The Sierra Leone Web

Address by Major Johnny Paul Koroma
Head of State and Chairman of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council
Freetown - 28 May 1997

My fellow countrymen: This is Major Johnny Paul Koroma, the Chairman of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, AFRC, of Sierra Leone. Since my last broadcast to the nation announcing the overthrow of former president Tejan Kabbah and his government, I now wish to apprise you of the following:

As already explained to the nation, developments in the country just before AFRC intervened, were threatening the cohesion of the country. The policies in the country had polarized into regional and tribal factions. The former president had lost total control of the situation as atrocities spread throughout the country. The overthrown government made only half-hearted moves; but more disastrously was the fact that the former armed civilians from only one part of the country to harassed servicemen and members of the civil society. The rebel war, which started in the country, was fought gallantly by our forces, seriously aided by the Guinean troops, Nigerian troops, the special task force, and the SSD (Special Security Detachment).

My countrymen and countrywomen: In our effort to liberate our fatherland, the only civilians who volunteered to fight during the difficult days were the Kamaboys, who were fighting alongside the Army as an auxiliary force, and the cooperation between the Army and the Kamaboys was extremely cordial as the Kamaboys defended mostly their localities. Some time in January 1994, a group called Hindu-Hindu was organized in Kenema, and the formation of Hindu-Hindu led to a series of breaches of the peace, causing the organization to be disbanded.

In 1996, the same group that had been disbanded re-emerged as the Kamajors, and like in the days of the Hindu-Hindu, the Kamajors instantly targeted the Army as their perceived enemy. However, the military overlooked the activities of the Kamajors and fought alongside them as local forces, but when the SLPP came to power, the SLPP government emphasized that the Kamajors should be given ante-military training which caused serious confrontation between the soldiers and the Kamajors. While the Army was only made up of 14,000 men, the number of Kamajors has swelled up to 37,000 men, vastly outnumbering the constitutional Army.

Welfare of the Army: The SLPP, which got the full support of the Army after the election, suddenly became very partisan in handling the security of the state. Welfare of the Kamajors was treated more seriously that the welfare of the Army. It was not surprising that a one time chief Kamajor was appointed Deputy Minister of Defense who spent all his energy organizing the Kamajors. Even though the military had fought the war for five years, the SLPP spent all its time providing logistics for the Kamajors, and totally forgetting the welfare of the Army. The Kamajors in the eyes of the SLPP suddenly because a superior force, even though the Armed Forces in constitutionally responsible for the security of the state. The Kamajors started to engage the Army in battles causing the death of many soldiers.

Even though the SLPP claimed to have spent between 2 billion and 3.5 billion leones on the Armed Forces every month, this was not reflected in the status of the ordinary soldier. The Kamajors, on the other hand, were well catered for as Deputy Defense Minister Hinga Norman alone collected 35 million leones on behalf of Kamajors every month. This does not cover the amount Hinga Norman collected from government to cover logistics for the Kamajors. Salaries for soldiers are delayed for long periods whereas monies to Kamajors are paid instantly on demand. Ration for the fighting men was reduced thereby putting a lot of pressure on the commanders who feel hard to handle the same number of men.

The public service: My countrymen, the SLPP government launched an all-out war against members of the civil service who were suspected to be non-SLPP supporters. Many permanent secretaries and heads of department were sent on leave just because they were not members of the SLPP. The civil service came to a standstill when important officials such as the Establishment Secretary, the Accountant General, and other heads of department were forced on leave without explanation. Even though the former head of state promised a 20 percent increase in the salaries, no such increase took place. Instead, government went ahead to retrench more workers from the civil service. The teachers remained unpaid for a long time to the extent that many teachers would no longer pay their way to work. This situation is not tenable, and we promise to change this immediately.