Sierra Leone

Volume 2 No 10                                              Mid December 96/Mid February1997


In one of his first diplomatic interventions since taking over recently as the new Secretary General of the United Nations, His excellency, Mr Kofi Annan, has issued a detailed report on the situation in Sierra Leone with concrete recommendations to the Security Council for action to implement the Abidjan Peace Accord signed on 30 November 1996. His report was based on the findings of an assessment team that was despatched by the former Secretary General Boutros Ghali towards the end of last year, with the blessing of the Council.
In his discourse on the situation in the country, Mr Annan gave some vital pieces of information which should help put an end to many of the uncertainties surrounding the civil war:

  • During the years of war, the Sierra Leone army grew from a mere 3,000 troops to 13,000. Most soldiers did not have formal military training hence the indiscipline that became a hallmark of many of their operations;
  • The number of Kamajohs - the local hunters' brigade credited by most Sierra Leoneans with having brought the RUF to negotiate a peace deal - is put at approximately 2,500 although recruitment is still continuing. Their numbers could be higher;
  • The RUF's strength is estimated at approximately 5,000 armed and 5,000 non-armed combatants, Aconcentrated mainly in central parts of the country around Makeni, Bo, Kenema, as well as at Kailahun and Bradford. They use small arms, light mach-ine guns and rocket-propelled grenades Areportedly pooled and distributed to combatants only during times of actual fighting.
  • To date, the Government of the United Kingdom has provided $1.5 million for disarmament and demobilisation.
  • The human cost of the war is as follows: Before the war, the population was 4.5 million. During the war 1.6 million were displaced; 210,000 of them took refuge in displaced persons camps but the rest just swelled the population of large district towns around the country.
  • The conflict led to the destruction of schools, health facilities, water supply systems and transport infrastructure, mostly in rural areas.
  • On the economic front, the country witnessed a serious deterioration in performance and the erosion of its already weak productive capacity.
  • The total number of Sierra Leonean refugees in asylum in the sub region is approximately 316,000 of whom 232,000 are in Guinea, 123,000 in Liberia and 6,000 in other countries. Happily, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 289,000 of these refugees will opt to repatriate even now and a programme to facilitate this eventuality is under way.
  • Of $57.8 million requested in a one-year consolidated appeal by the UN Department of Humanitarian affairs in March and September 1966, $37.2 million has been pledged to date.
  • Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Programmes designed to address the short-term needs of demobilisation and reintegration of ex-combatants, resettlement of the displaced and refugees, restoration of basic social amenities, and reconstruction is way behind its target. AWhile donors pledged approximately $232 million [at the Geneva donor conference], only a small percentage of these pledges have been received to date, severely limiting implementation of the programme.
  • A $15 million credit was being finalised with the World Bank to support the Government's National Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Programme. The funds from this credit will be available in the country only Ain the second half of the year although Asome grants will be made available by the end of February 1997 for pilot projects. The European Union will also provide support for projects related to food security, water and sanitation and rehabilitation of the infrastructure.
  • To date, the Government Ahas screened some 1,500 RUF elements who have spontaneously demobilised. However, 200 of them were classified as ex-combatants in accordance with Government criteria.
The Secretary General then observed:
"The people of Sierra Leone have suffered greatly over the five years of conflict in their country. The economy has been weakened and administrative structures remain fragile. Unless the needs of the war-affected areas are addressed promptly and effectively, the security situation in the country could again deteriorate. Nevertheless, there is a strong desire on the part of the civilian population for peace and the creation of conditions that would enable them to look forward to a better future. Furthermore, the physical infrastructure, civil administration and social fabric of Sierra Leone have not been extensively affected by the conflict. United Nations agencies, non-governmental organisation and international financial institutions are presently putting in place programmes to assist in the implementation of the resettlement and rehabilitation plans. These efforts are essential to the consolidation of peace in Sierra Leone."
Annan's report finally urges the RUF to demobilise and commence resettlement, and welcomes the government's commitment in the Accord to down-size and restructure the army. It further exhorts the government to consider Athe adoption of measures to ensure the return of the Kamajohs to their villages and traditional roles.



The United Nations, in co-operation with the Organisation for African Unity and the Commonwealth, will facilitate the implementation of both the political and military provisions of the Abidjan Peace Accord, it has been announced. The UN will have observer status at meetings of the Commission for the Consolidation of Peace in Freetown. A Public Information Unit is to be established to ensure that objective and factual information on the peace process, as well as the UN's role, is disseminated widely throughout the country, focusing in particular on the provision Aof information to combatants to encourage them to give up their arms and return to civilian life.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is also hoping to set up a Trust Fund for the Consolidation of Peace in Sierra Leone, out of which various aspects of the peace process which are critical to its success will be financed, such as the transformation of the RUF into a political party and civic activities in support of the peace process itself. The UN's chief role will be to support the efforts of the parties. In line with that, it is currently urging both the RUF and the Government to proceed as quickly as possible with the finalisation and implementation of plans to facilitate the implementation of disarmament and demobilisation. Two stages are contemplated:

Stage 1 - Deployment of military observers to assist the parties in observing and monitoring the cease fire and disarmament at assembly sites established by government;

Stage 2 - Deployment of formed troops to establish and provide security for assembly sites not established under the aegis of the Government.

Once the Security Council gives the go-ahead for the establishment of UN operations in Sierra Leone, an advance Headquarters and Military Observer Group would be deployed in the country. Its prime task will include setting up a HQ, work with the Joint Monitoring Group to monitor and verify cease fire and investigate alleged breaches, monitor and verify disarmament and demobilisation, and confinement to barracks and withdrawal of Executive Outcomes. The UN will also assist the government in its plans to down-size the army and if asked will also monitor and verify the withdrawal of foreign troops. Troops will be deployed 60 days after setting up of HQ and military observer group. The Secretary General will only allow this if he is satisfied that the Government has Athe ability to establish assembly sites and provide security for the [HQ and observer group]". In all, the force would not exceed 720 (all ranks) including support elements. They will assist in the establishment and provision of security for assembly sites, take custody of arms and ammunition handed in by RUF combatants, and transport combatants to assembly sites. They will supervise the destruction of collected weapons and provide security for UN personnel and property wherever they are deployed.
  The force would include 3 infantry companies of 100 each, to be deployed at three assembly sites. A reserve infantry numbering 100 will be stationed in Freetown. It will also include 32 engineers, 40 transport and 20 medical detachments, a motorised infantry platoon of 40, a battalion support of 139 and a HQ staff of 49. In addition, 60 military observers will be required. Six will be deployed at each of three assembly sites to monitor and verify disarmament and demobilisation, as well as the cease fire. Teams of five observers each would be stationed at Bo, Kabala, Kailahun, Koidu and Pujehum to monitor and verify the cease fire. Two mobile teams of 5 observers each will remain in Freetown. It is hoped that the military side of the operations will be completed in 8 months. 

