Trial Day 6: Mines, Murder and Mayhem
Witness 15 (continued)
The government’s fifteenth witness continued his direct testimony from yesterday.
The witness testified about the morning an individual named George was killed. He was sitting with George and others under a plum tree. He had put some clothes on the ground to dry out so he could go to work. The soldiers entered the town running. The witness testified that George ran towards the house and the soldiers ran after him and shot him in front of the kitchen. The witness testified that he ran away as well, in the direction of Lake Piso, and went to his aunt’s house.
The witness identified photos of Dassalamu and explained the layout of the village. The witness testified that the first time the soldiers came to the village, they entered from the direction heading toward Lake Piso. He identified the place where the soldiers dragged George’s body into the road in front of the kitchen. They showed the witness the body and asked if he knew the man; the witness responded that it was his brother.
He recounted that after the soldiers killed George in Dassalamu, they left for the next town and forced civilians to carry the soldier’s loads. When they got to the next village, a man there saw them and attempted to run away. They shot him in his hand.
The witness explained that the second time ULIMO attacked his village, he was captured by the ULIMO soldiers and taken from a farm to the town of Dassalamu. The soldiers told him they were going to kill the town chief, who was married to his aunt. That night, people told the chief that his life was in danger but he decided not to run away and leave his people behind. The witness explained that they did not want to abandon the elderly villagers.
Prosecutors showed the witness a short video clip of the village. The witness pointed out the direction that the ULIMO fighters arrived from and the fruit tree he had been sitting under the first time the soldiers invaded. He identified the village’s town hall, which is also known as a “palaver hut.” People go there to discuss matters or problems. On the night that the town chief was killed, the soldiers brought everyone from the farm to the front of the building next to the town hall. There were other soldiers sitting on the porch, including Jungle Jabbah.
The witness identified a photograph of his friend taken in the village. The ECOMOG base is also pictured in the photo, though its position has changed since the war. He also provided additional details about the town layout from a short video taken of the area and explained routes he took on the days at issue.
The witness testified that he was shown a photograph by prosecutors when they met in Liberia. He was able to identify Jungle Jabbah in the photo, who he said he knew well. He identified Jungle Jabbah’s photograph again for the jury in court.
On cross-examination, the witness testified that Jungle Jabbah was not there the day the soldiers killed George. At the meeting with ECOMOG, the witness and others in attendance were advised what to do if the rebels harassed civilians. He confirmed that he did just as he had been instructed when George was killed. After George was killed, the witness and others reported it but ECOMOG asked for proof. He confirmed that they brought George’s body and the wounded men to ECOMOG and that ECOMOG transported the wounded to a hospital for treatment. When asked whether ECOMOG punished the soldiers for killing George, the witness explained that the soldiers were not under the command of ECOMOG, they answered to their bosses. The bosses put them in jail and beat them, not ECOMOG. ECOMOG was not even able to arrest the rebels, according to the witness.
He also testified on cross-examination that the rebels killed three people on the same day during their second visit to the town. This was more than four months after George was killed. When asked how the men were killed, the witness explained that the town chief was shot, just as George had been. This time, the rebels opened the chief’s chest and took out his heart before burning his body. His bones were buried. Another man was shot in his thigh and died from his injuries. The witness recounted that after the killings, they left the village for several months. Although he had reported George’s killing to ECOMOG, he did not report any of the other killings to ECOMOG or to Liberian authorities. At the time they killed the three people, ECOMOG was no longer in Sinje so there was no one to take the complaint.
The witness explained that he was introduced to prosecutors by an individual who came to his village to get information and later took him to Monrovia to meet with the government. The individual worked for a group in Liberia.
The witness’s testimony began with details about the actions of the NPFL in Liberia during the war. NPFL soldiers would come to his town and steal their chickens. The witness testified that he also had contact with the ULIMO before it split into two factions
One day the witness attended a meeting in Danielstown, which typically hosted the market where they went to get food or sell goods. At that meeting, he heard a ULIMO commander from the Krahn tribe talking to the group. The witness recounted that the speaker informed attendees that ULIMO was “there for us.” At some point after the meeting, ULIMO split into two groups. The witness was familiar with the ULIMO-K soldiers and had contact with them around Dassalamu.
