(1) Even at the moment of truth some of us refuse to
face the reality
Imagine this scenario. A civil war has raged for nearly six and half
years. Then, just when hopes are beginning to fade for a peaceful solution,
a Peace Accord is signed between the Government of Sierra Leone and the
rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF). During some few week that follow
this event, there are hopeful signs that the violence will at last subside.
But then, for no apparent reason, the leader of the rebel group is ousted
from leadership of his organisation, and detained is by Nigeria. This leaves
a dangerous void because its self-proclaimed new leadership is not acceptable
to followers of the rebel movement.
To all intents and purposes Sankoh’s position remains unassailable.
His supporters shout and make loud noises, including with their rifles
and machetes, that he is still their leader and that without him there
would be no peace in the country. He reinforces - or rather, he is allowed
by his Nigerian captors to reinforce - this message, insisting that he
is still leader of his movement - the RUF. Not waiting to anchor their
shaky position and baseless claim, members of the anti-Sankoh faction are
encouraged to enter RUF territory to sell their idea. There, they are immediately
captured and held incommunicado. Whether they were tricked by their former
colleagues (as claimed by Agnes Deen-Jalloh, one of the RUF peace commissioners
in Freetown whose husband is among those abducted) or not, is not clear.
Meanwhile government ministers, senior officials and party hawks are confidently
peddling the lie that the war is really and truly over. They say that claims
that the war is still on are exaggerated and just scare-mongering by mischief
makers including Focus on Sierra Leone. One minister even claims
that the whereabouts of the rebel group and their hideouts are well known
to his government and that they would snuff them out if they wanted to.
He does not say why they have not done this before even though innocent
people continue to be maimed and killed.
During a rare lull in rebel attacks in the countryside, one of the key
cities, Kenema, is thrown into turmoil because two supposedly allied groups
- soldiers and Kamajohs - who are meant to complement and support
each other have turned their guns on one another, as if to make the point
that they have run out enemies to shoot. Between fifty and eighty people
lose their lives. Two days later there is a brutal encounter between soldiers
and Kamajohs - this time in the North at Mile 91 leading to at least fourteen
deaths. The Northerners - mainly Temnes - immediately announce the formation
of their own local hunter militia - the equivalent of the Kamajohs. They
call them the ‘Kapras’ which is Temne for ‘hunters’.
In Makeni, hundreds of schoolchildren go on a rampage and partly destroyed
Makeni’s hospital facilities when one of their heroes - a local sportsman
- dies in hospital. They attribute his death to a lapse by the hospital.
Barely a week elapses when a concerted rebel attack is unleashed from the
North which spreads toward the north western part of the country, destroying
in its wake several large towns and villages. One week later, rival groups
of Limba and Temne tribesmen fight it out over allegations of incursions
by the one’s secret society into the domain of the other. The Gbangbanis
of the Limbas and the Soko Banas of the Temnes go on a stampede
and uglify Makeni which, unlike its sister cities like Bo and Kenema in
the South and East respectively, has so far avoided the full onslaught
of attacks by the common enemy - the RUF rebels. But the big prize for
the rebels is the capture, from a wafer thin line of defence by government
troops, of the town of Kamakwie in the North. Even larger towns like Makeni,
Magburaka and Port Loko feel the shock waves. The attack is spearheaded
by hundreds of men in brand new uniforms, armed with brand new AK47s.....
And so the story goes on …and on ..and on.
We have not invented this scenario. It is the true account of events
immediately preceding the coup d'état of Sunday 25th
May. It proves that despite the anger over the recent illegal usurpation
of power by soldiers and now the RUF, the country was not the so-called
oasis of calm and stability some would want us to believe. Sierra Leone
was already turning ungovernable. The SLPP Government then, like the NPRC
and APC ones before it, was not in control of affairs in most parts of
the country. The pretext for the coup was already being created unwittingly
by the prevailing complacency and the attitude of a number of maverick
government ministers and officials at the time,. The coup was just a more
serious dimension of these events waiting to happen. Little wonder that
the anarchy and lawlessness that preceded the coup is continuing, only
this time in far more virulent form and without distinction between city
or country dwellers.
Many who are now shouting for the restoration of Kabbah’s government
were the same people who, days before the coup, had written him off both
as leader of our nation and of his Party, and were already planning his
at the SLPP’s party convention that was being planned for later this year.
Complaints against Kabbah’s government, most of which were spurious and
baseless, were echoing from many quarters. No doubt, if some of those people
had had the guns that the soldiers had at their disposal to stage a coup,
they would gladly have seized the opportunity. Many are only paying lip
service to democracy only because they themselves have become powerless
to influence the situation.
The irony of all this was that the capital, Freetown, now the focus
of attention following the coup because it has become the seat of power
for those they used to describe as "country people fighting among themselves",
all that time so isolated and impervious to the effects of the war up-country
that it became a breeding ground for complacency and ignorance which unfortunately,
frequently, dominated official judgements about what needed to be done.
It was this crumbling edifice that some members of the last government
did not like this paper and others to discuss, comment or give their own
views on at the time.
It is doubtful now whether the use of force can remove the coup makers
or result in the ultimate solution and removal of all these factors. We
again issue our call for dialogue and a negotiated settlement of all the
issues involved in this messy affair. President Kabbah, Johnny Paul Koroma
and Corporal Foday Sankoh (who should be immediately freed by the Nigerians)
must get together now and talk over their differences.
The Nigerians should stop playing the one-sided role of invader and
take up the positive role of peacemaker, and contribute towards the initiation
of dialogue between the warring sections of our community. The summit in
Abuja was totally out of focus and should have spent its time trying to
bring the chief players in the Sierra Leone debacle together, instead of
alienating the other parties. ECOWAS has clearly now lost its impartiality
for it to be useful to the solution of Sierra Leone’s problem. We must
look to individual countries within the organisation for a more even-handed
approach. As far as Focus is concerned the issues go beyond just
the mere restoration of the Kabbah government. They are about the integrity
and the survival of the entire nation of Sierra Leone. Encouraging or helping
to perpetuate divisions between sections of our community is not the best
way to go about it.
We say, everything that has been wrong with Sierra Leone should be considered
comprehensively during the resolution of the current impasse. A haphazard
and symbolic restoration of democracy is a bubble that will burst again....
and again .... and again. Why? Because we still refuse to look critically
at ourselves and bring out the things that will unite us. We must resist
the temptation for a quick fix and start talking to each other to arrive
at a consensus on how to advance our interests as a country. It is the
only sane way out of the ever thickening morass. Nigeria’s one-track bellicose
posturing is clearly not an incentive in this respect. They should spend
their time separating the warring sides. That would be a more useful role
for them to start playing.
(2) More lessons to learn
Sierra Leone’s experiment with democracy was brought to an end four
months ago giving rise to a national calamity of unspeakable proportions.
We are not close to its resolution one way or the other. Some have advocated
Ecomog, but really Nigerian, action to dislodge and remove the coupist
of Sunday, 25 May. Others, including this paper, have unreservedly advised
caution, dialogue and diplomatic pressure to bear. So far, neither measure
has borne fruit and the country remains in its state of near-terminal paralysis
This crisis and the impasse it has generated in our country’s political
affairs have together led to four glaring facts which we cannot fail to
Firstly, the International Community is still without an enforcement mechanism
for some of its most important statements of values - the protection and
maintenance of democracy in weak countries like Sierra Leone, and in comparatively
strong countries like Nigeria.
Secondly, following from that, there is just a case of double-speak on
the diplomatic stage. First they foisted an election on a country that
was ill-prepared for it, saying that it would solve problems flowing from
the social upheavals caused by civil war, a succession of bad governments
and the selfishness and greed of the ruling elite. Then when that experiment
failed with such spectacular consequences as we are witnessing, they heaped
the blame on everyone else but themselves. But it won’t wash this time.
