MORE VIOLENCE AND DEATH IN COUP AFTERMATH
The weekend of Friday 11 July witnessed the third serious confrontation
between Nigerian (ECOMOG) troops and AFRC/RUF fighters who have recently
been renamed the ‘People’s Army’. Two days earlier on Wednesday 9 July,
there was a full scale battle for control of the Lungi International Airport.
In a previous encounter on Monday 2 June, Nigerian troops were, by popular
acclamation, given a good hiding by the junta’s militia during an all-day
gun battle that ended, with a truce, after the Nigerians ran out of ammunition
and the capture of over 300 of their men. During the last two clashes,
however, Nigerians had the upper hand, having recently brought in fresh
reinforcements of men and ammunition for their demoralised troops.
The scene of the latest battle, which continued into Monday and part
of Tuesday of the following week, was at Jui, about 15 miles east of Freetown
and close to Benguema, the location of one of the country’s main military
training camps. Jui is host to a contingent of Nigerian troops. Nearby
is Hastings with its National Police Training School, and an Airport that
is currently under the control of the Peoples Army. There is a displaced
persons camp close to the town. An RUF base was said to have been recently
established in the area. Troops from there were deployed for the clash
with the Nigerians which started after a Nigerian air force jet buzzed
Freetown, flying so low that it threw the city and its outskirts into confusion
Eye witnesses told of continuous bombardment with heavy weapons and
mortar fire. Civilians fled for safety, and shops and markets were closed.
There were officially over 90 deaths during this battle, including civilians
and a very large number of soldiers on both sides. Some reports have claimed
that this figure is extremely conservative and have put the casualty as
high as between 450 and 600 which, they also say, were mainly casualties
of the People’s Army. But AFRC Military sources strongly denied these reports,
saying they were pure propaganda and boasted that they were a match for
the Nigerians. No reliable figures have been easy to come by because all
sides deliberately understate their own casualties while inflating their
Those who were first on the scene have reported that the town was reduced
to rubble and is empty after all its remaining inhabitants fled. Although
calm had returned to the area by Tuesday, reporters said that the opposing
armies were still in their trenches in readiness for possible renewed fighting.
Up to the time of writing this account, the ICRC was still negotiating
to be allowed to enter the battleground to remove corpses for burial and
the wounded for treatment. A surgeon described the victims’ bodies as "completely
mangled and hardly recognisable". Casualties included policemen whose
HQ was hit by a rain of missiles fired by the Nigerians, killing six of
them. The AFRC claimed that in another incident a bomb dropped by a Nigerian
air force jet killed a family of four in the town. The military barracks
in Jui were also completely wrecked by Nigerian artillery.
The Nigerians appear also to have had the better of the clash of Wednesday
9 July for control of the Lungi International Airport. Reports said "hundreds
of RUF fighters" were killed, with one quoting as many as over 300. The
regime strenuously deny this but have as yet issued no casualty figures.
Scores of innocent civilians also died in the crossfire. The Lungi military
barracks were flattened by Nigerian battery. Lungi Town itself as well
as the airport are both firmly under the control of Nigerian forces.
Fighting started after AFRC soldiers were sent to silence a pirate station
which had broadcast messages by President Kabbah to the people of Sierra
Leone. The finger of suspicion was pointed at the Nigerians whom the AFRC
accused of facilitating and harbouring the transmitter at their base. A
spokesman for the regime alleged that AFRC/RUF troops were on their way
to the airport when they were engaged into an argument by Nigerian soldiers:
Nigerians were hostile and started trading insults and then things got
out of hand .. there was hand-to-hand fighting at one stage before the
two sides separated and took up heavy bombardment." Another military
man said that it was the Nigerians who "started attacking our men on
the ground… the only thing that can bring this fight under control is for
the international world to tell Nigeria to get out of our territory".
The Nigerians flatly denied these charges. ECOMOG commander General
Victor Malu, speaking form Monrovia (Liberia), said "we had no reason
to attack them". A statement form ECOMOG HQ in Liberia declared: "…The
junta launched the fierce attack on the allegation that ECOMOG installed
an FM station in Lungi. The junta’s attack was therefore aimed at destroying
the station". Acting Nigerian defence spokesman Godwin Ugbo, speaking
in Abuja, issued a prompt denial of the allegation that the clandestine
radio station was being operated by Nigerians. He said that as far as they
were concerned they did not even know of it, so the question of their funding
it did not arise.
The sound of gunfire caused pandemonium in the west end of Freetown
which had been tense since a speech by President Kabbah was broadcast on
a pirate radio station "SLBS FM 98.1" that uses a frequency that is close
to the real Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) Radio - FM 98.99.
For nearly two days after the latest fighting the radio remained silent
but resumed broadcasts on the third day.
Following the latest battles, the possibility of calling a truce and
a cease-fire was discussed and agreed by commanders on both sides as we
went to press.
NEWS DIGEST > > > NEWS DIGEST > > > NEWS DIGEST > > >
NEWS DIGEST > > >
The following is a resume of some, but by no means all, of the main
events during the two months since the coup d’état of Sunday 25
May. Special acknowledgement goes to the Sierra Leone News web site
for some of the items covered in this edition.
The AFRC acknowledged that looting and killing was taking place in Freetown,
and promised intensified patrols.
Two delegations sent by the Junta to negotiate a truce with Kamajohs were
reported to have been manhandled by Kamajohs who wanted nothing to do with
the AFRC government. A group of 10 sent to Kamajohs on the Makeni-Matotoka
road were all abducted and 3 of them were allegedly killed. One was sent
back to the regime saying there would be no compromise over the return
of the civilian government of President Kabbah. An appeal by the AFRC junta
for a meeting with chiefs in the area was turned down because the latter
were unsure of their safety. Fighting broke out in the area between various
militia. Roman Catholic Bishop Biguzzi of Makeni Diocese intervened to
negotiate a truce but the militiamen refused to disarm.
The other group of 5 emissaries, led by a Njala University College lecturer,
was allegedly abducted and brutalised. The lecturer, Dr Tommy, was killed
during the visit. Each side blamed the other for his death. A Kamajoh spokesman,
Mohamed Koroma, commenting on these claims said that they were not seizing
any AFRC emissaries.
Fighting between Kamajohs and AFRC and RUF soldiers took place on many
fronts in the south around Pujehun, and in the east near Kenema. There
were AFRC casualties at Joru and Bombohun near the Liberian border. For
a while, the Tongo-Kono road was blocked by Kamajohs who were said to number
between 4 - 5,000. At one time Kamajohs were reported to have blocked the
main Freetown-Bo highway. In sheer numbers, 3,000 Kamajohs were said to
be stationed at Gerihun; 10,000 at Jembe about 30 miles from Bo and another
6,000 near Pujehum. One of their leaders Eddie Massally threatened: "There
will be no retreat until we restore our government". Asked whether
they were armed by ECOMOG he replied: "No we are on our own" and
added "We are inspired by God".