The RUF issued a statement on 30 November protesting that the first time they heard about the Secretary General's proposals was on the BBC's early morning programme Network Africa and expressed its "dismay at plans to send a contingent of over 700 armed peacekeeping force to monitor the cease-fire, disarm RUF combatants and retrain a new national army". They especially regretted Athat such a plan of action can only reach us through the news-media instead of through the channel of communication we have endeavoured to keep open through which consultations and discussions could be held before going to press. The statement charged that "the fact that the Secretary General concluded his statement by saying that his proposal can only be implemented if the RUF/SL gives its approval, brings us to the conclusion that the Sierra Leone Government, the other party to the Peace Accord, has been consulted and has given its approval through the normal channel of international diplomacy. Insisting that they, too, Amust be treated with respect", the RUF welcomed the Agoodwill of .... the United Nations in bringing our crisis to an end but then deplored the Secretary General's proposals, citing for their reasons Articles 9 and 11 of the Accord "which call for a neutral monitoring group NOT a peace-keeping force" and claiming that the size of the country did not support the need for such a large number of troops, the tendency from past experience for peace keepers to get involved in conflict and that the funds to be used for the operation including the upkeep of the troops could be put to better use. The statement then suggested Aa smaller number of between 50 and 60 men.
  As late as 3rd of February, RUF leader Foday Sankoh who had by now received the report, wrote to Secretary General Annan complimenting on his report. AI see this as a positive move to effect the flow of communication from your end, as this is the first official communication the RUF has ever received from your office or that of your Special Envoy since the UN became [involved] in the search for peace in Sierra Leone. Sankoh told Annan that he strongly believed that the security situation does not warrant such a massive deployment and advised him to Ainclude 60 military personnel in the Neutral Monitoring Group to help provide security for your civilian personnel and property. The letter concluded: "AI would like to advise that their arrival in the country be dependent upon the improvement of the security situation..... as fighting is currently taking place and it is not our wish to see them caught in the cross-fire". 

RUF leader Foday Sankoh is keeping everyone guessing when, and if, he will return to Freetown. Sankoh's eventual return is the icing on the cake that everyone hopes will bedeck the impetus for peace. But so far he has been cagey about the subject. When the question was recently put to him in a radio interview, Sankoh said he was not afraid of going back but that he will go when he thinks the time is right. "I am waiting, and I am watching" he commented.



We had cause recently to address the issue of coup d'etat against legitimate democratic government. It was just after allegations that a group of members belonging to our armed forces planned to assassinate the President and replace his government with a military one. We said then that if the allegations were true, they should be condemned. That remains our position. The trial of the eleven accused officers has recently commenced. No doubt we shall soon find out whether a coup was planned by them.
  Since then there has been a spate of alleged attempted coups - at least three - the latest just after last Christmas. But it appears now that this one was pure invention and, according to one irate but usually reliable source, a pathetic attempt by a certain Cabinet Minister who is also a senior party official to "spread his wings" when he found himself in the company of a group of people he personally did not like. Eventually it appears he maliciously contrived the arrest and detention of five people including three military officers who were taken into custody for questioning on suspicion of plotting a coup.
  This disgraceful episode took place in the full view of the whole nation and we have had no action taken against the culprit minister. Why, oh why? A gagging order against a group of people who happened to be going about their normal everyday business and originating from someone who is not even responsible for national security is a grave anomaly. Inventing coups will not gain any sympathy for the government and only helps to bring the possibility of the real thing happening much closer than need be.
  President Tejan Kabbah must nip these silly pranks in the bud. It does no good for the image of his government. Surely this culprit is not untouchable, is he? Nobody is larger than the nation because it is the embodiment of our collective rights and guarantor of the basic freedoms of all citizens. If these rights are threatened by or from any quarter - be it a party official or cabinet minister - that person should be made to give instant public account of their action. We are therefore waiting and watching to see what, if any, action the President takes this time.


The peace process is currently being variously described as already in tatters or not quite practicable, or simply that it will not work. Such comments are to be expected but both the Government and the RUF must continue to persevere with it. As it stands currently, what it continues to lack is undoubtedly the intensity of the feeling of optimism and hope that was so publicly expressed by both parties and their mentors at the time of ratification. Two months into the agreement, as we predicted in the last edition of this newsletter, the timetable is running behind schedule. But even more depressing is the increase in cease-fire violations since the two weeks after the Accord came into operation. It has led to bitter exchanges, with both sides accusing each other of responsibility. Throughout the conflict, the main casualty was, as in all wars, the truth. You would therefore think that with our war formally over, the truth will be easier to elicit. Wrong! Information has been sparse and unreliable. Many events have deliberately gone unreported inside the country and without much comment from the RUF. But we know that breaches of the cease-fire have been taking place in parts of the East and the South.
  It has always been feared that there are many in the country, including inside the present government, who firmly believe, like some members of the NPRC government before them, that a total military victory is possible and that the war should therefore be pursued to a final showdown. That is folly! The widely acclaimed successes of the local hunters - the Kamajohs - has given rise to renewed militancy and bullishness. But this optimism could be misplaced because the Kamajohs themselves would be first to admit that they do not operate in all parts of the country; secondly their adversaries include renegades from their own national army. Together with the RUF, this presents them with two very different types of enemies.
  The hawks are wrong to believe that they can finish this war by further fighting. President Tejan Kabbah should not allow himself to be dragged into the mire. The best way out for Sierra Leone is still via the peace process that culminated in the recent agreement. That is where they must put their energy and attention, not in further military adventurism. Luckily for Sierra Leone, the new Secretary General Kofi Annan has shown that he is prepared personally to lend the weight of his office to help with the implementation of the Peace Accord. The whole country and the parties in this conflict should give him a chance to succeed with his plans.
  The RUF too should cease making belligerent comments and be more cooperative in delivering the terms of the Accord. What we want to see and hear more of, from them, are public declarations of intent on specific aspects of the Accord, and how they see the peace process shaping up in general, and their role in making it work.


