The Sierra Leone Web


Saturday September 18th 1999

We the members of the Sierra Leone Army (SLA), and members of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), take this opportunity to thank Almighty God, the people of Sierra Leone, the Government, and members of the International Community, for all they have done individually and collectively to make it possible for us to be here today in peace.

Ours is a long and difficult story, but it must be told. We begin by telling the people of Sierra Leone that we are fully conscious of the misery and suffering that we have caused them. No one is born bad or wants to be bad, but circumstances do occur which force some people to be bad. We deeply regret and apologize for all that we have done, and may the souls of those who died rest in peace. We pray for God's forgiveness and mercy for our wrongs and misdeeds, and we also forgive those who wronged us as a result of the war.

It is however not enough for us to just say we are sorry.

  • We therefore take this opportunity to renew our pledge of allegiance and loyalty to our beloved country. We remain committed to the service of the nation and the constitutional government of the day.
  • We are ready to observe the rule of law, respect basic human rights, and people's rights
  • We stand ready to defend life and property, and our country against any external aggression
  • We will promote the concept of tolerance and national reconciliation with respect for all Sierra Leoneans
  • We also believe that some things must be explained to promote understanding and prevent a recurrence of the problems and events that brought us to this point.
Since the war in 1991, the SLA fought courageously for very meager compensation, in defending this land from the RUF, and other trained mercenaries. In the course of the war, some military officers pitched tent with the RUF and the war became difficult to fight, because we were constantly betrayed. The war raged on and soldiers were dying on a daily basis. At the same time, the motivation and conditions of service became more unfavorable.

Governments changed, but corruption, misuse of funds allocated to the military by senior officers, neglect by politicians, and the total neglect of war widows and disabled soldiers continued even as we fought and died for
our country. The situation was compounded and worsened by the retirement benefits given to soldiers. After a lifetime of loyalty and dedicated service, retired soldiers were given no more than a bundle of zinc and a meager sum of money. Considering all the years of service, such benefits were no more than a pittance. 

In 1995, the NPRC Government saw the need to start peace talks with the RUF, and with the support of the international community, elections were conducted, and a democratic civilian government installed. That was followed by the signing of the Abidjan Peace Accord in 1996.

The Sierra Leone Army has always supported the people's desire for a democratic government and self-determination. That was manifested in the conduct of elections and peaceful hand-over to a civilian government.
After the hand-over to the government of President Kabba, many things created feelings of distrust, uncertainty and neglect in the military. One factor, which directly contributed towards this, was what appeared to be a pattern of marginalizing and disregarding the army. We had reason to believe that the threat of elimination of the military as an institution was real. These feelings were precipitated by the elevation of a tribally dominated militia, which received covert and official support from the government, during which time the military's welfare worsened. Concerns were voiced, and these issues were not addressed by the government. So the constitutional army was now faced with two threats, the Kamajohs and the RUF. There were open attacks on military positions by the Kamajohs. Our complaints were totally disregarded by the government, and officers accused of retaliating against Kamajoh aggression, were subjected to acts of discipline. A group of officers were discharged with a pittance as retirement benefits. The tribal militia gained political prominence, and it was given undue importance and performed roles that violated the constitutional role of the army. The government openly sided with the Kamajohs. Soldiers were killed, transferred and dismissed disgracefully from the army due to clashes with the Kamajoh. The Parliamentary report on soldier/Kamajoh clash must be revisited and recommendations should be proffered to avert any such recurrence for the sake of posterity.

The May 25th coup was a reaction to these problems and the perceived threat to the military as an institution. To solve the problems of the civil war and the suffering of the people, the AFRC called upon the RUF to join a
government of national unity, an idea that is now accepted, and being implemented in Sierra Leone with the blessing of the International Community.

With the ECOMOG invasion of Freetown, the army witnessed brutal acts of reprisals against its members. The call to surrender was not realistic because the court martial of military officers, and their subsequent executions did not create an atmosphere of trust and confidence. Among such officers were Major Kula Samba who was in charge of reintegrating child combatants into civil society. We believe she was serving her country. In the period of retreat during the restoration of democracy, the army under the command of the late General S. A. J. Musa, may his soul rest in peace, operated as a unit of its own (AFRC/SLA), but due to lack of communication, our concerns about disarmament, demobilization and reinstatement were not expressed. The army in the jungle still operated with senior military officers like Brigadier Gabriel S. T. Mani, and Col. Anthony B. Mansaray. The interests of the AFRC/SLA are in our view not represented in the Lome Peace Accord. Events occurred which we now know mitigated against our representation at the peace talks in Togo. We will like the world to know however that we are committed to peace.

So far, the people of Sierra Leone, the Government and the International Community have exercised patience, demonstrated an ability to forgive and reconcile, and maintained an open mind in the peace process. We must also demonstrate our commitment to peace. To do that honestly and without reservation, we believe that some of the anxieties and concerns of our members, with regard to their personal safety and welfare, must be expressed. Pursuant to this end, the following matters should be resolved so that we too can be a part of the Lome Peace Accord, and support it unconditionally:

The army is still the constitutional army of Sierra Leone, supported by the Government, and loyal to it. Therefore our members must be reinstated into the army and their welfare needs addressed.

Members of the AFRC, especially those who participated directly in the overthrow of the Government cannot realistically continue their military careers without apprehension and suspicion. The AFRC still believes that some of its actions were in the interest of the country. Its members will therefore like to continue contributing to the development of Sierra Leone and will like to be part of any future government.

That the AFRC should be effectively involved in any future peace talks with the RUF, given that members of the RUF cannot effectively represent the AFRC.

That of considerable importance is the safety and well-being of the leader of the AFRC, LT. Col. Johnny Paul Koroma and other key players of the AFRC, without which an atmosphere of trust will not be built. Without effective communication, the peace process will be shrouded in distrust, inconsistencies and problems. The AFRC must therefore be given equal access to both print and electronic media.

That provision must be made for proven and credible Sierra Leonean military officers to work with UNOMSIL and the Government and all parties concerned, in the disarmament process.

ECOMOG in Sierra Leone should be expanded to include other countries.

That widows and dependants of soldiers who died in the war be given benefits and means of livelihood provided for them. Such facilities will include micro-credit facilities and educational facilities.

Economic activities like carpentry, agriculture, small-scale industry should be made available to us that will reduce the socio-economic factors that led to this problem.

The AFRC/SLA will support a system that promotes transparency, national unity and progress. We have fought and died for this country before, and will fight and die for this country again in defense of the freedom and welfare of our people. Thank you, and may GOD help us.