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More Perpetrators Give Startling Revelations

TRC Hearing Day Eight

January 21, 2008

MONROVIA (TRC)?The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Monday entered the third week of public hearings in Monrovia with four persons testifying openly and one making his revelations in camera.

Among those who testified were two perpetrators, Alfred Suah Debbleh and Esther Swen, who gave accounts of atrocities they committed during the Liberian civil war. At the end of their testimonies, the two perpetrators begged the forgiveness of all those they may have wronged.

Alfred Sual Debbleh, then a resident of Grand Gedeh, said he joined the defunct National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) when he was captured by Gio fighters under the command of Charles Gono, alias "Krahn enemy," when the NPFL besieged Zwedru City.

Amidst the full bench of TRC Commissioners and a full audience in the Centennial Memorial Pavilion, Debbleh, 34, admitted to committing mass atrocities in Zwedru, Putuken and Konobo in Grand Gedeh County, and Pleebo, Maryland County.

He also operated in Sinje, Grand Cape Mount County, Gbarnga, Bong County and Zorzor, Lofa County, as well as Du-port Road, Monrovia, where a massacre resulted from his setting two houses ablaze, killing all of the occupants.

He disclosed that the Du-port Road massacre was planned in Gbarnga, Bong County, and General Isaac Musa was sent to Monrovia in 1994 to head the operation.

According to Debbleh, the executers of the massacre were divided into three groups. He headed one of the groups that carried out amputation, torture, rape, looting and massacre.

Debbleh revealed that in 1992, he went to Sierra Leone as a mercenary upon orders of NPFL leader Charles Taylor to fight for the defunct Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels, but he returned home in 1993 after he sustained injury at the battle front.

He told the TRC that he and others were sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) in 2000-2001 as mercenaries, but he did not state their link with any of the factions in the DRC.

He said he was among 500 men trained between 2000 and 2001 in River Gee County and were later deployed to the Ivory Coast to assist former military ruler, General Robert Guei, who was a good friend of President Taylor.

Debbleh said their role as mercenaries on those missions was noted by former defense minister Daniel Chea, former special assistant Kadiatu Diarra Findley and General Coocoo Dennis. Debbleh said they returned home because they were becoming noticed as mercenaries.

The second perpetrator, Esther Swen, said she was recruited into the defunct National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) after her boyfriend was arrested and executed. She said that while heading to the Sierra Leonean border in Grand Cape Mount County to seek refuge in 1990, he was accused by the rebels of being a government soldier.

Esther, 40, alias "stickled panties," said she was 14 years-old when she was recruited. Her primary duty was to escort perceived enemies after capture, explaining that capture "meant executing them." She said she was assigned to General Benjamin Yeaten throughout the conflict.

Swen, a drug addict who lives in the ghettos of Monrovia along with other female ex-combatants, said she was also a bodyguard for General Martina Johnson, artillery commander of the NPFL.

Joe Lesollee, the third witness, said he was arrested and tortured for allegedly rejoicing on the morning of the November 12, 1985 abortive invasion of General Thomas Quinwonkpa.

Lesollee, 55, said while he was in detention at the National Police Headquarters, the regime's death squad, the Special Anti-Terrorist Unit (SATU), visited and took away several prisoners under the guise of transferring them to other prisons because of congestion, However, those taken away were later found beheaded at different locations.

Lesollee said he was taken before President Samuel K. Doe for interrogation about the alleged plot to overthrow his government.

Lesollee said he was earlier interrogated by a team of investigators which was comprised of Isaac Nyenplue, Jenkins Scott, Richard Goe, William Toe and Jacob Nimely, among others. He said that the investigators concocted lies for him to tell against then-Defense Minister, the late Gray D. Allison, who was the prime suspect.

Another witness, Evelyn Juah Wesseh, explained that on September 10, 1992, her husband Edward Yambasu, a Sierra Leonean, was abducted and killed by the leader of the defunct Liberian United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), Sekou Damante Konneh.

She said both men were employed with a used car company, owned and managed by a man named "Adama." The company, she said, was closed down because both (Adama and Konneh) fled Liberia due to the rebellion.

Juah, 31, said that when Konneh returned, he visited her home on Johnson Street, where her husband was informed by Sekou about a meeting to have the company resuscitated.

Juah said after that, her husband disappeared. She reported the matter to the Liberia National police, then under the leadership of the late John Yormie.

She said the following day, Edward's body was discovered at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital, reportedly taken there by Sierra Leonean ECOMOG soldiers and handed over to Dr. Edward Koffa, who was on duty.

The widow, who wants the TRC to bring her face-to-face with Konneh, accused Konneh of frustrating her and her four children.

The day's last witness, name withheld, said the defunct Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL) leader, Prince Johnson, killed the witness' brother and a pregnant woman in their house, located in New Georgia on September 23, 1993.

He said the deceased was accused of being a sympathizer of the United Liberation Movement for Democracy (ULIMO) and that the execution took place when the deceased's wife took the rebel leader Johnson to their house. He said his brother's wife was apparently a fianc?e of the INPFL boss.

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