So former senior State functionaries are to be rehabilitated - their homes, personal comfort and all - at public expense? In that case at what point on the scale of national priorities do we place the interest of our war victims, i.e. the hundreds of thousands of destitute, displaced and dispossessed citizens who are still facing an uncertain future in festering refugee camps? Obviously not that high.
  Nobody would begrudge these former holders of the highest offices in the land their privileged treatment if we were in peaceful and prosperous times. But Sierra Leone does not yet have peace, and the country is not prosperous. Moreover these people are not the worst off for living conditions because some have lived, and are currently living, comfortably. Why should we feel obliged to dissipate desperately needed funds for making them more comfortable when we have not even started to compensate hoards of innocent people for the loss of their modest homes and property? This is an unfair and unwelcome move and in extremely bad taste.
  The government must let common sense prevail and from going ahead with it. The material well-being of such individuals is relatively unimportant in the context of the huge task, and cost, of resettlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction that faces the country. Whereas, without exception, these ex state functionaries were the architects of their own misfortunes, war victims are the innocent party who had no role at all in the fate that befell them. This is a slap in their faces. Surely it is their plight that should be the main focus of attention, and should therefore be placed at the very top of our national agenda.

  His Grace, Archbishop Joseph Ganda, leader of Sierra Leone's Roman Catholics, has paid his first pastoral visit in two years to his home town Serabu to see at first hand the destruction wreaked upon it and the surrounding towns and villages by the civil war. He was accompanied by a large group including relatives, displaced townspeople, a host of friends and well-wishers, and a contingent from the national SLBS radio and TV network.
  Explaining the purpose of his visit, His Grace said that with the signing of the Abidjan Peace Accord it was important that he, as one of the nation's leaders, should go and give encouragement and moral support to all those people who have started returning to the ruins of their shattered homes. He visited several parishes similarly destroyed and looted including the chiefdom headquarters town of Bumpeh, the mining towns of Moriba Town and Mokanji, Walihun and the district HQ of Moyamba. He was greeted at each location by enthusiastic traditional dancers. Afterwards he celebrated Holy Mass.
  During several addresses to the hundreds that gathered to hear him, His Grace encouraged all present to work together as a community to rebuild their shattered towns and to look after one another. "Do not sit and wait for government to come and do things for you. Start now by organising yourselves through co-operatives" he urged his eager listeners. Afterwards he declared that he was "now armed with first hand experience of the plight of these people" in the areas he had seen, and had a clearer appreciation of their needs which he promised to represent as forcefully as he can. He said that in the coming months he will be visiting other parishes throughout the country, as and when the security situation improves.
  On new Year's Day, Archbishop Ganda celebrated a thanksgiving Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Freetown to commemorate the signing of the Peace Accord. Among the congregation were His Excellency the President and his wife, Lady Patricia Kabbah.

A Letter To My President

Dear Mr President

Firstly, something about the plight of some of our people out here who, even as I write, through no fault of their own, are languishing in detention in jails in this country. Why? Because the authorities here say, in every letter of rejection that I have seen, that with you as President they have nothing to fear by returning home; that democracy is really and truly back in earnest in Sierra Leone. They call them here asylum seekers or economic migrants. Some of them who have managed to obtain a temporary sojourn are trying to eke out a living doing odd and unpleasant jobs here and there, just to make ends meet and save a little bit extra to send for their folks whom they left behind in Sierra Leone. (So you see Sir, even in their desperation these people are critical to the performance of our next Balance of Payments figures!)
  Of course the Abidjan Peace Accord which is undoubtedly a blessing for our country is now being touted as the main basis of rejecting their claims for asylum. But I wonder whether the British, who I understand are one of your key supporters, quite well appreciate the problems that they are inadvertently creating for you by forcibly returning unwilling nationals back into your arms. I also think that they are unwittingly putting you in the line of fire because your government has to prove them right: that there is no longer a war in our country (huh!) and democracy is actually thriving in practice (yeah?). A very tall order, indeed. I just wonder!
  Secondly Mr President, I am writing to advise you about some of the so-called elders in the community here. They claim that they are your advisors and have direct access to your ears. (They do not say which one.) These people are not productive; they help none of your compatriots in trouble here; they do not even contribute to the development of the community here. Mr President, they have achieved and done absolutely nothing for Sierra Leone while here. All they are good at is to sit in their ivory towers and wreak confusion among the most impressionable of our youths from Sierra Leone - the future of our country. Instead of helping to bring accord they are sowing discord among them, putting one group of youngsters against another, all in your name. As for the SLPP your party, my party, our party, well I hope it survives the present turmoil. It is being strangled slowly. Do you know by whom? The so-called elders. In fact they are the problem and a liability. Many have lived in exile for too long thriving on gossip and their outdated glories.
  My candid advise to you Sir (for what it is worth), if you wish to carry most of Sierra Leone with you - including us here in the Diaspora - is to disclaim that you have so-called advisors in this country. If for any reason you are unable to do so publicly, then tell them quietly as one elder to another to start acting both the part and their age. Otherwise, the soul of the nation and the party will wither forever - here in London.