RUF commandos attacked and took over two towns in the East - Foya Kamalahun
and Kalahun. The now re-named ‘Peoples Army’ also claimed to have taken
the towns of Mobai, Jojoima and Barri.
After a ferocious battle near Pujehun, Kamajoh Commander Abdulai Johnson,
nicknamed ‘Enemy Consumer’, boasted that he had himself beheaded two captured
Magburaka in the Northern Tonkolili District is virtually a ghost town
after its inhabitants fled following alleged hostile activities by RUF
sympathisers. Thousands of refugees poured into Makeni, 60 miles away,
some by lorry and others on foot. Most refugees claimed that they had been
harassed and their stocks of food and other valuables had been taken away
from them at gun point. The Kapras - local hunters’ militia - in
the North, were threatening to retaliate.
At least 15 persons were killed in clashes between kamajohs and army troops
near Gerihun, in the Bo District. Kamajohs have set up roadblocks on the
Bo-Kenema and the Bo-Yele highways to prevent themselves from being surrounded
by RUF/AFRC troops.
Over 25 people were killed when armed assailants entered Gerihun, on June
26. Among their victims was Albert Sandi Demby, Paramount Chief of Baoma
Chiefdom and uncle of ousted vice President Joseph Demby. According to
eye witnesses, the chief was taken from his compound by soldiers who then
shot and killed him. Two other towns, Telu, hometown of Deputy Defence
Minister Hinga Norman, and Sembehun were attacked by the soldiers. Over
20 civilians, including a local chief were killed.
A combined force of RUF troops and Sierra Leone soldiers attacked a 5-square-mile
area, between Zimmi and the Mano River Bridge, which is a stronghold of
the Kamajoh militia in the South. The AFRC claimed 10 kamajohs were killed
for the loss of one of their own men. The troops were led by RUF’s second
in command, Colonel Sam Bockarie, also known as "Mosquito". One week later,
the army claimed that it had seized control of the Sierra Leone side of
the Mano River Union Bridge from Kamajohs. Earlier it had claimed the capture
of the towns of Gofor and Zimmi.
More fighting erupted at Koribundo in the Bo District. Eighteen people
were reported killed, including 8 civilians. There was pandemonium in Moyamba
during the second week of the coup, with claims of street fighting, executions
and beheadings, and homes including that belonging to PC Madam Ella Koblo
Gulama destroyed. Many civilians were reported to be caught in the crossfire.
The town is close to an RUF base near Bauya. Sources said the AFRC suspected
the presence of a Kamajoh contingent in the area which had allegedly threatened
to block the main Freetown-Bo highway, and an RUF contingent had been sent
to investigate. But local sources denied there had been any observable
Kamajoh presence in the town before the attack.
Four criminals caught in acts of robbery and burglary were publicly executed
at the police station in Kenema. They were believed to have been among
prisoners freed during the coup.
Intense fighting took place in Kenema Town between Kamajohs and AFRC soldiers
on 19 June. Soldiers attacked Kamajohs in retaliation for an earlier attack
by Kamajohs on their positions in Kenema and Pujehun. Over 60 people, including
civilians were killed in the crossfire. The town was the scene of a bitter
3-day battle about two weeks before the coup when scores of civilians were
killed. (See FSL Vol
3 No 2.)
Digest of other events
More Child Fighters Thrown Into The Fray - Nearly 5,000 children are believed
to be fighting in the civil war in Sierra Leone. Many are being forced
and indoctrinated into committing some of the most despicable acts of violence.
Virtually all parties to the war have been using children whom they frequently
use as advance parties in many attacks. Many have been abducted from families
and turned into killing machines. Since the coup there gave been signs
that children who had been undergoing treatment and rehabilitation have
taken to their old ways and joined the ranks of the coupists. UNICEF Executive
Director Carol Bellamy warned: "Children should have no part in war.
By making them agents of civil conflict and depriving them of their childhood,
the vicious cycle of violence is perpetuated".
SLAJ Members’ Protest - Members of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists
(SLAJ) accused the AFRC of harassment and intimidation of its members and
called for the release of 3 colleagues belonging to the Democrat
newspaper. "We are very concerned that in the seven weeks since the
AFRC took power our members have been exposed to a degree of harassment
and threats from military authorities which far exceed anything ever seen
in this country" they said in their statement.
Junta Crackdown - AFRC Junta claims it is cracking down on lawlessness.
Major Koroma told soldiers "to report to your respective units and stop
parading the streets aimlessly. Any soldier caught in the street without
a valid pass will be severely dealt with".
"We Want Dialogue" Says Junta - SLBS radio called for "constructive dialogue"
with the Commonwealth Secretariat, pleading that it would have provided
a timetable by now "had it not been for the threat of armed violence
in Sierra Leone caused by Nigeria". Sierra Leone’s membership of the
Commonwealth Organisation was suspended on 1 July. It becomes the second
outcast, the only other being Nigeria.
"Don’t Come In!" - An anti-Nigerian intervention rally was held on 16 July
at the national stadium in Freetown. Speakers denounced the presence of
Nigerian troops in Sierra Leone and called for their immediate withdrawal.
Sworn In - AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma was sworn in as Head
of State on Tuesday 17 June in a ceremony performed by Chief Justice Samuel
Beccles-Davies. He pledged to restore democracy: "We are committed to
bringing this country to lasting peace and then eventually to returning
the country to a democratically elected government".
Who Wants To Serve? - Some, but apparently not all, ministers appointed
by the AFRC took their oaths of office on 14 July. They included former
NPRC strongman, now Chief Secretary of State and Minister of Mines, Captain
SAJ Musa. The event took place before AFRC Chairman and Head of State,
Major Johnny Paul Koroma. (See below for a list of appointments.)
"No Surrender" - A local newspaper claimed that nearly 500 soldiers surrendered
to ECOMOG authorities following the battles of Jui and Lungi. A junta spokesman
denying the report said the coalition of military and RUF allies remained
loyal to the government. He accused the newspaper of "a blatant act
of propaganda …. to create panic and fear in the minds of the people".
But to reinforce the point, the Pirate SLBS 98.1 also claimed that "some
patriotic rebel fighters and Sierra Leone soldiers are being prevented
from surrendering to ECOMOG bases by hard-core junta and RUF members".
Crash Landing - The helicopter in which President Kabbah escaped to Guinea
disappeared over Liberia while on chartered mission in connection with
elections in that country.
Soccer Casualty - Due to the uncertainty, especially the security situation
in Sierra Leone, the country’s last two African Nations Cup qualifying
matches have been moved to neutral Mali. Sierra Leone was due to play Tunisia
in Bamako on 23 July and Guinea on 27 July.