He recalled that his friend, George, also encountered the soldiers. The witness testified that one day six soldiers entered the town; two were armed with machetes. That morning the witness was talking with friends under the plum tree, he recalled. When the soldiers rounded the bend in the road just before the town entrance, his friend George was sitting at the end of the bench under the tree. Without saying anything, one of the soldiers shot George. George tried to run but he fell to the ground in between the kitchen building and his mother’s house. The witness explained to the jury where these events took place using photographs of the area. After George was shot, everyone scattered. The soldiers tried to force everyone into the center of the town. Another man was shot in the leg. The witness observed soldiers beating another man with sticks. The soldiers forced the villagers to bring food and household goods to the town center and turn over the goods.
The witness was the youth leader in the town. They held a meeting to decide how to handle the soldiers. The witness was not at the meeting, but talked to his brother, the town chief, about what should be done. They decided to take a complaint to the commissioner for it to be forwarded to ECOMOG. When he got to Sinje, they met a group of people on the side of the road. The town chief, district commissioner, and officials went into the meeting. The witness testified that Jungle Jabbah arrived while he was there. At that time, Jungle Jabbah had “dada” (dreadlocks) and often wore a big cap. He was slim. Jungle Jabbah was not around when they made the complaint. The commissioner lodged the complaint to ECOMOG. They were told that the only way to be convinced of the complaint was if they brought the victims there as proof. They had to carry the bodies of the victims to Sinje to show ECOMOG. When they got to ECOMOG, the wounded were put in a helicopter and sent to Monrovia for treatment. They buried George’s body. Then the men turned around and went back to the village.
The witness described another ULIMO-K soldier named Tony in Dassalamu. Tony reported that, according to his ledger, Jungle Jabbah is the one who assigned him to go and create a base in Dassalamu. The soldier who killed George was second in command. The same man who killed George and who shot the town chief was assigned to be commander of the village. Whenever they needed food, they would go around and collect from the town. It took about six people to do the collection.
The second time the witness saw Jungle Jabbah was the night they arrived at Dassalamu. Soldiers came in cars. Tony stayed in town as commander—he was very tall. Another soldier named Ten Thousand Man Trouble stayed as deputy commander. Tony ordered the chief to bring lanterns. At that time there was no kerosene or fuel, so they used oil. One lantern was put at town hall and another lantern was placed where Jungle Jabbah was based. Tony told the chief that they wanted food and some villagers were forced to pound rice. Tony came out of the town hall and ordered some women to go cook for them. The witness confirmed he also knew the town chief’s wife. She was one of the women that Tony collected and ordered to cook.
Some people from the town hall, including the chief, were later taken down behind the mosque; the witness never saw them alive again. The witness was in a hut nearby and could see Jungle Jabbah on a neighboring porch talking to the chief. He couldn’t hear what Jungle Jabbah and others were saying to him on the porch, but then he saw them leading the chief around the side of the house. The witness was still in the palaver hut when he heard two gunshots. The witness used a video clip of the town to show the jury where his brother, the chief, was killed behind the house.
The witness was overcome with emotion while speaking about his brother and needed a break from testifying to calm down.
When he resumed testifying, he said that he saw Jungle Jabbah and others get into a vehicle. They were told that the place was no longer safe for them, so the soldiers marched them to Danielstown. Some soldiers were in front and others were behind the group as they marched in line. There was no way to even attempt to run away. One man’s father was sick, so he asked a soldier (the one who had killed the chief) if one of his brothers could stay with his father because he couldn’t walk at night. The brother was allowed to stay behind. The next day, they asked the soldier to let them go back to the town to get their father and bring him over to Danielstown with them. They were ordered to collect items from the village and bring them back when they returned. When his brother returned, he burst out crying and described finding the chief’s dead body. The witness testified that his brother told him, “we have lost” and explained how he had gone behind house and seen the body. The soldiers had cut open his chest and taken out his heart.
