Volume Three A, Chapter Three

Chapter Three, The Military and Political History of the Conflict


1. This chapter of the report is intended primarily to fulfil the obligation on the Commission to produce an 'impartial historical record' of the violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law related to the conflict in Sierra Leone.  It takes the form of a narrative that spans across more than two decades of political and military activities in the country, but places its main focus on the years from 1991 until 2002, when the country was embroiled in armed civil conflict and war-related violations and abuses were visited upon the population.

2. This military and political history is couched in the terms of the Commission's mandate, attempting to present accurately the social and historical "context in which the violations and abuses occurred" and to address "the question of whether those violations and abuses were the result of deliberate planning, policy or authorisation by any government, group or individual".

3. In the first place, the Commission has sought to lend an appropriate context to the outbreak of hostilities in Sierra Leone by analysing its most proximate antecedents in this chapter.  These factors are included under the rubric of 'The Predecessors, Origins and Mobilisation of the Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone (RUF)'.  Thereafter, in understanding and analysing the military and political history, the Commission has deemed it necessary to devise a periodisation of the conflict that adequately reflects its main phases and captures its main events.

4. To the extent that the greatest preponderance of key events in the military and political history of the conflict, not to mention the overwhelmingly majority of violations and abuses stemming from them, were driven by the combatants of the Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone (the "RUF"), it has been considered appropriate that the periodisation should reflect the evolving character of that faction, as well as the manner in which the conflict evolved as a result.

5. The chapter begins with an analysis of the broader context in which the RUF originated, which is closely tied to the means by which conflict came to Sierra Leone.  By the same token, the chapter ends by focussing on the events that led to the demise of the RUF, which are ultimately inseparable from the circumstances that brought the war to its conclusion.  Based upon this logic, the framework overleaf has been adopted to divide the chapter into 'phases':

Pre-Conflict Phase: The Predecessors, Origins and Mobilisation of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF)

  • the period that gave rise to the immediate causes of the outbreak of the conflict

Phase I           Conventional 'Target' Warfare

  • the period from the outbreak of the conflict until 13 November 1993

Phase II            'Guerrilla' Warfare

  • the period from 13 November 1993 until 2 March 1997

Phase III           Power Struggles and Peace Efforts

  • the period from 2 March 1997 until the present day

6. During the first three years of armed conflict in Sierra Leone, the defining events in military history were predominantly driven by the agenda of the RUF, or by the respective plans and actions of its predecessors and / or accomplices.  On the political front, whilst ostensibly unrelated to the RUF itself, the elevation into Government of a group of junior officers of the Sierra Leone Army, calling themselves the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC), can be traced in origin and motivation to the perception on the part of the coup-makers that the Government had failed to prosecute the war efficiently.  In other words, it stemmed from a perception that the Government had failed properly to defend the state against RUF incursions into its territories.

7. Thus, the period from 23 March 1991 until 13 November 1993 can aptly be called Phase I of the RUF's conflict.  As the ensuing analysis will demonstrate, while it was focused primarily on the assignment and assault of 'targets', it is as close as Sierra Leone's armed struggle would ever come to 'conventional warfare.'

8. The selected cut-off point for Phase I is 13 November 1993.  It was on this date that the RUF lost the border town of Baidu in Kailahun District to the advancing 'Allied Forces' of the NPRC Government and appeared to be on the verge of total defeat.  However, on or around the same day, Foday Sankoh announced the reversion to 'jungle warfare' as a survival tactic and a strategy of attack, thereby signalling the start of a new phase - Phase II of the conflict.

9. The transition between Phases I and II encapsulated both setback and forward momentum for the RUF.  It also heralded a far less predictable series of events that would expand the coverage and impact of the conflict as a whole into every provincial District of the country, onto the radar of the world's media and to the top of the agenda for the sub-region's peace negotiators.

10. The challenge faced by the Commission in its periodisation was to identify a date that would be similarly pertinent to the transition between Phases II and III.  In this regard, the watershed date of 25 May 1997 was not proven to be entirely satisfactory, since the events of that day were neither driven by the RUF nor directed towards the RUF.  That day witnessed a protest action in the military, instigated by junior soldiers against their senior officers and culminating in an overthrow of the elected Government of President Kabbah.   These events are of immense significance in the conflict as a whole, but they are unsuitable to form a cut-off point in the present frame of analysis.  It is trite that in using a frame of analysis focused on the RUF, it is essential that any cut-off point should encompass either an event driven by the RUF or an action directed at the RUF.

11. Thus the separation between Phases II and III instead falls on the date of 2 March 1997.  It was on this date that Foday Sankoh was taken into the custody of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, from which his subsequent firearms charges effectively put an end to any hopes of sustainability in the negotiated peace that had emerged from the Abidjan Talks of 1996.

12. By 2 March 1997, effective guerrilla warfare had been ended by the overthrow of all but a few of the RUF's original jungle bases, including its Headquarter Camp 'Zogoda'.  Sankoh's second-in-command and perceived natural deputy, Mohamed Tarawallie, was missing, presumed dead in the siege of Zogoda.  Accordingly, like the cut-off point for Phase I, the date constituted a seemingly fatal blow to the RUF.  The morale-sapping effect of Sankoh's arrest was inestimable and left many of the 'men on the ground' questioning whether the struggle had in fact been decisively lost.

13. Moreover, the date heralded a period of bitter contention among the aspirant alternative 'leaders' of the RUF.  These included a challenge for recognition from a group spearheaded by Captain Philip S. Palmer and the consequent re-assertion of control by Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie.  The ignominious conclusion to Palmer's challenge can be seen to typify the subsequent wider 'struggles for power' in Sierra Leone: it was ill-conceived, implemented in a haphazard fashion and ultimately foiled by the actions of an opponent who pretended or purported to play fair and acquiesce, but in reality used deceit and brute force to come out on top.

14. Similar dynamics can be observed in many of the events that followed in Phase III: the AFRC seizure of power; the planning for self-restoration by the Government-in-Exile and the ECOMOG intervention; the 1998 Detentions, Trials and Executions; the internal divisions between the AFRC and RUF, as well as between Johnny Paul Koroma and 'Mosquito'; the violent backlash of 1998 and early 1999 that culminated in the January 1999 assault on Freetown; the Lomé Peace Accord and its problematic implementation; the UN Hostage-taking crisis; and the events of May 2000.  Indeed, most of the material gathered by the Commission can be fitted comfortably into such a frame of analysis.

15. The title 'Power Struggles and Peace Efforts' for Phase III is intended to reflect the fact that 'warfare' in the sense of the first two phases did not really exist in the latter stages of the war.  Confrontation was just as likely to take place away from the battlefront as on it.  It was not always the same type of power that people were struggling for.  In fact, sometimes negotiated settlements were floated as alternatives to power struggles; yet it might ultimately be concluded that these peace efforts were themselves little more than thinly-veiled power struggles.



The Rise of Revolutionary Thinking and Sierra Leonean Participation in Training Programmes in Libya

16. The system of government adopted by President Siaka Stevens during his tenure at the helm of the All People's Congress (1969 - 1985) was one that marginalised and suppressed any semblance of opposition.1  The creation of a one-party state monopolised decision-making influence and created a precedent for 'token' party membership that subsists to the present day.  More than simply overcoming voices of dissent within the political sphere, however, Stevens contrived further to squeeze out the other institutions that would normally (either individually or collectively) impose checks and balances on the exercise of executive power.

17. In particular by suppressing freedom of expression in the local media and in the schools and colleges, respectively, the Government did nothing to encourage constructive independent thought and open debate as to the best way forward for the country.  There was only minimal democratic space in which ideas that went against the political programme of the APC Government could be shared openly.  Accordingly, most of those who wished to propound or be exposed to such ideas were forced to do so in the political shadows.

18. As a direct result of their suppression, journalists, students and school leavers sought an alternative outlet in the company of like-minded individuals from Sierra Leone or, occasionally, abroad.  They engaged one another socially and ideologically in the informal, unthreatening settings where they gathered in the evenings - outdoor yards set back off the street, upstairs rooms in inconspicuous apartments, newspaper offices and other selected safe havens.  In the tendencies of such persons lay the roots of the first organisations that seriously contemplated a challenge to the state by means of 'revolution'.

19. In the realms of the media, The Tablet newspaper2 acted as one of the few genuinely independent advocates for political change and for human rights.  It provided a platform for the Labour Unions and student bodies to state their opinions freely and without prejudice, often exposing elements of the management of the state that made uncomfortable reading for the ruling party.  After being subjected to continual harassment by Government supporters, the editor and journalists of The Tablet were ultimately deterred only by an attempted bombing of their offices and the unbearable threats to their lives.  The newspaper petered out without a truly worthy replacement and the opinion-makers were driven underground or into exile.

20. To a large extent, the struggle for a civil opposition to the APC was thereafter left in the hands of students.  The University of Sierra Leone, divided into two constituent campuses, was the obvious breeding ground for revolutionary thinkers.  As early as 1977, Fourah Bay College on Freetown's Mount Aureol had been a focal point for proactive demonstration of student dissent, invoking a clampdown from the state security forces.  In spite of this event, FBC became associated with the development of 'organic intellectuals'3 who formed clubs and 'social niches' in which to share ideas.  Groups like The Gardeners' Club convened seminars and public events at which radical speakers would address crowds of young, impressionable minds.

21. The ideology of 'Pan Africanism', which attempted to promote a tailored approach to development and governance paradigms on the African continent, found a fertile soil among these radical groups, who in turn tried to inculcate that brand of thinking into the broader society.  The visionaries of the Pan African Union (PANAFU) believed that youth, even in their schools and urban hang-outs, could be mobilised in their masses if only the informational material was sufficiently inspiring.  The perceived educational standard or the background of the youth in question does not seem to have been of the utmost importance; any suggestion that the propagation of revolutionary ideals was limited to students is inaccurate.  An ability to think laterally, a shared anti-APC sentiment, a commitment to the advancement of oneself and one's fellow man, and an individual 'focus' on the way forward have been proffered by some PANAFU members as the essential attributes a candidate had to possess.  Beyond those characteristics, admission to a discussion group was on a fairly indiscriminate basis; a school leaver might sit with a journalist and a civil servant, while a student would lecture them on dialectics.

22. Out of the loose collection of students, therefore, blossomed a broader group of people from various walks of life who would gather together to smoke marijuana, discuss issues like resource distribution and the ills of materialism4 and convince themselves that they were revolutionaries.  In Freetown and other selected locations, the category was further sub-divided into so-called 'cells', the purpose of which was to engender comfortable and secure environments (away from the scrutiny of the Government) in which no more than six people at a time would 'cross-fertilise'.

23. In this climate, the first connections on an institutional level between 'revolutionaries' in Sierra Leone and representatives of the Government of Libya were established.  The earliest channels to be carved out were for FBC students, including two successive student Presidents, to attend conferences in Tripoli at which Pan-African ideals and the socialist philosophies of the Green Book were discussed.  Upon the expulsion of 41 students - including the incumbent student President Alie Kabba - and three of their lecturers from Fourah Bay College in March 1985,5 however, the stakes were raised to the point where the youthful revolutionaries felt that they had nothing left to lose.

24. It appears that upon one visit to Tripoli in the wake of these expulsions, a delegation led by Alie Kabba petitioned successfully for what had previously been regarded as a last resort6 - provisions for commando training to be made for Sierra Leonean revolutionaries.  The acceptance of such a proposal by Libya is probably best understood in the first instance as an indication of that state's broader and longer-term, albeit complementary, objective of establishing an African-wide 'Green Army' to take on the perceived global hegemony of the United States and in support of revolutionary movements globally.  There is no concrete evidence in the Commission's findings that Libyan President Colonel Muammar Ghaddafi harboured any inherent will to thrust war upon Sierra Leone in particular, although the regime of Joseph Saidu Momoh was perceived as pro-Western and its overthrow would certainly have been welcomed by Libya as a desirable corollary benefit.7

25. The first group of Sierra Leoneans to take up the offer of commando training, numbering four in total, were effectively those who expressed the highest degree of readiness or eagerness.  Thus, among them was a man named Victor Idowu Ebiyemi Reider,8 from Freetown, and another named Rashid Mansaray, a teenage revolutionary with a much-respected commitment to the cause and intellectual energy.  Their group, which travelled to Libya in August 1987 and underwent training at the Benghazi base, was intended to become the core of a larger-scale programme, whereby those who had been trained would return to Sierra Leone and recruit others to follow in their footsteps.

26. While both Reider and Mansaray did come back to the country after their training and participated in the motivation of further PANAFU cells, their respective influences on the origins and resultant character of the Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone (RUF) were not entirely congruous.  Mansaray would become the RUF's First Battalion Commander and continue to inspire those around him with the sincerity and passion of his revolutionary beliefs until he himself fell victim to the dangers of a rebel war.  Reider had only one further claim, albeit with hindsight a significant one, to have shaped the course of the RUF conflict: he was responsible for the effective 'recruitment' of Foday Saybana Sankoh,9 who subsequently elevated himself to the leadership of what became known as the Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone, or RUF.

27. Three other persons in a cell under Reider's auspices travelled out of Freetown along with Sankoh in April 1988; the distinguishing factor in their case was that Reider did not tell them in advance about the nature of what awaited them at the end of their journey.  Each of Sankoh's travelling companions thought he was heading to undergo 'Advanced Capacity Building in Revolutionary Ideology' and told, variously, that he would be taken to an institution such as the University of Nigeria or the Al-Fattah University in Tripoli to be further lectured and inspired.10  This invitation came aptly to represent the kind of deceit and mismanagement of human resources that ultimately invoked a vacuum in revolutionary leadership11 and a reversion towards militarism.  The narrative of those who accepted their invitations in good faith, but instead underwent guerrilla training in Libya, resonates far more widely when examined under the lens of the subsequent military and political history of the conflict in Sierra Leone.

28. While in Libya, the budding revolutionaries were said to have fallen out among themselves. Among the issues were opposition by those in the Alie Kabba group to the idea of launching a revolutionary war without a composite political education. Alie Kabba was also accused of corruption in his management of funds belonging to the group and challenged for his refusal to personally undergo training. This was to cause the first split in the movement as Alie Kabba and those loyal to him left the training camps and returned to Sierra Leone. He subsequently emigrated to the United States where he presently lives. Meanwhile PANAFU in Freetown had also disassociated itself from the revolutionary programme, believing that a sustained period of political education was necessary before embarking on an armed struggle. In consequence, those of its members who had participated in the first training simply dispersed. PANAFU would not engage in the subsequent recruitment of people to undergo training in Libya. It is believed that all subsequent arrangements for training were by Foday Sankoh. These later trainees were not PANAFU members but may have been recruited by Sankoh through his contacts in PANAFU.

29. In Libya, a leadership vacuum developed among the remaining revolutionaries.  Foday Sankoh became the spokesman of the group because of his age and prior military experience.  Others therefore deferred to him. The training camps in Libya contained revolutionaries from all over the world.  Interaction with foreign revolutionaries, particularly Charles Taylor, exposed Sankoh to revolutionary thinking and potential sources of support.

30. Although Sankoh's grasp of revolutionary ideology was broadly lambasted as weak by other members of PANAFU who travelled to Libya with him or met him on the training camp there, he clearly stood out to all of them as a strategist and manipulator.  While the accounts of his self-elevation to the Leadership of a Sierra Leonean 'Front' organisation in Libya are not entirely consistent, Sankoh's time observing and discussing among peers in PANAFU and, especially, among the cosmopolitan collection of revolutionary thinkers in Libya was mostly time spent with people who displayed greater intensity and comprehension than he could muster himself.  Nevertheless, with his prowess as an orator and an astuteness that stood him in good stead in most inter-personal contexts, Sankoh was able to elicit meaning from the ideology of others and propagate it elsewhere as his own.  Allied to a good degree of perceptiveness and human instinct, Sankoh's innate charisma appears to have been a potent tool for convincing others of the merits of his agenda, despite his somewhat idealistic tone and his tendency for grave exaggeration.

31. All of these characteristics strengthened Foday Sankoh's subsequent claims to leadership of the RUF.  Among the persons with whom Sankoh associated at the Libyan training camps were a number of Liberians, whose avowed intention was to overthrow the regime of Samuel Doe.  An agreement of mutual support developed between the Sierra Leoneans and the Liberians to assist each other in executing their respective revolutions.  The Liberians encompassed potentially several different sub-groups intent on overthrowing Samuel Doe.  One of these sub-groups was to launch a rebellion in Liberia much earlier than anticipated by others.  It therefore set the stage for subsequent developments in Liberia and parts of the sub-region including Sierra Leone.  This sub-group was the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL).

Sub-Regional Dynamics, the Conflict in Liberia and the Formation of an Agenda for an Incursion into Sierra Leone

32. The Commission heard from several sources that the earliest immediate antecedent to armed conflict involving Liberia on the territory of Sierra Leone should be identified as the abortive 'rebel incursion' into Liberia from the Ivory Coast in 1985 led by the late Liberian General Thomas Quiwonkpa.  It was widely alleged by Liberian nationals that the Sierra Leone Government had supported Quiwonkpa in his uprising against the then President of the Republic of Liberia, Samuel K. Doe.

33. The faction that Quiwonkpa spearheaded in 1985 had called itself the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, or NPFL.  Its leaders were drawn predominantly from the Liberian Gio and Mano ethnic groups, whose origins are mostly traced to the Nimba County on Liberia's eastern border with the Ivory Coast.  When President Doe had unleashed the full weight of his security apparatus, led by his Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), to crush the NPFL, his treatment of the rebellion was widely condemned as heavy-handed, with strong allegations of regionalist malice against the citizens of Nimba County.  By some accounts over 3,000 civilians of Gio and Mano origin lost their lives in the counter-insurgency, causing massive ill-feeling: "The people could never forgive Doe for massacring the children of Nimba County."12  Quiwonkpa too was killed and his defeated NPFL troops fled into exile, apparently hankering for a chance to launch a second, vengeful assault on Doe's regime.

34. By a sequence of events in the second half of the 1980s, the NPFL would find a new leader in the shape of Charles Ghankay Taylor.  Taylor had once been a member of Doe's Government, but fled Liberia after accusations of embezzlement and harboured a grudge of his own against Doe, whom he declared had framed him on account of his connection with Quiwonkpa.  Although his biography includes a period of incarceration in the United States on account of his alleged fraudulent activity in Government and an eventual haven in Ghana, Taylor's most far-reaching contribution to the descent of the sub-region into conflict was his reactivation of the NPFL as a fighting force, this time with vastly expanded capacity, from 1988 onwards.

35. In the process of mobilising resources, both human and financial, Taylor established relationships with supportive foreign Governments and their 'revolutionary-minded' leaders: first Burkina Faso and its President Blaise Campoare; then Libya and its President (Colonel) Muammar Ghaddafi.  The latter link, as intimated in the foregoing analysis, was to prove especially formative for Taylor as he developed an "ideological" and strategic basis on which to prosecute his aggressive agenda.

36. The National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) eventually launched its insurgency against the Government of Liberia in December 1989, striking once again from the Ivory Coast into Nimba County.  In the Commission's view this event was an integral immediate antecedent to the conflict in Sierra Leone.  The ensuing analysis demonstrates that the single greatest threat to Sierra Leone's security in the years from 1989 to 1991 came from the Liberian conflict and the various ways it could spill over into the territory of its neighbour.

Sub Regional Dynamics of the War in Sierra Leone

37. According to a popular version of events relayed to the Commission by several key stakeholders, Charles Taylor had at one point entertained the notion of launching an insurgency into Liberia on two fronts, the second of them from Sierra Leone.  It appears that Taylor went so far as to seek official approval for his plan by approaching the incumbent President of Sierra Leone, Joseph Saidu Momoh, in order to secure the use of territories in the East and South of the country as a 'springboard' and potentially a training base for his fighting forces.  The following testimony was received from one witness:

"Charles Taylor came here with some of his senior officers - this I know for sure, because Sankoh told me and some of the very officers in the NPFL told me.  They came here and found Momoh and late Bambay Kamara, who was the Commissioner of Police, to get some sort of clearance to launch their revolution.

So he had certain conversations, he went through these people... and Momoh's people agreed.  But later on they changed their minds and he [Taylor] was arrested together with some of his men.  They were detained in Pademba Road Prisons."13

38. The current President of Sierra Leone, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, told the Commission that Charles Taylor was "first received and even encouraged... as a result of some financial consideration paid by him (Taylor) to the higher echelons of the APC regime."14  President Kabbah then implied that the APC Government subsequently retracted its support without returning Taylor's bribe, apprehended Taylor for making such a request and detained him in state custody for a time.  According to President Kabbah, "this conduct by the APC regime is a factor that might have provoked the hostility of Charles Taylor and his active participation in the rebel war in Sierra Leone...  This country and its people have paid most dearly and are still paying for such improper conduct of the APC Government."15

39. The Commission has confirmed that Taylor was indeed detained at Freetown Central Prison for a limited period in 1989, but must caution against the story being afforded any undue credence or significance as a motivation for his later involvement in the Sierra Leone conflict.  Taylor had developed multiple other reasons for attacking Sierra Leone by March 1991 and his period of imprisonment ranked very low among them.  Acknowledging that the detention itself was not the main cause of Taylor's rancour, some commentators have made claims that Foday Sankoh was incarcerated in the Prison alongside Taylor and that their friendship grew out of this common plight.  Testimonies before the Commission do not support this version of events.  Several first-hand testimonies place Sankoh in Libya and the Ivory Coast during the period in question.  Taylor and Sankoh had met in Libya in 1988 and had become part of the deal between Sierra Leonean and Liberian revolutionaries to mutually support each other in their respective plans.  Thus when Taylor was released from custody in Sierra Leone and returned to the Ivory Coast to pursue his incursion on a single front, he would meet Sankoh on Ivorian territory and the two of them would continue their joint plans from there.

40. In any case, what actually transpired with regard to Sierra Leonean state involvement in the Liberian conflict was diametrically opposed to the plan that Taylor had presented to Momoh.  Rather than ceding territory to Taylor, Momoh instead permitted the use of Sierra Leone's central Lungi International Airport, situated across the peninsula from Freetown, to be used as a launch pad for air raids that were essentially levelled 'against' Taylor.  Momoh's decision involved playing host to ECOMOG, the 'Ceasefire Monitoring Group' of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) that had intervened in Liberia's conflict and was perceived as a hostile force by the NPFL.  The Sierra Leone Government further sanctioned at least two direct deployments of troops in what become known as the 'LEOBATT' (Sierra Leone Battalion) contingent of ECOMOG, numbering 377 personnel.16

41. Although its 'Special Battalion' was smaller in terms of military bulk than that of other countries in the 'Group of Five' troop-contributors,17 the very fact that Sierra Leone had deigned to participate at all in operations 'against' its neighbour drew an embittered and vengeful response from within Liberia.  Certainly Sierra Leone was among those nations whose role in opposing him Taylor himself particularly resented.  Hence he famously declared in a BBC radio interview on 1 November 1990 his conviction that Sierra Leone would "taste the bitterness of war" as a result of its interventionary vigour; his point was that these unfaithful acts by his neighbours would not be allowed to pass without a violent response.18

42. Commensurately, anti-Sierra Leonean sentiments were running high among certain segments of the Liberian population.  The Commission heard testimony from Sierra Leoneans who lived in Liberia at the time, averring that they were routinely subjected to verbal abuse and molestation in public and occasionally even sustained beatings and attacks on their properties.  The Commission did not find any evidence that such attacks were punished by the Liberian law enforcement agencies.  In fact, the trend identified by the Commission based on the limited evidence available to it was for such acts to be endorsed and even more likely carried out directly by the new, self-proclaimed rulers of the territories in question - the commandos of the NPFL.

43. The question of personal choice in this matter is difficult and sensitive.  From its extensive analysis of similar dynamics in the Sierra Leone conflict, the Commission holds the view that civilians are deprived of the right to choose freely once they are under threat to their lives and that certain of their actions might thus be considered as being the product of compulsion.  What is certain, though, is that once they had become subject to the will of the NPFL aggressors, many Liberian civilians appear to have adopted certain attitudes held by the NPFL, including hostility towards its enemies, among whom were Sierra Leonean nationals.  In testimonies to the Commission, descriptions of this hostility were usually accompanied by bewildered grievance on the part of its victims:

"I don't think it was justified [on the part of the civilians]; it wasn't their place to take it out on those of us who had innocently come to their country to make our livings."19

44. Residents of the 'occupied territories', including some Sierra Leoneans themselves, surmised that in the interests of securing their lives, families and properties, their only option was to join the NPFL, or at least to perform auxiliary tasks such as driving or secretarial duties on its behalf.  One witness testified that such a course of action was also "not one of free choice, in the truest sense"20 but that it was eminently preferable to be on the side of the NPFL than to be perceived as being against them.  This supposition takes on added prescience when it is assessed in the light of what happened in the latter months of 1990.

45. Having interpreted ECOMOG's role in the Liberian conflict as being hostile to the NPFL, Charles Taylor had set out to oppose the intervening forces in any way he could.  ECOMOG was deemed to constitute the greatest scourge to the Taylor's overall objective of seizing control of power.  At the point when NPFL forces started to incur casualties as a result of ECOMOG bombing raids, which started around August 1990, Taylor was prepared to retaliate.  He issued an arbitrary order to his NPFL troops to arrest and imprison all those persons on the territories under his control who were nationals of ECOWAS states, with a particular focus on the so-called 'Group of Five' countries, who had contributed troops to form part of the ECOMOG military operation.  Taylor announced his policy over the radio and named the countries, including Sierra Leone, whose nationals he deemed due for detention.21

46. Potentially hundreds of Sierra Leoneans are thought to have been rounded up by the NPFL in this operation, although the Commission was unable to attain an exact or even estimated figure from an official source.  What is certain is that whatever courtesies and immunities from harm might previously have been extended to those who performed important roles in their communities, like teaching and engineering, were immediately rescinded.  One Sierra Leonean who was working as a senior instructor at a Technical Institute in Nimba County testified about his experiences of 15 September 1990 in the following terms:

"At ten o'clock in the morning I heard hard knocks at my door with gun butts, threatening me to immediately open up or I would be killed.  I opened the door and I was immediately placed under arrest, along with my whole family.  In the afternoon of that day there was a press release heard on LAMCO FM radio station that all foreign nationals resident in Liberia, whose countries of origin formed ECOMOG based in Sierra Leone, were to be arrested.  It stated that for every Liberian NPFL commando killed by jet bombings of ECOMOG, we were going to bear similar consequences.

That night my whole family and I were taken by four armed men to a nearby jail; there we met over 85 other foreign nationals, including women, children and the elderly.  The old, the women and the children were released two weeks later and allowed to return to their homes, while a number of us were still held in detention.  Executions were carried out for every time the ECOMOG jet bombed their areas, even without killing anyone.  I came to understand that multiple executions were carried out in all control areas throughout the country as retaliation."22

47. The Commission heard similar testimonies from several other Sierra Leoneans who were taken into detention in different parts of Liberia during the same operation by the NPFL.  One long-term resident, who was arrested along with a fellow Sierra Leonean teacher at his local college, described how he was locked up with up to a hundred others in "a large container that had been used to transport frozen fish or meat."23  He testified that NPFL gunmen would periodically open the hatch at the top of the container and fire rounds of bullets indiscriminately into the crowd below, among whom were many women and children.

48. The Commission deplores the lack of basic respect for human life that the NPFL demonstrated through these detentions and the killings that accompanied them. Charles Taylor's instruction that civilians represented legitimate targets in the promotion of a his 'revolutionary' agenda carried immense destructive potential.  Throughout its enquiries summarised in the present report, the Commission has maintained the position, well established under international humanitarian law, that there can be no worse violation than the deliberate targeting of civilians.

49. The interpretations and impact of Sierra Leonean involvement in the Liberian conflict can be distilled into two main points that are relevant to the causes of the conflict and the human rights violations that were to follow in Sierra Leone.  The first point is that Sierra Leone's hosting of ECOMOG was interpreted by Charles Taylor as a legitimate ground for retaliation against the state.  The second, partly connected point is that Taylor's war impacted profoundly on Sierra Leoneans living in Liberia, as they were deliberately targeted and maltreated by NPFL fighters.

The Role of Foday Sankoh in the Conflict in Liberia

50. Foday Sankoh, the RUF leader-in-waiting, eventually left Libya in 1989 and travelled via Burkina Faso to join the NPFL cadre that had assembled in the Ivory Coast.  Effectively, Sankoh was to become one of Taylor's key NPFL commandos in the conflict in Liberia, organising and carrying out military operations alongside other senior NPFL combatants on the ground.  He would later talk passionately about the experiences he had acquired on the battlefield in Liberia, participating in the capture of strategic 'enemy' positions including County Capital towns and military barracks formerly used by the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL).

51.  Among the captured County Capitals was Gbarnga, capital of Bong County in the central North of Liberia.  Having chased out INPFL24 forces from there in June 1990, it was in this town that Charles Taylor established his operational Headquarters for the NPFL in a secure urban residence he called the 'Mansion'.  The town is well-connected to the road network of the country and relatively easily accessible from all sides, including from the direction of the Sierra Leonean border. 

52. One of the captured AFL military barracks was a sizeable but inconspicuous base called 'Camp Namma', situated approximately 20 miles north of Gbarnga just outside the small town of Namma itself.  It was on this base that Sankoh would seek to put into practice his programmes of commando training, drawing upon the techniques of ideological and military instruction he had picked up in Libya.  Taylor initially retained sole dominion over the Camp Namma base for the training of his new recruits into the NPFL; accordingly the base provided the training ground for a unique and vicious breed of fighters, many of them child combatants, who passed out under the rigorous supervision of mostly Libyan-trained commanders.  Sankoh is thought to have visited Camp Namma regularly in the first few weeks of its use by the NPFL and trained some recruits there himself.  It does not appear that he had any firm conception at that stage as to how he would assemble his fighters.

53. Yet by then there was already developing something of a two-way overlap between the conflict in Liberia and the conflict-to-come in Sierra Leone.  For example, the Commission heard testimony that other Sierra Leonean commandos who subsequently attained prominence in the RUF fighting force had also first participated in the armed conflict in Liberia on the side of the NPFL; the names mentioned in this regard include Abu Kanu, Rashid Mansaray, Mohamed Tarawallie, Mike Lamin, Sam Bockarie (alias "Mosquito"), Patrick Lamin and Morris Kallon.  In terms of high-level engagement, though, the Commission has been unable to adduce any evidence that suggests any of these men was especially influential or responsible for human rights violations in the NPFL.  In any case none of them was a commander of requisite seniority to be directing operations by then.

54. In contrast, the connections that Sankoh himself had made at the training camp in Libya appear to have afforded him a certain elevated respect in the eyes of his NPFL compatriots, not least because of his direct relationship with Taylor.  It has been suggested to the Commission that Sankoh was held in high regard by Taylor as a military strategist; indeed, one testimony inferred that Taylor sought input from Sankoh in his "planning of battlefront manoeuvres" for the NPFL.25  There were also many commanders in the NPFL more influential than Sankoh. One of these commanders was Prince Johnson, who is thought to have led NPFL battlefront tactics up until his breakaway in 1990 to form the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL).  There were also many other Libyan-trained commandos, most of them having passed out at a higher level of military attainment than any Sierra Leonean reached.

Foday Sankoh's Training Programme and the Assembly of RUF 'Vanguards'26

55. Sankoh began assembling his fighting group in or around the second week of October 1990, when an NPFL troop of which he was a member began to sweep through various detention facilities in which Sierra Leoneans were being held.  The available evidence suggests that Sankoh had already developed a clear strategy in his mind as to how he would convert the captives into his trainees.  He had been briefed on the potential availability of 'recruits' by one of his earliest 'trusted lieutenants' in the RUF, Mike Lamin.  Lamin, who had supposedly been recruited by the NPFL during his studies at the University of Liberia, first appeared to at least one of the detainees who subsequently became part of the assembly strategy as a "small boy with dreadlocks and an AK-47".27 It was Lamin who had opened Sankoh's eyes to the prospect of speedily assembling Sierra Leonean manpower to put towards his revolutionary 'vanguard' force and furthermore establishing an instant moral imperative in their minds by casting himself as their 'liberator'.

The 'Detainee-turned-Vanguard' Category

56. Sankoh personally accompanied members of NPFL 'hit squads' who visited some of the detention facilities, apparently for the sole purpose of enlisting the men and women he wanted to make into his first revolutionary commandos.  Among the locations in which Sierra Leoneans were held were detention facilities of differing character in Monrovia, Habell, Yekepa, Totota, Buchanan and Cape Mount.

57. In a number of the accounts given to the Commission, Sankoh appeared as part of a unit of NPFL fighters dressed in all-black uniforms, striking at the crack of dawn on an October or November morning.  Several groups of soon-to-be 'vanguards' were exposed first to a show of mercilessness, whereby innocent fellow detainees among their number were severely beaten, molested or executed in front of them.  Conspicuously, though, the Sierra Leoneans were always spared such a fate when Sankoh was present; they would be separated from the other nationalities and ushered into the hands of Sankoh by other commanders.  Through a combination of conviction and compulsion, Sankoh would then proceed to conscript those he deemed he wanted into his RUF movement.

58. In other testimonies to the Commission, the detainees were alternatively delivered to Sankoh from the places they were being held.  A member of what appears to have been the first group of 'vanguards' to meet Sankoh in this manner gave the following testimony to the Commission:

"On the 14th of October 1990 we were made to understand that we would be released the next day upon the orders of Charles Taylor, but instead of being released that day, we were picked up in the early morning hours and driven to Gbarnga [the capital of Bong County in Liberia], on the pretext of giving us clearance documents by Charles Taylor to spare us from further embarrassment.  Upon our arrival in Gbarnga we were met by Foday Sankoh... [Later he] advised us that in the interests of our own lives we should stay there and dare not make any attempt to escape... There was in fact no need to escape as that attempt meant committing suicide."28

59. Sankoh's favoured means of recruitment depended on convincing people that their lives lay squarely in his hands and that if they refused to join him, they would be responsible for their own fate - effectively, he blackmailed them into becoming members of the RUF.  Many of those enlisted by this means were acutely aware of what Sankoh was doing, but were equally powerless to prevent it in view of the all-pervading dangers at that time of being a Sierra Leonean in Liberia:

"Had it not been for Foday Sankoh's mission, plenty of us might have been killed.  So we regarded it as a rescue mission...  Had he left it to volunteerism, perhaps he might not have successfully got that number that he managed to get in a very short time.  So I believe that he used the warfare in Liberia as an opportunity for him to strengthen."

60. Some of the vanguards were faced with the choice in plain life-or-death terms:

"Sankoh spoke to me as a fellow Sierra Leonean.  He told me that had he left me there I was going to be killed."

61. It follows that one did not have to have even the slightest streak of militarism or 'revolutionary' pedigree to be enlisted in this manner.  Indeed, on the contrary, the inclination of most of those people picked up from detention had been towards not taking sides in the conflict in Liberia; they had neither joined the NPFL nor fled in allegiance with members of the ousted Doe regime.  Many of them told the Commission that they had wanted nothing more than a peaceful existence and to continue with the jobs they were pursuing in Liberia before the war had engulfed their homes.  It was purely based on their grave misfortune of having been Sierra Leoneans in the wrong place at the wrong time that they had even come to be detained in the first place.

62. All of the recruits from this 'detainee-turned-vanguard' category appear to have been picked up in semi-darkness, loaded into NPFL trucks and driven to assembly points in the North of Liberia.  The very first group, comprising six detainees picked up from Nimba County, was taken initially to the campus of Cuttington University College (CUC) in Lofa County, where they were accommodated in the rather incongruous surroundings of former student dormitories.  CUC had been used as an NPFL training base in its own right between 2 July 1990 and 4 October 1990. According to the recollections of the then acting President of the institution, the NPFL had housed over 40 trainers and their dependents on the campus, incurred about USD $4 million worth of damage and trained as many as 6,000 recruits in the space of just three months.29

63. For the Sierra Leonean RUF contingent, CUC was to be nothing more than a stopover point; not all of the 'vanguards' passed through there at all, particularly those who were enlisted after November.  The common destination of all the vanguards was the former military barracks that Sankoh had earmarked a few weeks earlier as a suitable training ground.  Thus the 'vanguards' would make their base and take their instruction at 'Camp Namma', which some of them also referred to as 'Sokoto'.

64. After the initial period of training had got underway, it seems that Foday Sankoh still persisted with his tactic of 'forced recruitment' as a means of boosting the numbers in his force:

"Others used to come on a daily basis from all the areas where the NPFL was in control; they were scouring the country in search of Sierra Leoneans - the ones who survived were brought to Camp Namma."30

65. Although some vanguards claimed differently, it appears that there was necessarily a discriminatory policy in favour of Sierra Leoneans during the trawl of the NPFL's detention facilities.  This preference can be connected directly to Foday Sankoh's objectives of winning over the hearts and minds of the population in Sierra Leone to further the revolution: it would be eminently easier to gain support for a 'revolution' that was led by indigenes of the nation it was purporting to liberate, or at least those who could trace their familial heritage back there.  The RUF Leader would later deviate from this approach and at tremendous cost to his public perception.

The Composition of the RUF 'Vanguards'

66. Contrary to popular perceptions of an exclusively illiterate body comprised of marginalised lumpen youth, the RUF vanguards were actually a disparate collection of Sierra Leoneans and Liberians from across the demographic spectrum gelled together through coercion and training into a fighting force.  The vanguards included among their number both men and women; Sierra Leoneans of most of the major ethnic groups in the country, including large numbers of Mendes and Temnes; boys as young as 11 years of age, 'senior citizens'; illiterate labourers and secondary-school drop-outs through to a few highly educated professionals in diverse fields.

67. A core group of seven young men formed the bedrock upon which the vanguard force would be built.  They had been brought to the base by Foday Sankoh from the Ivory Coast, where apparently Sankoh had identified them as Sierra Leoneans and told them individually to join him in Liberia because there was a "job for them to do."  Issa Sesay and Mustapha Thonkara (alias "Thomas Sankara"), both of whom would take commanding roles in the conflict, were among this group.  Issa Sesay had been involved in petty trading in the Ivory Coast and was one of the first younger RUF members to be taken under Sankoh's wing and habitually referred to as 'my son'.

68. Added to the core group in a slow but constant flow were the 'detainee-turned-vanguards', among whom a select few had been educated well above the average: Jonathan Kposowa, Prince Taylor, Lawrence Wormandia and Peter Vandy were all teachers or instructors; some of the older men had held positions of considerable responsibility, including Dr. Fabai, a medical practitioner, and Mr. Nyandeh, a secondary school Vice-Principal; Philip Palmer, Augustine Koroma, Joseph Magona (alias "One Man One") and Augustine Bao had also acquired respectable qualifications and had jobs in areas including engineering and administration.

69. There were also many other Sierra Leonean vanguards, whose presence on the base was brought to the Commission's attention during its research.  The list presented here is not exhaustive; nevertheless the historical record should include the following names as RUF vanguards: Joseph Kargbo, Ahmed Fullah, Yusu Sillah, Yusufu Sesay, Alicious Caulker, Saidu Kallon, John Kargbo, Edward Fembeh, Eldred Collins, Jatta Massaquoi, Richie Honeyrow, Memunatu Sesay, Fatu Gbemgbe, Mustapha Koroma (alias "Senkolleh"). Abdulrahman Bangura, 'Kelfawai' and 'Kailondo'.  The 'pure' identity denoted here was widely referred to in interviews with vanguards, but it does not have any ethnic connotations for particular Sierra Leonean tribes; rather, it was used on the basis that the named persons used it: to differentiate themselves from a further category, known as 'Liberian-Sierra Leoneans'.

70. Among this 'Liberian-Sierra Leonean' group were some people who had been detained, others who had volunteered to join Sankoh, and others again who had been 'lent' to the RUF by Taylor from among his NPFL commandos.  According to testimony received by the Commission:

"The Liberians used the training as a means of rescuing themselves from the heat of the warfare in Liberia...  Most of them were under no compulsion... the NPFL was in control of over half the territory, so they could have gone anywhere in the country... I think it was an agreement between Sankoh and Taylor that there should be a small contingent of Taylor's own men among the Liberians."31

71. It was through this channel that a former NPFL fighter named Dennis Mingo (alias "Superman") became part of the vanguards.  Mingo was identified by most RUF members as a Liberian of the Gbandi ethnic group; yet one of his parents was Sierra Leonean and he thus spoke Mende and Krio with ease.  He was transferred to the RUF under Foday Sankoh in 1990, mostly on account of his prowess as a front-line fighter and mastery of Sierra Leonean languages.

72. Ibrahim Dugbeh, who testified somewhat evasively to the Commission at its public hearings in Makeni, was originally a trained soldier in Doe's Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), but was captured by the NPFL in 1990.  He was 'turned over' to Sankoh's RUF and became a vanguard, apparently with something of a stake in Sierra Leone on account of his mother's nationality.  Dugbeh described his case as unique, stating that his participation in training was sparse:

"We were having only one training depot, and as you entered that camp, you would not be allowed to go out until after the training...  For me I didn't used to go into too much of the training because I was an old soldier - I was a soldier, so I don't need a long training.  But the training took about six months."32

73. Among the 'Liberian-Sierra Leonean' group was perhaps the RUF's most notorious female combatant, Monica Pearson (alias "CO Monica") .  In addition, there was a whole batch of commanders who later entered on the Southern flank going only by their nicknames, such as 'Dirty De Jango'.  Many of the vanguards in fact never revealed their true identities to their fellow trainees, hence the response of one witness that he could not tell the Commission much about the backgrounds of his fellow members:

"All I knew was that I had been saved from death - so I didn't ask any questions.  You are what you are: you don't talk to me; I don't talk to you; I don't want to know about you."33

74. The Commission recognises that the period spent in training by the vanguards of the RUF was to provide a benchmark for the formation of other militias and armed groups that participated in the Sierra Leone conflict: in character, this group of people stands to be considered as a highly unconventional fighting force; its members were taken on board in troubled circumstances, many of them under false pretences, duress, or threats to their lives; and they were only loosely bound together by superficial bonds, more out of a sense of common adversity than any true notion of unity.  It is therefore hardly surprising that the relationships of these vanguards among themselves would fluctuate between friendly camaraderie and mutual suspicion. 

"Maybe some people took it as a choice, but it came at a time when there was that insecurity in the lives of most of the trainees; where they had no alternative but to go for refuge.  So the training camp was used as a refuge for most trainees; because once life is no longer safe in any other zone besides that training base, you have to consider it as something forceful."34

75. In placing the assembly and composition of the initial RUF force into its proper context, the Commission does not intend in any way to exclude or mitigate the responsibility of certain individuals among them for their actions in the conflict.  In the narrative of the conflict that follows in this chapter, a variety of responsibilities are attributed to the vanguards notwithstanding their backgrounds.  Moreover, along with stories of forced enlistment, the Commission had heard many tales of vanguards who entered the RUF with the express intention of proliferating conflict.  In this vein the Commission notes the presence on the base of some of those who would later attain senior command roles in the combatant cadre of the RUF, particularly Morris Kallon and Augustine Bao.

76. Another of these members is Sam Bockarie (alias "Mosquito") , who had apparently made an ignominious exit from Sierra Leone after being accused of theft while labouring for a period as a 'san-san boy' in the diamond pits.  In Liberia he was known to his compatriots as a hairdresser and a disco dancer with little education and a chip on his shoulder.  He had wanted to become an electrician but had failed to attain the standards of entry to any of Liberia's technical schools.  By all accounts 'Maskita' joined Foday Sankoh voluntarily at a relatively late stage in the training.

77. Finally, in line with the terms of its mandate, the Commission wishes to draw special attention to the plight of a small sub-group among the vanguards, who apparently numbered a maximum of five: they were children recruited by Foday Sankoh and formed the RUF's first contingent of 'small boys'.  According to one of the vanguards, these boys were not trained with the adult recruits, but did on occasion carry firearms on the premise that they were 'bodyguards' or 'small soldiers'.  They were said to be 'taken care of' by their 'guardians' or relatives on the base; for example, one of them, known as 'Young Pearson', was the younger brother of the aforementioned combatant Monica Pearson.  Nevertheless, it was broadly accepted by the vanguards who testified that these boys, despite being estimated to have been between 10 and 14 years, went on to play roles as "fierce fighters" during the Sierra Leone conflict.  At least three of them, nicknamed "Base Marine", "Gas" and "Steward", would become commanders and combatants in the RUF's Small Boys' Unit, or SBU.

The Preparation of the RUF Vanguards for Incursion into Sierra Leone

78. The Commission has established through its enquiries that Foday Sankoh introduced a system of numbering of the RUF vanguards during the training period at Camp Namma.  Admittedly, there are certain anomalies associated with Sankoh's numbering, primarily that it appeared to have no coherent order and that it began not at zero, but at 021.  The latter glitch was explained in the following terms:

"Sankoh kept telling us that we were not given 001 because we were not the first; he just said: 'I have some colleagues who will join us later on'."35

79. Among these 'colleagues' whom it is believed were allocated numbers from 001 to 020 are Sankoh's co-trainees from Libya like Rashid Mansaray, Abu Kanu and Mohamed Tarawallie, as well as further Libyan-trained Sierra Leoneans like Noah Kanneh and CO Daboh who would come into the RUF at a later date.  Mike Lamin and Patrick Lamin were also in this more exclusive group.  And although no evidence exists that either man was trained in Libya, it is clear that they did not train concurrently with the vanguards at Camp Namma.  The Commission notes that the number of 'colleagues' who joined later on was never said to have reached 20, however.

80. Through testimony from senior members of the RUF administration, the Commission has gained evidence that the number of RUF vanguards reached 387 at its highest ebb.  Two members of the training group were apparently killed in training, leaving the figure at 385. 

81. With regard to the training undertaken by this group, there are several indicators to affirm that physical and ideological instruction was administered in a manner reminiscent to the programmes conducted for members of the Sierra Leonean contingent in Libya.  There were, for example, imported exercises like the dreaded 'halaka' and others known by names such as 'escaping for survival' and 'road march'.  The basic objective of such techniques was euphemistically expressed as being: 'giving you a light beating to get you used to any hardness in the warfare.'

82. The training instructors on the Namma base were predominantly commanders of the NPFL who mostly volunteered their services to Sankoh due to their prior experiences of war.  The Head Trainer was a Liberian NPFL commander called CO 'Gornkanue', in whom Sankoh was said to have "total trust and confidence."  After several months of the training had passed, both Rashid Mansaray and Mohamed Tarawallie appeared to assist with instruction, but perhaps surprisingly it seems that their contributions were limited to functional military and public relations training, rather than anything that would stimulate ideological discussion among the trainees: "even if they had political ideology at the backs of their minds, there was no time for them to disseminate that to the other trainees."

"The training we received was all-round political-military commando training.  It was political in the sense that the warfare was going to be exposed to civilians as well as military affairs, so basic political knowledge had to be introduced... such as the welfare of captives; such as administering people who have been cut off from their original style of livelihood; such as dealing with the old-aged; and dealing with women.  The military training covered exposure to light weapons such as AK-47s, Berettas, G3s, RPGs and the like.  The training was not for a long duration; it was a hasty training carried out basically to expose people to the use of arms on an emergency basis... and to prepare us for the revolution."36

83. In the Commission's view, the historical resonance of this period of training goes well beyond the purported preparation of its participants to take their own part in the war.  On the one hand, it has become clear to the Commission that the training left the vanguards unprepared to wage revolutionary warfare. On the other hand, the exposure of the vanguards to extreme violence during training seemed to have had an enduring effect on each of them personally, creating a propensity to subject others to acts of personal violation and compulsion.  This assertion is borne out by the fact that some of the vanguards went on to exercise their own reigns of terror over conscripts in the Sierra Leone conflict, especially child recruits at the infamous Camp Charlie.




84. The outbreak of actual hostilities on the territory of Sierra Leone has yielded widespread misunderstanding of its underlying motives and means of coming into being.  There are considerable areas of disagreement in the interpretations offered to the Commission by the parties who themselves instigated the war, let alone in the second-hand accounts that circulate as popular myth.  Rather than providing clarity, the attack on Bomaru on 23rd March 1991 added a layer of intrigue of its own.

85. Thus, the earliest instances of human rights violations recorded by the Commission took place in 1990 and bear the character of cross-border raids from Liberia.  Moreover, the first attackers who engaged the Sierra Leone Army were all combatants who had fought and were based in Liberia. Foday Sankoh's plans on when to launch his 'revolution' in Sierra Leone was affected by the Liberian conflict.  Had the agenda that Sankoh formulated in Liberia been enacted in the manner and in accordance with the time-scale he had originally foreseen, the outcome of the revolution may have been different.  Instead Sankoh, the self-styled master planner, was overtaken by events on the ground and prevailed upon by Charles Taylor.

Context, Build-up and Dynamics of the Attack on Bomaru

86. Saturday 23rd of March 1991 has until now has stood as the date on which the first shots were fired in the Sierra Leone conflict; yet in fact it is a misleading milestone in history.  What happened on that day was an attack that culminated in the commencement of the conflict, not the first attack of the conflict itself.  There is no need to dwell excessively on the semantics of this subtle differentiation, but for a variety of reasons the Commission deems it necessary to place the event itself in an appropriate historical context.

87. The geographical area in question is in the northernmost portion of Sierra's Leone border with Liberia.  Since the border is for the most part densely forested, towns adjacent to the open crossing points tend to assume strategic and economic importance inordinate to their size.  Bomaru, in the Kailahun District, is one such place, renowned for its weekly market days to which Liberians would routinely cross from Vahun, in Lofa County, to buy and sell local produce including coffee and cocoa.  The route between Vahun and Bomaru had become a free-flowing channel for both formal and illicit agricultural trade.  As the Liberian conflict escalated, the volume of persons crossing the border became impossible to gauge or to regulate.  The many hundreds of civilian refugees who plied this route in vehicles and on foot were then infiltrated by combatants from the different Liberian warring factions.

88. First, as was generally true for other border crossings from Liberia, fleeing members or supporters of the executive and elite of the Samuel Doe regime plied the route into Sierra Leone through Bomaru.  According to various testimonies to the Commission, certain fragmented units of the former state security apparatus of Liberia arrived among this contingent with the full intention of establishing a base in one of the border Districts, where they would mobilise a new fighting force to strike back against the NPFL.  The Commission heard the following testimony from the President of Sierra Leone as to the dynamics of the security situation that his predecessors in the APC Government had faced:

"By late 1990 when the Liberian war had reached the outskirts of Monrovia, the refugee flow into Sierra Leone had reached its highest peak.  Among these refugees were a substantial number of remnants of the late President Samuel Doe's Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) and Liberia Police Force Personnel who had fled the fighting.  Their common objective was to regroup and return to Liberia to continue their resistance against Charles Taylor's NPFL.  This group included a number of influential Liberians who were supporters of the late Samuel Doe's regime."37

89. From the opposite end of the spectrum, NPFL commandos, apparently in significant numbers, also took advantage of the porous border to pass into and from Sierra Leonean territory anonymously and without regulation.  According to residents of Bomaru, truckloads of Liberian youths would on occasion engage in harassment and looting of the local population before returning. 

90. Apparently in direct response to formal complaints lodged by the community of Bomaru with the Army's Eastern Headquarters at Moa Barracks, Daru, a small deployment of Army Engineers from the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLMF) was transferred to Bomaru from Wilberforce Barracks in Freetown in order to strengthen the security presence in the border vicinity.  This platoon of about 30 men from the Sierra Leone Army (SLA) was commanded by Captain Emmanuel Foday and it formed the fatefully-named 'Operation Bomaru.'38

91. The SLA deployment stationed itself just outside Bomaru Town on the road leading to Vahun and, according to local residents, succeeded at first in stemming the flow of NPFL commandos.  In any case, relief appears to have been short lived, as concerns soon surfaced that these soldiers were engaging in transactions with the very 'rebels' whose activities they were supposed to deter:

"They started exchanging visits, recreational activities and so on and so forth.  The friendship developed into trade by barter; that is, these NPFL men were bringing in their looted items, refrigerators, videos, fridges, televisions and all these things to the soldiers.  They only demanded much-needed items like rice, palm oil, cigarettes and such things in exchange.  Our soldiers use to take the items from these people, go down to Kenema or other places and sell them... often without returning."39

92. Furthermore, the soldiers are thought to have reneged on a particular deal by failing to give anything in exchange for a number of items, most significantly a blue Toyota pick-up van, and thus incurring the wrath of the NPFL commandos.  The NPFL Area Commander in the Liberian town of Voinjama, Anthony Meku-Nagbe, is said to have cautioned the soldiers about their dishonesty and even petitioned the Section Chief of Bomaru to act as a go-between; but neither factor prevailed upon SLA Major Foday.  When Meku-Nagbe crossed back into Liberia for the last time prior to 23 March 1991, approximately one week earlier, he is said to have promised ominously that he and his men would return with a 'score to settle'.40

93. The Commission has confirmed that the subsequent attack on Bomaru, shortly after dawn on 23 March 1991, was carried out by between 40 and 60 NPFL commandos and incurred thirteen fatalities: eleven civilians and two soldiers of the Sierra Leone Army.41  These killings have taken on a symbolic resonance over the years as they represent a format of attack and violations that would be repeated during later operations.  They further constituted the first direct knowledge on the part of the Sierra Leonean population of the defining character that the conflict in their country would take.  Following Bomaru, civilians would continue to account for the overwhelming majority of deaths at the hands of the various militias and armed groups.

94. The RSLMF officers killed in the attack have also come to symbolise recurring features of the military history of the conflict as it has been recorded by the Commission.  Major Foday was targeted on this mission due to a personal vendetta stemming from inter-factional connivance between the NPFL and the SLA soldiers.  He is said to have been conducting an inspection of his troops at the time of the attack and had insufficient time or capacity at his disposal to resist the swarms of fighters who entered Bomaru from the surrounding bush.  He was eventually shot dead in his house.

95. The other deceased soldier was Lieutenant Osman Kargbo, who was on his way from nearby Senga to reinforce the defences of Bomaru but was not apprised of the reality on the ground due to failing communications.  Indeed, the ill-fated action of Lieutenant Kargbo, plunging himself into a hostile environment without adequate heed or prior warning of the dangers he would encounter there, served as a harbinger of the fate that awaited many of his compatriots in the Sierra Leone Armed Forces.

96. Immediately after their violent raid, which is reported to have lasted for about three hours, the NPFL attackers retreated back over the border into Liberian territory.  The cruel irony of the event was that the contested motor vehicle that had apparently provoked the attack was left languishing in Bomaru and never collected.  Anthony Meku-Nagbe's 'score' was settled nonetheless; in lieu of the pick-up truck, the NPFL commandos heavily looted Major Foday's house and drove away in the support vehicle that had been used to hurry to the scene by Lieutenant Kargbo.  Anthony Meku-Nagbe came on a murderous mission "for the Major and not civilians"42; in settling his 'score', he left numerous human rights violations, a shattered Bomaru community and a country fearing further pandemonium in his wake.

Differing Perspectives on the Attack on Bomaru

97. At the outset, it is pertinent to reflect that the attack was woefully misreported in the local media and substantially misrepresented by the APC Government.  It appears to the Commission that the root of much of this misinformation was to be found in the understandably hysterical rumours emanating from the 'first-hand' accounts of those civilians who had fled from the direct vicinity of Bomaru.  Evidence given to the Commission by the leader of the military team sent to investigate the attack hints at the susceptibility of public information mechanisms to stories that portrayed the incident out of all due proportion:

"On arrival [in Kailahun District] it was clear that something unprecedented had happened in that area.  There was a visibly panic-stricken and unsettled public with various versions of what had happened and what was to come...  In respect of the number of rebels that had crossed the border, some said they were about a thousand while some put the figure upwards of five thousand.  Indeed, some messages had already been sent to Freetown from the police and military net speaking of some five thousand NPFL rebels advancing deep into Sierra Leone territory and some added 'with tanks and artillery'.

Most of what we heard in Daru and read in signal messages from Kailahun proved to be grossly exaggerated."43

98. In this light one might surmise that the official statement released by the APC Government in response to the Bomaru attack was in fact quite moderate.  It read as follows:

"On 23rd March 1991 at 1.00 a.m. an armed gang belonging to the National Patriotic Front, one of the dissident factions in the ongoing civil unrest in Liberia under rebel leader Charles Taylor, invaded two border villages, namely Bomaru and Senga in Dia Chiefdom, bordering Liberia.  This unprovoked and wanton attack by members of the National Patriotic Front of Charles Taylor resulted in a number of casualties among the people resident in these areas, including many deaths, three of whom are military personnel belonging to the Sierra Leone Military Forces.  Government has taken necessary measures to ensure the safety of the residents and security of the area."

99. The Government account erroneously suggests that the attack was two-pronged; in fact, the officer from Senga who was killed had met his fate in Bomaru.  The time of the attack is wrongly stated, as is the number of military casualties.  Moreover, the assertion that the Government had taken 'necessary measures to ensure the safety... of the area' appears to be somewhat disingenuous.  Submissions to the Commission indicate that the level of acknowledgement in Government of the circumstances prevailing on the ground was totally unsatisfactory; SLA Brigadier (Retired) Kellie Conteh coined the phrase 'silent political sanction' to describe the invidious self-constraints retained by the APC, which hampered any effective response.44  One element of the truth behind the Bomaru attack is that the Army High Command failed to act properly to prevent it, while the Army officers on the ground had acted irresponsibly to provoke it.

100. Some testimonies to the Commission have stated that there were Liberians visiting the Bomaru axis, as well as other towns in Kailahun such as Pendembu, on a series of 'reconnaissance missions' that were drawn out over several months preceding 23 March 1991.  For example, one teacher from Pendembu expressed his utter disillusionment with the conduct of his erstwhile colleague Patrick Beinda, whom he alleged was the host and escort to Liberian spies on their regular visits to Bomaru and Pendembu.45  He further contended that the very same Liberians later appeared in Pendembu as armed commanders when the town was eventually attacked.

101. In his own testimony to the Commission, Beinda accepted that he was among the first of the local townspeople who joined with the Liberian commanders upon their entry into Pendembu, but denied that he had ever previously encountered any of the assailants in question.46  He claimed that as a long-time resident of Liberia before the war broke out, he was in a position to provide translation into the local Mende language for the Liberian English-speaking commanders.  He thus facilitated their address to public gatherings at the Pendembu 'court barray' and may have appeared to some of the townspeople to have known the Liberians.  Other RUF commanders, including some of those who were among the vanguard force in Pendembu, also suggested that although Beinda was one of the first appointments, he was unlikely to have played any prior reconnaissance role.

102. These explanations should not obscure the fact that there were indeed teams of spies gathering information on behalf of the attackers well in advance of their incursion.  Although the Commission was unable to speak directly to any of those who performed such roles under the auspices of the RUF or the NPFL, reports were received as to the presence of 'informants' not only in the border areas of Kailahun and Pujehun, but also at various points in Freetown and even within the security structures of the state.  They had acquired maps and details of deployment by the Army, ascertained locations of potential obstacles and 'enemy' forces and drawn up proposed 'targets' and routes of entry into the territory of Sierra Leone.47

103. In the immediate aftermath of 23 March 1991, based on the reported sightings of 'informants' and the exaggerated messages of what was happening in Kailahun District, the press and members of the public in Freetown began piecing together the circumstantial evidence to speculate somewhat disbelievingly that 'Sankoh's war' had arrived.48  In the ensuing mayhem of the conflict that soon engulfed the country, the historical importance of the attack was never contextualised properly.

104. The Commission's own research indicates that the attack on Bomaru of 23 March 1991 served an important strategic purpose for the would-be insurgents.  It demonstrated that the border crossing was effectively unprotected and that troops stationed in the territory just beyond could easily be caught off-guard.  It convinced the commandos involved that they could, quickly repeat the tactic and conduct further attacks in a similar vein, probing deeper and staying longer.  On the whole, if Sankoh had at all been wavering as to his attacking strategy, the attack was a fillip to his confidence. 

105. Responsibility for the attack is not quite as transparent as its effect, however.

106. In later years and to considerable effect, Foday Saybana Sankoh recounted the tale that he had planned and timed his incursion for the 23rd of March 1991 in order to evoke some sense of circularity in his relationship with the long-standing APC Government.  Sankoh's intimation was that the date bore great personal significance to him and was thus envisaged as a 'launch date' for symbolic reasons.  Even in his address to fellow delegates at the signing of the Lomé Accord on 7th July 1999, Sankoh made reference to "the armed struggle we embarked upon on 23rd March 1991.

107. It is indeed interesting to note that on 23 March 1971, exactly twenty years earlier, Sankoh had delivered a rousing speech to an assembled crowd of soldiers in the Sierra Leone Army, effectively presenting his views on an alleged coup plot, for which he was subsequently arrested and later put on trial.49  In his statement to the police, Sankoh narrated the events that led to his arrest.  In particular, he described in elaborate detail his speech of 23 March 1971 and recounted a subsequent congratulatory remark from Major Abu Noah to the effect that he (Sankoh) should be "respected for [his] bravery and outspokenness" and that he was "the only Non-Commissioned Officer... who could express himself like [he] did to an officer".50  The prosecution case against Sankoh appears to have been based on the claims that he was present photographing and participating in key meetings of the coup plotters, and that he thus aided and abetted Brigadier John Amadu Bangura and others in their efforts to overthrow the Government.  The files referred to here are unclear as to the exact outcome of the Court Martial proceedings, but further testimonies gathered by the Commission attest that Sankoh was convicted for his part in the plot and spent just over four years in prison, before being released in 1975.51

108. In an effort to attribute significance to the recurring date, observers have pointed out that the grudge Sankoh harboured from this day onwards caused him to avenge his arrest twenty years later.  One witness testified to the Commission that Sankoh had made an ominous declaration upon his arrest in 1971, to the effect that "even if it takes me twenty years, I will take revenge against the APC."52

109. In reality, though, this theory appears to be somewhat far-fetched.  It is a matter of oddity that two key events in Sankoh's life came to pass on the same day of the same month twenty years apart,53 In this regard the Commission has set out to analyse the credible alternative perspectives.

110. The first interpretation is that the attack was never envisioned as anything more than the venting of a personal grudge harboured by NPFL commander Meku-Nagbe against his Sierra Leonean 'trading partners'.  In this characterisation, the attack was intended purely as a revenge or reclamation mission, in which the Liberians wanted either to punish the SLA soldiers for their failure to 'pay up' on the deal, or to assert themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the border territories.  This version seems plausible as an original motivation for the singling out of Bomaru and the Army officers deployed there.

111. One senior former member of the RUF who joined after the conflict broke out presented his own understanding of events in his testimony to the Commission, which he maintains was also the version presented to him by Foday Sankoh during their time together in the conflict:

"What Anthony Meku-Nagbe did was to mobilise his men on the 23rd of March to retrieve some of the items they [the Sierra Leonean soldiers] had taken... and that brought the war on the 23rd of March 1991.  Immediately that happened, the International Community and other people started crying foul that Charles Taylor had invaded Sierra Leone.

By then Charles Taylor never knew anything about the first attack on the 23rd; Sankoh too was on the base with his men... waiting for his own logistics, like arms and everything, to come through.  They were both unaware, you know, of what was going on...

So Charles Taylor sent for Foday Sankoh, and said 'this is the time for you to launch your attack'; in order to exonerate himself [from the allegation] that he had invaded Sierra Leone.  Foday Sankoh said no.  He said 'I haven't got my logistics, I am still waiting for my weapons; I am waiting for ammunition, for vehicles'.  Charles Taylor said: 'No, this is the time; I will give you everything - all the weapons, the commanders and everything'.  So, it was then that they assembled their men."54

112. Another interpretation was that the attack on Bomaru was pre-conceived by members of the High Command to gauge the auspiciousness of a larger incursion in the following days and weeks.  In this case, the encroachment at Bomaru does not become the launch of the 'revolution' proper, but rather as something of a catalyst that encouraged Sankoh to accelerate and finalise his plans to instigate the Sierra Leone conflict. 

113. These interpretations are not mutually exclusive. Sankoh had on 1st March 1991 given a 90 day ultimatum to the government of Joseph Momoh to relinquish power or "I will remove him from power". It was quite plausible that he gave such a lengthy time frame to enable him acquire his arms and ammunition. It was also well known to the government of Sierra Leone that dissident forces were being trained in Liberia to wage war on Sierra Leone. Anthony Meku Nagbe and his group were part of the subsequent incursion into the country. As the conflict subsequently demonstrated, factional alliances were quite fluid, more so in respect of Liberians who didn't share the revolutionary ideology (if any) of the Sierra Leoneans and were only involved in the conflict for private accumulation.

Charles Taylor's Strategic Interests

114. Taylor perceived the immediate evolving threat to his military ascendancy in Liberia to come from the so-called Liberian United Defence Forces (LUDF), which comprised many of the exiled soldiers and police officers of the Samuel Doe regime who had fled into Sierra Leone in the wave of refugee flows noted above.  Assessments of the activities of this faction had filtered through to Taylor in his base at Gbarnga, suggesting that it was evolving into a formidable force with logistics, command structure and a base at Kpetema in the Kenema District.  The Commission heard various testimonies to the effect that Taylor wanted to eliminate this adversary before it could properly challenge him in Liberia.  As the following excerpt from a close ally of Sankoh's attests, countering the LUDF was a prominent consideration in accelerating the time-frame for incursion:

"Sankoh himself told me that the time was not ripe for him to cross with the war into Sierra Leone.  His own plan was for December 1991.  But [it was superseded] because Charles Taylor had received an intelligence report from Sierra Leone that there's a village called Kpetema near Joru in the Eastern Province, where dissidents were training to fight him.  They [the dissidents] called themselves the LUDF: Liberian United Defence Forces, headed by Reiley Seikie.  So he [Sankoh] said that Charles Taylor then urged him to stop his training and prepare to cross into Sierra Leone as soon as possible."55

115. A constant additional concern in Taylor's mind was the burgeoning presence in Sierra Leone of ECOMOG, whose shadow was inching closer to the Liberian border.  Military sources testified to the Commission that discussions had been taking place in early 1991 for the bulk of the ECOMOG deployment stationed at Lungi Airport in the west of Sierra Leone to be transferred to Moa Barracks, Daru in the Eastern Kailahun District.  Taylor had laid bare his antagonism towards ECOMOG in his infamous radio broadcast the previous year, so his continual attempts in March and April 1991 to deny that he was striving to scupper ECOMOG rang rather hollow.56  It came as little surprise to the people of Sierra Leone when a statement from an early 'rebel' captive betrayed Taylor's true intentions:

"I have decided to tell Sierra Leoneans the truth about this invasion.  I am making a voluntary statement.  I have decided to expose Charles Taylor because he lied over the radio that he knows nothing about our invasion...  We are here [because] he ordered us to come and destabilise Sierra Leone because it is the ECOMOG base."57

116. The urgency to confront both LUDF and ECOMOG as well as respond to international criticism against the incursion of 23rd March 1991 seemed to have pushed Taylor to convince Sankoh to commence his revolution well before the scheduled time.

117. With the agreement secured to commence a full-scale attack, all the plans that had been made by Sankoh were put into forward gear. The RUF would be relying absolutely on the goodwill and support of the NPFL fighters, most of whom were not part of their training, and owed loyalty to Charles Taylor to prosecute its revolution.  With hindsight, this marked the abortion of the revolution even before it had started.  It was a terrible strategic miscalculation and would cost Sankoh and the RUF very dearly.

118. The wisdom of the decision to rely on the NPFL fighters to prosecute the revolution was questioned by Sankoh's erstwhile most trusted co-organiser, Rashid Mansaray, in forceful and disillusioned terms:

"How can you train us, prepare our minds and then allow somebody else to lead us into our own country?  You are selling out the revolution!"58

119. According to one of Mansaray's closest friends, he made his stance on philosophical grounds:

"Rashid's point was not that he opposed the Liberians per se, but that he believed their entry into Sierra Leone would be bad for the revolution.  He stood by his position that if the NPFL joined the RUF then they were going to cause problems for us... and that is exactly what happened."59

120. Mansaray's words obtain all the more resonance from the assertion by some vanguards that he was not only speaking for himself, but for a large constituency of the RUF recruits who had witnessed the NPFL's propensity for violence at first hand and despised their generally unprincipled orientation.  Sankoh apparently could not stand such an overt challenge to his Leadership of the movement and decided to proceed in spite of Mansaray's advice.  He also ordered the detention of Rashid Mansaray in a cell at Gbarnga, thus preventing him from participating in the mobilisation of the RUF.  The dispute thus excluded one of the RUF's most committed ideologues from the initial entry into the country. 

121. Confidential interviews conducted by the Commission provide substantial evidence to support Mansaray's assertion that NPFL fighters would constitute a liability for the RUF.  In fact, as will be shown later in this report, the NPFL were to become the primary perpetrators of the first two years of the conflict.  Thus, perhaps the implications of the use of NPFL manpower in the RUF 'revolution' are best summarised in the following testimony from a senior RUF commander:

"The explanation had been made to us so many times by the Leader himself that the old dictatorial regime of the APC is the only tyrant... Our targets would not be against civilians; nor even against armed men who surrendered.  It was just rather unfortunate that the war started with a certain group of people who were not exposed to that type of ideology.  Had it been a warfare started by people trained with that understanding, it would not have badly affected civilians in that initial phase60."

Dynamics of the Full-Scale Incursion into Sierra Leone

122. According to the TRC's research and investigations, the conflict in Sierra Leone was launched from Liberia into both the Kailahun and Pujehun Districts, almost simultaneously.  For the duration of Phase I, from 1991 to 1993, the combatant factions would use strategies of conventional 'target' warfare and the conflict would retain the character of a war on two fronts.  The two fronts will be referred to throughout this chapter as the Eastern Front, centred on Kailahun District, and the Southern Front, centred on Pujehun District.

123. Initial combat operations on the Eastern and Southern Fronts commenced within a week of each other in late March and early April 1991.  All the military indicators analysed by the Commission point to centralised leadership and direction of these Fronts: they employed strikingly similar troop movements from their respective points of entry; civilians were treated in a similar fashion in all the communities they entered; objectives of their operations were announced in an identical manner on both Fronts; and the hierarchies of commandership were structured and implemented under the same High Command. 

124. Elementary and distorted details about the character and composition of the incursion force were spread among civilians by the insurgents, both initially upon their entry into many communities and repeatedly upon being asked by anyone who dared.  The insurgents presented themselves in both Kailahun and Pujehun Districts as 'Freedom Fighters' of the Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone.  They announced that they were here to overthrow the APC regime and were under the leadership of one 'Corporal Foday Sankoh'.

125. The incursion force was comprised of two distinct factions under the rubric of the RUF: the 'Special Forces' of the NPFL and the vanguards of the RUF.

The 'Special Forces' of the NPFL

126. Following Charles Taylor's promise of assistance, the overwhelming bulk of the fighters in the initial incursion force were commandos of the NPFL.  Through analysis of data and numerous testimonies, the Commission has been able to determine that a force of approximately two thousand (2,000) insurgents entered Sierra Leone and that over four fifths of them - in the region of 1,600 fighters - belonged to the NPFL. 

127. Nearly all of these NPFL fighters in Sierra Leone were of Liberian nationality, with possibly a maximum of one hundred (100) nationals from third countries among their number.  Through the testimony of both their colleagues and their victims, the Commission has been able to verify that there were commanders as well as fighters from Burkina Faso (commonly called 'Burkinabes') and the Ivory Coast, in addition to individual or small groups of combatants from The Gambia, Nigeria, Guinea and Togo.

128. The Commission heard that all the NPFL commandos, whatever their nationalities, were referred to as 'Special Forces'.  The term 'Special Forces' derives from the vocabulary of the NPFL and is understood to denote those fighters who have been trained outside the territory of the country in which they are fighting.  The same title was applied to the select few Sierra Leonean commandos in the RUF who had been trained extra-territorially and had fought in the Liberian conflict, but were not vanguards; these included the senior commanders Rashid Mansaray, Mohamed Tarawallie, Abu Kanu, Mike Lamin, Noah Kanneh, Patrick Lamin, 'Pasawe' and CO Daboh.

129. The attack on the Eastern Front into Kailahun was led by NPFL General Francis Mewon while the attack on the Southern Front into Pujehun was led by NPFL General Oliver Vandy.

130. Key further commanders in the incursion into Sierra Leone included James Karnwhine (alias "Pa Jim"), Samuel Tuah (alias "Samtuah"), Benjamin Yaeten, Charles Timba, Dupoe Mekazohn ("General Dupoe"), James Wolonfa, John Wuseh, "Action" Jackson, CO  "Bosco" and the man responsible for the Bomaru attack, Anthony Meku-Nagbe (who also used the alias CO "Dry Pepper").  Directional and command responsibility for the military operations of the NPFL - and thus for the bulk of the operations carried out by the combined incursion force between March 1991 and September 1992 - were vested in the hands of these men.

The Vanguards of the RUF

131. Meanwhile the RUF vanguards, as described above, were largely untested in the realms of conventional or guerrilla warfare.  They had been put through a programme of training that was unexpectedly curtailed due to the exigencies of  the intervention plan.  As one of the vanguards reflected:

"They had told us [it would last for] six months... [so] according to the schedule, we never reached the end of the training programme."61

132. Nevertheless, this contingent would remain something of a 'special case' in terms of the composition of the RUF in the military and political history of the conflict.  Their original number would not be expanded during the course of the hostilities, nor would the term be applied to any other group.  In the folklore of the RUF movement, as it was later documented in 'public relations' texts like Footpaths to Democracy,62 the vanguards were the founders of the revolution.

133. In this light it is ironic that the wholesale mobilisation of the RUF vanguards from their training base at Camp Namma was actually the secondary component of the deployment plan.  According to testimonies of those who were involved in the incursion, the vanguards were divided approximately in two, each half constituting an initial 'Battalion' of the RUF.  On this point, the Commission's research indicates that despite being numbered up to 385, the vanguard contingent in fact comprised between 360 and 370 operational fighters.  The discrepancy resulted from the non-participation of most of the men with vanguard numbers from 001 to 021, who were claimed by Foday Sankoh to be 'colleagues who will join us later'.

134. Thus the aggregate number of RUF vanguards divided roughly into two groups of 180 fighters: the 'First Battalion' heading for the Southern Front, the 'Second Battalion' destined for the Eastern Front.

135. The 'First Battalion' had the longer distance to travel from Camp Namma, passing through Gbarnga and Bomi Hills on their way southwards to an assembly point at Bo Waterside, situated in Liberia's Grand Cape Mount County just over the border from Pujehun District.  The 'Second Battalion' would cross towards the northernmost part of the Sierra Leone border, passing the NPFL stronghold at Voinjama and gathering at two assembly points, Foya Kamaya and Vahun, both of them in Liberia's Lofa County, within striking distance of Kailahun District.

136. While senior commanders, appointed at an uncertain time several weeks in advance, clearly knew the details of this plan, the instructions given to the majority of vanguards were said to be vague and confusing:

"The Leader [Foday Sankoh] called us in the early hours and said that 'today we are going to launch' - we didn't have any warning, we were just loaded into trucks and moved.  Most of us had no arms."63

137. The final sub-division of the vanguards before entering Sierra Leone appears to have been the most important.  Each 'Battalion' was apparently split into three platoon-sized groups of about sixty (60) vanguards each, designed purposely to correspond with the 'targets' of conventional warfare on Sierra Leonean territory.

138. Each group was assigned to follow and buttress a particular cadre of commandos from the NPFL, with functions that encompassed both administration and combat.

139. Some of the educated and 'ideologically-trained' vanguards were given briefs as administrative commanders and tasks that included managing the movements and needs of civilians in the captured towns, recruiting new members into the RUF and investigating allegations of misconduct or rule-breaking.

140. Meanwhile the RUF's 'hardened fighters', including its senior Battalion and Battle Group commanders, joined the frontline advances of the NPFL and began to assemble growing cadres of Sierra Leonean combatants under their own command.

141. Commandership of the First Battalion on the Southern Front had originally been earmarked for Rashid Mansaray.  He had been Sankoh's second-in-command throughout the period when the RUF was taking shape, including the training of the vanguards described above.  However, due to the dispute between the two men and Mansaray's enforced exclusion from participation in the incursion, this position had to be re-assigned.

142. The title of RUF First Battalion Commander accordingly was handed to Patrick Lamin, under whom 'Pasawe', Abu Kanu (who apparently adopted the battlefield alias 'AB1B') and Mike Lamin were senior ground commanders.

143. On the Eastern Front, the RUF Second Battalion Commander and also the overall Battlefront Commander was Mohamed Tarawallie (alias "Zino" or "CO Mohamed"). The Battle Group Commander upon entry into Kailahun District was John Kargbo. Kargbo's biography appears to have been somewhat unique in the RUF: he was a former officer of the Special Security Division (SSD) of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP).  The Commission heard that he had fought against the Doe regime in Liberia in the 1980s and was captured, tried and imprisoned.  He was one 'genuine criminal' freed by Sankoh in his assembly of the vanguards.  Pivotal ground commanders included Issa Sesay, Peter Vandy and Alicious Caulker, as well as the Libyan-trained Sankoh cohorts Noah Kanneh and CO 'Daboh', who joined the warfront somewhat later.

144. Both the Eastern and Southern Fronts of the RUF vanguards were firmly under the command and direction of Foday Sankoh.  The above-named RUF commanders, as well as the RUF's senior administrators, looked to Sankoh for their own distinct instructions, as well as for validation of the commands that were passed to them by the NPFL commanders.

145. Unlike Taylor, whom the Commission did not record as being present in Sierra Leone on a single occasion in Phase I, Sankoh would frequently visit both Fronts during the opening months of the war and eventually set up his own dwellings in the village of Sandiallu, Luawa Chiefdom in the Kailahun District.  In his capacity as Leader and Commander-in-Chief of the RUF, Foday Sankoh was therefore in the position to have the final say on all RUF matters, including military operations, recruitment and promotion, political strategies and disciplinary measures.

146. It is worth concluding with a re-acquaintance of the RUF's objectives at the time they launched into their incursion plan.  These should be reported notwithstanding the infinitely more complex dynamics that had been introduced by the subordination of the vanguards to Taylor's NPFL forces in terms of numbers, command and control.

147. Jonathan Kposowa, the Adjutant General of the RUF from the time of the training at Camp Namma, articulated the aim of the RUF movement in his testimony to the Commission:

"The general objective of the RUF was to capture power.  Sankoh told us that the Government was not doing anything better for the nation, so we could take them out.  The people in power had gained power through force; so the only way to take them out was through force.  Only after capturing power would we then think about ways to improve our own lives."64

Differing Dynamics on the Eastern and Southern Fronts

148. The Commission has come to understand that despite their supposedly common hierarchy of command and control, the Eastern Front and the Southern Front evolved as largely self-contained conflicts, at least on the side of the RUF.  For much of Phase I, the combatants in the East had little or no idea of how their compatriots were faring in the South and vice versa.

149. Such disjunction was perhaps avoided at first because Foday Sankoh was able to use Charles Taylor's Headquarters in Gbarnga as an operational base from which to monitor developments on both fronts.  Indeed Foday Sankoh visited Pujehun District on several occasions in 1991, as well as spending considerable time on the ground in Kailahun.

150. However, within a matter of weeks, acrimony began to grow between members of the NPFL and RUF factions.  As will be described below, a split in the Fronts and the emergence of differing dynamics became inevitable from this point onwards.

151. At the very latest, Foday Sankoh started losing contact with the Southern Front when the NPFL faction was forced out of the Pujehun and Kenema Districts by a strong alliance of various pro-Government forces in 1991.  The significant factor here was that the core of the RUF in the South refused to jump on the bandwagon of the NPFL retreat to Liberia, believing that they could retain the territory they had captured until they linked up with the Eastern command.

152. On the contrary, the RUF actively encouraged the departure of the NPFL fighters by pitting itself against them. It had become clear to the RUF that the NPFL had become a liability, not sharing the objectives of the revolution, refusing to accept commands from Sankoh or any of the RUF commanders and having committed terrible atrocities against the people. In the process, the Southern Front of the RUF became isolated, territorially and in terms of communications.  The separation of the Fronts would persist from that moment onwards, until the end of Phase I.

153. In one exceptional move, Rashid Mansaray, who had joined the Southern Front after his release from detention in 1991, travelled personally into Liberia and up to Kailahun in 1992 in an attempt to bridge the gap between the Fronts.  However, Mansaray became 'cut off' from his return route and became deeply immersed in the dynamics of the Eastern Front.  He was eventually executed in Kailahun District in late 1993 on allegations of connivance with pro government forces.

154. Thereafter, without direct lines of communication or any other conduits of information, Sankoh heard so little news from Pujehun that he was thought by some of his closest colleagues to have given up altogether on the Southern Front's chances of success.  It was only upon commencement of Phase II and a different set of operations - analysed by the Commission under the rubric of 'guerrilla warfare' - that the RUF commandos from the two Fronts came back together and the movement was once again united.

155. This clear albeit unforeseen separation of the Fronts became increasingly apparent to the Commission during its information-gathering activities.  In testimonies before the Commission, most of those who had been situated in the East gave their insights on a particular set of events that were concentrated in or directed from the East.  Likewise most of those who had been situated in the South told a different set of stories, specific to their own area of operations.

156. The remainder of this section attempts to characterise the key military events on each of the Fronts as they were driven by or directed against the insurgents.  At every turn, through the analysis rendered, an attempt is made to place these differing dynamics into the broader context of the conflict as a whole.

Incursion on the Eastern Front: Kailahun District

157. The Commission heard that within four days of the attack on Bomaru, the full-scale incursion into Sierra Leone was launched into the same Kailahun District.  Accordingly the outbreak of the conflict in Sierra Leone is most accurately recorded as having taken place on Wednesday 27 March 1991.  Statements given to the Commission indicate that the attackers crossed the border at Baidu in the early evening and that the first civilian settlement on which the incursion impacted was the market town of Koindu, Kissi Teng Chiefdom.

158. This location is much further north than Bomaru, but still on Sierra Leone's Eastern border with Liberia, close to the point where the two countries also meet Guinea.  The incursion took the form of an entry along the main road into Sierra Leone from Liberia, leading directly from the town of Foya Kamala, which had been the final assembly point for the insurgents.  At least one border guard was shot and killed as the insurgents forced their way into Sierra Leone.

159. The Commission further heard that the incursion was led by General Francis Mewon, a Libyan-trained commander of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NFPL), who travelled over the border in a camouflaged truck.  The initial objective of the attackers was to 'clear the road' up to Koindu, at which point they would set up a holding position, receive reinforcements and begin to make incremental advances southwards.  In the process of achieving this objective they forcibly displaced several hundred civilians from Koindu and began to carry out looting sprees and indiscriminate killings as they passed by houses on the main road.

160. The troops in the advance contingent commanded by Mewon were exclusively comprised of NPFL combatants, numbering approximately sixty - the strength of a platoon.  In character and conduct, these men in almost every sense represented the prototype of combatants who would participate in the Sierra Leone conflict.

161. The insurgents carried firearms that included AK-47s, G3 automatic weapons, General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMGs) and Rocket Propelled Grenade launchers (RPGs).  While the numbers alone constituted an ostensibly formidable arsenal, certainly in the eyes of the many civilian victims who reported on their activities to the Commission, it can also be pointed out that all of the firearms cited actually fall into the military classification of 'light weapons'.  From the testimony presented to the Commission, weapons of their calibre were to remain by far the most common types of arms used in this conflict as a whole.

162. The attackers did not arrive in tanks or Armoured Personnel Carriers, nor did they receive air support from bomber jets or helicopter gunships.  The fighting forces that instigated the conflict were exclusively ground forces, moving on foot or in trucks, trailers, pick-up vans and 4x4 vehicles, many of which were captured or stolen from the battlefield in Liberia.  In terms of clothing, these commandos betrayed their unconventional nature through a combination of camouflaged uniforms, civilian clothes and a variety of 'charms', which were comprised of shells, nets, wigs, face paints and other adornments.  Their appearance was intended to induce awe and alarm in those they encountered, based on the premise, shared by fighters of almost every faction, that they looked 'fearful'.

163. Crucial differences between the incursion of 27 March 1991 and the attack on Bomaru of 23 March 1991 are to be seen in the mode of entry, the nature and scale of mobilisation and the subsequent movements of the troops in question.  The Commission heard that the group led by Mewon was quickly followed into the country by other fighters in trucks and on foot.  These batches of insurgents did not retreat like the Bomaru group did; on the contrary they were ordered to move further into the District in the following days.

164. The numbers of insurgents present in the northern part of Kailahun is estimated to have grown to several hundred within two weeks, by which time the town of Koindu had been consolidated as a base and checkpoint, while the further towns of Dambo, Kangama and Buedu had also been taken.  SLA troops in the area are reported in most accounts to have exchanged fire with the attackers for a brief period, before eventually retreating due to lack of logistics.  According to one of the RUF vanguards, the SLA at that time "would repel you if you attacked them; but they were not strategising, so they could be easily defeated in battle."65

165. Moreover a second, separate flank on the Kailahun Front had been opened when several further platoon-sized contingents re-entered Bomaru and its environs on 31 March 1991; many residents of Bomaru, scattered in panic at the original attack, had only just returned to the town when the new wave of insurgents arrived.  This time the nearby village of Senga was also directly targeted.  SLA soldiers inside and outside the towns were reported to have returned gunfire, but were hopelessly outnumbered and ill-equipped to resist.  Baiwala and Mobai were then taken by the insurgents by 12 April 1991, each of them experiencing similar patterns of human rights violations at the hands of Liberian fighters speaking in Gio, Mano and Pelleh languages.

166. Testimony received by the Commission suggests that the incursion group into Kailahun was led by the 'Special Forces' :

"The NPFL Liberians were really the topmost commanders in the revolution when it met me.  I came to learn that the Sierra Leoneans were just sub-commanders; they were not in control."66

Incursion on the Southern Front: Pujehun District

167. In Pujehun, the vanguard contingent appears to have entered the country simultaneously with the NPFL commanders; the role assigned to the vanguards was to 'backstop' the positions taken by the NPFL as they made their advance further into the territory.  A number of Sierra Leonean vanguards were left to keep control of some of the earliest townships captured by the advancing Liberians. They were also the ones who 'prepared the ground' for the arrival of Foday Sankoh, the Leader, in the early days of April, when he addressed crowds of local people and 'sensitised' them as to the purpose and objectives of his 'revolution'.

168. A second front was opened in the south with the attack on the Mano river bridge, giving the rebels unlimited access into the Pujehun district.  The capture of Potoru, and other towns like Bumpeh, Njaluahun, Gbaa and Benga, brought the rebels uncomfortably closer to Bo, the second city: Nyagorehun in Bargbo chiefdom about thirty miles from Bo town had come under attack by the 19th April, Bandajama and Koribondo in the Bo district by 27th April67.

169. Word had been circulating for some time among the Bomi Hills contingent of the NPFL in Liberia that an attack on the Southern Province of Sierra Leone was being planned for the 2nd of April 1991.  On the 3rd, from Bo Waterside, a SL refugee from Liberia recounted meeting the insurgents already in place68 - he spoke with a Sierra Leonean named Ahmed Fullah who appeared to be part of a rearguard/backstop defensive position in Gendema - this was definitely reflective of the modus operandi of the insurgents: the NPFL fighters, who had a monopoly over the firearms and the lion's share of the logistics, would surge forward on the offensive, while Sierra Leonean vanguards and some of their early recruits would remain behind to guard the rear.

170. Among those who were left to guard the first town to be captured, Gendema, were the following Sierra Leonean vanguards in the initial incursion on the Southern front: Ahmed Foulah, Patrick Lamin, Augustine Koroma, Philip Palmer, Okeh George and Isatu Sesay.

171. Foulah advised some of the new recruits - "a fighter without political ideology is a criminal"; in the evening, the RUF cadres would gather together and conduct lengthy discussions about philosophy and ideology; Foulah handed some of the recruits an exercise book in which to make notes on the RUF ideology: causes of the war, eight codes of conduct, eleven principles of leadership, history of the country - Foulah himself had made his own notes in an exercise book during his training in Liberia; the new recruit in turn was intended to absorb the material, or to jot it down, to a sufficient extent to be able to pass it on to others.

172. Oliver Vandy, the commander of the Sixth Battalion of the NPFL based at Bomi Hills, led the attack on the Southern flank through Pujehun and to a great extent appears to have dictated the character of the military dynamics on that flank.  On 17 June 1991, Vandy made a declaration in Zimmi that Sierra Leoneans were the avowed enemies of the NPFL.  After that announcement, the Liberian contingent became extraordinarily violent towards Sierra Leonean civilians and the ruthless killings escalated.  The acrimony on this flank then owed much to the strength and single-mindedness of the RUF leadership, particularly Mike Lamin, who repeatedly stood up for what was seen as the 'rightful' approach to revolution.   Lamin, for example, was credited with the enforcement of rules and codes of conduct against miscreant NPFL commandos by administering punishments, including killings, in a public forum.69

173. It has been contended almost universally by former RUF members who have testified to the Commission that there was a "sharp difference" between the commandos of the NPFL and the newly-formed comrades of the RUF.  While the former were said to be rough and unrefined, the latter claimed to carry with them a certain sense of purpose and pride in their programme, which sometimes even manifested itself in shows of mercy or moderation.

174. The essence of this contention would seem to be borne out by the submission of one of the Paramount Chiefs who suffered a wretched plight at the hands of the insurgents, Madam Matilda Y. L. Minah V.70 The Chief was confronted with members of both fighting factions and recounted to the Commission a catalogue of violations carried out against her, her family and her people.  Her testimony is salient, though, in the degree to which it demonstrates the subtle variations in the treatment of civilians and their authority figures by the NPFL and the RUF respectively:71

"Sometime in 1991 I was in my Chiefdom Headquarter Town of Karlu when I learnt that rebels had arrived in Pujehun... [After two days] they met me at Karlu.  The group was a very strange-looking set of people among whom I could recognise only one person whom I had known during my time as a teacher at Zimmi Makpele.

[...] After introducing himself, [the person I recognised] introduced me to the rest of the party.  Their leader then explained their policy as one designed to liberate the country from corruption and all other malpractice.  They then went ahead to lay down some ground rules for their operations, among which was their practice not to visit any town or village at night.  He also emphasised that as a revolution, the RUF's policy was against looting, harassment and intimidation of civilians.

