Appendix 2, Part 3: Submissions
119 Cambridge Gardens
KTl 3NP United Kingdom
10 February 2003
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Brookfields Hotel Freetown
LETTER OF COMPLAINT AGAINST THE NATIONAL PROVISIONAL RULING COUNCIL
I hereby submit my letter of complaint against the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) which ruled Sierra Leone from April 1992 to 1996. The NPRC authorities executed my husband, the late Lieutenant-colonel James Yaya Kanu (SL 172), without trial in 1992 and two days later, they sacked me from my job because I was his wife.
In April 1992, the NPRC regime overthrew the APC government and arrested several politicians and military officers including my late husband, and they were detained at the Pademba Road Prison. He was the Commanding Officer of the 3rd battalion at the time of his arrest. According to the NPRC authorities, this was done for security reasons and they promised to release the detainees after they settled properly in office.
A few weeks after the coup, some of the military officers were released but my husband remained in prison. He was in detention for eight months although he was not charged for any offence and he was never taken to court. He was not allowed to see me or any of his relatives. No visitors were allowed and he had no contact with the public. The prison gates were heavily guarded and the traffic was diverted from that area.
On the 29th of December 1992, he was taken out of prison and summarily executed together with 28 others. The NPRC authorities alleged that he had been involved in a coup plot to overthrow their regime whilst he was in prison. There was no charge and there was definitely “no trial”. He was killed and buried on that same day and I never saw his grave. I only knew about his death after it was announced on the national radio (SLBS) that same afternoon.
On the 315t of December 1992, two days after his death, I was arrested and taken to the Military HQ at Cockerill. I was a serving officer and a Major, and the Second-in-command of Barrack services. The current Army Chief-of-Staff, Maj-Gen Tom Carew, was the Officer Commanding at that time. My number was SL 255 and I was never charged for any offence during my service in the RSLMF.
According to Brigadier (rtd) Jusu Gottor who was the Chief-of-Staff, the NPRC regime had decided to give me compulsory retirement because I was the wife of the late Yaya Kanu. I was ordered to hand over my kit and the military items which were in my possession and to vacate our quarters on that same day.
On the 31st of December 1992, whilst other people were ushering in the New-year, I was on the streets of Freetown finding accommodation for my family. I had to move into my mother’s cramped flat at the Low-cost Housing Estate for several weeks before moving to an unfinished building at Congo Cross. I faced severe harassment during that period and there were frequent gun shots around our house at night.
I wanted to leave the country but I was unable to do so initially because the NPRC authorities seized my passport. They also instructed the officials at the Police Headquarters in Freetown not to issue a clearance certificate to me or my children. I was ordered to attend two interviews at State House, to explain why I needed my passport and clearance certificate. The Interviews were conducted by Lt. (rtd) Karefa Kargbo who was the Chief Secretary of State. He told me that my file was with the Head of State and any decision about my movement from Sierra Leone had to be made by Capt. (rtd) Strasser.
I stayed in Freetown for months without a job and faced constant harassment from the NPRC authorities. Up to this day, there are bullet marks on the wall of our house and these were fired by some of their men at night. In one instance, my house was attacked during the day and we had to stay indoors surrounded by soldiers for the whole afternoon. I sold some of my possessions to survive and depended on handouts from my family and friends. After the situation cooled down a bit, I got some assistance from some relatives and escaped to Britain in 1994.
I believe that the TRC has been set up for people like us and I desperately want to know the truth about the circumstances surrounding my husband’s death, and to know where he was buried. He did not commit an offence and he was definitely not charged for any crime. His bank account was frozen during his imprisonment and after his death, I was told by the authorities at the bank to provide a death certificate. Who was going to give me a death certificate under those circumstances?
I would also like to set the record straight about my military career as I may want to go back and work in Sierra Leone in the future. I was an Officer in my own right and not just a “wife”. I lost my husband, job and accommodation in two days and this has had an adverse effect on my life and the lives of my children. We have suffered a lot over the last few years and our lives can never be the same again. I have tried to cope as much as I can, but the nightmares are still there and I believe that they will never go away.
I would be very grateful if the Commission could look into my case and try to find the truth about what happened to my family under the NPRC regime. I have enclosed copies of some documents which might be useful in the investigation. I am appealing to you to help me as this is my only hope of finding out the truth and setting the record straight. It will also be a healing process and an opportunity for me to put my life back in order.
I am looking forward to a reply from you at your earliest convenience. Thanks in advance for your kind assistance and co-operation.
Copy to :
The United Nations Human Rights Section, Mammy Yoko Hotel, Freetown.
1 Easton Street London WC1X 8DJ United Kingdom
EXTERNAL (for general distribution)
AS Index: AFR 51/05/92 Distr: UA/SC
31 December 1992
SIERRA LEONE: 26 people executed, including James Bambay Kamara, former Minister of State and Inspector General of Police and Lieutenant Colonel James Yaya Kanu.
At least 26 people suspected of involvement in two separate coup attempts are feared to have been executed in Freetown, Sierra Leone following unfair trials before a special military tribunal on 29 and 30 December 1992. According to reports, the defendants were executed on 30 December 1992, within hours of the tribunal’s verdict being confirmed by representatives of the Supreme Council of State, Sierra Leone’s ruling body. Amnesty International is deeply concerned that the defendants were unfairly tried and had no right of appeal against their convictions and sentences. Amnesty International is also concerned by reports that other prisoners may shortly be tried and sentenced to death by the same tribunal.
According to reports, 17 people arrested on 21 November 1992 in connection with an alleged coup attempt were tried and sentenced to death by the special military tribunal on 29 December 1992. Sierra Leone’s military government subsequently announced that it had ordered the immediate execution of a further nine people arrested in connection with an alleged coup attempt on 28 December 1992. The nine are said to include James Bambay Kamara, former Minister State and Inspector General of Police, and Lieutenant-colonel James Yaya Kanu, both of whom had been detained at Pademba Road Prison since April 1992. No explanation has been given as to how they could have been involved in a coup attempt on 28 December 1992. According to reports all 26 defendants were tried, found quilty and sentenced to death by the special military tribunal on 29 and 30 December 1992. Their sentences were confirmed by representatives of the Supreme Council of State (SCS), the military government, including Captain Valentine E. Strasser, Chairman of the SCS, and are believed to have been carried out immediately.
The new military tribunal, set up by decree less than two weeks ago, has five members, all of whom are army officers who may not be legally trained, and has the power to impose the death penalty. It
appears to have been created to displace the jurisdiction belonging to the ordinary courts. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all circumstances on the grounds that it is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading form of punishment with no special deterrent effect. In 1984 the United Nations urged that defendants charged with a capital offence should be granted all possible safeguards to ensure a fair trial and allowed an opportunity to contest their convictions and sentences before a higher court.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION: On 29 April 1992 the government of Major-General Joseph Saidu Momoh was overthrown in a military coup. The new military government, led by Captain Valentine E. Strasser, suspended the October 1991 Constitution and declared a state of emergency. Emergency legislation was introduced, giving the security forces unlimited powers of administrative detention without charge or trial, and specifically preventing challenges against such detentions in the courts. After the 29 April 1992 coup more than SO former government ministers and officials were arrested. Most are still detained without charge or trial in Pademba Road Prison, Freetown.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/express and airmail letters to: (44)(71) 413 5500 Telegrams: Amnesty London WC1 Telex 28502 FAX 956 1157
Amnesty International is an independent worldwide movement working for the international protection of human rights. It seeks the release of men and women detained anywhere because of their beliefs, colour, sex, ethnic origin, language or religious creed, provided they have not used or advocated violence. These are termed prisoners of conscience. It works for fair and prompt trials for all political prisoners and works on behalf of such people detained without charge or trial. It opposes the death penalty and torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of a!1 prisoners.
Page 1 of UA 416/92
either in English or in your own language:
– expressing dismay at the reported execution of 26 people in Freetown, Sierra Leone on 30 December 1992 and urging that no further executions be carried out; – expressing concern that they were sentenced to death after trials before a military tribunal which cannot be considered to have guaranteed a fair trial and that they had no right of appeal to a higher, independent jurisdiction; urging the government to ensure that in future anyone charged in connection with criminal acts is brought to trial before an open court in which they are accorded full rights of defence and appeal, in conformity with international standards;
– calling for any death sentences passed by the courts to be commuted. APPEALS TO:
1) Captain Valentine E. Strasser
Salutation: Dear Captain Strasser Chairman
Supreme Council of State State House
Independence Avenue Freetown, Sierra Leone Telegrams: Captain Strasser, Chairman NPRC, Freetown, Sierra Leone Telexes: 3230
2) Lieutenant Solomon A.J. Musa
Salutation: Dear Lieutenant Musa Vice-Chairman
National Provisional Ruling Council State House
Independence Avenue Freetown, Sierra Leone Telegrams: Lieutenant Musa, Vice-Chairman NPRC, Freetown, Sierra Leone Telexes: 3230
3) Mr John Benjamin
Salutation: Dear Minister of State Minister of State
Office of the Chairman
National Provisional Ruling Council State House
Independence Avenue Freetown, Sierra Leone Telegrams: Mr Benjamin, Minister of State, Freetown, Sierra Leone Telexes: 3230
COPIES OF YOUR APPEALS TO: Mr Arnold Bishop-Goodina Attorney General and Minister of Justice Ministry of Justice
Captain Julius Maada Bio Liaison officer for Finance, Foreign Affairs and Information Supreme Council of State
State House Independence Avenue Freetown, Sierra Leone
and the following newspapers:
Daily Mail, PO Box 53, Freetown, Sierra Leone
The Chronicle, 42B Waterloo Street, Freetown,Sierra Leone For Di People, 1 Short Street, Freetown, Sierra Leone
The Globe, 19a Lightfoot Boston Street, Freetown, Sierra Leone
The New Citizen, 5 Hannah Benka-Coker Street, Freetown, Sierra Leone The Vision, 60 Old Railway Line, Brookfields, Freetown, Sierra Leone and to diplomatic representatives of Sierra Leone in your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat, or your section office, if sending appeals after 11 February 1993.
Please take action as soon as you receive this Urgent Action
appeal. Carefully read the recommended actions. If possible,
The name of Amnesty International may be used, although letters
send a telegram, telex, tax or express letter immediately to one written in a private or personal capacity may be more effective or more of the addresses given, Other letters can be sent
Copies of appeals should be sent to relevant diplomatic representatives in your country.
Telegrams and letters should be brief and courteous. Stress that your concern for human rights is not w any way politically partisan. Refer to relevant provisions in international law, such as the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Article 3 – “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”
Article 5 – “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Article 9 – “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.”
In Urgent Actions cases, Amnesty international has to act rapidly on behalf of victims of grave human rights violations An appeal is issued when Amnesty International believes it has received reliable and accurate information m such cases It is not alwavs possible to verify all details independently and in some instances the situation outlined in the appeal may change Urgent Action participants are always notified of any significant new facts.
Copies of any replies received from government authorities should be sent immediately to your section’s Urgent Action coordinator or direct to the Campaign and Membership Department of the International Secretariat. If appropriate, thank the official who has replied and ask to be kept informed about the case
1 Easton Street London WC 1 X 8DJ
AI Index: AFR 51/Ol/93 Distr: UA/SC
11 January 1993
Further information on UA 416/92 (AFR 51/05/92, 31 December 1992) Penalty / Legal Concern_[ Fear of further executions – Death
SIERRA LEONE: 26 people executed, including James Bambay Kamara, former Minister of State and Inspector General of Police and Lieutenant Co1James Yayah Kanu and new names: up to six people feared to be’ at risk of unfair trial summary execution, including:
Lieutenant M.A. Jalloh
Lance Corporal S.S. Koroma, alias Solo Donde
Ahmed Sesay, student
and two people declared “wanted” in coup attempt of 28 December 1992: Private Mohamed Osman Bangura
Lance Corporal Saidu Kargbo
Amnesty International fears that up to six people, including Lieutenant M.A. Jalloh, Lance Corporal S.S. Koroma and Ahmed Sesay, arrested following all alleged coup attempt on 28 December 1992, may be at imminent risk of summary execution following unfair trials before a special military tribunal. The organization is deeply concerned that these defendants may be tried, without legal representation, by a special military tribunal and, if found guilty, sentenced to death with no right of appeal against their convictions sentences. Amnesty International is also concerned about two other members of the armed forces, Private Mohamed Osman Bangura and Lance Corporal Saidu Kargbo, declared “wanted” in connection with the alleged coup attempt of 28 December 1992, who may also, if arrested, be at risk of summary trial and execution.
A Sierra Leonean government communique of 31 December 1992 stated that two people – Lieutenant Jalloh and Lance Corporal Koroma – are awaiting trial by the special military tribunal in connection with the alleged coup attempt of 28 December 1992. Other reports indicate that a further four people, one of them a student, Ahmed Sesay, held in connection with the alleged coup attempt of 28 December 1992 may also face trial. The communique also stated that a reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest of two members of the armed forces, Private Mohamed Osman Bangura and Lance Corporal Saidu Kargbo, wanted in connection with the alleged coup attempt of 28 December 1992. Amnesty International fears that, if arrested, they too would be at risk of summary execution following unfair trials before the special military tribunal.
The government communique of 31 December 1992 confirms that 26 people, including one woman, suspected of involvement in two separate coup attempts on 21 November and 28 December 1992, were executed in Freetown, Sierra Leone on 29 December 1992 (please note corrected date) following trials before a special military tribunal; trials which Amnesty International considers to have been grossly unfair. The communique stated that all 26 defendants were found guilty of treason and sentenced to death by firing squad. Their sentences were endorsed by the confirming authority of the National Provisional Ruling Council (also known as the Supreme Council of State), the military government which seized power in April 1992. The Council ordered that the executions should take place immediately. Those executed included 17 military and police personnel, and nine civilians, including a journalist and a woman.
According to reports, the new military tribunal, set up by decree in mid-December 1992, has the power to try a range of offences including treason, murder, armed robbery, arson and sabotage. It comprises four army or police officers, presided over by an army officer of the rank of lieutenant colonel or above, and assisted
a (44)(71) 413 5500 Telegrams: Amnesty London WC1 Telex: 28502 FAX: 956 1157
Amnesty International is an independent worldwide movement working for the international protection of human rights. It seeks the release of men and women detained anywhere because of their beliefs, colour, sex, ethnic origin, language or religious creed. provided they have not used or advocated violence. These are termed prisoners of conscience. It works for fair and prompt trials for all political prisoners and works on behalf of such people detained without charge or trial. It opposes the death penalty and torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of all prisoners.
PRESENTATION TO THEMATIC
EVENT – SPECIFIC AND
1992 COUP TRIALS AND EXECUTIONS
THE DECEMBER 1992 COUP TRIALS AND EXECUTIONS.
My profound thanks go to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for affording me this opportunity to contribute to this national process of healing the wounds of our past civil war.
Mr. Chairman, let me crave your indulgence to allow me to use this opportunity to make statements on certain issues which we all know brought us to the situation we now find ourselves.
I was born in Segbwema, Kailahun District where I attended primary and secondary schools. Thereafter I studied at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone where I majored in Mathematics and Physics graduating with a B Sc. Degree. I trained as a computer programmer and rose to the position of General Manager at NCR (an American multinational company), with responsibility for our operations in Sierra Leone and The Gambia.
I was at this substantive post when I was appointed to serve my country in various capacities during the National Provisional Ruling Council military regime 1992-1996. I served that regime as Chief Secretary of State, Secretary of State Chairman’s Office and Secretary General at various times.
After the end of that regime by way of a successful holding of a relatively free and fair elections (considering the circumstances), the country returned to civilian rule. That was the rebirth of democracy which we all are benefiting from today. Once power was handed over to the winners of that election, the current ruling Party – The Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), I returned to the private sector and continued to work as Executive Director for African Information Technology Holdings (AITH), which was formed out of the NCR. I have since been able to establish new branches in Bo and Kenema and am working on plans to set up branch in Makeni. Our business includes sale of computers and accessories, Automated Teller Machines (ATM), training in Hardware and Software, LAN Installations, Internet Cafes, Maintenance Support for Hardware etc.
SPECIFIC KNOWLEDGE OF THE DECEMBER 1992 COUP AND EXECUTIONS
It is against this background that I want to make specific comment on this specific request by the TRC to come and do a presentation on the theme “The December 1992 Coup, Trials and Executions”. It is generally clear that as a member of the NPRC Government, we all assume responsibility for the over all performance of that Government, good or bad. It was in view of this consideration that the invitation of the TRC dawned on me with mixed feelings. As a well meaning Sierra Leonean, I felt internally gratified to be accorded the singular opportunity to make my contribution by way of complementing the objectives of the TRC in its drive to restore sanity, openness and reconciliation to our beloved country. However, on the other side after a careful perusal of the topic under review i.e. “The December 1992 Coup, Trials and Executions”, I felt a little constrained in making meaningful submission for the specific events mentioned, since my knowledge on these events is very limited because they were never within my official responsibilities.
I was Chief Secretary of State until November 1992 when I was transferred to the post of Secretary of State in the Chairman’s Office, where my responsibility at that time was to carry out jobs assigned to me by the then Head of State, Captain Valentine Strasser. When I was Chief Secretary of State, I chaired all cabinet meetings and directly supervised the operation of all the cabinet members including the Attorney General. In November 1992, when I was appointed Secretary of State in Chairman’s Office, I was no longer a member of Cabinet and did not attend any meeting where, if at all, the issue of an alleged abortive coup in December 1992 could have been deliberated. Indeed like any other member of the public I followed the events through the press reports and unofficial sources. The office of the Attorney General then, I believe could have documents relating to the facts of the then trials and the executions that were subsequent to the trial. It is but prudent to ask those who were in charge of the entire episode. They are, I believe, the most appropriate people that can throw light on the whole issue so that the true story is brought to the knowledge of us all, including my humble self.
We must first and foremost note that the regime I served was a military regime, and matters such as coup and executions were not the domain of administrators or civilians like myself. I therefore had no input whatsoever into such matters.
It could be recalled that at the time of the change of Government from the APC to the NPRC, most State Institutions had virtually collapsed. This was the reason why NPRC was accorded universal welcome both locally and internationally. This change at that material time removed the yoke of dictatorship and backwardness that had devastated every facet of Sierra Leonean society. The NPRC was able to command the confidence and trust of even traditionally hostile multilateral financial institutions like the IMF and World Bank, which are generally known for their abhorrence for military regimes. It could be recalled that donor organizations had lost confidence in the country and had hence blocked substantial assistance packages to the country under the then APC. Also it is but necessary to note that the NPRC resuscitated several development-oriented programmes, among them were the SLBS television service, 99.9 FM Radio station,winning of zone2 trophy two times, qualification for African Nations cup two times, introduction of IDD system, rehabilitation of the Connaught Hospital, construction of Satellite Clinics, construction of several community market structures, roads network reconstruction in the city and the provinces; salvaging crises such as the queues for fuel, rice, services at the Banks, total power blackout …the list is long. But this regime was not without its own mistakes. In fact no regime in the world is blameless, let alone one that governed by decree. They are however on record as one of the few military Governments in this part of the world that sought the opinion of people, accepted their wishes and returned this country to civilian rule through the ballot box. Bintumani 1 and Bintumani 2 were living testimonies.
INTEGRITY OF THE JUDICIARY
Since the 1967 elections, the Judiciary has been subjected to gross manipulations and interference from the executive arm of successive governments. Political interference in the workings of the courts has been used as a medium for settling political scores. The APC coming from the opposition was bent on revenge for what it saw as repressive posture by the then ruling SLPP under the leadership of Sir Albert Margai towards their party and their supporters.
It is necessary to note that in 1967 the APC swept the polls in the North and the Western Area, the latter region providing most of the qualified personnel of the Judiciary. The APC found it less difficult to get the judiciary on its side in its bid to punish SLPP staunch supporters and party members. Ever since there has been this vicious circle, using the Judiciary to vilify political opponents. Treason trials in this country since then have been in most cases a matter of using the courts to get rid of political opponents. The laws are there to ensure this. Legal reform has been a thing to which we only pay lip service. Today, if anything, we must be able to learn from the fate of Brigadier Lansana, Brigadier John Bangura, Sorie Fornah, Francis Minah and those who lost their lives in other coups . These flaws in our laws must be arrested now if our democracy should work. The Honourable Judges must not allow themselves to be submissive to the whims and caprices of the Executive.
POLITICS: VISION FOR SIERRA LEONE.
Apart from my being active in the private sector, I have also been contributing to the political sphere as well. Since I left public office in 1996 I have been executive member of the National Unity Party and later Interim Leader. I am now a registered member of the SLPP.
It is expected that one must comment on the most topical issue in contemporary discourse in Sierra Leone- corruption. I believe that we cannot deal with this topic in isolation. I know our Government is going all out to address this issue of corruption, through institutional reforms, Anti- Corruption Commission, and setting standards for performance in public office. A case in point is the current move by Government in emphasizing public accountability and subjecting its officials to press scrutiny. It is no secret that corruption has eaten deep into every fabric of society, systematically collapsing state institutions, leading to regrettable fall in standards. We must ask ourselves: Why?
The answer does not only lie in the fact that there is rampant corruption in every sector of society. We must also take into account the years of decadence, that allowed standards to fall, killing values in public servants. The conditions of service for civil servants suffered drastically and over the past decades – they became too ridiculous. This situation allowed corruption to trickle down to the lowest cadre in public service. Poverty became pandemic. Until meaningful and reasonable wage is paid to the public servant, we would not go anywhere in this much trumpeted war on corruption. My view is that, this is a forgone lost war. Until concrete steps are taken in the direction of ensuring that people get properly paid , corruption will remain a way of life.
The Government has vowed to work in earnest to ensure food security by the time we get to the polls in 2007. If food security is so important to us, we must support this Government now, to take a systematic approach to ensure that they provide the infrastructure for it. We must prioritize – pump in a lot of resources into Agricultural Education and extension projects. Those endeavoring in that domain must be encouraged by additionally subsidizing their education and enterprise. Added incentive in the form of free agricultural education, ready employment and market will help. Massive overhaul of current methods using trained manpower, modern technology are imperative. Mechanization and improved technology is the key to food security.
Poor employment scheme and cumbersome management processes for workers is common in most Government departments. Something drastic has to be done, to get rid of the unnecessary bottlenecks so as to avoid the incidence of late payment of salaries, pensions and ghost workers.
There is every need to decentralize the functions and operations of Government. We have now begun seeing evidence of this with the sitting of Cabinet in the provincial headquarters. Once these efforts at decentralization take hold, persistent administrative encumbrances would be tackled. One would not need to come to Freetown to apply for a job as a doctor in Makeni, or a teacher in Bo, mining engineer in Kono, or an agriculturist in Kenema.
The educational, health and housing sectors are areas we have to direct more resources and be innovative, if this country is to move forward. One would suggest the institution of a loan scheme properly monitored by various institutions of government to ensure sustained compliance. We want to ensure that those who want to serve the country are empowered to do so by directly benefiting from these programmes. The 6334 system could be made more meaningful if the foundation of vocational structures is well grounded. We should not loose sight of the fact that massive illiteracy was, and remains a major source of underdevelopment and a big drawback to progress across the country.
Our country should benefit from the education and resources provided to our youths by ensuring that they serve their country for a specified period in a national service scheme. Such a scheme would develop the spirit of nationalism and better understanding of our various regions and ethnic groups.
We must be very conscious of the fact that our role in ECOWAS is primary among the factors responsible for our decade of war and devastation. We need not be hypocritical about this. ECOWAS owes us that obligation in a time like this when we are in the process of reconstruction of our nation. Our nation has suffered grave consequences as a result of our willingness to offer our territory for the cause of ECOWAS in their efforts at pursuing stability in Liberia.
We appreciate the laudable contribution of ECOMOG (ECOWAS peacekeeping troops) who strived remarkably for stability and even went as far as making the ultimate sacrifice while working to defend our people and democracy in this country. ECOWAS also made an invaluable contribution during the peace, disarmament and demobilization processes. However, it is my belief that ECOWAS has the moral obligation to support us through this period of reconstruction of our nation. The rebuilding of our country should not be left in the hands of Sierra Leone and Sierra Leoneans alone. ECOWAS should be fully involved since it was at their request that our country was sacrificed as a base for salvaging the crisis in Liberia for which we suffered all this destruction and setback.
With regards to the operation of the Special Court, our government needs the full support of all ECOWAS States so as to ensure that their work is unhindered. The mandate of the court should be respected throughout the region and regardless of status of a person, once you are indicted, the court processes should be implemented without any interference.
PATRIOTISM AND NATIONAL IDENTITY
Though people refuse to debate the issue of tribalism and regionalism, it is very much alive in our society. Politics particularly is run on tribal or regional lines. This often frustrates competent and talented citizens of whatever ethnic background whose contribution can be meaningful to the country. It also promotes sycophancy and leads to putting square pegs in round holes.
The SLPP is currently making moves towards giving politics a national outlook. What is, however,very crucial at this time, is that such a drive should not be undermined by opportunists. It should be directed at the people in their villages right across the country.
Most of our journalist brothers of the fourth estate made a lot of sacrifice in keeping the flame of democracy burning even at the expense of their lives during our past crisis. This is the time for our government to create the enabling environment that will ensure that high standards are maintained in their profession. The recent development of the mass media program into a full degree course is now making this task meaningful. However the survival of this country continues to be in the hands of every true meaning Sierra Leonean and we should not allow anyone to use their profession to destroy good meaning citizens for no just cause simply because they are not from the same tribe or the same party or simply for economic exploitation. This is a time of challenge to our journalists to ensure that what they defended through out these crises is not destroyed by anyone let alone themselves for selfish reasons.
It is at this point necessary to add my voice to the current debate on Local Government elections. Many believe it should be held under the partisan system as in the past. My humble opinion is that this will prove counter productive under the current circumstances. We have over the years faced a situation where there are obvious divisions in the country on tribal or on regional lines. For example, it does not actually matter who the SLPP puts up in Bo Town or Kenema which are SLPP strongholds. That individual will surely win, in spite of his or her ability to deliver. The same will be the case for the APC candidate in Makeni. This will defeat the essence of the whole process. People must be voted into council offices on the bases of their contribution to their communities, not on the basis of party membership.
There are many areas that dampen the spirit of the Sierra Leonean with regard to patriotism and sense of belonging. Everywhere you go there is no clear demarcation between the Sierra Leonean and the foreigner. If there is, then it is one of dejection. Foreigners get more support and encouragement in various areas of business endeavour. When you travel through our airport you pay the same airport tax and go through the same documentation process as the foreigner. The same obtains in our hospitals and in respect of other essential services. We should be sensitive to the fact that our citizens must receive reasonable preferential treatment to promote love for their country.
There are many such cases in which foreigners enjoy lavish concessions all in the name of encouraging investment that hardly benefit our people. Everywhere in the world there is some form of protectionism. No amount of IMF /World Bank conditions should make us loose sight of that fact.
Another thing that portends un-nationalistic nature is the quotation of prices in Sierra Leonean territory in United States dollars. Fees for mining Licences are in dollars and simple costs of mobile top-up cards are in of U.S. dollars. This is also the case with rent, local shuttle, etc.
Our development should be focused on the people of Sierra leone so as to empower them to own their programs moreso in the private sector. The participation of our citizens as shareholders in businesses will serve as engines of growth in our economy. This should not only be encouraged by our government, it should be supported as we privatize some of our parastatals.
In concluding this paper, I wish to implore all and sundry to be prepared to take responsibility for whatever mistakes that may have resulted in our acts or omissions in the course of pursuing personal or official objectives during the sad chapter of our history.
One thing that bred a lot of resentment among our people, is the excessive latitude we all as citizens give to our leaders. The introduction of a one-party system and the accompanying bad governance destroyed the resolve of the people or their ability to defend their own rights. This must never be allowed to obtain again.
Lastly, I must state here that this process – that of the Truth and Reconciliation must be treated as a real truth telling process, not a podium for the game of vilification. And most importantly we must be able to learn from our past mistakes or else the whole essence of the process will be lost on us all. We have got peace now by addressing mostly the interests of the perpetrators. This is the time for us to ensure that we have permanent peace by now addressing the interests of the victims of the years of decadence and bad governance that led to the war.
May God give us permanent peace and bless us all.
OFFICE OF THE DEFENCE ADVISER
SIERRA LEONE HIGH COMMISSION
PLOT 2858 DANUBE CRESCENT,
OFF IBB WAY, MAITAMA
FCT – ABUJA.
Tel: 0802.316.9831 Date: 18 March, 2003 Fax: 00-234-9-3149172
BRIEF TO THE TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION IN RESPECT OF THE SIERRA LEONE CIVIL WAR. FROM COLONEL KOMBA SM MONDEH
CAUSES OF THE CONFLICT.
The civil war in my mind was caused by a myriad of factors. However, the major factors to me that caused the conflict were namely:
- Lack of Proper Intelligence: credible intelligence was not available to the government and security planners due to lack of training and funds.
- Unemployment: Large number of unemployed youths (Lumpen Youths) who went about in a very idle manner around the big cities, were encouraged to form loose gangs of `weed smokers’ who were ready tools for trouble makers. They formed the nucleus of the fighters on all sides during the war.
- Tribalism: This was the cankerworm that ate deep into the psyche of the society. The then `statusquo’ favoured one tribe/region over and against all others, despite their inadequacies in all sphere that was largely the portion of that group of people/region. They held vibrant positions that they were unqualified for largely due to political patronage.
- Underdevelopment of the Country: The underdevelopment of the infrastructure in the country due to lack of credible and enduring infrastructural facilities nationwide also contributed to the outbreak of the crisis. As a result of lack of basic amenities (such as light and pipe borne water) in the major cities of the country, plenty of the citizens opted out of those areas for the capital city – Freetown or moved out of the country entirely. This helped a lot in breeding bad blood as people felt neglected by the central government.
- Large scale illiteracy: Ignorance due to lack of adequate education was a serious problem that impacted, positively on the war. People were quickly conscripted by the rebels largely due to ignorance and lack of information on governments’ plans and activities. In plenty cases of capture of villages and towns especially, the rebels played on the psyche of the citizens who were getting information via such news agencies like BBC, VOA and RFI, only.
- Lack of Credible Democracy & Perpetuation of political party: The one party system of government which was introduced by the Siaka Steven led APC administration also created bad blood in the polity. The opposition which existed in reality was coerced so badly that they could not properly articulate any sensible issues against the government. This led to lots of them to flee the country due to threats on their lives.
- Poor Security Deployment Nationwide: The Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) since independence was largely ceremonial. This kind of posture did not help matters when war broke out because basic military hardware and good intelligence were lacking. In addition, the strength and ORBAT (i.e. Order of Battle) of the army was very faulty, thus could not effectively thwart Rebel advances on the outbreak of the war.
- Diamond Greed and Lust for Power: The entire war seemed to revolve around the issue of Diamonds and Power. The RUF rebels and their bosses wanted to continue plundering Sierra Leone in order to sustain themselves, thus they embarked on their senseless campaign. They claimed they were initially against the JS Momoh led APC government, but even after the NPRC overthrew Momohs’ APC, they refused to stop fighting. This therefore meant they were only interested in gaining political control of the state and also to loot the resources of the state. Thus the determination to control the mining regions of Kono and Mokanji.
ROLES OF ACTORS, INSTITUTIONS AND COUNTRIES
Various institutions and groups fought in the 11 years civil war. Amongst the groups, the following were prominent actors, namely;
- Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF); This was the national Army of Sierra Leone. Though ill equipped, that institution defended the country with determination against all odds (especially the lack of logistics). There were cases of extortions and raids done by few members of Army. These cases were most times not handled with `strong hands’ because of sentiments and there was no deterrence (in form of a standing military tribunal which would have dealt with defaulters). The attrition rate was very high amongst the rank and file due to lack of training and the NPRC military intervention of 1992. This further weakened the strength of the RSLAF. The final straw that broke the camels’ back was when the AFRC sacked the SLPP government through a Coup of May 25 1997. They also did the unbelievable by inviting the RUF rebels (whom they had been fighting against for six years) to join them in forming a government. This action finally brought all forms of discipline and regimentation of the RSLAF to zero and ultimately finished the image of the RSLAF.
- Revolutionary United Front; The Revolutionary United Front (RUF) brought a senseless war to Sierra Leone which caused untold deaths hardship and suffering to an otherwise peaceful country. They carried out a `scorched earth’ policy thereby burning whole towns and villages indiscriminately which has distorted the cartography of the country. They also raped (including the underaged and elderly), forcibly extorted monies, killed and mutilated in very gory manner and terrorised the poor and innocent people who lived in the hinterland. They really had no ideology and adopted a `reign of terror’ to coerce people into their fold. The main leaders/actors in this group were Foday Sankoh, Mohammed Tarawallie aka Zinno, Sam Bockarie aka Mosquito, Gibril Masaquoi, Mike Lamin and Dennis Mingo.
- Civil Defence Force; The Civil Defence Force (CDF) came in as a handy support group to the RSLAF. It comprised of mainly group of hunters who have knowledge of the bush surroundings of their respective regions. They were divided by region in the following manner;
- Kamajor -Southern Province
b. Tamaborahs/Kapras -Northern Province
c. Donsos -Eastern Province
d. Hunters/Ojeh -Western Area.
This group was a very determined lot who felt they needed to support the National Army in defending the state. They really performed well all through the war by giving limited intelligences and acting as scouts during operations. However, due to lack of training and logistics, they could hardly bear the rigours of jungle life in pitch battle/war situation. Furthermore, due to ill training and no formal command structure, including lack of education (ignorance) they became largely undisciplined on the advent of democracy. This role was misinterpreted by their masters who believed they were more important in the security equation than the National Army. Friction naturally occurred several times and this led mainly to the May 25’97 crisis.
SOLDIERS OF FORTUNE: The GOSL contacted the under mentioned groups to help them with the prosecution of the war due to shortage of personnel and reverses in the war. The groups were:
- Executive Outcomes; A mercenary outfit largely made up of ex-South African Defence Force Officers who fought in Angola and Namibia. They made a positive impact in the war by giving the RUF a bloody nose. However, the maintenance cost of this group was very high.
- Ex-Gurkhas – This group of ex-British special forces suffered a terrible shock defeat in the very first campaign they embarked upon. They underrated the RUF who cut the throat/head of their leader at the MALAL HLLS defeat of May 1995. They withdrew immediately after this incident.
- ULIMO; This group was made up of ex-Liberian soldiers and a cross section of civilians from Liberia. They were mostly indiciplined but needed to survive, so opted in fighting alongside the RSLAF. They were largely a menace to society as they were full of lies and intrigues. Their internal power tussle led to its disintegration.
A few countries helped the GOSL positively in its prosecution of the war. Such countries were Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, USA and China. China, USA and Nigeria need to be singled out as they contributed immensely with software (incl.; Uniforms, webbing, boots and tentages) hardware (incl.; Weapons, ammo, trucks etc) and personnel especially by Nigeria. The personnel Nigeria contributed provided security around the western area, Bo and Kenema district. This helped the RSLAF to deploy more men forward.
Burkina Faso, Cote d’voire and Liberia on the other hand, aided the RUF rebels with personnel and logistics in their bid to seize control of the state. A few Burkinabe and Liberian soldiers were killed inside Sierra Leone where they fought alongside their RUF cohorts. Arms and ammo bearing Burkinabe, Liberian and Libyan marks were retrieved at various times from the rebels. Cote d’voire provided the political leadership of the RUF with a base to operate from.
INTEGRATION OF PERPETRATORS
The perpetrators of the war can be integrated into the society in the following manner; namely;
- Through mass literacy/adult education campaigns which could form the basis of indoctrination lesson.
b. Reconciliation in its entirety (by forgiving perpetrators of all atrocities they committed).
c. Education for all to bridge illiteracy gap.
d. Creation of jobs/enterprise set-up with GOSL cash support/learning new skills. This would stem the Lumpen youth culture.
e. Housing to be arranged as a low cost scheme for mortgage by all perpetrators.
ASSISTANCE TO VICTIMS
The victims of the war who have been identified as genuinely innocent victims can be assisted in the following ways, namely;
- They can be given cash assistance to set-up various small/medium scale industries especially in the hinterland after some form of training sponsored by International NGOs.
b. This set of people should benefit from free housing facilities provided for them by the GOSL in the areas they come from
c. Children who were victims of rape or conscription should benefit/receive scholarship from GOSL for their entire education.
OFFICE OF THE DEFENCE ADVISOR
SIERRA LEONE HIGH COMMISSION
PLOT 2858 DANUBE CRESCENT,
OFF IBB WAY, MAITAMA
FCT – ABUJA.
Tel: 0802. 316.9831
Date: 19 March, 2003
TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION
114 PADEMBA ROAD
Attention: RT. REV JOSEPH C HUMPER
SUBMISSION OF BRIEF
- Thanks for your letter of 29 November 2002. This letter was only received by me on 12 March 2003 (kindly find attached photocopies of letters and dates received). I believe the delay was caused as a result of Nigeria’s poor postal facilities.
- I have sent you in brief, (kindly find attached), my observations and comments about the Sierra Leone Civil war from the informed point of a major actor. This submission covers the period October 1991 – July 1996 only, (I left Sierra Leone since July 1996) and suggestions as you spelt out in your letter.
During that period; (i.e. October ’91 – July ’96) I happened to have been previledged by the Grace of the Almighty to hold the following Army/Armed Forces appointments; namely;
- 1991-1992 – Platoon/Company Commander
b. 1992-1993 – Deputy Defence Minister
c. 1995-1996 – Director Training & Operation at Defence Headquarters
d. Jan. ’96 – July 21 ’96 – Chief of Army Staff
It is hoped my submission will be useful to the TRC for the sake of posterity.
While I wish you and the members of the TRC success, kindly accept the assurances of my highest esteem.
KOMBA SMMONDEH COLONEL
– Deputy Defence Minister; Ministry of Defence, Tower Hill, Freetown
– HE, Sierra Leone High Commissioner to Nigeria
– Chief of Defence Staff;Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) – DA (P/F)
THE DECEMBER 1992 COUP TRIALS AND EXECUTIONS
BY BRIGADIER (RETD) KELLIE H. CONTEH
PRESENTATION TO THE TRC ON THE THEME: THE DECEMBER 1992 COUP TRIALS AND EXECUTIONS
1. I am thankful to God Almighty for me to be here today to witness the beginning of the healing process of what many of us thought a couple of years ago would never come – and that if it came we would not be here. I want to thank the TRC for inviting me to contribute in throwing light on the terrible tragedy that befell our nation and perhaps in that way guide us away from a similar tragedy in future. I have been invited to present on the theme: The December 1992 Coup Trials And Executions” focusing on some specific questions which the TRC has posed.
- My presentation will therefore focus on the following issues:
- My work prior to the conflict as well as my experience during the conflict and current activities carried out by my organisation including plans for the future.
- Specific knowledge I might have of the 1992 coup and of the events leading to the executions including judicial processes for the trials and the impact on the regime and the political context.
- The peculiarities of the situation and how these played out in the political and social contexts in Sierra Leone
- The consequences of all the foregoing and whether any existing Structures or processes provide any remedies, and the levels of access that exist to the remedies.
- Recommendations, reforms and practical solutions
- I hope I will be able to adequately address myself to these issues. Please permit me Mr. Chairman and Commissioners of the TRC at this juncture to express my wish to dedicate this presentation to all those who fell in the conflict fighting for the Government of the day for it was they who paid the ultimate price to allow us to be here today.
My Work Prior to the Conflict, My Experience During th6 Conflict and Current Activities Carried out by my Or2anisation includin2 Plans for the Future.
- I was in my fifteenth year of military service before the war broke out in 1991. I was enlisted in 1976 as an Officer Cadet together with eleven others who underwent Officer Cadet training in Tanzania with eleven of us graduating in 1977 and commissioned as Second Lieutenants into the then Republic of Sierra Leone Military Forces (RSLMF). By the time the war started I was a General Staff Officer working in the Operations Department (the G branch, for short) at the Military Headquarters, Murraytown Barracks which a little later was transferred to Cockerill Barracks. My responsibilities included Operations, Training (local and overseas) and Sports. Our department had the responsibility to draw up plans for operations, prepare the commanders orders for operations and generally direct policies on training, sports and the general preparedness of the Army. We worked alongside the Support and Logistics department responsible for providing logistics for the army (the Q branch, for short) and the Administration Department responsible for personnel matters – including recruitment (the A branch, for short). These three branches (the G, Q and A branches) effectively controlled the day-to-day functioning of the Military on the overall directives of the Force Commander.
- By 1989, just two years before the war, the Military Headquarters, led by the G branch had assessed that the Army needed to organize a series of large-scale training exercises in readiness for the increasingly disquieting indicators that had started rearing their heads in the Mano River Union basin. Intense political interference at the time had suppressed most training initiatives and the military had had less and less training of whatever kind since its last field exercises in the Port Loko district in 1980. Almost all RSLMF troops at the time had not had the `privilege’ of practicing their skills at the range, for instance, for long periods even with their personal rifles – most as long as ten or more years. It seemed a deliberate strategy to make the Army a non-effective fighting Force. The 1989 field exercises were reluctantly approved. I will not bore you with my personal role in the strategic thinking that went into putting the exercises together. My job required a lot of teamwork either with other staff officers at the strategic level or with commanders and their staff at the operational and tactical levels. Much of what I would be saying therefore gives those relevant issues in which I was a key player.
- We had come to appreciate by 1989 that if the army was going to fight a war, it was most likely going to be against insurgents: in a guerrilla kind of warfare against a more organized insurgent group than that which it faced during the Dorgbowusu Operations in the Kenema and Pujehun districts in 1983. Our objective therefore was to exercise the troops on guerrilla warfare operations with special attention in the support and logistics areas. The results of the training exercises were quite revealing. By the end of the field exercises it was clear that the RSLMF grossly lacked the logistics support required even for the small fighting manpower it could boast of. The Army had less than three infantry battalions (about 1,500 men) many of whom needed much more training; had less than 30% of its transportation required; had less than 20% of support weapons and many more essential equipment in drastically short supply or non-existent.
- In the late 80s also my department had reviewed the Army’s policy on developmental training linked with promotions of officers. The Army still had laid down criteria upon which officers were promoted. Officers had to pass the Lt – Capt exams for example to be promoted to Captain. Our review in addition introduced two stages even before qualifying for the Lt – Capt exams, namely Progressive Qualification Scheme Levels 1 and 2 (PQS 1 & 2). These exams were for combatant commissioned officers only: specialist and administrative commissioned officers being exempted. It was the policy that combatant officers who fail to pass their Lt – Capt exams after a second chance would have to resign their commission or convert to administrative commissioned officers. Captain to Major exams to gain promotion to Major were also reinstated. Of course those training and the examinations that follow were only a part of a list of other criteria not least of which was the conduct of the officer. I played a key part in the formulation of these initiatives to improve on our standards. We managed to conduct only about two sets of the PQS training programme before 1991 when the war started. Most of our junior officers who had benefited from these training programmes excelled themselves very well in the initial ECOMOG operations in neighbouring Liberia. Our hope was that we would continue with the programmes and insist that all officers undertake them as they progress through their careers.
- This was the state of the Army when the war started on Saturday March 23rd 1991 with an incursion into Bomaru and Senga in the Kailahun district. A batch of recruits who had almost completed there training were on their final parade competitions in the morning of that fateful Saturday in nearby Daru Barracks. All of these young men had to face their first combat operations even before their loved ones have had time to see and congratulate them in the usually colourful passing-out parades marking the official completion of recruit training.
- The NPFL rebels with a small contingent of RUF elements had attacked a small unit of Army engineers stationed at the time at Bomaru and had killed an officer and another at Senga – the latter was on his way to support the former. As the state of the army was, these two separate units that were supposed to be supportive of each other never had the means of communication between them. So, as it turned out, the second officer with little knowledge of the true situation at Bomaru simply ran into a village already overwhelmed by the attacking insurgents. This scenario, where troops went into operations without any kind of communications equipment, remained a critical weakness throughout the war. The army and the nation paid dearly for this.
- I was assigned on the afternoon of that same day to go to Daru and assess the situation. I was also to visit other troop positions in the border areas. On arrival at Daru, it was clear that something unprecedented had happened in that area. There was a visible panic-stricken and unsettled public with various versions of what had happened and what was to come. So much was exaggerated especially in respect of the number of rebels that had crossed the border – some said they were about a thousand while some put the figure upward of five thousand. I was beginning to learn firsthand how exaggerated messages can filter down to Freetown, for indeed, some messages had already been sent to Freetown from the Police and military net speaking of some five thousand NPFL rebels advancing deep into Sierra Leone territory and some added `with tanks and artillery’. Most of what we heard in Daru and read in signal messages sent from Kailahun proved to be grossly exaggerated. I left Daru the following morning for Bomaru and Senga – the rebels had retreated. I inspected the house in which the first officer was killed, spoke to soldiers and civilians alike. The engineer unit had been attacked at dawn on Saturday 23rd March whilst they were assembling for muster parade. Many of them were without rifles and the unit had only about a box of ammunition. Many fled at the first shots and a few resisted, pushing the rebels back although not before the rebels had briefly taken the village, killed their commander and another officer and about 11 civilians. One other soldier was wounded.
- My team also visited Buedu, Kailahun and Koindu and throughout we increasingly confirmed our observation that the stories of the fleeing civilians were grossly exaggerated and created so much confusion. What was indeed true was the fact that the RSLMF had almost no troops at the border to defend against any further attacks. The messages served as a wake up call for the Government to get its act together and lift (what I would call) `the silent political sanction’ which suppressed any true readiness of the Army. Dotted in the locations we visited in the Kailahun district were platoon-sized (about 30 men each) elements with old weapons, very little support weapons and no form of transportation. Most serious of all in my own judgment was that these small units could not communicate with each other except by messengers. So that by the time a message is delivered at point B the situation would have been so different that any plan based on the message would prove to be useless and in most cases suicidal.
- By the time I returned to Freetown with my findings about 4 days later the rebels had struck Koindu and were also said to be mobilising on other crossing sites generally across the entire border area in Kailahun district. The war had begun. The army was facing its first real threat largely unprepared, grossly under-strength, under equipped and largely untrained as a fighting force.
- I was to make several of these visits to the front throughout the rest of my service with the RSLMF. Over the course of my visits to units in the front I came to have a close view of the day to day operational situation as the war progressed – holding regular briefings, talks and training sessions with the deployed troops and their respective Headquarters. Sometimes my talks were extended to include the civilians amongst whom the troops operated. My aim in many of these talks was to build a better relationship between the civilians and the military and to educate especially the troops about the importance of winning the hearts and minds of the populace. It was my firm conviction that unless and until the military secured the full cooperation of the civilians the war would never be won. It was quite a demanding task for many of us who had the responsibility to ensure that the Force Commanders orders were carried out within imposed limitations. By and large for the first year or so, the Army with the timely support of the Guinean troops, kept the NPFL/RUF mainly in the border areas of Kailahun, Kenema and Pujehun Districts.
- By this time a large number of young men in the Eastern Province had volunteered their services to work alongside the troops. On a few occasions I pointed out my scepticism at the way we accommodated these volunteers. Many had joined for the wrong reasons – reasons that were going to run starkly against our policy of improving on our civil-military relationship to gain the cooperation of the public. Many of these vigilantes slowly warmed their way into the military units in their localities: first volunteering as partners; then they started requesting for weapons-initially for old ones – then later, for new and automatic ones; then they requested for uniforms and so on. In many cases it became difficult to know which side these vigilantes belonged. Many cases of reprisal killings by them were reported. Some of them used the opportunity, under cover of the military, to settle old disputes with their own people – very much like rebel collaborators had singled out their perceived or real opponents for the rebels to torture or even kill. Some reports speak of vigilantes even leading Government forces to rebel ambushes and participating in the actual killing of Government troops themselves and taking their uniforms and weapons. This perhaps explains some of the mistrust that developed between many soldiers and the vigilantes – this mistrust was extended by many soldiers to members of the CDF for many who answered to the CDF call had one time or another being vigilantes or border guard elements, or even RUF sympathisers.
- New sets of challenges were introduced into our already troubled Army when a group of young officers and their men on April 29 1992, overthrew the APC Government. Most troubling was that the coup makers made up of young and inexperienced officers and soldiers constituting the core of the regime had very little or no trust for virtually the rest of the Army. Although they replaced the APC, which we all had experienced had become a bad political entity the NPRC was no better.