On cross-examination, the witness was asked about the photograph of Jungle Jabbah and asked if he had been previously shown the photo in Liberia. He testified that the government had shown it to him and that he was able to identify Jungle Jabbah in the image. The witness also recalled that he had been shown more than one photo and was able to identify Jungle Jabbah in the photos. He confirmed that Jungle Jabbah wore a large round cap during that time along with a military uniform.
When asked by defense counsel to repeat details about the killings, he recounted that George was shot near the end of the year, another was shot in leg, and another beaten by stick—all when ULIMO first came to the village. Those people were taken to the ECOMOG base and then to Monrovia.
The witness testified that during the war years, he saw NPFL soldiers in Dassalamu. The first time he saw them, they passed through on their way South. They came to meet the town chief, and asked for sheep and goats. The chief had no choice in whether to give them the animals or not; he told them to take what they wanted.
The witness also recounted that he was an athlete when he was younger and once encountered a soldier named Qadaffi while playing football. Qadaffi was a ULIMO-K commander. While he was playing football, Qadaffi walked right onto the field and took the trophy and the championship prize money. People asked him why he was doing that and he said because his boss, Jungle Jabbah, sent him. The witness remembered seeing Jungle Jabbah about two weeks later.
The witness identified photographs of Danielstown. There was a weekly market held on Thursdays in Danielstown that was used by people living in Dassalamu. He saw Jungle Jabbah there when he went to the market with his mother to sell cassava leaf paper during the war. They saw two pickups coming down the road and saw them park right on the road. People started calling out to Jungle Jabbah by name. That was the first time the witness saw him. The witness was 12 years old at the time. Jungle Jabbah was walking with his armed guards. The following Thursday he and his mother were in the same spot and Jungle Jabbah came again by car. He drove up at high speed and he and his men got out of the car. His soldiers ran straight into the market with their guns. They were demanding the people put the goods from the market into the car. People started to run and he and his mother decided it was time to leave. The third time he saw Jungle Jabbah, he arrived with his soldiers in three cars. He was wearing camouflage and sunglasses. His soldiers were taking the goods from the market and putting it in their car. They were forcing local venders to put their items in the cars as well.
The witness also testified about the time when George was killed. One morning, the witness was sitting on the bench under the mango tree. The bench was made out of a long plank and people were sitting on it. The witness was sitting on the mango roots. They saw the soldiers enter the town. There were seven men and the soldiers came straight towards them. George was sitting on the edge of the bench. A soldier shot George. George ran across the street and behind the house before he fell. One of the soldiers walked over to make sure George was dead. George had hunting dogs with him. After George was killed, the dogs went over to George to see what was happening. The soldiers shot and killed the two dogs also. The witness showed the jury where the events took place using a photo of the town.
Defense counsel had no cross-examination questions for this witness.
The witness testified that the town chief was her husband. She recalled for the jury the night her husband was killed. She was pregnant at the time. One day fighters entered Dassalamu. They forced her into her home and held her captive there. Other people were held captive in her home also. She identified a picture of her house for the jury.
Her husband was killed late that night. Before he was killed, a soldier brought something to her husband and put it on the bed. The soldier said: “This is your brother’s heart. We came to show it to you because we’re going to kill you and take yours out too.” A short time later they brought him outside and took him away. She heard him screaming. A soldier then brought his heart to show her.
The witness became very emotional during her testimony and the court took a break so she could regain her composure.
When she resumed testifying, she recalled that the soldiers informed her that their chief said he wanted her husband’s heart. One of the soldiers came in and ordered her to cook it. She made the fire and put it in a pot. She testified that she “was not herself.” They told her to “make herself strong” and said that if she didn’t cook it they would kill her. The soldier told her that his boss said he wanted the heart so she must cook it. He warned her that if she didn’t “make herself strong” and cook it, he would be killed too.
