The Sierra Leone Web



Date:- January 15th 1999


Human beings go to war when they feel they can no longer get action to be taken on their grievances by verbal articulation. Because of this, many fighters tend to be harbouring huge negative pent up emotions during warfare. Generally, War results in a breakdown of civil law and order. Fighters tend to use this breakdown in law and order to unleash their angry negative emotions by committing untold atrocities. It is very difficult to control fighters in a war situation.

Unfortunately, the brunt of these atrocities are usually directed against innocent civilians caught up in circumstances way beyond their control. From Kosovo to Algeria to Laurent Kabila's Congo to Sierra Leone, the news reports of man's inhumanity to his fellow man are almost identical. Just two days ago, over 200 innocent civilians weremassacred by fighters in the Congo. The week before, it was 500 innocent people who lost their lives in the same conflict. The President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, President Kabila, has been extensively accused of widespread atrocities by his fighting forces during his onslaught to topple Mobutu.

Sierra Leone's conflict has resulted in immense suffering for her people since it started in 1991. There has been tales of atrocities committed by both the rebels fighters of the RUF and the pro-government forces of whatever government was in power. As recently as this week, the Italian MISNA News Agency reported that pro government ECOMOG forces almost beat the lives out of two Italian priests they wrongly accused of being mercenaries fighting for the RUF. The ECOMOG soldiers were even going to summarily execute the priests but for the timely intervention of another reverend Father. The deaths of these humble priests would have been regrettable but it would have been just another report of man's inhumanity to his fellow man caused by angry emotions. It is very difficult to control fighters in a war situation.

By January 1996, the innocent civilians thought they had seen just about all levels of war atrocities during the RUF's war against successive Sierra Leone governments. Then came in the call for a cease-fire by our leader, Corporal Foday Sankoh, in response to a call for cease-fire by Brigadier Maada Bio, the new de-facto Head of the Sierra Leone Government. Sankoh was responding to a call from Bio issued shortly after Bio had overthrown the former Valentine Strasser in January of 1996. Sankoh assured Bio that the cease-fire would hold if the upcoming Presidential and Parliamentary Elections slated for February 1996 were postponed until the RUF's grievances were looked into.

Sankoh had long wanted those elections postponed. As early as November 1994, Sankoh had made it clear to the British High Commission that the RUF was against the holding of elections before the factors that led to the RUF's war were first looked into. In two radio contacts to the British, during the month of November 1994, Sankoh made a series of demands to the ruling NPRC through the British High Commission. Chief amongst these were that his RUF be recognised as a political movement and secondly that no elections should be held until the grievances of the men and women in the RUF were looked into. In one of these radio contacts, Sankoh spoke directly to the newly appointed Electoral Commissioner, Dr. James Jonah. He clearly expressed to Dr Jonah, his movement's disapproval of elections being held before RUF's grievances were looked into.

These points were forwarded to the NPRC military government through the British High Commission. The NPRC then turned the points over to their Advisory Council which was headed by Alhaji Tejan Kabbah for advise on how to move forward. The NPRC Advisory Council was formed in November 1992 seven months after their April 29th coup. Tejan Kabbah was formally sworn in as Chairman of the NPRC Advisory Council on December 8th 1992. The Secretary to this Advisory Council was Mr Solomon Berewa and the legal representative in this Advisory Council from the Sierra Leone Bar Association was Mr George Banda Thomas. Another member of the Advisory Council was Professor Alghali who represented the Academic Staff of the University of Sierra Leone. These men held these positions practically throughout the whole of the NPRC's tenure until October 1995, three months before the NPRC conducted elections when the Council was disbanded. The Council was disbanded when Tejan Kabbah informed the NPRC that he was seeking to contest the Presidential Elections.

