Moses Blah, former vice-president for Charles Taylor, testified this week from Wednesday through Friday. The prosecution team, specifically Chief Prosecutor Stephen Rapp, questioned him on the use of Small Boy Units (SBUs).
On Wednesday, Blah testified on his capture by SBUs while in Liberia, awaiting an arms shipment for Taylor:
While waiting for civilian trucks to be arranged, Blah came to the NPFL’s first camp in Liberia, Gborpleh, and was promptly arrested by Small Boy Units. They accused him of sending weapons to Prince Johnson, an NPFL member who had split away and formed the Independent NPFL.
Blah testified that the small boys with the NPFL were 13-15 years old or younger, and said that they were unreasonable and aggressive. He said some had volunteered, while others had been captured by the NPFL. Blah said that Benjamin Yeaten had actually conducted the arrest. Yeaten had been a 14 or 15-year old in the Libyan camp and had impressed Taylor with his physical fitness, hard work, and aggressiveness. Blah remained in detention for about a week. Taylor returned from Abidjan, where the Ivorian defense minister told him how loyal Blah had been, and released Blah from custody.
Pros; What role did the small boy units play?
Wit: They were reasonable people. They gave me water. They were aggressive.
Pros; What was the responsibility of the Small Boys Units with you?
Wit; They arrested people and wanted to kill me. I regretted for being a member of the NPFL at that moment.
Pros: Is that the first time you’d seen Small Boys Units?
Wit: Yes. Everyone had a Small Boy Unit with them.
Pros; How old were they?
Wit: As young as 15, 14, 13, some were younger than that.
Pros: Did anyone tell you why small boys were used?
Wit: Because they were unreasonable and had no sense of direction. You could tell them anything and it would happen immediately.
Pros; How were they recruited?
Wit: Some came voluntarily, some were captured by NPFL forces.
And a reference to Yeaten, who was a child soldier at the time he started fighting for Taylor.
Pros: When did you first meet Benjamin Yeaten?
Wit: At the camp in Libya.
Pros: How old was he at the time?
Wit: Around 14-15. He was one of the youngest men in the training.
Pros: What was his relationship with Taylor?
Wit: He had no relationship with Taylor, except that he was very aggressive in training and won a lot of prizes. That was when our leader recognized his efforts and drew him nearer.
Pros: What was the relationship with Taylor that followed?
Wit: He made Yeaten his bodyguard and gave him some instructions, like director of certain units close to the president at the time.