The witness testified that while she was in the kitchen preparing the heart, the soldiers wanted to rape her. She ran away and hid in the bush behind the house. When she went into the bush, she fell and just laid there. She was naked, because the soldiers had stripped her before she ran out of the house. The witness recalled that after a while her friend came looking for her. She told her friend that the soldiers killed her husband and gave her his heart to cook. Then she passed out.
On cross examination, the witness was asked what year her husband was killed. She thought it was around 1990 but was not sure. She testified that when they were able to come back to the town after a while, they saw his remains. Her brothers buried his remains in the village up the hill.
Witness 17 Recalled to the Witness Stand
Next the prosecution recalled Witness 17 to the stand to present identification evidence omitted when he first testified. The witness testified about seeing Jungle Jabbah in the market. He described Jungle Jabbah as “black but not too dark, with dreads.” The witness remembered that Jungle Jabbah was wearing camouflage shorts the day he saw him. The witness identified a photograph of Jungle Jabbah.
On cross-examination, defense counsel asked the witness if he had earlier testified that Jungle Jabbah was wearing a cap in the market when he first saw him. The witness denied saying that. He also asked the witness to clarify Jungle Jabbah’s skin tone, which the witness described as “light-skinned.”
The witness confirmed that he went to the market frequently and that the market existed during the rebel occupation. When asked if he continued to go back to the market on Thursdays even after he saw Jungle Jabbah there, he confirmed that he did. He testified that he eventually stopped after some time.
In response to the defense counsel’s questions, the witness stated that he does not know the exact year when ULIMO came to his village.
The witness was asked how he got into contact with prosecutors. He explained that one day he came to town and was playing checkers with some people. They were talking about the war and about how people had been killed during the war. He joined them at checkers and began to tell his story too. When he got up to leave, one of the men came up to him and asked for his name. He said he wasn’t in a good mood, but the man asked for his number. The man contacted him a few days later and asked him to meet to talk. Eventually they met one afternoon. They sat down to talk and the man asked him who killed his people. He said he didn’t want to talk about it because it was in the past and it hurt his heart. But the man encouraged him to talk and eventually he did. The man asked if he knew the person’s name that was responsible and he said it was Jungle Jabbah. The man asked if he knew others who knew something about this case and he gave him some names. The man worked for the organization Global Justice.
In a brief re-direct examination, the prosecutor asked the witness to clarify what he meant when he described Jungle Jabbah’s skin color as “light-skinned” and the witness acknowledged that it was darker than the prosecutor’s own skin tone.
The witness began his testimony by providing biographical details, including that he is a member of the Kpelle ethnic group.
The witness described how during the first civil war, he went to a place called Tubmanburg in Bomi Hills. He went there because wanted work and that was the only area with a mining industry. He wanted to do gold mining. While there, he encountered the ULIMO. The witness recounted how he left Tubmanburg and went to the Lofa Bridge area as a result of his contact with ULIMO. Lofa Bridge is also a mining area for gold and diamonds. Before ULIMO came, miners would dig and the mine owners would give the workers a small portion of whatever they mined to keep for themselves as compensation. But when ULIMO came this practice changed. They took over the mining business. The owners were beaten and tied up and order to hand over their business. The witness testified that the leader of the group was Jungle Jabbah. Jungle Jabbah was living in the Lofa Bridge town also.
The witness identified a photograph of Jungle Jabbah.
The witness explained that when ULIMO took over, Jungle Jabbah called a meeting in the market area. He told the people that he had taken over from the previous leaders and said that people should work with him. He told them that anyone who found diamonds or gold must turn it over to him so they could “all work together.” The witness testified that this arrangement did not work for him. Originally, when working for the mine owners, they would be given their portions as compensation. With Jungle Jabbah that no longer happened. Jungle Jabbah’s people watched over the miners and took anything they found away from them. The miners were no longer allowed to keep a portion. When they asked about this they were told “next time,” but it never happened. Jungle Jabbah assigned armed soldiers to watch over them. The witness testified that the first group of people who tried to run away were caught and beaten. This created fear among everyone else so no one would attempt to run away again.