Your loyal subject and unflinching party member


The Commission For the Consolidation of Peace (CCP) held its first session in Freetown on 19 December 1996. Comprising four representatives each from the Government and RUF, it has been set up under Article 3 of the Peace Accord which defines its role as a verification mechanism responsible for supervising and monitoring the implementation of, and compliance with, all the provisions of the Agreement. The CCP is also charged with the establishment of two other bodies drawn from representatives of both parties, namely: a Joint Monitoring Group (JMG) to monitor the withdrawal of forces and a Demobilisation and Resettlement Committee (DRC) to supervise the disarmament of combatants and to co-ordinate the encampment, disarmament, demobilisation and resettlement of the RUF combatants. The Government members of the commission are Mr Sheka Mansaray, Mr Desmond Luke, Dr Aloysius Jackson and Dr Sama Banya. The RUF members are Mr Fayia Musa, Mr Ibrahim Deen Jalloh, Mrs Agnes Deen Jalloh and Mr Michael Sandi.

A United Nations Assessment Team led by Brigadier-General Yogseh Saksena, the Deputy Force Commander of the UN-Angola Verification Mission, arrived in Sierra Leone on 22 December 1996. After a week of consultations with President Kabbah and members of the government, the diplomatic community, representatives of UN agencies and NGOs, the delegation proceeded to Abidjan in the Ivory Coast for a meeting with the RUF leader, Corporal Foday Sankoh and the Ivorian Foreign Minister Mr Amara Essy. Its findings underpin the report of Secretary General Annan on Sierra Leone which was release at the end of January.

President Kabbah has accused the RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh for failing to nominate members to the JMG and the DRC. He said the RUF had still not named its representatives on the Joint Monitoring Group and Demobilisation and Resettlement Committee Athereby holding up the establishment of encampment zones and the process of encampment and disarmament. The President also accused the RUF of impeding the movement of residents of Kailahun District who wanted to return to their homes. But the RUF's new spokesman Captain Jibrila Massaquoi strongly denied the charge and explained that the UN representative had been welcomed by Sankoh and had lunch with. The only problem was that the RUF leader did not want to talk to the delegation in the presence of the UN Special Envoy Dr Berhanu Dinka whom, like Sierra Leone Ambassador to the UN Mr James Jonah, Sankoh allegedly detests. Massaquoi accused Dinka of being biased toward the government and of showing scant respect for their leader. Responding to the charge of harassment of would-be returnees in the East, Massaquoi counter-charged that it was the government who was using Kamajohs, posing as civilians, to infiltrate their strongholds to attack their positions and that meant Athe government was showing no enthusiasm for the Peace Accord. This led to a government denial stating that the events in Kailahun most probably stemmed from local disputes.

The RUF recently accused the government of Sierra Leone of breaking the cease fire. The RUF claimed that the following villages Awere attacked and that several had been occupied by government troops: Yonibana, Rorocks, Rotifunk, Kailahun Township, Ngiehun, Ngiema, Mende Buima, Gborbu, Bandajuma-Sinneh and parts of the Pujehum District. The complaint was contained in a letter from Corporal Foday Sankoh to the Ivory Coast President Konan Bedie and copied to the UN, OAU, Commonwealth and ECOWAS leaders.


Accused accuses accusers of torture
A third accused in the recently commenced treason trial of eight soldiers accused of plotting to overthrow the Kabbah government last September has alleged that he was tortured to force a confession out of him. Joseph Yaja a former security officer at State House claimed that he was "tied a chair in the crack squad office... stripped naked, ice and water poured over me and a cable from a tape recorder was plugged into a socket and I was given four terrible shocks". He said that [interrogating] "officers stuffed a cap in my mouth when I screamed in agony" and that one of them "put out his cigarette on my forehead". Pointing to wounds he claimed had been inflicted on him during questioning Yaja said that the officer "then ordered his men to scrape my back with wire". The police officer has denied the charge. The trial continues.

Another alleged coup attempt
Just days before Xmas 96, eleven persons were including six soldiers, two Russians and three civilians were arrested on suspicion of planning to execute a coup against President Kabbah. A key figure allegedly implicated in the plot was Steven Bio, a principal adviser to the NPRC government and brother of former NPRC Chairman Maada Bio whose Soruss helicopter company was grounded last June by the Kabbah government. The Russians are probably the technicians operating his fleet of choppers. Claims that sporadic shooting was heard in the direction of the presidential residence on Juba Hill cannot be confirmed. The revelation came on the very day that the accused from September's in the trial for September's alleged commenced in court. The trial for an earlier alleged attempt last September in progress. In that case, 9 soldiers including a major and a woman have been arraigned.

...the yet another coup attempt
On January 9, the authorities pulled another attempt (literally) out of the hat - all of this while the trial of eleven officers from last September's "attempt" was progressing in. This time five persons including three very senior officers and former members of the NPRC Ruling Council - former deputy Defence Secretary Lt. Col. Tom Nyuma, Col Kes Boya and Lieutenant Kindama Kargbo - were arrested and detained for questioning. They were invited to explain how they spent the night of January 5 and their movements and activities along Lumley Beach that afternoon. All were released after two days without charge. Nyuma immediately resigned from the army and proceeded to the United States.


[Ambrose Ganda]