Mr James Jonah, one the prime architects of this debacle, will not
own up to his part in fixing a ‘solution’ that did not work but has turned
into a nightmare for everybody. Instead he bleats relentlessly, insulting
all who do not share his crazy ideas while he keeps on misleading the international
community that he knows best and others are not worth listening to. The
tragedy is that they continue to listen to him. That’s one reason why we
are far from resolving the present deadlock.
Thirdly, the ruling classes in Sierra Leone, by failing to foresee and
forestall the events that we have just witnessed in the country, have proved,
yet again, how very little they know about their communities. After this
incident, if they do not wake up from their slumber of complacency and
self pity, there can be no guarantee that we will avoid more coups in the
Let us not leave the thinking and the action necessary to solve our predicament
to others. Let us seize this chance to stamp a home-grown, indelible mark
on the resolution of this crisis which has been brought on, admittedly,
by the unjustified and illegal action of the AFRC. Lets us press for Kabbah,
and Sankoh to sit down and talk their differences over. They are
trying it in Northern Ireland and in the Comoros. Why can’t we?
Finally, as Philip Ferguson wrote in Focus
Vol. 3 No 5 (Letters), we are a "reactive" nation by
which he implied that we should be proactive in assuming responsibility
for our own lives.
"… No matter what happens to us," he wrote, "the
power (indeed the duty) to respond lies with us". Is it because we
are basically reactive that we seem quite happy to transfer responsibility
for our affairs, in this case, to Nigeria? Some will argue that throwing
Kamajohs into the fray to meet AFRC/RUF usurpation with force is a clear
case of Sierra Leoneans being proactive in their own cause. Granted! We
cannot but admire the courage of the Kamajohs. It is however a cause for
concern that, on this very rare show of an elusive national characteristic,
the cause which the Kamajohs share with the rest of us, namely the restoration
of democratic rule, is most unlikely to be served by the methods that they
have resorted to, i.e. civil war. We should really now work towards a cease-fire
and urge all the parties to get together and hang heads, so we can work
out a peaceful way forward for our country.
A POEM FOR PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT
[This poem is a simple message for peace and development in our beloved
mother-land sierra Leone. It is not criticising any political body, organisation
or individual. Just as you can’t put out a fire with a container of petrol
in your hand, so we cannot go to a peace talk with arms and bombs at hand.
- The Author]
My Country Burns
My country burns
on the mountain high above
The blazing flame of the fire protrudes its tongue
While in the forest the hungry fire rages its way through
Yelling high above the trees and the mountains
While the birds and animals flee
In the bright morning sunny day.
My country burns.
With the dark-grey smoke that
moves towards the sky high above
Like the dark-grey of the cloud
ready to pour the heavy rain
To the dry thirsty desert land
Craving for rain for a thousand years
But that rain will never come.
My country burns
The green fields and the trees.
While the grasshopper makes chirping noises as he jumps
And the butterflies fly away
The mountains and the forests
While the lions raise their heads and roar
And the animals zoom for their lives for places unknown
Houses and lands crashing down as their colours change
The people flying like bees to their hives that could not be found
While the crying of dying children
and the shouting of mothers for their children
Echoes high above the mountains
My country burns.
While the eagles and the vultures high above
Look down from heaven above
See the land turn to ashes and dust
and the streams and rivers dry up to stumbling block
While the living creatures lie down motionless
And the beauty of the land the nature fades away.
The sweet melody of morning-birds dies out.
My country burns
With grief and maliciously
While the world stands by and looks
With no effort and power to help
But only to see and smile
While the fire consumes its last prey to ashes and dust
The fire caused by the arms and bombs supplied by the world
My country burns!!
Francis A S Juana
SIERRA LEONE: THE MILITARIAT STRIKES AGAIN
(This is an abridged and adapted version of an article by Stephen
Riley*, which appeared in the publication Review Of African Political
Economy (No.72), 1997; pp287-292. It was written during the second
week after the coup d’état of Sunday 25 May. Events have progressed
alarmingly since then. We have published it just for the records.)
West Africa has seen a number of attempted and successful coup
d’états in the 1990s led by relatively junior officers and "other
ranks" who have claimed populist or transformatory goals on assuming office
but have failed to live up to these early expectations. Such coups are
described as a product of the militariat, a social group within
the military who lack the clientelist ties of more senior officers. The
regimes they create, led by figures such as Yaya Janneh in the Gambia
from 1994 and Valentine Strasser in Sierra Leone from 1992-6, are
prone to institutional instability and some orchestrated political violence.
Populist rhetoric does not turn into the creation of new participatory
institutions. The long-term effects of such regimes may involve the decline
of state capacity and the almost complete undermining of military discipline.
Major Johnny Paul Koroma’s 25 May 1997 coup d’etat in
Freetown would seem to be another example of the militariat in action.
It was the third successful forced change of regime in five years and the
most bloody and destructive in Sierra Leone’s history. The soldiers who
struck claimed to be acting in the interests of the "nation" as a whole
and gave populist reasons for intervention: the corruption, and tribal
and regional favouritism of the previous regime. But their motives and
actions were almost wholly self-serving, and great damage was done in the
days following the coup.
Sources of discontent
The social origins of the coup d’etat are familiar ones. They lie in
the character of the Sierra Leone Army (SLA). The new AFRC leadership is
little known, as it is drawn from a group of young, poorly educated and
poorly trained junior officers and "other ranks". They have all benefited
from the huge expansion of the SLA in the early 1990s as a result of the
civil war from 1991 instigated by Foday Sankoh’s RUF. The SLA grew rapidly
after the military coup in April 1992, recruiting many young alienated
street-children who were not properly screened or trained. Elements of
the SLA, now 14,000 strong, deeply resented the recent attempts at "downsizing"
by Kabbah’s government and the humiliations the army has had to endure.
Its standing as the sole constitutional national army has been severely
undermined in several ways. Firstly, by the ruthless and expensive intervention
from mid 1995 of the South African mercenary and mining operation, Executive
Outcomes, which left in early 1997 after the signing in November 1996 of
the Abidjan Peace Accord between Kabbah’s government and the RUF. Second,
the presence of Nigerian, Ghanaian and Guinean troops, who have also provided
security, illustrated the weakness of the SLA. Third, and more recently,
the SLA was irritated by the praise and privileges showered by Kabbah’s
government upon the rural militia, the southern Mende-based kamajohs. The
mercenaries, foreign troops and Kamajohs were all more effective than the
SLA against Sankoh’s RUF.
Lack of Interest in UN Plan
The Abidjan peace deal involved a complex process of UN-supervised
demobilisation (reported in FSL
Vol 2 No 10). UN Secretary-General,
was enthusiastic about the plan but the Clinton administration and UN Security
Council were not and let things drift. This damaging lack of enthusiasm
for the peacekeeping operation echoes a similar indifference to an earlier
United Nations Inter-Agency Appeal for funding reconstruction, resettlement
and rehabilitation after the civil war. The appeal for US$60m. was re-launched
in September 1996, when only 50% of the funding had been found.
Had the UN peacekeeping plan been fully and effectively implemented,
small-scale rural conflict may not have resumed in early 1997. Alleged
RUF attacks on northern villages and towns were becoming much more frequent
just prior to the coup. In April 1997 Kofi Annan was still hopeful about
the peacekeeping plan, but Kabbah’s government was not: fatally, it increased
its reliance upon Nigerian troops and the Kamajohs. Had there been a strong
presence by the UN peacekeeping force then this might also have deterred
the militariat from acting.
A ‘Grievance’ coup
The 25 May coup d’etat was easily accomplished, despite the presence
of Nigerian and other troops near Pademba Road prison, from where Koroma
was sprung. In his first public statement on 28 May, his justifications
for the coup were unsurprisingly self-serving. He said they had intervened
because "the country had polarised into regional and tribal factions"
and the peace agreement with the RUF had collapsed. Kabbah’s "democracy"
was also inadequate. But most of the statement was concerned with the poor
welfare of the army and the privileges of the Kamajohs. It was claimed
by the AFRC that army salaries were delayed, whilst Kabbah’s government
spent huge sums on the kamajohs and praised their efforts. Koroma claimed
that the army (with 14,000 soldiers) received 2-3 billion Leones a month,
whilst the kamajohs (37,000 strong, though a UN study in November 1996
puts the strength of the kamajohs at 2,500 to 3,000) received 35 billion
Leones per month. The root cause of the coup was the conflict between the
Kamajohs and the army. The AFRC’s earliest radio announcement said "No
more kamajohs, no more civil defence groups. We are the national army.
