BY ALFRED SAMFORAY
FEBRUARY 24, 2006
The first session of the defence phase in the matter of Prosecutor versus Sam Hinga Norman, Moinina Fofana and Alieu Kondewa ended today without the appearance of its most prominent witness, President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. With eight of the original seventy five witnesses appearing so far, the case was adjourned to Tuesday, May 2, 2006.
The judges left unresolved the most thorny issue of the trial, the subpoena ad testificadum submitted by Counsel for Chief Hinga Norman requiring President Kabbah to appear as defence witness. Kabbah was originally scheduled as Dfence Witness No. 1, however, at the last moment and with questions about Kabbah?s appearance becoming a hot potato issue for the court, Chief Norman surprised both the court and his own lawyers by appearing as his own witness. Following Norman came former Vice President, Dr. Albert Joe Demby, former UK High Commissioner, Peter Penfold and Britsih Army General, David Richards along with four high ranking members of the Kamajor movement.
Closing the session for the defence was former CDF Battalion Commander for Kenema District, Ishmail Senesie Koker. Mr. Koker who rose through the ranks of the movement to become a district commander testified to the secret initiation process of the Kamajors, the supply of food and logistics to the CDF as well as the relationship between the CDF and the West African intervention force, ECOMOG. The CDF, ECOMOG and loyal forces of the SLA fought along side by side to reverse the coup and re-install the democratically elected government of President Tejan Kabbah. Only the Kamajor wing of the CDF was indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the UN-backed tribunal established at the request of President Kabbah. Before adjourning, the Chamber informed the defence that it will rule on the Kabbah subpoena subsequently.
For their parts, General Richards and Chief Peter Penfold both testified in no uncertain terms that Chief Hinga Norman was not a war criminal as alleged by the indictments under Article II Common to the Geneva Conventions. “He (Norman) is a war hero, not a war criminal,” Penfold told the court. Following this session, the defence may at its election call the remaining sixty-seven or so witnesses, modify its witness list or simply rest its case without calling any other witnesses including Kabbah or this writer both of who are said to be material witnesses to the supply of logistics to the CDF. If the defence elects to rest its case, it will then be left to the three judge panel – Canadian jurist, Piere Boutet, Sierra Leonean jurist, Bankole Thompson and the controversial former Cameroonean Minister of Justice, Benjamin Mutanga Itoe, who sided with Norman on the issue of the consolidated indictment – to decide the fates of Mr. Norman and his two co-defendants, Monina Fofana and Alieu Knodewa.
Following the testimonies presented so far by the defence, it is now quite clear to the public at large that Chief Hinga Norman was not only a competent defender of the State and the constitution of the Republic but a loyal public servant. According to Gen. Richards, Norman did every thing in his power to keep the conflict from disintegrating into a mayhem; from preventing unlawful killings by his men to instructing them on the ethics of war. Norman, according to the General, apparently kept Kabbah informed at every stage of the war effort and sought the President’s permission at various stages of the CDF operations against the rebels. “The CDF,” says Richards “were more than just a militia.” Perhaps most importantly, according to Gen. Richards, Norman had no intent to suurp power or to remove Kabbah from office by force of arms: “If he (Norman) wanted to take power, he had all the means to do so,” Richards opined.
Norman versus SLPP
Meanwhile, at the other end of town, the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone in the matter of Samuel Higa Norman versus the SLPP, Jah, Saffa and Carew has re-scheduled the hearing to Thursday, 9 March, two weeks from today. The court has been asked by Mr. Norman through Counsel to nullify the election or selection of Vice President, Solomon Berewa, as Leader of the ruling SLPP. Berewa became Party Leader last August following the party?s Delegate?s Conference over the objections of Mr. Norman who was able to temporarily stop the convention while the court deliberated on Norman?s original motion to prevent the convention on constitutional grounds.
The court recently postponed hearing to May 19 on the motion as a result of the illness of one the justices. It is not clear why the court decided to move the hearing two weeks ahead of schedule.
Alfred Munda SamForay
Hinga Norman-CDF Defence Fund.