Friday January 6, 2017 - Eighteen years ago today, the
beasts in human form were unleashed upon a defenceless
and vulnerable civilian population in an orgy of
unprecedented violence, rape, abduction and murder.
Eighteen years on, the surviving victims are still
abandoned while the perpetrators and their supporters
feed fat on their misery.
It was eighteen years ago
today January 6, 1999 when the awful horror known as the
AFRC/RUF coalition of evil, otherwise known as the
beasts launched their murderous invasion of the capital
in a bid to seize power, by whatever means, from the
democratically-elected government of President Ahmad
Eighteen years ago, Sierra Leoneans came
face to face with what one survivor called - satan
walking the streets and alleyways of the capital
By the time they were again forced out of the
capital, close to six thousand, if not more, lay dead -
murdered by a gang that was determined, using all means
at its command, to punish civilians who had refused to recognise the illegal regime that was set up after the
overthrow of the Tejan Kabbah government on May 25,
Kindly recall what we wrote five years ago as we
remembered and brought to your attention the murder,
rape, abduction and trauma that was visited upon the
civilian population who had vowed that NEVER AGAIN would
they allow any military gang to dictate their lives and
vowed to resist the awful horror led by Johnny Paul
Koroma and his band of murderers and rapists which
included the notorious human-rights-abusing
Revolutionary United Front, the RUF.
"Many accounts have been written
about January 6, 1999 and the awful horror unleashed by
a vengeful band of killers wanting to punish civilians
for not only refusing to co-operate with them while in
power from May 1997 to February 1998, but for their
support for the ECOMOG intervention force that had
helped push them out.
Throughout all the stories run one
thread - all agreed that the rebels of the AFRC/RUF were
bent on extreme violence on civilians in the form of
rape, mutilations and summary executions. They entered Freetown - well armed
and prepared and knew exactly what to do with civilians
caught in their bloody nets.
This excerpt from the
Charles Taylor trial
is a pointer
Pros: What kind of
weaponry did your group have at this time?
Wit: We were well
armed. We had SPGs - support propelled grenades, 60mm
mortars, 81mm mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, LAR -
light automatic rifles, SMG - sub-machine guns, AK-47s,
and also machetes. Kindly note that apart from the
area weapons - those that can cause maximum casualties
when fired into civilian areas like the 60mm and 80mm
mortars, they also were equipped with machetes. The machetes were the weapons of
choice for the mutilation of civilians - men and women -
young and old as well as babies - so thirsty were the
invaders for human blood!!!
Rape was another common weapon in
the arsenal of the beasts and was encouraged by the two
main factions of the invaders.
Pros: At this time at
State House, were other commanders present?
Wti: Yes. Bazzy,
Five-Five, Woyo and the other military supervisors, and
even Hassan Papa Bangura was based in State House.
Pros: What was
Wit: The troops were
all moving around and bringing young girls and women to
State House. We also captured some Nigerian ECOMOG
soldiers and brought them to Gullit.
Pros: How many young
Wit: All of the members
of the troop brought young girls. Some even brought
girls for the commanders.
Pros: What happened to
Wit: What I saw was
that the commanders were sleeping with them - using them
Pros: What do you mean
- “used them as women”?
Wit: The young girls
who were captured and brought were forced to do
anything. They had sexual intercourse with the
Pros: What was the age
group of these girls?
Wit: Most of them were
14-16. You also had SBU boys that brought others, 8-9
and slept with them.
Pros: What do you mean
“slept with them”?
Wit: They used them for
Accounts of the January 6, 1999
assault on Freetown and the death, rape and destruction
unleashed on the capital, at first glance, would seem to
be random and mindless.
This may have been true in most of
the attacks but deep within what looked like random and
mindless murder and rape was a determination especially
by the AFRC (sobel) faction of the invading rebels to
spare all those who supported them while the junta was
in power from May 1997 to February 1998.
We have testimonies of those who
enjoyed this distinct "privilege" and were spared and
protected. One witness told us - "They knew we
supported them while the junta was in power...and so
helped protect us during the January invasion and its
These were the people who pointed
out and fingered all those perceived to have been
anti-junta. These tagged "anti-junta" people were
subsequently subjected to massive human rights abuses
including torture, amputation, rape and murder.