We have to fight for this country."
In the last few months before the coup, Kabbah seemed to be
using the militias as a possible counterweight to an army he thought was
increasingly unreliable and was proving difficult to reduce in size. The
deputy minister of defence Hinga Norman, a former Kamajoh, was also
believed to have ambitions to turn the poorly-armed militias into a more
effective and powerful national police force. Kabbah seems to have been
fairly weak in handling the demobilisation of the SLA after last November’s
peace agreement. His decision to use Nigerian troops for his own personal
security guard was also resented. Kabbah made a series of mistakes in not
recognising the significance of the coup plots and attempted coup plots
of 1996, after which many coup plotters (including Koroma) were detained
The coup was greeted with widespread anger and public revulsion both
domestically and internationally. After the chaos and looting of the first
two days, there was a protest march by the powerful women’s movement in
Freetown. Despite public requests for employees to return to work, nearly
all stayed at home in the first week in a passive protest against the coup.
Anti-AFRC demonstrations in Bo and Kenema were followed by public statements
of disapproval by religious leaders on 30 May. There were clashes in the
Provinces between the Kamajohs and the SLA as the army tried to implement
its decree disbanding the militias. The kamajohs in Bo said that they would
march on Freetown unless Nigerian troops restored Kabbah to power. Support
for the regime came from an unlikely source: Foday Sankoh’s RUF, with Sankoh
ordering the RUF to help the AFRC defend Sierra Leone’s sovereignty from
Nigerian incursions. The RUF was supporting the "revolution", he said.
In the immediate aftermath of the coup, there were contacts between
the AFRC and a group of foreign ambassadors, including representatives
of Nigeria, Ghana and Guinea, and local politicians, principally the veteran
opposition politician, Dr. John Karefa-Smart, who lost the 1996 Presidential
election to Kabbah. They sought to negotiate a withdrawal by the AFRC and
the restoration of the Kabbah government, whilst also building up military
pressure on the AFRC. Nigerian troops stationed in Freetown, as part of
Nigeria’s ECOMOG contingent in Liberia, were reinforced and were joined
by additional Guinean and Ghanaian troop deployments. They claimed that
they were acting in accord with military "mutual assistance" agreements
and that their presence had been requested by Kabbah’s government. All
West African governments, as well as ECOWAS and the OAU preliminary meetings,
called for an end to the military’s usurpation of power.
The second week of the AFRC’s rule started with a Nigerian naval
bombardment directed towards the SLA’s Cockerill military headquarters.
The Nigerian military presence had been building up all week with the docking
of two frigates, troop landings at Lungi international airport and the
local airport at Hastings, near the Nigerian military base. There had been
close liaison between the United States forces and the Nigerian ECOMOG
contingent over evacuations. The crisis in Sierra Leone came at a particularly
useful time for Nigeria’s military government, which was able to act decisively
as the regional power. Just prior to the annual OAU summit in Harare, Abacha’s
regime could present itself as the champion of constitutional government
in West Africa and keen to restore Kabbah’s civilian government to power.
Dark Days Ahead
The future is now bleak, whatever happens to Koroma’s AFRC. If Kabbah
is restored to power, he has lost much credibility and has been exposed
as politically weak and indecisive. A publicity bonus has been given to
Nigeria’s military leader Sani Abacha, ironically the defender of democracy
in Sierra Leone. Kabbah will be even more heavily dependent upon Nigerian,
Ghanaian and Guinean goodwill. The RUF has been revitalised and has gained
access to Freetown, despite Sankoh’s continuing detention in Nigeria. Small-scale
conflict inland is likely to continue with increased divisions between
the kamajohs and the SLA. The SLA will be even more discredited.
Despite the Nigerian naval bombardment and fighting between
Nigerian soldiers, the SLA and RUF, a more likely outcome is that Koroma’s
AFRC clique will eventually exit relatively peacefully. This is likely
even though there is continuing popular resentment at the generous treatment
of undemocratic and undisciplined troops. Previous coup leaders (such as
Valentine Strasser and SAJ Musa) negotiated an easy route out of power
and went overseas on educational scholarships with indemnity for their
actions. The militariat has taken advantage of the continuing instability
in Sierra Leone and the inability of Kabbah’s newly elected civilian regime
to consolidate itself. It has tried to defend its interest by directly
intervening and displacing a democratically elected government. The 25
May coup d’etat raises once again the issue of whether it might not be
better to dissolve such militaries. Elements of the militariat have continued
to loot public and private property in normal times and in crises. However,
teaching Koroma’s AFRC a brutal military lesson by armed expulsion from
power could be very bloody, kill many civilians in Freetown, and lead to
greater support for rural revolt, with the remaining elements of the AFRC
joining the RUF in rural Sierra Leone. The costs of reconstruction have
grown enormously: as well as rural reconstruction, the damage done in Freetown
is extensive. Sierra Leone’s reputation will not recover easily, even if
civil rule is restored.
*Lecturer in Politics at Staffordshire University, UK; and one-time
lecturer and external examiner at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra
PUBLISH ….. AND BE DAMNED
Put Your Courage Where Your Mouth Is?
Those who want the Kamajohs to fight should go and join them.
If they feel so strongly that the coup should be reversed by force, they
should not use their privileged positions to leave the country but should,
instead, be travelling back up-country to join the ranks of the Kamajohs.
I know that some genuine people have done exactly that. I applaud their
courage. I am however sick of these warmongers who utter their war cries
at a safe distance, thousands of miles away, from London, Washington, Conakry,
and Banjul. Why do they think that a forcibly restored Kabbah government
will have a better chance to run the country effectively than it did before
Don’t get me wrong! Impending Nigerian bombardment, of which
the citizens of Freetown have already had a foretaste, is good enough reason
for people to want to leave. And since the soldiers are adamant that they
will not give up without a fight, it will continue to afford many the excuse
to desert their country. I have total sympathy with that, too. But what
then are we saying? That we will sacrifice those who, through no fault
of their own, or for personal reasons, e.g. no foreign exchange to buy
even a one way ticket, have decided to stay put in the country? Do we blame
then for staying? And what of those others who have consciously decided
that they cannot desert their country and have remained to face the
I have little sympathy for those who always enjoyed everything
that Sierra Leone could offer and created the divisions in our society
by creaming off the very best of its wealth which they systemically denied
to those whom they are now calling "dregs" and who are now taking revenge
on all of us without exception.
Well Done, Doctor K!
Hats off to Dr John Karefa Smart. The man has always been accused
of running away when there is trouble in Sierra Leone. Yet this time when
everybody ran away and he stayed to talk some sense to Major Koroma and
his men, they then said he was opportunist and a traitor. Such is the nature
of politics in Sierra Leone that no one can be given the credit they are
due. I do not agree with a lot of his politics but I admire his tenacity
and adherence to principles. In times of national crisis we should be able
to bury our political differences to work with even those whose politics
we do not approve. Dr Smart was right to contribute in the way he tried
even though, in the end, his advice has not been heeded by the AFRC. If,
when trouble comes, those who have continuously enjoyed the much lauded
"stability" that Sierra Leone could offer run away, who is left to defend
the country? Nigeria? So much for patriotism. So much for the Land that
we love our Sierra Leone!
A Life Of Enduring (Albeit) Long-Distance Commitment
Well, I have had my share of insults during this crisis. But I do not
mind it at all. At least I am debating the issues in public and doing something
about it instead of being a closeted arm chair patriot. Last week someone
aggressively berated me saying: "Well Ambrose, you can say these things.
