Accused Liberian Warlord Calls Plaintiffs Criminals in Paris War Crimes Trial
By Anthony Stephens with New Narratives
PARIS, France—Kunti Kamara has lashed out at the ten plaintiffs in his trial for crimes against humanity here calling them “criminals” and professing his innocence on charges of cannibalism, torture, rape, murder and forced labor.
Kamara, 47, has conceded he was a commander with the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (Ulimo) during its four-month occupation of Foya in Lofa County, Liberia in 1993. Dozens of witnesses have told the court harrowing stories of atrocities they claim Kamara committed himself or directed others to do. On Thursday Kamara repeated his attacks against the witnesses, questioning their honesty.
“They are the criminals. I am not the criminal. I can’t fool you people,” he said in response to a question from prosecutors. “All these people that are coming, you can see the network. When they are talking, they are giving information to each other.”
Kamara has spoken repeatedly of a network of people who he claims have conspired to lie about his actions during the war. He has said he fought on the frontlines only and did not have command in towns. He has said he saw no human rights violations committed by Ulimo troops. In court Kamara said he didn’t care about consequences of his allegations against the witnesses.
“Even if I spend 100 years in jail, that’s how God decide for me,” he said denying he had ever met any of his accusers. “Those people, I don’t know them today, I don’t know them tomorrow.”
All of Kamara’s direct accusers have travelled from Foya in Liberia to testify at this trial. Some have said he was complicit in their alleged rapes and torture, others said they saw him murdering people, including a woman he allegedly called a witch. But Kamara accused the witnesses of seeking personal enrichment by testifying against him.
“She said, ‘I am suffering, you please help me.’” he said referring to a witness who told the court she had suffered terribly as a single parent since she alleged Kamara murdered her husband, a schoolteacher. “You join this time for justice, or you join it for personal interest?”
Kamara denied knowing the schoolteacher and said he was not in Foya at the time the man was allegedly tortured and killed, his heart cut out and eaten by Kamara and his troops. Kamara also repeated an allegation he made earlier in the trial that he’s being prosecuted because he’s a member of the Mandingo ethnic group.
“I fought war. I’ve never been afraid of war. But I am afraid of a plot,” said Kamara. “There are some Ulimo generals in Europe. They know the people that are coming are liars!”
He claimed his accusers were all members of the Kissi ethnic group. Throughout this trial, Kamara alleged the trial was an effort to fight an ongoing tribal conflict between the Mandingo and Kissi. Most of the accusers are from the Kissi but at least one is from the Gbandi ethnic group.
He also accused the Swiss based human rights NGO, Civitas Maxima, which is also a plaintiff in this case, and its Liberian partner, the Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP) headed by Hassan Billity of bribing former Ulimo soldiers.
“They even told me that Hassan Bility goes to attire shops to listen to information about Ulimo soldiers. Attire shops is where former commanders be,” he said. “Money can do anything. When you come to us Liberians, money can do anything.”
GJRP and Civitas have documented Kamara’s alleged crimes. They’ve also been behind more than a dozen investigations and trials of alleged perpetrators in Liberia’s civil wars. Bility and Civitas have repeatedly denied the allegations and no credible evidence has ever been presented to back the claims.
“We work with the highest degree and level of integrity,” said Alain Werner, Director of Civitas Maxima, in an interview after his testimony to the court on Wednesday. “Hassan Bility and all the investigators in Liberia and all my legal staff have been trained in the Hague by the best and the most honest criminal investigation institution. Those police, those investigators, those prosecutors do their job. They check the information, do their own research and for me, it’s always funny to think that I could have the power to manipulate anything.”
Earlier in the day, Kamara, who has repeatedly referred to himself as a battlefront commander said that he was just a “floating officer” who did not have a regular position.
But a French investigating judge in the case had found that Kamara controlled two sections of Ulimo and reported to generals “Deku” and Mohammed Dumuyah, according to the indictment.
Kamara had also told the court during the first two weeks of the trial that he was a platoon commander and had 80 men under his command, a claim Alieu Kosiah, a convicted and sentenced Liberian war criminal who traveled from prison in Switzerland to testify here rejected.
On Thursday Kamara changed that testimony.
“I was not controlling two groups on the front line. Maybe they did not understand me. Kosiah came here and made it clear. Maybe, I may forget. Maybe I may say something that I may not remember. I may say it, but I can’t remember,” he said in a confusing response to court president Thierry Fusina’s questions.
The trial continues on Friday with the civil parties presenting their closing arguments in the case.
This story is a collaboration with New Narratives as part of the West Africa Justice Reporting Project.