Liberia: EX-LURD Gen. “K-1” Formally Indicted in US

Laye Sekou Camara, aka “K-1” or “General Dragon Master,” accused of committing acts of brutality in the Second Liberian Civil War, has been formally indicted over alleged immigration fraud charges by the Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania. Above, a photo allegedly shows a Liberian rebel group including Camara, left, celebrating near Monrovia, Liberia, on August 5, 2003.GEORGES GOBET/AFP/GETTY

MONROVIA – The US Government has formally indicted for immigration fraud, Sekou Camera, commonly known as “K-1”, a former fierce general of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, LURD.

By Anthony Stephens with New Narratives

LURD, one of two rebel groups that forced then Liberian President, Charles Taylor out of power in 2003, committed 18,797 or 12% of all atrocities reported to Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, during the first and second civil wars. Such alleged crimes include rape, murder, torture and looting. The numbers are only second to Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia, NPFL committed during the first war—63, 843, or 39%, the report added.

But the report made no mention of General “K-1”, although the TRC said its findings of human rights violations of the wars are not exhaustive.

“In June 2011, Camara submitted an application for a non-immigrant visa to the United States. In that application Camara falsely contended, among other things, that he: 1) was not a member of a tribe; 2) had never served in or been a member of a rebel group or insurgent organization”, the Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania, where he will be prosecuted quoted a portion of the indictment on its website as saying. The court further said of the indictment that Camera allegedly lied to immigration officials that he “had never committed, ordered, incited, assisted or otherwise participated in political killings or other acts of violence”. 

“Camara’s application was approved and he was issued a non-immigrant visa which he used to enter the United States, it added”. 

It is the same Court that prosecuted for similar crimes, Mohammed Jabateh, commonly known as “Jungle Jabbah, a former general of the United Liberation for Democracy, ULIMO and Tom Woewiyu, the number two to Taylor in the NPFL leadership structure after they were arrested, charged, and indicted by US authorities. Jabated was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in jail by the Court, while Woewiyu was convicted, but died of COVID-19 in April 2020 as he awaited his sentence. Just like during those two trials, the Swiss based CM, Civitas Maxima and its Liberian counterpart, GJRP, the Global Justice and Research Project were involved with Camera’s investigation, which culminated in his arrest and indictment. 

The indictment said Camara, 43, also known as “Dragon Master,” “falsely contended, among other things, that he: 1) was not seeking and had not sought a visa, entry into the United States, or any immigration benefit by fraud or misrepresentation; and 2) had never engaged in the recruitment or use of child soldiers” an application the indictment said was “approved”.  “As alleged in the indictment, this defendant attempted to evade accountability for his horrific involvement in Liberia’s brutual civil wars by fraudulently obtaining U.S. immigration documents,” said US Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams. “Due to the hard work and perseverance of our prosecutors and law enforcement partners, he can no longer run and hide from justice” Williams insisted. William S. Walker, Special Agent in Charge of the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Philadelphia Field Office, explained why they took interest in Camera’s case: “Investigations like this one are a chief priority of the No Safe Haven mission, and HSI will continue to work tirelessly to investigate those who attempt to evade justice for crimes they committed overseas. We will not allow the United States to be a safe haven for those attempting to hide from their past.” 

If convicted, Camera faces a maximum possible sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, an amount equivalent to the number of people estimated to have been killed during Liberia’s two civil wars. Camera’s indictment has come exactly a week after CM and GJRP lost a case in a Finnish district court against Gibril Massaquoi, a former commander of Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front. In an 850-page ruling, the Court said there was “a reasonable doubt” that Massaquoi, 52, had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during Liberia’s second civil war. Prosecutors are however preparing an appeal against the judgement. Camera’s indictment is likely to reignite public debate for a war crimes court to prosecute those accused of bearing the greatest responsibility for atrocities committed during Liberia’s civil wars, although President Weah, once seen by human rights advocates as the only Liberian leader who could ensure the setting up of the court through the Legislature as constitutionally required, because he was believed not to have supported any warring factions during the wars, has yet to take a definitive position on the matter.

This story was produced in collaboration with New Narratives as part of its West Africa Justice Reporting Project.