175. Foday Sankoh himself entered Sierra Leone initially through the Pujehun route, appearing in Gendema on 7 April 1991 in order to address a crowd that included three distinct groups: Liberian and other NPFL fighters; a host of vanguards from both Liberia and Sierra Leone; and a large gathering of civilians from local communities.  The speech he delivered was the first in a series of efforts Sankoh made to sensitise and mobilise particular groups in support of his averred revolutionary objectives.  By all accounts, he spoke passionately and convincingly on such occasions and was generally well received by his audiences.

176. According to a variety of testimonies before the Commission, Sankoh often spoke of his 'national vision' for the country.  Many of the RUF members believe that Sankoh retained this vision for the whole duration of the conflict.  He thus presented himself as an ideological force - and rather than crediting any of his mentors with his ideological posturing, he would emphasise that he owed his background only to the people of Sierra Leone and was therefore accountable only to them.

177. Despite all the efforts that Foday Sankoh made to institute some control of the destruction reaped in the name of the RUF, he was unable to put a stop to crimes against the people of Sierra Leone.  From the inception of the conflict, he apparently maintained a notebook in which he would write down the names of all those whom he perceived as requiring to answer to the people of Sierra Leone.  According to his Adjutant General, the notebook was Sankoh's means of discerning individual responsibilities and noting his regrets when members of the RUF deviated from the directions he had envisaged and issued:

"Sankoh continually expressed regrets; not for the RUF in itself, but for the behaviour of its fighters.  The one thing we most often heard him saying was: 'this is not what I told you.'"72

178. The RUF fighters became the instruments of other people's grudges.  For this reason, recruitment into the RUF was compulsorily tied into the indoctrination of certain principles; at the earliest training bases, the purported idea was to educate the boys how to fight truly for their people.

179. Part of the motivation behind the insistence on a national sentiment in the RUF was meant to try and counter the dependence on personal grudges as a basis on which to wage the war.  When Sankoh was around and a structure was in place to pass on such ideology, the tactic of training people ideologically was effective to a certain extent.  However, this component of the RUF's programme mutated as the realities of warfare overtook it.  Although it would underpin the first several years of RUF operations, it began to be eroded very early by the practice of the fighters.  According to one of the earliest recruits, the commandos of the NPFL were the ones who set the predominant adverse examples:

"The first collapse of political ideology in the RUF should be laid at the door of the NPFL.  Look at the behaviour of most of their fighters; you will see they have no good ideology.  Many of our young boys used to imitate the actions of the NPFLs and never understood what we were trying to do."73

180. Difficulties were also experienced in controlling the minds of those recruits who were taken from their homes against their will.  Nevertheless the RUF continued to recruit forcibly.   According to one of those who participated in the enlistment of new combatants, the command for such enlistment often came from the top:

Sankoh just used to get word to us: 'X amount of young men are required to come on base and train'.  After all, this was a 'national struggle'."74

181. Partly because of the miscreant activities of the NPFL and partly because of the acts committed by inexperienced or dishonest RUF fighters, the RUF contrived to alienate the civilian population from the very earliest throes of its revolutionary incursion:

When a civilian population is with you one day and against you the next, there must be a reason: if you take someone's food from them, do you think they are going to support you?  It became almost a custom of the RUF that everywhere you went you would have to loot."75

182. Among the prime reasons behind the selection of Pujehun as one of the entry points, or 'gateways', for an armed assault on the APC Government was that the District had a pedigree of anti-APC uprising.  The opposition of the people of Pujehun to the APC had reached its pinnacle in 1982 with the civil unrest spearheaded by the 'Ndorgboryosoi'.

183. 'Ndorgboryosoi' was a reference to the feted 'bush devil' of the Mende people.  In the 1982 rebellion, it had spawned the so-called 'Joso Group', or 'Bush Devil Group', a civil militia that embodied a particular mode of traditional warfare, invoking the assistance of the spirits.  The concept was that the bush devil acted as bait to enemies by drawing them into the bush and leading them astray.  It was said that the 'Joso Group' had the capability to spring surprise attacks on several points at the same time.76

184. The erstwhile second-in-command of the 'Joso Group' civil militia from the Ndorgboryosoi conflict nearly ten years previously, Lieutenant Momoh Konneh, became an unlikely ally and co-ordinator of field operations in the RUF for a time.77  The original motivation for this group to mobilise appears to have grown from the widespread disgust among the civilian population at the behaviour of the NPFL commandos who had entered the District.  The civilians presented a proposal to Lamin Kamara, who played a role in the RUF akin to that of a close civilian liaison to Foday Sankoh.  The proposal sought the re-establishment of some kind of 'Joso Group' to participate in the liberation struggle.

185. The RUF took on the 'Joso Group' as an integral part of its infrastructure on the Southern Front.  At least 27 of them were trained under Joseph Magona (alias One-Man-One), who was the RUF Battle Group Commander at the time, albeit only for a period of about three days.  They were nevertheless immediately deployed in Potoru to counter the advancing ULIMO and SLA troops.  Indeed the 'Joso Group' was probably the most prominent segment of the RUF fighting force on the Pujehun front line in the early months of the conflict.

186. The 'Joso Group' went into battle in a formation similar to that which would later be deployed by the Kamajors; wielding crude weapons like cutlasses and sticks with nails attached.  As they bravely confronted the soldiers 'head on' in Potoru, these militiamen struck such a fearsome impression on the RUF fighters that the latter would later be convinced that it was not prudent to confront the similarly-constituted Kamajors.

187. Of course, the original name of 'Joso Group' was directly lifted from the 1982 uprising and reflected the fact that most of the fighters were in fact the same.  Sankoh was aware that this group had in fact been the lifeblood of the First Battalion in its early stages, but wanted the character of the movement in the South to be more inclusive of potential other recruits.  Thus, Foday Sankoh advised that the 'Joso Group' change its name to 'RUF Action Group' - partly as a stamp of his own endorsement, partly also to distance the RUF from any overt direct link with the Ndorgboryosoi uprising of 1982.

188. The advance of the initial invaders in the Pujehun District was much faster and arguably more direct than that of their counterparts in Kailahun.  The reasons for this appear to be found in a combination of several factors: effective strategising and fast acting on the part of the NPFL;78 lack of preparation and failure to take the attack seriously on the part of the Government forces; little or no resistance (if not active support) from most of the communities the invaders entered; and surprise tactics in various forms. 

189. Within a few weeks of the incursion in Pujehun, the RUF had formed a Special Task Force intended to gather information about the activities of the fighters at the front.  The STF also had the job of explaining the ethos of the revolution to the civilian population, since the Action Group was insufficiently trained in the ideology to perform such a task, and the commandos of the NPFL could not be relied upon to do in a manner that would encourage anybody to believe them.


190. In exposing the rationale behind the original strategy of conventional warfare adopted in Sierra Leone by the combined forces of the RUF and the NPFL, it is essential to address the phenomenon of the 'target'.  The Commission understands this term to be an area of territory that the attacking force wishes to capture and establish control over, assuming an offensive or a defensive posture.

191. As such, a 'target' will often be the subject of concentrated reconnaissance and planning well before any operations are conducted there.  The object therein is to assess the topography, including roads, rivers, forested areas, hills, natural resource endowments and civilian settlements within the boundaries of the 'target'. 

192. In seeking to understand the operational objectives of the strategy employed by the insurgent factions, the Commission gathered evidence from some of the RUF combatants charged with its implementation.  The following testimony reflects one RUF junior commando's personal interpretation of the dynamics of conventional 'target' warfare and, in particular, its interface with the civilian population:

"Foday Sankoh strictly warned that after the advancement into any 'target' and the capturing of any town or village, the inhabitants of those areas should only be responsible for feeding and accommodating [the troops] for a limited period of seventy-two hours.  After that point, no single commando should stay or live in the towns, but should advance a mile or two forward and set up a defensive [position].

From thence on, the commandos should be responsible not only for the feeding but also for the security of the inhabitants of the land captured [the 'target'].  All food to support the people of that newly-captured land should be taken from the enemy-controlled areas.  In other words, Sankoh said: 'RUF Feed the Nation and Protect the Nation'."79

193. On the side of the pro-Government forces, the type of warfare deployed was dependent on the nature of the threat they faced.  The Army was not tactically flexible enough to develop into an effective jungle warfare unit, so it largely had to respond with a conventional strategy of frontal fighting.  As one soldier who was recruited during Phase I told the Commission, there was also a degree of bravado in the approaches of the two factions to conventional 'target' warfare:

"In that first phase, we would never use by-passes and neither would they.  It was like a sense that we didn't need to go in a roundabout way because we felt we were stronger than them: we just relied on our support and so did they."80

194. The tempo, medium and nature of the conflict as a whole were destined to be set by the conduct of the warring factions during Phase I.  In this regard, the Commission regrets that certain facets of the tactics and operations proscribed by the High Commands of the NPFL, the RUF and the SLA were conducive to an inordinate level of civilian suffering. 

Enlistment into and Expansion of the Insurgent Forces in Phase I

195. Channels of enlistment into the RUF were secured with varying degrees and different types of compulsion in the early years of the conflict.  The Commission has encountered sensitive and astonishingly complex dynamics in many of the accounts of how Sierra Leoneans became 'junior commandos'.

196. In striving to generate an impartial overall understanding, it should be noted that there are always exceptional and unique tales, which will not fit comfortably into any of these categories.  Nevertheless, the Commission presents the following narrative in the belief that it reflects some instances of enlistment that grew out of violations and abuses, some instances that directly caused violations and abuses, and some instances in which victims could go on to become perpetrators.

The 'Detainee-turned-Junior Commando' Category

197. The Commission received reports from both the Kailahun and Pujehun Districts that upon entering into major towns, the insurgents typically demanded that the residents should identify any soldiers, policemen or those in the community who were thought to be APC representatives or powerbrokers.  In the event that these persons had fled, attention would turn to their relatives, their friends, their acquaintances and those who were deemed to know 'where they were hiding'.

198. Each of the persons pointed out in this manner, even where they denied any knowledge of the status they were alleged to hold, would be arrested and placed in captivity.  Accordingly, sizeable groups of local residents, sometimes up to 20 at a time, were detained in a local cell or guardhouse on the premise that they had connections to the APC regime, however tenuous the link that connected them.

199. These detentions are of special relevance to the composition of the RUF because many of the detainees were subsequently converted into members, in a similar mode of compulsory 'recruitment' to the one applied to the 'detainee-turned-vanguard' category in Liberia.  One resident of Pendembu, Kailahun District described to the Commission how he was enlisted into the RUF after a two-week period of detention until 29 April 1991:

"Upon his first arrival in Pendembu, Foday Sankoh was made to understand that some people were jailed and that they were still in the cell.  Immediately he sent for us and we were brought before him.  We had been told the previous night that they were going to kill us next morning, so some of us thought Sankoh was going to do the killing.  Rather fortunately he was our saviour.

He became very furious with the [NPFL] commanders; he told him that this was not what he had sent them on and that they should not treat his people in such a way...  He apologised to us and begged us to accept it in good faith as it was wartime...  He then picked me up as the youngest among those from jail and asked for my name, my occupation and my qualification.  He told me that the revolution is for those of us who are educated but have no better jobs."81

200. A similar story was recounted from the town of Gendema, Pujehun District, where Foday Sankoh appeared on 7 April 1991 and similarly lambasted his commanders for putting prominent functionaries of the authorities in a cell.  Upon securing their release, Sankoh apparently embraced and praised the detainees for their courage and welcomed them, especially the soldiers among them, into his movement.82

201. According to testimonies, Sankoh described the men as "our brothers, not our enemies"; a popular refrain was that these people had no choice but to be working for the authorities because it was a one-party state.  In Gendema as elsewhere, such displays by Sankoh in releasing detainees were reportedly greeted with rapturous ovations from the civilian crowds, from which Sankoh clearly drew valuable populist credentials.

202. From Pendembu, for example, Sankoh recruited his War Council Chairman S. Y. B. Rogers, his GSO-1 Moigande Moigboi Kosia and other educated persons like Francis Musah and Patrick Beinda, who would perform crucial roles in his administrative cadre.  From Gendema he introduced service personnel like Patrick Mattia, Emmanuel Sheriff and Chico Myers to his growing force.  In addition to their calibre, these men were destined to provide unflinching loyalty to Sankoh because he had cast himself as their 'liberator' and foreseen that they would then become captive to his wishes.

203. As the following testimony from a vanguard indicates, Sankoh was notorious for exerting moral compulsion over individuals and communities by playing on the perceived indebtedness of those he had freed:

"He continuously reminded me of the fact [that he was my 'liberator'], everywhere we went.  Even when we first captured my hometown, he gathered my relatives from the area and asked me to tell them where he had found me... When I just said the place, he was not comfortable.  He wanted me to say 'in prison', which I did; so as to make it clear to the people that he had rescued me."83

204. As with the vanguards themselves, the 'detainee-turned-junior commando' category would become a key sub-group within the RUF, whose contributions to decision-making, in the realms of administration and political strategy in particular, would to a great extent help to shape the evolution of the movement into which they had been enlisted.

Willing 'Revolutionaries' and the Influence of Foday Sankoh

205. There are, it would appear, some complicated sociological dynamics to be considered when looking at the concept of 'volunteering' one's own or a family member's services to the RUF.  It is often in ignorance of such dynamics that Sierra Leoneans from outside the Kailahun District have expressed surprise and faint derision to the Commission that, at the outset at least, it had appeared that many families in Kailahun had actually urged their youngsters to join the RUF as a token of their support for the 'revolution'.

206. The Commission heard of instances in which this phenomenon occurred; but these accounts do not warrant the stigma often attached to the people of Kailahun on the basis that they 'gave their children to the RUF'.

207. At the time when the insurgents entered Sierra Leone there was deep-rooted discontent among many segments of the population, much of it attributable to the Government that the RUF declared they had come to overthrow.  With this in mind it is possible to regard the acts of 'volunteerism' registered in Kailahun and elsewhere as symbols of an overriding will to change the system.  At the early stages of the insurgency there was no means of knowing that the RUF would go on to become an even greater scourge on the people of the country than the oppressive Government they opposed.

208. Nevertheless a variety of individuals in both the East and South of the country, with particular emphasis on young men from rural areas, joined the RUF of their own volition, stayed with the movement until the end of the conflict and, in many cases, have gone on to become members of the Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP), which they feel still embodies their ideas for change.  They comprise a category of recruits, first and most recognisably drawn from Phase I of the conflict, who absorbed the ideological rhetoric of the RUF's orators, identified appealing elements to its agenda and decided in good faith that they should ally themselves to its insurgency.  They are best described, in their own words, as 'willing revolutionaries'. 84

209. 'Willing revolutionaries' testified in significant numbers to the Commission about their experiences before the conflict and their reasons for joining the RUF.  The stereotype seems to fit a young man who had come from a lower-class background of abject poverty and whose parents had not enjoyed any favour or good fortune under the APC, despite often having worked hard in the agricultural sector.  He had nonetheless been able to acquire enough education to perceive some of the blatant injustices to which he was being subjected; but at the point the RUF found him, he had lost all social bearing and was therefore open to the option of taking up arms.

210. This stereotype could be applied to thousands of former RUF combatants and it was borne out again and again by witnesses before the Commission.  A common decisive factor in many of the stories told by 'willing revolutionaries' was that they had been ultimately convinced to join the RUF through a public address by Foday Sankoh or one of his compatriots, similar to the speeches described above.  One young man narrated the impact an address by Sankoh had on him in the following terms:

"What Sankoh said was what really made me stay with the RUF for a long time - his argument was really convincing.  He made reference to many Sierra Leoneans who had been killed by the APC; to the mismanagement of our natural resources, not just diamonds, but all the land - that there is a lot to boast of, but what does the average man have to show for it?  He kept coming back to the point that Sierra Leoneans were being deprived of their legal rights; he talked about so much bad governance; how politicians were manipulating the people - through tribal politics, sectional politics and party politics... [He said] that unless we bridge the gap between the North and the South we can never establish national unity... and without unity we can never achieve progress.  Pa Sankoh had a huge amount of national pride."85

211. Similarly 'willing revolutionaries' testified that they had seen the RUF as a means of effecting a positive change in the country, of freeing themselves from their soul-destroying socio-economic circumstances and of putting right some of the injustices that they perceived to have left them disadvantaged or marginalised in society.  Through its discussions with these RUF junior commandos in this category, the Commission gained plentiful evidence of Foday Sankoh's uncanny ability to exploit the legacies of the multi-faceted bad governance that successive political elites had wrought on the country.

212. It is indeed in this regard that the Commission has come to realise the centrality of bad governance, corruption, all forms of discrimination and the marginalisation of certain sectors of society among the causes of conflict in Sierra Leone.  As has been discussed in the chapter on antecedents, these historical ills and injustices had prepared the ground for someone of Sankoh's renowned manipulative ability to canvass among the people and find scores of would-be RUF commandos who could be brought on board with relatively little persuasion.

213. Sankoh in fact made pointed and often astute attempts to sensitise and mobilise particular groups in support of his averred 'revolutionary' objectives.  By all accounts, he spoke passionately and convincingly in his public addresses and was apparently well-received by his audiences in the early weeks of the conflict.  In addition to being a generally compelling character, he would often adapt his style, or indeed his rhetoric, to play on the particular characteristics or insecurities of the local population who were receiving him.

214. Thus in the Kailahun District, Sankoh's addresses dealt with the plight of impoverished farmers and coffee or cacao harvesters who were historically prevented from receiving due compensation for their yields; in the coastal District of Pujehun he was reported to have spoken about fishery and marine resources, as well as the local undercurrents of social disgruntlement that had given rise to events like the Ndorgboryosoi rebellion in the 1980s.

215. To accomplish such a level of familiarity with the diverse cultural and historical contours of Sierra Leone and its peoples had required years of exposure and application on Sankoh's part; it is this recognition that lends credence to the theory that Sankoh had been methodically gathering insights and experiences that would stand him in good stead as a 'revolutionary' leader for years in advance of his 1991 incursion.  His time working as a photographer in the late 1970s and early 1980s, along with his extensive in-country travelling, had permitted Sankoh to gather up multiple public opinions on the perceived wrongs of the APC and thus to shape himself as a man of the people wherever he might go.

216. These perspectives on Foday Sankoh go some way to assisting our understanding of how certain members of the RUF were drafted in with what one might describe as the minimum degree of compulsion.  These can be considered, on a certain level, to have been 'revolutionary-minded' recruits, who found common cause with the powerful, albeit unsophisticated, case for a revolution expounded by Sankoh.

217. Many of them, in the fullness of time, appear to have abandoned their original philosophical orientations and engaged in atrocities in the name of the RUF; many of them became discouraged by the acts of others, but saw dissent as futile when the most powerful commanders were prone to executing dissenters; some of them indeed opposed the course and conduct of the war, but their opposition apparently cost them their lives.

218. For the few such 'willing revolutionaries' who remained, it is fair to consider the perpetual paradoxes that they found themselves confronting as the realities of warfare enveloped them.  Yet the incontrovertible truth is that none of these people ultimately did anything concrete to temper the ascendancy of volatile combatant commanders in the RUF or to halt the overall spate of violations and abuses for which the faction is collectively responsible.

219. Thus, in the Commission's summation, there were indeed some RUF members who genuinely and consistently seemed to believe in the possibility of effecting democratic change through a revolutionary programme; but right from the start of Phase I they constituted a miniscule and quite powerless minority in the RUF.

220. It was equally possible for the Commission to discern that there was often a very thin dividing line between purported 'genuine subscription' to the values of the RUF's agenda and the opportunistic pursuit of personal gain or retribution based on misplaced grudges, grievances and vendettas.  In short, many people claimed to be 'revolutionary' when they were actually nothing of the sort; they simply wanted to utilise the RUF as a means of acquiring a firearm and a vehicle for their own aggression.  As the RUF's former Adjutant General testified to the Commission:

"Some people felt that going on the base would give them a chance to revenge for anything that had happened to them."86

The Original Strategic Objectives of Conventional 'Target' Warfare

221. The incursion as it had been envisaged by Foday Sankoh had one central objective: the capture of the strategic military barracks at Daru, situated on the banks of the Moa River in the Kailahun District.  Its success would have cleared the way for the insurgents to consolidate their grip on Kailahun District without fear of large-scale attacks by the Sierra Leone Army and further to launch operations into the important Kenema District.  It would also have signalled a more successful adoption of the blueprint carved out by the NPFL in the Liberian conflict, whereby Provincial military installations were routinely captured and thereafter became the training bases and fortresses of the NPFL.

222. Moa Barracks, at Daru, in the Kailahun District, was to stand out in Phase I of the conflict as the main hinge on which the fortunes of both the insurgency and the defensive effort would swing.

223. As far as the defensive effort was concerned, President Momoh, who was also a General in the Sierra Leone Army, knew that all available resources would have to be plied into the Barracks speedily and methodically to fortify it as his Eastern stronghold; its fall would have deprived the Army of its single largest installation and quite possibly stood to cripple the war effort irrecoverably before it had even properly begun.

224. Conventional 'target' warfare suited the geographical dynamics on the ground in Kailahun District: sizeable towns spaced apart at regular and manageable intervals; deployments of SLA units whose retreat would follow a fairly predictable path along main roads; and a series of distinct 'targets', progressively greater in size, that would build up to the grand strategic objective of capturing Moa Barracks, Daru.

225. Moreover, the social, economic and political conditions were amenable to a programme of the sort that the RUF purported to stand for.  The area was known to be a hotbed of support for the SLPP, which made it relatively easy to derive cheap 'revolutionary' capital out of the political inclinations of the populace by adopting a signature colour of green and an emblem of palm fronds as RUF symbols.  The following testimony suggests that these tactics were a rather crude effort, since the symbolism was not even understood by some of the people who were meant to spread its practice:

"There was a little boy who ran up to me as soon as he saw me.  He asked if I was a 'Momoh soldier'.  At that time they were speaking Liberian pigeon language.  The boy asked me if I was a 'Momoh soldier'. I said I was not a soldier.  I asked him who brought the war.  He said they had somebody supporting them and his name was Foday Sankoh [and] that he was a Sierra Leonean.  'We have just come to remove APC', he said.  The other boy said that we should have a palm tree or a green cloth tied on our hand."87

226. The people were mostly farmers, who had received an especially rough deal under the APC because they were never properly paid for their agricultural produce and forced to labour long and hard to support their families.  One farmer's son who subsequently joined the RUF described his perspective in the following terms:

"Members of Parliament in the APC Government regime chiefly exploited and oppressed the poor farmers with their selfish and greedy ideas.  They and their children evaded all works of life by eating out of the farmers' farming activities...  They would either cheat them of the money that was supposed to be paid for their produce, delay the payments, or pay the farmers by instalments instead of paying them everything at a stretch...  They made sure that the farmers could not make any effective use out of their money earned from their plantations to make them become prosperous.  We knew it was a deliberate act... so that everything should work at the advantage of the oppressors and at the disadvantage of the poor farmers." 88

227. The Commission heard that when Sankoh's revolution was launched through speeches laced with populism and panaceas, many villagers were convinced that they should support the RUF as a preferable alternative to the system under which they struggled.  A combatant cadre grew out of many different sources of enlistment, including volunteers.  There were high numbers of 'willing revolutionaries', as people were seduced by the simplistic RUF mantra that claimed the first step to material betterment was to turn the guns of the system against it: "Arms to the People, Power to the People, Wealth to the People."

228. There were also recruits who were forced to undertake training purely on the basis that they were 'able-bodied', no matter what their age.  The Commission heard from the RUF's Adjutant General that overt pressure was applied in this regard to ensure that would-be fighters effectively had no choice:

"At that time anybody who was fit to walk could be put on the training base... if you didn't go for training you would have a load put on your head and be made to carry it to Liberia."89

229. The training bases set up by the RUF entailed terrifying exercises that habitually tormented their participants and often led to their deaths.  As one child recruit testified to the Commission's closed hearings, this torture commenced from the moment the 'training' started.

"The first day we arrived on the place they ordered us to lie flat on the floor.  We had no idea and we lay down as if we were lying on a bed.  They showed us how to lie down flat and if they saw your foot up they will use their foot to stamp your foot down.  Then they will use the gun; they put it on the forehead of the first person in the line and fire!  In that process if you are hit by the bullet you are killed.  If you are not perfectly in line with the first person, that is the end of your life.  They were doing that so that we can get accustomed with the sound of a gun.  They taught us how to fire guns for ourselves.  They also taught us courtesy and discipline that will show us how to respect them.  But even though you respect them they will not respect you.  It was no formal training where you go to a classroom.  With that kind of training if you are sent to the warfront only God will help you."90

230. Additionally the administrative cadre took on added capacity by abducting, indoctrinating and affording lofty positions to a range of local teachers and clerks in the communities they entered. 

231. On the Southern Front, on the other hand, neither the terrain nor the human population was quite as susceptible to this type of operation.  In terms of land, there were three natural obstacles to overcome from the outset: the site of a major diamond-mining settlement, in the shape of Zimmi, surrounded by lucrative fields of gemstones; the path of the Moa River through the heart of the District, flowing into the awkward Turner Peninsula on its Southern coast; and the absence of major military installations that were easily and foreseeably assailable.

232. The first factor, material wealth, would prove to be a distraction of avarice, whereby NPFL commandos with a patent obsession for self-enrichment would choose to indulge themselves in looting and mining activities, using mostly forced labour, rather than to advance further into the territory of Sierra Leone.  The second factor, the riverine terrain, could not be negotiated due to sloth: effectively the NPFL commandership could not muster the necessary sophisticated tactical assaults that would have been required to transgress plentiful rivers and marshlands.  The third factor, distant targets, posed a quandary to the insurgents primarily because it required concerted and sustained application on their part; having been coaxed into more profitable pursuits by the first factor and somewhat overawed by the second factor, the fighting force demonstrated that it was simply not up to a task of that magnitude.

233. The Commission's research attests to the fact that the NPFL faction, comprising Liberians and a selected few other nationals of foreign countries in the sub-region, largely confined their bases in the Pujehun District to the areas around larger towns like Zimmi.  In other words, since the goals were further out of reach than originally anticipated, it was easier for the NPFL just to rest on their laurels and live off the land.

234. This widespread deviation from original strategic objectives was confirmed by the Commission in interviews with many of those who fought for the RUF side alongside the NPFL.  As one of the vanguards on the Southern Front testified:

"When the fighting started, those who were in control of the arms, when they reached Zimmi, thought that Zimmi was Bo or Kenema.  The properties that they met around those areas were all that they were after, to take back to Liberia.  They became so amazed with all that they had met in Pujehun that they totally forgot about continuing the war.  Instead, they were only interested in looting and taking properties back to Liberia.  We started getting concerned: 'Are these people here to help us fight our war or are they just here to take all our peoples' properties?'"91

235. In the case of the Moa Barracks, it led to a fierce, all-out battle far greater than the one that the insurgents had planned for at the outset of their planning.  The magnitude of the battle in fact attests to the added importance that had been attached to the Barracks in the light of ECOMOG's utterances that it could become a new station for its forces (supplanting Lungi on the grounds of geographical and strategic importance).

236. The Commission heard testimonies about the ferocity of the battle for Moa Barracks, Daru from combatants who fought there in several distinct capacities: RUF fighters whose objective had been to overcome the Barracks; SLA officers who provided infantry power to the defensive operations; and 'irregulars' from both the North and South of the country who fought on the side of the Government troops.  Each of the perspectives garnered differed subtly from the next, but a unanimous, two-part conclusion was shared by them all: the battle was the single most critical strategic confrontation between the two sides in the entire duration of Phase I and it culminated in defeat for the insurgents.

237. The clash was essentially played out from the two opposite banks of the Moa River.  The river runs between the town of Daru, on the Eastern bank, and the Barracks themselves, on the Western bank, traversed by a landmark bridge that is the sole crossing point in that vicinity.  The insurgent forces were spearheaded by some of the most senior and most hardened fighters among Taylor's NPFL, who were of both Liberian and Burkinabe nationalities.  They were buttressed by Sierra Leonean and Liberian RUF fighters, including up to two platoons of vanguards from the Eastern Front.  The total force numbered up to one thousand commandos, who were well armed with light weapons and grenades, but had nothing of the cumulative calibre possessed by the pro-Government forces on the other side of the river.

238. On the side of the Government, the most formidable firepower was provided by the Guinean Armed Forces (GAF) faction, which is thought to have comprised only 200 troops.  It was not so much the quantity as the quality of their artillery that made the difference in the confrontation that ensued.

Early Tensions between NPFL and RUF commandos

239. Tensions between the RUF vanguards and the Liberian-led NPFL faction started to arise at a very early stage of the conflict.  Indeed, rather than being drawn out along strictly factional lines, instances of in-fighting were reported to have taken place even between members of the same groups.  For example, a series of incidents in Bunumbu Town in Kailahun District demonstrated the types of bloody spats that broke out among NPFL fighters.  A Gambian commando, apparently also Libyan-trained, known to his compatriots only by the name of Abraham, had carried out a summary execution of one of his Liberian colleagues who was alleged to have committed various atrocities against civilians.92

240. In retaliation for this act, Abraham was set upon by the leader of the Liberian group, Colonel Samuel Tuah, shot in each of his legs and left to bleed slowly to death.  Some of the Sierra Leonean vanguards who had originally supported Abraham's effort to quell such atrocities against civilians were understandably silenced by Tuah's response.  By demonstrating such a callous disregard for human life and by slaughtering those - even from among their own - who stood in their way, the Liberians succeeded in orchestrating a reign of terror over the territories they entered.

241. Sankoh was unable to control the Liberians. Had it been simply a question of financial or logistical support, perhaps Sankoh could still have retained the prerogative to direct operations on the ground, commanded the unbending loyalty of his troops and taken firm leadership decisions to guide his 'revolution' in the direction he alone saw fit.  However, such a level of autonomy would prove impossible to achieve whilst up to 2,000 armed NPFL commandos were present on the territory of Sierra Leone.  These fighters were detrimental to Sankoh's leadership in two key ways.  The most obvious is that collectively they had little respect for Sankoh once they crossed the border and therefore acted with malice and violence exactly as they wished, which was often against Sankoh's will.

242. The second factor is perhaps not immediately perceptible, but would result in irreparable damage to Sankoh's agenda.  Having brought them here under the auspices of the RUF, he had to accept that in the eyes of the population these people were the RUF.  Accordingly, whether Sankoh liked it or not, the acts and atrocities carried out by the NPFL fighters would be his ultimate responsibility.


The APC Legacy of Deficiencies in the Sierra Leone Army (SLA)

243. The Commission heard numerous testimonies regarding deficiencies in the conventional state security apparatus at the outbreak of the war.  In their totality, these accounts paint a picture of grave abandonment of the basic needs of the Republic of Sierra Leone Military Forces (RSLMF) under the APC, to the extent that the country was devoid of an operational Army when it needed one most in 1991.

244. Some witnesses have indicated a belief that the impoverishment of the military was merely symptomatic of the universally tight constraints on Government spending that blighted the APC regime, both prior to and after the start of the conflict.93  Others have speculated that the APC had purposely suppressed the development of the state military forces through a combination of misplaced priorities and 'intense political interference'; according to a lucid and authoritative submission from Brigadier (Retired) Kellie H. Conteh, "it seemed a deliberate strategy to make the Army a non-effective fighting force."94

245. In the light of the Commission's findings on the system-wide bad governance of the APC, there is little need to reiterate here the extent to which the military was marginalised throughout the 1970s and 1980s.  By the commencement of the conflict, the army didn't have moveable vehicles, communication facilities were non existent, and most of the soldiers were not combat ready. They had not attended refresher courses or gone to the practice range for years. The senior officers had indulged in the good life and were therefore unwilling to go to the warfront. The army was simply in a mess.95 It is worthwhile to point out certain specific effects of that period of systematic institutional destruction insofar as they were relevant to the dynamics of the military's involvement in the conflict.

246. The Commission heard scathing assessments from several long-serving officers.  Colonel K. E. S. Boyah drew attention to the staleness as well as the small size of the force:

"Before the war, we just had this single full battalion; just First Battalion.  It consisted of a little below 1,000 extremely old soldiers, who have been here before, during the advent of the post-colonial days.  So they were permanently here and they were in their [relatively] large numbers.  Then we had the Second Battalion of about 500 to 600 personnel; then the training units in Daru and Benguema.  So it was not that much.  I am not sure we were up to about 3,000; the infantry elements."96

247. Colonel Bashiru Conteh delivered a similarly bleak verdict in his testimony:

"In my opinion because our Army was very small at the time, it was more or less a ceremonial army not really fit for combat... the few officers who were there were not competent officers.

[We] are talking about the entire Army including fewer than four thousand soldiers.  In fact it was not even up to four thousand; it was just three thousand plus."97

248. In spite of its withering numbers and apparently for the sake of keeping up international appearances, the APC Government had posted 377 soldiers - more than one tenth of its total troops - to Liberia in late 1990 to participate in ECOMOG operations there.  Asked if this LEOBATT 'Special Battalion' comprised the 'cream of the crop', Colonel Bashiru Conteh, Adjutant to the deployment, responded as follows:

"I want to believe so because we were taken from different units and there were a lot of debates on the nomination of officers, the nomination of the NCOs (Non-Commissioned Officers) and even the nominations of the men.  They were very selective.

That was the first International Mission after the Congo crisis in 1961.  So the commander by then had hand-picked officers who could represent the country outside properly."98

249. By the time a second LEOBATT contingent left for Liberia on 3 March 1991, it could be said that more than half of the SLA's 'competent officers' were in fact stationed outside the country.

250. SLA troops had been rendered not only collectively dysfunctional, but also individually disaffected.  From the testimonies of soldiers who filled both the senior and junior ranks at the outbreak of the conflict, it is clear to the Commission that personal, familial and tribal disharmonies had eaten away at the sense of common purpose that is supposed to be the very essence of a national army.  At every level, right to the core of the institution, morale was pathetic.

251. In place of pride and professionalism, the soldiers - particularly senior officers - had indulged in vices such as embezzlement of public funds and favouritism along nepotistic or tribal lines.  These were abuses of power that had been learnt and were copied from counterparts among the political elite.  Their practice in the military meant that most of the officer class was corrupt while junior ranks harboured unhealthy levels of resentment towards their seniors.

252. The Army was also increasingly plagued by what were described to the Commission as 'generation gaps': fundamental disparities in the self-perceptions of different 'generations' of recruits, grouped by their year or 'era' of recruitment.  Where a particular set of soldiers identified itself according to an exclusive 'group mentality', this would give rise to tensions and prejudices from and towards others.

253. One striking reference to this trend came in the testimony of Julius Maada Bio, a Lieutenant at the beginning of the war who would later become Head of State by virtue of his seizure of the Chairmanship of the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC).  Bio identified a host of more stringent standards of attainment in the processes used to recruit or promote soldiers in the late 1980s and claimed that they had helped to develop "a totally different breed of officers".  According to Bio's testimony, the officers who had benefited from the reforms of the 1980s were convinced of their superior pedigree:

"The bulk of the military by 1990 was just ceremonial... most of the old officers were there because of tribal affiliations and did not merit their positions.  But if you compared our batch to previous batches, you would have realised a significant improvement... for example in the general level of education."99

254. Bio's statement appears to carry a lot of credence in fact.  At least a degree of positive evolution seems to be attributable to the introduction of the Progressive Qualification Scheme, Levels One and Two (PQS 1 & 2), which was an initiative of the Operations Department to ensure that Army ranks were connected to merit.  However, it should be reiterated that new developmental initiatives were terribly narrow in their scope; for example, only two sets of PQS 1 & 2 officers had graduated before 1991 and any further training programmes envisaged were nipped in the bud when war broke out.  Thus, it would have been premature to think that the Army was somehow turning the corner towards higher standards.

255. The Commission has instead come to realise that even the modest incremental advances made in these areas were being interpreted by trainees and non-trainees alike as grounds on which to differentiate themselves from their colleagues and to assert their own superiority, regardless of rank.  Loyalty, respect and obedience did not obtain along the lines of conventional command structure; they depended much more on arbitrary considerations such as where you were from, which ethnic group you belonged to and whether you might be amenable to engaging in or turning a blind eye to someone else's malpractice.  Quite apart from feeling that the politicisation and stigma attached to their collective identity was unjustified, many soldiers confessed to disillusionment with the ways in which personnel were treated within the military hierarchy.

256. It would be an understatement to say that the Army was not unified.  There were innumerable cleavages in competence and perceived competence that served to divide and alienate at every level: they caused disagreements between members of the officer corps on key directional issues; they precipitated widespread mutual suspicion in the rank and file; and they distanced the former cadre from the latter.

257. In addition to the manpower weaknesses there were also operational deficiencies:

"The problem was that the whole thing was new to us.  We were not prepared for it, in terms of training, in terms of arms and ammunition, in terms of getting the right structure to support a war machinery; and a lot of other things were against us in the system.  Quite apart from the fact that the manpower itself was not there.  The operations too were very new to us, because the conventional nature that is taught within the system was not what was applied by the rebels then.  So it takes you sometime before people rethink to respond to the type of warfare that was introduced into the country."100

258. Most of the units deployed along the first line of defence in 1991 were without any form of modern communications equipment.  Although they were scattered across considerable distances and unforgiving terrain, they mostly depended on human messengers to transmit situation reports or pleas for assistance to neighbouring deployments.

259. The length of time entailed in delivering a message was almost always prohibitive of any robust preventive measures being taken by the recipient.  Where fear or folly caused soldiers to act upon messages of this nature, they were actually more likely to put their own lives in jeopardy than to counter the reported threat:

"By the time a message was delivered at point B the situation would have been so different that any plan based on the message would prove to be useless and in most cases suicidal."101

The Legacy of Political Preference for Paramilitary Forces

260. It is worth pointing out that the Special Security Division (SSD), effectively the paramilitary wing of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) force, had prospered in almost inverse proportion to the conventional military.  The preference given to the SSD, formerly the Internal Security Unit or ISU, was attributable to the personal insecurities of Siaka Stevens, as the Commission heard from the incumbent Inspector-General of the Sierra Leone Police, Brima Acha Kamara:

"Once Siaka Stevens became Prime Minister in 1967 and the plans to unseat him failed, he began to rely more on the police than the military to protect him in undertaking his functions.  A paramilitary wing was formed inside the police and gradually it became an instrument of tyranny and suppression.  This was the start of the drift from [the police's] traditional peace-keeping constitutional role to that of a fighting force and its subsequent failure to protect the people..."102

261. Many of the SSD's functionaries had undergone advanced training abroad, notably in Guinea and in Cuba on state-sponsored programmes in the 1970s.103  SSD officers were the enforcers of the will of the Government and were always on hand to perform specialist security tasks as a complement, or a substitute, to the RSLMF, as the Army was then known.  Notably the SSD had made a decisive contribution to the quelling of the Ndorgboryosoi rebellion in the Pujehun District in 1982.  The participation of the SSD in such operations invariably made the military acutely aware of its own inadequacies, but the poorly-funded and institutionally backward RSLMF could not aspire to even rudimentary improvements, far less parity in combat capacity with the SSD.

262. The Commission has interpreted the predominance of the SSD over the military as a sign that the APC state had concentrated its resources on equipping itself to put down dissent and potential uprising domestically, including that which emanated from inside the Army.  This preoccupation with internal security had a naturally debilitating effect on the RSLMF and in particular its readiness for an attack from outside the country.

Incapacity at the Point of the Attack on Bomaru and the Incursion into Sierra Leone

263. Neither the government in Freetown nor the army appeared to have taken the first armed incursion of 23 March very seriously. The military's response to the events of 23rd March was very slow due to logistical and other problems

264. Although the strength of the Army deployment was bolstered from a platoon to a company, this increase in troop size happened only in Bomaru.  Other areas of military deployments were still undermanned (with platoon size deployments) for a border that is about one hundred and fifty miles in length: any further attacks could not be easily defended.   Under protected, the entire border region was left open to the attacks that followed the initial attack on Bomaru.

265. The army at that time was unused to any kind of warfare and so lacked the skills to counter the attacks that that followed 23rd March.  It was purely a ceremonial army and was ill prepared for a war of this nature.104   It lacked logistics, and personnel.  Intense political interference suppressed most training initiatives and the military had less training in field exercise since 1980.

266. For almost ten years, troops did not have the privilege of practicing their skills at the range for long periods even with their personal rifles.  In 1989, the army had less than three infantry battalions (about 1,500 men) many of whom needed training; less than 30% of its transportation needs, less than 20% of support weapons and many more essential equipment in drastically short supply or non-existent.105  By 1991, the total strength of the military in Sierra Leone was less than four thousand, with the 'cream of the crop' deployed in Liberia as part of the LEOBATT contingent of ECOMOG.106

267. As early as 6th and 16th April 1991 officers of the Special Security Division SSD, Liberian United Defence Forces (LUDF) and Guinean troops were reported fighting alongside Government troops in Potoru, Mobai and Daru and parts of Kenema distirct. 'Self defense committees were set up in the affected districts': civilians used arms such as machetes, shot guns and sticks in support of the armed forces.107  Civil defense units were formed in many towns with volunteers receiving tactical training to combat possible rebel attacks on their towns and villages.108 

268. Two months following the initial incursion, five senior officers Col. Lansana Turay, Major John Demby, Major Samuel Wellington, Capt. Theophilus Tengbeh and Capt. Maurice Banya were dismissed from the military. (These officers were in charge of most of the areas that fell to the rebels in the early days of the war.)  The decision was a lighter penalty to court martial and had to do with the performance of these officers in their respective roles on the front lines in the eastern and southern provinces: they lost the confidence of the combat forces under their command.109 

269. By June it was reported that government troops had virtually halted the progress of rebel forces in their clinical operation and were mopping up areas previously occupied by the rebels. 

270. From the foregoing it is patently clear that the Sierra Leone Army embarked upon the eleven-year conflict from the brink of oblivion.  The military was in a state of utter disrepair when the conflict broke out, hampered by ravaging deficiencies in its management, alarming inadequacies and glaring rifts in its human resources and a further catalogue of shortcomings across the full spectrum of its operational capabilities.  In the views of some of those in the ranks, the range of problems afflicting the Army was so grave as to perhaps be insurmountable by whatever remedial efforts might be mustered in the decade that lay ahead:

"The Army was not worthy of being called a military force when the war broke out and it was never going to be possible to make it worthy of that name during the war." 110

271. In a series of speeches designed to encourage solidarity among the local population and the various expatriate communities based in Sierra Leone, President Momoh was eager to portray the efforts to defend Sierra Leone against the threat of the insurgents as an issue whose successful resolution was in the interests of all the countries of the sub-region.  Within two weeks of the outbreak of hostilities, Momoh announced that both Nigeria and Guinea had "responded positively to our requests [for assistance] by sending military hardware and soldiers," 111 although the sizes and mandates of the respective deployments from these states remained a topic of some confusion and consequent debate.  The Nigerians, for example, were moved to correct rumours in their local press that as many as three Battalions had been deployed in Sierra Leone soon after the start of the conflict, announcing that in fact their contribution numbered only 800 soldiers and that its role was restricted to guarding "airports and other key installations to ensure their protection from the threat of war."112  In effect it appears that Nigeria had simply bolstered the defence of Lungi Airport, whose strategic importance was as much derived from its use as a take-off and landing point for ECOMOG flights over Liberia as from its status as Sierra Leone's only international airfield.  Indeed, the Commission did not receive any reports of the participation of Nigerian soldiers in warfront activities in Sierra Leone until later in the conflict.

272. The impact of the use of Guinean troops was much more immediately felt, although like that of the Nigerians, their positioning was representative of a broader sub-regional dimension to the conflict.


273. The original testimonies proffered to the Commission indicate that the events of Wednesday 29 April 1992 have been widely misinterpreted and misunderstood in the broader history of Sierra Leone's conflict.  The crucial feature of this landmark date is that notions of power and control in the military and political spheres converged significantly for the first time since the launch of the full-scale incursion just over a year earlier.

274. To the considerable and undoubted surprise of the wider population, the dynamics of the warfront were brought to the theatre of Freetown not by the insurgent forces but by elements of the national Army.  Thus the fifteen years of one-party rule by the All People's Congress (APC) were brought to an end in the space of a single day by a cunning and decisive coup plot conceived, organised and executed by a contingent of SLA junior officers.  It culminated in the establishment of a military administration led by Captain Valentine E. M. Strasser under the nomenclature of the National Provisional Ruling Council, (NPRC).

275. The inference that the coup was connected to the insurgency is not entirely misplaced, for each of the men at the heart of its conception had been engaged in head-to-head combat with RUF forces for the several months immediately prior to April 1992, often being asked to overcome massive logistical constraints as well as incontestably fierce adversaries.  However it is entirely mistaken to extrapolate further that the action was the handiwork of the insurgents, or even that they must have had a hand in it.

276. The NPRC coup plotters acted as an independent group with an autonomous agenda.  They did not overthrow the Government in order to secure victory for the RUF or to validate the insurgents' objectives in waging war on the state.  Nor did they intend for a moment to unify ranks with the militiamen they had been fighting against and call a halt to the hostilities that were ravaging the country.

277. Such direct connivance would have been welcomed by the RUF - or, more accurately, at least by the RUF's Sierra Leonean fighters - and to a great extent its troops were disappointed when no such offer to form an 'Army of national unity' was forthcoming from the junta leaders.  Yet to suggest that the non-invitation to the RUF after 29 April 1992 was tantamount to a broken promise is to miss the point about this coup and to imagine too far into the potential conspiracy theories of this conflict.

278. The coup-plotters' motives for seizing the power of Government had everything to do with their collective sentiment that their predecessors had abused power to the detriment of the people of Sierra Leone.  In the first instance, as Strasser himself testified to the Commission, the move for a coup was driven by the fact that the APC's mismanagement of the war effort had left a lot to be desired:

"Fundamentally why the Army, in my view, took a decision to go for a regime change was because troops in the front had not the support that they needed to fight the war.  Rations were not available; re-enforcements were not available; re-supplies were not available.  Officers and men were losing their lives... So it became evident that the Government was negligent in the handling of the war."113

279. At the same time, though, the Commission recognises that it was a desire for a lot more than simply control of the military that brought Strasser and his colleagues to Freetown.

Motivation and Planning for the Coup

280. The Commission heard that planning for a coup in late April 1992 had begun approximately one month in advance of the date chosen to execute it.  A core group of officers, among whom were Valentine Strasser, Solomon A. J. Musa (commonly called SAJ Musa) and Julius Maada Bio were the lynchpins, had begun to strategise for the overthrow, from their respective postings in the Provinces.

281. Strasser at the time was convalescing at Tekoh Barracks, Makeni, having sustained an injury during fighting in the East of the country.  He nevertheless travelled frequently back eastwards for a number of co-ordination meetings with Maada Bio in Segbwema, Kailahun District.  Asked as to the exact nature of his role in organising the coup, Maada Bio testified to the Commission that:

"I was one of the actual planners because I was in the centre of our operational area... I wouldn't say I conceived the plan... but there was a commonality of purpose at the time."114

282. Among the others who contributed to the planning were Tom Nyuma, Komba Mondeh, Charlie Mbayo, Komba Kambo and even Johnny Paul Koroma, who attained subsequent infamy mainly for his part in another coup.115  All the men involved in the NPRC plot had been members of the same warfront operations in which Strasser had been a commander in the East; under the APC's renaming and re-aligning of the troops as described above, most of these men were in the 'Tiger Battalion', with Musa and Nyuma the notable exceptions in the 'Cobra Battalion'.

283. The coup-making group comprised largely Lieutenants and Second Lieutenants in rank, with Strasser, as the sole temporal Captain, a moderate notch above the rest.  The death in action of one of their like-minded comrades, Lieutenant Prince Ben Hirsch, in the February before the coup, had proven to be a decisive source of resolve and single-mindedness on the part of the plotters.

284. In particular, the widespread suggestion of Government complicity in Hirsch's death gave rise to a shared sentiment among these young, committed officers that they could not afford to leave their lives in the hands of a notoriously slippery and unfaithful political elite:

"We felt that we were being used as pawns; we felt neglected.  We decided that it was better to come and fight in town than to die out there."116

285. Hirsch's death had apparently also brought about the 'moral support' of John Benjamin, the deceased's elder brother, who was naturally suspicious of the APC elite and convinced that a coup by the soldiers could serve his own purposes.  Benjamin was thus one of the few civilians to be informed of the coup plot in advance, and would become a crucial ally to the new administration due to his familiarity with the political terrain and his contacts in business.

286. The main motive of the coup as it was described to the Commission by Julius Maada Bio was to try to instil a more vivid connection between the state and its citizens.  Maada Bio cited inadequacies in the delivery of services such as healthcare, squandering of the state's natural resources and the continued unresponsiveness of the Government over exigencies such as record unemployment and continual shortages of fuel and electricity.  These amounted, in Maada Bio's analysis, to an awfully indignifying existence for the average Sierra Leonean, quite apart from the fact that the war was visiting especially acute suffering on large sections of the population in the East and the South:

"We knew that the social conditions were ripe for a change.  There was no rice; people would quite literally kill for two or three gallons of petrol; and they used to call Freetown the 'darkest city in the world'.  Nothing seemed right and all that people really wanted was for someone to do things right."117

287. In Maada Bio's further evidence to the Commission he went on to philosophise about his perception of 'a coup':

"A coup is not just about taking ground; it is a mental battle.  You are working together with people and you have to know that they are ready for it.  If they are not ready for it, don't try because you are going to lose."118

288. It is apposite to place Maada Bio's comments into their correct context and deduce that he was in fact reflecting on the potential hazards that his own coup faced and only narrowly overcame.  For all that the coup-plotters thought they knew each other well enough to trust in one another's readiness and adherence to the script, their individual characters would only show themselves fully at the moment of truth.

289. It is here that the imponderables of the 'mental battle' to which Maada Bio refers come to the fore.  The NPRC coup was not to be thwarted altogether by such imponderables, but would come into being in a subtly different manner that has until now widely influenced the way it is seen in the eyes of Sierra Leoneans and the world.

The Execution of the Coup

290. Partly due to the aforementioned element of surprise that caught much of the nation off guard, it has become common for people to think of the action of 29 April 1992 as something that started out as a spur-of-the-moment mutiny against the unbearable conditions of service at the front.

291. This version of events points to a build-up of unpaid salaries and undelivered consignments of medical supplies as the root of the problem; it maintains that the soldiers despatched their delegates to Freetown to register their discontent with the High Command and had nothing more grandiose in mind than that.  Public and personal euphoria, it is said, was what drove the young officers to rush to State House, after which they suddenly found themselves in power.

292. This version of events does not reflect what really happened.  The reasons for the myth are understandable, on the one hand, because the plan that was in place was not precisely adhered to in the event.  The NPRC coup was a pre-conceived overthrow of the Government, in which the modalities were planned but the implementation was improvised.

293. To convey clearly these separate 'layers' of the coup, it is necessary also to present something of the background to its three main orchestrators and their roles.  First, Valentine Strasser was final choice (after the coup makers had considered and discarded Jusu-Sheriff) to lead whatever administration would stand to be constituted in the wake of a successful operation.  He had been injured at the warfront and was stationed at Tekoh Barracks, Makeni, by the time of the proposed action.  He would ultimately engineer a way of being in Freetown at the right time through somewhat convoluted means, as the Commission heard from Colonel K. E. S. Mboyah, Strasser's erstwhile Battalion Commander:

"Strasser then was my Impress, my Paymaster you know...  He asked for permission to come to Freetown, to do one or two transactions for the Battalion; so he left.  We stayed for a couple of days without hearing from him.  So I had to send to town to find out what the whole situation was about.  He called to tell me that definitely he has some problems with the guys at Headquarters.

[...] But the whole problem was that, whilst he was leaving [his residence in] Allen Town to come to Headquarters on foot, I think because of the rainy season he had some kind of cold and he was being treated... that was why he didn't get on to me, but promised that in the next two days he will be back with me in Makeni.  Only to find out later, two days later, [one of my men] said he heard somebody's voice on the radio [declaring] that a coup had taken place and that the person talking was Strasser."119

294. Strasser's movements were crafty and evasive of official monitoring.  First by taking the leave of his commander to go to the city to pick up salaries for the month, he planted a different premise in the minds of his superiors.  Then by reporting himself sick and extending time at his residence he kept clear of suspicion as the coup approached.  Finally by relaying a fabricated story to his commander at base that there were delays with the salaries, which would necessitate his prolonged stay in Freetown to 'sort out the problem', he fuelled an erroneous retrospective assumption about why the coup had taken place.  Upon hearing Strasser's voice on the radio on 29 April 1992, Mboyah and others assumed that it was a case of protest about their salaries that had got out of hand.

295. The impression that the coup was an impromptu action by disgruntled soldiers from the front was lent credence by the actions of SAJ Musa and Tom Nyuma. SAJ Musa, the second key player in the NPRC administration was to become ever more conspicuously troublesome from this point onwards.  Brash and tactless in the extreme, Musa had set out for Freetown in the company of Tom Nyuma, two days in advance of the agreed upon date.  The duo had, in their apparent gusto, commandeered a number of trucks filled with their men and 'bulldozed' an unspecified number of checkpoints on their route into the city, alerting the Army High Command to the imminence of a possible coup plot in the offing.  It was this blunder, precipitated by Musa's gung-ho style, which gave credence to the assertion that the NPRC administration had been born out of bravado and exuberance, devoid of careful contingency planning.

296. While there is no doubt that Musa and Nyuma were quite unrestrained in their individual and dual approach to the whole notion of taking power, testimony before the Commission enables it to conclude that the operation was lent sufficient forethought to be described as a deliberate and pre-conceived attempt to unseat the incumbent President.

297. The coup was originally scheduled to take place on 30 April 1992, one day later than it actually transpired.  Maada Bio reflected somewhat scornfully on the advance of Musa and Nyuma on 28 April 1992 in his testimony to the Commission, surmising that their action had left him "stranded at Daru."120

298. There are lessons about both the strengths of the coup-plotters' planning and the weaknesses of the state's defence mechanisms to be drawn from the relative ease with which the long-standing Government was overthrown.  In the case of the former, the Commission heard evidence from Maada Bio that the last-minute hastening of the coup agenda did not adversely affect its outcome because all the logistical supplies were already in place; for example, the requisite firepower had been smuggled into Freetown in a concerted and methodical fashion in the weeks preceding the coup:

"We actually smuggled a lot of ammunition into different points in Freetown - not any serious arms, just small arms...  Nobody in town was involved; we were all members of that same Battalion...  Komba Kambo was responsible for most of the actual transporting."121

299. As for the weakness of the defensive effort, the coup became the final legacy of the many deficiencies in the APC's management of the state security apparatus, as described above.  In this case, the crucial factor appears to have been short-sighted political favour-mongering, whereby the political elite had afforded 'comfortable' positions in the city to those officers with nepotistic, tribal or other connections in order not to expose them to the dangers of the warfront.

300. These functionaries were of course lacking in battle-hardness, while all the best fighters from other Battalions were posted to their respective fronts in the war against the NPFL and RUF.  Thus the defence of the Presidency was left in the hands of willing auxiliary staff who were never likely to be a match for the assembled coup-makers, as was pointed out to the Commission by Kellie Conteh:

"The NRPC coup could not possibly have been resisted by the hotchpotch of cooks, drivers, tailors and carpenters hurriedly put together as a resisting force to stop it.  Internal indecisiveness among the APC party strongmen completed the comedy of errors because even the SSD, which had been developed for that purpose at the cost of the development of the Army, could not be given clear orders."122

301. The battle for State House that ensued, beginning at around 8.00 a.m. on 29 April 1992, was reported in the international media to have pitted as many as sixty SLA soldiers against the ramshackle Presidential security squad, during which the soldiers were only able to take over the premises "after blasting two huge holes in the side of the building with a mortar." 123  The situation in the immediate vicinity of State House had apparently calmed down by the mid-afternoon, after which other parts of the city were said to have experienced "sporadic shooting," 124 before the whole affair settled out into a "relatively quiet night." 125  The Commission was unable to ascertain, on the evidence available to it, whether anyone was in fact killed or seriously injured in the course of these skirmishes.

302. The NPRC came to power through a relatively bloodless coup.  It is also apparent that the ranks of those in favour of the coup in fact swelled considerably as awareness of the action spread.  Not only police and military officers, but also members of the Freetown public actively encouraged the overthrow to succeed.

303. One element of unresolved ambiguity was the role on that day of Lieutenant Colonel James Yayah Kanu, the erstwhile Commander of the Eastern-based 'Cobra Battalion' from which some of those involved in the coup had travelled to Freetown.  Kanu was definitely not among the contingent who planned and executed the coup, nor did he jump on the bandwagon as it rumbled into power.

304. On the contrary, Kanu was thrown amidst the chaos of 29 April 1992 on behalf of the Government to act as a kind of pacifier to the coup-makers, or a mediator between them and the troops who remained loyal to President Momoh.  In spite or perhaps because of the fact that he initially brought a degree of persuasion to bear on some of the junior officers, particularly on Tom Nyuma whom he had formerly commanded, Kanu's intervention was held in contempt by the coup's ringleaders.

305. Kanu thought the men's actions would discredit the military and he appears to have said as much in his efforts to appease; instead the approach served to inflame their disgust.126  Thus Kanu was instantly, arbitrarily detained at Freetown Central Prison on 29 April 1992, from whence, due to circumstances described below, he would not emerge alive.

306. Testimony available to the Commission indicated that the Government was actually aware that a coup was in the offing. Intelligence information received on 10th December 1991 was that two coups were being planned by majors and captains respectively, with details about the planners. However a senior official of the government doubted that the information was passed on to the President, Joseph Momoh. In his view, a number of important officials of the APC regime wanted regime change for their own personal agenda. Many of them including the then Force Commander Major General Tarawalie and other senior military officers were aware of the coup and did not lift a finger to stop it. When he finally confronted the President with the information, he saw total resignation and an unwillingness to confront the challenge by the President.127


Recruitment under the NPRC

307. One of the most immediate goals that the NPRC Government set for itself upon assuming power was to bolster the capacity of the Army to prosecute the war.  As the Commission heard from Valentine Strasser, there were a variety of difficulties for the administration to overcome:

"I stated that one of my Government's most fundamental concerns was to end the war quickly.  Now at the time when I took office, the Army had a lot of problems.  One of [them] had to do with the very size of the organisation: it was very, very small; we had basically about three infantry Battalions at that time.  It was also badly organised.  It was poorly trained and ill-equipped.  [So] the first thing I had to do was reorganise it."128

308. In addition to some less perceptible structural measures,129 the NPRC launched a massive recruitment drive, inviting patriotic citizens to join the Army and serve their country.  The initiative was well publicised through radio advertisements and posters and succeeded in expanding the force exponentially.  While exact figures were not made available to the Commission, some officers estimated in their testimonies that within three years the Army grew three-fold to an aggregate size of 10,000 troops.130

309. Unlike previous recruitment intakes into the Sierra Leone Army, the one which was launched in 1992 was not accompanied by clearly specified entrance criteria.131  The majority of the recruits taken on were young, some of them quite possibly under 18 years of age, uneducated and unemployed.  They had come forward from fairly downtrodden backgrounds, many of them from the school of hard knocks in urban Freetown.  According to Julius Maada Bio, it was not a matter of policy to bring in recruits of this nature, but rather a variety of social circumstances forced the hand of the NPRC:

"We had to take on all kinds of people who were offering themselves to the Army.  Those who were coming were those who didn't have jobs...  No self-respecting parents were going to send their children to join the military at that time... [So] those guys from the street were the ones who made themselves available to us."132

310. Some of the more accomplished officers looked upon the recruitment drive as an unfortunate development for the Army.  Colonel Bashiru Conteh told the Commission that departures from standard practice, while perhaps unavoidable, led to unsuitable recruits slipping through the net:

"It was indiscriminate recruitment, ignoring the laid down standards.  Nobody was blaming anybody about that because basically it was done as a result of the authorities trying to meet their commissioning obligations.  They had to provide forces to secure the territorial integrity of Sierra Leone.  The only thing about it was that in the process, the wrong people were recruited.  When you ignore the laid down standards, these are the consequences.  You recruit people who are not supposed to be recruited and they disrespect a lot of military principles."133

311. The Commission heard that some of those who answered the NPRC call were at the time leading lifestyles consisting of criminal activity and drug abuse in the ghettoes of Freetown.134  It was also pointed out that fire officers, security guards, sportsmen and labourers put themselves forward on the basis that they had "good fighting credentials."135  One volunteer who was 21 years old at the time said he knew of the battles the Army had been facing and was seized by the impulse to become a fighter when he heard an advertisement on the radio:

"I believed that if I could get out to that warfront, I could do better than them."136

312. It therefore seems that predominantly young men from the margins of society answered the NPRC call.   On the whole they joined the Army for the wrong reasons: mostly because of idleness, disaffection with their previous surroundings and misplaced bravado.  None of these characteristics boded well for the future direction of the conflict.

313. Perhaps the worst upshot of all, however, was the obvious scope the recruitment drive offered for persons of malicious intent.  In addition to the attraction of receiving a monthly salary, a period of service in the Army carried with it several temptations for delinquent characters.  They would be equipped with a firearm, engaged in high-adrenaline pursuits and would operate in a largely lawless zone at the warfront.  In other words, some of them had given little consideration to what they might contribute to the war effort, imagining instead what they might get out of it.

314. Colonel Bashiru Conteh testified that in his own view, even some members of the insurgents were able to creep into the state security apparatus to acquire information or weaponry before later returning to the RUF:

"I tend to believe that the RUF were recruited into that type of recruitment system...  There were occasions later on when some of these recruits were deployed, but when checks were made none of the deployed soldiers could be found at their deployment area.  When they tried to account for them they could not.  There were so many cases of 'missing in action', and later on when the RUF surfaced most of the boys who were 'missing in action' were seen back with them."137

315. Certainly the consensus among most military sources appears to be that with hindsight there was little long-term merit in the NPRC Government's approach of flooding the warfront with hordes of youths in the hope that it could overwhelm the insurgency and seal a swift victory.  The NPRC's National Security Adviser, Brigadier (Retired) Sam King, told the Commission that the folly of the exercise had been apparent to him at the time but that he left the decision in the hands of the executive:

"It seemed like they went for bodies rather than brains - those who can go and fight.  It was perhaps their own way of recruiting to cope up with the war situation... wherein they were fearful of the war turning against them."138

316. In this vein Julius Maada Bio defended the policy as a necessary reversal of the historical dilapidation of the Army.  The Commission heard his admission that entry standards were in practice abandoned and that new soldiers were definitely of a lower calibre, but that the NPRC was "only trying to fix a broken boat."139

317. There was in the Commission's view a major foreseeable dilemma with the sheer numbers of new soldiers recruited.  It lay in the risk that a decisive victory on the warfront might not be as readily forthcoming as the NPRC campaign had implied.  The expanded, unorthodox Army would then have to be managed through more pressing challenges requiring more intricate solutions.  In other words, no one quite knew what would happen if those drafted in as a hoped-for quick fix were to become in due course an unwanted permanent fixture.

Problems in Training and Discipline

318. Aside from the recruitment drive itself, perhaps the unsuitability of the newly-enlisted soldiers could have been mitigated by prudent management of the Army's human resources.  However there were further grave inadequacies in the Government's efforts to train and discipline its new breed of soldiers.

319. The Commission heard that even a recruit with the "right credentials" would in normal circumstances require at least a year of professional instruction to graduate into the military ranks.140  Naturally he or she would require considerably more time than that to become fit for participation in a conflict situation.  The measured and multi-layered screening process undergone in respect of the Sierra Leone Battalion (LEOBATT) sent to Liberia was testament to the rigours of assembling a worthy fighting force out of the pre-war SLA,141 let alone out of the beast of burden that it had become.

320. Yet the ramshackle intake of 1992 would be fortunate to receive even a few months of rudimentary training when they joined the Army; some received just six weeks.142  Benguema Training Centre became a veritable conveyor belt for new recruits, each of them processed on a fast track to the warfront.  They were taught little more than how to fire a gun, how to move in formation, how to mount offensives and how to respond to orders;143 the rest would be left to their instincts.  Among the telling omissions then were how to react when faced with an enemy deploying guerrilla tactics and how to interact with the civilian population.

321. In terms of discipline, the raw new batch was apparently predestined to cause problems for its seniors.  According to military officers who were already in the force, some of the new recruits sought to import the social habits of their former lives into the ranks.144  The consumption of drugs, as it proved, was unpreventable and the use of marijuana in particular became endemic.  Military codes of conduct were frequently neither observed nor enforced in this regard;145 one young private soldier told the Commission that his commanding officer condoned and actively partook in "smoking so much djamba every day."146

322. Organisation, structure and professionalism in many units became less rigid and more ragged.  On the one hand, it was suggested that the numbers of newcomers were so large that soldiers were scarcely able even to identify their own kind, let alone to know who to take orders from.147  On the other hand, though, there were certainly individuals who were refusing to take instructions and often defying basic tenets of military conduct.148  Combined with the 'power of the gun', as so many ex-combatants described it in their testimonies, such an attitude gave rise to a dangerous propensity on the part of these soldiers to commit violations.

323. In the end the recruitment intake and its accompanying disregard for the quality of human resources served to exacerbate the overall lack of common understanding and common purpose in the SLA.  The Commission heard that the NPRC never managed to unify its Army under a single, coherent command structure.149  The recruits of 1992 formed another distinct faction in an already divided force.

324. It was the high degree of intra-factional disharmony that had always appeared most likely to spark confrontations within the Army and to give rise to negative sentiments towards the Army on the part of civilians.  That likelihood merely increased after 1992.

The Executions and Associated Violations of December 1992

325. On 29th December 1992, the airwaves burst with the news of an attempted coup on the government of Valentine Strasser. On the 30th it was announced that the coup plotters numbering 26 had been executed after a trial by a military court-martial.  According to Strasser, "a group of officers and civilians had attacked the presidential residence at Kabassa Lodge" in Freetown.150

326. The mastermind of the story of the coup plot was the Vice Chairman of the NPRC, Captain SAJ Musa. SAJ Musa's version was that someone came and informed him about the plan in the offing; he then spiked the officer and sent him back to report - on two further meetings, in which the list of those involved was compiled and various items of documentary evidence were apparently procured.  Strasser claimed in his testimony to the Commission that there was in fact a plot to overthrow his government.  What has become evident is that despite the official posturing in 1992, no judicial trials of the coup plotters took place. According to Strasser, his government was too busy with the war effort to organise a trial immediately. A trial was subsequently organised posthumously.151 Some of the alleged coup plotters like Lt. Col. Yaya Kanu were actually in detention at Pademba Road prison at the time of the alleged coup plot.

327. The Commission has been able to piece together the circumstances of what transpired on the day of their arrest on 28 December 1992 and their execution the next day.152

328. SAJ Musa had known some of those implicated in the coup from their time together in the army; he regarded them unambiguously as traitors who had betrayed him, personally and politically.  According to Maada Bio, who had known in advance of SAJ Musa's volatile temperament and the likelihood that he would attempt to carry out some kind of summary justice, some of the implicated men were taken to Musa's own residence and subjected to torture by Musa himself: "When I went there at night, he had actually tortured them very seriously - their ears were cut off and they were practically dead".153  SAJ realised that by daybreak they had been really badly tortured in his compound; so he confronted the gruesome, "it was better to do away with them, than to keep them on his hands in this terrible state" - he was then alleged to have organised the summary executions. Maada Bio lamented their inability to put the coup plotters through proper judicial process, blaming it on SAJ Musa's ambitions for power: " to a very large extent, SAJ was somebody who liked power and could do anything to retain it.... that was the darkest side of our whole period in power".

"SAJ Musa's quest for power was an obsession for the man; and he had a wife who inculcated that into him; so it was a terrible combination"; SAJ was also responsible for the killings of looters. At this point in time, he was actually the key actor; Strasser was much more laid back, and to an extent he let SAJ get on with his business."154

Maada Bio's account is an attempt to shift responsibility for a gross failure of leadership by their government to the shoulders of one person. The execution of the alleged coup plotters did not advance SAJ Musa's lust for power in any way.

329. Lt. Col Yaya Kanu was arrested on the 29th April, the day of the coup and taken into detention at the Pademba Road, prisons, from which he didn't emerge alive. No reason was offered to his family or his wife who was at the time, a major and second in command at the Army Ordinance Section of the Sierra Leone Army.

330. Throughout his period of detention, his wife made several representations to most of the NPRC officers. They assured her that her husband had not committed any offence and would be released shortly.155 Public statements by the NPRC were that they were being held in "protective custody" and would be very well taken care of.

331. Col. Kanu was in detention for eight months. All through that period neither his wife nor any member of his family was allowed access to him. Even when he developed dental health problems and his family made arrangements for him to be treated by a dentist, the NPRC authorities refused to take him to the hospital because "they were afraid for his security"156.

332. On the day the alleged coup plotters were executed, there was a passing out parade for newly commissioned officers. As was the custom, the head of State would normally take the salute. In the instant case, all the key officers of the NPRC including Strasser were not present at the passing out parade at Wilberforce Barracks in Freetown. Brigadier Jusu Gottor took the salute. Captain Strasser and his key henchmen claimed that they were busy and couldn't attend the passing out parade. The Commission was informed that they had assembled at Strasser's Kabassa Lodge residence where the coup plotters were brought for "trial".

333. The Commission was told that Col Kanu was tricked that he was finally going to be taken to the dentist. So he entered the van and was taken to Kabassa Lodge where Strasser and his colleagues resolved that they should be executed. SAJ Musa then took them away and subjected them to terrible torture before they were executed at the Lumley beach in Freetown. Mrs. Kanu told the Commission that witnesses to the execution informed her that their bodies were taken to the Kingtom cemetery, acid poured on them and burnt before being buried in unmarked graves.157 The Commission requested the Director of Prison Services to identity the location and graves where the men were buried so that their families could organise funeral services and reburials for them. He replied that all documents relating to their execution and burial had been burnt during the January 6 1999 attack on Freetown.

334. On 29 December 2002, Captain Strasser made a public broadcast that a coup attempt against his government had been uncovered, all the people had been arrested and "executed summarily". Capt. Strasser, Col. KES Boyah, Lt. SAJ Musa, Lt. Karefa Kargbo and other hendchmen of his government were alleged to have coordinated the arrest, detention and murder of the alleged coup plotters. None of the other leaders of the regime intervened to ensure that they were granted any form of judicial process. The Commission holds all the leaders of the NPRC responsible for the murder of these men.

335. In a press statement issued the same day, the NPRC claimed that:

"The special military tribunal convened by His Excellency the Captain to immediately try the suspects apprehended has met and they have proved beyond all reasonable doubt that (alleged plotters) did try to overthrow the government of the National Provisional Ruling Council and has found each of them guilty of treason and has sentenced them to death by firing squad. The confirming authority of the National Provisional Ruling Council have met and endorsed the sentence recommended and have ordered that the executions take place immediately".

336. The three alleged coup plotters were killed in a "cross fire". They were:158

a. Sgt. Mohammed Lamin Bangura, alias Scorpion, of the Sierra Leone Military Police (leader of the coup)
b. Private Alusine Mohammed Sito Sesay of the First Battalion Headquarters (spokesman)
c. Major (rtd.) A.S. Jalloh, Sierra Leone police.

Among those executed were the following:159

d. Lt. Col James Yaya Kanu, former Commanding Officer of the 4th Battalion
e. James Bambay Kamara, former Inspector General of Police
f. Corporal Mohammed Mansary, alias Candapa of the 1st Battalion
g. Warrant Officer Class 1 Kargbo, alias Fernando of the 1st Battalion Headquarters
h. Lieutenant Colonel (Rtd.) Kahota M.S. Dumbuya, Army Headquarters
i. Major (Rtd.) M.C. Jalloh, fomer Paymaster
j. Captain Hanciles Bangura, Quartermaster, Benguema Training Centre
k. Mr. Chernor Jan Jalloh of thunder Hill
l. Mr. S. Samba
m. Sieh Bangura, Deputy Superintendent of police (Second-in-Charge, "D" Division, Kissy Police Station)
n. Sub Inspector  D.T.S. Lebbie, Kissy Police Station
o. Mr. Salami Coker, 8 Huggin Street, Freetown
p. Mr. Victor Jarret, 37 Campbell Street, Wellington
q. Ms. Salamatu Kamara, 7 Huggin Street, Freetown
r. SLA/18168240 Private Bangura Mohammed, c/0 RSLMF
s. Mr. Emmanuel E.Mani, 9 Jones Street, Kissy
t. Mr. Sorie Bangura, Bangura Street, Lumpa
u. Mr. Yapo Conteh, 17 City Road, Wellington
v. Sergeant 1315 Conteh A.F., 57 Dundas Street, Freetown.
w. PC 6819 Bangura S. 3s George Brook, Kissy.
x. Sergeant 1107 Saffa J., Police Training School, Hastings.
y. Corporal 407 Lavalie W., Police Training School, Hastings.
z. Mr. Moses Davies, Police Training School.
aa. Mr. Emmanuel Koroma, Police Training school
bb. Mr. Foday Turay, Police Training School.
cc. Mr. Sieh Turay, 92 Dundas Street, Freetown.

337. On 31 December 1992, armed soldiers from the Military Police unit invaded the Kanu's official residence at the Wilberforce Barracks, arrested Mrs Lucy Kanu and took her to the military headquarters at Cockerill in Freetown. She was presented before Brigadier Jusu Gottor, who read to her a letter compulsorily terminating her services with the army for "being the wife of Yaya Kanu". She was further ordered to vacate her official residence the same day. She returned to her house under armed escort to forcibly hand over possession of the house to the army. The family subsequently moved in with some family members. For months thereafter, soldiers of the NPRC raided the family's residence at random or would cordon off the neighbourhood shooting indiscriminately into the air, so as to put Mrs. Kanu and members of her family as well as her neighbours under psychological stress and torture. The army authorities with drew her passport:

"I went from one office to the other requesting them to give me back my passport.  Lt. Karefa Kargbo told me that they needed to know why I wanted to travel out of the country and that in any case, my file was on the desk of the head of state, Captain Strasser and only he could decide my fate.  These were people I had known fairly well in the army.  They were very junior to me but I had treated them well and regarded them as colleagues".160

338.  Col Kanu was very popular in the army. The first broadcast on the coup by the NPRC on 29 April 1992 had claimed that Col. Kanu was the leader of the coup. This was a trick designed to tap into his huge popularity with the officers and the rank and file of the army. On the basis of this announcement, SLA troops in Freetown did not resist the coup plotters. Some of the soldiers even encouraged him to take over power as he mediated between President Momoh and the mutinous soldiers but he refused. The coup was therefore largely bloodless and the plotters secured the capital, Freetown, before the end of the day. The claim that Kanu led the coup has entered the literature on the conflict as some scholars have repeated it as truth.161

339. Col Kanu was not one of the plotters. On hearing about the coup, he had gone to meet the plotters at the State House, urging them that as soldiers, their loyalty was to the government of the day, and that they could not change the government by force of arms.  His mediation effort was to get the mutineers to renounce the coup in exchange for pardon. Finally he was arrested and taken to the Pademba Road prison.

340. Brigadier Sam King, National Security Adviser to the NPRC regime, informed the Commission that the alleged coup plotters were killed and buried without any trial. All the officers of the NPRC that the Commission spoke to denied knowledge of a coup and of any trials that followed, including the chief of Army Staff, Brigadier Kellie Conteh, the Attorney General Mr Arnold Gooding, Colonel K.E.S. Boyah and Major General Tom Carew.  Brigadier Conteh denied that the coup plot was ever discussed at a meeting of the Council of State or any of the organs of Government of which he was a member. He claimed he heard the rumour just like any other officer.  At no time did the Council of State or the Army Council meet to confirm any sentences from a military tribunal.  There was however speculation that a military tribunal had been set up with two officers Colonel K.E.S. Boyah and Colonel J.A.S. Conteh as members.

341. There was indeed an attempt to retroactively legitimize the process.  Accusing fingers were pointed at the then Attorney General, Arnold Bishop Gooding as the arrowhead of the government's attempt to mitigate the backlash following the execution of the coup plotters. Bishop Gooding was said to have been very close to Capt Strasser, yet when confronted with the allegation by the Commission, he claimed that he actually felt threatened by the NPRC and was afraid that if he had left the government, he and his family would have been targetted. In the view of many witnesses before the Commission Bishop Arnold Gooding, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice conveniently put the blinkers on and allowed the Government to trample on the rights of the people.

342. In his testimony before the Commission, Captain Strasser claimed that there was a military tribunal appointed which tried the coup plotters. He named Colonel K.E.S. Mboyah as the President of the tribunal. When confronted with this allegation by the Commission, Col. Mboyah replied:

"My own contribution here [before the Commission] is that we want people to accept responsibilities for whatever right or wrong they do.  It has happened [that way] in many, many areas.  It is good to distribute blames; it is normal.  But if you do it in a way that you know people who were destined to rule, or people who for whatever reason found you as their leader, then it can be unfortunate.

[...] What I want to say is that never, never in my career have I sat down as President of any Court Martial in this country.  That is what I wanted to tell the Sierra Leone public...  Never in my life have I sat down on a Court Martial [Board] in this country since I joined this Army; you know, from 1976 to now.  So anybody who attempts for any reason to say that I served in such a capacity; he is doing it for his own purpose or whatever."162

343. Despite Colonel Boyah's denials however, his colleagues in the army allege that at that time, he was claiming publicly that a tribunal had been set up and that he was the president of the tribunal.163 K.E.S. Boyah claimed that it was later in 1998 that someone told him that a paper had been circulated within military circles early in 1993 that a military tribunal had been set up which named him as a member of the tribunal. According to him, all his efforts to trace the letter were abortive.

344. What is obvious to the Commission is that there was no trial of the suspects. This much was admitted by Captain Strasser at his public testimony before the Commission that the suspects were tried retroactively. The Commission is dumfounded to think that the Government of Captain Strasser, first killed people and then put them on trial.

345. Having got them executed, SAJ Musa according to testimony before the Commission poured acid on the bodies of the suspects and then had them buried at different graves at the Kingtom cemetery. Efforts by the Commission to get the prison authorities to identify the exact locations where the men were buried have not met with success as the prison authorities deny knowing where the men were buried.

346. In spite of having killed them extra judicially, the families of the alleged suspects began to be targeted.  In one particular, case, the wife of Colonel Yaya Kanu, Mrs. Lucy Kanu who herself was a major in the RSLMF at the time, was dismissed without excuse by the Army High Command. All her supervising officers who testified before the Commission in response to the petition she wrote to the Commission, including the then Force Commander, Brigadier Kellie Conteh and Major General Tom Carew  described Mrs. Kanu as a very dedicated officer and saw no reason why she was dismissed. They all urged the Commission to remedy the injustice done to Mrs. Kanu.


The Top 20, Top 40 and Top Final Operations

347. The NPFL contingent had rested on its laurels in the Kailahun District and failed either to hit its primary target of Moa Barracks or to endear itself to the population of the territories it entered as a 'liberation force'.

348. Several RUF operatives who worked in the internal security operations of the movement testified that they had received detailed reports from members of the civilian communities they occupied about the violations and abuses of the NPFL fighters on the Kailahun flank; and that they in turn filed reports with the High Command.  This registering of discontent was seen as a direct threat to the authority of the NPFL commandos, stemming primarily from the administrative cadre of the RUF.

349. The combatant cadre too had revolted - despite their often facile grasp of the guiding principles they had been taught on the training bases, they had retained at least one of the mantras drummed into them at the behest of Foday Sankoh - that "a fighter without ideology is a criminal."  Thus rose a tide of opposition to the NPFL based on the principled position that civilians should not be the ones to suffer so extremely at the hands of this supposedly liberating revolution.  The consensus among the members of the RUF appears to have been centred on the notion that 'enough is enough'; the question therefore became not whether but when a confrontation between the two factions would break out.

350. Sankoh was well acquainted with the deep-seated reservations of many of his fighters regarding the activities of the NPFL commandos, but he was utterly powerless to do anything about it.  In the face of continual complaints, he eventually petitioned Taylor, who then recalled his fighters to Liberia. The recall by Charles Taylor did serve an important purpose for the Sierra Leonean vanguards.  It signalled the severance of arms supply from Liberia, meaning that the commandos who remained on the ground would be gradually debilitated as their existing ammunition ran out.

351. In terms of manpower, however, 90% of the NPFL commandos are thought to have stayed on in spite of the Taylor removal order.

352. Before the recall, tempers had reached boiling point and skirmishes were breaking out between the NPFL fighters and members of the RUF. This resulted in the infamous Top 20 operation. TOP 20 was an attempt by the Liberian NPFL commandos to decapitate the administrative command structure of the RUF.

353. TOP 20 was conceived and led by NPFL commando Jim Karnwhine. The plan to get rid of all RUF top commanders and their deputies, as well as all strong fighters - "they wanted to eliminate the heart and brains of the RUF so that they could take control of the whole thing for themselves."164

354. Effectively, those responsible for carrying out the Top 20 operation were the ones who had refused to follow Taylor's orders to return.  Their refusal notwithstanding, some of the most senior commanders had been removed against their volition upon the insistence by Taylor that they were among the foremost troublemakers - Samuel Tuah was in this category, as was the commander known as 'Sergeant Major'.  Their withdrawal took place in December 1991.

355. In January 1992, one of the more assiduous junior commandos assigned to the RUF's G2, or internal investigation unit, discovered and reported a gruesome act of cannibalism in a village off the Kono Highway, to which he had been led by the civilian population of the District.  The official registering of the issue in the disciplinary files of the High Command enraged the NPFL commandos to the extent that they vowed to quell the perceived 'petty dissent' by the RUF. In consequence a number of leading RUF members were arrested on 10th February 1992, and taken to Gbarnga where they were detained. Among those arrested included Jonathan Kposowa, Moiganda Kosia, Pa Kallon and Eldred Collins.

356. The original arrests of these senior administrators were carried out without Charles Taylor's advance knowledge. When Taylor found out about it, in April 1992, he ordered their immediate release and they returned to Pendembu along with Foday Sankoh. 

357. In the wake of these arrests, numerous junior commandos and civilians (largely those in the communities were targeted because they were the hometowns or villages of the commandos the NPFL was looking for) took refuge in 'hiding places' in the surrounding bushes along with their families.  The NPFL nonetheless coerced some civilian communities into disclosing their whereabouts and many of them were killed.  One junior commando testified to the Commission that he had been shot in the back as the NPFL commandos tried to apprehend him, but believes that he would not have survived if they had really wanted to shoot him dead: "They wanted to capture me alive, torture me and pull out my heart to eat."165

358. After a while, the hot pursuit of RUF commandos ceased and many of them were sent messages that they should come out of hiding, for it was safe.  This proved to be a tactic of deceit on the part of the NPFL.

359. The killing of civilians during the 'Top 20' operation was largely indiscriminate: it was a general campaign of malice directed against the Sierra Leonean population of Kailahun District by the Liberian commanders of the NPFL.

360. The kinds of words spoken in anger by the NPFL aggressors while they were carrying out these systematic violations can perhaps assist in understanding the motivations behind their acts.  They would repeatedly bemoan the reception they were given in local communities, abusing the residents for being 'ungrateful' for their purported acts of 'liberation'.  They also harboured a vengeful grudge against Foday Sankoh in particular, whom they believed had betrayed them with his reports back to Taylor about their misdemeanours.

361. Sankoh would later come and apologise to the victims of the operations; his only refrain was that there was nothing he could have done: this was war and nobody could change what had already happened.

362. Jim Karnwhine subsequently came to Pendembu and in front of Sankoh's very eyes arrested 'Kelfawai', Issa Sesay, Morris Kallon, Peter Vandyand Mohamed Tarawallie (alias "Zino" or "CO Mohamed").  Seven or eight of Sankoh's key commanders were tied up, loaded into a truck and carried to Kuiva.  One of them was even executed, a Liberian vanguard who was apparently particularly resented because to the NPFL aggressors he was "one of our own brothers".

363. These arrests signalled the beginning of 'Top 40' - in around June 1992.  None of the RUF fighters had done anything in particular to antagonise the NPFL commandos, but were rather targeted because they were perceived to be the major power-brokers in the combatant cadre of the RUF movement.  They were held for approximately two weeks before being released.

364. The original detainees of Top 20 were 'administrators' - Collins, Kposowa, Kosia, Pa Kallon.  These men were seen as the 'book men' of the movement and were thought to be the ones who were meticulously making notes on every movement of the NPFL commandos, thus undermining their command authority.

365. On the second occasion, however, the focus was changed to that of the combatant commanders, whereas Top 20 had primarily been restricted to administrative commanders, Top 40 was effectively a continuation of Top 20, designed to get rid of the top commanders of the RUF.

366. Top 40 was ended when it became obvious to the RUF that the NPFL fighters had run out of ammunition. Then, Musah (Internal Defence Unit), Isaac Mongor (Battlegroup Commander), Michael Rogers (MP Commander) Patrick Beinda (originally G-5 but by then IDU commander) came to the conclusion that the arms the Liberians were carrying were basically furniture. Their supplies of ammunition from Taylor had been cut off at the point where he had ordered withdrawal. If the SLA soldiers had known about it, they would have crushed the incursion once and for all. Testimony indicates that the NPFL fighters were normally too 'trigger-happy', firing unnecessarily whenever they got the chance, but suddenly the firing died down and the Sierra Leoneans concluded that there must be something of an ammunition crisis and the same information was relayed to the Sierra Leoneans by their own informant 'small soldiers'.  So, having concluded that ENOUGH WAS ENOUGH, the opportunity then presented itself to launch a decisive 'Top Final'.

367. The RUF philosophy behind 'Top Final' was that if the revolutionary movement was to achieve anything, it would have to remove those who were systematically violating the security and thus undermining any prospect of support from the civilian population.

"We too had no ammunition, but we sent [word] to the front line."  Alicious Caulker [at Laah], Issa Sesay and CO Mohamed (Zino) [at Bunumbu] and one other commander [at Baiama] were then requested to send ammunition - but some of them were afraid to do so.  Issa and Mohamed were particularly reluctant to participate, but upon Wormandia's insistence they eventually sent men from Kono By-pass [Gandorhun] under the command of CO Foday. The RUF pulled their men together and strategised on their mode of attack."

368. Liberians were reputed to enjoy living in groups, although one could surmise that the desire to be with the group was directly related to the need for security.  They had not set up defences around their group assembly points but rather carried out human rights violations in groups, including cannibalism and rape.

369. Sankoh was always a little wary of the impact that an overt operation would have, he therefore had to turn a blind eye to Top Final, but in its aftermath he applauded the efforts of his vanguards and communicated the change in command structure. His only fear was that the war might not be able to be continued without the presence of these hardened fighters and their firearms, but his fears were soon allayed by the important ambush captures on the Gandorhun flank that would propel the RUF towards Kono.

370. The operation 'Top Final' lasted about two months in all, August and September 1992. It covered the key points of Pendembu and its environs (first week in August), Kailahun (towards end of August), Buedu and Koindu [in that order]. About 45 men participated in the initial move at Pendembu, 20 of whom were carrying arms. Gradually the numbers would increase, and even civilians joined up as momentum gathered.  From Pendembu, over 100 NPFL men were flushed out, from a variety of different corners of the town.

371. The Liberians were neither particularly spirited fighters nor able to withstand much pressure - they were far too reliant on their guns; by all accounts they were in fact quite cowardly and could only assert themselves through armed force against innocent civilians.  As would be echoed in the sentiments of other foreign fighters later in the conflict, one popular refrain heard from the Liberians was that "we don't want to die in this place oh - it's not our country."

372. Upon attacking the NPFL afresh in Kailahun Town, the RUF assailants were joined by reinforcements sent from CO Lawrence (Gandorhun) and Alicious Caulker (from Laah); their numerical strength had by this time gone up to about 200 persons. Nevertheless they were unsuccessful in dislodging the NPFL on their first night. Musah was sent on recce and had to fight physically (backs to the wall) before finally being overpowered and struck with a gun butt and a bayonet - the NPFL were too many for one man and they didn't want to give up their positions that easily, particularly because they had looted so much material during the Top 20 and Top 40 campaigns and were abducting human caravans to carry it over the border on their behalf [bicycles, Hondas bags of rice] they had actually detained over 40 civilians whom they intended to enlist for this purpose the following morning. Indeed the Commission's research supports the conclusion that for the NPFL cadre, the conflict had become an exercise in self enrichment.  Eventually the NPFL took flight from Kailahun to Buedu; but again they were pursued, this time by over 200 men.

373. The top final operation was a dramatic declaration of self-reliance by the RUF in Kailahun district and represented the first time that the movement had acted in a manner that could be seen to have protected the interests of the civilian population.  Ironically, though, its impact was limited.  The RUF men had finally managed to purge the Liberians by the end of September 1992. All the NPFL commandos had gone; the only ones who remained were the ones trusted by the RUF, the 'Liberians' who had been recruited into, or willingly joined, the RUF. In the Commission's attempts to trace the origins of this faction, it became clear that most of them were not purely Liberians, but rather among the category of Sierra Leoneans who settled in Liberia. They could not speak the Sierra Leonean languages, so people mistook them for Liberians because of their accents.

374. The upshot of Top Final was that in November 1992, the RUF managed to capture a BZT and other heavy-weaponry from the SLA at Baiama, which afforded them a substantial boost to their self-morale.  Potentially over 10,000 RUF had already been assembled and were left behind after the 'Top' Operations to set out on the new phase of their operations. But it turned out to be a false dawn. The main problem was the perpetual dearth of arms and ammunition. The RUF in Kailahun District had only 45 'functional' automatic weapons between them, allied with a clutch of shotguns, Berettas, 'cock-and-fires' and other rudimentary local weaponry.  These figures which are born out by both the Commission's interviews with commandos of the RUF and by testimony from members of the civilian population, challenge the widely held belief that Charles Taylor was still providing weaponry to the RUF. Whatever supplies he had shared with the RUF during the early part of the incursion had seemingly dried up by 1992. This may perhaps indicate that he was only fuelling the war in Sierra Leone in advancement of his own agenda, rather than truly believing in that of the RUF.