"Quick Off The Mark" - Nigeria was accused of jumping the gun ahead of
ECOWAS and UN authorisation to unilaterally impose a sea and land blockade
of Sierra Leone on 11 July. Ships have been turned away, and no planes
have been allowed to land at the airport which, some reports say, has been
heavily cratered following the recent skirmishes between the two sides.
The airport remains under the complete of the Nigerians.
Alleged "Instigators of RUF coup" detained - Fifteen people - six prominent
civilian members of the SLPP and nine military officers - were arrested
and detained over allegations that they conspired to induce the RUF to
overthrow the AFRC and make way for the return of the ousted SLPP government
in return for posts in government. The detainees denied the allegations,
describing them as complete fabrication. They included: Dr Sama S Banya,
Colonel K E S Boyah, Dauda Bundeh, Colonel Tom Carew, Major Francis Gortor,
Dr Abdul Jalloh, Dr Bockarie M Kobba, Abu Aiah Koroma, Colonel R Y Koroma,
Captain John Massaquoi, Abdullai Mustapha, Lieutenant-Colonel J A H Tucker,
and Major Vandi Turay. They were being held incommunicado at Pademba Road
Amnesty International (AI) - In the aftermath of the arrests, AI again
called on the AFRC to respect and protect the fundamental rights of all
Sierra Leoneans and expressed its concern over the arrests: "We fear
that some of these people may be detained only because they opposed the
military coup which brought the AFRC to power". It called for their
immediate release but failing which it demanded a fair trial for those
accused of a criminal offence, and for them to be allowed immediate access
to their families, lawyers, and doctors. AI has also expressed concern
about the summary executions of suspected looters by military officials,
which it said were contrary to international standards. Over 15 people
in Freetown, at least 5 in Kenema and 2 in Bo have been publicly executed
for looting and robbery.
"Kabbah is welcome back!" - AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma was reported
as saying that President Kabbah was welcome to return to Sierra Leone provided
he stopped "misleading" the international community. In one of many speeches
to nation since 25 May Chairman Koroma defended the coup, saying "We
just could not sit down and allow a President to be manipulated as people
were being killed or maimed". He said President Kabbah should have
brought the RUF leader Foday Sankoh out of the wilderness into the political
Renamed Rebel Army "Ready To Disarm" - RUF has renamed its armed wing the
‘People’s Army of Sierra Leone’. The People’s Army’s War Council, which
serves as the RUF’s high command, said its fighters were ready to disarm,
but only if the ECOMOG intervention force pulled out.
The RUF’s "Act of Contrition" - Groups of armed RUF fighters were reported
to haven been seen attending churches, mosques, and other public places
asking forgiveness for atrocities they committed during six years of civil
war. A "confession" statement issued by the rebel group read: "We have
now joined our parents, our brothers and sisters. The war, mutilations,
burning and indiscriminate killings have stopped …..We take responsibility
for the atrocities committed in the country’s interior…We burned, looted,
maimed, and killed but we did not do this because we wanted to. We had
to because that was the only way we could have uprooted a rotten system."
Call For Consultative Conference - AFRC called for an all-party consultative
conference to discuss a timetable for new elections in Sierra Leone, which
would bring together the military, ousted President Tejan Kabbah, the RUF,
and the Kamajoh militia. "We are calling for all the major stake holders
in the present political crisis...to sit together and consult in the African
tradition and resolve the present political crisis in the country and set
a timetable for fresh elections in Sierra Leone in which everybody including
Kabbah himself can participate".
Disarmed! - A contingent of Sierra Leone ECOMOG troops serving in Liberia
and based at Waterside on the Liberian side of the border, were disarmed
and moved to another location. AFRC protested saying they saw it as "a
ploy by ECOMOG officials to make Sierra Leone open for the incursion into
our country by the mercenary group from Liberia with the assistance of
Still Defiant - The Sierra Leone Labour Congress, in line with their previous
stance, rejected Chairman Koroma’s request for its members to resume work
and defiantly issued a communiqué calling for the restoration of
democracy and a negotiated settlement. "The democratic will of the people
of Sierra Leone was profoundly expressed during the 1996 general and presidential
elections …..This democratic will is indeed a reality and must be fully
respected and restored to ensure stability in the country".
Money Palaver - The Central Bank and the Commercial Bank have opened for
business but Barclays, Standard and other Banks have remained closed. Commenting
on the situation Mr Christian Kargbo, who is acting as interim Bank Governor,
said he had declined the substantive post of Governor and accepted an advisory
role because he felt that something had to be done. He appealed to donors
not to impose sanctions, saying: "What they should do is come and examine
the problems. Most of us do not favour military rule. Let the international
community come and see what could be done to resolve our problems, so that
we do not die of hunger or otherwise". The World Bank and the International
Monetary Fund have cut off aid for Sierra Leone following the coup.
Come Back ....All Is Forgiven! - AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma called
upon Sierra Leoneans who fled the country, following the 2 June Nigerian
naval bombardment of Freetown, to return home. He said they should come
back and help the government find a solution to the current political crisis.
away can never solve the problem". The call was re-echoed on SLBS National
radio but it did not stem the tide of refugees flooding into Gambia and
Guinea. Over 30,000 Sierra Leoneans are believed to have left the country.
Kamajohs’ Stand - Following a conciliatory appeal from the AFRC to Kamajohs
to take part in a unity government, the head of the local hunters militia
in the East, Alhaji Brima Bangura, rejected the call saying: "We
have no intention of joining the present military government in a government
of national unity as they call it …..We are not politicians, we were formed
by people at the community level to protect our villages and towns".
Battle Of The Air Waves - A pirate radio station believed to be operated
by "pro democracy" supporters of President Tejan Kabbah began broadcasts
to the nation. Alternately identifying itself the "Sierra Leone Broadcasting
Service," "SLBS 98.1" and "The True Voice of Sierra Leone", the station
uses a frequency - 98.1 on the FM waveband - which is very close to the
real national SLBS frequency - FM 98.9. The AFRC had succeeded in using
the national radio as an effective propaganda tool in its battle with its
opponents. This is the ousted regime’s answer to the one-sided presentation
of events and it appears to have caused the junta severe headaches. On
the "real" SLBS Radio, Major Koroma accused the station of "broadcasting
vicious and malicious propaganda aimed at intimidating soldiers and civilians
against the government and spreading general panic... [Kabbah] cannot succeed
to incite my loyal troops".
Food Shortages - The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
warned of serious food shortages. "The food supply is tightening in
the main towns. The price of rice has tripled in Freetown and the supply
of food and water is deteriorating", it said in a statement. Most shops
and markets have remained closed.
Costly existence - Cost of living has risen sharply since the coup. Food
supplies are running low and the cost has rocketed. Rice is selling for
Le 24,000 a bag, up from Le 16.000. In the diamond rich Kono District it
costs Le 60,000.