It’s easy for you because you were not there at the time." He was right!
I was not there and have not been living there for many years. Why? Because
by raising some of these very issues over the past 28 years, under successive
governments, I and many others were treated like outcasts and prevented,
directly and indirectly, from returning to play the roles that we wanted
to play in the political and social affairs of our country. So, with quiet
satisfaction, I proudly admit that I am not directly responsible for producing
the "dregs and hooligans" (as they keep calling those) who have taken over
the country and from whom everyone is running away. "Look!" I said to him
"Even though some of us have not lived in Sierra Leone for a long time,
we have nonetheless made its affairs and well -being our number one priority,
despite the pressures of living in other peoples’ countries. We do not
all have to live in Sierra Leone to be show concern for it or contribute
towards its development. Have you never heard of Jews in the Diaspora,
who live far way from Israel but whose allegiance and contribution to the
survival of the Jewish State is almost a sine qua non of Israel’s
Speaking personally, my own rather very modest record of commitment
to Sierra Leone is there for all to see. It is not unique because I know
of hundreds more who show equal concern and actively promote Sierra Leone’s
interest without solicitation or the expectation of personal reward. It
makes the difference between us and those misguided fools who are losing
sleep raising money to plunge innocent Kamajohs into a war while urging
Nigeria to go in and destroy the country that many of us have committed
our lives to keeping intact. These people have never cared enough about
Sierra Leone, so they would have no compunction if their adopted strategy
were to lead to further chaos and bloodletting. Yet, only three or so months
ago, these same people were bragging that Sierra Leone has one of the deepest
and best natural harbours along the West Coast of Africa. Now they are
egging Nigeria to go and fill it up with sunken ships!
In short, my answer to the question is that if I had been in
Sierra Leone, I would certainly not have been the first to jump on a boat
to more misery in Conakry and Banjul. I also know that my poorest relatives,
friends and compatriots are still there, alive and bearing up, thanks to
God’s small mercies! Their continued existence is one reason why I cannot
countenance the idiocy of urging a Nigerian attack on my country. I do
not want the small people of Sierra Leone - the majority - reduced to smithereens
by Nigerian or ECOMOG bombs and bullets..
Why Do We Think We Can Buy Off Our Problems?
These days, there is a trendy belief that everyone and everything,
including, conscience and loyalty, can be bought. It is time we move away
from this way of doing things, attempting to buy people up as a substitute
for entering meaningful discussions to solve national problems. We tried
to bribe RUF Peace Commissioners into betraying their leader as a substitute
for genuine dialogue, forgetting that there may be the odd RUF member who
is totally committed to his or her own cause and is not prepared to trade
it for anything. Now I hear that Major Johnny Paul Koroma and his men were
offered inducements to abandon their coup - an offer which, according to
Dr Karefa Smart, they rejected.
If the coup was wrong, as it surely was, why should anyone have
encouraged the idea of rewarding the coup makers? And, if you buy off the
leaders, what do you do with their rank and file followers who continue
to believe in their ‘cause’? So Johnny Koroma and his top men take to flight
- do we then buy their followers off or just abandon them in the hope that
they vanish into thin air? Of course not. There can be no substitute for
negotiating a comprehensive package of supportive arrangements for their
encampment, demobilisation, retraining and redeployment. That should be
taking place at the negotiating table? Why should every entitlement be
the subject of handing down from above instead of through dialogue, argument
and bargaining? That’s why divisions persist in our society. We like taking
short cuts that lead us to nowhere.
The War Of The Air Waves
President Kabbah’s recourse to a clandestine radio station to reach
supporters inside the country reminds me of the occasion in 1966 when Osagyefo
Nkrumah was overthrown in Ghana and, in striking parallel fashion,
fled to, and eventually took up residence in, Conakry as a protégé
of his ideological friend and brother, the late President Ahmed Sekou
Toure, who offered him the joint Presidency of the Republic of Guinea.
I was then in upper sixth form and I very well remember the
fiery speeches of the overthrown President during his nightly broadcasts
on Radio Guinea - La Voix De La Revolution. A daily slot of between
two and three hours was reserved for Nkrumah for his tirades against the
usurpers in his country.
The broadcasts became a source of inspiration for me and most
of my peers at the time. The passion of his delivery and the incisiveness
of the speeches were consummate. As we sat under the street lamps in Freetown
- Yes, in those days you could sit under the lights and study all night
long if you so wished! - our ears would be glued to a solitary portable
radio set, listening to every word as it came crackling over the waves.
Afterwards we would discuss each and every statement that fell from the
lips of the Osagyefo.
One recorded and memorised some of the speeches. Then, the next
day, someone would stand before their friends and, in a manner of showing
off, repeat verbatim whole chunks of the ex-President’s previous night’s
Needless to say, the aim of the broadcasts was to incite Ghanaians
to rise up against the usurpers in Accra and secure thereby a popular revolt
that would herald the return of Nkrumah back to Ghana. The broadcasts went
on for a while, probably close to six months, until they eventually went
silent. Dr Nkrumah, to our greatest disappointment, never went back to
Ghana until his death in April 1972.
NEWS DIGEST>>>>>NEWS DIGEST>>>>NEWS DIGEST>>>>>NEWS DIGEST>>>>
A Russian ship Ivanov carrying 6,800 tons of rice evaded ECOMOG
sanctions docked Queen Elizabeth Water Quay in Freetown.
The UN Security Council reiterated its call the immediate restoration of
constitutional rule in Sierra Leone under President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah.
Council President Peter Osvald expressed the concern of council
members over the breakdown of talks between AFRC envoys and the ECOWAS
Committee of Four on Sierra Leone in Abidjan.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Chief Emeka Anyaoku denounced the
AFRC’s plan to delay a return to civilian rule for four years. "Any
delay in the immediate transfer of power from the junta and back to civilian
rule—let alone a postponement until 2001--would represent a major setback
not only for Sierra Leone and the West Africa region but for the continent
of Africa as a whole" he said .
AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara defended AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul
Koroma’s saying the Chairman’s speech had been misinterpreted and that
he did not say the AFRC will hold on to power until 2001, saying "It
was just an intention he intends to pursue, he was not announcing a program.....
He was talking to the people of Sierra Leone to explain to them the problems
of our country and at the same time to enlighten them a little bit. If
he is given the opportunity, these were the areas he was going to concentrate
The Chairman later admitted an error of judgement in making his statement
brought about the collapse of the peace talk, saying it was made "in
direct response to what appeared to me at the time to be the continued
intransigence of the ECOWAS Foreign Ministers based on their mandate".
Conceding that his speech had undercut the work of the AFRC envoys, Koroma
wrote to his embarrassed Foreign Minister Dr Paulo Bangura, saying:
am willing further to admit this much - that I erred in making such a broadcast
at the time the negotiations were in progress in Abidjan and the impression
might have been created that our delegation was not acting in good faith
throughout...... I ask of you to read this my statement to the ECOWAS Foreign
Ministers in Abidjan and trust that what I have now said will in good measure
provide a level of comfort that will enable them to see their way clear
towards the ultimate resumption of the talks in Abidjan in an atmosphere
of the utmost good faith on all sides."
Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi, commenting, said that the AFRC
had not negotiated in good faith. He went on to lambaste the junta: "In
fact, the Sierra Leonean delegation refused to acknowledge the 17 and 18
July agreement, and at the same time we learned that the junta has decided
to stay in power until 2001 and to suspend the constitution. We consider
than an affront .... Many of them have been estranged from the rest of
the world for many years. I am talking about the rebels of the Revolutionary
United Front. The welfare of their country and their people are not a subject
of concern to them".
Two factors led to the breakdown of the Abidjan talks - The delegations
lack of authority to consider the ECOWAS demand for the immediate reinstatement
of President Tejan Kabbah and the ECOWAS unwillingness to accede to the
Regime’s demand that RUF leader Foday Sankoh be released from arrest in
Nigeria and allowed to join the talks. A Sierra Leonean delegate was quoted
as saying that "Sankoh is an integral part of the Sierra Leone crisis
and no deal can be done without him".