375. The inescapable conclusion therefore is that the NPFL and the RUF in fact entered Sierra Leone with completely distinct and partly divergent agendas.  There was no sincerity in Taylor's offer to Sankoh to assist with the launch of a fraternal revolution with a common purpose.  Rather, Taylor wanted to shift some of his cumbersome military capacity out of Liberia and in the process disguise the culpability of his fighters for the grave consequences of their cross-border raid on Bomaru.  He wanted to counter the menace of the ULIMO militia group that was building up manpower and capacity by training on a base near Joru, Kenema District.  He wanted to destabilise the border region and create a further security dilemma for the Government of Sierra Leone and the ECOMOG contingent it hosted.  Perhaps he even aspired to toppling the APC and earning the acclaim of the Sierra Leonean people as a supreme liberator.  But there is no evidence that he ever provided viable and useful assistance to Foday Sankoh in promoting his revolution in the manner that Sankoh saw fit. This would have entailed considerable solidarity with the civilian population, and possibly eventually also the soldiers of the Sierra Leone Army, against a corrupt and dictatorial regime.  The NPFL and the RUF had different programmes, different command structures and different minds when they encroached upon the territory of Sierra Leone in 1991.


376. Having finally dislodged the RUF from Koidu Town in February 1993, the SLA slowly but surely picked off RUF positions one by one over the ensuing six months.  On 06 May 1993, the Army captured Pendembu, confining the RUF to the four Chiefdoms in the north-eastern tip of the Kailahun District.  Three months later, after a series of smaller-scale skirmishes, the Headquarter Town of Kailahun was also overcome.  At this point the RUF on the Eastern front was diminished to a level of territorial confinement that it had not experienced since the very first month of its incursion.  Its senior combatant commanders knew that they were being chased up the same blind alleyway that the NPFL 'Special Forces' had fled along during 'Top Final' and they feared that their fate would be an equally wholesale expulsion.

377. Indeed, by 08 November 1993, when Sankoh's own Headquarters at Sandiallu and the town of Koindu, where the full-scale incursion had been launched, had both been secured by the Sierra Leone Army, the RUF stood squarely on the border with Liberia and on the brink of oblivion.

378. Bolstered by air support from Nigerian Alpha Jets, their advance had continued right up to the border town of Baidu, the last customs point on the road out of Koindu; but that was to be the point where they stopped.

The Ascendancy of the SLA

379. At this juncture it is appropriate to examine the reasons for the relatively sudden, seemingly decisive ascendancy of the SLA.  In the end-phase of conventional 'target' warfare, they actually conquered every single one of the RUF's 'targets', and prevented them from achieving their original strategic objectives.  As 1993 drew to a close, the whole nature of the conflict would change dramatically, as the tactics of the insurgents and the stakes for which they were fighting would be changed to devastating effect. The SLA's battlefield victory would prove not to be sustainable, but it was a victory nonetheless.

380. The foregoing analysis has demonstrated that each of the key events between 1991 and 1993 had impacted profoundly on one or other of the factions and their respective capacities to prosecute the war.  On the part of the insurgents, deviations from the original strategic objectives of 'target' warfare had diminished their chances of success, as had the swelling tides of internal division between the RUF and their supporters in the NPFL. On the side of the pro-Government forces, the massive boost provided by the Guineans at Moa Barracks, the recruitment and fast-track deployment of thousands of youths and the strategic use of auxiliary forces that included vigilantes and civil militias had resulted in the capture of all the territories that the RUF had captured upon entry into Sierra Leone. Indeed the dynamics of Phase I of the conflict tipped the aggregate balance in favour of the pro-Government forces.

381. The ascendancy of the SLA was greatly helped by the total lack of ammunition within the RUF, following the departure of the NPFL forces. The RUF could not longer hold on to the territory it had captured and it was receiving a terrible beating on the battlefield. The use of jet bombers which began in October 1992 following the capture of Baiama by the RUF began to turn the tide in favour of the pro-Government forces. The jets continually strafed RUF positions with the pro-Government ground forces moving in to finish off the remaining RUF forces on the ground. The Government propaganda machinery was also working effectively. Strasser had come to power amidst great expectations of peace. The NPFL commandos who were with the RUF at that time thought that the war was over. Instead Strasser declared that he would fight the enemy by "land, air and sea". This statement of intent dealt an enormous shock to the RUF and provided a fillip to the SLA troops.

382. It has become clear to the Commission that the pro-Government forces had sufficient large-scale weaponry to finish off the RUF if they had used it sparingly and efficiently in the few head-to-head confrontations that took place between the two factions.  The RUF at that time was uniquely, albeit fleetingly incapacitated as it awaited the arrival of new arms consignments from its trading over the Guinean border.  Commanders testified that they had completely expended their missiles and RPGs and no longer had any ammunition even for their automatic rifles and personal weapons.  They were retreating backwards with the bare minimum of firepower, reduced to the level that one commander said was only suitable for "emergency defensive response."166

383. These incapacities were apparently unknown to the SLA, however, who for their part appear to have advanced with tedious over-cautiousness.  The soldiers confessed with hindsight that they tended to show the RUF combatants more respect than was perhaps necessary.  In fairness, much of this was probably due to the vastly-exaggerated accounts filtering through the civilian population about the fearsome potency of the insurgents.  However, as it rolled over each town and strategic point with very little or no resistance, the SLA should have begun to realise that the RUF was not such a force to be reckoned with; the soldiers should have quickened their advance and forced the RUF decisively into submission.

384. The Commission heard that by September 1993, having relinquished every key town in the Kailahun District to the advancing forces of the SLA, the RUF had nothing more than an indefatigable spirit to rely upon in the face of virtual defeat.  Astonishingly some RUF commanders told the Commission in defiant terms that they were neither giving up nor losing confidence.  They claimed that they had drawn renewed conviction from their period of common adversity and had been instructed that they were poised to revive their offensive:

"We didn't think that the war was over; we thought that the war was very hot."167

385. Other commanders disagreed, however, confessing somewhat more believably that their collective confidence had withered.  They told the Commission that they might have laid down their arms during 1993 had it not been for the example set by the RUF Leader:

"All of us thought we were going to be overcome at that point in time; we thought that RUF was going to come to an end - it was only Foday Sankoh who gave us courage."168

386. Most of the civilians who had been flushed from RUF-held territory did in fact cross the border into Liberia.  The soldiers were establishing a reputation for dispensing merciless summary justice to any captive whom they suspected of even the flimsiest connection with the RUF, which in practice seemed to mean almost all residents of Kailahun District.

387. The RUF combatants, though, did not dare to cross onto what they knew would be enemy territory, though they were not certain of which of their enemies they would encounter.  On the one hand, reports were emerging of a significant presence of ULIMO fighters in Lofa County, allegedly deployed in an effort to cut off the suspected supply line between Taylor (at Gbarnga) and the RUF.  When Sankoh had despatched Morris Kallon, one of his most accomplished field commanders, with a troop of up to one hundred junior commandos to assess the feasibility of an escape route, he had apparently returned alone, reporting a massacre in battle at the hands of ULIMO.  On the other hand - and according to most RUF commanders the consideration that weighed most heavily - the RUF feared recriminations from the very same NPFL commandos whom they had chased out barely a year earlier.  They were wary of the reportedly brutal treatment that was being meted out by the NPFL to anyone crossing from Kailahun and deduced that should they be captured and identified as RUF combatants, they would certainly be killed.

388. Thus, the final decision of the RUF appears to have been justified on the grounds that it would better to face up to the devil you know than the devil you don't.  There was always the chance that the SLA would capture and kill an RUF commando, but such a fate was one with which RUF commanders were far more readily able to come to terms with. 

Successful 'self-preservation' on the Southern Front

389. The Commission heard that the unique dynamics of the Southern Front had created conditions that were thoroughly divergent from those on the Eastern Front and had brought with them a host of different challenges for the RUF members fighting there.  While they retained the status of the 'RUF First Battalion' in name, they were much more of a nebulous and disorganised force in nature.  Their main objective in Phase I, practically from the time they had established an initial foothold, became simple self-preservation.

390. Having failed to make the same level of territorial gains as their counterparts in the East, the RUF in Pujehun District could not lay claim to 'control' of large towns or to anything remotely worthy of the description of a Regional Headquarters, its original office in Zimmi notwithstanding.  Instead, its combatants and the civilians they carried with them had become accustomed to taking up positions in villages and forested areas of little strategic importance.  In effect the RUF occupied only paltry and peripheral parts of its 'targets' in the South, having relinquished the main towns and highways to the combined forces of the Army and ULIMO and had been unable to recover the lost ground.

391. The battles in the Southern Province in the latter stages of Phase I had therefore been far less pivotal to the course of the conflict than those that were taking place in Kailahun.  The RUF Southern Front was fighting mostly in an attempt to assert its existence and prevent further fragmentation.  Its key fighters were stung by the brutal murder of so many of their 'senior' commanders at the hands of Gibril Massaquoi and his cohorts.  Those outside Massaquoi's inner circle huddled mainly on the banks of the Moa River and sought fairly primitive means of sustenance.  Nevertheless they ensured resolutely that they would not be completely wiped out, even if it meant that only one single town remained under their control.  One of those who formed the RUF core contingent at that time portrayed the struggle to retain a Southern RUF in the following terms:

"In Pujehun we had to employ all possible tactics for survival from the very beginning.  The enemy kept using conventional warfare against us and they were having very strong fighters.  But we were more determined to survive and somehow we managed..."169

392. The concept of jungle warfare had in fact been mooted by some of the vanguards as an alternative to 'target' strategies at the very beginning of the conflict.  The reality on the ground in the East and South was to make this option inevitable for the RUF.

Recovery from virtual defeat on the Eastern Front

393. On 13 November 1993, when only Geima and selected areas of border jungle remained under his forces' control, Foday Sankoh circulated a message among his followers that the time had come to embark on a new approach to the war - a strategy of 'guerrilla tactics' centred around jungle warfare.

394. For some time already there had been a tendency towards the cover of the forest among certain RUF commandos in the Kailahun District.  Apart from general distrust of the civilian population in the towns and rising concerns about their internal security in the light of the execution of several of their colleagues, many of the RUF cadres favoured residing in the bush due to the devastating effectiveness of the bombing missions carried out against them by the Government-backed Nigerian Alpha Jet.  Accordingly, it was not entirely unexpected when Sankoh ordered the creation of hundreds of 'zoo-bushes'170 in the forest in Eastern Kailahun in order to provide new forms of shelter for the RUF movement.

395. Sankoh had always counselled his troops that real commandos had to live in 'zoo-bushes'; but during the period when the Kailahun District had been relatively welcoming (and comfortable) for the insurgents, they had almost all preferred to stay in the towns, replete as they were with the comforts of life in a civilian settlement, such as housing, food and cooking equipment, produce on sale and medical supplies.

396. In particular, though, the RUF addressed itself to the need for some form of territorial stronghold that would not be so susceptible to frontal attack by pro-Government forces.  In resolving that issue and devising an entirely new modus operandi for the advancement of its armed struggle, the RUF set the conflict off on a fundamentally changed course, attendant with revised strategic objectives and varied patterns of violations and abuses carried out by all warring factions.  This heralded Phase Two of the conflict.

Declaration of a cease-fire

397. By the end of 1993 believing that the war had been won, the Head of State, Captain Valentine Strasser declared a cease-fire in the war. The Commission acknowledges the gesture that Strasser made, for it did seem to be a positive step towards reconciliation and a break from the confrontation of the warfront.

398. Nevertheless, Sierra Leoneans have come to regard the offer by Strasser as something of a strategic blunder, whereby the military had a clear advantage over the RUF troops on the front and should have pursued the fight to its natural conclusion.

399. Speculation as to why in fact Strasser should have been moved to make such a mistake effectively divides itself along several fault lines: either he was compelled to do so by circumstances beyond his control; or he thought that he could gain some kind of international recognition as a peace-broker as well as a successful leader of the war effort. There was also speculation that he declared a cease-fire because of the alleged prior links between the NPRC and the RUF. The Commission believes that there was no relationship between the RUF and the NPRC. There was speculation that if the army had moved decisively against the RUF, there would have been a clamour by the public for the army to hand over power to civilians. In allowing the RUF a breather, the NPRC government was charged with wanting to perpetuate itself in office through justifying the need for a firm handling of the war effort.

400. Despite the cease-fire, the Government should have put in place measures to confine the RUF to the border areas and limit their scope for manoeuvre. The declaration of a cease-fire however was a strategic mistake that allowed the RUF the breathing space to reorganize and restock its ammunitions to be able to wage war against the government of Sierra Leone.




401. In the light of the dynamics of the end-phase of 'target' warfare described above, the transition into a new phase of 'guerrilla' warfare in late 1993 can be seen in the first place as a necessary measure for self-preservation on the part of the RUF.  While Foday Sankoh had remained defiant during his retreat on the Eastern Front, he was not oblivious to the somewhat fortunate circumstances that had conspired to save the RUF narrowly from an all-out defeat.171

402. Crucially Sankoh had been disabused of his notion that the unconventional fighting force of the RUF could match the Sierra Leone Army and its auxiliaries in a battle fought on conventional terms of engagement.  The survival, let alone the victory, of the RUF depended on the formulation of a new operational plan. There was therefore a military imperative for the RUF to become a 'guerrilla' movement.

403. The Commission notes the allusion to the motivations for a switch to guerrilla warfare as they were subsequently published in the RUF Handbook, Footpaths to Democracy.  While the story is presented in somewhat simplified terms in this document, it appears to be a relatively accurate reflection of the main events as they unfolded towards the end of 1993:

"Frankly we were beaten and were on the run but our pride and deep sense of calling would not let us face the disgrace of crossing into Liberia as refugees or prisoners of war.  We dispersed into smaller units, whatever remained of our fighting force.  The civilians were advised to abandon the towns and cities, which they did...  We now relied on light weapons and on our feet, brains and knowledge of the countryside.  We moved deeper into the comforting bosom of our mother Earth - the forest."172

404. The Commission also heard, however, that Sankoh had conceded that his hitherto continued insistence on the rhetoric of 'revolution' would only serve to create unwanted paradoxes in the minds of the civilian population.  The following perspective on Sankoh's thinking at the time came from one RUF commander who claims to have spoken regularly with his leader on points of strategy:

"The war went on to a certain period when Sankoh himself felt that his ideology was no longer holding; because if you say that you have come to fight for the people and then these people are being killed for their sheep and goats [and] their properties are being looted... [Then] people start running away from the 'revolution'...  By early 1994; that was when the RUF Phase Two operations started."173

405. Testimony suggested that Sankoh wanted to concentrate more of his energies on devising and directing the operations of the movement.  According to some of the RUF's commanders, Sankoh effectively wanted to "centralise" his leadership in order to assert a tighter grip on the direction of the movement as a whole and the conduct of his field commanders in particular.

406. In terms of 'centralisation', it is also pertinent to note that the transition to guerrilla warfare coincided with the re-convergence of the combatants from the separated Eastern and Southern Fronts.  The dynamics of the transition are therefore inseparable from the objective, described below, of attaining a wider coverage for the RUF.

407. The 'reunification' itself was effected somewhat unexpectedly through the appearance of an entire unit of commandos from the Southern Front at Pendembu, on the Eastern Front, in early 1994.  According to RUF members on the Eastern Front, this contingent comprised 21 men upon arrival and was led by the Pujehun-based commanders Augustine Koroma and CO 'Manawa'.  This account is remarkable because the RUF commandos arrived wearing full SLA uniforms and claimed to have marched in formation through parts of the Pujehun, Kenema and Kailahun Districts without being identified as 'rebels'.

408. These commanders briefed Sankoh on the activities of the Southern Front and its relatively depleted nature.  After the initial offensives of the guerrilla warfare phase had then succeeded, upon which a permanent base was established, messengers were despatched back to Pujehun in order to summon the remaining members of the RUF's Southern Front from their various positions around the District; many of them were in makeshift lodgings around the banks of the Moa River.

409. The Commission heard that Sankoh received the main contingent of commanders from the Southern Front with apparent surprise and words of apology for having lost touch.  Many among this contingent were subsequently given 'refresher' training in order to integrate them fully into RUF operations for Phase II.

410. In addition to bolstering the RUF's capacity on account of the added, or rather rediscovered, manpower, the appearance of the combatants from the Southern Front emphasised to Sankoh the importance of efficient communications to the success of the movement.  Throughout the period from 1991 to 1993, the only medium through which the main executive body of the RUF in Kailahun had received word of the activities of its counterparts in the South was that of international radio broadcasts.  Reports of significant battles in which the SLA or ULIMO had succumbed to or overcome 'rebel forces' would give the two fronts an indication of the approximate geographical spread of one another's 'targets', whereas no news for a period of several weeks or months would be interpreted as a sign of setback, misfortune or defeat.

411. In the absence of any news of territorial gain from either South or East in 1993, the RUF on both Fronts had fought under the illusion that their defensive efforts were the last embers of the struggle and that they were the only prospects of keeping the 'revolution' alive.  It was only after they re-established contact in 1994 that the members of the two original RUF Battalions gained any accurate impression of the successes and failures of their respective contingents.

412. Foday Sankoh vowed never again to allow such a cleavage to develop between the wings of his military operations.  He had received specialist training in signalling during his time in the Sierra Leone Army and declared himself eager to put his expertise to use to avert further instances of disconnection.

Operations and Tactics of the RUF 'Guerrilla' Warfare

413. The RUF's Footpaths to Democracy included its own statement on Phase II operations that portrayed its fighting forces as a revolutionary force:

"What is clear is that the patriotic and democratically-minded Africans of Sierra Leone are waging a successful guerrilla warfare using their feet and brains, footpaths and by-passes to surprise, disarm and totally disorganise the offensive operations of the rebel NPRC."174

414. The Commission heard the contention from several former RUF commandos that the tactics of guerrilla warfare were as much in the mind as in the practical implementation.  One RUF commander who served as an 'Intelligence Officer' during Phase II gave a lengthy narration of his experiences of how guerrilla tactics assisted the RUF in carrying out its operations to attack key defensive positions of the Sierra Leone Army.  A portion of his testimony, which is typical of the modus operandi of RUF guerrilla warfare in the Commission's view, is included below:

"Ambush was one of our tactics; 'recce' was one of our tactics; intelligence was one of our tactics; braveness was one of our tactics; and accurate information was one of our tactics as well...

[...] As an example, when we were preparing to attack Koidu, Kono, with all the forces that were there, we used to send 'reccie' teams sometimes four, five, six times a day.  They would spend the whole day with the enemy in the township, then in the night, they carried their feedback back to us: their locations; location of their armoured tanks; how many armoured tank carriers; the manpower situation; location of civilians - all this information was given to us.

[...] Then we ourselves set up one of our strategic fighting forces; the plan was that at night, we would put up night attacks - 'combat at night'.  That operation used to comprise only two to three men, who would only come into Koidu, or to enemy positions, just open two or three rounds of rapid firing and then leave the town.  For that whole night the enemies would be firing - some of them would even be killing themselves.  This was showing that there was prejudice all over.  So we made the whole Koidu Township so fearful even for the enemy combatants until they all packed themselves into one location.  So what we did as guerrillas, we left them in Koidu here and went behind as offensive ambush towards Makeni.  We laid the ambush and the ambush was effective up to a month without these people in Koidu here taking any notice at all.

[...] We arranged our ambush into three categories: we had our 'Iron Gate'; we had our middle team; and we had our front team.  So whenever any force left from Koidu towards Makeni, the 'Iron Gate' towards Koidu would never open fire; the middle team would never open fire; the last team will only give them an 'air firing'.  Then, the back team, as the 'Iron Gate' from the back, replies with fire; and then the rest are in the middle of the ambush.  So just tell me [how it feels], in the seven mile distance of all that; you cannot do any fighting, you are weakened totally because all of you are travelling in a big panic.  So you have no option but to give yourselves up; these were the ways we used to capture these people."175

415. In essence then, the first notable difference in tactics during the guerrilla warfare phase lay in the RUF's mode of engagement with the Sierra Leone Army.  The RUF deliberately moved away from head-to-head confrontations with Government troops and tried instead to enfeeble them by surrounding them, separating them and terrorising them.

416. In its military operations just as in its attacks on civilian communities, the RUF effectively went underground: it sought to become less visible, less predictable, less consistent and less distinguishable in everything that it did.  As a consequence it became infinitely more difficult to fight against and drove SLA military officers lacking in ingenuity into contriving a variety of irrational responses. The war had indeed changed. It was no longer between armed groups confronting each other in battle fields. The civilian population began to bear the brunt of the war.

417. The Commission database recorded more instances in which the RUF alone attacked civilian settlements in Phase II than in either the earlier or later stages of the conflict.  However, in comparison with the Phase I tactics of direct and transparent entry into towns and villages, the mode of attack used in Phase II seemed to invoke stark contrasts; sometimes even polar opposites.

418. Whereas, for instance, there had been an audacious policy of forewarning a town or village of an RUF advance in the early months of the war, there was now an unerring uncertainty in the timing and location of attacks.  Combatants would sometimes quite literally lie in wait for periods of several days, observing the conditions at the site of proposed attack and assessing the attendant dangers and likely modalities of different types of operations.

419. A common objective was to ascertain the movements and destinations of military and civilian convoys, usually by means of sustained surveillance from hidden watch posts in the jungle next to key local thoroughfares and major cross-Regional highways.  The Commission heard that such 'stake-outs' could often last for up to a week, demanding rigorous levels of physical endurance that were instilled into RUF combatants through their concentrated commando training.

420. When the scope and nature of a particular attack was determined, the key to its success would then rely upon achieving an element of surprise.  In attacking a civilian settlement, for instance, the commandos would invariably strike at dawn or at another moment when the inhabitants of the chosen location were least expecting it.  In their fright and alarm, the inhabitants would most often attempt to flee into the nearby bush, imagining that the attack would take over their town or village and subject them to the prolonged abuses of occupation associated with previous years.

421. However, the response of flight, which spared so many civilian lives in Phase I, was often cruelly scuppered in the guerrilla warfare phase due to the setting of 'traps' with clinical efficiency along the same bush paths and by-passes to which civilians would normally bolt in search of an escape route.  Accordingly, at the very point when they tried to run away, civilians became most vulnerable to capture and abduction.

The Strategic Objectives and Consequences of RUF 'Guerrilla' Warfare

422. One of the strategic objectives of the RUF was the crippling of commercial and industrial activities. The short term consequence of this was that it destroyed the revenue base of the government. In the long term however, it was to make reconstruction more difficult for the country. The strategy at the heart of RUF guerrilla warfare was therefore one of incremental territorial expansion and ever-increasing material and psychological yields.  In each operational area, the RUF commandos deployed at the front were instructed to build up gradually from small-scale attacks, limited in scope, to larger strikes intended to have national or international impact by sabotaging the Government's primary military or economic interests and robbing civilians of any chance of a life free of fear and human rights abuse.

423. In contrast to the activities of Phase I, the RUF did not seek to 'seal off' large areas of territory in the form of 'targets', or to co-opt civilian administration in towns and communities in the name of the 'revolution'.  Instead the movement set out to infiltrate deep into Government-held territory, operating across a far broader geographical area than the original armed incursion had been able to reach.  This differed from the 'target' approach of Phase I in the sense that territorial control was secondary to nationwide coverage, however thinly spread.  The aim was not occupation but penetration; the objective was not to take control, but to carry out raids, ambushes and arbitrary violations and abuses to such a disturbing extent that nobody would be genuinely in control.

424. The RUF 'guerrilla' warfare deliberately sought to cause rampant confusion and destruction throughout the state of Sierra Leone, to the massive cost of the country's human and infrastructural development.  The RUF seemed to be driven in this pursuit by the belief that if it made the life of the people in the Provinces unbearable, it would render the Government devoid of alternatives but to engage in negotiations.  It therefore played upon what it perceived to be an uncomfortable relationship between the leaders of the NPRC military administration and their civilian subjects.

425. Hence as the call for democratic elections grew among certain constituencies, the RUF then opposed these constituencies directly and declared that what the country needed before elections was 'peace'.  In a harbinger of what was to come in Phase III of the conflict, this strategy was one which was dressed up as striving for peace, whilst actually struggling for power.

426. Another vital component of the RUF approach entailed the crippling of commercial industrial sites that were seen to be contributing revenue to the Government's war effort.  In 1995, the two highest-profile and highest-earning mineral mining companies in the country, Sierra Rutile and SIEROMCO, were subjected to ravaging assaults by the RUF that would lead to their enforced closure for the remainder of the conflict.  Several smaller minerals concerns, including gold and diamond prospectors, miners, dealers and buying houses, were similarly put out of action by attacks that overran and destroyed their premises.

427. The RUF admitted to having accrued some resources from these attacks, especially in the form of looted vehicles, telecommunications equipment, food and fuel, but the loss on the part of the proprietors and by extraction the state was always exponentially higher than the gains made by the RUF.

428. A corollary objective of the RUF was to attract international publicity for its armed struggle.  Publicity in this regard should not be confused with positive recognition, though, for popularity per se was out of the question by this stage in the conflict.  The RUF had invoked derision and alienation from the Sierra Leonean population in Phase I, wherein the astounding qualification was that the international community had been conspicuous by its lack of outspoken condemnation for the insurgency.  The RUF guerrilla warfare in Phase II aroused the moral consciousness of the world and forced it to take notice of the violations and abuses that were being perpetrated against the civilian population.

429. Foday Sankoh thought that he could manipulate the international media and, when the time came, the foreign peace-brokers who got involved.  Thus Phase II would for the first time carry the dynamics of the conflict outside the territories of Sierra Leone and Liberia, most notably to Abidjan in the Ivory Coast for a series of negotiations between the parties.  The responses of the incumbent national Government of Sierra Leone as well as those of the leaders of interested external actors would then go a long way in determining whether the RUF would opt for peace or perpetuation.

430. Finally, but most significantly in the Commission's view, the RUF was intent on undermining the general physical security of the state and its inhabitants, primarily by casting the institution of the Army as a pariah in the eyes of the civilian population.  The RUF deliberately carried out 'false flag' operations, dressing in the full camouflage uniforms and other insignia of the SLA and often adopting troop formations or positions of deployment that were used by the SLA.  In these instances, the RUF commandos not only violated the laws of war pertaining to combatant identification, but also systematically flouted human rights and humanitarian law norms in their acts of targeting civilian areas, destroying and plundering properties and carrying out mass killings.

431. To reflect on such a tactic of malicious deception is to say nothing at this juncture about the conduct of the 'real' soldiers, for this will be drawn out in more detail in the ensuing analysis.  What requires to be stated here is that the RUF intentionally spread confusion and terror among the civilian population, while doing their utmost to impute responsibility for their attacks to the Sierra Leone Army.  In a conflict of this nature it has continually proved staggeringly difficult to decipher any clarity between the blurred lines of perpetrator responsibility, but this dilemma was to prove particularly acute in Phase II.

Designing and Operationalising RUF Guerrilla Warfare

432. Just as the Sierra Leonean RUF vanguards and junior commandos testified that collectively they had fought for the ownership of the movement when they attacked the NPFL during 'Top Final', so the Commission heard that Foday Sankoh asserted his claim for more stringent control  and became a far less tolerant and all-embracing leader as Phase II operations commenced.

433. According to some of those who were close to him, Sankoh had developed a heightened sense of paranoia about plots to undermine and ultimately assassinate him.  He assumed the sole prerogative for strategic thinking in the RUF and sought assistance only from his closest administrative allies and his most dependable ground commanders in designing and operationalising his strategies.

434. Accordingly, the operational plan for guerrilla warfare had been conceived by Foday Sankoh himself and was drawn up at Sankoh's behest by the RUF's 'G-1' commander in the administrative cadre, Moigande Moigboi Kosia.  Kosia had been appointed 'G-1', with responsibility for recruitment and training policies, at the time of Sankoh's first visit to the town of Pendembu, Kailahun District, on 29 April 1991.  The two men knew one another well from their days together as junior officers in the Sierra Leone Army of the 1960s.

435. Kosia testified to the Commission that he was one of very few members of the RUF with a military pedigree and ingrained professional ethics.  He claimed that his own personal approach in the RUF was one based on disengagement and deftness, trying to exert some degree of influence on the activities of the movement without incurring the wrath of his younger colleagues, whose objectives were essentially geared towards achieving power at all costs and impunity for the acts committed in its pursuit.  In turn, he appears to have been considered as something of a perfunctory figure in the eyes of many of the RUF's combatant commanders.

436. Sankoh nevertheless identified Kosia as a trustworthy and efficient strategist who, by his own admission, thrived on the paperwork of war.  At around the same time that the RUF was pushed right back to the Liberian border, in November 1993, Sankoh requested Kosia to draw up the blueprint for a comprehensive RUF guerrilla training programme and a means of implementing a system of jungle warfare.  This blueprint provided the basis for the main thrust of the RUF's operations between 1994 and 1996; in recognition of his contribution to the design of the strategy, Kosia earned the RUF sobriquet of 'The Jungle Wizard'.

437. On the question of putting Kosia's plans into practice, the Commission heard a series of testimonies that pointed to the RUF's most senior battlefront commanders as the key purveyors of guerrilla warfare.  Foremost among them was the RUF's sole surviving Battle Group Commander and the last of the Libyan-trained Sierra Leoneans to fight for the RUF, Mohamed Tarawallie (alias "Zino" or "CO Mohamed"), who by 1994 was the only Lieutenant Colonel in the movement.  He carved a niche for himself as the commander in charge of 'expanding' the RUF's areas of operations and leading attacks on Government installations of perceived strategic importance.

438. Tarawallie was answerable directly to Foday Sankoh and in the Commission's view bears a larger share of responsibility than any other single combatant for the spread of RUF attacks into the Northern Province of Sierra Leone from 1994 onwards.  The Commission's database recorded multiple violations and abuses that were directly attributed to Tarawallie under one or more of his various nommes de guerre, including "Zino" and "CO Mohamed".

439. The Commission furthermore regards Tarawallie as a central instigator of the considerable mayhem and bitter mutual distrust that grew out of the RUF's 'false flag' operations; he was cited by a string of fellow RUF combatants in their testimony to the Commission as the main and most frequent perpetrator of attacks in which the whole troop under his command wore full SLA uniforms.

440. Phase II was also the period in which one of the RUF's most notorious future military leaders, Sam Bockarie (alias "Mosquito"), rose to prominence as both a Battlefield Commander of lethal prowess and a deviant unknown quality who would frequently disobey orders and commit human rights abuses with total abandon.  Bockarie was in some quarters considered to be a henchman for Foday Sankoh; explicit in the testimony of at least two fellow vanguards was the suggestion that when Sankoh wanted somebody to carry out his "dirty work" he would look to Mosquito.

441. The Commission further heard that Mosquito was for a time tasked with responsibilities to oversee the jungle bases of the Southern Province, which included the training position in the town of Mattru Jong, Bonthe District.  It was from this posting that he was recalled by Foday Sankoh to The Zogoda and investigated on allegations of summary killings, although the Internal Defence Unit (IDU) of the RUF did not take any stern punishment against him.

442. The third noteworthy commander among the RUF's guerrilla warfare cadre was the vanguard Dennis Mingo (alias "Superman").  In testimony given to the Commission, Mingo was blamed for a multiplicity of violations and abuses in Phase II, many of them abduction-related crimes against children, including forced recruitment and forced drugging.  It was Mingo who, in conjunction with Mohamed Tarawallie, came closest to attacking the city of Freetown in 1995; he had participated in the battle to open a Western flank of RUF military operations, which included establishing a Western Jungle base and inflicting a host of attacks on the previously unaffected Districts of the North-West of Sierra Leone.

443. According to an RUF signaller who monitored most of the radio communications among commanders between 1994 and 1996, Mingo and Tarawallie went so far as to announce a plan to advance to Freetown in 1995 but were ordered by Sankoh to refrain on the grounds that "the RUF was not going to attack the city.  The Leader told the men that 'the RUF would enter Freetown without a single shot'.  And that is exactly what happened."176

444. Thus, the Commission received testimony that the success of guerrilla operations was contingent not upon a rush to the capital city, or indeed the overthrow of any major towns in the Provinces like the District Headquarter Towns, but on gradual strengthening of the RUF's attacking capabilities through one successful raid or ambush after another.

445. The first offensive of the second phase was planned by Foday Sankoh in the company of almost all his senior combatants, including the above-named guerrilla commanders, from their starting point in the defensive zoo-bush177 in Giema, Kailahun District at the end of 1993. It took the form of an ambush on the SLA position at Gborworbu, spearheaded by Dennis Mingo (alias "Superman") and Sam Bockarie (alias "Mosquito").  The Commission heard that due to the dearth of weaponry and logistics faced by the RUF at this time, the attack was carried out by a troop of guerrillas moving through the bush on foot, wielding fewer than ten machine guns and a single Rocket-Propelled Grenade launcher (RPG).

446. The RUF used a variety of simple but effective tactics to create a sense of pandemonium among the unsuspecting occupants of the targeted position, including shouting "war cries in hundreds of voices at the same time" and throwing a barrage of stones incessantly onto the corrugated iron roofs of the soldiers' dwellings.  Upon gaining sight of a suitable target, the RPG was then launched and backed up by sparing, sporadic firing from different angles.  Both RUF commandos and their various warfront adversaries attested that such tactics had the effect of convincing soldiers, many of whom were young and panic-stricken, that they were under siege from an enormous and well-armed force.  Consequently they would abandon their posts as they did in Gborworbu and leave their bases, including arms stores, at the mercy of the RUF.

447. The modest yield of the Gborworbu attack was registered as follows in the Giema base files: eight 'rocket-sticks' for a Rocket-Propelled Grenade launcher (RPG); one 'sardine tin' of ammunition rounds for a German-Three (G-3) machine gun; and two boxes of ammunition rounds for automatic AK-47 rifles.178  The significance of this haul obtains not ostensibly from its magnitude, but from the fact that its capture emboldened the ranks to undertake larger raids on other SLA positions in the District.  Thus the real turning point in terms of boosting morale and acquiring materials was the next attack, which struck the town of Giehun.

448. Giehun sits between two bridges approximately halfway between Pendembu and Kailahun Town on the main access road.  Just outside the town on either side are a number of classic ambush points, where attackers concealed in roadside foliage can sabotage vehicles passing into or out of the town.  In early 1994, the NPRC Government was attempting to consolidate its grip on the Eastern border areas by transporting plentiful supplies of arms and ammunition to fortify its military positions close to Liberia.179

449. A convoy of at least seven vehicles was making its way North from Pendembu to Kailahun when it first fell into the RUF ambush at a point short of Giehun; armed men sprung onto the road and laid siege to the military vehicles, inducing an immediate and powerful response from the SLA's 'war-tank'.180  While the first attack was repelled, it appears to have shocked and disrupted the convoy, causing some of the vehicles, carrying manpower reinforcements, to head back to Pendembu while others, carrying a wealth of military provisions, pressed on towards Giehun.

450. Demonstrating another of the tactics that came to characterise its guerrilla operations, the RUF garnered 'reconnaissance'181 and assessed the remnants of the convoy in Giehun Town to be ripe for attack.  It then launched an unexpected assault on buildings and vehicles in the town and flushed the soldiers out of Giehun.

451. The Commission heard that the RUF stayed in the town for two days and plundered all available military supplies before succumbing to a counter-attack by the soldiers and retreating into the bush.  Sam Bockarie registered a list of captured materials from the Giehun attack that was to prove of inestimable significance: 185 brand new 'TD' weapons; 150 boxes of ammunition rounds for automatic AK-47 rifles; 18 boxes of 'rocket-sticks' for RPGs; and, of special note, one-and-a-half bales of SLA military uniforms.182  In one fell swoop this attack re-equipped the RUF and allowed it to operationalise its guerrilla army.

452. The weaponry and the uniforms acquired from Giehun were the main materials used by the RUF in its operations to dislodge SLA positions in Kailahun District and parts of Kenema and Bo Districts in 1994.  The RUF was able to recapture both Buedu and Kailahun Town from the SLA and establish training and administrative bases there as part of its stranglehold on most of the District.  Beyond Kailahun, the materials were also put to use in the 'clearance' operations that were an important prerequisite for the RUF's establishment of jungle bases in other parts of the country.

453. The RUF continued to attack SLA convoys as a means of acquiring weapons and other resources. The major inter city highways became death traps for both civilian and soldier alike. What has been dubbed the mother of all ambushes took place on Wednesday 2 August on the Freetown-Bo highway at the notorious stretch between Magbosi and Mile 91. The attack took place near Mile 77 on a convoy that was progressing towards the provinces. The convoy came under a salvo of bullets and RPG gunfire. Nearly 70 out of a total of 75 vehicles, mainly trailers and trucks - laden with precious relief supplies for the provincial cities of Bo and Kenema, were destroyed. Government claims that 15 people were killed was contested by other reports. The realistic number was put at between 80 and 100 people. Scores of people were wounded and taken to hospitals in Freetown. Many of those who escaped to the bushes were feared to have perished in their search for sanctuary. Described as the worst throughout the civil war, this incident was preventable but it seemed the authorities were given the wrong signals. There were calls for an immediate investigation. The government announced the setting up of an inquiry because of the widespread belief that the ambush could only have taken place with the collusion and connivance of elements in the army who had an eye on the goods on the vehicles. For example, it was alleged that despite the protestations of the men of Executive Outcomes, that it was not safe for the convoy to travel up country at that material time, they were nonetheless overruled by senior officers and the convoy was allowed to proceed."183

454. An RUF combatant who participated in the Magbosi Hill attack described it to the Commission:

"As we were pulling out, we saw a truck and they said we were going to Magbosi. I was told that I should capture that village in order to get my height in the jungle. There was a Lt. Jongopie and others who wanted to know me. By then I was a small boy and everybody wanted to know me. We were then in control of Magbosie right unto Okra Hill; we made a short cut from Magbosie to Okra Hill. Magbosie was called Foday Sankoh's Garage; there were a lot of cars there. We were there for a long time; people did not realize what we were doing; but in 91 area, the Temne area, they knew that rebels were there. We decided to find women; we laid ambushes for vehicles. Lungi and the surrounding villages were my area; when you approach the town from the direction of Bo, the first storey building was my office. I captured five SLA soldiers. I am not denying that I kill or burn houses, but to say that I killed an innocent man, I did not. Instead, if you asked me not to kill you, I would ask you to join the revolution."184

455. From the totality of the evidence before it, the Commission concludes that the two tactical pillars on which the RUF guerrilla campaign was built were ambushes and 'hit and run attacks'.  Both types of operations seem to have depended on vigilance in advance and 'courage' in the heat of the moment, two of the attributes that were brutally instilled into junior commandos on their training bases through the forced ingestion of stimulants during preparation and through the frequent administering of punishments for any outward displays of cowardice. 

456. In the recurring accounts of 'hit and run' attacks about which the Commission received testimonies, violations and abuses appeared to follow two principle sub-patterns within the operation.  First, the 'hit' intended, in its conception at least, to entail a targeted assault on an installation of military or strategic importance.  The targeting, however, became gradually less discriminate as the guerrilla campaign broadened and it transpired to inflict gross human rights violations on numerous civilian communities.  Violations typically included killings on sight, detentions of civilians (often en masse in cramped conditions), beatings of captives and incidents of rape and gang rape.

457. The 'run' then took the form of either a retreat in the face of counter-attack or a return to the relative safety of a nearby bush base.  In the process, new 'members' were habitually and unwillingly taken from their communities, tortured and forced into carrying loads.  The clear demographic preponderance among abductees was young boys deemed suitable for conversion into combatants and young girls who were subjected to rape and sexual violence violations and abuses. Violations of forced recruitment and sexual slavery increased substantially during Phase II as both were more typically perpetrated in the jungle environment.


458. Jungle bases provided the RUF with a form of territorial stronghold that would not be susceptible to frontal attack by pro-Government forces.  Often growing our of a secluded settlement in the bush where rural peasantry had established a clearing, a well or a small plantation, each of these sites was built up to accommodate potentially hundreds of commandos for training purposes and for the launch and return of attacking forces under the cover of the forest.  Typically, the RUF would seek to situate a base in a mountainous area, which the Commission was told would allow for the placement of different 'combat units' at various heights on the mountainside; the group in the foothills would then be responsible for attacks on surrounding villages and ambushes on passing highways.185

459. Within the first year of guerrilla operations, the number of jungle bases had mushroomed to such an extent that the RUF boasted a fully-fledged network of 'strongholds' and safe havens across the country, which would become the main locations for training, harbouring and indoctrinating their new recruits as well as for planning and co-ordinating their operations.

460. Typically, advance teams of reconnaissance officers and commanders, where possible with an appropriate 'local knowledge', were despatched on missions to identify and 'clear' an appropriate area of the bush for conversion into an RUF jungle base.  The Commission heard that the first such mission was commanded and undertaken by Foday Sankoh himself in the company of troops under Sam Bockarie (alias "Mosquito") .  Their express intention and indeed result was to carve out a symbolic first base in the heart of the Eastern Province.

Jungle Bases in the Eastern Province

461. Thus the Headquarters of the RUF from February 1994 until October 1996 would become The Zogoda, an encampment of makeshift buildings and storage huts nestled in the forest atop a ridge in the Kambui Hills of the Kenema District.  From the point the territory was originally claimed by Sankoh and Mosquito, this camp was characterised and also protected by its difficulty to access: from the nearest road, which runs south from Blama Junction and passes through the town of Gbandawo, it required a trek of more than seven miles over rugged footpaths, all of them uphill.

462. Moreover, Gbandawo itself was the location for a defensive base, marshalled by the vanguard commando Augustine Koroma.  A further base at Jui Koya, referred to as 'Camp Lion' and occupied by a variety of training instructors under the supervision of Gibril Massaquoi, provided a further screen in the nearby bush.

463. Foday Sankoh was regularly, if not almost permanently, stationed at The Zogoda for approximately two years.  The camp was intended to be the 'Control Centre' of the RUF, its hub of communications from which Sankoh would despatch messages and instructions to his field commanders over signalling equipment and other radio gadgetry that had been appropriated in ambushes from the Sierra Leone Army.

464. The base also played host to meetings, both collective and individual, between Sankoh and his senior commanders, in which reports from the front were presented to the Leader.  There was at least one regular meeting of the High Command, commonly called 'The Forum', at which members of the RUF's War Council, chaired by S. Y. B. Rogers, would discuss and decide upon elements of structural or political strategy.  Sankoh retained autonomy over combat operations in his capacity as the RUF's Commander-in-Chief.

465. Testimonies indicated that a summons to report to The Zogoda was often a disciplinary measure through which Sankoh planned to admonish combatants who had been involved in alleged misconduct.  On other occasions all officers of a particular rank or from a particular operational area would be called to the base for purposes of reassignment, re-training or the issuance of specific orders relating to an imminent military operation.

466. The Commission heard that it was often directly upon returning from such meetings to their various smaller bases in other parts of the country that commanders would unleash new campaigns of abuse or implement changes to their training activities on a particular base.  It was reported to the Commission that every RUF operation of any scale or significance in the period between 1994 and 1996 was orchestrated from, carried out with the full cognisance of, or at the very least reported to the High Command at The Zogoda.  The RUF command structure was in this sense intended to be centralised under the sole authority of Foday Sankoh.  Nevertheless, his authority was often undermined by the failure to punish or otherwise discipline commanders in the field who carried out operations without his express instruction.186

467. For a number of reasons the Eastern Province encompassed the jungle territories which the personnel of the RUF movement were most familiar.  The overwhelming majority of junior commandos who were enlisted in the years between 1991 and 1993 were indigenes of the Kailahun and Kono Districts; this group also formed the numerical majority in the RUF by the commencement of guerrilla operations.  Meanwhile the vanguards had grown to know the terrain intimately during their fighting on the Eastern Front; several Sierra Leoneans testified that having lived in Liberia for many years before the outbreak of the war, they were better acquainted with Kailahun District than with their own places of origin in other parts of the country.187

468. Accordingly, in addition to The Zogoda, other vital strategic bases were positioned in the East and assigned to senior members of the High Command.  First, in the Kenema District, Sam Bockarie (alias "Mosquito") was responsible for the so-called Cuba Base situated near the mining town of Peyama in the more northerly ridges of the Kambui Hills.  Mosquito was not often present on the base in person, but was reported during one of his visits to have brought in 'juju men' and a 'doctor' from Liberia who injected drugs and administered herbal medicines to each of the forced recruits on the basis that it would 'boost their morale'.  On one rare occasion when he conducted a training session at Cuba Base, Mosquito was said to have been particularly merciless, executing three child combatants for their failure to run fast enough.188

469. Second, in the Kailahun District, the Battle Field Commander Issa Sesay assumed leadership of what was popularly called Camp Burkina or Burkina Faso.  Sesay's communications were set up in the town of Geima, Luawa Chiefdom, which was the effective home of the RUF's Second Battalion.  However this base covered a greater expanse of territory than the other control areas and accordingly was known by some commanders simply as Kailahun Jungle.  In many ways Sesay was bestowed control of the 'target' areas on the Eastern Front that had been 'behind rebel lines' for most of the first three years of the conflict.

470. Third, in the Kono District, the 'Vanguard Commander' Morris Kallon (alias Birlai Karim) held the Kono Jungle, which was alleged to be in Kono along the main road from Kailahun to Koidu Town but was actually closer to Kenema.

471. Additionally in the East, the Commission heard reports of bases whose exact locations was not clear.  The first of these was the Kenema By-pass Jungle, which appears to have been a stopping point on the bush route used to move between Kenema and Kailahun; it was headed by an RUF commander named 'Mohamed Small Voice'.  Additionally a base was created on the banks of the Moa River and referred to as Across Moa Jungle.  Several RUF combatants recollected that the troop at this location was led by the former Small Boys' Unit (SBU) commander Sheriff Parker (alias "Base Marine"), although Parker himself did not allude to such a position in his testimony to the Commission.189

Jungle Bases in the Northern Province

472. The RUF second-in-command Mohamed Tarawallie was assigned to take command of the 'Northern Jungle', which in reality comprised a sub-network of disparate individual bases spread over several Districts.  The most strategic cluster of camps was Kangari Hills, positioned in the vicinity of the village of Kpetima, Tonkolili District in a remote gold-mining creek called Nakwata.  The creek is reportedly so hilly and treacherous that even second- and third-time visitors experienced difficulty locating the camps there.

473. In addition, the Northern Province hosted the RUF base commonly referred to as Malal Hills, located near Mabang, Tonkolili District on the thickly-forested Ropulun Hill.  According to information in the possession of the NPRC Government, it was commanded by an RUF commando nicknamed 'First Blood'.190 There was another jungle base known as Mantumbi in Matoloka.

474. A third strategic base-point in the North was in Makundu Hills, Bombali District, within ten miles of the Northern Headquarter Town of Makeni.  According to the RUF's administrative head of recruitment and training, Moigboi Moigande Kosia, this axis was opened by troops under the command of Dennis Mingo (alias "Superman").191  It encompassed the RUF training base referred to as Camp Charlie.

475. The Commission heard testimony from a variety of abductees, predominantly children, who were taken to Camp Charlie under the purview of training commanders such as Rashid Sandi and Monica Pearson.  Within these accounts the Commission registered a litany of violations carried out by the commanders on this base, including forced recruitment, torturous training exercises, deployment of children into attacks on civilian areas and systematic forced drugging.

476. Among all the RUF training bases where violations against children were perpetrated, the site of Camp Charlie must be highlighted as the scene of particularly abhorrent conduct by its commanders.

Jungle Base in the Western Area

477. The coverage of the RUF guerrilla campaign by 1995 was such that even a Western Jungle, located around Fogbo on the axis approaching the capital city of Freetown, was established and maintained for a period of up to one year.  It was held and supervised by Dennis Mingo (alias "Superman"). In 1995, Dennis Mingo had wanted to use the base as a springboard from which to launch a series of full-scale attacks including a proposed attack on Freetown with support from troops led by Mohamed Tarawallie.  However, due to Sankoh's veto on that occasion and due to the concentration of military strength in Freetown around the NPRC Government, the Western Area was the part of the country least affected by guerrilla attacks.

Jungle Bases in the Southern Province

478. As described in the foregoing analysis, several cadres of RUF fighters in Pujehun District, as well as in limited areas of Kenema and Bo Districts, had been deploying unconventional tactics of warfare while their compatriots in the East were still engaged in conventional 'target' warfare.  Thus there existed de facto jungle bases in the Southern Province well before Sankoh conceived his guerrilla strategy.  The question was not so much one of establishing new areas of control, but of identifying the most viable areas that were formerly in use and incorporating them into the national network.

479. The former First Battalion base on the outskirts of Pujehun Town assumed a similar significance in the South to that of its Second Battalion counterpart in Kailahun in the East: it afforded a sense of continuity to the movement by launching new operations from old ground.  The Commission heard some of its trainees refer to the base as Camp Libya, while it was apparently known more widely simply as Pujehun Jungle.  At the start of Phase II operations, Gibril Massaquoi held commandership of the First Battalion but was subsequently reassigned to front-line duties alongside Mohamed Tarawallie and did not command the base.  Instead it was led predominantly by another Southerner, Michael Rogers (alias Bordal), who also commanded the base known as the Rutile Jungle, Bonthe District.

480. During 1993 the RUF in the South had also established the Koribondo Jungle, which sat on the banks of the Waaje River close to the town of Bandajuma, Bo District.  This position derived much of its strategic importance from its proximity to the SLA garrison at Koribondo itself, which was the subject of intense inter-factional fighting for much of the third phase of the conflict.  The nearest base to the Southern Headquarter town of Bo was the so-called Njala Jungle, from which important covert attacks on the SLA units deployed around Bo were frequently launched.

481. Finally, the town of Mattru Jong, Bonthe District, became an important training base for RUF officers in the Internal Defence Unit (IDU).  The former 'G-2' commander Patrick Beinda led a training programme for several batches of recruits there , while prominent vanguards including Augustine Koroma, Sam Bockarie and Morris Kallon each served a stint in the town in order to co-ordinate the activities of the RUF in the Bonthe District as a whole.  The Commission heard that the RUF commanders and combatants based in the Bonthe District underwent numerous disciplinary investigations between 1994 and 1995, particularly with regard to their perceived raggedness in the aftermath of the attack on Sierra Rutile in early 1995.192


482. In Pujehun District, the fighters who were affiliated to the RUF in Phase I had always subscribed had a very limited local objective to their participation in the conflict.  While the vanguards and early batches of junior commandos were set on the propagation of 'Sankoh's revolution', the militiamen of the 'Action Group' styled themselves more as 'defenders of the people' against the pro-Government forces of the Army and ULIMO.  It was always likely to be a confusing dichotomy for the military properly to understand. In trying to decipher the blurred lines between civil defence and rebellion, the Army often got it wrong and ended up targeting innocent civilians.  Local people started to see the soldiers as the most likely abusers of their human rights, whereas the various squads of local militiamen fighting under the umbrella of the RUF were, conversely, a source of protection.

"The information that we got was that most of those who mobilised as Kamajors were either once with RUF as members or they were civilians who were behind the RUF."193

483. Their gripe was that the RUF had caused too much havoc off their own backs and had not done enough to defend the people against other attackers; they thought that they could do better under an alternative strategy embodied by the CDF, whereby the objective would be advancement of a concept of civil defence, rather than an ideology for improved or reformed governance in the country.  Accordingly, almost the entire 4th Battalion of the RUF relocated to Liberia and left it in the hands of the local militias.

484. Obviously this somewhat disfigured face of the war in Pujehun can be traced back to the unfortunate events of 1982 and 1983, when the civilian uprising in Ndorgboryosoi was quelled by a heavy-handed response on the part of the Government troops and SSD.

485. There are good grounds on which to conclude that the Sierra Leone Army engaged in vindictive targeting of purported 'rebels' and 'collaborators' in the first two phases of the conflict, and that numerous violations of human rights also stemmed from their ragged and undisciplined deployment, compounded by massive fear, lack of training and an enemy whose war tactics were designed specifically to exploit such weaknesses. Many soldiers also saw the war as an opportunity for personal profit and engaged in reprehensible conduct such as the looting of property of civilians, and in extreme cases colluding with the RUF in planning attacks on communities.

486. In a sense, while there were grounds for mistrust of the army, it was manipulated out of proportion to what was existing on the ground.  There was certainly misbehaviour by elements within the army. There were also false flag operations carried out by the RUF which deepened the perception among the civilian populace that the army could no longer be trusted. Politicians had begun to manipulate the widespread discontent against the army for partisan political objectives: as a basis or pressuring the army to hand over power, since it was no longer capable of successfully prosecuting the war.  However, the army did little to clean up its image. The perceptions therefore lingered.

487. The failure of the army to protect the populace gave rise to an overwhelming desire among the people to institutionalise the existing civil militia as the only force that could protect the communities against attacks by the RUF. The RUF's 'false flag' tactic, necessarily kept secret from the public consciousness by its perpetrators, added fuel to the fire of the politicians' argument that the Army had reduced itself to a mode of behaviour that was no better than that of the 'rebels' - neatly encapsulated in the rubric of 'sobels'.  As the concept was readily absorbed by the civilians - who themselves witnessed and reported what they thought were attacks by soldiers in every corner of the country - the position of a Government spearheaded by soldiers became untenable. 

488. In turn, the politicians' shrewdness brought power at a high price.  In winning over the civilians on the ticket that soldiers were against them, the politicians conveyed a message to the soldiers that indeed they were the pariahs of the state. Since their best efforts would yield only derision, the soldiers took on the mantle that had been cast upon them and gradually transformed themselves into a deliberate enemy of 'democracy'.  Simultaneously but particularly subsequent to this transformation, the politicians, now bedding themselves into Government, were left with no option but to create an additional arm to the state security apparatus that would supplant and compensate for the Army. 


489. In the space of little over one year, the whole context of the conflict in Sierra Leone changed for its civilian population.  In November 1993, every civilian settlement in the country had been purged of RUF presence.  The insurgents were living in the bush, largely devoid of weaponry and ammunition, cut off from their former supply route out of Liberia.  As described above, the Head of State, Captain Strasser, was subsequently moved to declare a cease-fire in what many had hoped would be end-phase of the conflict.

490. In contrast, by late January 1995, when the RUF attacked Kambia Town in the North, there was not a single District in the Provinces in which the RUF was not present.  The RUF's guerrilla attacks impacted on civilians in many ways, but their foremost effect was to make everyone feel vulnerable.

491. In times of crisis, according to the Constitution, the Sierra Leone Army has the duty to preserve the lives and property of the citizens of the state.  The inescapable impression reached by the majority of civilians was that the Army was failing in its task.  By any standards, the sheer breadth of geographical coverage achieved by the RUF represented a fundamental collapse in the state security apparatus.  Naturally, the civilians developed certain misgivings about the capacities of the soldiers on the ground to protect them.

492. RUF guerrilla attacks, as described above, were characterised by killings, abductions and systematic destruction of property.  In the wake of such an attack, it became commonplace for collective 'post-mortems' to be conducted in which soldiers and civilians would put forward their explanations as to why the defence of communities was so frequently breaking down.  A familiar pattern in these explanations emerged, just as it did in the testimonies received by the Commission: soldiers and civilians would narrate two different sides to the same story.

493. On the one hand, the Army would claim that it was powerless to prevent such attacks taking place on account of its 'institutional incapacities': its soldiers were inexperienced, poorly-trained, ill-equipped and unused to the type of fear that guerrilla tactics could induce.  They were forced to take flight in the face of overwhelming pressure and occasionally lost men or military materials to an ambush or assault that was impossible to withstand.  Military leaders would then declare that they were making provisions to overcome their incapacities and would continue to do their utmost to protect lives and property.

494. On the other hand, civilians refused to accept that such far-reaching and regular spates of violations and abuses could continue to occur in spite of the Army's best efforts.  Instead they would point to highly suspicious circumstances surrounding guerrilla attacks in their communities and aver that the soldiers had engaged in 'connivance'.  Their allegations would portray degrees of connivance that fluctuated from place to place and from one week to the next.  In their moderate form, they said that the Army had deliberately abandoned the civilians to suffer violations at the hands of the RUF.  In their more unrestrained form, they said that the soldiers themselves had carried out an attack and visited violations and abuses upon civilians directly.

495. As Phase II unfolded, the word spread among civilians that SLA soldiers were working with the rebels, providing arms and supplies to the rebels, acting on instructions from the rebels, and even carrying out joint operations with the rebels.  In fact, according to conventional wisdom, many SLA men were "soldiers by day, rebels by night."  All of these notions of an untrustworthy Sierra Leone Army were neatly encapsulated in one accusatory word: "sobels."

496. More so than in any other sphere of its research and investigations into this conflict, the Commission's guiding principle with regard to the tense relationship between the Sierra Leone Army and the civilian population has been to strike an impartial balance.  Neither 'institutional incapacities' nor 'sobels' can serve as an entirely historically accurate portrayal of the dynamics that governed the relationship.  The truth, in fact, lies somewhere in between.

Understanding the Conduct of the Sierra Leone Army

497. One of the keys to understanding the role of the Sierra Leone Army in the conflict is to think of it not as an institution, but as a conglomeration of individuals.  For all the reshuffling and restructuring, the creation of new units and the renaming of existing ones, the essential nature of the Army and its conduct in practice derived from the human characteristics of those who filled its ranks.

498. During the reign of the NPRC, the Sierra Leone Army encompassed a broader and more diverse mixture of mindsets and capabilities than at any other point in its history.  First and foremost, the unprecedented variety was a function of size.  The paltry force of between 3,000 and 4,000 soldiers that started the war in 1991 accounted for only a minority of the total force by 1994.

499. The enormous recruitment drive begun in 1992 had enlisted predominantly urban youths from the streets of Freetown.  It was the greatest single contributor of new 'manpower', but it was not the only source.

500. Steady and significant additional growth had also been taking place locally at the various frontlines.  Quite informally at first, but ever more systematically as time passed, Army units incorporated local volunteers into their midst.  The voluntary cadre burgeoned into a whole new class of soldiers known as 'irregulars', which comprised vigilantes, Border Guards (SLBGs) and other auxiliary forces.  Eventually these irregulars were given weapons, uniforms and military identification numbers.  Equally, their names were added to the SLA register in their thousands.

501. An important factor in determining the way a soldier behaves is his own self-perception.  Before 1991 most soldiers saw themselves as performing a largely ceremonial role.  The central difference for those who entered the Army during the conflict was their certain knowledge that they would see action at the warfront.  Such an inevitability of combat meant that people came on board specifically because of their eagerness to fight.  Professional values like loyalty and humanitarian concern were not then prerequisite to becoming a soldier.

502. Some 1992 recruits testified that the prospect of serving the SLA invoked sentiments of national pride in them.  Nevertheless there were others who joined up with dangerous misperceptions of the types of personal gains they would get out of it.  The same was true for the irregulars: most of them brought indispensable local knowledge to the good of the Army; but some of them also sought to act out irremissibly localised vendettas to its detriment.

503. The Commission's database records that early as 1991, violations and abuses were carried out against the civilian population by the members of the army.  Most of these violations and abuses fitted into a particular pattern, whereby soldiers detained, tortured or killed people they suspected to be 'rebels' or 'collaborators'.  The Commission regards such acts of summary justice as being representative of a wider trend: armed combatants of all factions acted hastily and violently to eliminate an 'enemy' whom they did not know for certain was an enemy.

504. Often these actions were directed or encouraged by other civilians.  Apparently they were mostly motivated by their unresolved personal feuds; - disputes over land ownership rights between families and 'ruling houses' - were cited as frequent examples.  Residents pointed fingers at other members of their communities with whom they had a history of civil strife.  On occasion, SLA soldiers or RUF fighters then executed the alleged wrongdoer without substantiating the accusation.

505. The Commission understands this type of violations as a category of isolated incidents that were caused by the localised dynamics of the particular deployment areas in which they took place.  This does not lessen the seriousness of the individual acts in any way, but it ought to prevent their being seen as evidence of a campaign of deliberate killings by the Government.  They were caused by their individual contexts rather than by commands from above.

506. In this light the Commission notes that soldiers were 'driven' to kill some of those detained in their custody on the basis of what they didn't know and what others told them.  Contributing factors included unfamiliarity with the local populace and vindictive urgings from their accompanying 'auxiliary forces', like ULIMO and the vigilantes.  The following testimony from an officer who served in the South indicates that he and his colleagues were often rushed into taking inappropriate action:

"Being strangers to the place, we hardly knew how to differentiate between the real 'rebels' and the civilians.  So anyone that was brought before us accused of being a rebel... it was very difficult to investigate properly... [This was the case] especially when we were fighting alongside ULIMO, because they had had their experiences in Liberia concerning the rebel tactics.  Whenever a 'rebel' was brought before us, it sometimes took just two or three hours before we formed a 'Kangaroo Court' and if found guilty, the 'rebel' was executed...

When we became aware of this situation, we started mounting up thorough investigations before we could execute rebels at random.  But before that time, to be frank, a lot of innocent lives were lost due to the inexperienced nature of the troops." 194

507. What is most telling of all, then, is that many soldiers failed to respond in a measured fashion to the exigencies they faced at the warfront.  Herein the Commission perceives the first symptoms of insufficient training and waning self-confidence coming to the surface.

508. Understandably the impact of soldiers' shortcomings varied from one community to the next, but on the whole, the early instances of abuse by soldiers are not sufficient in number or nature to represent a systematic deviation from the Army's constitutional role.

509. The task is to establish whether this situation had changed by 1994 and for what reasons.  The Commission is required to take stock of key events in the conflict up to this point and trace what influences they had brought to bear on the attitudes and actions of soldiers.

Ramifications of the 1992 coup on the Conduct of Soldiers

510. In the Commission's view, those who carried out the coup of 1992 possessed a unique opportunity to overhaul the APC culture of military unaccountability when they took power.  Yet the majority of testimonies received suggest that they did not seize this opportunity.  Instead, according to erstwhile Force Commander Kellie Conteh, they embarked upon an altogether more destructive approach to the running of the Army:

"Although they replaced the APC, which we had all experienced had become a bad political entity, the NPRC was no better...  This is not to say there were no fine sides to the regime...  For sure they were not short of enthusiasm, zeal and courage, even if these were misplaced.  [Their] excesses however dealt a heavy blow especially to the military's capability to prosecute the war effectively."195

511. The coup represented the ascendancy into political decision-making of a core group of hardened fighters in their mid-twenties.  Valentine Strasser, who was just 26 years old at the time, became the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Army.  His attainment of this dual role meant that he usurped both his predecessors in the APC and his erstwhile seniors in the military hierarchy.  This sudden change in the pecking order had a critical psychological impact on every soldier, from the freshest recruit to the longest-serving officer.

512. Older, more experienced men of senior rank held a generally low opinion of the NPRC leadership cadre.  Some of them nevertheless acquiesced and accepted positions in the NPRC Government, including Brigadier (Retired) Sam King, who was the NPRC's National Security Adviser.  With hindsight, King looked upon the youthfulness of the Head of State and his cronies as being a disadvantage in their exercise of authority:

"I was working with young and inexperienced men who were totally hypersensitive and hyperactive.  [They] were full of themselves and full of some ideas or ideology that they were bright stars...  They were acclaimed as heroes in the society, so they thought they knew everything [and thought they] had it all.  I just looked at Strasser and said: 'I joined the Army in 1959; you were born in 1966.  I was a Captain when you were born'."196

513. Brigadier Kellie Conteh told the Commission that while he was Force Commander he were never able to assert any influence on policy on account of being ignored, suspected and derided by men such as SAJ Musa and Tom Nyuma.

514. Anecdotal evidence abounded of a flippant lifestyle of excess and self-importance pursued by the junta leaders in Freetown.  In some testimonies it was also put up as demonstration of the continuing scourge of corruption at the heart of Government. 

515. The patterns of violations committed by members of the Sierra Leone Army under the NPRC speak of opportunism and abandon.  These traits appear to have filtered down to the warfront from the leadership in Freetown.

Allegations of direct connivance with the RUF

516. A further problem in the field was the reactionary nature of the NPRC High command towards complaints made against commanders.  While the civilians perceived discipline to be slack, the truth was that disciplinary action was hardly taken against an errant commander.  If a commander was found to be engaging in some kind of unsavoury or unscrupulous activity, he would simply be switched and replaced.  There was very little continuity as a result and civilians had no particular conception of who was in charge in their area at any given time. Under international law, the command structure would be guilty of omission. Witnesses testified that this practice of reassigning people is symptomatic of governance in Sierra Leone where non performers are simply reassigned to other important government offices. It disrupted the effectiveness of the command structure and led to a far higher degree of indiscipline as well as fed into perceptions of collusion with the RUF:

"If they [the RUF] were helped, I wouldn't say for sure; but they definitely had some connections.  There was a guy who they called 'Ambush Commander'.  Wherever there was an ambush, he would clear it.  Later we learnt that in fact he was in it, hand and glove, with the rebels.  He is Tom Nyuma.  He was held in high esteem by everyone.  It was only later that we learnt that he was working in collaboration with the rebels.  That's very sad."197

517. The Commission heard that in the pre-war years Sierra Leoneans had joined the Army for reasons that could range from patriotism to political favour-seeking, but were rarely actively bellicose.198  In any case they were treated as second-class citizens in the APC security apparatus because of the primacy in the use of armed force given to the paramilitary SSD.  Soldiers mostly considered themselves as performing a ceremonial role, with only the so-called 'party strongmen' in the inner circle around the President having any active say in the conduct of the affairs of the state.  Merit and dedication to one's duties were really of very little importance to one's rise through the ranks; officers who engaged in political sycophancy or who played on their tribal connections were the ones most likely to advance their careers.

518. Soldiers were quite often desperately unhappy with their plight at the warfront.  When they were unfed and generally maltreated, their moods could degenerate to such an extent that they would seek solace in the thrills of front-line activity.  In some instances the very objective of a mission might be to loot or gather food in order to fill empty stomachs.

519. Many of the NPRC's efforts at structural engineering fell far short of making tangible improvements to the capacities of the Army at the warfront.  Most of them in fact served merely to perpetuate the internal divisions in the military hierarchy because they were ordained by the brash, younger men in the inner circle of Government and did not have the support of the senior officers, including successive Force Commanders, Major General Gottor and Brigadier Kellie Conteh.

520. Nevertheless, the NPRC was responsible for enlisting the services of the South African security firm, Executive Outcomes (EO) in 1995. In the circumstances of the time, the enlistment is understandable. In the long term however it amounted to a surrender of the country to mercenaries, led to concessions on economic resources for which the country is still paying, and sustained perceptions of structural weakness of the army and its alleged relationship with the RUF. According to the mastermind of the recruitment of the Executive Outcomes,

"I knew the military was not going to save us and I was in charge of the military.  I thought EO was the only chance to save our country."199

521. From a purely military perspective, EO was able to afford an immeasurable boost to the defensive operations of the SLA.  In the space of just a few months and with an initial contingent of just 200 men, EO was in effect able to reverse the decline of the Army as a fighting force and begin to regain the upper hand in guerrilla warfare.  Its intervention therefore also served to highlight some of the shortcomings of the Army in the period that had gone before.  First, EO brought with it superior communications sets and monitoring equipment that allowed efficient code-breaking work in identifying the RUF's whereabouts and movements.  Second, it injected clinical precision and devastating power into the air assaults of the SLA.  Its helicopter pilots and gun controllers commandeered the three existing helicopter gunships in the Sierra Leonean fleet and flew raids over key bases and ambush points used by the RUF.  Finally, its sophisticated night-vision equipment enabled the pro-Government forces to carry out surprise attacks of their own, often succeeding in sending the unsuspecting RUF cadres "running around like ants."200

522. It is quite easy to understand why the efforts at structural re-engineering were not working: captains and lieutenants were the political masters of Brigadiers and Colonels.  There was obvious disharmony between the largely impoverished soldiers on the front lines and the astoundingly decadent junta leaders, mostly their peers, in Freetown.  Moreover there was latent rancour in the administration itself, since the Head of State did not see eye-to-eye with his Vice Chairman, nor did the Force Commander see eye-to-eye with either of them.

523. Their constitutional status notwithstanding, there were some parts of the country in which a soldier would be more likely to kill you than would a commando of the RUF.  One reason for this was that civilians were unreasonably yet unambiguously held to be partisan to the forces among which they lived.  If a civilian had failed, usually through no fault of his or her own, to escape from territory held by the RUF, then he or she would invariably be deemed to have been working with the RUF.  Without clarity of thought or any means of verifying information given to them at source, soldiers were usually bound to punish anyone picked out as such a 'collaborator'.  Additionally complications derived from the fact that there always individuals who were ready to point fingers, not because the person had necessarily done anything wrong, but on account of a pre-existing grudge or grievance that in all likelihood had very little to do with the conflict.

524. The leadership did nothing to stem the tide of distrust.  The military junta was naturally implicated in the whole affair.  At the very least its decisions were roundly criticised for having created the climate in which wayward youths from the margins of society could have become soldiers in the first place.  On top of that most civilians believed that officers of the NPRC inner circle were deeply involved in 'sobel' activity, leading their men in committing violations and abuses themselves, or conniving with commanders in the RUF to prolong the war and continue to prosper from its ill-gotten gains.

525. The state of the Army did not improve under the new civilian government for reasons that are discussed below. In fairness to the government, the president had complained to the Commission that he was not receiving advice from the army even when he requested it. The army just didn't want him in power. At some level however, the government must accept responsibility for its failures, after all, the military is an institution of the state.

526. On the part of the Sierra Leone Army, there were many trends that gave rise to distrust even within the ranks. Colonel K.E.S. Boyah, a member of the NPRC administration, reflected that the recruitment drive begun in 1992 and the subsequent deficiencies in training and disciplining the expanded army had "created the foundation for a lot of ugly happenings within the system."201

527. Bishop Kellie in Bo was actually beaten up rather violently by Gabriel Mani, Minister of State by the NPRC in full view of the gathered public of Bo Town - something of a costly misdemeanour. This was used as an issue from which to extract political capital by the politicians. Mani was subsequently sacked.

528. There came a point when soldiers began to lose faith in themselves.  At around the time of the transition between the military council and civilian rule, the Army began to show signs of structural collapse and pervasive uncertainty as to its worth to the state.

529. It was directly out of this somewhat paranoid sense of persecution that the beginnings of a further sentiment of marginalisation started up.  The CDF, ever the unpopular party in the eyes of the soldiers, began targeting the soldiers directly.  In a way, the sense of persecution on the part of the military became something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

530. However, in the eyes of the civilian population, the very group to whom they were looking for protection was effectively turning its guns against them.  The SLA was slowly but surely being stripped of its credibility as a defender of the people's human and constitutional rights. Indeed there were some communities that were immediately antagonised by the conduct of particular SLA units and their significance should not be underestimated in the longer term.

531. Sierra Leoneans lost all confidence in the Army as an institution that could protect the population from ravaging attacks on lives and property.  Many civilians reported incidents in which they felt the Army had been actively malicious, rather than simply incompetent.  In the Southern Province in particular, the military lost any semblance of public confidence and any chance of co-operation from the civil defence committees and liaison structures that had been put in place to try and ease the tension.  Indeed, rather than leaving their protection in the hands of the Army, communities mobilised all the loyal manpower they could muster, particularly from among the youth, and made a decisive choice to defend themselves.

532. Civilians began to refer to the Government troops as 'sobels'.  The implication of this was that those who were soldiers by day were becoming 'rebels' at night.  It clearly reflected the complete suspicion with which the army was now viewed and the conclusion in the minds of the people that the army was incapable of protecting the communities.

533. It came to the point in 1995 when any military unit that relinquished control of a town or installation would be said to have done so deliberately.  Nor was there an effort to distinguish between the actions of genuine soldiers who were genuinely miscreant and the acts of manipulative RUF commandos who masqueraded as soldiers.  The term 'sobels' became somewhat fashionable, as a figure of speech, used to will away the full extent and complexity of the problems that were vitiating the apparatus of state security.

534. A major gripe on the part of the civilian population was that disciplinary action was extremely rare and always insufficient to deter recurrence. It is clear from the Commission's investigations that there were certain SLA commanders whose conduct was above reproach.  Yet there were equally those whose conduct was reprehensible in the sense that they appeared to be at least neglecting their duties, if not directly conniving with the enemy.

535. On some occasions, SLA commanders were known to acknowledge that there had been misconduct on the part of their own soldiers.  Typically, the acceptance of responsibility would be something of a token gesture made through gritted teeth, however.  Civil society members in the Bo District described how "scores of complaints" were referred by the Paramount Chiefs to the Brigade Commander, Colonel Tom S. Carew.202  Even where an SLA officer put up a different story in his defence, invariably the Paramount Chief would report that the civilians' version of events had been favoured.  The problem was that no robust action materialised and the climate of distrust would remain unchanged:

"This was the time when the Army was in Government and whatever misconduct was reported against them was not taken very seriously.  Sometimes they would believe the civilians' complaints over the soldiers, but nothing much would actually come out of it.  The Brigade Commander might ask him to pull out, report back at his station... but after one week he would be deployed in another area.  As far as we were concerned that means nothing came out of it."203

536. David Kobby worked as a liaison between the civilian population and the soldiers of the Sierra Leone Army in his own community.  Kobby told the Commission about the accumulation of events that caused him to conclude that SLA soldiers were conniving with the RUF:

It doesn't actually mean that we understood the relationship between the rebels and the soldiers.  It doesn't actually mean that we saw them sitting down together, talking or making any arrangements for anything.  What I am saying here is that, with all the things that happened... I would form a case to say that it was a sell-out.

For example, there's a situation where the rebels have attacked and they're in one location; [so] we want the army, in fulfilment of their own duties, to step down some distance so that they can gather some information.  But they simply cannot do that!

There is another situation where the night before the attack, some of them come to tell us that they have been into the area where the rebels were coming out from and they discovered that the rebels are not there.  But the following day we're attacked from the very same place!

There is another situation where an army commander has ammunition in his house.  And when there is an attack, he doesn't call his men to carry this ammunition away, so that it cannot be taken by the rebels.  He leaves the ammunition there for the rebels to take!

So with all these kinds of scenarios, one would just infer that there was some kind of connivance."204

The Role of the RUF in the Relationship between the SLA and Civilians

537. RUF guerrilla tactics were designed specifically to undermine the military. The RUF sought to soil the reputation of the Army in order to heighten the feelings of 'state insecurity'.

538. There was something of a tactical naivety in this premise, however, since it failed to acknowledge that the Army at that time was the Government and that it already suffered from a damaging disjunction with the civilian population. The upshot of this short sighted opportunism was a blow to the chances of the RUF of attaining a satisfactory peaceful settlement, because the SLPP would prove infinitely harder to negotiate with than the NPRC.

539. The RUF precipitated a crisis of identification: people often did not know whom to trust because they did not know the true identity of those they were being asked to trust.  As the Commission heard from some of the organisers of community defence initiatives in Kenema District, the level of suspicion was extended to both those who appeared to be civilians and those who appeared to be soldiers:

"The first problem is that you would not know who was a rebel.  Even on the day we were attacked, a lot of strangers we saw around, our people suspected that they might be rebels, but you would never have said so at that time because you did not see them with weapons; you did not even hear them say that they were this or they were that.

As for the military personnel at that time, except if I knew somebody personally to be a soldier before I could believe he was a soldier.  But if I had not seen you anytime before, if I had not known you before that time and I saw you in a uniform then I will take you as a rebel."205

540. In a country the size of Sierra Leone, it is inevitable that there are familial, tribal and financial connections that in fact make for extreme factional fluidity.  Two of the more intriguing individual biographies in the NPRC administration in this regard are those of Julius Maada Bio and Tom Nyuma, both of whom were alleged in testimonies received by the Commission to have had direct family ties with the RUF that allowed them relationships of influence and persuasion within the High Command.

541. In the case of Julius Maada Bio, testimony received by the Commission from one of his sisters, Elizabeth 'Baby' Bio, would seem to belie the accusation in the most conclusive terms.  It is true that two of Maada Bio's sisters, Elizabeth Bio and Agnes Deen-Jalloh (nee Bio), as well as his brother-in-law, Ibrahim Deen-Jalloh, spent several years with the RUF.  They were captured in 1991 during an attack on the Bunumbu Teachers' College, Kailahun District, where Ibrahim Deen-Jalloh was a senior staff member.

542. It is untrue, however, to infer that Maada Bio's relatives stayed with the RUF of their own free will: all of them suffered horrendous abuses of their human rights and were forced to remain in the personal dominion of the RUF leader, Foday Sankoh.  Elizabeth Bio, herself a victim of continual sexual violence, explained part of the harrowing ordeal as follows:

"When they captured us, we stayed with them in Bunumbu for three days and in Salonwo (Small Freetown) for four days.  We then went to Kailahun Town with Foday Sankoh.  He did not want people to know about us.  Foday Sankoh had sex with my sister Mrs. Agnes Deen-Jalloh in the presence of her husband against her wish.  While we were in that camp, they made us launder and cook for them.

I stayed with them from 1991 until 1994.  One day my brother Julius Maada Bio sent soldiers with our photographs to look out for us.  Fortunately they met me at Vahun [in Liberia], because we their 'wives' had been sent out...  I went back to Mrs. Agnes Deen-Jalloh in the camp and told her about the incident.  She said it was impossible for her to leave her husband behind because if she did, the rebels would kill him.  She added that since Foday Sankoh was having sex with her, her husband also could not leave her there, knowing that they would kill her.  Therefore she told me to go alone.  I returned to the soldiers and we boarded a bus and travelled to Freetown.

When we arrived in Freetown in 1994, the soldiers informed my brother Julius Maada Bio.  When he came and saw me, he cried bitterly and took me to hospital for treatment."206

543. By all accounts Foday Sankoh systematically raped Agnes Deen-Jalloh for a period of several years.  He thereby also inflicted prolonged psychological torture on the victim's husband, Ibrahim Deen-Jalloh.  Part of Sankoh's cruel and deliberate abuse was to compel both Agnes and her husband to perform active and public roles in the RUF movement.  Ibrahim Deen-Jalloh became something of a spokesperson for the RUF, making statements on behalf of Sankoh and a movement for which he can have left little affinity.  Agnes Deen-Jalloh was despatched to the Ivory Coast as part of the first RUF peace delegation there in 1996.

544. Until now, the common suspicion has been that Maada Bio nurtured underhanded political connections with the RUF, based on the presence of his family members in its midst.  The inference made through such an allegation is that Agnes Deen-Jalloh and her husband wanted to stay with the RUF and advance its objectives.  It suggests that the Bio family all worked together with Foday Sankoh towards a common cause.  This is patently not the case.

545. Foday Sankoh singled out the Bio family deliberately for a range of violations and abuses at his personal behest, principally at his own hands.  When Julius Maada Bio became a member of the NPRC administration and later the Head of State, Sankoh sought to place the family under the most deplorable pressure.  Indeed, several further Bio relatives were killed or maimed in the Tihun massacre of 1995, as narrated elsewhere in this report.

546. In this light, it is to Julius Maada Bio's great credit that he retained a statesmanlike demeanour towards Sankoh during the peace efforts of early 1996.  Against a background of widespread distrust in Maada Bio as the head of a military junta that was thought to want to perpetuate itself in power, his dignity and courage in overcoming a family tragedy was not publicly understood. His effort in attempting to make peace with Sankoh in Abidjan in 1996 is commendable. In his interview with the Commission, Maada Bio lamented the personal agony he felt in negotiating with a man who had caused so much pain and anguish to his family. Putting nation above self, he pushed himself to shake Sankoh's outstretched hand in Abidjan.

547. More so than in any other sphere of its research and investigations, the Commission's guiding principle with regard to the relationship between the Army and the civilian population has been that there are at least two sides to every story.

548. It is prudent to begin, as many witnesses before the Commission did, by acknowledging the importance of the battle for the hearts and minds of the populace in any conflict situation.  The people of Sierra Leone had held a generally low opinion of the military in advance of the conflict, based largely on its well-known incapacity as described earlier in this chapter.  Moreover the RUF had proven itself to be adept in capturing whole communities in one fell swoop and introducing quasi-governmental measures intended to incorporate civilians into their membership and their administrative structures.  Thus it became all the more imperative to institute a concerted process of educating and sensitising the civilian areas in which troops were expected to operate.

549. According to senior administrators in the RSLMF, there existed a certain degree of awareness of the pressing need for good public relations:

"It was my firm conviction that unless the military secured the full co-operation of the civilians the war would never be won."207

550. Yet the Commission has found that the Army singularly failed to achieve any such harmonious relationship with the civilian population.  Rather than regarding the soldiers as a friendly defensive force, many civilians appear to have looked upon them as simply another armed group with the potential for destruction.

Tactics of the RUF to shatter the relationship between the SLA and the public

551. The RUF did everything in its power to entrench the perception among civilians that the SLA ought to be considered a hostile force.  Through a combination of subtle indoctrination by its administrative cadre and ruthless operations by its combatants, the RUF effectively smeared the reputation of the SLA and undermined much of the good work it had done in the conventional warfare of Phase I of the conflict.

552. Certainly by 1995, the RUF had contrived at one time or another to 'occupy' significant areas of territory in the Eastern Districts of the country, referring to them as 'liberated territories' and casting the Army perversely as a threat to the freedom of the inhabitants.  On the back of this 'occupation' grew a notion among many members of the RUF that they had effective 'ownership' of large groups of civilians, whom they forced to travel with them, carry out labour or auxiliary tasks for them, march with them over long distances and, occasionally, create an impression that their advancing group was larger or more powerful than it actually was.  Thereafter, the RUF combatants began to perceive a distinction between the plight, or indeed the protection, of the civilians under their own faction's purview - "our civilians" - and the commensurate conditions of the civilians who were not in this group - "their civilians".  This perception is adequately demonstrated by the following statement by an ex-RUF combatant:

"One of the discoveries I made through observations in my early days with the movement was the capability of my fellow Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone combatants to protect our civilians and the properties they had with them.  It was never common to find armed combatants floating among the civilians with their arms, except for the bodyguards of those combatant commanders who were having assignments towards the rear... Also, one would notice that from the civilian base or settlement known as 'the rear' there would be a distance not less than eight miles to the no man's land - it would not just be too easy for an enemy combatant to infiltrate the control area of our commandos to destroy lives and properties of our civilians at the rear.  All of this was unlike the Government soldiers, whose ways of setting up their defensive positions indicated their incapacity to secure and protect the lives and properties of their civilians."208

553. Contained in this statement is the attitude of derision applied by the RUF to the SLA, which they successfully managed to impute to the civilians.  Even in areas where RUF members were neither welcomed nor well-liked by the civilians, it seems that a variety of factors often conspired to ensure that they were marginally more tolerable than the SLA as the lesser of two evils.  Hence the strategists of the RUF, led by their so-called 'Intelligence Officers', grasped the concept that if they couldn't force the civilians to actively like them, they could perhaps manipulate the civilians to hate the SLA more than they hated the RUF.  Using the commando skills derived from their training, RUF fighters began to carry out many of their further and more far-reaching attacks on civilian communities in the guise of Government soldiers.  They would dress in Army uniforms they had captured from successful ambushes and battlefront victories and present themselves as fully-fledged SLA officers.

"Whenever our intelligence is applied, in the strategies I have explained, then we create our offensive ambushes and become successful...

Sometimes, you know, one thing from the Government's side was that anything they were doing, instead of keeping it a secret, they used to give announcements.  So we used to listen to radio all the time for their movement.  Sometimes, when they are moving, they will send messages and when these tracks are in communication, so and so date we are coming to so and so point, at so and so time; be expecting!  So obviously we would go and set up our offensive ambush.  This was how we used to track these people down.  It happened so many times.

Upon that success, we dress in the full military attire, like any 'pips' of the highest command of that mission.  We can use all types of uniforms: some were Captains; some were Colonels; some were Sergeants...

People always felt that rebels were the most dirty people, that they are not clean, not civilised and so forth; and at the initial stage of the war that was true.  But after we had got far on with this thing and we went up to training bases with some of these tactics, we begin to apply them.  We dressed as the soldiers dressed, behaved as the soldiers behaved, then we were successful.

It was a good number [of commandos involved in these operations].  Actually, we didn't just present ourselves as Military Officers.  You know, as I said, as rebels we had so many tactics and ways of fighting, when fully implemented."209

554. The Commission was able to obtain several vivid accounts of this tactic being implemented, as RUF guerrilla fighters spread across the country in Phase II and began to set their sights on the capture of larger towns and civilian communities, as well as some of the key strategic and economic installations of the state, including its minerals mines and commercial enterprises.  Hence, the Commission confirmed that the attacks on the Sierra Rutile and SIEROMCO mining sites in the Bonthe District were both carried out by RUF troops, led on those occasions by Mohamed Tarawallie (alias "Zino" or "CO Mohamed") and CO Gibril Massaquoi.  Likewise, the Commission traced several acts of grand deception to the fighters of the RUF, whereby soldiers and civilian residents alike were duped by the RUF and rendered vulnerable to costly and destructive attacks.  One such attack, in Kabala, the Headquarter Town of the Koinadugu District, was recounted to the Commission in the following terms:

"In Kabala, when we went in, we were all dressed in white shirts; because we got the information that on that day there was going to be an occasion - a football match.  When we heard of that, we organised a group: the fighting group, the 'reccie' team, we all went together.  The first 'reccie' team presented itself as surrendered rebels; so we dressed in white, tied white on our foreheads, went to the people, put our hands up, and said we have come to surrender...

We let ourselves fall into their hands... [but] it was not a proper surrendering programme; it was just done to find a way how to 'encounter ourselves' with the enemies...

Later they [the soldiers] did not take careful notice, so our real fighting force entered and took positions, strategic positions.  You know, they were all playing football somewhere, some were dancing; some were drinking.  It was somewhat towards 4.00pm or 5.00pm in the evening...

There was an exchange of fire and all of the enemies were overcome in the town... Before ever they could make up their minds, we had spread over the whole town.  We were able to capture their missiles - 40-barrel missiles up to two; their BZT; their AAs; 50-calibre or so forth; and some other things.  Even down to ground missiles - 120-millimetre mortar bombs also were captured.  These are the ways we used to get weapons from these enemies; by using our 'offensive intelligences'."210

555. Another RUF combatant offers a very important perspective on how they manipulated the public discontent with the RUF:

"In the area wherein people always say soldiers have connived and joined the rebels, I'm categorically against that.  These are the instances I've just explained.  You see, as a soldier or as a guerrilla, you live by your senses, you live by your braveness, you live by your 'intelligences'...

Let me just say something very clear.  Some of these people who are talking about 'sobels' were not on the full front of the warfront.  Somebody can be seated in Freetown; how can he say something about the warfront?  He's not there.  So most of these things that were supposed to be happening were just by hearsay, then said to these people.

When people were hearing this, it was a big historical effect.  What do I mean by historical effect?  Okay, well, already before the junta, the soldiers were somehow not trusted by the Government.  Government had more interest at that time in the hunters, the Kamajors.  More support, more logistics and trust went to the Kamajors.  So many of these soldiers felt discouraged...

So, with all our tactics - like most especially our ambushes - whenever some of these soldiers fell in our ambushes, those that were fortunate to be captured and those that were unfortunate to be 'missing in action', you know, it was a big, big problem to the Government side.  Already there was no real loyalty to the Government.  So it was just additional feelings on the part of the people who had become disadvantaged by the 'sobel' situation.  They were also saying: "as the legal Government soldiers, why doesn't the Government have trust in us?"

Not knowing it, our tactics had brought in a misunderstanding, you know, so that's how the hunters issue came up.  The Government was having more interest in the hunters than in the Army, the lesser Army. What I'm saying is about the lower ranks.  All the top-ranked Officers were in Freetown.  So, actually, this is only what I have to explain and tell you the facts and explain the tactics, how we used to overcome these people."211

556. Public confidence in the army degenerated. Communities in the Eastern and Southern Provinces declared the army unwanted in their areas. They began to organise sporadic attacks on military settlements and personnel in their neighbourhoods. Many of those who attacked soldiers went unpunished. A siege mentality began to develop within the army.

557. The new government began to encourage the strengthening of the community defence groups as an alternative security mechanism to replace the distrusted army. In these efforts lay the institutionalisation of community defence.


558. The coastal areas of Bonthe and Pujehun Districts, concentrated around the neighbouring Chiefdoms of Kwamebai Krim (Bonthe) and Mano Sakrim (Pujehun), held an inestimably important place in the heritage of the Kamajor Society.  The natives of that area were uniquely capable of fighting 'on the sea', since they were able to swim and to navigate boats through the marshlands and riverine territories.

559. The men in their prime ('youths') who lived in these areas were among the first civilians to confront the RUF face-to-face, despite an ostensibly unassailable deficit in terms of weaponry.  Moreover, they succeeded in chasing the RUF out of their communities by sheer doggedness and a refusal to comply with the will of their attackers.  According to the testimony of Francis Gormoh, this strategy evolved out of a single incident on 12 February 1995, when a group of fewer than twenty men called upon God-given powers to overcome an RUF contingent:

"The rebels were armed with AK-47s and Beretta machine guns.  When they stated their intention of moving to our Chiefdom to collect foodstuffs as well as to abduct youths to prepare salt for them, we started exchanging abuses.  At that moment, one of our men declared defiantly: 'Today God is going to fight on our side because you have inflicted so many unjust casualties on us'.  The rebels then immediately took to their heels.

We were inspired to give chase, armed with cutlasses, swords and paddles.  One of the rebels aimed his gun at us and as he was about to fire, another of our men shouted at him: 'Your gun will not fire today'.  God answered our man's remark and the gun failed to fire.  In complete panic they dropped three of their guns and ran away.  We chased them for about three miles and succeeded in capturing two of them with their guns."212

560. The Commission heard that certain SLA officers in the Southern Province actively encouraged the deployment of these men as auxiliary forces, sometimes despatching them on missions to search for RUF locations or to capture stray insurgents and report back to the SLA base.  Typically groups of twenty-five (25) or more young men would go on patrol in a particular area of operations.  The boundaries were usually defined according to a stretch of coastline, or the flow of a river.