"My Mission" - UNPP leader John Karefa-Smart held a press conference in
New York to explain his efforts to seek a negotiated solution to the crisis
in Sierra Leone. "My mission has two aims: to explain the situation
in Sierra Leone to the Secretary-General of the UN and members of the Security
Council; and second, to seek their support for a continuing effort for
a diplomatic solution to the crisis". Asked if he would support the
use of force if negotiations failed, he said "I will still not support
it, I will just retire from the scene and let whatever happen.". Earlier
he unveiled a plan for a national conference to be held in Freetown, with
reconciliation, the restoration of durable democracy and lasting peace
as its theme. The aim would be "to provide a forum for addressing, in
an open, creative, and frank manner, the many ills which have long plagued
and deepened the cleavages within our society, and which led to the May
25, 1997 coup d’etat". Key objectives should include "the restoration
of democratic civilian order, implementation of the Abidjan Peace Accord,
the search for genuine national reconciliation, and agreement upon a programme
for post-war resettlement, rehabilitation, and reconstruction". The
plan recognises that for it to succeed, there had to be "willingness
of AFRC and ECOMOG to engage in discussions, in good faith …[and the] withdrawal
of all Nigerian military forces and armaments from Sierra Leone, especially
from Lungi International Airport … [which would] encourage the civilian
population that fled the country to return and resume normal activities,
and restore international trade and travel".
Some Of The Tough Talking
Major Johnny Paul Koroma, addressing the nation on 1 June: "…..The big
question at this moment on the lips of everybody inside and outside the
country is what prompted us to oust former President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah
and his government from power. Before [that] ……. I want first and foremost
on behalf of my colleagues to avail myself of this opportunity to solemnly
extend our sincere and heartfelt sympathy and expression of regret for
the unfortunate incidents that occurred during the take-over operation
in which some of our brothers and sisters, as well as foreign nationals,
lost their lives and property.…..I have already emphasised … that our action
was not motivated by selfishness and greed for power. The main objective
of the AFRC to seize power is to restore lasting peace and political stability
in this country, which has been ravaged and continues to be shattered by
a senseless war..... After five years of military governance, our country
was returned to democratic rule with great pains, but due to lack of political
ingenuity and sincere commitment on the part of former President Tejan
Kabbah and some of his lieutenants, the hard-won democracy was being gradually
jeopardised by the flagrant antidemocratic and unpatriotic practices of
the last regime .....our priority of priorities today is peace. Peace is
an inseparable factor for human development. We have been longing for it
for the past six years. Thanks to God, it is here. The Armed Forces Revolutionary
Council and true patriots of this country are therefore solemnly appealing
to all Sierra Leoneans, irrespective of their ethnic grouping, creed, social
standing, and political affiliation, within and outside our national territory
to join the God-inspired revolution for the ultimate salvation of our beloved
President Kabbah - on arrival in Conakry (Guinea) said he was alive and
well and that he would do everything possible for a peaceful solution.
But if all else fails it would be the responsibility of the junta. He called
on them to reverse their action, saying their failure would lead to economic
and social consequences including disease, food shortages and lack of clean
President Kabbah On Airwaves - broadcast to the nation over the secret
station and demanded the return of power to him by the AFRC: "Hand over
now and spare yourself and the people of Sierra Leone further pain and
suffering,… If you persist however and cause any further force to be used...
then let me assure you no Western countries will grant you asylum. No African
countries will harbour you." In another appeal to the soldiers of the
Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces he stoutly asserted: "As your
commander I hereby order you to report to the nearest ECOMOG base without
arms in your possession and declare your loyalty. By doing so you will
avoid being treated as a mutineer." President Kabbah endorsed the civil
disobedience that has crippled governmental operations since the coup and
exhorted civilians not to co-operate with the regime.
Hinga Norman - Deputy Minister of Defence in the ousted government and
a founder member of the Kamajohs, broadcast a message over a clandestine
radio station (some say from Liberia) and called for military action to
oust the AFRC. He said that negotiations with the coup leaders have proven
futile, and that military action is necessary because of the deplorable
plight of Sierra Leone citizens.
Tony Lloyd, British Minister for Africa, commenting on the coup in Sierra
Leone, said that " ….the demands were for the coup plotters to recognise
that the game is up, and it is up. However long it takes, the game for
them is up. The people of Sierra Leone do not deserve what they’ve had
unleashed. Our commitment and that of the whole international community
is to make sure that the legitimate government is back in power as quickly
as possible. There’s a very strong need now for the coup plotters to recognise
that it is in their hands to offer proper salvation to the people of Sierra
Leone. (They need to) to get round that negotiating table and to recognise
that they cannot continue with the present position".
US Ambassador to Sierra Leone John Hirsch: "The international community
will not accept their continued presence in Freetown and does not recognise
them in any way. The population, as is evident from the continued refusal
to work for almost six weeks, has spoken very eloquently about its determination
to see the democratically-elected government restored. I think it behoves
those in power, momentarily, to really think very hard as to what they
are seeking to attain. And if they genuinely have the interests of the
people of Sierra Leone at heart, if they really have that at heart, they
should now, together with the ECOWAS committee, find a way while there
is still time to step down without more destruction and allow the restoration
of the democratically-elected government of President Kabbah. Thereafter
a lot of those concerns that they raised can be addressed in a democratic
UN Endorsement - The Security Council of the UN endorsed initiatives taken
by regional organisations and warned the Junta to cede power back to the
civilian government. But it stopped short of sanctioning outright use of
force, expressing hope for a peaceful solution. The announcement followed
a visit by Foreign ministers representing the ECOWAS Committee of Four
on Sierra Leone who arrived in New York on 10 July to brief the United
Nations on the Sierra Leone crisis.
"We Are Only Helping" - General Sani Abacha has defended Nigeria’s role
in Sierra Leone, saying it is not interference. He said that responsibility
was placed on Nigeria to ensure stability in the sub-region.
"Don’t Push Us Around" says Ghana - Ghanaian diplomats ended two days of
talks with AFRC. They condemned the coup but rejected military intervention
to restore the civilian government. According to Deputy Foreign Minister
Victor Gbeho: "We should not allow ourselves to be pushed to a military
intervention in Sierra Leone because this would be bloody and destructive
…..Ghana still supports the OAU decision reached in Harare recently, calling
on all countries to do their utmost to restore the constitutional order
in Sierra Leone. We believe that the best way to resolve the crisis is
by diplomatic means, to reach a negotiated settlement, rather than by fighting."
More Condemnation - The AFRC take-over was condemned by the West African
Economic Monetary Union (comprising Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau,
Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo) at its recent conference held
in Lome, Togo. A joint statement also called for the reinstatement of the
government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah.
EU Endorsement - The European Union stopped all development aid to Sierra
Leone because constitutional order has not yet been restored. It said the
"the European Community and its Member States consider that existing
development assistance to Sierra Leone cannot be continued under present
circumstances" and endorsed regional efforts for a diplomatic solution
of the crisis, as well as efforts within Sierra Leone to arrive at a peaceful
settlement without further bloodshed.
