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Taylor, Sogbandi, Musuleng-Cooper Forced Victims To Lie To UN...Says Carter Camp Survivor

Kakata, May 29, 2008 (TRC): Defunct National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) leader Charles Taylor, former Foreign Minister Dorothy Musuleng-Cooper and Marines Commander Melvin Sogbandi mandated survivors of the Carter Camp Massacre to blame the killings on soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia. A survivor told commissioners of Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Testifying Wednesday at ongoing public hearings in Kakata, Margibi County, Helen Kpah said after the massacre NPFL fighters known as "bandits" escorted survivors to the Marines base at German Camp, Weala where General Melvin Sogbandi compelled them to tell international investigators that the assailants came from Harbel Garden to carry out the massacre. She said that Mr. Sogbandi also forced them to tell investigators that they walked 45 miles after the massacre before reaching NPFL forces.

Helen explained that during their encounter with Sogbandi, who served as Minister of Postal Affairs during the Taylor regime, he threatened to eliminate anyone who told investigators the true story of the massacre.

"Following the massacre, we were taken to German Camp in Weala where we met Melvin Sogbandi surrounded by his bodyguards. Sogbandi told us that some people will come to ask us about the massacre and we should say that the people who did the killings came from Harbel Garden way and that we walk 45 miles before reaching the fighters," she said.

After they met Sogbandi, the witness explained, former Education Minister D. Musuleng Cooper send a pickup truck and they were taken to the campus of the Cuttington University College in Suakoko, Bong County where she also asked them to attribute the massacre to soldiers of the AFL.

She recounted that later that day, NPFL leader Charles Taylor met them and mandated them to say exactly what Gen. Sogbandi had told them to tell the investigators.

On June 6, 1992 over 500 inhabitants of Carter Camp in Harbel, Margibi County were massacred.

International investigators led by former Kenyan Attorney General Amos Wacko sent by the United Nations to investigate the killings blamed soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia then loyal to the Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU) of Dr. Amos Sawyer for the massacre.

But the controversial report known as "The Wacko Commission Report" was dismissed by the interim government as "false and bias."

Sixteen years later, a survivor of the massacre told commissioners that during the Wacko Commission's visit to the Cuttington Campus they misled investigators under duress for fear of their lives.
Miss Kpah recalled that during the meeting with Mr. Taylor he threatened that they were in "the middle of a very deep hole" and those who told investigators that NPFL forces carried out the killings would be killed.

"Charles Taylor came to Cuttington and told us that if we tell the people who are coming to talk to us that it were his men that did the killings we will be killed. He told us that we were in the middle of a very big hole and cannot escape so we must say that the people who did the killings came from Harbel Garden and we met his men 45 miles into their area," she said.

During the massacre, the witness recounted inhabitants were locked up in their houses and set ablaze while those who attempted to escape the inferno were mowed down in hail of bullets.

She explained that the fighters raped under aged girls and other women in the presence of their husbands before killing them.

The witness said that during the killings, one of the commander, only identified as Sam told the fighters that he wanted to drink soup, adding that five young men were butchered, their hearts extracted and given to him for meal.

The TRC is an independent body set up to investigate the root causes of the Liberian crisis, document human rights violations, review the history of Liberia, and put all human rights abuses that occurred during the period from 1979 to 2003 on record. The TRC mandate is to also identify victims and perpetrators and make recommendations on amnesty, prosecution and reparation.

The ongoing rural public hearings are being held under the theme: "Confronting Our Difficult Past, For A Better Future."

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