- The APC regime had become so bad and self-destructive that even Intelligence Reports on National Security matters were discussed only amongst the privileged inner party strongmen cutting out those who really needed the intelligence. Genuine professional assessments and advice were almost always suspected and thrown out if they came from so-called nonparty stalwarts. One such assessment was when my department presented a paper arguing that we needed to establish a small but robust reserve force to be located in the Western Area to provide for a rapid response should rebel infiltrate Freetown or other unforeseen threat. Initially, the idea was endorsed, albeit reluctantly. But as we went into developing it, I was summoned one afternoon by a highly politicised senior officer who said he had secured the decision from higher quarters for the Rapid Response Force (as we called the force) to be disbanded. He and a number of other mediocres had succeeded in convincing the powers that be that I was not supportive of the APC Government and that infact my frequent visits to the front was to perfect plans on behalf of the then Force Commander to overthrow the Government and that I was planning to use the Rapid Response Force for the purpose.
- The disbandment of the Rapid Response Force had happened only a few months before April 1992. So when on April 29 1992, the coup makers arrived in Freetown there was no proper resistance. We were proven right, again. The NPRC coup could not have possibly been resisted by the hotchpotch of cooks, drivers, tailors and carpenters hurriedly put together as a resisting force to stop the coup. Internal indecisiveness of the APC party strongmen completed the comedy of drama because even the SSD, which had been developed for the purpose at the cost of the development of the National Army, could not be given clear orders. The coup was a popular one and it quickly gained the support of the military and the public alike. But like many coups I have read or heard about the NPRC coup makers overthrew the APC Government only to replace it with a Government far worse in many respects. This is not to say there were no fine sides of the regime. The excesses however of the youthful NPRC dealt a heavy blow to especially the military’s capability to effectively prosecute the war. Whilst arguably it could be said that much more military equipment were procured during the NPRC, the equipments procured were low on our priority list and if they were badly needed, their distribution was not to the troops who actually needed them to prosecute the war. This and many other practises of the NPRC negatively impacted directly on the Army and my work especially when I became Force Commander in 1994.
- Dubious business people both nationals and foreigners had a field day seeking all sorts of contracts to buy just any type of military hardware for the Army. Together with the NPRC inner circles, they decided which weapons were required, leaving out the more experienced officers to deal with such matters. They even procured amphibious tanks! And if we argued that we were wasting resources and should be procuring what the Army needed we were branded as not cooperating with the regime. Some of us were black- listed. Many of our younger and inexperienced NPRC colleagues in the inner circle had come to believe that by fighting in the front for a couple of weeks or months with their platoons they had gained the requisite qualification to manage the overall war.
- I wish this were the case because for sure, they were not short of enthusiasm, zeal and courage even if these were misplaced. Officers were posted at random without consulting those who commanded them. I made several representations to members of the NPRC inner circle to emphasise on the implications of undermining the authority of my office. It was quite evident that they were simply undermining my authority like they did with my predecessor, Maj. General Gottor.
- Operational Orders delivered by my staff were countered by NPRC strongmen time and time again until Unit Commanders became thoroughly confused as to who’s orders they should be obeying. At several instances I advised that it was a great disservice to the people of this country if the regime should keep me as Force Commander and yet not trusting me and frequently undermining my authority thereby leaving the Army with no clear-cut command chain. Perhaps they enjoyed the confusion for they never relented in their fire-fighting approach in the prosecution of the war.
- Off course many mediocre, thoroughly indiscipline and unprofessional officers, some of them quite senior, exploited the situation, sometimes living their assigned areas and coming down to Freetown to lobby for perceived lucrative appointments. The `war’ at the corridors of power here in Freetown rendered the Army and the Government impotent to decisively deal with the actual war in the front. Many sycophantic officers warmed there way into political circles and associated themselves with the many disastrous decisions taken by the young men in power. By and large the military headquarters that was supposed to command and control the forces in the prosecution of the war was left out in those decisions. Captain Strasser’s advice to his colleagues on a number of occasions to stop interfering with the day-to-day operations of the Army was ignored. And when Strasser wanted to restructure the Headquarters and give it a tri-service structure with the Force Commander renamed CDS, his colleagues who had all been eying higher military ranks and positions, challenged him. They said they wanted the ranks themselves. Strasser was furious and asked how they would see themselves promoted from Captain to Brigadier or Lt Colonels without the requisite training and experience. Strasser was unable to stop them. And so we saw some of the final straws that broke the camels back. Half trained Lieutenants suddenly became Colonels and Captains became Generals. The rest is history. I would not bore you with the details. I am submitting copies of a few of my papers I wrote to various NPRC players at the time to give a clearer picture of the situation as it was. They include the following:
- A letter on Discipline – Other Ranks dated 1st May 1994 regarding a case where the Military Police was obstructed by some NPRC Officers to carry out its investigation against a soldier who had committed a serious offence.
- A letter to the British High Commissioner dated 13 October 1994 requesting facilitation in the provision of military law manuals to help us address the issue of indiscipline in the Army.
- A comprehensive brief on the status of the RSLMF dated 15 September 1994 presented to the Department of Defence on a wide range of issues affecting the Army. In that brief, my Headquarters pointed out a series of critical issues which we advised the Department to address if we were going to see to be seen to be seriously prosecuting the war.
- A paper proposing a Policy on the Management of the rebel war and the Command and Control of RSLMF. That paper suggested the establishment of a National War Council which would provide strategic guidelines for the prosecution of the war. [No properly constituted committee existed at the strategic level at any time during the war]. The NPRC thought I would be wasting time having a Committee like that playing any part in the prosecution of the war. They obviously lacked the requisite training and experience to see the need for it. Thank God the present SLPP Government has seen the need for having one such Council and has established a properly constituted National Security Council – a critically important requirement for any sober-minded Government.
- Perhaps you would have guessed by now what the NPRC inner circle thought about those papers. Did they understand the points raised or was it the case of ignoring the message or warning simply because many of them hated the messenger? I asked myself on many occasions. Whatever it was, they thoroughly frustrated many of us. I explained my frustration to the Commander-In-Chief, Captain Strasser several times but he had allowed his colleagues to go too far in their power struggle. I warned him twice that his closest colleagues were on the verge of overthrowing him and that perhaps they wanted some of us out of the way. Captain Strasser laughed each time I warned him about the plans of his colleagues. Their conspiracy worked when Strasser was finally confronted with the decision to retire me compulsorily. I was quite relieved when in the evening of May 5th 1995 I received a letter from Defence Headquarters asking me to retire compulsorily.
- I left quietly, thankful to God Almighty that I had survived the worst part of my career; that I had survived all the conspiracies by some in the APC and worst still by the NPRC. I secured a Police Clearance to travel to Nigeria from where I travelled to the United States. In December 1995 I wrote an open letter to Strasser urging him to truly embark on professionalizing the Army. I had argued that the Army was too undisciplined and lacked the professional psyche and until those issues were addressed, the country risked having another coup. It was no surprise to me that the NPRC strongmen had laughed it off. I was trying to pass a message to Strasser but his colleagues had succeeded to obscure his vision. He was overthrown in a Palace coup two months later.
- In 1999 I was recalled by the present Government to assist in the process of restructuring the Army. A lot of positive changes have taken place. Thanks to our International friends especially the British Government. I hope my participation in the exercise helped in some way to achieve some sanity in the Armed Forces. Currently, I head the Office of National Security (ONS) as National Security Coordinator. My responsibilities include advising the Government on matters of National Security.
- The Office of National Security also plays a coordinating role of the security and intelligence communities and together, provides analysis and recommendations to the NSC and sometimes to Ministries or Departments.
Any Specific Knowledge of the 1992 Coup and of the Events leading to the Executions, including the Judicial Processes for the Trials
26. I do not mean to be brash in my submission under this topic but please permit me to say simply that I was not aware of the alleged coup of December 1992 nor was I aware of any judicial process for the related trials. Whatever I heard came from hearsay alleging that some officers at Pademba Road Prisons together with some others outside were planning a coup. I was never convinced and I am still not convinced that there was any coup plans for real. If there was, I have always questioned, why did they not arrange for a Courts Martial trial. If there was any Court Martial, my department would have been copied the convening Instructions. There was no convening instruction copied to us to my knowledge.
- When some of us raised the question as to whether they were tried, very muffled answers came back. And two quite morally bankrupt senior officers at some stage said they carried out the so-called trials. I knew they were lying and trying to cover up the tragic mess the hasty decision had led the regime. One of the two officers was himself executed after the Court Martial trials that followed the removal of the AFRC regime. The other is alive and still serving. He should be in a better position to talk about the judicial processes for the trials if indeed there was any.
- My questioning of those types of ill-informed decisions was always interpreted as being anti-NPRC. They always had more than a handful of sycophants who associated themselves with such decisions and their overall reckless behaviour. Their argument being – “Nar de bobor dem Govment”. Well, I hope that having gone through the disgrace they suffered when the Army finally collapsed, they who argued that the NPRC could do whatever pleases them because “Nar dem Govment” will by now have learnt their lessons that the Army is meant to serve the interest of the state and not any political entity.
The Peculiarities of the Situation and how these played out in the Political and Social contexts in Sierra Leone
29. There were so many strange things that happened during the NPRC regime. However, whatever they were, one could arguably suggest that they were a violent extension of similar happenings during the last few years of the APC.
- The NPRC established Supreme Council, which was supposed to be the highest forum on National Policies. But like the APC, many key issues of Government was discussed and decided by an inner circle of the coup makers themselves. In many instances such inner circle forum lacked the expertise or guidance to make informed decisions. The decision for the executions of the alleged coup plotters of December 1992 was one such decision. One would have expected the Supreme Council to meet. But that did not happen. Instead, unbeknown to many of us, the inner circle perhaps with some of their friends, met at some place, cooked up some theory and decided to execute the alleged plotters. A similar decision was taken by the inner circle when one Private Turay was abducted from 34 Military Hospital having been shot by an NPRC officer for allegedly plotting a coup. I never saw the soldier again.
- Another strange aspect of the allegations and the executions was the seeming targeting of Limba Officers. Many NPRC Officers developed an uncompromising attitude against many Limba Officers from the day they took over – a phenomenon that continued perhaps till the end of the NPRC regime. They had come to believe that the Limba Officers had been the benefactors of the APC rule and therefore should not be trusted. I personally found this development very very unfair. I found it very unfair because I knew of many Limba Officers who suffered like anyone else during the APC regime. I knew of Limba Officers who genuinely spoke out against certain APC bad Governance practices. I found it quite disturbing for especially one of the most outspoken Limba Officers who consistently spoke against certain reckless behaviour of the APC to be accused and executed just because of who or what he was. A trial could have allowed for their defence and the truth would have been most likely established.
- These executions impacted badly on the fighting spirit of many Limba Officers and indeed many other Northerners. The event was on the lips of many serving officers and man either in the field or at home with their families. It was seen as a witch-hunt of particular groups of people and it created distrust amongst the officers.
- There was a general cry from the International Community of fowl play by the regime. It lost some face and I do not think the regime recovered since. The situation only got worse with a lot more excessive behaviour than many had imagined.
The Consequences of all the foregoing and whether any existing structure or processes provide any remedies
34. The cumulative effect of the ill-informed strategies and tactic used by the NPRC and their general bad behaviour both publicly and privately was that the RUF remained undefeated, and an Army more undisciplined, confused, disorganised and far less motivated than the one they inherited from the APC.
- Ranks within the military no longer meant anything unless you had a political office attached to it. They were dished out so frequently and were not attached to the length of service and experience of the holders. It created a breakdown of the promotion system and consequently affected the morale of the troops.
- Hitherto respectful soldiers also learnt from the NPRC and their bodyguards a culture of intimidation against civilians. Whilst this was not itself introduced only when the NPRC came to power, it became an entrenched and near-institutionalised culture during the NPRC regime.
- It also became normal for soldiers to visit politicians frequently. These `idle’ soldiers often by-pass the chain of command and gossip about their superiors. I am happy today I work in an institution critical in providing remedies to most of the ills of the yester-years. I have mentioned earlier that I work at the Office of National Security as the National Security Coordinator. The Office primarily plays a coordinating role at the policy level working closely with the Military, Police and other Intelligence and Security Agencies. The Office of National Security is the secretariat of the National Security Council (NSC.), which is the highest forum to determine matters on National Security. It presents periodic threat assessments on a wide range of security issues. Assessments prepared are discussed and endorsed by the Joint Intelligence Committee before they are forwarded to the NSC for its deliberations and policy direction.
The new National Security Structure of which the ONS plays a critical role ensures that National Security decisions taken at the highest levels would be well informed based on objective appraisals of the situation. There are other newly established institutions which all help in improving good governance practises and demanding transparency and accountability at all levels. The work of these institutions should go a long way in remedying many of the ills of the past.
Recommendations, Reforms and Practical Solutions
38. Having presented the foregoing, may I humbly recommend the following:
- We as a nation continue to support the on-going reformation of the Police and the Army. No sentiment should be entertained to keep dead woods and/or perceived loyalists to politicians.
- The public to improve on their support of the law enforcement agencies especially the Police.
- Thoroughly assess applicants and recruit only the best candidates into the Police and the Armed Forces. Zero tolerance should be given to political patronage. It is not worth it and it is counter productive in the long run.
- A deliberate effort should be made by the wider public not to encourage continued politicisation of the Security Forces. The Forces must be encouraged and empowered to exercise their professional competence within laid down institutional regulations and codes of conduct, confident that their careers will not be jeopardized by unwarranted political interference.
- Service Personnel must be made to understand that coups have never improved their institutions nor have they improved the well being of the people.
- To achieve these goals the elites, especially those of the security apparatus and the political class, must reflect on all our ills and their true causes and deliberately endeavour to engage themselves in addressing the issues sincerely and forthrightly for the well being and advancement of the country. They must do so with a deep sense of responsibility and a patriotic mindset, strongly demonstrating by words and deeds that our collective national interest takes supreme precedence over all other interests.
STATEMENT FOR THE TRC
Civil war broke out in March 23 1991. Rebels belonging to the Revolutionary United Front attacked the borders in the South of the country with small arms, machine guns, grenades and machetes. At the start of the conflict, it was Rot clear what the rebels were fighting for and what their demands were. When big Owns fell to rebels, indications were that the group was bitterly opposed to the totalistic and dictatorial one-party APC regime in power at the time. The group argued that the political party in government during that period practiced corruption, nepotism and economic mismanagement.
Reports suggested that the RUF, as the group became known, was backed by agents in Liberia, Libya and perhaps Bukina Faso. What was also unclear was where the RUF received its funding. Some believed that essentially the group was able to fund itself through illegal diamond trafficking and trade in produce in areas under their control.
Several people fled their homes following rebel offensives and thousands became homeless in this way.
The rebels controlled most parts of the country throughout the 1990s. In territories under RUF control, widespread atrocities, crimes committed against humanity and human rights violations were carried out in a systematic manner. Crimes including murder, rape, kidnapping, amputations and torture were common place. Those who the group believed were members of or were sympathetic to the APC were mostly the victims.
Some say, that forces in government controlled areas also carried out abuses and violations in reprisals. This in my view is misleading. A poorly trained and ill-equipped army suffered major set-backs in the war with rebels. The RUF would normally torture and summarily execute captured Prisoners of war (POWS). The number of SLA personnels lost in this way is still unknown.
It seems to me, that in terms of family and victim support, amputees, IDPS and the war wounded are to be given priority. IDPS make up the huge number of homeless persons in the country and homes must urgently be made available.
Ex-combatants could perhaps contribute constructively towards peace building and economic recovery by providing border security, maintaining law and order, and private-sector investment.
Rtd. Capt. V.E.M: Strasser
Ex-Head of NPRC
FROM: THE INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE
TO: THE CHAIRMAN, TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION
5th August, 2003
POLICE PRESENTATION TO THE TRC ON WEDNESDAY 23RD JULY, 2003
I hereby forward requested information touching on extrajudicial killings during the NPRC rule in 1992 -& d recommendations for effective and efficient service delivery, measures taken to reduce human rights violations, as well as treatment of sexual and Gender based violence by the Sierra Leone Police for your perusal and necessary action.
INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE
1. EXTRA JUDICIAL KILLINGS UNDER NPRC RULE
On Saturday 21st November, 1992, the undermentioned persons were arrested at Lumpa, Waterloo and accused falsely of treason. Apart from Mr. Bambay Kamara (former Inspector-General) and colonel (Rtd) Yayah Kanu who were all summarily executed, all the others were found at Lumpa, Waterloo on the same day engaged in different social activities:
(i) Mr. Bambay Kamara, SLP
(ii) Mr. Sieh Bangura, DSP, SLP
Sub-Inspector D.T.S. Lebbie, SLP
(iv) No. 4220 P.C. Fofana, N, SLP
(v) No. 5326 P.C. Conteh, A., SLP
(vi) No. 1315 Sgt. Conteh, A.I., SLP
(vii) No. 6819 P.C. Bangura, S, SLP
(viii) No. 1107Sgt. Saffa, J, SLP
(ix) No. 407 Cpl. Lavalie, W, SLP
(x) Moses Davies (Police Labourer), SLP
(xi) Samuel Koroma (Police Labourer), SLP
(xii) Foday Turay (Police Labourer), SLP
(xiii) Karifala Sawaneh (Police Labourer), SLP
(xiv) Col (Rtd) Yayah Kanu, SLA
(xv) SLA 18168240 Mohamed Bangura, SLA
(xvi) Mr. Joseph Bakarr – 24, Hagan Street Freetown
(xvii) Mr. Salami Coker – 8 Huggin Street, Freetown
(xiii) Mr. Victor S. Jarrett – 37 Campbell Street
(xix) Miss Salamatu Kamara – 7 Huggin Street, Freetown
(xx) Mr. Emmanuel E. Mani – 9 Jones Street, Kissy
(xxi) Mr. Sorie Bangura, – Bangura Street, Lumpa
(xxii) Mr. Yapo Conteh – 17 City Road, Wellington
(xxiii) Mr Sinneh Turay – 92 Dundas Street, Freetown
(xxiv) Mr. Allieu Sesay – Bangura Street, Lumpa
(xxv) Mr. Abu Conteh – Bassa Town
(xxvi) Mr. Momoh Sesay – Lumpa
(xxvii) Mr. Anthony Hindowa – 28 Davies Street, Freetown
(xxiii) Mr. Brima Sesay – 4, Main Road, Lumpa
2. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR EFFECTIVE AND EFFICIENT SERVICE DELIVERY
(i) The Constitutional provisions governing the SLP should be strictly adhered to by government if the Force is to be professionally administered.
(ii) Improvements in the conditions of service/increase in salaries and allowances of SLP personnel.
(iii) To improve accommodation facilities for the entire membership of the SLP. In lieu of accommodation, an allowance proportionate to the inflationary trend should be awarded from the current rate of Le1,000.00 to at least Le50,000.00 per month
(iv) The families of those killed in action during the war should be compensated as
was done in the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces.
(v) Micro -Credit schemes should be extended to police wives.
- SOME MEASURERS TAKEN TO REDUCE HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN THE SLP
Some of the measures taken to reduce human rights violations in the Sierra Leone Police include the following:
Firstly, it is now a must for all members of the SLP to religiously follow and adhere to the Constitutional obligation as stipulated by the 1991 Constitution of the Republic of Sierra Leone with regards to detention of suspects in police custody pending investigations. These custody officers have been introduced to be visiting stations and cells to ascertain the number of suspects in custody and the number of days spent in detention.
(ii) We have also adopted an open-door policy whereby interested International Organisations like the ICRC, and civil society groups can make on-the-spot checks on our handling of suspects in custody. This being done from time to time to ensure that fundamental rights of the citizens are not abrogated.
(iii) The police hierarchy, since our restructuring process began, has made giant strides in educating both police officers and the public about bail, that it is free and that women are also eligible to stand as sureties for suspects in police custody. This is to ensure that suspects are not over detained in police cells.
(iv) Partnership – the SLP in recent times has built up credible and working relationship with the community through partnership approach with the ministries, agencies, private and commercial organisations to enhance professionalism, effectiveness and efficiency.
(v) Also, in conjunction with human rights organizations, for example, Lawyers Centre for Legal Assistance (LAWCLA), the SLP has embarked on a sensitisation programme aimed at improving its human rights record – a move which yielded dividends.
(vi) As the SLP is now community focused, almost every police division has developed Local Partnership Boards, which aims at involving the local communities in the SLP’s strides to eradicate or minimise crime. Some influential citizens and other interested members of the community through the lay visitors scheme now have the opportunity to visit police stations and posts to asses our human rights record and to inquire about cases of public importance, making meaningful observations.
(vii) Over and above all, I am also happy to inform you that cases reported are purely investigated on their merits without political favour or due interference from some `higher’ quarters, thus portraying our neutrality and independence.
- SEXUAL AND GENDER BASED VIOLENCE
Sexual violence, gender based violence and violence against women are terms that are commonly used inter changeably. All these terms refer to violation of fundamental human rights that perpetuate sex-stereo typed roles that deny human dignity and self determination of the individual and hamper human development. They refer to physical, sexual and physiological harm that reinforces female subordination and perpetuates male power and control. Acts of sexual and gender based violence have been grouped into five categories.
- Sexual violence
2. Physical violence
3. Emotional and psychological violence
4. Harmful traditional practices
5. Socio-economic violence
Most cases of sexual and gender based violence are perpetuated by intimate partners (husband, boyfriends), family members, close relatives and friends, influential community members (teachers, leaders, politicians) security forces and soldiers including peace makers, humanitarian aid workers and institutions.
Prior to the establishment of the Family Support Unit in the Sierra Leone Police Force about two years ago, little or no attention was paid to the issues of sexual and gender bases violence in Sierra Leone. Most of these cases were frowned upon by the SLP. They were considered trivial, a chief’s matter, and a matter between husband and wife. There were no trained personnel to professionally investigate cases of sexual and gender based violence. Little or no sensitisation was done on the causes, effects and response to this violence. In effect victims of gender-based violence did not bother to report their cases to the police.
However with the establishment of the Family Support Unit in the SLP about two years ago, the unit under took a massive countrywide awareness campaign on issues relating to sexual and gender-based violence. This was done through meetings, workshops and seminars with members of the community and even through the media (print and electronic). Posters on sexual and gender-based violence were distributed freely to communities. The impact of this massive community sensitisation was community awareness on the causes, effects and response to gender based violence.
The community awareness saw massive reports to the FSU of cases involving sexual and gender based violence. Consequently, the need for professional training aroused. This has been given prominent priority.
Training has been given to most of the staff in the FSU although more is planned. All cases involving sexual and gender based violence have been expeditiously and impartially investigated and perpetrators have been charged to court where punitive measures have been taken against them and this has served as a deterrent to would be perpetrators (see FSU Crime statistics attached).
Everybody working within the field of domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse of women and children has been impressed with the FSU. The national and international N.G.Os, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs and people working within the UN Human Rights Department have all expressed appreciation of the devotion to duty of the FSU personnel.
To tackle this menace, Family Support Units have now been established in al division in the SLP. As a sign of appreciation, DFID has promised to construct and furnish seven buildings for the FSU in the Northern Province.
With the available logistics, training and professional expertise in the investigation of sexual and gender based violence coupled with continued massive sensitisation, the FSU is more determined than ever to combat the incidence of sexual and gender based violence.
FAMILY SUPPORT UNIT
CRIME STATISTICS FOR 2002
|NO. OF CASES
TO HIGH COURT
|NO OF CASES
|NO OF CASES
|4.||Assault with intent to
|5.||Abuse of your girl||14||3||–||7||4|
|2.||Assault on women||302||18||–||280||4|
|3.||Assault on men||18||–||–||18||–|
|SEXUAL ABUSE &
FAMILY SUPPORT UNIT CRIME STATISTICS FROM JANUARY 2003 – APRIL 2003
|4.||Assault with intent to
ravish or attempted rape
|5.||Assault – Domestic
FAMILY SUPPORT UNIT STATISTICS FROM MAY 2003 TO JUNE 2003
|OFFENCE||NO. OF CASES
|NO. OF CASES
|2.||Unlawful Carnal knowledge||49||28||21||–|
|4.||Assault with intent to ravish||5||5||–||–|
|5.||Domestic Violence –
|10.||Absconding from Home||61||–||29||32|
STATEMENT BY MRS. SYLVIA E. J. BLYDEN,
Retired Sierra Leonean Civil Servant
Mrs. Blyden was arbitrarily detained at Pademba Road Prisons under the “State of Emergency” Act from February 28th 1998 until December 11th 1998.
Submitted to the Truth & Reconciliation Commission.
Date of submission of ten copies: 30th January 2003 via Courier
Following the Military Coup in May 1997, my husband, Mr. E. W. B. G. Blyden, as the Western Area Commissioner in the National Commission for Democracy (NCD) appeared in a panel discussion on Sierra Leone TV. Part of his contribution was to appeal to the President in exile, Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah not to mandate ECOMOC to bomb Sierra Leone, since, in his view; only innocent civilians would be killed. He also appealed to the wife of the President to dissuade him from imposing sanctions since, in the final analysis, those who would suffer would be the women and children.
The family was alarmed to find this contribution distorted by the proGovernment Newspaper. claiming that my husband had advocated that he was a strong supporter of the Military Leader – someone `he had not met up to that time of his broadcast and who he never met or was introduced to until he left Sierra Leone in early July 1999 and whom he has still not met or even spoken to until this date of my submission, January 30th 2003.
In June 1997, we were alerted by some kamajors whom my husband had been helpful to, that my husband’s name had been placed on a specially designated list of people to be eliminated. We therefore decided to leave Sierra Leone until the restoration of normalcy. As the country’s first female Deputy Financial Secretary and Head of the Budget Bureau, I had had a very hectic schedule and so had requested for and been granted forty five (45) days Annua1 Leave in April 1997. However, even though my leave was granted, I had been prevailed upon by the SLPP Government not to leave because of the Annual Budget Preparation, since the Parliament was discussing it and proposing amendments to it. Now, in light of the alarming news that my husband was to be murdered, my husband, our last daughter, Cheryl, and myself decided to flee Sierra Leone.
En route to London. we learnt that a group had been mobilised in Conakry to murder my husband. He left on the next available flight for London and Cheryl and myself left a few days later. Cheryl for the USA after having obtained her Student’s Visa to the USA. Cheryl went directly to the USA from Conakry to start her College education, whilst I went to London to join my husband. We later left to visit our children and relatives in the USA. We ran out of funds to upkeep ourselves in exile, and we realised that the promised restoration of democracy and sanity was not as prompt as was promised. My vacation leave ended in September 1997 but despite the fact that my husband and I were now virtually destitute and having to live by the goodwill of relatives in London, we were still afraid to return to our home in Freetown as everything about the stance of the belligerent parties and every sound byte from each side clearly showed that the country’s security situation was still unpredictable.
However, in October 1997, we were tuned to the television in London and watched as the news broadcaster informed that President Kabbah had told the world that he had accepted the Conakry Peace Accord and was calling on all Sierra Leoneans to return home and help implement the Conakry Accord. From the Sierra Leone Web website run by Peter Andersen, we printed out the signed statement from President Kabbah which confirmed the News report. I therefore decided to return home at these assurances and we decided that my husband was to follow if the threat to his life was indeed over. Little did I realise that I would be returning home to face the worst ordeal of my life.
The then-Financial Secretary, Mr Simon Carew (the second most senior official in the Civil Service of Sierra Leone) worked right through the junta rule. He diligently took orders from the junta and obediently acted on them but incidentally was never detained. He had been due to proceed on retirement earlier in the year and his retirement was now slated for 31st December 1997. On return in November 1997, I was posted by the then-Head of the Civil Service to work in the Ministry of Finance as the Principal Deputy Financial Secretary. I however had three (3) unpleasant brushes with Mr. Joe Amara Bangali, the Finance Minister serving under the Military Junta: –
(a) He instructed me to pay to the Sierra Leone Postal Services (SALPOST) a grant of One Hundred Million Leones (Le100, 000,000). I could not find any rationale for this payment since I could not easily utilise that quantum of stamps, the only commodity that that establishment had on offer. As a member of the Board of that organisation, I informed the Minister that I knew that Salpost had invested in Treasury Bills. I advised that the establishment divest some of the Treasury Bills to help meet its running coats. The Minister ignored my advise and wrote the instructions himself, granting SALPOST the One Hundred Million Leones (Le100, 000.000)
(b) The National Power Authority (Electricity Board) forwarded a bill, claiming that “The Government” owed them One Billion, Six Hundred Million Leones (Le l. 600, 000,000). Mr Joe Amara Bangali instructed me to pay them, but I advised that NPA had no customer known as “the Government”, but that rather, they had customers known as “The Ministry of Finance”. The Ministry of Education”, “The Ministry of Health”, “The Customs and Excise Department”, “The Police”, “The Military”, etc. etc. etc. I further advised that their Debt Collection Unit for-ward bills to the various Ministries/Departments, so that the Vote Controllers could verify the correctness of the Bills and prepare payment vouchers for the amounts. I next instructed the Accountant General to meet the payment of the submitted vouchers, very promptly. All what the exercise yielded was One Hundred and Forty Six Million Leones (Le 146,000,000), which showed that the original bill was grossly exaggerated. The Minister still insisted that I pay a local supplier Three Hundred and Forty Six Million Leones (Le346, 000,000) for lubricants Supplied to the NPA. He insisted, when I advised against it, that that would be the very last time that the Government was pre-financing them. I put up the draft payment instruction to the Bank of Sierra Leone, stating that it was a one oft payment and not to be regarded as a precedent, which he approved. However, he gave me further instructions to pay the same amount to the same supplier for the same lubricants the following week. When I refused, he wrote the Instruction letter himself.
The Minister, Mr Joe Amara Bangali, instructed me to pay three (3) Suppliers out of a list of two hundred (200) suppliers to the Military. The original list had been lost in the incineration of the Secretariat Building housing the Ministry of Finance. I cautioned the Minister not to hurriedly pay’ out of’ sentiment, since I was sure that we would still trace copies of’ the list at the Ministry of Defence, the House of Parliament as well as at the Attorney General’s Office. I also advised him that from my experience, I strongly believed that one of the three names he had recommended was fictitious.
Mr. Joe Amara Bangali became livid and I was informed by the then Head of the Civil Service that Bangali had demanded my immediate removal from the Ministry of Finance even threatening to resign if it was not done immediately. I was therefore by the junta from the Ministry of Finance and posted to the Ministry of Development and Economic Planning, as Development Secretary, which was one stage lower down the ladder of the Civil Service Structure. I assumed duty in that capacity on 2nd January.
After the Intervention of February 1998, my name was being announced over the Radio Democracy FM98.1 as one of those who must give themselves up to ECOMOG. Most of those who gave themselves up on that 1st day were burnt alive or matcheted or gunned down, the manes of my husband and my second daughter, Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, who had opened a Website for the SLBS in December 1997 (she might wish to also submit a statement to the TRC as she is a recognised political activist), were also being announced. Both my husband and Olayinka were out of Sierra Leone.
I was collected at 9:30p.m. on 28th February, 1998 by four (4) ECOMOG Soldiers (who had been tipped off as to my hiding place) and I was taken to be detained at the Central Prisons at Pademba Road. To their credit, the Nigerian ECOMOG soldiers were courteous and treated me with respect until I was handed over to the prison authorities.
Another aspect I now wish to touch on is as follows:- the Radio Democracy FM98.1 D reporters, Mr. Julius Spencer, Mr. Allie Bangura and Hannah Fullah in my view caused grave harm to many innocent persons by what they delightedly used to broadcast as “facts” over their radio knowing well that they were broadcasting wicked lies that could cause someone their life given the mood of the citizenry at the time.
A few days before the intervention, so as to incite negative sentiments against me, now with hindsight, to justify my detention, this radio station went on a massive propaganda exercise against my person. Radio FM98.1 stated that I had all by myself, discovered money in the French Food Aid Account and that single-handedly, I had sent out the advertisement inviting the submission of projects, decided on the projects to be approved and the amounts to be allocated to project. The fact of the matter is that Instructions given to me as a civil servant by the Head of the Civil Service who was the Secretary to the Chairman, State House as well as all relevant documents relating to this issue can be easily found in the French Food Aid File in the Ministry of Development. I have made copies which I can forward to the TRC if it is deemed necessary.
The junta Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma had never been to my house nor had I ever met him. In continuation of FM98.1 D’s exercise in propaganda, it was reported by their Radio Democracy that in fact, on January 23rd 1998, I had held a big party for Johnny Paul Koroma and his Cabinet Ministers. They also reported that I was hosting Cabinet Meetings in my home for the AFRC junta. The fact is that on that date, January 23rd 1998, I had had a “traditional cook-out” on the 2nd Anniversary of the death of my mother, at which ceremony only twenty five (25) people (including me) participated – all of them relatives! All these and numerous other allegations against me were lies and the Police Investigations Department – i.e. the CID, investigated my statements alter signing it on llth April 1998, to confirm that every allegation made against me were lies. All Lies!! EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM!!
Yet still even after every single allegation against my person had been exhaustively investigated and absolutely no reason existed for me to be held in jail I was still kept in jail until December 11th 1998. No reason was given and not a single member of my family/friend was allowed to visit me. I was denied proper medical checkups rwhen I fell ill several times. The Authorities refused the special medications for my heart and kidney conditions to be delivered to me. My father Mr. Solomon Pratt made several attempts to visit me but each time he was refused.
My understanding is that the government were aware that I was innocent but that I was to be punished for the government not being able to arrest my daughter who was “wanted” for opening a website for the SLBS during the Junta days and for not being able to arrest my husband who was “wanted” for his June 1997 broadcast appealing for direct dialogue rather than military intervention.
Whilst I certainly would blame the government for implementing a policy to prolong my agony during my unlawful detention, the fact remains that the Government was actually being wittingly or unwittingly assisted by certain persons who whilst they did not care anything about the politics or security of the country, had self-beneficial reasons to have me locked away incommunicado.
I am a practising Christian and I do not hold any bitterness or anger in me towards the Government or those who manipulated my unlawful detention. I talk to my children everyday to forgive and move on with their lives and to contribute in any way they can towards the development of Sierra Leone and towards the sustenance of peace and justice in our homeland. I pray every day for God Almighty to forgive those who wronged me and unjustly took me away from my family’s love for ten months.
However, I believe that I owe it to future Governments to write down the way and manner in which an innocent woman could be arrested and held incommunicado by unseen hands manipulating a Government. It is my hope that this statement of-mine would serve as an education to the present and future governments so that such grave injustice would not happen again.
The whole issue is as follows: To get the IMF to approve Sierra Leone as qualified for the Structural Adjustment Programme, I was posted to Head the Revenue Division of the Ministry of Finance under the administration of the Financial Secretary, Mr Y T Sesay. I had to be very aggressive and innovative to maintain the SAP and it angered many people in the business community as well as some of my colleagues and the political bosses and I made a lot of enemies.
Also, later as Director of the Budget Bureau, in the area of expenditure, I had observed that whenever the various Ministries and Departments received their Quarterly allocation of funds for disbursement, the Vote Controllers promptly, spent it all on office materials and visits abroad. They failed to meet the payments of telephone, electricity and water bills, payment of dues to International organisations as well as payments to sensitive areas like students allowances and special Committees set up by the President/Cabinet. To prevent the crisis management position that the Ministry of Finance was always forced into, I introduced a new scheme “Expenditure on Commitment basis” whereby every Departmental Vote Controller submitted a profile – agreed on with the Budget Bureau – of envisaged expenditure on a line-by-line, basis, for the quarter. The agreed profile was next sent to the Accountant General who opened accounts for the various subheads. Vote Controllers could then not spend a single Leone above what had been agreed on for the specific subhead. T-his again angered my colleagues and the Ministers and I made many enemies. The whole idea was to so frame me so that the public should reach fever pitch. This whole exercise started way before the May 1997 coup. Several newspapers had unwittingly been drawn into the manipulation game and by the time of my arrest, it was very easy for Radio Democracy to add fuel to the burning propaganda. The one thing I know is that I served my country very well and with a good conscience.
I will hold my head up high today with great pride because despite the entire hullabaloo, I can challenge anyone to prove the allegations of corruption that have been so freely thrown around against me. Without a doubt, many had hopedd that I should not survive Pademba Road prisons. My relations and my in-law even been informed that I had suffered from insanity during my detention. It took them a while to be convinced that I was as sane as the next after my release
My detractors brided Newspaper Editors to write libellous statements about me during most of my tenure as Permanent Secretary. Several times I did contemplate instituting legal action against some newspapers but several times did my lawyer, Mr. J. B. Jenkins-Johnson advise me not to take them to court to seek redress, but to simply ignore them, as it was very difficult in our judicial system to succeed in punishing libellous journalists.
My detractors were further helped by two of the three announcers at the Radio Democracy – i.e. Miss Hannah Foulah alias `Yeabu’ and Mr. Alieu Bangura alias `Abdul Hakeem Sesay’.
(i) Miss Hannah Foulah was a friend of my third daughter, Avril Miatta Blvden until Hannah’s mum and her stepdad had a marital problem when his relations sent him another wife. The stepfather first sent Hannah out of his house and my daughter Avril asked if Hannah could move in with us, as she was homeless and unhappy. Hannah had been used to spending most weekends in my house and so it was easy for her to just move the rest of her things into my house. The problem started when Hannah came to plead with both my husband and me to take her mum into our home as the mum was being physically maltreated by the stepdad. We had an empty room in the house and Hannah suggested that her mother could stay or move in. We calmed her down and promised to do our best to Solve the problem without breaking up the marriage. We appealed to her that instead of being seen as supporting the mother; we wanted to assist to repair the marriage. Hannah wanted her own way and was unhappy with our decision NOT to allow her mum to move into our home. Hannah moved the mother out of Jui to the home of the second wife of the late Vice President of Sierra Leone, S. I. Koroma and then promptly moved herself out of our house. Ever since that period, she stopped visiting us or talking to us because we advised her against breaking up the marital home.
(ii) Mr. Alie Bangura was the Accountant at the Sierra Leone Insurance Company. As the Commissioner of Insurance, I discovered that time had overtaken the statutory deposit per class of Insurance written when the Act was passed in 1971. It was then – Thirty Thousand Leones (Le 30,000) – the equivalent of Fifteen Thousand founds Sterling (£15,000). In 1994, Thirty Thousand Leones (Le30,000) was the equivalent of Fifty Pounds Sterling (£50). I therefore had the Act amended to increase the statutory deposit from Thirty Thousand Leones (Le 30,000) to Fifteen Million Leones (Le 15,000,000) per class of Insurance written. This was less than the amount in 1971. I decided that the increase should have been done in a gradual way but that the public still be protected from the reckless way some notorious Insurance companies treated fatal third parties, by simply giving a donation – (CASANKAY”) towards the funeral and making that the only benefit given to the family of the’ deceased. The SLICO, using its relationship of its Managing Director to the then Minister of Trade (Hon. Dr. Aloysius Fofanah) refused to pay the new deposit fees. Fortunately my Minister of Finance then, Dr. John Karimu, supported the policy and they were forced to pay when the company was threatened to have its name struck off the roll of Insurance Companies permitted to practice in Sierra Leone. The Management of SLICO was one of those companies that became extremely hostile to me. Mr Alie Bangura was therefore very pleased to finally get the opportunity to hit me hard. The Insurance companies were a powerful force in Sierra Leone, used to making lots of money by exploitation. This Issue of Alie Bangura whilst being cited here as an example, must not be taken as an isolated one. Several hardworking civil servants who have tried to bring sanity to the country’s system of governance will agree with me that unseen hands are always ready to use the mass media especially the newspapers, to crucify them and frustrate their efforts. Our employer, THE GOVERNMENT OF SIERRA LEONE, fails to appreciate that by trying to regulate the system such as the Insurance Industry for the benefit of the country on behalf of our employer, we make lots of enemies and definitely needed protection.
To summarise, whilst appearing before the Tejan Cole Committee of Investigations, I regretted returning to Sierra Leone to work during the interregnum but I had no alternative, since the salary we were being paid, did not put us (my husband and myself) in the economic bracket to live for long out of Sierra Leone. Since his life was being threatened, he could not return home for fear of being killed, but never in all my wildest dreams did I believe that in a demoracy I would be put in prison on framed up charges, merely because they could not get at my husband and my daughter. And AGAIN, I wish to point out President Kabbah in his own words had appealed to Sierra Leoneans publicly to support the Conakry Peace Accord.
It is my hope that the TRC would examine this grave wrong and injustice that was done to me, not to seek redress for myself, because as a Christian, I am beyond that point now but to ensure that in its’ final report, the TRC would recommend in the strongest possible terms, that a policy be implemented which would act as a safeguard and prevent such a nightmare ever happening again to others in the future because they are the spouse, child, parent or friend of a perceived political enemy.
I am pleased that the nightmare of detention at Pademba Road Prisons ended when the “Tejan-Cole Committee exonerated me 100% (ONE HUNDRED PFRCENT!!) in December 1998, several long months after the Sierra Leone Police had recommended that I be immediately released, as they could find no reason or evidence to hold me for.
At this point, I would also wish to bring to blessed memory, the late General Maxwell Khobe, who as Chief of Defence Staff did all in his power to have me released from Pademba Road Prisons after his attention was brought to my issue and he requested for my case file to be made available to him. The late Maxwell Khobe, as powerful as he was in the society, later confessed to me in December 1998, after I was exonerated by the Tejan Cole Committee, that one of the things that bothered him the most about the Sierra Leone society was the tendency for people to be vindictive to innocent people based on their political and tribal differences and even sometimes on flimsy personal vendettas. General Khobe stated that some highly placed people in society had asked him to wash his hands off my issue as the Law Court and the Tejan Cole Committee would reveal to him how much I deserve to be locked up.
According to General Khobe, what shocked him the most was when my name was announced several times on National Radio and TV asking for persons to produce evidence for the Tejan Cole Committee that would incriminate me and not a single scrap of paper or evidence was produced by my detractors hence hardening his belief that Sierra Leone was indeed an ill society. The TRC might also wish to examine ways and means of addressing this ill in the Sierra Leone society.
In continuation of my emotional ordeal, shortly after I was released in December 1998, the AFRC/RUF attacked Freetown and all hell was let loose. I had to escape to London when someone purporting to be a Kamajor started telephoning me during, this January 1999 invasion, threatening that the Kamajors would break into my home at night and murder me. That was a period of anarchy when individuals wishing to settle scores could tell lies to ECOMOG or the Kamajors, two groups that had no time to investigate then, but hastily carried out jungle justice.
I am forwarding this statement to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Sierra Leone because:
(a) I worked assiduously and faithfully for my employer, the Government of Sierra Leone, ruining my health in the process, throughout my thirty-one (31) years of service but it all came to nought.
(b) I had my heart focused on becoming the first female administrative officer to head the Ministry of Finance. I therefore trained for the office, on the job, in addition to studying at Manchester University, graduating in Public Finance and Financial Management in 1978 as well as studying at Harvard University, graduating top of my class in Budgeting in the Public Sector with distinction in 1992. I am certain that all of the Financial Secretaries I worked with can verify that I was Financial Secretary material. Unfortunately, some of them have died, but I will list them down so that those who are alive may be contacted for character capability reference:
(i) Mr. Peter Kuyembe:
(ii) Mr. Y. Z’. Sesay
(iii) Mr. Salia Jusu-Sheriff
(iv) Dr. Jim Funna
(v) Dr. John Karimu
(vi) Mr. Thaimu Bangura
How do we as a nation ensure that those now employed in the civil service and those who would in the future be employed by the government, not be deterred from giving of their best since they do not know if political machinations could make all their best efforts be brought to nought because of _the weakness of the country’s ability to ensure that the basic rights of every Sierra Leonean be guaranteed regardless of family linkage or political affiliation?”
My career was destroyed and my goal not attained because I was wrongly detained. I could not continue to work in Sierra Leone because I had been negatively labelled as a junta collaborator simply because I returned home from my vacation abroad relying on the very public statement from President Kabbah that all should embrace the Conakry Peace Accord in 1997.
Incidentally, for over twenty (20) years; I had been visiting Britain and receiving the Visitor’s Visa for six (6) months but during the crisis of 1997, for the very first time I was given the category of Visa where I had to complete a form and hand it over to the Immigration Officer on my departure. I was ignorant of the fact when I arrived in July, 1997 at Heathrow Airport, that I could have sought asylum and no one informed me.
After President Kabbah invited all Sierra Leoneans abroad on CNN to return home in October 1997, I received a telephone call from Miss Kenyeh Barlay informing me that I could seek asylum and get financial support to upkeep me in England from the British Government. I called at the Home Office in London the next day to apply, but I was told that they no longer accepted applications from Sierra Leoneans seeking asylum. I therefore returned to Sierra Leone because it is my homeland and I was destitute, and my President had advised that we all return to continue in Nation Building … President Kabbah’s speech aforementioned refers.
Most people will agree with me that it is strange that over 40 Permanent Secretaries were at work throughout the junta period but only a few were handpicked and selected to be detained. Similarly throughout the civil service chain, the detentions were highly selective and very irregular.
- How were these selections for detention made?
• Who made these decisions?
• Who decided when people had been “punished enough” and gave “perrnission” for them to be released?
• On what system were these selective detentions patterned after?
• What were the criteria for the subsequent selective releases?
• Were the detentions and the later releases based on tribal, family or political affiliations regardless of the victim’s innocence?
It is important that the TRC looks into this. I therefore pray that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission addresses the issues I have raised in my statement so that I am reconciled as to the reason that made my dreams become unrealised which was achieving my goal to become the first female Financial Secretary of Sierra Leone.
I also pray that my statement would serve as a catalyst to others who suffered similar injustice of being detained at the Pademba Road prisons for no just reason to come forward and speak out without fear, so that Sierra Leoneans (especially those in the journalism world) may learn how cruel it is, to wittingly or unwittingly create a media hype against innocent people and have them detained arbitrarily. It is my fervent desire that the destructive role of the Press would be addressed by the TRC. I sincerely hope it will be highlighted that Governments are given the mandate to govern by the collective will of the people and not by the machinations of journalists.
I also pray that at the end of the sittings of the TRC, one of the strongest recommendations that would come out would be the complete separation of the Police Force from Political Manipulations. In 1998, the Sierra Leone Police investigated all allegations against me thoroughly and at the end of their investigations recommended that I be immediately released. However, wittingly or unwittingly the political powers of the day decided to ignore the recommendation of the Police and kept me locked up for ten months despite the fact that there was nothing to charge me with.
Finally, I sincerely hope that my statement would serve as an eye opener to all Sierra Leoneans (again, especially those in the journalism world), so that lessons could be learnt from my experience, leading to checks and balances being introduced in the form of a well laid out national policy, to ensure that the agony of arbitrary detention of innocent relatives of suspected and perceived political and/or tribal enemies be a thing of the past in this new millennium.
Sylvia Editha Jolliminah Blyden (Mrs.)
THE TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION TRC
DETENTIONS, TREASON TRIALS, COURT MARTIAL AND EXECUTIONS OF 1998
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE BY VICTOR BOCKARIE FOH
FRIDAY, 4TH JULY 2003
Chairman and Commissioners of the TRC, I wish to predicate my presentation this morning by the following: –
(1) I am here in my individual and personal capacity as Victor Bockarie Foh. I am not representing the APC here today although I must emphasise that I am APC and I cannot mask myself or deny my party, the APC. I am merely saying that these are my personal views as a victim of the 1997/1998 AFRC/SLPP violent power struggle.
(2) The APC never sent me to do what I did during the AFRC period.
(3) I nurse no animosity for anyone or group that hurt me in the process.
(4) Players in the other political party, the SLPP, are my relations and friends and I hold no grudge against them. Our differences are part of the democratic process.
(5) I had given an exhaustive interview about the 1998 Detentions, Treason Trials and Court Martial to Josephine Thompson-Shaw for the TRC. I am sure you already have copies of that interview.
(6) I submit for your perusal, the following documents which in my view, will help this Commission in its work:
(a) Extracts from Mr. Hilton Fyle’s Book – Fighter from Death Row
(b) Sworn Police Statements of 3 (three) victims of the 1998 Court Martial:
- Brig. Hassan Conteh – late
2. Cpl. Tamba Gborie – late
3. Sgt. Abu Sankoh a.k.a – late
4. Public Notice No. 4. of 9th April, 1998
I promise to give the TRC the following:-
(1) Sworm Police Statement of Victor Bockarie Foh – first Accused – Treason Court No. 1
(2) Minutes of Meeting of Opposition Parties in Parliament dated 7th April, 1997 held in Committee Room No. 1 (one), Parliament Building Freetown. It was this minutes that Johnny Paul Koroma used to get on to me when he became leader of AFRC.
(3) Report of Michael Birnbaum, Q.C.
I was an advocate of a pacific resolution of the AFRC exit from power and an opposer of a military solution or an ECOMOG invasion of Sierra Leone.
I became Chairman, Sierratel in November 1997 after the signing of the Conakry Peace Plan of 23rd October 1997.
On 25th May 1997, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) usurped the reins of the government of Sierra Leone by use of force. The Kabbah SLPP government was toppled.