Those who had supported the junta
during its human rights-abusing reign and had advocated
for the international recognition of the junta are now
key officials in the present Ernest Bai Koroma
administration serving in government and ruling party
Kindly recall another article,
reminding all of us to what extent terror was used as a
weapon of war on the unarmed and defenceless civilian
population. ow sixteen
years later we have to keep reminding the world
of what these sub-humans did to Sierra Leoneans.
We published this reminder
in 2012 - again so that those who
were not yet born or indeed could not understand
why they were the target of these sub-humans
could get to know more and appreciate the
sacrifices made by others that Sierra Leone may
be free of the scourge, of the pestilence that
was the Johnny Paul Koroma/Foday Sankoh war
machine of unbridled cruelty and mass murder
that could have shamed the hordes of Genghis
Khan of yore.
It is also a reminder of the
extent and depth of depravity that the evil
machinations of the evil sub-humans were
prepared to go as they unleashed the awful
a defenceless population.
Today is also a
reminder that despite this horrible experiences,
there are still within the borders of Sierra
Leone and without - elements who unrepentant as
their masters, continue to put a gloss, a
shameless and evil one at that, on the more than
five thousand Sierra Leoneans who were murdered in the most
horrendous manner, justifying that Sierra Leone
deserved the visit of satan in the form of the
We continue to
see the beneficiaries of this mayhem in their
justification for the mindless mayhem insisting
that it was all the fault of the late President
Ahmad Tejan Kabbah - that he should have had a
dialogue with the beast Foday Sankoh and that if
he had done that Sierra Leone would have been
This is like saying that because Winston
Churchill of England refused to sit at a table
with another beast named Adolf Hitler, the
persecution of the Jews, the enslavement of many
of the peoples of Europe in countries that were
overrun by the Nazi war machine, the horrors of
the concentration camps should be put
squarely at the foot of Winston Churchill.
Kindly allow us
to remind you of the opening lines of the
summary of the Human Rights Watch report on the
January 6, 1999 atrocities - "Sierra
Leone - Getting Away with Murder, Mutilation,
"As the rebels
took control of street after street, they turned
their weapons on the civilian population. By the
end of January, both government and independent
sources estimated that several thousands of
civilians had been killed.
The rebels dragged
entire family units out of their homes and
murdered them, hacked off the hands of children
and adults, burned people alive in their houses,
and rounded up hundreds of young women, took
them to urban rebel bases, and sexually abused
As the ECOMOG forces counterattacked and
the RUF retreated through the capital, the
rebels set fire to neighborhoods, leaving entire
city blocks in ashes and over 51,000 people
And, while the RUF took with them almost no
prisoners of war, they withdrew to the hills
with thousands of abductees, mostly children and
In December l998, following the
capture of the diamond rich Kono district and
subsequently Makeni, Sierra Leone's fifth
largest city, thousands of RUF fighters started
moving towards the capital.
At the trial of
Charles Taylor, one RUF commander who was among
those who entered Freetown one
Sesay painted a graphic picture of what they did
to civilians after they were forced from State
"Sesay testified that in
the third week of January 1999, rebel positions
came under more intense pressure from ECOMOG
forces, and the rebel troops withdrew from State
House (the president’s residence in the capital)
to eastern Freetown. At the time, the government
was asking for a cease-fire, but Sesay said they
were able to capture two government ministers,
who were executed by order of AFRC commander
Alex Tamba Brima (“Gullit”).
Their bodies were
displayed at a road junction. (We can confirm
that these two were one Sesay, a government
minister and the minister for the north Rev Y M
Kroma of the Wesleyan Methodist Church).
The withdrawing forces
was reinforced by “Rambo Red Goat” and about 50 RUF and AFRC fighters, and was able to briefly
recapture State House. The witness testified
that at State House, he heard Sam Bockarie on a
BBC broadcast saying that he was not ready for a
cease-fire, and instead was ordering Gullit to
burn strategic areas of the capital and capture
Sesay said that Bockarie then called
Gullit on the radio in the presence of all the
commanders, including himself, and ordered
Gullit to commence the burning of buildings and
the capture of civilians “so that there was
nobody for the government to rule”.
testified that Gullit ordered petrol distributed
to commanders, and the mixed rebel forces began
to burn many buildings as they again withdrew
from State House to the east.
He said Gullit ordered a
group of fighters to attack the Fourah Bay
section of Freetown because an AFRC soldier had
been killed there.
The witness took part in the
operation, which involved top commanders and
members of the RUF, AFRC, and the Red Lion
Brigade (a group that included Liberian former
fighters of Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic
Front of Liberia – NPFL).