The witness left less than two weeks after Jungle Jabbah took over. People were running away in the night to find a better place to live. The witness testified that he was scared but had to take the risk because staying was not good for him. He wanted to work to get something for himself that he could take back to Monrovia. Mining had turned out to be “slavery work,” he said. He explained that “whatever you did, whatever you got, was taken away from you.” When he fled he went to Wayju. Wayju was also a mining area; it had gold mines. When he first got there, the situation was the same as it was originally in Lofa Bridge. When he got there, people were mining for themselves, just as they had been originally. The witness explained that gold mining is not easy work; it is a very hard undertaking. Sometimes they would have to drill a rock down to small pebbles. They would do this by rubbing it over a sharp surface and pouring water over it. The gold mixes with the water in the gravel, the sand rises to the top and the gold particles are caught. He explained that one continues to wash the substance until you eventually get very pure gold. The witness identified photos of the tools used in gold mining.
The witness explained that things soon changed in Wayju. Jungle Jabbah and his men extended their reach to Wayju. They took over the entire place and the mining there as well. They confiscated the sites for themselves. The witness was working at one of the sights that got confiscated. While working there, he saw Jungle Jabbah almost every day. Jungle Jabbah lived in Lofa Bridge so he used to come around to collect the gold. There were a lot of soldiers guarding the mines, including two that watched over the witness while he was mining. They were armed child soldiers and carried guns. The witness explained that it was the only means they could use to stop the workers from running. When asked to describe how he felt about being forced to work by boys with guns, the witness responded that it was “very insulting.” They would take him to neighboring towns and along the way the children would demand to be carried. They would sit on his back and hold on by grabbing his ears. They would hang the guns around their backs. He couldn’t escape because the kids had guns. “No matter what you tried to do,” he said, “they could beat you up or shoot at you.” Some of the men were subjected to that. Sometimes Jungle Jabbah would come to the mining sites.
The witness lived near the site in a thatched hut with sides and a roof made of palm branches. Those were the only available structures for people to live in. His friend owned the structure and they divided the hut into two parts. Another man stayed there as well. The witness and the other man stayed in one part while the owner and his wife stayed in the other.
The witness recounted that they lived “like slaves.” There was no food to eat. They had nothing, he said. When they got some gold, Jungle Jabbah’s soldiers would come take it or Jabbah would come get it himself. His friend’s wife would go looking for cassava for them to eat. One time the wife came to the mine to bring food to the men and Jungle Jabbah was there. Jungle Jabbah asked who the woman was. The witness said they were too scared to talk. Jungle Jabbah told the woman to follow him but she was too scared to move. Jungle Jabbah ordered his soldiers take the woman and follow him. They left town with her and didn’t return until the following morning. She couldn’t get to where the men were, so she stayed at the house next door. The witness testified that they knew what happened when Jungle Jabbah took her away. He explained that there were rumors that Jungle Jabbah used to take woman to “use for himself,” and it happened right before their eyes that day. Her husband was very worried and very hurt; he felt very bad. The witness had been with the husband the night the woman didn’t return. The witness and the other housemate had stayed with him and consoled him. They all slept in his room with him; he couldn’t sleep in his room alone. The next day when they saw his wife, she was in tears. She was very disturbed, he recalled. According to the witness, she was so ashamed she couldn’t even come near them. When neighbors told them she was back, the witness and his housemate went to her to take her back home. They brought her to the house but her husband could not stand the situation. They kept talking to him but that night the wife slept in the witness’s room and her husband slept in the other room. The woman had relatives in another town and they heard news of what had happened. They came to visit to try to talk to them, but the husband could not appreciate what they were saying. The witness recalled how he also continued to talk to the husband but the husband just couldn’t understand. The woman’s family decided to take her back home hoping that her husband would move past this and come to get her. He confirmed that the woman was not a minor; she was an adult. But as they continued to talk to the man he couldn’t understand and never got over it; he never went for his wife.
On cross-examination, defense counsel pressed the witness about whether his Kpelle ethnic group was allied with the NPFL during the war. The witness said he believed some of the people supported Charles Taylor.