561. Moreover the vigilantes often engaged in active combat, independently or alongside the Army, at the warfront.  Although they were not usually provided with firearms by the soldiers, they had full authority from the SLA to fire their single-barrelled shotguns in defence of their people.  Many of them became formidable vigilante fighters.  Joseph A. S. Koroma was one such fighter in Pujehun District; he explained to the Commission in a public hearing how his participation materialised:

 "I left my village and came to Pujehun Town, where I reported to the SLA men who were stationed there at that time.  I had been moved to inform them that as a result of all my experiences, I am interested in 'the game' and that I want to volunteer my services so that I can help them to drive out the rebels.  They welcomed my interest, but they wanted to know how I proposed to assist them.  I simply told them to give me weapons.

They refused my request; they said they cannot give me a single gun.  However, they did suggest an alternative: they said if any of our people were in possession of single-barrelled shotguns ('single barrels') then we should go and collect the weapons from them.  The people should be willing to help us, since we are mobilising in the interests of those very same people.

We approached our people for their support and they were able to provide us with three 'single barrels', which we duly collected from them...  With a single packet of cartridges we managed to sustain ourselves at the warfront for up to a month."213

562. Contrary to popular perception, the transition between hardened, patriotic defence of local communities and membership of a fully-fledged warrior society was not simply a question of coalescing into a unified force.  The Kamajor Society was in fact a novel creation of human minds, expressly geared towards waging war and cognisant of the need to endow unconventional combatants with the confidence to go to the warfront and face the enemy.

563. At one level, the resort to traditional defence mechanisms is an entirely understandable, even logical progression from wanting to repel an enemy but not having the means to do so.  In retrospect, however, the incorporation of age-old 'societal' practices into the theatre of the conflict was a destructive and irresponsible move.  It produced a shambled and unscrupulous militia that tried to compensate for its military inadequacies and virtually non-existent hierarchical controls by deferring to a transcendental 'belief' in the invincibility of its members.  It has also sullied the sacrosanct nature of the hundreds of pre-existing, long-standing and culturally inviolable secret societies in Sierra Leone.

564. The key to the genesis of the wartime Kamajors lies in the reprehensible abuse of the practice known as 'initiation'.  There must be a clear comprehension at the outset that adherence to rules, rituals and even sacrifices are not uncommon among secret societies across the country.  Moreover, it should be recognised that many such practices are highly sensitive areas of the sociological make-up of the country.

565. However, in the case of the Kamajors, 'initiation' was co-opted by a cadre of individuals who were morally and spiritually corrupt.  The evidence adduced by the Commission, as described below, indicates that the 'initiators' of the Kamajors wrested a notion of empowerment from dignified beginnings and turned it into a vehicle for their own material enrichment and the abuse of the human rights of others.

566. Several Kamajors who testified to the Commission ascribed notions of supernatural power that reached Biblical proportions to the handful of men and one woman whom they knew as their 'initiators'.  Just as the dreams of the Bible were interpreted to be direct messages from God, the Kamajor Society was reported to have arisen from a divine miracle, wherein three elderly ladies in the two coastal Chiefdoms of Kwamebai Krim (Bonthe) and Mano Sakrim (Pujehun) shared an identical vision in their sleep.

567. Francis Gormoh, who became one of the founding members of the new incarnation of the Kamajors, gave the Commission a detailed first-hand account of the dream that inspired the Society and the actions that were taken based thereon:

"In the dream, [the three ladies] said that our ancestors have heard our cries and that they were willing to come to our rescue.  According to them, we the men were instructed to gather at Kale village in the Kwamebai Krim Chiefdom and pour libation to our ancestors.  They said our ancestors had signalled that upon doing that, a revelation would be made to one of the participants.  We performed the ceremony [accordingly] and the revelation was given to Allieu Kondewah, who was then living in Kale, to be the Initiator of Kamajors."214

568. Allieu Kondewah was known in the South of Sierra Leone as an amateur 'herbalist', a native doctor who specialises in the uses of leaves to cure ailments and, on occasion, to bestow himself or others with capabilities and immunities that they would not otherwise possess.  For example, Kondewah was said to have lived in a house without a roof, yet was able to remain dry inside even in the heaviest of rainstorms.215  His ancestors and relatives were also thought to carry special powers, which gave him the perceived "birthright" to engage with the spirits.216

569. Kondewah's inherent shortcomings were also made clear to the Commission in testimonies from those who knew him.  Much of his mythos derived from his performances as a roving magician.  He led a band of younger men akin to a cultural dance troupe and put on displays of dancing and drumming in which he conjured 'illusions' for watching audiences.  He was also known to be a man of vices: he gambled incessantly and was almost perpetually drunk.217

570. One Kamajor told the Commission that Kondewah's alcoholism drove him to concoct ever more warped ideas for 'initiation' practices in his semi-conscious stupors.218  He would later present them as 'dreams' he had experienced that entitled him to subject initiates of the Kamajor Society to further ceremonies.  In effect, he was charging them money to endure further ordeals of physical and psychological torture, which they believed would give them renewed or improved 'special powers'.219  In due course, the 'initiator' transformed himself into the High Priest, carrying the fantastical title of King Dr. Allieu Kondewah.

571. The original conception of 'initiation' was reported to be something altogether humbler and simpler. It was the first and only formula that could be considered to be the authentic product of spiritual togetherness.  Francis Gormoh described how the late Pa Modibo Jalloh, resident of Mokpewa village in the Nongoba Bullom Chiefdom (Bonthe District), introduced the idea of merging an expertise in herbalism with excerpts of evocative script from the Holy Koran.  The stimulus for this combination was also said to emanate from a vision:

"Pa Modibo Jalloh was selected to be the sorcerer.  He too had a dream after the [above-mentioned] ceremony [in Kale]...  It came from Kasila, the traditional sea-god of the area known as Turner's Peninsula.  In the dream, he was directed to a location along the coastline of Turner's Peninsula.  In the morning he went there and found a small book written in Arabic together with some dried leaves lying next to it.

[Jalloh] used that book and the dried leaves to foretell the day-to-day actitivities and movements of the enemies.  His activities assisted the Kamajors greatly in their fight."220

572. The Commission notes that the story of how the Kamajor Society came into being has been told and retold in many different forms as the years have passed.  Predictably, as rumours have circulated among Kamajor initiates as to the origin of Kondewah's 'special powers', variations and exaggerations of the above narrative have filtered into the folklore of the Mende people.221  A popular component of these fictional alternatives is that Kondewah had to perform some heroic act of escapism in order to become the Initiator of the Kamajors.

573. Thus, in the only noteworthy published account of the genesis of the Kamajors,222 an academic by the name of Patrick Muana drew upon fairly typical stories told by Kamajor fighters and displaced persons in the wartime camps around Bo.  Muana's account situated Kondewah in the Jong Chiefdom of Bonthe District under conditions of considerable duress at the point of his revelation:

"Following an RUF attack on a village in the Jong Chiefdom, the rebels are reported to have massacred people in the village including a great Kamajoi and medicine man called Kposowai.  His brother Kondorwai [sic Kondewah]223 is said to have been captured by the rebels, forced to carry looted goods and tied with 'tabay' securely for the night whilst the rebels pitched camp.

As he drifted to sleep in spite of his pains, Kondewah is said to have had a vision of his brother who had been killed the day before.  The ropes fell loose and the elder brother invested him with the authority to take to all able-bodied Mende men that the defence of their own lives, homes, wives and children was a sacred duty.

To assist them in that task, Kposowai is said to have shown Kondewah a secret concoction of herbs and instructed that a stringent initiation process should precede the 'washing' of the warriors in the herbs.  This concoction would make them invincible in battle, impervious to bullets, and endow them with powers of clairvoyance if all taboos were kept.  Kondewah is said to have slaughtered the RUF rebels, freed the other captives, and trekked several miles to a secret hiding place where he initiated the first set of men."224

574. The Commission found no evidence that Kondewah was detained by the RUF.  Indeed, based upon confessions from RUF members in other Districts, it is highly unlikely that he would have been spared death if he had been captured in the manner suggested because men thought to possess 'special powers' and to be working with the enemy were routinely killed upon capture.225  Moreover, Kondewah displayed no such abilities in escapology when he was detained in a later episode, as one senior member of the Kamajors told the Commission:

"On one occasion, this Kondewah looted a truck and the people came to report it to me; I passed the complaint on to ECOMOG...  Kondewah came and challenged them, so they put him in the cells.  The commander said to him: 'If you have your correct charms, you escape then!'  People [like him] were just lying about their abilities.  If you have your correct charms, why don't you disappear?  He was there for several hours."226

575. From first-hand testimonies, the Commission ascertained that the first initiates of the Kamajor Society as it was constituted during the war comprised between four and six native sons of the Kwamebai Krim (Bonthe) and Mano Sakrim (Pujehun) Chiefdoms.227  They included Francis Gormoh, Joe Timmeday, Joseph A. S. Koroma and Moinina Fofana.

576. The first initiation ceremony took place in Kale village, Kwamebai Krim Chiefdom, Bonthe District in June 1996 and was performed by Allieu Kondewah.  These initiates represented the first de facto members of the wartime Kamajor Society.  Their status as descendants of Bonthe families and residents of the Bonthe District was vital, for at that time membership of the Kamajor Society was essentially an ancestral heirloom.  Thousands of fellow Bontheans would follow them into the ranks of the Kamajors.  The Bonthe District became the defensive stronghold of the movement.

577. Indeed, there might have been some credence in the contention that the Kamajor Society was purely a collective traditional defence mechanism if only membership had been limited to the citizenry of Bonthe District.  In this light, it would have accorded with the widespread social custom of passing particular 'local' knowledge, skills or characteristics from one generation to the next.  The concept is akin to keeping a secret, or keeping something in the family.

578. Such custom is practised in all parts of Sierra Leone, particularly with rituals and the powers accrued from them.228  The limited extent to which sharing and mixing takes place is evidenced by the strong and distinct locative identities that most Sierra Leoneans retain; in other words, a large component of who you are depends on where you come from.

579. The scale and nature of the role played by the Kamajor Society in the Sierra Leone conflict would have been very different if this traditional practice were to have been retained.  There ought to have been a shared understanding of the parameters within which initiations could take place.  From the testimony of Francis Gormoh, however, it is clear that there was a breach of faith somewhere down the line.  What the whole of Sierra Leone came to know as the Kamajor Society grew out of an abuse of the ancestral heirloom by the man whom it had chiefly empowered:

"Allieu Kondewah was instructed by the ancestors and Kasila [the sea god] never to perform any initiation ceremony outside of Bonthe District and that if he ever did that he would get his downfall.  Failure on his part to pay heed to this instruction was what led to his downfall."229


Internal Dynamics in the NPRC and the Maada Bio Palace Coup

580. Towards the end of its period in Government, the NPRC administration became mired in internal power struggles and peace efforts.  These events represented the culmination of several distinct but parallel trends.  They also formed the basis for the handover of power to a democratically-elected Government, which all parties hoped would signal a new dawn for the country.  Finally they offered a pre-emptory pointer to what lay ahead in the third phase of the conflict.

581. Valentine Strasser's grip on the office of Head of State had begun to look increasingly tenuous.  In 1995, his susceptibility to an in-house plot to remove him from power was drawn to his attention on numerous occasions, both formally and informally.  Rather than alter his perspective or the arrangements in place for his personal protection, Strasser rested on his laurels.  His avowed faith in his closest colleagues had given rise to a false sense of security.  It would prove to be his undoing.

582. The Force Commander of the Sierra Leone Army, Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, knew of the deficiencies in Strasser's leadership more than most.  In his capacity as Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Council he had been asked to step into the breach on more than one occasion to compensate or cover for his compatriot's shortcomings.  It was Maada Bio's contention to the Commission that he never seriously considered vying for power throughout the three roller coaster years that had passed.  Indeed he maintained that his eventual intervention was an emergency measure carried out in the best interests of the country:

"If I had wanted power then I would have become Head of State long before I actually became Head of State...."230

583. What became known as the 'Palace Coup' was essentially an action in two parts.  The first entailed a protracted political and philosophical disagreement over the modalities of succession and the conduct of elections.  The second was a meeting of military minds on the point that Strasser had to be forced from office and out of the country.  The outcome was the arrest and removal of Valentine Strasser, leading to the installation of Julius Maada Bio as the new Chairman of the NPRC.  Maada Bio assumed all protocols as Head of State on the day of his 'Palace Coup', 16 January 1996.

Putting in place the Modalities for Presidential and Parliamentary Elections

584. In accordance with objectives stated at the time it came to power, the NPRC would make way for a civilian Government during its fourth year.  This policy was endorsed and frequently reiterated by all members of the Council, at least in principle.  Julius Maada Bio travelled to Ghana to assess institutions and 'good practices' in the transition to military rule that Sierra Leone could adopt.231  Succession was to be effected through democratic multi-party elections for both the Presidency and the national Parliament.

585. Inevitably the practical issues around elections would present a variety of challenges, primarily in determining the format and timing for the polls themselves.  There was certainly a play-off between two key priorities in the process: thoroughness and public trust.  Thoroughness, it was argued, required lengthy deliberation and several preliminary steps before staging the elections.  Conversely, public trust and confidence would only be maintained if the process was seen to be advancing smoothly and speedily.

586. The Commission heard from the former Chief Secretary of the Supreme Council, John Benjamin, that the NPRC's original succession proposal placed an emphasis on thoroughness.  It advocated for an incremental re-introduction of politics into Sierra Leonean governance.  The first step was intended to comprise non-partisan elections at the level of Town and District Councils.  According to Benjamin, it was based on the rationale that freedom and fairness were best secured by slowly ceding organisational responsibilities back to the people:

"Our programme was gradual...  We had a programme to register voters and do local elections without a political platform.  Then, instead of having a management team appointed by the Government, you do elections which are party-free.  You let the people function for six to 12 months, and thereafter you lift the political party ban and introduce politics.  Only then will people contest the General and Presidential Elections on a political platform."232

587. To a large extent, however, this proposal appears to have been shelved in favour of expediency.  In a speech on 27 April 1995, the anniversary of Sierra Leone's independence, Strasser declared that the standing ban on political parties would be lifted immediately and permanently.  The speech resonated principally because of its undertaking to stage a national 'consultative conference' in advance of a handover to civilian rule:

"This [conference] would provide a forum for all parties concerned to genuinely discuss the details and criteria for the declared electoral process, leading to the swearing-in of the new President in January 1996."233

588. The Commission has found that this speech represented a crucial point of divergence within the NPRC administration.  It precipitated a sudden clamouring for 'ownership' of the succession process.  It also had profound ramifications on how and when elections would be held.  Strasser obviated the possibility of non-partisan local elections and accelerated the timetable for the election of a new President.

589. Moreover, Strasser took a further decisive step by removing important consultations from the internal forum of the NPRC and transferring the prerogative into the public domain.  The body created for the purpose of steering these consultations was called the Interim National Electoral Commission (INEC).  Its Chief Electoral Officer was the former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Dr. James Jonah.

590. The Commission heard from Dr. Sam Maligie, who was a Minister at the time, that Strasser's declaration was made unilaterally and to the great disdain of other members of the Government:

"He lifted that ban [on political parties] without discussing it with either the Supreme Council or with us in Cabinet.  It was unexpectedly during one Independence Anniversary.  A lot of them were very disappointed and upset.

When he appointed the Electoral Commissioner, he said that by rights the Electoral Commission should be under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, but that he did not want the Commission to be influenced by me or by any other members of the Council.  [So] they worked with me and we used to hold meetings together but then the report was sent straight to him..."234

591. On the face of it, Strasser's 'consultative conference' was an alternative mechanism for ensuring that the electoral process was immune from manipulation by members of the NPRC.  The Commission heard that the NPRC administration undertook meticulous efforts in planning the legislative and institutional basis for the elections, which included a Commission for Education on Rights and Civic Responsibilities in addition to INEC.235

592. James Jonah's allurement back to Sierra Leone was a prize that was pursued ardently over several months of negotiations.  Maada Bio testified that members of the NPRC administration "were so much bent on really cleaning up the political system" that they had set their sights on a co-ordinating committee comprised solely of credible and impartial functionaries.236

593. However, behind the common albeit subtly differing expressions of noble objectives, there was clear discord.  Some witnesses testified to the Commission that Strasser's departure from a unified position belied the existence of tribalism within the NPRC administration.237  Maada Bio expounded his own suspicion that Strasser was coerced by a powerful constituency of Krios in the Cabinet to engineer the process in order to become the first Krio President of the Republic.238  He highlighted the lobbying of Krio personalities such as Arnold Bishop Gooding, the then Secretary of State for Information, and Hindolo Trye, whose brief was Transport and Communications.

594. A similar viewpoint was put forward by John Benjamin.  He also contended that those who should have been in charge were effectively marginalised:

"[Strasser] was badly influenced by some politicians, like Dr. Jonah and his other [Krio] tribe-mates.  He was no longer listening to the people with whom he actually had the greater share of the Government.  When you stop listening to advice, you make mistakes."239

595. These allegations of tribalism were not borne out in practice.  The path that Strasser took was in fact one that led to multi-party elections being held in the shortest possible space of time.  Moreover, he did not contest those elections; nor did he become the first Krio President.  Thus, the accusation of a Krio-driven conspiracy remains unsubstantiated.

596. Nevertheless, the Commission notes that the elections without Strasser's participation were more realistically salvaged in spite of him rather than secured by him.  Certainly Strasser's political convictions seem to have fluctuated somewhat between April 1995 and January 1996.  It is in these fluctuations and the reactions to them that one can best understand how the whole episode culminated in a peaceful handover to a new Government.

597. Having publicly billed the 'consultative conference', Strasser was held to his word by a vigorous insistence on democracy among the civilian population.  Accordingly, the National Consultative Conference on the Electoral Process took place at the Bintumani Hotel in Freetown between 15 and 17 August 1995.  A second conference on the same theme was held in the same location six months later, between 12 and 14 February 1996.  These two events are popularly referred to as 'Bintumani I' and 'Bintumani II'.

598. At Bintumani I, Strasser relinquished the task of deciding whether or not elections should proceed.  Instead he sought the Conference's direction.  In doing so he betrayed an almost counter-intuitive acceptance that elections would have to go ahead sooner rather than later.  He demonstrated his reservations by posing the following questions to the conference participants:

"Given that the security situation deteriorates or improves, would the voter be secure on polling day?  Should the peace process be linked with a date for elections?  Assuming the RUF, true to its word, intends disrupting the electoral process, do we still insist on elections without a cease-fire?  If we must have elections regardless of the RUF's threat to disrupt them, how are these elections going to be conducted and what voting system is going to be adopted given the current size of the displaced and refugee population?"240

599. Among those present at both Bintumani I and II were religious leaders and civil society groups, including representatives of the professional associations for teachers, medics, lawyers and journalists.  A particularly strong voice was that of Sierra Leonean women,241 who formed their own body called Women Organised for a Morally Enlightened Nation (WOMEN), led by the women's rights activist Zainab Bangura.

600. On the whole the attendants were seen to be staunchly in favour of elections, no matter what obstacles were proclaimed to exist by the military Government.  Some sections of the civilian population held the NPRC leadership in utter contempt.  They suspected that to wait for 'Peace before Elections' would be to play into the hands of the 'sobels' who wanted to prolong the war.242

601. Bintumani I thus overwhelmingly insisted that elections must be conducted despite the hazardous security situation.  The participants characterised democratic stability as a precondition for a negotiated end to the war.243  In short, they opted for 'Elections before Peace'.  The provisional date for Presidential elections was agreed upon by the plenary.  A slight postponement was accommodated, with the primary vote scheduled for 26 February 1996.

602. Amidst a raft of concerns about the likelihood of RUF violence, Strasser made another point at Bintumani I that carried prophetic significance:

"Past experience has shown us that politicking and electioneering in our country have always been characterised by widespread violence and bloody confrontations.  We must have learnt our lessons now; and this time around political groupings must be prepared to play by the rules."244

603. The rules themselves were the subject of considerable controversy.  James Jonah was mandated to complete a nationwide registration of voters.  In the original plan, the registration process was due to preface local elections, which in turn would provide the basis for Presidential elections.  However, Jonah was unable to meet the deadline for registration.  He contrived a revised plan of action in order save face and to ensure that at least the primary Presidential elections would remain on course.

604. John Benjamin testified to the Commission that Jonah's inability to "perform against target" had impacted considerably on the sense of common purpose within the administration:

"I had a lot of disagreement with people like Dr. Jonah because our programme was supposed to be gradual.  We wanted first to revise the constitution, because the one we had [the APC constitution of 1991] was 'washed' on the people without a proper referendum.  The present President [Ahmad Tejan Kabbah] was working with the NPRC as an Adviser, or Counsellor...  He did a revised constitution and we were going to do a referendum based on the work that he had done...  But because Dr. Jonah could not register people against the deadline that we were working with, he then convinced the Chairman [Strasser] that we can reverse the whole process."245

605. Thus in another crucial fluctuation, the rules eventually succumbed to a change of direction by Strasser.  The previously favoured incremental approach, complete with a newly-drafted Constitution, was rejected as too cumbersome.  Strasser declared instead that the regulations of the 1991 Constitution promulgated under the APC would be used to conduct the elections.  The General and Presidential Elections would take place first in February 1996; local council elections would, as it turned out, be put off indefinitely.246

606. Maada Bio recounted that the proposed reversal of process encountered stout resistance during a meeting of members of the NPRC Cabinet.  One of the firmest dissenters was the NPRC Secretary-General John Benjamin.  Nevertheless Strasser signed the rules into effect as the basis for succession.  The Commission heard from Benjamin that the influence of James Jonah on Strasser's course of action was conspicuous:

"Strasser said we should use the 1991 constitution...  It was on the advice of Dr. Jonah.  Because [originally] he had told Dr. Jonah that he was not interested in politics.  So Jonah had been directing him.  When Strasser did that [insisted on the 1991 Constitution], we said: 'Fine; but the 1991 Constitution states that for you to contest the Presidency, you must be 40 years old or above'...  We went along and set everything in position for the elections to take place."247

607. One somewhat unexpected product of the NPRC in the subsequent build-up to the elections was a political party of its own creation.  The so-called National Unity Party (NUP) was formed in order expressly to secure some NPRC representation in the election campaign.

608. It was speculated before the Commission that Julius Maada Bio harboured ambitions to stand as the NUP candidate in the elections, but that Strasser's ratification of the constitutional minimum age had prevented him.  Maada Bio was quite guarded in his testimony on this issue.  He stated his continued perception that the NUP was envisioned as a vehicle for the civilian members of the NPRC; not a platform that would be commandeered by one of its military officers.248

609. It transpired that the NUP candidate for the Presidential Elections was John Karimu, the former NPRC Secretary of State for Finance.  He was one of thirteen candidates who put themselves forward for the Presidential Elections.  With regard to the fluctuations of the succession process, there was one other candidate with notable connections to the NPRC.  He was Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, former Head of the NPRC Advisory Council and drafter of the proposal for the revised constitution that was subsequently rejected.  Kabbah was nominated as the candidate for the Sierra Leone Peoples' Party (SLPP).

610. Thus all the modalities were put in place for General and Presidential Elections to take place in February 1996.  This period would have profound reverberations on the immediate and longer-term future of governance in Sierra Leone.

611. Of immediate consequence was the rumour that Strasser had changed his mind and wanted to contest the 1996 elections. In order for the incumbent Head of State, who was 31 years of age by that time and had for a lengthy period been the youngest serving Head of State in history, to assume the Presidency through victory in a ballot conducted under the terms of the Constitution, there would have had to be a change made to the provision containing the proposed minimum age.  Strasser himself had signed this provision into force, which appears to indicate that, up until a certain point, he genuinely harboured no intention of contesting the election.  It would seem that pressure had been put upon him by certain interest groups to make him change his mind sufficiently to advocate for the Constitutional change.

612. Strasser denied that he attempted to change the constitution to make him contest the election to the presidency:

"You would perhaps know that our Constitution has a minimum age limit of 40 years; that if you want to put yourself up as a candidate in the Presidential elections, you have to be 40 years old or above... Some people might have felt that I had intentions to change or amend the Constitution so [as to] make it possible for me to run in the Presidential elections - so as to succeed myself.

[...] I will say this clearly: I had no intention to succeed myself because I knew then at the time that the Constitution made it impossible for me to contest in that particular Presidential election in 1996.  But some of the members of the Government might have felt that I intended to change or amend the Constitution with Parliament in suspension, so that it would be possible for me to put myself up as a candidate in the Presidential election and in doing so succeed myself.  That might have been one of the reasons why my Government was overthrown.  I actually don't know."249

613. The Commission heard testimony from the former Secretary of State for Internal Affairs, Dr. Samuel Maligie that Strasser actually wanted to change the Constitution. However he wanted to do so in order to avert a piece of belated double-dealing from Maada Bio:

At the eleventh hour, when he realised that his Deputy [Maada Bio] was  in running for Presidency, that's when he said: 'No, I will put a stop to this now; I'm interested in it now'.  But he really was not interested in becoming President; he had already received his admission letter from a college in England...  He was framed and that was a very sad thing."250

614. Testimony available to the Commission indicated that at a meeting of the Supreme Council of State on or about 12th or 13th January 1996, Strasser told his colleagues, "let's change the Constitution, I want to contest".251 He was stoutly opposed by Maada Bio, Charlie Bayoh and Karefa Kargbo. The meeting was inconclusive as Strasser angrily walked out. At a second meeting on the subject, Maada Bio and the others became convinced that Strasser was serious to succeed himself. They therefore concluded that a regime change had become inevitable.

615.    Strasser himself began applying pressure on the key members of his government to change their minds. He sent Chief Steve Bio to convince his nephew Maada to change his mind, otherwise by the next Monday, Maada Bio would be arrested and taken to Pademba Road prison.

I knew that I had only two options in that situation - let him throw the country into chaos with my support, or refuse him and end up in prison. I spent the Saturday and Sunday plotting the way to remove him. I  knew his natural enemies, so I would have to enlist their support; I called Charlie Bayoh, Karefa Kargbo, Idriss Kamara, Tom Nyuma, his Chief of Security, Mondeh.252

Some of the military officers were looking for Strasser's head on a plate. Maada Bio claims that he insisted on no bloodshed, "less chaos, just disarm the security, surround him and perform a clinical operation."  

616. They agreed that at the next Council meeting the following Monday, Strasser was to be removed. Maada Bio had to make sure that none of his co-plotters had leaked the plan to Strasser. He therefore paid Strasser a visit over the weekend and convinced him to re-present the plan on the Monday, assuring him that most Council members would support it.253 An opportunity presented itself to carry out the coup that weekend as Strasser was guest of honour at the passing out parade from training of military personnel at the Benguema military camp. Strasser had travelled by helicopter and the coup plotters considered shooting it down. Finally they restated their resolve that the overthrow should be bloodless and deferred their plans to the following Monday.

617. All through the weekend, Maada Bio perfected his plans. He ensured that only troops loyal to him would be on duty at the Cockerill Military Headquarters where the meeting was to take place. He also smuggled his personal pistol into the meeting. Once the meeting commenced, the doors to the Council chambers were to be locked until he directed otherwise. He also got the army pilot to be on standby with the engine of the helicopter running to drown out any noise from the Council chamber and to be able to take off at a moment's notice.

618. At the rescheduled Council meeting, Strasser repeated his plans, and sought the support of his colleagues to enable him contest the election to president. The moment he finished, Maada Bio told him that they wouldn't support him and that as at that moment, he was no longer Head of State. Maada Bio pulled out his pistol and pointed it to Straser's head. Strasser turned out to be very strong. He engaged Maada Bio in a fistfight and many of those present joined in. After a while they managed to wrestle Strasser to the ground:

"The whole operation did not take more than five minutes; he might have resisted initially, but as soon as we got the handcuffs on him, he stopped fighting. He was immediately put on the helicopter and flown out to Guinea."254

619. Having constructed an elaborate electoral process including adopting a constitution that disallowed anyone below 40 years from contesting for the president, the motivations behind Strasser's designs to continue in power as an elected civilian president are unclear.  At the outset of their government, the NPRC had stated that it would hand over after four years. The Government had courted and recruited Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora who could assist it with organising a transparent election. It also set up a number of important institutions such as the National Commission for Democracy and Human Rights, as bulwarks for strengthening democracy in the country.  His Vice Chairman, Maada Bio had travelled extensively within the sub region understudying other experiences in arranging transitions from military to civil rule. There was therefore so much expectation riding on a successful transition.

620. Brigadier Maada Bio saw the attempt at transmutation into a civilian president as the culmination of deep seated personal problems that Strasser had had for a long time, which conduced him to bouts of unpredictability and inconsistency and from which the public had largely been shielded until then:

"My personal belief is that Strasser has serious psychological problems and that these things had started to come in when he was in power; but we were all in denial; I am now trying to trace this issue back to certain things he did - he became queer, he pushed important appointments to the side of his agenda, failing to Chair even his own Cabinet meetings.  Sierra Leoneans were kept in the dark on all of these things..... There were times when even his Chief Security came to me and asked me to take over from him, but I refused.  I was loyal to him to the point that I could be.

[...] sometime in September 1995 - Strasser left to go to the UN General Assembly. He was out of the country for one month (30 days) and did not make a single phone call home. Sani Abacha called at one point to speak to the Head of State, but I could not even provide a phone number for him.

[...] I don't expect him to forgive me, but I've never regretted that action.  Whenever I considered my life to be at stake, which is usually connected with a strong national issue, that's when I would resort to an action like that."255

621. Whether or not Strasser was coaxed into following a path of folly by other, older men of the same Krio ethnic group to which he belongs is a matter for conjecture.  The objectives that were harboured by those who sought to coax him are an equally elusive question.  In any case, the only discernible outcome of the internal double-dealings of the members of the NPRC regime was further disharmony between them.  Strasser's own nature proved to be his undoing.



622. This last section of the chapter presents the third and final phase of the darkest decade in Sierra Leone's history.  It allows the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to convey the clearest possible understanding in retrospect of all the military and political dynamics that went before.  It reflects on what brought an end to the conflict.  Finally it focuses the lens gradually onto peace-time and a contemplation of how best to prevent a recurrence.

623. The Commission has given primacy in its title for the third phase to the notion of power struggles.  The Commission thereby aims to demonstrate the causes of the overwhelming majority of violations and abuses committed in the conflict.  Woven through almost every event in the foregoing narrative are conflicting notions of power, as seen through the eyes of those who pursued them.  Members of every faction referred to their participation in the conflict as "the struggle", giving the impression that it was waged in the name of the people. As the chapter on the Nature of the Conflict demonstrates, the dynamics are more complex than that.

624. Sierra Leoneans were displaced, pillaged, killed and subjected to all imaginable forms of torture because fellow Sierra Leoneans saw these violations as unfortunate, though avoidable collateral damage in the protection or pursuit of power.  Innocent, powerless civilians were targeted more than ever in the final phase of the conflict on the premise that the 'power-brokers' affiliated with them might sit up and take notice of their plight. 

625. There were important elements in the power struggles that occurred during this phase of the conflict. These elements are assessed below.

626. In introducing the concept of peace efforts, the Commission bridges the gap between the past and the future.  There will not be true peace in Sierra Leone until there is communal peace of mind.  Thus, the Commission does not regard the signing of the Lomé Accord as the culmination of peace efforts, but rather as a set of measures that would bring an end to the hostilities.  As this section will show, Lomé did not draw a line under the power struggles that occurred within and between military or political factions.  The TRC is one remnant of the Lomé Accord's mostly trampled framework. In that regard, the Commission is endowed with the duty to open the way for a more enduring model for peace based on conflict prevention.

Rivalries within the Factions

627. All the factions were riven by internal conflicts. Often it was represented by an individual's assertion of ascendancy over his local, factional or political rival.  In these cases, the individual himself could act to suppress, harm or eliminate his rival directly, or he could deploy his agents to do so on his behalf. The arrest and detention of Foday Sankoh in Nigeria set the stage for the gradual but inevitable decline and disappearance of the RUF as a military and political force, a process that was completed in the period following the events of 6-8 May 2000 in Freetown.

628. There was no one of the same stature and sagacity as Sankoh to command the loyalty and confidence of the commanders and footmen. As the Battle Group Commander, leadership of the movement fell to Sam Bockarie ("Mosquito"). Mosquito was feared by his fellow commanders for his brutality. Being ensconced in Buedu in Kailahun district, he was not centrally located to control the heartbeat of the movement. Individual commanders retained absolute authority over their areas of control and could on occasion take actions that were not approved by Mosquito or for which he had not even been consulted. A process of competition for control and management of the movement and its resources ensued. This was to have disastrous consequences on the movement.

629. Some of the leaders of the AFRC told the Commission that the only reason they invited the RUF to join them in government in 1997 was their desire to bring the war to an end and stop the suffering of the people. Such invitation did not seem to have been clearly thought through. From the onset there were stresses and strains tearing at the seams of the partnership. In the first week of the overthrow, the Commission was told that the leader of the AFRC Major Johnny Paul Koroma had consented to end his unconstitutional act and give way to the elected president.256

630. At a meeting with the then British and Nigerian High Commissioners, he had agreed to make a broadcast announcing that he was stepping down and inviting President Kabbah to come back from exile and resume his presidency. Elements within the RUF arm of the new government threatened mayhem if he made the broadcast. On the appointed day, the High Commissioners waited in vain for the scheduled broadcast. Subsequently, each faction in the governing AFRC/RUF coalition wanted to stamp its authority and control on the instruments of governance. The result was that officers of state continued to act with impunity and could not be disciplined as they resorted to their respective factions for protection.

631. In the Civil Defence Forces, an intense internal struggle had erupted by late 1997 for the control of the soul of the movement. The central characters were the National Coordinator, Chief Sam Hinga Norman and the War Council in Exile, the arrowhead of the president's attempt to bring the movement under executive control. All kinds of persons, some of them with very dubious credentials were to be invited into the contest in support of the rival groups. This debilitating contest for the soul of the CDF partially explains how the movement deviated from a people's cause to serving individual and group interests, and finally spilled into the political arena with the end of the war. To some of Chief Norman's followers, his present travails are a reflection of these power struggles within the CDF and the attempts to prevent him deriving political mileage for his national service in institutionalising and leading the CDF to resist the AFRC and the RUF.

Power for the Sake of the Trappings of Power

632. This particular form of power-hungriness is most identifiable in the actions of ground-level commanders and the remarkably ad-hoc rabbles of combatants they carried with them.  The quest for power led to the emergence of new factions and sub-factions from existing ones.

633. The coup leaders of 25 May 1997 were incapable of resigning themselves to the life of  soldiers serving a civilian Government.  They made a concerted thrust to redefine their conditions of service by overhauling the state security apparatus of which they were part.  They carried a sizeable proportion of the Sierra Leone Army with them, leading to a large-scale shift in allegiance and a 'new' fighting force known as the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC).

634. When the AFRC junta was ousted forcibly from political office, the institution was wiped out but the factional identity persisted for its soldiers.  Having been rejected by the people they claimed to be liberating, they claimed they were fighting in revenge for the trial, detentions and execution of some of their colleagues, and in the vain hope that they could acquire power through battlefield successes.  Their sole right to bear arms as soldiers was to protect lives, property and the territorial integrity of the country.  Thus, the longer they fought against the will of their people, the more confused became their cause, and the more impossible it was for them to win from the battlefield.

635. The context of the conflict was certainly compounded by the intervention of foreign troops under ECOMOG.  The mandate of this Nigerian-led force was as a ceasefire monitoring group.  With the existing national army having turned its guns against the government and the people, ECOMOG was compelled to step in to restore the legitimate government. This was viewed as partisan by the AFRC and the RUF and may have contributed to prolonging the conflict.

636. Essentially the ECOMOG intervention was mandated by the Heads of State of the sub regional body as well as the Organisation of African Unity. The United Nations Security Council subsequently accepted the intervention as necessary to restore the elected government to power.  By rights, soldiers of the SLA should fulfil a mandate to protect the state; yet it was SLA soldiers who posed the greatest threat against the state.  Meanwhile foreign troops who entered Sierra Leone to separate the fighting forces and ensure observance of ceasefire were increasingly looked upon and requested by the state to become its foremost source of protection.

637. Upon applying these dynamics to the minds of the combatants themselves, it becomes possible to understand the way the factions behaved.  The Sierra Leonean soldiers having committed treason were stripped of their constitutional status.  This precipitated resentment and frustration, which in turn gave rise to an irrational tendency to lash out violently.  The soldiers viewed civilians with contempt because they regarded civilian life as the hallmark of what their enemies stood for.  By deliberately disrupting and destroying civilian life, the soldiers were striking at the foundations of civilian Government. 

638. ECOMOG faced an enemy that was unpredictable and unrestrained by the conventional parameters of warfare between Armies.  ECOMOG soldiers were disadvantaged by their lack of topographical knowledge.  Roads flanked with thick forests were imbued with the danger of ambush attacks.  Alternative routes were only navigable with the assistance of local militiamen. It therefore continued to recruit scouts and work with the Kamajors in resisting the forces of the RUF and AFRC.  The topography meant that vehicles, heavy weaponry and other superior logistics had to be left behind.  Liberated areas could not be held for long as ECOMOG dispersed itself thinly on the ground. Members of the RUF and AFRC testified to the Commission that the key to overcoming ECOMOG was to put them under sufficient psychological pressure to render an all-out gunfight unnecessary. Yet, ECOMOG engaged the AFRC and the RUF all over the country scoring resounding victories. Its thin spread meant that the victories could not be consolidated as the RUF and the ARC took to the countryside while ECOMOG maintained intimidating presence in the main towns. It was therefore difficult for ECOMOG to respond sufficiently to attacks in the countryside as the RUF deployed its ambush strategy to devastating effect, quickly dispersing into the bushes before ECOMOG arrived.

639. In the wake of the devastating events in Freetown in January 1999, combatants coalesced afresh around commanders with whom they had become allied or associated during the fighting.

640. Approximately two years later, having been forcefully repelled from office and again in their renewed assault on power, a smaller core of them constituted a splinter group called the West Side Boys. Their declared aim was to be re-absorbed into the new Sierra Leonean Army.

The Peace Paradigm: Power Sharing

641. It is accordingly of immense significance that the paradigm for peace opted for under the Lomé Accord was one centred on power sharing.  This route was the only one available for compromise between the two sides since none of them had the capacity for an all out victory to bring the war to an end.  The mantra of the RUF that it was a revolutionary movement had become totally rejected by this time and sounded hollow even to its members, many of who didn't even know what the movement stood for. Terror became its chief weapon in fighting for power. The restored SLPP government in attempting to consolidate its rule and defeat the RUF and the AFRC, promoted a civil militia that engaged in gross abuses and violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, to which the government turned a blind eye.

642. The RUF became a totally amorphous movement in the third phase.  Its command structure had been decapitated by Foday Sankoh's arrest and confinement in Abuja, Nigeria.  In his last direction to the combatant cadre of the RUF that was paid heed and carried out, Sankoh announced an alliance with the soldiers of the AFRC to establish a People's Army.  Thereafter he became a pawn in other parties' moves towards 'conflict resolution'.

643. Perhaps the most important finding of the Commission is that erstwhile soldiers of the Sierra Leone Army carried out the most egregious acts of atrocity during the third phase.  They acted largely in their individual capacities in doing so and are held accountable accordingly.  Yet in certain instances they were deployed as agents of someone else's agenda, precisely because they were known to be malleable and unscrupulous by those who directed them.

644. The factional fluidity that defined this conflict is also drawn into sharper focus in the third phase.  Many of the early members of the RUF on its Southern Front in the Pujehun District reappeared as Kamajors under the banner of the CDF.  Theirs was not so much a switching of sides as the identification of a new vehicle on which to purvey their notions of empowerment as civil militiamen. The chameleonic nature of the third phase of the conflict is part of the uncomfortable truths around the conflict.

645. Hence, perhaps the most uncomfortable truth about the third phase of the conflict: the very same core of individuals who visited mayhem on Freetown on 6 January 1999 were subsequently co-opted by the Government to eliminate the RUF on and around 8 May 2000.


646. To most observers within the military, the 25 May 1997 coup was predictable. Most of the army officers interviewed by the Commission claimed that the new Government made so many wrong decisions in its early months in power. This compounded existing feelings of alienation in the army, and coupled with the political ambitions of some of the junior offices, they concluded that a coup was a matter of time.  A number of reasons have been offered as to why the coup occurred.

"On my taking up office as President in 1996 thereby succeeding a military junta, the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC), I was bequeathed with a security outfit which had been polarised for years as I have already mentioned and which regarded itself as having loyalty not to the Government of the day but to the only political class which they had known over the years and to which they had related.  The one thing the NPRC coup of 1992 did was to bring an end to that political hegemony and to prevent it from perpetuating itself further. But the ill effect of that coup, like all others, was to entrench the military in government in this case for a period of four years.

In this situation, even when the leadership of the NPRC appeared to have given up power on the assumption of office of my civilian Government in 1996, there still remained in the military in both senior and junior ranks, elements who had tasted power and what they considered as the perquisites of power. They were not prepared to give these up lightly and become loyal to my civilian Government. These were, for instance, personal bodyguards, drivers and batmen of the NPRC Secretaries of State.  Such lackeys, because of the positions occupied by their patrons were able to amass a lot of ill-gotten wealth by their extortion and intimidation of the civilian population who held such soldiers in awe.  The fear of their losing their underserved privileges and of an end of the opportunities they had for amassing more wealth illegally was one main reason for their unwillingness to accept the changes from a military regime to civilian rule."257

647. The Army had become divided by the various differences of opinion within it towards the transfer to civilian rule.  According to Julius Maada Bio, his intention from the point at which he assumed the Chairmanship of the NPRC was to secure the handover of the reins of government back to a civilian party.  Yet many of the boys who Maada Bio and his compatriots were leaving behind did not want to relinquish their hold on power.  These constituencies applied sustained pressure on Maada Bio in an attempt to elicit an assurance from him that he was staying put.

"If I had told them for one moment that I would hand over power, I am sure that I would have been overthrown.  I therefore kept on giving them the impression that I would stay on until the very last minute. On the day I handed over power, some of them came to me to express their disappointment, and they warned me that we would hear from them in the future258

The 'future' reference implied an express link between the fallout of the handover to civilian rule and the eventual execution of a coup by some of the same disaffected soldiers.

648. One of the reasons why the AFRC coup occurred was that the ring leaders had some affiliation with the previous NPRC government.

"In the first place, if you look at the key players of that coup, more than 80% were the same guys who were either bodyguards or whatever [other auxiliary functions] to the NPRC guys.  If you look at it, eighty to eighty-something percent of those guys really took part in the coup.  Their backgrounds meant they had personal connections to the guys who had left.  And apparently none of them was actively involved in war at any one time.  They were all at the rear.

[...] Some were footballers; some were just mere civilians.  Some were just living off the work of others and that kind of thing.  I agree that when you look at the genesis of what happened, there were one or two problems with the war.  But none of them was a key player in the war; so for somebody to tell me that the AFRC guys did what they did because the war situation was not properly managed, I will not buy it."259

649. Beyond the issue of affiliation to the NPRC, there were further reasons that made 25 May 1997 predictable:

"It was common knowledge to most critical Sierra Leoneans that the majority of the military were dissatisfied with the apparent exposure of serious abuse and misuse of public funds in prosecuting the war [which] they themselves had not succeeded in ending. Allegations continued to be highlighted about massive corrupt practices and embezzlement of funds in key sector ministries such as Finance, Education, Mineral Resources, Defence and so on."260

650. In the perception of the soldiers, what followed was a major purge of the Army in a bid to rid the institution of NPRC junta elements.  Examples included the Chiefs of Defence and Army Staff, Brigadier Joy Toure and Colonel Komba Mondeh respectively, both of whom were replaced.  There were also serious moves by the new civilian government to implement major reforms directed at improving the system of accountability and transparency in the financial management of the army. At the heart of this reform within the defence ministry alone was the downsizing of the bloated army and review of the quantity of rice allocated to the armed forces every month.261

651. The size of the Army was always a contentious issue, more so because rice allocations to the army were correlated to its official size.  By 15 September 1994, the official size of the army was put at 11,694 including 395 officers.262 The President in 1996 ordered a census of the size of the army to ascertain its exact strength.  At that time, the Government was giving out approximately 25,000 bags of rice to the Armed Forces every month as salary supplement.

652. The official size of the Army that was presented to the president was approximately 17,000. The Government therefore decided to prune the size down to no more than 7,000. Accordingly only 8000 bags of rice were released to the army every month. This decision was conveyed by the President in respective meetings with the officers and the rank and file.

653. However, in order to continue to allocate to themselves large quantities of rice, the officers told the rank and file that the Government had drastically reduced their rice quotas. No one could have foreseen that the reduction of the rice quotas to accord with the actual size of the army would give rise to such anger.

654. There was intense resentment against the government and the officer corps from within the rank and file, who notionally held the officer corps responsible for their reduced quotas. They saw the officers as colluding with the government to deny them the only material expression of appreciation by the government for their service to the country. As one soldier put it:

They took the rice away from us; the senior officers just said that the Government said they should cut down the rice.  All of the circumstances combined to make the plight of the junior soldier fairly miserable... the serving officers were living well at the time... I thought that they were eating some of our supplies... they promised that they were going to raise the salary by 50%; but it never materialised.  By March 1997 the CDS was apologising that there were no better supplies.  Senior officers and the Government alike were pushing down the junior soldiers.263

655. The threat of redundancy following the decision to purge the army of NPRC junta elements added to the resentment. In one instance, Maada Bio recounted to the Commission the speed with which the SLPP government retired about 17 soldiers who had been sent on intensive training in executive protection. They were to form the bulwark of a protection arm for the office of the President, providing him with eagle eyed and well trained security protection. This force he had commended to his successor.264 No sooner had they returned from their training, than they were retired. A close associate of the president had defended this action saying that the men were retired on the advice of the serving officers in the army who warned the president that having such a group around him would make it easier for him to be overthrown. It was therefore in the national interest that they be retired.265

656. Whatever be the case, the impression within the entire armed forces was that the new government was out on a witch-hunt. This was compounded by the relationship between the soldiers and the Kamajor militia.

"Another issue which was regarded as a sensitive factor which displease the army was the Kamajor-soldier relationship against the RUF as a common enemy. Before this time, the Kamajor as a local militia force mobilised by the Deputy Minister of Defence Chief Hinga Norman had stemmed the tide of advances of the RUF mainly in the southern region of the country. With the coming into power the SLPP-led democratic government, there were plans to integrate the fighters into the regular army, and the somewhat increased attention paid to their welfare fuelled speculation of the desire of the SLPP stalwarts to create a private army to manipulate their continue stay in power. Thus it was obvious that an uneasy calm characterized their relationship which grew worse when there were reports of serious fighting between the army and Kamajor at Mile 91 sometime around the end of 1996."266

657. While the reforms may have been carried out with the best of intentions, the timing was wrong. The reforms did not lead to the consolidation of the rule of the new government. The army was riven with factions and the government could not count on the effective support of any segment of the army. The alternative to the reforms might have been that the Government would continue to be held to ransom by the soldiers. The impact however was that the reforms alienated the few friends the Government had in the army who folded their hands to watch events as they unfolded.

658. According to one military witness:

"Because of the treatment of the Army; every soldier knew it was going to happen at that time - everybody was disgruntled, so when this thing began, we all just said let it happen and afterwards we'll confront it."267

659. From his appointment as Deputy Minister of Defence in 1996, Chief Hinga Norman made no bones of his distrust of the army and increasingly sought to institutionalise the Civil Defence Forces as an effective security apparatus on which the government could depend. There may have been some justification for his actions.  The seeds of distrust in the Sierra Leone Army were beginning to take root with the increasing adoption of phrases like 'sobels' to describe the soldiers.268  What irked the rest of the armed forces and irrevocably turned them against the government was the wholesale condemnation of the army rather than some members of it, as colluding with the RUF. While the army was accused of supporting the RUF, members of the CDF felt encouraged to attack soldiers in the regions.

Since the war started in 1991, the RUF was not able to capture any district in the country until after the elections of 1996. If we had been with them, we would have allowed them to capture many places and that would have given them the leverage to discuss (allow them to talk from a position of strength.) How could we have allowed ourselves to have anything with them when you had officers and men of the army being killed at the war fronts. From Colonel to private, they were being killed. I don't know how we could have played such a game and have had such an unholy alliance when our colleagues were being killed. Let's assume that someone among us had been giving them information, that I can't tell. But to say that there was an alliance, I want to challenge that. Up till this moment, there has been no proof and I challenge somebody to come up and say this is the proof.269

660. Despite the spirited denials by the army that it was not colluding with the RUF, the perception continued to grow among the populace that the army could not be trusted. Attacks against men in uniforms mounted.

661. In 1996 the army had sought to impose a very sharp and decisive military response to those attacks through organising a raid against Kamajor elements at Telu Bongor. Scores of Kamajors were killed in that attack and Chief Norman, the then Regent Chief of the Chiefdom narrowly escaped being killed.

662. With his appointment as Deputy Minister of Defence, rather than striving to bring an end to attacks on soldiers, Chief Norman continued making inflammatory remarks against soldiers.  Other officers of government joined in too, including the then Vice President, Dr. Joe Demby. The Kamajors took this as an invitation to launch attacks on soldiers. The whole of the south was declared a no go area for soldiers. Those wandering outside their barracks risked being killed by Kamajor militia men.

663. According to Colonel K. E. S. Boyah270:

"I think the army was able to hold the rebels for a considerable period to prevent them from taking over this country, until when things started getting some dimensions.  If you look at the time we came back from [political] command to headquarters you will find out that the whole situation became complex.  You cannot now know who a government soldier is, because the government soldier will say the CDF or whosoever is given more priority than the soldier.  At a point soldiers came complaining. Let me tell you that very senior people [in Government] will go and meet them and say "we are sorry for you... your situation is such that it can be compared to 2nd World War, when soldiers came back and they were demobilized."  You see the message they want to send to them is that any time from now, they would all be demobilised."

664. Maada Bio also confirmed the integrity problem faced by the Government with the armed forces:

"The military only became a problem when it was politicised; my successors [in the SLPP Government] saw the military as their major threat so they wanted to shift the power to a new group on whose loyalty they thought they could more definitely depend."271

The problem was that the military was already politicised by its participation in government which began in the 1960's. The latest experience of governance during the NPRC regime created a hunger for the spoils of office in the serving soldiers. The miscalculations of the SLPP government fed into this hunger.

665. Feeling themselves under attack by the new government and having lost political power, morale among the armed forces quickly deteriorated. Many were no longer keen to go to the war front, not when they perceived that they were not appreciated by the government:

"The CDF was a creation of the army. When the war started, we were not prepared because we did not have enough manpower and arms and arms to effectively fight the war. This was so because the army had largely become a ceremonial army... The Deputy Minister of Defence should not tell the national army to leave a certain area and be replaced by a militia... the soldiers felt that the Deputy Defence Minister was not only supporting the Kamajors but was also their chief and it was like somebody was playing the ethnic card. It made one wonder what role he was playing best between Deputy Defence Minister and Kamajor chief. The soldiers felt that they should not leave things lying down. They made a lot of complaints ad wrote a lot of anonymous letters. I have the feeling that both Hinga Norman and our bosses did not foresee the danger until it was too late by which time the boys had struck. This was one of the reasons they gave for the coup."272

666. According to a very senior officer in the Army:

"The soldiers believed that the government had a hidden agenda to eliminate the army and replace it with the Kamajors as they were saying it in the open that they were going to build a new army. I don't know what their agenda was but it was reckless of the Deputy Minister of Defence to ally himself [with the Kamajors] and let that issue get out of hand because he knew everything that was happening.

[...] For instance, [he knew] about the soldiers who were killed in Kenema.  It may not be true but let me give you another example.  He was in Bo the previous night before the Kamajors attacked our positions there.  They were holding a meeting together with the CDS, which was called to see how best a compromise could be reached in the relationship between the army and the Kamajors.  During the meeting, commitments were made that the hostilities would cease and that they would come together to fight the common enemy, which was the RUF.  The next morning, the Kamajors attacked our position and a lot of Kamajors were killed including their Paramount Chief.  After some inquiries it was made clear that Hinga Norman had left Bo late at night.  I said to myself that if this was his plan, then he must be a mad man because we were the constitutional army.  If this man had no hidden agenda, why didn't he take them [the Kamajors] to task when they executed 11 soldiers and one army officer in Kenema?"273

It should have been obvious that there would be contradictions in allowing a dual role to exist for Chief Hinga Norman as Deputy Minister of Defence and National Coordinator of the CDF. As Deputy Minister of Defence he was expected to move against the paramilitary force when it overstepped the bounds of its authority or for breaching the peace. His dual role compromised his independence and integrity.

667. Majority of the members of the armed forces therefore felt alienated. Rumours spread of impending coups.  Everyone was on edge.

In addition to their [the army's] continued active collaboration with the rebels, they attempted a number of coups d'état, which were foiled. One such coup plot involving an Acting Major, Johnny Paul Koroma was unearthed early in 1997. In order to produce a thorough and objective investigation into the allegations relating to the plot I requested the Government of Nigeria to assist my Government by the provision of experienced Nigerian investigators. As a result of those investigations, Major Johnny Paul Koroma and a number of junior military officers were charged with treason.274

668. Worried by the worsening relations between the army and the CDF, the President set up a committee in March 1997 to investigate the problems in the relationship and make recommendations to him. The committee was comprised of members of the SLA and representatives of various factions of the CDF under the chairmanship of Bishop Keilli. The committee could not conclude its assignment when the May 25th coup occurred. With the death of Bishop Keilii and the restoration of the President to power in 1998, the Committee ceased to operate. By this time too, the majority of the members of the armed forces had joined the AFRC in the bush.

669. The President also invited Nigerian military personnel to investigate allegations of a coup plot. Based on the investigation, a number of army officers including Major Johnny Paul Koroma were put on trial. The trial of the alleged coup plotters was in progress when the coup of May 25 1997 occurred. 

670. It seemed that there was more than one coup attempt.  According to the then Chief of Defence Staff, Brigadier Hassan Conteh:

"During my tenure of office, I was able to foil two coup attempts against the SLPP government, namely, the attempt by Major Johnny Paul Koroma and others, and the attempt by Stephen Bio, Lieutenant Tamba Alex Brima and others few months later. As regards Major Johnny Paul Koroma and others, I learnt of their plot from the late W.O. I Mansaray and the military intelligence branch. I wasted no time in informing His Excellency the President and other authorities. In the case of Lt. Brima I was informed by Hon. Prince Harding the then Minister of Mineral Resources and I took action to arrest the alleged coup plotters and the matter was still being investigated at the CID when the coup of the AFRC took place."275

671. Major Johnny Paul Koroma disputed the fact that he participated in an alleged coup attempt.

Since 1996 I was in prison for an alleged coup for which I knew nothing. It was when we were in court that the whole thing came out because there was one accused person who testified he was given Le25,000 to implicate me by one Captain Miller. And then there was also one warrant officer who was at the armoured regiment, armoured unit. He testified that he was also threatened to be killed, that if he didn't implicate me he was going to die just like one staff sergeant died. So he was afraid and he mentioned my name in a statement. But what he said about me was not very important because he only said that he met me at the junction and I didn't say anything when he greeted me. My lawyer saw there was nothing and was asking that I be acquitted, but...they never let me go...they started adjourning the case. I was preparing to go to court on the Monday morning when this coup took place on the Sunday.276

672. Another credible allegation of a coup plot was presented to the President by the Deputy Minister of Defence Chief Hinga Norman on 16th May 1997.  Chief Norman had sought the president's permission to summon a meeting that included the President, the Vice President and the service chiefs, including the Chief of Defence Staff, Brigadier Hassan Conteh, the Chief of Army Staff, Colonel Max Kanga, the Naval Commander Commodore A.B. Sesay and the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Teddy Williams.

673. At the meeting, Chief Norman accused the CDS and the Army Chief of having prior knowledge of a pending coup against the government and doing nothing to suppress it.

After I had finished talking, the president turned to the two officers and said, "gentlemen, did you hear what Chief Norman said?" They said "yes sir". Then His Excellency went on further to say, "do you have anything to say?" The officers said. "No Sir". The President then turned to me and said, "Chief Norman, they say they do not have anything to say".

I became lost for words for a while. After a few minutes, I said, "Your excellency, I did not invite these two officers to say something, but since it is conclusive you do not intend to do anything, I am therefore inviting your Excellency as the Minister of Defence, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Sierra Leone and the President of the Republic to order these officers not to carry out the coup or allow it otherwise if they do, I shall have no alternative but join the people of Sierra Leone to fight and reverse the coup. Thereafter, your Excellency will be constitutionally required to sign their death warrants after due process of law. As of now I shall pray that God will make you survive the coup and to see the consequences of your not taking the appropriate action to protect the people and the state"277

674. According to Chief Norman, he felt a sense of betrayal by the President's inability to act and prevent the coup from occurring. This was clear evidence of a deepening crisis of confidence among the leading members of the government such that the President was incapacitated in taking a decision. He didn't know who to trust.

675. The CDS, Hassan Conteh had a different recollection of this meeting. He called it an operational meeting which took place on Sunday 19th May to discuss the general operational theatre in the country and the war front. His recollection did not include the levelling of any allegations against him by Chief Hinga Norman.278

676. The Commission confronted one of the president's associates with this allegation. His defence was that the President could not be blamed for not taking immediate action on the allegation since the President was getting numerous reports of coups and no longer knew who to believe.279 Whatever be the case, to have ignored the allegation from the Deputy Minister of Defence meant that there was a real crisis of confidence between the President who is also the Minister of Defence and his deputy Minister. This crisis of confidence impacted on how the information from the deputy Minister was treated. The President and the country were to pay dearly for this state of affairs.

Staging the Coup

677. The mastermind of the 25 May 1997 coup was Sgt Alfred Abu Sankoh (alias "Zagallo"). The coup was not detected by the officers or the military intelligence because it was planned on the 24th and executed the next day. Zagallo was a bodyguard to a former Secretary of State during the NPRC regime, and had enjoyed a lot of benefits from that association. He was also a footballer and had been associated with a number of Freetown clubs and was finally requested to set up a football club for the army. The membership of the club was to provide the nucleus of the coup plotters. Zagallo gave vent to the frustrations in the army that led to the coup:

"Soldiers in the lower ranks were not paid a good salary unlike the officers...we were denied of privileges such as overseas courses... soldiers were killed at the war front and no provision was made for their families...there was the burning issue of the rice allocation, our rations had been drastically reduced and many times we got them quite late...the issue of Kamajors was another thing that finally discouraged the soldiers under the regime of the SLPP. As all of this was happening there was widespread rumour in the army that the government wanted to cut down the size of the army...about 240 soldiers were retired from the army early in 1997...most of them had served for more than 30 years...when their retirement benefits were finally paid it was a mere four thousand Leones and four bundles of zinc to each retired soldier and nothing more. There was a lot of grumbling from both the retired soldiers and even serving soldiers were not happy about the way the old men who had suffered in the army were treated."280

678. There was complete disorderliness in the military among the rank and file. The officer cadre played ostrich while the soldiers complained. Many of the rank and file, including Zagallo, decided to resign from the army. Their letters of resignation were not accepted.

679. On the morning of 24 May 1997, Zagallo assembled his team of footballers numbering 17 at the billet of the Wilberforce Barracks where the footballers were camping and reiterated the problems in the country to them, the need for them to take action, and that the way forward had been presented to him in a dream the previous night.  He was told in the dream that all their problems were caused by the senior officers. They agreed to arrest all the senior officers and detain them at the military headquarters in Cockerill, Freetown. They further resolved to carry out the operation the next day.  In attendance at this meeting were the following people, listed overleaf:

1. Sgt. Alex Tamba Brima
2. Lance Corporal Tamba Gborie
3. Corporal George Adams
4. Warrant Officer 11 Franklyn Conteh
5. Warrant Officer 11 Samuel Kargbo
6. Sgt. Ibrahim Bazzy Kamara
7. Sgt. Brima Kamara
8. Sgt. Moses Kabia alias Rambo
9. Sgt. Sullay Turay
10. Corporal Mohammed Kanu alias 55
11. Corporal Momoh Bangura
12. Lance Corporal Foday Kallay
13. Lance Corporal papa Bangura alias Batuta
14. Ex SSD Officer Hector Lahai
15. Civilian Bioh Sisay
16. Abdul Sesay, a civilian staff of the army, and
17. Sgt. Abu Sankoh (alias "Zagallo")281

680. On Sunday 25 May 1997 they all met at 6.00am at Cockerill, the military headquarters. They went through the main gate and met Corporal Gborie who was on duty. All seventeen of them were encouraged to assemble with their personal arms. Major King, the Commanding officer in charge of the Air Force in Cockeril was allegedly contacted by Alex Tamba Brima and had pledged his support to the group. Alex Tamba and WO II Franklyn Conteh were to take care of the armoured tanks. The group then moved on to the arms store. The door was not locked. They collected as much arms as they could carry on their persons including AK 47 rifles and rocket-propelled bombs and tubes. They arrested the soldiers on duty at the Airforce and headquarters security office, tied them up and locked them at the Military Police guardroom. They seized all the arms and ammunition contained in both offices.282 They then proceeded to the tanks and ammo stores. There was no soldier on duty there either. From this store, they collected a formidable supply of rocket-propelled grenades which they loaded in three Mercedes Benz cars they found at Cockerill. They then surrounded the perimeter of the military headquarters and mounted a road block.283

681. As they did so, other soldiers quickly understood what was happening and joined them swelling their ranks to about 100 men. They began deploying themselves to strategic areas. One group headed by Tamba Gborie quickly left for the state radio station SLBS FM 99.9 to announce the take over of government to a shocked nation, and to alert other soldiers on guard duty at the station. Sgt. Alex Tamba Brima was despatched to the Wilberforce Military Barracks while Sgt Brima Kamara quickly moved to secure the army ordnance at Murray town with a group of soldiers. WO II Franklyn Conteh was left behind to take care of the military headquarters. Group three under the command of Corporal Mohammed Kanu alias 55 was to handle the 7th Battalion. The rest of the group commandeered several vehicles and moved into the town towards the prison. At the Wilberforce Barracks they arrested about 15 senior officers including Colonels K.I.S. Kamara; A.K. Sesay; S.O. Williams; S.T. Davies; A.B.Y. Kamara and Major Koroma. The arrested officers were locked up at the military guardroom at the barracks.

682. By 7.00am this group had numbered several thousand soldiers. They split into different groups and approached the prison from different directions. There was agreement that all the prisoners, in particular, the military officers who were detained at the prison were to be set free. With the numbers of soldiers who had joined the revolt, sporadic shooting was occurring all over the city.

683. There was no resistance at the prison gates, as the prison officers obediently opened the gates. The Nigerian ECOMOG officers that previously guarded the prison were nowhere to be seen. They were too few to offer any meaningful resistance. All the detained prisoners were set free. One of them was Major Johnny Paul Koroma detained earlier for alleged coup plotting. He praised the boys for freeing him, describing them as brave.284

Later, Major Johnny Paul's countenance changed and as he assumed command of the operation which had now taken a different dimension, he first gave orders that we should head for CID headquarters... so that we could burn it down. The reason he gave was that this was a place where cases were not decided with fairness taking his own case as an example. He later changed his mind. No one told Major Johnny Paul Koroma to assume command of the operation but seeing the situation and after we explained to him that our intention initially was to arrest all the senior officers in the army for reasons already outlined above, he told us that he was now taking over command as he saw that we were all junior officers.285

684. By 8 o' clock a blue helicopter flew towards Juba Hill in Freetown. A few minutes later they saw the helicopter flying towards Lungi. The President was leaving the country. They suddenly found themselves in control of the country.

685. Johnny Paul Koroma has given a somewhat different account of the events of this date. He claimed that he had requested his liberators to simply release him so that he, his wife and children could leave the country safely, to which they replied:

"No you have to be with us. You have to lead or else we will not allow you to go. If you say you are going we will have to kill you."286

686. Johnny Paul Koroma believed that his presence helped stabilise things as the coup plotters were going to kill all the politicians and all the senior officers.

687. The first sign that the CDS, Brigadier Hassan Conteh had of the coup was a radio message he received at 4.30am on the 25th from a Lt. Banja Marrah of the Signals Squadron at Wilberforce reporting that some armed soldiers in a Mercedes Benz car had claimed that they were staging a coup and had taken over the country. He began calling on all senior officers to report to the Myohaung Officers Mess. Within a short while, there was sporadic shooting all over the city.287

688. For the President, he was having his early morning shave, when he heard the exchange between Brigadier Conteh and the Lieutenant on the service radio. He requested information from Brigadier Conteh on the efforts being made to repel the coup. Not satisfied with the response, he continued to call the Brigadier regularly on the service radio.  After a short while, the radio went off air. That was when it dawned on him that the coup makers had succeeded. He quickly accelerated his plans to leave the country.288

689. Meanwhile Brigadier Conteh and a group of other officers having learnt that the plotters had taken over the officers mess and were on the lookout for officers quickly detoured to the British High Commission where they holed up to plan a counter attack strategy for wresting control of the capital city from the coup plotters. He tried to rally the remaining troops to the support of the government. Increasingly it became clear that the respective formations were either not lifting their finger in support of the government or were pledging support to the coup plotters. Col Tom Carew after escaping arrest at the Wilberforce barracks had tried to mobilise the remaining officers and men to mount a resistance. Some of the officers like Major Gottor and Lt Akim had already joined with Johnny Paul Koroma at the State House. By 10.00am there was a broadcast by Corporal Tamba Gborie on the state controlled radio that the "other ranks" of the armed forces had taken over power.  The broadcast called on Foday Sankoh to join the new government and urged the RUF to come out of the bush. This weakened the resistance of the remaining loyal troops who all scampered to different parts of the country for personal safety.

690. Johnny Paul Koroma prevented the mounting of an assault on the State House, which had been proposed by the soldiers. He also ordered that no politician should be molested by the soldiers. Many of them were arrested, detained for a while and then released. All senior officers were directed to report at Cockerill and those who did, like this witness, were locked up:

"It was during that period when this fourteen other ranks, mostly junior ranks interfered with the operations of governance.  After that I was detained by junior military officers.  I was there for three weeks on the allegation that the President was in contact with me by telephone at my house.  My official residence was looted and vandalized and they came to my office.  I tried very hard to work with other officers to let the boys understand that it was not acceptable for coup or whatsoever.  They could not understand."289

691. Later in the day there was a phone call from London to Major Johnny Paul Koroma by Omrie Goley the external spokesperson of the RUF, who said he had heard the radio broadcast calling on Sankoh to join the new government. He said that in the interest of peace he was going to make Sankoh's phone number in Nigeria available to the coup plotters.290 Major Johnny Paul Koroma then called Sankoh in the presence of some of the coup leaders such as "Zagallo" and Tamba Gborie. Major Koroma told Foday Sankoh that the war was over and invited Sankoh to take over the leadership of the new government. Sankoh replied that this was impossible since he was detained in Nigeria. He commended the plotters for their nationalistic action in inviting the RUF to join the new government and requested that he wanted to relay a message to his fighters which he wanted recorded immediately. He gave his blessing to the new regime and called on all his fighters to come out of the bush and join the new government. They were directed to henceforth take all orders from Johnny Paul Koroma.291 This statement was subsequently rebroadcast repeatedly on the state run radio station. The invitation to the RUF was justified as necessary to end the war:

"We are all Sierra Leoneans and were just killing one another all the time; so you see it was senseless.  At least we could call these guys from the bush to come and join us to get peace in this country.  They decided to bring the two armies to one - the RUF and the SLA, we are all brothers; we are all one.  So we should join to make a People's Army.

I had small fear of them, because the [RUF] guys were proper trained commandos.  The plan was to train them to be trained like professional soldiers.  I was really surprised [because] it was peaceful at the time - no firing, no ambushes, just peaceful.  I felt happy because I was tired of war at that time.  The RUF too said that they are tired of war and that this is the time to bring peace in Sierra Leone.  There were all Sierra Leoneans, just like us."292

692. The new government suspended the constitution as well as political parties. To the shock and consternation of the populace, Freetown was overwhelmed within days by the presence of the RUF combatants who came to the city in their thousands.

"Some of us were in the bush at that time, we only heard an instruction that we are to go and join the AFRC junta; that it is because of peace that we should join them and then the UN will come in between for peace.  So that gave the passion to some of us - when the command was given, there was no time to waste.  In the space of three days, some good number of the RUF left their hiding places and came to bigger towns.  Some were sent to Bo, some were sent to Kenema, some in fact went as far as Freetown.

In fact, as I told you, we believe in loyalty.  When the instruction came that we should join, we never knew the circumstances at the end but our feeling was that when we were coming to a town like Freetown, we could be in Freetown, then the UN and other international bodies would come in between us and make the peace.  That was what the other Commanders told us: that the war is over; we are agreeing to join the AFRC for disarmament.

But when we came to Freetown, after a couple of times, we saw different issues; things were looking somehow unsuitable with regards to what they had told us in the bush.  So, some of us who had far-sighted thinking started to leave from Freetown.  We said: 'hey, this is not the peace, this is just a sort of suspended government'."293

693. This effort to end the war worked briefly in getting the RUF out of the bush but it was counter productive. It endorsed the assertion that the army was in connivance with the 'rebels'. This stiffened the peoples resolve not to have anything to do with the new "people's army".  All commercial enterprises closed shop, schools and offices remained closed for much of the nine months that the AFRC was in power. About eighty percent of the armed forces had forsworn their allegiance to the constitution and the elected government and joined the Peoples' Army established by the AFRC.294 The CDF and all militia groups were ordered disbanded and to hand in their weapons at the nearest police stations.


Roots of Chief Samuel Hinga Norman's Dissonance with the Government in Exile

694. The immediate impact of the AFRC coup on the incumbent SLPP Government was to force all of its key office-holders into exile.  Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and the core of his Cabinet went to Conakry, Guinea, where they were accommodated by the Guinean President Lansana Conté in the Government Guest House.  Conakry also became the operational centre for the Government.  Most the key in-house strategy meetings between Ministers took place there.  It also hosted the negotiations between ECOWAS and the AFRC junta leaders that led to the ECOWAS-brokered Peace Plan on 23 October 1997; according to the President, the Government held an "observer status" at those talks.295

695. President Kabbah undertook only fleeting trips outside Guinea for diplomatic purposes, notably to Abuja, New York and Edinburgh.  Otherwise he was based exclusively in Conakry until his restoration on 10 March 1998.  As he testified to the Commission, President Kabbah had already felt detached from the workings of his state security apparatus during his first year in office.296  His nine months in exile would precipitate yet further episodes that served to undermine his authority as Commander-in-Chief. His ideas about how the war should be managed were radically different from those of his Deputy Minister of Defence. This differing was about the overall management of the restoration effort.

696. Meanwhile, Chief Hinga Norman followed a somewhat dissonant, albeit apparently more decisive strategy.  In his capacity as Deputy Minister of Defence, he began immediately to lobby for an armed intervention driven by a Sierra Leonean fighting force.  The Kamajor militia of the Southern and South-Eastern Districts would form the bulk of this force, under his direction and command.  Hinga Norman invited great risks to his life and his credibility to put his vision into practice.

697. Hinga Norman was successful in garnering international backing from a diverse array of sources.  Importantly, he found favour with various foreign donors: some of them were multinationals based in Sierra Leone; others were groups constituted abroad by Sierra Leonean expatriates.  He was subsequently able to enlist support in the form of finances, food supplies and a variety of crucial logistical needs for the Kamajors.

698. One example of the broad-based input from commercial interests arose in a statement given to the Sierra Leone Police in 1999 by an Israeli businessman named Yair Gal (alias Yair Galklein).  Gal recounted how Hinga Norman approached him on board the US Navy ship that evacuated foreign nationals from Freetown soon after the 25 May 1997 coup.  Gal and some of his compatriots in the diamond trade informed Hinga Norman that they would be staying in Guinea.  Accordingly he narrated the following events:

699. "In Conakry we put up at the Mamado Hotel.  While there, Hinga Norman visited us.  At that time there were owners of other companies staying in the same hotel.  Those other big companies were working in Kono in Sierra Leone.  Hinga Norman then asked all the owners of companies working in Sierra Leone to help to restore the legitimate Government of Tejan Kabbah.

700. The owners of companies made promises, including our company.  However, I remember we fulfilled our own promise by supplying food to Chief Hinga Norman in Liberia to feed the Kamajors.  After some time, Chief Hinga Norman left Conakry and went to Liberia to organise the Kamajors."297

701. Hinga Norman's immediate presence in Guinea after the coup had been fleeting.  Having received a variety of pledges and made the business community aware of his plans, he promptly left the country.  He was to spend very little time in the company of the President, his fellow Ministers and senior parliamentarians during their period in exile.  His justification was that he preferred to remain closer to the 'ground operations' he had already envisaged in Sierra Leone.  As the Commission heard from one of Hinga Norman's close associates in the Kamajors:

"When we met, you know... Hinga Norman said he did not stay there [in Guinea] because if all of them in the Government were cut off from the country, then nobody will be there to fight these people.  He believed that you should not stay outside the country to fight the enemy who are fighting your people.  Therefore he left them there in Conakry and came to organise his Kamajors; those were the reasons he gave us."298

702. Hinga Norman's choice of Liberia as a place from which to launch back into Sierra Leone was founded on the continued stationing of ECOMOG there.  He was granted permission and protection to stay in ECOMOG's strategic military base in Monrovia and he travelled under escort. It made it easier for him to receive support from ECOMOG and he was able to maintain telephone links with prospective partners in the outside world.

703. Perhaps the most significant of all Hinga Norman's international partnerships was formed in the month of July 1997.  It grew out of the diligent efforts of Reverend Alfred SamForay, an American-based Sierra Leonean with a robust network of contacts.  The added importance of SamForay's participation was attributable to the fact that he liaised not only with Hinga Norman, but simultaneously with President Kabbah, Richard E. S. Lagawo and several other figures in the hierarchy of Sierra Leone's Government in Exile.

704. Sam Foray provided substantial evidence to the Commission about his own conversations with these key players and their dealings with one another.  He described the genesis and nature of this link as follows:

"In July 1997... the Deputy Minister of Defence [Hinga Norman] was in Monrovia and seeking international support to remove the AFRC military junta...  A few personal friends of mine immediately suggested that some of us organise ourselves into an independent support group to assist the Deputy Minister and his Civil Defence Forces (CDF).

[...] Later that month I did speak with Chief Norman.  About the same time, some of my colleagues were able to link me with President Tejan Kabbah.  After acquainting the President with our contact with Chief Norman, Kabbah informed us that he would greatly welcome any assistance we would give to Chief Norman and the CDF...  President Kabbah told us in a phone conversation on 17 August 1997: 'Anything done to restore democracy in Sierra Leone is fine with me'."299

705. SamForay further told the Commission that he became the Secretary-General of a newly-founded body known as the Sierra Leone Action Movement for the CDF (SLAM-CDF).  He described its role in the following terms:

"SLAM became the external mouthpiece of the CDF and in some instances the Government in Exile...  Members of SLAM-CDF served both as couriers and a liaison between Hinga Norman and Kabbah for much of the time the Government was in exile, with Hinga Norman in Monrovia and Kabbah in Conakry."300

706. Based on the evidence adduced by the Commission, Hinga Norman also shared a commonality of purpose with Nigeria that local forces should liberate the country with the support of countries in the sub region. It was eminently preferable for a 'home-grown' faction to bolster, if not lead the operation to oust the AFRC.  This participatory approach would engender greater support among Sierra Leoneans for an armed intervention.  It would also heighten the prospects of a relatively 'clean-break' for ECOMOG by putting in place some kind of indigenous security forces that could perhaps evolve into a reformed national Army.

707. ECOMOG's Chief of Staff in Liberia, General Abdul Aziz Mohamed, was another strong proponent of the deployment of the Kamajors in an armed intervention to dislodge the AFRC.  Certainly as far as the military option was concerned, Hinga Norman therefore had valuable allies for his strategy from the outset.  A symbiosis between ECOMOG and an indigenous militia would not have been possible without Hinga Norman's swift manoeuvring to raise funds and consciousness among international backers.  By seizing the initiative in such a manner, though, he succeeded in making the option viable ahead of diplomacy or an exclusively international restorative intervention.

708. Chief Norman's enthusiasm was misinterpreted and perhaps misunderstood. The Commission heard that it deepened the level of suspicion between Hinga Norman and President Kabbah.  These two influential figures held the two most important positions in planning military operations in the name of the state: President Kabbah was the Commander-in-Chief and Minister of Defence; Hinga Norman his Deputy Minister and the National Co-ordinator of the CDF.  Yet they did not share the same opinion as to how the reinstatement of their Government should be managed.  SamForay described his impressions in this regard as follows:

"I believe that Hinga Norman and Kabbah saw the conflict in Sierra Leone from two different viewpoints.  Norman was a born soldier who had been in the colonial Army from the age of fourteen.  As a soldier and as Deputy Minister of Defence, I believe he saw his role as defending the country and defeating the enemy on the battleground.  Norman had never actually lived outside Sierra Leone and had no interest in living anywhere [else].  Sierra Leone was the only home for Norman.

[...] Kabbah, on the other hand, had lived nearly all his professional life abroad.  He was a wealthy man and could live wherever he chose to in the world.  Sierra Leone was like a second home for Kabbah...  [He] was a consummate diplomat who would do anything to resolve the conflict through diplomacy."301

709. The President and Chief Norman were united in the view that the AFRC should be removed from power. From the testimonies received by the Commission, the difference lay in the management of the effort to remove the junta from power. Witnesses testified to fears among the President's close associates of the amount of power and influence that Chief Norman would muster were he to directly lead the restoration efforts. It was therefore necessary to rein him in and have the President retain control. In the Commission's assessment of the chronology of events, the strongest possible case for the President to remove Hinga Norman from his role in the prosecution of the war was to develop when Hinga Norman re-entered Sierra Leone. 

710. Yet according to the testimony from Sam Foray, an attempt to install a new National Co-ordinator of the CDF was instigated as early as July 1997, while Hinga Norman was still stationed in Monrovia.  The candidate touted as Hinga Norman's replacement was Tom Nyuma, one of the most influential members of the NPRC administration.

Perspectives on the Reappearance of Tom Nyuma

711. The facts as they have been presented to the Commission must first be stated.  SamForay's assessment of President Kabbah's personal and professional relationships is instructive in establishing a background understanding:

"Kabbah relied very heavily on the advice of his Senior Adviser and confidant, Honourable Richard E. S. Lagawo, as he did on his personal friend [and Minister of Presidential Affairs] Momodu Koroma.  At the diplomatic front he leaned heavily on his UN Ambassador James O. C. Jonah...  It is therefore inconceivable that Kabbah would have tried to replace Hinga Norman without the knowledge or advice of Lagawo, Koroma or perhaps Jonah...  Hinga Norman later told me that the architect of this scheme was Kabbah's Spokesman Momodu Koroma."302

712. Tom Nyuma was living in the United States at the time of the 1997 coup, having been compulsorily retired from the Army.  His last significant post in service was as General Staff Officer during the final year of the NPRC administration.303  He was the beneficiary of a United Nations scholarship that funded his pursuit of college studies in the United States of America.  The arrangement under which he took up this scholarship was similar to the one afforded to other members of the NPRC regime, including Valentine Strasser and Julius Maada Bio.  The broker of these arrangements was Sierra Leone's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, James Jonah.304

713. According to SamForay, Jonah paid for Tom Nyuma to travel from the USA to Guinea.  Nyuma made the trip on or around 20 August 1997 and reported directly to President Kabbah in Conakry.  One of those with whom Nyuma met in Conakry was Momodu Koroma, who confirmed that Nyuma engaged in discussions with President Kabbah and others about the possibility of liberating Freetown.305

714. SamForay explained to the Commission that the selection of Nyuma as "President Kabbah's choice for the job"306 was based primarily on what the President saw as Nyuma's credentials in the realms of military planning.  For instance, he had spoken in praise of Nyuma's 'expertise' in mapping and topography,307 which were seen to be key attributes for anyone entrusted with command of the effort to liberate Freetown.  Nevertheless there were particular warning signs about Nyuma that the Government appears to have overlooked, or that it dealt with in an insufficiently cautious manner.

715. First, as noted in the foregoing analysis,308 People's views about Tom Nyuma's were that he was an opportunist and a turncoat.  His factional allegiance was almost impossible to decipher conclusively.  In testimonies to the Commission he was identified as having played different roles. Some erstwhile colleagues in the Sierra Leone Army knew him as a hardened front-line commander;309 members of the RUF knew him as a relative of Foday Sankoh and one of the few dissident soldiers with whom they worked together in guerrilla operations;310 Kamajors and civilians in the Eastern Region knew him as one of the pioneers of the use of vigilantes on the battlefield.311

716. In short there were major question marks over the wisdom of taking a risk on a man like Nyuma.  Certainly he was well connected to the leadership of the AFRC, including his peer Johnny Paul Koroma.  All of those who had carried out the coup on 25 May 1997 were his military juniors and he referred to them in conversations with SamForay as 'me borbor dem' (my boys).  This reference was apparently intended by Nyuma to convince the Government that he could prevail upon the junta members if given the chance.  It ought rather to have alerted the Government to Nyuma's dubious character and misplaced sense of self-importance.

717. Tom Nyuma stated that he would not be willing to fight for the Government unless he was awarded the sum of ten thousand US dollars ($10, 000) as remuneration for his services.312  According to Momodu Koroma, this sum was never paid out.313  Instead President Kabbah despatched Nyuma, along with his two former NPRC cohorts Captain Amara Kwegor and Captain Komba Mondeh, to the ECOMOG base in Monrovia, Liberia.  They were tasked to recruit soldiers serving in the Sierra Leone Battalion (LEOBATT) to put together a 'task force' that could launch an attack on Freetown to dislodge the junta.

718. The Commission heard testimony from a soldier who was posted to Monrovia in the LEOBATT contingent in 1991 and 1992.314  He confirmed that Nyuma and Komba Mondeh, whom he knew as 'Colonel RPG', approached the SLA troops stationed there with the offer of money to fight the AFRC.  Yet the LEOBATT men had no collective desire to go back into Sierra Leone and fight against their own compatriots.  They refused to join with Nyuma and an armed confrontation erupted near to the ECOMOG base, although no deaths were reported.

719. Nyuma was expelled from Liberia along with his compatriots and returned to the USA.  SamForay received information about this incident and relayed it to President Kabbah.315  It constituted the last active participation of Tom Nyuma in the Sierra Leone conflict.  It also spelled the enforced end of the President's plan to replace Hinga Norman as the National Co-ordinator of the CDF in the operation to restore the Government.

720. In his testimony to the Commission, Momodu Koroma denied the involvement of the President or of himself in any effort to have Nyuma replace Chief Hinga Norman.  Koroma confirmed that Nyuma had a meeting with the President in Conakry, although he insisted that it was at Nyuma's own instigation.  According to Koroma, the President was suspicious of Nyuma's motives for wishing to assist; the President therefore merely acknowledged Nyuma's offer and looked forward to the outcome of his intervention, which never in fact materialised.316

The Appointment of M. S. Dumbuya to the CDF

721. A major public relations concern for the Government was the widespread belief that the CDF was an exclusively Mende militia.  Throughout Kabbah's Presidency the view had been expressed, mostly by Northerners, that there was a tribalist agenda behind the favourable treatment afforded to the Kamajors.  The then Vice President Joe Demby testified to the Commission that the Kamajors were the "focus of the whole country" and that they were popularly referred to "using political or tribal connotations."317  Towards the end of its reign, the NPRC Government had averred that the Kamajors were deliberately ethnically-aligned against the Army.  Subsequent clashes between the SLA and the CDF had merely compounded that impression.

722. For the sake of preserving national unity in the restoration effort, President Kabbah wished to rebut the accusation of tribalism in the CDF.  The most effective means of countering tribal concerns in Sierra Leone is to create an impression of Regional balance.  In this instance Kabbah identified a course of action that would allow him to do this whilst simultaneously installing a counterweight to Hinga Norman in the institutional structure of the CDF.

723. Thus, in August 1997, the President summoned the former Head of the Special Security Division (SSD) of the Sierra Leone Police, M. S. Dumbuya, to meet him in Conakry.  Dumbuya's credentials speak volumes of the reasons for his recruitment to the cause of the Civil Defence Forces: by experience, he was a highly-trained military professional318 and by birth, he was a Northerner of Limba ethnicity. It didn't seem that the President considered Dumbuya's record which was tilted against the people of the South.319

724. In his testimony to the Commission, M. S. Dumbuya conceded that his appointment had everything to do with the President's perceived need to present the CDF in a more neutral light:

"The primary motive for me to come in was to allay the rumours that the Kamajors were a force to destroy the North.  I was called upon directly by His Excellency [the President]... to sort of calm down the growing speculation that the Kamajors was an armed group geared to destabilise the whole country along ethnic lines."320

725. Dumbuya was immediately installed as the Northern Commander of the Civil Defence Forces.  His position was the second most senior in the whole movement in terms of command and control responsibilities.  He took on the CDF rank of Colonel, which was deemed to be equivalent to his former SSD police rank.   Yet Hinga Norman, the National Co-ordinator of the CDF, was neither notified nor consulted before the appointment was made.321  This deepened even more the suspicion between him and the Commander-in-Chief and affected the war effort.

726. In assessing the impact of the President's commissioning of Dumbuya in this manner, the question of threat perception must be brought to the fore.  According to Dumbuya himself, Hinga Norman instantly felt that Dumbuya wanted to take over from him in one or both of his roles as Deputy Minister of Defence and National Co-ordinator of the CDF.322  The men were supposed to work closely together, but their relationship was doomed before it had started, due to the undercurrents of rivalry between them.  It was to have a profoundly detrimental effect on the operational structure of the CDF.

727. The appointment of Dumbuya was the President's prerogative. It however exacerbated the existing levels of discord and suspicion that had existed between Chief Norman and Dumbuya for at least the preceding three months.  Just when the restoration of the Government - and certainly the CDF's role in that restoration - depended to such a large extent on this relationship, it moved further away from cordiality.

728. The institutional structure of the CDF also included an ECOMOG presence in the shape of Nigerian General Maxwell Khobe, who was based at Lungi Airport.  General Khobe's designation was supposed to create a unified, integrated line of command and an additional layer of accountability for both Dumbuya and Chief Hinga Norman.

729. The President's inclusion of General Khobe was perhaps the best medium through which to limit operational friction between Dumbuya and Hinga Norman, since it kept them apart.  Dumbuya testified to Commission that his own role was concentrated mostly at Lungi, where he was training alongside ECOMOG under Khobe's command.  According to Dumbuya's understanding of the institutional structure, Khobe was intended in addition to oversee Hinga Norman:

"Actually Hinga Norman and I were not most times together.  What I know is that Hinga Norman was made National Co-ordinator of all the groupings together under one command...  But I was actually with late General Khobe under ECOMOG.  The only time I remember being directly with Hinga Norman was at Base Zero.

[...] The motivation behind the CDF at that time was basically to complement the efforts of the foreign troops coming to assist the Government...  [So] myself and Hinga Norman were supposed to be answerable to General Khobe."323

730. In practice, the proposed line of command from Hinga Norman to Khobe did not materialise.  Rather Khobe and Dumbuya worked on planning the intervention into Freetown, while Hinga Norman prepared and carried out independent operations to remove the junta from the towns of the South and East.  There were two different flanks to the restoration operation and for the most part they went about their preparations for combat in starkly contrasting fashions.

The Establishment of the War Council in Exile

731. President Kabbah's final effort to contrive institutional accountability and oversight of the CDF's operations in Sierra Leone was his establishment of a structure known as the 'War Council in Exile', based with him in Conakry.  Chairmanship of this War Council was awarded to one of Kabbah's staunchest political allies and his Chief Adviser, Richard E. S. Lagawo.  It comprised twelve members, all of them SLPP 'party stalwarts' and Ministers or senior officials of Kabbah's Government.

732. While the Commission was unable to obtain documentary evidence of the meetings convened by this War Council, evidence was heard that the following persons either held permanent positions or participated in its decision-making consultations at some point during the exile period:324

Chairman R. E. S. Lagawo    Chief Adviser to the President
Dr. Prince Harding               Minister of Mineral Resources
Shirley Gbujama                  Minister of Foreign Affairs
Momoh Pujeh                     Deputy Minister of Finance
Dr. Harry Will                      Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and the Environment
Momodu Koroma                 Minister of Presidential Affairs and the Public Service
S. B. Marrah                       Leader of the House
T. K. Vandi                         SLPP party stalwart
SLPP Consul                       The Deputy Ambassador to Guinea
Charles Margai                   SLPP party stalwart
Foday M. D. Sesay              Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation
Mohamed B. Daramy           Deputy Minister of Finance

733. M. S. Dumbuya provided evidence to the Commission based on having attended two meetings of the War Council in Exile during his time in Conakry in August 1997:

"By the time I went there all these structures were already in place...  They had a Council that was responsible for the affairs and the prosecution of the war.  It was known as the War Council in Exile.  They reported directly to the President; [their objective was] to facilitate the return of Government to Sierra Leone.  They invited me to the War Council meeting and I was introduced and so on...  Later I went to Base Zero [in Sierra Leone] but that never happened there; I was a member of the War Council only in Conakry."325

734. The Commission heard that the War Council sat to deliberate on operational and political elements of the effort to restore the Government.  Having lost all control of the SLA and therefore disowned its conventional military forces, the Government concentrated its endeavours on the CDF.  Thus the War Council's main concern was to support and direct the operations of the CDF through Chief Hinga Norman.  Its attempts to have an active say in the prosecution of the war met with varying degrees of success, however.  The War Council's efficacy depended largely on the extent to which its directions converged with Hinga Norman's own views, or where its decisions served his needs.