In a previous edition of Focus I broached the subject of external influence on the country's present situation, and the direction it may want to take in future. I said then that these pressures must not be allowed to stand in the way of striking a political settlement with the RUF - a deal that would extricate our country from the humdrum state of low intensity and continuing warfare. This was immediately interpreted as succouring the RUF and being a sympathiser. In the event the NPRC talked and fraternised with the RUF. President Tejan Kabbah, in addition to official encounters with Foday Sankoh, has kept dialogue with him on numerous occasions. Some of their conversations have been good natured although I have been told that on some occasions they have been acrimonious, degenerating into a shouting match. But the good thing is they have been, and are still, talking. Of course no one is alleging that Kabbah is an RUF supporter. It is perhaps because he is the President and Head of State. But many of us were convinced that we could not wait, in my case after the destruction of my home town and family property, for the then Head of State to decide when he would engage in dialogue to end hostilities. The fact is that for a very long time, while the war carried on and innocent people were being killed daily, no one wanted to talk. It was left to some of us to take the risk, break the ice, and talk to any faction that cared to listen to us about the need for dialogue and understanding to help bring the war to an end. I am glad to say it worked!
  I record this fact only because I wish to put finally to rest the notion, if you are one of those who continue to believe the stupid utterances of some of the jokers in the present government and the rabble that claim to support the President, that it was people like me who were Aundermining the valiant efforts of their government to force the RUF into submission. I know for a fact that if in the beginning the governments of ex President Momoh and Captain Strasser had heeded some of the advise that we offered, in the case of the former soon after the war broke out in 1992, thousands of Sierra Leonean lives would have been spared and many of our citizens - men, women and children - would be alive today. The attitude of the present government remains ambivalent. But they cannot seriously claim, solely, the glory for so-called imminent peace in Sierra Leone. That is because the very process for peace which they took up pre-dated their arrival into government, have starting long before the elections of February and March 1996. I know many Sierra Leoneans and non Sierra Leoneans who worked hard for an understanding between the previous two governments and the RUF. I have previously mentioned the statesmanship of ex Chairman General Maada Bio during his two months at the helm when the peace process gathered pace.
  Every war is evil. In Sierra Leone we have had, or maybe still have, an extreme version of it. But it did not arise out of a vacuum or overnight. It was born out of the frustrations of a significant number of our compatriots who then, sadly, opted for armed conflict as a way of redress. But it was never going to be espoused by the vast majority of the population because we have not had a tradition of sustained militancy in modern day Sierra Leone. Our leaders in the past, with the sole exception of former President Siaka Stevens, did not believe in violence to achieve their political objectives. Unlike many countries in the West African sub region, we did not even have to agitate for independence. It came to us handed on a silver platter on the personal guarantee and prestige of the mild mannered Prime Minister of the time, the revered late Sir Milton Margai.
  Notwithstanding the succession of bad governments since his untimely death and the glaring lack of political direction of the ensuing years, the population as a whole remained placid and docile, displaying neither a tendency for rebelliousness nor a penchant for civil disobedience. 
It was thus unthinkable and certainly impossible for those committed to democratic governance, among whom I proudly count myself, to subscribe to the RUF's ideology of war to assert the justice of otherwise popularly held grievances. Nevertheless, as I have said many times before, the fact of the war is a reality that we cannot dis-invent, try as hard as we might. What needs to be done therefore is to let rank and file Sierra Leoneans accept that they and our country are not unique by any stretch of the imagination. At the base of all our troubles is the struggle for power - political power - because with that you have total control over national resources. It is a struggle that is happening almost everywhere under the sun. In the event, even those who are not interested in politics will be affected. That is why I would rather see our country bracing itself now to confront the current spate of internal ripples in a sensible and orderly fashion and work out a formula for mutual tolerance than embarking upon an uncertain route towards sectarian and narrow self interests.
  If anyone should ask me, I would say that we should never have allowed the war to start in the first place. This does not mean we should have rushed out to tell Foday Sankoh and his Burkinabe and Liberian allies not to invade the country. It would have been too late, any way. No! We should have been on our guard not to allow the political system to carry on the way it did - when Sierra Leoneans were maltreated in their own country and the government became persecutor, not redeemer and protector of the masses and their interests; when the impoverishment of ordinary people became a springboard for carefully planned assaults on the liberty and basic freedoms of our citizens. Decent people were deliberately rendered poor through exploitation by those in power and treated as second class citizens. The vast majority of Sierra Leoneans were excluded from the main stream of national political and economic life. We saw all these things happening but most of us did not complain. Those who did were slapped down, disgraced and humiliated in public, locked up in jail or, in my own case, deprived of a safe return to my country because my various activities against the regime were deemed anti-government. Activities which included the precursors of this newsletter: Sierra Leone Report, New Patriot, Watchman, Think, SLAM, etc. 
  In order to avoid the recurrence of these conditions, it is important for the citizens of Sierra Leone to become more aware of not just their own personal rights and responsibilities but the issues that affect the overall national interest. We do not achieve this level of awareness by name-calling and branding each other with uncomplimentary terms. We do so, instead, by allowing open debate and, hopefully, by entertaining objective criticism of current policies and graciously acknowledging the need for their constant reappraisal to correct our mistakes, build upon our successes and look to the future with firmer conviction.
  Over many years, but more so in these recent years of turmoil and suffering, I have detected some aversion in many of compatriots towards telling the truth or being told it. Let me amplify: it is a historical fact, and it cannot be denied, that as a country we have developed a sort of siege mentality which leads us to believe that we are somehow an oasis of civilisation, very unlike our sister countries, and superior to them in every respect, and should therefore be immune to the ills that plague the others. This has proved to be an illusion. Even more alarming is my belief that this sentiment is gradually working its way into our interaction with one another in ways that are not too far from tribalism.
  These beliefs were encouraged not out of nationalism but purely because it was convenient and stopped us thinking seriously about the issues that we must address from time to time for us to progress as a nation. It is the absence of this progressive thinking that has kept us where we are - at the bottom of the pile - all these years. How many times, before the outbreak of our war, did you not read introductory literature on Sierra Leone by even the smallest Sierra Leonean organisation, at home and abroad, recanting stories of our being once the Athens of West Africa, the only country in which the government was changed peacefully through the ballot box, the most peaceful country in Africa, the country that civilised West and parts of East Africa, the friendliest people to strangers - even though we lack generosity in our comments about one another! We seemed to be trapped in a time capsule and although it is warped we still fail to acknowledge the multifaceted fissures taking place in our midst.
  It has taken a particularly capricious and, in many respects, barbaric war to get some of us to look at things differently. But I am afraid, by the current evidence, it would appear that even this belated realisation is not of ground swell proportion, especially among the older members of our society. That is why the war is still far from over - because many people are unwilling to accept that every society has cause to go through a social upheaval of this kind. None can claim immunity from that. Even the most robust and assiduous countries have had a history of war or succumbed to it eventually. Only, we have to do all that is necessary to prevent it.
  That is why I also believe in some comparative thinking in attempting to work out durable solutions, especially for peace, for the country. We must look around the world and learn lessons from successful as well as unsuccessful experiments elsewhere. This does not mean we will not be applying some of our own original thinking in solving our problems. This brings me to the Kamajoh element in the war.
  The Kamajoh phenomenon is sufficient living proof that there are traditional cultural recesses to which we can take recourse when our backs are against the wall. But like all phenomena, it must be handled sensibly and be seen to be above political suspicion. At present there is some misunderstanding, caused deliberately in some instances, about its origin and purpose, even though its success has been obvious for all to see. But that alone will not suffice. The current manner in which it is variously perceived could lead to new threats that could far belie the present popularity it is enjoying up country.
  I almost said nation-wide support but, of course, some people have alleged that Ait is a southern and eastern phenomenon. I have also heard it said cynically by some people that Athe Kamajohs started the war ... that is why they are the ones who will finish it! You could not hear a dafter statement than that but then you can see the in-herent dangers encapsulated in careless statements like that. They are meant to create mischief. But if the Kamajohs have a predominantly Southern or Eastern pedigree, it is only because these two regions have been the most turned inside out by the war, and have come under the most sustained attacks throughout, with their entire communities dislocated and displaced. There is a residual gregarious instinct in all of us which can serve as a natural fall back in times of crisis.
  I suspect two basic cultural phenomena came into play to make the Kamajohs the formidable force they have proved to be in Sierra Leone's civil war. They were, to put it crudely, the twin bonds of unity and traditional loyalty that obtain within the `secret society' set-up. Other equally potent factors include the local hunters' undoubted acumen for taste, observation, sound and smell, and the totality of their familiarity with all things in their environment - animate or inanimate. Then, for good measure, add a few ex servicemen to their ranks and what you have is a formidable, functional and impenetrable shield for communal self-preservation.
  Most commentators acknowledge that this has been one of the very few positive social innovations in Sierra Leone. However, the Kamajoh militia should come under proper supervision and control, but without taking away the originality of its flair and the uniqueness of its identity. They should retain their identity which is quite distinct from that of the national army. They are founded on totally different concepts. Incidents in the second half of last year when several clashes took place between regular soldiers and Kamajohs proved that they are a bit like oil and water. If you put them together and shake them hard enough, they will get together for a while, but they just cannot mix!
  The Minister for Defence, Captain Hinga Norman, their mentor and the man credited with their creation, should be congratulated on a great achievement. But he should tread carefully and not allow a truly positive cultural phenomenon to develop into a Frankenstein's monster. Despite its very localised origins, the force must be put within the national context. It should not be aligned tribally, religiously, politically or even regionally. Although they are recruited from, and belong to the brigades in their local community, nonetheless they have been used to fight in areas outside their locality. That is why they need to be controlled. They must also not be seen or perceived as ethnocentric by their detractors but rather as a national asset playing a major recognised role in the community along side others charged with the security of citizens everywhere. 