"They’re Digging In" - Sierra Leone’s UN Ambassador James Jonah said that
the Junta is controlled by the Liberians, who are preventing the AFRC from
being flexible in meeting international demands to relinquish power.
"The evidence is very clear that those in charge today in Sierra Leone
are not those ill-considered military people who have made a coup….. the
control has passed on to the RUF, which is today controlled by Liberians.
They are digging in their heels."
"We will flush them out" - ECOMOG Commander Major-General Victor Malu boasted
that his troops will hound the AFRC out of power if negotiations fail:
have the capability of flushing out those people if and when we are directed
to do so."
"We Will Bomb Freetown" - In the wake of the battle at Jui, civilians were
warned by a Nigerian ECOMOG Commander to avoid military installations,
saying he had "ordered the ECOMOG troops holding the Orugu Bridge to
…allow vehicles and people to resume using the highway… [but] if the talks
between ECOWAS and the military government fail...and ECOMOG is given the
mandate by ECOWAS to forcefully remove the coup makers from power, ECOMOG
will invade Freetown and bomb the city to remove them …..there will be
no escape for the coup makers".
ABIDJAN PLAYS PEACE HOST AGAIN
The Ivory Coast which for 18 months, until last November, spearheaded
lengthy diplomatic efforts to end the civil war in Sierra Leone culminating
in the signing of the Abidjan Peace Accord, is once again the focus of
renewed regional diplomatic activity. Its capital, Abidjan, hosted a meeting
on 17 and 18 July between AFRC and the ECOWAS Four to find a solution to
the crisis. The meeting followed the decision of a recent ECOWAS Foreign
Ministers’ meeting in Guinea that four countries (Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea,
and Ivory Coast) should meet with the AFRC and discuss the situation in
The Sierra Leone delegation comprised the following: Dr Alimamy Paulo
Bangura; Mr A Manley-Spaine; Brig. D K Anderson; Capt. Paul Thomas; Mr
Solomon Y B Rogers; Corporal Tamba Gborie; Mr Dauda S Kamara; Mr W S Bangura;
Mr Allieu Kamara; Dr John Karefa-Smart; Dr Abbass Bundu; Mrs Ina Lamin.
A communiqué, issued after the meeting, described the discussions
as having being held "in an atmosphere of cordiality and frankness"
and recorded that the meeting had decided, among other things, as follows:
…. (i) to resolve all issues related to the Sierra Leone crisis peacefully,
in the best interest of the people of Sierra Leone, the sub-region, Africa
and the international community as a whole; (ii) that all hostilities should
cease and therefore a cease-fire be immediately established throughout
Sierra Leone while all efforts are deployed towards the peaceful resolution
of the crisis; (iii) to work towards the early restoration of constitutional
order, consistent with the objectives of ECOWAS ..; (iv) to allow the Sierra
Leone delegation time to return home and hold further consultations with
the regime in Freetown in order to facilitate a consideration of the detailed
modalities for the return of constitutional order to their country.
It was agreed that a second meeting would be held in Abidjan 25 July
for the purpose of concluding the Committee’s work on time for presentation
to the Chairman of ECOWAS.
Reactions To Communiqué
Maybe, Maybe Not! - Dr Paulo Bangura, AFRC Foreign Minister and delegation
leader, and AFRC spokesman Alieu Kamara, commenting on the meeting’s decision,
both defiantly stated that the pledge to restore constitutional order did
not necessarily imply the return of President Kabbah. Corporal Tamba Gborie,
the man who announced the May 25 coup on national radio, hinted that a
deal was unlikely without the participation of RUF leader Corporal Foday
Sankoh. "You can't make any peace in Sierra Leone without Foday Sankoh",
"Good Omen" Says Pirate Radio -FM 98.1 the secret weapon of the waves used
by the fugitive government to reach supporters in the country has welcomed
the AFRC’s "acceptance of the decision by the four-man ECOWAS committee
on Sierra Leone for the restoration of constitutional order in Sierra Leone
…. This is a good omen for Sierra Leone and a move in the right direction
to peace and prosperity".
"You Are The Culprits" Says ECOMOG - Nigeria accused AFRC of violating
the agreement for a cease-fire reached at the Abidjan meeting, saying "The
coupists and their rebel allies have continued to conduct probing attacks
on ECOMOG troop locations in Kossoh Town, Jui, Hastings Airfield, Lungi
airport and its environs, presumably in search of the FM radio station
believed to be harboured by ECOMOG….. ECOMOG troops have been provoked
beyond limits and will not hesitate to be on counter-offensive for self-defence".
Meeting Postponed - The second round of talks between AFRC and ECOWAS Committee
of Four is postponed by another four days to 29 July to give the coup leaders
more time for deliberations. There is further pressure from a diplomat
who says "The demand by the junta in Sierra Leone about the return of
constitutional rule in that country without [President] Kabbah is a non-starter".
Karefa-Smart Withdraws - UNPP leader Dr John Karefa-Smart said he had had
enough of malicious accusations and withdrew from AFRC negotiating team,
saying: "My continued presence on the committee would be misunderstood…My
primary concern throughout has been to let my people and the international
community become aware of the dangers inherent in allowing any state or
combination of states to interfere in the internal affairs of another state…I
am now satisfied that my loud and clear message has been received and heeded
and that I and all Sierra Leoneans can now go to sleep at night with the
assurance that they will not be awakened by a military attack on our country".
….But later - changed his mind following a plea by AFRC Chairman Major
Koroma that he should not desert them. "….If you don't come now" said
Koroma "and things don't go well, the people will never understand that
you left the job half done".
On The Attack …..Again - US Ambassador to Sierra Leone John Hirsch, speaking
from Guinea on the pirate radio SLBS 98.1, reiterated the view that the
international community will not recognise the AFRC government in Sierra
Leone and praised the determination of the people to see the democratically
elected government restored. He exhorted the AFRC to step down and spare
the people further pain and suffering. He also questioned their self-proclaimed
concern for the welfare of the people of Sierra Leone.
ARMED FORCES REVOLUTIONARY COUNCIL CABINET
[Note: Below is the first Cabinet list released by the AFRC.
It is reproduced with a health warning. Some members have yet to take up
their appointments and there are reports that some people who appear on
it have claimed that they did not consent to their inclusion.]