735. There is considerable evidence to support the impression that the War Council struggled to assert its mandate, particularly over the National Co-ordinator.  Hinga Norman did not attend meetings of the War Council in Exile, even when he was in Conakry.326  Nor did he hold its work in high esteem; thus, according to the testimony from SamForay, the existence and the role of the War Council in Exile merely perpetuated the rifts between the President and Hinga Norman:

"From President Kabbah's perspective, the War Council was an advisory body which met regularly to discuss ways and means to end the war through dialogue with the AFRC junta.  From Chief Hinga Norman's perspective, the Council was a tok-tok organisation (a talking shop) whose main purpose was to carry on endless debates about the war in the safety of the Guest House in Conakry.  Hinga Norman and [ECOMOG Chief of Staff in Liberia] General Abdul Aziz Mohamed had little faith in dialogue with the junta and had little or no regard for the War Council, whatever it was [meant to be]."327

736. Nonetheless the Commission is able to conclude that the War Council was fully apprised of events that were taking place on the ground in Sierra Leone.  The Chairman of the Council, R. E. S. Lagawo, participated personally in multiple telephone conferences organised by SLAM-CDF.  The Commission was provided with transcript excerpts of four separate conversations in the months of August and September 1997 alone.328  In these conferences, information was not only shared through SLAM as a conduit, but also directly divulged to Lagawo by Hinga Norman himself.

737. In another telephone conference whose details were presented by SLAM-CDF, President Kabbah and members of the War Council including Lagawo, Shirley Gbujama and Charles Margai spoke directly with Hinga Norman about the provision of arms to the CDF.  Another participant in this conversation was the President's late wife, Mrs. Patricia Kabbah.  According to the testimony from SamForay, Mrs. Kabbah addressed Hinga Norman in Mende language during this conversation and confirmed that the CDF had received a consignment of firearms she had sent for them.  This consignment was understood to have comprised revolvers or pistols, which were referred to simply as 'short ones'.329

738. The Commission has found no evidence to conclude that there was any systemic provision of arms or ammunition to the CDF through its War Council in Exile, but according to SamForay some of its members "often plied the back alleys of the international arms market to acquire arms for the CDF and I was made to believe that they did so at the request and / or [with the] knowledge of the President."330

739. The Commission heard that Hinga Norman's presence was frequently requested in Conakry, both by fellow members of the Government and by private groups of supporters who travelled there eager to make contact with him.331  On at least one occasion he was invited expressly by the War Council to attend one of its meetings in Conakry.  While there is no evidence as to whether he subsequently attended the meeting, it is clear that Hinga Norman travelled to Conakry in August 1997.  With hindsight the reasons that the War Council and indeed the President insisted on his trip seem to have extended beyond attendance at a meeting into wider issues relating to the management of the war effort.

Hinga Norman's Visit to Conakry in August 1997

740. August and September 1997 in many respects constituted a watershed in the organisation of the CDF's operations at the level of its High Command.  Simultaneously, in many parts of Sierra Leone the AFRC junta had turned towards armed confrontation with ECOMOG forces and civil militia groups.  Kabbah was anxious to instigate a more decisive plan of action, particularly one which initiated the liberation of Freetown.332  Thus the time arrived for a decisive resolution on the question of where Hinga Norman should be based as he pursued his programme to mobilise the CDF as part of the restoration force.

741. The sub-regional dynamics of the Sierra Leone conflict again came into play at this juncture.  Charles Taylor, who won the Liberian Presidential elections on 19 July 1997, was furious with the presence of Hinga Norman on Liberian territory.  According to some Kamajor fighters from the Eastern Province who had fled across the border when the coup took place, Hinga Norman was frequently threatened with assassination attempts ordered directly by Taylor.333  Others who subsequently joined up with Hinga Norman after his re-entry into Sierra Leone testified that his existence in Liberia was one of perpetual fear:

"Hinga Norman had a very hard life in Liberia: he could never stay in one place for a long time...  So he was sleeping in a certain location for two days, then in a different location for the next two days.  All the time he was in the hands of ECOMOG, so Charles Taylor never saw him.  But every time they [Taylor's men] heard about him, they sent their bodyguards to get him.  It's just fortunate that they failed."334

742. President Taylor communicated with President Kabbah in August and September 1997; Kabbah later reported to SLAM-CDF that Taylor had expressed 'concern' about Hinga Norman's activities in Liberia.335  Specifically, Taylor cited Hinga Norman's connections with the Liberian commander Alhaji Kromah, who headed the ULIMO-K faction.  ULIMO-K had fighters in both Liberia and Sierra Leone, who were pitted against Taylor's Government and the AFRC/RUF alliance respectively.  Taylor had alleged that Kromah was asking Hinga Norman to provide protection for ULIMO-K fighters in Sierra Leone.336

743. There is no evidence that President Kabbah made any assurances to President Charles Taylor in response to the latter's allegations.  Nevertheless, shortly after having spoken with Taylor, Kabbah reported to SLAM-CDF that he had advised Hinga Norman to cease operating on Liberian territory.337  The President's direction to Hinga Norman was framed as a choice between staying with the rest of the Cabinet in Conakry or proceeding immediately across the border into Sierra Leone.  In other words, Kabbah sought to condition Hinga Norman's movements and, specifically, to have him move from his base in Liberia.

744. The events that enveloped around Chief Hinga Norman in Conakry on his visit there in August and September 1997 soon ruled out any viable prospect of his staying with the rest of the Cabinet.  Hinga Norman travelled to Conakry on 14 August 1997 upon the insistence of President Kabbah and various members of the War Council in Exile.338

745. The nature of Hinga Norman's trip was described to the Commission as 'clandestine',339 whereby CDF fighters in Liberia were not told of its destination or purpose.340  On the day of his arrival, Hinga Norman was given an unspecified 'mission' by the President, which entailed his remaining in Conakry for approximately one month.341  It is uncertain what the mission was and whether the 'mission' in question was ever completed.  According to SamForay's understanding, the trip was organised on false pretences, in connection with the courting of Tom Nyuma described above:

"I later learned that the real reason [why] President Kabbah was so anxious to bring Hinga Norman and Nyuma to Conakry [at the same time] was to replace Hinga Norman as head of the CDF with Colonel Nyuma."342

746. According to SamForay, Hinga Norman later confided to members of SLAM-CDF that his passport had been temporarily confiscated from him by Momodu Koroma and was only returned to him when he threatened Koroma with physical force.343  The details of this version of events were disputed by Momodu Koroma, who claimed in his testimony to the Commission that no such plot to replace Hinga Norman was ever hatched.344

747. In any case, President Kabbah's attempt to gain a tighter grip of the CDF had been presented to Hinga Norman in the form of two options: the National Co-ordinator should remain in Conakry and direct the movement from a distance; or he should cross the border from Liberia into Sierra Leone and stay permanently on Sierra Leonean territory thereafter.345

748. Hinga Norman opposed both of these options on practical grounds.346  On the one hand he could not remain in Guinea because he would become too detached and distanced from the fighters on the ground.  On the other hand he could not relocate permanently into Sierra Leone because he required access to his international channels in Liberia in order to be able to secure logistical support.

749. In the end Hinga Norman decided to move back into Sierra Leone, but he did not do so on the terms laid down to him by President Kabbah; on the contrary he would continue to visit Liberia frequently.  The upshot of Hinga Norman's trip to Conakry was that he returned to his hide-out in Liberia, harbouring deep-lying reservations about the strategies of those he was supposed to be working with on the restoration effort.  According to SamForay, Hinga Norman departed Guinea embittered, without taking formal leave of the President or the War Council in Exile.347

Hampering the Government's Management of the War Effort

750. The struggle to dislodge the AFRC junta from power had begun in earnest with a lingering grudge: the Deputy Minister of Defence was at loggerheads with his Commander-in-Chief over the latter's failure to pay heed to warnings of the 25 May 1997 coup.348  As the efforts towards restoration entered their operational phase, the relationship between Kabbah and Hinga Norman had been further soured.  The Commission was provided several examples to illustrate the resultant impact: that their mutual distrust hampered their joint management of the war effort.

751. Hinga Norman petitioned President Kabbah to allow the CDF to mine and trade diamonds in order to support their efforts in the war.  Hinga Norman's proposal was for the CDF to take a portion of the profits from the alluvial diamond pits around Tongo Field, Kenema District.  President Kabbah later explained to SLAM-CDF that he had rejected the proposal on the basis that "he did not want to mortgage the country."349

752. Hinga Norman of course saw it differently; he took Kabbah's response as further evidence of the detachment and insensitivity of the Government.350  Moreover, CDF fighters testified that they went on to mine in Tongo regardless and to exchange the diamonds they found with Lebanese and Fullah 'middle-men'.351

753. On a separate occasion President Kabbah was said to have "asked [Hinga] Norman to send Kamajors to the North to initiate the liberation of Freetown."352  According to Reverend SamForay, Hinga Norman vetoed the request on the premise that "units of the CDF were only allowed to fight in their respective ethnic and geographic areas." 353

754. Subsequent events would prove that Hinga Norman was not as committed to this principle as he might have suggested: Kamajors frequently fought outside of the South and East upon the National Co-ordinator's return to Sierra Leone.  Hinga Norman's refusal in this instance appeared instead to be an assertion of his prerogative to direct ground movements of the Kamajors as he saw fit, in spite of the President's promptings.

755. Disagreements like these set the tone for management of the CDF during the Government's period in exile.  Chief Hinga Norman retained practical autonomy over the day-to-day operations of the CDF on the ground.  President Kabbah controlled the institutional workings of the CDF and the purse strings on the monies it received from central Government.  Neither party was entirely satisfied with these arrangements, as candid testimonies from their associates attest.354

756. Nevertheless President Kabbah ensured that he retained intimacy with the operations of the CDF during his period in exile.  According to the Secretary-General of SLAM-CDF, the very rationale behind the telephone conferences his organisation administered was for Kabbah retain a firm finger on the pulse:

"The President set up a regular session which began at 6.00 a.m. (US Eastern Standard Time) two to three days a week, at which time we [SLAM-CDF] would make a three-way conference call between himself [Kabbah] in Conakry and Chief Hinga Norman in Monrovia.  These weekly sessions lasted almost throughout the period of time the President was in exile in Guinea.  The general purpose of these sessions was to allow President Kabbah and Chief Hinga Norman to discuss plans for restoration of democracy in Sierra Leone and general security issues."355

757. The president nevertheless spoke to his associates in a fashion that betrayed his naivety about the conduct of unconventional military operations.356  At crucial moments he had been found lacking in vigilance and foresight, as the AFRC coup had proved.357  He also failed to understand what was feasible in the conditions that prevailed.  Hence he advocated for a Kamajor assault on Freetown within months of the coup, when in reality the Kamajors on the ground scarcely had the logistics to defend their own villages.358

758. Hinga Norman, meanwhile, used his geographical and conceptual detachment from the Government to establish positions and plans that did not involve the President or the War Council in their making.359  He gave field updates when called upon to do so by SLAM-CDF.  Senior Kamajors who testified to the Commission said that they knew the relationship between the Commander-in-Chief and his Deputy to be perpetually "tense."360

759. Kabbah and Hinga Norman engaged in a struggle for ascendancy that had profound short-term and long-term ramifications.  It not only detracted from the efficacy of their joint prosecution of the war,  it also raised vital questions about accountability at the heart of the Government that the Commission has addressed at the end of this chapter.


Reactions to the Coup of 25 May 1997

760. The Commission heard that the military coup of 25 May 1997 was greeted with horror by supporters of the SLPP Government on the ground.  The Kamajors and other members of the Civil Defence Forces (CDF) construed themselves to be among the foremost targets of potential AFRC violence.361  For its part, the AFRC leadership issued a highly ambiguous statement as to the status of pre-existing fighting forces in Sierra Leone.  Johnny Paul Koroma's words were that the AFRC would welcome its enemies to come forward and join a united Army, but that he didn't want to see or hear anything more of the Kamajors.

761. The CDF membership interpreted Johnny Paul Koroma's statement as a thinly-veiled threat towards its militiamen, which effectively forced them to go into hiding in fear of their lives.  Hassan Jalloh, one of the most prominent ground commanders in the Pujehun District, recalled the immediate disdain with which the announcement to the nation was greeted:

"We were not able to tell exactly what the man meant by dropping us and calling the rebels to join him.  Johnny Paul Koroma made a particular reference that he didn't want to hear about that name 'Kamajors' again.  We were made to feel that our lives were endangered.

[...] Let's just assume when he took over the Government of Sierra Leone that he could have called all [of us] together as one - CDF, RUF to come down from the bush and do one thing for the state.  Then we might have worked out what we needed to do together.  But instead he said he didn't want to see us.  So we knew he was coming to bring more fighting or revolution in Sierra Leone."362

762. Other Kamajors also understood the message from the AFRC to be overtly hostile.  Joseph A. S. Koroma, a senior commander in the Southern Province and an early initiate into the Kamajor Society, told the Commission of the gravity of this situation:

"It was while we were still on that fight protecting our villages that we heard about the overthrow of the Government.  After the overthrow, the newly-instated junta who took over Government declared that they didn't even want to see any signs of Kamajors.  Then we started to see it in their actions; they were out to kill us.  They wanted to eliminate the whole Kamajoisia.  It was certainly not a laughing matter."363

763. Such testimonies ran somewhat contrary to the evidence given by members of the AFRC and RUF.  In retrospect both of these factions averred that their counterparts in the CDF were called forward to forge a permanent peace among all the warring factions on an equal basis.  Both of them further alleged that the CDF outrightly rejected the proposal.  One soldier told the Commission about this offer in the following terms:

"We also called the CDF to come peacefully; [but] they refused to join us.  It was not that we wanted to disarm them, just to let them join us.  For the sake of peace, we just decided to put all the past behind us to welcome them too as brothers."364

764. In the context of the foregoing clashes between the CDF and the Sierra Leone Army, any retrospective suggestion that an alliance of the two was possible is totally misplaced.  The unresolved violence had left no room for fraternal sentiment between these two armed camps; on the contrary there was still rampant antipathy on both sides.

765. The rank and file of the Army was deeply embittered and enraged by the CDF.  Many SLA men, whom soldiers referred to in testimony as their "brothers," had been killed at the hands of the Kamajors.  Soldiers perceived the Kamajors as a body created purposely to undermine them: after all, senior Ministers had publicly spoken out in support of the Kamajors and to the belittlement of the SLA.  They also suspected that their reduced rations were attributable to the Government's favouritism of the Kamajors in terms of financial and moral support.

766. The men who led the action on 25 May 1997 clearly shared these sentiments and had cited the Government's 'biased' handling of the Kamajors as one of the injustices they wanted to avenge.  Abu Sankoh (alias "Zagallo"), one of the SLA Sergeants who spearheaded the coup, later explained this to the Sierra Leone Police:

"The issue of the Kamajors was another thing that finally discouraged us the soldiers under the regime of the SLPP.  It reached a stage when the Kamajors turned their guns against us and soldiers were now being killed by Kamajors.  The reason behind this was simply because the Kamajors as a Civil Defence Unit tried to equate their standing in the Government to ours and [they] now treated us as if they thought we were no more the Constitutional Army of Sierra Leone.  It came to a time that when a Kamajor killed a soldier no action would be taken by the authorities; but when a soldier killed a Kamajor that soldier will definitely be taken to Pademba Road Prisons."365

767. The particular soldiers who had been detained in Pademba Road Prison harboured deep-lying personal grudges.  Potentially several hundred of them were released during the jailbreak of 25 May 1997 and allied themselves with the AFRC.  According to evidence received from soldiers, the majority of these prisoners were there as a result of their part in clashes with the CDF:

"When they broke out everybody [from] inside the prisons... there were so many of our brothers in there without charge.  Instead of investigating what had really happened with the Kamajors in the South, we found out that they had just put the soldiers in Pademba Road and left them there."366

768. These aggrieved soldiers carried vengeful feelings with them into service under the AFRC.  There was also a clear empathy with their plight among those who had carried out the coup.  Above all the new Chairman of the AFRC, Johnny Paul Koroma, had been in prison at the same time as them, albeit on charges unrelated.  In short, the prevailing collective sentiment in the SLA towards the Kamajors was one of hatred.  Thus those testimonies that suggest the AFRC issued an 'invitation' to the CDF to come forward must be regarded as disingenuous.

769. The Commission finds it inconceivable with hindsight that the two factions could possibly have co-existed harmoniously in the wake of the coup.  The AFRC's ulterior motive of neutralising its main domestic challenger was all too obvious; the CDF in any case would not stand for a change in the Government that had brought it into being.  Thus at the point where the AFRC seized power, the two sides entrenched their opposing positions and immediately began spoiling for the fight that lay ahead.

770. The Commission heard from a variety of CDF members and SLPP loyalists that they had no choice but to go into hiding when the military junta started to take over the major towns.367  Inevitably the places that were most closely identified with the SLPP Government were in the Mende heartlands of the South and East.  These were also the areas in which the majority of Kamajors were based.  Hence they became the prime targets of the AFRC.

771. The AFRC and RUF quickly occupied the Southern and Eastern Regional Headquarter Towns of Bo and Kenema.  The presence of AFRC soldiers and RUF commandos in the towns gave rise to legitimate fears on the part of Kamajors and prominent community figureheads that they would be killed in a witch hunt.  Some of them therefore moved out of their homes and into 'safe houses' belonging to friends or relatives.368  Others cooped themselves up in underground cellars; others again established makeshift dwellings in the bush.  Large numbers escaped to their villages and plantations in rural parts of the country.

772. The Commission heard that many of these people were eager to engage in some form of organised resistance against the AFRC.  The major obstacle to effective resistance was the absence of any viable co-ordination structure, which prevented meaningful mobilisation of manpower or logistics.  The flow of information from the Government in Exile dried up in the first few months after the coup.  Thus, its supporters on the ground were forced to begin their resistance activities surreptitiously.

Emergence of the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD)

773. `The name given to the overall resistance against the AFRC in 1997 was the 'Movement for the Restoration of Democracy' (MRD).  To a great extent, MRD was a public proxy for the CDF, whose activities were supposed to be kept as a tightly-guarded secret while they were operating under the noses of the junta.  Nevertheless, as one senior CDF member from Bo District testified, there were also added dimensions to the resistance:

"MRD was really a name for everybody who was not supporting the AFRC junta.  All of us were members, but those who did not join the CDF as Kamajors joined the MRD.  While the Kamajors were in the bush, they [the civilian MRD] were in the towns.  They were also in Conakry; and everywhere else where there were Sierra Leoneans in exile; they were there - MRD.  They were playing a very important role to promote democracy, to show the international community that we were not supporting the junta Government.  In fact the MRD made the AFRC to become very unpopular." 369

774. Accordingly, some MRD members attended AFRC meetings 'undercover' in towns like Freetown, Bo and Kenema in order to gather information on the plans of the soldiers.  Others assisted the groups of Kamajors in different Districts to keep in touch by relaying information through messenger boys or traders.  They also provided food for the Kamajors and other key civilian organisers in their areas, trying to remain incognito and out of the reach of the AFRC.

775. During these early resistance actitivities, it was generally agreed among participants in the MRD that the catalyst they were waiting for was news of the whereabouts of Chief Samuel Hinga Norman.  All over the South and East, Hinga Norman was expected to mount a concerted campaign to oust the junta in his capacity as the Deputy Minister of Defence and National Co-ordinator of the CDF.  One senior member of the CDF described to the Commission why Hinga Norman's presence on the ground was seen to be so important to the launch of an armed resistance:

"Upon hearing of the overthrow of the Government, all the Kamajors left the town; they went into the suburbs.  So we were asking ourselves how we could contact these people, so that we would be able to join up with them...  But Hinga Norman who had been the head of these vigilantes [and] who had been training us was not there.

All our Districts were becoming vulnerable because we had no co-ordination of Kamajors.  Particularly in the big towns like Bo, we who were left here were vulnerable, because a good number of the Kamajors had gone to the outskirts of their Chiefdoms... We came together and we started sending people into the areas where the Kamajors were based, in order to organise them - I was the liaison officer for that particular operation.  But we were looking out for Hinga Norman to co-ordinate with him properly so that we would be able to get rid of these people and bring back our elected Government."370

776. The Commission heard from several individuals who were involved in active efforts to trace and link with the CDF National Co-ordinator.  Among the elders of the Bo District, where Hinga Norman had been a Regent Chief and where support for him was undoubtedly at its strongest, a proposal emerged to send representatives to Conakry, Guinea.  This delegation left in September 1997.371  Although Hinga Norman was actually in Liberia at the time, one of these representatives testified that their trip to Guinea enabled them to establish common purpose with the Government in Exile:

"I was one of the delegates that led the delegation to Guinea; two of us went there...  We went to Conakry in search of Chief Norman but we could not find him there; still we were able to stay there for quite a good time - about a month.

We spoke with Ministers and Members of Parliament who were based there in Conakry; indeed we achieved our aim, which was to prepare some documents, work out what we needed to do in order to get these people [the AFRC junta] out of power.  Eventually we returned here [to Sierra Leone] without getting Chief Norman."372

Original Assembly Points of the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy

777. While the members of the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy in the Bo District were therefore somewhat slow in getting off the ground, the same could not be said for their counterparts to the South and to the East.  Indeed, in accordance with the general trends in civil defence that persisted throughout the conflict, there were subtle differences in the experiences recounted to the Commission from people in different parts of the country.

778. It is apparent that the Kamajors of the two Southern coastal Districts, Bonthe and Pujehun, were the most successful in organising themselves in the early months of the resistance.  For the people of Bonthe, the period of junta rule was seen as an extension of the adversity they had faced in the preceding three years whilst continually repelling the RUF.  There had already developed a siege mentality among the civil militiamen, particularly after the genesis of the Kamajor Society that had taken place there in 1996.

779. A core of Kamajors who were defending their local community in Tihun, Sogbini Chiefdom had established a stronghold that they regarded as impenetrable to potential attackers.  The area in question is essentially marshland, dotted with creeks, rivers, lakes and streams.  Much of it is only traversable by boat when the water level is high, especially during the rainy season.  The people living in the settlements built on the inhabitable higher ground generally refer to themselves as islanders.  According to Joseph A. S. Koroma, Tihun became a perishing point for RUF assailants and a base in which all the inhabitants of the area could feel secure:

"While our people were based there at Tihun, the island was our weapon - our best form of defence.  We wouldn't allow our island to be infiltrated by the rebels; we prevented them from coming there.  If in the event that one of them made it there, they would not come back again.

[...]  We continued in that manner until we became really strong men in 'the game'.  We could move far away from our base and settle elsewhere, but whenever the rebels threatened our base at Tihun we would come back and drive them away...  I'm telling you the facts: I've already told you several times that we had a most potent weapon in the form of our island; our gun was the river surrounding us.  We were untouchable on our island.

[...]  Eventually we had succeeded in flushing all the rebels out; in fact there was not a single rebel on the ground in our area of control."373

780. The Kamajor stronghold at Tihun earned its codename from the concept that 'not a single rebel on the ground' could encroach on the base: it was the original 'Base Zero'.

781. Meanwhile CDF members from across the Southern Districts had begun to converge in the Pujehun District.  Many of them had set out on their journeys with the original intention of crossing into Liberia to seek refuge from attack and a means of regrouping there.  However, a CDF base was established in Gendema, Soro Gbema Chiefdom, within a fortnight of the coup.  The Commission heard from Al-Hassan W. Jalloh, a prominent Kamajor in the Pujehun District, that Gendema was the crucial first assembly point for the CDF and a launch pad for early warning raids on enemy positions:

"I can tell you it was 6 June in 1997 when we opened Gendema Base...  Gendema Base was the first base of the Kamajors and the CDF for the 'junta war'.  It was created for Kamajors, so that whosoever would find his way to Gendema, [it] meant that he was saved...  We did not say 'we are coming to build this base in order to fight for Sierra Leone or to fight for revolution in Sierra Leone'.  We only found the place there because it was the last station on the way to Liberia.

While we were there, we were grouping ourselves; moving down to the bases of other fighters like the AFRC junta and the rebels, to attack them; so that they would know that we ourselves were ready to fight.  This was how we gained that base.  It became a permanent base for disrupting the junta forces."374

782. The location of the Kamajor base at Gendema was afforded added importance because of its close proximity to the Army barracks at Zimmi, Makpele Chiefdom.  The soldiers in Zimmi and the Kamajors at Gendema were reported to have attacked one another's positions frequently in the first few months of junta rule.  Neither side was able to gain a decisive upper hand.  Instead they engaged in a see-saw battle, inflicting casualties on both contingents.  As one of Kamajors involved in some of the battles for Zimmi testified, there was a distinct volatility to the situation there:

"We launched our attacks on Zimmi Township but we were unsuccessful in capturing the place properly.  Some of our people were killed and at the same time we killed some of them.  If we had just sat down alone and waited at that point for more than a few days, then their reinforcements would have come and they would have captured us.  So instead we retreated to our base."375

783. The Commission heard that Chief Hinga Norman monitored the early fluctuations in the Pujehun District closely during his original personal exile in Monrovia.  The first major encroachment of Kamajor fighting forces into AFRC-held territory was a raid on Zimmi in the final days of July 1997.  Hinga Norman had conveyed details of this operation to President Kabbah in two separate conversations: first through his secretary on 29 July 1997; then to him in a personal conversation on 2 August 1997.376  Both parties appeared to regard the raid as a harbinger of further military operations; in a transcript excerpt from the latter conversation, President Kabbah's reaction to news of the capture of Zimmi was recorded simply as: "Congratulations, Chief Norman."

784. The President's laudatory tone was somewhat premature, however.  The Kamajors were repeatedly dislodged from Zimmi on each occasion they made ostensible gains in these early skirmishes.  Thus the fighters based at Gendema developed a similarly backs-to-the-wall attitude to the one maintained by their counterparts on 'Base Zero' in Tihun.  One of the Kamajor commanders who came to Gendema from elsewhere in the South described the impact on the will of his fighters as follows:

"After a while we realised that the whole of loyal Sierra Leone had been reduced down to the area of Gendema.  My fighters and I resolved not to accept rule by these junta boys; we decided that we would not stand for such a state of affairs any longer.  That was the point at which all of us regrouped and vowed to start the war afresh...  We fought the war with renewed strength; it was fiercer than the one we had started earlier."377

785. Accordingly, knowledge of these two strategic bases began to spread among the members of the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy across the Southern and Eastern Provinces.  Pre-existing civil militia groups from Bo, Moyamba, Kenema and Kailahun Districts began to divide themselves into 'defensive' and 'offensive' units: the former would stay in their villages to protect them against possible raids by AFRC or RUF forces, while the latter headed for Bonthe or Pujehun to seek common co-ordination with other Kamajors and a potential link-up with Chief Hinga Norman.  A senior CDF member from Bo District described his own part in this movement of manpower in October 1997:

"We heard that Chief Norman usually came to Gendema, but with the situation at that time, nobody could walk on these roads except if you have a paper [pass] from the AFRC; you know they were very 'tense'.  So we decided to say: 'Okay, how do we go to this place?'  There was no vehicle, so we took the Tikonko Road by-pass and headed for Tihun (Sogbini) to cross the river to go to Gendema.

Fortunately, as we arrived at Tihun, which was at that time called 'Base Zero', we learnt that Chief Norman usually came to that place too; and he was [due to be] coming in two days' time, so we stayed there...  So that was how we contacted Base Zero.  We were there up to two days and two nights, then Chief Norman came.  Now we told him all about what was happening in Bo.  AFRC had been with our people and in the surroundings.  So we were there [from that point], going and coming, planning how to put all our efforts together to take these people out of power."378

786. Hinga Norman, who by that time had returned from his visit to Conakry, was in fact shuttling between the bases in Gendema and Tihun, while retaining a preserve in Liberia at the ECOMOG base.  According to other Kamajor commanders, Hinga Norman gauged the nascent trends of activity across the South and East as the first step towards mobilisation against the AFRC.379

787. In order to embolden the masses and to signal the intent of the Kamajors to fight, it was decided that an announcement should be made over the international media.  Thus, the Commission heard testimony from Al-Hassan Jalloh that in October 1997, the Kamajors set out their stall in the following manner:

"It was in the hands of our spokesman at that time, Eddie Massallay.  We instructed him that he would vow to fight over the BBC; so it happened when [BBC correspondent] Jonathan Paye-Layleh came to our Gendema Base to interview us.  We said to him that we the CDF in Sierra Leone do not recognise the Government of the AFRC and we will never allow them to work in this state.  So [Massallay said]: 'We will 'rush' them and we will follow them until they will all get lost into the sea'."380


788. The newly-proclaimed stance added an attacking dimension to the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy.  In spite of the diplomatic efforts being undertaken by ECOWAS towards the Conakry Peace Plan, the Government in Exile, through its agent and Deputy Minister of Defence Chief Sam Hinga Norman, had opted for a military-driven restoration effort.

789. The Commission heard several testimonies that spoke of a meeting of the joint CDF-ECOMOG 'Planning Committee'.  This Committee convened both in Liberia and in Gendema to agree upon the modalities of joint military operations.

790. The Planning Committee decided upon a two-pronged approach to the CDF's involvement in the restoration effort.  From Gendema Base, Pujehun District, Kamajors of the Pujehun, Kenema and Kailahun Districts would lend infantry support to ECOMOG in its efforts to liberate the Eastern Regional Headquarter Town of Kenema.  From Base Zero, Bonthe District, Kamajors of the Bonthe, Moyamba and Bo Districts would accompany

791. As the MRD transformed into an armed struggle against the AFRC, Chief Hinga Norman selected a new site to become the hallowed turf of the Kamajor Society.  In this regard, the Commission heard again that rites and ceremonies were in fact ordained by human instruction.  The traditions of peace-time secret societies through the ages were done a terrible disservice by the cruel and aggressive interpretation they were given by Hinga Norman and the initiating cadre.  The town of Talia, Yawbeko Chiefdom in Bonthe District was chosen to accommodate the massed ranks of the Kamajors.  The name given to the new stronghold was cribbed from its predecessor base in Tihun, slightly to its north: 'Base Zero'.

Organisation and Conduct of Training at the New 'Base Zero'

792. The new Base Zero was sited at Talia, Yawbeko Chiefdom, Bonthe District. It was situated in a clearing among the forested swamplands of Sierra Leone's coast, which offered protection from ground attack. Here a massive new camp was to be built for the training of the Kamajor fighters and the direction of the war effort. Chief Hinga Norman assumed effective command and control.

"Whatever building we might see around us, we were ordered to destroy and demolish it; Hinga Norman's instruction was that even if a school should be destroyed, no worry."381

793. As news of the establishment of the new base spread, Kamajor fighters and many leaders in the communities of the south and east sought to go to Base Zero to join up with the efforts to liberate the country from military rule.

"Almost the entire South of the country was converting to the Kamajors - Kondewah managed to assemble a huge number of men in a very short space of time; the speed with which enlistment was being carried out grew exponentially over time."382

794. From Base Zero, Chief Norman began immediately directing operations, sending Kamajor fighters out to engage the AFRC/RUF in pitched battles. According to many of the young men at Base Zero, there was very poor planning and coordination going on. They didn't have much confidence that the movement would survive for long if they continued with Chief Norman's style of managing the war effort.  Many of the supporters of the elected government were in hiding in the bushes around their home communities. Some of them like Alhaji Daramy-Rogers established their own form of communication with the government in exile and the team at Base Zero. He testified to the Commission that he sent "emissaries to both Conakry and to Talia, Base Zero, where Norman was."

"I was the main link, because I had some money.  I was financing young men to go to Guinea and then sending them also with that information to Base Zero."  These young men were undoubtedly engaged in a perilous exercise, since travelling anywhere under the noses of the junta was highly dangerous - "when you send those boys and they don't come back, I can't sleep.  I was not only there: I was co-ordinating things with top people."383

795. The young men at Base Zero apprised Alhaji Daramy-Rogers of the need for him to join those at base Zero, " we would want you to join Hinga Norman; we don't think he's doing much in terms of planning - it would be better for you to go to Base Zero and join him there."

796. Many of the elders and chiefs who wanted to join the war effort were also making their way to Base Zero.  It was certainly not easy to get from Bo to Bonthe during the period of junta rule, and it was particularly difficult to get to Talia because of the nature of the operation that was based there.

"Several times I dressed as a woman, until we were sure that I could not be recognised as a male.  Then I rode on the back of a motorbike to somewhere near to Bumpeh and made the rest of the journey on foot."384

797. Long trips on foot were commonplace for the committed members of the communities of the South and East who wanted to make it to Base Zero.

798. Alhaji Daramy-Rogers enjoyed a very friendly relationship with Hinga Norman - he had given two shotguns to Chief Norman upon the latter's assumption of chieftaincy in Jaiama Bongo - the two men saw themselves at the outset as political affiliates, native "brothers", fellow elders and friends.  But Daramy-Rogers was also particularly close to the President.  He presented himself to the Commission as a supporter of the Government in general and was eager to see democracy win over the junta.

799. The base was indisputably well protected. For Daramy-Rogers, arriving at Base Zero did not pose any particular problems - "they had got the news that I was coming". He was therefore warmly welcomed by Chief Norman and the others. 

800. There were also many paramount and other chiefs as well as elders at Base Zero. The problems at the base quickly became apparent to them.  According to Daramy-Rogers:

"Base Zero now had made itself into a demi-God.  There were very dangerous commands in it... they would sing war-songs; and they don't see any positive role in organising the boys.  They just initiate them; first of all he would try for them to get guns to engage the AFRC; sometimes they are ill-equipped and he sends them.  You know, in the process they kill them ... so nothing was properly organised there; and we lose a lot of boys from Base Zero.  That was actually what we were doing.  It made me worried.  Especially when they attacked Koribondo, on two occasions, the men were not equipped - so how can they face them [a professional Army]?"385

801. Chief Norman apparently placed a lot of trust and confidence in his initiators to develop a set of fighters who needed minimum or no training to be able to do battle with the RUF/AFRC troops. The chief initiator, the High Priest Allieu Kondewah was described to the Commission as:

"a drunkard; a dancer; a gambler; a herbalist; a man with magical powers."386

Although he had no ostensible connections to the SLPP Government, Kondewah was apparently highly valued by members of the administration and was initially taken off into exile with the President when the overthrow by the AFRC took place.387

The Act of Initiation into the Kamajor Society

802. High Priest Kondewah with his assistants, Kamoh Brimah and Kamoh Lahai, established an initiation ceremony that promised "bullet proof' protection to the combatants in battle. The initiation contained a lot of rituals, including cannibalism as well as a fearful outing in a grave yard at night that served to create some mysticism around the process. The act of initiation was derived from traditional ceremonies associated with secret societies in Sierra Leone. They were perverted and manipulated by the initiators to achieve the aims of institutionalisation and whatever other purposes they had.

803. The acts of cannibalism at Base Zero came as a rude shock to some of the elders and chiefs gathered there:

"At one stage a boy even woke me up and said: 'Alhaji you are sleeping... that's why you don't even know what is happening here...  Do you know that we're doing cannibalism here?..  If you don't believe, I will take you secretly to see everything... we have pans (banda in Mende); you go there, they put the chops to dry; one day I will take you there.'  I was afraid - I never imagined that a human being can 'chop' [eat] another human being.  I didn't solicit it; he came by himself as a true confession to me.  I didn't sleep the whole night."388

804. After the initiation, the potency of the ritual was usually tested with the firing of a "loaded" gun at the initiate. The bullet either hit the person and fell to the ground, or completely went off target. This was followed with loud chants to demonstrate that the initiation had indeed been successful. All the persons present at Base Zero were then requested to undergo initiation. In September 1997, an initiation ceremony was organised for all of them, including the paramount chiefs and elders. It was only subsequently that they came to know that the tasty dish they consumed as part of the initiation ceremony contained human flesh. Alhaji Daramy Rogers considers the avowed powers conferred by the initiation as a hoax.

"I went into that society - but it's not even true that you have charms that can make you bullet-proof.  He [Hinga Norman] believed that; and that was how they were killing innocent children because of that."

And besides that, if they say they should test you, when they are testing you... a lot of people used to die.  It's all deception.  Sometimes, if they want you to believe, they'd remove all the shells - all the pillets [the cartridges and their casing] - from these shotguns that we use.  So they'd remove the bits, close it, to make it appear real... and believe me, if you shoot it, it will be as loud as just the actual thing."

It was [a fraudulent conspiracy] and that was our worry.  If you do that to one or two people then they will say it is true.  But to say that there was any charm?  To be very frank, from the word go I did not believe that.  I could not stand to be shot, believing that I have some charm that could make me invincible."389

805. To discerning minds, the initiation ceremony was a cleverly manipulated process that duped the mass of the membership into believing that they were the chosen ones blessed by the gods and ancestors to liberate their people:

"I will be telling you a lot of things that happened there.  It was all about believing... If you make a man's mind, then you can make him feel that something has happened when in fact it does not exist.  There was nothing like magical powers; nothing like magical powers...  They used basic deception to win people over."390

806. The process of initiation and the powers it supposedly conferred elevated the status of the initiators among the Kamajors. They became extremely powerful.

"Why one cannot divorce the initiators from the Co-ordinator is because of their relationship; because, to be very frank, the relationship was so cordial that 'they never do bad'... if you correct them, it angers him.  And what I found out, deliberately in my mind, was that he was very superstitious; and superstition can take you to a lot of things you don't even imagine doing.  He was so superstitious and he believed Kondewah, whatever he told him.  How can you believe that?"391

807. The initiators' assistants were those responsible for 'preparing' the materials for the ceremony.  They learned the tricks of the trade from their masters and went on to use them alone in other, often unlicensed ceremonies that took place later.

808. Raw greed began to dictate the initiating policy of the High Priest.  Self-enrichment was also apparently embraced almost universally by his subordinates in the initiating cadre.  According to accounts gathered by the Commission from different parts of the country and pertaining to different years of the conflict, new 'phases'  of initiation to accrue further financial gain met with mixed levels of implementation.  On the one hand Initiators, both recognised and unlicensed, sometimes took up the schemes even more voraciously than Kondewah himself, to the extent that they embellished elements of it to yield further income. On the other hand, Initiators sometimes deployed the new techniques sparingly or not at all, leading to the scenario where some witnesses declared that they had never even heard of some of the phases on which they were questioned.

809. What is certain is that the initiators themselves made a considerable amount of money out of initiating and it was therefore in their interests to adopt new 'types' of initiation offering novel and more potent 'powers' to their subscribers.  Yet every one of the apocryphal benefits bestowed upon Kamajors by such ceremonies can be seen to have precipitated ever-more irresponsible conduct on the part of those who paid for them. 

810. The Initiators consistently 'doctored' the cartridges they loaded into their shotguns, removing a component of the ballistic composition known as the 'pillet' and upon pulling the trigger released a projectile that had been reduced to effectively nothing more than the plastic casing or 'skin'.  Such an item, even when fired at close range and pointed directly at the target, ought to have posed no threat of injury to the initiate.  Indeed the most frequently-recorded outcome of such a performance was that the human subject of the demonstration would walk away unscathed, convinced of his own immortality.  Several Kamajors who spoke with the Commission professed to have been fired at and to have survived.  The gathered masses of Kamajors in attendance at any given initiation, sometimes numbering several hundred, would marvel at the powers of the Initiator and themselves subscribe to the 'bullet-proof' myth.  Other statements collected by the Commission suggested that bullets had 'turned to water', 'failed to fire' or 'flown over the head' of the man at whom it was fired.

811. Upon consideration of the ramifications of this practice, the Commission is apt to condemn it in and of itself.  Although a quantitative measurement of the phenomenon is impossible, the Commission's qualitative evidence suggests that the majority warfront casualties incurred by the Kamajors were attributable at least in part to the misplaced gusto, akin to what is sometimes referred to as 'Dutch courage', with which their combatants went into battle.  Put simply, as a direct result of their initiation ceremonies, they did not think they could be killed by bullets.  The tally of deaths caused by the war would in all likelihood have been lower without the background charade of invincibility against which much of it was fought.

812. In any case, it cannot be permissible for figures of authority, whether their leadership is political, factional, spiritual or moral, to so wilfully abuse the rights of those who look up to them.  The Commission refuses to slight the integrity of any of those who were killed during an initiation process, for they participated in most instances to earn themselves what they saw as the power, but which was actually the right, to defend themselves, their families and their communities in a country whose state security apparatus had collapsed or turned against them.  The responsibility for their deaths lies squarely with the initiating cadre of the CDF under the leadership of High Priest Allieu Kondewah.

813. The Initiators and their apprentices brought the whole concept of civil defence into disrepute.  Collectively, under the direction and following the example of their High Priest, they extorted and exploited the membership of the Kamajor movement in a seemingly insatiable pursuit of their own self-enrichment.  Moreover, Initiators were responsible both directly and indirectly for the commission of human rights violations on an alarming scale, particularly in the South and East of Sierra Leone.  For every death that took place during an initiation ceremony in the country, of which the Commission has recorded multiple cases but suspects the number to be much higher, the Initiators bear the responsibility.

814. The Commission is unsatisfied with the explanations conjured by Initiators and loyal recruits alike for this mode of killing, since they essentially attempt to exonerate the perpetrators of due culpability.  The Commission instead condemns this perversion of the sacred and long-standing tradition of initiation and rites of passage.  The Initiators of the CDF deliberately targeted the social and cultural fabric of this nation.  We implore that nobody, whether in a group or individual capacity, should ever again be allowed to engage in destruction and exploitation under the false pretences of a 'secret' society.

815. This state of affairs created a sense of panic among the chiefs and elders also gathered at the base. They felt like bystanders, yet by their progeny and station in life, they believed they had a lot to offer.  They therefore consulted with Chief Norman and insisted on a bigger role for themselves in the operations of the movement.  Chief Norman was running the operations of the base, only in consultation with his initiators. It was then agreed that a War Council be constituted.

816. Among the members of the War Council at Base Zero were:

1. PC J.W. Quee - Chairman of the War Council
2. PC W. Tucker - Vice Chairman / Representative for Bonthe  
3. Chief Vandi Soka - Member / Representative for Kenema District
4. Robert F. Kombe-Kajue - Member / Representative for Moyamba District
5. Ibrahim F.M. Kanneh - Member / Representative for Bo District
6. M.S. Dumbuya - Member / Representative for the Northern Province
7. Francis Lumeh - Logistics Officer/Member/Representative for Pujehun District
8. Alhaji Daramy-Rogers - Executive Officer / Member
9. Mohammed O. Musa  -  Executive Officer / Member
10. George Jambawai      -  Executive Officer / Member

Other Members at Base Zero included:

1. Chief J.D. Muana   - Resident Paramount Chief
2. Chief Francis Gormor - Logistics Officer
3. Joseph A.S. Koroma  - National Director of Operations
4. Ruphus M. Collier     - Battalion Commander / Bonthe District
5. Yaya Kamara - Store Keeper
6. Paramount Chief Caulker - Bonthe District

817. The Council was composed of representatives who were drawn in from each District in order to ensure some kind of geographical spread and balance. However, there was no person  from the Western Area, nor from the North... apart from Dumbuya. There is some argument as to whether Dumbuya was a member of the War Council at Base Zero or not. He vehemently denied being a member of the Council, arguing that he was not accepted since he was not Mende and that he disagreed with the practices going on there (a clear reference to the cannibalism that was widely practised). He claimed instead that he was a member of the War Council in Conakry.  Members of the War Council at Base Zero have testified to the Commission that "Dumbuya was also involved in the decision-making".

818. The Commission had understood that some of those who formed the War Council had been to Guinea immediately prior to coming to Base Zero; and that they had been part of a delegation there who had met with members of the Government in Exile before travelling down to Talia.

819. However, members of the War Council were adamant that the Government did not have any input into the formation of the War Council at Base Zero.

820. The Council immediately directed the training of the combatants. "We thought it was necessary for the boys to have some training; because you cannot send somebody who does not have military training and give him just a gun." They sent word to Freetown to Maxwell Khobe, ECOMOG commander who despatched former SSD commander, M. S. Dumbuya to train "the boys".

821. The training was designed to complement ECOMOG efforts:

"Already ECOMOG was on the move to advance.  So we were just training to complement the efforts of ECOMOG, so that in terms of the fact that they don't have the manpower, our boys would have had some knowledge, so that they could join them."392

822. Everyone was supposed to participate in the training, including the chiefs and elders. It was a rigorous military training, not just the bare physical exercises suggested by Dumbuya's testimony to the Commission. People were even reported to have died during the training at Base Zero, as a result of its intensity.  Dumbuya however told the Commission that the Kamajors were disinclined to participate in the training. They believed that the initiation ceremony offered them sufficient preparation to go to war. He was compelled to train only the chiefs and elders, some of whom were well over 70 years old.393  He claimed further that he was not invited to participate in the discussions that took place in planning the war effort. All the discussions took place in Mende language with which he was not conversant. He perceived that the environment was becoming oppressive.

823. The members of the War Council had tried to assert their authority, particularly after they became aware of the extent of cannibalism being practiced at the base, and the deployment of fighters to missions without prior consultation with them. The circumstances indeed beg the question as to why none of the other senior Kamajors at the base saw fit to hold a frank and candid discussion with Chief Norman in order to understand what he had in mind with his often secretive endeavours.  A combination of fear and a deep-lying sense of vulnerability appear to have accounted for the silence.  A tense relationship therefore developed between them and Chief Norman and the initiators. They were seen as interfering. Subtle threats began to be directed their way:

"Even when we [were] trying to correct the boys, they told us at one point that even our lives were... that they could not guarantee our safety.  So why can't we be afraid?"

I thought it was a threat.  I thought it was a threat - and that was a serious threat.  We were all afraid - ask any one of us and they will tell you that."394

824. The War Council made one last feeble attempt to wrest control of the movement. A rumour had spread that the movement had become so strong that it could even take over the government whenever the AFRC was expelled from power. A whispering campaign developed that perhaps that was the way to go. The Council convened a meeting of all persons present at Base Zero. Speaker and after speaker warned the boys to desist from contemplating such thoughts, and that all their efforts and resources should be deployed to restoring the legitimate government to power. When it got to his turn to speak, Chief Norman denied any plans to replace President Kabbah and wondered why the meeting had to be convened in the first place since his loyalty to the President was not to be doubted by anyone.

825. This last act of the Council seemed to have drawn the line between it and Chief Norman. Its members claim that they were no longer consulted on operational or other issues. They stayed on at the base passing their time as they saw fit, and picking up snippets of information from local commanders ready to blow the whistle on the movement. For M.S. Dumbuya he perceived that his life was no longer safe at the base. It was to his great relief when General Khobe sent a helicopter to evacuate him after six weeks at the base. He never returned to the base till the government of President Kabbah was restored to power.395

826. The initiators became so powerful that they began directing military operations, sending the combatants out on missions without consultation with any of the chiefs and elders present at the base.

"I told you that the Priests were more effective because they had armed men.  If it was only meant to initiate people - make them 'disappear - then it was okay.  But the question was: why should they have a contingent of armed men?  We knew for sure that some of them were using those arms to intimidate, or even to loot people - dispossess their properties. It is an open secret that Kondewah was one of those who had a contingent of armed men at his disposal.  Each of them had arms; Mama Munda too.  Mama Munda was initiating independently outside of Base Zero."396

827. The Initiators refused to be cowed by the War Council and ignored it most of the time. They had their own armed men to respond to their commands:

"I considered it a parallel command structure; but Hinga Norman was in command of the initiators.  They were never loyal to the War Council.  In fact they took us as a threat; that we had eroded their powers; that we tried to neutralise them.  They were calling us some nickname...something council.  They said they had all the powers - that whatever they said would happen; when we came we tried to take that power from them."

828. There were however no real attempts to impose any codes of conduct, discipline or official restraint on the actions of the Initiators.  Whilst it may have been raised at War Council meetings no substantive decision was taken. The War Council issued an instruction that the initiators needed to be curbed, but the power to take away this grip on power lay squarely and solely in the hands of Hinga Norman. On the inability of the War Council to exercises control, it has been argued on its behalf that:

"It ought to have been the case [that we were in control] but it was never the case.  For instance the arrangement to attack Koribondo, they left before we knew about it.  That is one vivid example. Nor was it routine for the Council to receive briefings or reports on what had taken place during a front-line operation. Not to the War Council, but to individuals who were members of the War Council.  But to say as a Council: I never saw once that we deliberated on such a matter."397

829. Relationships between learned people in the War Council and the initiators - who were 'Kamohs', or learned in Islam - were strained in both directions.  They were treated with something of a haughty derision by the conventionally educated members of the War Council, who flinched at engaging them and sneered at their indulgence in 'native magic'.  "The man was drunk almost every day, so how can you have a healthy discussion with him?"  The initiators in turn regarded the War Council as a quibbling group of people.

830. The Commission sees a fundamental contradiction at the heart of some of the explanations tendered by members of the War Council.  There were grave organisational flaws in the structure of the Civil Defence Forces of which each of these men was a senior executive member.  Many of these deficiencies in fact relate to a lack of coherent leadership, a dearth of sensible co-ordination, a disjunction between the initiating cadre and the administrative cadre and an incessant problem in exerting effective control over the rank and file, or the masses.  Whilst the Commission recognises that with hindsight members of the War Council might see such shortcomings as anomalous and even comical, it remains the case that there are very serious issues intertwined within them that ought to have been resolved at the level of the War Council.  The Commission finds that the senior citizens of the Kamajors were hapless and hopeless in the paramount task of living up to their responsibilities.  They did nothing to prevent the mayhem that unfolded around them; in fact they lent legitimacy and their implicit endorsement to the acts of atrocity that were taking place by staying in a movement that had become a systematic violator of human rights.

"It's easy to say as you are speaking in normal times.  It was true that the whole thing was chaotic.  Where illiterate people are given arms and ammunition; there was no command structure; they were a law unto themselves.  It was difficult, let me tell you; it was difficult.  Because as I explained to you, when Mr. Kombe was molested: an old man over 70; a young boy with a gun, telling him 'you sit down there'; and he sat there.  We made a report - nothing happened and the boy was not punished.  We knew the situation was chaotic, we knew that.  Why honestly [did I do nothing]?  This was a jungle; it wasn't normal times.  If you see one big man humiliated and nothing came out of it, you must be afraid.  I am not speaking for the others, but for myself: I was actually afraid for my life."

This is why I didn't wait - I was one of the first people who left Base Zero when we heard that ECOMOG was coming.  Even when we went to another place, a base called Base Dasam that was nearer Bo, when we heard that the Kamajors had been repelled in the first attack, and we were ordered to go back to Base Zero, I refused to go; I stayed at that point.  Because once God saved my life I left that village; I did not go there again - I have not even been there even at this peace-time.  Oh yes; I was very scared.

The movement was in fact uncontrollable and you were constantly in a state of fear that prevented you from taking action to correct that. ECOMOG and the Government were now in control - I felt that I could make a useful contribution based on the respect I commanded.  I said to myself enough is enough. I vowed to make my own role one of an advisory capacity."398

831. Thus power struggles broke out between commanders who owed their loyalties to different leaders within the movement; in the public perception there is a fine line between the activities of troops acting on behalf of Kondewah and the enforcement squad instructed by Alhaji Daramy-Rogers to retrieve vehicles.

"At the time we came when I was Regional Co-ordinator we used to get supplies directly from ECOMOG; I cannot say it was abundant supply, but we were supplied. Even if they carried guns, these were their own guns - they had come back to Bo from Base Zero with guns."399

832. There were in fact a number of testimonies given to the Commission that spoke of pitched battles between armed forces acting on behalf of various individuals in the CDF organisation including Allieu Kondewah and Alhaji Daramy-Rogers.

833. After the Government was restored to power, it put out as many as three statements instructing the Kamajors to cease initiations for fear that it had escalated out of hand, but it was to no avail.  Initiation still went on for a considerable period of time thereafter.

834. In the management of the war effort, Chief Norman appeared to have given prominence to the initiators. They began to determine operations, missions and tactics. This the ground commanders resented. Putting the two segments of the movement together into one organogram created unanticipated problems.

835. Monitoring and reporting was particularly weak - hence those who were supposed to authorise or plan such attacks were effectively bypassed by commanders who acted unilaterally. The conflict between the two cadres (initiation Vs hierarchy) would be the crux of the power struggles in the movement) and it was all down to the poorly-defined parameters of initiation as against organisation; and due to the ill-discipline of a fighting force that had received hardly any formal training and many of whom once were farmers.

The Kamajors' Operation Black December

836. Base Zero was construed by some members to have been established purposely for the carrying out of Operation Black December:

"Black December was an all-out offensive against any stumbling block towards the development of Pa Kabbah's Government.  Wheresoever an RUF or AFRC man stays, we should attack that position; and whosoever has food that could assist in our war effort, we should take that food from them - and we did that.

[...] Purposefully it was a ritual - people did a lot to succeed on that [operation]... ceremonies, burials, rituals, sacrificing; it included much sacrificing of human beings.  We did that purposely for the good of this Government.  People were handled without their own knowledge, but all the Ministers of the Government knew about it."400

837. There is compelling evidence before the Commission that Operation Black December was debated at the level of the War Council in Exile.401  Those who participated in discussions around it included Ambassador James Jonah, the President, ECOMOG commanders in Freetown and Government Ministers, including Hinga Norman, Patrick Foyah, Foday Sesay, Harry Will, Momoh Pujeh, and M. B. Daramy. The main objective of the operation was to choke the supply routes of the AFRC and thereby hasten its collapse.

838. The means by which Operation Black December was to be carried out were described to the Commission in the following terms by one of those who was tasked with its implementation:

"We would go all out to cut off the roads, mostly by setting up roadblocks and checkpoints so that the roads could not be used to transport materials or otherwise assist the AFRC in the big towns.  Two flags were used: red and white.  The red was for danger; the white was for peace.

The Black December operation was so nasty that it could turn your stomach.  Children were taken in handcuffs, everyone was put under our will."402

839. An anonymous survivor of the conflict gave the following statement to the Commission pertaining to the Kamajors' practice of summary executions and other violations at checkpoints during the period of the Black December operation.  The statement-giver indicated his belief that Chief Sam Hinga Norman was personally responsible for ordering the violations and abuses he described:

"On 2 November 1997 I was travelling from Kenema to Bo in a Government bus...  I was in the bus with other passengers whom I didn't know, including about thirty pilgrims, both male and female.  On the journey, we did not know that the Kamajors had set a one-mile ambush.

When we reached Gembeh at 10.00 a.m. an RPG was launched on the edge of the bus and cut off the driver's head; he died on the spot.  The bus was then moving uncontrolled and finally [was] blocked by a big tree.

[...] The Kamajors then came in their hundreds and surrounded the bus and asked everybody to come down, including me.  The Kamajors took us to the bridge and their commander, whom I know facially, took out a Motorola [mobile phone] handset and communicated to Hinga Norman, who was in Monghere at that moment.  According to their conversation, I understood that Hinga Norman gave them the order to execute everybody.

[...] By the other side of the bridge there was a big pit; the commander told all the men to stand in one line and the women in another line.  Four of the Kamajors stood in front of the rows and began to slaughter the people with their swords and daggers and dump them into the pit.

[...] I was the last person in the men's row.  As they were about to kill me, I used mystical power and disappeared."403

840. The Black December operation lasted at the most a few months.  It reached its climax in terms of intensity and the number of sub-operations conducted during the month of December 1997, which was to become the country's blackest month during the AFRC's reign in power.

841. The duration of the Black December operation would seem to indicate that it had been envisaged and designed as an integral prerequisite to the full-scale intervention that was to be launched by ECOMOG in February of 1998. CDF witnesses informed the Commission that the Government in exile was not only aware but participated in the planning of 'Operation Black December". To carry out the operation, ECOMOG supplied arms and ammunition to the CDF. The purpose of the training provided for Kamajors by M.S. Dumbuya and for the Gbethes by ECOMOG was to reinforce the civilian resistance to the AFRC. The high point of this resistance was supposed to be Operation Black December' which was to be a forerunner to the expulsion of the AFRC from Freetown.  It is therefore unfortunate that neither the government nor the leadership of the CDF took any substantive measures to curb the pervasive violation of the rights of civilians which occurred during these three dark months of the conflict named 'Operation Black December'. There was massive looting, particularly of agricultural facilities and of harvests that had been the whole season's work and planting on the part of the victim.  "We were grabbing their harvests just for the Black December."404

842. There was no public response from the government to the violations that occurred following the launch of 'Operation Black December'. Efforts had been made by members of the War Council at Base Zero to inform the President of the atrocities being committed by the Kamajors.

"We did not formally or informally advise him [the President] as a Council; maybe as individual members of the Council...I did not shirk my responsibility.  I did not advise him, but I explained to him.  I gave him some explanation. I said to him that all was not well in the CDF; that I said to him.  Many things were not known to us at Base Zero...  I said even the Nigerians didn't think that he [the President] was handling the Co-ordinator; because Hinga Norman was doubling as Co-ordinator of CDF and also as a Minister.  I said that was not good.  I said, they [ECOMOG] had said that. For instance, we didn't know; the only information we got from Hinga Norman was that he had a friend in Liberia who told him he was in the Army, the British Army or so, and this friend was the one that was supplying us food.  And I felt that that was not the case

The President said he didn't want to open up another fight.  He had attempted at one time to change this man and there was no good response from the CDF, the Kamajors.  He said he got information from intelligence that if they remove this man, if they change him - because the President wanted to send this man to Nigeria - they said if they change him, there will be trouble.  And we had had this peace, so he didn't want another diversion. If he had relied on my opinion, perhaps he would have made the changes I recommended.  But he did not.  So I cannot say per se that he relied on my suggestions."405

843. In consequence the Government did little to rein in the rampaging CDF troops who in places like Bonthe Island turned to "worse oppressors than the RUF rebels".406

844. Despite the above, the President continued to retain Chief Hinga Norman as CDF National Coordinator. One reason was that without an effective national Army, ECOMOG needed the capacities of the CDF to afford them inside knowledge of the countryside for purposes of dislodging the AFRC/RUF from their occupied areas. The President and his closest advisers were acutely aware of Hinga Norman's deficiencies and the violations his leadership had precipitated, but they also knew that it was only under his leadership that the CDF would remain a strong enough fighting force to overcome the AFRC/RUF and effectively liberate the country and win the war.  They therefore kept him there in spite of their own and others' better judgement:

"I think it was the other way round.  The President felt that if he removed Hinga Norman that would displease [the Kamajors].  You see the President... I could say he had the wrong conception.  If he had done that, that would have saved the situation.  Seriously - I'm not saying it because I wanted the job, honestly.  I did not; I had even told the President that I didn't want him to make me Minister."407


845. It is impossible to avoid the question of Hinga Norman's appropriateness for the leadership of the CDF in any serious discussion of the fighting forces in the conflict.  President Kabbah found himself in utter desperation, knowing that something had to be done but unsure of which way to turn, he battled with several competing and conflicting dynamics central to the outcome of the war: a proposed restructuring of the CDF would have to encompass the following criteria: cut Hinga Norman out of the loop, replace him with someone who can engender a similar degree of respect and authority among the rank and file of the Kamajors, and does not compromise the war effort. The challenge was to find a suitable person to replace Chief Norman. It had to be somebody who had leadership - either innately or institutionally - within the movement who also had gravitas.  A man who had influence and standing in the movement. The reason Hinga Norman commanded such control was because he had the respect of the boys as a fighting man himself.

"I told the President - the person should be someone with some military backing; he should have some respect. They wanted a trained soldier. There are Sierra Leoneans competent, who had also served the Army and left... some of them were Kamajors, like M. M. Koroma - I wonder whether he was not a Major in the Army; he was a Kamajor."408

846. In the end, Chief Norman was not replaced. The mutual suspicion between him and the President intensified and was to play an important part in the events surrounding the May 6-8 2000 demonstrations in Freetown. Even after the war had ended and the Kamajors were encamped at the Brookfields Hotel in Freetown, they became guns for hire, going out on private operations against perceived enemies of their hirers. The operations included targeted assassinations, looting or property, rape etc. In one particular instance, a group of Kamajors went to the residence of the former Vice President, and forcibly took away five cars as part compensation for their "war efforts". The Vice President not only did not upbraid them but "advised them that rather than take the cars by force, if they wanted cars, they should have come to him to give them cars voluntarily."409  A culture of impunity therefore took sway in the Kamajor camps:

"As a group, we cannot shy away and nobody can completely exonerate himself.  I am very clear in my mind that what happened, all that you have said is true.  If it is a question of blame, I cannot be exonerated.  But to say as personal blame, I think in my own little way I tried to pacify things, but I had my limitations....This was a difficult situation.  Most of those people who had arms were very illiterate.

Why did it happen? Well you know with human conflict.  We knew that there were excesses, but I did not personally take part in those excesses... I saw them and sometimes I raised it.  And in fact the problem I had with CDF was because I raised most of those issues. So they were not very comfortable with me and that was where I had my problem."410

847. The usual voices of authority which in most of Sierra Leonean society belong to Chiefs, elders and respected senior men, had become marginalised in the CDF movement.  They were replaced by those who had command over armed groups.  For a senior man to have to subordinate himself to an armed commando is not in line with the norm in Sierra Leone. The Government and the leadership of the Kamajor movement including the chiefs, must bear full responsibility for all the atrocities that were committed by the Kamajors in the course of the war.


848. The Commission found multiple further indications of the importance of maintaining executive oversight and intra-Governmental communication during the exile period.  Yet most of the evidence suggests that not enough was done in this regard, while what was done was often botched.  In fact, as the preceding narrative demonstrates, the attempts at co-ordination by the Government in exile were generally ill-conceived, disorganised and highly defective.

849. Many of the most telling insights in this regard came from members of the two 'War Councils', which were parallel bodies established in Guinea and Sierra Leone.  The Commission has found that the mandates of these Councils were in one sense complementary: they both sought to oversee certain operational and political elements of the effort to restore the SLPP Government.  Yet according to testimonies they were established separately, administered differently and thus predestined to act inconsonantly.  Both War Councils proved insufficiently courageous in enforcing their decisions.


The Modalities of the ECOMOG Intervention into Freetown

850. At the level of Heads of Government in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a three-pronged progressive policy for the restoration of President Kabbah was accepted.  The founding principle upon which ECOWAS sought the reinstatement of Kabbah's Government was that the nascent, albeit imperfect democracy of Sierra Leone should be protected and bolstered.

851. The Commonwealth Conference, the OAU Summit and the United Nations General Assembly all gave their outright support for the policy of restoration.  The Government of Sierra Leone had to be supported in its quest for speedy restoration on favourable terms, since anything less would have been a terrible condemnation of the low durability of democracy in the West African sub-region.

852. Promoting democracy assumed an added internal dimension in Sierra Leone because of the fluctuations in public opinion during the 1990s.  The AFRC had come to power believing that the context which gave rise to the NPRC five years earlier still existed. However, as Colonel K. E. S. Boyah pointed out to the Commission, the whole social context by 1997 was predicated on an undertaking to keep the Army away from politics:

"My version, the way I see it, the AFRC guys just miscalculated the whole situation when they thought that people wanted a change.  In 1992, yes: the people wanted a change.  Even when efforts were being made to stop that [coup]; people were rejoicing, people virtually led those boys to State House.  We were all witnesses; they virtually led them [there] dancing.

But 1997 was a different situation; a different scenario.  People had gone through a lot of trauma by then; they were in the [mental] state that they were not ready for that kind of rubbish any longer.  But they [the coup makers] also thought that they could come and make themselves comfortable and at the end of it they could still have an exit like the NPRC guys who left.  I think that was what happened."411

853. Indeed, in the case of the junior soldiers who seized power on 25 May 1997, there was a manifest desire to enrich themselves and enjoy the trappings of power as demonstrated by testimony from Maada Bio and other leaders of the NPRC regime.  Therein lay an unwarranted extension of the culture of abuse of Government that their forebears in the NPRC had propagated.  Yet the question of whether the AFRC would slip into exile with impunity at the end of their reign quickly became secondary to the question of whether they would be willing to relinquish power in the first place.  It was for this reason that ECOWAS envisaged coercive measures of gradually increasing intensity.

854. The first step was to elicit from the AFRC regime an undertaking to hand back power peacefully; this was to be achieved through direct dialogue and, if necessary, multilateral negotiations.  The five-member contact group established for that purpose was given something of a cold shoulder by the AFRC leadership however.  The initial declarations of intent by Johnny Paul Koroma suggested an intention to hold on to power for somewhere between two and four years.412

855. Upon the apparent insistence of ECOWAS leaders, a strict embargo on international trade was imposed on Sierra Leone, along with a robust set of sanctions on the AFRC.  While the enforcement of these measures was undoubtedly flawed, they seemed to have the effect of scuttling at least some of the AFRC's designs on longevity.  The Conakry Peace Plan of 23 October 1997 grew out of the need for the AFRC either to embrace international mechanisms, or slowly to suffocate in economic segregation.

856. Thus the Government pursued a proactive policy of isolation, convincing the international community to sever all ties with the junta, deny the AFRC regime recognised status in international law and impose economic sanctions on the economy.  Nevertheless, irrespective of these diplomatic efforts, the planning and implementation of a military-driven restoration operation took place in earnest.  From an early juncture, a joint plan was envisaged in which ECOMOG would assault the power base in Freetown, as well as the Provincial Headquarter Towns of Bo and Kenema, with contingents of Kamajors for support where appropriate.  The pledge of the AFRC leadership in the Conakry Peace Plan to hand over power on 22 April 1998 was given short shrift.

857. From analysis of the Review Document produced subsequently by ECOMOG, coupled with the inseparable evidence of intent to fight by the Kamajors noted in the previous section, the Commission finds that an armed intervention became inevitable from November 1997.  During that month, 11 ECOMOG soldiers were reported to have been killed by land mines, which had been littered around the approach routes to Freetown from the East.413  Skirmishes between AFRC forces and the Kamajors at various locations in the South were also interpreted as outward displays of hostile intransigence by the junta.414

858. Moreover, an RUF troop launched several attacks on the ECOMOG position at Kossoh Town, purportedly to test the fighting strength of the Nigerians.415  The RUF's persistent probing at that time added to the perception of ECOMOG that the People's Army was "belligerent and defiant", rather than compliant with the provisions of the Conakry Plan.416

859. Thus the third and last of the ECOWAS strategy materialised: "to use force to remove the regime from power where dialogue and sanctions fail."417  The armed intervention was code-named 'Operation Sandstorm'.  Its first phase, 'Operation Tigerhead', assumed a three-pronged approach into Freetown: each route in military jargon was known as an 'axis'.  The first axis moved directly into the East of the city from Jui through Calaba Town; the second proceeded along the peninsular road from Hastings through Waterloo; the third, known as the 'Regent Axis', crossed via Grafton and headed towards Wilberforce Barracks.418 

860. The Commission heard that each of ECOMOG's three main Battalions in the operation was supported by a unit of the so-called 'Sierra Leone Contingent of ECOMOG'.  The contingent consisted of 172 loyal ex-policemen, military officers and university students who had been trained at Lungi Airport by M. S. Dumbuya.419  These were the only Sierra Leoneans involved in the operation to oust the junta from Freetown, after Dumbuya's involvement in training Kamajors at Base Zero had been unceremoniously aborted by Colonel Maxwell Khobe one month earlier.

861. The ECOMOG operation to conquer Freetown began on 2 February 1998 when the majority of the participating forces were airlifted to Hastings Airfield.  The advance was hampered and hardly moved for over a week due to stout resistance, however.  On all three of its routes, ECOMOG encountered heavy fortifications mounted by the AFRC, including a widespread presence of landmines.  In addition, junta positions were initially defended by artillery support from elite mercenaries, apparently drafted in from the Ukraine.  M. S. Dumbuya told the Commission of his participation in the offensive on the 'Regent Axis':

"Originally we were moving in on the main road, but we lost several men to landmines on our advance.  There was a heavy concentration of trenches and bunkers all over the place.  It was so late in the night when we finally took Regent that we deployed in Regent and waited until the following day.

[...] Our other troops were at Wellington fighting just as hard, because there was resistance everywhere.  Apart from that I was told by my commander - the ECOMOG commander - that we had come into contact with some Ukrainians, mercenaries who were operating the SBG weapons...  They were fighting alongside the juntas; and because of their expertise it was extremely difficult for us to move beyond that point.  So from 2 February we were there for ten days: going forward to fight; coming back to fight; all just to weaken their defences."420

862. Having successfully worn down the main military defences of the AFRC, ECOMOG was able to capture the majority of strategic points in Freetown within a further two days, the 12 and 13 February 1998.  ECOMOG reported its operations as a resounding success, proclaiming the 'making of history' when 'the entire Freetown and its environs were liberated.'421

863. Indeed, the seat of Government and its immediate environs were conclusively 'flushed' of the presence of AFRC and RUF fighters.  Within one month of the conclusion of Operation Tigerhead, the Government of President Kabbah was reinstated in a ceremony at State House on 10 March 1998.

The Legacies of the ECOMOG Intervention to Oust the AFRC

864. The ECOMOG intervention bequeathed a number of legacies upon Sierra Leone.  These were not of ECOMOG's making but their impact affected the restoration effort. Although democracy was restored in name, the exercise of executive power was to prove far more challenging for the Kabbah Government in its second sitting.  In view of the effective vacuum in the state security apparatus that existed in the AFRC's wake, the preservation of law and order was a task that would require exceptional sensitivity and an upright sense of justice.  Moreover, there was to follow a proliferation of hostilities in most parts of the country, involving an unprecedented number of different factions.  The military and political equilibrium was more fragile than at any other point during the Sierra Leone conflict.

865. The ECOMOG-led intervention was prosecuted in the name of restoration. Its non completion divided the Regions of the country along faction controlled areas.  With the exception of the Western Area, which was safeguarded by its ECOMOG 'liberators', and the Kailahun District, which once again became the preserve of the RUF, there were essentially two main theatres of conflict in the period after February 1998.  These were the North and North-East, on the one hand, and the South and South-East, on the other.

866. The five Districts of the Northern Province,422 as well as Kono District in the North-East, became hosts to the overwhelming majority of the ousted AFRC dissidents.  Thousands of junta soldiers, as well as a considerable proportion of the fighting forces of the RUF, flooded into the North on their mass retreat from power.  The AFRC and RUF factions, both separately and in tandem with one another, visited a sustained and unprecedented level of human rights abuse on the populace of the North and North-East in the year 1998.

867. Meanwhile the four Districts of the Southern Province,423 along with Kenema and parts of Kailahun in the South-East, were dominated by the enormous and growing Civil Defence Forces, nearly all of whom at that time were initiated as Kamajors.  These Districts became unambiguously classifiable as heartlands of the Kamajor movement.  These heartlands were not to be wrested from the control of the Kamajors by any other combatant faction for the entire remaining duration of the conflict.

868. The main factor in drawing out the battle lines in this manner was the astonishing flight of the ousted junta into the North of the country.  Several members of the RUF and AFRC told the Commission that they had been unable to resist the ECOMOG intervention due to the sheer scale of the force brought to bear; yet they also reflected that their escape from the city was essentially unhampered:

"When ECOMOG came, they toppled us in a short time - they used jets, they used artilleries, armoured cars, tanks, everything.  At that time the AFRC did not have those weapons, so for the sake of the civilians we decided to pull out.

I was trying to save my life - I knew I would be killed if I stayed in Freetown.  If you are a victim and someone is trying to capture you, are you going to stand around and wait for them?  [So] we went, thinking we would have to fight our way out.  But we were surprised [when] it was free passage for us."424

869. Had it been left to a matter of choice, there is little doubt that the AFRC soldiers and their RUF compatriots would have opted to beat their backward retreat through the North.  Their fiercest rivals, the Kamajors, were so numerically strengthened and committed to the retention of territory in the South and South-East that the soldiers would not have been foolhardy enough to confront them.

870. Ultimately, though, the reason the junta was able to secure 'free passage' was because ECOMOG intentionally left open a 'corridor' of escape around the Freetown Peninsula.  At the point of impact, this policy was commendable in principle at least.  It sought to avert bloody head-on clashes between the junta and the pro-Government forces in and around the city of Freetown.  It spared the urban population and the villagers in the immediate environs from the suffering of being caught in the crossfire between two warring factions.  In particular, it avoided the public relations disaster of casting the international 'peacekeepers' as the 'aggressors' in a massacre in Freetown.

871. The Commission heard about the rationale behind this arrangement from M. S. Dumbuya, who was the Commanding Officer of the 'Sierra Leonean Contingent in ECOMOG' during the intervention.  Dumbuya was intimately familiar with ECOMOG's operational plans.  In his evidence to the Commission, he described how he had perceived the corridor as a success:

"What we did was deliberately [to] avoid permanent and direct contact, which would have resulted in a lot of causalities on both sides.  So we decided to open up one place for them to go out and that was the Peninsula route; they were allowed to pass freely through the Peninsula route.  From what I know, they went to Tombo, then they went across to Masiaka and from there they went up country.

[...] You see, in war, after they had lost the ground, [our aim was] to avoid direct contact.  After that we would aim to organise ourselves properly for the defence of the city.  So we 'opened up' one axis... because you cannot clear the body in war.  If we had blocked all of it we would have fought to the finish; just like what happened in [the battle for the Liberian capital] Monrovia.

It was actually part of the plan; to 'open up' one axis.  It was the decision of ECOMOG's operational High Command.  We were just there to comprehend it...  That's how the main core of the junta and the rebels escaped.  The planning was that we should leave an opening for them to pull out from Freetown; otherwise, as I said, we would have [had] direct confrontation and it would create a lot of civilian and military causalities."425

872. In that light, ECOMOG's own discussion of this operation in its Review Document was conspicuously sparse and obtuse.  The Commission is in no doubt that this corridor was deliberately left open.  There is considerable circumstantial evidence to support this position in the ECOMOG document itself, including the following excerpts:

"It was a result of the detailed and comprehensive planning that led to the successful conduct of the operations and the subsequent liberation of Freetown.

 [...] One important thing that was borne in mind in the planning stage was the safety, security and protection of the loyal citizens, Key Points / Vulnerable Points and strategic installations.  The city of Freetown was liberated with little or no destruction during the triumphant entry of ECOMOG troops on 13 February 1998.  The Administrative arrangement for the operation was perfect.

[...] Although the sacking of the AFRC junta was successful, the enemy escaped from Freetown.  It was observed that an escape route around the Peninsula was left unblocked.  Had the Tombo Bridge been blown or a blocking force deployed in the general area of Tombo, the retreating rebels would have been trapped."426

873. In the Commission's view, a retrospective contemplation of this strategy will give precedence to its effect over its cause.  In the first instance, the opening of a 'corridor' spared Freetown from the final acts in power of a junta that was enraged and liable to employ all available force in order to go down fighting. 

874. ECOMOG effectively freed the combined forces of the People's Army from the immediate intensity of direct military confrontation.  It inadvertently allowed the AFRC and the RUF to regroup and remobilise in the expansive, elusive and rugged territories of the North and North-East.  All the characteristics that marked out the junta as a formidable enemy in February 1998 would only become more entrenched by allowing them this 'breathing space'.  Hence the interventionary strategy really served to set up the country for a renewed series of confrontations, all the more bloody for the fact that both parties harboured notions of unfinished business.

875. The defensive force in the North bore several vital different characteristics to the Kamajors in the South. First, there was really no CDF to speak of before the intervention itself took place. The nominal Northern Commander, M.S. Dumbuya had spent a full six months since his appointment co-ordinating the so-called Sierra Leone Contingent of ECOMOG.  Only upon entry into a particular community or District did the joint intervention force go to the extent of selecting, training and equipping men to fill the ranks of the various Northern CDF units. The conditions of assembly were far from ideal: ECOMOG was pursuing its own operation 'Tiger Tail' through the North of the country and was certainly preoccupied with the fight, not to mention the various operational handicaps it had to overcome.

876. Furthermore the junta dissidents and the scrambled RUF forces were mingling and mixing together, mostly in the North-Eastern Districts of Koinadugu and Kono. They came into contact with some units of Gbethes, Kapras and Tamaboros, but largely managed to evade ECOMOG. ECOMOG's presence was concentrated in the more forgiving territory of the Headquarter Town, Kabala.  ECOMOG's foreign troops were unable to charter the bush of the more outlying areas since its numbers were thinly spread. ECOMOG decided to conscript some of those SLA soldiers who had been serving the AFRC but who subsequently were captured or gave themselves up. A rudimentary process of screening was undertaken before these SLAs were kitted up and sent out alongside the ECOMOG deployments.

877. The Kamajors in the South refused to accept any such presence of SLA soldiers on their territory - not even loyal troops alongside ECOMOG - due to their suspicions that the soldiers would inevitably be disloyal and would harbour ulterior motives to re-attack Kamajor-held areas. They also saw themselves as competent to defend their communities. As a result these soldiers were only deployed in the Northern and North-Eastern Battalions of ECOMOG... and the unique 'baggage' of problems and challenges they brought with them was also confined to those areas.

878. The CDF High Command mirrored the suspicions of its Kamajors fighters on the ground. The CDF collectively did not trust the North. According to the commanders in the North, the attitude was attributable to both distant and proximate causes, the latest of them being the Temne ethnicity of the AFRC junta leader Johnny Paul Koroma. Hinga Norman repeatedly rejected petitions from his Northern counterpart MS Dumbuya to release arms and ammunitions to the North. Dumbuya testifies that he is certain that the supplies were denied because of distrust based on ethnicity and Regionalism. He also had an overt confirmation to that effect from a Nigerian commander Adeshini. In consequence the CDF units in the North were unable to reinforce strategic towns like Makeni, Lunsar and Masiaka; they were limited to putting up guidance or auxiliary efforts alongside ECOMOG.

879. The AFRC and the RUF therefore had very few encounters with any stout resistance from CDF fighters in the North and their path to Freetown was relatively unhindered. Accordingly, the invasion of Freetown could have been forestalled, but ethnic suspicions were put ahead of the security of the city.

The Operational Failings of ECOMOG

880. ECOMOG had swept into Freetown quite triumphantly and invested its initial operational thrust towards sealing off the Western Area in order to secure the seat of Government for the restoration of the President.

881. The further from Freetown the ECOMOG troops strayed, the more unfamiliar and unforgiving they found the terrain. This ran in inverse relationship to the junta leaders and RUF combatants, who were retreating back ever-closer to their native strongholds of the North and extreme East

882. The ECOMOG troops were able to flush the dissidents out of Masiaka (Port Loko), Makeni (Bombali) and even Kabala (Koinadugu). The large towns came under their control and demanded the focus of their attention; but the outlying villages became safe havens for members of the AFRC and RUF.

883. As the junta and RUF forces fled, they (the dissidents) engaged in numerous violations against the civilian population, apparently on an indiscriminate basis - the sheer fury of having been flushed out of Freetown by a foreign force is the only explanation tendered. Thus as ECOMOG entered communities on its 'liberation path', its soldiers were relatively warmly received by local residents - some of them publicly applauded their liberators into town.

884. The pace of ECOMOG's advance appears to have slowed remarkably as it reached the far North and East of the country. The simplest explanation for this stagnation is that human capacities began to wane: battle fatigue, blustery weather during the rainy season, hostile terrain and (consequently) low morale all started to take their toll. Many of the Nigerian troops had stayed in Sierra Leone for more than a year and had not been allowed to go on rotation. The more territory ECOMOG captured, the more thinly-spread became its troops.

885. Shortages of logistics became severe - and prospects of reinforcement seemed to lessen due to failing political will - Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha had died and was replaced by General Abdulsalami Abubakar who immediately began making promises of returning Nigeria to civilian rule.  Other ECOWAS states were making statements of support "without actualising pledges".  Personality clashes and questionable allocation of responsibilities among the ECOMOG commanders certainly compromised the authority and implementation of their orders.

886. The susceptibility of the ECOMOG troops to ambush and poor communications led to the isolation of the deployment in Kono and subsequent collapse of Koidu Town to the RUF on 18 December 1998.  A flood of retreating troops, accompanied by large numbers of infiltrators, descended upon the ECOMOG Brigade Headquarters in Makeni, which succumbed amidst devastating operational confusion.


The Flight of the AFRC Junta and the Emergence of Misplaced Notions of Justice

887. The ousting of the AFRC gave rise to an alarming haste among some sections of the population to see punishment meted out to those they felt were responsible for their perceived oppression.  Within hours of the flushing of the junta from the seat of Government, there emerged signs of a tendency towards 'mob justice', whereby citizens took matters into their own hands and exacted punitive retribution.

888. ECOMOG assumed full control of the city of Freetown and its immediate environs on 13 February 1998.427  On and after this date, a diverse array of members of the public and soldiers of the Sierra Leone Army were subjected to the wrath of civilians who felt that these people were responsible for the oppression they suffered during the interregnum. There was widespread paranoia that the "collaborators" should be punished. ECOMOG did not know who the enemy was among the civilians and was therefore incapacitated in imposing its full authority on the city. In many cases, it arrived only after someone had been arrested, assaulted or killed for collaborating with the AFRC.

889. The majority of the AFRC's central role players, including the Chairman Johnny Paul Koroma, were allowed to escape from Freetown into the North of the country, as described above.  One of the few well-known junta members who remained behind was its Spokesman and Public Relations Officer (PRO), Allieu Kamara.  Kamara told the Commission of the circumstances that prevailed in the city at the time:

"The youths were targeting people after they expelled us [the AFRC].  They were killing people and burning them.  Even the family members of the AFRC officers were not spared.  Alhaji Musa Kabia, a sympathiser of the regime, was burnt alive at New England.  Saccomah, another sympathiser, was burnt alive in front of the Clock Tower at the Kissy Road intersection.  Sheikh Mustabah was burnt in front of his relatives at Fourah Bay in the East of the city.

[...] As for me, ECOMOG Personnel also arrested me in February 1998.  I was tortured and badly beaten up by ECOMOG soldiers and some of the youths down at Lumley...  I sustained a broken right leg, swollen eyes and a broken head.  ECOMOG didn't make any effort to control the youths.  They took me in a wheel-chair to Lungi, where I was detained for a week with other AFRC sympathisers.  We were molested, humiliated, beaten by ECOMOG soldiers who were supposed to protect us at that time."428

890. Sheikh Abu Bakarr Nabbie had acted as the Director of the State Lottery Company for three months after the signing of the Conakry Peace Plan.  He told the Commission how mob violence and general hysteria masqueraded as notions of justice:

"As the search for AFRC men intensified, I left my house.  On my way going I came across a group of youths stoning an AFRC man to death at Hope Street field.  On reaching Eastern Police, I saw Haja Fatmata half-naked and Saccomah, a businessman, naked and burnt to death.  From that scene I knew it was not a child's play; therefore I hastened speedily to seek refuge at my younger brother's house.

[...] I came from hiding on that day [to find] jubilating crowds at Sani Abacha Street where the Diplomats were passing.  Unfortunately for me two youths from my neighbourhood saw me.  They caught me and dragged me to a place to burn me.  As the place became crowded I managed to escape from them [to go back into hiding].

[...] I remained in hiding for so long until at one time when I heard a Government press release through 98.1 FM radio station that everybody should go back to his or her previous work, and everybody is free to go about his business.  I was happy with the news therefore I came out openly and headed towards the place I formerly lived.  On reaching there, a former colleague grabbed my shirt and shouted: 'I have captured Sheikh Nabbie whom we have been looking for!'

[...] A lot of people came out of their houses and gave me a thorough beating.  They burst my head with stones; I bled and partially fainted.  They handed me to an ECOMOG Corporal who attempted to kill me but no bullet was in his gun.  One of them brought two tyres and a gallon of fuel and said: 'Sheikh Mustabah has been burnt in Fourah Bay and we will also burn Sheikh Nabbie in Foulah Town'.  In the process, a retired SLA Captain working at the State House intervened and told the ECOMOG to take me to CID instead of killing me."429

891. The Commission recorded numerous acts of violence and abuse that followed a consistent pattern during the transitional period between the ECOMOG intervention of 12 February 1998 and the restoration of the SLPP Government on 19 March 1998.  In essence the pattern also pervaded in the motivations for the acts, since they seemed to be carried out in pursuit of misplaced notions of 'justice'.

892. Typically, a 'suspect' would be identified by a neighbour or other acquaintance and brought to a public place.  In instances where the person was renowned or had been widely sought in a particular neighbourhood, his or her name was often called out to attract passers-by or to alert other residents of the 'capture'.

893. Thereafter the person might be blamed or held responsible, usually publicly and arbitrarily, for some perceived act or misdeed during the rule of the AFRC.  Such a declaration would be the trigger for violent punishment to be meted out to the 'suspect'.  The typical outcome of such a sequence of events would be death for the suspect.  In the few instances where 'survivors' of such incidents reported them to the Commission, they had usually been spared by fate or fortune, or by the intervention of a courageous dissenter, rather than by show of collective mercy on the part of a 'mob'.

894. This brand of 'mob justice' was disturbingly prevalent during the transitional period that preceded the restoration of President Kabbah on 10 March 1998.  Despite quickly becoming known to law enforcement authorities, it was not sufficiently quelled or controlled.  Many civilians were executed arbitrarily on allegations of so-called 'collaboration', many others beaten up, harassed or molested on similar grounds.  A clear message or other assertion of control by the Government may have prevented such violations. Indeed there was no law.

The Role of the Radio Station 98.1 FM

895.  During the rule of the AFRC, the Lungi-based radio station 98.1 FM was successful in providing a platform from which the President and members of his Government in Exile could communicate their views to the Sierra Leonean population.  It had also aired 'alternative' perspectives to those propagated by the AFRC over the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS).  In the contention of one of its broadcasters, Hannah Foulah, 98.1FM had justified its existence during junta rule in the following terms:

"[The public] needed to know that the situation was not going to be like that forever and what the UN, ECOWAS and the legitimate Government of Sierra Leone was doing to resolve the situation.  They needed the truth of the whole issue and they were obviously not getting it from state radio or another station.

[...] Besides it was already clear that if they did not hand over peacefully, the whole matter would be resolved through a military intervention.  We needed to prepare the minds of the people for the eventuality of that intervention."430

896. Hannah Foulah presented news items and discussion programmes on 98.1 FM under the supervision of Dr. Julius Spencer, the Station Manager, and Alie Bangura, who was responsible for information gathering and production.  All three of them worked under pseudonyms in order to preserve their personal safety and the integrity of their sources.  A number of 98.1 FM's flagship shows had become popular listening for many residents of Freetown.  In particular, the show entitled 'News Briefs' was renowned for incisive insights into AFRC's performance in Government and the activities of those who associated with it.

897. In the wake of the ECOMOG intervention, however, the role of 98.1 exacerbated tensions within the society. Its presenters on 'News Briefs' and other shows resorted to reading out lists of perceived junta 'collaborators' over the air.  The exact sources of these names remained somewhat unclear, although individual citizens were invited to submit information to the station if they thought it might be in the public interest.  Such an information-gathering exercise was open to abuse by vindictive or malicious members of the public.

898. Inevitably there emerged rumours among the public, and particularly among persons who felt they were being persecuted, that the Government-in-Exile had compiled a 'black list' of names of those people it wished to see subjected to 'justice' once civilian rule had been restored.  Equally, on a local level, the Commission heard that speculation was rife in Provincial towns like Bo and Kenema as to the identities of the persons whom the Government had 'listed' to be singled out by ECOMOG, the CDF or other law enforcement agencies.

899. Momodu Koroma, who was then the Spokesman for Presidential Affairs, confirmed in his testimony to the Commission that the Government in Exile did engage in drawing up a list of sorts.431  However Koroma maintained that the list was intended purely to provide a basis for the imposition of a travel ban on the leadership of the AFRC and RUF by the Security Council of the United Nations.  According to Koroma, the Security Council had expressly requested such a list from the Government of Sierra Leone.

900. The Commission nonetheless noted the view articulated by several witnesses432 that there were considerably more names on the unofficial 'black list' than on the roster of persons affected by the travel ban that was subsequently imposed.  It was apparently the latter, broader domain of names that was used by pro-Government operatives, and particularly the announcers on 98.1 FM, to disseminate and in some cases fabricate information about them that cast them in a negative light as the population prepared for the restoration of the Government.

901. Hence some of those who suffered beatings, detention and other human rights abuses at the hands of fellow civilians and the state squarely attributed their own suffering to the fact that their local rivals or civic enemies had fabricated some allegations about their connections with the AFRC regime.  Donald Smith, a Freetown resident who was detained for some 16 months without charge by the SLPP Government, described in detail to the Commission the part played by 98.1 FM in instigating the targeting of his life and property as a 'collaborator':

"It had been alleged earlier, even before the troubles started proper, that Johnny Paul Koroma had slept at my house at Regent.  This was stated over 98.1 FM time and time again and was used to whip up hate and malice and to 'teleguide' the rabble who later sacked and looted my properties and put my life in danger.

[...] It became very clear that those who said that Johnny Paul Koroma had slept at your house knew that they were passing a death sentence on you, waiting to be carried out when the 'mopping up' - which was the cliché used over and over again over 98.1 FM - caught up with you.  If you were unlucky and unfortunate, as it happened with a few others and most definitely with Saccomah, you were shot dead if you were pointed out to ECOMOG as having been the host for even one night of Johnny Paul Koroma.

[...] I have since found out that hate, malice and jealousy led leading citizens in the area to lie that Johnny Paul slept at my house and this information was in turn dutifully passed through the grapevine and then passed to 98.1 FM, who in turn broadcast this information for people with hate to interpret the way they wanted it.  Radio 98.1 FM repeatedly broadcast that Johnny Paul Koroma slept in my house at Regent, whipping up public hate towards me and effectively condemning me to death, thereby putting my life in grave danger."433

902. The organisers and presenters of Radio 98.1 FM used their broadcasts to disseminate material that was unnecessarily incendiary and often focussed on vindictive comments against individuals.  The broadcast of the names of alleged collaborators of the AFRC over the radio station created the context which often led to killings, beatings, looting, destruction of property and prolonged intimidation campaigns being committed against civilians who were alleged to have had affiliation to the AFRC.

903. During the invasion of Freetown, the broadcasts were in many respects misleading as they conveyed false information to the public about the location of RUF combatants within the city. Listeners who believed the broadcasts and came out to celebrate the liberation of their neighbourhoods inadvertently fell into the hands of marauding bands of AFRC and RUF combatants and were in many cases killed.

904. In his testimony before the Commission's public hearings, Dr. Julius Spencer acknowledged that he received complaints that people were being killed as a result of comments aired on the radio station.  Spencer notified the President of his intention to stop the broadcasts, but according to him he was instructed to continue.434  In the light of this testimony, the Government was aware of the impact of such broadcasts as potential catalysts for violent attacks on the persons they named.  Yet the President refused to countenance the proposal to abate the broadcasts.  Instead, by ordering their continuation, the President effectively encouraged mob justice and the attendant abuses of human rights.