This Advisory Council headed by Tejan Kabbah deliberated on the issue and advised the NPRC Government to proceed with elections and IGNORE the RUF's call for a cease-fire and dialogue. This was all in spite of the fact that the vast majority of the citizens of Sierra Leone were begging the NPRC Government to seek peace for the country through dialogue and negotiations with the RUF. Earlier in the same year, the NPRC summoned a conference with the country's traditional rulers. This conference was held in July 1994 and was called a Paramount Chiefs' Conference (PCC). It's primary charge was to discuss ways to bring the conflict to an end. A major recommendation at the end of the PCC was the following:-

‘That the NPRC set up a National Security Council with the stated aim of initiating ways and means to bring this conflict to a close so that we can begin the difficult task of re-constructing our economy AND THEN restore meaningful democracy."

The Tejan Kabbah Advisory Council however had a hidden agenda of their own as far back as November 1994 and they forwarded bogus reasons as to why the elections should be held and the RUF's call for dialogue be discarded. It is noteworthy that after these elections were held in 1996, the Secretary to the Tejan Kabbah-headed NPRC Advisory Council was made a top cabinet minister in charge of Justice and also appointed to the dual role of Attorney General AND Minister of Justice. This man, Mr Solomon Berewa still holds this position today. Another member of the "Advisory" Council, Mr Banda Thomas was appointed to first act as Tejan Kabbah's "Government Spokesman" and Information Minister and later given the more lucrative dual portfolios of Minister of Trade & Industry as well as Minister of State Enterprises. A quick investigation will also show that several other members of the "National" Advisory Council were given very fat positions in the Tejan Kabbah government or made to head Government Commissions and the Nation's Boards of Parastatals. One such member, Bishop Kellie of Bo Town was made to head a Government

Commission investigating military-civilian discord despite the fact that having been a victim of military brutality himself, he was obviously too compromised to be an unbiased commissioner. Another interesting point of note is that one of these members of the NPRC's Advisory Council, Professor Sidi Alghali, is himself the Deputy Head of Tejan Kabbah's own present Advisory Council.

These men ignored the cries of the people for peace and using self serving people like Dr. Julius Spencer and Mrs Zainab Bangura, they went about on a misinformation campaign which eventually led to a state of disinformation in the country. This disinformation atmosphere was very successful in giving the impression that the people of Sierra Leone preferred elections where over half the country could not vote over peace talks and negotiations with the RUF. Newspaper editors were all knowingly and unknowingly used in this disinformation campaign. Perhaps the greatest insult to the voice of reason and the cries for peace from the people was the Bintumani II Conference meeting which was chaired by another individual with a hidden agenda, Mrs. Shirley Gbujama. Mrs Gbujama's bullying, browbeating and shameless hassling of peace advocates at Bintumani on February 12th 1996 backed by hired political party thugs at the back of the conference room will ever remain in the corridors of history as the greatest prostitution of the word "Democracy". The RUF's letter requesting for peace talks before elections was ridiculed by Mrs Gbujama publicly. Mrs. Gbujama deliberately misread the last paragraph of the RUF's letter appealing to Sierra Leoneans not to sacrifice peace for elections. She was given very fat portfolios also by Tejan Kabbah when he became President after these elections. At present she had held three different ministerial positions already including the high profile Foreign Ministry.

During all these "elections before peace" machinations by desperate selfish self- serving politicians, eager to get their hands once more on the Nation's revenues, it became more and more obvious to the RUF fighters in the bush that the very same politicians whom had created the circumstances that led to the RUF's rebellion were again manipulating the populace so they could restart the corruption cycle once more.

These politicians included THAIMU BANGURA, the APC man who first taught the youths of Sierra Leone that thuggery and violence was an acceptable means to political power. It was Mr Thaimu Bangura who first slit opened the stomachs of pregnant women during the Timbo-Bangura APC Elections in Sanda Town. He did this to assume political power. Another politician who was active in the disinformation campaign was SANA B. MARAH. Mr Marah perfected the art of thuggery during his APC electioneering days in Koinadugu. The people of Koinadugu district will always remember the days when the streets would virtually flow with the blood of supporters of Mr. Marah's opponents.