President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, his government and many common citizens fled to Guinea. Those who did not were harassed and or detained by the AFRC Junta. A large number of civil servants civil leaders, business people and others who stayed on and continued in their various positions as under the ousted civilian government were harassed.
This was a repetition of events five years earlier, when on 29th April 1992, the legitimate civilian government of President Joseph Momoh was illegally overthrown by the Armed Forces and replaced by the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) Junta. The NPRC committed TREASON, yet their God Fathers in the SLPP shield them.
Like in 1997 when President Kabbah fled to Conakry, President Momoh also fled to Conakry Guinea in 1992, and those members of his government who did not flee were harassed, detained and persecuted by the notorious NPRC Junta. However, most civil servants, civic leaders and business people and others stayed on in the country and carried on their business as usual. Many were punished, harassed, tortured, detained, frog matched and others killed without due process of law by the NPRC Junta.
The AFRC/RUF Military Junta did not receive international recognition. Moreover, the regional peace-keeping force of the Economic Community of West Africa, (ECOWAS), ECOMOG, was deployed to counter and reverse the AFRC military takeover. ECOMOG ousted the AFRC from power in February 1998 at great loss of lives and property. The civil war escalated after the restoration of President Kabbah.
THE TASK FORCE -AN UNFORTUNATE CREATION
In early February 1998 Nigerian ECOMOG Force invaded Freetown, chased out the AFRC/RUF Military Junta from power, and restored President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, his Government and the 1991 Sierra Leone Constitution.
A 10(ten) man TASK FORCE was appointed to “Arrest, Detain, Hit and Kill” ant-SLPP elements in Sierra Leone. Some Members of this Task Force included Vice President Albert Joe Demby, Attorney General Solomon Berewa, Julius Spenser and Alie Bangura of Radio 98.1. This TASK FORCE engaged in settling scores and corruption.
Ecomog, Kamajor Militia, Radio 98.1, the Task Force, hoodlums and pro-SLPP hot heads engaged in violence and mob action against perceived political opponents, their families and their properties.
The spate of killings and burning of human beings in Freetown and the regions were as a result of this measure of miscalculation and vengeance by the Task Force. Most unfortunately, Alhaji Musa Kabia, Sheik Mujtaba, Sakoma and many others suffered this cruel ordeal. Properties worth millions of Leones were razed to the ground. Many innocent common citizens suffered the same plight. My party, the APC and its membership were the targets.
This Task Force metamorphosed into a very corrupt money making screening panel of the several thousands of alleged anti-SLPP detainees in police cells all over the country and at the Pademba Road Maximum Security Prisons. A most unholy and dirty job was done, ironically, in the name of restoration of democratically elected government of Tejan Kabbah.
THE 1998 TREASON TRIALS AND COURT MARTIAL
In a most unprecedented manner large numbers of persons, including civil servants, civic leaders, business people and others, were molested, subsequently arrested, tortured and detained. Some were later charged with treason under the Treason and State Offences Act, 1963. Soon after his restoration, President Kabbah by Proclamation, declared a State of Public Emergency and pursuant to this, Public Notice No. 4 of 1998 dated 9th April 1998 was issued. This Public Notice amended the Criminal Procedure Act 1965, No. 32 of 1995 and certain aspects of the law of evidence and procedural rules relating to criminal trials in the country. This was, without doubt, done in bad faith to facilitate the trial of persons perceived as anti-SLPP. (For ease of reference, Public Notice No. 4 of 9t April 1998 is attached.)
Those charged with treason were regarded as “collaborators” in the eyes of the SLPP Kabbah government and its supporters. They were perceived as such for having stayed on in their home country after the overthrow of the SLPP government and, in most cases, continued in their positions and businesses. Therefore, it was felt, they collaborated with the military junta of the AFRC and facilitated its stay in power, however brief. The irony, of course, cannot be missed that in 1992 when the previous APC civilian government of President J.S. Momoh was overthrown, and almost every civil servant stayed on during the interregnum of the NPRC junta, there was no feeling or talk of collaboration even though several key members of the Kabbah SLPP government including President Kabbah himself and Vice President Berewa served in key decision making positions during the illegal NPRC junta rule. Former President Momoh is a man of Peace and a God fearing man.
The number of so-called collaborators detained at the maximum-security prison at Pademba Road was about 5,000 people. This is a prison with a capacity far less than 400 inmates. Perceived political opponents of the SLPP government were all rounded up, tortured and detained. Many unfortunate Sierra Leoneans were lynched or burnt alive by hysterical SLPP youths and Kamajors. Musa Kabia, Sheikh Mustaba, Sakoma and Abu Black – suffered this fate. Radio 98.1 played the decisive tune in instigating those murders. Scores of people detained died in prison under awful conditions of detention. President Kabbah then disbanded the Sierra Leone Armed Forces.
The 1998 treason trials were vengeful acts and a travesty of justice. All suspects were tortured and brought before the three established treason courts. They were described by Attorney General Solomon Berewa, now Vice President, as “collaborators”. The Treason and State Offences Act 1963 has no place for collaborators! Were President Kabbah and Solomon Berewa not collaborators during the NPRC junta which they served as Chief Advisors?
Public Notice No. 4 of 1998 also changed the old age Criminal Procedure Act of 1965 and the standard, historic and unanimous 12-man jury verdict to a politically manipulated 8-man jury verdict. This was at the expense of the lives of innocent ordinary citizens of our country. Our defence counsels objected to the use of Public Notice No. 4 of 1998. They were over ruled.
It is difficult to reconcile the several provisions contained in the notorious Public Notice No. 4 of 1998 with important provisions of the Constitution stipulating the fundamental human right to a fair hearing. Thus, the use of the provisions of Public Notice No. 4 of 1998 in the trial of accused persons following the AFRC Coup of 25 May 1997, fell foul of the Constitution. Such manipulation of the Laws of Sierra Leone cannot engender National Reconciliation. This was done to slaughter good citizens of Sierra Leone.
These kangaroo treason trials were irregular, unfair and emotionally dressed up as the law even though they were not legal. In a desperate and exasperating effort by the Kabbah/Berewa SLPP Administration to exterminate perceived political opponents, that obnoxious Public Notice was issued. I appeal to the TRC to address that miscarriage of justice against political opponents in the interest of national reconciliation, the Rule of Law and the promotion of true democracy.
There were 3 (three) Treason Trial Courts: –
Court No. 1 (one) – Victor Bockarie Foh and 17 others: –
(1) Victor Bockarie Foh *
(2) Hilton Ebenezer Fyle*
(3) Alieu Badara Kamara*
(4) Ibrahim Ben Kargbo*
(5) Denis Smith*
(6) Gipu Felix George*
(7) Olivia Mensah*
(8) Darlinda Lebby (Acquitted and Discharged)
(9) Dr. Christian Kargbo*
(10) Ibrahim Manty Foday Sesay*
(11) Kaifen Tablay Kallay*
(12) Mohamed Alikadi Bangura*
(13) Mohamed Kuraray Bangura*
(14) William Saybana Bangura*
(15) Sheku A.T. Bayoh*
(16) Edward Akar*
(17) Professor William Taylor*
(18) Mohamed Kekura Daramy (Acquitted and Discharged)
NOTE: 16* were sentenced to death by the trial Judge, Edmond Cowan, now Speaker of Parliament
Court No. 2 (two) – Modibo Leslie Lymon and 20 others: –
(1) Modibo Leslie Lymon*
(2) Ajina Sesay*
(3) Kweku Dixon*
(4) Tarik Dumbuya*
(5) Alisious Fofana*
(6) Samuel Sampha Sesay (5 years imprisonment)
(7) Claude Campbell*
(8) Patrick Tommy*
(9) Lawrence L. Lamin (10 years imprisonment)
(10) Basiru Savage*
(11) Kainde Bangura*
(12) Mayila Yansaneh*
(13) Philip Sankoh (5 years imprisonment)
(14) Harry B. Alpha (5 years imprisonment)
(15) A.B. Sankoh (Died during Trial)
(16) Jalloh Jamboriah (Acquitted and discharged)
(17) Mabinti Scott (Acquitted and discharged)
(18) Nancy Steel*
(19) Samuel Sani Sesay (10 years imprisonment)
(20) Winnifred Cummings (Acquitted and discharged)
NOTE: 11* were sentenced to death by the trial Judge, A.B. Rashid.
Court No. 3 (three) Agibola Manley Spaine and 21 others
(1) Ajibola Manley Spain*
(2) Baila Leigh*
(3) Matilda King*
(4) David Bangura*
(5) Saidu Daniel Bangura*
(6) Hamid Abdul Kamara*
(7) Joseph Saidu Momohr
(8) Stephen Cathys Bio*
(9) Hassan Barrie*
(10) Victor Brandon*
(11) Sheik Abubakarr Nabie*
(12) Umaru Deen Sesay*
(13) Dennis Kawuta Kamara*
(14) Abdul Salami Williams*
(15) John Tommy*
(16) Pastor Ajisafe-*’
(17) Gibril Massaquoir
(18) Winston Crowtherr
(19) Alpha Omega Bundu-*’
(20) Eben Victor Coker-/
(21) Alhaji Ibrahim Kargbo,,’
NOTE: *16 were sentenced to death by the trial Judge, Sydney Warne. ,-‘Freed
Evidence adduced and verdict of guilt were at variance. Hearing of these matters by any competent court of Appeal would have, without doubt, acquitted and discharged all. By an interesting scenario, the carefully selected treason trial judges who presided over these Kangaroo Treason Trials are currently in sweet romance with the SLPP government of the day.
Michael Birnbaum Q.C. an Observer from the Commonwealth Secretariat to the 1998 Treason Trials and Court Martial wrote thus: –
“The Prosecution submit that all the defendants in all 3 civil trials are guilty of treason. The Defence submit that none of them are. Indeed many of the defendants go further: they claim that they are entirely innocent of any wrongdoing. My own belief is that the true position may be somewhere between these 2 extremes. In my view it is arguable that under the law of Sierra Leone:
(a) merely assisting an illegal government to perpetuate its existence is not treason.
(b) as a matter of law treason is complete once the lawful government has been overthrown and its powers usurped. Acts commencing after overthrow and usurpation are not acts of treason. I leave it to others to decide when exactly this point was reached in relation to the AFRC coup against the government of President Kabbah. But it is difficult to argue that the process of overthrow and usurpation lasted beyond about the end of June 1997.”
In his foot note, Birmbaum Q.C. said:
“It may be helpful to add a footnote re the death penalty. It is now accepted that it is discretionary (see Sorie-Fornah). It follows in my view that anyone convicted of treason has the right to mitigate and call evidence in order to seek to persuade the judge to exercise the discretion not to sentence him to death. It also follows that if he does not succeed at first instance he is entitled to the normal statutory rights of appeal against sentence.”
THE 1998 COURT MARTIAL
That unfortunate Court Martial indictees were:
1. SLA 18164384 Cpl. Tamba Gborie and 37 orders*
2. SLA 18163273 Sgt. Alfred Abu Sankoh*
3. SLA 200 Brig. Hassan Conteh*
4. SLA 301 Col. James Max Kanga*
5. SLA 207 Col. Abdul Karim Sesay*
6. SLA 448 Sqn. Ldr. Victor L. King*
7. SLA 144 Col. Daniel Kobina Anderson*
8. SLA 204 Col. Samuel F. Y. Koroma*
9. SLA 405 Lt. Cmdr. Samuel Gilbert*
10. SLA 223 Lt. Col. David Boisy Palmer*
11. SLA 214 Lt. Col. Anthony B. Mansarayr
12. SLA 152 Col. Alpha Saaba Kamarar
13. SLA 220 Col. John Amadu 5. Conteh*
14. SLA 339 Maj. Kula Samba*
15. SLA 215 Col. Claude Nelson-Williams,-‘
16. SLA 417 Maj. Abdul M. Koromar
17. SLA 404 Lt. Cmdr. Francis M. Duwair
18. SLA 465 Maj. Augustine F. Koroma*
19. SLA 358 Maj. Tamba Anthony Abu,/
20. SLA 495 Maj. Bayoh Conteh*
21. SLA 462 Capt. Albert Johnny Moore*
22. SLA 674 Capt. Abu Bakarr Kamara*
23. SLA 501 Capt. Simbo Sankoh*
24. SLA 439 Capt. Idrissa Keitta Khemolai*
25. SLA 650 Lt. Jim Kelly Jolloh*
26. SLA 434 Capt. Josiah Boisy Pratt*
27. SLA 634 Flying Officer Arnold H. Bangurar
28. SLA 527 Capt. R. Beresford Harlestonr
29. SLA 531 Lt Marouff Sesay*
30. SLA 18163392 W.O. II Jonathan Dero Showers-/
31. SLA 272 Col. P. F. Fode*
32. SLA 415 Lt. Cmdr. L.D. Howard*
33. SLA 300 Lt. Col. Bashiru S. Contehr
34. SLA 412 Lt. Cmdr. Abdul Aziz Dumbuya*
NOTE: *24 were hooded, tied, shot and killed
10 got their sentences commuted to life imprisonment
1. SLA 270 Lt. Col. Saa Anthony Sinnah
2. SLA 765 Lt. A.M. Keita
3. SLA 675 Lt. A.B.S. Bah
DIED IN PRISON
1. SLA 18130395 Pte. Gilbril Din-Sesay
Chairman of the Court Martial was Major Tom Carew, now Head of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces
Never in the history of Sierra Leone has a government proclaiming itself a democratically elected government of the people, descended to such barbarous depths of brutality and revenge killings. When President Kabbah was re-instated in 1998, he appealed to all rebels and soldiers to surrender and promised that those who surrendered would be protected. A large number of soldiers thus surrendered to ECOMOG or to the Guinean authorities in the Republic of Guinea. Killing surrendered soldiers did not encourage their colleagues in the bush to lay down their arms. As a result, some soldiers joined the RUF rebels in a selfdefensive move. It was that group that invaded Freetown, broke into Pademba Road prisons and set free all inmates on 6″‘ January 1999.
With indecent haste and reckless indifference, the Kabbah SLPP administration having Solomon Berewa as hatchet man, killed 24 (twenty-four) soldiers – most of them Senior Officers. They were tied to stakes, shot and killed after a very poorly conducted Court Martial. May their souls rest in peace.
Of the 24 soldiers executed, only 2 (two) were coupists – Tamba Gborie and Abu Sankoh a.k.a Zagallo. Both Gborie and Sankoh confessed in open court but the SLPP, Kabbah and Berewa refused to listen. To satisfy their whims and caprices, they tied valuable lives to stakes and shot them in cold blood. A woman Military officer, Major Kula Samba in charge of rehabilitating child soldiers and cambatants, was amongst those killed in cold blood. (Attached are sworn statements of Cpl. Tamba Gborie, Sgt. Abu Sankoh (Zagalo and Brig. Hassan Conteh). Also attached are photo-copies of pictures of the 24 (twenty-four) soldiers that were inhumanely executed with indecent haste, callous indifference, abuse of their human rights of appeal and denial of fair hearing. All pleads for reprieve, forgiveness, mercy and reconciliation were ignored.
I politely appeal to the TRC to investigate those Court Martial Trials. I fervently believe that President Kabbah’s revenge arrests, trials and hasty executions of the 24 (twenty-four) soldiers cannot promote national reconciliation. In my view, these executions may have ignited the January 6, 1999 invasion of Freetown by RUF Rebels/AFRC Soldiers. They are a bad precedence for our fledging democracy. By these unfortunate executions, the Sierra Leone Army lost many of its best brains, much of its dignity, moral, prestige and hope. Can payment of compensation to their families wipe off their tears and grief?
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is making a historic bridge between the past of a deeply divided society characterized by strife, conflict, untold suffering and injustice, and a future founded on the recognition of human rights, democracy, peaceful co-existence and development opportunities for all Sierra Leoneans, irrespective of region, tribe, class, belief or sex. The pursuit of national unity and reconciliation for the well-being of all Sierra Leoneans and peace require reconciliation between the citizenry and a genuine and sincere reconstruction of our society by government.
I do hope that a secure foundation for the people of Sierra Leone shall transcend the divisions and strife of the past which generated gross violations of human rights, the transgression of humanitarian principles during our horrible and violent civil conflict and the legacy of hatred, fear, guilt and revenge which the civil war brought onto our country.
There is a need for understanding but not for vengeance, a need for reparation but not for retaliation, a need for dignity for Sierra Leoneans but not for victimization and a need to advance such reconciliation and reconstruction in respect of acts, omissions and offences committed with political and tribal objectives and vengeance.
It is with these in my mind that I have decided to forgive all and sundry including those who took up arms to destroy Sierra Leone and my Party, the All Peoples Congress, with the pretext that they were removing the APC from State Governance. Fellow Sierra Leoneans, forgive one another and put country before self.
Once again, I appeal to the TRC to make fitting recommendations through which genuine national unity and reconciliation could be achieved in our democratic experiment.
From what I have heard at the TRC hearings all over the country, I am convinced that at the end of the day, the Commission will end up doing a satisfactory job. I encourage you to continue.
Victor Bockarie Foh (First Accused)
1998 Treason Court No. 1
(Judge Edmond Cowan presiding)
Delivered Friday, 4th July, 2003
EKE A. HALLOWAY B.A HONS (OXON), LL.M. (LONDON)
Barrister and Solicitor
COMMISSIONER FOR OATHS NOTARY PUBLIC
Telephone: Jnner Chambers
Office 225938 2nd Floor Srirtus House
P.O. Box 840 8 House Street
Fax 232 22 225038 Freetown
Ref: 11th July 2003.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Block A Brookfields Hotel
Jomo Kenyatta Road Freetown
SUBMISSION ON THE 1998 DETENTIONS TRIALS AND EXECUTIONS –
DEFENCE COUNSEL AT THE TRIALS
The year 1998 will be remembered in the annals of this country for treason trials – three of which were civil and one Special Court-Martial.
I participated in all these trials as defense counsel. I was partly briefed by the Government to defend and partly by the accused persons themselves.
At the Special Court Martial I represented Colonel A. K. Sesay, Major Kula Samba (the only woman in the Special Court martial) Col. NelsonWilliams, Col. Bashiru Conteh and Col. Sinneh.
They were all found guilty, the first were two were executed and the others are still alive and holding prominent positions in the Army.
All accused at the Special Court Martial were represented by defence counsel and the majority of the defence counsel were briefed and paid by the Government to defend.
Every opportunity was given to the accused in open court by testing the credibility of witnesses of the prosecution and presenting their cases in their defence. Reasonable access was granted to defence counsels to visit and interview their clients in Prison.
To that extent, the trial was carried on in accordance with the due process of the law.
I would however make this observation that the Court Martial Tribunal cut me short in depriving me of the opportunity to address them on the penalty, which was death by firing squad and that that death penalty was not mandatory. The Tribunal would however have exercise its discretion to impose imprisonment rather than the death penalty.
I would also like to comment that the accused persons had no right of appeal, although this has now been provided for Court Martial trials.
In the civil treason trials, I represented, among others, before the Honourable Justice A B Rashid, Bashiru Savage before the Honourable Justice E. K. Cowan Mr Hilton Fyle, before the Honourable Justice Konie Warne, Mr AB Sesay. I succeeded in freeing few of the accused persons.
Again, in these trials the accused persons were represented by defence counsel most of whom were briefed and paid by Government to defend. The accused persons were given every opportunity to be defended in open court and to have access to their s olicitors to be interviewed and prepare their cases.
Those who were convicted were sentenced to death by hanging.
Unlike the Court Martial , they had the right to appeal. They appealed against their convictions and sentences but withdrew their Appeals so as to benefit from the amnesty granted by the LOME Peace Agreement.
The environment then was hostile and tense and defence counsel were subjected to verbal assaults and threats for defending according to them “these animals”, especially the court martial accused persons.
The position however temporised as the trials progressed.
Eke Ahmed Halloway
DEFENSE COUNSEL – TREASON TRIALS
cc: The Executive Secretary, Franklyn B Kargbo Esq.,
Name: DONALD SMITH
Address: Marjay Town Goderich
Age: 55 Years
Occupation: Business Proprietor
Nationality: Sierra Leonean
Religion: Christian (Roman Catholic)
I was born in Freetown on 16th March 1948. I attended St. Edward’s Primary School from 195.3 to 1961 and St. Edward’s Secondary School from 1961 to 1966. I worked for the Income Tax Dept., Sierra
Leone Government from January 1967 to February 1969. I worked for A. Brunnschweiler & co. formerly of 18 Garrison St. Freetown from 1969 to 1978. I was transferred to Brunnschweiler,Monrovia Liberia in, 1978. I became General Manager of Brunnschweiler Inc. – Monrivia in September 1980. I returned to Sierra Leone in 1984 and was Managing Director of Brunnschweiler- Freetown from then until the company ceased trading in June 1990. Since then I have been a private -businessman.
The coup that brought in the AFRC was in May 25 1997. I was then residing at 23 Riverside Drive in Freetown. There was not much business or much of any activity during the days following the coup. I stayed mostly at my house and used the time for much needed renovation work on my house. It was boring and friends in my neighbourhood suggested we meet at one of our houses every Sunday evening with provision of food and but mostly to relieve the boredom. We did this every Sunday. This was pretty, much the situation from May 25 1997 through June 1997, July 1997and August 1997. Towards 27th August 1997 I was in my house when my telephone rang. I answered and the voice at the other end identified himself Collins cf the RUF and asked to speak to me by name. I replied that I was speaking. He then proceeded to introduce himself and said he had been given my name by a friend. The friend had recommended me as having business and commercial knowledge, having been a business executive and holding important position in the Chamber of Commerce, and that I would help him. I asked him help to do what. He replied that he had been appointed Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and that I should help him to carry out his duties. I told Lt Collins that I had not been appointed to assist him and that his suggestion was out of the question. I told him I was not going to assist him in any way. He thanked me for having spoken to him and I replaced the receiver-thinking that was the end of the matter. I had not ever met Lt Collins before then and did not know him.
After a couple of days he rang again and said he was still asking for my help. Once again I refused. He then asked me whether I was a Sierra Leonean and did I not want; to help my country progress.
I answered I was a Sierra Leonean and would help my, country once I was officially and properly asked to do so. He then wanted to know whether I was a Creole. I said I was. Did I not want to help a Creole brother. I replied not under the circumstances. He then said he had been at the Albert Academy and had grown up at the Dougherty’s household at Fort Street in Freetown. He was no doubt trying to give himself some credence. Later I learnt, from one of the Dougherty’s that he had lived next door to them for a while but not at their house nor was he in any way brought up by them. After a few days he called again. He was clearly trying to wear me down and this time he was coersive. He invited me to go down to his office and see him which invitation I refused. He then became offensive. He said among other things that I was refusing to help him but we were brothers and maybe the time would come when I would need him as we were neighbours, and that in life one never knew what would happen. He continued in this vein and I realised he had taken up residency in a Government Quarter two houses from my house. He then threatened me saying that we lived in the same neighbourhood and I may need his help. He sounded ominous and I had to promise to go and have a look at what he was doing. I found out that he had a full contingent of about 15 with him at his residence ranging from small boys to a few grown men all under arms.
A few days later, this must be some time in early September 1997, I went down to the Ministry of Trade and Industry to see what he was talking about confident that I would talk my way out of assisting him. I sat in the lobby for a while observing the goings on. There was much tooing and froing of people who easily seemed to be new officials trying to get a grip on things. When there was lull I went into the secretary’s office and asked her to announce me. He did and Lt. Collins rushed outside to meet me and take me into his office. This was the first, time I met Lt. Collins. He was very clearly happy that I had come. I said I was only there to visit and congratulate him on his appointment. I went on with pleasantries trying to establish a kind of rapport being neighbours. I hoped he would have nothing against me for not working with him, all the time mindful of his contingent of men on my door step as it were.
He however, brushed all of this aside and introduced me to his associates as the man who would help them do the job as he put it. He immediately trust a document in front of me, it was the draft of a speech he was going to make at City Hall outlining his policy for commerce the next day. What did I think of it? I looked through the document and asked him to delete anti (SLPP) Govt. sentiments that were in it as unnecessary, and made alterations as I saw fit. I could not extricate myself from assisting him from then on especially as he would send one of his men to my house to remind me if I did not turn up for one meeting or another.
I assisted him in his duties until about middle October- 1997 when the Permanent Secretary complained that he was being bypassed and that his functions were being usurped. He was now willing to assume his duties fully and Lt. Collins asked me to hand over all matters I was handling over to him which I did and which then left me redundant. From then on, I made all efforts to get away from Lt. Collins and resume my normal activities.
After a few days I asked to be relieved of whatever position I had held and for me to go back and do my own business. This had mostly been neglected up to this time and I was not receiving remuneration of any kind. I suggested that I had helped enough and that it was time for me to go. Lt. Collins refused. I then said that my time came expensively and that if he wanted me to continue working for him then I had to be paid.
I demanded Le.24m per annum payable in advance with a written contract. I thought his reaction would be to let me go. Instead he said he would discuss it with the Chairman. After a few days he had a draft, of an agreement prepared by the Attorney General’s Dept. As we discussed the fine points of the contract we got stuck on the amount. The finance people were saying Le.24m was too much. Nobody in Govt. circles earned that kind of money. So I agreed to Le.12m knowing fully well that it will still be too much on the one hand and the mechanism for making it available difficult if not impossible on the other. I was correct because after a few days he said the 12m was still too much but what he would do was find me a position in a Government parastatal – Managing Director of Mining and General Services – which is a parastatal that is under the Ministry of Trade. I said fine. However after a few more days, and he was really trying hard not to let me go, he said that the job was not available. In as much as the substantive holder was out of the country he was an AFRC man and the brother of Jam Jalloh who was a top AFRC official. ‘He would make me the Deputy Managing Director as that position. was definitely vacant as the holder had died. About 10th November 1997 he gave me a letter appointing me Deputy Managing Director of Mining and General Services. I took the letter relieved that it would get me out of his circle and I thought once I was out I was free. I was mistaken as I soon found it was not going to be easy. Now it was left to the Permanent Secretary to effect the appointment and he started dragging his feet in classic Civil service manner. The Permanent Secretary stalled in effecting the appointment and gave reasons everyday why he had not found the time to write the simple letter of introduction to the MAGS management.
In the three months I had worked in his Ministry I had not earned a penny. Now it would seem I would be remunerated generously at least according to his standard, he did not seem to like it and made comments to the effect. He continued to stall in effecting the appointment and I grew restless.
I was fed up with having to come to the office everyday. I finally, ran out of patience and confronted him one morning and asked for the letter that would introduce me to the MAGS management. He tried to delay it even then saying he wanted to do a comprehensive letter that would include all benefits and remuneration. I insisted that all I needed was a simple letter- of authority to say what my position was and was certain that once I was installed all information would be given to me. I was trying my best to get away from Lt. Collins but the Permanent Secretary was now being personal and envious that I was going to be generously remunerated. He finally conceded and did the letter which the Secretary of State signed. I said my good”byes and left.
I went to my house and did not go to MAGS. After a few days, Lit.. Collins sent one of his men to say he had taken notice that, as he put it, the Chairman had given me work to do and I was refusing to do it. I went down to MAGS and met a reception that was not particularly pleasant. I had been appointed Deputy Managing Director and the Managing Director was out of the country and that made me the boss. The Financial Director who was in charge did not see it that way and refused to allocate me an office. It was by now about end November. I left after quite a few arguements telling him I would come back in the New Year.
I Came back at the beginning of 1998 and after some more arguments, finally agreed to sit in a dusty shop at the basement where the flopped airline ticketing agency had been. I had to stay away a few days while it was cleaned and dusted. Hereafter, I went in at 9 C’ clock in the morning every working: day and came away at 4 pm in the afternoon until the intervention. I did this to appease Lt. Collins who was watching my every move. I did not do any work at MAGS. I was not asked to, nor did I ask or insist to make any contribution. I was not paid any money and did not receive remuneration of any kind. I did not ask for any and I did not receive any.
When the intervention came I stayed in my house. I did not go to Guinea or anywhere because in my estimation I had not done anything that warranted running away from my country or my home.
In the meantime it became clear that the AFRC and RUF cadres were preparing to exit the scene. Before they left armed men from Hon. Dirty’ s compound came to my house, broke open my garage whilst I coward in the house. They took away my car. They also took diesel I had bought to stave off any shortage that seemed apparent. They also took a silver ice bucket and silver candlebra. They transported these in the car to their house at the bottom of my drive and as they no doubt intended this to be the first of many trips, they left one of their number armed guarding my gate. I came out of the house jumped my fence at a part where the guard would not see me wounding my hands in the process on the broken glass at the top of the wall. I ran to Lt. Collins’ house and told him of the incident. He laughed. I asked him to send his men to retrieve my goods but he was reluctant to do so. I had to plead with him before he eventually gave me one of his men to assist me in retrieving my goods. We walked down to their house but they denied they had taken the diesel. Another soldier arrived at the scene. I later learnt that he had come from soldier Tarawalley’s house. He told them that what they were doing was wrong. He took the car off them and drove it to Lt. Collins for safe keeping. We found a mechanic who turned the car off as the switch had been broken and later took the car back to my house. The next day when I asked Lt. Collins for the artifacts i had left with him he refused to return them.
A couple of days after they left i.e. AFRC and RUF cadres. A band of looters came to my compound broke and removed doors and windows and eventually all of the furniture, clothing and all other goods in first the house that I lived in and then the other house in my compound. This house 23A Riverside Drive was then rented to Walid Hassan who was then out of the country. The looters were led to my compound by SSD Mohamed as we called him when he worked as security in my compound on a private arrangement.
Alfred Thompson who lives in an unfinished house belonging to lawyerr Hannah Ahmed outside my compound was responsible for broking into the garage which he had been hired to help repair in assisting a masoner Momoh Bangura after Hon. Dirty’s had broken into it. Later, I retrieved from Alfred Thompson my gold chain which he was wearing and documents which belonged to me and also furniture and a fridge freezer which he had removed to his dwelling and tyres for both my cars which we had removed to thwart the usual looting soldier from taking them away. For a few days while we looked for tyres to move the cars, parts were being stolen from them, Alfred Thompson kept the tyres and denied having them until my mechanic Abdulai Jalloh who had come to remove the cars grew suspicious and insisted in looking into the room he occupied in the unfinished building, when the goods mentioned earlier were found.
After ECOMOG troops were deployed in our area my cousin Nanette Thomas and myself reported to them. I was staying with her at No. 5 Kingharman Road as my house had been looted and vandalised. We learnt that our neighbours were already pointing fingers at us and we reported to ECOMOG to prevent our neighbours who would soon become the mob moving in on us. A corporal and a sergeant marched us from ‘Kingharman Road to Adelaide Street where the headquarters for the area was. On our way the soldiers interrogated us. They said that our neighbours had already informed them about us. They wanted to know what I had done. I explained as inter alia. They asked whether I had taken part in armed activity of any kind to which I replied in the negative. They wanted to know whether normal working hours I accompanied Lt. Collins anywhere. I replied that I went home everyday and did not involve myself in any other activities. They examined me looking for military marks and found none. Nanette said she had continued to supply the prisons during the AFRC regime as she was the contractor
When we arrived at Adelaide St. the soldiers explained to the commander Capt. Thompson who after a few questions said we could go. As we were about to leave David Mossay, tennis coach attached to the Ministry of Education who i know as we played Tennis at the Bank Complex at King Tom rushed in and said to the captain “Officer this man” pointing at me “is RUF and should be killed”. The officer asked him to get out. He said if they did not kill me he would kill me himself. We shouted at each other until the soldiers told us to shut up and show respect. Dr. Gevao then came in and asked Mossay to leave. Dr. Gevao told me afterwards that they had been driving around together and that he had tried to refrain him from his outburst. Before the troubles Mossay had accused me of having an affair with his wife. This was not the case. I am confident that Mossay knows that it is not the case but was using it as an excuse for his animosity towards me.
On 4th March 1998 Police Corporal Jabbie arrested me outside my compound at Riverside Drive. He did not know me and when he asked me I denied my identity in an effort to evade arrest but Alfred Thompson pointed me out. Earlier Alfred Thompson had reported to the police that I had looted the house of Jusu Sheriff whose house is next door to mine. I had to go to the CID having being invited explain and clear myself. When I was being taken away that time Alfred Thompson had said to my hearing “everything if finished now”. After going through the CID I was on the night of the same day taken to Pademba Road Prisons where I was incarcerated.
In May 1998 I was taken to the CID and asked to make a statement. This statement was taken by Jabbie who turned it over to Weilington who was in charge. Wellington read it and said I had no case to answer and that if I could arrange for something for him and his men I would be released. I called Nannette on the phone from Wellington’s desk and appraised her of the situation. I handed over the phone to Wellington. Nannette spoke to Wellington and then me. She said I should leave things to her. I was then taken back to Pademba Road Prisons.
Some time in June 1998 I was taken back to the CID. Nannette had not paid the money in as much as I had left all monies I had in my possession with her when I was arrested. One batch of detainees who had fallen under my category had been released. Included in this group were Kemoh Fadika and Lloyd Beserve. She had not paid the money for my release and now she was making all kinds of allegations against me. They wanted to know why on both counts. What had I done to aggravate her? Was she really my cousin? I replied that I had not done her anything. I had been counting on Nannette to help get me out of prison but from what I was hearing I could die in prison for all she cared.
Nannette had monies belonging to me as I had stated. I had left these monies with her when I was taken to prison, but she was now refusing to part with any of it. I asked Wellington whether I could be released if I gave him a good sum. He replied in the affirmative. I then wrote a note to Nannette asking her to give $2000 (Two thousand U.S dollars) to the bearer. I handed over the note to Wellington who passed it on to Jabbie to collect. Jabbie collected the money from Nannette and affirmed afterwards that he gave the money to Wellington. I was not released.
In April 1999 who was then Minister of the Interior visited the jail and I was granted audience. I pointed out that peace was in the offing and there were quite a good number of us who had not been charged with any offence and could he recommend our release. As a matter of fact detainees who had not been charged were being released after an appearance before a committee that had been set up when parliamentarians complained after the first batch referred to earlier had been released by the police. The criteria for selection to go before the committee was not clear. Bribery was mentioned by detainees who were before the committee. I was not called before this committee. However Charles Margai did not see why the detainees could not be released en bloc and he asked me to make a list of all thos e who fell within this category. I made the list assisted by the Prison authorities and put my name at the top of it. I listed myself No. 1 for release. When the release was approved and the list read out on Independence Day as part of the usual amnesty granted by the president, my name had been deleted. My name and only my name was taken out of the list. I was not among those released, my release had not been approved, I was a special case. Everybody connected with the political problem who had not been charged was released. Also released were those I included in my list who did not know why they were in jail, who had been forgotten as it where by the authorities and who begged me to include them. Those released on Independence Day -27th April 1999- were not confined to my list alone. There were other lists of detainees and even convicted criminals who received the president’s mercy. I stayed in jail.
I continued to be incarcerated. I had friend and relatives make representation to the authorities, mostly to the Attorney General but all they got were evasive answers. Either there were other matters that had to be looked into or the people at Regent Village were bringing evidence against me. It was alleged that the RUF had operated from my house at Regent from where they had bombarded the village causing damage to the church and even the property belonging to Mr. VL Thomas on the other side of the mountain. I did not see how this was connected to the political situation for which no doubt I was being detained. This matter had been settled in a court of law within the jurisdiction of which the Attorney General presided. The matter had been settled in my favour. Outside of the law I was exonerated by the Hunting Society fraternity and by the authorities who govern it. Indeed all actions i had taken had been with the approval of the Western Conference of Hunters, who were in charge of the particular Hunting concerned and who had presided over and endeavoured to diffuse the problem from the outset. At the end of the court action I had asked my lawyerr Mr. Gabriel Bayoh to ask the court to waive the costs awarded to me to the benefit of the respondent. This matter now cropped up again and the Attorney General was alleged to refer to it as reason why I was not being released. To put this matter out of the way so as not to hinder my release, I had Mr. Patrick Brown apologise on my behalf in as much as I had been the aggrieved party. He had to pay on my behalf the sum of money and provide other items of goods demanded by the society people before the matter was finally considered dropped so that it could not be used by the politica system to continue to hold me in prison. This it turned out did not in any way affect my situation.
It had been alleged earlier, even before the troubles started proper that Johnny Paul had slept in my house at Regent. This was stated over 98.1 FM time and time again and was used to whip up hate and malice and teleguide the rabble who later sacked and looted my properties and put my life in danger. It became very clear afterwards that those who said that Johnny Paul Koroma had slept at your house knew they wer passing a death sentence on you waiting to be carried out when the ‘mopping up’ which was the cliche used over and over again over 98.1 caught up with you. If you were unlucky and unfortunate as it did with a few others and most definitely with Sacomah, you were shot dead if you were pointed out to ECOMOG as having been the host at least for one night of Johnny Paul Koroma.
My case would seem to be special and everybody who was being released had the same question for me ‘what had I done’ that is over and above the usual for which all of them and some of them more so,
much more so, were being released while I continued to be in jail. I contacted a Freetown lawyerr through personnel of the Prisons social services but he pointedly refused to have anything to do with the matter. My case was special. He did not know what indiscretion I had committed that made my release unattainable and he was not going to find out or get involved.
After April 27th 1999, when I was not released, my boyhood friend Patrick Browne who had been handling my affairs whilst i was in jail informed me that he was no longer in a position to continue doing so. He let me know that he had tried his best and that he could do no more. He said he had tried to effect my release by pleading with both the Attorney General Solomon Berewa and also Chief Hinga Norman but to no avail. Now he let it be known by his pronouncements that were reported to me that mine was a hopeless case and the I was never going to be released.
As the process continued, batches of soldiers and civilians who been tried and condemned to death and imprisonment were released, i. e. people who were part of and had participated fully in the AFRC/RUF rule. The last lot were slated for release on 23rd July 1999. By then everybody connected with the troubles had been released except this last batch of civilians. All soldiers had been released but I was still in prison. The delay with this last batch as it was understood then was because their lawyers had not signed waivers on their behalf to stave of any future claims for compensation from the Government or whomsoever. Whether this was the case or not they were called to the administration office in the prison on 23rd July 1999 and even with this last lot going I was still detained, my release had not been approved. When this last lot moved out of the cells with their belongings to be released, I was only one of three people left in the prison block. One was Jalloh who was in for murder and mentally unstable, and not in death row and one other. The main body of prisoners had left when the jail was broken into on 6th January 1999 and had not returned. This last batch was not released on 23rd July 1999 due to administrative hitches but they did not return to their cells. They went over to the hospital across from the administrative building while they waited for final clearance. That night I slept alone in my cell, the only person remaining from all those who had been incarcer4ated over the period which number at one stage was in the region of 5000 prisoners in a prison that may not have been designed for more than 300 inmates. Over double that number must have gone in and out of Pademba Road Prison during the period February 1998 to July 1999.
The next day Saturday 24th July 1999, a few of those to be released came back, to the main prison from ‘the hospital where they were now waiting to be released and insisted that I take my belongings and come with them. I was hesitant, and Protested it would do no good since there had been no order for my release. They persisted and I took my belongings and went with them to the hospital. Those who had been released earlier but mainly Sampha Sesay a.k.a. Major and Abdul Salami Williams (deceased), were pressing for the release of the last batch of which I had now unofficially become a part. There was news that Attorney-General Berewa was about to leave the country and if he left we would not be released until he came back. A few recently released colleagues were running back and forth to ensure the release before Berewa left. During one of his many visits to the jail to keep us up on progress, Major said he had brought up my case with Berewa who had shown surprise that I was still in jail. According to Major, Berewa said he thought I had been released a long time ago and my friends must have let me down. Major said he had however agreed to my release.
Saturday 24th passed without us being released. We hoped for the next day Sunday 25th July with apprehension. We were not sure prisoners were ever released on Sundays and rumour had it the Berewa was leaving first thing Monday morning.
However, about midday Sunday 25th July 1999 we were released. A full list of the remaining treason trialists was read out. They walked out one by one as their names were read out amidst shouts and jubilation from their friends and relatives who were waiting outside and who had brought a milo jazz band that played incessantly all morning. When their list was exhausted and all of them were out, the prison officer then produced a second list and called out my name. I followed clutching my possessions. I was free at last and last of the whole lot.
Naturally, my friends and family were jubilant that I had been released especially when by now there was apprehension whether i was ever going to be released.
I was told reliably that Mr. Browne who had come to wait outside for our release as anticipation had grown throughout the morning had said to the hearing of others he was certain I would not be released. When I was released, he was said to have remarked that my release must have been an afterthough as I was released last.
Family and friends then proceeded to my house which was full and sprawled into the compound. Word soon went round that I had stayed this long in prison because my friend or friends had let me down. Mr. Browne who was also in the house ostensibly to celebrate with me came up to say he had heard what was being said about my friends letting me down. I replied i had not said anything and would not know for sure what Mr. Berewa had said as I had not met him.
I have participated in politics in the past hoping to be able to contribute something to my country in the area of leadership. I have not taken anybody’s money in the process. As I remember it I have always used my own money in the political situations I have participated in.
ALL PEOPLES CONGRESS (APC) – You have to bribe the Secretary or the minister of the Party Affairs or whatever was his designation to be given a symbol of the party to be able to participate. When I contested the 1986 General Elections I was not given a penny of party funds. There were five contestants in our constituency an i am reliably informed that three of us were helped in our electioneering with party funds. I did not ask for anything, I was not given anything, despite the fact that during the presidential campaign i had made my volkswagen bus availabel at my full expense for moving the cooks from place to place.
NATIONAL UNITY PARTY (NUP) – In the 1996 elections in which I participated under the NUP, money allocated to me to assist in taking members of my constituency to the convention was collected on my behalf by a leading member who has still to hand it over to me. All monies spent to bring constituents to the meeting and feed them came from my pocket.
A couple of days before the election, a meeting was called to vamp out final strategy at the leader’s house. A stipulated sum of money was given to every constitiency chairman to assist in the final effort. I did not accept it as I said that it was a bit too late, and I could not see how it could influence anything and i did not know how to use it. I have it on good knowledge that most chairmen if not all kept the money for themselves especially when the strategy which the money was supposed to be aiding was soon afterwards acknowledged inappropriate in its timing and cancelled.
During the election, assistants in my area were fed by me and it became doubly ex-pensive as the election period was extended. I was never reimbursed.
AFRC – I was not paid a penny for assisting Lt Collins to do his job. Instead I was forced to pay most small donations from my pocket on the pretext that I would be reimbursed, which did not prove to be the case. When I asked to be paid first Le.24m a year and then Le. 12m a year in advance for my services which was a ploy to get out, I was refused on the grounds that, it was too much money. Instead I was given the job of DMD mags. This was intended to keep me with the ad-ministration and compensate me. I did not demand nor was I given any remuneration of any kind.
Three of my properties were vandalised by mobs who had been directed to such destruction either by innuendo or through radio. The assault, on my properties at 23 and 23A Riverside Drive Brookfields was led by popularly so called SSD Mohamed who had been hired as already stated to guard the properties. He was in front of the mob and led them to attack and search the above premises. They took away furniture and personal property and doors and windows, that is after stoning the properties to open them up. ‘When they left Alfred Thompson who lives in the unfinished house of Lawyerr Hannah Ahmed and who had been hired to assist the masonner repair the damage caused by Hon. Dirty’s men systematically took the house apart. He broke into two safes in my garage one of which was completely empty. The other contained mainly documents which were later retrieved from him and jewelry mostly belonging to my daughter – presents from her Christening and First Communion. My gold chain was taken from his neck. Other household goods including a refrigerator and tyres from both my cars which i had taken off ostensibly to prevent uniformed personnel from commandeering them, which had been the case in the past, were retrieved from his premises.
My house at Smith’s Drive, off Gloucester Road, Regent Village was vandalised, and all fixtures and fittings taken away. My mother lived in the house. Malicious people in the area had lied and given information to 98.1 that J .P. Koroma had slept in the house. I do not know J.P. Koroma and I do not understand why he would want to sleep in my house. I later found out t’hat it was a way of condemning you, even to death. All they had to say was that Johnny Paul Koroma slept yesterday in Donald Smith’s house and that was enough condemnation in itself. As already stated I do not know J.P. Koroma and he has never slept in my house at Regent or in any of my houses. My mother lived in the house at Regent and I do not have any reason for military personnel to use the premises when she was in it. I have however since found out that hate, malice and jealousy led leading citizens in the area to lie that Johnny Paul slept at Donald Smith’s house and this information was in turn dutifully passed through the grapevine and then passed on to 98.1who in turn broadcast this information for people with hate to interprete the way they wanted it.
A few days after the intervention my mother wrote to me to say that five men led by one Reggie Thomas of Regent had led ECOMOG troops to the house. They had dragged her outside lay her on the ground beat her and asked her if she knew i was a member of the RUF. She said she did not know anything. Reggie asked the ECOMOG to shoot her because she as the mother of an RUF member. This they did not do. They shot at the house believing I was hiding in it with heavy artillery making holes on my bedroom wall. This continued unit ECOMOG realised that this was private property belonging to a civilian, and not to a soldier as they had been to believe, that there was no arms or ammunition and that only an old woman lived there. They then left. I enclose photostat copy of letter dated 19th February 1998 sent to me by my mother, relating the incident. Reggie Thomas returned with his group to steal property in front of my mother who being old could not stop them. They then set the house on fire. Fortunately, with help she was able to put out the fire.
I wrote to the Chairmen of both Gloucester and Regent, complaining and sent them copies of the letter. These letters were delivered by a Mr. Kargbo who then lived in Gloucester.
A few days before the intervention, while i sat at my desk at MAGS, I was visited in turn about 10 minutes intervals by first Rev. Canon Adjai Nicol who said he wanted to go up to my house at Regent to give my mother Communion. I was skeptical about this offer but gave him Le.10,000 to assist him with transportation. I do not know whether he did administer the Communion. My mother did not mention it. Next was Rev. Jones, recently deceased, who was in charge of St. Andrew’s Church Gloucester village. He simply wanted to know why i had left my business to come and sit with ‘these people’ as he put. I did not reply. I sat looking at him. He shook his head at me as if with pity and left. Next to come was Mr. Victor Williams of Regent village. I commented I was having a mountain district visitors thick and fast and what did he want. He said his son had been arrested for giving information to 98.1 and could I assist in securing his release. I asked him who said I was in a position to secure anybody’s release from anywhere. He said I was RUF and it was RUF who arrested his son and that was why he had come to me. I told him I was not RUF and was sorry there was no way I could help him. He left. It was very clear that these visits were orchestrated.
I wish to state that until the day Lt. Collins called me on the phone the first time I had not met him neither in Liberia as has been alleged nor in Sierra Leone. I was not aware of his existence. I lived and worked in Liberia from 1978 to 1983 and came back to Sierra Leone at the beginning of 1984. I learnt from Gipu Felix George former head of the SLBS when were both in jail amongst others that he had given my name to Lt. Collins and made the recommendation referred to earlier. I had not known this fact when I made my original statement to the police. He apologised in front of other detainees for putting me through the ordeal as he put it.
I have never been a member of the RUF as indeed I had not met and do not know any RUF from the leadership downwards except Lt. Collins who I met in the circumstances I have described. I was not part of the AFRC nor had i met any of the men who carried out the coup of May 1997or any of the officers or men who were involved from the leadership downwards. I did not ask for nor was I offered a position in their administration even when they were desperately looking for people. I only got to know the ones who were in jail whilst in jail and that was when they got to know me. They were surprised I had been incarcerated for activities that had to do with them.
At my first interrogation in May of 1998, Mr. Wellington the police officer conducting the investigations said after reading my statement that I was not involved and could go if I could find something for himself and his men.
As already stated my cousin who had my money and who I relied on to provide this ‘something’ failed to provide it. Consequently, a group was released which I should have been part of. After the release of this first group, Parliamentarians objected to suspects being released without going through some sort of screening by others other than police personnel. A committee was set up and groups of detainees determined to be without seemingly sufficient evidence for them to be charged to court went before it and were released in batches. Although my family and friends made representations and enquiries and tried to get me to appear before the committee, I was denied this opportunity.
In June 1998, I was taken to the CID for further investigation. This was mostly because Nanette had failed to pay the amount she promised for my release. I gave authority to Mr. Wellington to collect $2000 (Two thousand dollars) from Nanette Thomas. This amount was collected by Mr. Jabbie of the CID and according to Mr. Jabbie, this money was given to Mr. Wellington. I was not released.
As already stated, with the permission of Charles Margai then Minister of Interior, a list of all detainees not charged was made. My name headed the list. All persons whose names were listed were released as part of the Independence Day amnesty granted by the president that is all except me. My name was taken out of the list and I was not released.