Six politicians who were held at Pademba Road Prison in connection with
a alleged coup attempt were released. One, the veteran SLPP politician
Dr. Sama Banya, modestly declared "I am not bitter.... This is
public life. I mean if you can’t stand the heat don’t stay in the kitchen.
So I’m in this and when the Chairman asked me whether I believed in the
SLPP Government and what they were doing I said yes, I do. I’m a member
and I believe so I’m out and still what I am".
A press release by the kamajohs announced their capture of the towns of
Gofor, Gissiwo, and Da Salaamu in Pujehun District on
July 28, forcing the army and RUF fighters "to withdraw from all the
areas between Zimmi Makpele and Sulima". The statement
also claimed the capture of assorted weapons from retreating AFRC forces,
while some defected to their side. The press release also said that the
kamajohs had recaptured the Mano River Bridge on July 11
heavy casualties on rebels and renegade soldiers" of the AFRC.
Ousted Foreign Minister Mrs Shirley Gbujama stressed that only military
action can reverse the coup against Sierra Leone's civilian government.
think it has got to the stage where force must be used..... It is regrettable,
the stage at which we are is not a time for dialogue. People have tried
all kinds of dialogue and have spent five weeks trying and it didn't have
any effect". Mrs Gbujama was accompanying president Kabbah’s wife,
Mrs Patricia Kabbah, to Nigeria "to express gratitude to the
head of state for the fact that Nigeria has stuck its neck out for us so
ECOWAS leaders approved sanctions and an embargo against Sierra Leone,
but stopped short of endorsing military intervention. A communiqué
issued at the end of the ECOWAS summit set no deadline for the embargo
to take effect, and did not specify what measures would be taken should
sanctions fail to persuade the AFRC-led junta to relinquish power. The
West African leaders also added Liberia to the Committee of Four on Sierra
Speaking at the ECOWAS meeting to which he was formally invited as the
"recognised Head of State", and from which the AFRC was barred, President
Kabbah made the following passionate plea to his audience: "The people
of Sierra Leone look up to you as their sword and their shield, they await
your decision and action for the restoration of the security of their lives
…..Many atrocities have been committed, too horrendous to make public...the
people of Sierra Leone look to the summit to end their nightmare."
But his very public plea for armed intervention to restore his government
appeared to have found little favour among his peers. Instead they settled
for economic sanctions and the isolation of the junta.
Germany has barred Sierra Leone Nigeria 10 other countries from receiving
financial assistance during 1998 "on account of their obvious negative
and completely insufficient regard for the stipulated conditions" namely,
the observance of human rights, the rule of law, the existence of a market
economy, and political pluralism.
AFRC accused Paramount Chief Komkanda II of Kafu-Bullom Chiefdom
at Lungi of harbouring the Secret 98.4 radio station at his residence which
they further alleged was being " heavily guarded by Nigerian troops".
A demand that Nigerian soldiers held captive by AFRC troops be releases
was made by Ecomog on the secret pro-democracy radio station. The broad
claimed that the men were being held on trumped-up drug charges. But the
Peoples Army denied they were holding any Nigerians.
Fresh fighting broke out at Lungi International Airport between Nigerian
and Sierra Leonean/RUF troops. There was a dispute over who fired first.
Kamajohs vowed again to capture Bo "at all cost". About 3,000 were
said to be massing in preparation for a big push to achieve their objective.
Ousted mines minister and SLPP General Secretary Mr Prince Harding,
visiting the front-line and decked in full Kamajoh regalia, led the men
in chants of defiance. He denied involvement by Liberian fighters.
A Liberian newspaper has claimed in a report quoting an ex-AFL soldier
that more than 500 ULIMO-AFL troops were fighting alongside the Kamajoh
militia. The soldiers had previously fought for the Tejan Kabbah government
against the RUF militia until a former ULIMO executive, Armah Youlo,
convinced them to fight on the side of the AFRC. "When President Kabbah
was removed, the ULIMO executive fooled us to fight on the side of the
military junta. Now we have realised our leader was lying. This is why
we have joined the kamajohs. We will ensure that the Kabbah government
is restored to power" the paper said, quoting Sgt Amos Kaiyea..
Kamajoh spokesman Eddy Massallay displayed identification cards
which he said indicated that soldiers of the AFL, NPFL, and ULIMO were
actively fighting alongside the RUF People's Army.
A deep rift is reported between the AFRC and newspaper editors since the
coup. Most papers have suspended publication, the latest being The Standard
Times and The Vision. All have pleaded harassment and insecurity.
Only eight out of fifty-two papers continue to publish.
Kamajohs attacked the 38th Battalion headquarters near Koribundo.
They were repelled by Peoples’ Army troops after a five hour battle. The
military claimed to have captured a large assortment of weapons including
bombs, grenades, and quantities of AK-47 assault rifles. Eight kamajohs
and one soldier were reported killed in the attack, and a woman died in
The Makeni-Kono highway was reclaimed by AFRC troops in a battle to reopen
it after it had been blocked by Kamajohs . About twelve villages nearby
along the route were burned down.
Students Demo Frustrated - AFRC soldiers armed with rocket-propelled
grenades, automatic weapons, and allegedly wielding machetes moved swiftly
to stop a student-led pro-democracy demonstration in Freetown. Over 30
arrests were made and at least two students were reportedly killed in a
clash with soldiers outside the Sierra Leone Nursing School, where students
had taken refuge. Two others were seriously wounded. Some students leaders
immediately went into hiding. A similar demonstration in Bo went ahead
for a while but it, too, was stopped when an otherwise peaceful sit-down
was violently dissembled with a rain of tear gas canisters thrown at them.
An AFRC spokesman defended the action saying they chased but did not beat
the students. "All we are trying to do is contain them because we do
believe that peace is paramount...because without peace the word democracy
will not, in fact, flourish.". The demonstrations were organised by
the National Union of Sierra Leone Students (NUSS).
The AFRC accused Nigerian troops of planting land mines at Lungi International
Airport and in a statement claimed that "a Nigerian tank was blown up Friday
with the loss of 15 Nigerian soldiers….. This development is of great concern
to the Sierra Leone government and we would like the international community
to be alerted to this callous act". The junta accused Nigerian forces of
"using the airport as a base for the illegal trafficking of cocaine".
AFRC Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Alimamy Paulo Bangura,
who led the regime’s delegation to the Abidjan talks between Ecowas Four
and the AFRC, finally returned to Freetown by helicopter from Conakry after
going "missing" and failing to return to Freetown with the rest of his
delegation. "I never left my job but was on an extended stay in Abidjan
thrashing out domestic issues", he said. He dismissed reports that
he had defected after the collapse of peace talks in Abidjan and explained:
have a responsibility to the nation, and I am given the opportunity to
pursue the peace process and to seek progress and development in my country."
Three Sierra Leonean soldiers were shot at the Jui checkpoint outside Freetown.
Nigerians allegedly fired six shots into a Sierra Leonean military vehicle
whose occupants ignored an order to stop for a weapons search. The vehicle
was transporting 10 soldiers to the military training centre at Benguema.
The wounded soldiers were taken to Benguema for emergency surgery and were
flown to Freetown by helicopter three hours later. Scores of heavily armed
Sierra Leonean soldiers came out of trenches about a mile from the Nigerian
base, chanting "Blood will flow in defence of the motherland". Civilians
immediately fled from their homes. (Source: Andersen’s Sierra
Leone News Web on Internet)
The Movement for the Restoration of Democracy in Sierra Leone (MRD)
declared its intention to form a military wing comprising all the civil
defence units in the country. A meeting of the MRD Executive Committee
in Conakry (Guinea) agreed to unite all the civil defence militias
and hunting societies under one united command, to be known as the Civil
Defence Forces (CDF). The MRD, while continuing to support diplomatic and
other pressure on the AFRC, vowed to pursue a military option to restore
the government of President Kabbah.