Major Johnny Paul Koroma - Chairman, AFRC Revolutionary Council; Head
of State; Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces & Secretary of State
for Defence; Corporal Foday Saybana Sankoh - Deputy Chairman, AFRC; Deputy
Head of State;
Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces; Capt. S A J Musa - Mineral Resources
& Chief Secretary; Alimamy Paulo Bangura - Foreign Affairs; Robin O
L Mason - Attorney General & Judicial Affairs; Joe Amara Bangali -
Finance; Osho Williams - Transport & Communication; Victor Brandon
- Development & Economic Planning; A A Vandy (People’s Army) - Agriculture,
Forestry & Fisheries (Acting); Capt (Rtd) A B S Jumo-Jalloh - Works
& Labour; Brigadier (Rtd) M L Lymon - Internal Affairs; Major Kula
Samba - Social Welfare, Children & Gender Affairs; Umaru Deen Sesay
- Youths, Sports & Social Mobilisation; S B Rogers (People’s Army)
- Lands & Environment (Acting); Col (Dr ) KIS Kamara - Health &
Sanitation; Mrs Rogers Wright - Education; Squadron Leader V L King - Chairman’s
Office; (People’s Army) - Trade, Industry & State Enterprises; (People’s
Army) - Energy & Power.
MEMBERS OF SUPREME COUNCIL
Major Johnny Paul Koroma - Chairman, AFRC; Head of State & Commander-in-Chief
of the Armed Forces;
Corporal Foday Saybana Sankoh - Deputy Chairman, AFRC;
Capt. SAJ Musa - Chief Secretary;
Colonel A K Sesay - Secretary General;
Major Carter Tarawallie; WOII F Conteh F; WOII Kargbo; Sgt. Gborie;
Staff Sgt. Sankoh - PLO 1, Staff Sgt. Tamba Alex Brima - PLO 2; Staff Sgt.
Bazzy Kamara - PLO 3; Sgt. George Adams ; Sgt. Brima Kamara; Sgt. Bangura
H ; Sgt. Khanu S B; Sgt. Kallay ; Sgt. Sulaiman Turay; Sgt. Kabia M.; Private
Abdul Sesay; Corporal Momoh Bangura; Lance Corporal Hector; Lance Corporal
Plus: 3 Paramount Chiefs from East, South & North;
Plus One representative each for: Sierra Leone Labour Congress;
Sierra Leone Bar Association; Sierra Leone Medical & Dental Association;
Trade Union; National Union of Students; Chamber of Commerce Sierra Leone
Petty Traders Association; Youth Organisation; Sierra Leone Association;
Sierra Leone Teacher’s Union; Council of Tribal Heads (Western Area).
Foreign Missions Special Envoys & Ambassadors
Brigadier (Retired) JOY Turay; Brigadier (Retired) Hassan Conteh; Alhaji
Amadu Jalloh; Ambassador Dauda Kamara; Syl Juxon-Smith; Major (Retired)
E V Coker; Major General (Retired) Jusu Gottor; Major (Retired) Roberts;
Doctor Kandeh Baba Conteh; Ibrahim Bah; Steve Bio; Omrie Golley
Lieutenant Colonel A B Y Kamara - Defence; Hassan Barrie - Energy &
Power; I M F Sesay - Finance; Mohamed A Bangura -Trade, Industry &
State Enterprises; Dr King - Health & Sanitation; Capt. Paul Thomas
- Mineral Resources; Major F S Gottor - Internal Affairs; Abu Bakarr Sessay
- Development & Economic Planning; [People’s Army] - Lands & Environment;
[People’s Army] - Education; Capt. Johnny Moore - Youth, Sports & Social
Mobilisation; DSP Dennis Kamara (SL Police) - Agriculture, Forestry &
Fisheries; Major (Retired) Gabriel Turay - Foreign Affairs.
HEALTH AND SURVIVAL WORRIES
A group of mainly British charities have recently warned of impending
hunger and disease in the wake of the May coup and the ensuing insecurity
and the total blockade imposed on the country. "The recent coup and
subsequent instability has increased the suffering of the poorest people
in Sierra Leone", said the group which included Actionaid, Oxfam, and
Save the Children Fund.
They said that those left behind after the flight of over 30,000 citizens
were facing soaring prices, food shortages and reduced harvests. They warned
of impending humanitarian catastrophe and advocated for immediate humanitarian
assistance and an end to the political stalemate, adding "Sierra Leone
needs help and not political posturing".
On an earlier occasion, the World Food Programme (WFP) warned of the
possible death from starvation of tens of thousands unless roving armed
men stopped disrupting United Nations food supplies. WFP has managed to
supply hospitals and children’s homes with some food at key and vulnerable
locations in the country.
This news came on top of earlier news that more than 300 children had
died from cholera and typhoid fever in the Northern Province. Hundreds
more were said to be in critical conditions.
Medical supplies were said to have virtually dried up and delivery of
fresh supplies, as well as food, was being hampered by the security situation,
especially because of the looting and plundering by armed groups. The Red
Cross and MSF had been asked to help.
Before the coup, international scientists had been investigating the
worst outbreak of the deadly Lassa fever virus in eastern Sierra Leone,
which had already killed 25 people who had been brought to the Kenema government
hospital. There were believed to be nearly 200 other cases of infection.
The disease is classified as endemic in Sierra Leone and has regularly
accounted for at least 35 deaths each year. Since the coup, no further
news of action to combat the infected cases has been reported. Kenema has
become a virtual war zone.
Barely one week before the coup, patients and staff at the city’s Government
hospital were evacuated when fighting broke out between soldiers and Kamajohs.
Lassa fever is one of the most expensive to treat. The cure is a drug
called Ribavirin which costs £620 per dose. One of the humanitarian
organisations that drew attention to the incidence of the disease recently
was MERLIN which had a field team in the area last April.
Letter to President Kabbah
Dear Mr President
Greetings from London and here’s wishing you, the First Lady, and
the rest of your entourage the best of health and God’s guidance and protection.
I also take this chance to wish you a speedy return home. I am, like many,
very sad that our democracy was so brutally cut in its prime - an unfortunate
act which has not only taken us back to where we were barely a year ago,
but even beyond to the darkest reaches of chaos and uncertainty. Please
bear with me, for what I wish to say in this open letter to you is from
Your sadness and concern at what has happened to our country is shared
by the whole Nation. The only division that is obvious between us, loyal
Sierra Leoneans, at this very critical moment is simply in how we are going
to get ourselves out of the situation that has arisen. You must be aware
that there are those who believe that we should use force to remove the
AFRC which has arrogated to itself the right to exercise supreme power
over the rest of us without our consent. I believe you are also of this
persuasion. Equally loyal, but taking the opposite view, are people, including
myself, who prefer a peaceful way out of the impasse, without the use of
military intervention. I argued in the last edition of this paper (in which,
incidentally, I published an open letter, similar to this one, to the Chairman
of the AFRC) that there was a time when intervention during, and immediately
after, the coup might have succeeded with less bloodshed in dislodging
the coupists. That chance went by as a timid and pusillanimous international
community allowed things to drift, thereby giving succour to the AFRC and
all the time they needed to consolidate.