(Have you any views about the Kamajohs? If so we would like to hear from you.)

An insult to the dead of the North
I was appalled to read about the comments President Kabbah made when he visited Makeni on Monday 11 November last year. The fact that Foday Sankoh is from Magburaka, and Zeno his number two from Makeni, do not even warrant such a statement, that the ANorth should apologise to the South and the East. He appeared to expressly accuse Northerners of being the perpetrators of a civil war in which the northerners themselves are victims. Even Freetown in the Western Area bore the full social cost of the war. Such a statement is an insult to the memory of the Northerners, both civilians and soldiers who have died in this civil war. I think President Kabbah should apologise to the North for making such a politically inept statement. North, South, East and West - we are all Sierra Leoneans, such divisive rhetoric is not in line with the prevailing spirit of reconciliation, and those who espouse them should be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

Pa Yamba Fore
London, UK
Kabbah is right 
President Kabbah is right to blame our brothers and sisters in the North for allowing the carnage to take place in the South and East. Foday Sankoh is their own and, if the President was right about his no 2 coming from up there, then he too is their own. We want unity in the country but we must not sweep the truth under the carpet. How can anyone explain the statement by previous Northern APC leaders that when they "have finished ruling this country, history would record that there was once a tribe called the Mendes? I was at the receiving end of that threat. I am a Mende and I was in Freetown when the APC took over power in 1968. I was beaten and dragged to the old refuse dump - `Bormeh' - at King Tom and threatened to be drowned because I spoke my mother tongue. My assailants were Temnes who then dominated the APC. There was a time in Freetown when no Mende dared to speak their native tongue. Thank God I am alive to see my party in power once again - a party that I suffered for because they claimed it was a Mende man's party.
Sylvester T Sundufu
Bolton, Lancs, England
Most people in the North don't know him! 
I do not quite agree with President Kabbah when he lumps together everybody in the North as the guilty ones for sharing the same geographical area with Foday Sankoh and his number 2. But he is right to demand an apology from Northerners if in fact it is one or any of their people who are leading those who have caused this amount of mayhem for our country - especially in the South and East. The behaviour of the Northern dominated government of the APC on the outbreak of the war and the feeble manner in which they handled events up to their overthrow indicated, to me at least, that there was a conspiracy to allow the South and East to be destabilised so leaving the North intact. The alleged statements of people like Dr Abass Bundu and others about keeping the war away from the North - not from the whole of Sierra Leone - if indeed true, show how partisan some Northern elites had become.
  However, blanket accusations do not help because possibly thousands of Northerners have died and suffered physical injury from the same violence as in the South and East. We too in the North have thousands displaced or living in refugee camps outside the country. Remember the attacks on Kambia, Lunsar, Port Loko, Magburaka and throughout the Tonkolili District. where trouble is still brewing. We are also equally bitterly angry over the violence of the last five years. President Kabbah, though right to demand the apology of Northerners, should also be aware that most Northerners do not know Foday Sankoh who spent most of his years in Bo and Segbwema, both in the East and South respectively, as a photographic businessman. He never lived up here long enough in their midst for him to become their charge. But even more interesting is the revelation that the majority of the RUF - probably over 75% are Kissis, Mendes Vais and Sherbros - all southern and eastern tribes. How does he explain that?
Name and address withheld
South Carolina, USA
Seek and you shall find
So President Kabbah is lamenting the shortage of patriots? (Focus Vol. 2 No 9). I have advice for him: Open your eyes Mr President and you will see thousands ready to serve with honesty and purpose. How did Sierra Leone survive its criminalisation by Siaka Stevens and the APC? Mr President they are there - silent; they do not curry favours; they are too proud to crawl or `lay belleh' for political appointments nor will they engage in the current rat race to get noticed. You have to go looking for them because many have been abused and misused before. They are very private people and not even their love of country can bring them to forfeit their hard won privacy. So look very hard Mr President and you will see them.
Anita Johnston
Congo Town, Freetown

(Heidrun Khanu)

Your eyes are empty
your smile died in your lovely face
your arms hug dead bodies
your sons and daughters are tired
their strength is broken
their voices low
too low
they don't count in the concert of greed and power
but they are not dead
they are just dreaming
they dream the dream of their ancestors
and your sons and daughters will return
strong and beautiful
and YOU will be there
not black
not white
and your eyes will shine in your lovely face
and our eyes will shine
and there will be only one colour:
the colour of love.


