The three recently convicted rebel leaders of the obsolete Revolutionary United Front (RUF) have apologized to Sierra Leoneans who lived through the war, lost loved ones and those who still bear the scars of the conflict as a result of the actions of the RUF.Issa Sesay, Morris Kallon and Augustine Gbao voiced out their remorse on Friday 4th September 2009 at the Appeals Chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Past Friday was the first time in many years that the three defunct RUF leaders were given the opportunity to speak during the hearings. They however, used the opportunity to comment on certain issues and even accused the prosecution team of the Special Court.
"The war brought untold tragedies to my country and as someone who was eventually the interim leader of the RUF, I want to apologize to the civilians who lived through the war and especially those who lost loved ones and who still bear the scars of the conflict as the result of the actions of the RUF," said Issa Sesay .
He alleged that prior to his trial, the prosecutor offered him a deal to cooperate with them in order to serve only 12 years in jail. "The deal was that I should accept that I ordered RUF fighters to amputate civilians; I should accept that I was involved with raping women. I should accept that I agreed with others to kill civilians in Sierra Leone; I should agree that I was involved with burning," he explained.
Issa Sesay said he kicked against the deal, as according to him, he was confident that civilians from all over the country would come forward to exonerate him.
"This is why civilians came from Kailahun, Kono, Bombali, Kenema, and Tonkolili District to defend me. I denied this deal because I know very well that I never ordered any RUF to amputate, rape, or kill civilians," he emphasized. He disclosed further that he had over 300 witnesses that were ready to testify in his defence.
He alleged that most of the prosecution witnesses were ex-combatants released from the Pademba Road prisons with the help of the prosecution. He alleged further that the witnesses were given huge amounts of money. He continued that the alleged released ex-combatants hated him for his role in bringing peace to Sierra Leone, adding that they considered him a betrayer to the course of the RUF.
He pointed out that there were no incidences of rapes, amputation or destructions in all his areas of command during the years he was manning those areas, adding that, he was always at the forefront of protecting civilians.
"My Lords, my defence case proves that wherever I was living there was law and order. Even the Prosecution witnesses said this. I lived in Pendembu, Kailahun from April to November 1998 and the prosecution did not bring any evidence of any wrongdoing to civilians in Pendembu and the areas around it," he said, adding that same was recorded for Kono and Makeni.
For Morris Kallon, he expressed hopes that justice would be done in his case in view of his appeal.
"My Lords, should you not, however, uphold my Appeal, I pray for a lenient sentence in the hope that I will be given the opportunity to reconcile with my fellow Sierra Leoneans and continue to contribute to the peace process. The 6 years I have spent in detention have given me the opportunity to deeply reflect on my role in the conflict. As shown in the Statement of Good Conduct issued on my behalf by the Special Court Detention Center, I consider myself a reformed person," he maintained. Similar sentiments were voiced out by Augustine Gbao.
Both Issa Sesay and Augustine Gbao also made an appeal for them to be allowed to run their jail term sentences within Sierra Leone.