Convicted Liberian Rebel Leader Tells French Court Guinean Government Supported Rebel Faction

PARIS, France – War convict, Kunti Kamara, told the French court hearing his appeal of his 2022 conviction here for war crimes that his faction, that his rebel faction United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO) was heavily supported by the Guinea government. Guinea was key to supplying arms and ammunition at the time they captured and controlled Foya, Lofa County between 1993 to 1994.

Kamara was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison by a French court in 2022, on 11 counts for war crimes and crimes against humanity, for his involvement in the Liberian wars and the atrocities he committed. He is seeking to overturn that verdict in this appeal.

“Ulimo was not a small organization,” he said. “We got lots of support from Guinea. We used to get all arms and ammunition and all the things we needed including fuel oil.”

Kamara also told the court that they stole frequently from their arch rivals, the National Patriotic Front for Liberia, headed by Charles Taylor.

“I will tell this court the truth that the people we used to loot from were our enemies- NPFL,” Kamara told the court. “When we captured some areas where NPFL was, we used to take money, salt, food, and medicine, because some of their commanders were, digging diamonds, logging in their control areas and Charles Taylor fighters had lots of money and materials.”

Kamara was speaking during the period the court gave him to respond to the testimonies of ten victims including a former war wife and a former Ulimo fighter who told the court that Ulimo received arms and ammunition from across Guinea. Civilians were made to carry the weapons from the Guinea border to Foya. 

Kamara conceded that during his days in Lofa as a battle front commander, he used to come to Foya to receive arms and ammunitions from his immediate commander, alias Co-Dayku.

Kamara has consistently told the court that he was not based in Foya to have committed the atrocities he’s being accused of. He said he was based on the frontlines in Manikoma and just came to Foya just on a few occasions. He denied the victims accusations.

“The pressure that was on me at the battle front was too much on me that could not allow me to be on Foya so all the things these people are saying I am shocked,” he said. “They are humans like myself, they can say anything about, but I don’t know anything about what they are saying.”

At the start of his appeal hearing earlier this month, Kamara told the court that he joined the Ulimo faction in Guinea when faction leader, Alhaji G.V. Kromah asked him to return to Liberia to fight for their people (the Mandingo ethnic group). Ulimo came from Guinea and controlled the most part of the west of Liberia, previously under the control of Taylor’s NPFL. ULIMO attacked Foya in 1993 and drove out the NPFL thereby taking control of Lofa, putting Lofa under ULIMO siege between 1993 to 1995 during the Liberian wars.

The prosecutor asked Kamara about his response to a video that was screened last week in the court where a witnessed who testified before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission named Kamara as responsible for atrocities. Kamara responded that he did not know how the TRC put together those testimonies and he does not know why his name was called.

He told the court that all the people that are coming to France to testify “are all Kissi people, and the president who is presently in power in Liberia, the Mandingo people helped to make Joseph Boakai president, so it means that we are not against any so I will I kill people in Foya?”

On Monday, one of the nine witnesses from the earlier trial in which Kamara was found guilty who testified before the court about a sick woman who she said Kamara asked to be brought outside and in their presence. Kamara fire the woman  twice in the head.

The witness told the court Kamara accused her of being a witch. He came to that conclusion because  the woman had lost her young baby.

A plead on the woman’s behalf by a man the witness identified as Mohammed Jah proved fruitless as Kunti insisted on his decision to have the woman killed.

“Kunti ordered his soldiers to bring the woman outside, then one man was there, Mohammed Jah said they should leave the woman because from the way she was looking, she would not still survive, but he still said they should bring her outside,” he said. “That’s how the soldier brought her outside and Kunti himself fired the woman two times anburst her head. After he killed her, they took the dry palm trashes and put it over her body and burnt her body and then they told us the grave.”

Astartling revelation that became dramatic in the court was when Kamara admitted that the documents that were prepared to have a woman he claimed was his wife from Liberia to join him to Holland, were fake and forged.

The court displayed a wedding certificate bearing the images of a woman he had said was his wife Madi with him on the other side. Kamara said the image of the woman on the document was not Madi Kamara, but instead another woman’s image but using the name of name Madi. For some moments, Kamara explanation of his wedding and fake marriage certificate placed confusion in the minds of the jury as murmuring and laughter in low tones went across the court room.

“I will not lie to you,” Kamara said “Like I told you the other day that the wedding certificate was fake and I myself was not there in Liberia, I sent money to Liberia and the  people to fix all those documents.” 

Kamara had told the court that at the time he met Madi in Lofa, she was older than him and that she had already had four children before he had a child with her.

But the birth certificate currently in the possession of the court puts her date of birth to 1980 thereby putting her age to 13 years old when he met during the war in 1993. Kamara’s testimony ran contrary to what he had earlier told the court that his lover Madi was older than he and she had four children before they both met in Manikoma in 1993.

At the close of Monday’s hearing, the president of the court Jean Mac Lavergne announced that the court will on Tuesday hear “Fine Boy” another Ulimo commander who operated in Foya, has arrived in Monrovia . Fine Boy will join the court via a video link to give his testimony of what he knows about Ulimo in Foya.

The brother of one of Kamara’s victims told the court that if Kamara could admit and say the truth that he killed his sister, the family could forgive him, but told the court Kamara constant denial makes him so angry the more every time he had to come before the court to testify.

The trial continues Tuesday.

This story was a collaboration with FrontPage Africa as part of the West Africa Justice Reporting Project.