Kamajohs, with 500 reinforcements arriving by canoe at Sulima, began a
new offensive to regain control of Zimmi and reverse earlier gains
by the Peoples’ Army. Civilians fleeing the area said the fighting was
advancing west of the highway linking Zimmi and Gofor. Two weeks earlier,
they were forced to retreat from Zimmi under heavy mortar and artillery
from the army and its RUF allies. It followed another retreat to Gofor,
east of Zimmi, from where they attempted a counter-offensive. Civilians
fled to Portoru, west of Zimmi. "We will never give up this fight. We
will fight back", their Commander Eddy Massallay had said. The
Kamajohs were also driven out of diamond rich Tongo by AFRC forces
in Kenema District, describing it as a tactical withdrawal and vowed to
take it back in a matter of days.
Sierra Leonean troops executed a soldier in Freetown Tuesday after he shot
and killed a mechanic for refusing to hand over a can of petrol. An angry
crowd pursued the soldier to a police station. Other soldiers rushed in
and dragged him out. "The soldiers stripped off his uniform and shot
him at least five times", one witness said. The mechanic, 27-year old
Koroma, worked for a petrol station in the east of Freetown, and was
shot several times in the stomach after asking for payment for about five
gallons of gasoline. He was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced
A shipment of 55,000 tons of gasoline and 2,000 tons of gas oil was delivered
by the Hong Kong-registered Jian Chi.
Ex-President Joseph Momoh intervened to broker peace in the continuing
stalemate in the country. After talks with Guinean President Lansana
Conte, he said the Guinean expressed a wish to meet first with AFRC
Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma. "If this present initiative does
not materialise, then perhaps I will try again to see if I can talk to
some other people who will do it, but I have great faith that President
Lansana Conteh is just the right man to be able to undertake this responsibility"
added "Right from the word go I have been totally opposed to the idea
of military intervention".
Trouble was brewing among the Sierra Leonean ECOMOG contingent in Monrovia.
Commander Victor Malu confirming, said that "... they decided
to take the law into their hands, hold their peers to ransom, and started
indiscriminately firing in the air .....I had to send troops there quickly
to disarm them, and the matter is being investigated with a view of taking
very severe disciplinary action against them".
Military sources in Kenema said that 22 people were killed in clashes between
AFRC forces and the kamajohs. A dozen kamajohs died and 20 were injured
in Zimmi, a military official said. 10 soldiers, including a radio operator,
were also killed. Electricity officials said "unknown persons" had removed
the main fuse at Dodo Electricity Station near Kenema, cutting off electricity
to a large area. The kamajohs claimed responsibility for the action. (Source:
Sierra Leone Web on Internet)
A BBC report said that over 68 people had died of starvation and related
diseases in four chiefdoms in Moyamba District. Most of the deaths occurred
because no food or medicine was available after two aid agencies pulled
out of the area in July, because of harassment by security personnel who
regularly seize relief supplies. A Care International official confirmed
that the agency had suspended operations because their vehicles were constantly
being impounded. The security forces say they were impounding the goods
because they believe they were being used to supply the Kamajoh militia.
The relief agencies denied this, saying that the supplies were meant only
for civilians in the Moyamba region.
Norman Outlines Kamjohs’ Strategy - Kamajoh commander Samuel
Hinga Norman said their aim was to capture Zimmi. Because "it is a
gateway from the southern part of Sierra Leone connecting Liberia, and
so its importance is very, very high to both sides..... It is important
because from there we can link up to the outside world, and again it was
our intention to create a safe area, a safe zone for our displaced people
within the country. From that area we can organise a lot of other military
and civil administration." Referring to the AFRC he said their next move
would be to target military strategic areas. "When the AFRC came up
and said that they were not going to give up their power to President Ahmed
Tejan Kabbah, we then decided to take up battle with them and now they
have a battle on their hands. We say the only condition is that they should
hand over to the democratically elected government and the president for
whom the people voted. Short of that, there is no dice" he concluded.
Persistent rumours that AFRC Chairman Johnny Paul Koroma is under house
arrest and taking orders from the People's Army have been denied vigorously
by the Junta. An RUF spokesman said the story was untrue and that it was
intended to damage "the good relationship between the national Army
and the People's Army and to plunge the entire country into another pool
President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah condemned the military's decision to hold
on to power until 2001, and accused politicians of manipulating the AFRC.
is an affront to all lovers of democracy and smacks of hostility",
he said on a clandestine pro-democracy radio station. He went on: "Those
who are bent on destroying the country would themselves be destroyed.…
They will be hunted down even if they hide in rat holes". He said the
AFRC had adopted a defiant and uncompromising stand on the advice of certain
politicians who were manipulating the soldiers and urging them to stay
in power. "But they shall not succeed", he said. He accused politicians
of "inciting the military to seize power and promising them that the
international community would recognise them".
Kamajohs controlling a narrow stretch of road 25 miles from Bo and their
(northern) Kapra allies were reported to have beheaded four people whom
they said sympathised with the junta. The victims had been travelling in
a lorry with other passengers towards Makeni when the vehicle was stopped
at a checkpoint near Gumahun. The driver, a retired soldier and
two other men in military T-shirts were taken out, along with the 27-year
old girlfriend of one of the men, and summarily executed. The vehicle was
impounded but the other passengers were allowed to continue their journey.
Hostilities again erupted in Freetown between Nigerian ECOMOG troops at
Lungi and the AFRC. Firing started when the Nigerian troops allegedly fired
on two container ships which had evaded an ECOWAS-imposed blockade. Some
of the shells landed in residential areas, including Aberdeen. The AFRC
claimed that over 50 had been killed. Nigerian Director of Defence Information
Colonel Godwin Ugbo acknowledged that shells may have fallen on
Freetown. "Our target is the junta, it is not civilians...If we come
under fire from the junta we have to defend ourselves, we cannot just sit
back idle" . He admitted that there had been "lots of civilian casualties"
none on the ECOMOG side.
Dr. John Karefa-Smart, smarting a Sierra Leonean diplomatic passport, was
refused entry tat the Guinea border by immigration officers enforcing an
embargo against all Sierra Leonean "officials".
Take a peaceful path - An African health ministers meeting in South Africa
appealed to all sides in the conflicts in Sierra Leone and Congo to resolve
their differences peacefully and end the loss of life.
Mrs Patricia Kabbah, wife of President Kabbah is in the US on a
goodwill tour to raise money for refugees and victims of the coup, and
raise awareness of the situation in Sierra Leone. She hopes to visit at
least seven cities including New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston,
New Haven, Atlanta, and Chicago.
More than 6,000 youths reportedly demonstrated in the streets of Freetown
against the presence of ECOMOG troops, chanting slogans against President
Kabbah and Nigerian leader Sani Abacha. The demonstration came during
a funeral ceremony for twenty-one people, allegedly killed in a Nigerian
raid, at the national stadium. AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma declaring
the day a national holiday also announced a week of mourning and threatened
that if [Nigerian] aggression did not stop, "the AFRC will have no alternative
but to attack the Nigerians." Reacting to the deaths, ECOMOG Commander
Major-General Victor Malu said most had been caused by gunfire from
junta soldiers. "We know that the bodies of some of the dead were riddled
with bullets, whereas our troops were nowhere within rifle range" he
said. There were claims that artillery shells that fell on the city, including
one that exploded at a market, were fired by Junta troops from artillery
placements on the Fourah Bay College campus on Mount Aureol and from Wilberforce
Barracks. Malu’s statement was supported by President Kabbah on the secret
‘SLBS Radio 98.4’ station . He said the ship was carrying arms and ammunition.
But an AFRC spokesman said the Proteus was carrying rice.
In a rare interview given on the BBC, Captain Norman claimed that his men
had seized control of a 19-milestretch of highway linking Joru and Kenema
and were aiming to clear the region of junta forces in order to allow Sierra
Leonean refugees in Liberia to return home. "Our people are now being
molested and harassed in Liberia by security agents, and this is a result
of utterances against us by President Taylor" he said in reply to President
Taylor’s description of Kamajohs as an illegal armed group. "The men
fighting for us are those Sierra Leoneans trained over the years by the
defunct (Taylor’s) NPFL".