After the main release of Independence Day 1999, in which other categories who had been charged to court and some of them condemned were released releases of different and varied groups became very frequent as the peace process was being actively pursued to meet obligations agreed to in the Peace Agreement. All soldiers condemned or otherwise were released. On 23rd July 1999 the last batch of civilian treason trialists was approved for release and i wan not going along with them. It would seem i was going to spend the rest of my life in prison.
Without going into the psychological implications of the effect of this on me as I became the object of pity and recipient of sympathy and group weeping as all other categories of detainees were released in their various groups at various times, I wish the TRC why I was kept in jail as long as I did when others who had been part of the AFRC were being released. Why was I not given the opportunity to be released and why my name was taken off the list of detainees that were released at Independence 1999. Why was I in jail when everybody had been released? What exactly did i do to deserve this? Why was I singled out for persecution?
In view of the above, I contend:
1. That there was no justification to incarcerate me.
2. That every effort was made by those in authority to keep me confined for no justifiable reason.
- That after about four months in jail (which represents only a quarter of the total period of my incarceration), i was transferred from Clarkson House which is exclusively for political detainees to Blyden House where the most hardened criminals are imprisoned. My persecution was further intensified by this action which was intended to undermine my morale by denying and depriving me of the small comfort of being amongst my kind, and also safety in confinement, and exposing me to the dangers of being imprisoned amongst hardened criminals. Mr. Kamara, the yard foreman who executed the transfer could only say when I asked him why, that it was an order from higher authorities.
- That I was not charged with any offence and was denied the opportunity to appear before the Judicial committee to clear myself.
- That my name was deliberately taken off the list of detainees that had been prepared by me approved by Charles Margai and with the assistance and support of the prison authorities, thus ensuring that at Independence day 1999, I alone was denied amnesty from the President and had to stay in detention, while ALL those detained without charge were released not to mention quite a few of those who had been convicted for political and criminal offences.
6. That there was deliberate intention on the part of the authorities to keep me in prison while those who belonged to and were part of the AFRC/RUF and others who had participated fully in their administration as ministers/secretaries of state and had benefited from such participation were released communicating the impression to all and sundry that I was a ‘Special case’ and that I must have committed indiscretions which only the authorities were privy to which resulted in turn in my friends shunning me, and me becoming the object of pity, with the resultant psychological consequences for myself, my family and friends.
- That at the end when the last lot or political convicts and detainees were ordered released, there was still no order for my release thus giving credence to the by now widely held understanding to my detriment that I was never going to be released.
- That when I was finally released, i was the last to be released.
- That I gave $2000 (Two thousand dollars) to Wellington that was collected by Jabbie as a bribe for my release.
- That my house at 23 & 23A Riverside Drive and 1 Smith’s Drive off Gloucester Road, Regent village were looted clean of their contents, fixtures and fittings and then vandalised i.e part roofing and ceiling etc. Being ripped out and taken away.
- That Radio 98.1 repeatedly broadcast that Johnny Paul Koroma slept in my house at Regent whipping up public hate towards me and effectively condemning me to death thereby putting my life in grave danger.
- That from 4th March 1998 when I was arrested and jailed to 25th July 1999 when I was released, a period of about 16 months I was denied the opportunity of earning a living.
- That as a consequence of all of the above I suffered physical, mental and psychological damage to my health.
- That in view of all the above I hereby claim Le850m (Eight Hundred and Fifty Million Leones) in compensation.
This statement is prepared by me and is by no means exhaustive and does not precoude me from additions and oralterations I may wish to make during or in the course of any probe or investigation or in any matter in dealing with the TRC for which this statement is made.
Freetown, Western Area, Republic of Sierra Leone, 12th March,2003
Thanks be to God for your safety. We have been through hell on this side. The town was turned into a battle ground for five consecutive days. We were holed in the kitchen, Ali and I. On Friday, the guns seized. On Saturday, the ECOMOG Battalion led by Reggi Thomas and one they called T.K came and stormed the house. They shot their way into the compound, gun waging. I called for them to com in. the commander asked for the keys to flush out the enemy, whom they were told were lodging in the house. They said the man slept here and there were guns and ammunitions inside the house. I told them I did not know what they were talking about. They then asked for the key. Well you know i did not have it. After about an hour of my ordeal, they forced me out and laid me down where you usually park your car. Then they stormed the house. All this time, Reggi kept telling when to shoot me because I am the mother of a rebel, high up in the AFRC. He told how you thre their business into the street. After all the mayhem the commander decided to leaver us alone, i guess he was convinced.
On Sunday morning, at about 7.30, Reggi and four others came and asked for postol. They pushed aside and i went and sat down on the tank by the back door. They then systematically looted the house. Everything including my clothes. Since the burst open the generatore place,they took the fuel away. Then told me the house was on fire. Fortunately we put the vase that they set alight out.
It is so much that happened. I cannot say anything else for now, as i am still wondering why such should happen.
I am trying to cope. I hope you are quite sure of yourself before trying to come here. You may wait at least a week or so; you know best. What you do not know is that their are a lot of people who would like to see nothing than trouble for you.
Thanks for the food. Bye now
FROM: The Director of Prisons
TO: The Chairman, Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
25th March 2003
RE: REQUEST FOR SUBMISSION TO THE COMMISSION
Reference to your memorandum dated 25th February, 2003 I forward herewith the attached submission as per request.
Director of Prisons
Director of Prisons.
Prisons Headquarters. FREETOWN.
CAUSES OF THE CONFLICT
Several factors combined in various ways to cause the launching of the invasion and accelerate its course.
Sierra Leone actively supported the creation of ECOM0G by contributing troops and a military base in Freetown. The base for ECOMOG was the most significant single factor which helped the peace keeping force to curb the ambition of undemocratic elements from Liberia to take over power by force of arms.
Those who had staked huge resources in the war in the hope of reaping appropriate rewards once in power were bitter that those prospects had been eroded by ECOMOG. The fact that the Executive Secretary of ECOMOG was a Sierra Leonean could have only fueled the flames of revenge.
There were, however, certain underlying causes, which made it possible for the NPFL rebels to carry out their well-publicised threat with great ease. One of these factors was the weakness of the national defence system by a deliberate policy of’ disarmament.
It was always in the self-interest of an oppressive and corrupt regime to neutralize its own armed forces by running a better-equipped internal security unit to suppress all forces of opposition. The ousted APC regime in Sierra Leone disarmed the national armed forces in a bid to forestall attempts to stage a Military coup d’etat. In such circumstances the country could hardly be defended against a serious external threat, such as was launched in 1991 by NPFL rebels.
Another reason for the incursion is linked to the need for survival felt by tile NPFL bandits. Having trapped thousands of Liberians in rebel-held areas and made normal life quite impossible, the bandits were soon confronted with the stark realities their situation. The problem was how to feed and maintain the Population in the vast areas of Liberia under their control while at the same time financing a war they knew they could no longer win. The rich agricultural and mineral resources of Sierra Leone became an obvious target for looting. Hence the attacks on Kailahun, Kenema, Pujehun and Kono Districts.
The growing disenchantment with one-party system in Sierra Leone was also to blame for the incursion. Although some moves had been made to usher in a more open society, with the setting up of a constitutional review commission and the eventual promulgation of a multi-party constitution, there were strong indications at the time of the incursion that the APC regime was determined to subvert the crucial provisions of the new constitution in order to stay in power. The feeling of apprehension about the intentions of the ruling party would have enhanced the strong probability of tacit, if not vigorous, support for any armed uprising against the government. The Liberian bandits were conscious of, and banking on this likelihood.
There is also the factor of boundless generosity, which characterises the attitude of Sierra Leoneans to strangers. Between December, 1999 and March, 1991 thousands of refugees fleeing from the Liberian conflict were received with open arms in Sierra Leonean homes. The Government did not bother to institute strict border controls or set up refugee camps to monitor the crisis situation. Instead, it allowed a lucrative trade in looted goods to take place between the rebels in Liberia and its own nationals in the border districts. In the lax security situation that existed it was easy for the NPF L rebels to gain a wide knowledge of the geography of the country that helped them to launch their sinister designs on Sierra Leone. Their naivity and infantile generosity explain why Sierra Leoneans did not initially view the rebel incursion as anything that could seriously threaten their very survival.
The role of actors Institutions and Countries as well as recommendations in regard to how a repetition of the conflict can be avoided, how victims may be assisted to over come their suffering and have their dignity restored as well as addressing the issue of how perpetrators may be reintegrated into the society in order that the nation may be healed and the society rebuilt.
In view of all these serious problems now facing the country as a result of the war, it is vividly evident that individuals as well as institutions and organizations within and outside the country must contribute in a very positive ways towards rebuilding, reconstructing Rehabilitating and also sustaining the peace through these prescribed methods. Amongst them are some Institutions concerned with Physical and Economic reconstruction. International Organizations such as the United Nations. Department for International Development (DFID), a British Organization, the World Bank and International Monetary fund (IMF) and some local Organizations have vital roles to play.
The US Government and other donors must adequately fund both the special court for Sierra Leone and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
The US Government and other donors should support the establishment and strengthening of national institutions and mechanisms in Sierra Leone in order to improve the capacity of the judiciary, police, prisons, armed forces and Fire Force other relevant government institutions.
The UN should continue to deploy peacekeepers in all areas of Sierra Leone and actively protect civilians, including women and children.
The UN should work with the Government of Sierra Leone to incorporate education and sensitization into all aspect of demobilization and re-training of professionals including those in the military and police, prisons, health and legal profession and educators.
The UN should ensure that rape and other forms of gender-based violence are prioritized as crimes by the Special Court and that perpetrators from all sides are held accountable.
The UN should ensure that safeguards are in place to protect those who come toward to testify – especially women. The UN should educate and inform people throughout Sierra Leone about the Special Court and TRC, and ensure that all those who want to provide information or testify have an opportunity to do so.
The UN should work with the Government of Sierra Leone to train all Special Court and TRC staff who will be working with victims, learning from experiences with other international tribunals, the UN should establish sensitive procedures that protect victims and do not further traumatize survivors of gender-based violence and other abuses. This should include the provision of counseling before and after testifying in the first language of the victim and the protection of the victim or witness upon return to her/his community.
The UN, with the Government of Sierra Leone, should ensure that w omen are represented at every level of the Special Court and TRC.
FROM: The Director of Prisons,
To: The Commissioners Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
12th July, 2003.
SUBMISSION ON THE 1998 DETENTIONS, TRIALS AND
EXECUTIONS – THE PRISON AND THE GOVERNMENT
The role of the Prison service is first under the law, to hold those committed to custody (whether on remand, committed for trial, convicted and awaiting sentences or lawfully detained by court order or executive action) and to provide condition for their detention which are currently accepted to society. Secondly, in dealing with convicted offenders, there is an obligation on the service to do all that may be possible within the occurrence of the sentence to encourage and assist them to be law-abiding on their discharge.
On diverse dates in February, March and April 1998 several arrest were made by C.I.D. and ECOMOG of those that worked in collaboration with the AFRC regime that over-threw the legitimate government of S.L.P.P. Those arrested were brought to the Pademba Road Prison as Detainees.
In fulfilling our roles and responsibilities, we contained the undermentioned military personnel who were brought into our custody when the constitutionally elected Government was reinstated. We held these inmates in the conditions of security and supervision, which were appropriate for them. They had access to legal representation. They were provided with food, medical facilities beddings and humane conditions that were required of them as spelt out in our rules and ordinance. During their staying they were granted visit by family members and loved ones.
On diverse dates in May 1998 those brought for detention, at the Pademba Road Prison were taken from the Prison and escorted out of the Prison by C.I.D. and ECOMOG Personnel to obtain statement from them. Thereafter they were brought back into the Prison to be detained.
In June 1998 after the investigation have ended, at the C.I.D. those detained at the Freetown Central Prison were categorized into three (3) categories (1) the Military Officers charged to attend Court Martial presided by Senior Military Officers (2) the Civilians that worked in collaboration with AFRC were to attend the Treason Trial presided over by Judges (3) those who have little or no connection with AFRC were attending the Tejan Cole Committee Commission. All of them were incarcerated at the Freetown Central Prison.
The Court Martial sittings started on or around the 23rd July 1998. During the sittings, the Prisons Department provided Officers to escort the Detainees to and from Court whilst the ECOMOG Personnel provided Armed Personnel for security reasons. These inmates were discharged to attend the Court Martial, and brought back into the Prison upon the request of the President of the Court by then.
On or before the 12th October 1998 when the Court Martial ended, thirty four (34) Senior and Junior Military Officers including One (1) Female were Condemned to death by the Military Tribunal. The undermentioned three Military Personnel were acquitted and discharged and were released from the Freetown Central Prison on the 26th October 199S upon the orders of the Attorney General
1. Lt. A.B.Bah
2. Lt. Alimamy Keita
* Col. S. A. Sinnah
The undermentioned (Ten) 10 Officers were sentenced to life imprisonment by the court martial court. They were latter on granted presidential pardon on the 17th July 1999 by His Excellency the President Alhaji Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabba and were released from the Freetown Central prison on the same day.
1. SL. 355 Major Tamba A. Abu
2. SL. 415 Lt. Comd. L. D. Howard
3. SL. 527 Captain R. B. Harleston
4. SL. 652 Fly Officer Arnold H. Bangura
5. SL. 152 Col. Alpha Saba Kamara
6. SL. 215 Col. A. C. Nelson Williams
7. SL. 848 Lt. Cdr. Francis M. Duwai
8. SL. 300 Lt. Col Bashiru Conteh
9. SL. 214 Col. A. B. Mansaray
10. SL. 18163392 W.O.II Showers J. D.
On the 12th October, 1998, twenty four (24) male including one (1) female, were condemned to death by firing squad namely:
1. SL 674 Captain Abu Bakarr Kamara
2. SL 272 Lt. Col. P. F. Foday
3. SLA 18163273 Sgt. Abu Sankoh Alias Zagalo
4. SL 429 Captain Idrissa Khemolai
5. SL 501 Captain Simbo Sankoh
6. SL 301 Col. James Max Kanga
7. SL 144 Col. David K. Anderson
8. SL 462 Captain Albert Johnny Moore
9. SL 417 Maj Abdul M. Koroma
10. SL 200 Brig. Hassan K. Conteh
11. SL 223 Lt. Col David Boisy Palmer
12. SL 495 Maj. Bayoh Conteh Alias Bios
13. SL 531 Lt. Marouf Sesay
14. SL 412 Lt. Comd. Abdul Aziz Dumbuya
15. SL 240 Col. Samuel F. Y. Koroma
16. SL 650 Lt. Jim Kelly
17. SL 220 Col. John A. S. Conteh
18. SL 339 Maj. Kula Samba
19. SL 465 Maj. Augustine F. Kamara
20. SL 405 Lt. Comd. Samuel K. B. Gilbert
21. SL 448 Sq. Leader Victor King
22. SL 434 Capt. Josiah Boisy Pratt
23. SLA 18164384 Cpt. Tamba Gborie
24. SL 207 Col. Abdul Karim Sesay
On the 18th October, 1998 I was told by the Deputy Inspector General of Police who is the Sheriff that he has received Orders for the execution of 24 Junior and Senior Military Officers who were condemn to death by firing squad at the Court Martial.
On the 19th October 1998 the Sheriff (Deputy Inspector General of Police came into the Central Prison Pademba Road demanding for the twenty four (24) Military Officers. We handed them over to the Sheriff hand cuffed with no resistant. Later, the Prisons Department escorted them out of the Prison into a Police Vehicle that was packed in front of the Prison. All the 24 Sentenced Military Officers boarded the vehicle and ECOMOG provided security. The vehicle drove off from Pademba Road into the Goderich firing range where they were handed over to the Military Personnel we met at the firing range. The (24) were then escorted to the firing range for execution by firing squad.
The then Deputy Inspector General of Police Mr. Kandeh Bangura, the Prisons Immam; Assistant Superintendent of Prisons Mr. Ibrahim Sankoh, the then Prison Chaplain, Rev. Jesa Williams, the Prisons Medical Officer Dr. J. D. Sandy and my very self, were present during the execution by firing squad. The execution took place on the 19th day of October 1998 and was done by Military Personnel at the Goderich firing range in Goderieh. After they were executed, the Prisons Medical Doctor Dr. J. D. Sandy examined them to certify that they were dead. Thereafter the corpses were handed over to the Prisons Department, and they were buried at Kissy Mess Mess Cemetery in the East end of Freetown.
Immediately after the execution (Twenty four) 24-death certificate were issued to me which was signed by the Deputy Inspector General of Police in the presence of the Prisons Immam, the Prisons Chaplain and the Medical Doctor for record purpose.
The Sierra Leone Prisons Service welcome and appreciate the Establishment of the TRC by the Government of Sierra Leone in pursuant with Article XXXVI of the Lome Agreement, 1999, to address impunity, break the cycle of violence, provide a forum for both the victims and perpetrators of Human Rights violation to tell their stories and get a clear picture of the past in order to facilitate genuine healing and reconciliation.
Director of Prisons
CC: The Attorney General & Minister of Justice
The Executive Secretary T. R. C.
NAME: Francis Darlington Musa
ADDRESS: 13.HardingStreet. Fonikoh layout
Kenema.Former Address-8. Kahunla Street. Shimbeck, Kenema
NATIONATIONLITY: Sierra Leonean
OCCUPATION: Farmer, politician
AGE: 60 years
BRIEF STATEMENT AND RECOMMENDATION TO THE TRUTH
AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION,KENEMA
I was an elected Member of Parliament for the Kenema central constituency from 1986 to 1992. In 1992 the government of the then A.P.C (the only political party)under the leadership of Ex-President Joseph Saidu Momoh was overthrown by the N.P.R.C Junta led by Capt.V. Strasser.
1. In June 1992,I was invited by Capt. Ngaujiah who was then commanding officer Kenema District for the NPRC to meet with my Land Rover WU21918 to. When I went there, he Capt. Ngaujia ordered me to handover the keys of the said Land rover WU.21918. When I asked him to tell me why he ordered me to give up possession of my land rover he told me to hand over to save myself from gross disgrace. I then handed over the keys to him and came home. The Landrover was in his care till September 1992 when he invited me again to his Hangha road secretariat to collect it. On my arrival at his office, I was told to collect my land rover from where it was stationed (alongside of short street off Hangha street road) within twelve hours or be in readiness to paying (2000/00) two thousand Leone daily to him as security fees. I took it as it was in a damaged condition as follows: 1 without its gearbox, 2.cransaft, 3.four tyres and all 4 seats.
I went all out for redress through his boss, Capt. Tom Nyuma but I was not listened to, instead many threatened remarks were my answers from ends.
In the early hours of February 10th 1999, at about 2 o’clock a.m., I was arrested by some armed men who led by one Lt. Ngevau of the RUF then stationed here in Kenema as members of the then AFRC Junta. He told me that his boss col. SAM Bockarie “moskito”was who ordered them to arrest and detain most prominent people in Kenema including myself. They took me to their H/Q or secretariat at Hangha road and locked me up into their cell. I was detained there with many others including(a)Andrew Quee who they later killed,(b)the late PC Moinama Karmoh of Nomo C/dom late B.S.Massaquoi-“portor portor”,Dr.Francis Momoh – now Hon.M.P Kenema District and more. During the time of my arrest on 10th February, 1999 I had with me (11,500,000/00) eleven million five hundred thousand Leones owed by me and kept secretly aside in one of my bed drawers. I also had some money for feeding and sundry expenses the total of which did not exceed (LE 30,000/00) thirty thousand leones but the exact amount I cannot tell because it was not counted. Lt. Ngevau and his men took me out of my room that night and they remained inside to search for arms and secret documents as they said. Two of his men held me out side the room while Lt. Ngevau and (5) five others were left in my room carrying out their search. After an hour’s search in my room, Lt Ngevau and his five men left my room and took me off to their secretariat at Hangha road and locked me up. Lt. Ngevau and his men were (7) seven in number. The names of the (6) six others were all names of fun and trouble e.g. Borbor Peper, Kaqmajor killer big man disgrace, No Talk, Eye to Eye and kill man no trouble. I was with them in their Hangha road secretariat cell for two days. On that second dayl2th, February, 1999,they took me out of their cell and went with me into one of there offices called info.dept. where I found Lt. Ngevau and some C.I.D. police officials were. I saw (4) four of my documental files placed there these police officials were reading through the files to ascertain any needed information they wanted that may be offensive to their A.F.R.C Junta. Lt Ngevau was busy questioning me to know if I knew any thing about the Kamajors, their formation and whereabouts.
I denied having any knowledge about the Kamajors, their formation or where about. He asked me to undress myself which I did. He watched all over my body in search of Kamajor marks or sign but found none. He again questioned me why I kept off from their Government (the A.F.R.C.) and at the same staying in Kenema which is or was under their control. I answered in a manner to please him by saying, “I do not hate you or your government but the fact is-you will not trust me whole heartedly as I was once an elected Member of Parliament in the A.P.C. regime even though it was a one part system by then. He laughed at me and said, “now this is your government-join us now”. I too laughed and said, “I will hang head over your suggestion but what about my present detention?” He, Lt. Ngevau then turned and questioned the police who were reading my files if there was any thing bad found in them. They said no, it was not offensive to the A.F.R.C. Junta. He led me to Col. Sam Bockarie “Moskita” where he said I had no fault to be wanted for. Col. Moskita then asked me to go home and be reporting twice (10 a.m and 4 p.m. daily). The police officials later asked me to pay the sum of (Le.150,000) before allowing me to go home. I then pleaded with them to go home and come with said (Le.150,000) One hundred & fifty thousand Leones as I had nothing with me when I was arrested at night and brought to the secretariat. They accepted my plea, but on my return home, I found nothing (money) in my drawers, nor even the little for feeding in my pockets. Six pairs of shoes, three three-piece western suits, six Arabic gowns of brillion materials, three brief cases full of wearings, one cassette recorder and one philips portable radio of 12 bands plus FM/AM. Upon my discovering of this ugly event and situation, I sat on the floor and wept bitterly. My daughter, Mrs. Messie Show went to her husband, Mr.Abubakarr Show and fully explained my situation and financial stand to him. Mr. Show had with him (100,000.00) One hundred thousand Leones, which he sent to me through Messie my daughter. We borrowed the balance of (Le50,000.00) fifty thousand Leones and added it up to make the requested (Le 150,000.00) one hundred and fifty thousand Leones and took it to them.
I was reporting to them twice every day until one morning after a week’s period when Kamajors brieflv attacked Kenema through the Clock Tower via the Kenema police stations. The A.F.R.C. rebels repelled the Kamajors and went ahead and killed uncle B.S.Massaquoi, Andrew Quee and many others. This sad event gave me more worries that I fled the town into the bush through Fonikoh Layout off Blama Road, Kenema to secure safety.
In September,1999 I travelled to Freetown where I stayed until 3rd January, 2003 when I returned to Kenema. This is the little I can remember happened to me directly.
Faithfully Submitted by:
Francis Darlington Musa,
Hon. Ex-M.P.Kenema Central
- All leading officials in government and Private sectors should take initiative in setting an example both in study and in learning techniques about human behaviours at work and in private life style. Some leaders urge only their subordinates to study and learn while they themselves do not do so. This is not correct in nation building particularly for unity, peace and development, which is now our hallmark.
2. Leading functionaries should also be a model in daily life. Those who lead the masses should be ahead of others and set correct examples for them to follow in the economization of materials, funds and vehicles, in hygienic and cultural work and in the struggle to establish a sound way of life. As I see, some leading functionaries criticize others for mishandling of government properties and funds, drinking and idleness at work, nepotism and discrimination while they themselves continue to do so. While they do this; their subordinates will not pay attention to them. To criticize others for their immorality and idleness, one must lead a steadily life himself.
3. The salaries of key-hard-working employees should be made to enhance them make ends meet in accordance with the present living conditions.
- Pensions to Pensioners particularly those pensioned during and immediately after the 11 years of war without proper preparations are too small if one is to consider his past position, land even these are not promptly paid, Government should also enhance pensioners to establish a Union and mandate that Union to verify all existing Pensioners in Person so as to eradicate Ghost ones and those one payment vouchers which monies are left in the hands of Treasury Officials.
I, Francis Darlington Musa, do hereby (in the name of Allah Swear) (Solemnly on the Quran) that the statement or presentation I have made is true and nothing but the truth, so help me oh Allah.
Faithfully submitted by:
Francis Darlington Musa,
Hon. Ex-member of Parliament,
Kenema Central Constituency, Kenema Dist.
1998 TREASON TRIALS AND COURT MARTIAL
APC STATEMENT AT THEMATIC HEARING
MONDAY 14TH JULY 2003 – Victor Bockarie Foh
In March this year, the All Peoples Congress (APC) made a comprehensive submission contained in a 31 (thirty-one) page booklet. In paragraph 15 at pages 24, 25 and 26 of that parent submission are found the party’s position on the 1998 Treason Trials, Court Martial and the NPRC Extra-Judicial Killing of James Bambay Kamara and others.
When President Kabbah was re-instated in 1998, he abandoned the pacific and reconciliatory line as was required by the fluid military and political situation then. The SLPP vigilantes and Kamajors were let loose like wild dogs on defenseless people. In a most unprecedented manner, Public Servants and many officers who were collectively called collaborators were arrested and tortured. It is reported that the number of so-called collaborators who were detained at the maximum-security prison at Pademba Road numbered about 5,000 people. This is a prison with a capacity for less than 400 inmates. Perceived political opponents of the SLPP government were all rounded up, tortured and detained. Many unfortunate Sierra Leaneans were lynched or burnt alive by hysterical SLPP youths and kamajors. People like Musa Kabia, Sheikh Mustaba, Sakoma and Abu Black — all members of the APC – suffered this fate. Radio 98.1. played a decisive role in instigating those murders.
THE SLPP 1998 TREASON TRIALS AND COURT MARTIAL
Those trials were vengeful acts and a travesty of justice. All suspects were tortured and brought before the three established treason courts. They were described by Solomon Berewa, now Vice President, as “collaborators”. The Treason and State Offences Act 1963 has no place for collaborators! Was President Kabbah himself not collaborator during the NPRC Junta which he served as Chief Advisor?
Public Notice No. 4 of 1998 issued by Vice President Berewa, then the Attorney General, is a disgrace to the integrity of all Sierra Leeneans. By that Public Notice which was issued after the offence of the alleged treason Solomon Berewa deprived accused persons of FAIR HEARING and violated Section 25 of the Constitution.
Public Notice No. 4 of 1598 also changed the old age Criminal Procedure Act of 1965 and the standard, historic and unanimous 12-man verdict of the jury to a politically manipulated 8-man verdict of the jury. This was at the expense of the lives of innocent ordinary citizens of our country.
The treason trials were irregular, unfair and emotionally dressed up as the law even though they were not legal. In a desperate and exasperating effort by the Kabbah/Berewa SLPP Administration to exterminate perceived political opponents, that obnoxious Public Notice was issued. The APC appeals to the TRC to address that miscarriage of justice against political opponents in the interest of national reconciliation.
THE 1998 SLPP COURT MARTIAL
Never in the history of Sierra Leone has a government proclaiming itself a democratically elected government of the people, descended to such barbarous depths of brutality and revenge killings. When President Kabbah was re-instated in 1998, he appealed to all rebels and soldiers to surrender and promised that those who surrendered would be protected. A large number of soldiers this surrendered to ECOMOG or to the Guinean authorities in the Republic of Guinea. Killing surrendered soldiers did not encourage their colleagues in the bush to lay down their arms. As a result, some soldiers joined the RUF rebels in a self-defensive move. It was that group that invaded Freetown, broke into Pademba Road prisons and set free all inmates.
With indecent haste and reckless indifference, the Kabbah SLPP administration having Solomon Berewa as hatchet man, killed 24 (twenty-four) soldiers – most of them Senior Officers. – They were shot and killed after a very poorly conducted Court Martial.
The current head of the Armed Forces of Sierra Leone and Nigerian Military Officers helped President Kabbah and Berewa to do this dirty job. No appeal was allowed! Can such act engender national reconciliation in a democracy? The answer is an emphatic No!
Of the 24 soldiers executed, only 2 (two) were coupists – Tamba Gborie and Abu Sankoh a.k.a Zagallo. Both Gborie and Sankoh confessed in open court but Kabbah and Berewa refused to listen. To satisfy their whims and caprices, they tied valuable lives to stakes and shot them in cold blood. A woman Military officer, Major Kula Samba in charge of. rehabilitating child soldiers and combatants, was amongst those killed in cold blood.
We appeal to the TRC to investigate those Court Martial trials. The APC believes that President Kabbah’s revenge arrests, trials and executions cannot promote national reconciliation. They are a bad precedence for our fledging democracy.
EXTRA JUDICIAL KILLINGS BY THE NPRC JUNTA
The NPRC Junta was an illegal, treasonous, brutal and inhumane regime. The APC believes that no legality could come out of an illegality and we humbly submit that whatever the NPRC did cannot be justified let alone the brutal extra judicial killings they committed.
The NPRC executed 29 people who had been allegedly convicted by a Military Court headed by Lt. Col. Kesboyaft for allegedly plotting to overthrow the Junta. All those executed with the exception of a handful of military officers including Major A.S. Jalloh and Col. Kahota Dumbuya were already in prison having been arrested on the 29t’ of April 1992 on the day of the coup. Bambay Kamara the ex-Inspector General of Police and Lt. Col. Yayah Kanu for example had been arrested and detained on the day of the said coup. All 29 people were allegedly tried on the night of 29t’ December and executed on the 30th December 1992. The APC submits that no formal trials were conducted, but rather those 29 unfortunate Sierra Leoneans were tortured and killed extra judicially.
The victims of those extra judicial killings included 19 civilians who were arrested in a drinking pub at Lumpa village. Police had declared all of them innocent of the alleged crime. However, whilst detained at Pademba Road Prisons under the State Emergency, they were dragged out of the Prisons and killed.
It is strongly alleged that those extra judicial killings were far in excess of 29 persons as announced by the NPRC Junta at the time. We appeal to the TRC to ascertain the number of bodies dumped in a mass grave at Kingtom Cemetery after those executions. In the interest of national reconciliation, the APC appeals to the TRC to recommend compensations to the families of the victims of this heinous crime. In addition we request that the TRC recommends that the ring leaders of the NPRC Junta including its leader, Capt. Strasser and their Advisors come forward and confess their sins and ask for forgiveness.
The following were declared by the NPRC Junta to have been slaughtered on 29′ December, 1992:
(1) James Sambay Kamara
(2) Yayah Kanu
We believe many more were killed by the ruthless and illegal NPRC Junta and their collaborators than has been made public. The APC request that the NPRC makes a clean breast of these murders. As a party, we are disturbed at such gross day light murders committed against our people in violation of section 16 (an entrenched clause) of the Sierra Leone Constitution.
We hear of mass graves being discovered in the provinces. We know that Bambay Kamara and others were murdered and dumped into a mass grave here in Freetown. In the interest of national reconciliation, the APC requests the TRC to look into the NPRC extra-judicial killing of so many of our party members, James Bambay Kamara and others.
Faithfully submitted: APC
THE TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION
DETENTIONS, TREASON TRIALS, COURT MARTIAL AND EXECUTIONS OF 1998
APC PRESENTATION – BY VICTOR BOCKARIE FOH
As a result of the illegal overthrow of the civilian government of President Ahmad Kabbah on 25th May 1997, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) usurped the reins of the government of Sierra Leone.
President Kabbah and members of his government and many common citizens fled to next door Conakry, Guinea. Those who did not were harassed and or detained by the AFRC Junta. A large number of civil servants, civil leaders, business people and others who did not flee the country, stayed on, and continued in their various positions as under the ousted civilian government.
This was a repetition of events five years earlier, when on 29 April 1992, the legitimate civilian government of President Joseph Momoh was illegally overthrown by the Armed Forces and replaced by the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) Junta. The NPRC committed TREASON, yet their God Fathers, the SLPP shields them.
Like in 1997 when President Kabbah fled to Conakry, President Momoh also fled to Conakry in 1992, Guinea and those members of his government who did not flee were harassed, detained and persecuted by the notorious NPRC Junta. However, most civil servants, civic leaders and business people and others stayed on in the country and carried on their business as usual. Many were punished, harassed, tortured, detained, frog matched and others killed with due process of law by the NPRC Junta.
In 1997, due to the ferocity of their take over of the government, coupled with the fact that the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) joined them, there was strong resistance to the takeover by the AFRC Junta.
Moreover, the regional peace-keeping force of the Economic Community of West Africa, (ECOWAS), ECOMOG, was deployed to counter and reverse the AFRC military takeover. After a sustained military campaign, ECOMOG was successful in ousting the AFRC from power in February 1998 at great loss of lives of innocent common citizens and valuable private and public property. These events got the endorsement of President Kabbah who was restored to power and a complete restoration of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone ensued.
THE TASK FORCE -AN UNFORTUNATE CREATION
In early February 1998 when a largely Nigerian ECOMOG Force invaded Freetown and chased out the AFRC/RUF Military Junta from power, President Kabbah and the 1991 Sierra Leone Constitution were restored.
However, President Kabbah stayed behind in Conakry, Guinea and sent 10(ten) of his most trusted SLPP aides as a TASK FORCE to carry out a nasty “Hit and Kill” anti-SLPP elements in Sierra Leone.
Vice President Albert Joe Demby, Attorney General Solomon Berewa, Julius Spenser and Alie Bangura of Radio 98.1 were among the trusted Kabbah allies in this Task Force.
Nigeria Ecomog, the Mende Tribal Kamajor Militia, Radio 98.1, the Kabbah appointed Task Force agitated hoodlums and pro-SLPP hot heads into violence and mob action. Perceived political opponents and their families were targeted for killing and torture and their properties for destruction, looting and burning.
The spate of killings and burnings in Freetown and the regions ware as a result of this measure of miscalculation and intended vengeance by the Task Force. Most unfortunately, Alhaji Musa Kabia, Sheik Mujtaba, Sakoma suffered this unfortunate ordeal. Properties worth millions were razed to the ground. Many innocent common citizens suffered the same plight.
This notorious Task Force later metamorphosed into a very corrupt money making screening panel of the several thousands of alleged anti-SLPP detainees in police cells all over the country and at the Pademba Road Maximum Security Prisons. This most unholy and dirty job was done, ironically, in the name of restoration of democratically elected government of Tejan Kabbah.
THE 1998 SLPP TREASON TRIALS AND COURT MARTIAL – GENERAL
When President Kabbah was re-instated in 1998, he abandoned the pacific and reconciliatory line as was required by the fluid military and political situation then. The SLPP vigilantes and Kamajors were let loose like wild dogs on defenseless people.
In a most unprecedented manner large numbers of persons, including civil servants, civic leaders, business people and others, were molested, subsequently arrested, tortured and detained. Some were later charged with treason under the Treason and State Offences Act, 1963. Soon after his restoration, President Kabbah by Proclamation, declared a State of Public Emergency and pursuant to this, Public Notice No. 4 of 1998 dated 9t’ April 1998 was issued. This Public Notice amended the Criminal Procedure Act 1965, No. 32 of 1995 and certain aspects of the law of evidence and procedural rules relating to criminal trials in the country. This was, without doubt, done in bad faith to facilitate the trial of persons perceived as anti-SLPP. (For ease of reference, Public Notice No. 4 of 9th April 1998 is attached.)
Those charged with treason were regarded as “collaborators” in the eyes of the SLPP Kabbah government and its supporters. They were perceived as such for having stayed on in their home country after the overthrow of the SLPP government and, in most cases continued in their positions and businesses. Therefore, it was felt, they collaborated with the military junta of the AFRC and facilitated its stay in power, however brief. The irony, of course, cannot be missed that in 1992 when the previous APC civilian government of President J.S. Momoh was overthrown, and almost every civil servant stayed on during the interregnum of the NPRC junta, there was no feeling or talk of collaboration even though several key members of the Kabbah SLPP government including President Kabbah himself and Vice President Berewa served in key decision making positions during the illegal NPRC junta rule.
The use of the Rules contained in Public Notice No. 4 of 1998 for the trial of persons charged with treason following the events of May 25, 1997 gave rise to many problems in view of the provisions of the national Constitution 1991 and the laws of our country. These problems concern fair hearing and the validity of the Rules themselves.
The number of so-called collaborators detained at the maximum-security prison at Pademba Road was about 5,000 people. This is a prison with a capacity far less than 400 inmates. Perceived political opponents of the SLPP government were all rounded up, tortured and detained. Many unfortunate Sierra Leoneans were lynched or burnt alive by hysterical SLPP youths and Kamajors. Musa Kabia, Sheikh Mustaba, – Sakoma and Abu Black – all members of the APC – suffered this fate. Radio 98.1 played a decisive role in instigating those murders. Scores of those detained died in prison in awful conditions of detention.
THE SLPP 1998 TREASON TRIALS
Those trials were vengeful acts and a travesty of justice.
All suspects were tortured and brought before the three established treason courts. They were described by Attorney General Solomon Berewa, now Vice President, as “collaborators”. The Treason and State Offences Act 1963 has no place for collaborators! Were President Kabbah and Solomon Berewa not collaborators during the NPRC junta which they served as Chief Advisors?
Public Notice No. 4 of 1998 issued by Vice President Berewa, then the Attorney General, is a disgrace to the integrity of all Sierra Leoneans. By that Public Notice which was issued after the offence of the alleged treason, Attorney General Solomon Berewa deprived all accused persons of FAIR HEARING and violated Section 25 of the Constitution.
Public Notice No. 4 of 1998 also changed the old age Criminal Procedure Act of 1965 and the standard, historic and unanimous 12-man jury verdict to a politically manipulated 8-man jury verdict. This was at the expense of the lives of innocent ordinary citizens of our country.
Such a fundamental change regarding the unanimity rule of jury verdict, must be brought about by Parliament in an Act clearly and unequivocally stating so.
Dilution of the rule of unanimity of the verdict of the jury, by ad hoc Emergency Regulations contained in the notorious Public Notice No. 4 of 1998 on the eve of the trial of persons on grave charges not arising from any alleged breach of the Emergency Regulations themselves prejudiced their chances of a fair trial and acquittal by the jury. It hurt many sections of the Constitution and particularly Sections 23 and 25 (5)d. These Rules amounted to an amendment of the Constitution contrary to the proviso in section 29(6)(d).
It is difficult to reconcile the several provisions contained in the notorious Public Notice No. 4 of 1998 with important provisions of the Constitution stipulating the fundamental human right to a fair hearing. Thus, the use of the provisions of Public Notice No. 4 of 1998 in the trial of accused persons following the AFRC Coup of 25 May 1997, fell foul of the Constitution. Such manipulation of the Laws of Sierra Leone cannot engender National Reconciliation.
The APC is convinced that the Rules in Public Notice No. 4 of 1998 were neither fair nor regular and not in conformity with the provisions of the Constitution. They were an emotional and ad hoc response dressed up as legal rules, albeit, to meet an exasperating political situation. The APC holds the view that this was bad experiment by the SLPP government and such act cannot enhance national reconciliation.
These kangaroo treason trials were irregular, unfair and emotionally dressed up as the law even though they were not legal. In a desperate and exasperating effort by the Kabbah/Berewa SLPP Administration to exterminate perceived political opponents, that obnoxious Public Notice was issued. The APC appeals to the TRC to address that miscarriage of justice against political opponents in the interest of national reconciliation, the Rule of Law and the promotion of true democracy.
There were 3 (three) Treason Trial Courts: –
Court No. 1 (one) – Victor Bockarie Foh and 17 others:
(1) Victor Bockarie Foh *
(2) Hilton Ebenezer Fyle*
(3) Alieu Badara Kamara*
(4) Ibrahim Ben Kargbo*
(5) Denis Smith*
(6) Gipu Felix George*
(7) Olivia Mensah*
(8) Darlinda Lebby (Acquitted and Discharged)
(9) Dr. Christian Kargbo*
(10) Ibrahim Manty Foday Sesay*
(11) Kaifen Tablay Kallay*
(12) Mohamed Alikadi Bangura*
(13) Mohamed Kuraray Bangura*
(14) William Saybana Bangura*
(15) Sheku A.T. Bayoh*
(16) Edward Akar*
(17) Professor William Taylor*
(18) Mohamed Kekura Daramy (Acquitted and Discharged)
NOTE: 16* were sentenced to death by Judge Cowan
Court No. 2 (two) – Modibo Leslie Lymon and 20 others: –
(1) Modibo Leslie Lymon*
(2) Ajina Sesay*
(3) Kweku Dixon*
(4) Tarik Dumbuya*
(5) Alisious Fofana*
(6) Samuel Sampha Sesay (5 years imprisonment)
(7) Claude Campbell*
(8) Patrick Tommy*
(9) Lawrence L. Lamin (10 years imprisonment)
(10) Basiru Savage*
(11) Kainde Bangura*
(12) Mayila Yansaneh*
(13) Philip Sankoh (5 years imprisonment)
(14) Harry B. Alpha (5 years imprisonment)
(15) A.B. Sankoh (Died during Trial)
(16) Jalloh Jamboriah (Acquitted and discharged)
(17) Mabinti Scott (Acquitted and discharged)
(18) Nancy Steel*
(19) Samuel Sani Sesay (10 years imprisonment)
(20) Winnifred Cummings (Acquitted and discharged)
NOTE: 11* were sentenced to death.
Court No. 3 (three) Agibola Manley Spaine and 21 others
(1) Ajibola Manley Spain
(2) Baila Leigh
(3) Matilda King
(4) David Bangura
(5) Saidu Daniel Bangura
(6) Hamid Abdul Kamara
(7) Joseph Saidu Momoh
(8) Stephen Cathys Bio
(9) Hassan Barrie
(10) Victor Brandon
(11) Sheik Abubakarr Nabie
(12) Umaru Deen Sesay
(13) Dennis Kawuta Kamara
(14) Abdul Salami Williams
(1S) John Tommy
(16) Pastor Ajisafe
(17) Gibril Massaquoi
(18) Winston Crowther
(19) Alpha Omega Bundu
(20) Eben Victor Coker
(21) Alhaji Ibrahim Kargbo
Evidence adduced and verdict of guilt were at variance. Hearing of these matters by any competent court of Appeal would have, without doubt, acquitted and discharged all. By an interesting scenario, the carefully selected treason trial judges who presided over these Kangaroo Treason Trials are currently in sweet romance with the SLPP government of the day.
Michael Birnbaum Q.C. an Observer from the Commonwealth Secretariat to the 1998 Treason Trials and Court Martial wrote thus:
“The Prosecution submit that all the defendants in all 3 civil trials are guilty of treason. The Defence submit that none of them are. Indeed many of the defendants go further: they claim that they are entirely innocent of any wrongdoing. My own belief is that the true position may be somewhere between these 2 extremes. In my view it is arguable that under the law of Sierra Leone:
(a) merely assisting an illegal government to perpetuate its existence is not treason.
(b) as a matter of law treason is complete once the lawful government has been overthrown and its powers usurped. Acts commencing after overthrow and usurpation are not acts of treason. I leave it to others to decide when exactly this point was reached in relation to the AFRC coup against the government of President Kabbah. But it is difficult to argue that the process of overthrow and usurpation lasted beyond about the end of June 1997.”
In his foot note, Birmbaum Q.C. said:
“It may be helpful to add a footnote re the death penalty. It is now accepted that it is discretionary (see Sorie-Fornah). It follows in my view that anyone convicted of treason has the right to mitigate and call evidence in order to seek to persuade the judge to exercise the discretion not to sentence him to death. It also follows that if he does not succeed at first instance he is entitled to the normal statutory rights of appeal against sentence.”
THE 1998 COURT MARTIAL
That unfortunate Court Martial indictees were:
- SLA 18164384 Cpl. Tamba Gborie and 37 others
2. * SLA 18163273 Sgt. Alfred Abu Sankoh*
3. SLA 200 Brig. Hassan Conteh
4. * SLA 301 Col. James Max Kanga*
5. SLA 207 Col. Abdul Karim Sesay*
6. SLA 448 Sqn. Ldr. Victor L. King*
7. SLA 144 Col. Daniel Kobina Anderson*
8. SLA 204 Col. Samuel F. Y. Koroma*
9. SLA 405 Lt. Cmdr. Samuel Gilbert*
10. SLA 223 Lt. Col. David Boisy Palmer*
11. SLA 214 Lt. Col. Anthony B. Mansaray v
12. SLA 152 Col. Alpha Saaba Kamara v
13. SLA 220 Col. John Amadu S. Conteh*
14. SLA 339 Maj. Kula Samba*
15. SLA 215 Col. Claude Nelson-Williams v
16. SLA 417 Maj. Abdul M. Koroma v
17. SLA 404 Lt. Cmdr. Francis M. Duwai ~
18. SLA 465 Maj. Augustine F. Koroma*
19. SLA 358 Maj. Tamba Anthony Abu v
20. SLA 495 Maj. Bayoh Conteh*
21. SLA 462 Capt. Albert Johnny Moore*
22. SLA 674 Capt. Abu Bakarr Kamara*
23. SLA 501 Capt. Simbo Sankoh*
24. SLA 439 Capt. Idrissa Keitta Khemolai*
25. SLA 650 Lt. Jim Kelly Jolloh*
26. SLA 434 Capt. Josiah Boisy Pratt*
27. SLA 634 Flying Officer Amold H. Bangura ~
28. SLA 527 Capt. R. Beresford Harleston %o
29. SLA 531 Lt Marouff Sesay*
30. SLA 18163392 W.O. II Jonathan Dero Showers ~
31. SLA 272 Col. P.F. Fode*
32. SLA 415 Lt. Cmdr. L.D. Howard*
33. SLA 300 Lt. Col. Bashiru S. Conteh %o
34. SLA 412 Lt. Cmdr. Abdul Aziz Dumbuya*
NOTE: *24 were hooded, tied, shot and killed
%o 10 got their sentences commuted to life imprisonment
1. SLA 270 Lt. Col. Saa Anthony Sinnah
2. SLA 765 Lt. A.M. Keita
3. SLA 675 Lt. A.B.S. Bah
DIED IN PRISON
1. SLA 18130395 Pte. Gilbril Din-Sesay
Never in the history of Sierra Leone has a government proclaiming itself a democratically elected government of the people, descended to such barbarous depths of brutality and revenge killings. When President Kabbah was re-instated in 1998, he appealed to all rebels and soldiers to surrender and promised that those who surrendered would be protected. A large number of soldiers thus surrendered to ECOMOG or to the Guinean authorities in the Republic of Guinea. Killing surrendered soldiers did not encourage their colleagues in the bush to lay down their arms. As a result, some soldiers joined the RUF rebels in a self-defensive move. It was that group that invaded Freetown, broke into Pademba Road prisons and set free all inmates on 6th January 1999.
With indecent haste and reckless indifference, the Kabbah SLPP administration having Solomon Berewa as hatchet man, killed 24 (twenty-four) soldiers – most of them Senior Officers. – They were tied to stakes, shot and killed after a very poorly conducted Court Martial.
The current head of the Armed Forces of Sierra Leone and Nigerian Military Officers helped President Kabbah and Berewa to do this dirty job. No appeal was allowed! Can such act engender national reconciliation in a democracy? The answer is an emphatic No!
Of the 24 soldiers executed, only 2 (two) were coupists – Tamba Gborie and Abu Sankoh a.k.a Zagallo. Both Gborie and Sankoh confessed in open court but the SLPP, Kabbah and Berewa refused to listen. To satisfy their whims and caprices, they tied valuable lives to stakes and shot them in cold blood. A woman Military officer, Major Kula Samba in charge of rehabilitating child soldiers and cambatants, was amongst those killed in cold blood. (Attached are sworn statements of Cpl. Tamba Gborie and Sgt. Abu Sankoh (Zagalo). Also attached are photo-copies of pictures of the 24 (twenty-four) soldiers that were inhumanely executed with indecent haste, callous indifference, abuse of their human rights of appeal and denial of fair hearing.
The APC appeal to the TRC to investigate those Court Martial trials. The APC believes that President Kabbah’s revenge arrests, trials and hasty executions of 24 (twenty-four) soldiers cannot promote national reconciliation. They are a bad precedence for our fledging democracy. By these executions, the Sierra Leone Army lost many of its best brains, mush of its dignity, moral, prestige and hope.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is making a historic bridge between the past of a deeply divided society characterized -by strife, conflict, untold suffering and injustice, and a future founded on the recognition of human rights, democracy, peaceful co-existence and development opportunities for all Sierra Leoneans, irrespective of region, tribe, class, belief or sex. The pursuit of national unity and reconciliation for the well-being of all Sierra Leonean and peace requires reconciliation between the citizenry and a genuine and sincere reconstruction of our society by government.
The All Peoples Congress (APC) is of the hope that a secure foundation for the people of Sierra Leone shall transcend the divisions and strife of the past, which generated gross violations of human rights, the transgression of humanitarian principles during our horrible and violent civil conflict and the legacy of hatred, fear, guilt and revenge which the civil war brought onto our country.
