind them.”

“They were very aggressive indeed ... they were unreasonable and they had no sense of direction.”

Blah is the 27th witness the prosecution has called of the 72 it plans to question in a trial that got under way in earnest in January.
Taylor denies all charges against him.

Stephen Rapp, the chief prosecutor of the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, said last week that Blah, like other witnesses, had been threatened.

The trial is being held in The Hague for fear of destabilising West Africa. Last month a former fighter told the court he had killed men, women and babies on Taylor’s orders and had eaten the heart of a former rebel leader.—Reuters