A new Kamajoh base has reportedly been set up in Fairo in the South
Eastern Province, less than twenty miles from the Liberian border. Rumour
has it that it is also the operational base for the Kamajoh leader Hinga
Norman, ousted President Kabbah’s Deputy minister of defence who was
forced out of Liberia following threatening noises by the new government
of President Taylor. During early September Kamjohs made a massive push
to take over some of the highways in the South, aiming for the towns of
Golahun Tunkia and Joru. Another sustained effort to re-capture Zimmi did
not materialise in two days of continuous fighting.
Liberian Perception of Events In Sierra Leone - New Liberian President,
Taylor, has expressed alarm during a Cabinet meeting and subsequently
in a national radio broadcast at the flood of "about 200,000 Sierra
Leonean refugees" endangering Liberia’s fragile peace. "We have
200,000 people crossing into Liberia and this is no joke. We must act now",
saying rather ominously: "We are going to discourage anything that threatens
our fragile democracy." Liberian Information Minister
caustically commented on BBC Focus on Africa that over 100,000 Sierra
Leoneans were crossing the Liberian border and that his government had
made an appeal to the UNHCR "to move quickly at the border so as to
relocate the refugees 100 miles away from the border". He claimed that
Sierra Leonean Kamajohs were using some of the border routes into Liberia
although he denied that (his) NPFL troops had been seen training the Kamajohs,
saying: "We have no sympathy for armed groups at the moment fighting
in Sierra Leone ….We’re just coming from ECOWAS in which President Taylor
was placed on the Committee of Five to ensure that peace is restored once
again to that sister Republic of Sierra Leone, and to our amazement, the
conflict has escalated...Whether (the Kamajohs) are fighting to restore
President Kabbah or not, the mandate of the ECOWAS is that they should
all return to the peace table and find an amicable solution in Sierra Leone
just as it was done in Liberia." The minister then reiterated Taylor’s
orders to the Justice Minister and Commanders of the Security Forces that
"Liberia must not be allowed to become a springboard for recruiting
forces for the Sierra Leone crisis". He said he did not know that Kamajoh
leader Sam Hinga Norman was operating from Liberia but that "if
there’s anybody who has been going in and out, the security forces have
been given orders to have them arrested and passed over to the appropriate
authorities", pointedly indicating that he would most certainly order
Hinga Norman’s arrest. President Taylor had earlier referred to the Kamajohs
as "an illegal armed group".
The heavy military presence in the vicinity of the port had been undertaken
to counteract air attacks on ships in the harbour. Earlier there had been
magnetic rocket and cluster bomb attack on a merchant ship ….. reportedly
unloading 19,000 tons of rice from Pakistan". Captain Abubakarr
Kamara, co-ordinator of the operations, said tersely: "We are prepared
to defend the port and its vital installation, and if this means war with
the Nigerians, so be it".
The AFRC claimed that twelve kamajohs and five (Liberian) ULIMO-K fighters
were killed during fighting at Zimmi but no mention was made of AFRC casualties.
They said that documents found on the corpses of the dead men identified
them as ULIMO-K fighters. A spokesman admitted that Kamajohs were holding
the Sierra Leone side of the Mano River Bridge with "the support of
the Nigerian Ecomog troops who were in control of that part on the Liberian
side. He claimed that Ecomog soldiers "have given [the Kamajohs] arms and
ammunition and are training them too".
It is reported that most of the rice that has been landed in Freetown during
the course of the blockade has found its way into Guinea through smuggling.
Rice is, apparently cheaper in Sierra Leone than in Guinea because current
Sierra Leone landings are tax free.
A small tanker belonging to Sierra Leone’s National Petroleum Company was
the target of bombardment by Nigerian troops. A Nigerian Alpha fighter
jet attacked and badly damaged the Napetco, docked at Kissy Fuel
Jetty, killing two crew members - the company’s chief engineer and its
chief security officer. Sierra Leonean troops fired back at the jet, creating
panic in the city. Said AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara: "We are
firing at them heavily for them to know that we are alert. We are not going
to take chance at all ..... As a responsible government, we have to establish
ourselves, let these people understand that this is our territorial integrity.
We are a sovereign state".
Former NPRC strongmen Lt Colonels Komba Mondeh, Tom Nyuma,
Mboma, Major John Sowa and Patrick Kweigor were all reported
to have decamped and to be preparing to lead a military effort to push
the junta out and reinstate President Kabbah. The men were believed to
have been ferried in by Nigerian/Ecomog troops and to have been staying
at the Jui base, near Freetown, the scene of many battles between the People’s
Army and the Nigerians. Mondeh who was a Chief of Defence staff and had
been on a training course in Nigeria is reported to have paid a courtesy
visit to President Kabbah in Guinea and pledged to work for his return,
before travelling to the Sierra Leone. Broadcasting on the secret "SLBS
station" Mondeh berated the junta saying that AFRC Chairman Major Johnny
Paul Koroma should "hand over without delay to President Kabbah or prepare
to face the consequences". His broadcast was given a taciturn response
by the AFRC but a day or so later they issued a statement to say that three
of the men, including Mondeh, had been arrested by the Guinean government.
"They were alleged to be involved in clandestine activities that threatened
the security of the two sister Republics", the statement said.
Earlier, it was alleged in a separate incident a fist fight broke out when
Mondeh, Kweigor and others travelled to Monrovia to recruit Sierra Leonean
members of the Ecomog contingent into their camp. A heated altercation
broke out and they had to be rescued and airlifted in a Nigerian helicopter
back to Jui.
Sierra Leone’s AFRC regime again featured prominently at talks held by
the CMAG - the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group.. A recommendation
will be made by Ministers for suspension of Sierra Leone’s membership of
the Commonwealth, from whose meetings the country was barred in July.
Insurance cover was denied ships plying the route to Sierra Leone after
the Nigerian forces tightened the blockade around the country. "This
is the result of continuing political and civil unrest in Sierra Leone,
which has led to military action and the blockading of vessels", said
an official of the Joint War Committee.
Paulo Bangura AFRC Foreign Secretary was reported to have been sacked
and replaced by AFRC Attorney General Ajibola Manley-Spaine. The
report, filed from ECOMOG HQ in Monrovia, was described by Junta sources
as a blatant lie.
Freetown’s East Enders were forced to beat a hasty retreat after threats
by Nigeria commanders that their jets would be bombing areas around the
city’s ports because of "relentless provocation by the junta". Residents
of Kanikay, Mabella, and other port areas fled to safer parts of the city,
returning at intervals to check on the contents of their homes.
Nigerian jets again attacked the port, dropping at least five bombs on
the harbour area. No casualties were reported. A Ukrainian ship Seaway
bombarded by Nigerian artillery upon suspicion of breaking the blockade
to make delivery of (according to ECOMOG) arms and ammunition.
Following a report in one local newspaper that the AFRC was preparing to
relinquish power after an acrimonious debate that led to an alleged 30-10
split in the ruling council in favour - a claim which has since been rejected
by official spokesmen of the junta - the regime has let it be known that
the press must get advance permission before publication of stories in
future or suffer "suspension from publication with immediate effect".
The move is a big blow to morale and has been widely condemned by newspaper
editors in Freetown, who accuse the junta of trying to muzzle the press.
The Sierra Leone Brewery and the Seaboard Flour Mill companies
have reportedly recommenced production.
Freetown’s main power plant, was reported seriously hit by bombs, causing
damage estimated at over $100,000. The target had been an oil tug anchored
at the powerhouse jetty which was suspected of delivering fuel in breach
of the blockade.