The Creation of the 'Task Force' and the Lingering Vacuum in Law Enforcement

905. As a pre-emptory step towards the restoration of conventional law and order, ECOMOG set up an eleven member ad hoc administrative body to supervise the affairs of the Sierra Leone Government until President Kabbah's return from exile. The body included among its members the ECOMOG Task Force Commander Colonel Maxwell Khobe, the Vice President Dr. Albert Joe Demby and the Attorney-General Solomon Berewa.  This body, which became known simply as the 'Task Force', was the only entity authorised by President Kabbah to act on behalf of the Government until his return.435  According to Victor Foh, who subsequently stood trial for treason under the restored SLPP Government, the Task Force also included Julius Spencer and Alie Bangura of 98.1 FM on its panel and was in his view "engaged in settling scores and corruption."436

906. President Kabbah's first broadcast to the nation after the intervention served to inform the public that members of the ousted AFRC regime would in no way benefit from the amnesty provisions of the Conakry Peace Accord because of their refusal to hand over power.  The President said the amnesty provided by the Conakry Peace Accord might be re-evaluated, since both the AFRC and the RUF had refused to yield to peaceful overtures and co-operate with the implementation and terms prescribed in the document.  The President was reported to have surmised that "it would have to be determined whether or not and to what extent the immunities to be accorded them under those agreements may have been forfeited."437

907. This view was also echoed by Vice President Demby, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Solomon Berewa, Dr. Jonah, former ambassador to the UN and later finance minister, Julius Spencer, station manager of radio SLBS 98.1, aligned to the government in exile in Conakry and member of the interim task force and SLPP leader Prince Harding.438

908. In the apparent vacuum in law enforcement that directly followed on from the intervention, summary killings were carried out in public places in the major urban centres of the country.  In Freetown, ECOMOG was unable to replace the civilian police with any great expediency, leaving mobs of vigilante law enforcers to carry out their will.  A number of high-profile civilians who had performed civic duties under the AFRC regime were captured from their homes or on the streets.  Eye witness accounts given to the Commission told of suspects being stripped naked and burned alive in retribution for having assisted the AFRC.

909. In Kenema, where the civilian populace had lived under the de facto rule of Sam Bockarie (alias "Mosquito") for approximately six months, those suspected to have provided services to the RUF, kept company with the RUF, or assisted the RUF in any other manner were also targeted.  Eye witnesses reported to the Commission that 'lynch mobs', comprising members of the Kamajors and affiliated civilians, developed the practice of hanging tyres around the necks of suspected collaborators and burning them alive.  One young member of civil society in Kenema, David Allieu, told the Commission of some of his observations in the following terms:

"So we went to the Kamajor zone; there we were until the Kamajors finally overcame them in [Kenema Town], they captured this town.  Even when we came, some of the youths that were in this town that were school-going boys, some of them decided to just encourage the Kamajors; some of them joined the Kamajors and started pointing out collaborators that were thought to be with the RUF.  That was the time now that this tyre on the neck - this 'necklaces with tyres' - started to be seen.

When they capture you as a collaborator definitely you are going to die; they cannot spare you whether you were with the rebels or not.  As soon as somebody approves it that: 'this man, one time I saw him with these [RUF] boys working in this town', then definitely you will lose your life.  So, most of our fellow youths, lost their lives in such cases."439

Legal Basis for the State of Public Emergency and Attendant Provisions

910. On 10 March 1998, the same day of his reinstatement as President, Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah issued three distinct but related Public Notices.  Their cumulative effect was to overhaul the legal parameters within which his Government required to operate.  The first of them, entitled Public Notice No. 1 of 1998, was a Proclamation framed in the following terms:

"I, Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone... do hereby by this Proclamation declare that a State of Public Emergency exists in the whole of the Republic of Sierra Leone with effect from the 10th day of March 1998."440

911. The declaration of a state of public emergency by President Kabbah was an unprecedented step during the conflict in Sierra Leone.  While both the military administrations, the NPRC and the AFRC, had at different junctures suspended the Constitution of 1991 and ruled by decree during their respective reigns, Kabbah became the first Head of State to make his Proclamation in accordance with Section 29 (1) of the Constitution.  He thereby also became entitled to issue further Public Notices under Section 29(5) of the Constitution that would form Public Emergency Regulations, as well as other amendments to existing laws.

912. The Public Emergency Regulations were published in the same supplement to the Sierra Leone Gazette on 12 March 1998, as Public Notice No. 2 of 1998.441  These regulations effectively set aside fundamental guarantees of the Sierra Leone Constitution and vested in the President a variety of executive powers.  The Commission seeks below to draw attention only to those provisions of the Public Emergency Regulations that were to prove of the utmost importance in the detentions and trials that were to follow.

913. Section 2(a) of Public Notice No. 2 provided for emergency powers of detention in the following terms:

  • "The President may, if in his opinion it is necessary... make an Order";
  • He may make the order "for the purpose of maintaining and securing peace, order and good government in Sierra Leone";
  • The Order may direct "that any person be detained or [should] continue to be detained" at the sole discretion of the President;
  • A person detained under this Order "shall be liable to be detained in such place and under such conditions as the President may from time to time determine";  and
  • For as long as an Order from the President is in force, any person "shall, while so detained, be deemed to be in legal custody".

914. Section 5 of Public Notice No. 2 further authorised the President to set aside particular laws and provisions from the rules governing the conduct of trials.  It did so in the following terms:

  • "The President may... make an Order";
  • He may make the order for the primary purpose of "expediting the trials of offenders and appeals arising therefrom";
  • His order will also be seen to be serving the purpose of "restoring, maintaining and securing peace, order and good government in Sierra Leone or any part thereof";
  • His order may have the effect of "suspending the operation of any law, other than the Constitution of Sierra Leone, 1991";
  • Alternatively, his order may suspend "some provisions of any law";
  • Included among the statutory provisions the President may suspend are "the Criminal Procedure Act, 1965 and any procedural rules relating to appeals in criminal cases".

915. Public Notice No. 4 of 1998442 diluted the rules of criminal procedure and evidence in relation to trials in which the subject matter of which was connected to the AFRC and where the alleged offence took place between 25 May 1997 and 13 February 1998.  The relaxing of these procedural and evidential protections also applied to trials of AFRC "collaborators".  The rules did away with the need for juries to reach unanimous verdicts.  A two thirds verdict was deemed to be the verdict of the whole jury.

The Role of the Attorney General and the Use of the Word 'Collaborator'

916. A collaborator of the AFRC was generally understood to be someone who supported or sustained the junta in power.  The notion of 'collaboration' was often applied subjectively and arbitrarily by those who used it.  It spread fear and suspicion.  'Collaboration' often became a premise upon which violations and abuses were carried out.

917. On 13 March 1998, just three days after the formal restoration of the Government of President Kabbah, the then Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Solomon Berewa, circulated a letter to Officers-in-Charge at District level, bearing his signature and the official stamp of the Attorney General's Office.  It was entitled 'Present Position relating to the Collaborators of the AFRC Junta'.  The letter set out the policy of the Government towards collaborators in the following terms:

"Take note that all persons who have evidence that any individual collaborated with the AFRC Junta should report that information to the nearest Police Station or to any member of the ECOMOG Forces whose responsibility is to take appropriate action including arresting such individuals...

[continued overleaf]

Members of the public are requested to co-operate in giving information relating to the activities of the AFRC collaborators in their area but are warned in the interest of good governance to desist from inflicting any punishment on such suspected collaborators.  This should be left to the law enforcement agencies.

I wish you to bring the contents of this letter to all members of the Civil Defence Forces in your area and to ensure that they comply with what is stated herein."443

918. The use of language in this letter was ambiguous.  It was open to misinterpretation by its recipients.  The letter made no attempt to define who "the collaborators of the AFRC junta" or "the AFRC collaborators" actually were, whereas the phrase was highly prejudicial in legal terms.

919. The Attorney-General's instruction that the infliction of punishment on 'such suspected collaborators' should be left to "the law enforcement agencies" made no reference to the due process of law and presumed the guilt of persons in question.  There was no requirement for interrogation of the 'evidence' that a member of the public might put forward before punishment could be inflicted.

920. There was also no clear definition of who "the law enforcement agencies" actually were.  Members of the Civil Defence Forces could have construed themselves as fitting into both the category of "members of the public" and the category of "law enforcement agencies", in which case they could mete out punishment.  They could also have construed themselves as acting on the instructions of the Attorney-General, since they were instructed, through their District Officers, to 'comply with what is stated' in his letter.

921. The letter was open to wide interpretation and consequently may have led to abuse on the ground.  The Attorney-General appeared to have created a new category of criminal known as a 'collaborator' and sought to have all persons falling into that category detained in the custody of the state.  This new category was not codified in law but it served to 'criminalise' thousands of Sierra Leoneans.

Arrests and Surrenders of Suspected Civilian and Military 'Collaborators'

922. The President also issued an instruction to all civilians who had served under the AFRC regime to submit themselves to the custody of the Sierra Leone Police or ECOMOG forces "for their own safety".  Many of them were however arrested by 'community conscious' and well informed citizens.444  They were beaten and assaulted and some of them killed.  According to the President, detainees were sent to Pademba Road prison for their own personal safety under the "safe custody" legislation and for fear of reprisal and mob justice.445

923. Testimonies before the Commission indicated that even before the intervention itself, the Government had proclaimed its intention to prosecute role players and collaborators of the AFRC regime.  The instruction for them to turn themselves in was therefore a means of bringing them into custody.

924. Following the President's order, as well as the letter from the Attorney General and Minister of Justice and the finger-pointing that was being orchestrated by 98.1 FM radio station, more than three thousand citizens were rounded up by ECOMOG and the CDF and detained at the Pademba Road Prison.

925. Subsequently, the President set up an Investigating Committee headed by Mr. Tejan Cole to examine the cases of the thousands of people detained under this preventive detention order and recommend those who didn't have any cases to answer so that they could be released. The records of this Commission indicate that most of the 'collaborators' were arrested by the police and ECOMOG rather than by any groups of community people. It is difficult not to conclude therefore that the government targeted sympathisers and persons affiliated with the AFRC following its reinstatement.

926. Civilians and officers of the SSD and the police also made several arrests.446  Many of those arrested were first taken to Kossoh, then Lungi and finally to Pademba Road were they were imprisoned for several months. Some junta members who managed to escape to Guinea later surrendered to or were arrested by the Guinean authorities, repatriated to Freetown and detained at Pademba Road. Among them were 156 pro-junta activists, -AFRC Secretary-General- Colonel Abdul K. Sesay, Sergeant Abu Sankoh, one of the 17 men who masterminded the coup and Captain Simbo Sankoh, Koroma's aide-de-campe.447 Senior officials of the junta travelling on board two helicopter gunships were extradited to Freetown after the aircrafts had been intercepted and forced to land at Monrovia's Spriggs Payne airport.448

927. More than three thousand citizens were rounded up and detained in the wake of the ECOMOG intervention of February 1998. 

928. Moreover the Government of Sierra Leone deployed a 'catch-all' strategy to round up all persons associated with the AFRC regime, however loosely, and to imprison them arbitrarily without charge.

929. Responding to questions at the Commission's public hearings, the former Attorney-General and now Vice President Solomon Berewa pointed out that "according to the criminal act, every citizen has a right to effect arrest in respect of certain crimes known to have been committed... they [the arresting parties] didn't want those people to escape justice at all... civilians wanted justice and because of that they tried to make many arrests as possible."449

Conditions of Detention at Pademba Road Prison

930. Prison conditions were deplorable.  Initially built to house a capacity of about three hundred inmates, the number in detention during this period was about three thousand by some estimates, like Donald Smith, five thousand) resulting in overcrowding of cells, and poor living conditions of detainees.

931. According to Hilton Fyle, who was one of those detained:

"Each of the sixty-eight cells on each block had been built to accommodate two people; but now six or seven people were crowding into each one.  On the left hand corner was the bucket into which you would empty your bladder or our bowels at night... the ground was bare, and up on the wall there was a large air vent with thick iron bars.  There was no chair, no bench, and no mattresses.  Prisoners were not allowed to sing, to whistle, to have pen or paper, to read newspaper, to write or receive letters, or be in possession of any instrument with which to communicate (like plain paper or writing book)."450

932. A similar description was provided to the Commission in the testimony of Victor Foh:

"[The conditions were] abysmal, awful, hopeless, useless, degrading, wretched, oppressive, abhorrent and all such vices most inhumane.  I and many others were selectively tortured.  Pademba Road prisons were designed for about four hundred inmates.  The period following the restoration of the Kabba government in 1998 saw an unprecedented large number of children of all ages stuffed into very untidy cells at Pademba Road.  Whilst I and many others were charged for treason, the bulk of our unfortunate compatriots were dying by the hour in the cells at Pademba Road prisons.  Our human rights were grossly abused."451

933. Another inmate, Philip Sankoh, was particularly critical of the attention paid to the detainees' health:

"The food was almost without sauce.  I never saw a piece of fish or meat in any food during the first six months of imprisonment.  No salt and just a thin spread of oil at the top of the rice.  The quantity was very small.  Ration was once a day.  They started preparing special diet for us after the treason trials commenced.  During the six months I saw so many people die or fall ill because of the poor quality and quantity of food.  We slept on the floor.  One blanket on which to lie and the other to cover: no mattress, no pillow.  We were eight in my cell."452

934. The conditions of detention at Pademba Road Prison in the period between February 1998 and 6th January 1999 were deplorable and in breach of multiple provisions of both the Sierra Leone Constitution and applicable human rights instruments including the ACHPR and the ICCPR. These conditions had existed right from the APC regime and had changed little during the intervening years.

935. In addition, the Commission has received substantial allegations of torture being practised against inmates in flagrant breach of the Constitution, even under a regime of Emergency Powers.  The Commission was advised that these allegations were brought to the notice of the Government through the Tejan Cole Commission and the regular visits by a number of international actors.  The Government failed to discharge its legal obligation to conduct rigorous investigations into all allegations of torture against agents of the State to ascertain the veracity of such allegations.

936. Detainees were later taken to the Criminal Investigations Department to give statements453 on diverse dates from March to May 1998.  Those who were detained at Pademba road were escorted to the Criminal Investigations Department by ECOMOG personnel and prison guards to obtain statements from them.454  The investigations ended in June.  (Most of these detainees who were initially detained for their own personal safety and security now had to face charges)* It was during this time that most of the detainees learnt that they were to be charged for treason: one interviewee however mentioned that he first knew they were going to be charged was when Dr. Spencer paid a visit to Pademba Road prisons.455


The Selection of Persons for Trial

937. The then Attorney-General and Minister of Justice and current Vice President, Solomon Berewa, in responding to questions at the Commission's public hearings, gave the following description of the steps he took to instigate the legal process:

"It was the absolute discretion of the Attorney General to decide who to prosecute and who not to... We set up mechanism for investigating those cases.  It was necessary for an early action.  I decided to concentrate on the cases of civilians in the first.  I set up a large team of investigators.  I relegated my powers to this committee.  Because of the sensitivity of the matter I brought in all the groups that were very considerate - persons who were very objective in their assessment of facts (students, lecturers, members of the CCSL).  Vast majority of them were not to be charged.  We proffered those charges and took civilians to court."456

938. During the Government's period of exile in Guinea, Mr. Berewa had stated that:

"Those responsible for the coup in Sierra Leone will be called to account for their actions.  We shall mount an in-depth investigation to bring these people to book and take steps to prevent a recurrence.  There will be no vendetta and we shall try to be as fair as possible. Those who were not active collaborators have nothing to fear, but those who caused the suffering to the people must be accountable for their deeds."

Mr. Berewa had reported on 27 February 1998 that 145 civilians were in detention, "together with a large number of prisoners of war."457

The Charging of Persons to Court

939. After the investigations, fifty-nine of the civilian detainees and thirty-seven soldiers were charged with treason and three treason courts were set up.  The civilians that worked with the AFRC were arraigned before Justice Cowan (court no.1), Justice A.B Rashid (court no2) and Justice Sydney Warne (court no3).458    These persons were charged with treason under the Treason and State Offence Act of 2963.  Those who had little connection with the AFRC were sent to the Tejan Cole Committee of Investigations, which was set up to look into the allegations made against persons who were not likely to be charged for treason, in order to reduce the number of persons detained. 

940. The prosecution was headed by the then Attorney General and Minister of Justice Mr. Solomon E. Berewa, assisted by Messrs C.F. Edwards, Anthony Brewah, A.H. Charm and others.459
941. The first batch of accused, comprising twenty-one detainees, appeared in Magistrate Court Number One on 30 March 1998.  Among those appearing were Sheku Bayoh, a former secretary to several civilian and military heads of state; Umaru Deen-Sesay, Secretary of State for Sports and one-time captain of the national football squad; Victor Brandon, Secretary of State for Development and Economic Planning; Hassan Barrie, a former engineer with the National Power Authority; Dennis Kamara, who was Deputy Head of Immigration before the coup; Mohammad Bangura, Commissioner for Tourism and later Secretary of State for Information, and former President of the National League for Human Rights and Democracy; Gipu Felix George, head of SLBS under the junta and a former freelance consultant to UNICEF; Dennis Smith, a former SLBS director; Olivia Mensah, a SLBS reporter; Maada Maka Swaray, a former SLBS reporter; William Smith of the newspaper We Yone; Dalinda Lebby; C.P.O. Samuel Sanpha "Major" Sesay, who was head of immigration under the AFRC; Claude Campbell, a lawyer and former attorney-general under the NPRC; Steve Bio, an arms dealer, relative of former NPRC leader Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, and associate of RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh; and Gibril Massaquoi, Sankoh's former spokesman. Bio and Massaquoi were arrested by the military junta in November on charges of plotting to overthrow the AFRC. Broadcaster Hilton Fyle's name was read out in court, but he was not present at the hearing.460  No charges were read at the hearing, and the proceedings were adjourned until April 6.  On 6th April according to the prosecution, all 22 "participated in and promoted an endeavor to overthrow the legitimate government of Sierra Leone on May 25, 1997 by unlawful means." All of the accused were charged with treason, which carries the death penalty. Some of the defendants also faced additional charges of arson and murder.  Sesay and Patrick were also charged with murder, while the two women, Olivia Mensah and Dalinda Lebbie, were accused of spying for the junta.461

942. Pursuant to the declaration of a State of Public Emergency, Public Notice No. 4 was issued on 9 April 1998 in conformity with the powers conferred upon the President by subsection (5) of section 29 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone.  It was issued after the first set of accused had made a second appearance at the magistrate court.  By this Public Notice, the Criminal Procedure Act of 1965, No 32 of 1995 was amended and also certain aspects of the law of evidence and procedural rules relating to criminal trials in the country.462  Rule two of this Notice amended the traditional practice in the country whereby the verdict of a twelve-member jury in capital criminal cases should be unanimous.  This rule allowed the verdict of the jury to be qualified by watering it down to two-thirds, as the verdict of the whole jury.

943. According to Victor Foh, first accused in the first treason court, by promulgation of this notice and the rule of evidence, 'our human rights were grossly abused and those of us charged to court were robbed of our constitutional right of fair hearing.463  According to Abdulai Conteh, such fundamental change regarding the unanimity rule of the jury's verdict, must be brought about by an Act of Parliament and not 'emergency regulations and their exigencies'.464  Rules four, five and six of this notice unfairly prejudiced the trials of the accused persons by robbing them of their rights to fair hearing.465 

944. The Public Notice could not easily be reconciled with some important provisions of the constitution, which guarantee the fundamental human right to a fair hearing.  Moreover, this Notice offended the provisions of the Constitution that grant the President power to make emergence regulations and rules.466

945. On 14 April 1998, fourteen more persons appeared before Justice Claudia Taylor in Magistrate's Court in Freetown charged with treason in connection with the 1997 military coup. The defendants include former President Joseph Saidu Momoh, the Managing Director of WBIG FM 103 and former BBC presenter Hilton Fyle, AFRC Under Secretary of State for Information and former junta spokesman Allieu Badara Kamara, Secretary of State for Religious Affairs Rev. David Bangura, Ahmid Kamara, who was secretary to AFRC Chairman Lt.-Col. Johnny Paul Koroma, and Citizen newspaper managing editor Ibrahim B. Kargbo. No pleas were taken from the defendants, and the hearing was adjourned until April 21.

946. Some of the defendants faced difficulties in obtaining legal counsel. "Many lawyers in Freetown are saying that they are not going to represent some the accused because they encouraged looting, and also because of the public perception that by representing some of the accused persons, the public might consider them to be AFRC sympathizers."467  On 21 April, 23 more people were charged with treason in Magistrate's Court one bringing to 58 the total number of those charged in connection with last year's AFRC coup and nine months of junta rule. The accused included AFRC Secretary of State for Internal Affairs Brigadier (Rtd.) Modibo I. Leslie Lymon, Central Bank Governor Christian Kargbo, politician Nancy Steele, a former mayor of Freetown, and a lawyer who allegedly helped to print a new denomination of Sierra Leone's currency.468

The Commencement of the Trials

947. The trials of 59 persons charged with treason in connection with the coup began on Wednesday 6th May, Thursday 7th May, and Friday 8th May.  The accused were tried in three batches.  Some of the accused also faced charges of murder and arson. "We are seeking to reestablish the principle and respect for the law," Chief Justice Desmond Luke said. Luke said that guilty verdicts will be automatically appealed, first to the Court of Appeals and, if the appeal is unsuccessful, to the Supreme Court.469

948. According to Solomon Berewa, Attorney General and State Prosecutor:

"No accused person or any of the observers (local and international) said any accused [was obstructed by]... way of presenting their case.  We had a T.V. in courtroom played videocassettes of activities in which they were involved.   They saw it, audience and the nation saw it.  It took months not weeks for the matter to be concluded.  The defence was given enough chance to put their defence.470

949. Nevertheless in the perception of many of the accused persons:

"The trials were a callous display of injustice and gross disregard for human rights.  Untenable as the case of the prosecution was callously and without regard for judicial precedence and the law a verdict of guilty was recklessly handed down to our lot.  Even before the trial, senior members of the Kabbah government made pronouncements that we were to be sent to the gallows because according to them we did not like the Kabbah government.  ... and those of us charged to court (three treason courts and one court martial) were robbed of our constitutional rights of fair hearing by the promulgation of public notice No. 4 of 1998 issued on 9th April 1998.  By this public notice, the constitution was substantially illegally amended by the Attorney General, now Vice President Solomon Berewa.  In my view only parliament can amend the constitution but with vengeful inclination on the part of the Kabba government, they tampered with the Criminal Procedure Act of 1965, No. 32 of 1965.  By that action, the age-old practice from time immemorial in this country whereby the verdict of the jury in capital criminal cases shall be unanimous, was illegally tampered with and watered down to eight and not twelve with the sole intent to slaughter our good."471


"With these I was charged for treason - capital treason the punishment being death.  With God's help at that time Berthan Macaulay senior came, scrutinized all the charges and my charges were changed from death to conspiracy which involved prison terms".472


"On Monday the 13th April it finally happened.  Over twenty others and I were ... charged with treason... for attempting to overthrow the government of President Tejan Kabbah. I had six counts to answer to: count one - treason; count two- treason; count three- aiding and abetting treason; count four - conspiring together with others know or unknown to prepare to overthrow the Tejan Kabbah government; count five - conspiring with others known or unknown to endeavor to overthrow the government of President Tejan Kabbah; count six - conspiring with others known or unknown to usurp the executive powers of the state. I was asked if I wished to say anything.  This was my terse reply.  Having heard the charges read to me ... I am not guilt of any of the counts of treason or conspiracy that have just been read to me.  I consider them to be most unfair.  Right from the start of the real action, it was clear beyond all reasonable doubt that the new trial judge Edmund Cowan who had replaced Sidney Warne, was biased in favor of the state...to me, the case had been decided even before it began".473


"I was taken to the CID and detained for three days.  I was taken to court and charged with Treason and Arson.  I was convicted and waited to be hanged to the gallows.

During my trial, Marilyn Spaine and Amadu Koroma were my lawyers.   I was denied the rights to a witness and Cornelius Davies and Omo Terry, two of the youths who had attempted to kill me, testified as witnesses against me."474

950. While the trials of civilians were in progress, 38 soldiers accused of overthrowing the civilian government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah got underway.  The 38 defendants were charged in a seven-count indictment with mutiny; failure to suppress a mutiny, and five counts of treason.  The penalty for conviction was death.

951. The 38 accused include Cpl. Tamba Gborie, who announced the coup; PLO-1 Sgt. Alfred Abu "Zaggalo" Sankoh, Brig. Hassan Karim Conteh, Col. (Rtd.) James Max Kanga, Director of the National Relief, Rehabilitation and Demobilization Commission; AFRC Secretary-General Col. Abdul Karim Sesay, Squadron Leader Victor L. King, Secretary of State, Office of the Chairman; Director General of Defence Col. Daniel Kobina Anderson, Col. Samuel Francis Y Koroma, AFRC Chief of Defence Staff and older brother of AFRC Chairman Johnny Paul Koroma; Lt. Col. Saa Anthony Sinnah, Lt. Cdr. Samuel Kanu-Boy Gilbert, Lt. Col. David Boisy Palmer, Lt. Col. Anthony Bockarie Mansaray, Col. Alpha Saba Kamara, Col. John Amadu Sonica Conteh, Maj. Kula Samba, Secretary of State for Social Welfare, Children and Gender Affairs; Col. A. C. Nelson Williams, Major Abdul Masekama Koroma, Lt. Cdr. Francis Momoh Duwai, Maj. Augustine Fannah Kamara, Secretary of State, Southern Region; Maj. Tamba Anthony Abu, Maj. Bayoh  Conteh, Capt. Albert Johnny Moore, Capt. Abu Bakarr Kamara, Aide-de-Camp Capt. Simbo Sankoh, Capt. Idrissa Keita Khemala, Lt. Jim Kelly Jalloh, Capt. Josiah Boisy Pratt, Flying Offr. Arnold H. Bangura, Capt. R. Beresford Harleston, Lt. Marouf Sesay, WO II Jonathan Dero-Showers, Pte. Gibril Din Sesay, Col. P. F. Foday, Lt. Cdr. L. D. Howard, Lt. A. M. Keita, Lt. Col. Bashiru S. Conteh, Lt. Cdr. Abdul Aziz Dumbuya, and Lt. A. B. S. Bah.

952. Members of the Court Martial Panel included Court Martial President Colonel Tom Carew, the Judge-Advocate Captain Godwin Ayamalechi, a Nigerian, Retired Lt. Col. P.M. Duwai, (father of accused - Lt. Cdr. Francis Momoh Duwai), Lt. Cmd A.M Jalloh, Lt. Col. B. Conteh was prosecutor, Lt. Col. Thomas Gramby and Majors Bangura and Sherrif.  The accused made daily appearances at the tribunal.475

953. Both the civilian courts and the court martial proceedings went on simultaneously after 22nd July, the former at the Law court Building and the latter at the City Hall, Wallace Johnson street.

The Issuance of the Verdicts

954. On 24 August1998, Justice E Cowan, following several days of deliberations by the 12-member jury, read out the verdicts in the Treason Court No. 1.  Sixteen persons received the death sentence: Victor B Foh, Hilton Ebenezer Fyle, Allieu B. Kamara, Christian Sheka Kargbo, Gipu Felix George, Denis Ayodele Smith, Olivia Mensah, Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, Bai Hinga Kooray Bangura, Sheku A.T. Bayoh, Mohamed Adkalie Bangura, William Sabana Bangura, Kaifen Saidu Tablay Kallay, Edward Akar, Ibrahim Mariti Foday Sesay, and Willie Ekundayo Taylor. Olivia Mensah, who gave birth in prison, was also convicted on an additional charge of murder. Dalinda Lebbie and Mohamed Kekuru Daramy were acquitted and released. The condemned had 21 days to appeal their sentences.

955. The next set of verdicts announced were those from the court martials.  The Judge-Advocate Captain Godwin Ayamalechi, began his address Wednesday 7th October and conclude Thursday 8th, after which the court was adjourned to allow the panelists at least three days to deliberate over the verdict.   On Monday12th October, 34 officers were condemned to death by firing squad. Three other defendants were acquitted, and one defendant died during the two-month trial. "In the case of the 34 condemned to death, you will be taken to some public place where you will be executed by firing squad," Court Martial President Tom Carew told them. Sierra Leonean military law provided no mechanism for appeal.

956. Those found guilty and condemned to death were: Cpl. Tamba Gborie, Sgt. Alfred Abu Sankoh, Brig. Hassan Conteh, Col. James Max Kanga, Col. Abdul Karim Sesay, Sqn. Ldr. Victor L. King, Col. Daniel Kobina Anderson, Col. Samuel Francis Yariemeh Koroma, Lt. Cdr. Samuel Kandu-Boy Gilbert, Lt. Col. David Boisy Palmer, Lt. Col. Anthony Bockarie Mansaray, Col. Alpha Saba Kamara, Col. John Amadu Sonica Conteh, Maj. Kula Samba, Col. P.C. Nelson Williams, Maj. Abdul Masakama Koroma, Lt. Cdr. Francis Momoh Duwai, Maj. Augustine Fannah Kamara, Maj. Tamba Anthony Abu, Maj. Bayoh Conteh, Capt. Albert Johnny Moore, Capt. Abu Bakarr Kamara, Capt. Simbo Sankoh, Capt. Idrissa Keita Khemolai, Lt. Jim Kelly Jalloh, Capt. Josiah Boisy Pratt, Flying Offr. Arnold H. Amadu, Capt. R. Beresford Harleston, Lt. Marouf Sesay, WO II Jonathan Dero-Showers, Col. P.F. Foday, Lt. Cdr. L.D. Howard, Lt. Col. Bashiru S. Conteh, and Lt. Cdr. Abdul Aziz Dumbuya.Lt.Col. Saa Sinnah was found not guilty on all charges and acquitted. Charges against Lt. A.M. Keita and Lt. A.B.S. Bah were also dismissed for lack of evidence.

957. Appeals for clemency were made by the international community and human rights organizations to President Kabbah, the only person who can grant clemency after confirmation of the sentences.   The international human rights monitoring group Human Rights Watch released an open letter to President Kabbah on Friday calling on him to commute the death sentences of 34 soldiers accused of treason.

The Executions of 34 Soldiers

958. After deliberation by the Prerogative of Mercy Committee, (members which included the Vice President, the Attorney General and Army chief of Staff, Maxwell Khobe), on 18 October 1998 the Deputy Inspector of Police received orders for the execution of twenty- four officers who had been condemned six days earlier.

959. On the 19th October, the twenty-four officers all of them (apart from Kula Samba who had a white dress on), dressed in black with a big C (meaning Condemned) boarded a Police vehicle, which conveyed them from Pademba Road into the Goderich firing range where they were handed over to military personnel already on the ground.  Present at the scene were the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Mr. K. Bangura, the Immam of Prisons, Assistant Superintendent of Prisons, Mr. I. Sankoh, the Chaplain of Prisons, Rev. Jesa Williams, the Prisons Medical Officer Dr. J. Sandy, and the Director of Prisons F. Conteh.476

960. The executions took place in the afternoon of that day, after the Chaplain and the Immam had offered prayers.  It was carried out by men dressed in military uniforms, their faces coloured with charcoal and masked with green leaves.  They took up their positions facing the convicts. After some brief instructions, they opened fire "and they were just shooting randomly at the prisoners who had been hooded and bound to execution stakes.477

961. Executed were: Cpl. Tamba Gborie (SLA 181643840); Sgt. Alfred Abu Sankoh (SLA 181632273); Brig. Hassan Conteh (SLA200); Col. Max Kanga (SLA 301); Col. Abdul Karim Sesay (SLA 207); Sqn Ldr. Victor L. King (SLA 448); Col. Daniel Aderson (SLA 144); Col. SFY Koroma (SLA 204); Lt. Cmdr. Samuel Gilbert (SLA 405); Lt. Col. David B. Palmer (SLA 223); Col. John AS Conteh (SLA 220); Major Kula Samba (SLA339); Major Augustine F. Koroma (SLA 465); Major Bayoh Conteh (SLA 495); Captain Albert Johnny Moore (SLA 462); Capt. Abu Bakarr Kamara (SLA 674); Capt. Simbo Sankoh (SLA501); Capt. Idrissa Khemolai (SLA 439); Capt. Josiah B. Pratt (SLA 434); Lt. Jim Kelly Jalloh (SLA 650); Lt. Marouff Sesay (SLA 531); Col. PF Foday (SLA 272); Lt. Cmdr LD Howard (SLA 415); Lt. Cmdr. Abdul Aziz Dumbuya (SLA 412).

962. Of the twenty-four, only two  - Tamba Gborie and Abu Sankoh were among the seventeen coup plotters: the rest simply worked for or with the junta either because they were forced to do so478 or as an indirect result of the pressure on the junta from the international community and the President to endeavour to include as many of senior officers as possible in the Government.

963. After the executions, twenty-four death certificates signed by the Inspector General of Police were issued to the Director of Prisons by the prisons medical doctor.  The corpses were also handed over to the Prisons department for burial: they were placed in coffins and buried at the Kissy Mess Mess Cemetery.

Pardons and the Commuting of Death Sentences to Life Imprisonments

964. President Kabbah commuted the sentences of 10 others to life imprisonment. Those who benefited from this reprieve were Lt. Col. Bashiru S. Conteh (SLA 300); W.O. 11 Jonathan Showers (SLA 18163392); Capt. R. Beresford Harleston (SLA527); Flying Officer Arnold H. Bangura (SLA634); Major Tamba A. Abu (SLA 358); Lt. Cmdr. Francis M. Duwai (SLA 404); Major Abdul M. Koroma (SLA 417); Col. Claude Nelson Williams (SLA215); Col. Alpha Saaba Kamara (SLA 152); Lt. Col. Anthony B. Mansaray (SLA214).479

Further Issuance of Verdicts

965. The verdict for the second batch of persons facing treason charges was passed on the day following the execution of the twenty-four.  Accused persons were transported to court in a blood strained vehicle, which had been used to convey the corpses of the soldiers for burial the previous day.480  Convicted were Brigadier (Rtd.) Modibo I. Leslie Lymon, Claude Victor Campbell, John Ajina Sesay, Eric Kwaku Dixon, Ahmed Charrid Dumbuya, Sorie Allie Fofanah, Samuel Sanpha Sesay, Tommy Anthony Patrick, Lawrence Loving Lamin, Mohamed Basiru Savage, Kainde Bangura, Mayilla Yansaneh, Phillip Sankoh, Harry Ben Alpha, former Freetown deputy mayor Nancy Steele, and Sorie Samuel Sesay. Those acquitted were Mabinty Scott, Winifred Cummings, and Alim Jalloh Jamboria.  One defendant, Abdul B. Sankoh, died in prison.481

966. Following four days of deliberations, a 12-member jury returned verdicts of guilty against 16 of 21 defendants who were facing charges of treason and conspiracy for allegedly collaborating with the ousted AFRC military junta. Among those convicted were former President Joseph Saidu Momoh, who was found guilty on two counts of conspiracy and was sentenced to two concurrent five year prison terms. Those sentenced to death were Attorney-General Ajbiola Emmanuel Manley-Spaine, Baila Leigh, Under Secretary of State for Health and Sanitation Dr. Matilda King, David Bangura, Saidu Daniel Bangura, Hamid Abdul Kamara, who served as secretary to AFRC Chairman Johnny Paul Koroma; John Tommy, Stephen Cathys Bio, a businessman and relative of former NPRC Chairman Julius Maada Bio; Under Secretary of State for Energy and Power Hassan Barrie, Secretary of State for Development and Economic Planning Victor Brandon, Sheik Abu Bakarr Nabie, former national soccer team captain and Secretary of State for Youths, Sport and Social Mobilisation Umaru Din-Sesay, Denis Kawuna Kamara, Secretary of State for Labour Abdul Salaami Williams, and Eben Victor Coker.  .  Those acquitted were Rev. Victor Ajisafe, former RUF spokesman Gibril Massaquoi, Alhaji Ibrahim Kargbo, Winston Crowther, and Alpha Omega Bundu Sr. Judge Sydney Warne advised the condemned prisoners that they had 21 days to appeal their sentences. 

The Preferment of Further Charges

967. According to the Attorney General, fifty more detainees including 16 military officers were to face trial on charges that they collaborated with the AFRC military junta. The trial Berewa said would begin after the Appeals Court had dealt with the case of RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh, who was sentenced to death by Freetown's High Court.482

Appeal against the Sentences

968. All convicted persons appealed against their sentences.  Yet these appeals and the trial on the fourth indictment were never completed.  While the appeals of the accused persons sentenced to death were pending, the atrocities of the 6th of January 1999 leading to the huge massacre and destruction in Freetown occurred.  All detainees who escaped from prison on 6th January were asked to surrender themselves or be considered as rebels.  Some obeyed while some others escaped with the remnants of AFRC/RUF as they retreated into the jungle.483  In accordance with the provisions of Article IX.2 of the Lomé Accord, the government granted free pardon and reprieve to all combatants and collaborators of the RUF/AFRC.  In order to benefit from this blanket amnesty, all convicts withdrew their appeals and were finally released from detention in July.484

969. There was considerable public sentiment for the soldiers to be executed and for all those associated with the AFRC to be punished. In succumbing to this sentiment, the Government inadvertently laid the foundation for the subsequent assault on Freetown by the combined forces of the AFRC and the RUF. In its desire to punish, the Government was unable to distinguish those who were part of the AFRC and others who were either forced to serve that government or were performing their formal functions as public servants. Everyone was tainted with the brush of collaboration. Many witnesses claimed before the Commission that in a broadcast from Guinea the President had charged that anyone who stayed behind in Freetown during the AFRC regime would be treated as a collaborator.485

970. It was therefore easy to label the Government's attempts at punishing those associated with the AFRC as political witch hunting. Many civil servants were detained for upwards of nine months.486 Allegations became rife that some of those in detention "bought" their way to Freedom and were released, while others who belonged to different political persuasions from the leaders in Government were allowed to languish in detention487. The prerogative to commute sentences rests with the President in accordance with the Sierra Leone Constitution. Some of the military officers who were convicted and sentenced to death had their sentences commuted to different years of imprisonment. The Commission heard allegations that these commutations were based on party affiliations. The Commission's attempts to solicit a response from the President on the basis for the exercise of this discretion were rebuffed as interference in presidential prerogative.


The Makings of the Attack on Freetown of January 1999

Mass Forced Recruitment Drive by the AFRC in the North-East of the country

971. An illiterate rice farmer from a village in Kono District later described to the Sierra Leone Police how he had been 'drafted' into the Army in order to participate in the advance to Freetown:

"I was captured by soldiers under the command of late Colonel Tito...  They did nothing to me but only requested me to follow them...  I was taken to Koinadugu Village in the Koinadugu District, where over one hundred captured civilians were trained on guerrilla warfare.  We were also trained on weaponry and tactics for a period of five months.  We were taught how to operate an AK-47 and an AK-58 rifle.  It was after the training exercise that Colonel SAJ Musa had to enlist us as Sierra Leone Border Guards.  The majority of us were given AK-47 rifles and were detailed to Colonel Tito as body guards.  Our base was called Koinadugu Camp."488

972. Indeed it appears to have been a familiar pattern for civilians first to be abducted in the Kono District, then to be taken to the Koinadugu District for training before the launch towards Freetown.  One of the most 'prolific' training instructors was CO 'Alabama', who went on to play a leading role in the assault on Freetown as the Chief Security to SAJ Musa as well as a commander in his own right.

973. The same testimony went on to describe how SAJ Musa soon thereafter led an attack on Kabala in which several houses were burnt down and "a lot of atrocities were caused.":

"From Kabala we passed through the jungle to attack the city of Freetown.  We passed through Mile 38 and attacked Waterloo township and had to engage the ECOMOG personnel detailed there in battle.  We succeeded in repelling them.  Several houses were burnt and a lot of atrocities committed by us.  We eventually reached at Benguema Military Training Centre, where we launched another attack on the ECOMOG personnel deployed there.  At Benguema, we lost our commander SAJ Musa, who was replaced by Brigadier Papa (alias Bomblast).  We passed through the jungle and on 6 January 1999 we attacked Freetown."489

Composition and Firepower of the Attacking Force

974. The fighting force that assembled in the bush near Kurubola, Koinadugu District in October 1998 numbered approximately 2,000 armed combatants.  After rigorous investigation, the Commission has been able to conclude that the impetus for the attack on Freetown that began on the 6th of January 1999 came not from the Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone (RUF), but from the dissident soldiers who had formed the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and their irregular fighting colleagues.  The evidence suggests that the two factions were not in fact acting in concert at the level of their respective High Commands; rather, the AFRC launched and led the assault through the North of the country and only later did certain combatants from the RUF join them from a separate flank.

975. The personal weaponry was mostly in the range of light firearms, such as AK-47s and General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMGs), of the calibre that had proliferated and dominated in the Sierra Leone conflict in the preceding seven and a half years.  Many combatants carried RPG-launchers or hand grenades in addition to their personal guns, especially at the higher ranks, where it had become commonplace for a commander to handle up to four weapons at once.490

976. What distinguished this group from all other armed factions since the NPFL 'Special Forces' entered Sierra Leone in 1991 was its 'support weaponry'.  The troop was astonishingly well-equipped in terms of mounted or heavy artillery pieces, having acquired mortars and missile launchers from Ukrainian arms dealers illegally during the period of junta rule.  According to M. S. Dumbuya, who encountered the dissident forces at several points during their assault on the North and West of the country, these weapons carried the most formidable firepower of any artillery used by 'rebel' forces in Sierra Leone:

"It was a top secret for them - and we were least expecting it.  We were not fully aware of the types of weapons they were bringing in during their nine months in power.  We knew they were bringing in artillery, but we least expected them to have brought in 'SBG' missile-launchers...  These things have long tubes [and] barrels bigger than cannon 175s in size.  They can fight equally like a tank; and a tank is next to a jet."491

977. Dumbuya told the Commission that three such missile-launchers were captured in the effort to repel the attackers: one on the outskirts of Freetown; two on the axis around Port Loko.  Apparently the dissidents managed to import and transport them with impeccable stealth, for there was not a single sighting of truck-mounted cannons reported to the Commission in nearly 10,000 statements gathered during its investigations.

978. The Commission was also unable to verify the origins of the artillery pieces in the possession of the dissident AFRC soldiers.  Since the country was surrounded by porous borders and an unregulated coastline for most of the conflict, there are multiple possibilities as to the route of entry.  Their captors testified that they were Russian-made missile-launchers that had been imported at enormous expense from the Ukraine.492  In this regard, the Commission identified a possible source of the import as being an AFRC functionary named Saidu Turay (alias Saidu Moscow), whose name appeared in intelligence material provided to pro-Government forces in the run-up to the January invasion:

"Saidu Turay, alias Saidu Moscow, visited Conakry some time ago [before September 1998] and stayed with one of [former President] J. S. Momoh's loyalists called Sanfa Turay.  The report states that while Saidu was in Conakry, he contacted a retired Brigadier in the Ukraine for arms, ammunition and other war logistics in order to increase the firepower of the AFRC/RUF and the training of their fighters.  A Guinean businessman co-ordinated the arrangement and it has opened up a very lucrative business through which they [the AFRC dissidents in Guinea] now get their supplies and communications easily."493

979. The undisputed leader of and directional influence on this faction was Solomon A. J. Musa (popularly known as SAJ Musa), whose return to the battlefield had occurred less than a year earlier.  SAJ inspired an overwhelming deference among the contingent. Most of whom held him in awe or were plainly fearful of him, largely because of the reputation he had earned during his tenure as Vice Chairman of the NPRC Government in the first two years of its existence.  One of the younger soldiers who came under SAJ's command in October 1997 described him in the following terms:

"SAJ was strong and very brave.  He was a good soldier - he was trying to reinstate the Army.  Other soldiers with strong hearts were loyal to him.  He was once the Vice President in this country; everybody knew him and we all loved him more than we loved our own commanders.  It was like after ECOMOG attacked us, we felt so bad; morale was down too low at that time.  SAJ was the only one who brought us up again to believe in ourselves."494

980. The avowed and unambiguous objective of the group under SAJ Musa's control was to invade the capital city Freetown, overthrow the constitutional Government of Sierra Leone and resurrect a form of military junta in power.  These aims were largely representative of the personal will of SAJ himself, who had retained an unquenched lust for power from the time of his membership of the NPRC administration.  Yet he was able to make the mission a popular one by appealing to the soldiers' general sense of injustice and battered pride.  One of those who took up a commanding role alongside SAJ explained the manner in which the mission was announced to the troop;

"SAJ Musa said to us: 'Let's stand and fight this time; we'll use our tactics and defeat them'.

[...] We had stopped in Kabala, but when they attacked us there we went into the bush.  There were thousands of them: Gbethes, Kapras and Kamajors, fighting with ECOMOG against us.  They just attacked massively while there were a lot of civilians around.

[...] It was the first time I was in the bush for even one day.  It was not easy.  A lot of the soldiers ended up in Kurubola; some of the RUF were united with us, some of them went to Kono.  But we just summarised everything together: we need to come to one, fight a common cause.  [So] we set up in Kurubola and decided to go on the offensive, to hit them on the counter-attack.  We knew we could attack them all the way to Freetown if we used the jungle."495

981. The attacking group expanded dramatically in size as the advance towards Freetown gathered momentum.  Existing captives were held under close surveillance in the bush in order to prevent their escape and brutal punishment was meted out to those who attempted to abscond.  Moreover, with every civilian settlement the group passed through on its path to Freetown, civilians were abducted in large numbers, sometimes in their hundreds at one time.  SAJ Musa ordered the capture of these civilians and their restraint by force.  Operations were duly planned and executed so as to place a 'net' around the settlement under attack and deny the civilians an escape route.496

982. Abductions reached levels of unparalleled intensity in this period, as the invaders practised a deliberate policy to muster numerical bulk.  The primary objective of this policy was to create such a burgeoning presence of human bodies that any defensive deployment would be at a loss to respond.  First, the sheer mass of numbers was designed to create an impression that the hostile forces were larger in number than was actually the case.  This impression, compounded by the AFRC's astute battlefield tactics and ballistics doctoring described below, was enough in itself to send most defensive deployments into flux or flight.  Some troops, notably the ECOMOG contingent in the town of Hastings, were thus cowed into retreating before they had even properly positioned themselves.

983. Second, by sprinkling the 'real combatants' in among a crowd comprised mostly of innocent civilians, the troops succeeded in dissolving themselves into an indistinguishable mass.  This tactic proved devastatingly effective in undermining the professionally-trained and better-equipped soldiers of ECOMOG because it deprived them of clear sight of enemy targets.  It constituted a flagrant violation of the laws of war, whereby combatants were 'protected' from attack by the cover of non-combatants.  The tactic is known in international humanitarian law as the illegal use of 'human shields'.

Motivating Factors for the Attack

984. Testimonies received by the Commission indicate that AFRC soldiers continued to fail to comprehend the gravity of the abuses they had committed against the people of Sierra Leone.  This void of understanding manifested itself in the extent to which they claimed that they were highly aggrieved with the Government for refusing to recognise them as constituents of the national Army.

985. Accordingly, highly-placed among their motives for undertaking the attack on Freetown were the grievances of the disempowered.  They were irked that the Government had seen fit to 'import' a foreign Army in the shape of ECOMOG, whom they had afforded priority at the exclusion of a conventional national Army in the sense envisaged by the Constitution.  Thus they wanted recognition.

The Government made an announcement that the Army has been disbanded.  That particular one made the Army frustrated.  They didn't recognise us as soldiers; they didn't take us seriously.  Any time Spencer came on, he just talked against us.  We felt more disgruntled.497

986. Moreover, the AFRC and RUF were deeply embittered about the manner in which their sympathisers were dealt with after their flight from Freetown.  In particular they cited the widespread resort to mob justice that had accounted for several hundred deaths in Freetown in the wake of the ECOMOG intervention.  Their disdain however also extended to principled dissent about the trials and executions of their fellow soldiers.  The AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara described these proceedings as warranting no more constitutional legitimacy than summary executions - he openly criticised them as 'kangaroo trials'.498  Thus they wanted revenge.

987. The apparent most proximate cause for the attack to take place when it did was the confirmation of the deaths of twenty-four (24) soldiers in the Special Court Martial proceedings of 1998.  SAJ Musa was known to repeat a single refrain to motivate his men on their march westwards: "They are killing our brothers."  The widely-held belief was that the executions were certainly not at an end, as further trials and indeed Court Martials were foreseen by the Government.  Hence, many testimonies referred to the attackers' motives of freeing those who remained in Pademba Road Prison in an act of rescue.  Allieu Kamara the spokesman for the AFRC who was in the Central Maximum Prison on the day of the invasion said

"When the invaders came to Pademba Road prison their message was that they had come purposely to free us because we were there [on account of having] worked for them.  It was planned by SAJ Musa, that they should not allow the Government to execute us.  It was planned for that very reason by SAJ Musa."499

Thus they wanted redemption. However it must be borne in mind that the leaders of the AFRC wanted power. Having been expelled from Freetown, it was logical that they wanted to come back to power.

988. The identities of these detainees are a matter of note, for they included SAJ Musa's wife and several relatives of other members of the attacking group. 

989. The last line of defence at Kossoh Town was literally abandoned as it had become indefensible by the limited numbers of ECOMOG troops there.

990. By the time the city of Freetown was in the sights of the attackers, ECOMOG was shell-shocked and in disarray.

991. The shortcomings of ECOMOG as an intervention force had become patently clear to Sierra Leonean fighting factions from as early as the moment of their deployment.

992. Through early encounters with ECOMOG Battalions, the AFRC and RUF fighters had come to know their enemy well. 

993. ECOMOG was also hampered by its unfamiliarity with the chameleonic character of the fighting forces in Sierra Leone.  The Nigerian Battalions were too trusting in accepting national soldiers back into the fold of national service, irrespective of whether they had served the AFRC junta or not.  In the first place, ECOMOG thereby opened itself to unscrupulous and disloyal behaviour by some of those whom it had hoped were there to support its efforts.  This point was highlighted in the subsequent Review Document produced by ECOMOG:

"The local arrangement to co-opt a number of Sierra Leonean soldiers to join the NIGCON (Nigerian Contingent) troops as a way of making up for manpower shortage later proved very disastrous.  In a shocking act of treachery and betrayal, the SLA soldiers not only deserted in large numbers to join the rebels, they later fought actively against the increasingly demoralised NIGCON soldiers."500

994. As well as actual switching of sides, though, the redeployment of SLA soldiers alongside ECOMOG troops precipitated a wholesale blurring of lines.  Since the integrity and trustworthiness of individual Sierra Leonean soldiers could not be absolutely guaranteed, ECOMOG soldiers confronted with large numbers of unfamiliar faces in military uniforms tended to panic.  There was in fact very little to distinguish the Sierra Leoneans who were with ECOMOG from the Sierra Leoneans who were their enemies.  M. S. Dumbuya explained the complexities of this problem to the Commission:

"What happened after the liberation of Freetown, I told you some of the military men joined us who were not in the AFRC intentionally; and in the process as time went on we started bringing a lot of them into the ECOMOG fold, to an extent that they composed about three Battalions.  They rejected them in the South; I mean the Kamajors did not allow them to be deployed there.  But when they came to the North we welcomed them to join ECOMOG.

So these Battalions of the Sierra Leonean military were redeployed in areas like Makeni, Kono and Kabala.  But when the actual body of the AFRC junta came to start their attacks, these men were pulling out of their deployments in Kono [in the East of the country] to come for safety in areas like Makeni [in the central North of the country].  It was these movements that caused the confusion that made ECOMOG not to effectively defend Makeni.  While these men were coming to Makeni a lot of the rebels and juntas join[ed] in the crowd and you just see them all as military men.  As a result of that, ECOMOG had no alternative but to pull out."501

995. In determining the responsibility of various parties for this protracted period of suffering, serious scrutiny must first be afforded to the utter ineffectualness of those who held positions of military and political power in Sierra Leone at the time and who might have pre-empted or prevented the entry of an armed force numbering thousands of fighters into the city of Freetown.

996. Militarily, there were two main components to the pro-Government troops that were charged with patrolling and securing the strategic towns, roads and installations of the state.

997. First, the core of the ECOMOG contingent that had led the intervention force to restore President Kabbah remained stationed in Freetown and at various other points of strategic importance.  Officially ECOMOG was empowered to provide a 'peace-keeping' or 'peace-monitoring' presence that would bolster the defences of the legitimate Government against attacks by insurgent or rebel forces.  In effect, though, and in the light of the President's declaration that the Sierra Leone Army had been 'disbanded', ECOMOG constituted the only entity even remotely close to a conventional military force that the Government had at its disposal.  In apparent acknowledgement of the principal role assigned to ECOMOG in the state security apparatus, a Nigerian commander, Brigadier-General Mitikishe Maxwell Khobe, had been appointed as Sierra Leone's Chief of Defence Staff.

998. Second, in an unlikely alliance, the predominantly Nigerian professional soldiers of ECOMOG were accompanied on most of their infantry operations and in many of their defensive positions - including checkpoints - by militia men of the Civil Defence Forces (CDF).  The steadily increasing reliance on the CDF by the Kabbah Government had culminated in a situation where Chief Samuel Hinga Norman was directing the military operations of the CDF not only in his capacity as National Co-ordinator of the CDF but also, crucially, in his capacity as the Deputy Minister of Defence. 

999. Several CDF functionaries who held administrative responsibilities for their respective community forces have testified to the Commission that the main hindrance to their own capacity as a fighting force was the failure of the Government and its agents to provide them with the weapons they had promised them.  On the other hand, though, the CDF was able to rely on ECOMOG for many of its logistical needs and fighters were at times given weapons and ammunition for their use in specific operations.  This joint force ought to have been in a position to repel a threat to Freetown through stout resistance in an outlying location, rather than letting the urban environment become a battleground.

1000. The political stance of the SLPP Government appears to have been one either of horrendous complacency, or of irrationally misjudged propaganda.  In particular, the strategy of the erstwhile Minister of Information, Dr. Julius Spencer, in attempting to downplay the size, strength and character of the attacking force seems to have had an awful incendiary effect.

1001. Some of the worst instances of violence against civilians occurred on the path to Freetown, in the direct wake of Spencer's pronouncements on radio news broadcasts that the 'rebels' comprised no more than a couple of hundred 'deranged boys' in the bush.  His contentions that pro-Government troops were able to contain any threat comfortably were patently misguided or deliberately disingenuous.

1002. The fragility of an ECOMOG-secured democracy and the climate of uncertainty and suspicion that prevailed in the wake of the 1998 treason trials might be proffered as mitigating factors in the condemnation of pro-Government forces for allowing an attack on the capital city.  However, coupled with the veritable collapse of the defences assigned to Koidu Town, Kono District in the preceding month, this breach of state security and simultaneous evaporation of all measures to protect civilian life and property in Freetown amounted to the exposing of innocent victims to harm.

1003. The composition of the force that entered the city has been widely misreported in the international media.  Rather than an operation led by the RUF, this was a violent backlash against the Government of the state led by some of the key commanders of the AFRC junta that had been overthrown in February 1998.  The troops they commanded comprised not only their 'own men' that is, dissident soldiers who had fled into the bush along with the junta rulers after the intervention of ECOMOG - but also several hundred Freetonian and Provincial youths who had joined with them in order to re-stake their claim to recognition and a place in the urban life of the country.  Among the commanders just as among the ground forces there were unconventional fighters who had never been soldiers in the Sierra Leone Army nor undergone any guerrilla training with the RUF.  Indeed, their involvement in the AFRC was apparently at the level of auxiliary staff on military barracks or in the 'urban support network', which included supplying drugs to the members of the junta or carrying out operations on their behalf, such as late-night attacks, lootings, burning of houses and killings.  Their conscription, or absorption, into the AFRC group that took flight from Freetown was partly in recognition of their status as 'main men' [reference a sociological observation], and partly inspired by their own fear of retaliatory action by those who had labelled them as 'collaborators'.

1004. Thus, the overwhelming majority of those who entered Freetown on 6th January 1999 saw themselves as returning to their rightful homes after having been purged from the city prematurely.

1005. The Commission's findings indicate that this particular attack cannot be attributed to the RUF as a faction, nor to any of its High Command as individuals.  While a sizeable proportion - probably several hundred - of those who committed violent acts against property and human life in Freetown during the month of January 1999 had belonged to the RUF at one time, they were neither in the majority nor among the key commanders and decision-makers.

Tactics and Counter-Tactics to Misrepresent the Size and Strength of the Attacking Force

1006. Tactics deployed by the AFRC troops, which included the removal of the ballistics controls on their personal weapons to amplify the 'bang' upon firing a bullet, played a major part in instilling a sense of fear into their adversaries and in convincing any group they encountered, whether civilian or military, that their fighting forces were more formidable and of greater combat prowess than was actually the case.

1007. Moreover, their numerical strength was bolstered by the addition of thousands of abductees to their ranks as they advanced onto Freetown.  The eventual size of the entourage that descended upon the city from the surrounding hills has been estimated at up to 10,000 persons - among them were captive senior citizens, women, children and newborn babies, who in normal circumstances could not conceivably pose any threat to a professional peacekeeping force like the Nigerian ECOMOG deployment, but who in the prevailing confusion and panic of the moment constituted a deluge of hostile bodies onto the city they were supposed to be protecting.

1008. Several accounts from both combatants and non-combatant civilian captives attest that key strategic positions on the path into Freetown were left exposed or abandoned by ECOMOG soldiers.  The most poignant example seems to have been the desertion of the long, narrow bridge at Waterloo, which as a river crossing with very little prospect of cover from attack had been foreseen by many members of the entourage as a probable point of ambush to thwart the advance into the city in its final stretch.

1009. However, as testimony before the Commission indicates, there was apparently no resistance whatsoever to the attackers' march over the bridge, which suggests either a failure to acquaint with the topographical features of the route into the city, or an ill-fated miscalculation on the part of ECOMOG. ECOMOG reports indicate that a pull back became imperative following the massive numbers of civilians accompany the attacking forces. There would have been too many civilian casualties had ECOMOG attempted to forcefully halt the invaders.

1010. It is unclear whether such miscalculation was based upon an assessment of the invading force that overestimated its strength, or alternatively upon a notion that better opportunities to put up a defence of Freetown, perhaps with reinforcements, would present themselves at a later stage; the Commission was unable to garner any explanation from those charged with making strategic decisions at that time as to the rationale behind leaving the bridge unprotected.  What is certain, however, is that it was the decisive mistake among a catalogue of errors that left the nation's capital city - into which up to half of its population was squeezed - wide open to a catastrophic month of destruction.

1011. The Government and ECOMOG had received reports of RUF/AFRC collaborators filtering into Freetown in advance of the invasion on missions that ranged from reconnaissance to hoarding of arms and ammunition.

"The AFRC/RUF are daily sending their men and 'Agents' to Freetown [under the auspices of] the UN repatriation of refugees programme.   The information gathered is that many of the AFRC/RUF rebels and their collaborators are infiltrating the repatriation camps and finding their way to Freetown without proper identification and screening."502

1012. The Commission also received testimony from a group of young male residents of central Freetown who were placed 'on alert' in the weeks preceding the attack.  Their stated intention was that they would take up arms to bolster the invading troops when it began to strike at strategic points in the city.  As one of them told the Commission, several of those who supported the invasion were able to come to Freetown to give notice in advance:

"My boss came to this ghetto in Christmas week [in 1998] and said we should get ready.  He was with the boys in the bush before they went into Makeni but he passed his gun to a small boy to bring to town and watch for him.  He came on one truck with the civilians who were escaping.  We kept getting more of us into the 'camp' [a hideout in central Freetown] in that same way; our supplies [of drugs] were plenty by then.

They [the invading troop from the bush] were supposed to come for Christmas but we heard that they couldn't make it...  [So] when they came in to town I was sleeping; but I was ready to join them.  Lion gave me one AK [-47] back and told me: 'Long time, brother, where have you been hiding?"'503

1013. ECOMOG reported that it was also in possession of information that predicted the attack on Freetown.  Its review document gave details of a variety of monitored activities, including the advance arrival of 'rebels' into the city, various means of reconnaissance and smuggling of arms and ammunition:

"There was ever-present information that which indicated that the rebels  intended to attack Freetown.  The rebels, in desperate need to disrupt the just concluded trials or at best cause sufficient confusion in the status quo, employed various means of infiltrating Freetown.

[...]  Child combatants were used in large numbers to spy ECOMOG positions.  It was also reported that arms and ammunition were smuggled through the use of trucks loaded with firewood and even sand, cargo vehicles and PAE vehicles were suspected to [have been] used by the rebels as well.  These fears seem to have been ignored."504

1014. The incompetence of the state intelligence services was made apparent to the Commission by a variety of sources.  The evidence before the Commission suggests that there was a collapse in the state security apparatus around the seat of Government at the time when it needed protection most.

1015. In his conclusion to one intelligence report that foresaw the means of attack pursued almost with precision, a Government Agent operating in Guinea stated the following:

"The rebel war in Sierra Leone is not yet over - far from that.  The rebels have vowed to continue attacking the Tejan Kabbah Government until ECOMOG and the Kamajors are overstretched and their resources exhausted, during which time they will be ready to attack Freetown.  It is also reported that SAJ Musa has been tipped to become the Leader if and when they succeed in their operational plans.  Please do needful (sic) quickly to save Sierra Leone."505

The Military Dynamics of the Battle for Freetown in January 1999

1016. The military assault on the capital city, Freetown, quickly evolved into one of the most concentrated spates of human rights abuse and atrocities against civilians perpetrated by any group or groups during the entire history of the conflict.  For over two weeks the populace of Freetown and its environs, among which were living thousands of displaced persons from the rest of the country, was subjected indiscriminately to a gamut of different crimes against their persons and destruction of their property.

1017. The invaders employed clinical tactics of urban warfare and were able frequently to use side streets and alternative routes to take the defensive forces by surprise and attack them at the rear. Naturally the combined forces lost a number of their fighters in such operations, each death causing an amplified psychological impact, particularly on the ECOMOG forces, and ensuring that the remainder of the deployment fought with an enhanced sense of their own mortality. The invading force advanced up to Murray Town, Kingtom and Brookfields areas of Freetown.

The Role of the Kamajors in Defending Freetown

1018. The High Command of the Civil Defence Forces persisted in its operational bias towards the Kamajors when the realisation dawned that an attack on Freetown was unavoidable.  Thus, in what was termed a state of "operational alert" by Chief Hinga Norman, it was the Kamajors who were drafted in as an envisaged last line of defence in the early days of January.  They were airlifted from several locations across the South of the country and dropped at Hastings Airfield.

1019. The Commission heard testimony from Kamajors who participated in the operation, which tended to suggest that it stood an unlikely chance of success from its outset.  There were fewer than two hundred (200) Kamajors airlifted to Hastings, albeit some of its most hardened fighters.506  They were promised by their commanders that they would receive arms and logistics immediately upon arrival,507 but in the event not a single weapon was forthcoming.  At the point when the neighbouring ECOMOG Battalion of NIBATT 36 was removed without even engaging the enemy,508 these Kamajors were left exposed to bear the full brunt of the onrushing troop.

1020. According to M. S. Dumbuya, as soon as the Kamajors realised the magnitude of the threat they were meant to repel, a large number of them dispersed and removed themselves from the firing line.  Alternative evidence received by the Commission indicates that what ensued was a massacre.509  The AFRC attackers deployed heavy artillery and a well-armed infantry force; they outnumbered the unarmed Kamajors by as many as ten to one.  With the exception of only a handful who escaped in advance of the onslaught, almost the entire contingent of Kamajor fighters was wiped out.

1021. The Kamajors were dealt a further blow when attackers led by the AFRC broke through their defences around the Orugo Bridge near Jui.  According to the subsequent ECOMOG review, the Bridge was held by Kamajors alone, despite its military classification as a "vital point."510  It succumbed in the space of a single day, leaving the surviving Kamajors to retreat in haste into the city and take refuge at the CDF Headquarters at the site of the former Brookfields Hotel.

1022. The morale among the young Kamajors was at an all-time low when the AFRC-led troop entered Freetown on 6 January 1999.  The base at the Brookfields Hotel was attacked and ransacked within 24 hours of the initial entry and many of its Kamajor inhabitants were captured and killed.511  Thereafter the participation of the Kamajors in the defence of Freetown became something far more peripheral.  Their deployment history and elementary training meant they were not suited to the travails of urban warfare in a built-up environment.  As a collective force, their main contribution was reserved for the 'mopping up' phase that followed the main operation to liberate the city.

1023. One Kamajor recounted how he arrived at the Brookfields Hotel to discover a scene of disarray.512  Chief Hinga Norman was reportedly 'in hiding' in Pujehun District along with Eddie Massallay, far from the heat of the battle.513  In his wake Hinga Norman had secured only an ad-hoc arrangement for the command and control of the Kamajors encamped in Freetown.  Hence, ammunition boxes were being delivered sporadically by ECOMOG and then transported to various points in the city that were considered to be 'front lines' by self-appointed Kamajor commanders.  The tasks on which the Kamajors were despatched within the city were often imprecise; rather than a controlled and co-ordinated operation, Kamajors told the Commission that it amounted to their simply being let loose on the city of Freetown:

"The only responsibility on the part of the High Command was to cater for us to be eating and smoking [marijuana].  They had no better plan for us to defend the city properly.  We took orders from the commanders on the terms that: 'you feed us and give us djamba (marijuana); we'll go out on deployment'.  With the djamba it was like they were taking a leaf from Hinga Norman's book... he told us to be smoking this thing so that we could be reaching our goal."514

1024. Wilberforce - up Hill Cut beyond King Harman Road was under the command of M.S. Dumbuya and a group of Kamajors. Groups of AFRC/RUF stragglers had found their way up the Hill Cut Road and into Wilberforce but were quickly repulsed. The Kamajors under Dumbuya's command pursued them down to King Harman Road and then ran out of ammunition. They however managed to hold their territory despite constant barrages by the invaders. Meanwhile Hinga Norman had a large cache of arms at his house, most of them in the possession of the innermost security detail. M.S. Dumbuya told the Commission that he made repeated requests to Chief Norman for arms and ammunition to bolster his forces but was ignored.

1025. The battle raged all over the city. The invaders were very widely dispersed in small bands of fighters. They appeared at unexpected corners and places. It seemed in the first few days that the invaders would certainly overpower the ECOMOG forces and take over the city.

Repelling the January 1999 Invaders of Freetown

1026. Leadership tussle between Generals Shelpidi and Khobe - the latter, who knew the terrain and had familiarity with the types of operations required; and first, who commanded little respect and didn't have much of a grasp of the key priorities compounded the issues. Khobe was a junior officer, a colonel in the Nigerian army who was elevated to brigadier because of the mission. He proved hugely successful and was popular with the troops. He was however Chief of Defence Staff of the Sierra Leonean Military Forces, and strictly speaking had no real troops under his command. He needed Shelpidi, a much more senior officer and ECOMOG commander to agree to and approve any deployment of ECOMOG troops. Witnesses before the Commission testify that Khobe was envied by some of the ECOMOG commanders, who proved subsequently unwilling to assist him when the AFRC invaded Freetown.

1027. A number of factors account for ECOMOG's poor initial response to the invasion. Some have attributed it to Shelpidi being overwhelmed by the context; and his inability to defend a city that was also increasingly being flooded with refugees; others point to the patent divisions between key commanders in the ECOMOG contingent. Dr Julius Spencer testified to the Commission that on the day of the invasion, he had gone to the ECOMOG headquarters to find out what was being done to repulse the invaders. He found the whole place surrounded by an air of confusion. General Shelpidi was leaning heavily on his desk looking totally out of touch with what was going on and unable to articulate a coherent programme of response.

1028. General Khobe was eager to engage the invaders but was being thwarted by the Nigerian led ECOMOG high command. The Commission was told that President Kabbah had to personally appeal to the Nigerian leader, General Abdulsalami Abubakar who authorised the take over of the ECOMOG command by General Khobe. General Abubakar also despatched several battalions of Nigerian soldiers to Sierra Leone immediately. As quickly as the fresh soldiers got out of the aircraft at Lungi airport, they were thrust into the war front. The President had to be evacuated to Lungi airport to ensure his safety.

1029. By the fourth day of the invasion the tide began to turn in favour of the ECOMOG troops. Every street and corner had to be fought over. Using their superior knowledge of the streets, the invaders inflicted very heavy casualties on ECOMOG. In retaliation, ECOMOG troops began to indiscriminately attack and kill any person suspected of being an RUF/AFRC sympathiser or accomplice.

1030. The effort to flush out the invading forces was to a great extent concentrated on the Brookfields area. The turning point was reached when the major invading party was turned back at the Congo Cross bridge. From then on, they were in retreat. As it became increasingly evident to the invading forces that they would not be able to take over Freetown, they turned the battle into an orgy of looting, destruction, abduction, rapes and killings. The Eastern end of Freetown bore the brunt of the fighting and the destruction. Unofficial estimates were that more than 5000 houses were destroyed and close to 10,000 people killed during the battle for Freetown. As the invaders departed Freetown, they embarked on a scotched policy of obliterating everything in their wake.


1031. As the invaders left Freetown they returned to Makeni.  What lay open to the expunged soldiers as available options were few and far between. After the split between the RUF and AFRC all the soldiers moved out of Makeni and set up their new base in the West Side - around October 1999 - which was a move back into the bush for some of the soldiers. It was because of that fight that the base at Okra Hills was set up. Brigadier Mani on the soldiers' side and Dennis Mingo and Issa Sesay on the other side. This group attracted the name 'West Side Boys' because they had found themselves in the Western Area. Mani stayed with the boys until a certain point; then he eventually moved off and returned to Krubola end - leaving Tamba Brima and Bazzy in charge at the Masiaka/ West Side axis.

1032. Many of the West Siders hoped that they would still be integrated into the army. When the peace negotiations started at Lomé, they all supported it and hoped that a peace agreement would lead to their reintegration into the army.

"The West Side Boys were soldiers, but some of them were civilians.  The civilians wanted to join the Army - that was their plan.  They thought that this was their best way into the Army."515

1033. Some of the civilians from the prisons from the January 6 invasion - both soldiers and civilians were there.  There were about one hundred people, 50 or 60 of whom were soldiers and who possessed weapons.  Their main collective purpose was to gain acceptance back into the ranks of the Sierra Leone Army.

"We were well-disciplined.  Everybody was just sitting down waiting for UNAMSIL to come in.  We had no operations at that time.  Everybody was free."516

1034. The West Siders had free passage to most parts of the city.  "At times ECOMOG would escort me. At times I would take my own security.  I could bring anything in."

1035. The Chief of Defence Staff and the Army were providing them with supplies and had publicly contemplated turning the west side abode into a barracks for the Fifth Battalion.

1036. The notion that the West Side Boys were trying to establish their own foothold in the vicinity of Okra Hills was dismissed in testimony to the Commission by some of their most influential commanders.  They claimed that they were all united behind a patriotic cause and were intent on reinstating themselves back into the Army in order to be able to serve the Government. However the West Side Boys continued to prey on the civilian population in the neighbourhood of Okra Hills, culminating in their abduction of 1 British military observers and one Sierra Leonean soldier.

1037. They evidence their 'intentions' by reference to the role they played in averting another catastrophic attack on the city in the month of May 2000.  Issa Sesay was said to have led an advance on Freetown in the wake of the incident at the compound of Foday Sankoh on 8 May 2000.

"We are the ones who stood up and stopped them attacking Freetown.  We ambushed them right around our West Side base.  They were plenty - many more than us - up to 500 or one thousand."517

1038. With the failure of the attack on Freetown, it became obvious to the Government of President Kabbah that the war was unwinnable.  Furthermore the new civilian government in Nigeria committed itself to a process of disengagement and withdrawal from Sierra Leone.  There was alarm in Freetown that if the Nigerians withdrew, there would be no more impediment to the take over of the country by the RUF and its allies.  The international community, in particular, the Americans mounted pressure of the Government to enter into negotiations with the RUF.  It was in this weakened state that the Government went to Lomé, Togo, to negotiate a peace agreement with the RUF.


Preliminary Perspectives on the Implementation of the Lomé Accord

1039. Since the Lomé Accord was cast as a military and political solution to the conflict, its success depended on the implementation of both its military and political elements.

1040. The RUF was the signatory whose institutional future was most closely tied in with the implementation of the Lomé Accord.  From its inception the RUF had harboured both military and political objectives.  The appeasement of the RUF was therefore always likely to entail a balance between concurrent measures of pacification and inclusion.

1041. The RUF's military wing was to be neutralised and permanently dissolved through the process of Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR).  Meanwhile its political wing was supposed to be reformed and strengthened through its incorporation into the mainstream of politics and Government in a process known as 'power sharing'.

1042. The military element would require the RUF to demonstrate a commitment to peace and a responsibility for the effective participation of its combatants in the DDR process.  The political element would require meaningful concessions from the Government of Sierra Leone to build new national transitional institutions and assist the RUF in seeing through its transformation.

1043. Among the political elements of the Peace Accord was the conversion of the RUF into a political party, to be known as the Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP).  The ethos behind this provision was drawn from an RUF position advocated strongly at the talks.  It said that there could be no peaceful resolution in the longer term without addressing some of the political reasons for which the RUF took up arms.  The RUF's original ideology had been based on the overthrow of a corrupt one-party regime.  At Lomé, it was granted the opportunity to make a contribution to an effective Government of National Unity in a multi-party system.

1044. However, suspicion and exclusion of the other side have always plagued politics in Sierra Leone.  The power-brokers of the SLPP and the APC were unused to the concept of compromise in forming governing administrations.  Hence the introduction of the RUFP was not popular with the 'establishment'.

1045. The volatility of the military situation in Sierra Leone was already at the highest point in its history when the Lomé ceasefire was agreed upon.  The parties would require the utmost vigilance over the implementation of the political provisions of the Accord to ensure that any irregularities were not allowed to become the spark for further hostilities.

1046. The cease fire was to be bolstered by an expanded and diversified presence of peacekeeping troops in the country.  The troops were envisaged to depart somewhat from the previous reliance on the West African regional force of ECOMOG.  The 'moral guarantors' of the Lomé Accord were obliged to demonstrate a more broad-based support for the maintenance of Sierra Leone's security than had been perceptible in the wake of the restoration of President Kabbah's Government in 1998.

1047. Hence the leading peace-keeping presence was to be provided by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL).  The troops were to be accompanied by a greatly enlarged civilian mission.  UNAMSIL would become an active party and stakeholder in most of the institutions created by the Lomé Accord.

1048. Foday Sankoh frequently expressed his own interpretation of the delicate balance between military and political implementation during and after the Lomé negotiations.  The most vehement articulations of his public position came in his letters to the moral guarantors after the implementation had begun in earnest.  One example was provided in a letter in February 2000:

"When I signed the Abidjan Peace Agreement, I did not request for any position.  I only requested for the opportunity for the RUF to be transformed into a Political Party.  That request was denied and a machination against me led to my arrest in Nigeria in 1997, whilst I was trying to ensure the proper and practical implementation of the Abidjan Peace Accord.

In signing the Lomé Peace Agreement and requesting key positions for members of the RUF and myself, I wanted to ensure that the RUFP would interact within the system and personally give the people of Sierra Leone peace.  This could only be achieved by the RUF being part and parcel of the system and changing the system from within, towards successfully democratic elections.  The people of Sierra Leone and even Sierra Leone herself have been hurt by negative propaganda and I will not stand by and allow the country to be destroyed again by any force, internal or external."518

RUFP Attempts to Gain International Support for Implementation of the Lomé Accord

1049. Foday Sankoh and other high-ranking members of the RUF delegation toured the countries of the sub-region and beyond for some months after the signing of the Lomé Accord.  One of the countries that offered assistance in the wake of the Lomé talks was Libya.  Sheikh Abu Bakarr Nabbie, who acted as Sankoh's Chief Protocol Officer in Lomé, described to the Commission his own interactions in Libya in July and August 1999 with supporters, various members of the Sierra Leonean Diaspora and the leaders of both the RUF and Government factions:

"After the signing of the Peace Accord I went to Libya and held a meeting with a cross-section of Sierra Leoneans in that country.  I explained to them how the peace was signed and how it would be implemented.  I further held a consultation with Dr. Ali Triki, the Libyan Minister for African Affairs- that meeting was televised.  The Islamic Call Society (ICS) in Libya offered me an appointment to spread the word of Islam in West Africa.  They gave me $27,000 (US dollars) as well as office equipment, medicine and other goods to set up my office in Freetown.

Pa Sankoh met me in Libya and the (ICS) offered us a private jet which took us to Mecca to perform Umbra.  After we returned to Libya, Pa Sankoh went back to Lomé.

In August President Kabbah met me in Libya.  I held a meeting with Kabbah; I notified him about my appointment through the ICS and made him aware of my funding.  I told him that some of the money would be used to assist in setting up and organising activities for the RUFP...  I further told him that I had catered for 150 scholarships for Sierra Leonean ex-combatants to travel to different parts of the world.  President Kabbah praised me and wished me success in all my endeavours."519

1050. Foday Sankoh also spent several weeks in Liberia during the preparatory phase of Lomé implementation, in the care of his long-standing ally President Charles Taylor.  In order to arrange the modalities for the RUF's participation in the peace process, Sankoh summoned a host of senior RUF commanders to meet him at the Executive Mansion in Monrovia for a set of consultations with President Taylor and the Liberian Cabinet.

1051. These meetings took place in August and September 1999.  Some of those involved in the meetings included Sam Bockarie (alias "Mosquito"), Kaisuku Kaisamba, Rashid Sandi and Peter Vandy.520  The last of them, Peter Vandy, was informed whilst in Liberia that he would be one of the RUF's nominees to a Ministerial post.  Various other RUF members were also called over the border to Liberia to be informed of the roles expected of them in the implementation phase.  Other than providing accommodation, it is not clear whether Taylor had any direct role in these consultations.

1052. Foday Sankoh was to continue to canvass for further financial and institutional support for the RUFP well into the implementation phase.  Sankoh also expanded his network of international contacts considerably in the wake of his new-found official status.  It was during the latter part of 1999 that Sankoh formed a professional and romantic relationship with his wife-to-be, Madam Fatou Sankoh (née Mbaye).  She was a US citizen of Senegalese origin who worked in humanitarian assistance projects in sub-Saharan Africa.  The two would marry in February 2000.  As Madam Sankoh explained to the Commission, their relationship was based on a notion of mutual support:

"We were both adults - I wasn't looking for a husband and he wasn't looking for a wife, but he needed a partner to help him move forward his image and his political party; me too, I wanted to help him.  That's what allowed us to develop that love for each other."521

1053. Partly in the context of his proposed wedding, Foday Sankoh was able to undertake a short international trip in February 2000.  According to Madam Sankoh, the priority objective of the trip was to secure a full medical check-up for Foday Sankoh before the couple married.  The destination of the trip was South Africa, where a small RUFP delegation stayed in the company of a South African businessman called Raymond Kramer, Chief Executive of the Kramer Group.  In addition to Sankoh and his wife-to-be, the delegation included Gibril Massaquoi, Sankoh's Special Assistant, and Babsy Coker-Gibbs, one of the RUFP's secretarial staff.522  The trip culminated in the marriage of Foday and Fatou Sankoh on 26 February 2000 in Dakar, Senegal.523

1054. Beyond Sankoh's wedding, the significance of this trip was found in the means by which Sankoh sought support for the RUFP while in South Africa.  It was widely alleged that the trip was organised by Sankoh for the purpose of dealing diamonds with a South African conglomerate headed by his host, Raymond Kramer; among others, the Attorney General Solomon Berewa was to make this claim later.524  There were rumours that he had imported weapons into the country as well as cars without paying customs duty on the cars. Yet in the Commission's own analysis of the materials recovered from RUFP residences and now in the possession of the Sierra Leone Police, there is no conclusive evidence to support this version of events.

1055. Alternatively, according to Madam Fatou Sankoh, the visit to South Africa enabled Sankoh to lobby for material and financial support for the RUFP from foreign investors.525  This portrayal of the trip was supported by a statement from one of its organisers, a Sierra Leonean business consultant by the name of Mory Kabba:

"A few of the South Africans wanted to know from Foday Sankoh about his commitment to lasting peace in Sierra Leone.  Sankoh reassured them that the war was completely over in Sierra Leone and that as a matter of fact he was no longer a rebel leader but a leader of a political party.  He encouraged the South Africans to come and invest in Sierra Leone and... represented the fact that his main priority was to consolidate his political party and organise himself for the upcoming campaign for the General Elections."526

1056. Foday Sankoh was unable to garner any international political support for the newly-founded RUFP.  Indeed, many RUFP members lamented the fact that in the wake of promising beginnings after Lomé, the RUFP was not afforded sufficient financial support to sustain any kind of publicity or other political party activity.  The RUFP that attempted to implement Lomé was only provisionally registered as a party and has never since grown into a fully-fledged Party in its own right.

Emergent Divisions in the RUF between the Political Wing and the Combatant Cadre

1057. In their negotiations at Lomé and beyond, the parties to the Peace Accord made the assumption that Foday Sankoh enjoyed sole and unfettered authority over all arms of the RUF movement.  The inherent implication in this assumption was that Sankoh controlled and directed all the RUF's members and that he was answerable for all the acts of its commanders and their troops on the ground.  In retrospect, this assumption appears to have been mistaken.

1058. Sankoh had been in prison - first in Nigeria and then in Sierra Leone - for over two years by the time he arrived in Lomé.  For the overwhelming bulk of that period he had been out of contact with his field commanders and oblivious to most of their dealings.  Indeed the tape-recorded message that caused the RUF to join the AFRC in May 1997 was Sankoh's last word of direct instruction to his men until he came back into the fray to endorse the Lomé cease fire in May 1999.  After his absence, Sankoh's endorsement necessarily came from a position of uncertainty as to whether he was truly representing the consensus of the RUF on the ground.

1059. Only after the signing of the Lomé Accord did Sankoh have the opportunity to visit the RUF Headquarters in Sierra Leone, which was positioned at Buedu in the Kailahun District.  According to testimonies from RUF combatants and administrators, it was from this point that Sankoh really staked his leadership on the success of the peace process:

"To start with, the combatants of the RUF were never interested in diplomatic means of bringing an end to the war.  They had wanted fighting to continue until the SLPP Government was rooted from power.  All they wanted [from the cease fire] was the release of Foday Sankoh.

[...] When Sankoh was released and met us in Buedu, he was told by his fighters in secret that he should stay in Buedu from that moment... The fighters said: 'we are ready to fight and capture Freetown and the whole of Sierra Leone; ECOMOG or no ECOMOG; UNAMSIL or no UNAMSIL!'  But Pa Sankoh told them that he had signed peace with the Sierra Leone Government in the presence of the international organisations, non-governmental organisations and journalists of the world.  So there was no way for him to subvert the arrangement.

[...] Sankoh tried to convince the fighters that no war can go on forever; it must end up at the peace table.  When he saw that they were still adamant, he had no choice [but to do the following]: he authoritatively stated that he brought his war [to Sierra Leone] and as far as he was concerned, his war was over.  Whosoever wanted to fight could fight for himself, but not for Foday Sankoh.  At that juncture, everybody accepted the peace talks and agreed to work towards everlasting peace in this country... because Foday Sankoh has said so."527

1060. Accordingly, Sankoh's position was not universally accepted by the majority of the RUFP members. It became divided into two wings with differing agendae. A political wing loyal to Sankoh ad a combatant wing determined to undermine the peace process. 

The Position of the RUFP Political Wing

1061. The first group ("the political wing") looked up to Sankoh as the only person who could bring the struggle of the RUF to a decisive, peaceful and amicable resolution.  Its members were largely educated recruits and administrators who were personally devoted to the RUF leader.  By no small coincidence, Sankoh himself knew and had worked with most of them in previous years and had personally 'rescued' many of them, either from detention or other adverse circumstances.

1062. In assessing the biographies of the members of the political wing, the Commission identified commonalities between them in the reasons for which they joined and stayed with the RUF.  Many, for example, had been brought on board out of personal moral compulsion - the notion that they owed Sankoh something.  That contingent stayed on out of a sense of duty.  Alternatively they had been 'convinced' to join by a vague promise, either spoken or implied, that through the RUF their lives would be improved.  That contingent stayed on because its members were dependent on Sankoh for the fulfilment of such a promise.

1063. When the time came to implement Lomé, one of Sankoh's most important early tasks was to instigate the 'urbanisation' of the RUF and integrate its key office-holders in the city of Freetown.  The majority of the political wing was still firmly behind Sankoh and agreed almost unconditionally to follow him on the path to peace, even as far as Freetown itself.  Hence the RUF's appointments to Cabinet and Deputy Ministerial positions were drawn from this group, as were its nominees to central implementation bodies like the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) and the Commission for the Consolidation of Peace (CCP).  The political wing appeared genuinely to be in support of Sankoh and to believe in the Lomé Accord.  Those asked to play an active role appear to have sought in good faith to implement its provisions.

1064. It was largely with the support of his political wing that Sankoh made crucial decisions as to how to see through the transition of the RUF into a political entity.  Under the terms of the Lomé Accord, Sankoh himself was to take up residence in the seat of Government and head the Commission for the Management of Strategic Resources, National Reconstruction and Development (CMRRD).528  This step was in the first instance a signal that Sankoh was aligning himself and identifying most closely with the political wing.  His next task, therefore, was to ensure that in the process he did not alienate the remaining section of the movement - its combatant cadre.

The Position of the RUF combatant cadre

1065. This second group ("the RUF combatant cadre") was composed largely of unsophisticated fighters who had been enlisted from rural areas across Sierra Leone during RUF attacks on their communities.  Many of them had been forced to join the RUF through brutal means, or had become members in pursuit of their own interests.  Of the forced recruits, most had never laid eyes on Foday Sankoh personally and had no grasp of the wider goals of the RUF movement.  They knew an existence dominated by fighting and they were led by field commanders with little sense and even less sensibility.

1066. The field commanders of the RUF combatant cadre were mostly high-ranking vanguards who appeared to have lost sight of most of the original goals of the RUF.  Importantly, they no longer seemed to believe that Sankoh was apt to secure their interests.  Most of them were naturally wary of the proposal to subsume Sankoh and the RUF into the political environment of the capital city.  Having witnessed the fate of the soldiers who were executed as a result of the 1998 treason trials less than a year earlier, they opposed the relocation of the High Command to Freetown on the principle of suspicion.

1067. This constituency was championed by the self-appointed Interim Leader of the RUF, Sam Bockarie (alias "Mosquito").  Mosquito insisted that it would be grave folly for the RUF to engage in politics without retaining a formidable military dimension.  One RUF member who would later receive a political appointment from Foday Sankoh told the Commission of the differing approach to peace that Mosquito advocated:

"[Sam Bockarie] tried to convince Foday Sankoh not to come to Freetown but to stay in one of the Provincial or District Headquarter Towns under RUF control.  Sankoh refused it.  They talked to some of us not to take up the Ministerial and other positions given to us, just to sabotage the whole peace talks.  But because of our love for the people of this country and also loyalty to Foday Sankoh who said the war was over, we did not accept their conviction.

[...]  At last, Mosquito, who was the head of all those against the peace talks, told us that if we were to come to Freetown then we would not come with less than one thousand armed men.  The reason he gave was that the Government of Sierra Leone was not sincere with the peace process and that the United Nations was in support of Kabbah.  He reminded us of the Abidjan Accord and the Conakry talks, all of which failed [in his opinion] as a result of the behaviour of the SLPP Government.

[...] Gradually, Mosquito reduced the number to 500 armed men and that too Pa Sankoh said was too much.  Pa Sankoh said he was not coming to Freetown for war but for peace and that UNAMSIL was there to protect all who were coming to Freetown.  In the end it was agreed upon by all factions involved in the peace talks - RUFP, SLPP, ECOMOG and UNAMSIL - that Foday Sankoh should come to Freetown with 45 armed men as his personal security.  But even then, I was made to understand that he came with 30 armed men, but that all the arms were packed in the store as he was guarded by UNAMSIL.

[...]  The conflict between Mosquito and Sankoh started from that point.  Mosquito said that Sankoh was slowly selling the lives and fate of the combatants, as [I feel] it has happened to us today."529

1068. Mosquito's conception of disarmament was far removed from the principles that the exercise was supposed to embody.  After one 'sensitisation session' conducted by the RUF's advance implementation team in the wake of Lomé, Mosquito addressed a large troop of combatants under his command in the terms that 'we are not a defeated army - we will not surrender to foreigners'.530  Mosquito successfully managed to convey his prejudices onto the larger RUF combatant cadre, who in turn were malleable enough to adopt them as their own thinking.

1069. Accordingly, a dangerous perception among the RUF combatant cadre was that the dividends of the Peace Accord were concentrated in the hands of their 'political' leadership, while the concessions associated with disarmament and demobilisation were all 'military' sacrifices that fell to be made by the combatants.  In other words, they saw Sankoh and a select few around him decamping to a life of luxury in Freetown while they were being asked to give up their guns, which were the only claims they had on power.

1070. Many of the combatants therefore saw no reward in the disarmament process and refused to participate.  Their strategy was to become one of 'stockpiling' weapons in secret locations or drifting out of the surveillance areas of the disarmament monitors.531  As such the combatant cadre developed into a far more volatile and dangerous proposition in the peace process than its counterparts in the political wing could ever have been.  Militarily and strategically, the combatant cadre was well-armed and well-positioned, with bases across most of the North of the country and unthreatened control of Kono and its mines.  Their participation in the peace process was by no means certain and nor was Sankoh's ability to changed their minds.

Foday Sankoh's Appointment of ex-SLAs to his Security Operation

1071. In the midst of the emergent divisions in the RUF, Foday Sankoh was faced with the difficult task of selecting a personal security detail to accompany him to Freetown.  In many respects, this was an unprecedented assignment for Sankoh, since he had largely lived in bush bases and militarised territories during the six years of the conflict that preceded his detention in Nigeria.  He had never before had to assemble a security squad to guard an urban residence like the one earmarked for him in Freetown at No. 56 Spur Road.

