FREETOWN, Sierra Leone – President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah (search) on Tuesday blamed embattled Liberian leader Charles Taylor (search) for enabling a decade-long terror campaign in Sierra Leone by rebels infamous for hacking off the limbs of civilians.
Kabbah said Taylor, now besieged by rebels in Liberia seeking his ouster, played a key role in the deployment of Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front (search) rebels, who waged a brutal 1991-2001 war for control of this country's diamond fields and government.
Taylor "is known to have sponsored and organized the initial invasion into Sierra Leone by arming and directing the invaders and his support for them remained active throughout the civil war," Kabbah said.
He spoke at the final public hearing of the newly peaceful West African nation's truth and reconciliation commission.
The truth commission heard testimony from about 450 people -- victims and perpetrators -- since early April, in a bid for a national catharsis after Sierra Leone's war, distinguished by its viciousness.
Sierra Leone's U.N.-backed war-crimes court announced its indictment of Taylor on war crimes charges on June 4, accusing him of supporting the rebels and bearing the greatest responsibility for human rights violations during the country's conflict.
The rebels -- led by Foday Sankoh, who died last week -- killed tens of thousands and used machetes to amputate hands, feet, lips and ears from thousands of others, including infants, in an attempt to subdue the people.
After military intervention by foreign forces broke the rebels, Sierra Leone declared the war over in early 2002 and soon held peaceful elections.
In 3 1/2 hours of testimony, Kabbah expressed hope his country would now become a "haven of peace" in West Africa.