Mr Marah is no longer a member of the APC. He is now a member of the ruling SLPP Government after being "voted" into parliament. He is the Leader of the Parliament. Mr. Thaimu Bangura was also "voted" into parliament but resigned his post to become the first Finance Minister in the Tejan Kabbah SLPP Government. He presently holds the all important dual portfolios of Works, Energy & Power. These two men are just two of the vast number of APC political dregs who terrorised the people of Sierra Leone for decades by violent means. These are the people who taught the RUF freedom fighters that the way to power was through violence.

As stated earlier, in war, pent up rage and the breakdown of law and order leads to untold atrocities. A few RUF fighters in the bush went on the rampage and as their own way of stating their objection to the planned elections, they proceeded on a campaign to cut off the hands of innocent villagers as a message that no voting should occur. This was how amputation of hands started in Sierra Leone by desperate RUF men.

These men decided to employ the tactics of APC men like Thaimu Bangura and S.B. Marah to draw attention to the fact that they were opposed to elections. These learned thuggery and cruel inhumanity is one of the most regrettable part of the entire RUF war.

Pa Foday Sankoh, the RUF leader was especially chagrined at the actions taken by these few RUF fighters. Our leader is aware that in war, atrocities occur especially when young disenfranchised men are revolting against an oppressive system. However, Pa Sankoh has never condoned acts of violence against civilians by RUF fighters. Pa Foday Sankoh immediately set up a special investigative Tribunal. This Tribunal was set up by the RUF War & Peace Council to look into the actions of and subsequently discipline the RUF fighters who performed these amputations.

After the tribunal, all those fighters found guilty of this were publicly executed. The RUF Leader, Corporal Sankoh denounced the amputation of human limbs by any RUF fighter. Corporal Sankoh inspires the highest level of obedience in the men and women of the RUF. To this date, no RUF fighter has ever disobeyed the orders by Corporal Sankoh which stated that no RUF fighter should engage in acts of amputations against innocent civilians.

Having given this background, the present political leadership of the RUF wants to call for an immediate, independent unbiased investigation into the perpetrators of the amputations that occurred in Kono District and other parts of the Northern Province. These amputations re-started in early 1997 and greatly worsened during the ten months since February 1998. The RUF commanders presently insist that their fighters were not responsible for those amputations. The belief amongst many Northerners and people of Kono origin is that these amputations were conducted by the mende tribal kamajor militia from the South. These amputations of Northerners and Konos was said to be sanctioned by the highest authorities in the SLPP Government.

In 1997, shortly before he was overthrown by mutinous soldiers, President Tejan Kabbah went to the Northern centre town and made the puzzling remarks that the Northerners should apologise to the mendes because it was the Northerners who destroyed the mende's villages and towns. Kabbah, in his speech, attacked the North as being responsible for the destruction of the Southeast during the RUF War because Kabbah said that the RUF leader was a Northerner from Tonkolili.

Shortly after this statement from Kabbah, a series of attacks on Northern towns by people calling themselves "RUF rebels" occurred. The Northern villagers had their limbs hacked off. However, in a very worthy point of note, the style of amputations was markedly different from the amputations previously done during the elections protest.

Medical Personnel treating these amputees in early 1997 shortly after Kabbah attacked the North stated that the hands were cut off not at the wrist as before but at a point through the palm. This signaled that whoever was doing these new set of amputations in the North were not the RUF. Numerous credible reports indicate that amputees spoke of their assailants telling them that they were being targeted so that they too could "feel what the mendes have felt before."

During the AFRC/RUF interregnum, the state of insecurity in the country was vastly reduced and the free movement of assailants using the state of insecurity to commit amputations was curtailed. The Kamajors attacked several innocent people and sliced off the heads of their victims during roadside ambushes. But these incidents were rare because of the security dragnet put in place by a now aligned RUF and Sierra Leone Army.