1072. The only cadre of the RUF that had previously been concerned with the provision of bodyguards or security officers for the High Command was known as the 'Black Guards'.  This unit comprised unconventional commando fighters.  Most of them were forcibly enlisted, trained only in guerrilla tactics and offensive manoeuvres, and used to bearing firearms, which they would discharge indiscriminately or at the whim of their commanders.  The most common scenarios in which the Black Guards were asked to mobilise involved repelling enemies from 'targets' or RUF camps in the context of combat with an enemy.

1073. Clearly a force of the nature of the 'Black Guards' was not suitable to provide security to Sankoh in his new capacity as a VIP living in the heart of Freetown.  Additionally, Sankoh had begun to doubt the loyalties of some of his combatant cadres, including the Black Guards, on the basis of the trends of divergence noted above.  He therefore turned to a different type of fighter to comprise his security personnel in Freetown.

1074. The typical profile of Sankoh's new security guards bore several identifiable elements.  First and foremost, they were professionally trained soldiers or former soldiers of the Sierra Leone Army (SLA).  The majority of them had been recruited into the SLA during the 1990s, either in the final batch of recruits under the APC in 1991, or in the massive recruitment drive under the NPRC in 1992.  As with the bulk of the wartime SLA, these were mostly young men in their prime, aged between 25 and 30, many of them born and raised in Freetown.  In short, they were urban youths.

1075. The means by which Sankoh came to select these new security officers appear to have been somewhat arbitrary.  In their testimonies to the Commission, members of this group recalled that they had been fighting alongside the RUF since the merger of the AFRC and RUF into the 'People's Army' in 1997.  However, several of them had experienced acrimonious relationships with senior RUF commanders like Issa Sesay, Sam Bockarie (alias "Mosquito") and Morris Kallon.  One of their number told the Commission that he and his colleagues were emphatically "not chosen because of any good understanding with the RUF strong men."532

1076. In fact, interestingly, it appears that many of those selected by Sankoh to be his 'particulars' were closer in their prior affiliations to the AFRC and Johnny Paul Koroma than they were to Mosquito and the RUF.  Such were the anomalies of the relationship between the RUF and the AFRC, however, that there were also some among them who had received 'bush ranks' of Colonel, Major and Captain directly as a result of promotions by Mosquito.533

1077. The Chief Security Officer for Sankoh's personal detail was RUF Colonel Akim Turay.  In his testimony to the Commission, Turay indicated that he was astonished to have been appointed because he had never even made Foday Sankoh's acquaintance before that point:

"In October 1999, I was asked to report to Kailahun by Mosquito, so I went there.  Mosquito told me that Pa Sankoh had invited me to Liberia, so I went across the border and met with Pa Sankoh there.  On meeting him I was too surprised when he told me I was going to be his Chief Security.  That was the first time I had even seen him in the flesh.  I stayed with him in Liberia for three days before we left for Freetown.  I continued to stay with him and work with him because I wanted peace."534

1078. In total, the new security force for Sankoh's Freetown residence comprised at least 24 soldiers.  All of them had at one time fought as part of the AFRC and the People's Army, but most of them had also at one time fought against the RUF.

1079. The implications for the RUF of the appointment of this new security cadre were not entirely foreseeable at the time.  Certainly their presence among the RUF ranks made Sankoh's inner circle more closely assimilated in terms of its character to the soldiers who surrounded the former AFRC leader Johnny Paul Koroma.

The relationship between Foday Sankoh / Johnny Paul Koroma and their respective Factions

1080. It should be recalled that Johnny Paul Koroma was the man in whom Foday Sankoh had vested the ultimate responsibility for directing the conflict in his absence.  From 25 May 1997 until March 1998, Koroma was not only the Chairman of the AFRC, but also the Commander-in-Chief of the People's Army, which included the RUF.  Yet Koroma subsequently fell dramatically out of favour with the RUF High Command when he attempted to abscond to Ghana.535  Koroma was placed under house arrest in Kailahun and he was widely despised at most levels in the RUF for his perceived betrayal of the movement.

1081. The RUF's alliance with the AFRC after that point became gradually more charged with tension and mutual distrust.  This discord was evidenced by the divergent operations the factions pursued and by the perpetual power struggles in which their respective commanders engaged.536  Dissident units and splinter groups sometimes incorporated both members of the RUF and former soldiers of the AFRC in their ranks, but these groups were anomalous and quite anarchic.

1082. Koroma's own opportunism and unscrupulousness was widely blamed for the degeneration in relations between the RUF and the AFRC.  Some senior members of the RUF testified to the Commission that they were yearning for a means by which to shackle the wayward combatant cadre, especially the units like the West Side Boys that were led by ex-AFRC commanders.537  They argued that this was the best means by which to reinstall order in the country and stop the wanton violence that had culminated in the invasion of Freetown in January 1999.  They saw Sankoh's return as the best prospect of achieving an improved state of affairs for themselves and for the general security situation in Sierra Leone.

1083. Other RUF members sought to catalyse the break-up of the alliance with the AFRC and to exploit the resultant mayhem to their own benefit.  These were the 'strongmen' of the combatant cadre, led by Sam Bockarie (alias "Mosquito").  Bockarie and his cohorts portrayed the RUF's chaotic position as a symptom of Sankoh's ill-judgement.  They contended that Sankoh had erred in elevating Koroma unilaterally in the first place.  This position was born out of disrespect for Sankoh, disregard for the well-being of the population of Sierra Leone and insecurity in the knowledge that an end to the conflict would spell an end to their brutal domination.

1084. At around the same time the RUF plan for participation in Government was being formed, the ex-soldiers of the AFRC also reformed themselves.  Johnny Paul Koroma's absence on the ground for eighteen months had given rise to well-publicised disaffection among the former AFRC soldiers he had left behind.538  The AFRC High Command, including Alex Tamba Brima (alias "Gullit"), Santigie Kanu (alias "Five Five") and Foday Kallay, had advocated strongly for Koroma's participation in the Lomé Peace Talks.539  However, they were overruled by their RUF counterparts and Koroma was deliberately cut out from the Lomé talks at the behest, mainly, of Sam Bockarie (alias "Mosquito").540  The collective leadership of the AFRC faction thus contended that they had been "totally unrepresented, unrecognised and marginalised"541 throughout the Lomé negotiations.

1085. The official delegate of the AFRC at Lomé was Idrissa Hamid Kamara (alias Leather Boot).542  According to his ex-colleagues in the AFRC, he was in fact 'co-opted' as a candidate who would be favourable to the interests of the RUF.543  For that reason, Leather Boot was disowned by the AFRC.  Moreover, the majority of the AFRC commanders declared their loyalty to Koroma and set their stall out against the RUF as the implementation of Lomé unfolded.  Their appeal to the Government for Koroma's inclusion in the peace process seemed to carry with it a mildly threatening tone.544

1086. As the most telling period in the implementation of the Lomé Accord began, the remnants of the AFRC felt moved to make the following statement, detaching themselves from the RUF:

"We want to emphasise that ours is an alliance of partners or stake-holders and not a firm union; so therefore the perceived imposition of [the RUF's] will on us [the AFRC] is unacceptable.  The non-recognition of our leader, Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma, as a stake-holder in his own right, representing the interest of the AFRC is not only unacceptable, but will no longer be tolerated."545


The Formation of the Commission for the Consolidation of Peace (CCP)

1087. The full composition of the Commission for the Consolidation of Peace (CCP) was as follows:

1. Chairman [Presidential appointee]        Johnny Paul Koroma (AFRC)
2. Commissioner [Government nominee]    PC Charles Caulker (CDF)
3. Commissioner [Parliamentary nominee]    Honourable Manso Dumbuya
4. Commissioner [RUF nominee]        Charles Kamara
5. Commissioner [civil society nominee]    Dr. Dennis Bright
6. Commissioner [civil society nominee]    Abu Brima

1088. The Commission for the Consolidation of Peace (CCP) was the principal body charged with overseeing the implementation of the Lomé Accord.  It was agreed by the parties at Lomé that the CCP should have "the overall goal and responsibility for supervising and monitoring the implementation of and compliance with the provisions of the [Lomé] Agreement relative to the promotion of national reconciliation and the consolidation of peace."546

1089. Despite the stipulation that it should commence its work within two weeks of the 7 July 1999 signing, the CCP did not become formally operational until 15 November 1999, when the Commissioners received their letters of appointment.547  In accordance with its mandate, the CCP was comprised of five Commissioners.  The Government, the RUF and Parliament nominated one representative each, while civil society put forward the remaining two.548  In addition, the President of Sierra Leone unilaterally appointed his own candidate as the 'Chairman' of the CCP.  President Kabbah selected the former AFRC Head of State Johnny Paul Koroma to fill this post.

1090. It was thus through a remarkable and somewhat unlikely turn of events that Johnny Paul Koroma was reintroduced to the political arena.  He had taken part in at least some of the above-mentioned consultations with Foday Sankoh and Charles Taylor in Monrovia but he was not appointed to any post under the auspices of an RUF nomination.  Upon reuniting with other RUF delegates at Lomé, Sankoh had been informed of Koroma's alleged betrayal of the RUF in Kailahun.  He treated him with great suspicion thereafter.  He had set out to orchestrate Koroma's involvement in the peace process on terms that were favourable to the RUF.

1091. Sankoh's strategy proved to be somewhat flawed, however, for he was outdone and overruled by the intervention of President Kabbah.  Kabbah had made the decision to engage Koroma in the peace process in the interests of national reconciliation.  Towards this goal, he awarded Koroma a position that carried almost as high a profile as Sankoh's own.  Koroma became the Chairman of the Commission for the Consolidation of Peace.

1092. The RUF's nominee to the CCP, Charles Kamara, explained in his testimony how his own appointment transpired.  He thereby also gave a valuable insight into the means by which Koroma was brought on board:

"After the Lomé Accord, Isatu Kallon [the wife of Sankoh's Adviser] told Foday Sankoh that I was in town.  He sent for me; it was a happy reunion...  It was then that they were asking for people to be nominated for positions in Government and the CCP.  President Tejan Kabbah wanted Johnny Paul [Koroma] to be nominated by the RUF, but Foday Sankoh told him [the President] that he had a different candidate.  He then submitted my name to Pa Kabbah.  That was how I became the RUF nominee in the CCP.

[...] But after all the nominations were made, the President, in his own wisdom, appointed Johnny Paul Koroma as Chairman of the Commission.  The President appointed him Chairperson and Foday Sankoh did not approve that.  There was a lot of dissent, especially within RUF circles; they did not want him [Koroma] to have anything to do with the CCP."549

1093. There was equally disillusionment outside RUF circles at the President's move to bring back Johnny Paul Koroma.  After all, Koroma was the man who seized power after the 25 May 1997 coup that had overthrown Kabbah.  Kabbah's principle of inclusion behind the appointment was unquestionably laudable and the President was rightly praised for his effort to rebuild bridges.  However, as the former NPRC Minister Sam Maligie testified to the Commission, there was certain bafflement about the invitation to Koroma to return to the peace process as a 'prodigal son':

"We have a leader [in President Kabbah] whom, at one time, I was tempted to ask if he was fighting for the Nobel Peace Prize!  Inasmuch as we are in a democracy, it is not democracy at the expense of your country or your leadership.

[...] I don't care what they say about peace; the peace [at Lomé] was actually with the RUF.  Why bring in Johnny Paul?  And look at the important position that was given to him!  Let us say what we want to say. If we say APC was a big problem for this country, the fellow who relieved us from that trouble - Strasser - nothing has been done for him.  Johnny Paul attempted a coup on Strasser and he even attempted a coup on Tejan Kabbah before he carried out the 1997 coup.  He wanted power at all costs... Yet we made Johnny Paul to look like a hero of peace."550

1094. Quite apart from the questions it raised over the credibility of the peace process, Koroma's appointment served to put in jeopardy the success of the CCP.  The five other Commissioners held Koroma in low regard.  Honourable Manso Dumbuya, who was nominated to the CCP by Parliament, testified that he found Koroma to be a 'difficult' man to work under; he stood opposed to the way Koroma conducted himself and to the decisions he made on a variety of issues.551  This perspective was apparently shared by the other Commissioners, as Charles Kamara explained:

"Johnny Paul Koroma did not understand his role [as Chairman of the CCP]; he did not know what to do.  I should say that he was incompetent to handle the position.  He did not treat us as if we were all members of the Commission.

[...] Excepting the differences of names, we had all received the same letters of appointment.  [But] as a soldier, Koroma thought that he was the boss and we were his juniors.  We collectively told him that he was a leader among equals and that we should work as a Commission.  Sometimes, we reminded him that his presence in the Commission was imposed [by the President] and not necessarily provided for...  Why did the President appoint Koroma?  Perhaps he needed a job; that is my guess...  [In any case] we collectively worked together without him, most of the time."552

1095. Perhaps the most significant impediment to peace presented by Koroma's appointment was the fact that it alienated the CCP from the RUF High Command.  There was bitter resentment towards Koroma in the highest echelons of the RUF, which in turn gave rise to resentment on Koroma's part.  Koroma and Sankoh were barely able to disguise their acrimony towards one another in the planning stages for the implementation of Lomé.  Accordingly, Charles Kamara testified that he foresaw problems with the arrangement from the outset:

"We thought that things would not go well with Johnny Paul's presence on the CCP.  I personally said that things would not go well if Johnny Paul was made Chairperson, because Foday Sankoh would have nothing to do with that Commission; and I guessed rightly.  In fact, Sankoh not only had nothing to do with it [the CCP]; he had nothing to do with him [Koroma] as well."553

1096. The Commission heard that the CCP's work was additionally constrained by overwhelming logistical and financial shortfalls.  According to one of its Commissioners, Honourable Manso Dumbuya, the CCP was forced to hire vehicles for the majority of operations because the one official car assigned to it was commandeered by Johnny Paul Koroma for his own use.  Furthermore, the support staff for the CCP never grew beyond one driver, one messenger and a sub-accountant; while a photocopier, a fax machine and a single computer comprised its equipment.554

1097. With hindsight it is scarcely believable that the CCP was intended to ensure that no less than nine other categories of Commissions or Committees were "operational and given the necessary resources for realising their respective mandates."555  Among the bodies enumerated as being under the auspices of the CCP were the NCDDR, which led disarmament, the NCRRR, which was to institute programmes for resettlement and reconstruction, and even the then as yet unborn Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  The CCP was, in short, impossibly overburdened and never stood a chance of fulfilling its mandate as foreseen in the Lomé Accord.

The Joint Monitoring Commission (JMC) for Ceasefire Violations

1098. The JMC, along with the Provincial and District Cease ire Monitoring Committees (CMCs) also fell under the auspices of the CCP.  The JMC was one of the few CCP offshoots that managed to become fully operational within the calendar year of 1999.  It was conceived as a forum of all parties to the peace in which members of the former combatant factions and their monitors would determine responsibility for a particular violation of the ceasefire and put measures in place to prevent its recurrence.

1099. Representatives of all factions sat on the JMC, including the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), Civil Defence Forces (CDF), the former AFRC, Government of Sierra Leone, Defence Headquarters (SLA) and UNAMSIL. 

1100. Sheku Andrew Coomber and Samuel Lamboi (alias Ebony) were among the RUF representatives on the JMC.  Coomber arrived in Freetown on 25 November 1999 to commence work almost immediately; he described the modus operandi of the JMC in the following terms:

"The purpose of the JMC was to receive all cease fire violation reports from the Cease fire Monitoring Commission members across the country, or their counterparts in the UN military observations.  These reports were tabled in our weekly Tuesday meetings to be defended by each member representing the group which the report was against.  There and then, the representative [may choose to] admit and apologise for the alleged crime committed by his group.  In that case, where the representative is not sure, he can find out and give his findings in the next JMC meeting.  [Alternatively] he can outrightly deny it, if he knows the alleged crime never occurred.  But once the majority of the JMC members have the conviction that the alleged crime occurred, they will oblige that member to accept the allegation."556

1101. The JMC ought to have strengthened the link between the various political delegations in Freetown and the combatants on the ground in their various deployments across the Provinces.  However, in practice it had the opposite effect: it alienated those in Freetown from their erstwhile colleagues who were still carrying arms.  Combatants, particularly among the RUF of the Northern and Eastern Provinces, voiced a common grievance that they were being 'spied on' by the members of the JMC and their co-workers in the Cease fire Monitoring Committee (CMC).  Hence the monitors themselves were often subjected to harassment and physical abuse by members of their own factions, as one RUF representative explained to the Commission:

"I was working as a Cease fire Monitoring Committee (CMC) representative for the RUFP and I was assigned to work with UNAMSIL in the Eastern Province.  I used to travel frequently back and forth to receive allowances, attend meetings, or report to the JMC if called upon.  Through all my journeys I was able to learn that those RUFP members that were working on the peace programme, those representing the RUFP in Government and those working directly with the Party Headquarters in Freetown were termed as collaborators with the SLPP Government and UNAMSIL, and betrayers of the RUF organisation by the combatants under the command of the Battle Field Commander Issa Sesay.

[...] I faced several confrontations [with my own RUF colleagues], which sometimes resulted in public disgrace to me, beatings, sometimes raiding my properties and alleging that I'm a betrayer of the RUF organisation by the combatant commanders.  I was beaten in Makeni by six RUF combatants while I was on my way heading to Freetown.  When they searched into my bag and found an identity card with 'CMC Representative, RUFP' written on it, they accused me of being a collaborator and betrayer and beat me more."557

1102. In this light, it is possible to surmise that appointment to one of the cease fire monitoring organs was actually more of a curse than a blessing for the members of the RUF political wing.  They generally endured abuse and hostility from the combatant cadre they monitored, only then to come to Freetown and be asked to justify or excuse the actions of the same people.  It was an impossible task.

1103. The Commission heard that similar ordeals were experienced by members of the Civil Defence Forces who attempted to assert some sense of adherence to the ceasefire among their own combatants.558  In particular, the wayward activities of the initiating cadre, who persisted in carrying out raids with units of armed men at their disposal, were difficult to rein in.559  In the territories of the Southern 'heartlands' of the Kamajors, particularly Bonthe and Bo Districts, there were multiple reports of armed raids on civilian communities and targeted thefts of vehicles and agricultural supplies by CDF units.  In the event that a senior member of the CDF High Command should intervene to prevail upon the perpetrators, he opened himself to accusations of 'opposition' to the interests of the movement, or 'collaboration' with the international peacekeepers in pursuit of a subversive agenda.560

Appointment of RUF Members to Positions in Government

1104. The reshuffle of President Kabbah's Government to incorporate the power-sharing provisions of the Lomé Accord occurred in October 1999.  The political wing of the RUF had put forward candidates of somewhat diverse backgrounds as its nominees for appointment to four Ministerial and four Deputy Ministerial posts.  As of 3 October 1999, the following persons assumed the following titles indicating offices of the state under the auspices of power-sharing:

Mike Lamin                     Minister of Trade, Industry and State Enterprise
Peter Vandy                    Minister of Lands, Housing, Country Planning and Environment
Alimamy Pallo Bangura     Minister of Energy and Power
Rtd. Cpt. ABS Jomo-Jalloh Minister of Tourism and Culture [appointed by the AFRC]
Dr. Emmanuel Fabai         Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Local Government
Idrissa H. Kamara            Deputy Minister of Labour, Industrial Relations and Social Security
Francis M. Musa              Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Marine Resources
Susan Lahai                    Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications

1105. The Lomé Accord had made provision for four Cabinet positions, one of which was to be a "senior" Ministry such as Finance, Foreign Affairs or Justice.561  In the event, Mike Lamin's post in Trade and Industry was the most senior awarded to the RUFP.  Moreover, the total size of Cabinet was supposed to be 18 posts;562 yet, again in a departure from the terms of the Accord, 21 Ministerial positions were created by the President.  Meanwhile, the foreseen positions in parastatals, diplomacy and other public bodies563 never materialised.

1106. Questions of status and spirit were also to the fore in assessing the extent to which power sharing was really achieved.  First, in his position as Chairman of the Commission for the Management of Strategic Resources, National Reconstruction and Development (CMMRD), Foday Sankoh was supposed to be accorded the "status of Vice President".564  As Sankoh frequently made known to the international community, he felt that he was afforded considerably fewer luxuries and a far lower status than the incumbent Vice President, Albert Joe Demby.565

1107. Likewise the RUFP consistently complained that its other political appointees were accommodated in dingy cellars and ill-equipped office space, hampering their ability to carry out their executive functions.566  Yet as Sankoh remarked in his letters to the moral guarantors in January and February 2000, there did not appear to be any political will on the part of the SLPP-led Government to equalise the de facto status of RUFP functionaries with their SLPP counterparts of the same nominal positions.  Instead, Sankoh remarked in his letter of 24 February 2000, the RUF was simply construed as the pariah of the peace process, a mantle for which he coined the phrase "goat's head".567

1108. The Commission holds that responsibility for this particular breakdown in the process must be shared by all sides.  Certainly, the perception among senior RUFP members was that the SLPP Government had negotiated the compromises of power-sharing in bad faith; its undertakings to incorporate RUFP members into Government amounted, according to the RUFP's Chief Protocol Officer, to nothing more than "sugar-coated words."568  The Ministers put forward by the SLPP party to form part of the same power-sharing Government indeed cannot point to any credible efforts to promote genuine solidarity with their RUFP partners.

1109. Yet on the other hand, Foday Sankoh displayed a great deal of impatience and an apparently deliberate tendency to ruffle the feathers of his fellow senior Government officials.  He seemed unwilling to countenance any shortcomings in the implementation of the Accord, even where they might quite legitimately have been caused by logistical constraints that affected all sides, not just the RUFP.569  His first instinct, born out of deep-lying distrust, was to blame President Kabbah and the SLPP political elite and allege deliberate spoiling tactics.

1110. Nevertheless, in the Commission's view, the power-sharing clauses of the Lomé Accord were just as important to the durability of peace in Sierra Leone as the provisions relating to disarmament.  The Government of Sierra Leone accepted the principle of balance on paper when it appended its signature to the Accord.  Yet when the litmus test of implementing its pledges at Lomé began, it appeared reluctant to put its principles into practice.


1111. The Commission heard that lawlessness and rule by military force continued to prevail in certain parts of the country, even after the signing of the Lomé Accord.  The Northern Headquarter Town of Makeni and almost all the territories of the Northern Province were controlled wholly and solely by the RUF combatant cadre.  The RUF had expelled soldiers and former soldiers of the Sierra Leone Army (SLA) from there in June and July 1999 after a protracted armed confrontation.  The dissident SLAs from that group relocated to their new base at Okra Hill, around Gberebana, which had become the West Side Jungle.  The West Side Boys, as they became known, controlled the gateway between the Western Area and the rest of the country.

1112. During the initial phase of working towards the military elements of the implementation of the Peace Accord, the RUF despatched a confidence-building team from Lomé to Sierra Leone with a mandate to prepare the ground for peace.  The four-man delegation comprised the Chairman of the RUF 'Peace Council' (formerly War Council) Solomon Y. B. Rogers, the Lomé delegate and former AFRC Minister Mike Lamin, Idrissa Kamara (alias Leather Boot) and Sahr Kangbajah.570  Its tasks consisted mainly of informing the combatant and non-combatant populations in the RUF-controlled areas of the terms and conditions of the agreement to which the RUF had put its signature.

1113. The West Side Boys signalled their intent with regard to the peace process by ambushing this RUF delegation in September 1999 as it was travelling into the Provinces to educate combatants about the imperative for disarmament.  The above-mentioned members of the delegation were held for eight days, along with two of the most prominent combatant commanders in the RUF, Jackson Swarray (alias CO 'Wray') and Dennis Mingo (alias "Superman").  The RUF contingent was only released upon the intervention of the United Nations and other signatories to the Accord.571  The bad blood in the relationship between the RUF and the West Side 'junglers' nevertheless lingered on.

1114. In addition to most of the Northern Province, the RUF also held the diamondiferous areas of Kono and Tongo, where several senior RUF commanders conceded that rampant illicit mining activities were taking place.572  The diamonds procured from these mining activities were mostly being exported to Liberia through illegal channels controlled by RUF Battle Field Commander Issa Sesay.  Sesay was by far the most prolific member of the RUF High Command in terms of accruing profits from diamond dealing,573 which many testimonies to the Commission have suggested was his underlying motive for trying to retain immunity from UNAMSIL monitoring in the areas where mining was taking place.574

1115. It was estimated by foreign dealers that approximately 90% of the proceeds of RUF illicit mining were going to state and non-state actors outside Sierra Leone,575 while a meagre 10% was finding its way to the Commission for the Management of Strategic Resources, National Reconstruction and Development (CMRRD), under the Chairmanship of Foday Sankoh.576  This insight serves to attest to the broader dynamics of the RUF's involvement in the peace process.  Out with the ranks of the movement itself, foreign businessmen and dealers saw benefits in the RUF combatant cadre's retention of a 'militarised' zone in the Provinces.  It would allow the illicit business sector to engage in profiteering and unregulated transactions, which would evaporate if genuine peace and stability were restored.

RUF Retention of Control Areas and Resistance to the Disarmament Process

1116. In military terms, the RUF had entered the cease fire in a favourable position in terms of the amount of territory under its control.  Almost the whole of the Kailahun District, where the RUF had retained its Headquarters, was concentrated with combatants awaiting disarmament.  In the immediate aftermath of Lomé, Kailahun was the dominion of the RUF's overall Battle Field Commander, General Sam Bockarie (alias "Mosquito"), who was deputised by Colonel Momoh Rogers and Colonel Martin George.

1117. The Districts of Kono, Koinadugu, Tonkolili and Bombali constituted the control area of General Issa Sesay, the movement's second most senior commander.  In land mass, Sesay's area represented approximately one third of the territory of Sierra Leone, including almost all its Northern infrastructure.  Sesay was deputised by two further senior vanguard commanders, Brigadier Morris Kallon and Colonel Augustine Bao.  Kallon's reputation as a wanton abuser of human rights preceded him into the peace process; Bao had also garnered a fearsome edge for himself during his tight grip on power as the RUF's Chief of Security.

1118. The RUF's hold over the entire Northern perimeter of Sierra Leone was completed by its command of the Kambia District.   The Brigade Commander in Kambia was Colonel Komba Gbondema (alias Mon amie).  He was supported by Colonel Abubakarr Jalloh (alias Bai Bureh) and a contingent of potentially several thousand combatants.  The Kambia axis was to engage in combat operations on both the Sierra Leonean and Guinean sides of the border in its demonstration of obstinate resistance to the disarmament process.

1119. The compliance of the RUF combatant cadre with the terms of the disarmament programme was somewhat elusive.  Even in areas where combatants expressed a readiness to disarm, they were often hampered by the lack of logistics, whereby disarmament monitors were not present in their deployment areas, or by the resistance of their commanders, who refused to comply in the DDR initiative on the terms stipulated in Lomé.  Instead they engaged in persistent breaches of the peace, which spoke of a particular disregard for the status of the peacekeepers.

1120. One of the first significant violations of the post-Lomé peace took place in Kambia in October 1999.577  Its historical significance derived from the fact that it was the first occasion on which RUF combatants challenged the authority and free passage of foreign peacekeeping troops whose mandate was recognised by the RUF under international agreement.  It involved an audacious assault by Komba Gbondema and his troops on the Guinean ECOMOG contingent as it returned overland to Guinea.  At least six armoured vehicles were commandeered by the RUF and the ECOMOG peacekeepers were forcefully stripped off their arms.

1121. According to S. Y. B. Rogers, the most senior member of the RUF confidence-building team, the Guinean ECOMOG Commander sought redress by lodging his original report on Gbondema's violation directly with the RUF.578  Rogers instructed the immediate return by the RUF of all captured weaponry.  However, his seniority in the movement counted for little with the combatant cadre and "never yielded any good response from Colonel Gbondema."579

1122. According to the Commission's investigations, the fracas in Kambia lasted for three months and was belatedly resolved in January 2000.  In response to intense international pressure, Foday Sankoh was moved to order Gbondema in writing to release the full bounty of his seizure.580  Even then, it is impossible for the Commission to verify whether all materials were in fact returned.

1123. Kambia set the trend for other RUF-held Districts over the following months.  The combatant commanders across the North and East appeared determined to thwart smooth monitoring and advancement of the disarmament of RUF combatants.  They also acted in a manner that indicated their intention to be perceived as the de facto law enforcers on the ground.  Commanders such as Gbondema, Morris Kallon, Issa Sesay and Augustine Bao displayed utter contempt for the ethos of the peace process in their areas of control.

1124. Hence, in addition to their opposition to the presence and progress of peacekeepers, these commanders also imposed themselves as arbiters of summary justice against civilians and even their own combatants.  On 25 February 2000, the UNAMSIL Force Commander, General V. K. Jetley, wrote to Foday Sankoh with the following complaint:

"On 22 February 2000, a team of UNAMSIL Military Observers and Civilian Police Officers reported to me that seventeen persons, including three women, were illegally detained under the control of RUFP elements at Makeni Central Police Station...  It appeared that these prisoners were detained and 'sentenced' by RUFP elements to deprivation of liberty for reasons including petty crimes.

[...] Despite my sincere efforts to engage in a constructive dialogue with your local commanders on this issue, I was not able to speak to the prisoners, nor [to] secure their release from illegal and arbitrary detention... I was also informed that some prisoners were being held in detention for wanting to join the disarmament process - a process which you publicly continue to support."581

1125. Jetley had forwarded the same complaint directly to Issa Sesay on 24 February 2000, in which he had demanded that Sesay should "immediately effect unconditional release of the detainees, failing which you [Sesay] shall be entirely responsible for any consequences that may follow thereafter".582  Jetley's interventions demonstrated the rising frustration present in UNAMSIL towards RUF commanders who not only regarded themselves as being above the law, but also took measures to present themselves as 'the law'.

1126. Foday Sankoh was outwardly fiercely protective of 'his boys' in the field, particularly where he perceived the interventions or suggestions of others as unwelcome 'interference' in the internal affairs of the RUF.  One example of this attitude came from Sankoh's response to the complaints of General Jetley, in which he curtly dismissed UNAMSIL's concerns as follows:

"I hereby remind you once again that the Command Structure of the RUFP should on no account be interfered with.  The RUFP personnel under detention [in Makeni] are under discipline for breaking codes of conduct which would put the Lomé Peace Agreement in jeopardy...  I thank you for your concern on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone, which is equally shared by all at the Revolutionary United Front Party."583

1127. Sankoh's persistent efforts to present a united front from within the RUF were however at odds with the real internal dynamics of the post-Lomé RUF.  The analysis presented herein can only cast light upon some of the cracks that had started to appear within the RUF ranks, whereas in reality the rifts were too many and too complicated to reflect properly in their aftermath.

1128. Notably, members of the political wing had ceased to support Sankoh in his approach to dealing with the persistent violations of the combatants.  Some of his closest allies in the RUFP attempted to advise him of his responsibilities under the Lomé Accord.  However, as the late S. Y. B. Rogers, Chairman of the RUFP Peace Council, explained, such attempts were just as likely to incur Sankoh's wrath as his compliance:

"As an executive member of the RUF, I personally talked to Foday Sankoh alone in his office on so many occasions.  I told him [of my concerns] by reminding him that the RUFP had now transformed itself into a political party and that military options would no longer solve the problem in Sierra Leone.  I further reminded him about the signing of the Lomé Peace Accord.

At this point, Chairman Foday Sankoh shouted at me that I am collaborating with His Excellency the President Tejan Kabbah and the Deputy Minister of Defence Chief Sam Hinga Norman by disseminating information to the Government of Sierra Leone about the [workings of the] RUF.  From that moment, Foday Sankoh lost confidence in me; I was no longer consulted on any matter regarding the RUF or even called upon for decision-making.  Sankoh continued to castigate me in the presence of RUF Executive members."584

1129. There were nevertheless differing interpretations from RUFP members as to the reasons why Sankoh did not seem to be effectively controlling the combatant cadre.  Most of the testimonies received by the Commission agree on the issue that Sankoh was determined to prevent others from 'interfering' in his command of the troops.  Yet while some saw this stance as a reflection of Sankoh's intransigence, there were others who believed that it was something of a charade.  Sheku Andrew Coomber, for instance, suggested that Sankoh's apparent duplicity grew out of his own sense of insecurity:

"Sankoh's refusal [to reprimand his combatants] and other related incidents caused me to believe that Foday Sankoh was fearing his gun carriers despite his public pronouncements that he had control over them.  Sankoh's attitude deceived myself and perhaps all well-meaning Sierra Leoneans who had been hoping of getting everlasting peace."585

1130. Certainly Sankoh became personally ever-more detached from his combatants as the demands of the Lomé implementation wore on.  Apparently inadvertently, he became distracted from some of his own averred principles while he was based in Freetown.  He ceased to pay close attention to the combatant cadre in the bush, let alone to cater personally for their needs.  The result was that low-level fighters began to question Sankoh's commitment to them.  Hence the RUF leader was viewed with greater suspicion and his natural authority diminished.  High level fighters, meanwhile, perceived Sankoh's position as being at the top of a slippery slope that "seemed destined to end in disaster."586

1131. The starkest manifestation of this attitude and the most significant blow to the unity of the post-Lomé RUF organisation came on 15 December 1999 when Sam Bockarie (alias "Mosquito") left Sierra Leone.  He made it categorically clear to his fellow commanders that he was leaving the RUF on account of his personal differences with Sankoh.  He mobilised a sizeable contingent of combatants loyal to him and crossed into Liberia with the blessing of Charles Taylor.  Mosquito vowed never to return to Sierra Leone for as long as Foday Sankoh was the leader of the RUF.587

1132. Mosquito's move would have been unthinkable during the earlier years of the war when Sankoh was afforded complete respect and loyalty by all of the RUF commanders in the movement.  That level of control was tied in with the notion of common destiny, whereby all the commanders relied on Sankoh for their empowerment or enrichment: without him they were nothing.  By this latter juncture, though, Mosquito's personal contact with President Taylor in Liberia was sufficient for him to sustain a life of warlordism independently of the RUF.  After his departure from Sierra Leone he continued fighting in Liberia and the Ivory Coast and was to evade justice all the way to his grave.588

1133. Among those left in the Provinces, there was still no evidence of a courageous military leadership who would embrace the disarmament process.  The RUF combatant cadre did not appear ready to forfeit the power they had attained through brute force.  On the contrary, some of the most senior commanders sought to consolidate their own control over civilian areas in the absence of armed assault on their positions from any 'enemy'.  The Commission found that a major failure on the part of all the faction leaders was that they failed to inspire confidence and faith in Lomé as a fair and impartial process in the RUF combatant cadre.

1134. It was in this light that the fuse was lit for the final explosive episode in the military and political history of the conflict as it was directed by the RUF.  The three most senior commanders left in the field were Issa Sesay, Morris Kallon and Augustine Bao.  According to RUFP members, the individual and collective opposition of these three men in particular had already been made apparent to the political wing through harrowing personal encounters.  On one occasion, the Lands Minister Peter Vandy was stripped naked and beaten by Morris Kallon in Makeni.589  In a trip to Freetown to collect allowances in late April 2000, Augustine Bao had vowed that he was about to put a stop to the whole peace process.590


1135. On Monday 1 May 2000 the RUFP leader Foday Sankoh convened a press conference at his residence.  Sankoh commented on an altercation between armed ECOMOG peacekeepers and West Side Boys that had taken place at Frederick Street, Freetown three days earlier and had left one AFRC soldier dead and another wounded.  Sankoh publicly blamed UNAMSIL for the breakdown in relations between combatants in the city.  He was perceived to have sent hostile impulses to RUF commanders nationwide as to how they should relate to the new units of UNAMSIL peacekeepers that were about to deploy in the country.

1136. Augustine Bao was reported to be in attendance at the 1 May 2000 meeting.  According to the UN Secretary-General's Report591, Bao was despatched by Foday Sankoh to return to Makeni with a letter, the contents of which were unspecified, for the attention of Issa Sesay.  The Commission was unable to identify any link between the letter that Sankoh purportedly sent to Sesay and the events that subsequently unfolded.  However, what is certain is that Bao's return to the Northern Province coincided exactly with the outbreak of hostilities between the RUF and UNAMSIL peacekeepers.

1137. The Commission heard from the National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR) that it had opened a new 'reception centre' for the purposes of disarming combatants at Makoth, in the vicinity of Makeni, on 17 April 2000.592  It was at this centre that ten RUF combatants presented themselves to Kenyan UNAMSIL troops for disarmament on the weekend of 29 April 2000.  Apparently these ten combatants proceeded to the DDR camp without seeking the prior 'permission' of their commanders, the most senior of whom was Morris Kallon.  Kallon responded to this news on 1 May 2000.  He led an armed troop of RUF combatants to the DDR camp and demanded that the disarmed combatants and their weapons be returned to the RUF High Command.593

1138. There were shots fired between the Kenyan peacekeepers and the RUF at Makoth, as Kallon and his troop forcefully deployed inside the boundaries of the UNAMSIL reception centre.  The upshot of the confrontation of 1 May 2000 was that four Kenyan peacekeepers and four UNAMSIL military observers from the UK and New Zealand were captured and detained by the RUF at its Brigade Headquarters in Makeni.594  According to Foday Sankoh's 'Special Assistant', Gibril Massaquoi, the RUF High Command in Freetown received a message about the tension in Makeni from Morris Kallon, although both the timing of this message and the veracity of Massaquoi's claim as to its content remain to be ascertained:

"The real thing started with Morris Kallon... who sent a message to Foday Sankoh complaining that UNAMSIL soldiers had forcefully disarmed RUF soldiers at a place called Makoth, some ten miles to Makeni...  [Kallon said] that they were not going to agree to that; and that the latest information was that they had killed seven of their men - seven RUF men.  He said UNAMSIL had killed them."595

1139. Information about the attack had also been relayed to Freetown through UNAMSIL channels, however, and its details were known to President Kabbah the same evening.  Kabbah chose to express his concerns to the RUFP Minister Mike Lamin rather than addressing Foday Sankoh himself.  Lamin later explained his participation in a meeting with Kabbah to the Sierra Leone Police:

"I recall sometime in the early part of May 2000, I was summoned to the Lodge of President Kabbah for a briefing.  At the [President's] Lodge, I met the President together with General Jetley, UNAMSIL Force Commander.  Both President Kabbah and General Jetley told me that RUF combatants had attacked the DDR camp and UNAMSIL troops in Makeni.  General Jetley further said that the RUF commanders in Makeni were demanding the release of ten RUF combatants who had already disarmed to UNAMSIL.  To that effect, President Kabbah therefore impressed upon me to relay his concern to Foday Sankoh for the immediate settlement of that crisis...  When I left that same night, I met Sankoh around 11.00 p.m. at his own Lodge at 56 Spur Road.  I explained to him the development as was narrated to me by General Jetley and President Kabbah...  Sankoh said he was going to send a message that same night to ascertain the situation."596

1140. The sequence of events from 1 May 2000 onwards has been reported to the Commission in a relatively consistent fashion from all sides.  The most immediate development was that Morris Kallon and Augustine Bao proceeded to mobilise two further troops of combatants from nearby Magburaka under the respective command of the local Brigade Commander Sheriff Parker (alias "Base Marine") and the Operations Commander Amara Pelleto.597  The RUF troops attacked the UNAMSIL position in Magburaka and engaged in a lengthy gun battle with Kenyan peacekeepers deployed there.  On the same day the Kenyan unit based in Makeni was also attacked by the RUF and forced to retreat in the face of a much larger and better-equipped fighting force.598

1141. It was reported that all three of UNAMSIL's deployment companies in Magburaka were pulled out on the evening of 2 May 2000, each of them using a different route.  All of the roads out of the town were ambushed by RUF forces.  The company that attempted to reach Makeni was intercepted by RUF gunfire around a high bridge on the old railway line.  When a UNAMSIL Armoured Personnel Carrier was forced of the road, it apparently tumbled onto the river bank; two Kenyans died and several others were injured.  The report later presented to the UN Security Council stated that a total of four Kenyans were killed by the RUF in the Magburaka incident.599  Meanwhile three of the 60-man Kenyan unit in Makeni sustained injuries in the second attack.

1142. The highest numbers of violations committed by the RUF in these operations, however, were the rates of abduction of UNAMSIL peacekeepers.  According to UNAMSIL sources, the RUF took more than 550 UNAMSIL peacekeepers as hostages in the space of barely one week, beginning on 1 May 2000.600  This total comprised: an estimated 92 Kenyan personnel from the Magburaka attacks;601 up to 30 Indian peacekeepers at separate incidents around Kuiva, Kailahun District;602 226 Zambian troops on the road between Makeni and Magburaka;603 and over 300 peacekeepers of different nationalities in Yengema, Kono District.604  According to the preponderance of interviewees in the Commission's enquiries into these incidents, the UNAMSIL personnel were typically robbed of their uniforms, headgear and other personal effects, forced to parade in lines under armed supervision and detained in cramped conditions.  Several official UNAMSIL vehicles in which the captured personnel had been travelling were also seized.

1143. The RUF's public presentation of the hostage-taking at the time remained resolutely removed from the realities on the ground.  The briefings made by several senior officials, particularly Sankoh's 'Special Assistant' Gibril Massaquoi, were remarkable if only for their elusiveness.  On 5 May 2000, Massaquoi's statement to the press was typical of the denials he released to the media: "We want to believe the peacekeepers alleged to have been held by RUF fighters may have got lost in the bush during the fighting in Makeni and Magburaka...  [we are seeking] to organise a search party for the missing UN peacekeepers."605


1144. The Commission readily concurs with the United Nations606 that the widespread and unprovoked abductions of UNAMSIL peacekeepers constituted a grave breach of the conditions of the Lomé cease fire.  Moreover, the Commission finds that the hostilities against UNAMSIL peacekeepers, which culminated in their abductions, were instigated and commanded by Morris Kallon and Augustine Bao of the RUF, apparently in a joint and co-ordinated operation.  According to Gibril Massaquoi, Issa Sesay also gave commands for the abductions to be carried out and participated in "the fight against UNAMSIL."607

1145. From the evidence adduced, however, there is considerable unresolved controversy as to the exact means by which these abductions came about.  Issa Sesay certainly played a part in perpetuating the crisis, for he met with delegates from both UNAMSIL and the RUFP and gave false assurances that the situation was about to subside.608  Yet the internal dynamics of the RUF at the time must be put into proper context when analysing this episode.  In particular, the roles played by Foday Sankoh and his Special Assistant Gibril Massaquoi warrant further scrutiny.

1146. The first point of contention concerns the question of whether a command was directly issued to Kallon and Bao from Foday Sankoh's Lodge in Freetown.  Certainly, as Mike Lamin and others intimated, Sankoh was apprised of the situation on the ground within 24 hours of the first altercation between the RUF and UNAMSIL in Makeni.  The RUF leader was made aware by Lamin that RUF troops had contested the disarmament of the original ten combatants in the Makoth reception centre.  One account of what happened thereafter was given by Sheku Andrew Coomber, RUFP delegate to the Joint Monitoring Commission (JMC), who was present at Sankoh's Lodge on the night of 1 May 2000:

"Sankoh instructed the signal operator Samuel Lamboi (alias Ebony) to invite Bao and Morris Kallon to explain the incident.  That was to be done through the High Frequency radio.  Gibril Massaquoi, Special Assistant to Sankoh, came and spoke with Morris Kallon on the issue.  During the conversation between Kallon and Massaquoi, I overheard... [Kallon's version of the UNAMSIL hostage-taking episode].  Kallon said Bao was not satisfied with UNAMSIL's answer.  Therefore a quarrel ensued between Bao and UNAMSIL.  He concluded that Bao took one UNAMSIL Major as hostage in place of the alleged combatants held by UNAMSIL.

[...] In my presence, Gibril Massaquoi left the communication set to explain the report received to Foday Sankoh.  Few minutes later, Gibril [Massaquoi] came from Sankoh and informed Morris Kallon through the same set that Sankoh had instructed to arrest the remaining UNAMSIL soldiers and detain them.  Gibril transmitted that message to Kallon in Mende thus: 'Pa yeh, wu ti kpelleh huo'; which means 'Pa said to arrest all the UNAMSIL soldiers'.  That was the end of the message."609

1147. In assessing the content of this account by Coomber, the Commission is obliged to make several observations.  First, as various senior figures within the RUF political wing testified, there were numerous attempts to apply moral pressure on Sankoh to issue a firm order to the responsible parties to release the peacekeepers.610  There is no evidence that Sankoh ever complied by issuing a deterrent order.

1148. Second, the combatants in the field had made it clear to Sankoh that they were prepared to take action beyond the abductions if their authority was again challenged in any way by the political wing.  According to some of those who worked around him, Sankoh appeared to cower in the face of intimidation tactics by the combatant cadre.611  Mike Lamin capitalised on Foday Sankoh's perceived weakness in this regard to make a case for holding Sankoh responsible for the abductions:

"Foday Sankoh failed adequately and promptly to address the Makeni RUF arrest and detentions of peacekeepers.  This is because he could have used the H. F. (high frequency) radio to instruct the release of the peacekeepers; more so when he is the signatory and possibly the only and highest leader of RUF whom every combatant fears.  But if Sankoh never considered that [step] until the current break in the implementation of the Lomé Accord, he should be held responsible for any outcome whatsoever."612

1149. Yet Gibril Massaquoi, in his own testimony to the Commission, implied that Sankoh's responsibility in the matter was mitigated by the allegedly deceptive tactics employed by Bao and Kallon on the ground.  Massaquoi implied that the hostage-taking crisis was effectively sparked by a spontaneous action carried out by Bao and Kallon, who then duped the RUF leadership into 'playing along' with their 'plot' by portraying the UNAMSIL troops squarely as a military adversary:

"Sankoh was in a dilemma, especially when people were then pouncing on him.  The actual stories never met Sankoh.  They [Bao and Kallon in the North] were giving false information to him [Sankoh].  When we reached Makeni, we learnt that no UNAMSIL [troops] had killed any RUF soldier.  It was just a plot.  There was just one morning when Bao, Kallon and others stood on the street and said that that day, they would start riding in UNAMSIL vehicles.  They forged all types of cliques who started attacking the people just to take some of their vehicles and other items from them.  So that was how the whole thing had started."613

1150. In this area as in others, the Commission treats the testimony of Gibril Massaquoi with extreme caution.  Massaquoi was unique in the RUF in that he remained an enigma to many of those around him throughout the war.  He was well-educated and therefore able to pass himself off as an 'administrator' to the outside world, especially in the post-Lomé phase.  Throughout his testimony to the TRC, he deflected questions as to his own role in combat operations and maintained that he was "working with [Sankoh] basically on administrative level."614

1151. Yet according to numerous testimonies from his former RUF colleagues, Massaquoi fought fiercely at the front line when he was away from the public eye.615  He commanded units of combatants during phases when vital military operations were being conducted, particularly as a Target Commander on the Southern Front and as a Battalion Commander during the guerrilla warfare phase.  He was the most senior combatant in the RUF movement who had not been trained in advance of the conflict.

1152. Massaquoi is all the more unique in that he successfully manipulated his way into Sankoh's affections, despite the burning acrimony between him and other senior combatants, particularly the vanguards.  In the prosecution of military and political strategy after Lomé, Massaquoi was Sankoh's 'Special Assistant' in every sense.  His position was the closest to a de facto second-in-command as there existed in the High Command of the RUF after the departure of Sam Bockarie (alias "Mosquito").

1153. As will be demonstrated in the following section, Gibril Massaquoi performed a variety of functions at the Lodge of Foday Sankoh that went far beyond the public relations duties associated with most spokesmen.  Several high-ranking RUF members testified to the police that Massaquoi was one of those in charge of administering the arms stockpile at Sankoh's Lodge.  Massaquoi was also the commander who collected deposits of diamonds from the combatant cadre and in exchange distributed food and logistics to the fighters.  In his testimony to the Commission, Massaquoi conceded that this was one of his roles, but was eager to downplay the importance he had to the movement:

"We came back [after Lomé] and we were working together; Sankoh had said that we should forget about all our problems from the past.  I used to meet Issa [Sesay] in Kono: I went with food for the soldiers; I went with machines, medication and so forth.  Issa gave me diamonds, which I brought back to Sankoh.

[...]  But I have never at any point in time controlled Sankoh's diamonds or his money.  What I know is that I had received diamonds from his Field Commander [Issa Sesay] to be brought down to him [Sankoh] on two occasions: one from Magburaka and the other from Kono.  That's all I knew."616

1154. The Commission finds that Gibril Massaquoi acted dishonestly and without integrity during the UNAMSIL hostage-taking crisis.  He misrepresented the situation on the ground as it was reported to him.  His motives for doing so were most likely premised upon his strained personal relationships with the field commanders in question and his enduring tendency to manipulate Foday Sankoh.  He sought to disadvantage his allies and to improve his own lot.

1155. Massaquoi's role is afforded special attention because he presented what most observers believed to be the RUF position during a most controversial and explosive episode.617  He acted as the Spokesman for the RUF and conveyed statements to a national and international audience.  Moreover, though, Massaquoi was the conduit of information between Sankoh and the RUF field commanders: he relayed Sankoh's instructions in one direction and brought back the field reports of the commanders in the other direction.  In this role, he was an integral part of the chain of command of the RUF.

1156. The success or failure of the Lomé Accord was riding on the preservation of a fragile relationship between the parties.  The Government's stake in the process depended on the extent to which it trusted Foday Sankoh.  In turn, Foday Sankoh's trustworthiness relied mostly upon the extent to which the RUF field commanders were responsive to him.  Massaquoi's abuse of his position undermined the Government's trust in Sankoh.  Moreover it deliberately drove a wedge between Sankoh and his field commanders.  The Commission finds accordingly that Gibril Massaquoi bears an individual share of the responsibility for the deteriorating security situation in Sierra Leone.

1157. None of the foregoing should be allowed to obscure the responsibility of the RUF leader Foday Sankoh.  He alone held the ultimate decision-making prerogative on the operations of the RUF.  If his leadership as a peace-maker had been strong and sincere, he would have halted the hostage-taking crisis and served the cause of the Lomé Accord.  He alone had the authority to influence the actions of Bao, Kallon, Sesay and Massaquoi and to divert them from their respective destructive agendas.  He failed to do all of this. He had effectively lost control of his people once he decided to participate in the Lomé peace process.

1158. The Commission finds that Foday Sankoh deluded himself and deceived his fellow signatories to the Peace Accord by purporting to resolve the hostage-taking crisis.  Sankoh forfeited his credibility in the RUF due to his lack of rectitude.  Whatever the extent to which he felt himself constrained in his ability to issue orders of binding and unchallengeable force, he had nobody but himself to blame for the RUF's obstruction to the peace.

1159. Yet Sankoh continued to present a false impression to the international community by suggesting that his movement was not responsible for taking the UNAMSIL peacekeepers hostage.  The Commission finds that in doing so, Sankoh further endangered the lives of the peacekeepers. He squandered any semblance of trustworthiness he previously had as a partner in peace.  Cumulatively he served to aggravate the deteriorating security situation in Sierra Leone.

1160. It remains to be seen whether the RUF High Command collectively harboured an agenda to enhance its stake in power beyond the hostage-taking.  Further analysis in this regard follows in the next section.  At this juncture, it suffices to conclude with the viewpoint in retrospect of the RUF's representative on the Joint Monitoring Committee, Sheku Andrew Coomber.  Coomber's testimony largely speaks for itself:

"In most RUF meetings, Gibril Massaquoi and Foday Sankoh were always at variance with the other members...  These two people, I believe, were greatly responsible for the collapse of the Lomé Peace Accord.  Gibril in particular [was] insisting that all the provisions mentioned and meant for the RUF [would have to be] provided before complying with the implementation of the Peace Accord.  For instance, Chairman Sankoh was saying he was committed to the peace process but he was then giving underground instructions to the combatants in the field not to disarm.

[...] Lately it was the determination of Foday Sankoh to take peace by the use of force.  That was most times echoed by Sankoh and Steven Williams: that the RUF must overthrow the SLPP-led Government.  For that, after the Frederick Street episode [involving ECOMOG and the West Side Boys], it became apparent that Sankoh's determination was ripe.  In one of the preparations for that, Gibril Massaquoi used the RUF High Frequency (HF) radio to instruct one commander that at anytime there was a loss of communication on the radio with them, let the troops move and attack Freetown.  I do not specifically know with whom he was talking, but I suspected that he was talking with Brigadier Morris Kallon.

[...] Gibril [Massaquoi] and Sankoh were sure of overthrowing the SLPP-led Government from their pronouncements during those latter days until the Monday [8 May 2000] demonstration."618

1161. In summary, the Commission finds that the hostage-taking of several hundred UNAMSIL military personnel in the early days of May 2000 was the gravest misadventure carried out by RUF cadres during the disarmament phase.  There can be no justification for the use of armed force against observers and support staff whose neutrality and safety were imperative to the successful implementation of the Lomé Peace Accord.

1162. The RUF as an organisation inflicted irreparable discredit upon itself during the hostage-taking episode.  The episode planted the seeds of hysteria in the minds of members of the public, who felt betrayed by the RUF.  It also served to antagonise the RUF's partners in Government, including President Kabbah, who drew a great degree of vindication for his approach of never properly trusting the RUF in the first place.  The public, the Parliament, the President and the RUF's other 'partners' in the peace process held a common viewpoint that the RUF had exhausted all its chances.  These parties all united behind the principle that some form of demonstrative action would be warranted to put an end to the RUF's perceived threat.

1163. The hostage-taking saga in the provinces was to run relatively unabated for over a month, as the RUF combatant cadre spiralled totally out of hand.  However, the lifespan of the RUF political wing was to be cut short abruptly as the conflict reached its breaking point in Freetown in the month of May 2000.


The Military and Political Transition enters the Public Domain in Freetown

1164. The task of instilling accountability into the peace process was much more than simply an official duty vested in the Commission for the Consolidation of Peace (CCP) and the various other monitoring bodies.  It was also an issue of public interest.

1165. The peace had been secured in the name of the people, so in turn the people considered themselves stakeholders in ensuring that the terms of the peace were upheld.  The Sierra Leonean population was watching vigilantly to see whether the various undertakings made during and in the wake of Lomé were anything more than empty promises.

1166. Freetown was the city in which the outcomes of the post-Lomé political transition were most in evidence.  The prominent personalities of Sierra Leonean politics had to make room on the hillsides of Western Freetown to accommodate leaders of the former fighting factions in houses, referred to as 'Lodges', that were just as large and lavish as their own.  The most conspicuous newcomers to this particular club were the Chairman of the CCP Johnny Paul Koroma and the RUFP leader Foday Sankoh.  Their residences became 'bases' for the factions who identified these men as their leaders.

Johnny Paul Koroma's Juba Hill Residence

1167. Upon his official appointment by President Kabbah to the post of Chairman of the Commission for the Consolidation of Peace (CCP), Johnny Paul Koroma assumed residence in the same grandiose, state-sponsored compound that had been occupied by General Joseph Saidu Momoh while he had been President under the APC.619  This 'Lodge' was located at Juba Hill in the far West of Freetown, towards the peninsular settlement of Goderich.

1168. Within weeks of his return to the political scene, Koroma began to demonstrate the high level of risk that was incumbent in President Kabbah's strategy of including him.  Specifically, Koroma started to assemble at Juba Hill a group of fighters whose track records in the conflict marked them out as being among the greatest threats to state security.  The inner circle who joined Koroma in late 1999 included Santigie Kanu (alias "Five Five"), Alex Tamba Brima (alias "Gullit"), Ibrahim Kamara (alias 'Bazzy'), Samuel Kargbo (alias 'Sammy') and George Adams.  Since their expulsion from Freetown in late January 1999, they were known collectively as the 'West Side Boys'.

1169. The irony is not lost on the Commission that through Koroma's actions, most of the ringleaders of the 6 January 1999 invasion of Freetown were returning to the city as 'protectors of the peace'.  There was no evidence in their actions that these 'West Side Boys' warranted any role in helping to restore calm and confidence to the minds of the Sierra Leone population.  They were not of a mind to reconcile their difference with the RUF; indeed the stance they put forward in their letter of 'grievances and demands' in September 1999 indicated that they had an axe to grind on account of the RUF's "unacceptable" treatment of their leader, Johnny Paul Koroma.620

1170. In a statement to the Sierra Leone Police, a West Side Boy named Samuel Bassie (alias 'Machiavelli') explained how the dissident soldiers were hand-picked by Johnny Paul Koroma to assemble in Freetown.  Bassie also indicated that Koroma's original order was somewhat misinterpreted, as other AFRC members and West Siders came to 'deploy' in Freetown without having been invited:

"Chairman Johnny Paul Koroma and other members of the RUF/AFRC-SLA came to settle in Freetown.  A message was despatched to the Okra Hill's [base] commonly called 'West Side' for a team of personnel to be selected to form Johnny Paul Koroma's security in Freetown.  That order came from Chairman Johnny Paul Koroma himself.

[...] I was fortunate to be selected by Brigadier Ibrahim Kamara (alias 'Bazzy') as a bodyguard to my commander Brigadier Hassan Bangura (alias 'Papa' or 'Bomblast'), who himself was also to become one of the guards to Johnny Paul Koroma in Freetown.  We were twenty-six (26) in number selected for the task; to name a few: Junior Johnston (alias 'Junior Lion') as Chief Security Officer, Fodayba Marrah as Deputy CSO, 'Colonel Hashim' and others.

[...] Whiles on deployment at the Lodge... at Juba Hill, some SLA members from Okra Hill were deploying themselves at the Lodge [in addition to the existing cadre].  In fact, Chairman Johnny Paul Koroma was against the influx of SLA combatants at his Lodge."621

1171. Another senior AFRC soldier who worked closely with Koroma told the TRC that the eventual number of West Side Boys who came to the Juba Hill Lodge grew to "more than double" the number that Koroma had originally called upon.622  In the light of this evidence, the Commission believes that Koroma hosted as many as 50 men in his compound, including the 'influx' of gatecrashers.  It is clear that some members of the expanded contingent were unwelcome even at the Juba Hill Lodge, not to mention among the Freetown populace as a whole.

1172. The Commission finds that the presence of such a rabble at the house of an esteemed office-holder in the Lomé peace process was an immediate and ever present danger to a successful transition to peace.  It was destined to precipitate fear and suspicion among the residents of Freetown and to provoke clashes between and among factions over unresolved vendettas from the conflict.

1173. Johnny Paul Koroma was by no means blind to the potentially incendiary effect of the West Side Boys at his Juba Hill Lodge.  Yet while he professed himself to be 'against the influx', he took no decisive action to quell it.  Moreover, he allowed weapons to be kept in his house, many of them Army-issue rifles that he had accessed through those who were still loyal to him in the Sierra Leone Army.623

1174. The Commission finds that Koroma's credentials as Chairman of the CCP, an important peace-building institution, were seriously undermined by his assembly of a unit of West Side Boys around him.  He acted as the de facto ground commander of a private Army of hardened fighters known for their propensity for excess and brutality.

Foday Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge

1175. Meanwhile Foday Sankoh and his RUFP entourage took up residence in a sizeable two-storey Lodge at No. 56 Spur Road.  The Spur Road Lodge became something of a communal dwelling for the extended family, friends and associates of Foday Sankoh.  It also served several other functions simultaneously: it was the Party Headquarters of the RUFP; Sankoh used it as his provisional office in his capacity as Chairman of the CMMRD; and it was the venue of countless formal and informal meetings that Sankoh held, variously, with Ministers, foreign Ambassadors, potential business partners, former commanders, journalists and members of the public.

1176. The Spur Road Lodge was renowned among RUFP members as a place where they received hospitality and lodging whenever they were in need.624  Sankoh ensured that food and medical provisions were in abundant supply; according to his wife, Madam Fatou Sankoh, he sometimes catered for over a hundred people a day.625  At any given time, there were between 50 and 100 people 'on the ground' at the Spur Road Lodge.626  Among them were security guards, RUFP employees, drivers, cooks and auxiliary staff as well as women, children and other dependants.  Many of them lived and slept at the Lodge.

1177. As described in the previous section, Sankoh also kept a personal security detail on permanent watch at his Spur Road Lodge.  It numbered approximately 30 men and comprised mostly former soldiers of the Sierra Leone Army, led by the RUFP Chief Security Officer, Akim Turay.627  A small number of RUF 'ex-combatants' also played roles in the security set-up, calling themselves 'Black Guards', which had been the name given to Sankoh's RUF Security Unit during its combat operations.  The erstwhile commander of the 'Black Guards', Jackson Swarray (alias 'CO Wray'), was among this contingent.  However, Swarray was subordinate to several of the former soldiers at Sankoh's Lodge, including Akim Turay and Soriba Mansaray.628

1178. According to testimonies given to the Commission, as well as statements taken by the Sierra Leone Police, the security guards working at the Spur Road Lodge did not regularly carry firearms as part of their security remit.629  Each of them was assigned a personal weapon on paper, but these were in fact taken from them and placed in a common storeroom.630

1179. The guards were not, for instance, permitted to patrol the grounds of Sankoh's compound carrying weapons; they were rather expected to act as watchmen, or 'look-outs', on three separate shifts covering a 24-hour cycle.631  Where their duties entailed accompanying Foday Sankoh on business outside the compound or indeed outside Freetown, they would move with Sankoh as his personal bodyguards.632

1180. Several of the ex-SLA security guards at the Spur Road Lodge had in fact given up their weapons during high-profile disarmament ceremonies in Freetown.  Some of them indeed participated in the very first such ceremony held in Freetown, at the SLA's Wilberforce Barracks.633

1181. In a meeting with the Ambassador of the United States, Joseph Melrose, Foday Sankoh had expressed his hope and intention that all of the ex-combatants based at the Lodge, including the 'Black Guards', should go through the DDR process.634  Yet Sankoh retained a firm principle that he would not send all of his men to disarm if he felt that in doing so he would jeopardise his own security.  According to one of his close colleagues in the RUFP, the main obstacle to Sankoh's total and permanent disarmament was his lack of trust in UNAMSIL: "he wanted them to monitor RUF disarmament just like the other parties, without making it a crusade against the RUF."635

1182. In this light, the Commission noted that the Deputy Force Commander of UNAMSIL wrote to Sankoh in April 2000 to raise a number of points about security at the Spur Road Lodge.  In this letter, Sankoh was "requested to discontinue the retention of armed RUFP cadres" on the basis that "only UNAMSIL and the armed SSD who operate under UNAMSIL are authorised to provide armed guards."636

1183. This letter strengthens the case for saying that as a Government official with a "status equivalent to that of Vice President,"637 Sankoh, like other VIPs including the President, was due to be afforded official armed protection by UNAMSIL peacekeeping troops.

1184. A platoon-sized unit of the Nigerian Battalion (NIBATT), comprising about 30 armed soldiers, manned a UNAMSIL checkpoint on the approach road to Sankoh's Lodge and patrolled the vicinity on a 24-hour basis.  The commanding officers assigned to the Spur Road Lodge, first Captain Akibo and later Captain Abdullahi,638 participated in two-way briefings several times daily with Foday Sankoh or other senior RUFP members like Gibril Massaquoi.  To the Commission's knowledge, between July 1999 and April 2000, the UNAMSIL officers did not file any reports to their superiors about incidents involving firearms at the Spur Road Lodge.639

1185. Sankoh largely complied with the instruction given by the UNAMSIL Deputy Force Commander, in that the only permanent armed security at the Lodge was the unit provided by UNAMSIL.  Yet Sankoh had disclosed to several of his colleagues that he did not wish to rely upon the UNAMSIL contingent alone in the event that any 'incident' were to take place.640  Thus Sankoh kept a private stockpile of weapons at the Spur Road Lodge, including approximately 30 automatic rifles.  These were locked up in a storeroom close to the Lodge's 'computer room'.641  According to the RUFP Minister for Lands, Peter Vandy, the man responsible for the arms was Foday Sankoh's Special Assistant Gibril Massaquoi:

"In Freetown, to be frank, I have not at anytime seen these [security] guards carrying weapons in their day-to-day activities.  These arms brought by Chairman Sankoh to town were in the custody of Gibril Massaquoi and I cannot tell whether he surrendered them for the DDR programme or distributed them to the security guards."642

1186. Sankoh had informed members of the Government about the existence of the stockpile and, according to his colleagues in the RUFP, he had secured the President's blessing to retain enough arms for 30 of his own men.643  Several RUFP members later interviewed by the police corroborated this evidence of official acquiescence for the arms at Sankoh's Lodge.  One of them narrated his understanding as follows:

"The said arms were brought to Freetown [from Kailahun] during the time Foday Sankoh made his first visit to Kailahun after signing the Lomé Peace Accord.  The arms were brought to No. 56 Spur Road, Freetown with the consent of the ECOMOG commander and even the President, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and the UNAMSIL boss General Jetley."644

1187. Madam Fatou Sankoh testified that the presence of arms in the Lodge was also made known to representatives of the moral guarantors in the diplomatic community.  For example, she attended a meeting between Foday Sankoh and the US Ambassador Joseph Melrose in April 2000 at which the subject was raised:

"Foday told Melrose openly... he said: 'I have some arms here at the Lodge; President Kabbah knows about them and they are here as a contingency in case something happens to me; in case I have to defend myself'.  I was there at that meeting [with Melrose]; Melrose cannot possibly deny that he knew [about the arms]."645

1188. It is worth reiterating that Sankoh was not alone in keeping significant quantities of arms and indeed fighters at his compound.  The Deputy Defence Minister, Chief Sam Hinga Norman, retained a 30-man security detail at his own residence, comprising armed Kamajor fighters from the Civil Defence Forces (CDF).646  Equally, as noted above, Johnny Paul Koroma administered an effective arms reserve, which was made available to the contingent of West Side Boys who lived in his compound at Juba Hill.

1189. The Commission finds that each of the faction leaders played his part in brewing suspicion and apprehension in the city of Freetown.  The fact remains, however, that Foday Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge was the focus of most of the public concern because its inhabitants were something of an unknown quantity in the public eye.

1190. The Government of Sierra Leone was remiss in allowing the proliferation of weapons to occur around the key players in the peace process in Freetown.  The failure to impose appropriate conditions on the retention of arms supplies at the Lodges of Johnny Paul Koroma and Foday Sankoh, at Juba Hill and Spur Road respectively, was a fatal blunder in the transition into peace.

Foday Sankoh's Further Properties in Freetown

1191. Foday Sankoh also administered two further properties in Freetown.  The first, located at Spur Loop, further up the same hillside as the Spur Road Lodge, was the lesser populated and lesser visited of the two; it became the residence of his wife, Madam Fatou Sankoh.647  The second, at No. 12 Josiah Drive in the Malama / Lumley area, was more strategically important, for it served a variety of purposes in effecting the transition from the RUF in conflict to the RUFP in peacetime.

1192. The Commission noted that the Josiah Drive property was assigned various, differing descriptions by those who had visited it: Madam Fatou Sankoh called it a "clinic;"648 UNAMSIL soldiers referred to it as a "warehouse;"649 and one of its temporary residents said it was "a kind of guesthouse."650

1193. The three-storey building was home to as many as 50 RUFP members, although the roster of inhabitants was not permanent.651  A core group of about 20 staff lived and worked there permanently as security guards, drivers and domestic staff.  According to the nominal roll of RUFP members, there were also between 10 and 20 former child combatants attached there as a remnant of the RUF 'Small Boys' Unit'.652

1194. The Josiah Drive property also served as a hospital or rehabilitation centre for wounded RUF ex-combatants and some former soldiers.653  There was a full-time staff of medical nurses on duty, who received supplies of drugs and other medical provisions directly from Foday Sankoh.  Their patients included a small number who were accommodated there permanently, and a majority who came in on an ad-hoc basis for treatment.  Some senior RUF members were brought to Freetown during the post-Lomé phase to receive medical attention from the nurses at Josiah Drive for their wounds or other after-effects of the war.654

1195. There were nonetheless persistent rumours that the RUFP residence at Josiah Drive was being used for subversive purposes.  A former child combatant who resided there briefly would later tell the police that there were "guns under the beds" on one of the floors that was used to house ex-combatants.655

1196. The Government, through its Attorney General and Minister of Justice Solomon Berewa, was later to assert that the residents of Josiah Drive were in fact an integral part of a "coup plan."656  This allegation, based on what the Attorney General called "circumstantial material," suggested that weapons and potential participants in the plot were harboured at Josiah Drive in anticipation of an operation against other members of the Government, with the intention of capturing power for the RUFP and Foday Sankoh.

1197. The Commission was unable to determine definitively whether these allegations were accurate or not.  What is certain is that the Josiah Drive property was unambiguously identified as a 'rebel house' by local residents and security forces alike.  According to one of its inhabitants, groups of youths accompanied by armed SSD officers appeared at the house on several occasions chanting 'offensive slogans' and sometimes throwing stones.657  Josiah Drive was therefore another flashpoint on the Freetown landscape.


1198. Public perception turned dramatically against the RUF and, in particular, Foday Sankoh as the first week of the UNAMSIL hostage-taking episode unfolded.658  There was a unanimous and unyielding belief among the public that Sankoh was responsible for the abduction and molestation of peacekeepers as it had been reported by various media outlets.

1199. Moreover, Freetown-based civil society was adamant that Sankoh should be brought to account for the actions of his men on the ground.  The popular view was that until the RUF combatants achieved full compliance with the disarmament objectives of the Lomé Accord, Sankoh should be stripped of all political privileges afforded him under the power-sharing clauses of the agreement.659

The Passing of a Private Members' Motion by the Sierra Leone Parliament

1200. The negative public sentiments towards Foday Sankoh and the RUF were echoed in the chambers of the Sierra Leone Parliament.  On Tuesday 2 May 2000, it was reported that after discussions in the Parliament a "private members' motion" had been adopted.660  The motion contained a number of resolutions, which cumulatively amounted to an outright condemnation of Foday Sankoh and the RUF for their perceived lack of "genuine commitment to the peace process."661

1201. In the motion, the Sierra Leone Parliament further called upon a number of distinct groups to take decisive action in response to the perceived "resumption of hostilities."  The motion framed the position of the parliamentarians in the following terms:662

  • It called upon the Government to place Foday Sankoh, the leader of the RUFP, under 'house arrest' at his Spur Road Lodge;
  • It advocated for restrictions to be imposed on the movement of RUFP Ministers and other office-holders until the 'hostilities' were ended;
  • It demanded that all RUF combatants be disarmed within 45 days;
  • It called for the enactment of legislation suspending or retracting "some of the privileges accorded to Mr. Foday Sankoh and other elements of the RUF by virtue of the Lomé Peace Agreement;"
  • It motivated for the moral guarantors to "use their influence and good offices" to bring Foday Sankoh back into line;
  • It declared that the "series of co-ordinated attacks against UNAMSIL troops" was evidence that the RUFP was "not interested in peace but [rather] committed to derailing the peace process and seizing power by force;" and
  • It announced the intention of the parliamentarians to stage a protest march against the RUF on either the Thursday or the Friday of the week ending 5 May 2000.

1202. The motion represented a bold statement of intent by the parliamentarians that they would not tolerate lapses in the implementation of the military aspects of the Lomé Peace Accord.  Members of Parliament also signalled their conviction that the RUF was wholly and solely answerable for the 'resumption in hostilities'.

1203. Parliament's positions were adopted in spite of protestations from the RUFP regarding various irregularities in implementation of other areas of the military and political framework for peace.  In announcing details of the motion, the Presidential Spokesman, Professor Septimus Kaikai, cited financial constraints and ongoing efforts at dialogue with the RUF to provide a context for the problems in the process of power-sharing.663

1204. The demands made by the parliamentary motion were taken up with varying degrees of vigour and immediacy.  Some aspects stood little chance of success: for example, the call for total RUF disarmament within 45 days was unrealistic and did not happen.  Other aspects, like the request for international pressure, materialised almost immediately.  The United Nations Security Council issued a statement through its President on the evening of 3 May 2000.  The statement was in almost total consonance with the Sierra Leone Parliament: it "condemn[ed] in the strongest terms the armed attacks perpetrated by the RUF" and "consider[ed] Foday Sankoh, as leader of the RUF, to be responsible for these actions, which are unacceptable and in clear violation of [the RUF's] obligations under the Lomé Agreement."664

1205. On the whole, the parliamentary motion appears to have been taken very seriously by the parties it addressed, particularly among the branches of Government and the national and international law enforcement agencies.  In fact the motion became a blueprint for a series of co-ordinated actions against the RUF in the days that followed.  These actions formed what President Kabbah would later describe as his "effective contingency plan"665 against the RUF.

Imposition of Surveillance and Restrictions on the Movement of RUFP Members

1206. The SLPP-led Government acted swiftly to put in place measures of containment around the Freetown-based members of the RUFP.  Its first step towards realising the demands of the parliamentary motion was to identify the modalities that would be required to place Foday Sankoh under 'house arrest' and to restrict the movements of the other office-holders of the RUFP.

1207. The Government enlisted the support of UNAMSIL to accomplish its containment strategy.  The UN Peacekeeping Best Practices Unit later characterised the various militating factors that compelled UNAMSIL to participate in "swift, concerted remedial action" to restrain the RUF, as follows:

"[In May 2000] the United Nations involvement in Sierra Leone was under attack, literally and figuratively.  The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) was being humiliated by a rebel army of young thugs called the RUF, led by Corporal Foday Sankoh.  Hundreds of UN peacekeepers were taken hostage, disarmed and even disrobed by the RUF.  The international and local press carried daily condemnations of the UN and its inability to stop the rampage of the RUF through the country and all the way to its capital, Freetown.  President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah's Government, which had been unable to exercise any real authority since its election in 1996, was expressing extreme disappointment at UNAMSIL's capitulation to the rebels."666

1208. The Commission learned that the Government and UNAMSIL had already been working together for some time on joint monitoring and information-gathering actitivities concentrated on the RUF.  In this regard, evidence given to the police by a long-standing member of the RUF named Sahr Sandy was particularly revelatory.667  Sahr Sandy first recounted how he forged a connection with the Vice President, Dr. Albert Joe Demby.  He explained that this relationship came about as a result of two principal factors: first, Sandy's personal rift with Foday Sankoh;

"[When] I came to Freetown, I joined the RUF leader Foday Sankoh at his residence at No. 56 Spur Road, Freetown...  I was with Pa Sankoh, whom I fell out with due to the bad treatment he was giving me;"

and second, a meeting with Demby in which Sandy and fellow RUF ex-combatants presented themselves as willing partners in peace;

"On 25 March 2000, I left Freetown for Kailahun [District] to collect ... thirty-nine (39) of my men who had disarmed to UNAMSIL personnel and they were in the DDR camp.  I came to Freetown with the thirty-nine (39) men.  I took them to the residence of the Vice President, Dr. Albert Joe Demby.  We had a meeting with the Vice President, the then Minister of Agriculture Dr. Harry Will, the SLPP Chairman Maigoh Kallon, late Paramount Chief A. A. Mannie, the Chief Agriculturalist Mr. Tengbeh and the Permanent Secretary to the Vice President, Mr. Henry Gongor.  At the meeting, I told the Vice President to accept us as his children and that we are no longer members of the RUF movement.  The Vice President agreed and accepted us."668

1209. Sahr Sandy then went on to describe how Vice President Demby had engaged his services as an 'informant', who would provide valuable information to UNAMSIL and the Government about the activities of the RUF:

"[At the end of] March 2000, the Vice President Dr. Albert Joe Demby called me to his residence at Spur Road, Freetown wherein he handed me over to the Chief Military Observer (CMO) Brigadier-General Chadi Odusi, to whom [he said] I should give information about Pa Sankoh in respect of his [Sankoh's] armed movement in the country.  The following day Brigadier-General Chadi Odusi led me to UNAMSIL Headquarters at Pademba Road, where we met the UNAMSIL boss General Jetley.  On our arrival, Odusi told General Jetley that I was the Mr. Sandy who would assist UNAMSIL to discover arms kept in the city and Provinces by Pa Sankoh and his men.  With effect from that day I started giving information to UNAMSIL personnel... working directly with CMO Odusi."669

1210. The importance of Sahr Sandy's role increased greatly in the wake of the above-mentioned parliamentary motion.  The Government and UNAMSIL took heed of Parliament's call for conditions of 'house arrest' to be imposed on Foday Sankoh.  They heightened the levels of surveillance of RUFP members in Freetown and began joint operations to stifle the RUF movement.  As Sandy later told the police, the weekend that began on Friday 5 May 2000 proved to be pivotal:

"On 5 May 2000 at about 12.00 noon I met General Jetley at the UNAMSIL Headquarters, Pademba Road.  No sooner had I arrived than General Jetley called Brigadier Mohamed, the Jordanian Commander, and introduced me to him as an informant for arms concealed in the Western Area.  [Jetley told Mohamed] that he should work with me.

[...] Straight away we started the operation.  Brigadier Mohamed and I went to Colonel Boroh, the Nigerian UNAMSIL officer at Wilberforce Barracks.  Brigadier Mohamed instructed Colonel Boroh to take all the armoured tanks and block Pa Sankoh's house in order to prevent him from moving out of the house; [there was a further instruction] to arrest all the inmates of the house.

[...] Brigadier Mohamed and I [then] moved to Malama for me to show [him] the other locations inhabited by RUF personnel.  No arrest was made.  Later we moved to Lumley Beach area, where I showed him another RUF location.  From there we moved to Cline Town where I showed him another RUF base before we returned to UNAMSIL Headquarters.

[...] Whilst there [at Headquarters], Brigadier Mohamed called Mr. Christopher John, who was in charge of police operations.  On his arrival [Christopher John] was instructed by Brigadier Mohamed to alert the police in order to cordon the areas I located.  As it was already late the two officers agreed to do the operation the following morning, but that plain clothes officers should be posted in those areas on surveillance.  That particular night I did not sleep at home for fear that the RUF will harm me."670

1211. Both UNAMSIL and the Sierra Leonean state security forces gained information as a result of Sahr Sandy's 'guided tour' of RUF residences in Freetown and its environs.  From Friday 5 May 2000 onwards, the police mounted permanent surveillance operations on the Josiah Drive building in Malama; the residents quickly noticed that 'watchful strangers' were present in the neighbourhood.671  Within the space of 24 hours, Foday Sankoh had been made aware of at least two other houses elsewhere in the city that were being monitored, both of them occupied by RUFP office-holders.672  A co-ordinated containment operation was being put in place.

Foday Sankoh's 'House Arrest'

1212. In the evening of Friday 5 May 2000, it was announced on the BBC Africa Service that Foday Sankoh had been placed under 'house arrest' at the behest of the Sierra Leone Government.673  This announcement was purportedly based upon the transfer of UNAMSIL personnel and vehicles into the direct vicinity of Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge, as was indicated in the testimony of Sahr Sandy.674  Yet the UNAMSIL Commander responsible for the security of Freetown, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Boroh, maintained that "there was no stationed Armoured Personnel Carrier or armoured tanks" assigned to the residence of Foday Sankoh at that time.675

1213. Furthermore there was a high degree of confusion on the ground as to whether there was an express measure in place to prevent Foday Sankoh from moving outside his compound.  As it happened, Sankoh did remain in his house for the duration of the weekend.  However, according to one of his associates, Sankoh's lack of movement was more attributable to his disinclination to move around town than it was to any order stopping him from doing so.676  Other senior members of Sankoh's entourage apparently moved in and out of the compound without impediment.677  Gibril Massaquoi, Dennis Mingo (alias "Superman") and Akim Turay were among those who entered and left Sankoh's Lodge freely whilst the 'house arrest' order was supposedly in place.

1214. The ambiguity surrounding the classification of Sankoh's status was also apparent in the somewhat confused press reporting of the time.  One journalist described the restrictions on Sankoh's movement as "an informal version of house arrest."678

1215. Nevertheless, the containment measures implemented against the RUF under the combined auspices of UNAMSIL and the Sierra Leone Government from Friday 5 May 2000 onwards constituted a significant step up from the levels of vigilance that had existed in the preceding ten months since the signing of the Lomé Accord.

The Makings of a Mass Public Demonstration against the RUF

1216. Perhaps the most noteworthy element of the motion passed by the Sierra Leone Parliament was its clarion call for a protest march against the RUF.  Originally this march was conceived as an outlet through which Members of Parliament themselves would vent their discontent.  However, since the theatrics of the political transition were so openly on display in the city of Freetown, it was inevitable that members of the public would want to become involved as well.

1217. The vehicle for mobilising large numbers of people behind a civic agenda was the Sierra Leone Civil Society Movement (CSM).  The Commission heard testimony from one of the foremost personalities in the CSM, Festus Minah.  Minah described how a sense of outrage had grown among many civil society groups, including students' associations, traders' collectives and professional bodies like the Sierra Leone Teachers' Union (SLTU), of which Minah himself was President.  According to Minah, there was such a formidable tide of opposition to the RUF's hostage-taking of UNAMSIL personnel that he and his colleagues in the CSM felt compelled to take action of their own:

"The RUF [was] holding to ransom, or holding hostage, 500 and more peacekeepers who were in this country and for no just reason had to face a situation of that nature.  For us who believed that the presence of the peacekeepers in the country had brought relief to us... we thought that they ought not to have to go through such a hazardous experience.

[...] Our intention was merely to give a picture to Sankoh... that power cannot be attained or cannot be usurped using the barrel of the gun or by using force.  It should be given freely by the will of the people.  His attempt not to acknowledge this fact made the pillars of the Civil Society Movement to engage in strategising [on] means and ways by which we could get our message across to Sankoh."679

1218. The 'strategising' of the Civil Society Movement coincided exactly with the plans of the parliamentarians.  It was upon recognition of this common agenda that the Chairman of the CSM, Hassan Barrie, established contact with the parliamentarians and managed to agree upon the basis for a collaborative venture.680

1219. The planning assumed an urgent dimension when the notion was introduced that Foday Sankoh was eager to make a grab for the Presidency.  Festus Minah told the Commission that this notion was not taken lightly by the joint planners.  He acknowledged that a public demonstration became the favoured option because it would symbolise the democratic will of a sheer mass of people against the perceived excesses of Foday Sankoh:

"About a week before our action, there were evidences from the forces, both military and police, particularly testified by our British-born Inspector-General Keith Biddle... that Foday Sankoh had participated in a masked devil parade and had come to the police and said: 'The people are in my favour; they are in support of me; you must be careful!  In the next few days, when I come to be the Leader of this country, you will have to account for the way your people are treating my people'.

I believe those were very serious statements, which got to us in the CSM office and, noting what the RUF can do - they do not only plan, but [they] execute what they say - led us to say: 'well, we must nip it in the bud; not allow him to even engage in a programme that will try to destabilise the situation'.

[...] These were the few circumstances that made the Civil Society Movement, in collaboration with the parliamentarians, think that 'enough was enough'...  All these issues, when put together, formed a circumstance that forced us to take action in the form of demonstrating.  We thought that Sankoh would see the multitude of people who were against him [and] at least appreciate the efforts of Sierra Leoneans in trying to make peace with him."681

1220. One realisation that quickly dawned on both parties was that a joint public protest march would be a much larger undertaking than what either of them had originally envisaged.  It would require planning and organisation over several days.  Accordingly, the march was postponed from the week ending 5 May 2000 and rescheduled for the following Monday, 8 May 2000.

1221. With the new date in mind, the Chairman of the CSM, Hassan Barrie, assembled what he called a 'Task Force' to co-ordinate the various aspects of the organisation of the demonstration.  According to the recollections of Festus Minah, this Task Force was divided into six sub-groups or committees, each of which took responsibility for a particular aspect of the planning of the event.  The designations and basic functions of the six groups were as follows:682

  • Resolutions Committee - to decide upon the content of the formal speeches that would be addressed to Foday Sankoh and the assembled demonstrators on the day;
  • Information and Sensitisation Group - responsible for making announcements on the radio, stimulating discussion and raising public awareness;
  • Mobilisation Group - to work with existing civil society groups and "get them to mobilise their membership for action";
  • Transportation Group - effectively to take over the public transport system for the day and assist people in moving to the assembly point at Victoria Park in central Freetown;
  • Security Group - to avoid putting the demonstrators or other residents in danger and to prevent damage to property or other inconvenience on the route; and
  • Finance Group - to generate and administer funds from sponsors and supporters.

1222. The roles played by some of these committees were self-explanatory and warrant mention only insofar as they contributed to the staging of a landmark event in history.  Others have attained a more profound significance in understanding the dynamics of the demonstration that subsequently transpired.

1223. The Information and Sensitisation Group, for example, can lay claim to a quite incredible dividend, since it succeeded in instituting what was probably the largest mass demonstration in the country's history.  It achieved the feat by bombarding the airwaves with advertisements and related discussion programmes for the whole weekend leading up to the demonstrations.  As one of those who responded to the campaign later explained, these media announcements mixed the concept of protest with a certain patriotic imperative:

"On Friday 5 May 2000 I heard a radio announcement from the Radio Democracy 98.1 FM station that members of the Civil Society Movement (CSM) and parliamentarians would stage a peaceful demonstration march on Monday 8 May 2000.  The march would end at the residence of the RUF leader Foday Sankoh, at Spur Road, Freetown.  The announcement alleged that they are demonstrating against the RUF movement because the RUF arrested the UNAMSIL peacekeepers; they are tired with fighting in the country and now they needed peace forever.  Finally, they said that all patriotic Sierra Leoneans must join the demonstration."683

1224. The Security Group was another that had a central part to play in the proceedings.  Festus Minah sat on this particular committee and drew attention to the fact that upon the insistence of the police, the upper part of the Spur Road hillside was to remain 'off limits' to the demonstrators:

"We made sure that the demonstrators would use only the route that was lined up; because we had to ask permission from the police and the police guided us as to how we could move.  Even though they did not support it; they guided us as to how we should move.  We were not to use the Spur Road route, because that was the area of the diplomats and that was the route they used.

[...] So we had to use Wilkinson Road, up to Lumley and then move to [Sankoh's] residence, which was very close to Lumley.  Myself and six others were involved in ensuring that no demonstrators used the [upper] Spur Road route, either from Spur Loop, or from Tengbeh Town... They only used the route that was prescribed by the police."684

1225. Finally, selected delegates from each of the committees were drawn into a seventh group that comprised a cross-section of both parliamentarians and civil society activists. It was an 'umbrella body' known as the liaison group, which would work with potential partners, including the police and the Government of Sierra Leone, towards the smooth running of the demonstration.  Festus Minah was chosen as the liaison representative from the security committee.  In this capacity he helped to keep the demonstration on course for 8 May 2000 despite the apparent opposition of President Kabbah, which was premised on security considerations:

"I must say it here: as a member of the Security Group, I happen to have been part of the liaison delegation that went to meet the President.  The President was not in favour of the demonstration; he had a fear that anything could go wrong.  But indeed, the group was resolute.

[...] We spent close to three hours with [the President], trying to reason out with him on the issue of the demonstration; but I think his position was against the position of the Civil Society Movement.  So there was very little he could do, but to [allow us] at least to go ahead with the action as planned, in the interests of stabilising the Sierra Leonean society."685

1226. All of the above testifies to the single-mindedness and sense of purpose that was present among the organisers of the 8 May 2000 demonstrations.  After the Parliament and the Civil Society Movement had united behind the principle of a demonstration, they resolutely refused to be thwarted in their intention of making themselves heard by Foday Sankoh in the loudest and dearest terms.  There was a definite element of stubbornness in the organisers' attitudes, but as they pointed out to the Commission, it was the stubbornness that Sierra Leoneans had developed "after several years of being subjected to rule by force and wanting finally to put a stop to it."686

1227. The organisers of the demonstrations generated an unprecedented level of interest and engagement in the post-Lomé political transition.  This increased public scrutiny came at the exact time when the RUF movement had cast itself in a very negative light in the peace process.  Foday Sankoh never ordered the responsible parties to release the UNAMSIL peacekeepers.  Nor did he issue a public statement condemning the hostage-taking episode.  The RUF movement led by Sankoh in fact did nothing to counter the perception that it was a belligerent and untrustworthy faction.  In the circumstances, the unfavourable public perception of the RUF was more than justified.  The RUF invited demonstrative action against itself.

1228. While the thrust of the demonstration remained peaceful, there were certain sentiments evoked by it that served to frighten or antagonise some members of society, particularly among the RUFP.  The Commission heard from one RUFP office-holder who was residing in Freetown at the time that the prospect of the demonstration haunted him from the moment he heard the comments of a caller on a radio 'talk-show' programme:

"I was tuning in to 96.2 FM radio station when a certain caller made all kinds of threatening remarks that [seemed to be] a summary of the contingency plan against the RUF for the 8 May demonstrations.  Abu Bakarr, a programmer on the 96.2 FM station, had organised a forum [with] Chairman Foday Sankoh to talk to the people of Sierra Leone on the problem at hand in the country - the near collapse of the peace.  Foday Sankoh had turned down this invitation to the forum.

[Sankoh's refusal] was the exploding point for the caller.  He said: 'Come May 8th, we will march to Sankoh's house and destroy all the facilities he is enjoying: electricity, water and anything else that makes him too proud to refuse us!  For ten years, Foday Sankoh has been ambushing us, so on that May 8th day, we too will surely ambush Foday Sankoh and just as surely he will not survive the ambush!'

[...] That caller's threat sent cold sweat running down my brows."687

The Staging of an Independent Women's Group Demonstration on 6 May 2000

1229. The organisers of the 8 May 2000 demonstration were beaten to the gates of the Spur Road Lodge by an independent group of protesters who gathered there two days earlier.  This group was composed of up to 2,000 Sierra Leonean women, who wanted to convey their own hopes for peace and bring home to Foday Sankoh a sense of the particular suffering that women had endured as a result of the war.