Permit me space to applaud your editorial back in August (FSL Vol 2 No 7). Having gone through the entire piece, I am convinced that hard-thinking Sierra Leoneans must continue, like you, to put forward proposals for the betterment of Sierra Leone. This is no patronising response, but I want to ask how many more Sierra Leoneans are willing to contribute such common sense proposals, and how willing is the government to listen and pragmatise efforts such as yours. To contribute to your call for radical change, allow me to make the following points:

(1) No country has ever been developed through the long hands of donors, whose efforts can only tickle in the short run, but reinforce destitution for the common people in the mid and long run. Take the case of Nigeria after the Biafran war and the over-subscription of aid to Angola: both these countries are today still haunted by the scars of war, despite cessation of hostilities. Should we rely solely on such aid, Sierra Leone will ever remain a dependant nation, unable to fend for its people.

(2) Any country, during or immediately after a civil war like ours cannot return to normality without reflecting on where we went wrong in the first place. Minimising responsibility, and Awho did what has always been the flash point of our national pride; this has taken us nowhere, and remains a major stumbling block to achieving a lasting peace for all Sierra Leoneans.

If Sierra Leone is to be redrawn on the world peace map, we need to reassess our duties as citizens, from a national and domestic (family) point of view. True patriots never tire of giving critical views where the future of their country is at stake. Mandela tried for 27 years after 50 years of apathy, but finally got it. So let us all stop the bickering and help rebuild our nation. The civil war should help bring us closer together, not drive us apart. Our lives and the future of our country and the next generation are all at stake more so now than before the war; let us fight to preserve it. I do not wish to take sides but I must do my bit as a frustrated beast hungry for reconciliation and a better way of life for all Sierra Leoneans. Let me comment on some aspects of your proposals:

Empowering the people: for a country like ours whose developmental direction was lost 25 years ago and is presently struggling to come out of the doldrums, empowering the people is essential if we are to return to normality. The people who exercised such resilience before and during the war have a great role to play in rebuilding their communities; their involvement will be therapeutic and help people support each other to recover from the horrendous traumas they have experienced during the war. I however fear that the rehabilitation process will be flooded with unemployable experts from donor countries with little or no knowledge about the culture and life of our people. The $232 million pledged is a little drop, but lets hope we can keep expatriates to a minimum, so that this amount doesn't all go on the wages, transportation, board and lodging of expatriates. 

The Brain drain: This is a great problem; what an economic bonus to Sierra Leone if all the wise men and women in the Diaspora were to return. But what will happen, especially to the stale ones who contributed to the decline of our country? Are they capable of delivering a better service, and if so what will be their cost to the country? I agree with your view on the issue, but you fail to define or put forward concrete measures for redressing the past. Many of these people have failed us before and then took to flight abroad. It will amount to communal homicide to ship such people back just for the sake of redressing the brain drain, despite their abilities, if we are not able to address their past misdeeds. I also feel that those who want to work in Sierra Leone should undertake apprenticeship of say six months orientation, on payment of board and lodging (no salary). Only after then should they be given permanent appointments. This will be a cost effective way of getting as many people back instead of just imposing them on the society only for them to take up their corrupt practices from where they left off. Also, it will help restore self-esteem to the present workers and young trainees alike. The returnee will be able to share experiences and rehabilitate him or herself into the community after so many years' absence. For the government this will not only be an effective way of saving money but it will help to minimise corruption and mal-administration which have long been the culture of the work force. If such a scheme is put in place and packaged with real incentives, I am sure those technocrats who are patriotic and wish to render service to the country will return. 
  Also, those taking vocational and technical training courses could, during their courses, be encouraged to return home and take up practical placements in Sierra Leone, e.g. trainee doctors and nurses could go and do their housemanship in hospitals in Sierra Leone. In such cases their rehabilitation will be only a formality after completing their courses.
  Extending the vote to Sierra Leoneans abroad: This can be a good thing but I would like to know how it will be financed and what will be the terms of eligibility. It will be crazy and against national interest for such a right to extend to those who make no input into Sierra Leone, e.g. those who have discarded their Sierra Leonean passport in favour of their adoptive countries of permanent or semi-permanent residence, where they work and already have the right to vote. I think all Sierra Leoneans who want such a right must pay some form of tax to the country's exchequer through the agency of the Embassies or High Commission. It will also show their commitment and loyalty to the country.
  I would like to end by saying that in rebuilding our nation we must learn individually to shoulder responsibility, be more tolerant of each other and, above all, trust one another.

(Mohamed Haji-Kella)
Tampere, FINLAND

Liberian warlord, Charles Taylor, marries and who turn up to grace the occasion? The Nigerian Foreign Minister, ECOMOG's Force Commander, and others. Sierra Leone clinches a deal to end its bloody civil war and guess who were there to witness it? Not one of them! Funny business - war and politics!

The Kabbah government has taken steps to control the abuse of subsidised rice by army, police and prisons personnel. Whereas ordinary civilians pay an average of Le 30,000 for a bag of rice, the forces have paid only Le1,000. Now quotas for the army (40,000 bags) and the police (30,000 bags) are being reduced to 17,000 bags each, and that for the Prisons department to 3,000 bags. An official was quoted as saying that Athe President is worried over reports that some senior military and police officers are collecting bags of rice for their personal use.

Executive Outcome, the dogs of war clad in respectable clothing, are due formally to leave Sierra Leone under the terms of the Peace Accord. (See next edition of Focus for details.)


