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 8 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

Contact us
UK Serious Fraud Office
World Association for Human Rights - USA
National Union of Journalists (UK)
BBC African Service
Daily Trust of Nigeria
UN Great Lakes
Writer Adichie
Southwark Council
S.L. Web
Africa Week
Human Rights Watch
Amnesty International
Trial Watch
International Criminal Court
One World
Royal African Society
University of
East London


The plaster mark was a common sight - raw cocaine rubbed into cuts

(Updated with a quote from an article by journalist Aroun Rashid Deen who survived the January 1999 murders)

This picture from the front page of the BBC's Focus on Africa magazine has been brought to you so that you can see in detail what the people witnessed when the beasts in human form took over on May 25, 1997 thirteen years ago - AFRC Mk 1 that is.

The bandana (the US flag type was favoured) and dark shades were their trade marks and having a belt of bullets (bandolier) added to the mark of fear that was meant to have civilians quake and have nightmares. Not to forget the pistol side arm which added to the "bongo" of the murderers.

We want you to take a good look at the fresh plaster running from before the ear on to the chin area.

This is their other classic message - for the plaster is there to cover a deliberately-inflicted cut into which raw cocaine had been rubbed.

This was said to make absorption into the blood and hence the brain even faster...and you know what that meant for any civilian resisting any robbery or rape attempt!!!

As they ran out of needles and plasters, they resorted to smaller cuts of plasters to cover smaller amounts and this was done with young boys and girls captured and forced to be a part of the killing machine. Residents of Freetown realised, much to their pain and sorrow never to argue nor look into the eyes of anyone of their numbers carrying a fresh plaster.

They knew then that these beasts of no nation were high, very high on cocaine and other drugs.

Here's what a colleague journalist Aroun Rashid Deen wrote after surviving the January 1999 murders

"......I knew the rebels would be looking for me because of a state TV program on rebel atrocities that I produced and hosted between March and August 1998, after West African peacekeeping troops (ECOMOG) threw out a junta composed of rebel leaders and former army officers and reinstated the civilian government of President Kabbah.

Outside we saw many worried-looking people hurrying from the Kissy end of Freetown, which is the gateway to the city. Most were women. Some carried babies on their backs, and others had bundles on their heads. As they moved toward the city center they cried, "The rebels are coming! The rebels have entered the city! The rebels are here!"

Cocaine plasters

By 7 a.m. there were rebels everywhere. A number of them looked like former Sierra Leone army soldiers, many of whom joined the ranks of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) after March 1998, when ECOMOG kicked out the most recent military junta. Some carried Russian AK-47 or NATO-standard G3 assault rifles, while others toted long, bulbous, rocket-propelled grenade launchers. They were gaunt and hungry-looking, with "cocaine plasters" on their faces.

RUF commanders spent some of their profits from the diamond trade on drugs. They would give their fighters cocaine for military operations, so that they would find it easier to kill and torture. Many of the fighters were adolescent boys. They used razor blades to cut small incisions in their faces and rubbed cocaine powder inside. Then they covered up the incisions with plasters. You would see RUF fighters greeting people perfectly normally when they weren't drugged. But during operations they would change completely. The drugs had a lot to do with it."

These were the murderers, looters and rapists that the civilian population stood up to during those dark days. Many defied the armed men not necessarily because they supported the ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, but because they considered it an affront to their dignity and independence that after having asked the NPRC of Strasser and Bio out at the Bintumani conferences, another set of khaki boys would dare raise their heads above the parapets to lord it over them.

It is to be recalled that not everyone voted for Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and his SLPP political group otherwise there would not have been the need for a second round!!!

It is on record that the SLPP was given a good run for its money by the one and only "panlamp" of Dr John Karefa-Smart, the veteran politician who could well have been the SLPP flag bearer and hence President but refused to forgive his former party for what he believed was unfair treatment in the selection of Albert Margai to succeed his brother Milton.

But back to the events of May 25 1997. Truth be told, the coup was never supported by a large majority of the Sierra Leone army who were now viewed with suspicion by civilians who had tagged them sobels - soldiers on government pay who become rebels as the situation demanded for their personal gains!!!Civilians waiting by the quayside to flee the mayhem - Photo: Focus on Africa magazine

The deliberate targeting of the maximum security prison at Pademba Road freeing criminals and arming them with automatic weapons was a part of the effort to render the country ungovernable.

Sensing that this was not going to work with massive looting, rape and extreme violence becoming the order of the day and civilians still condemning their act, they decided to increase their numbers by inviting the Revolutionary United Front killers of Foday Sankoh.

Despite all this, the civilians remain unmoved and clearly displayed their displeasure except for a certain group within the APC who without reckoning the presence of the RUF believed political power would eventually be handed over to them by the AFRC/RUF coalition of evil.

It is to be recalled too that not all APC members supported the AFRC and it is to be observed that when some objected to this idea, it was veteran politician the late Nancy Steele who rallied around them with the cry "Leh we hep di borbor dem".

The events of May 25 and its aftermath is now history - a piece of history that will always be remembered by all those who fought for the freedom of the Sierra Leonean in their determination that never again will they be under the jackboot of the military!!!

This was the first time in the history of coups in Sierra Leone that the majority of the people stood up to armed killers, bandits and rapists and told them in their face -

"We decide who should rule us through the ballot box. We welcomed the Strasser coup for removing the APC tyranny, but when they became something else, we asked them out. Who are you to decide who should be our rulers?"


Yearning for the mother country?

The right choice is Kevin McPhilips Travel

©Sierra Herald 2002