I shall presently tell you why some of us oppose the use of brute
force to reverse the coup. But first, let me assure you that the fact that
we do not share the former view does not in anyway mean we condone what
has happened or, as has been alleged, approve the action of the coup makers.
No, Mr President, the loyalty and love for Sierra Leone transcends the
current political divides, extends beyond the membership of the SLPP and
the rivalries for political office. It goes beyond tribal, political and
religious allegiances. As an opinion leader myself, I have heard these
opposing views, with supporting arguments, expressed with deep passion
and concern. It is wrong to assume that just because somebody advises caution,
or does not support the use a foreign military force to reverse the AFRC
coup, they are therefore traitors, or allies of the coupists. It is equally
implausible to claim that those who have engaged in dialogue with the coup
makers are encouraging their acts of "hooliganism".
I am not a hooligan but I have taken the trouble throughout this
crisis to convey my views to various members of the AFRC, including the
Chairman Major Koroma, as a way of engaging in dialogue, including ideas
for arriving at a quick and satisfactory resolution. It is even more mischievous
to impute complicity to anyone simply because they attempt to explain why
and how such action could have taken place in our country, as I did when
I was invited by the BBC World Service Radio, Independent Television News,
and Sky TV news, to comment on the state of the country prior to the coup.
Sierra Leone’s coup would be a unique event if it is being argued that
the fires of revolt started spontaneously without any smoke. But my aim
here is not to start the inquest that will surely come at a later date.
I will therefore stick to the issues of the use of force and how we can
extricate ourselves from the present dilemma of pending violence.
Firstly, we have advised a peaceful way out because we believe that
the way we come out this current crises will become a key determinant of
our creativity and capacity to handle national problems in the future.
For Sierra Leone to become stable hereafter, it needs a solution now that
will attempt to address the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of our recent history which
allow these persistent upheavals in our society. Ours is a society that
was already enmeshed in a civil war that has cost us thousands of innocent
lives and virtually wiped out the basic economic and social infrastructures
that are necessary for any form of developmental activity to take place.
We who are of this persuasion believe we should explore a solution that
will facilitate the governance of our country in a stable and strife-free
climate during what is likely to be, in future, a testing time. Some say
that all that must wait until we restore legality. We say it should happen
now as part of restoring legality.
Secondly, because we are unsure that military action can eliminate
the coupists with the completeness that is necessary for normal life to
resume and continue in our country for all times.
Thirdly, we would be legitimising the very act of force by engaging
in it ourselves as a solution for our problems. Two wrongs do not make
a right. If it is wrong to usurp power by the gun, it must be wrong to
use it to take it back unless it is specifically sanctioned within a legal
framework. As far as I know even our regional organisations - the OAU and
ECOWAS - are still grappling with the appropriate legal framework for such
cases. We have to acknowledge that things will never return to the status
quo before the coup. Just as we will have to refurbish our bank and the
State House, to name a few, so it is going to be with reshaping and re-establishing
all the personal and other relationships that have been broken by this
event, but even before that the devastation that had been caused by the
war which preceded it. I personally do not see what difference military
intervention will make to help us deal with these issues. We will never
turn the clock back to Sunday 25 May.
I therefore plead with you, Mr President, not listen to these people
who feel they are the ones who’ve got it right. Nobody has! That is the
reason why we have this disaster in our country. If we had got it right
in the first place we would not be discussing the merits and demerits of
warfare between our peoples. Everybody has made mistakes in the past. Only,
we are loathe to accept this fact.
You are no doubt aware that I do not support the arming of Kamajohs
for a fight with the soldiers. I suspect that your own inclination is also
against that sort of thing as the answer to our problem. I know that you,
like me, abhor the unnecessary loss of lives that has taken place during
six years of war in our country. I applauded you when you said on BBC Focus
On Africa, that you did not want further bloodshed in that country, when
the interviewer put the specific question to you about whether or not you
were calling on kamajohs to go to Freetown to restore your Government.
"No" you said "There has been too much bloodshed". That was a courageous
statement. Then later in the evening, on another edition of the same programme,
I heard your deputy Minister of Defence contradicting you when he said
something like "I do not want to appear as if I am contradicting my President"
- but he was! - and he then implicitly incited Kamajohs to go to Freetown
to restore "their government". He was not being helpful. Whenever there
is a prospect of bloodshed, on whichever divide it is likely to occur,
it should revolt us and we should try to minimise and avert it. But Hinga
Norman is an ex-military man who thinks differently on these issues. I
think the involvement of innocent Kamajohs in internecine warfare that
could conceivably continue in the foreseeable future should be discouraged.
I believe you are well placed to restrain this man and other war mongers
who are only pouring more petrol on a country engulfed in flames.
Your initial recourse to the power of diplomacy was the correct one.
However long it took, it would have been preferable for continuos pressure
to be put on the regime in Freetown. You more than most people in our country
know the power of diplomacy and how it can work to resolve some of most
intractable problems without the use of naked force. That’s where you should
have continued to place your faith. If I had been asked for your advise,
I would have told you that your first port of call should have been the
UN where you are no stranger. There you should have demanded, as Head Of
State, to address an emergency meeting of the Security Council with a plea
for your immediate re-instatement. Then, maybe, all this unilateral action
by the new bully of West Africa - Nigeria (Abacha is no friend of yours
because he is a dictator and you are definitely not one!) - would have
been averted. I would not have advised you to invite Nigerians to invade
and bombard our country.
As it is now, our country has already suffered the first bout of
many-more-to-come destructive encounters with Nigeria and Kamajohs. It
is bound to destroy the few remaining oases of prosperity in our already
wafer-thin infrastructure. I just hope our friends in the West have a kind
of Marshall Aid Plan to help us rebuild a new country should the feared
war with ECOMOG implode.
Finally Mr President, I have heard rumours that Corporal Foday Sankoh
has, again, been moved from his salubrious environs of house arrest in
Abuja to more austere conditions in northern Nigeria, close to the Chadian
border, at Kuje. I do not know if this is true but I think it is wrong
for a key party to our problems - hence its solution - however despicable
we think he is, to be kept away while serious havoc is being wreaked upon
everyone in his name. The current situation in our country requires his
presence whether to answer or deny any charge against him and his organisation,
or his full participation in seeking a final resolution of this matter.
I urge you to persuade General Abacha to release him.
I am hopeful and praying that that you and the rest of our fugitive
citizens will soon return to Sierra Leone where we all truly belong. I
wish you and your dear wife well, until we meet again on the soil of our
Sylvester Rogers is the BBC Focus on Africa’s reporter
with the indomitable and fearless spirit. But for him, most of Sierra Leone
would have been in the dark about the state of the war in the North since
the authorities would rather have kept everything under wraps and everyone
else in the dark. A no-nonsense reporter, his accounts were measured in
tone, and precise in content.
