A former member of the Smalls Girl Unit of the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) has testified in the trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor on how civilians, among them children, were trained and used as attendants by rebel commanders.
Edna Bangura told the court that in April 1994 three RUF rebels raped her when she was 10 years old as the rebels attacked the northern town of Masingbi, in Tonkolili District. The 66th prosecution witness said her primary school was hosting their annual athletics meet when the rebels struck rudely interrupting it.
She said she was raped by the rebels who abandoned her in the bush and was later discovered by the then RUF patrol commander OC Blood who took her along with him.
He gave her a very heavy load which she carried walking several days from Masingbi to Buedu in Kailahun District.
Edna said she underwent a 2-week training in a camp around Buedu together with 50 other captives trained by training instructor Monica Pearson whom the witness alleged spoke Liberian English. He explained how she used to carry a gun even though she was very young. “Because I was very small, the gun had a belt and at any time I wanted to use the gun I would just take the gun, put it somewhere higher than my height and then I would go underneath it and put it round me. I would put the gun somewhere that is taller than me and then I would go underneath it and put my head through the belt and then put it round me.”
After her training she went on, she was enlisted in the Small Girls Unit (SGU) which together with the Small Boys Unit (SBU) comprised young girls and boys aged between 10 and 13 years, captured and conscripted by the rebels.
Edna said the rebel commanders used the SBUs as security guards who carried guns wherever their bosses went, and the SGUs as house help to the wives of the rebels. She said that life was only “safe” for women and girls in the jungle when they had a rebel they would point to as their “husband”.
She said women in the jungle without rebel husbands were treated far worse. Responding to a cross-examination by prosecution lawyer Courtenay Griffiths the witness admitted that there were some errors in her previous interview. She testified in court that three rebels raped her, but she had previously told investigators that four rebels did.
She attributed the inconsistency to the fact that she was meeting “such people” for the first time, saying she was not of a ‘steady mind”.
Courtesy: BBC World Service Trust