There is a need for understanding but not for vengeance, a need for reparation but not for retaliation, a need for dignity for Sierra Leoneans but not for victimization and need to advance such reconciliation and reconstruction in respect of acts, omissions and offences committed with political and tribal objectives and vengeance.
Without forgiveness there really is no future. It is with this in mind that the Honourable Ernest Bai Koroma, Leader of the All Peoples Congress and the rank and file membership of our party has promised forgiveness for all and sundry including those who took up arms to destroy Sierra Leone with the pretext of removing the APC from State Governance.
The All Peoples Congress (APC) appeals to the TRC to make fitting recommendations through which genuine national unity and reconciliation could be achieved in our democratic experiment.
1998 ARREST AND REASON
BY ABU NOAH
The democratically elected Government of His Excellency, President Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah returned to power from exile in Guinea in 1998 and was received with tumultuous ovation by citizens. In the wake of the national jubilation over the forceful removal from power of the AFRC/RUF interregnum, many citizens who bore grievance and /or malice against other citizens exploited the state of confusion that followed the temporary absence of State Governance. That state of affairs came about as a result of the fact that the newly reinstated government had not yet settled down to assume full control of the administration. Most of the senior officials, including the Attorney General, were shuttling in and out of the country on important state missions. The police, which was infested with AFRC/RUF sympathisers, appeared ineffective to maintain law and order, and in some cases, such as my case, aided and abetted the perpetration of criminal acts against some citizens; especially those whom they felt, sometimes unfairly were hostile to the ousted regime.
The prevailing atmosphere was awash with treachery and chicanery. Vendetta led to peddling of malicious stories that were baseless and scandalous. Those stories were recklessly supported by the semblance of authority represented by the police and led to erroneous mob justice. A lot of citizens, including soldiers, religious leaders, business people and politicians were burnt alive and their property burnt down and /or vandalized. Female victims, adults and girl children alike, were grossly abused. All these actions were perpetrated on an incomprehensible charge of collaboration. In short, any relationship with the ousted junta, be it a word, an action, an article in a newspaper that was misconstrued constituted a capital crime for which one suffered death. Those who were lucky to escape death suffered arbitrary imprisonment. Those actions were effectively approved and supported by the ECOMOG. In most cases the ECOMOG was the executioner by arbitrary firing squad.
The situation got so bad that one felt that one was in a strange environment with beasts. Arbitrary killing and burning-alive of citizens seemed to excite the macabre appetite of the ECOMOG soldiers. No one was safe except those who were identified as non-collaborators. The pain was that most of the youths who were perpetrating those acts were the very gatekeepers of the AFRC/RUF. On the return of the democratically elected government, the perpetrators automatically transformed themselves into pro-government thugs. And to distort the truth of their involvement with the ousted rebel regime, they became boisterous and demonstrably vociferous and militant. It was those youth that the police and ECOMOG used in the early days of the reinstated government to settle. scores, the basis of which was only known to them. But many died brutally and many more suffered in jail wrongly. I was one of those who suffered arbitrary imprisonment for two long boring weeks until the Attorney General (AG) took my matter up with the President who magnanimously righted the wrong by releasing me.
WHAT WAS MY OFFENCE
In 1997, while the ousted democratic government was in exile in Guinea and military intervention was on the air, a conciliatory meeting was held in Guinea between the democratically elected government and the international community on the one hand, and the ARFRC/RUF junta led by Major Johnny Paul Koroma. At that meeting it was suggested that the ECOMOG Commander, General Victor Mallu and Johnny Paul should meet in Freetown to arrange a smooth transition to civilian rule to obviate military intervention. Both parties acceded and the General left Guinea for Sierra Leone and went to his base at Lungi. From Lungi he invited Johnny Paul to cross over to Lungi for the meeting they were supposed to hold in Freetown. Johnny Paul was reluctant to go over and that act of seeming refusal to go led to the heightening of tension. Military intervention appeared very imminent.
Citizens went wild with dangerous speculations including an invitation for military intervention. Johnny Paul’s claim that General Victor Mallu was to come over to Freetown for the meeting to take place at State House was translated as recalcitrance and the intervention troops were generally urged to enter the city. To me, that was a dangerous development. I knew that it was going to be very disastrous. Lives, property, security would all be recklessly and without discrimination, devastated. The effect of military intervention would be catastrophic. In my humble view, I argued, both parties were afraid of each other. Johnny Paul was, quite plainly, afraid because of his vulnerable position. He had very insignificant national support, no international support, no trained Army, no sophisticated weaponry, indeed, he had nothing absolutely on which to fall back if things went wrong. On the contrary, Victor Mallu was a professional soldier and he had among other things, a highly trained and motivated army, :sopoisticated weapons, air and ground support. National and international support weighed very heavily in his favour. Besides, he had seen actions in various theatres of war.
It was a very candid view that Mallu was at fault in refusing to come over to Freetown to meet with Johnny Paul as was mandated at Conakry, Guinea. While Johnny Paul had very good reason to be afraid to go over, General Victor Mallu had no reason whatsoever to be afraid to come to State House. That argument was published in a newspaper captioned `Johnny Paul’s statement is ok.’ That publication was my offence and it earned me the negative term “Collaborator” and sent me to jail. My imprisonment was occasioned by some policemen who claimed that the article was collaborative with the junta regime. The irony was that the very people who sent me to jail served the junta from the first day to the the day it was kicked out of office by the interventionist force. Th ECOMOG officer who was posted to the Wilberforce/Hill Station axis went to the Criminal investigations Department (CID) to enquire why I was arrested. They told him it was on orders from above. Capt. Abiodun, the ECOMOG Commander, asked who was the ‘above’ to which the CID Personnel had no answer. Captian Abiodun than went over to Police Headquarters and confronted Deputy inspector General of Police, Mr. Kanyako, with the matter. Mr. Kanyako also referred Captain Abiodun to the mysterious ‘above’. Abiodun next went over to the Inspector General; he also directed him Attorney General (AG). Unfortunately, the Attorney General was out of the country. That was how I got goaled again wrongly for 2 weeks.
Finally, generally, as I explained in my presentation on the 22nd of July, 2003, at the YWCA New Hall, Brookfields, I was wrongfully jailed for 15 (Fifteen) years, of which I served 10 years 8months. I had been previously imprisoned for three months and nine months for speaking out couraly against undemocratic acts and abuse of human rights. I also suffered loss of employment and terminal and retirement benefits. As a matter of fact, I still have not received any letter of either dismissal or retirement. Perhaps the TRC may look into my case and help.
THEMATIC, EVENT-SPECIFIC AND INSTITUTIONAL HEARINGS AT THE SIERRA LEONE TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION REF/TRC/FBK/20: THE JANUARY 6 1999 ATTACK ON FREETOWN.
Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen. My name is Samuel J.M. Maligi II.
Prior to the conflict, I was and I am still employed as the National Executive Director of the Sierra Leone Opportunities Industrialization Centres (SLOIC) with the National Head Office here in Freetown.
In 1995, I was appointed Secretary of State by the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) in charge of Local Government Rural Development and National Security (Internal Affairs), for which I took a leave of absence from SLOIC for a year.
Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, you may wish to know what SLOIC is and what it does. SLOIC is a Human Resource Development Programme specifically designed or structured to help young men and women acquire skills so as to provide employment possibilities and at the same time making them productive citizens and assuring them of their self esteem.
Thus the current mission of SLOIC is, “”to assist the Government of Sierra Leone with the rehabilitation, reconstruction and resettlement/ reintegration of ex-combatants, war-affected individuals, unemployed youths and school leavers into productive society through training in technical/vocational skills and job creation, entrepreneurial development, credit assistance, counseling and peace building for reconciliation”.
WHAT ARE OUR OBJECTIVES?
Our Specific Objectives Are To:
-develop marketable knowledge and skills increase -income and productivity
-expand employment opportunities, self-sustainability of persons and groups to enable them to rise above the devastations of war.
Our philosophy therefore is based on the idea of self-help as we believe that everyone can learn and acquire marketable skills, though at different scales and under different conditions. We achieve this through our fee-free practical and appropriate training programmes in instructions paced for the individual rather than the class, and an ongoing counseling.
TRAINING AND SERVICE CENTRES
The Sierra Leone OIC Programme expansion in response to community expressed needs as at June 1996 reveals that SLOIC has seven Training and Service Centres and a National Co-ordinating Office in Freetown.
- Bo Vocational Training Centre (1977)
- Freetown Counselling and Business Development Institute (1978)
- Bo Small Enterprise Development Centre (1989)
- Makeni Vocational Training Centre (1990)
- Makeni (Gary Robinson) Small Enterprise Development Centre (1991)
- Mattru Jong Integrated Rural and Women’s Development Centre (1993)
- Freetown Vocational, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Centre (1996)
MY EXPERIENCES DURING THE CONFLICT
I believe that the conflict really started in 1991 and during that time, we still continued with our SLOIC operations at the various centres. Infact the Makeni (Gary Robinson) Small Enterprise Development Centre was officially opened in 1991, and the Mattru long Integrated Rural and Women’s Development Centre was established in 1993. Eighteen months after the start of the Mattru Jong Centre the rebels overran Mattru long making it a no go area. This was the beginning of anxious moments for me. I was worried over the lives of the trainees and staff and also worried over the building materials that were first shipped to Mattru.
I am very thankful to God that He made it possible for me to send some money over to help them move to either Bo or Bonthe from where most of them were brought to Freetown by sea. Our movement was now limited to Bo and Makeni from Freetown but not without hindrance. There were at least thirty seven (37) check points between Freetown and Bo, about thirty (30) between Freetown and Makeni. At that time the check-points were mounted and manned by soldiers and Special Security Division Police Personnel (SSDs). Travelling was not fun.
At the end of that year 1994, I was appointed Secretary of State, Internal Affairs and Rural Development in charge of Local Government in January 1995. During my brief period of service, I recommended the formation of the Council of Chiefs at each administrative level District, Provincial and National which was approved by the council of state. The idea was to have an organized group of chiefs that government can interact with and relate to. I also sent chiefs on missions in different parts of the country. I also travelled extensively within the country to talk to our internally displaced people and once to Guinea, a trip that created some problems for me. I cannot remember what I said in Kbekedou in one of our refugee camps that angered Foday Sankoh which made him to declare me a wanted man dead or alive. The radio announcement was intercepted by our ambassador in Guinea when Sankoh was communicating with his commanders.
He, (the Ambassador), quickly informed Freetown which caused the beefing up of my personal security team.
I believe I did my best inspite of disagreements here and there until I was relieved of my duties in January 1996 after the palace coup.
I came back to my office at SLOIC and in June 1996, we opened the Freetown Vocational, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Centre which immediately started training internally displaced persons and wives of service men that were either killed or missing in action. We trained over one thousand five hundred people.
We were about to organize a certification ceremony when the Johnny Paul Koroma coup took place that weekend, May 25th 1997.
I had planned to stay in the country but was advised to leave immediately. Four days later, I left for Conakry, Guinea. While in Guinea, I worked with FAWE and wrote a proposal to UNDP which was approved for the opening of a school for our refugee children. We registered over two thousand primary, secondary and tertiary pupils and students. UNICEF helped with school materials. Over eighty five Sierra Leonean teachers were employed.
While in Conakry, my house at Murray Town was completely looted, and most of the vehicles taken away. Those that could not be taken away became spare parts. I was later called from our office in the U.S. that my home was bombed. They apparently saw it on the CNN news.
PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
My plans for the future are to work hard enough to establish OIC in every district in Sierra Leone. At the moment, few districts interest group committees have been formed. These include Kailahun, Kono, Kenema (Panguma) and Koinadugu. The other plan is to ensure that SLOIC provides a “‘handy man” in every community in Sierra Leone. All of these require support from the government,donor organizations and the people of Sierra Leone.
MY SPECIFIC KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE OF JANUARY 6 1999 ATTACK ON FREETOWN.
Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Ladies and Gentlemen. The events of January 6t” 1999 and beyond are common knowledge to every one that was in Freetown. I will therefore limit myself to events that affected me as an individual, family head, head of an organization and a responsible citizen.
At about 1:30am of January 6th, I heard a heavy bang on my door like a detonation and in panic heard the voice of my nephew, “Uncle Sam, den don enter”, I was half naked when I got up and asked, “they who?” “The rebels!”, he replied. He said his friend just called to tell him. This was not quite a surprise, so I frantically made a few telephone calls to the east side of town to know if it was true and to check on my staff and relations that were on that side of town. We however continued monitoring the situation until day break.
From that Wednesday morning of January 6th, it was like hell on earth for everybody. My greatest concern was for staff members most of whom were on the east end and some relatives especially my younger sister who served as a juror on the last treason trial before the events of January 6th . After two agonizing nights, I succeeded in
either hearing from or seeing most of my staff and relatives. By the end of that weekend I had over sixty people in my house.
A little over a week after the 6th or there about, a team of ECOMOG soldiers entered my compound and launched two rocket propelled grenades (RPG) into my home and sprayed my bedroom windows with bullets. Few minutes later they banged at my door ordering us to open the door or risk being killed. Most of my people ran to the basement of the house leaving few of us including my ailing mother in her wheel chair.
I however braved it to the door and opened it and immediately there were about five guns pointed at my chest and pushing me further into the house from the door. They immediately ordered everyone outside including my mother in her wheel chair. It was at that point that I lost patience and was ready to die by their guns. I slowly wheeled my mother out and they asked all the men to prostrate with their faces on the ground and pushed me with their guns into the house again.
They kicked every door opened and each time they opened a door, they will push me inside before they will enter. They searched every bag, box and corner of each room before I was matched outside again. While we were outside, my cousin Patrick Tucker was identified as some one they saw spying on them from our veranda and was given a nasty slap. They later ordered me to go with them to their base down at Murray Town. It was on our way to the base that I learnt that somebody was shooting at them from my compound. I was not even given a chance to either explain or defend myself. I was shocked when I was shown some bodies floating near the base with the remark “don’t worry you will soon join your people” referring to the floating bodies and I was ordered to sit on the bare ground to wait for the last order from their boss who was at that moment out of the base.
Mr. Chairman and commissioners, you can imagine how I was feeling at that moment. I became very indignant. I must for ever be grateful to a private soldier by the name of Joseph Peters who materialized from nowhere to save my life. I was labelled a ‘rebel’ and we all know that at that time there was synonymity between rebel and death. Joseph was prepared to lay his life for me and even after their boss, a colonel, came, Joseph argued to a point that the argument was changed into a Nigerian language so that I could not understand what was being said. Today I sit here to talk about it because my life was eventually saved by that young man who was only demonstrating gratitude for what he believed I had done for him and colleagues in the past. I was later released that evening and Joseph was asked to bring me home. While I was there I was very worried about my mother because of her condition but I must confess that my mother was by far stronger than me.
When they brought me back, my mother laughed that she knew I was coming back while the rest of my relatives and staff were crying knowing that anyone that was taken to the naval base never returned at that time.
One important thing I forgot to mention was the President’s declaration of ceasefire when all that divided us and the rebels was the Congo cross bridge.
I was so mad that I developed diarrhea. I must have visited the rest room four times in thirty minutes knowing fully well that the rebels were occupying the greater and best part of the city. Thinking about it now, I say thank God the President made that declaration because the greater part of Freetown would have been in ashes if the confrontation had continued and we would have lost far more lives than we did. Indeed the President was acting from his head while most of us were thinking from our heart.
A few days after the naval base scenario, news came that my step father’s home was burnt down and that he and his eldest son were shot dead by gun men at Kissy Mess-Mess. One such gun man was identified as a Mr. Kamara also known in the area as “baboo suck lem”. It took us over a week to inform our mother, definitely not by me; she could not have learnt that from me.
In any case my sisters and some friends developed enough nerves to tell her, much against my cautionary position. I was however surprised when my mother called me and in a seemingly pleasant mood asked me to sit by her on her bed, she rose up and held my feet and said, “Sam my son, buy your last blessing from me” what do you mean, aunty? I asked. “Do not allow Tom and his son to be buried like dogs; exhume their bodies and give them a decent Christian burial”. “If I have the money, I will, aunty” I said. “Do not worry God will give you” she said.
About two weeks later, I came back to tell her that Mr. Tommy King and his son had been exhumed and given proper burial. “I know”, she said, and continued to say that they were trying people who were involved in killing. After that statement my mother never spoke to me again, in any case, nothing sensible until her death in the hospital nine days later. Up till this day I still cannot understand what she meant by: they were trying those who were involved in killing other people. May her soul Rest In Peace. Although I did not understand what she was saying, but that was the last, may I say, serious statement she made to me.
Yes, I saw quite a few killings around. Two of such killings that shocked me most took place at the stadium hostel while we were waiting for an inter-agency meeting. One young lady was shot over four times for her friend’s missing baby. The disheartening thing was even after the young lady was shot about four times she still struggled to get up and both ECOMOG and SSDs dragged her to the cemetery and sprayed her body with bullets. In less than thirty minutes a young man was shot dead. The bullets went through him and nipped a man who was just by me
Both people were killed by ECOMOG. Upon the arrival of the two officials we were waiting for, the Chairman of RRR then and the deputy Minister of Finance Development and Economic Planning I made a bitter complaint to them and asked my staff members to go home without attending the meeting.
The unfortunate case of “Evil Spirit” was public knowledge. I however did not see any of his killings but practically everyday reports were made about his madness.
The retreating effects of the rebels were very high and disastrous especially in the East-end of Freetown and its environs. It was even worse for us as an organization when they made their base in Makeni. During that period, the SLOIC Centres in Makeni were completly looted of training tools and equipment. The buildings were unroofed, doors and windows removed and damaged beyond repairs.
Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, the January 6th attack on the City and resultant activities caused extensive damage to an already inadequate economic and social infrastructure hence exacerbating poverty and under-development, further resulting into high unemployment, low salaries and wages, low investment levels, poor and in most cases negative attitudes towards work responsibilities. There is also a high level of social instability and inadequate training of the available manpower. This has impacted negatively on the government.
Also, payment of SLOIC staff salaries were unduly delayed and thus caused massive exodus of dedicated personnel to International NGOs and other organizations. Regardless of all human efforts within the powers of SLOIC management, this situation has still not been alleviated up to this moment of my submission in this commission.
However, the signing of the peace accord in Lome on the 7th July, 1999 was a relief which signaled the end to this senseless rebel menace. Inspite of the prevailing security which I believe is also necessary for the displaced people to return home, some of them still occupy the SLOIC training centre in Freetown, thus making the environment unattractive to donor support.
Notwithstanding this, the cessation of hostilities also enhanced the security necessary for the revival of SLOIC’s full operations. It is because of this atmosphere of peace and tranquillity that DFID constructed part of the Makeni OIC and promised to furnish this centre with tools and equipment. European Union (EU) assisted in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Mattru Jong OIC. Also, part of Bo OIC training hall was renovated by the Government of Sierra Leone through Ministry of Education. EED, a German agency, is currently assisting us in skills training programme at Mattru Jong, Bo and Freetown Vocational Skills Training Centres. Now, SLOIC, with the support of OICI, has trained and contracted female counselors to help raped women in SLOIC operational areas to regain their rightful place in society. Presently, we are managing to deliver skills training and counseling programmes to over a thousand trainees in all the centres excluding those on OJT (on the job training) and participants under the outreach programmes.
CAUSES OF THE WAR
Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Ladies and Gentlemen so much has been said about the causes of the senseless war and key amongst them is corruption. As true as this may seem, I see it a little more than that. I believe that the main cause is allowing our formal organizations to degenerate into informal organizations creating lawlessness, incompetence, tribalism, discrimination and injustice.
Formal Organization is any social unit which is deliberately organized for the explicit purpose of reaching a specific goal or goals, and it operates on definite rules. On the other hand, informal Organizations have no formal Organizational Structure. They may have leaders and followers, procedures and taboos but there are no written rules or “elected” offices.
Prior to 1967, you will agree with me that our government had firm formal structures, I mean organizational structures. The loosely structured approach to governance was followed by many concerns. These were concerns that gave bureaucrats freedom to set their own policies and rules as long as they were about to show profitable results of personal desires to the hierarchy in the bureaucracy.
This was how corruption had roots in our system. I will be most deceitful to say that prior to 1967, there was no corruption in this country. There is no corruption free society.
Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Ladies and Gentlemen, what are bureaucracies set for? Bureaucracies are to establish efficiency, uniformity and the prevention of corruption. If we accept these three functions of bureaucracy, are we convinced that our state bureaucracy since 1967 has given us this satisfaction and pride?
It reached a point in this country when bank customers have to bribe to withdraw what they want from their accounts as opposed to what the banks want to give them.
Scholarships were awarded not on merit but affiliation and how much one can pay to the bureaucrats. Jobs were offered on the same principle. People were made Paramount Chiefs not on merit but by might. What are the effects of all of these on our society?
Brain drain – most of our highly qualified professionals who cannot stand the heat or make meaningful changes left for other countries. The youths who became frustrated and have no means of leaving are found in the streets or pot corners and this is not by choice. A few will try to get some money and go to Liberia and prefer to struggle there for survival.
Some will stay here dissatisfied and in exasperation waiting to take advantage of any opportunity that creates chaos to vent their feelings and dislike of the system. Such youths were the easy converts of Foday Sankoh and his likes.
The looseness of the system also creates inconsistencies, laxness and of cause ideological deviations. Go to some government offices with very serious concerns, your first shock will be either the Receptionist or Secretary. You will be lucky to have him/her return your greetings not to talk about him/her perceiving your presence. She may either be buying bread and accara with the seller’s dish by an expensive computer, on the telephone for hours unend, polishing her nails or engrossed in either a conversation or argument with a friend. Time is nothing for them. And when finally she decides to pay attention to you, you will not finish with your enquiry when your answer will be given and most often, negatively. Officials who are supposed to make important decisions on issues bothering or concerning peoples lives are hardly in their offices and most times out on personal business. Public Officials in most cases are very insensitive to other citizens’ concern especially if there are no direct personal rewards. For those who are helpless, they will go back with negative feeling and thoughts about the system.
Again, such people will also wait for an opportunity to express their feelings and in most case violently and some times influence the youths to be violent.
Another serious problem has been the bifurcation of allegiance in the public service.
The few honest public servants who believe that they must be of service to the public and thus go by the books and their commitment to service versus those who believe that the public is to support them and view their services as favour to the public. This misplacement of allegiance also frustrated the few honest public servants to a point of not putting in their best for fear or persecution.
THE EFFECTS OF THE PRE-WAR AND THE WAR
- EXTREME POVERTY
- LACK OF TRUST IN OTHERS AND THE SYSTEM
Mr. Chairman, Commissions, Ladies and Gentlemen. I do not believe that I have to convince any of you here today that poverty is at its highest level in our country now.
Unlike other countries where they have: upper class, upper middle class, middle class, lower middle class and lower class, Sierra Leone has the very rich, the rich and the very poor. I have always referred to this phase of our development as the hang over period of our yesterday’s drunkenness.
We now have no trust in each other as a people and this is greatly affecting the system in which we operate and being part of.
And where there is no trust do not count on love to exist and therefore respect is coerced. There is an increased level of lawlessness which in the opinion of others is high level of awareness. The activities of some people during the war, like people who went to rebel camps in the forest to buy looted properties brought them back for sale in towns have lost face. There was a time rice bags that were sold in shops in the provinces were stained with blood. That was “blood rice” looted during ambushes on the highways. King Jimmy was the depot for other items. Does this mean anything to us?
People who thought they were well off now see themselves as paupers and at the mercy of God. I know Mr. Chairman and Commissioners that these people still dream that they are rich only to face the reality that there is nothing. Can we now see the reason for the high rate of heart attacks hypertension and sudden deaths? One must have Jesus in him to be free from such attacks. Some people just believe that the whole world is against them.
I must confess Mr. Chairman that in the most recent past this is how I was feeling but for God I probably could not have been here today. As I speak to you now, my staff members have not been paid for close to four months because of the insensitive attitude of some Public Officials. Yes, this is what people who are providing free skills training to the youths of this nation deserve.
Most people have lost emotional attachment to Sierra Leone. It is like fighting losing battle. What is even worse now is that most of the leaders in public places are in cocoons surrounded by their so called “trusted ones”. It is this so called “trusted ones” they listen to, influence decisions and actions of the leadership. The reality of the situation is most often kept away from the leadership until in some cases is too late.
1. The following Ministries must be strengthened:
- TRC to be given additional responsibility as a follow-up to reconciliation.
3. Complete overhaul of the Civil Service.
4. Leadership to be more open and be more responsive to public opinion.
5. Youth engagement.
PRESENTATION–BY THE CHIEF OF DEFENCE STAFF, MAJOR GENERAL TS CAREW, ON THE THEME “_`THE JANUARY 6, 1999 ATTACK ON FREETOWN” AT THE TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION (TRC) PUBLIC HEARINGS AT TIIE YOUNG WOMEN CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION (YWCA) HALL, BROOKFIELDS, FREETOWN, ON TUESDAY 15TH JULY 2003
Members of the Commission
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. It is with great honour and privilege that I appear here for the third time to make a submission at this public hearing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Foremost, I congratulate you, Mr Chairman, your Executive Secretary and gallant commissioners for organizing such a symbolic event at this auspicious time in the history of our beloved Sierra Leone, and also for nominating me as one of the speakers. The topic: “The January 6, 1999 Rebel Attack on Freetown” which YOU wish me to give a talk on, is indeed, very fundamental to the people of Sierra Leone as that particular date, commonly called J6, is an unforgettable date in the minds of all Sierra Leoneans, especially Freetonians. Though the topic sounds interesting, the horrible memories of the actual events of that fateful day will linger in the minds of Sierra Leoneans for many years to come.
- In making my presentation, I will use the usual military style as I did in my previous presentations, with an introduction, then the aim, scope and conclusion.
3. The aim of this presentation is to discuss the sad events of the 6th January 1999 rebel attack on Freetown and its effects.
In discussing this topic, I shall attempt to cover the following:
- Events before the attack.
b. The attack.
c. Effects of the attack.
EVENTS BEFORE THE ATTACK
5. Two weeks before that fateful day of January 6, intelligence reports were coming in that the AFRC/RUF rebels were planning to invade the city of Freetown. During that period, the intervention force, ECOMOG was solely responsible for the security of the city and indeed the entire country. It was the same ECOMOG that won the single credit of flushing the AFRC junta from Freetown thereby paving the way for the restoration of the democratically elected government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabba to power. By that time, the national army was dormant and the bulk of the surrendered personnel had been camped at 3 main locations, namely, Lungi Garrison, Benguema Barracks and the National Stadium Swimming Pool. The first major problem ECOMOG faced was total lack of unity and cooperation within the top ranks. This was compounded by the fact that, there were visible aspects of rivalry between the Commander of the then ECOMOG Task Force Sierra Leone ( ETFSL), Brigadier General Abu Ahmadu and the then Chief of Defence Staff of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces, the late Brigadier General MM Khobe. The strained relationship is attributable to petty jealousies for supremacy. Due to the total lack of cooperation and unity between both commanders, they could not work as a unified team to marshal their men, put contingency plans in place and/or launch a preemptive strike against the rebels to frustrate their diabolical intention of attacking Freetown.
- For their part, the rebels took advantage of the prevailing situation on the ground, coupled with the countless problems ECOMOG was facing by then. The Nigerians, who were the dominant force in ECOMOG, were not so conversant with our terrain as they were strangers and new on the ground. Furthermore, ECOMOG troops were overstretched with numerous thin deployment that could not mutually support one another in the forward areas. Other problems that bugged ECOMOG operations also included, the nature of the terrain, poor road network, sparse population centers, absence of national security awareness, long line of communication, inadequate logistic supplies and lack of the long awaited troop contributions from other ECOWAS member states to booster ECOMOG strength, equipment and morale.
- So the rebels took advantage of all these setbacks and started launching series of fierce attacks on ECOMOG positions across the country, Their plan was to rapidly and simultaneously attack the overstretched and thin ECOMOG deployments, taking maximum advantage of the terrain and the local geography to penetrate and sometimes bypass our troop deployments. A notorious faction of the rebels launched separate assaults on ECOMOG positions from the northern axis under the command of the late Captain SA.J Musa. In this way, ECOMOG troops were cut off from the rear and in other instances completely isolated. In this way, locations like Alikalia, Kono, Magburaka and Makeni were overran after fierce encounters. Within a short space of time, the rebels materialised around the outskirts of the Western Area with the intention of invading the capital. Benguema Training Centre, now the Armed Forces Training Centre, near Waterloo, was their first target.
- At that time the ECOMOG leadership and indeed the traumatized populace did not fully trust the SLA troops. So ECOMOG made sure all the encamped SLA’s personal arms were securely kept in the barracks armoury. So when the rebels eventually launched a surprise attack on the encamped troops at Benguema, our unarmed troops withdrew in disarray and Benguema easily fell to the rebels. In their follow-up mopping up operation after their short-lived victory, the rebels proceeded to destroy everything they could lay hands on including expensive military equipment, stores and ordnance. They broke into the armoury and took out all the light arms they could carry and decided to destroy the heavy and bulky weapons to render them useless to our troops in case of any counter attack by government forces to dislodge them. Without thinking of the dangers involved, SAJ Musa gave instant orders to his rebels to set fire to the amoury building, which by that time was full of high explosives, heavy shells and dangerous bombs. In the ensuing huge explosions, several of the rebels who were within the danger zone of the explosions were all torn to pieces. SAJ Musa who gave the orders for the armoury to be burnt down was himself on the spot also met his tragic and painful end. Fragments from the explosions tore through his helmet and ripped his skull in addition to other fragments from the explosion that riddled his body. The injury, profuse bleeding, pain and agony were grave and unbearable for the vicious SAJ Musa and within a short space of time, he died on the spot.
9. Such was the demise of the man who had caused so much havoc and catastrophe on his fellow citizens and who was nursing the ambition to become president of Sierra Leone only to die in disgraceful circumstances. But this was indeed divine providence and divine justice. Hours after the explosions, the few surviving rebels managed to drag his mangled body from the scene along with the other casualties and dumped their corpses in unmarked graves without any fanfare or military honours. SAJ Musa’s death was indeed a sad blow to the rebels but a big blessing for government forces. With the death of their feared and notorious commander, the rebels were demoralized and temporarily thrown into disarray with no credible commander to take over the mantle of leadership. The junior rebel commanders tried strenuously to put the men together to plan their diabolical invasion of the city.
THE ATTACK ON THE CITY
10. The rebels invaded the city on Wednesday 6 January 1999. The actual invasion reached the ears of ECOMOG High Command from forward ECOMOG troops at about 4:00 am. It was not only a big surprise but also a great shock for the unsuspecting ECOMOG troops who took the invading rebel forces for civilians. The actual invasion started from the eastern sector of the city in the Calaba town general area. The rebels disguised themselves and mingled with the huge exodus of civilians who were entering the city in the waves as displaced and dispossessed persons. The rebels also tactically made maximum use of the prevailing darkness to conceal their identity and true strength. Before daybreak, they had penetrated the centre of Freetown and had started firing from all directions in the east and centre of the city to throw residents into a state of panic, confusion and pandemonium. In no time, the rebels had taken over these areas to the absolute surprise of the entire residents of Freetown and indeed the entire country. Even the EC0MOG Generals in the ECOMOG Headquarters at Cockerill were all shocked, astonished and confounded as to how this ugly incident could happen with very little or no resistance from the ECOMOG frontline troops. The rebels further- took maximum advantage of the chaos, anarchy and stampede of the civilian populace to seize all key points in the centre and east of the city including Parliament Building and even State House.
11. In their attempt to dominate the entire Freetown, the invading rebels proceeded to extend their attacks to the west end of the city, but were met by a very strong ECOMOG resistance at Congo Bridge, where they suffered incredibly fatal casualties. This was, in actual fact, the first offensive operation of ECOMOG of which I was part, to halt the invading rebels. The ECOMOG troops under the command of one Major Musa sprang a surprise and deadly ambush that totally engulfed the leading elements of the rapidly advancing rebels. All the leading vehicles and their occupants were blown to pieces in the barrage of fire and explosions. This greatest single victory against the rebels broke their invincibility and put a final halt to their rapid advance into Western Freetown.
- As I said earlier ladies and gentlemen, during all of this period, the national army was dormant. ECOMOG was solely responsible for the security of the country with Nigerian-born General Timothy Shelpidi as ECOMOG Force Commander, General Abu Ahmadu as ECOMOG Task Force Commander- and General Khobe as the Chief of Defence Staff of the dormant SLA. To drive home the point that the Nigerians were totally in control of everything, let me give you a short example. During the invasion period, I was a Colonel then in charge of Administration and Quartering at the then Defence Headquarters at Cockerill, working with General Khobe as a principal staff Officer. You will be surprised, Mr Chairman, to learn that a Nigerian Captain who was a Grade 3 Staff Officer for Logistics in the same branch was in full control and had absolute powers over the entire branch. Hence, as an SLA senior officer, I was just a nominal head of that staff branch.
- Now back to the Congo Bridge encounter. Having halted the rebels’ advance towards the west at Congo Bridge, ECOMOG finally seized the initiative and embarked on decisively attacking pursuing the retreating rebel elements. After three days of fierce gun battle and massive bombardments, ECOMOG forces, in a 3-prong simultaneous assault on rebel positions cleared the rebels from Brookfields, Kingtom, New England-Pademba Road areas and the whole of central Freetown on to Eastern police end. Having suffered serious casualties and setbacks, the rebels had no choice but to beat a hot retreat in the face of the rapid ECOMOG assault. The fleeing rebels resorted to venting their anger on defenceless civilians and carrying out wholesale burning of Government buildings and civilian residential houses and vehicles. They did not stop there; they started the grisly act of amputating, mutilating and massacring innocent civilians, including women and children.
- The major casualty that government troops suffered at the hands of the rebels at that time was the shooting by sniper fire of Major BJ Aroh and Junior Sawaneh. This sad incident actually occurred in the fierce gun battle to clear the rebels from PZ-Sani Abacha Street area. In that bloody fire fight, General Khobe and myself were personally involved and both of us were at the dead front commanding the men and instilling morale and confidence in them. As a result of these 2 casualties, government troops temporarily halted the pursuit to evacuate the casualties and wait for fresh reinforcements. General Khobe and myself coordinated this. Early the following day, troops reinforcements arrived on the ground and we resumed the offensive operation to dislodge the fleeing rebel remnants from the eastern sector. The morale of the rebels at this time was very low and in the absence of SAJ Musa there was no respected commander to exercise absolute and maximum command and control in their ranks.
- When the rebels realized that they had lost the initiative and could no longer halt the momentum and rapid advance of government troops towards the east in our bid to clear the entire city of rebel remnants, the rebels decided to intensify their usual atrocities – abduction of beautiful women, massive burning down of houses, vehicles and shops, etc. Instead of standing and confronting government troops head on, the rebels turned their guns on innocent civilians with boldly and fatal consequences. After 2 weeks of these bold but tedious operations, ECOMOG troops eventually gained control over the entire city. Because the rebels were in total disarray with extremely low morale, no command and control structure and scarce logistic supplies, ECOMOG took maximum advantage of this to bloody them and chase them out of Freetown to as far as Mile 38.
- After suffering serious defeat at the hands of ECOMOG, with maximum casualties, the retreating rebels split into two factions. One faction returned to Makeni to re-join their colleagues whilst the die-hard elements retreated and established a notorious hideout base at Okra Hills. This group called themselves the Westside Boys. It was this same group that stubbornly held out at this base even after the transition from ECOMOG to UNAMSIL. It was the same group that launched series of attacks on Masiaka and its environs, ambushed the Waterloo-Masiaka Highway countless times and dug several ditches and death traps across tarred highway to hinder the flow of vehicular traffic. When the Westside Boys went out of the way and abducted some British soldiers on routine patrol around Okra Hills vicinity, this spelt the end of the Westside nightmare. Force was eventually used, as this was the only language the hated Westsiders understood. The British-led “Operation Barras” did not only succeed in demolishing the notorious rebel base, but it also routed the bandits, exterminated stubborn rebel elements and captured the key leaders who are presently at Pademba Road Maximum Security Prisons.
EFFECTS OF JANUARY 6 ATTACK
17. The effects of the AFRC/RUF attack on Freetown on the 6 January 1999 were very immense. In the east and center of the city itself, the rebels attacked defenceless civilians and committed so many act of massacre, rape, arson, mutilations, amputations, abductions and conscriptions on a grand scale. Sierra Leoneans as well as the international community were witness to the huge scale of destruction of human and material resources that accompanied the January 6 invasion, which was appalling and shocking not only to Sierra Leoneans and Africans but also to the entire international community. The rebels carried out their trademark atrocities on a grand scale right in the wake of the attack and these reached the highest degree during their pullout from the city under ECOMOG fire and bombardments.
- Following their crushing defeat and pursuit from the capital, the rebels resorted to the wanton destruction of lives and property before fleeing the capital. Government buildings and other state facilities were, of course, their primary targets for looting and burning. Police stations, SIERRATEL telephone exchange gadgets, machines and buildings, NPA substations and power lines, and even houses of worship were not spared. Civilian residential quarters and private homes were razed to the ground thereby displacing hundreds of thousands of people. A greater part of the east end of the city and parts of central Freetown were reduced to ashes bearing clear evidence to the scale and degree of destruction caused by the fleeing rebels. This was a big psychological blow to the affected people who were not only displaced, but had no hope of getting the necessary resources to rebuild those burnt out houses.
- The National Stadium, Kissy Mental Hospital, schools, churches, mosques and market places overnight became makeshift homes for the hundreds of thousands of displaced, dispossessed and traumatized men, women and children, around the city. These people had lost everything and had nowhere else to go. Similarly, transport owners, motorists, car sellers, fuel dealers, and shop owners, etc also suffered greatly as the retreating rebel burned down, hundreds of trailers, trucks, fuel tankers, buses, vans, bikes and cars as well as shops, with impunity. For most residents of Freetown, their only means of survival and livelihood were cut off by the invasion and the drastic and bloody consequences that accompanied its aftermath.
20. Mr Chairman, distinguished guest, ladies and gentlemen, for the past 30 minutes or so I have been discussing the January 6, 1999 rebel attack on the city of Freetown. I first said that the lack of unity and cooperation in the ECOMOG military hierarchy coupled with various other problems bugging ECOMOG operations in the country at that time gave the AFRC/RUF rebels big scope and advantage in successfully invading the city on 6 January 1999. I further went on to discuss the invasion itself, and stressed that it was initially planned by the late Captain SAJ Musa, who had committed heinous Crimes against the people of this country but died in disgraceful circumstances on the outskirts of the Peninsular. Perhaps I should add here that SAJ Musa was divinely rewarded with his early call to the grave. Having contributed so immensely to destabilize this country, he was suddenly and untimely called to eternity to answer to the crimes he had committed against humanity not by the Special Court this time, but by the true and everlasting Court of God Almighty,
- I finally ended by mentioning some of the effects the invasion had on the people and the entire country. Mr Chairman and members of this commission, invited guests, ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for listening to this presentation of the sad chapter of our nation’s history.
- Mr Chairman, esteem ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for the honour of inviting me to make this presentation. I further thank you for your patience and attention.
PRESENTATION BY THE CHIEF OF DEFENCE STAFF, MAJOR GENERAL T.S. CAREW ON THE THEME “TAKING OF UN PEACEKEEPERS HOSTAGE IN SIERRA LEONE” AT THE PUBLIC HEARING OF THE TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION (TRC) AT THE YOUNG CHRISTIAN COUNCIL ASSOCIATION (YWCA) HALL, BROOK FIELDS, FREETOWN, ON THURSDAY 17TH JULY 2003.
- I stand here today in response to the task assigned to me with reference to the taking of United Nations (UN) peacekeepers hostage in Sierra Leone in 2000.
- I was deployed in Freetown when the hostages were taken. Many stories have been told to inform the pensive world. What I intend to talk about is how we got to the hostage taking stage, how the hostage taking impacted on national and international political scenes and the response of the international community. I may not clearly comment on any existing shortcomings in the government that I am advising as head of the armed forces. I am neither a legal person nor am I a diplomat. I will however attempt to describe the peculiarities of the war years and how these peculiarities played out in West Africa and beyond. I will conclude by recommending some reforms and practices aimed at protecting UN peacekeepers in the management of ceasefires during civil wars.
PRIOR TO THE CONFLICT AND DURING THE CONFLICT
3. Before the war broke out in 1991, I was deployed as adjutant of Lungi Garrison at Lungi. At the outset of the war I got posted to the Mano River Bridge. I was later posted to Potoru in the Pujehun District. I was subsequently posted to Koribondo as Battalion commander in 1993. I became 3 Brigade Commander in the Southern province in 1994. The Brigade was headquartered in Bo. My rank was Colonel. The rebel war was a strange `animal’ to many a soldier and to the RSLMF at large. However, in a very short space of time my troops became `inoculate’ and stood firm to face the enemy – Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The armed forces saw bad images of war painted by the RUF rebels. The rebels, for fear of long-term identity wore the uniforms of our fallen regular soldiers and we became labeled as ‘sobels’. The National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) and the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC)/Revolutionary United Front (RUF) alliance created regimes of interregnum and the one time combat-focused armed forces again became blemished because of the lack of that mark of distinction and identity between the RUF and that portion of the RSLAF that went into marriage with them.
4. In the future, like I have always done, I will implore our soldiers/sailors/aircraftmen to do their constitutional duties and only perform all other tasks when our civilian masters pass instructions within the provisions of the 1991 constitution of Sierra Leone.
MY EXPERIENCE OF THE TAKING OF UN PEACEKEEPERS
5. The arrest of about 500 UN peacekeepers after a brief scuffle between the UN forces and the RUF was related to 3 issues in my view: the problems of the relief in place (RIP) operation between UN forces and the Economic Community Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) forces in Sierra Leone, the legalistic principle of impartiality on the side the UN and the civil/military relations problems in Sierra Leone at the time. At the time the UN decided to deploy its forces in Makeni, 140 kilometres away from their Freetown headquarters, the force size was small, the mandate was not combative, and there was no established relationship between the UN forces and the splintered regular RSLAF, which monitored almost everything about the RUF/AFRC’s future plans. Because of lack of mutual trust, as it were, the international community mistook the AFRC/RUF alliance for the entire RSLAF.
- Before the Kenyans headed for Makeni, a team visited the Armed Forces Training Centre (AFTC) to inform the RSLAF trainers and security personnel who had joined the Nigerians to liberate Freetown after the RUF invasion on 6 January 1999. The SLA advised that the AFTC had monitored an RUF radio that suggested the arrest of some Peacekeepers in order to improve on their stake in the peace process.
- Sierra Leoneans felt jitters in their f1esh. I am sure even the UN personnel felt the same _jitters. However, that situation forced the UN to improve on their mandate, which allowed us to see UN personnel exercising that natural element of self-defence. My disappointment was that the hostages were only released to the President of Liberia, Mr Charles Taylor who hand the former hostages to the UN authority in Freetown. We thank God our colleagues resurfaced although some died at the initial stage of the hostage taking. But that is what it takes to manage uncertainty.
- Nevertheless, I personally learnt the following lessons and I wish to share them with the TRC:
- That UN peacekeepers must observe the partnership of willing local forces in order to gain any entry point into secure and credible peace operations.
• National government should exhibit a ‘right of offer’ of their security space to the UN. This arrangement will leave national governments and their security agents to brief the UN peacekeepers before they keep the peace.
• Peacekeepers should be trained and organised to transform into a peace enforcement role by deploying a force protection party should the situation demand it.
- I am looking at where reforms in the RSLAF should happen in this regime of restructuring of the Ministry of Defence. But such reforms need to be enhanced by the international community, especially in areas such as Peace Support Operations (PSO) within and outside West Africa.
- To summarise, I saw the beginning and the end of the civil war. Restructure with the aim of inducting the military to work within the armbit of the laws – national and international.
- As for the hostage taking of the peacekeepers 140 km away from the UN headquarters, there was an asymmetry between ECOMOG’s exit strategy in 1999 and the UN’s take-over tactics in 2000.
ALL PEOPLE’S CONGRESS
Motto: Action Progress Commitment
|Head Quarters:||Eastern Region:||Northern Region: Southern Region:|
|137″ Fourah Bay Road,||1,1 Smith Lane,||4a, Masuba Road, 18, Mattru Road,|
|Freetown.||Kenema.||Makeni. Maxwell Khobe Park, Bo|
|Our Ref:||Your Ref:||Date: 23rd July, 2003|
FROM: Victor Bockarie Foh – All Peoples Congress (APC)
TO: The TRC
ATTENTION: Mr. Ojielo Ozzonia
THE DESTRUCTION OF KORIBONDO
Kindly receive the attached corrected submission in place of our earlier submission of same date and topic.
Errors in our earlier submission have caused its withdrawal and replacement.
We regret the inconvenience, please.
Victor Bockarie Foh
TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION (TRC) THE DESTRUCTION OF KORIBONDO
An APC Presentation – Friday 18th July 2003 – Victor Bockarie Foh
Koribondo is an ancient cosmopolitan town that started as an important trade route village in the then Njaiama Chiefdom of the Bo District, in Southern Sierra Leone. It is situated about 32 Kilometers (2O miles) South of Bo, and links the old District Headquarter towns of Bandajuma (now relocated in Pujehun District) in the Vai-Mende land, and two important ancient trading centers of Blama, Small Bo Chiefdom, in the Eastern Province, and Sumbuya (another District Headquarter town, now relocated in the Bo District) in the South-West. Koribondo is reputed as a center of mixed tribal population and commerce, with a cultural flux that accommodates tribal and religious tolerance. Koribondo gained dominance sometime during the reign of Chief Foday-Musa through extension of colonial rule to the Protectorate, now the Provinces. Koribondo never became the Chiefdom Headquarters of Njaiama Chiefdom because of its location on vast flat plain that posed a threat for easy attack. This settlement was the scene of frequent political disturbances as towns of mixed population and commerce tend to be.
Koribondo grew rapidly as Fulani and Lebanese traders settled there and had inter-marriages with indigenous Mendes. They built houses and opened small shop business. Koribondo became very strategic economically, politically and militarily, much to the disadvantage of the Njaiama Chiefdom Headquarter town of Kondor, about 4 Kilometers (2.5 miles) to the North-West. In the 1970s, Njaiama Chiefdom was amalgamated with the Bongor Chiefdom to form the Njaiama-Bongor Chiefdom. Koribondo did not lose its importance as a cosmopolitan political, commercial and population center although it never became the Chiefdom Headquarter.
- THE CIVIL WAR AND KORIBONDO
When civil war broke out in Sierra Leone in 1991, Koribondo became a target for rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The timely action of the APC Government under President Momoh to locate a military base at Bo in the Southern Province frustrated the rebel determination to take over Koribondo. The NPRC put a military base at Koribondo.
It is reputed that between March 1991 and April 1996, when the SLPP were elected to take over government from the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) Military junta which overthrew President Momoh and the APC government in 1992, Koribondo suffered more than 35 unsuccessful attacks by RUF rebels. Throughout this period and right up to January 2002 when peace returned to Sierra Leone, the civil population of Koribon.do suffered the dilemma of being caught between the rebels and the military such that they earned the name “Collaborators”. At one time or the other, the people of Koribondo were said to be either rebel collaborators or military collaborators.
By 1993 the NPRC Military junta realized that to win the rebel war militarily, they must get the assistance of local hunters otherwise called Kamajors in Mende. Then Hinga Norman started training Kamajors at Telu, in the Chiefdom Headquarter town of Njaiama-Bongor Chiefdom about 24km. (15 miles) from Koribondo without the express approval of the Sierra Leone Army. Consequently, the Military base at Koribondo saw Kamajors being trained at Telu as a parallel military set-up. As a result, in October 1994, soldiers from the Koribondo Military base are said to have attacked and killed about 60 Kamajors at Telu and blamed it on RUF rebels.
Even before that time, the Koribondo base became a dreaded town because NPRC soldiers killed anybody suspected as rebel collaborator. By this behaviour on the part of the NPRC, several innocent civilians were killed by soldiers without proper investigation or due process of the law. This may have given cause to the entire civil population of Koribondo to take sides against the Army. Some civilians became dangerous informants for the military. An Afro-Lebanese called Attala and a driver, Sheku Gbow and many others became such informants for the NPRC military outfit.
It must also be recalled that a bitter Chieftaincy contest between the various ruling houses of the Njaiama-Bongor Chiefdom following the death of P.C. Foday-Kai in 1989/1990 got to a very dangerous stage that brothers and sisters falsely reported on each other to ensure important contestants being eliminated.
