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Blood diamonds and war crimes: the conflict in Sierra Leone PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bruno Waterfield in The Hague   
Tuesday, 10 August 2010 11:17

Naomi Campbell gives evidence at the Charles Taylor War Crimes trial in the Hague: Over 120,000 people were killed and two million displaced in Sierra Leone’s civil war which was marked by brutal atrocities, the use of enslaved child soldiers and widespread use of amputation as a weapon of terror.  

 Right from the beginning the Revolutionary United Front, insurgents allegedly backed by Charles Taylor, a Liberian warlord later to become the country’s leader, based their violent strategy on seizing control of Sierra Leone’s diamond mines.

First operating from Liberia the RUF quickly established a reputation for brutality, beheading community leaders and raping women and children to terrorise the civilian population.

The signature terror tactic of the rebels was physical mutilation and an estimated 20,000 civilians suffered amputation, with machetes and axes being used to sever arms, legs, lips, and ears.

The RUF was also became notorious for its Small Boys Units, made up of child soldiers as young as eight who were forcibly recruited and then drugged and sent to fight with AK47 assault rifles. The children became among the most feared units in what became one of the world's most vicious civil wars.

It was an RUF assault on Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown in May 2000 and the taking hostage of hundreds of UN military observers that led to Britain sending 1,500 peacekeepers.

Two years later the conflict had ended after a Western intervention that still remains model military operation for humanitarians.

 

 ................................. More News ....................................

 

Naomi Campbell accused over Charles Taylor trial evidence

 By Joe Sinclair, Press Association - Thursday, 5 August 2010

 

Supermodel Naomi Campbell was accused of being not "entirely truthful" today after telling the war crimes trial of Charles Taylor how she was woken in the night and given a pouch containing "small, dirty-looking stones" following a charity dinner.

Giving evidence to the court in The Hague, Netherlands, Campbell described the proceedings as a "big inconvenience" and said she feared they would put her family in danger.

She told how two men knocked on her door in the middle of night as she stayed at the home of former South African president Nelson Mandela and presented her with a pouch containing gems.

Campbell is alleged to have received the gift after a star-studded party hosted by Mr Mandela in South Africa in September 1997.

The model said she discussed the incident with fellow guests the morning after the charity dinner and was told: "That's obviously Charles Taylor."

Campbell is said to have received a "blood diamond" from Taylor, whose faces charges including criminal responsibility for murder, rape, sexual slavery and the use of child soldiers.

The 40-year-old model, from Streatham, south London, refused to take part in the trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague until she was issued with a subpoena.

Taylor is accused of arming and controlling Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a rebel force responsible for widespread atrocities.

The 62-year-old, who denies all charges against him, is alleged to have used diamonds from the RUF to buy arms, which he allegedly shipped from Burkina Faso to the Sierra Leone junta at the Magburaka airfield in October 1997.


Taylor rejects allegations that he possessed or carried rough diamonds. Campbell said she had "read up" on Taylor using the internet and had not wanted to attend today's hearing.

"This is a big inconvenience for me. I really don't want anything to do with this and I care about the protection of my family," she said.

This is someone, I read up on the internet, that has killed thousands of people, supposedly, and I don't want my family in danger in any way."

Prosecutor Brenda Hollis questioned Campbell's account.

She asked the model: "Isn't it correct that your account today is not entirely truthful because of fear of Charles Taylor?"

Campbell replied: "No, that's not correct." The "cross-examination" of Campbell, as a prosecution witness, was branded "totally improper" by defence barrister Courtenay Griffiths QC.

In documents submitted to the court, actress Mia Farrow, who was also at the party, said Campbell had provided an "unforgettable story" of the incident the following morning.

She said: "She told us she had been awakened in the night by knocking at her door. She opened the door to find two or three men - I do not recall how many - who presented her with a large diamond which they said was from Charles Taylor."

Farrow's story was backed up by the model's former agent, Carole White, who said she had even held the diamonds in her own hands. The pair are due to give evidence next week.

Speaking in detail about the gift for the first time, Campbell told the court that she was woken by two strangers and handed a pouch.

Asked what she thought the gift was, she said: "They were dirty-looking pebbles. I'm used to seeing diamonds, shiny and in a box."

She told the court that the men had knocked on her door and said: "There's a gift for you."

She said there were "maybe two or three" stones.

Campbell said she was told the stones were "probably" diamonds.

