Emotional witness tells war crimes court ‘Angel Gabriel’ burned people alive

The witness says several people were killed by RUF rebels under the command of “Angel Gabriel” who he said is the same Gibril Massaquoi.

By Joaquin M. Sendolo*

The four-judge panel from Finland listens to testimony in Liberia in the trial of Gibril Massaquoi Leslie Lumeh/New Narratives

It was an emotional day in the war crimes trial of Gibril Massaquoi (Angel Gabriel) as one of the witnesses broke down in tears as he described the day he said fighters under Massaquoi’s command locked 75 people in a kitchen and set them ablaze in 2001 in Kiatanhun in Lofa County.

Over the past three weeks the Finnish court, holding hearings in Liberia, heard from witnesses who accused Mr Massaquoi of atrocities at the Waterside Bridge in Monrovia.

On Tuesday the focus of his alleged crimes moved to Lofa County, in Liberia’s north-western region which had been a base for RUF fighters when they first entered Sierra Leone to start the rebellion that would plunge that country into 11 years civil war in 1991.

“When the soldiers, some of them speaking Mende, Creole, and the Liberian English, came and captured us, they put 75 of our people in a kitchen and set them ablaze because these soldiers believed that the people were bulletproof and could not be killed using guns,” the witness told the court.

“I can say I was the only survivor because one of those soldiers, ‘God First’, had love for me and asked his soldiers not to kill me,” the man, codenamed Civilian 50 told the four-judge panel through tears. The court was suspended for a time as the man regained his composure.

The witness said before the rebels killed the group in the kitchen, they had killed an old man named Siafa Tulay. He told the court that he was kept alive because he was literate and the fighters decided he was useful to them.

“They put on my head a tin of red oil to take to Sierra Leone through Vahun to sell and we used bush roads through Kpokolahun,” he told the court.

“I was among them in Sierra Leone when they were saying ‘who wants short or long sleeve?’ When you say you want a long sleeve, they cut your hand right here,” said the witness pointing to a place on his arm that indicated arms would be cut above the elbow. The RUF terrorized Sierra Leone cutting the hands and arms from civilians including children.

The witness made clear that the man on trial directed the events that he witnessed in Lofa.

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