He was asked again what had happened to make him leave the gold mine after two weeks. The witness explained again that when ULIMO took over there was no more pay so he escaped. Defense counsel asked if he was being held at Lofa mine against his will and the witness said that he was; that’s why he had to escape. According to the witness, Wayju was a distance away from Lofa Bridge. Defense counsel asked the witness to point out the towns on a map of Liberia.
The defense counsel pressed the witness about whether it was true that he had really worked at two separate mines that ULIMO took control of. The witness confirmed that it was true. Defense counsel suggested that the witness was living there voluntarily and was not being forced to stay. The witness said there were checkpoints manned all the time by soldiers. Defense counsel asked how it was possible that the woman’s family was able to enter the area and take her back to their home village. The witness responded that the soldiers guarding the area knew their faces, knew who they were, but suggested it was different for women. The husband was not allowed to leave, only the woman.
The witness testified on cross-examination that he stayed in Wayju until the middle of 1993. He said that he tried to find his way to Monrovia but he couldn’t make it. He made it as far as the St. Paul River, a very large river. Defense counsel asked if there was a bridge crossing the river. The witness responded that he was a stranger to the area and didn’t know everything about the area. He never made it to Monrovia, he said.
The defense counsel asked the witness when he first reported the mistreatment to any authority. The witness explained that there was no one there except Jungle Jabbah, his group, and ULIMO. Defense counsel asked why he didn’t report it in the 24 years since the war. The witness said there was no one to tell. Eventually he got in touch with people to tell his story in 2016.
The witness began his testimony by confirming that Liberia held a big election the day before. He was not able to vote because he is in the United States, but if he was in Liberia he would have voted. He said that he is not sure how long he’s been in the U.S.—he’s not counting, but he’s ready to go home.
He testified that the first rebel group he saw after the war came was the NPFL. Life was bad, he said, and there was no food. The NPFL took their food from them, they were under the NPFL’s control, and had to move loads for them between their bases. The NPFL were driven away in 1992 by ULIMO. Under ULIMO life was still bad, the witness recalled. It was another rebel group. He testified that when ULIMO soldiers saw NPFL members, they captured and killed them. He said that people were tied up and shot. ULIMO knew who the NPFL members were by asking the locals if anyone’s child was affiliated with the NPFL.
He explained that ULIMO fighters belonging to the Krahn tribe were called “ULIMO-J,” named after the faction’s leader, Roosevelt Johnson (the “J” referred to the first initial of “Johnson”).
The witness testified that under ULIMO control, he could not continue farming. When the fighting reached Tubmanburg, everyone fled. While he was fleeing, he recalled hearing gunfire. He testified that he fled across the St. Paul River. Men, women, and children hid in the bush. The witness recounted that the ULIMO commander, Jungle Jabbah, sent soldiers to search the bush. They captured the people and took them to Bopolu. Jungle Jabbah’s group was called “ULIMO-K.” He testified that he knew the name of the group who captured him because they told him that they belonged to the “other side” and that the soldiers accused him of being “reconnaissance.” In Bopolu, the soldiers took them to the center of town. He testified that this was the first time he had been to Bopolu. The witness recalled that one of the soldiers called out to Jungle Jabbah when they first arrived and told him that they had brought the “prisoners.” The soldiers informed Jungle Jabbah that the captives were soldiers from ULIMO-J and were “reconnaissance.” The witness testified that this was not true; he was a civilian, not a soldier. The soldiers separated the men from the women and children. Jungle Jabbah ordered the soldiers to beat the men and then jail them in their compound located up a hill.
The witness testified that Jungle Jabbah was about ten feet away from him at the time. He described Jungle Jabbah as “slim, black, with a Rasta-head or ‘dada’ (dreadlocks).”
The witness spent three days in the jail. There was no food. After three days, the soldiers took them out and Jungle Jabbah ordered them to be brought to Lofa Bridge.
The witness was still testifying when court ended for the day; he will continue his testimony on Thursday morning.