The former Revolutionary United Front Commander (RUF), Gibril Massaquoi has been allegedly accused by a former Liberian soldier in the Finnish Appeals Court in Monrovia that he ordered his soldiers to put civilians into a house and burn them alive in Kamatahum Town, Lofa County.

According to the report, the former fighter, Soldierr 50 (the name given to him by the court for fear of reprisal) said as an “inspector,” he was at one of the many checkpoints in the town and was not far from the house when he saw it in flames and hurriedly went to the alleged crime scene to find out what was happening.

He however said that he heard people yelling because of the fire.

Soldier 50, claimed he was an officer of the Anti-Terrorist Unit, a deadly force loyal to then-President, Charles Taylor.

Massaquoi committed aggravated murder, especially in one of the town charges; the Tampare District Court said prosecutors did not prove against Massaquoi beyond “a reasonable doubt.”

Meanwhile, as with the bridges, investigators of the appeals court and prosecutors and defence lawyers travelled to the town, Kortuhum—the other of the three towns Massaquoi, also a former RUF spokesman is accused of committing or ordering his soldiers to commit aggravated rapes.

Paula Sallinen, one of Massaquoi’s lawyers told the appeal hearings in Finland that his name did not come up in Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) hearings, but “Zizar Marzah’s,” a fierce Taylor general.

Sallinen said the case was skewed against her client because Finnish police only had permission to investigate Massaquoi and not other alleged potential Liberian perpetrators. But Marzah alleged it was Benjamin Yeaten, a former director of the Special Security Service (SSS), now Executive Protection Service (EPS), who carried out the killings.

Furthermore, Monday’s witness looked to have strengthened prosecutors’ augment that Massaquoi, whom he also identified as “Angel Gabriel” (one of Massaquoi’s alleged war names), did indeed commit those alleged atrocities.

Massaquoi was allegedly the only high-ranking officer left on the ground said soldier 50 asserted when asked on direct examination as to who directed the alleged killings. “Some of my colleagues said they were rebels, while others said it was civilians accused of shielding the rebels in their homes.” Soldier 50 explained.

Also, the rebels in question he said were from the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, (LURD), who had launched an insurgency against Taylor’s government.

The witness claimed that Yeaten and Marzah, who were not on the ground when the alleged incident took place, were unhappy upon hearing about it on their return to the town the following day.

“They were angry and wanted to disrobe him (Massaquoi),” said Soldier 50. “But they could not do that because an officer could not be disrobed, so they only removed his soldier jacket and left him with the t-shirt he was wearing.”

Soldier 50 said after a short while following the alleged incident, Yeaten instructed him to move the RUF soldiers involved into Monrovia.

The ex-ATU soldier said on arrival, the soldiers were taken to the white flower (Taylor’s home) and then the twelve-house community in Congo town.

Soldier 50 said it took almost a year before the second phase of the 2003 war was started by LURD rebels.

He said he was reassigned to the RUF forces to battle LURD rebels, who had captured Por River and Bushrod Island. Soldier 50 told the Court that he and the RUF soldiers were assigned at Waterside, one of the places Massaquoi was accused of carrying out or directing his soldiers to carry out massacres, allegations the ex-soldier also spoke about.

“Gibril Massaquoi was there in the pick-up when I got there that day,” said soldier 50. “I was told that they carried on the killings. I met people lying down in the store, some were bleeding, while some were dead.
If they (soldiers) were from Liberia, they would have been in sympathy with Liberians.”

The prosecution lawyers wanted to be clear as to whether it was Massaquoi he was linking to the alleged killings. The witness was certain.

“During the war, everyone had their operational name. I had mine, and Gibril Massaquoi’s own was Angel Gabriel.”

However, Massaquoi’s lawyers have repeatedly argued he was in Sierra Leone in 2003, serving as a “protected witness” for the UN-backed Special Court.

The hearings continue Tuesday 14 March 2023.

This story was a collaboration with New Narratives as part of its West African Justice Reporting Project.