In February 1998, the ECOMOG offensive to remove the AFRC and abrogate the Conakry Peace Accord sent the country once more into a state of insecurity. The RUF believes that the Kamajors left their hometowns in the Southeast and claiming to be defence forces, went on the rampage in the North on the orders of Tejan Kabbah's administration. These Kamajors committed the vast number of the atrocities now being attributed to the RUF rebels including the amputations. Evidence of this is clearly seen when the demographics of the amputees are taken into consideration. Even though the RUF rebels were very much active in the East and South of the country, there are ABSOLUTELY NO REPORTS of amputations that occur in this mende dominated areas. The demographic map showing the origins of the poor victims clearly indicates that the amputations occurred in Sefadu in the Northeastern part of Sierra Leone that is home to the Konos and all over the Northern province.

Further proof of the dubious role of the Kamajors in the North was seen on Thursday September 24th last year. Armed men claiming to be "RUF rebel" attacked the Northern town of Kalangba killing seven ECOMOG soldiers and a huge number of Kalangba residents. Four ECOMOG soldiers managed to escape and trekked to their Makeni Brigade Headquarters. The ECOMOG Brigade Commander sent reinforcements to the town of Kalangba to secure the dead bodies of the seven Nigerian soldiers and repel these alleged "RUF rebels" from Kalangba. However, on the road to Kalangba from Makeni, the escaped ECOMOG soldiers identified a group of 57 armed men leaving Kalangba as the "RUF assailants". The reinforcements opened fire and killed all 57 of the attackers. When the people of Makeni came to see the bodies of the "57 RUF assailants" who attacked Kalangba, to their shock, these 57 men were identified to be well known Kamajors!!

The next day, the word was spread to the ECOMOG Brigade Headquarters in Kenema and a serious gunfire broke out between the Kamajors and the Nigerian soldiers leaving several dead on both sides. This matter was hushed up by the authorities. After several days, the SLPP spindoctors came up with the following story about the kamajor attack on Kalangba as reported on the Sierra Leone Web:

27 September: At least 50 Kapra militiamen were killed near Kalangba Thursday after they opened fire on ECOMOG troops in error, Kapra sources said Sunday. The incident happened after the militiamen were expelled from the town by AFRC/RUF rebels. The Kapras encountered ECOMOG troops moving toward Kalangba and opened fire on them, mistaking them for rebels. The ECOMOG soldiers returned fire, killing at least 50 Kapras in the subsequent fighting. An ECOMOG source confirmed the incident, describing it as "unfortunate." He was unable to say how many people had been killed in the exchange of fire. ECOMOG troops and Kamajor militiamen reportedly clashed at Kenema on Friday. Kenema residents told Reuters that several fighters on both sides were killed in the incident. The reason for the shooting was unclear. ECOMOG has not confirmed the incident, but senior government officials were said to be holding talks with ECOMOG and Kamajor leaders in Kenema on Sunday in order to prevent further hostilities.

Despite the enormous disinformation campaign against the RUF, some level of the truth was revealed by the following paragraphs of Mr Kofi Annan's First Progress Report on the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMISL):-

16. While the Civil Defence Force is nominally under the command and control of ECOMOG, reports continue to be received of unruly or criminal behavior on the part of some members of the Force outside their own home districts. Strains that developed between ECOMOG and the Civil Defence Force in some places appear to have been successfully resolved or contained through the intervention of senior commanders. Some members of the Force have also been accused of human rights violations and criminal acts, including looting, confiscation of vehicles and civil disturbances, although allegations of summary killings and the torture of prisoners have dropped sharply since the end of May, apparently as a result of intervention by the Government and ECOMOG. The Civil Defence Force has made a commitment to end its practice of recruiting and initiating child soldiers, who comprise a high proportion of their ranks and who have been sent into combat.

43. Reliable reports are being regularly received of poor discipline within the Civil Defence Force. In various locations throughout the country they have been accused of harassing the local population and engaging in extortion.