She "assumed" they were a gift from Taylor, whom she had met for the first time at that night's event.

The stones were in her possession for six hours before she gave them to Jeremy Ratcliffe, the former head of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, she said.

"Once I handed them over... it was out of my hands," she added.

The model insisted she had wanted them to be donated to charity but said: "He still has them so they didn't benefit."

Campbell denied being a "boastful person" and flirting with Taylor during the dinner.

"When I am with Nelson Mandela - and I think everyone in the world feels the same way - my focus and attention is on him," she said.

She was asked to identify her fellow guests. They included Taylor, Jemima and Imran Khan, Mr Mandela and his wife, music producer Quincy Jones and actress Farrow.

The court was shown a photograph of the group, in which Campbell stood alongside Taylor.

Under cross-examination by Mr Griffiths, Campbell denied speaking directly to Taylor, the former leader of Liberia.

"I spoke in general," she said. "I was interested in him. I had never heard of Liberia before. He said that he was the president of Liberia."

Documents from the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, which were presented in court, "categorically" stated that the charity had not received the diamonds, although records showed that Campbell made cash donations in 1997 and 1998.

The war, in the world’s poorest country, officially played out between 1996 and 2002 but the real conflict, and the Liberia backed and Libya trained rebels behind the insurgency, dated back to 1991. Over a decade of fighting, fuelled by the use of “blood diamonds” to fund insurgents, only ended after Tony Blair sent British troops into the country in an intervention later used to justify the invasion of Iraq. {jcomments on}

 

Editorial

2016 Global Peace Conference to be held in Freetown---as IPRA 50th Birthday confab ends in Istanbul

 

The 26th biennal conference of the Internatonal Peace Research Association (IPRA) is billed to take place in  Freetown, Sierra Leone in November 2016, marking the second time Africa has hosted the conference since the founding of IPRA in 1964. This was announced following the re-election of  the two IPRA Secretaries-general, Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw (pictured) and Dr Nesrin Kenar, who co-ordinated the 25th  IPRA conference in Turkey,  at the organisation’s administrative meeting on August 14 during the 25th  IPRA  conference in Istanbul  to serve a second term of two years.

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Business News

Why Parastatals should be Socially Responsible: the Case of NRA

In Sierra Leone, the notion of corporate social responsibility has always been associated with the private sector. No wonder some people see the active involvement of the National Revenue Authority (NRA) in corporate social activities as strange, and many have opined that a tax collecting body should not be engaged in corporate social responsibility activities.

However, the impact of corporate social responsibility (CSR) on corporate image is immense, even for tax collecting bodies. The perception that tax collectors are monsters vigorously bent on collecting people's earnings with no care for the environment or the vulnerable in the community they operate is evolving. Indeed, many revenue authorities in Africa are today socially responsible.

The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) in an article in its website argues that "the nature of Revenue Collectors' mandate makes them the hill of the nation such that whatever they do is mirrored and echoed by many".

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Media News

44 Journalists in Beijing for China Development Studies and Media Exchange

The 4th session of the China Africa Press Center (CAPC) Program hosted by the China Public Diplomacy Association (CPDA) was officially launched on Wednesday 1st March 2017 in Beijing, China. This year’s event is running simultaneously with the China South Asia Center 2017 program. Both programs brought together forty-four journalists from Africa and South Asia.

The program you will give journalists the opportunity to cover major domestic and international events in China such as the upcoming Two Sessions, i.e, the 5th Session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) and the 5th Session of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese

People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) (similar to Parliamentary sessions in many countries) in March, the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in May and the 9th BRICS Summit in Autumn this year.

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Commentary

Dr. David Tam-Baryoh: A New Broom in Sierra Leone Politics

Dr. David Tam-Baryoh is a household name in Sierra Leone, mostly because of his“Good Governance” popular radio programme called monologue. In fact the programme has become sopopular that most people prefer to call the presenter “Mr. Monologue”. Recently Mr. Monologue said in two or three of his programmes that he would be going intopolitics. It looked like a joke the first time he said it. But after saying it over threeor four times it is no longer a joke.

So Dr. David Tam-Baryoh is going into politics in 2018. Those who are very closeto him will tell you that this is a fact. The Doctor has made up his mind. Afterdiscussing and editing serious national issues on newspaper pages and on the airwaves for almost twenty five years, hehas decided that he cannot achieve much for the people behind the microphone and the pen. He now wants toengage into something that will make a direct impact on the lives of Sierra Leoneans.

