Sierra Leoneans regret focus on Campbell testimony


Sierra Leoneans expressed regret on Wednesday at the spotlight that has been trained on their bloody past by the courtroom appearances of model Naomi Campbell at a war crimes trial last week.

Prosecutors called Campbell to testify in the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor for war crimes relating to conflicts in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

They say Campbell could help shed light on whether Taylor received so-called "blood diamonds" from rebels in Sierra Leone which he used to buy weapons. Taylor denies all charges.

Some Sierra Leoneans say they are sick of the association between their country, Charles Taylor and "blood diamonds".

"The world should stop talking about Charles Taylor," said labourer Abu Sesay. "The case of Naomi Campbell means nothing to me and my family."

Campbell told the U.N-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone she had been given "dirty looking pebbles" after a charity dinner in South Africa in 1997, but did not know if they were diamonds from Taylor.

Her testimony, splashed across the pages of British newspapers, has since been contradicted by actress Mia Farrow, who was also at the dinner hosted by then South African president Nelson Mandela.

In the capital of the former British colony in West Africa, a big-screen TV has been set up publicly so residents can watch proceedings, but it has attracted few viewers.

"The Charles Taylor issue to we Sierra Leoneans is not so important any more, so bringing Naomi Campbell to the court ... is not important," said Ibrahim Jalloh, an economist and lecturer in Freetown.

Lawyer Suliman Sesay said he was too busy with his own cases to pay attention to events in The Hague.

"What some of us are interested in is the outcome of the trial ... but for now I do not have any interest," he said. "Charles Taylor and Naomi Campbell are not important to me."