This group forced
civilians from their homes and killed them, then
burned their houses. Some civilians were locked
in their houses while they were burned.
said that he and the force could hear screaming
from the houses, and that they made sure no one
escaped. He could not say how many civilians
were killed in Fourah Bay."
Journalists believed to
be in support of the democratically-elected government
of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah or who condemned the
human rights abuses of the AFRC/RUF horror were hunted
down and tortured before their murder.
However there were
survivors and among them -
Aroun Rashid Deen
who made this observation -
"Two women entered our
compound, carrying AK-47s and extra ammunition clips. I
recognized them from the crowd of civilian women we had
just seen fleeing from the advancing rebels.
Suddenly I understood
the rebel strategy.
They had sent female
rebels ahead dressed in civilian clothes, carrying arms
and ammunition wrapped in bundles on their heads. The
idea was to spread panic among the people of Freetown so
that they would pour out into the street, creating a
human shield between the ECOMOG troops and the rebels.
It worked: the ECOMOG
soldiers were reluctant to fire into a crowd of
civilians, and that made it much easier for the rebels
to enter Freetown.
Ten minutes later I
heard an explosion, followed by the sound of people
I followed a crowd of
people over to a nearby flat and stood in the back so
that the rebels would not be able to single me out. The
remains of eight people lay scattered around the living
room. They were all from the same family. The heads of
two 10-year-old children, a boy and a girl, had been
severed from their bodies. The only survivor was a badly
injured four-year-old girl."
Mike Butscher, another
well-known journalist recalled this - "...the Pademba
Road prison was flung open. The prisoners included
rebels, former soldiers, and criminals. They were all
unleashed on us.
In the morning a
rocket-propelled grenade exploded in the room next door.
I moved to Pios' room on the second floor. There was no
bunker--whenever the shooting started, we all lay on the
The BBC, Radio France
International, and VOA were now my only sources of news
about what was happening in my country. The Sierra Leone
Broadcasting Service was completely useless. Peeping
through a curtain at 8:30 a.m., I saw three bound
Nigerian traders hurled onto the street from a car with
no doors. Rebels then took turns cutting their throats.
All the cars on Rawdon
Street were burning. There were clouds of smoke all over
Freetown and heavy looting on Ecowas, Goderich, Kissy,
and Wilberforce streets.
On the radio,
Information Minister Dr. Julius Spencer kept telling
everyone to stay indoors. Anyone found on the street
would be shot. Meanwhile, eastern and central Freetown
were now fully controlled by the rebels, who were
carrying out mass amputations.
All telephone lines
were down, and there was no electricity. There was heavy
bombardment by ECOMOG, who promised to liberate us. Time
was running out."
Here's another excerpt
that should be of interest - It is from a
Human Rights Watch report
concentration of dead and wounded came from the three
densely populated eastern suburbs of Kissy, Wellington,
and Calaba Town...On June 14, 1999, Human Rights Watch
spoke with Omraie Golley, official spokesperson and
legal representative for the RUF.
He denied that his
troops had committed any atrocities against the civilian
population during the January offensive He said that
while they have received allegations, "I have yet to
find firm evidence that points to individual soldiers or
commanders responsible for committing any atrocities
against the civilian population.
We've heard a lot of
stories, we've heard a lot of terrible things. These
kinds of allegations are easy to make but difficult to
prove. But, if any of our soldiers or commanders have
been guilty of such atrocities they will be brought to
book." Golley also stated that the RUF has not initiated
any formal investigations or disciplinary proceedings
against any individual soldier or commander.
When asked about the mutilation and amputation of limbs,
he said, "in July l997 firm instructions were issued
about the use of machetes. They were banned as an
implement of war and it was made clear to all our
soldiers and commanders that any found guilty of these
atrocities would be severely dealt with.
The RUF has been
fighting a war to protect people, not to destroy them.
If any civilians were mutilated during the January
offensive, they were not mutilated by the RUF.
There were many other
groups involved in the conflict during the time of
occupation and all of them the Civilian Defense Forces,
The Kamajors, ECOMOG, and vigilante groups should be
About the use of human
shields and reports of rape, he said, "we unreservedly
deny the use of human shields. This is clearly against
our war policy and our commanders are well aware of
Rape is clearly against
the RUF penal code and in the past men found guilty of
this have been severely dealt with."