Every word used was weighted carefully and not wasted. He gave the facts,
and did not go simply by hearsay. He went to the location of incidents
to see for himself and talk to eye witnesses, usually victims. Rogers was
not always popular with governments. His reports regularly wrong-footed
the authorities but he never allowed himself to be intimidated. He has
rendered sterling quality service to Sierra Leone. Focus On Sierra Leone
commends him for his bravery, and the fairness and accuracy of his reporting.
Since the coup d’état, nothing has been heard from him on the
programme. The last time he was heard was when he reported that threats
had been made on his life by armed men in the North who were sympathetic
to the coup makers in Freetown. We wish him well.
The 7 habits of highly
effective Sierra Leoneans
I have just read a copy of Stephen R Covey’s best-selling The Seven
Habits of Highly Effective People. Imagine my disappointment to learn that
according to Covey’s guidance, we Sierra Leoneans for the most part don’t
make very effective people. Few would argue with Covey’s seven-point plan.
Even fewer should argue that, in this our darkest hour, we could borrow
a thing or two from him.
Let me take the liberty to apply Covey’s advice (which he directs
to the individual but which is equally applicable to our society) to explain
what I mean. Below I outline his seven habits:
Habit 1: Be proactive - By this Covey says we are responsible
for our own lives. He talks of respons-ability, no matter what happens
to us, the power (indeed the duty) to respond lies with us. In fact, the
opposite of proactive is reactive. Reactive people transfer responsibility
to others. To Nigeria I wonder? To ECOMOG? To Britain, our former colonial
masters? In fact, to anyone but ourselves, it seems. As proactive people
I think Covey would advise us to take full responsibility for solving our
crisis. Of course, if we consider it appropriate we could call on others
for assistance, but we should at all times remain in the driving seat.
In addition to calling on some rather odd bedfellows to solve our problem
for us, I can think of numerous strategies that some of us have deployed
in recent weeks to shirk our responsibilities. (1) The RUF has Liberians
and Burkinabe in senior positions. I.e. They are foreigners, and therefore,
not our problem. (2) They are animals, demon, inhuman, drug addicts, beasts
(take your pick). The social forces that produced the AFRC, RUF and other
lawless elements that have been on raping, looting, pillaging and killing
rampages recently are all somehow completely alien to us and have taken
us completely by surprise. The increasing levels of injustice, inequality,
corruption, unemployment, underemployment, frustration for so many that
have characterised our society in recent years have nothing to do with
the developments leading up to, and since, the May 25 coup.
Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind - By this I understand
Covey to mean that we should have a vision of where we are trying to get
to before starting out on a mission. What kind of a Sierra Leone do we
really want? Indeed, do we want Sierra Leone at all? If we really do, then
we should be thinking of solutions that renew the foundations of national
unity rather than undermine them. If we begin with the end in mind, and
the national good is to that end, do we really think the kamajohs, or the
Kapras, aided and abetted by the Nigerians, are the answer? I understand
Covey to mean that we should work from first principles rather than putting
in place yet another quick and dirty fix that simply papers over the sores,
leaving them to fester, rot even further and erupt again in the future.
Habit 3: Put first things first - What are the really important
things, as opposed to those that are just urgent, that we should attend
to now? Covey suggest that we concentrate as much of our efforts on those
things, often not urgent, that are the most important. Things like preparation,
prevention, and planning. Every situation, no matter how terrifying, life-threatening
or unwelcome, contains within it valuable lessons that we can take from
the situation. Our current crisis presents us with clear threats (to which
we are reacting rather than being proactive) and opportunities. We have
the opportunity to search out a sustainable solution to our long-term problems.
Paying more attention to the important things in life may prevent us from
having to put out the fires of urgent crises in future.
Habit 4: Think win-win - Covey urges us to think win-win.
Not win-lose (my gain is your loss, this is a zero-sum game and I cannot
let you gain anything); lose-win (I capitulate to you and you walk away
with a victory, but I’ll be back); lose-lose (if I can’t have what I want,
you certainly can’t have it either). If we don’t find a win-win situation
in Sierra Leone we’ll be here staring into the abyss again sometime soon.
Ultimately, whenever significant groups feel excluded or marginalised,
they begin to plot their own rise to power. And when they get it, they
think win-lose and make sure everyone else is excluded, thereby sowing
the seeds for the next crisis. We all need to think win-win, because when
you have two elephants, whether they are dancing or fighting, its the grass
that gets flattened. We all have a stake in a win-win solution.
Habit 5: Seek to understand, then to be understood - We have
certainly made our own horrors about the coupists and their actions, but
have we listened to the AFRC and the RUF? Have we understood them? Do we
really think that isolating them and yelling at them to get out is an effective
strategy to solve this problem? Do we understand the difference between
negotiating and issuing an ultimatum? Covey urges us to get inside the
other person’s frame of reference, to look out through it, to see the world
as they see it, and to understand how they feel. This does not mean that
we must agree with the other person, simply that we must try to understand
them. We seem to be practising the cornered rat approach to conflict resolution:
push them into a corner and see how sharp their teeth are. The people who
are really key to solving this problem have spent the last two months exchanging
insults and threats. There have been no effective negotiations to date.
Habit 6: Synergise - Covey says that the whole is greater
than the sum of its parts. Valuing differences is the essence of synergy.
Synergy is the crowning achievement of all previous habits. Sierra Leone
could really go places when we learn to work with each other’s differences
rather than seeking to constantly eliminate and undermine those differences
and surround ourselves with people like ourselves as much as possible.
Habit 7: Sharpen the saw - If we can put in to practice habits
1 to 6, then the final challenge is to keep the fire burning: to renew
ourselves regularly. Of course, from our position right now, reaching Habit
7 may seem a long way off. Nonetheless, reading Covey’s book suggested
to me that we have a rare opportunity to turn this situation around and
become effective Sierra Leoneans.
PLEASE LET THEM GO
Eight people are still being held by the RUF after their abortive attempt
to overthrow Foday Sankoh as leader. The plan, in which the ousted government
was implicated, boomeranged and led to their capture. Since then nothing
has been heard of them or their fate.
Focus is extremely worried because, as we went to press,
we heard rumours, by no means wild ones, that the men were recently tried
and that possibly three of them had been sentenced to be executed. We are
unable to confirm this report but we propose to take discreet steps to
find out the true situation.
We are therefore mounting a special crusade to put pressure
on both the AFRC and the RUF, but especially on the AFRC to impress on
their allies in the RUF, to release these people as a gesture of goodwill.
Focus makes this special appeal in the light of the RUF’s
recent publicly professed acts of contrition for the crimes, they admit,
they committed against innocent Sierra Leoneans during the civil war. Let
humanity rule now in their hearts and let them set their captives free.
We have also recently called for the release of Corporal Foday
Sankoh by the Government of Nigeria. We believe he is a missing pivot in
any plan for dialogue to bring the present impasse to a satisfactory conclusion.
His continued detention could be counter productive to current moves for
peace and reconciliation.