''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 10 No 2

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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Wednesday September 3, 1997: On this day, the ruling junta, the AFRC/RUF coalition of evil otherwise known as the beasts met at State House in the very heart of the capital Freetown. As usual, since they occupied that building, roads around were closed to motorised and human traffic with both sectors forced to use Fort Street and other diversions to get to their destinations.

It was an unusually long meeting as residents affected will later tell, but whatever was on the agenda was not made public and could have had those in the know sworn to secrecy and on the pain of death should they leak details of the meeting.

It was in the early hours of the next day, Thursday September 4, 1997 that Freetown residents were shown yet once again what the junta was capable of doing.

For during the night of Wednesday 3rd and the early hours of Thursday, the people of Mabaylla were subjected to a frightening and deadly barrage of fire and explosions from mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and withering fire from automatic rifles.

Frightened residents who managed to escape the initial volleys and expressed surprise at seeing armed men in military fatigues and civilian attire were ruthlessly mowed down. When the carnage ended, the junta was on the national radio, the SLBS to tell residents that during the night, Nigerian ECOMOG troops based across the estuary at Lungi had bombarded and that "our people have been deliberately murdered by Nigeria troops".

Junta leader Johnny Paul Koroma fired off a letter to the ECOWAS Committee of Five on Sierra Leone in which he wrote

"On the night of Wednesday 3rd and the early hours of Thursday 4th September, 1997, the Nigerian component of ECOMOG forces occupying the Sierra Leone International Airport at Lungi, undertook intensive and incessant bombardment of our capital city of Freetown, killing in the process over fifty innocent and peaceful Sierra Leoneans and wounding and maiming scores of others with thirty-seven (37) persons still under intensive care. Your Excellencies, the people of Sierra Leone are finding it impossible to understand this unprovoked, dastardly and cruel act of what seems like cold-blooded murder of dear relatives, friends, compatriots and associates. Whilst the corpses of the victims were still awaiting burial, these same Nigerian troops demonstrated their callousness, by launching more missiles at the city seriously damaging the nation's only flour mill. The bombings continue.

Among the dead were pregnant women, suckling mothers and their babies, old men and women, and school children all residents of some of the poorest districts of Freetown. Not a single soldier was killed or wounded in this tragedy of callous and reckless misuse of military force."

Even before junta spokesman Allieu Kamara went on state radio to announce that fifty civilians had been killed with scores wounded, doubts were already doing the rounds about the junta version of events. These doubts were increased when TV pictures showing in gory details the corpses and the dying as well as the gravely wounded did not appear to be from shells hurled from Lungi, but wounds consistent with those inflicted by machine gun fire, mortars and bombs from RPG's.

Indeed a medical doctor who was shown on TV, explaining the nature of the wounds said they "were consistent with injuries inflicted by bullets and other explosives".

With the junta now exposed, the showing of the pictures was halted and when next shown, the doctor's opinions had been duly removed!!!

Truth and Reconciliation Chairman and spiritual Head of the United Methodist Church (UMC) in Sierra Leone Bishop Joseph Christian Humper has now publicly confirmed what no one at the time could say publicly for fear of being summarily executed.

That the junta carried out the Mabaylla murders with the sole purpose of having the international community put pressure on Nigeria to remove its troops from the country.




Diary of Events:

Wednesday September 3, 1997. Extraordinarily long meeting of the AFRC/RUF coalition of evil held at State House in central Freetown.

Thursday September 4, 1997. Tragedy unfolds. Scores are reported killed by bombs/missiles. Junta claims massacre carried out by ECOMOG forces based across the estuary in Lungi. Anti-Nigerian/ECOMOG/pro-democrat hysteria and hate whipped up on junta-controlled radio and television.

One medical staff interviewed by junta-controlled TV publicly discloses that some of the victims bore wounds consistent with those inflicted by bullets.

Friday September 5, 1997. Funeral ceremonies for the dead held at the National Stadium.

One Major Johnny Paul Koroma appeals to the international community for the removal of Nigerian/ECOMOG troops from Sierra Leone.

Saturday September 6, 1997. Meeting called by junta at City Hall to decide on what must be done to the ECOMOG troops based at Jui, some thirteen miles from centre of Freetown. Persecution/murder of Nigerians and pro-democrats continue. Sackville Street becomes a death zone for all Nigerians. Meeting decides on march on ECOMOG base at Jui. Anti-ECOMOG/Nigerian hate broadcasts continue

Sunday September 7, 1997. Early communion church goers turned back from church entrances. Urged to join march on ECOMOG positions at Jui. Hate broadcasts continue. "Cool heads" close to junta advise against preventing people from attending Sunday services. ECOMOG warns against proposed march using international media outlets as well as the 98.1 FM radio. March begins with some junta supporters forcing civilians at gun point to join the march. Warnings by ECOMOG still continue clearly defining the restricted zone that must not be crossed - a certain bridge on the road to Jui. March organisers get the message, falter and stop far short of Jui - at the Foamex factory just outside the city gates.


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©Sierra Herald 2002