Paragraph 16 indicates that the mende tribal militia Kamajors left their home districts in mende line to cause what the United Nations Secretary General euphemistically put as ".....unruly or criminal behavior on the part of some members of the [Kamajor] Force outside their own home districts." Paragraph 43 indicates that whilst the locations of the "poor discipline" was carefully left out of the Secretary General's report, the mildly worded "harassing the local population" was really report of the horrible practices of the kamajor militia in the North.

The Sierra Leone Conflict started as an armed uprising by angry youths against a system that had neglected their welfare. However, at present, because of the tribalistic attitude of the Kabbah government, the conflict is fast taking on a tribal dimension. With the memory of the United Nation's inability to stop the Rwandan tribal genocide in 1994, the RUF is appealing to the International Community to look into its' claims that the amputations that started in the Northern Province after Tejan Kabbah's verbal assault on Northerners was a well orchestrated campaign by the mende southern Kamajors. There are numerous evidences out there to back our claim of innocence. For example, whenever it is clearly proved that the attack on a town was done by RUF/AFRC fighters, there have been no reports of amputations in those towns. The RUF/AFRC attacked ECOMOG positions in Kabala and held onto Kabala town for several days in May 1998 before withdrawing. The Kabala residents saw the RUF and AFRC figures in the town. However, around that same time, unknown assailants attacked the nearby town of Alikalia and amputated the limbs of the inhabitants of Alikalia. Some of the Alikalia victims recognised some of the assailants as Kamajors.

Just two weeks ago, the Kamajors arrested and burnt to death two boys they accused of being rebels. The Kamajors said they identified the "rebels" by magical means. Later, it was found out that these were two innocent boys.

Disturbing Information has been received that the Kamajors have been magically prepared to identify people of Northern origins as "the enemy". The parents of the two innocent dead boys who were burnt to death by the mende Kamajors were from the North of Sierra Leone. This is how they were magically identified as "rebels". One of the boys had never even gone to the provinces in his entire life.

Similarly, three young men identified as "RUF rebels" in Kenema this week were later found out to be innocent men with Northern heritage. It is imperative that an Independent Investigation be put into place as soon as possible to look into the above issues. The RUF is fighting a war on ideologies but the SLPP has a hidden agenda to fight a war based on ethnic cleansing.

The SLPP has been using the War as a curtain behind which to hide as they attack and destroy Northern Sierra Leone and her inhabitants. Their tribal militia Kamajors are on a willful campaign to mutilate the Northerners. The Nigerian military alpha jets is also being used as a tool in their calumny of willful destruction in the North without the knowledge of the Nigerian Government.

The RUF is now calling for an Independent Unbiased Investigation into the following three contentions:

1. The SLPP Leader, Tejan Kabbah has never recanted any of the tribal statements made by his USA representative John Leigh in late 1997. In early 1997, Mr Kabbah stated that the Northerners caused the suffering of the mendes and so the North should apologise to the mendes. Why did no less a person than the Head of State make such a highly divisive tribal statement in 1997?

2. The RUF is not responsible for the amputations in Sefadu and the North. The Investigation should identify who are the perpetrators of the pattern of amputations amongst the populace in the Northern Province and Sefadu.

3. The SLPP and the British Government of Tony Blair has chosen to arm the tribal mende kamajor militia but refuses to similarly arm the Northern militias such as the Gbethis and Kapras. What is the reason for this?

War, regardless of what country or continent, is always a producer of atrocities. This is why the sooner a war is resolved the better it usually is for the civilians. However, the RUF will no longer sit by idly and allow the SLPP Kamajors to commit atrocities against people of Northern origin. It is time the International Community set up an investigation into whom and whom are the perpetrators of amputations.

Finally, a horizontal line drawn through Sierra Leone from the tip of Freetown to just below Sefadu will show that all the amputations of the past ten months have occurred North of this line. However, the RUF has been active through out the entire Sierra Leone.

You might fool all of the people some of the time; you might fool some of the people all the time but you simply cannot fool all of the people all of the time.



Released via Omrie Michael Golley (RUF Legal Representative).