In consequence, many towns and villages around Koribondo such as Telu, Kandor, Mende-Kelema, Bendu, Niagerihun etc. were destroyed and many of their prominent citizens were killed in the process. My own village and birth place Jimmi Bagbo, 12 miles South of Koribondo was not spared in the Koribondo attacks and destruction. My personal villa., La Veekee was burnt to ashes on Hinga Norman’s orders.
When the SLPP government of President Kabbah took over from the NPRC in April 1996, the Kamajor movement and its fighting capacity were intensified all over the country. President Kabbah appointed Hinga Norman his Deputy Minister of Defence, Norman, himself a Kamajor, with the support of President Kabbah the substantive Minister of Defence and Vice President Albert Joe Demby, this Chief Kamajor Hinga Norman continued to operate the Kamajor Militia movement.
About this same time, the Military had become divided among themselves into factions fighting to amass wealth. The SLPP government’s support for the Ka.majors coupled with the open challenging hostility of Kamajors against the SLAF brought the soldiers together to bring down the Ka.major movement. This awful development resulted in more attacks on Koribondo. Kamajors are believed to have made over 46 unsuccessful such attacks on Koribondo in order to dislodge the Military and establish a Kamajor base at Koribondo.
The Military fell out completely with the Kamajors because the Deputy Defence Minister, Chief Hinga Norman, was biased in favour of Kamajors leaving the Military to perish when infact he was supposed to work with and protect the Army from Kamajor harassment.
In May 1997, President Kabbah and his SLPP government were overthrown by the AFRC Military Junta of Johnny Paul Koroma. The AFRC called RUF rebels to join them in governance and an AFRC/RUF Army occupied the military base at Koribondo.
AFRC/RUF Army continued fighting Kamajors for Koribondo. Kamajors were attacking Soldiers and vice verse. This fight spread to Bagbo, Tikonko, Jaiama/Bagbo, Sowa and Wonde Chiefdoms.
In the end, AFRC/RUF Soldiers withdrew from Koribondo when the AFRC were ousted by ECOMOG. Kamajors headed by Joe Temidae and Joe Nuni, the Kamajor Battalion Commander, took charge of Koribondo and since then, there was no more fight for Koribondo.
A Kamajor Military Base was established in Koribondo by Chief Hinga Norman and his peers in the SLPP. Sadly, the SLPP government did not remove Kamajors from Koribondo. Kamajors in Koribondo with the support of Deputy Defence Minister Hinga Norman, President Kabbah and Vice President Albert Joe Demby continued supporting the Koribondo Kamajor base. Very many properties including dispenser Lamin’s (Mike Lamin’s father) dispensary and Atala Mohamed’s cinema were destroyed.
The ignition point of Army/Kamajor clashes for Koribondo came about when the AFRC put out announcement that Kamajors should surrender their guns to the nearest Police Station. The SLPP government in exile may have asked the Kamajors to refuse.
The APC submits that the entire Kamajor arrangement by the SLPP was in violation of the constitution of this country and an affront to the integrity and dignity of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces.
Hinga Norman’s appointment to the position of Deputy Minister of Defence in charge of the Army, was in the view of the APC, a gross miscalculation which ignited the Military/Kamajor armed rivalry. Before his appointment as Deputy Minister, the NPRC Government had appointed this very Hinga Norman as Regent Chief of Jaiama-Bongor Chiefdom in which Koribondo is situated. On Hinga Norman’s assumption of the Office of Deputy Defence Minister, he used the opportunity to suppress the legitimate Sierra Leone Armed Forces. He took away valuable funds meant for military logistics and welfare and diverted them for the use of the unconstitutional and unprofessional Tribal Militia we all now know as Kamajors.
As a Parry, the APC regrets the destruction of Koribondo. The APC left Koribondo and Sierra Leone intact. The vile ambitions of the RUF, NPRC and the SLPP appointed Chief Kamajor/Deputy Minister of Defence Lt. Hinga Norman, the man who staged the 1967 coup, in our view, are responsible for the destruction of Koribondo.
The APC recommends that the township of Koribondo and her people be assisted. Other areas destroyed all over the country should also be assisted.
Faithfully Submitted, Victor Bockarie Foh
All Peoples Congress (APC)
18th July, 2003
SUBMISSION TO THE TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION ALIMAMY PALLO BANGURA
After the May 1997 coup d’etat that led to the formation of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), I was invited and I accepted to serve as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, in which capacity I headed delegations to peace negotiations; thereafter, I was a delegate to the negotiations in Lome; was appointed Minister of Energy and Power; and contested the May 2002 elections as Presidential Candidate. Before May 1997 I had served in other capacities which have, however, become submerged beneath the deadweight of condemnation and vilification attaching to, in consequence of, my association with the AFRC and RUFP. In the face of this fact, it would be too easy to use this occasion to try to exonerate myself or to debunk the epithets of “junta collaborator,” “rebel,” “traitor,” “opportunist,” etc that have been bandied about and flung at me. This is not by any means the purpose of this submission. I have elected to let the inevitable efflux of time and unfolding of events take care of the negative labeling and stigmatization. By this submission, my intention is purely, simply and solely to place on record the way I have led my life, or, in plain text, allowed myself to be divinely led.
I was born in Mabonto, Kafe-Simiria Chiefdom, Tonkolili District, Northern Sierra Leone, on the 14`h July, 1950, to Paramount Chief Alimamy Bangura II and Haja Fatmatta Bangura. I started schooling at the District Council School, Mabonto, before transferring to the then boarding school of Our Lady of Fatima Roman Catholic Primary School in Makeni. I took my Selective Entrance Examinations and entered the St. Francis Secondary School, Makeni, where I spent the next five years at the end of which I sat to the General Certificate of Education (G.C.E.) Ordinary Level examinations. Then, my father was gracious enough to send me to the United Kingdom. For five years I did various odd jobs before I went to Leeds and did my G.C.E. “A” Levels at the Park Lane College of Further Education. Three years later I graduated from Leeds University with a B.A.(Hons) degree in Social and Public Administration, to return to London and register at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, obtaining, two years later, an M.Sc. degree in Politics.
Having for long yearned to add a German ingredient to my academic make-up, I went to the University of Heidelberg to read for the Dr. Phil degree in Political Science, Sociology and English. This project was aborted due, essentially, to financial difficulties and I returned to London where I had qualified to stay indefinitely. I registered at SOAS for a Ph. D in Political Science but worse disaster struck when fire gutted my apartment and I lost my research materials and personal effects. I decided at that point to return home and live down the sad experiences. For a few months, I was employed as a Temporary Officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. After I resigned I got a Lectureship in the Department of Political Science at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, where I acted as Head of Department for three years and was elected President of the Senior Staff Association of the University.
After the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) took power in 1992, I was appointed, first, Councillor in the Freetown City Council; second, Commissioner in the Lynton B.O. Nylander Commission of Inquiry; third, Member of the National Advisory Council; fourth, Ambassador to Ethiopia and concurrently Permanent Representative to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now the African Union (AU), and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Addis Ababa; and, fifth, was reassigned as Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York. In June 1996 I was recalled as Ambassador and was not reassigned. In February 1997, I was appointed Diplomat-in-Residence and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Politics and Government of the University of Hartford, Connecticut in the United States. Renewal of this appointment was dependent on readjusting my status from that of diplomat and re-applying for the appropriate visa, to effect which I had to come home and apply for the visa.
It was principally for this purpose that I left New York on May 19 for Freetown. Furthermore, whilst I was Ambassador, I did not receive all my salary and allowances regularly as a result of which there was an accrual of arrears. I decided that coming to Freetown would enable me pursue this issue of arrears more effectively. Besides, I had also seriously considered returning to my former Department at Fourah Bay College as another option to explore whilst in Freetown. So I flew to Freetown, arriving on Wednesday, 21St May. On the following two days, I commuted between the Ministries of Finance and Foreign Affairs, winning the promise that some payment would be made to me on Monday, 26t”. At the same time I wrote to Fourah Bay College to express my desire to resume my lectureship.
Then, on Sunday, 25t” May, the AFRC coup took place, throwing my hopes and plans awry. I stayed indoors until the intensification of bombardment in June. One evening, I was invited to meet with the then Chairman, Major Johnny Paul Koroma, at his residence in Lower Pipe Line. At this meeting he informed me that he had been told of my presence in town and that I had been recommended to him. He declared to me that he was looking for a diplomatic way out of the crisis and appealed to me to work with Dr. John KarefaSmart in suing for peace. I accepted and agreed to travel with Dr. Karefa-Smart to New York. When I got to Senegal I could not get the necessary visa. I was told to apply for it in Freetown. I thus had to return to Freetown.
With the prospects for a negotiated settlement becoming feasible, I was invited to head a group to prepare for the negotiations. It was not an easy task, given the make-up of the group, the prevalent tense situation, and the suspicion and aggravation on various fronts. My problems were compounded when I was appointed Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. By then the UN had imposed a travel ban on AFRC members, including myself.
At this point I will give a seriatim summation of ensuing events after which I will make an overall statement:
• I led the AFRC delegation to the first meeting with the ECOWAS Committee of Four in Abidjan, La Cote d’Ivoire. At this meeting, I read out a prepared statement basically containing proposals for a thorough discussion of the underlying problems that needed to be addressed if we were serious about finding a solution that would avert any relapse into such conflict in future and thus ensure enduring peace and stability. This meeting went well and we made some considerable progress. My delegation returned to Freetown to prepare for a follow-up meeting.
- At the second meeting, again held in Abidjan, the talks were difficult but we were making slow progress. This was scuppered by a broadcast the Chairman made in Freetown, at the height of talks, without consultation with us in Abidjan. The talks collapsed. I felt shattered and disgusted and faxed the Chairman a letter of resignation. I did not return to Freetown but remained in Abidjan under the auspices of the Ivorian Government. At the United Nations in New York, I had developed close personal relations with the Ivorian Foreign Minister, Mr. Amara Essy, and these relations grew during the AFRC interregnum and proved helpful in facilitating my brief sojourn in his country.
- I made efforts to get my visa business sorted out so that I could have returned to the US, but without obvious success.
- The Chairman appealed to me through the Ivorian Government to return and take charge of renewed efforts at negotiations. I accepted and came back to Freetown. The Chairman reaffirmed his commitment to peace and to give me a free hand to engage in talks with the now expanded ECOWAS Committee of Five.
- I undertook trips to Conakry, Abidjan, Lome, Ouagadougou and Niamey to drum up support for a resumption of the talks.
- I led the AFRC delegation to the meeting in Conakry that culminated in the signing of the Conakry Plan of Action. I returned to Freetown in a mood of optimism, which soon waned and was clouded by problems of interpretation of the Plan.
- I traveled to Conakry, Monrovia and Abidjan for further discussions and clarifications of positions.
- I was in Abidjan when the regime was ousted. After a few days I was asked by the authorities to leave La Cote d’Ivoire.
- I was allowed to go to Burkina Faso. Whilst serving as Ambassador in New York, I had cultivated a personal rapport with my Burkinabe colleague and through him his Foreign Minister, Mr. Ablase Ouedraogo. I had even been helpful, as Chairman of the African Group at the UN in October 1995, in getting my colleague to win membership of an important committee. This background redounded to my advantage and so I went to Ouagadougou, where I became born again.
- When negotiations were to start in Lome, Togo, I was invited to take part on the side of a combined RUF/AFRC team. It was in Lome that I became acquainted with the RUF Leader, Pa Foday Saybana Sankoh. The acquaintance was not easy at first but with time, patience, tolerance, diligence, and by God’s Grace, we were able to get on.
• Pa Foday vowed to me and, in my presence, to H.E. President Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo, and H.E. President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, his firm commitment to lasting peace in Sierra Leone. This formed the basis of, and went a long way to sustain, our working together.
- After the signing of the Lome Agreement, I was nominated by Pa Foday and was appointed by His Excellency President Kabbah as Minister of Energy and Power. I was serving in this ministerial capacity when there was trouble in May 2000 and I ended in the Central Prisons at Pademba Road, where I was detained until my release in August 2001.
- By this time, Mr. Issa Sesay was Interim Leader of the RUFP; the DDR Programme was being implemented; and tri-partite talks had begun between Government, UNAMSIL, and the RUFP. Mr. Sesay invited me to become Secretary-General of the RUFP, to help him keep the spirit of Lome alive, and to prepare the party for the pending elections.
• Eventually I was nominated Presidential Candidate and contested and lost the May 2002 elections.
- Although I have for quite some time been unemployed, rejected and condemned, God has not abandoned me. I am blessed and highly favoured and enjoying the goodwill of some relations and friends, and I am currently working on a project that brings me exceeding excitement, joy, and satisfaction. The project relates, studies, and applies Biblical faith and principles to a host of issues, situations, circumstances, and developments. It transcends reigning orthodox approaches, methodologies, and paradigms. In other words, it looks for and interprets God’s Mighty Hand in our fallen and depraved world, outside of the dominant philosophical or political theories or treatises. This project follows the traditions of the Biblical prophets, who told the truth and proclaimed God’s justice, held up alternative visions, and helped the people to imagine new possibilities. They encouraged people to be suspicious of concentrations of wealth and power; to mistrust ideological rationales that justify subordinating persons to causes; and especially to become sensitive to the poor, the disenfranchised, the marginalized, the outsider, the excluded, and the stranger. Humankind is made of clay that has been so hardened, misshapened and flawed that were it not for God’s rich mercy, and his constant recycling, we would have been discarded or disposed of like nappies.
After this brief summary, I will now proceed to my promised statement. First of all, I want to underline that throughout my life I have neither condoned nor taken part in or supported any form of violence. I have always been a pacifist and fervent and implacable believer in peace and the peaceful resolution of crises and conflicts. As Lecturer, I not only taught and instructed, but also consistently advocated peace and reconciliation.
Although many of those in power at the time were my friends, some were my affine or relations by propinquity, and still others by consanguinity, I never even thought of taking advantage of this fact, to use it as a flag of convenience to further my personal goals or interests. Nor, conversely, did this deter me from being critical of the regime on radio programmes and in my regular column in the Vision newspaper. Coming from a goldiferous Chiefdom, whose Paramount Chief is my father, I could easily also have exploited this fact to enrich myself. But by God’s Grace, I firmly resisted that allure. Indeed, I was content to remain devoted to my teaching and waiting on the Lord. My faith, trust, and confidence have been built on God’s assurance to His children that He will never leave nor forsake them. This assurance has dispelled apprehension and gloom in me, and helped me to overcome hardship and difficulty. Witness how it later took the NPRC, by God’s Grace and Mercy, to appoint me to public positions which I did not expect, lobby or campaign for.
As Ambassador in Ethiopia, I undertook to galvanize the Sierra Leonean community to take a stand for peace and we were actively working on this when I was re-assigned to the United Nations. Immediately I arrived in New York I took up the cause I had started in Addis Ababa and succeeded in getting my compatriots in the Tristate Area to form a Peace Council, that was dedicated to advocacy for a peaceful resolution of our conflict. When after the 1997 coup, the AFRC’s Chairman Koroma invited me to help in securing peace, I only had to look around me, at the pervasive and preponderant misery and mayhem, chaos and kafuffle, to decide without hesitation or demur to accept.
In his Second Inaugural Address on 4 March 1865, the great American President and widely acknowledged Father of democracy, Abraham Lincoln said: “Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”‘ I decided to work with the AFRC on the clear understanding that we would be working for peace rather than to hang on to power. That was why I had no qualms about resigning when there was the slightest hint of going back on this commitment, or returning, when the commitment was re-affirmed and I saw sincerity, to head the team that was able to sign the Conakry agreement.
Since the demise of the AFRC, I have looked on unfolding events and happenings in general and my own life in particular, in Biblical terms, as my wilderness experience, the trial of my faith. The highest purpose of our faith in God is not to change our circumstances and situations but to change us. I know that despite everything my God lives and He is with me; He is my Strength and Helper. “When things are looking down for you, you can always look up. In the midst of the hurt and the pain in your life, God is reaching down and blessing you.”
In every desert of grief, God has an oasis of grace. When God orders or allows a storm in our lives, it is because He wants us to change to get rid of our extra cargo before it sinks us. It is in storms, if we do not abandon ship, that God’s winds will blow us back on course. I may not know what the future holds for me, but I know Who holds the future.
At the invitation to take part in the Lome talks, I sacrificed my personal, marital and familial considerations and predilections to put my nation’s interests first, without counting the costs. God afforded me yet another opportunity to contribute in bringing an end to the sordid chapter in Sierra Leone’s history in the only way I believed in. It had even been suggested before the commencement of the talks that the AFRC be represented as a separate entity from the RUF. But I was one of those who did not think that this was a good idea and argued strongly against it. I thought that this would have unnecessarily complicated things and played into the hands of the detractors, not to mention its potential for fractiousness and fissiparous consequences. Besides, with the ouster of the AFRC, I felt that it should be considered as at an end and steps be taken to build confidence and that the military should be allowed to go back to its constitutional role of serving the nation and being loyal to the Government.
After Pa Foday nominated me and I was appointed Minister, he was accused of tribalism and condemned for nominating someone who was not considered as one of the RUF, in that I had not suffered in the jungle nor carried an arm. He however stood by his decision, defending it on the basis of my self-sacrifice, competence, diligence, and the need of the Party. This accusation was to be repeated when Mr. Issa Sesay appointed me SecretaryGeneral of the Party, and even more especially when I was nominated Presidential Candidate. I was prepared to live with this. At no time did Pa Foday or Mr. Sesay talk to me in any other than in terms of their firm resolve to consolidate the newly won peace and to structure the party. I buried myself in my onerous ministerial, later Party, responsibilities, and for this decision to work for the RUFP, I was accused of betraying the AFRC, of compromising my integrity, and of opportunism. Just as I have been accused, in unrepeatable terms, of all manner of infractions after I resigned the SecretaryGeneralship, withdrew completely from the RUFP and disengaged from active politics.
I am of the firm conviction that regardless of who may have wished, planned, or gloated over my spending some sixteen months in Pademba Road Prisons, my incarceration, subsequent alienation and ostracism have been as God wills. He has permitted it in order to serve His own plan and purpose in my life. I have no room for bitterness in my heart. Bitterness, after all, is like drinking poison and you who are bitter will be the most affected. The same loving God has given me a happy marriage and family and had been kind to me, in respect of my Lectureship, Ambassadorship, and my being Minister of Energy and Power post-Lome, for which I did not complain and was not openly vilified. If therefore I should be condemned, contemned, vilified, calumniated, alienated, ostracized and have consequently remained unemployed for this long, as well as kept under a travel ban and, hence, from my family, it is because the God I believe in and so faithfully serve has permitted, and is continuing to permit it.
Besides, my yesterday is gone; it is now a cancelled cheque; my tomorrow is not yet; it is a promissory note; it is my today, my here and now, that is cash that I have in hand; I must spend it wisely. God’s ways and thoughts are simply not our human ways and thoughts; they are just and perfect. “There is a sense in which the very worst of times can be the best of times…. It is in darkness that the light of God’s love shines its brightest …It is in the midst of pain that His healing love can be felt most keenly …It is in the weakness of utter defeat that we can be filled up with His strength.”
In times of difficulty and hardships we tend too easily to feel deep, dark despair and cannot see the blessings of God shining through the darkness. Whatever God’s purpose is, I simply trust that He knows best and however seemingly painful or unpleasant or indeterminate, it will ultimately be for the best. God requires of us to praise Him amid our hardships and to savour with profound gratitude every good thing He sends our way. We should always be willing to taste, see and say that He is right and good, even when life seems not to be so or is not. When we comprehend the way God is blessing us, when life seems unfair and our burdens seem to be unbearable, that is the time we begin to live in complete peace and contentment. The blessings of the world may last for a season, but they may fade and not be everything they were made out to be, whereas God’s blessings are true, constant and endure forever. The world can honour you in one moment, and destroy you in the next, but not so God. God does not hold us responsible for our success but for our faithfulness. Whilst the world crowns success, He crowns faithfulness. As I fight the good fight of faith to win, I have in me no room or reason for depression, despair and dejection. God has an uncanny way of shaping and moulding His children, chipping away to get them to the point where they fit perfectly in His eternal plan.
As stated earlier, I would have lobbied for positions, especially under the era of President Momoh, but I fobbed off the temptation and looked to my God whom I have allowed to give and lead me to His assignment for me and to unravel my destiny. When God assigns or calls, He gives the desire, faith and ability to do the job. It is in this light that I have therefore eschewed inordinate ambition, lobbying, solicitation, judgementalism and condemnation, believing that the Good Lord, who knows best and is all-powerful is in and will take and maintain control. It is thus spiritually inspired that I did not feel compelled to decline to accept to work in the cause of peace in the AFRC and the RUFP. I wonder what would have eventuated if nobody had the courage and nerve to stand for navigating this country away from confrontation into the pacific route that was long vehemently opposed and despised but that we have eventually taken and has brought us to where we are today. What would the military option have brought or left us? I am persuaded that like others of the same ilk, it has taken great courage and a lot of sacrifice to steadfastly work towards the attainment and sustenance of peace rather than align myself with the pontificators, strikers of a holier than thou posture, and letting things drift almost inexorably to obvious catastrophe. But I leave it to posterity to be the judge.
It should be clear by now that my statement lacks the kind of political, academic or intellectual analysis that may have been expected, or that I may have been disposed to make aforetime. But I hope, however, that by now it would have been obvious also why this is so. The reason is simple and straightforward. I am at a juncture in my life in which experience has taught me and providence has impressed upon me to look beyond the political, sociological, economic, anthropological, etc. to find the true causes of and the answers and solutions to our manifold problems in a fragmented, dysfunctional, severely asphyxiated, egotistic, crooked, perverse, and unpredictable world with upturned, debased values.
In saying this, I am not denying the relevance of these other factors. I am however emphasizing that at the end of the day, when all is said and done, taking our situation, for instance, the depths to which we have sunk, including the despicable barbarities of amputations and malevolent destructions, the festering, suppurating wounds and lingering hurts and hates, and the prospects for our emerging therefrom and soaring into the stratosphere of peace, progress, prosperity, democracy and development, reveal a profundity and perspicuity and perspective that go well beyond ordinary socio-political, economic, etc analyses. Like the Russian writer, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, so rightly states in his book, Rebuilding Russia, “The strength or weakness of a society depends more on the level of its spiritual life than on its level of industrialization …If a nation’s spiritual energies have been exhausted, it will not be saved from collapse by the most perfect government structure or by any industrial development: a tree with a rotten core cannot stand. This is so because, of all the possible freedoms, the one that will inevitably come to the fore will be the freedom to be unscrupulous…” We can expand `level of industrialization’ to encompass democratization, governance, civil society organization, empowerment, gender balance, capacitation, etc.
We must not forget for a moment that man is not only a political, social or economic being, but a spiritual being as well. Some three centuries ago, Blaise Pascal articulated this when he said that “there is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.” This vacuum must be filled first before politics, economics, democracy, good governance, etc can be possible, or at least meaningful. Similarly, what President Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic said in his New Year’s Address in 1990 is germane: “We live in a spoiled moral environment. We have become morally ill… We have learned not to believe in anything, not to care about each other… The concepts of love, friendship, mercy, humility, or forgiveness (have) lost their depth and dimension.” Again to quote Solzhenitsyn: “The structure of the state is secondary to the spirit of human relations. Given human integrity, any honest system is acceptable, but given human rancour and selfishness, even the most sweeping of democracies would become unbearable. If the people themselves lack fairness and honesty, this will come to the surface under any system.”
Like Reinhold Niebuhr said: “man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.” Our human minds can create all kinds of democratic institutions, organizations and structures, but they will not work or endure if we do not appropriately change and put our hearts to them and love one another with a pure heart, including loving and caring for those whom society declares to be unlovable and teaches us to hate; not considering whether they deserve our love or not, or that we may or may not gain anything by loving them. “Rather than asking what we can get, we should be asking what we can give. Instead of seeking to please ourselves, we should be seeking to please each other”.
Abraham Lincoln expressed a belief and faith that deserve our attention, command our admiration, and are worthy of emulation: “… believe that (God) will compel us to do right in order that He may do…things, not so much because we desire them as that they accord with His plan of dealing with this nation, in the midst of which He means to establish justice. I think He means that we shall do more than we have yet done in furtherance of His plans, and He will open the way for our doing it. I have felt His hand upon me in great trials and submitted to His guidance, and I trust that as He shall further open the way, I will be ready to walk therein relying on His help and trusting in His goodness and wisdom.”
Gary Allen, President of the Christian Mission to the United Nations Community in New York, and who has spiritually inspired me in no small way, re-echoes this in one of his works, Governing in Partnership with God: “Each nation was established by Almighty God who is actively seeking to work out His plans for that nation …For a national leader to try to fulfill his responsibilities without seeking to understand the mind of God and depending upon Him would be analogous to…piloting a ship through the barrier reef around Bermuda without using the navigational maps that are available….If a leader fails to view himself as the junior partner in this relationship and ignores God’s purposes and plans for the nation,… untold, unnecessary suffering will be experienced by the people, suffering that cannot be fully alleviated no matter how much money or manpower is poured out in an effort to overcome the problem… It would be foolish to view a national leader’s expression of dependence upon God as a sign of weakness.”
In considering whether a Head of State can discern the mind of God with regard to his nation, Lincoln had this to say: “I have had so many evidences of His direction, so many instances when I have been controlled by some other power than my own will, that I cannot doubt that this power comes from above. I frequently see my way clear to a decision when I have no sufficient facts upon which to found it. But I cannot recall one instance in which I have followed my own judgment, founded upon such a decision, where the results were unsatisfactory, whereas, in almost every instance where I have yielded to the views of others, I have had occasion to regret it. I am satisfied that when the Almighty wants me to do or not to do a particular thing, He finds a way of letting me know it….If it is probable that God would reveal His will to others, on a point so connected to my duty, it might be supposed He would reveal it directly to me…
It is my earnest desire to know the will of Providence in this matter. And if I can learn what it is, I will do it.”
The ten-year war in Sierra Leone reminds us all so painfully that the history of humankind is also the sorry story of injustice, hostility, tyranny, brutality, anger, hatred, egoism, inhumanity, violence, greed, and revenge. Whilst man’s nature desires justice for himself, he nevertheless is prone to denying it to others. As Benjamin Spock has observed, “Man can be the most affectionate and altruistic of creatures, yet he is potentially more vicious than any other. He is the only one who can be persuaded to hate millions of his own kind whom he has never seen and to kill as many as he can lay his hands on in the name of his tribe or his God.”
Walter Moberly has said: “the veneer of civilization has proved to be amazingly thin. Beneath it has been revealed, not only the ape and the tiger, but what is far worse – perverted and satanic man.” This is so familiar in our once so peaceful, God-fearing and fun-loving Sierra Leone. But all is not lost. Like John F. Kennedy wisely counseled, “our task (now) is not to fix the blame for the past, but to fix the course for the future.” Henry Ford, too, has said, “don’t find fault, find a remedy.” With Martin Luther King, JR and a God-inspired and filled spirituality, we can believe that a prejudiced, vengeful, hateful, egotistic, and desperately wicked and malevolent mind and diabolical Satanism can still be changed, that “man, by the Grace of God, can be lifted from the valley of hate to the high mountain of love.” We must, however, first trust that God is able to teach, enable, and empower us to rise above our past, our fears, misgivings, insecurities, hates and incapacities if we believe in Him, confess our faults, pray for, love, one another and inculcate a moral and spiritual care for the wellbeing of one another. If we keep our eyes focused on God, even if we may be drifting in the ocean of life’s tempests, troubles, trials and tribulations, He will be with us, look out for us, take care of us, and get us safely to shore.
We have the clear example of Jesus Christ we can follow: without compromising His claim to truth, He taught us to love not only our neighbour but also our enemy. Without compromising His character or any absolute value of His Father, He earned the reputation of being the “Friend of Sinners.” He has bequeathed to us a loving attitude, in the manner of our Father in Heaven. It is this that provides the basis for our deep need for forgiveness. To be able to forgive those who have truly hurt us is one of the most basic principles of the great spiritual revolution. We are inhabitants of a fallen world, bent out of shape by our sinfulness, afflicted by the moral and spiritual sickness of a disobedient people. In order to survive as a nation we have ” to dismantle the engines of anger, bitterness, hate and vengeance, and cut off the fuel; strip away illusions and lies, clean the ground, and build a new foundation for a new world.” We should “envision our society as one of Shalom, an ordered life characterized by joy and justice, piety and plenty, kindness and caring.”
The best way to change society is not through changing governmental modes but by first and foremost changing the human heart and putting Christ on the throne of our lives. The foundation that we must now build includes cultivating or shall I say enabling the emergence of statesmen who are God-fearing leaders or imbued with the spirit of serving their people and meeting their needs. The type of leadership has profound implications or consequences for the polity and people. Like a cancer whose cells mutate, so are the consequences of fallen, misguided or bad leadership. As the leader’s actions or inactions grow, multiply and take over, their deleterious effects spread their poison and affect everybody and undermine the entire edifice. Two options come with leadership: the temptation to be self-serving, and the opportunity to serve the people, i.e. to be a servant leader.
We can draw considerable inspiration from the way the Bible deals with leaders like David. The Bible does not cover up their faults and sins nor invent attributes they are not possessed of. On the contrary, it shows them up as they truly are, through prophets. The greatest legacy David has left us is of knowing his place before God so well, that he confessed his faults, foibles and frailties openly. His unique humility makes him an exemplary model, leaving the timeless message that God leads His leaders. The greatest message we get from our leaders is not the one we hear from them, i.e. their utterances and pronouncements, or from their spinners, but the one we see.
Leaders need healing as much as the rest of society. They experience as much, if not more, pain and confusion than the average citizen. If they do not deal with their emotional wounds, faults and limitations and inadequacies, and making decisions out of incorrect motivation or calculation or speculation, not only will the decisions be faulty but their consequences will be far-reaching. Thus, leaders must deal with their hurts and weaknesses not only out of a sense of public responsibility and personal fulfillment, but because of their impact upon their leadership. It is only a healthy leadership that can lead a wounded and hurting people to health.
A former President of Columbia University in New York, in asserting that the true leader must serve his people and meet their needs, reminds us of the useful distinction between what people want and what they need. What people need may not always be what they want. Nevertheless, God always knows what we need and is always ready to give that to us, even if we have to wait on Him. He went on to note: “Our world is made up of three kinds of people: the few who make things happen, the many who watch things happen, and the great majority who have no idea what is happening.” The distinction between need and want, but more especially between statesman and self-seeking politician, is critical and significant.
According to Edmund Burke, the statesman sees into the future, acts on enduring principles and for immortality, and lives for politics, while the politician regards only the present and lives by the day. For J.F.Clarke, the politician thinks of the next election, looks for the success of his party and is satisfied to drift, whereas the statesman thinks of the next generation, looks for his country’s success, and wishes to steer.
And Ord L. Morrow says that the politician sees which way the people are going and tries to stay ahead of them, whereas the statesman sees what is best and right and does that even if no one follows. In the venerable assertion of Winston Churchill, “the nation will find it very hard to look up to the leaders who are keeping their ears to the ground.” Statesmen do not need to court adulation or acclaim or expect always to be at the summit of power. Nevertheless, they make useful contributions, as the example of William Wilberforce attests. Five years after entering Parliament as the youngest Member, and despite being a gifted orator, a talented politician and a rising star with the possibility of becoming Prime Minister, Wilberforce chose to withdraw from Parliament to serve God. He declared, “It was not so much the fear of punishment by which I was affected, as a sense of my great sinfulness in having so long neglected the unspeakable mercies of my God and Saviour… The first years I was in Parliament, I did nothing – nothing that is to any purpose. My own distinction was my own darling object.” After he changed his heart and goals and forged a new relationship with God, he could write two years after leaving Parliament, “God Almighty has set before me two great objects – the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.” Thenceforth, he worked assiduously for spiritual change, i.e. change of heart toward God, and social change, on the basis of the application of Biblical principles and justice. This preoccupation found expression in the foundational history of this city that has become the capital of our country.
I want to finally conclude with an appeal, entreaty and affirmation that come from the bottommost part of the deepest part of my heart. I know that the Lord I serve, and before whom I am weak and sinful and vulnerable, does not delight in offerings and sacrifices, but rather in a broken and contrite heart and spirit, which He will not despise. “The ultimate measure of a man,” Martin Luther King, JR. maintained, “is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Every challenge that comes in our lives is an opportunity to rise. We do not learn character or the greatest lessons of life in times of ease and prosperity, but in times of our most serious heartaches and difficulties. If, therefore, I have in any wise wronged or given offence to anybody because of decisions I have taken, the manner in which I have acted or carried myself, or in statements I have made, I am sincerely sorry and hereby unreservedly ask for forgiveness and pardon. A person can be sincere, but sincerely wrong.
Like Governor Clarkson did, when he asked God in his prayer for Sierra Leone, I pray that, “if I have been deceived, I am sorry for it, and (God), may Thy will be done. But I implore Thee to accept the sincerity of my intentions and my best endeavours to improve the talent committed to my case. Only pardon the intuity of my nature, and I will trust to Thy mercy.” For my part, I want to state most sincerely that I bear no one any malice, blame or grudge for whatever has been said to or about me, or done to me, and the suffering or pain I have felt and had to endure. God does not give us a battle-free life but trains us through each battle to be strong enough to face more difficult ones.
Oswald Chambers, in his timeless devotional book, My Utmost For His Highest, insightfully tells us, when we reflect on our expectations, to “notice God’s unutterable waste of saints, according to the judgement of the world. God plants His saints in the most useless places. We say – God intends me to be here because I am so useful. Jesus never estimated His life along the line of the greatest use. God puts His saints where they will glorify Him, and we are no judges at all of where that is …A saint realizes that it is God who engineers his circumstances; consequently there are no complaints, only unrestrained surrender to Jesus. Never try to make your experience a principle for others, but allow God to be as creative and original with others as He is with you.”
I am thankful to the Almighty for His sparing Mercy and Grace, and for giving me the great opportunity to learn about myself and others from a unique vantage point and range of experiences, but most crucially from His Word! I am deeply in debt to my family for their undiminished love and support; for not giving up; and for being there for me. I am grateful to my Church, especially the pastorate, for the Godly mentoring and shepherding, and for the Word. I cannot miss this opportunity to express my heartfelt appreciation to the National Democratic Institute (NDI), for the privilege of using their Resource Centre, more particularly to produce this submission. I have been richly blessed and benefited enormously from this privilege. May God richly reward them!
The conscience of this our beloved nation has been seared and defiled and must be sanitized and resurrected. “May the heart of (Sierra Leone), O Lord, imbibe the spirit of meekness, gentleness, and truth; and may (Sierra Leoneans) henceforth live in unity and Godly love, following as far as the weakness of their mortal natures will admit, that most excellent and faultless pattern which Thou hast given us in Thy Son our Saviour, Jesus Christ, to Whom with Thee and the Holy Spirit be all Honour, Glory and Thanks, Now and Forever! Amen.”
THE UNIVERSITY OF SIERRA LE0NE
Thematic, Event-Specific and Institutional Hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Presentation on the Theme: “The May 1997 Coup”
Prof. Ernest H. Wright
Vice Chancellor, University of Sierra Leone
June – July 2003
- MY UNDERSTANDING OF THE ANTECEDENTS OF THE COUP AS WELL AS THE EVENTS LEADING TO THE COUP AND THE ROLE PLAYED BY ANY INSTITUTION, GROUP OR ORGANISATION.
It is unarguable that political disorders leading to military intervention in politics in a state are as a result of a combination of factors that have been in existence for a very long time. In doing justice to this first topic of my presentation, it would be helpful to limit the discussion of the antecedents of the May 1997 coup to a host of political events marking the four year regime of the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC), culminating in the circumstances surrounding the democratic presidential and parliamentary elections in February and March 1996, respectively. In this respect my discussion will focus on the rather immediate antecedents by looking at the political and security factors which led to the deposing of the then chairman of the junta regime (Captain Valentine Strasser) by his own colleagues led by Brigadier Maada Bio in a bloodless palace coup, and the worsening insecurity situation brought about by the failure of the junta regime to prosecuting the rebellion of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).
It is however widely believed that the increasing frustration within the ruling military leadership at the time to fulfil their trumpeted promise of ending the war, and the territorial gains of the RUF whose military campaign was closing in to the capital, Freetown may serve as a catalyst to the springing up of a strong and virile civil society which voiced the need and demanded a return to a civilian rule. It became known to every Sierra Leonean that the majority of the military corp of elite had agreed to the clarion call mounted by civil society for a return to the democratic process to such an extent that they had shown willingness to abide by the time table set for the democratic election on the 26`h February, 1996. To demonstrate this commitment, on January 16, 1996 the NPRC Leader -Captain Strasser, was overthrown by Brigadier Maada Bio, for allegedly attempting to usurp this democratic process by imposing himself on the nation through a manipulation of the elections on February 26, 1996.
It is thus important to recall the U-turn dimension of the war which had grown in intensity up to the end of 1995. The RUF who had earlier on categorically rejected offers for peace talks with the NPRC and an end to hostility, gave a swift response in declaring a one-week cease-fire and a return to the table with the New Leader Bio, was seen by many as a ploy to derail the democratic process. The decision by the new military leader to postpone the planned elections in February 1996 to hold peace talks with the RUF set into motion a series of events in which civil society played a critical role in determining the course of events in the history of the nation.
In the meantime, there had been a first conference held at Bintumani on the 17-18 August 1995 popularly known as the Bintumani Conference during which 56 voted as against 14 in support of peace before election. This time round, a similar conference – known as the Bintumani II conference was held on February 12, 1996 called principally to elicit views and consensus among civil society as to whether or not to defer elections. The unquestioning outcome of the conference was the overwhelming decision by civil society in favour of elections on schedule on February 26.
At this juncture, let me point out the underlying logic of the arguments relating to the crucial question of peace before election, or the reverse. The underlying arguments of those who preferred postponement of February 26 elections was that the thousands of displaced and refugee population in neighboring countries and beyond would not be able to vote – a painful disenfranchisement of people affected by war. This category of people argued for peace or at least a temporary cessation of hostility before election to avoid or reduce the scale of violence and to give fair opportunity to every Sierra Leonean at home and abroad to vote. On the contrary, the majority whose uncompromising stance was for elections on schedule reasoned that not holding democratic elections could set the stage for the military to prolong their grip on power, and pave the way for further disruption of the peace. At the end of the day, they won. What so far precipitated the hastening of the exit of the military from power, and the strengthening of the will and determination of the general populace was the exemplary conduct of the eminent chairman of the Interim National Electoral Commission – Dr. James Jonah.
With his astute leadership and notable achievements of election experiences from other regimes in Africa, Dr. Jonah came to represent the true wishes of Sierra Leoneans and whose interest in redeeming the nation from the chaos it had sunk, no doubt galvanized civil society into a strong force, encompassing the shades from every walk of life. Everywhere and in every circle, the term Jonah! Jonah! came to be a clarion call awakening the spirit of nationhood and patriotic sentiment. In short, his uncompromising stand for sound principles and democratic values did a lot to keep off the balance any who wanted to derail the process.
A look at the events during the elections and immediately after confirms the tenacity and courage of Sierra Leoneans whose frustration and despair at the unprecedented change in political circumstances had by then one final hope to rescue the nation from its long nightmare – that is the 26 February 1996, presidential and parliamentary elections.
In the face of heightened insecurity, and fabricated violence as evidenced in the desire of the greater portion of the military not to relinquish power and to thwart the democratic transistion process, the people defied the sounds of guns and bullets to vote on Febraury 26, 1996. Aided by other well-meaning persons from civil society groups for instance Madam Zainab Bangura of Campaign For Good Governance, the elections went ahead as planned. Even though the results of first elections did not produce a clear winner of any one single party by obtaining 55% of the vote, there had to be a run off between Dr. Tejan Kabbah of the SLPP and Dr. John Karefa-Smart of the UNPP which was set for March 15, 1996. Again tensions grew to a larger degree for the presidential run off elections as fear increased not only from tribal rivalries as manifested in the outcome of the first polls, but for the possibility of these factors which might be used by the military as a pretext to annul the election and perpetuate their stay in power.
To everyone’s surprise, on March 15, 1996, not a single short was fired and voting took place even in the remote inaccessible parts of the country without hitch. On 17th March 1996, Dr. Tejan Kabbah was proclaimed the winner sweeping 60% of the votes, and the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) stepped into the corridors of power after almost 30 years in political wilderness.
The newly-elected civilian government led by president Kabbah had many formidable challenges to confront. More importantly, the inability of the junta regime to fulfill their mandate of ending the rebel war, the re-organisation of the economy, and of eliminating corruption represented the crucial focus of the new democratic government. A major thrust of the new government’s short term vision was to seize the opportunity of advancing the political solution as an alternative option to ending the war, the foundation of which had been laid by the former junta regime chairman – Brigadier Maada Bio. In November 30, 1996, a negotiated peace settlement was reached with the rebel forces known as the Abidjan Peace Accord, which among other things made provisions for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, the inclusion of some top political leaders of the RUF into the New Government, and the transformation of the movement to a full-pledge political party.
If one attempts to find answers to the reasons leading to the May 1997 coup, a little over a year after the newly-elected democratic government came to power, then we must try to analyse some events that may pin point some of it causes. It was common knowledge to most critical Sierra Leonean that the majority of the military were dissatisfied with the apparent exposure of serious abuse and misuse of public funds in prosecuting the war they themselves had not succeeded in ending. Allegations continued to be highlighted about massive corrupt practices and embezzlement of public funds in key sector ministries such as Finance, Education, Mineral Resources, Defense and so on.
What followed was a major purge in the army in a bid to rid off the institution of junta elements. For example Brigadier Joy Toure and Chief of Army Staff-lieutenant Colonel Kumba Monde were replaced by Colonel Hassan Conteh. In addition to this, there were serious moves by the democratic government to implement major reforms directed at improving the system of accountability and transparency in the financial management of the army. At the heart of this reform within the Defense Ministry alone was the issue of downsizing the blotted figure of the army and the review of the quantity of rice allocated to this sector every month.
Another issue which was regarded as a sensitive factor which displeased the army was the Kamajoh – soldier relationship against the RUF as the common enemy. Before this time, the kamajor as a local militia force mobilized by the Deputy Defence Minister Chief Hinga Norman had stemmed the tide of advances of the RUF mainly in the southern region of the country. With the coming into power the SLPP – led democratic government, there were plans to integrate the fighters into the regular army, and the somewhat increased attention paid to their welfare fueled speculation of the desire of the SLPP stalwarts to create a private army to manipulate their continued stay in power. Thus it was obvious that an uneasy calm characterized their relationship which grew worse when there were reports of serious fighting between the army and the kamajoh at mile 91 sometime around the end of 1996.
There was also to my understanding the added factor of the diminishing of confidence in the integrity of the army to provide security among the civilian population. Throughout the four-year era of the NPRC junta regime, the horrific nature of the brutality orchestrated against the civilians especially in the provinces, and the consistent success of the rebels in controlling over half of the country was blamed entirely on the ludicrous charge of collaboration between some elements of the army and the RUF. Suspicion grew about the role of the government forces when in 1994, the NPRC set up a tribunal to probe into alleged involvement of government troops in the capture as Tongo Field and Panguma. Several arrests were made but some were released later.
- THE WORK OF MY INSTITUTION PRIOR TO THE CONFLICT AS WELL AS EXPERIENCES DURING THE CONFLICT. THE INVOLVEMENT OF MY INSTITUTION IF ANY IN THE EVENTS LEADING TO THE COUP
Prior to the May 1997 coup events, the University of Sierra Leone comprising it constituents arms (FBC, NUC, COMAHS and IPAM) was running its normal academic programmes and activities as a non political institution of higher learning. It is however worthy to note that the University Community reflects the microcosm of the Sierra Leone nation embodying views and opinions which constitute the general perception of what may be described as the “public good,” or in the nation’s general interest.
As the University fulfills its daily mission of equipping and enriching the human capital of the nation, so it has always come under increasing pressures from time to time to react to events in society within which it operates. At this point, it is important to recall the role of played by the university in the events before the coup. Generally the academic community was in support of the restoration of democratic rule even before the February 26,1996 elections. Representatives of the Academic Staff Association as well as the Students Union, were active participants and delegates during the Bintumani II Conference, which strongly advocated for elections before peace.
After the May 1997 coup, members of the academic community and the students body continued to protest against the junta regime, and in one instance, the students protest and demonstration led to serious clashes with the military government which was heavily suppressed, resulting in beatings and deaths of many students in August 1997.
The University Administration During The AFRC/RUF Period
The resulting atmosphere of insecurity and lawlessness, and the breakdown of law and order led many senior academic staff to flee the country in fear of their lives. The then Vice-Chancellor, Prof. D. E. B. Chaytor, including myself, Prof. E. H. Wright then head of the’ Chemistry Department FBC, students and several others all left the country.
Academic activities ground to a virtual halt in all the campuses of the constituent arms. However, there was a semblance of a functioning Administration. The three Principals of the constituent arms (Prof. Strasser-King, FBC, Prof. Harry Turay, NUC, Prof. Ahmed Taqi of COMAHS), and Mr. I. B. May-Parker, Director of IPAM and the Secretary and Registrar of the University, Mr. J. A. G. Thomas were all at post. In a stern effort to return the nation to normality, the junta regime focussed their attention on reopening the University for normal academic work. Pressures were mounted on the Senior University Administrators at post and one of the strategies used was to invite them to meetings at State House to persuade them to support the regime by resuming academic activities in their different campuses.
In some cases, they were invited directly by the chairman of the junta regime – Major Johnny Paul Koroma to entice them to re-open the colleges. This included the offer of funds to meet the cost of running the University and the offer of vehicles to the Principals.
A crucial issue of discord within the University academic community was the matter of who was the University Chancellor. There was a major disagreement in the University as to who was its chancellor in accordance with the University Act of Parliament in 1972. This issue was not satisfactorily handled, and the stalemate continued the same throughout the period.
- SOME DETAILED DISCUSSION OF THE NATURE OF THE SITUATION BEFORE AND AFTER THE COUP AND ITS IMPACT ON THE SOCIETY
The preceding sections of this presentation have focused primarily on the nature of the situation which precipitated the May 1997 coup, as well as the role played by groups or institutions, all of which have thrown sufficient light not only on incidents prior to the coup but also their causes and impacts leading to the coup. This section will discuss in some detail the impact of the situation particularly after the coup on the society.
An apt description of the situation during and immediately after the coup is that Sierra Leone as a nation had sunk into deep and complex political emergencies. That means there was an apparent and virtual breakdown of all politico-social and economic structures on which the foundation of the nation lay. This situation and its attending debilitating consequences on the psyche of every Sierra Leonean will be ever remembered in the sad chapters of the history of the nation.
The experience of the army’s alleged collaboration with the rebels, and its inability and stark negligence in defending the lives and property of the citizens left every well-meaning Sierra Leonean in serious doubt as to why the army in the first place should exist, and for what purpose did the nation spend such huge resources towards its upkeep and maintenance.
Because of the apparent frustration of the civilian populace about the role of the army in the entire conflict, confidence waned remarkably in the army as an institution for serving the public good. Civil military relationship experienced a serious strain, as the army acquired the notorious image of “Sobels.”
When elements of the Sierra Leone Army (SLA) seized power in a military coup on 25t” May 1997, they immediately formed the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, under the leadership of major Johnny Paul Koroma and invited the RUF to join them. Their leader was at the time at Pademba Road prison detained some months back for allegedly plotting to overthrow the democratic government of president Tejan Kabbah. Criminals who were on roll for prosecution for either treason or serious allegations of theft of both government and civilian properties were all let loose from the prisons. This period was the most volatile, uncertain, and insecure that the nation had ever experienced. In the face of hostile reaction from both the people in the nation and the international community, the junta clinged onto power and even sought to attract support from both within and outside the nation.
Systematic, planned and large scale human rights abuses and atrocities against the civilian population continued unabated. In such a situation of political emergencies, there were no structures or mechanisms for addressing these massive violations of human rights as the junta’s main pre-occupation at the time was to legitimize its stay in power. All major socio-economic facilities and amenities suffered greatly as a result, to the extent that public dissatisfaction with regard to the provision of these basic facilities grew with the passage of time.
There were no schooling, university functioning, and no public health facilities, electricity and maintenance of roads. All this coupled with the ever-increasing decline in the quality of living of the civilian population created a general mood of melancholy and utter dissatisfaction and a sense of helplessness and hopelessness for the future of the nation.
To make matters even worse was the complete halt of economic activities as both private and public sector workers stayed at home and were not being paid.
With the exception of the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank, all other financial institutions were not in operation, and there were grave difficulties of accessing money even for those who had accounts in the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank.