And the Doctor thinks politics is the best way to do this, if we look at politics as“the authoritative allocation of scarce resources within a nation state.” He wants tobe part of the allocation of Sierra Leone’s scarce resources.

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View Point

Precious Minerals, Public Trust and Government’s Openness

By late 2001, the Anti Corruption Commission arrested then Sierra Leone's  transport and communications minister, together with his wife, “for involvement in illegal diamond mining” in Kenema district.  Large quantum of illicit diamonds had been found in their possession, according to a BBC report at the time.

With some diamonds said to have been smuggled out of the country by the minister, the incident happened at a time when the rebel war was raging and the key perpetrators- the RUF were also seriously involved in illicit mining and smuggling. The minister was later jailed in 2003 for two years for illegal possession of diamonds.

Amongst other factors, Sierra Leone’s civil war was fuelled mainly by diamond, specifically “conflict diamonds”- those diamonds that originated from territories controlled by rebel forces (UN definition).

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News - Press Release

LAB resolves dispute over property in Kissy

The Legal Aid Board’s Alternative Dispute Resolution on Tuesday, 7 March 2017 resolved a long standing dispute in respect of a property on Newcastle Street, in Kissy, Freetown between one Mr. Solomon Samba Mansaray and his seventy-seven year old elder sister Madam Marian Kamara who is in the country on holiday from the United States of America.

The two who had not been on speaking terms were reconciled. Both promised to work together in the interest of peace in the family. In this vein, Madam Marian Kamara agreed to cancel a U$ 400 debt owed by Mr. Mansaray. 

While the tension between the two had been lingering several years,Mr. Mansaray decided to report the matter to the Board in Freetown when he got information that Madam Marian Kamara was planning to sell theproperty.   The owner of the property who is the sister of both parties had died over a decade ago without leaving a will.

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Society -Local News

LAB secures discharge of ‘violent’ youth

As the Legal Aid Board prepares to provide legal assistance to indigents and children engaged in election related violence, it has successfully secured the discharge of a twenty-five old from Wilberforce in the West of Freetown charged with violence.

The Legal Aid Defence Counsel Hadiru Daboh secured the discharge after drawing the court’s attention to the failure of the complainant to attend court sittings for seven consecutive adjournments. What’s more, the complainant has not furnished the court with any reasons for his absence. Magistrate I.S. Bangura agreed with the Defence Counsel and discharged the matter. He noted that discharge would not stop the prosecution from reinstating the matter in future.

The accused, Alpha Kanuwho plied his trade as driver and apprentice at the Wilberforce lorry park got involved in a fight with his boss Michael Aruna in February 2017. He was arrested and taken to the Congo Cross Police station following a complaint by his boss. According to Alpha Kanu, his injuries were ignored by the police even though they were more serious. He spent fifteen days at the Congo police station before the matter was charged to court.

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Development

U.S. Africa Command Launches a 33-Nation Maritime Exercise: Sierra Leone Maritime “Full Speed Ahead”

During March 23-31, the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) issponsoring “Obangame Express”, an in-port Command Post exerciseand at-sea maritime exercise designed to enhance maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.The exercise includes 33 partner nations, as well as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). 

The exercise is designed to improve cooperation andinformation sharing, and to refine tactics, techniques and procedures among participating nations.

The “Obangame Express”exercise will be based on realistic modern-day scenarios such as piracy, illegal fishing and hijacking.  During the exercise,Maritime Operations Centers (MOCs) will be challenged to recognize illicit acts and share trackinginformation with other MOCs throughout the region.

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Politics

Ansumana Usman Koroma Urges Sierra Leoneans To Support the Registration Process

The winner of the Pride of Australia Award, Ansumana Usman Koroma popularly known as AUK has called on all Sierra Leoneans within and outside Sierra Leone to support and fully participate in both the ongoing voter registration that has started March 20 to end April 19 2017 and the forthcoming nationwide civil registration process slated April 24 to June 11 2017.

AUK who is a Political and Policy Analyst working in Australia said the mass registration of every citizen is a very important process in the development agenda of the country. He therefore appealed to all Sierra Leoneans to put politics aside and understand that the process would help government consolidate citizens’ data and enhance effective service delivery and improve monitoring of government programmes and policies.

He stressed that the national civil registration authority is created to promote a greater sense of nationalism and common identity.

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