We had hoped that with the signing of the Peace Accord this column would no longer be necessary. Alas events since the big Abidjan event mean it must continue to feature for sometime. Undoubtedly there have been dividends for the country because most parts have enjoyed relative calm. Many people are reported to be returning to their towns and villages. The violence has continued in pockets but with the same viciousness as before the Accord.

***** On Thursday 5 December a massacre was reported to have taken place in the towns of Kubehuna and Magbenka, both in the Masimera Chiefdom, Tonkolili District, in the North. The news was broken by a local newspaper correspondent and an eye witness. But the government strongly denied that any such incident had taken place. The RUF denied its involvement but could neither confirm or deny that the incident occurred. Over 150 people were reported to have been killed. UK viewers saw the news flashed on the BBC's Ceefax news poll. The reporter subsequently filed another report claiming he had visited a hospital where survivors with gaping wounds were being treated.

***** In the North, a transporter was attacked on the highway to Makeni and it's entire stock of goods were taken away and the vehicle set alight.

***** It then emerged that throughout the week before and during Xmas, heavy fighting was taking place in East Sierra Leone in the Kailahun District between the RUF and the army aided by the Kamajohs. (See p.4 col.4 regarding RUF protests and President Kabbah's equally robust response.) The East a stronghold of the RUF could pose the most serious challenge for the implementation of the provisions of the Accord. The only source of the news of the clashes was the RUF which protested to both the UN and the Ivory Coast government, the custodian of the Peace Accord. A nationwide blackout appeared to have been put on this event and others because no one in Sierra Leone whom Focus talked to seemed to have the foggiest idea about events in Kailahun.

***** Two weeks later there was another outbreak of violence in the Masimera area 40 miles from Makeni with shooting reported and looting of homes and local shops. Several people were abducted while those who refused were beaten up. Over 5,000 people who had resettled in the area were forced to move out again. But this time both government and RUF were agreed that it was the desperate reaction of (possibly) a group of disgruntled (government) soldiers whose main livelihood - harassing passengers at check points and extortion - had been cut off by an order of the Government that road blocks should be reduced to allow for free movement of civilians.

***** Barely a week later, three days of clashes were reported in the same District. Matotoka and Makali were particularly affected as rambling gunmen went out looting and foraging for food. They allegedly reportedly sent a message to Kabbah, giving him one month in which he must fulfil "his promise to feed them and supply them with money promised [in the agreement]" and threatened resumption of the war. At least two people were reported killed.



Article 14 - Citizens' Consultative Conferences shall take place once a year, the first of which shall be organised within one hundred and twenty days of the signing of the present Peace Agreement in order to encourage people's participation and to invite recommendations for the formulation of guidelines and their implementation that will ensure truly fair and representative political processes.

Article 15 - The Parties agree that immediately following the signing of the peace agreement, the RUF/SL shall commence to function as a political movement with the rights, privileges and duties provided by law; and, that within thirty days following that, the necessary conditions shall be created to enable the RUF/SL to register as a political movement according to law.

Article 16 - The Parties shall approach the international community with a view to mobilising resources which will be used to establish a trust fund to enable the RUF/SL to transform itself into a political party.

Article 17 - To consolidate the peace and promote the cause of national reconciliation, the Government of Sierra Leone shall ensure that no official or judicial action is taken against any member of the RUF/SL in respect of anything done by them in pursuit of their objectives as members of that organisation up to the time of the signing of this Agreement. In addition, legislative and other measures necessary to guarantee former RUF/SL combatants, exiles and other persons, currently outside the country for reasons related to the armed conflict shall be adopted ensuring the full exercise of their civil and political rights, with a view to their reintegration within a framework of full legality.

Article 18 - The Parties agree to the principle of reforming the present electoral process in Sierra Leone. There shall, in that regard, be the full participation of citizens and their organisations in formulating electoral reforms. The independence and integrity of the National Electoral Commission shall be guaranteed to ensure fair and acceptable electoral exercise.
  In reconstituting the National Electoral Commission, the President shall consult all political parties and movements including the RUF/SL, to determine the membership and terms of reference of that Commission, paying particular attention to the need for a level playing field in the nation's electoral politics. Both the Government and the RUF/SL shall, together with other political parties, nominate men and women of professionalism, integrity and objectivity to the National Electoral Commission, no later than three months after the signing of the present Peace Agreement. It is hereby agreed that no member of the National Electoral Commission shall be eligible for appointment to a political office by any government formed as a result of an election they were mandated to conduct.


Article 19 - It is recognised that there is a socio-economic dimension to the conflict which must also be addressed in order to consolidate the foundation of the peace. Accordingly, the socio-economic policy of Sierra Leone shall be guided, among other things, by the following principles, taking into account available resources:
  (i) Enhancement of the nation's productive capacity through the meaningful grassroots participation in the reconstruction and development of the country.
  (ii) The provision of equal opportunities to all Sierra Leoneans, especially those in the countryside and the urban poor, with the aim of equitable distribution of the nation's resources thereby empowering them to contribute effectively to decision making and implementation of policies which will affect their lives.
  (iii) Improving the quality of life of the people through the provision of, inter alia:
(a) primary health care in all villages and towns;
(b) affordable and quality housing, especially in the countryside and poor urban areas; 
(c) educational services to enable all children of primary and junior secondary school age to receive free and compulsory schooling as well as provide the opportunity for the youth and all other Sierra Leoneans to receive affordable quality education; 
(d) clean drinking water and a sewerage system in every village and town; 
(e) provide job opportunities in a systematic and sustainable way for the people, especially the youth; 
(f) promote and sustain rural development and support agriculture in terms of technical, credit and marketing facilities; 
(g) provide support for production and provision of basic food and nutritional requirements of the people and food security in general; 
(h) protect the environment and regulate the exploitation of natural resources in the interest of the people, as well as prohibit monopolies; 
(i) provide the required infrastructure such as roads, transport and communications, energy and rural electrification, for improved living conditions, especially of the rural people; 
(j) seek to obtain debt relief in order to transfer funds from debt servicing to meet the urgent requirements of rebuilding a war-torn society. (See next edition for final instalment)