Koroma held by 'Order of the Mosquito'
Lt Col Johnny Paul Koroma, chairman of the ousted eight-month AFRC military government, was indeed held in "protective custody" by orders from RUF Commander Sam Bockarie, also know as 'Mosquito'. With him in quarantine, Mosquito was free to take full control over the war operations. Despite Koroma's recent strenuous denials, he was virtually a prisoner although he and his family were given all creature comforts including very good accommodation, security, food, clothes, etc. He was never made to feel any want, according to one source.
Mosquito's reasons, which are only now emerging, were firstly to stop the fragmentation of the AFRC/RUF command structure during their combined operations against Ecomog forces. It was thought in RUF circles that to have had orders coming from Mosquito on one hand, and from Koroma on other, would have led to confusion, duplication and lack of co-ordination among rebel forces. To that extent Bockarie succeeded because there seems to have been a total clampdown on Koroma throughout the fighting, up to the time of the Lomé talks and thereafter until most recently. It was only since Koroma's AFRC men carried out their daredevil kidnap of UN personnel and a large number of Sierra Leoneans, and demanded their leader's freedom among other things, that he has again begun to be heard.
Secondly, the AFRC leadership was effectively held incommunicado by the RUF top brass so as not to allow any competition to the RUF's own over-arching influence at the Lomé talks. It was a neat piece of wrong footing of the AFRC by the RUF. With hindsight, this probably explains why Koroma and his men were not present in person at the Lomé talks in their own right. Instead, statements like "the RUF and AFRC are now one and the same" were thrown at anyone who queried the absence of the AFRC leader at the talks. Weeks before the talks commenced, whilst all sides were thinking about the membership of their delegations, word spread that the AFRC would be led by Koroma and others, including names like Alhaji Sheku Bayoh and even ex President Joseph Momoh. But the news soon died down and fresh word reached London that the movements of several AFRC top men and women (including Koroma's wife and children) had been restricted by the RUF. In the end, the delegation that eventually went to Lomé was predominantly RUF, with one Colonel Idrissa Kamara representing the AFRC. It was this strange happening that led Focus to ask simply: "And where is Lt Col John Paul Koroma?
Our information is that because of these manoeuvrings, the AFRC and SLA soldiers were getting rather irritated at hearing only the name of Mosquito and RUF commanders being mentioned in despatches. So they decided to abduct the hostages. They also argued that Johnny Paul Koroma was after all the political head of the AFRC government and that he had unselfishly invited the RUF to join them in Freetown when the AFRC staged their coup. They could not therefore understand why their man was being treated in this way. The AFRC also say that when they took over power, Foday Sankoh was appointed deputy to Koroma and that if anything it is Koroma who should be giving the orders, not the other way round!
So the AFRC's rank and file took the hostages in order to gain attention for their point of view and to secure the release of their leader after it became all too clear to them that there was no mileage in the agreement for them. To a large extent, they succeeded though we do not know what, if any, advantages they have extracted from the stake holders of the Lomé Accord. The action they took was nevertheless totally unjustified and it has cost the peace process a huge loss of credibility in the eyes of the country's international well-wishers.
New flash point as Gborie's men threaten
to break ranks with Koroma
So Johnny Paul Koroma too is in troubled waters and has to deal with this problem. It is his own Achilles heel. It is also said that Koroma has become too much of a deeply religious man - a label that is reportedly making some of his supporters restless and impatient with him.
None of the foregoing begins to address the consummate desire for revenge by rebel soldiers who are bent on avenging the execution of their former commanders like Brigadiers Hassan Conteh, S F Y Koroma (elder brother of Johnny Paul Koroma), Max Kanga, D K Anderson and others.
In addition, it is alleged that the band of soldiers who have staged cross border raids into Guinea, burning and looting villages, are Sierra Leone soldiers who are taking their revenge on President Lansana Conteh. They accuse him of handing over several of their colleagues, including Colonel A K Sesay, to be executed by the Kabbah government despite promising he would not. These soldiers are not believed to be under any known command, certainly not under the RUF or the AFRC.
The need for quick action to plug the leakage
At the moment Koroma is in Monrovia trying to forge a way out for mutual accommodation between the AFRC and the RUF. It would be good for the peace process if that happens. It would be even better if he and Sankoh can meet before Sankoh goes into Sierra Leone. Sankoh can do something about this by ensuring some parity in the treatment of AFRC soldiers.
Above all, the Lomé Agreement should try and pacify the soldiers in some way otherwise we will descend into another stage of the crisis from whence we may not emerge.
Sankoh kept in the dark
Viewed from this perspective, also considering the totality of the picture presented in this analyses of the undercurrents, it is not good for the peace process that Foday Sankoh is still out of the country more than a month after the Lomé Agreement was signed.
As we pointed out some weeks ago, it was ill advised that President Kabbah came out here, to London, to sell the Lomé Agreement but failed in his wisdom to bring Sankoh or some person as the other party to the agreement to demonstrate the RUF's commitment to it in public. It would have gone a long way towards confidence building. That is what is meant when one talks about people taking a new and broader perspective of things. Not just doing things solely for their own convenience.
In the meantime, Sankoh should stop his globe trotting and flirtations with his friends in Libya, Liberia, Burkina Faso, and Saudi Arabia whom he has been visiting during these weeks. He should go to Freetown and be sworn in so he can assume whatever position has been carved out for him. At present, President Kabbah has been allowed to act by default in his absence. …and correctly so. The question of the appointment of the Chief Executive of the Commission Mining and Mineral Resources was raised in his absence. After all if the country is to pull through its current economic paralysis, it is going to need these resources and their exploitation cannot be held up indefinitely. Sankoh should have been there to kick-start the process. He has undermined his own position and until he returns he will have more humiliations to follow. His mentors should push him to go home.
and AFRC are not one and the same
There is no reason to believe that there has been a convergence of minds on any single goal. One must recall to mind that SLAF soldiers had always complained about being treated as traitors by the incoming SLPP Government which gave the then Sierra Leone Army the impression that it trusted only Nigerian troops (to guard the Presidential residence) and the Kamajohs to fight its war.
But everyone knows that it was not the Sierra Leone army that took up arms in 1991 to wage war in Sierra Leone. True, too many of their comrades betrayed their profession and colluded or joined the RUF to wreak havoc and destruction on the country. But the overwhelming majority did not and many of them died fighting gallantly against the rebels. Their colleagues who survived and were still in the army when Kabbah came to power had every right to feel aggrieved by the hostility that the politicians contrived to create for them among the civilian population.
People with such grievances were therefore as much a critical component for proper consideration of a lasting solution of the crisis, as were the RUF and the CDF (kamajohs) whose absence from the talks Focus also queried. They should all have been there to have their grievances addressed and settled. From this distance, it seems as if that did not happen. Another missed opportunity, you might say!