''All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing'' - Edmund Burke


S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol XII No 4

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report

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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.The rat - he would don any gear to attract funds into his ever-widening corruption channelsSurviving victims of the mindless violence - apologists say it was all the fault of the late President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah. May they all reap their just rewards for this great injustice. Amen.

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 Tejan Kabbah.

Eighteen years ago, Sierra Leoneans came face to face with what one survivor called - satan walking the streets and alleyways of the capital Freetown.

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, 1997.

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 happening there?

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 girls?

Wit: All of the members of the troop brought young girls. Some even brought girls for the commanders.

Pros: What happened to the girls?

Wit: What I saw was that the commanders were sleeping with them - using them as women.

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 commanders.

Pros: What was the age group of these girls?Victim Mariatu survived to tell her story

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 sexual purposes.

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.

Remember this?

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 aftermath"

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 circles."

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 horror on 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 marauders.The body of former top RUF and AFRC operative Sam Boackarie - Photo: Allaboutliberia.com website

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 spared.

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, Rape"

"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 them.

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 homeless.1 And, while the RUF took with them almost no prisoners of war, they withdrew to the hills with thousands of abductees, mostly children and young women.

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 Alimamy Bobson Sesay painted a graphic picture of what they did to civilians after they were forced from State House -

"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 civilians.

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”.

Sesay 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.

Sesay 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 wailing.

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 floor.

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 -

"The largest 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 investigated."

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 this.

Rape is clearly against the RUF penal code and in the past men found guilty of this have been severely dealt with."


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