“…That I will speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth…” Did you miss it? I bet you didn’t. Whether or not these, her opening lines, were upheld on Thursday is for the court to decide. But Naomi Campbell’s testimony certainly left me with more questions than provided me with answers. I though it was full of half-truths. But there were winners regardless of which way you think last Thursday went. Was she a winner? I don’t know. But in a world where celebrities shoot themselves in the foot when their fans think them as liars and accomplices in despicable circumstances, Naomi’s dividends or losses are still being collated. Whatever her bull’s eye will be figured out for some time to come yet. She has rung the bell that should be followed through. Is it a death knell?
The Special Court for Sierra Leone certainly has received a real shot in the arm following the testimony by the black British supermodel Naomi Campbell. Her taking to the witness box in the war crimes trial of the former Liberian president Charles Taylor, in my view, also served as a platform for especially the smooth-talking lead defence attorney, Courtney Griffiths, whose showmanship posture was in the living rooms of vital homes around the world. Who knows where the next client will come from.
Such was the media circus around the model’s appearance that the court would have benefitted tremendously and its purpose served really well had last week’s high-profile drama happened much earlier in the life of the court. Like Sierra Leonean lawyer, Alpha Sesay put it last week, the media hype would have best served humanity if the international justice around the Special Court had been the raison d’être for the western media interest shown last week. By all indications, that was not. It was Naomi’s day in court. And the court itself showed it. There was someone who pulled her chair before she sat.
But how did Naomi’s testimony help the prosecution, some would say humanity and international justice, in their quest to convict Mr Taylor is the question that is still on many people’s lips. The lead defence attorney Griffiths even referred to it as an own goal against the prosecution. I don’t know that. What I do feel is that the supermodel told half truths. Alas she admitted to having received some “dirty-looking stones” or pebbles thirteen years ago. I don’t know why she had to deny this over and over again. Surely at her age she is not recovering from Alzheimer’s, so the question of having lost her memory does not arise.
Now Naomi told the court that she could not recall where the uncut diamonds she was given had come from. Among many things her interview on ABC proved was that Naomi has an efficient bodyguard who was as close to the studio as inside it during that interview. If he proved that effective in goading her away from the presenter when she stormed out of it, I would imagine that such a celebrity would certainly not be sleeping and then just at a knock on her door she decided to walk up to it and open it without first the knockers having gone through her bodyguards. And then without her knowing their identity, just decided to open the door to her room, in the middle of the night.
You don’t put Naomi Campbell up, certainly she does not put herself up, in a house that is not fortified. For two unknown individuals to have come knocking on her door when she was asleep, for her to wake up, for her to open the door without knowing who they were, for her to accept from them something in a bag whose content she did not know, are all unimaginable. The news is that two related witnesses should be appearing before the court today. The three pieces of diamonds have now been turned over to the South African police. Trying to know their origin of the pebbles is not as difficult as it may seem or sound. If they are proved to have come from Sierra Leone, the question arises, who of all the guests at the Mandela dinner had travelled closest from Sierra Leone.
That said, another question also persists as to why the diamonds were kept for this long thirteen years! But also how did they get into sophisticated South Africa where it is an offence to travel to with uncut diamonds without declaring them. Naomi Campbell’s bells may have woken a lot of people up on Thursday but the ramifications may wake even a lot more people up.
She may have been coached on how to say what should be said. But when I think back to Michael Jackson’s trial over child molestation allegations in 2005, I see his former wife still sympathising with Michael. Naomi’s case may be a bit different when his former agent shows up in court today to answer to questions in relation to his former client. The relationship between the two is said to be really sour if not bitter. Will he be brutally honest much to the undoing of Naomi Campbell?
If the centre of Naomi’s target in her testimony had been to save her celebrity status by being as cautious, some would say economical with all the facts, then the coming days should worry her. The problems for Charles Taylor aside, her celebrated past may just entangle with her celebrity future which may dent the features of a how an iconic 40-year-old supermodel should carry herself.
Angelina Jolie, Leonardo Di Caprio, Naomi Campbell, Sierra Leone have all been in the same sentence, all for the same reasons. Not a Hollywood movie starring all of them with backdrops here that will impress many a movie director. It is about celebrities and blood diamonds or a war over it. Angelina was here at the height of the civil war, a war that brought about the Hollywood movie Blood Diamond which the Oscar-winning actor Leonardo. And it is for the same so-called blood diamonds that Naomi Campbell has reopened the spotlight. Watch out for the next movie from Hollywood about Sierra Leone.
Like a friend in Lesotho said to me on seeing Naomi Campbell’s testimony on satellite TV in a matter related to Sierra Leone, the world’s attention is back at a country which has made giant strides since the end of its war eight years ago. Unlike the way many people see it this is an opportunity we should now seize upon in building our image as a peaceful, democratic and fast-growing nation. A place where impunity is being chased with slings that have stones that go after men and women whoever they may be. Whatever the intention of Naomi Campbell, we must move on as a nation that is recovered from her reasons for testifying.
By Umaru Fofana