All the relevant freedoms associated with people as humans disappeared completely during the dark days which followed the May 1997 coup. Protests and demonstrations were violently and mercilessly suppressed and the regime was very intolerant with its critics. A regime of terror was unleashed on the civilian population, and there were large-scale arrests and detentions without trial. The unpopularity of the regime grew worse when in August 1997, a group of unarmed and peaceful students demonstrating against the regime was severely beaten and live shorts fired at the crowd. Many students were killed during the fracas.
The only source of hope during this uncertain period was the broadcast of the 98.1 democratic radio in exile, which seriously challenged the autocratic rule of the junta regime. No one dared to listen loudly to this station, and hunting of alleged collaborators of this station continued throughout the period, resulting in beatings, arrests and in some cases deaths.
- EXISTING SHORTCOMINGS IN THE SYSTEM INCLUDING LEGAL, POLITICAL AND OTHER ISSUES
It is a matter of public knowledge that, at the core of issues widely associated with the progressive collapse of the political system and structures of the nation over the last three decades is that of bad governance, compounded by the apparent lack of a sense of direction by successive governments. The political period which followed soon after the nation gained independence from Britain in 1961 is always remembered to have been left with vibrant, progressive and result-oriented national institutions and structures within which the foundations of a successful democracy were laid.
It is , thus saddening to note that the nation’s tremendous political fortunes did not continue for long after independence following the death of its astute leader, Sir Milton Margai, in 1964. Then the nation started experiencing all the socio-economic and political shortcomings associated with bad governance.
The emploria associated with the emancipation from the trammels of colonialism backed by a well-educated public service and enviable and abundant natural resources in the early part of the 1960s, soon started to disappear, when the nation entered into one-party rule under the All Peoples Congress Party (APC) from 1972 onwards. One of the dominant weaknesses of this political era under the rule of Dr. Siaka Stevens was the over centralization of governmental power and authority and the rapid decline of state institutions that used to encourage mass participation of the populace in governance. A key institution which suffered from this was local government structures and systems. The dissolution by the one-party rule of local government councils in 1972 that had been experiencing political crisis from 1964-1972, left in its wake the denial and marginalization of popular participation in overall national development. There could hardly be any doubt that the political maneuverings which marked the 1967 elections and its aftermaths contributed in no small measure to laying the tragic foundation for much of the political turmoil which pervaded the nation throughout the two-decades of the one-party rule and the successive governments throughout the 1990s period. Every sector fell into a serious state of disrepair. There were alleged widescale corrupt practices in most state institutions as the economy fell into shambles.
One key sector – the judiciary responsible for promoting good governance and administering justice appeared to have become an instrument freely manipulated to satisfy the few against the disadvantaged majority. The judiciary as a legal institution was considered to be heavily politicized and subsumed under government control, particularly under the regime of president Siaka Stevens and later Joseph Saidu Momoh. Appointments of judges and magistrates appeared to be skillfully manipulated in many cases, and were seen by the general populace as an instrument of not only state power, but also of wealthy interests. Equitable and impartial justice and its mechanism were seen to have been perverted as a rather slow and cumbersome adjudication and arbitration process became the order of the day. There was hardly any surprise that deep seated feelings of resentment and of unfairness developed towards the judiciary from those who perceived they had received unfair treatments at its hands.
The tide of attacks on the Pademba Road prisons since 1991, and its breaking in May 1997 to free Major Johnny Paul Koroma who was being held in detention on charges of involvement in a coup plot may well have been conceived by some as a response to a supposedly corrupt judicial system and practice.
Another area which epitomizes the collapse of state institutions was in the appointment of Ministers and public officials, and their poor performance records. The exercise of exclusive power by the political system throughout the period meant that only those seen to be loyal to political party interests were appointed to key managerial positions, majority of whom were considered incapable of playing effective leadership roles in national bodies. Confidence in their ability to manage effectively state institutions waned among the citizenry, and this laid the basis for the rapid decline of the economy. Decisions on several economic and social issues were overshadowed by the desire to satisfy the interests of the powerful business concerns rather than in the interests of the nation. In short, the utter disregard of regulations in most Ministries, like finance and mineral resources, provided the focal point for a variety of shady and fraudulent activities. Stories of wide scale corruption and embezzlement of state funds became the order of the day.
The consequences of the existence of this pervasive trend of circumstances was a deplorable standard of living of the ordinary people. The issue of increasing poverty in the midst of abundance of natural resources reflected the magnitude of the decline the nation had fallen into. Thus, hope disappeared among the ordinary citizens for a future in the nation, as going round the back door in order to become wealthy became the vogue of society. Basic social amenities such as education, housing and healthcare were grossly inadequate. What seemed to hasten the degeneration of the social and economic infrastructure was the belief in the proclamation that “where a cow is tied there it shall graze” during the whole period of the one-party rule especially under the rule of president Siaka Stevens. As this statement became endemic, there was a lax system for promoting accountability and transparency. This state of affairs was further compounded by the absence of patriotism and commitment to national ethos. Another debilitating factor within this scenario was the issue of tribalism and sectionalism which seemed to worsen during the era of president Joseph Saidu Momoh.
The semblance of regional and inter-ethnic unity and balance, under the regime of Dr. Siaka Stevens, gradually disappeared under the regime of president Joseph Momoh to such an extent that he even became the godfather of his own Limba tribal Association known as `Ekutay.”
It is no secret that loyalty to the interests of this ethnic-based institution took precedence over the APC party itself, the government and the nation, thus preparing the stage for the nuturing of long-nursed vendetta and discontent that found visible expression in vicious political and rebel conflicts.
- THE PECULIARITIES OF THE SITUATION AND HOW THESE PLAY OUT IN INTER GROUP OR OTHER RELATIONS AND AFFILIATIONS.
In discussing the calamities that have befallen this nation since independence, what stands out as a peculiar situation is the glaring failure of the nation to harness its rich and endowed natural resources to the general national good of its people. Sierra Leone, a small country with less than four million people at independence was a land of great promise, and an envy to most of its West African neighbours. In the early 1960s under the astute statesmanship of its fatherly figure – Sir Milton Margai, there were positive indicators of a booming economy characterized by a flood of capital and goods, rice, the staple food, was exported to the neighbouring countries and the diamond trade boomed. The nation was governed in line with promoting national values which emphasized the prioritization of the nation’s interest above selfish ends.
It was not long after that the nation’s future took a dramatic turn. The death of Sir Milton Margai in 1964, succeeded by his brother Sir Albert Margai who ruled from 1964-1967 when he was removed from power after loosing the elections of 1967/68, heralded the birth of a multitude of political changes and instability, leading to the collapse of nation’s great promise and hope. The tragic events which accompanied the 1967 elections are often seen as providing the root causes of the maze of social, political and economic ills which have confronted the nation right up to this day.
The peculiarities of the political situation of the nation have always been attributed to the ill defined methods by which the political transition process was effected. The prevalence of several coup and coup attempts, which greeted the political landscape from 1967 to 1997 manifested the deep-seated tendency of many individuals and groups to seek power solely to satisfy their selfish ends, regardless of any other national considerations.
The spate of executions of key military and public personnel following these coup attempts or alleged coup attempts by successive regimes exacerbated the high tension and simmering resentments, that provided the framework for the political instability the nation has had to endure for a very long time. For instance the unsuccessful coup attempts between the 70’s and 80’s resulted in the executions of many politicians including Ibrahim Bash Taqi, Brigadier Lansana and even Brigadier Bangura who had earlier relinquished power to Dr. Siaka Stevens. Foday Sankoh, the RUF leader himself was convicted, and sentenced to 5 years imprisonment in an alleged coup attempt in the early 70s. In the NPRC era, their four-year rule was filled with rumours of coup attempts even within the army. The overthrow of captain Strasser by his colleagues in 1995 revealed the high level of mistrust, and suspicion that characterized their relationship at all levels within the army cadre.
The apparent political divide in the country fostered and encouraged especially under the one-party presidency of Major – General Saidu Momoh led to deepening of regional, sectional and tribal sentiments which played a crucial role in inter-group and other affiliations. The North was widely perceived as the strong hold of the All Peoples Congress Party and other anti-Sierra Leone peoples party (SLPP) groups, whereas the south and south east inhabited mainly by Mendes were perceived to be SLPP strongholds. The North inhabited by one of the largest ethnic groups – the Temnes, and other northern ethnic groups like the Limba had been associated with the power brokers throughout the two decades of the APC rule. The south and east of the country represented the strongest opposition-the SLPP party, who had been excluded from politics since the 1970s and, given the apparent recklessness with which the country had been governed, there was hardly any surprise that the civil war started in the east of the country, by individuals who perceived themselves as having been relegated to the doldrums of politics for a very long time.
A glaring feature of the peculiarities of the situation was the issue of wealth acquired by the ruling political class. Throughout the recent history of the nation, there had been such great disparity in the distribution of wealth that the claims of corrupt practices in high places were given enormous publicity by the press.
Getting rich by all means and at all cost became the order of the day, as dubious businessmen were often favoured with illegal contracts for supply of every conceivable items, and mineral resources exploited with little regard for the laid down laws and regulations set up by the respective national bodies.
Within this scenario, effective public administration was left in tatters as public officials preoccupied themselves with acquiring illegal wealth to the detriment of the people. Education and employment opportunities were limited for the young people, who because of the nation’s failure to provide adequate educational facilities for self fulfillment became a disgruntled group who were manipulated by politicians to act as destructive elements especially during elections. This perhaps may help to explain the readiness of youths to become active players and agents throughout the nation’s political crises
At this point, it is but fitting that our attention should be focussed on how these issues we have identified play out in inter-group or other relations or affiliations. To start with, it is inevitable that a system that is beguiled with such malaise, would attract hostile criticisms from the ordinary people in whose interest it purports to serve. The general citizenry gradually became far removed from the daily activities of the political class as the existing political structure was perceived as grossly inefficient and insensitive to fulfilling the social contract that exists between the Government and the governed.
Such an unhealthy relationship between the Government and the general populace was manifested in various forms such as the existence of inter-party conflicts, the formation of different affiliations brought about sometimes by the need to pursue a common goal, and divisions even within the security apparatus of the nation. Compounding this situation further was the polarization of the political system that often led to increasing tensions and rivalries as the ruling party resorted to unconstitutional measures to exert full control of the state. From this perspective, the Sierra Leone society, having progressively and systematically degenerated because of wrong and inimical policies for over three decades, bore all the hallmarks of a weak and failed state, incapable of delivering the promise upon which it drew the mandate of the ordinary citizens.
Thus, the relationship between the two parties was one that was marked by all sorts of conflicts ranging from conflict of interest to one of hostile perception of the ruling class, all of which combined to provoke complex political emergencies and the emergence of civil strife in the nation.
- ANY CONSIDERATION WHETHER SOCIAL, ECONOMIC, CULTURAL, ETC. WHICH PERPETUATE AND ENTRENCH EXISTING STRUCTURES AND PRACTICES
In the preceding Sections particularly under (D) and (E) above, there have been some detailed discussion and analysis on issues that involve considerations pertaining to the social, economic, cultural structures and practices leading to a collapse of the state system and the political turmoil that resulted afterwards.
For example some of the peculiarities of the situation highlighted in Section (E), such as,
- A political experience since independence marked by several coups or coup attempts;
• The apparent political divide in the country, with the South and East being SLPP strongholds. and the North being APC stronghold;
• The apparent wealth of the political class and the constant publicity given to claims of corruption in high places in various facets of national life;
• The apparent failure of the nation to provide diversified educational opportunities for the youths, and the lack of employment opportunities for these youths.
Again, some of the shortcomings in the system as highlighted in (D) also serve as agents for perpetuating and entrenching existing structures and practices. These include:
- The issue of bad governance compounded by an apparent lack of direction by successive governments,
• Over-centralisation of government powers leading to the marginalisation and exclusion of grassroots participation in overall national development;
• The non-functioning of local governments;
• A rather slow and cumbersome adjudication and arbitration of court cases, with the resulting feeling and charges of a corrupt judicial system among the populace;
• The lowly socio-economic status of the people, with low wages and low standard of living,
• An apparent lack of full national control of the natural resources and an uneven distribution of wealth.
- THE CONSEQUENCES OF ALL THE FOREGOING AND WHETHER ANY EXISTING STRUCTURES OR PROCESSES PROVIDE ANY REMEDIES, AND THE LEVEL OF ACCESS THAT EXIST TO THE REMEDIES.
It is generally true that a society fraught with an enormity of socioeconomic ills, political and cultural decadence, will inevitably face a serious threat to the cornerstone of the unity on which it was created. The aftermaths of the host of debilitating factors that hastened the decline of this once stable society at independence revealed itself in the deep divisions that have impacted on the very fabric of the existence of the nation. The experiences of Sierra Leone and the array of difficulties it has sailed through in its over four decades of independence are replete with stories of the agony of a nation.
As every sector of the nation fell into a serious state of dysfunction, so also did the level of consequences which affected every aspect of national life become more pronounced. The poverty gap widened between the haves and the haves not, and the degree of dissatisfaction and alienation grew against policies of government. By the beginning of the 1990s the nation had degenerated towards becoming the poorest country in the globe. A catastrophic consequence was the politicization of the army, and the feeling generated in the army that it could offer a better alternative government. The first military intervention in 1967 into the political process, and the failure of the civilian government in tandem to restrain the institution from intruding into the political corridors is believed to have been responsible for the many coups and coup attempts that have plagued this nation.
Associated with all this, is the high level of illiteracy, and the corresponding low level of civic awareness and responsibilities of the general populace. Again the exclusion of the general populace from participating in popular decision-making and promoting the principles of good governance and democracy intensified the alienation of the masses from the government. In the face of almost total exclusion of the disadvantaged majority and the apparent absence of effective organs to administer justice, not much could be done by the state to ensure the respect and defence of human rights and upholding the values of the rule of law.
Structures Or Processes Providing Or Attempting To Provide Remedies, And The Levels Of Access That Exist To The Remedies.
In recognition of the felt need to reverse this unwholesome trend of restricted access to quality and high level education, the university is at the moment striving to expend educational opportunities particularly at the tertiary level through access courses and programmes. To cater for the emerging needs of post-war Sierra Leone, it has introduced and will continue to introduce many new and career-oriented programmes to diversify employment opportunities and service the critical needs of government, as well as of the private, commercial and industrial sectors.
As a way of providing solutions and addressing the need for a peaceful and conflict-free society, and preventing the re-emergence of violent conflict, the university has launched the Peace and Conflict Studies Programme. Much has been achieved in this direction in just less than half a year since the inception of the programme. There is now a Human Rights Clinic at Fourah Bay College which provides a nexus between theory and practice in the field of human rights protection and promotion. The establishment of a Peace and Conflict Resolution Society in the campus is one bold initiative by students to increase the involvement of youths in peace building and promoting conflict resolution at all levels of society.
Research projects by staff of the university have been undertaken to respond to the need for tracing the antecedents of the civil conflict, which in the end would lead to concrete initiatives in redressing the ills of the nation.
The university is determined to play a more vigorous role in leading national efforts for capacity building of not only other tertiary educational institutions in the area of peace, conflict and development disciplines, but also in general human capacity building nation-wide.
A key area in which the university attempts to provide remedies to the political and economic tragedies of the nation is the participation of its staff members in many national bodies set up principally by Government to promote the principles of good governance and transparency. In the realm of government’s response to provide redress to the crisis of the nation, an encouraging trend is the establishment of a separate newly-designated Ministry of Education, Science and Technology which is implementing a new education policy aimed at diversifying access at all levels of education to address not only the high level of illiteracy but also to focus on the development of human resources in technical and vocational disciplines.
Ministries of Government such as Agriculture, Mineral Resources, Finance and Trade are all implementing policies and plans aimed at reducing the poverty level and improving markedly the financial returns to the nation from its rich reservoir of natural resources, thus satisfying the basic needs of the ordinary citizens of the nation. The establishment of national bodies such as the Anti-Corruption Commission, NASSIT, the Social Security Scheme, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the appointment of a large number of Justices of Peace to assist the Courts processes at the magisterial level, are all encouraging signs signaling the determination of government to addressing the ills which have befallen this nation. The special attention devoted to fighting corruption which for several decades had been the bane of society represents the formidable challenges towards re-instituting the concepts of good governance for rapid national progress. The announcement recently about the appointment of two judges and a prosecutor for the Anti-Corruption Commission is a welcome development to advance the fight against this dreadful scourge in the society.
The on-going reforms in the police and the army are seen by many as representing a big step in the direction of improving national security and of repairing and improving the damaged civil-military relations.
The building of a patriotic army and police towards guaranteeing adequate protection of life and property, and protection of our nation from external aggression provide useful steps towards solutions to the problems of national security.
Another encouraging development are the on-going reforms in the judiciary. The operationalisation of the Law Courts project being effected all over the country, with the facelift given to the main Law Court building in Freetown portends a critical element in the onward strive for lasting peace and stability in the nation.
A by-product of the decade-long civil conflict is the emergence of a strong and virile civil society, and many local and community-based groups and organizations. The increased involvement of civil society in national affairs and the increased activities of human-rights-based organisations such as Campaign for Good Governance, the National Forum for Human Rights, among others are all indicators of the emergence of structures intended to provide both long and short term redress to the diverse problems that confront the nation.
The establishment of Think tank bodies to reform the governance structures and for the resuscitation of decentralization of governance at the local level such as the Governance Reform Secretariat and the introduction of training courses on local government decentratization and administration at IPAM herald the beginning of constructive approaches to the widening of participation of the grassroots in national decision-making and national development.
The increased role and focus of the international community in assisting the nation to recover from the nightmare of its difficulties demonstrate the commitment of the nation’s friends to build new democratically accountable government and a safe future for all the people of Sierra Leone. The involvement and assistance in the nation’s development efforts of Great Britain, Nigeria, ECOWAS, the United Nations and others have paved the way for meaningful development of the nation. A bold step to fighting poverty and restoring the self-esteem of the ordinary people is the development and the systematic implementation of the interim Poverty Reduction Strategy scheme by Government, which is also being supported by the international community.
The provision of micro-credit facilities to the poor administered by the National Commission for Social Action and SAPA is helping to restore hope and dignity to the ordinary people who were gravely affected by the war. This also can be seen as a form of remedy to the existing poverty circumstances of the people of the nation.
So far, the most visible steps taken to provide a remedy to the existing political situation is the setting up of two accountability institutions, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Special Court to address respectively the issues of the root causes of the war and of impunity, and to bring to justice the people who bear the greatest responsibility for serious and heinous crimes committed during the civil war. It leaves no one in doubt that success of these two accountability institutions will help to lay a very strong foundation for lasting peace in the nation.
- RECOMMENDATIONS, REFORMS AND PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS
After a careful consideration of the issues raised and discussed in the preceding sections the following recommendations, reforms and practical solutions are hereby proposed for the smooth returning of the nation towards a path of sustainable development and economic prosperity.
In order to ensure the creation of conditions for sustainable peace and economic development which this country badly needs, there should be an increase in the activities by all stakeholders and the international community as outlined in the approaches already put in place to provide remedies to those situations and their consequences and those structures and processes which led to the civil war. Government, parastatals, civil society, educational institutions, the private sector, industry and commerce must be determined to evolve positive approaches to resolving our problems and should see each others role as mutually reinforcing towards meeting the goals of the post-war development agenda.
Long term conditions for promoting peace, democracy, good governance and sound economic management require sound policy measures for addressing the socio-political and economic vulnerabilities experienced over four decades. This will involve the building or strengthening of institutions of democracy, and there institution of decentralized governance at all levels of society. The decentralization process must be such that grass roots participation is enhanced, and local government institutions given some autonomy, with provision for monitoring by the central government.
To promote democracy and good governance, governmental Institutions and the ruling political class need to pay more attention to criticisms from opposition parties and other groups. Policies implemented must always take into account constructive criticisms. There thus needs to be a change of attitude among the political class towards constructive criticisms or suggestions.
Various Ministries of Government should evolve more targetted policies, plans, or programmes to improving reach, efficiency and sustainability of basic services to the general populace.
It is generally acknowledged that sustainable economic development is impossible in the absence of full control of the God-given natural resources by the indigenes of a nation. It is therefore imperative that the resources of the nation should be in the hands of the citizenry, and in order to ensure this, there needs to be a more vigorous approach by the line Ministries concerned to promote indigenisation of programmes and policies, which seek to harness the resources for the benefit of the people of the nation. Key Ministries such as Lands, Housing and the Environment, should implement an effective housing policy to ensure adequate provision of decent dwelling facilities for the masses, revisiting the land tenure system in the whole country in order to diversify free-hold facilities especially in the provinces. However there needs to be a more structured mechanism put in place regarding this issue, and it should be done in the spirit of improving national cohesion, stemming the tide of rural-urban migration, eventually leading to greater and more equitable development in the provinces.
The Health ministry should make accessible affordable medical facilities to the general populace throughout the country. The Ministry of Agriculture should pursue the unwavering implementation of the food security programme, and should not be starved of funding and resources to realize it vision for sustainable food supply to every citizen. In the area of youth employment and capacity building for self reliance, the ministries of Youths and Labour should be more practically-oriented by evolving outcome-based projects and strategies to increase young peoples’ participation in national development, as well as opening up more avenues for the employment of youths.
Empowering the poor through efficient management of programmes and structures under the framework of poverty reduction strategies must be given adequate attention. Efforts to achieve this goal must emphasize the involvement of the beneficiaries in the management and identification of pro-poor projects to ensure that programmes implemented do make a real difference in the standard of living of the ordinary citizens. The status of women needs to be given priority in the efforts for the reduction of poverty. The international community through Donor and Credits-lending financial institutions should accelerate the implementation of the Interim Poverty Reduction Strategic Plan.
A crucial issue in bridging the poverty gap within the population is the need to revisit the existing loan facilities in the financial institutions. A mechanism should be put in place whereby indigenes would have ready access to loan facilities offered by financial institutions. This in the long run will assist indigenes in taking control of the economy of the nation, and lay the basis for economic prosperity. The fight against corruption should be intensified and to ensure its success as well as control of crime and violence, there should be an adequately funded court system, access to speedy recource and redress, as well as a more efficient judiciary.
To promote the principles of accountability and transparency conducive to the realization of the values of good governance, there needs to be put in place regular publication of accounts even for local-level activities, the dissemination of basic data on performance, and mechanisms for client feed back, including reports and other forms of client surveys, for all public-service oriented national institutions.
Furthermore, meeting the goals of sustainable development would also require more effective rules for seeking and holding public office. Fair; transparent national processes and a provision for power-sharing arrangements to ensure national stability should be a sine qua non in ensuring sustainable democracy building in the nation building process.
THE FORGOTTEN ISLAND AND THE MAY 25TH 1997 COUP
THE SITUATION REPORT ON BONTHE ISLAND AFTER THE MAY 25TH 1997 COUP
This booklet is meant to be a report to His Grace the Archbishop of Freetown and Bo, Dr. Joseph Henry Ganda. It is very much a historical document of the experience of the people of Bonthe from May 25th Coup that toppled the democratically elected Government of President Alhaji Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabba and brought into power a military junta (AFRC) comprising some members from the National Army and the RUF fighters, known as the People’s Army to the 10th March which marked the return of Democracy.
The Booklet is divided into two parts:
- Bonthe during the AFRC Junta Rule
2. The Dawn of the Kamajors
This is an eye opener to the people of Bonthe under the AFRC Junta Rule and the Kamajors. The people of Bonthe suffered greatly at the hands of both the AFRC soldiers and the Kamajors.
It is not all that happened in Bonthe that are mentioned in this booklet but the general experience in which I was mainly involved.
I am very much grateful to Mr. Isaac Williams, a senior citizen of Bonthe, Osward Hancils, Acting Principal Bonthe Technical College, Paul Kpana, David Milton and Frank Williams, all of Bonthe, for proof reading and cross checking of events and dates in the booklet. Together with the entire of people of Bonthe, we were all partners in our fateful experience during the period.
This booklet will be incomplete if I fail to express my gratitude to Rev Fr. Michael for providing the printing facilities and Mrs. Ann-Marie Casell of the IKABH Secretariat, Santano House for typing and editing the booklet: not forgetting Paul kargbo who also helped in the printing of this booklet.
Let me conclude by saying that I am very much responsible for whatever information that is contained in this booklet. If there is nay part of this booklet that one is not satisfied with I stand to be challenged.
Rev. Fr. John E. Garrick
ST PATRICK’S PARISH
5th December 1997
Archbishop Joseph Ganda
Archdiocese of Freetown & Bo
Dear His Grace
For about 2 months now I have been in Freetown, away from my parish. I used this period not only to rest and to recuperate from the problems we went through in Bonthe, but to reflect and produce a detailed report about all that have been happened in Bonthe, from the May 25th 1997 Coup up to the 1st week in November. This report will soon be completed and will be submitted to you before I leave for Bonthe. I am now eager to rejoin my own Christian Community.
Life in Bonthe after the Coup have been very difficult. With the Kamajors occupying the whole of the mainland Bonthe District and the interior of the island. Bonthe town became isolated and besieged with n o links with the other parts of the country and most times not even the interior of the island. Save the occasional trip of the gun boats carrying military supplies from Freetown to Bonthe. Sometimes civilians are not allowed on these boats.
There are no passenger boats running and because of this people are really starving in Bonthe. Many old and sick people came to me for food and even myself there were times I found it difficult to get food for myself, the two Nigerian Sisters and seminarians. A bag of rice (when available) costs about Le. 50,000.00 and the average Church collection is about Le 6,000.00. Just for food I have a debt of Le 260,000.00.
As for the Clinic, I could not get any medicine from NCHO and salaries for the Clinic staff because of our inaccessibility. I had to buy drugs very expensively from the Government Hospital to keep the clinic going even though very little was realised from it. It was very much on charity basis since most people could not afford to pay for their medication. Later the Government Hospital ceased operation because of lack of medical supplies especially medicines. The two doctors, Dr. Samba and Dr. Turay left Bonthe and the clinic took over the medical care of the people.
When the situation became tensed in Bonthe I was advised by some elders in the Parish to arrange an emergency escape for myself, the two Sisters and the Seminarians. Through their assistance we discretely arranged this. The whole plan left me with a debt of Le 550,000.00. This was for 50 gallons of petrol at Le 15,000.00 per gallon. The out-board engine Yamaha 40 was provided by one parishioner. Another Parishioner provided the boat. The boat was kept close to the convent with the engine hidden in the convent which was to be our point of departure in case of any eventualilty. Some of the petrol was used in the generator so as to be able to communicate with mainly Fr. Koroma on the radio to explain to him whatever move I decided to take.
When the situation became worse, the soldiers stopped all boats from moving. This led to serious hunger in Bonthe. Civilians were threatened and continually molested. That forced the District Officer and other elders in Bonthe to organize a peace mission to Kondewai the Supreme Head of the Kamajor Militia. A ten-man delegation was formed in which I was I was included to undertake this peace mission. We left on Thursday 21st August and returned Sunday 24th August. We went through a lot of ordeal which later on ended successfully. We returned to Bonthe quite satisfied with our mission.
Towards the end of that week, we began hearing artillery bombardment from the surrounding villages. Some villagers came with the report that some soldiers were attacking and looting their villages. They even attacked Nitti Harbour in Gbangbatoke, where some soldiers were killed and some reported missing in action. Few days after this, the soldiers went on patrol along the river again and we began hearing heavy artillery bombardment. They returned in the evening with some wounded soldiers who were admitted in the Government Hospital.
The following day which was Wednesday the 3rd September, almost all elders both men and women as well as industrious young people were rounded up, beaten, some wounded and thrown into the Military Guardroom. I was also a victim of this mal-treatment. Having been seriously humiliated, we were later released. Few days after this, the soldiers called up a meeting, during which they apologised to the entire civilian population for molesting theirs leaders.
Few days after this meeting with the soldiers, we began hearing news of pending kamajor attack which did happened in the early hours on Monday the 15th of September. There was heavy gun firing in which the Clinic Staff house was badly hit since it was next to the SLPP Party office. The Convent too was hit by a shell from the gun boat that made a big hole in the kitchen wall and blew off the kitchen door. That needs to be urgently repaired. One of the main pillars of the Mission house was also hit by a shell from the gun boat.
The next day the two Nigerian Sisters in the care of the commander of the military landing craft to be handed to Commander Howard at Government Wharf, who was to hand them over to Fr. Koroma at Kingtom. I then came down to Freetown myself on the 2nd of October. The next day I was told about the serious sea accident in which some of our parishioners were involved in Bonthe as they attempted to leave Bonthe for Freetown. May their Souls Rest in Peace.
All these things are explained in detailed report which I will submit to you and implore you to read carefully.
Since I have been here I have kept in touch with the people in Bonthe, trying to follow developments there. Situation has greatly improved with regards Kamajor attacks and threat from soldiers. The only problem is hunger. Whatever you need in Bonthe even in terms of foods you have to get from Freetown, even salt and pepper. No fuel and in fact no public transportation. The only means of transportation now is the occassional gun boat trip and hiring of boats which is very expensive.
On the whole, having reflected on all that I went through with and on behalf of my people, I must conclude by thanking God who directed me in all my experiences. I now believe that it is time for me to go and be united once more with my community. I therefore forward this to you for your kind consideration.
Yours in Christian
Rev. Fr. John Garrick
Parish Priest – St. Patrick’s Parish Bonthe
BONTHE DURING THE AFRC JUNTA RULE
PRINCIPLE OF GAMES
THE PRINCIPLE OF ALL GAMES IS THE SAME
A LESSER POWER MAY DEFEAT A
SUPERIOR POWER BY PLACING IT IN
SUCH A POSITION THAT TIS OWN
STRENGHT WORKS AGAINST IT
IN SUCH A MOVE OR SERIES OF MOVES
HOWEVER, THE LESSER POWER RUNS
THE CONSTANT RISK OF BEING
ANNIHAILATED BY ITS OWN GAMBIT
THE MASTER OF GAMES
SIERRA LEONE AND THE MAY 25TH COUP
On the 25th May 1997, some soldiers of the other ranks of the Sierra Leone Military Forces in conjunction with the rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) staged a coup d’etat that toppled the legally elected civilian government of President Alhaji Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabba and brought into power a military junta: The Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) which consisted of members of the Sierra Leone Military force and RUF fighters known as ‘The People’s Army’, under the Chairmanship of Major Johnny Paul Koroma. This marked another beginning of a sad chapter in the annals of this country: the beginning of another culture of violence and suffering in all its various manifestations in almost every part of our country since the beginning of the senseless rebel incursion that claimed the lives of many people and the destruction of our country.
Many of our people are being displaced: may well-to-do and descent people are being forced to become beggars and strangers in strange places; many of our brothers and sisters are starving and some are dying of hunger. Many of our country’s public as well as private economic centres and apartments are being looted and vandalized; farmlands and homelands are being burnt down and devastated. Many of our brothers and sisters are being violated and made to suffer innocently; family members are being divided, and under are turning against each other; hatred for one another is on the increase. The main tribes are being set against each other as manifested in areas were there are conflicts between Kamajors and the Army. Many of our people are being killed under horrible circumstances. We are forced to witness the destruction of some of our prized infrastructure and our cultural heritage; we are forced to witness the display and manipulation of weapons of mass destruction most of us for the very first time in our lives.
Many children today can guess the type of gun fired from its sound. Above all, we now live in great fear, the fear of the uncertainty, we do not know what will happen next. Almost all formal institutions and business have grounded to a halt. And with the enforcement of the sanctions and the embargo by ECOMOG the military wing of the ECOWAS and with some amount of support from the United Nations, the whole country is running fast out of essential supplies like food, medicine and fuel. This disastrous wind is now blowing across the length and breadth of the entire country as far as the farthest shores of the remote island of Bonthe which has once been described by a group of visiting British environmental analysts as: THE FORGOTTEN ISLAND.
BONTHE SHERBRO THE FORGOTTEN ISLAND
The Island of Bonthe is situated off the south-western coast of the mainland Sierra Leone. The indigenous inhabitants are referred to as the Sherbros or the Bulloms. Hence the island is variously referred to as Bonthe Island, Sherbro Island or Bullom Island.
After the Abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade in Europe and America, the British Government bought the colony of Freetown to resettle the Freed slaves that were roaming the streets of England. The town of Bonthe is that plot of land on the Sherbro Island that was bought as a colony by the American Company to resettle slaves that were set free in America. Many of the first batch of slaves died from tropical diseases mainly malaria. This made the American Company to move further and founded Monrovia the capital city of Liberia where the majority of the slaves were then repatriated.
Under the British colonial administration, the colony of Bonthe rapidly became an economic centre as well as an educational centre. Many important towns on the mainland were easily accessible by sea through Bonthe. Ships docked in at Bonthe and cargoes were transported up and down the rivers by launches stationed at Bonthe. Bonthe became an important commercial centre with international companies like S.C.O.A., P.Z., U.A.C., and the French company. There were also many big shops owned by foreign investors notably the Lebanese and the Syrians. There was also a large number of local investors who pooled their resources together under the local cooperative Firm and the Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Board.
Christian Missionary Groups like the Church Missionary Society (C.M.S), United Methodist Church (U.M.C), United Brethren Church (U.B.C), the Godman Memorial Methodist Church (GMMC) and the Catholic Church (CC) opened schools in most of the villages thus creating a high literacy rate among the people of Bonthe. Towards the end of the colonial period, Bonthe produced the first Prime Minister in the person of Sir Milton Margai.
With the advent of the railway which was later followed by the construction of a network of roads linking the important towns, the position of Bonthe was no longer strategic economically, since cargoes were now being carried faster and cheaper overland by the railway and road transport like lorries,buses and cars. This development which was later followed by the closure of the firms and some of the large stores marked the beginning of the decline of Bonthe.
The coming into power of the All Peoples Congress (APC) Party in the latter half of the 1960s, under the leadership of President Siaka Stevens marked the rapid and systematic decline of Bonthe which was then seen as the stronghold of the SLPP Party – the Party of the Late Sir Milton Margai. In the 1970s, bonthe became a centre of political intrigue as the APC Party did all it could to suppress the SLPP party. General elections in Bonthe became violent and bloody. Many highly educated people deserted Bonthe, some went to neigbouring Liberia and others to Britain and America. A good number settled in Freetown and some other parts of the country as well. Today, we can even talk about ‘Bonthe on the Diaspora’. Many of them come around Christmas time to celebrate with their people and return to their domicile after the New Year celebrations. Because of this Bonthe is referred to as the Christmas Island.
The 1980s proved to be a hard and trying period for the people of Bonthe. While Government and NGOs undertook development programmes in the country, Bonthe Island was not considered. Formal education stopped at From Five. The existing infrastructures which were in existence since colonial time were totally neglected. Repairs were hardly effected. To make matters worse, Government workers’ salaries were delayed by months. Conditions became so bad in Bonthe that any worker transferred to Bonthe saw his or her transfer as a deliberate punishment inflicted upon him or her by his or her employing authority. Some even resigned their jobs when transferred to Bonthe.
The geographic location and remoteness of this island also contributed to these problems.
It was towards the end of this period that some descendants of Bonthe worked on a development project for Bonthe under the sponsorship of the British Government through ACAFESS. In the process of effecting this project, some British experts were sent do do feasibility studies on Bonthe Island. At the end of their observation they made the statement the “Bonthe is not only neglected but forgotten”. Bonthe however benefited from this venture. In 1989, the Bonthe Technical College was constructed and British Volunteers were sent in to serve as lecturers. In 1990, the Bonthe Holiday Complex was constructed to serve as tourist attraction. Taking a walk around Bonthe town today, one’s attention is immediately captivated by the large number of Government companies as well as some private edifies, machinery and boats that are om ruins. Viewing Bonthe today, one is left with the conclusion that Bonthe stands as a living byt ruined monument of colonial civilisation.
SIERRA LEONE DURING THE REBEL INCURSION
As the civil war in Liberia gained momentum, Sierra Leone was used as a base for the ECOWAS Peace keeping Force ECOMOG, operations in Liberia. This stance never augured well with the war lords in Liberia, especially Charles Taylor. In this light, in a BBC interview in the early 1990s, Charles Taylor openly declared that “Sierra Leone will experience the smoke of war in Liberia.”
In the 1st half of the 1990s, Sierra Leone did not only experience the smoke, but tasted the real fire when the rebels struck the south and eastern regions of the country. The Sierra Leonean fighters who have been in the NPFL Camp of Charles Taylor, under the leadership of Corporal Foday Sankoh, crossed over from Liberia into Sierra Leone and started their own rebel movement called the Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone (RUF) against the Government of Sierra Leone.
The whole nation was shocked by the rapid advance and territorial gains of the rebels in the Easter and Southern Provinces in the early 1990s that many people began to question the loyalty and sincerity of the Sierra Leone Army. Many of the villages and small towns were over run by rebels. The big towns proved difficult, because civilians too became vigilant and offered themselves up for the defence of their land.
It became quite clear that the genuine soldiers cannot fight the rebels by themselves. So the youngmen in towns and villages organised themselves into a civil force. In the Northern province, there were the Tamaboros and lately the Carpras. In the Southern and Eastern Provinces were the kamajors who are the traditional hunters. These groups claim to possess certain talismans and magical powers that render them bullet-proof and make them disappear and reappear at their own wish. In bigger towns like Bo, Kenema, Moyamba, Bonthe and Makeni,the youths in these towns organised themselves into strong and vigilant forces and help to police these towns. According to the October / December 1996 edition of Focus on Africa Magazine, it is said the kamajors “inherit supernatural strength from their ancestors.
Through the dedication of these civil defence units, it was soon found out that some soldiers were playing a double game. Many of them were in contact with the rebels giving them vital information about the Government Military strategies. Some were even acting out as rebels attacking and looting towns and villages. This was picked up by the civil defence units and the international Community and the question was asked “who are the rebels?” In some places people cannot tell the difference between the soldiers and the rebels and so they began referring to them as ‘sorbels’. This word found into the mass media.
Later on in the war against the rebels, the Kamajors so defended their people and their land that they were referred to as ‘ the people’s policemen’. They “… inspire terror in both rebels and sorbels” (Focus on Africa Magazine 1996).
In most places throughout the county, the civil defence force,especially the tamaboros fought alongside the national army. The Kamajors strongly defended their towns and villages with some assistance (arms and ammunitions) from the military and later joined the soldiers at the war front in the South and East of Sierra Leone.
Under the NPRC Government, the Kamajors were empowered in Bonthe with arms and ammunition from the Government to help fight the rebels in their villages. They successfully dislodged the rebels from the main land Bonthe District and were able to settle with their people peacefully in their land. This they were able to achieve through the help of the Sierra Leone Military Forces. During those days there was cordial relationship between the civil defence force and the Sierra Leone Military.
BONTHE AND THE MAY 25TH COUP
Bonthe had its share of military take-over fever. On hearing the announcement made by Corporal Gborie on the national radio that soldiers of the other ranks have seized power from the SLPP government, soldiers of the other ranks in Bonthe went on the rampage. They went firing guns all over the town, chasing their commanders here and there. Some were caught and tied up (tabie as they call their cruel way of tying). Some were even shot at and others went into hiding.
Some soldiers went into the gun boat sailing up and down firing the heavy guns on the boat. The boat later hit a sand bank and it ran aground. It was later rumoured that some parts were damaged. The peaceful civilians were harassed. This continued for days even when Freetown was relatively calm. Police and Prison officers were given arms and ammunitions by the Navy and all parading the streets of Bonthe with their new but dangerous toys, sending fear down the spine of the ordinary people. This reminded me of a popular quotation in the European History that: ‘ When Napoleon Sneezes Europe catches the cold’. To relate this to our situation, ‘when Freetown sneezes Bonthe catches the cold’.
Later the situation became quiet for some time following the world wide condemnation of the coup. As the problem became serious in Freetown and some other parts of the country mainly Bo, many people saw Bonthe as a safe haven. Many people went to Bonthe from the mainland through Mattru and Gbangbatoke. Thousands more poured in from Freetown by way of the high seas using the dreaded gunboats. Meanwhile, we began hearing news of massive Kamajor build-up on the mainland of Bonthe district.
About half way through the month of June, we began hearing news from some villagers of soldiers attacking and looting villages around Bonthe. As this continued we began hearing news of pending Kamajor attack on the naval positions in Bonthe. The soldiers’ reaction to this news was quite negative for the civilians. Each time there is a strong rumor of Kamajor attack on Bonthe, the soldiers went up and down the town firing guns. Not only the hand riffles like AK 47s and 58s,G3s and Bereters but heavier guns like machine guns, Anti Aircraft guns, Mortar and big guns on the gun boat. The firing is accompanied by soldiers threatening and abusing civilians, accusing them of supporting and harbouring Kamajors. According to them these Kamajors are our brothers. If there is any attack they (soldiers) will not die. They will just go into the gunboats and then destroy Bonthe as they make way to Freetown. Launches will then be stopped from plying the seas thus creating hunger in Bonthe.
As the attacking and shelling of villages around Bonthe intensified, so also was the news of pending kamajor attacks on Bonthe. It became so serious that there was great fear and panic in Bonthe. On the 27th June, many of the elders, sectional and Departmental heads were rudely and violently taken to the naval base. When the commanders were questioned on this matter, they agreed that they did sent their men to invite them to a meeting but not in that manner. They then apologised on behalf of their men for being so violently ill-treated. They had a short meeting with them which was mainly about the threat of the kamajor attack and were later released.
That same day a military re-enforcement arrived by helicopter. The soldiers forced civilians to carry their arms and ammunitions to the naval base. They made a naked show of these dangerous weapons as they marched across the town to their base. This was accompanied by soldiers making threatening remarks that if Kamajors attacked Bonthe they will kill all civilians and turn Bonthe into a swamp. Because of the continued gun firing and threats, Bonthe was no longer seen as a safe haven. Many left Bonthe to seek refuge in other towns and villages. Some even returned to Freetown claiming that Freetown was far safer now than Bonthe. Among those who went were Mr. Kanneh the District Officer, Rev. Sandy the Chairman Sherbro Urban District Council (SUDC), the Officer-in-Charge of Police, Mr. Moimma, Mr. Winston B. Gbondo, Manager Fisheries and Marine Resources Department, Chief George Brandon 111, Paramount Chief of Sitia Chiefdom and Mr. Victor Caulker the SLP Party Secretary in Bonthe.
With the absence of these authorities, situation became worse in Bonthe, the soldiers took the laws into their own hands, civil cases were transferred from the police station to the military base. The soldiers usurped the role of the police by making themselves law enforcement officers with nobody to report to save themselves. Whenever there was a case between a civilian and a soldier the soldier was always right. Civilians were also subjected to forced labour as was manifested in the cleaning of the town and around the military base. Some civilians were even flogged mercilessly and thrown into the Military Guardroom, if they showed any resentment.
As the unhealthy situation gained momentum some concerned civilians grouped themselves together, approached the military authorities and expressed their concern about the situation. The matter was discussed and it was agreed that a working committee of civilians comprising sectional heads, some departmental heads and notable citizens should be formed to liaise between the military and the rest of the civilians. If the soldiers want civilians to do anything they should go through the committee, which was named The Bonthe Working Committee. The following were members of this Committee:
- Mr. Thomas Nelson-Williams- Chairman
2. Mr. Osmond Hancles
3. Mr. Gilbert Caulker
4. Mr. Alieu Kpaka
5. Mr. Saspo Bangura
6. Mr. Tommy Palmer
7. Mr. Joe Deoud
8. Mr. Raymond Squire
9. Mr. Okillo Margai
10. Mr. Rashid Mansarayi
11. Mr. Benjamin Cole
12. Mr. A J Samai
13. Mr. Paul Kpana
14. Mr. J M Bundu
15. Mr. B D Moore
16. Mr. Nat Corman
17. Mr. Albert
18. Pa Jusu
This committee worked hard to prevent soldier/civilian conflict. Quite often members of this Committee were harassed by the soldiers and blamed when civilians failed to honour their request.
The day after the arrest, a meeting was called by Major Lawrence Howard, the Commanding Officer Southern Naval Command, to which all religious, departmental and sectional heads were invited. The main concern of the meeting was how to maintain security on the Island and how to prevent Kamajor attack. While we were all waiting for the meeting to begin one soldier, a son of the soil, Samuel Kpana remarked that we have come for a kamajor meeting, we should be killed because we are all kamajors. The Military authorities that were around never made any attempt to caution this soldier for such a dangerous and implicating statement.
During the meeting somebody suggested the resuscitation of the defunct civil defence unit. Many people were not keen on this since they no longer trusted the soldiers. However, it was agreed that civilians should cooperate with the military in reviving the civil defence unit. Some soldiers accused civilians of harbouring Kamajors and some civilians strongly refuted this statement. The meeting however ended with no serious confrontation.
After some messages from some elders in Bonthe town, some people returned back to Bonthe, even the District Officer.
As the threat and shooting continued, the District Officer convened a meeting of all religious heads, section heads and departmental heads with the presence of the Naval and Police authorities strongly emphasized. During this meeting the following were discussed:
- The too much gun firing in Bonthe
2. The stopping of the launches
3. Security on the Island
With regards the first point, Major Mansaray, the Acting Commanding Officer of the Navy in Bonthe, in the absence of Major Lawrence Howard, said that the too much gun firing is the result of the intelligence report they received about a pending Kamajor attack. The firing is to send a message to their enemies the Kamajors, that they have superior fire power. However, he promised to talk to his men to stop the firing but the gunboat will fire to warn the enemies. It was observed that the Naval authorities should check these information properly, especially those brought in by some women, since most of these are not true. They should receive information only from responsible and trustworthy people.
On the 2nd point, he agreed to allow the launches to be plying the seas since the stopping of the boats leads to starvation in Bonthe. Whenever there is news of Kamajor attack, Bonthe is immediately placed under siege.
On the last point dealing with Security on the Island, it was pointed out that this should be dealt with under the following headings:
- Pending ECOMOG attack
2. Threat of Kamajor attack
3. Soldiers threat against civilians
On the point of the pending ECOMOG attack, Commander Mansaray told us not to be concerned with that. That will be their problem since ECOMOG will be concerned with military targets.
On the point of Kamajors being engaged in preparing to attack Bonthe and the soldiers claim to have engaged them in battle, it was observed that we have not got any evidence of their claim. The commander assured us that it is true that there are Kamajors around Bonthe and that they are poised to attack Bonthe.
Dealing with the soldiers’ threat against civilians, it was observed that soldiers are in the habit of killing and adopting livestock belonging to civilians like sheep, goats, pigs, chicken and ducks. They are also in the habit of harassing forcefully taking their items from them like fish (from the fishmongers), oil (from oil sellers), and palmwine (from palmwine sellers). Whatever you engage in you must give the soldiers share and quite often they will take the lion’s share. And if anybody attempts to resist or defendm you are branded a kamajor or kamajor collaborator in which case you will be severely beaten. It was also observed that soldiers abuse people and threaten to make Bonthe into a swamp. Not a single perswon, building or any other creature will remain standing. In response to all these, the Commander commented that he himself is a victim. His men stole his sheep. He then promised talking to his men to refrain from stealing and harassing civilians. As for the abusing of civilians and threatening to destroy Bonthe, the commander told us not to mind that or even believe that they will destroy Bonthe. He said that it is a psychological warfare they engage in. they use those threatening remarks with the aim of demoralizing the enemy. They are not really meant for the civilians in Bonthe. They are aimed at their enemies the Kamajors.
Under the security of the Island, the possibility of creating the civil defence unit was again discussed. The section leaders agreed to discuss this in their various group meetings. The meeting ended in a friendly atmosphere.
For a brief while, there was relative calm on the Island. A few days later the small naval patrol boat “Maada” and the smaller speed boats began going on patrol down the river. After that, some villagers arrived in Bonthe with news of soldiers attacking and looting villages down the river especially the village of Mania: a popular tourist centre whose main attraction is tarpoon fishing.
Later that day the patrol boats came back loaded with things like freezers, out board machines, washing machines etc. When they came that evening, there was great panic in town and the rampant firing was again resumed. Threatening remarks against civilians became the order of the day. Launches were again stopped from traversing the seas. Anybody caught coming into or going out of Bonthe was apprehended, tortured and taken to the naval base. No civilian was allowed to even go near the base and enquire.
Since that time they started threatening certain elders in the town like Alhaji Dauda Minah, Pastor Sandy the Chairman Sherbro Urban District Council, Chief Lahai Koroma, the Speaker of Sitia Chiefdom and Pastor Nicol the Anglican Pastor. A few days later a contingent of soldiers, one early morning, entered the Anglican Pastor’s house, accusing him of harbouring Kamajors. His apartment was searched. The Pastor was upset and he said that he is a Creole and does not even speak Mende, sh how dare they to associate him with Kamajors? If ever there is any society he will be associated with, it will be Hunting Society. He went to the Navy Base and reported the matter to Commander Manasary. He also entrusted his personal safety into his care if any thing happened to him he will be held responsible.