More clashes were reported between Nigerian troops and the Peoples’ Army
near Lungi ending in casualties on both sides. Said a Nigerian Colonel:
have been harassed since Saturday by rebels linked to the Sierra Leone
army. We have to defend ourselves when we are attacked so this is why we
had to fire back this morning." AFRC spokesman retorted: "A group
of Nigerian soldiers were moving from their positions, fully armed, toward
the area where the Sierra Leone army is based. We told them to halt using
a voice-hailer, but this was ignored. When we fired warning shots, they
ECOMOG Commander Major-General Victor Malu has said that all humanitarian
supplies entering Sierra Leone must be inspected by ECOMOG troops in Liberia
or Guinea. "Either they are cleared, or they do not come in at all",
Twelve kamajohs and 5 fighters from the disbanded ULIMO-K militia were
killed in a clash with junta forces at Zimmi, according to a report by
AFRC Secretary of State for the East Captain Eddie Kanneh. He did not say
speak about junta casualties. He said ULIMO-K fighters had been identified
by documents found in their pockets.
A group of prominent Sierra Leoneans announced the formation of a organisation
- the Independent National Mediation Committee - to mediate
in the crisis. They hope to arrange a meeting between Koroma, Kabbah and
possibly Sankoh and would be sending delegations to each as soon as practicable.
Nigeria would be asked to release the RUF leader for talks.
Major Johnny Paul Koroma has pledged in a letter to the President
of the Security Council of the UN that his regime will give Envoy Francis
Okelo "all the co-operation he requires in order to aid the return
of peace, prosperity and constitutionality to our war-weary people". He
said they were prepared to "enter into talks with anyone" in order
to reach a peaceful solution to Sierra Leone's crisis and return the country
to constitutional rule. The Chairman added: "We are ready to talk at
the level of ECOWAS. We are ready to talk at the level of the United Nations
and I wish to assert that I am personally ready to enter into tripartite
negotiations with Mr Ahmed Tejan Kabbah and Corporal Foday Saybana Sankoh".
Sixteen ECOMOG soldiers, including eleven who were killed in a land mine
explosion on September 3 were flown to Nigeria to be buried with full military
According to AFRC Secretary of State for the East Captain Eddie Kanneh,
Kamajohs "killed the Paramount Chief of Dama Chiefdom, near Kenema,
for supporting the junta" and his deputy was abducted, presumed killed.
A RESOLUTION BY ‘THE STANDING CONFERENCE
ON SIERRA LEONE’
A new organisation known as The Standing Conference On Sierra Leone
has been formed in London. According to its founders, it is to serve as
a permanent forum for ongoing discussion and debate of national issues,
and for the development and formulation of policies about peace, security,
stability and development in Sierra Leone. Formed in the midst of the current
crisis in the country, ‘The Conference’ has just passed a resolution in
which it urges dialogue and a genuine search for a peaceful negotiated
settlement. The full text of the resolution is reproduced below:
We, members of the Sierra Leonean community resident at
home and abroad;
The Standing Conference On Sierra leone
Concerned about the grave situation in Sierra Leone which started with
the outbreak of civil war in March 1991, culminating in the coup d'état
of Sunday 25 May 1997;
Considering the impending greater disaster it portends for our country’s
Mindful that international, regional and national efforts have not led
to a resolution of the crisis, and that Sierra Leoneans are still far from
enjoying peace and stability in their land;
Alarmed particularly at the escalation in violence throughout the country
before and after the coup, and the flagrant breaches of the human rights
and basic freedoms of Sierra Leoneans by all sides to the various conflicts;
Abhorring the tragic loss of lives in such conflicts; the untold suffering,
including from hunger and disease, now threatening to decimate especially
the young, the old and the infirm; and the current state of paralysis due
largely to the recent imposition of a blockade upon the country which hampers
the delivery of humanitarian assistance such as food and medicine that
is essential for maintaining a basic existence.
Concerned equally at the increasing ferocity of the armed confrontation
between Nigerian forces and the Sierra Leone Military/RUF - now known as
Army, and between the said Peoples’ Army and the local hunters’ militia
- the Kamajohs; the fallout from such developments as evidenced
by the tidal wave of refugees and displaced persons both internally and
beyond our national borders;
Acknowledging that even before the present crisis, our country had been
embroiled in six and half years of civil war with devastating consequences
for both our people, thousands of whom have lost their lives, and the economic
and social infrastructure of our country;
Recognising that the war between the RUF and the military has reportedly
been declared as at an end;
Aware that prolongation of the present impasse will only lead to further
destruction of whatever remains of our ravaged infrastructure;
Cognisant of the above facts and realising the extent of polarisation
that is gradually taking place between sections of our community;
Hereby declare that:
No matter whatever interest others may have in the present crisis and its
eventual resolution, it is fundamental that Sierra Leoneans themselves
take full ownership and responsibility for it and seek a solution, among
themselves, albeit with the help of others, that will command the support
of all the parties concerned, and strengthen the foundation for reuniting
Grievances among various groups contributed to the eruption of the RUF
rebel war in 1991, the coup d'états of April 1992 and, most recently,
of 25 May 1997. The issues raised by these crises are so grave that they
ought now to be properly addressed through meaningful dialogue within the
framework of a national forum that should aim at consolidating peace and
security, restoring the Constitution and constitutional rule, and reconciling
the various sections of our society;
Unless there is justice for all citizens, without exception, and the means
for the proper redress of grievances is demonstrably accessible to all,
it is inevitable that the social and political upheavals that have plagued
our country in the past, which are prevalent at present, will continue
in years to come.
In view of the foregoing and for the promotion of peace and stability for
Sierra Leone, we have today resolved as follows:
To form ourselves into The Standing Conference On Sierra Leone.
To seek genuine and lasting solutions to our country’s problems through
dialogue and understanding.
To pursue, and to encourage others to pursue, the path of peaceful negotiated
settlement of the present crisis as the only sensible option, taking into
consideration the legitimate concerns and grievances of all parties involved.
To lobby, campaign and involve all the parties to the present crisis, friends
of Sierra Leone and all who want peace and stability in our country.
We call for an immediate cease-fire between the Military and all local
militias operating inside the country.
We call on all foreign forces and the Military to scrupulously respect
the cease-fire established at the 17-18 July meeting at Abidjan between
the Ecowas Committee of Four and the AFRC delegation.
We strongly disapprove of any armed foreign intervention as opposed to
We call for the re-instatement of the Abidjan Peace Accord, signed on 30
November 1996, between the Government of Sierra Leone and the RUF/SL; In
this respect, we appeal especially to the UN, the OAU, the Commonwealth
and the Government of the Cote d’Ivoire, all of whom, under Article 28
of the Accord, "stand as moral guarantors that the Peace Agreement is implemented
with integrity and in good faith by both parties".
In line with the provisions of Article 13 of the said Accord, we call further
for the withdrawal of all foreign military forces from Sierra Leone, and
we strongly urge the International Community, as envisaged under Article
12, to send a neutral peace-keeping force in their place.
We urge the immediate release of the RUF leader by Nigeria so that he can
participate in the process for the resolution of the present crisis.
We appeal to all parties concerned to refrain from malicious, divisive
and inflammatory propaganda.
By our expressed concern for the deteriorating conditions of life throughout
out the country, we call for the lifting of the air, land and sea blockade
of the country so as to allow the entry of goods and services that are
necessary for the sustenance of the civilian population and the maintenance
of essential services.
We urge all Sierra Leoneans who share our resolve for a negotiated settlement
to join us in our call to the parties concerned, notably President Ahmed
Tejan Kabbah and the SLPP, Chairman Johnny Paul Koroma and the Military,
and Corporal Foday Saybannah Sankoh and the RUF, to get together immediately
with representatives of civil society and find a negotiated settlement
to the crisis.
We strongly urge consideration of the formation of a Government of National
Unity to replace the Military.
We invite ECOWAS to don the mantle of peace maker and play a positive role
by helping us to bring all the parties concerned together around the negotiating
table to resolve their differences.
We pledge ourselves to work with all groups in the country that share our
objectives and subscribe to the idea of dialogue and a peaceful, negotiated
Monday, 22 September 1997