Since then the relationship between soldiers and civilians was moving from bad from bad to worse. The tension was just escalating. The rampant firing became intensified. One night, some soldiers passed by the Catholic Mission and one remarked “I lek you nar christian we go fire” (If even you are a Christian, we will fire). They said this twice and fired a volley of shots. I then peeped outside and retorted: ‘bo me nar Christian way tin happen?’ (I am a Christian what is this matter? The soldiers burst out laughing and went their way.
Situation continued to deteriorate. We kept hearing bombardment coming from nearby villages. And since the boats were all grounded save the naval boats, almost everything became scarce. Twice I had to loan a bag of rice at Le45,000.00 and Le50,000.00 per bag. Pepper was Le3,000.00 per cup. Petrol was Le15.000.00 per gallon. Through the assistance of some parishioners, I managed to secure fifty gallons. Twenty gallons was to be reserved for the generator to keep the Radio Communication set and the remaining thirty was to be kept for my emergency escape with the seminarians and the two Nigerian sisters whose identity we have carefully concealed. To this moment, almost everybody believed they were Kenyan. Most of what people needed were being sold by soldiers or their relatives mostly the wife or the girlfriends.
Our Weekday Masses were replaced with morning prayer and Service of the Word so as to save the hosts and wine for Sundays. Over three hundred people attend Mass on Sundays but the average collection is Le6,000.00. What we get on Sundays can barely feed us for two days. We thank God for the generosity of some parishioners. Many people find it difficult to get their daily meal but they still scrape to contribute something to the Church.
Conditions in Bonthe came to a point that food, mainly rice, cassava and garri became exhausted and people were starving. Even Dr. Samba, the District Medical Officer reported about the acute shortage of medical supplies with the most important one being medicines. The Catholic Mission Clinic was of great help to the people of Bonthe since most people were treated almost free. This was because there was not much money in Bonthe and threats were made to loot the Clinic. There was no avenue for people to make money in Bonthe so they were asked to give what they could afford.
With all these unhealthy developments, the D.O called up another meeting in his office. It was almost the same group of people except that instead of Commander Mansaray, we had Commander Martin, the Commander of the Patrol Boat ‘Farandugu 201′. it was almost the same agenda as the previous one – free movement of boats, soldiers’ threat and security on the island. During this meeting, a report came in from Dema that soldiers have attacked and looted people around Dema. Commander Martin listened keenly and promised to consult his comrades. The meeting ended with our being admonished by Commander Martin to wait patiently until he discussed this with the other Naval authorities since he is only commander of the patrol boat. Later, it became clear that the commanders had some problems among them which centered around command and authority. This rendered our meeting fruitless.
The situation continued to deteriorate. For people to even mange to feed themselves for a day became very serious. Many of the old and sick parishioners kept coming to me in the mission begging for something to eat and medical treatment. Each time this happened I felt so sad because people because people came to me for assistance in such a difficult time and i was not able to meet up to their demands. Anybody attempting to go out of Bonthe in search of food when caught encountered a very serious problem. The threat of flattening and making Bonthe into a swamp increased. The curfew was re-enforced and the time brought forward according to their whim. The shooting became so heavy that Mr. Isaac Williams one of the Directors of the Bank of Sierra Leone and the two medical doctors Dr. Samba and Dr. Turay went to the military base and made a report about the threatening and dangerous behaviour of the soldiers. The commander promised to talk to his men.
The boat owners continued to negotiate fro boats to be moving. The District Officer called an urgent meeting of religious, departmental and sectional Heads. This meeting was scheduled to take place at the house of Mr. Isaac Williams. I was not present at that meeting, but i was told that the main theme of the meeting was ‘what we as leaders could do to stop Kamajors from entering Bonthe and harassment of civilians by the soldiers. They agreed that we should send people to meet with the Kamajors in the Sitia Chiefdom and talk with them and convince them not to come to Bonthe. Rev. Sandy of the UMC, the Chairman of the SUDC headed that delegation. They went and came with a favourable report. The Kamajors agreed not to come. This was disclosed to us in a later meeting at Mr. Isaac Williams’ house. Encouraged by this initial success, it was them suggested that we should get prepared to go on a peace mission to Kondowai the Supreme Kamajor head stationed at Tihun.
With much pressure from the boat owners, the commanders allowed them to resume operation. The fishermen went out fishing and one passenger boat ‘ MI Good Sababu’ attempted to go to Mattru. This boat was expected on a particular day but it did not come. On the third day, the owner of the boat, Mr Deoud appeared in Bonthe with a story that the Kamajors at Moryama have seized the boat and he himself was seriously beaten. The Kamajors said that when the people come to them the Kamajors, they will talk to them and the Kamajors will listen but when they talk to the soldiers the soldiers would not listen.
With this new, the D.O summoned an urgent meeting. In the meeting almost everybody expressed concern about the soldiers going to bomgbard all the villages as far as Mattru since that has been their usual way of attack Kamajors. It was decided that we all go to the Naval Base and prevent them from doing that and ask for permission so that we can move at once to the Kamajors and negotiate with them with the aim of convincing them not to come to Bonthe.
At the Naval Base, we met the soldiers preparing their patrol boats to go on the attack. It was with difficulty that we persuaded them not to go. We told them of our intention to go and negotiate with the kamajors. They welcomed the idea and they even helped us with some fuel. We went back and met again to choose who were to go and then arrange fro the whole mission. In my absence, I was chosen to go. I tried to kicked to kick against the decision of going presenting the case of the foreign Sisters who were staying with me. But the other members seemed not to listen. So in the end i had to accept.
A ten-man delegation was formed comprising, the D.O Mr. Kanneh as head of the delegation, Rev. Josie Musa of the UBC, Rev. Nabieu of the Methodist Church, myself Rev. Fr. Garrick of the Catholic Church, all representing the Christian Council of Churches, Alhaji Fallon, Imam Shaka, Imam Junisa, representing the Islamic Community, Dr. Samba and Mr. Rogers, (Medical team) Mr. PJD Tucker representing community. The Community and heads of departments were to finance the venture. Arrangements were made for the fastest launch ‘ML Neptune’ to be used for the venture. We then tried to send a messenger ahead of us to inform the Kamajors at Mormaya that such a delegation was coming. Everything was now set for the mission. But before we left, we asked the soldiers to give us five days to carry out this venture but we meant to complete this mission in three days time. We cautioned them not go go anywhere in our absence, lest they endanger our lives.
MISSION TO MATTRU
The next day, Thursday 21st of August, after Muslim prayers were said by the seaface opposite the convent, representatives of the community wished us good luck and the launch MI Neptune roared into action and we were on our way on a mission which later proved to be dangerous for us all especially the District Officer. On the way, we the religious leaders wer3e officially dressed and we sat on top of the launch so that the Kamajors could see that we were a friendly group.
1ST KAMAJOR BASE – MORMAYA
On approaching Mormaya the village appeared empty. But no sooner the boat hit the shore a troop of Kamajors who have been in ambush came out firing and threatening to kill us all. We were ordered to disembark and prepared for our death. They ordered the D.O to start rolling in the mud but we later pleaded on his behalf and amidst heavy firing all around us and even between our legs we were escorted to one verandah where we were forced to sit amidst abuses and shouting. They did not event to listen to us. But we were saved by the presence of one young man called Sheku Kailie commonly called ‘Bombawai. He gave his orders for quietness. He said he is not disputing the fact that we are all dead men but they should first listen to us. So the D.O began by introducing us all. I can see that some were very pleased with such high powered religious delegation but they were very much angry with the D.O who they claimed neglected them and sided the military. All others should be allowed to live but the D.O should be killed. After going the traditional way of given tokens as a way of greetings they were somehow cajoled into listening to our story.
The D.O spoke first on the issue of our purpose of going to them. That we were on a mission to Kondewai the head of the kamajor militia. Our mission was peace and we wanted to convince them not to go to Bonthe and that we will talk to the soldiers to stop attacking their villages.
The next speaker was Alhaji Fallon. He admonished them in the name of Allah to listen to our case and to consider the poor and ordinary people who are now suffering from hunger and threatening remarks.
I was the next to speak. I laid more emphasis on my appointment to Bonthe newly and on the Catholic Mission’s intention of promoting development projects like farming and fishing. Also we have schools that I am supposed to visit and re-organise: their children need some attention. Our mobile clinic is supposed to be of service to all people around Bonthe and its environs, but we cannot effect all these services. We really want to help them but how can we do so in this situation? This is why we have come to talk to them as brothers to allow free movement of boats so that we can be able to effect some of these programmes and benefit from each other.
Next to talk was Dr. Samba, he stressed his position as the District Medical Officer (DMO) he is supposed to visit and check all the medical centres in the District as well as providing medicines and staff for these but he has not done such for quite a long time because of the prevailing situation. That is why he has used this opportunity to bring some medicines along to treat those who need medical attention and some to be left at the various medical posts. He pleaded that they should abandon their threat of attack Bonthe since Bonthe is the only hope of the district fro almost everything. In the whole of Bonthe district, almost all towns have been hit except Bonthe town. If they need any serious medical attention,k the only place they can go now is Bonthe.
2ND KAMAJOR BASE- SAAMA
At Saama it was quite easy for us with Bombawai leading us. Bombawai and some of his men went ashore and talked with Francis the commander at the base. Dr. Samba too went ashore and delivered some medicines. We were later allowed to go. From this point we went straight to Mattru.
At Mattru we were taken to the kamajor headquarters and having been welcomed by the ground command at Mattru, the D.O introduced us and acquainted them with our mission to Kondowai the Kamjor strong man. We were then taken to the Regent Chief of Jong Chiefdom, Chief Samah. We again went through the native way of greeting and we were welcomed. We explained our mission to the chief and elders of Mattru and they really sympathised with us. They then postponed our meeting for the next day.
FRIDAY 22ND – MEETING IN MATTRU
In the morning about 8 o’clock we had a meeting again with the Regent Chief and elders of the town. We again explained our mission and they gave us advice as to how to go about our mission. They were very happy with our venture and even pointed out that since the boats are not moving they lack a lot of necessities that they need. They are all looking forward to a peaceful solution to all our problems. At Mattru also Dr. Samba offered some medicines to the Mattru community.
The Kamajor District Ground Commander, Mr. Ngobeh arrived in a blue Toyota pick up to lead us to Kondowai. We were made to understand that he arrived in Mattru last night and had talks with the D.O. We then boarded the vehicle and left for Tihun, in the Sogbini Chiefdom, the abode of Kondowai. We were later toled that he had moved from Tihun to Talia in the Yawbeko Chiefdom. The road was very rugged with Kamajor checkpoints at every village and certain strategic points.
At Tihun,we called on the Paramount Chief Steven Bio, himself a leading Kamajor. After a brief talk with Nogbeh he accompanied us on our way to Kondowai at Talia. Dr. Samba offered the village some medicine.
MEETING WITH KONDEWAI, THE KAMAJOR HIGH COMMAND AND CHIEFDOM ELDERS
The meeting began with the D.O performing the traditional greetings of giving some money to all elders of the chiefdom and the Kamajor society as a sign of respect. The D.O. introduced us and acquainted them with our mission. They were also introduced. Kondewai was introduced as King Dr. Alieu Kondwai, the High Priest and Supreme Head of the Kamajor Secret Society. Some members of his High Command were also introduced notably Pa Collier, Ngobeh the District Ground Commander and Paramount Chiefs Muana and Bio. From the speeches of the two chiefs, it became clear that they owe much allegiance to him since he fought hard and dislodged the RUF rebels who had overran the whole region.
The D.O put our case across talking about the ceasing of hostilities between soldiers in Bonthe and Kamajor, the serious harassment of civilians, commandeering of boats, Kamajor threat of attacking Bonthe and the serious starvation in Bonthe and even Mattru.
I observed that members of the High Command were listening with interest. Many spoke nicely on our behalf but strongly expressed their dissatisfaction and annoyance with the D.O who through all the crisis had neglected them. They looked upon him as their father but he never cared for them. The soldiers have been attacking, killing their people, looting their properties and devastating their homeland and farmland while the D.O have been writing letters preventing them from defending their people and their land.
The talk later ended well with King Dr. Kondewai agreeing on the following points:
- Cessation of hostilities between them and the soldiers in Bonthe
2. No Kamajor attack on Bonthe
3. Free movement of boats
4. An end to passenger and civilian harassment
5. Peaceful co-existence between soldiers and kamajors.
Soldiers free to visit Kamajor areas but with prior notice to prevent misunderstanding;
Kamajors too should be allowed to do likewise.
He also emphasized the points that:
- Soldiers should stop attacking villages
2. Should stop harassing civilians
3. Civilians should be allowed free movement of boats
Drawing on the past experiences, King Dr. Kondewai emphasized the point that there is no need fighting against each other. They should be friends and not enemies, they used to work together during the rebels war. Why should they turn against them now because of the coup? Why should they now destroy their homelands and farmlands? In those days soldiers even provided arms and ammunitions for them in their struggle against the rebels. Those who caused the problem are in Freetown. He also stressed that he will not hand over the territories under his authority to any military government but the civilian government of Alhaji Tejan Kabba. But he emphasized a peaceful co-existence between the soldiers and them.
The meeting ended with Chief Alieu Kondewai ordering his secretary to write letters to the various Kamajor commanders around Bonthe ordering them to abandon their intention of attacking Bonthe. One letter was also written to the Kamajors at Mormaya to release the launch ML Good Sababu which they had seized. All the letters had his stamp which according to him is well recognized and honoured by all Kamajors. Dr. Samba again gave a short and offered medicines to the community. We ate together aned late in the evening we were on our way to Mattru. We were so happy with our achievements that almost all of us were laughing and chatting.
OUR JOURNEY BACK TO MATTRU
It was almost dark when we left Talia in the company of Ngobeh the District Ground Commander. The driver, though rough understood the road very well. We went all the way chatting and laughing. Our happiness changed into sadness and fear when on arriving at the checkpoint at Tihun, we met a large group of Kamajors who stopped us and were quite hostile to us. They asked us all to disembark. They said they wanted to see Ngobeh the District Ground Commander. They have received a letter from Gambia concerning us that will only be read in the presence of King Dr. Kondewai. If we attempted to pass the checkpoint we will all be dead since there are Kamajors already in ambush. We then went to the house of Paramount Chief Bio. Ngobeh asked to know the content of the letter before we can return to Kondewai since the letter was addressed to him as district ground commander, and in fact he had authority from Kondewai to deal with such matters. So the letter was given to him. The letter was read to our hearing and it can be summarized as follows: the letter is from the commander at Gambia. Thy have spied two soldiers. It is the D.O who have brought the soldiers. Ngobeh the District Ground Commander together with the D.O and some people passed through Gambia and they were not aware of their mission. Having listened to the letter, Ngobeh then confidently told us to have no fear to return to King Dr. Kondowai since he firmly believed in our innocence and his loyalty to his master. When we heard this, we concluded that this was a very serious and dangerous plot aimed not only at frustrating our efforts but also at our destruction as well. At this point, we became dreadfully afraid, and in this condition we returned to Talia.
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Mormaya but it was not there since it was taken to Yagoi for safe keeping. The chief of Moryama, chief Noah them asked us to try and get his small boat from the soldiers which thay commandeered on one of their raiding trips. I volunteered to go for the launch since no one else was keen to venture toward Yagoi with all the stories about the brutal killings that take place there.
At Yagoi, we had a short meeting and after offering some token of money, the launch was handed over to me. I thanked them and we were on our way again to Mormaya.
On approaching Mormaya, I sensed a different mood. I saw members of ‘Operation Sacrifice’ pleading with the Kamajors who now appeared so fierce and furious. Even before landing some Kamajors who were in the boat with me enquired the reason for all this and the answer we received was that the gunboat have fired many shots at their villages especially MorCharles destroying their people and their land. They said none of us who went on that mission will be allowed to leave Mormaya. We will all be killed.
By the time I landed they were a bit calm. They then changed from killing us to taking us hostage in the launch to face the gunboat. They were very much eager to face the gunboat. We continued to plead with them. In the end, they allowed us to go but we had to leave the launch ‘ML Good Sababu’ which they were going to use as a patrol boat to visit their villages and see if there was anything wrong with them. They said if there is nothing wrong, we can collect the launch the next day. So we left for Bonthe.
The Kamajors too were behind us trying to visit their villages to make sure there was no problem. On our way, I asked what really happened and I was told that they heard the sound of the gunboat on its way to Bonthe from Freetown. But they could not listen. They were saying that it was a plot organized by the D.O for the soldiers to destroy them while we distract them with peace talk. On hearing this, they started praying and pleading with them. Later, they listened to them and asked them to go and wash in the sea and then rubbed an oily concoction on their body which according to them will render them bullet-proof. It was just after that that I came. We later arrived in Bonthe in the late afternoon. We docked in at the military base and there were many people along the seaface to receive us. Since we were late by a day according to the time we gave the civilians, almost everybody was now worried about our safety, but for the soldiers we were still in time. We met the soldiers who told us to go and rest; we can report on a later day.
MEETING WITH OTHER ELDERS AND THE NAVAL AUTHORITIES
At about 10.00 a.m in the morning, religious, departmental and sectional heads met at Mr. Isaac Williams’ house and members of ‘Operation Sacrifice’ reported their experience and their achievements. We were congratulated and thanked for a job well done. The whole group then proceeded to the military base to report to the soldiers the outcome of our mission.
At the military base we spent some time waiting for the military authorities since they were very busy trying to see the gunboat Alimamy Raisin 103 off. We eventually met and explained to them the outcome of our mission under the following broad headings:
1. Cessation of hostilities
a) Soldiers should stop attacking villages
b) Kamajors should stop threatening to attack Bonthe
2. Free movement of boats
a) Soldiers should not stop boats from going to other parts of the district
b) Kamajors should not seize boats
3. Both sides should stop harassing passengers
4. Peaceful co-existence between soldiers and kamajors
a) Soldiers are free to visit kamajor areas but must give prior notice
b) Kamajors should also be allowed to visit their people in areas under the military
The soldiers expressed appreciation of our dangerous venture and thanked us. They promised to share these points with the soldiers of the other ranks.
Towards the end of the meeting, we told them about the launch ‘ML Good Sababu which I will be going to collect just after the meeting. It was made known to them that they too will have to return the boat belonging to chief Noah of Mormaya. They promised to discuss this among themselves and will release it later. Before we ended the meeting, the point of soldiers stopping their attack on villages was strongly emphasized.
The soldiers then helped me with an outboard engine which I used on the District Officer’s fiber glass boat “Baby Dolphin” to go to Mormaya. To get the launch from the Kamajors. The launch was handed over to me and I returned to Bonthe but made a stop at York Island to visit the family of late Mr. Wilson the Headmaster of DEC Primary School at York Island, a prominent Catholic, who was brutally slaughtered at Yagoi by the Kamajors.
The next day the boat made a trip to Mattru and returned the day after without much hindrance. On Friday, August 29th, a general meeting of the township was called and members of ‘Operation Sacrifice’ reported the outcome of their mission. The people thanked us for undertaking such a dangerous but worthwhile enterprise on behalf of the Bonthe township. They maintained that this was an event that will occupy a chapter of honour in the history of Bonthe.
PERIOD AFTER ‘OPERATION SACRIFICE’
Boats began moving freely to Mattru and back. Another ventured downstream towards Gbap area returned safely. Fishermen resumed their fishing. The boat belonging to Chief Noah of Moryama was returned to him. It remained Gbangbatoke area. Some people brought information that the Kamajors have mounted guns in the Sierra Rutile company, boats are always ready to blow off any approaching vessel. So we wrote a letter to the Kamajor Ground Commander at Gbangbatoke about the free movement of passenger boats as agreed upon by King Dr. Kondewai. The bearer of the letter, Jusufu Charlie, is the owner of the boat ‘Amie Tours’ that goes to Gbangbatoke. He left on Friday the 28th to return latest Saturday and make a passenger trip to Gbangbatoke on Sunday.
On Saturday 30th, we heard the sound of the patrol boat ‘Farandugu 201’ and the other smaller boats with outboard engines belonging to the military all moving in the direction that leads to Freetown. Everybody in Bonthe became concerned and worried. The boats never came until late in the evening and heavy shots were fired around the sea side which sent people into their homes. However, some brave ones stayed around to see what was the matter. They saw some wounded soldiers being carried from the boat to the Naval base.
The next day, it was rumoured that soldiers have attacked Nitti in Gbangbatoke and the Kamajors put up a very strong resistance. Three soldiers were killed and three reported missing in action. The rumour was even spread by some disgruntled soldiers. People were now asking the question “Why did they go there?” When the soldiers noticed that the ordinary people were against their mission in Nitti, they began abusing and threatening civilians. Heavy firing resumed again day and night. With all these developments, I rearranged my contingency plan. I made sure the speed boat was close to the Catholic Mission Convent, I kept the outboard engine Yamaha 40 and 40 gallons of petrol close by ready to take off straight for Freetown at any time. It cost me about Le650.000.00 to set up this plan. This amount came as a loan from three parishioners.
On Tuesday the 2nd of September, we heard military outboard boats again going towards the same route they took the last time. Shortly, after that we began hearing heavy artillery bombardment. It was another day of agony for the ordinary civilians. Late in the evening, one of the speed boats returned and one soldier who was badly wounded was then carried from the boat to the Government Hospital. At this point, i began to envisage a very serious problem for the civilians in Bonthe especially those who went on the peace mission.
I later enquired the cause of the heavy bombardment and one of the military authorities told me that the Kamajors have mustered up at Macualey Island with the aim of attacking Bonthe. Relying on their intelligence report they moved fast and engaged them in a very fierce battle. Some soldiers were killed and some were missing in action. But majority in Bonthe were quite suspicious about this. It was rumoured that the soldiers created the situation so as to be able to account for those soldiers who were killed and those missing in action in their attack on Nitti. That night there was heavy firing in Bonthe.
THE ARREST AND MOLESTATION OF ELDERS IN BONTHE
The following morning we celebrated Mass at 7 a.m. and by 8a.m , I transmitted on the mission radio. I had just finished the transmission when some people came running to the mission house pleading with me to go into hiding since the soldiers are rounding up and arresting all the elders of the town, beating and disgracing them publicly as they marched them towards the Naval Base especially those connected with the peace mission. Then I asked why should I go into hiding. What wrong have I done? What impression will it make on the people if they hear that the Catholic Priest had gone into hiding. So I emphatically told them I would not go into hiding, if the soldiers want me, they can get me right here in the mission house.
I hardly finished speaking when a band of soldiers entered the compound displaying dangerous weapons like RPGs, Grenades, Machine Guns and Rifles. It was about 8.30 a.m and they fired many shots in the compound.
They violently demanded for me and I declared myself. They said they wanted to see me at the Naval base. I asked them to allow me to put on some clothes then i will join them. I then rushed into the room put on my cassock and went down to join them. The firing got intensified and some began abusing me and all the civilians of Bonthe for allowing the kamajors to wound and kill some of their brothers. They will kill all the inhabitants in Bonthe beginning with the elders and then they will destroy the whole town. At this threat, the two Nigerians Sisters and the mission boys started crying and pleading with the soldiers to release me. But this aggravated them all the more.
On seeing the radio antenna, one of the soldiers shouted that I have just finished sending report about them to Freetown and that they should go up and destroy the radio saying that they have done something more than that in Freetown. But some were very polite in dealing with me. One said they should allow me to go and dismantle it gently. As I went upstairs, one soldier followed me putting me under gun point. I dismantled the radio and went down. I saw some soldiers and youths searching inside the church.
In this whole episode, my greatest surprise was that the head of this was my own cousin Victor Gbundema, the head of the civil youth movement and ghetto master in Bonthe, supported by Oldman Jackson. He was now pleading with me to accept all what was happening to me since he himself know that I am innocent, God will vindicate me. Let me not fear anything, he is the one leading the whole group to arrest all elders including myself. When I turned round to view the whole group that went to arrest me, so armed with AK47s and 58s, G3s, RPGs, SMGs, Grenades, Cutlasses, Knives and sticks, it reminded me of Jesus’ arrest and his statement “AM I A BRIGAND THAT YOU COME TO ARREST ME WITH SWORDS AND CLUBS?” In this manner I was taken to the Naval base by way of the sea face using Heddle Road.
THE ROAD TO THE NAVAL BASE
As we began moving towards the naval base, they started raining abuses on me. When we arrived opposite the house of Rev. Nabieu the Pastor of the Methodist church, one of the soldiers, my own church member smeared.
As we went by the compound of the Medical Doctor, Dr. Samba, some soldiers rushed in to get him. Others shouted at them to stop that since they had patients at the hospital. So Doctor was spared. Some soldiers continued to abuse me while others tried to restrain them until we arrived at the naval base.
THE MILITARY BASE
On arrival at the military base, I was taken to the Guardroom. Right in front of the Guardroom was Mr. I.E Williams, a senior citizen of Bonthe, and chairman of the Board of Directors of the Bank of Sierra Leone, the man in whose house the elders have been meeting, lying prostrate on the floor with a soldier standing over him. Without waiting for any command I too prostrated myself on the damp floor. The soldiers told us to get up and they asked me whether I have anything in my pocket. I said no. then they asked me to hand over my ring. This I did to one Abu Ragga. On entering the Guardroom, I saw many people undressed and groaning. The Pastor of the Christ Pentecostal Church, Rev. Barley, UBC church Rev. JSP Musa and UMC Church Rev. Sandy, the chairman SUDC were half naked and complained how they were mercilessly beaten and stripped naked. Some Sectional Heads, Departmental Heads and prominent people were also there, some were even bleeding.
As we sat against the wall trying to console each, one soldier came and fired live bullet into the cell and saying that they will kill all of us like chickens. That really frightened us so much. We even discovered that there was one soldier in the extension of the guardroom. When we asked why, he said he has been locked inside for failing to do his duty.
After some time, one soldier came and lined us up and marched us to the administrative building of the military base. Some of us were still naked ans as we were approaching the building some Naval authorities told the junior soldiers to give back the clothing of those who were naked. We were then directed to one mutilated body which they claimed was the result of “yesterday’s battle with the Kamajor”.
My cousin, Victor again assumed a prominent role. He uncovered the mutilated body of one they claimed to be a soldier as he rained abuses on us. Telling us that the blood of those killed be on our heads. I took a close look at the body and i suspected that the body was about three to four (3-4) days old. I blessed and prayed for the corpse while others were being kicked and pushed behind me. We were then returned to the Guardroom. Up to this point there was no military authority to explain to us the cause of our maltreatment.
Later, some soldiers came and called out all the religious heads and we were allowed to go and sit in the palava hut. We were given our clothes and things back. Still some soldiers kept abusing us and were accusing us of selling them to the kamajors, when we went on the so called mission just to hand them over to the kamajors. But it is quite important to note that out of more than 20 people who were in the Guardroom onlu about of us went on that peace mission.
As we sat under the palava hut, we also saw a large group of women who were sharing the same fate with us notably Mrs. Violet Tucker, a prominent Justice of the Peace, and Haja Isata Sheriff. There were also many young industrious men and women who were caught, beaten and later released.
As we sat under the hut I could see some commanders passing around. Some later came to us. The first was Major Medo, who claimed that he does not know anything the arrest. He is not aware of the person who gave the command. So we remained seated there. Other officers came and said almost the same thing. Then came the commanding officer for Bonthe, Major Mansaray, to whom some people explained that we the elders of Bonthe have been unlawfully and shamefully treated and that we demand an explanation for all of this. His response was that he was not aware of the arrest, he never ordered it. When faced with the question of our release, he emphatically pointed out that since he never ordered our arrest and detention he cannot order our release. He sat down there while his men were still arresting and pushing people into the Guardroom.
We later learnt that Mr. Isaac Williams had been released
We stayed there till late in the afternoon without food. They later agreed among themselves to release us. So we were allowed to go home.
AFTER THE ARREST
The days that followed saw the solidarity of Bonthe with their leaders especially the religious leaders. They visited us in groups praying for us and consoling us. To our greatest surprise, many military authorities like Major Medo, Major Martin, Major Mansaray, came to apologize at different times. They stressed the idea that the military authorities were not involved in the disgraceful operation one said that even if I am going to prepare a report I should stat that the soldiers of the other ranks have become unruly and cannot take orders from their authorities. The whole misbehaviour was the doing of soldiers of other ranks and not military authorities. Now when I looked at them as they tried to plead their case,it reminded me of an ancient wise Roman Adage: “SENATORI PROBI VIRI SENATUS MAL BESTIA” – THE SENATORS WHEN YOU TAKE THEM INDIVIDUALLY THEY ARE GOOD: PUT THEM IN A GROUP THEY ARE A BAD BEAST.
Since that time the relationship between the soldiers and the civilians deteriorated. Soldiers were somehow ostracized. Civilians avoided soldiers as much as possible wherever they met.
THE ARREST AND DISAPPEARANCE OF MR. MARK LEBBIE
On the 6th of September, Joe Baun a Military Police went searching for Mr. Mark Lebbie a well-known petit trader. He was arrested at the house of Imam Wahab at Pie Mary Street and beaten and taken to the military base. Relatives and friends who went to enquire at the base were violently driven out. After some days some elders went to enquire about this man at the naval base, they could not get any information about Mr. Lebbie. To this day we have not seen Mr. Lebbie. It was later rumoured that the soldiers killed him and threw him into the sea.
All these happened during the time when Major Mansaray was the Acting Commanding Officer of the Southern Naval Command, Bonthe.
All these developments coincided with the changing of the command structure at the Bonthe Naval Base. Major Azziz Dumbuya arrived in Bonthe to take over as Commanding Officer. He sensed the strained relationship between soldiers and civilians and he made it clear that he cannot take up command at Bonthe under this type of condition. So he decided to call up a meeting of both civilians, especially the leaders, and the soldiers with the aim of trying to create an improved relationship between the two groups. The meeting was convened on the 13th of September 1997.
MEETING BETWEEN SOLDIERS AND CIVILIANS
The meeting was held in the Bonthe Town Hall in which Major Mansaray the outgoing commmander, Majoy Azziz the in-coming commander, Major Martin of the patrol boat Farandugu 201, Major Medo, Cpt Kanu and many other Naval officers were present. The O.C Police was present and almost all departmental, sectional, religious heads and some citizens notably Mr. Isaac Williams, Chief Lahai, the Chiefdom Speaker of Sitia Chiefdom were present.
The whole meeting was centred around the Naval Authorities apologizing to civilians fro treating their leaders in such a disgraceful manner. It was not the doing of the Military authorities but the doing of soldiers of the other ranks. But since they are their men, they shared the blame. They were really sorry for the unfortunate happening and they promised that such will never happen again.
The next point was civilian and soldier collaboration in the defence of the town. This was agreed upon and section heads expressed their willingness to cooperate in this regard. They will take the message to their men, discuss it and see how this could be organized. The time of the curfew was again emphasized that is 10 p.m to 6 a.m. The meeting ended in a peaceful atmosphere and Commander Mansaray promised to return the radio communication sets that his men confiscated to their rightful owners. This meeting later proved to be quite timely and very significant since it cleared away soldier suspicion of civilian’s support for Kamajors. After the meeting, there was an improvement in the relationship between the soldiers and the civilians.
PERIOD AFTER THE MEETING
On Sunday 14th September, 1997, news came to Bonthe by palm wine dealers and fishermen that a group of kamajors from the mainland have crossed over to a seaside village called NJimai and molesting villagers. Some civilians too coming from inland direction by way of Bainbe and Bonthebai reported that they have met a group of kamajors with few single barrel guns, cutlasses and sticks all poised to attack Bonthe.
Towards the afternoon some soldiers went on patrol down the river towards Yoni and Njimai. Later, we heard heavy gun firing coming from the direction of Yoni and NJimai. That same day the landing craft arrived with more reinforcement from Freetown.
In the evening soldiers went about singing and dancing all over the town. The rumour about the Kamajor attack became so strong that some people came to seek refuge in the mission house.
KAMAJOR INVASION OF BONTHE TOWN – 15TH SEPTEMBER 1997
That night, the moon was shining brightly and all was very quiet. At about 05.00 a.m we heard the familiar poro secret society shouts coming from three directions at the end of the town. This was followed by some amount of gun fire which later ceased. Meanwhile, the Pore shout kept coming closer and closer. Then began the heavy sound from the gunboats and the light artillery and all the smaller guns joined in as well. Peeping outside, I saw the glowing shells from the gunboats passing close by the mission house. I told everybody to go down. We all went down to the Chapel and laid down flat. A shell from the gunboat hit one of the main pillars of the house and shattered part of it but nothing happened to us. The shooting was later minimized.
At about 10.30 a.m, some soldiers entered the compound calling us to the Naval Base and see fro ourselves. They were talking of the corpses of the Kamajors littering the streets and about a list of those who were to be killed by the Kamajors. With the aim of preventing the Sisters from seeing a lot of corpses, I led the way to the Naval Base by way of the sea face using Heddle Road. This proved to be a mis-judgment. The highest concentration of dead kamajors was along the sea face, towards the gunboat where they were butchered by the shells fired by the gunboats. As we made our way to the base, at some point, we had to pick our way through as the place was littered with butchered corpses of Kamajors. There was still shooting going on but in the air to scare the Kamajors away as we were told. All civilians were asked to go to the base while the soldiers combed the town to flush the Kamajors out.
Later in the afternoon, we were asked to go home and get some food and return to the base in the evening. Two Kamajors were later discovered and people started running to the base again. These two kamajors, the soldiers alleged, made a statement in which Mr. Victor Caulker and Rev. Sandy were implicated. According to them, it was Mr. Caulker, SLPP Party secretary, himself a Kamajor,now who led the kamajor invasion of Bonthe. The whole area around the base overcrowded. The two Nigerian Sisters were offered a room by Mr. Gbondo, the Manger of Fisheries, whose house is adjacent to the naval base. The house was so packed full that the manager, and others including myself were quite satisfied in occupying the office and store of the manager.
The sisters were so panic-stricken that the next day we almost quarrelled over their request for me to allow them to leave Bonthe for any destination. I told them that I cannot allow them to anywhere except Fr. Koroma in Freetown. They later agreed on my point so I handed them over to the commanding officer of the landing craft TIWAI 101, Major Y.E. Sesay, who was to hand them over to Major Howard the commanding officer at Government Wharf. Major Howard will then hand them over to Fr. Koroma at Kingtom. That day the two kamajors who were caught the previous day were killed. In the afternoon, the Sisters boarded the landing craft together with many panic stricken civilians whowere tr4ying to flee Bonthe and those who were wounded mainly by stray bullets. The departure of the landing craft was delayed due to some disagreement among the commanders but the landing craft was pushed out into the sea and anchored off shore.
Towards the evening, everybody was running towards the naval base. Somebody claimed to have heard a sound similar to the one produced by the attacking Kamajors. Later, it was discovered that it was not true so we were all asked to go back home. That night thee was less gun firing.
The following day the landing craft for Freetown. We then got news from villagers that many Kamajors were wounded and were crying in agony as they fled for dear life. Many of them were accusing one another for deceiving them and were vowing never to go to
Bonthe again. Some even died on the way. We heard another news from Yoni and NJimai that many Kamajors drowned in the sea as they attempted to make a hasty escape by canoes. This news proved to be great relief for us the frightened civilians.
AFTER THE INVASION
After this, there existed some degree of improved relationship between the civilians and the soldiers. Having allowed the corpses to be seen by everybody the soldiers called on the town’s people to assist in burying the dead, since they were beginning to create some sanitary problems. The was done and they also brushed around the town.
Civilians were very thankful to the soldiers for saving them. Those who were hurt were those who attempted to run toward the gunboats. The soldiers too commended some people especially the youths who guided them during the whole operation and no soldier was killed. Two civilians were killed but from stray bullets one lady, the wife of Victor Gbundema who was shot in the gunboat and Mr. Ebu Sawyerr who was hit by a stray bullet in his house. Those who were hurt were those running to enter the gunboat, save for one Prison Officer, Joseph Peters, who was wounded by the Kamajors. All these casualties were sent to Freetown on board the same landing craft that carried the Sisters.
After all these, the situation in Bonthe was getting calmer and calmer. Sometimes we hear news of Kamajor threat but there was not much fear or panic among the civilians. The soldiers were now very confident in their superior fire power and their military training which made them overcome the Kamajors. The Kamajor myth was now broken. Each time they hear any news of Kamajor attack the soldier will go and patrol towards that area.
For most people in Bonthe the experience was too shocking. This was the first time for most of us to see such large number of corpses. Many people were traumatise. Many attempted to leave Bonthe for some other destination, mainly Freetown. This led to the gruesome sea accident on the 3rd of October, in which many people lost their lives.
May God grant them, and all those who have lost their lives innocently since the May 25th coup, REST IN THE PEACE OF CHRIST!
THE CAPTURE AND ASSINATION OF VICTOR CAULKER – SLPP PARTY SECRETARY
On the 14th of October 1997, Victor Caulker was discovered in their Caulker family house, on Claffin Lane. He was discovered by one civilian who reported the matter to the military. Some soldiers were sent to arrest him. He was discovered in a room in the house. He had a very big sore which according to him was sustained during the Kamajor invasion of Bonthe on the 15th of September. He was one of the Kamajors involved in the invasion of Bonthe. Aster some interrogations the soldiers alleged that he made confessions in which certain persons in Bonthe especially Rev. G.S. Sandy, the chairman of SUDC was implicated as a Kamajor supporter. That day the Caulker Family House and the dwelling house of Rev G.S. Sandy were burnt down by the soldiers. Victor Caulker’s mother was also arrested.
On the 18th of October 1997, Mr. Victor Caulker was taken to the UMC field and publicly slaughtered under horrible circumstances. He was mutilated and some soldiers shared his entrails among them, telling us the civilians that they were going to eat him. Some soldiers confirmed later that they did eat part of his entrails. Many people in Bonthe were not in favour of this type of attitude of the soldiers, and because of this many people were branded kamajor sympathisers, and they were harassed.
MAJOR ACTIVITICES IN SITIA CHIEFDOM
After the invasion and massacre of the Kamajors in Bonthe, Bonthe became isolated. No boat was allowed to move Bonthe, and venturing beyond Bonthe town into the villages meant instant death for any civilian who put up the challenge. With this condition, there was serious starvation in Bonthe. This forced some brave people to move from Bonthe town into the hinterland of Bonthe island (Sitia Chiefdom) in search of food. Many civilians who left Bonthe in search of food in Sitia were captured by Kamajors. It was alleged that Kamajors in Sitia had become cannibals. Women who were captured by Kamajors were not seen. Some male civilians were killed. As the kidnapping of the people of Bonthe town continued in Sitia, the soldiers in Bonthe town organised military raids on Kamajor positions in Sitia, so as to free the hostages and dislodge the Kamajors.
MILITARY RAID ON MORSANDY – 17TH OCTOBER 1997
On 17th of October, a group of soldiers headed by Lt. Solomon, and some civilians left Bonthe and marched inland of Bonthe Island. We were later made to understand that Lt. Solomon was leading the attack on Kamajor positions in a village called Morsandy, the home village of Rev. Sandy, the chairman of Southern Urban District Council and Mayor of Bonthe. They returned with some freed hostages notably Joakin Bernet, a Launch Captain, and his children. The soldiers claimed to have scored huge success against the Kamajors. Sitia became quiet for sometime. After a brief while news came in to Bonthe of Kamajor activities aimed at Bonthe town. All these arrangements were made in a village called Ponthaye.
MILITARY RAID ON PONTHAYE
On the 1st of November, a group of soldiers, headed by the same Lt Solomon and some civilians marched from Bonthe town towards Ponthaye. Later in the day, we heard heavy gun shots. The soldiers and the civilians returned to Bonthe town claiming they have dislocated the Kamajor position at Ponthaye. With this raid, there was some amount of calm of calm around Bonthe town. This only lasted for few days. Villagers started coming in with news of massive Kamajor build-up in the villages in Sitia all poised to attack Bonthe.
GBONGBOMA-MOLAKIKA BRIDGE ASSUALT – 12TH NOVEMBER 1997
News came in Bonthe that Kamajors in their thousands have mustered at Gbongboma-Molakika Bridge which is a long bridge constructed out of sticks by the Poro Devil to assist the villagers to travel with ease to and from the surrounding villages in Sitia chiefdom and Bonthe town. This news was so disturbing that almost everybody worried in Bonthe. Some soldiers under the leadership of Sgt Fofana and Sgt Marah, heavily armed with artillery (mortars and anti aircraft guns) and many young and strong civilians who were forced to go with them moved to Gbongboma and engaged the Kamajors in a fierce battle which lasted for over two hours.
Notorious civilians like Victor Gbundema and Oldman Jackson were also armed with rifles. Many civilians managed to escape and return to Bonthe. Later on there was heavy firing and bombardment coming from the direction of the bridge. That evening they returned with horrible news about the massacre of the kamajors. One civilian, Mr. Kallon who was forced to go with the soldiers was killed. The bridge was totally destroyed. After this massacre of the Kamajors, in which hundreds of them died, the people of Bonthe town were relieved. It strengthened their belief in the superior power of the soldiers over the Kamajors. Even though the civilians did not like the soldiers, yet they did not encourage the kamajors to come and destroy Bonthe.
THE TREND OF THE SITUATION IN BONTHE
With the defeat of the kamajors in Bonthe Town and in Sitia, we later sensed that the kamajor attack was now taking a different dimension in the interior of Bonthe Island. It seemed to have moved from attacking Bonthe town and now concerned itself with politics in the Sitia Chiefdom that surround Bonthe town. Paramount Chief, Speaker, Section Chiefs, Town Chiefs and the people have been set against each other and are now fighting among themselves as manifested in the case of kamajor attack on baimbe village the town of the Speaker Lahai Koroma. The Kamajors were said to have come from the village of Sei Mani the Section Chief of Pimbihun. It has now come to the point were members of one village are now attacking members of another village within the same chiefdom. The seed of hatredness which was sown among the people of Sitia Chiefdom is now germinating.
Viewing the situation in the country with all the military build up by both ECOMOG and the Sierra Leone Army and also the Civil Defense represented by the Capras and the Kamajors, may i say that all in not well with our country – Sierra Leone. If peace is not given a chance, I must say the country is sitting on a time bomb which is bound to explode with disastrous effect in the near future.
THE LAST STAND OF THE NAVY IN BONTHE
As news of the ECOMOG intervention of Freetown became stronger so also was the tension in Bonthe town. Soldiers made threatening remarks against civilians. Some called ECOMOG ‘OGAMOG’ to emphasise the fact that the ECOMOG intervention is a clear manifestation of Nigerian Aggression against Sierra Leone. But this threat was not too serious am many of the soldiers were indecisive. News came to Bonthe that some soldiers from Bonthe have handed themselves over to ECOMOG. This left some of the soldiers sitting on the fence, without supporting any side. They said all they cared about now, was to defend themselves and Bonthe town. Many categorically stated that they were not in favour of the junta but on the other hand they cannot allow kamajors to destroy Bonthe. They will defend Bonthe to the last.
As the situation became tense in the whole country, the kamajors Naval Battalion Commander, Morie Jusu, stationed in Kwamebai Krim Chiefdom, sent letters to the soldiers and senior citizens of Bonthe imploring the soldiers to make peace with them and allow civilians to move freely to and from both sides. A certain village was chosen where the soldiers and some senior citizens were to meet the Kamajors and talk on this matter.
The senior citizens met and discussed this letter and wrote a reply to the Kamajor Naval Commander. They also met with the military authorities who also received their own letter and discussed the matter. The Naval authorities allowed the civilians to send their own reply to the Kamajor Naval Commander. The military authorities said they have sent a letter to their authorities in Freetown and they were waiting for a reply, before they can reply the kamajors.
After some days we began hearing news about Kamajor attack on Bonthe again. Sometimes, we see AFRC helicopter passing and keep hearing news of helicopter bombardment on villages around Bonthe.
PA ALPHA IN BONTHE – 5TH FEBRUARY 1998
As the ECOMOG military intervention of Freetown became imminent almost everybody was waiting to hear the outcome of the threat from both ECOMOG and the Junta. On Thursday 5th February, the ECOMOG jet, commonly called ‘PA ALPHA’ flew over Bonthe. Some soldiers started firing at the jet, and they also used the bit guns on the gunboat to fire at the jet. Commander Azziz went running to warm the soldiers to stop firing at the jet since that meant serious problems for them in Bonthe, for surely the jet will retaliate. The jet went round and started shelling along the sea face of the town. It was reported by the soldiers that some part of the gunboat was damaged. This happened in the afternoon. Many soldiers abandoned their positions and went into hiding.
That evening the soldiers came from hiding and notable members of the Bonthe Working Committee Mr. Osmond Hanciles and Mr. Saspo Bangura were rounded up by the soldiers and asked to lead them to all those in Bonthe town in possession of radio communication sets. All the communication sets in town including that of the Catholic Mission were confiscated. There were about seven radio communication sets in all. We were told that the radios will be returned to us later. According to the soldiers, this action was for security reasons. Meanwhile, the news of the kamajor attack on Bonthe was getting stronger and stronger.
THE EXIT OF THE JUNTA FROM BONTHE
While the ECOMOG intervention was in progress the people of Bonthe were glued to their radio much to the annoyance of the soldiers who were busy giving false information about AFRC’s successes against ECOMOG. On Sunday 8th February, there was great jubilation at the military base. When I enquired the cause of all this, the answer I received was that the AFRC forces in Freetown had brought down the notorious “PA ALPHA’. In the evening there was great quietness in the military base following the counter announcement of the ECOMOG Commander that none of their military jets had been brought down. From this point, the attitude of the soldiers became docile. They hardly harassed civilians and even became friendly to their so-called enemies – the civilians
On the evening of 12th February, when the new reached Bonthe that ECOMOG had captured State House and Government Wharf, the base of the Naval authorities, it became clear that the soldiers in Bonthe were in serious trouble. There was no way they could convince the people of Bonthe with false propaganda anymore. They had no alternative but to surrender.
On the 14th of February, the Naval authorities had a meeting. After that meeting, we saw soldiers transporting their belongings to the gunboat. News went round that the soldiers were leaving for Freetown to surrender to ECOMOG. There was a counter news that the soldiers were leaving for Guinea to surrender themselves to Ambassador Jabbie, Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to Guinea who would turn them over to ECOMOG. All these rumours were being spread by the soldiers themselves. Later on a very disturbing news went around that the soldiers were leaving that night and that the Kamajors were on their way to invade Bonthe. Some soldiers were giving threatening remarks that as they leave Bonthe, they were going to bombard the whole of Bonthe, as they make their way to an unknown destination. This news was quite upsetting. That evening, as soldiers were busy packing their belongings and those of their close relatives into the gunboat, many elders in Bonthe town went into hiding, for fear of possible military assault against their persons.
Some civilians also boarded the gunboat to flee with the soldiers. That night, I went round in search of Commander Azziz Dumbuya, in order to retrieve the Catholic Mission communication set. This venture was fruitless, as he was nowhere to be found. The other military authorities could not help me either. I also went round trying to persuade the frightened civilians not to flee with the soldiers on-board the gunboat and I succeeded in making some stay, but some still went into the gunboat.
At about 11.30 p.m, I heard a knock on my door. Mr. Frank Mattia brought in Chief George Brandon 111, of Sitia Chiefdom, who wanted to seek refuge in the Catholic Mission as he was afraid of being harassed by the soldiers. We were also informed that the soldiers have gone to the house of Chief Lahai Koroma the Speaker of Sitia Chiefdom, but the man escaped. After this the whole family of Chief Lahai Koroma and some other panic-stricken civilians around town came to seek refuge in the Mission House. As it was getting to 12 midnight, I asked everybody to go down and encamp on the play ground of the St Patrick’s Primary School, for fear of a possible bombardment from the gunboat which would be very fatal if we stay in the house.
At about 1 a.m, on the 15th February 1998, the gunboat ‘Naimbana 102’ roared into action. Shots were fired from the gunboat but not into the town, and the boat left for an unknown destination. In the morning we discovered we were left naked at the mercy of the kamajors, who were on their way to capture Bonthe. That Sunday morning some of us went round the town trying to get things which were confiscated by the military, such as: the Government hospital ambulance, which I drove to the Mission Compound, and the Government Boat ‘Kinni’. We also entered the military base and prevented some civilians from looting the remaining faulty arms and ammunitions that the soldiers left behind. We called the police to take care of the situation. We searched the base but there was no sign of our communication sets. We were told that they took everything along with them.
That same day at about 9.30 a.m, many of us were in Church getting ready for Mass, when we heard gun shots coming from the out-skirts of the town. Some people thought that it was the soldiers that have returned and there was great panic in the town again. Most of the people in town rushed to the Catholic Mission for refuge. We later saw some young men dressed in traditional kamajor attire, some armed with rifles, others with single barrel guns and some with matchets. The long awaited and dreaded Kamajors have entered Bonthe town.
|Witness to Truth:
Final Report of the TRC
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