1230. The Women's Forum was among the conglomeration of interest groups that led the noteworthy, albeit relatively minor demonstration on Saturday 6 May 2000.  One of its members, Christiana Macfoy, was quoted in the press as having explained the motivations for this action in the following terms:

"We are tired.  We are not only tired; we are fed up.  We have reached the end of the road as far as taking all these atrocities that are being committed.  And it is the women that are bearing the brunt of it."688

1231. From the side of the inhabitants of the Spur Road Lodge, there were mixed impressions of the arrival of the women.  One RUFP security guard later told the police that the protest was treated quite dismissively by Foday Sankoh and therefore concluded in a short space of time without making any significant impact:

"On Saturday 6 May 2000 during the morning hours I was in the compound at No. 56 Spur Road, Freetown when a group of women arrived and started singing provocative remarks against the RUF leader Foday Sankoh.  The leader [Sankoh] called everybody in the compound and advised us to close the main gate, which we did.  After a while, the women who were demonstrating had to return to their various homes."689

1232. The Chief Security Officer at Sankoh's Lodge, Akim Turay, told the Commission that he was sent out by Foday Sankoh to engage in a dialogue with the women and to 'thank them' on Sankoh's behalf for their concern.  Turay described his discussion with the women as having been 'in good spirits' and 'totally peaceful', which led him to believe that the demonstration planned for Monday 8 May would assume the same character.690

1233. Certainly there were no incidents of violence during the visit of the women on 6 May 2000.  After the gates to the Spur Road Lodge were closed by its inhabitants, the possibility of confrontation was so conclusively averted that the women had to resort to reading their prepared statements to Foday Sankoh over a megaphone.691

1234. The women's statements focussed on the breakdown in the implementation of the military aspects of the Lomé Accord and the perceived violence of the hostage-taking episode.  They called for the immediate and unconditional restoration of a ceasefire by the RUF in the name of achieving a more durable, longer-lasting peace.692  It is unlikely that the statements were even heard by their intended recipients.693

1235. Madam Fatou Sankoh was not in Freetown on the weekend of 6 May 2000 but was keeping in touch with her husband Foday Sankoh by telephone from her permanent home in the United States.  According to Madam Sankoh, the women's protest was perceived in RUFP circles as a deliberate effort to 'shake the cage' of Sankoh and his entourage.  She cited the prominent role played in the protest by the SLPP Minister of Development Kadie Sesay as evidence that the Government used the women's demonstration to continue the gradual build-up of tensions around the RUFP presence in the city.694

Changes in the Character of State Security and the Mobilisation of a 'Peace Task Force' by Johnny Paul Koroma

Raid on an RUFP Member's Residence on 6 May 2000

1236. The first human rights violations that were discernibly targeted against a Freetown-based member of the RUFP took place in the evening of Saturday 6 May 2000.  These violations were levelled against the Deputy Minister for Labour, Industrial Relations and Social Security, Idrissa Hamid Kamara (alias "Leather Boot").  Leather Boot would later explain to the police how he came to learn of the disturbing incident at his official residence:

"On Saturday 6 May 2000 at about 6.30 pm... I got a call from my wife through my mobile telephone set that a group of armed personnel led by Brigadier Santigie Kanu (alias "Five Five") went to my room at Cape Sierra Hotel and had looted all my properties and also molested my wife and two children, aged three and 14 respectively.  She further went on to say that they were desperately looking for me; for what I don't know.  I straight away drove to Chairman Foday Sankoh's residence... [Sankoh] advised that I should stay within his premises because he does not know the intention of those looking out for me."695

1237. This attack has come to represent the onset of a pattern of violations and abuses that took place in Freetown over the ensuing days.  The perpetrators were identified as West Side Boys and other remnants of the AFRC regime.  They were led by Santigie Kanu (alias "Five Five"), who was known to be assigned to the Juba Hill Lodge of Johnny Paul Koroma as part of the burgeoning security detail there.  The Commission draws a direct link between 'Five Five' and Johnny Paul Koroma and holds the pair jointly responsible for the instigation of this particular raid.

1238. It is no coincidence that Leather Boot was singled out as the first target among the various RUFP office-holders scattered across Freetown.  As noted in the previous section, Leather Boot had been the official, albeit unrepresentative delegate of the AFRC to the Lomé Peace Talks.  He was jettisoned by the majority of his erstwhile colleagues in the AFRC on the basis that he had 'sold out' to the interests of the RUF.  Thus, 'Five Five' and his troop attacked with an intra-factional axe to grind, quite apart from any other instructions they may have received from Koroma.

1239. In the prevailing climate, the loyalties of the soldiers in the Sierra Leone Army were closely aligned to Koroma and the likes of 'Five Five', against the RUF.  Equally, the officers of the Sierra Leone Police, including those in the paramilitary Special Security Division (SSD) were generally hostile towards the RUF.  The crises that had ravaged the Army and the police were attributable to the RUF in the first place.  These elements of the state security apparatus would make life uncomfortable for the RUF if given any opportunity.

1240. Under the terms of the Peace Accord, Leather Boot ought to have been able to look to UNAMSIL as an intermediary in the event of an attack by a rival faction.  Yet on that front the actions of the RUF combatant cadre and the UN's decisive attribution of blame to Foday Sankoh had made for a very tense prima facie relationship.  The apparent 'house arrest' order and UNAMSIL's implication in other containment measures against the RUF presented further deterrents to the pursuit of that option.

1241. Hence, the last hope for Leather Boot was that Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge, the security of which was supposed to be a matter in the interests of all the parties to the Lomé Accord, would constitute a protective enclave.  Sankoh, as Chairman of the CMMRD, was the only RUFP office-holder who was afforded official armed security at his residence from UNAMSIL officers.696  This arrangement had not been altered despite the RUF's ongoing mistreatment of the peacekeepers.  Moreover, as leader of all wings of the RUF, Sankoh was the arbiter of what measures to take in the event that UNAMSIL's armed security could no longer be relied upon.

Johnny Paul Koroma's Call for a 'Peace Rally' on 7 May 2000

1242. The climate in Freetown became yet more heated on the morning of Sunday 7 May 2000.  Johnny Paul Koroma called together a rally of former warring factions in his capacity as the Chairman of the CCP.  The gathering was billed as a 'Peace Rally'.  It began with a radio announcement on the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS), in which Koroma instructed that all 'loyal' men who wished to declare themselves in favour of peace should assemble at a large Government office block in downtown Freetown.  The rally culminated in a series of public addresses to a crowd of several thousand in the National Stadium.

1243. The majority of those present at the so-called 'Peace Rally' were soldiers or ex-soldiers from Freetown: the same bulk of people who had remained loyal to Koroma since the days of the AFRC.  Up to a few hundred of them had by now assumed the identity of West Side Boys, affiliated to the band of armed renegades who occupied the base at Okra Hills.  Their 'strongmen' included the leaders of the 6 January 1999 invasion of Freetown, such as Alex Tamba Brima (alias "Gullit"), Ibrahim Kamara (alias 'Bazzy') and Santigie Kanu (alias "Five Five").  They were still malleable to Koroma's agenda and still motivated by notions of power largely centred on their recognition as professional soldiers.

1244. The 'Peace Rally' was not organised with the same degree of planning that is normally associated with an event of such a scale.  It was hastily convened and quite ramshackle.  An SLA soldier who answered Johnny Paul Koroma's call to the 'Peace Rally' described the scene that he encountered there as follows:

"On 7 May 2000 at about 9.30am over state radio, there was a broadcast made by Johnny Paul Koroma that all SLA, ex-SLA and combatants loyal to the Government should report immediately to the [site of Government offices known as the] Youyi Building.  I hurriedly went there and I met a large crowd of soldiers converged there waiting for Chairman Johnny Paul Koroma.

[...] Koroma came a bit later and asked all of us to move to the National Stadium so that he could talk to us there.  At the National Stadium, I stood at the Presidential Pavilion close to Chairman Koroma and his entourage."697

1245. A commander of the West Side Boys told the Commission that he had participated in the 'Peace Rally' having been informed of a threat posed by the RUF:

"Johnny Paul and the Chief of Defence Staff [Tom Carew] said that the RUF want to make a disturbance against the peace; they gave us the information in early May, before May 8th.  At that time I was planning to come and collect my salaries, so I just came into town and suddenly they explained these things to me that the RUF want to disturb the peace process.  I said: 'OK, don't worry about that'; and [suggested] we should try to get them under control.  I said to myself: 'one day if they try it, we were sure that if the CDS gave us support we could get them under control'.

[...] The Peace Rally was on that plan of securing the peace; it was not bad - everybody wanted peace.  The Kamajors were there too but they were just comfortable with us this time.  Even some RUF boys were at the Stadium; even if they were not for peace.  We were watching them closely; I had the confidence that we could put anything under control."698

1246. Johnny Paul Koroma was perhaps unique in his ability to engender a sense of common purpose among fighters who had previously lined up for opposing factions.  Hence he was able additionally to invite a small but significant amount of Kamajors and other CDF to his 'Peace Rally'.  The presence of the Kamajors came despite the numerical domination of SLA soldiers and SSD policemen, with whom the CDF had previously had relationships of animosity and rivalry.

1247. It is notable that the Kamajors who participated were members of CDF units with a well-established reputation for violence - among them was the 'hit squad' led by the former ULIMO fighter Morris Dolley (alias Opabenu).699  The central ground for their convergence with the soldiers under Johnny Paul Koroma was the idea of uniting against a common enemy in the shape of the RUF.

1248. The Commission holds some reservations as to whether the Peace Rally called by Johnny Paul Koroma was a gathering towards genuinely peaceful ends.  There was an ominous portent in the composition of the participants, namely warlords and thugs from different factions in the conflict, now united by their common antipathy to Sankoh and the RUF.  Some of those who attended the rally made it clear to the Commission that they were encouraged to take part in the event by their superiors and were told that they would be mobilised for an 'operation' on behalf of the Government.700

1249. It is no coincidence that the uncertain status of the Sierra Leone Army in the peace process was raised during the Peace Rally.  The greatest insecurities and grievances on the part of the soldiers revolved around their perceived marginalisation and lack of recognition in the peace process.701  In order for them to be mobilised behind the Government with any sense of conviction, it was necessary to instil in them a renewed sense of worth.  According to a soldier in attendance, parliamentarians and Johnny Paul Koroma made a concerted effort to win back the support of the SLA during the 'Peace Rally':

"[...] In that meeting, members of Parliament gave us a message from the President that the Army was not disbanded and that we will be reinstated.  Chairman Johnny Paul Koroma made a request that all of us should join forces with the Government to defend the country from any attack by the RUF rebels."702

1250. These addresses were doubly significant in that they sought to lend legitimacy to the actions of the assembled soldiers in the context of the ongoing security clampdown.  The soldiers were assured that they would be acting on behalf of the state, with the support of the Government, as they carried out further security measures against the RUF.

1251. The West Side Boys derived unprecedented endorsement from the Peace Rally.  Although some of them had been on the official military payroll and collecting salaries to take into the jungle for about six months by May 2000, they were never previously assured that the Government would reinstate them.  Thus they were emboldened by the message from the President and 'felt freer' with the Government behind them.703

1252. Members of the West Side Boys based outside of Freetown similarly received news of the Peace Rally as a positive sign that their faction was being supported to fight against the RUF.  One young recruit who had participated in the attack on Freetown later gave his perspective to the police:

"I was there [at our base] when Johnny Paul Koroma summoned a meeting of SLA personnel at Siaka Stevens' [National] Stadium.  At that meeting, we [the West Side Boys] were represented by our commanders, like Brigadier 'Bomblast' and Colonel 'Tiger', to name but a few.  After the meeting, we were told that we should now fight alongside with the Civil Defence Forces (CDF) as the RUF had an intention to attack Freetown.  The message was welcomed by us with good intentions now to defend our territory."704

1253. The 'Peace Rally' was used as a forum at which to brief the soldiers and their accomplices as to their proposed roles in bringing the RUF back into line after the eruption of the hostage-taking episode.  Johnny Paul Koroma was determined to take the credit as the undisputed driving force behind this initiative, as he would later explain in an interview with a television journalist:

"Foday Sankoh held the peacekeepers, UN Peacekeepers, and delegations came from all over the world to plead to him.  He was adamant.  We also talked to him.  But he didn't listen to anybody.

[...] So because I thought they [the RUF] wanted to do something that would jeopardise the whole peace process, I thought I should intervene.  And I intervened.  And I tried to stop that by mobilising all the forces, the CDF, the soldiers, the SSDs, the Civil Society group - mobilising all of them that if the RUF are not sincere for peace, we all have to stand very, very firm against them.  And that is exactly what happened."705

1254. In media interviews on the day of the rally, with emotions running high, Koroma was quite gung-ho about the self-styled heroism of his role.  Claiming in characteristically exaggerated fashion that he had roused a crowd of over 30, 000 people, Koroma gave the following assessment of the Peace Rally:

"We are taking a stand ready to defend the people.  We don't want to resort to violence because that cannot solve the problem.  We just have to find ways and means to defend the people and ourselves...  We are saying that we cannot sit by and see this country be torn apart.  I think we've had enough of this violence.  And I'm sure with this message today, they [the RUF] would think twice and then they
would try to comply."706

The Mobilisation of an Armed 'Peace Task Force' by Johnny Paul Koroma

1255. In the immediate wake of the Peace Rally, Johnny Paul Koroma called together another, smaller gathering that cast further doubt upon his conception and application of the word peace.  Koroma assembled a group comprising West Side Boys (former AFRC), SLA soldiers and SSD policemen to take action against RUF members over the following 24 hours.  He coined the name "Peace Task Force" for his group, which, as events unfolded over the course of 7 and 8 May 2000, proved to be something of a misnomer. The Commission notes that during this period people needed security and assurance that the war would not be re-started. In many people's minds, Johnny Paul Koroma's actions conveyed a sense of security to them.

1256. According to testimonies to the Commission, members of the 'Peace Task Force' were kitted out from military supplies.  One soldier explained in his statement to the police how Johnny Paul Koroma's speech was the stimulus for them to be equipped and deployed:

"Johnny Paul Koroma instructed all soldiers in the Sierra Leone Army to take up arms and defend our mother land as the RUF had planned to take over the city of Freetown.  He [Koroma] also warned that the AFRC should work together with Government troops to fight against the common enemy that is the RUF.

[...] As a result I was supplied with: one self-loading rifle (SLR); two magazines, each containing twenty live rounds of ammunition; and military fatigue attire for this operation."707

1257. A commander of the West Side Boys who was enlisted by Johnny Paul Koroma into the 'Peace Task Force' on 7 May 2000 told the Commission that he and his closest compatriots formed the core of this unit.  He was under the impression that the unit was primed by Koroma on the orders of the President; he also claimed that the Peace Task Force was being resourced directly by the Sierra Leone Army:

"We the West Side Boys were the leaders of the 'Peace Task Force' - just a few of us who our leader [Johnny Paul Koroma] knew he could rely on.  The President gave the orders to Johnny Paul and Johnny Paul gave the orders to us.  We were being supported by the military; anything we ask them [for], they give us."708

1258. The Commission viewed the establishment and proclaimed mission of the Peace Task Force with some circumspect.  Like the Peace Rally, there was very little about this task force that was peaceful.  It was a force of armed vigilantes tasked to raid, arrest and detain members of the RUFP.  It embarked on this task on Sunday 7 May 2000 before it had even properly been formed.

The arrest of Honourable Mike Lamin on Sunday 7 May 2000

1259. The first member of the RUFP to be detained in the turbulent events of May 2000 was the then Minister of Trade, Industry and State Enterprise, Mike Lamin.  Lamin had performed a variety of roles for the RUFP in the implementation of the Lomé Accord, including the monitoring and sensitisation of combatants in the Provinces.  He described the circumstances in which he was apprehended in the following terms:

"On Sunday 7 May 2000, I decided to meet the Chairman of the CCP, Johnny Paul Koroma, to express to him the degenerating situation between the RUF combatants and the UNAMSIL peace-keepers.  I also decided to suggest to him that he [should] provide people to be part of a delegation that was going to be sent by Foday Sankoh to visit Makeni in order to resolve the problem between RUF and UNAMSIL.

For that reason, I went to meet Johnny Paul at his office at Youyi Building, but I was told that he was at the National Stadium.  I went to the National Stadium to meet him.  Unfortunately, before I could reach him, I was grabbed by some ex-SLA combatants who manhandled me and stripped me of all my belongings.  Johnny Paul Koroma then intervened and took me to his residence, along with his securities and the majority of the ex-SLA combatants.  At his residence, some of the ex-SLA combatants demanded that I should be summarily executed."709

1260. Lamin's detention was reported to the inhabitants of Foday Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge by one of Lamin's security guards who had witnessed the incident at the National Stadium.  Several of those present at Sankoh's Lodge on the day recalled hearing the report and awaiting the response of Foday Sankoh as to what action ought to be taken.710  Akim Turay, Sankoh's Chief Security Officer, briefed Sankoh on the situation in the company of Lamin's wife, Manella.

1261. According to Akim Turay, the conversation about Lamin's detention was preceded by a number of unusual tensions in the relationship between him and Foday Sankoh.  These were based on Akim's feeling that Sankoh was concealing something from him.  Akim told the Commission that in spite of the tense relationship he was requested by Foday Sankoh to lead the effort to negotiate with Johnny Paul Koroma:

"Pa Sankoh had told me to settle this problem [with the UNAMSIL peacekeepers].  I went to UNAMSIL headquarters, discussed the issue and got some papers from [Deputy Force Commander] General Garba.  But for some reason I did not know, Pa Sankoh refused to let me go to Kono to mediate with the RUF boys; instead he sent Isaac Mongo and Lawrence Wormandia who travelled to Lunsar on 7 May 2000.

On the same day we heard news that Johnny Paul had called for all factions at the National Stadium.  I went straight to Pa Sankoh and demanded that he hide nothing from me because I did not know what was happening.  During that time there were rumours that the RUF wanted to attack Freetown again.  Sankoh told me to ask Gibril Massaquoi.  I refused, pointing out that he has made me his Chief Security Officer so he should talk to me directly.  I left angrily.

When I returned to the Lodge after I was calmed down, I heard that Mike Lamin had been arrested.  I went in and informed Pa Sankoh.  Pa Sankoh asked me to go to Johnny Paul and resolve the situation, because I am a solder and Johnny Paul will talk to me.  So I went."711

1262. At around noon on Sunday 7 May 2000, Akim Turay led a delegation of RUF security guards to the Government offices at the Youyi Building to determine the whereabouts of Mike Lamin and hear a justification for the arrest from Johnny Paul Koroma.  At least twenty-four (24) guards travelled in two Toyota Hillux vans to Koroma's offices at the Youyi Building.  According to members of the delegation, none of them was armed.712

1263. Upon arrival at the Youyi Building, the delegation came across a group of soldiers who had been participating in the earlier 'Peace Rally'.  This group included the former AFRC 'Honourable' Samuel Kargbo (alias 'Sammy'), who informed Akim and the others that Lamin had been taken to Johnny Paul Koroma's Juba Hill residence and was being held there 'for his own safety'.  Thus the full contingent of RUF security personnel, accompanied by 'Sammy', proceeded to Koroma's residence in the same two vehicles.  Their objective was to find out the reasons behind the detention of Mike Lamin and to secure his release.713

1264. It is worth pointing out that this was not the first occasion on which RUFP security guards had travelled to Johnny Paul Koroma's residence with the potential of 'squaring up' for a confrontation.  Earlier in the year 2000, Akim Turay had gone there in almost identical circumstances and become embroiled in a violent clash with his counterpart, Johnny Paul Koroma's Chief Security Officer Junior Johnson (alias 'Junior Lion').  On that occasion, Akim had been badly beaten up by several West Side Boys and sustained a deep cut in his head from being struck with an iron bar.714  The West Side Boys attached to Koroma's residence had been held responsible for that clash by ECOMOG Colonel Bohari Musa.715  It is fair to surmise that there was a lot of bad blood between the West Side Boys and the RUFP security personnel led by Akim Turay to Johnny Paul Koroma's residence on Sunday 7 May 2000; indeed, 'bad blood' may well be something of an understatement.

The Arrest of Foday Sankoh's Entire Personal Security Detail on Sunday 7 May 2000

1265. The face-to-face meeting between the respective security cadres of Johnny Paul Koroma and Foday Sankoh represented a convergence of two squads of men whose personal backgrounds and fighting histories were remarkably similar.  The inhabitants of Koroma's residence at the time included several of the coup-makers of 25 May 1997, who had subsequently become 'Honourables' in the AFRC regime.  Among the most prominent soldiers at the compound on 7 May 2000 were Ibrahim Kamara (alias 'Bazzy'), Santigie Kanu (alias "Five Five"), Hassan Bangura (alias 'Papa' or 'Bomblast'), George Adams, Ibrahim Kamara (alias 'Cobra'), Alex Tamba Brima (alias 'Gullit) and an SLA officer nicknamed 'Peggy'.  The RUF security guards were also all ex-SLA soldiers and had served alongside many of those they went to confront during the AFRC regime and later in the bush.

1266. Koroma's guards insisted that no more than five RUFP personnel should be allowed to enter Koroma's compound.  Those who entered comprised four of the most senior and respected of the ex-SLAs in the RUFP: Akim Turay, Soriba Mansaray, Alex George Williams and Ernest Ngegba; plus one bodyguard.  Only Akim and Soriba were permitted to go inside the house to speak with Koroma and Mike Lamin in person.716

1267. Whilst waiting in and around the compound, the other RUFP personnel claim to have been molested and provoked by Koroma's West Side Boys.717  One of the RUFP security guards testified that Santigie Kanu (alias "Five Five") made threats to kill several of the RUFP for their perceived defection to the side of Foday Sankoh:

"I was told by 'Five Five' that I had been a soldier and upon returning to Freetown I had been keeping too much of a low profile and not co-operating with them.  Therefore, he told me he was going to 'deal with me'.  I didn't put up any resistance because we were outnumbered and they had armed men on their side.  I was instructed to get on board one of the vehicles where some of my colleagues had already been loaded.  'Five Five' said I was going to suffer and out of it I would learn a lesson."718

1268. Another RUFP member described how the SLA soldiers drew parallels between this scenario and the previous occasion on which the West Side Boys had detained Mike Lamin in the post-Lomé phase:

"One SLA soldier by the name of 'Elonguma' came downstairs and used remarks that Mike Lamin will not persuade them this time because the last time he was arrested by them at Okra Hills and he was allowed to talk, he managed to secure his release.  So this time, no chance was going to be given to him to talk and he was going to be executed.  He further remarked that some of us that had come were spies and that all of us were going to be executed because we had betrayed their cause."719

1269. According to Akim Turay, Johnny Paul Koroma's disposition was welcoming enough to entertain a "lengthy discussion" with those who entered the house.  However, upon trying to depart, the RUFP members were prevented by Koroma:

"We talked in confidence and Johnny Paul assured me that Mike Lamin is inside in one of his rooms in his house.  So I went into the room to see Mike Lamin.  Mike told me he went to stadium and soldiers jumped on him and arrested him.  I told Johnny Paul I will not leave without Mike.  He agreed and pointed that he was only putting Mike under 'protective custody'.  [But] when I attempted to leave his house with Mike he stopped me and told us that they had to take us to Cockrill Barracks."720

1270. Indeed, as it transpired, neither Mike Lamin, Akim Turay nor any other member of the 24-man RUFP security detail was allowed to leave Johnny Paul Koroma's residence freely.  According to Soriba Mansaray, who was also inside Koroma's house, West Side Boys started a fight with the RUFP members waiting in the forecourt of the Lodge.721  In a sizeable scuffle, the RUFP members were beaten up, tied with rope to restrain them and robbed of a host of personal belongings.  The keys to the two Toyota vehicles they had arrived in were also taken from them.722

1271. Johnny Paul Koroma then called in a team of 'loyal officers' in the Military Police, who arrived in military land rovers and were led by a man named Emil Dumbuya (alias Sawimbi).723  Koroma ordered the arrest of Mike Lamin and all twenty-four (24) of the RUFP security men who had arrived at his lodge.  According to one of those arrested, Koroma made a point of emphasising to the group that he was taking this action with the authority of the President:

"Suddenly, three military land rovers came and surrounded us; they were full of armed Military Police.  Johnny Paul [Koroma] took out his mobile handset and called President Kabbah in our full view and hearing.  Johnny Paul said to the President: 'I have arrested the coup plotters!'

All of us were escorted to Cockerill where [Chief of Defence Staff] Tom Carew told us that we should be taken to the prisons for safe custody and that we would be released the following day...  Although no verdict has ever been passed against me, I am still in detention until the present day."724

1272. Mike Lamin and the twenty-four (24) RUFP security guards were held for just a few hours in the guardrooms at the RSLMF Headquarters, Cockrill Barracks.  According to one of the RUFP men, the only apparent discussion on their status was as to whether or not they should be allowed to be executed by the West Side Boys:

"There was no weapon in our possession but however the military personnel that came in were in possession of arms.  We were all arrested by them and brought to the Military Headquarters [at] Cockerill.  No reason was given to us for our arrest and while we were in custody at Cockerill, the former AFRC 'Honourable' [George] Adams arrived in and requested that we should be handed over to him for execution at Okra Hills.  His request was not granted."725

1273. The Commission is moved to express its deep concerns about the manner in which these arrests were carried out.  There is absolutely no evidence that the Constitution of Sierra Leone was adhered to in respect of the procedures that ought to be followed when depriving a person of his liberty;726 indeed, the arrests and subsequent detentions flouted several constitutional guarantees and represent grave breaches of the human rights of these men.

1274. In particular, Johnny Paul Koroma unilaterally ordered the arrests as if performing in the capacity of a military police commander.  In doing so he acted ultra vires, i.e. outside the powers accorded him as the Chairman of the CCP.  From the point of their arrests, these men were held in detention facilities administered by the state.  No justification for the arrests was given to any one of the men.727  The Commission holds these arrests and detentions at Koroma's behest to be illegal.

1275. Koroma himself attempted to distort the truth about the arrests.  In an interview with a television journalist in 2001 he falsified the reasons why the RUFP men had been at his house and again invoked the justification of his acting in the interests of the state:

"The worst of it was that [Sankoh] was planning to take over by force again.  We knew about that because some of his men were arrested living in my house - because they had wanted to study operations here."728

1276. Even at the time, Koroma was keen in his public statements to present himself as a champion of the peace.  When he explained his motives for carrying out the arrests on the BBC Africa Service the following morning, he laid emphasis on having foiled a 'coup' and passed the buck to President Kabbah to resolve the status of the detainees:

"These people had planned a coup for today (8 May 2000).  And there are some of my men who can testify to that, because they asked them to take part.  So instead of sitting down, we decided to foil that by making those arrests.  We did that with the consent of the President.  And I cannot sit by and see this place be torn apart.

[...] We just got the key players: soldiers who defected to the RUF.  We informed [President Kabbah] about it, and to get his blessing.  He told us to contact Defence Headquarters so that they can take appropriate action...  [Mike Lamin] is one of those held by the military police.  If [the President] thinks the situation is not what we explained to him, is not correct, then he can go ahead and release [Lamin]."729

1277. Unsurprisingly, Koroma's actions caused considerable consternation among the members of the RUFP who were gathered at Foday Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge.  Sankoh himself learnt of the arrests of his entire personal security detail in the form of hearsay.  Some of his commanders reported to him that they had seen George Adams and other members of the West Side Boys driving around the city in Sankoh's Toyota Hillux vans.730  These were of course the same vans that Sankoh had sent out with Akim Turay and the other security guards earlier that afternoon.  Sankoh was heard to proclaim a string of expletives when it dawned upon him what had happened.731

1278. Foday Sankoh subsequently telephoned Johnny Paul Koroma and enquired after the reasons for the arrests.  Koroma apparently rebuffed Sankoh with the refrain that he was acting with the consent of the President.732  According to one of Sankoh's close associates, Sankoh then decided to convey his grievance to President Kabbah himself:

"The leader [Foday Sankoh] told us he was going to inform the President about the ugly developments on his side.  Indeed, he telephoned the President and later informed us that the President had assured him of the release of Mike Lamin and others."733

Implications and Aftermath of the Arrests of RUFP members on 7 May 2000

1279. It is manifest that President Kabbah was the only person who had the power to order the release of the 25 men arrested and detained illegally on 7 May 2000.  The status of the detainees remained illegal from the point of their arrests until the following morning, 8 May 2000, since there was no evidence of an executive order that might have brought them within the criminal law of the country.  For that period, their fate lay de facto in the hands of Johnny Paul Koroma, for it was he who had ordered the arrests and he who had made it clear that he would not release them unless prevailed upon by the President.

1280. Nevertheless, the Commission is satisfied that the Government was aware of the presence of these men in its custody overnight from 7 May to 8 May 2000.  Upon being transferred to Freetown Central Prison on the evening of 7 May, the detainees were paid a visit by a Government Minister, Dr. Julius Spencer.734  In addition to the evidence of Sankoh's telephone call to the President, Spencer's visit attests to full knowledge of the number and identities of the men locked up on the part of the Government.  The detainees spent the night of 7 May 2000 in jail believing that they were certain to be released the following morning.

1281. Indeed, the nation awoke on 8 May 2000 to news of an official statement, broadcast on state radio, that the President had "ordered the immediate release of Mike Lamin and a few others."735  Coupled with the assurances made privately to Foday Sankoh over the telephone, this announcement encouraged confidence among RUFP members at Sankoh's Lodge that the President was going to reverse the actions taken by Johnny Paul Koroma the previous day.736

1282. However, the radio broadcast proved to be untrue.  The RUFP members' confidence proved to be misplaced.  In fact the opposite scenario transpired, whereby the detainees were separated from one another and incarcerated in high-security areas of the prison, as Mike Lamin explained in his later statement to the police:

"On 8 May 2000 at about 9.00 a.m. the Officer-in-Charge of Pademba Road [Prison], whose name I cannot remember, told me and the others in my category that our detention was 'purely for protective custody'.  For that reason, I was transferred from the Wilberforce Block to the Clarkson Block, where I was placed in one of the cells downstairs.  The others arrested with me were placed in different cells in the same Clarkson House.  There we remained..."737

1283. According to the Public Emergency Regulations 1998, the power to detain persons in 'safe custody' or 'protective custody' was vested in the President alone.738  Under those regulations, only an express 'Order' from the President could direct "that any person be detained or [should] continue to be detained" in order for that person to be "deemed to be in legal custody".739  In prison records, this mass arrest was registered as having been effected by the 'Military Police', while the categorisation was indeed that of 'safe custody',740 apparently under the Public Emergency Regulations 1998.

1284. The Commission has ascertained that at least nine of the men arrested on 7 May 2000 remain in detention at Pademba Road Prison to the present day.741  On the other hand, an unspecified number of them have been arbitrarily released, either as individuals or in groups.742  Mike Lamin was released on 5 September 2001, apparently after a consultative process that involved officials from the Human Rights Section of UNAMSIL.743  There appear to have been no justifications given for the distinctions made between the men detained and the men released, particularly not on grounds of law.744

1285. The Commission finds that the 25 men arrested on 7 May 2000 stand as living examples of the abuse of the justice system that persists in Sierra Leone.  Their continued detention beyond the morning of 8 May 2000 dealt a crushing blow to the causes of truth and reconciliation in Sierra Leone.  President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah made private and public assurances that they would be released on the morning of 8 May 2000.  Yet on that very morning they were transferred into maximum security detention at Pademba Road Prison under the category of 'Safe Custody', which the President alone had the power to authorise.  There has been no transparency whatsoever in the disposal of 'justice' against these men.

1286. In terms of their more immediate aftermath, the arrests of the twenty-four men (24) men who comprised Foday Sankoh's security detail were to have a profound impact on the denouement of the RUF.  The enforced removal of the official security contingent from Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge weakened the safety of that compound in every sense.  The detained men were replaced by members of the 'Black Guards', a group of RUF combatants who were not only more susceptible to danger from the outside, but who were themselves considerably more dangerous.

1287. First, the rounding up of all the RUFP guards with a background in the Sierra Leone Army meant Sankoh was deprived of his only real sources of discipline and professionalism.  The Black Guards were simply not conditioned to act with the same degree of restraint as the ex-SLA men.  They had been used to participating in guerrilla warfare, in which their deployment instructions were rarely more sophisticated than 'spare no living soul', 'hit and run' or 'shoot on sight'.  Almost all of their fighting had taken place in the jungle; few if any of them were familiar with the urban environment of Freetown.

1288. Moreover, by forcibly extricating the Chief Security Officer Akim Turay and other experienced members of the inner circle from Sankoh's Lodge, Johnny Paul Koroma had dented the co-ordination of Sankoh's security operations irreparably.  Akim was the only person truly familiar with the security 'network' for the Spur Road Lodge, including the manner and extent of interaction necessary between the RUFP guards and the members of the official UNAMSIL deployment.  The commander of the Black Guards, Jackson Swarray (alias 'Wray'), had no such grasp of the organisational side of the operation, or indeed any rational concept of 'security': he was essentially an unrefined thug.745

1289. In sum, the arrests severely depleted Sankoh's protective unit.  They left the security of Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge in an exposed and disarrayed state.  From the night of 7 May 2000, the task of affording personal protection to Sankoh transferred to the hands of undisciplined, unconventional RUF commando fighters.  They presented an incontrovertible public danger at the Spur Road Lodge.

The Night of Violent Activity between 7 May and 8 May 2000

1290. On the night between 7 May and 8 May 2000, a series of co-ordinated attacks in Freetown were carried out by the newly-assembled 'Peace Task Force', which consisted of Johnny Paul Koroma's men, the West Side Boys, supported by 'loyal' members of the Sierra Leone Army and the Special Security Division (SSD) of the police.  The attacks were spread out across all sectors of the city, concentrating on the residences of Cabinet and Deputy Ministerial office-holders, as well as those of RUF members living in 'communal' houses.

1291. The self-styled 'Peace Task Force' that perpetrated these attacks included notable hooligans such as Santigie Kanu (alias Brigadier 'Five Five'), Alex Tamba Brima (alias "Gullit"), Samuel Kargbo (alias 'Sammy'), Hassan Bangura (alias 'Papa' or 'Bomblast') and George Adams.  It was largely the same rabble of individuals who had attacked Freetown on 6 January 1999 and who patrolled Koroma's compound as his security guards during the post-Lomé implementation period.

1292. One member of the 'Peace Task Force' explained to the Commission that he and his compatriots were equipped with "plenty" of firearms and ammunition, which he believed had come directly from the armaments store of the Military Headquarters, Cockerill Barracks on the authority of the Chief of Defence Staff, Tom Carew.746

1293. The Peace Task Force was given a series of 'targets' by Johnny Paul Koroma.  These were locations, mostly houses, where they were told they would find RUF members residing or 'in hiding'.  The 'targets' of their operations were identical to the RUF 'bases' and 'hideouts' that had been identified to UNAMSIL officers during the 'guided tour' by RUF informant Sahr Sandy on 5 May 2000.747

1294. It was unclear exactly what instructions the members of the Peace Task Force were given with regard to the use of their weapons against the inhabitants of their targets.  However, the ultimate objective of their operations was described as being "to arrest everyone who was against the peace."748

1295. The Commission received testimony as to armed attacks by the Peace Task Force in Babadorie, Malama, New England and several other locations.  The West Side Boys and their accomplices committed a host of violations and abuses in these raids.  They systematically looted and vandalised the properties they attacked, and they arrested and detained a number of captives arbitrarily.  One of those whose home was set upon explained the circumstances to the Commission:

"They attacked me, my wife, children and other dependants in a Ministerial Guest House in New England...  They looted all my belongings, right down to the carpet.  My wife and children were arrested and taken to Pademba Road Prison; I escaped and went to Foday Sankoh's Lodge, where I met all the others who were chased out from their homes.  All of us thought Sankoh's residence would be a safe haven, bearing in mind his status as Vice President."749

1296. Following its close surveillance for most of the weekend, the RUFP residence at No. 12 Josiah Drive was central among the targets of the Peace Task Force on its night of violent activity.  The following account received by the Commission was typical of the experiences recounted by those who lived there:

"The night of 7 May 2000 was a sleepless night for us [the RUFP members] at No. 12 Josiah Drive, Malama.  We spent the whole night running away from the house because of the constant raids by unknown armed men.  Some people escaped and managed to reach to Pa Sankoh at Spur Road in order to explain the conditions to him.  He sent some of his security detail and UNAMSIL personnel to investigate and secure the place until day-break, but unfortunately they returned to Spur Road before dawn.

[...] First thing in the morning of 8 May 2000, No. 12 Josiah Drive was attacked again at around 7.00 o'clock.  I ran out of the house using the back door, but about ten metres away from the house I was arrested by armed and uniformed soldiers."750

1297. Another two residents of the same house at Josiah Drive described in their statements to the police how those who were unable to escape were forcibly rounded up and abused on the multiple occasions when the Peace Task Force raided the residence:

"At about 12.00 midnight I was at No. 12 Josiah Drive when Brigadier Bioh [Ibrahim 'Bioh' Sesay] and a group of soldiers on board two Toyota Hillux vans arrived [and] asked all the occupants to come out of the house with all our belongings.  These soldiers forcefully took some of our belongings and they left.  At about 1.30 a.m. some soldiers who were well-armed arrived and arrested me."751


"At 2.00 a.m. on Monday 8 May 2000 I was at home when a group of SLA soldiers attacked our No. 12 Josiah Drive residence with heavy firing.  I was arrested together with the Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications, called Susan [Lahai], as well as three RUF ex-combatants.  The SLA brothers who arrested us were headed by one 'Gullit'; we [the ex-combatants] were taken to Cockerill Military Headquarters and later to the Central Prison, where we were detained."752

1298. Among the most appalling multiple violations committed by the Peace Task Force during its rampage through Freetown was the fate it inflicted upon the Deputy Minister for Transport and Communications, Susan Lahai.  According to one of her close associates, Lahai was not transported to Cockrill Barracks with the other RUFP captives; instead she was singled out, "arrested and taken to an unknown location."753  Indeed, Susan Lahai's name was not to appear on any of the records of those formally taken into state custody in the month of May 2000.754

1299. Susan Lahai's captors were led by Alex Tamba Brima (alias Gullit);755 they included Samuel Kargbo (alias 'Sammy'), Hassan Bangura (alias 'Papa' or 'Bomblast'), George Adams, Ibrahim Kamara (alias 'Cobra'), Ibrahim 'Bioh' Sesay, Ibrahim 'Bazzy' Kamara and the military police officer Emil Dumbuya (alias 'Sawimbi').  This list certainly does not reflect all those involved because, as one of the Peace Task Force commanders testified: "there were plenty of us making that arrest."756

1300. Susan Lahai was killed in the early hours of Monday 8 May 2000 by the West Side Boys.757  The full extent of the horror suffered by Susan Lahai was never properly disclosed to the Commission.  It was confirmed that acts of violent sexual abuse were carried out against her, 'probably' by each of the above-named men and their accomplices.758  It was also confirmed that the media, apparently based on information from official sources, gravely misreported the incident and gave the impression that Lahai had been "among those arrested and subsequently freed."759  Based upon an account from a source that is universally relied upon by members of the RUFP, it was claimed to the Commission that Susan Lahai was "gang-raped to death and her body found in a gutter."760  This allegation was not denied when it was put to one of the West Side Boys.761

1301. The Commission holds the West Side Boys and Johnny Paul Koroma responsible for the violent sexual abuse and murder of the RUFP Deputy Minister for Transport and Communications, Susan Lahai.  The Government's failure to account for the sudden disappearance of one of its key office-holders is a shameful act of neglect that can not be tolerated in a democratic society.  The moral responsibility for the tragic and silent death of Susan Lahai is shared by all parties in Government.

1302. Furthermore, the Commission condemns the executive decision to accommodate the West Side Boys as law enforcement agents.  Many of those arrested and detained by the West Side Boys were subsequently kept in prison in the custody of the state under the 'Safe Custody' or 'Protective Custody' category created by the Public Emergency Regulations of 1998.  As noted above, the President alone was statutorily permitted to authorise the detention of any person under this category.762

1303. Thus, for every person arrested by the Peace Task Force who was subsequently detained in the so-called 'safe custody' category, the Government lent further credibility to the self-proclaimed 'heroic' actions of the West Side Boys, which they claimed were carried out in the name of the state.  The Commission finds that the effective creation of a new unit of paramilitary police was a wanton subversion of the rule of law.  Indeed it allowed this band of brutal warlords to take the law into their own hands.

1304. The pattern of attacks on 7 May 2000 testifies to a systematic and co-ordinated campaign of violations against the office-holders of the RUFP.  It was a campaign that led to acute suffering by both RUFP members and various civilians, who had no connection to the RUFP but were unfortunate to be caught up in the operation.763  The campaign caused an unspecified number of deaths and disappearances; large-scale looting and destruction of property; blanket and arbitrary arrests and detentions; and a sudden, forced convergence upon Foday Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge by all of those who managed to escape the mayhem.

1305. In the words of Idriss Hamid Kamara (alias "Leather Boot"), the RUFP Deputy Minister of the power-sharing Government whose home had been raided the previous evening, the implications of these attacks were as follows:

"On 7 May 2000, all RUF Ministers in Government and senior commanders of RUF attached to the various Commissions residing in Freetown had their houses ransacked and their families molested by Johnny Paul Koroma's men.  Based on this development, all of them deserted their houses and went to Foday Sankoh's residence for safety.  Towards the evening of that same day, the house of Chairman Sankoh was 'jam packed'."764

1306. The actitivities of the Peace Task Force would continue in essentially the same vein for the next 24 hours into 8 May 2000.  They succeeded in completely transforming the character of state security in Freetown and in heightening tensions in the city to a level that was closer than ever to breaking point.

1307. Throughout these operations Johnny Paul Koroma was kept abreast of the situation through phone calls and situation reports from members of his mission squads.765  At no point did Koroma or any other party intervene to stop the descent of the city into chaos.  Indeed Koroma maintained his position that he was acting "with the consent of the President"766 and nobody so much as challenged him.

1308. The Commission finds that the West Side Boys acted upon the instructions of Johnny Paul Koroma in their engagement as part of the 'Peace Task Force' between 6 and 8 May 2000.  They carried out Koroma's instructions as to the targets and mode of their operations.  Koroma in turn derived authority to command these operations directly from the President.  It was thus that the West Side Boys became part of the state security apparatus for the particular period in question.  Their participation signalled a complete turnaround in the alignment of their faction, which further vindicated the Commission's impression of the essentially chameleonic character of many combatants who fought in the Sierra Leone conflict.767

A Last-Ditch Attempt by the RUFP to Avert the Demonstration of 8 May 2000

1309. A four-man delegation of RUFP office-holders paid a personal visit to the then Vice President, Albert Joe Demby, on the evening of 7 May 2000.  The delegation was led by the Minister of Lands, Peter Vandy, who carried an influential personal sway over Demby on account of his being married to Demby's daughter.768  The other delegates were Sheku Andrew Coomber, RUFP Representative on the Joint Monitoring Commission, Vandy Kosia, RUFP Representative for Moyamba District on the Ceasefire Monitoring Committee, and one Corporal Bayoh of the Sierra Leone Army.

1310. The stated intention of the party was to petition Demby to call a halt to the proposed demonstration scheduled for the following day.  However, as Coomber explained to the Commission, the Vice President instead painted a bleak picture for the RUFP of the prevailing circumstances as they pertained to state security:

"The Vice President told us that it was too late.  He said that he had on his own accord ordered the two helicopter gunships to go to the RUF zones and bomb all physical evidence of people, houses and vehicles [and indeed] that from Rokupr, Kambia, Makeni, Kailahun, Pendembu and Tongo Field there were already some reports of satisfactory air bombings being carried out.

[...] He told us that arrangements have been made so that no assault, abuse or trespass would be encouraged from anybody on the day of the demonstration.  Government had instructed the Inspector-General of Police to detail the anti-riot police to move with the crowd so that they could not enter anybody's premises, nor attack anybody physically.

[...] When we informed the Vice President that Johnny Paul Koroma and the AFRC men had already begun arresting and embarrassing RUFP members and sympathisers... he assured us that [the detained RUFP personnel] would be released without delay.  But even though the President ordered their release, no heed was taken of his words."769

1311. The visit of this RUFP delegation to the Vice President was a last-ditch attempt to avert the demonstration for the following day in what appeared to be a climate of rising hostilities.  The attempt failed.  Thus the stage was set for a tumult to occur in Freetown on Monday 8 May 2000.


Agreement to mobilise the CDF in the Pre-dawn Morning Hours of 8 May 2000

1312. The first genuine involvement of the institutional hierarchy of the Civil Defence Forces (CDF) in the intensified state security operations of May 2000 arrived in the pre-dawn morning hours of 8 May 2000.  The President of Sierra Leone, Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, later acknowledged the importance of the CDF's deployment in his testimony to the Commission:

"The CDF continued to play significant roles in providing the necessary leverage at critical stages for Government to tilt the scale to its favour - [primarily] against the RUF...  For this reason the CDF became a household name as people embraced it as the viable option.

[...] They [the CDF] provided the leverage when the RUF misbehaved again and again - notably during the May 8, 2000 problem; they helped to send a clear message to all renegades that the people meant to realise the peace promised by my Presidency sooner rather than later, by the end of 2000."770

1313. The Secretary-General of the international support network SLAM-CDF, Reverend Alfred M. SamForay, was by this time one of the closest confidants of the National Co-ordinator of the CDF, Chief Samuel Hinga Norman.  SamForay spent three months in Freetown as a guest of Chief Hinga Norman, ending on Friday 5 May 2000.  Upon returning to his home in the United States, SamForay was told by Chief Hinga Norman that, in the light of "rumours of a rebel advance on Freetown" and the impending march by civilian demonstrators on the residence of Foday Sankoh, Hinga Norman would be "keeping to himself."771  Nevertheless, SamForay was given a telephone number where Hinga Norman could be reached "in case of emergency."

1314. Hinga Norman had not provided his emergency contact details to the President, the Vice President or the Chairman of the National Co-ordination Committee of the CDF, Richard E. S. Lagawo.  Thus SamForay was put in the familiar position of having to link the Deputy Minister of Defence with other members of the Government by means of an international conference call.  Apparently the President was woken from his sleep at approximately 4.00a.m. in order to make an input to this conference call.  SamForay testified in detail as to the contents of the lengthy negotiations between Chief Hinga Norman and Chairman Lagawo, in which SamForay personally participated for SLAM-CDF:

"I was made to understand that Hinga Norman was upset with Kabbah because the President [had] refused to arm the CDF to protect the city in the event the RUF invaded or if there was any violence at Foday Sankoh's home.  Lagawo pleaded with Hinga Norman to deploy the CDF.  Hinga Norman insisted on guarantees that the men would be provided with the necessary logistics before he could send them on a suicide mission.  Lagawo indicated that it was late at night by then and that both President Kabbah and the Vice President were already in bed.

[...] We stayed on the phone from about 12.00 midnight to about 4.00 am Sierra Leone time in order to resolve this issue.  Hinga Norman refused to relent unless Lagawo would get Kabbah to authorise the release of arms.  Finally Lagawo told us to break off for about an hour so [that] he could try and reach the President.

[...] At about 4.00 am, we resumed the negotiations and Lagawo informed Hinga Norman that President Kabbah had agreed to release whatever Hinga Norman needed to defend the city.  Hinga Norman was to report to the President early in the morning of 8 May 2000 to finalise everything."772

1315. The President authorised Chief Samuel Hinga Norman to undertake a large-scale mobilisation of members of the Civil Defence Forces in Freetown on the morning of 8 May 2000.  The scale of the CDF deployment during that day, numbering "several hundred armed Kamajors,"773 indicated that the President approved the provision of weapons and ammunition sufficient to fulfil Hinga Norman's operational requirements.  Kamajors were thus deployed as a supplement to existing arms of the state security apparatus.

1316. Reverend SamForay testified that in his view, the deployment of large numbers of CDF across Freetown was a sterling vindication of the leadership of Chief Hinga Norman:

"[...] The CDF units that participated in the 8 May 2000 incident included units of the Western Area CDF ('Ojeje') and the Organised Body of Hunting Societies (OBHS) as well as Kamajors from Brookfields Hotel and the thirty or so Kamajors who stayed with us at Hinga Norman's Spur Road residence.

[...] As I later learned, Hinga Norman, in spite of his hard bargaining the night before, had actually mobilised the CDF throughout the city.  The CDF went into action on 8 May preventing general breakdown of security in the city.  The feedback we received from Lagawo and Hinga Norman was that the operation was a success...  Once again, Mr. Kabbah's mistrust of Chief Hinga Norman almost plunged the city and the country into chaos and destruction."774

1317. The agreement to deploy the CDF in operations on 8 May 2000 further multiplied the amount of lethal weapons in the hands of various fighting factions on the streets of Freetown.  Armed CDF lined up alongside armed West Side Boys, armed soldiers of the regular Sierra Leone Army and armed policemen of the SSD.  All of these groups were primed to participate in operations against the RUF on the orders of their respective commanders.  The civilian demonstration was therefore destined to be overshadowed by the spectre of violence.

Preparations for the Demonstration among the inhabitants of Foday Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge

1318. On the morning of 8 May 2000 there was undoubtedly considerable panic among the inhabitants of Foday Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge.  The population of the Lodge had swelled to more than double its normal size due to the influx of displaced RUF combatants, RUFP members and their families, and various other residents of the locations that had been stormed by the Peace Task Force in the course of the previous night.  The RUFP Secretary-General, the late Solomon Y. B. Rogers, estimated that there were over one hundred and fifty (150) RUF and RUFP personnel at the Lodge that morning.775

1319. With the exception of a few individuals who had slipped the net of the Peace Task Force and managed to escape to private hiding places in the city, almost the entire Freetown-based membership of the RUF and RUFP was packed into two locations: the Spur Road Lodge and the Pademba Road Prison.

1320. In their accounts given to the Commission and to the Sierra Leone Police, the inhabitants of the Lodge cast differing portrayals and perspectives of the actitivities that took place there on the morning of 8 May 2000.  One feature common to all the testimonies was the air of expectancy that had grown in anticipation of the mass demonstration.

1321. In most versions of events, the expectancy was laced with fear, particularly among the sizeable contingent of women and children at the Lodge.  Foday Sankoh had a large extended family living with him, including sons, daughters, nephews, nieces and even grandchildren.  One young member of Foday Sankoh's family, who was barely a teenager at the time, told the Commission how he had approached Sankoh the previous evening and suggested that the children should find a way out of the Lodge:

"The fear was hot for everybody in the house.  More of the RUF [members] from the other points in town kept coming and asking Dad [Foday Sankoh] to let them stay with him.  They were full of fear but Dad was just sitting them down, ask them: 'have you eaten?'; give them food.  I wanted to get out, [so] I went and spoke to him: 'Dad, I want to leave the house with the other children'; but he would not let me go, because he said he was responsible for us and he would protect us.  That Sunday, throughout the night we could not sleep."776

1322. According to an RUFP member who had also expressed concerns about safety at the Lodge, Sankoh was still keen to present himself as a guardian and protector the following morning.  Sankoh apparently tried to allay some of the fears of those around him by declaring that the demonstration would be a joyous occasion to share with the demonstrators:

"Foday Sankoh said he was very happy that morning because he was seeing it as an opportunity for him to explain himself to the people and prove that he was not the obstacle to peace as most people thought.  He slaughtered two cows to be cooked, bought enough drinks and many other food items.

[...] Sankoh spoke to us all to encourage us: 'I am glad my people are coming to meet me today; let them come.  I will make it clear that I am not the 'stumbling block'...  When they come we will all eat, drink and talk like family members.  Even though it is politics, we are all Sierra Leoneans; the same people.  So let them come!'  Some of us were just hoping that the scene would not turn ugly."777

1323. There was nevertheless clear evidence that the combatants at the Lodge, especially the Black Guards, were developing a siege mentality: they were preparing to defend the Lodge against an armed attack.  According to one of the former RUF commanders who were in the Lodge on 8 May, Foday Sankoh received 'intelligence' that the attackers who had raided the other RUFP residences in the city had "decided to make Sankoh's house the last target on their 'hit list'."778

1324. Foday Sankoh is said to have responded to these 'intelligence' reports by ordering the distribution of weapons among some of the combatants and commanders at his Lodge.  While it is indisputable that these weapons were indeed handed out on Sankoh's authority, the timing and the means of distribution are somewhat unclear.  One of the senior commanders present at the Lodge on the day testified to the Commission that Gibril Massaquoi was responsible for arming the RUF men:

"Foday Sankoh had arms and ammunitions in his Spur Road Lodge to the full knowledge of the Sierra Leone Government; they were always there for security reasons.  Some of us never asked where the arms were being taken from, but they were under the control of Gibril Massaquoi.  I think Gibril was distributing the arms to the RUF bodyguards, like the Black Guards, for whenever there was a threat to the security of the Lodge.  I saw Gibril passing arms to some of the boys on the morning of May 8th."779

1325. Alternative accounts suggested that Mohamed Sandi (alias 'I-Tay') was the person responsible for distributing arms among the men.  'I-Tay' was a senior Black Guard commander, believed to be the effective second-in-command to Jackson Swarray (alias 'CO Wray') and the so-called 'storekeeper' of the arms stockpile.780  In a statement to the police, a 12-year-old child combatant gave his perceived version of events as follows:

"On that day, 8 May 2000, in the morning hours, Foday Sankoh called together [a host of senior commanders and bodyguards] in a room and told them that he had learnt that some SLA soldiers were intending to come and attack his residence that day.  He further said that he was going to arm them and that they should retaliate in the event that he [Sankoh] was attacked...  At that point Captain 'I-Tay' took up a list of names and started calling them... to arm them with RPG, or AK-47 and AK-58 rifles.  After these people have been armed, they were deployed in different areas around the compound."781

1326. The third perspective recorded was that Foday Sankoh himself supplied the guns to his men after delivering instructions to them as to them as to how they should deal with the demonstration.  George Baba Musa, who was working as a caretaker at a construction site near to Foday Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge, gave the following statement to the police:

"Early in the morning of 8 May 2000 I was in my compound when I heard Chairman Foday Sankoh addressing the UNAMSIL security and his rebel bodyguards.  He was talking in a loud voice to his men and I went closer in order to listen to what he was saying.

[...] From the point I was standing, I heard Foday Sankoh telling his men that he was expecting a large crowd of demonstrators who were to be led by a so-called civil society group to demonstrate against him.  He then gave orders in no uncertain terms that none of the demonstrators were to be allowed into his premises and not even beyond the UNAMSIL checkpoint.

[...] A few minutes later in my full view, I saw Chairman Sankoh enter his house and come out with brand new guns, which he supplied to all his men with the instruction that they should be on the alert.  At the time he was doing so, the UNAMSIL security personnel were standing close by and they saw what was happening.

[...] A few minutes later, about twenty (20) well-armed RUF men came out of the compound and took positions around the building...  Looking at them, they appeared very desperate and determined."782

1327. The Commission finds that Foday Sankoh authorised up to 30 RUF combatants in the compound of his Spur Road Lodge to bear arms on 8 May 2000.  The most prominent among all those with arms were Gibril Massaquoi, Dennis Mingo (alias "Superman") , Jackson Swarray (alias 'CO Wray') and Mohamed Sandi (alias Captain 'I-Tay').  They were deployed around various positions in the compound.  While most accounts suggest that the bulk of the men were armed on the morning of the demonstration, the most senior commanders, including the above-named men, had their firearms with them from the evening of 7 May 2000, right through until the following morning's activities.783

1328. Some RUF combatants staying at the No. 12 Josiah Drive residence were also equipped with arms on the morning of 8 May 2000.  As recounted above, the residence came under attack on multiple occasions during the preceding night, when its residents were not armed.  Many of its inhabitants fled or were arrested by the 'Peace Task Force' before dawn.  A child combatant who was among those left in the house told the police the following information:

"On 8 May 2000 in the morning hours, I was at home [at 12 Josiah Drive, Lumley] when Dennis Mingo (alias "Superman") arrived aboard a Landcruiser vehicle and carried five AK-47 rifles.  Superman handed over the rifles to [five of us] and then told all of us in the house to be on standby as there is going to be a fight soon in the city.  He further told us that if anybody should shoot against us, we should do the same."784

Mobilisation of the Kamajors from the Upper Hillside of Spur Road

1329. It should be recalled that the route prescribed for the demonstration was purposefully chosen by the 'Security Group' of its organising committee in order to avoid traversing the upper hillside of Spur Road.  The reason tendered for steering clear of this area was that it housed a number of important state functionaries, whose business was not to be disrupted by the demonstration.  The residents of the upper part of Spur Road included the Vice President, Dr. Albert Joe Demby, and the Deputy Minister of Defence, Chief Samuel Hinga Norman.

1330. As the day of the demonstration arrived, however, residents of Wilberforce Village, located just up the hill from Spur Road, began to detect that the 'business' being conducted by state functionaries in that vicinity was something out of the ordinary.  The upper part of Spur Road was being used as an assembly point for scores of Kamajors.  From the compound of Chief Hinga Norman and from the house that was formerly inhabited by the ECOMOG General and erstwhile Chief of Defence Staff Maxwell Khobe, Kamajors were being despatched in the direction of Foday Sankoh's Lodge.

1331. These Kamajors began assuming their formations early in the morning.  According to testimonies gathered from civilian residents in the Wilberforce area, Kamajors from Hinga Norman's compound started firing gunshots randomly in the direction of passing vehicles at approximately 8.30am.785  Some residents of the area attempted to move down the hillside to the access road leading to Foday Sankoh's Lodge, past the site of the British High Commissioner's residence.  As they approached the access road in question, they were frightened off by gunshots from the Kamajors and had to return back to Wilberforce Village.786

1332. Nonetheless, shortly afterwards they tried again.  According to one resident, "almost the whole population of Wilberforce started making its way to the Sankoh compound" in order to assert their right to participate in the demonstration; many of them were chanting "they are coming, they are coming" as they neared the point where the Kamajors were deployed.  The Kamajors had to hold fire in the face of the large swell of civilians coming down from the upper hillside of Spur Road.  Statements from members of the civilian crowd expressed concern as to the sight that greeted them when they saw the Kamajors:

"The Kamajors were holding all sorts of 'military hardwares' - they had tied their heads with leaves and they had weapons with them like cutlasses, automatic weapons and RPGs."
"The Kamajors were coming down the hill like bees; [they were] coming through the bushy area at the back of the [Sankoh] compound, waving leaves and shouting 'heh-heh-heh'.  Their presence was too heavy."787

1333. Members of the crowd from Wilberforce Village also laid eyes on an array of parliamentarians, including some Government Ministers, gathered alongside other dignitaries outside the gates of the compound of General Khobe.  One young man expressed to the Commission his disillusionment at the roles he witnessed certain Members of Parliament and the Government performing at the scene:

"Abdul Karim Koroma [a politician from Tonkolili District] was there; Okere Adams [SLPP Minister of Agriculture] was there; Shirley Gbujama [SLPP Minister of Social Welfare] was there - some of these people were standing there at Khobe's compound...  They were really inciting the [Kamajors] boys who were coming, pushing them forward, making their hands in a sweeping gesture like this [makes motion with his hands as if urging cattle into a pen].

[...] That's how I got the experience that this was really well-planned and orchestrated by some Government officers.  The Government know how they planned that so-called demonstration and yet they tell the world that this was all an action by Sankoh's people to kill civilian people.  It's rather unfortunate."788

The Mass Public Demonstration of 8 May 2000

1334. The demonstration organised jointly by parliamentarians and the Civil Society Movement brought the entire city centre of Freetown to a standstill on 8 May 2000.

1335. Communal taxis and other public transportation vehicles had been briefed by the various drivers' unions that they should carry passengers only to the main congregation points for the march.  Many Freetonians made the spontaneous decision to join the march as it moved through their neighbourhoods.  As noted above, the Information and Sensitisation Group had succeeded in mobilising the masses from among all sectors of the population.  The consequence was that a "mammoth crowd, over a hundred thousand people and more"789 paraded on the route from Victoria Park to Foday Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge.

1336. According to one of those who participated in the demonstrations, many of the protestors carried placards with inscriptions directed at Foday Sankoh, such as 'No Violence Sankoh', 'Enough is Enough' and 'Sankoh: Our People are Dying'.790  Thousands of t-shirts were made purposely for the event and were handed out to representatives of the various groups involved as well as to members of the public.

1337. In most of the testimonies from demonstrators, two common characteristics were emphasised: the participation of people from all walks of life; and the predominantly pacific nature of the marchers.  One of the main organisers of the demonstration described it as follows:

"Nearly all civil society groups including trade unions, professional and academic organisations, youth and women's groups, farmers; associations and NGOs joined the march.  Even members of the general public associated themselves with the cause.  It was a non-violent, peaceful march; in fact, nobody sustained any injury or molestation along the route of the march...  Because there were thousands and thousands of people, the whole of Spur Road and [the adjoining] Lumley roundabout was jam-packed."791

1338. A small segment of the demonstrators, mostly young men, joined in the march out of a somewhat over-zealous 'mob mentality'.  One young man told the Commission that he "had nothing personal against Foday Sankoh", but that he was "interested" to see how the "anger" would be resolved upon arrival at Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge:

"There was a vengeful taste in town at that time; some people really wanted Sankoh's blood.792

1339. The main body of the march was led by Hassan Barrie (Chairman, CSM) and the late Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr. Bangura on behalf of their respective groups.  Behind them were the majority of the peaceful protesters, including the civil society groupings and associations.  However, this contingent, which can legitimately be seen as the 'official demonstration', was by no means the first band of demonstrators to reach the Spur Road Lodge.

1340. By the time the leaders of the 'official demonstration' arrived on Spur Road at approximately 1.00 p.m., there had been considerable activity and considerable commotion ahead of them for up to three hours hence.793

Commotion at the Spur Road Lodge and Foday Sankoh's Communications

1341. At approximately 9.00 a.m. on 8 May 2000 Foday Sankoh declared to a small group of his senior commanders his conviction that the Lodge was set to be attacked that day "by Government troops and Johnny Paul's men."794  The RUF leader's proposed course of action was to attempt to secure the release of his security guards in the prison, as the President had promised to him the previous evening and as had been announced on state radio that morning.

1342. The Nigerian Captain in charge of the UNAMSIL deployment at Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge described Sankoh's erratic behaviour as follows:

"On Monday 8 May 2000 at about 7.00 a.m. when I went to greet Chairman Foday Sankoh, he accused me of refusing to deploy soldiers at his warehouse at Babadorie...  Not long after that we heard sporadic gunshots coming from that direction.

[...] Chairman Sankoh who was dressed in sleeping gown and pants, holding a pistol, entered a vehicle together with some of his fighters who were armed, with the intention of proceeding to town to release some of the boys held by the state security on 7 May 2000; but [he] was stopped by Dennis Mingo (alias "Superman") , who insisted that they should all remain in the house and die there.  The Chairman agreed and entered his house, straight to his office."795

1343. The UNAMSIL deployment at Sankoh's Lodge was normally fixed at approximately twenty (20) armed personnel, but for the day of the demonstration it was due to be bolstered by an additional ten (10) men at the request of the Nigerian Captain in charge.796  The Captain explained in his situation report that he had received the 10-man 'Rapid Deployment Force' at approximately 10.00 a.m.  He used them to supplement his normal deployment, which was positioned "around the house, with emphasis on the main road leading to the house."797

1344. UNAMSIL's overall security commander arrived at Sankoh's Lodge along with the Rapid Deployment Force.  He described the welcome he received:

"I saw Foday Sankoh, who was dressed in pyjamas.  He called my attention, saying: 'Can you see what is happening?'  [He was] referring to the large crowd that was coming up the road...  I noticed that the demonstrators had moved towards the barricade leading to the house, shouting: 'We want peace!  We want peace!'  I was standing by the barricade when the group became violent and started throwing stones at me and my other officers.

[...] Among the crowd there were some soldiers armed with guns in full military uniform."798

1345. According to testimonies from those inside the Lodge, Foday Sankoh at this point engaged in a series of telephone calls with the three key faction leaders whose troops were deployed around the Spur Road Lodge on 8 May 2000.  The three men with whom Sankoh spoke were: General V. K. Jetley, the UNAMSIL Force Commander; Johnny Paul Koroma, Chairman of the CCP and commander of the self-styled Peace Task Force; and the President of Sierra Leone, Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.

1346. For every call he made, Sankoh turned on the 'speakerphone' function on the telephone in his parlour, which enabled his closest associates799 and some family members800 who were in the room to hear the full content of the conversations.

1347. According to those present in the room, Foday Sankoh first called General Jetley.801  Sankoh sought to ascertain what kind of security assessment had been rendered by UNAMSIL in the light of the sporadic gunfire and sightings of armed military men among the demonstrators, both of which were reported by UNAMSIL officers at the scene.802  General Jetley told Sankoh that he (Jetley) had spoken with Johnny Paul Koroma earlier that morning and asked Koroma who had ordered him to deploy his West Side Boys to Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge.  Jetley was then heard to tell Sankoh that Koroma, consistent with his news interviews, had advised Jetley that the orders for deployment came from President Kabbah.

1348. Foday Sankoh then called Johnny Paul Koroma.803  Koroma told Sankoh that he was indeed acting on the orders of the President.

1349. In perhaps the most important telephone conversation, Foday Sankoh called President Kabbah.  Like the others, this conversation was broadcast to a roomful of people by the 'speakerphone' function on the telephone at Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge.  Foday Sankoh's Special Assistant, Gibril Massaquoi, testified to the Commission that he heard President Kabbah denying any part in the attack in the course of this conversation:

"There was a phone call [on the morning of 8 May].  I was present.  It was a phone call with Kabbah.  At that time he was leaving.  He was leaving for Conakry; he told Sankoh.  The speaker phone [function] on the telephone was on; the receiver was lying [off the hook].  He [the President] told Sankoh that he was going to Conakry.

[...] Sankoh asked the President whether he had sent people to attack him.  But he [the President] denied it and said that he was even trying to quell down the situation.  I heard that dialogue between the two of them; I had been representing Foday Sankoh at meetings with President Kabbah."804

1350. Foday Sankoh again called General Jetley.  In the light of the conflicting versions of events from Koroma and President Kabbah, Sankoh asked Jetley what action he was going to take.  According to one of those who heard the response, General Jetley said:

"I've advised President Kabbah that he should put a stop to it; and [he knows] that if anything goes wrong it will be his responsibility."805

1351. Finally Foday Sankoh tried again to contact both Johnny Paul Koroma and President Kabbah.  Sankoh was unable to reach either Koroma or the President again, despite several attempts.806

1352. Foday Sankoh received an incoming call from his wife, Madam Fatou Sankoh, who was in the United States.  According to Madam Sankoh, her call was made at the equivalent of 10.00 a.m. GMT (Sierra Leone time).  Her call coincided with the eruption of real commotion at the Lodge and the severance of Foday's Sankoh's telephone lines:

"I called to Papay [Foday Sankoh] at the Lodge at 5.00 a.m. by New York time.  When Papay came on the phone, he was totally confused... [He said:] 'These people are demonstrating'.  I asked him how many people were demonstrating and he just said: 'I don't know, I'm inside; but they have already looted the other house [at Spur Loop]'.

[...] While we were talking, I heard the children screaming in the background.  He [Foday Sankoh] called out in Krio 'I don't like it, I don't like it'; and then he came back to me and said: 'My sister, let me call you back.'  After ten minutes he still had not called me, so I picked up the phone and called his house - the line was dead."807

1353. Madam Sankoh testified that she also rang the house at Spur Loop that her husband had claimed was being looted:

"I called my own room in my own house [at Spur Loop] - where the door is so difficult to open and the only key was with Papay.  Somebody picked up the phone and said: 'wrong number'.  I checked my telephone records; I found that it was the right number and I dialled the right number again - the line was dead."

The Circumstances Leading to the Outbreak of Gunfire at the Spur Road Lodge

1354. RUFP members who were huddled in various parts of the Spur Road Lodge described their impressions of the rapidly-growing crowd on the road outside:

"I was still in the compound until 11.00 a.m. when suddenly a group of demonstrators arrived towards Foday Sankoh's residence.  The demonstrators were singing 'we want peace' and they started advancing towards the leader's house.  At that juncture the UNAMSIL personnel deployed outside the gate of Foday Sankoh's residence tried to stop them.  This made the demonstrators begin throwing stones towards Sankoh's residence."808
"I saw a large group of people with stones, bottles and sticks, but some others saw guns with some of the demonstrators.  They damaged vehicles, windows and many other things with the stones, bottles and sticks they threw.  UNAMSIL were trying very hard to stop them but they didn't stop.  With all these, the Kamajors were still behind them, together with the West Side Boys and the Government soldiers, firing in the air."809
"I was at the house when the first batch arrived...  They started throwing stones, hanging on the electric and telephone cables, cutting them off.  They said they wanted Sankoh's head, chanting offensive slogans...  They threw a stone that hit me on the arm.  They started forcing their way into the house."810

1355. Truckloads of people, consisting of a mixture of civilians and unidentified military personnel, were witnessed arriving in the vicinity of Sankoh's compound from the upper hillside of Spur Road.811  This area was supposed to be 'off limits' to the official demonstration.  Militia men of the Civil Defence Forces, many of them carrying firearms, were seen interspersing with the masses of civilians.812

1356. Armed soldiers and West Side Boys co-mingled with the crowd of demonstrators who advanced on Foday Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge.  They attempted to incite ill-feeling among the civilians around them.  A former soldier of the SLA testified that several fighters who were present on that day had tied bands of material around their foreheads, as had once been their trademark at the warfront.813

1357. People among the crowd carried makeshift weapons like sticks, bricks, stones and agricultural cutlasses, which some of them wielded in a threatening fashion.814  Its members were attempting to cut off power and communications lines to the Lodge.  They were also throwing a barrage of 'missiles' in the direction of the Lodge.  The few hundred demonstrators at the front of the gathering, most of whom were young men in their prime, surged forward deliberately.  A boisterous group began thrusting against the UNAMSIL barricade that blocked the access road leading to Sankoh's Lodge.

1358. Davidson Kuyateh, the Acting Secretary General of the Civil Society Movement (CSM), pointed out that the hostility in the atmosphere was enhanced by the provocative gestures of some of the RUF members visible in the Lodge:

"The armed RUF and their colleagues around Foday Sankoh's house were making signs to the crowd that symbolised slaughtering a goat's throat and amputation of the arm and leg.  This infuriated the crowd and some others tried to make attempts to go to the residence of Foday Sankoh.  The UNAMSIL officers and the leadership of the CSM and Parliament who were present could not allow the marchers [to go] to the house."815

1359. Festus Minah, one of the leaders of the CSM delegation, told the Commission of his dismay that the march had been turned into a mob.  He testified as to his own vain attempts to salvage the situation:

"In the course of the stone-throwing the demonstrators were struggling to remove the barrier that was protecting the compound, and at the same time trying to 'drop' the telephone poles - these were all the circumstances that made me come and begin to intervene.

[...] I rushed down to stop our people in the demonstrating group from throwing stones at the compound; but unfortunately, it was extremely difficult; it became out of hand.  [My intervention] in fact provoked and irritated the demonstrators all the more."816

1360. Thus the crowd of demonstrators created a variety of exigencies for which the UNAMSIL contingent was simply not prepared.  The official security briefings given to UNAMSIL817 had underestimated the size of the crowd and downplayed its character.  The event was treated simply as a peaceful civilian march.  UNAMSIL saw fit in advance to deploy a total of only thirty (30) men and not a single armoured personnel carrier or armoured tank.818

1361. The events of 8 May 2000 at the Spur Road Lodge of Foday Sankoh testify to a failure to communicate and co-ordinate effectively between the arms of the state security apparatus and the internationally-mandated UNAMSIL security force.  President Kabbah was especially lacking in this regard, since he failed to apprise General Jetley, the UNAMSIL Force Commander, of the full extent of the multi-faceted security operation that would be carried out that day.  UNAMSIL's contingent on the ground was devoid of consultative input.  The conglomerated domestic security forces endangered the lives of the UNAMSIL peacekeepers by attacking the Spur Road Lodge.

1362. In the early afternoon, the most senior UNAMSIL officer at the scene, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Boroh, was compelled to call to his Headquarters for the emergency despatch of an armoured personnel carrier.  According to Lieutenant Colonel Boroh, he called for this vehicle to carry out a rescue mission because he felt his life was being threatened by the demonstrators:

"The group became violent and started throwing stones at me and my other officers.  At this stage... I had to escape to the armoured personnel carrier for my dear life."819

1363. The protesters began actively to oppose the blocking tactics of the UNAMSIL officers at the barricade about 50 yards from the Lodge.  They made chants of "we dae go, we dae go" (meaning "we are going" or "we will pass") in defiance of the express instructions given to them to hold back.820  The official patrol report of the UNAMSIL deployment described how the crowd eventually broke through the barricade:

"Our attention was now turned to the crowd who insisted on entering the house to speak to the Chairman.  All attempts to limit them to the main road proved abortive as we were outnumbered.  Instead the crowd shoved us to the direction of the house."821

1364. The UNAMSIL deployment at Foday Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge capitulated on 8 May 2000.  The UNAMSIL officers were overcome by unruly elements in a crowd of demonstrators and the combined armed assailants of Johnny Paul Koroma's 'Peace Task Force'.  The Commission finds that the responsibility for this capitulation lies squarely with the UNAMSIL High Command.  UNAMSIL was detailed to defend the residence of RUF leader Foday Sankoh, the security of which was vital to the implementation of the Lomé Peace Accord.  Yet a paltry contingent of 30 men was expected to secure the Lodge in the face of a threat that was known in advance would comprise at least several thousand angry demonstrators.  UNAMSIL showed itself to be woefully ill-prepared.

1365. Once the UNAMSIL barricade had fallen, there was no averting an armed confrontation.  Nonetheless, according to sources from all sides, a UNAMSIL officer fired a warning shot into the air in a final, futile attempt to restore order.  The CSM organisers of the demonstration described the outbreak of gunfire from their perspective:

"The first warning shot was perhaps to make the people stop whatever they were doing - [to stop] the stone-throwing."822
"We were [trying to stop the demonstrators] when suddenly a gun was fired from the house of Foday Sankoh, followed by sporadic firing.  While UNAMSIL was firing in the air, the RUF boys were firing directly into the crowd.  The people dispersed, running in different directions, while many others fell on the ground...  When the shooting continued and people were shouting and crying with pain, I sought a way to [escape]."823

1366. The view from inside the Spur Road Lodge was expressed to the Commission in the following terms:

"One of the UNAMSIL soldiers who was guarding Sankoh fired a warning shot into the air in an attempt to disperse the crowd... [then] some of them ran to the back of the house.  Little did we know that there were armed groups among the crowd: CDF and the Army.  So automatically they started firing [into] our camp."824
"The West Siders and the Kamajors suddenly became more [in number] than the civilians, and they were now aiming their weapons towards the Lodge.

[...] The UNAMSIL commander ordered one of the Nigerian soldiers to fire a shot in the air.  As soon as he fired that shot, it was the beginning of the end of the whole thing."825

1367. The Commission finds that the demonstration organised by parliamentarians and the Civil Society Movement on 8 May 2000 was allowed to get out of hand.  There were advance warnings given to the Government about the likelihood of further unrest.  However little was done to prevent the occasion from descending into a violent tumult.

Inter-factional Violence and the Killings of Civilians

1368. The UNAMSIL warning shot was followed swiftly by further firing from both sides of the compound walls.  The civilians among the demonstrating crowd and those inside Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge were instantly trapped in the crossfire of a fierce inter-factional battle.

1369. The UNAMSIL captain deployed to Sankoh's Lodge, J. D. Abdullahi, explained in his patrol report that the RUF gunmen in the compound opened fire once the UNAMSIL barricade was breached.  Abdullahi's report also confirmed the prominence of the West Side Boys at the scene, attacking Sankoh's Lodge in the same Toyota Hillux van they had seized from Sankoh's security detail the previous day:

"Gunshots were released by the Chairman's boys, who were already armed by the Chairman, as they saw the crowd and one of the Chairman's confiscated vehicles loaded with people dressed in military fatigues, armed and coming close to the house after overpowering us.  From there every one started running in all directions.

[...] I being close to the [neighbouring] uncompleted building, charged through it into the gutter by the main road and entered [a Nigerian Colonel's] quarters.  I sheltered for some time [and] gathered some of my men before proceeding to my NIBATT Headquarters."826

1370. It is clear that most of the Nigerian UNAMSIL troops took flight, rather than participating in the gunfight.  Nevertheless there was a host of reports about the unbecoming conduct of UNAMSIL personnel at the scene.  It was not suggested that they actually shot at anybody, but their deployment was exposed as having been flawed and their behaviour unrefined.  A 15-year-old RUF child combatant who was watching the scene from the upper floor of Sankoh's Lodge described his observations as follows:

"At the point where the firing started, there were some UNAMSIL personnel [in and around the compound].  There were also some UNAMSIL personnel at the parlour with Pa Sankoh and others.  [From] the position where I was standing around the compound, there was a UNAMSIL personnel lying on the ground shooting up in the air.  As they continued to fire they were told to cease fire by one of the UNAMSIL soldiers, which they complied [with]."827

1371. The armed SLA soldiers and West Side Boys fired on Sankoh's compound from within the crowd of demonstrators.828  The Commission finds that they exposed the civilians around them to grave danger by failing to allow distinction between military and civilian targets.

1372. Essentially these soldiers were deploying the same tactic of 'shielding' themselves that they had used when they invaded Freetown under the auspices of the AFRC on 6 January 1999.  The difference between the 6 January 1999 invasion and the 8 May 2000 operation was in the nature of the resistance these attackers faced.  ECOMOG officers had held their fire on 6 January 1999 to avoid civilian casualties.  The ad-hoc RUF security guards in Sankoh's Lodge showed no such restraint on 8 May 2000.

1373. George Baba Musa, the caretaker from a nearby construction site, told the police that in his view the RUF commandos in Sankoh's Lodge fired indiscriminately against the mass of people before them:

"I heard sporadic gunfire from all directions of Foday Sankoh's house and there was panic among the demonstrators, who were in their thousands.  From the point I was standing, I heard people crying in pain and I saw several of the demonstrators lying on the ground.  There was total pandemonium and as the demonstrators were running away, I saw several of the RUF men who were earlier armed by Chairman Foday Sankoh firing at the crowd."829

1374. A 12-year-old child combatant in Sankoh's Lodge recollected that armed RUF men in the compound gunned down an unspecified number of demonstrators:

"One of the bodyguards to Foday Sankoh shot from his AK-47 rifle at the demonstrators.  The other body guards and armed men at Sankoh's house also opened fire on the demonstrators, as a result of which I saw several people among the demonstrators falling down."830

1375. Another child combatant, who claimed that Foday Sankoh was his biological father, made the following revelations as part of a confessional statement to the Sierra Leone police:

"I was holding a pistol...  I was deployed inside the house with one Abu, who is my special body guard.  He was holding an AK-47 rifle...  It was I who gave orders to the security to fire against the crowd.  I was firing up, trying to find way to escape as the crowd was advancing towards us.

[...] It is true that I was among those who fired against the demonstrators and killed some of them.  I am pleading to the Government to forgive me for my act as I am a small boy and I have a brighter future."831

1376. As pistol shots and automatic weapons fire were unleashed by RUF members in the direction of the crowd, the West Side Boys and soldiers among the crowd reciprocated by continuing their own firing at the Lodge.  RUFP Deputy Minister 'Leather Boot', who was inside Sankoh's compound, expressed a sense of desperation about the escalating intensity of the barrage on the compound:

"We were expecting the UNAMSIL personnel to take control of the situation but it did not happen that way.  The situation became very serious when we started getting rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) exploding into the premises of Chairman Sankoh.  [Then] what made it worse was when tear gas was fired into the compound... which made it very much unbearable and that left us with no alternative but to pull out of the house."832

1377. Gibril Massaquoi, who was said in the majority of statements to be one of those carrying arms on the RUF side, told the Commission that he had been cowed into escaping from the Lodge by the incoming weapons-fire:

"I had to run away during that process; especially when I saw one of our boys lying down dead from RPG shrapnel.  I had to run away and leave them."833

1378. However another senior RUF combatant described how Massaquoi, who was carrying an AK-47 rifle, had in fact been the person who gave him a similar weapon to carry:

"When the firing died down I came out of my hiding place and walked out of the gate; there I met Gibril Massaquoi dragging a wounded RUF combatant.  Gibril Massaquoi then took the AK-47 rifle from the wounded RUF combatant, whose name I don't know, and gave it to me and told me to defend myself."834

1379. In any case it was maintained by most RUFP members that the shootings were not planned in advance.  Rather, as the RUFP Secretary-General Solomon Y. B. Rogers told the police, the exchange of fire came about spontaneously, contrary to the orders of Foday Sankoh, as a result of immense 'provocation' from the demonstrating crowd:

"It was not a pre-arrangement by the RUF to shoot live bullets on the civilians who were demonstrating for peace on that day.  At the time when the demonstrators were throwing stones at Foday Sankoh's residence, I heard Sankoh give command to his combatants who were well-armed not to shoot at the demonstrators.  He [Sankoh] told his RUF combatants not to open fire at the demonstrators because [the RUF combatants] were intending to open fire or shoot at the demonstrators when they were halted by Foday Sankoh."835

1380. Based on the preponderance of the evidence before it, the Commission finds that RUF combatants in the compound of Foday Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge unleashed firing from pistols, automatic weapons and at least one RPG in the direction of the demonstrators who had broken through the barricade.  As will be analysed below, the RUF killed at least ten civilians and potentially twice that number.  The RUF also shot and injured several further civilians.

1381. As it transpired, however, these shootings by the RUF did not constitute the whole story.  The disruption of the demonstration was in fact the signal for the full force of the state security apparatus to be brought to bear against the RUF.

Mobilisation of 'Reinforcements' from the Kamajors based at the Brookfields Hotel

1382. The base of the Civil Defence Forces in Freetown was at the site of the former Brookfields Hotel, on Jomo Kenyatta Road, New England.  The majority of the Freetown-based leadership were residing there in May 2000, with the exception of Chief Hinga Norman.836  The combatants accommodated at the Brookfields Hotel were mostly Kamajors from the Southern and Eastern Provinces.  They had been transferred to Freetown upon the orders of Chief Hinga Norman, or on their own volition due to personal connections with comrades who were already in the city.837  At any given time there were potentially several hundred Kamajors living in the Brookfields Hotel and approximately 20 more working there as part of the CDF High Command.838

1383. On 8 May 2000, in the early afternoon, a small contingent of personnel from the Sierra Leone Army arrived at the Brookfields Hotel with considerable urgency.  A member of the CDF testified to the Commission in a closed hearing that the SLA contingent was accompanied on this mission by M. S. Dumbuya, the former Head of the SSD and Northern Commander of the CDF.839  Dumbuya denied that he was present in his testimony to the Commission.840  The SLA soldiers informed the Kamajors that their contingent had been sent directly by Hinga Norman.  Their task was to collect a select few Kamajor combatants and transport them to the scene of Foday Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge in order to participate in a 'reinforcement operation'.841

1384. One of the Kamajors who joined this operation testified to the Commission that he was among only a handful of 'specialist fighters' who joined the soldiers in their vehicle:

"Everybody within the Brookfields Hotel knew what I was capable of doing, so when the soldiers came, they asked for me by name.  Hinga Norman had requested the best men to take part in the operation; we were only told: 'There is a Special Task Force emerging to deal with a situation - they have started killing people at Sankoh's house'.

[...] So we joined them without even a proper situation report.  We were up to seven men in the vehicle, soldiers as well as Kamajors."842

1385. The Kamajors were immediately equipped with brand new automatic weapons, the like of which they had only used fleetingly in the past.  They were given no detailed deployment instructions, nor any indication of the conditions that awaited them at Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge.  Upon querying the soldiers as to the military objective of the mission, one of the Kamajors was informed by an SLA Captain only that the "RUF was the target" and that they were enlisted "on the orders of the President".  The Kamajor was further told:

"You are a Special Task Force; that's why you are here in Freetown - for this special purpose.  You are auxiliary forces for Tejan Kabbah's Government."843

1386. Upon reaching the Wilberforce Military Barracks at the top of the upper Spur Road Hillside, the SLA Captain declared that he would go no further without express clearance from his commanding officer.  The Kamajors at this point assumed control of the operation, emboldened by having consumed 'morale boosters' and convinced that they should see the mission through to its conclusion:

"It was an order from the President and Hinga Norman to go to Sankoh's place to do this; so we said [to the SLA Captain]: 'Young man, just get down from the vehicle.  You brought us here for this purpose as a Captain; why are you now telling us to get command first?  Let's go and waste no more time!'

[...] We were given rum and cannabis sativa when we were leaving for this mission.  Now we just took up the initiative to perform the mission ourselves.  We saw so many civilians running in the crowd... we were now coming to liberate them from the trouble."844

1387. These Kamajors were adding a further armed presence to the assorted mix of hostile groups who were already active in the vicinity of Sankoh's Lodge.  They posed an augmented threat to the lives of innocent civilians on both sides of the compound's walls.

1388. The Government's decision to mobilise this reinforcement squad in favour of deferring to the internationally-recognised UNAMSIL troops was most irresponsible.  It revealed much about the Government's modus operandi with regard to its state security operations against the RUF.  The deployment of these Kamajors served to perpetuate, rather than alleviate, the suffering of the many innocents caught in the crossfire.

1389. Morris Dolley (alias 'Opabenu'), a Liberian former ULIMO fighter, led the Kamajors in their 'reinforcement operation' from the Brookfields Hotel.  Opabenu ordered that the Kamajors should disembark at the house of Vice President Demby and head to the scene of the gunfight on foot.845  Upon arrival at the access road to Sankoh's Lodge, the Kamajors witnessed eight UNAMSIL personnel taking cover in a trench-like security post while West Side Boys and RUF guards exchanged fire.  The Kamajors also encountered a number of dead bodies and wounded persons lying on the tarmac.  Opabenu was the first to order the clearance of some of the dead bodies and their transportation to the mortuary.846

1390. The Kamajors assumed an offensive position just off the main road and prepared to attack Sankoh's Lodge.  Further support from the Government arrived in the form of a vehicle laden with arms and ammunition, driven by unidentified military personnel.  The Kamajors were invited to re-stock their supplies, which they duly did by accumulating further automatic rifles and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher (RPG).  The RPG was given to a Kamajor named 'Thirty-Forty', who was a member of the unit that usually operated under M. S. Dumbuya.  The Commission received the following testimony as to the use to which this RPG was put:

"'Thirty-Forty' was having his RPG.  I gave orders [to him] to launch at a large, unfinished house at the side of the main road.  Some RUF were based there; they had some standby rooms already at this unfinished house...  [So] I ordered 'Thirty-Forty' to launch there and they scattered - but then again, all the people in the shop next door were killed.  [The shop] belonged to one Fullah Pa [a trader].  But all of his people have died out during that cause.

[...] The RUF were sheltering close by, while others were still inside the Sankoh house; but the unfinished house cleared after our launching and we were able to gain entry unopposed.  Some of the RUF were killed too, but it is difficult to be specific."847

1391. The Kamajors killed an unspecified number of civilians with their RPG strike on the shop owned by the Fullah trader.  They then immediately moved forward into the unfinished house they had cleared and renewed their assault on Sankoh's compound with automatic rifles.  The Kamajors joined forces with West Side Boys and other SLA operatives at this point, apparently because "when the soldiers saw our performance, they rushed to the scene."848  The attack was also bolstered by more armed Kamajors from further up Spur Road:

"As soon as they saw that we were getting the chances, the boys from Hinga Norman's place started coming down to join us.  That's when we rose up to a greater number."849

1392. One young RUF member described how he perceived the move made by the combined Government forces from his vantage point inside Sankoh's compound:

"During the shooting, some people were lying down dead, whilst others had sustained gunshots wounds...  Then came a group of Kamajors and SLA fighters armed with heavy artilleries and deployed at an unfinished house opposite the house of Chairman Sankoh.  Eventually the SLA soldiers and the Kamajors were engaged in heavy firing with the RUF fighters who were in Sankoh's house.  At the peak of the firing between Government troops and the RUF fighters, the UNAMSIL soldiers left the scene through the backyard of Sankoh's house."850

1393. From the perspective of the Kamajors, the Commission heard that the resultant confrontation was the fiercest head-to-head firing in which the two sides engaged that day.  The only lull came due to an unusual observance of protocol to permit UNAMSIL to escape from the vicinity:

"It developed into an all-out war at one point; fighting deliberately took place now, being that the RUF guys had been 'suspended', waiting on what can happen there thereafter.  Immediately we saw the UN [passing us], we stopped the firing; we recognised their presence.  Then immediately they went back, firing started again."851

1394. The military impact of the Kamajor 'reinforcements' was crucial in shaping the outcome of the events of 8 May 2000.  The Kamajors decisively overstepped the thresholds of an operation assigned ostensibly to secure the safety of civilian demonstrators.  By catalysing the departure of the UNAMSIL contingent, the Kamajors opened the way for Government forces to attack Sankoh's Lodge more forcefully, with the overt intention of 'capturing' the territory and all those RUF members who were occupying it.

1395. The intervention of the Kamajors helped to prevent the RUF from harming any more civilian demonstrators.  However, the Kamajors themselves committed further violations and abuses, including civilian killings.  Thus the Commission finds that the Kamajors were a further scourge to human rights during the landmark events of 8 May 2000.

Mobilisation of Further 'Reinforcements' from the 'Peace Task Force'

1396. The prime perpetrators of the raids of 7 May 2000, collectively known as the Peace Task Force, were moving and operating as several smaller units on 8 May 2000.  Some of the West Side Boys and their accomplices in the Sierra Leone Army had moved in on Sankoh's compound furtively as part of the crowd of demonstrators.  Others had attacked on board the vehicle they had seized from Sankoh's security detail the previous day.  A third and final contingent was lying in wait for the command from the Government to launch them into action.

1397. This third contingent was a small but notorious 'hit squad' led by the popular West Side commander Hassan Bangura (alias 'Papa' or 'Bomblast') and his henchman Lansana Bangura (alias Colonel Tiger).  One of its members gave the following account of how the unit came into action on 8 May 2000:

"We were at Jack's Relaxation [Guest House] at Kingtom... when we saw people moving in a hurry down the streets.  This attracted us; we then asked what happened and we learnt from the people that were running that when the demonstrators visited the Lodge of Chairman Sankoh they were attacked by armed men.

[...] As a result of the information that firing was still going on there, we decided to check at the Military Headquarters...  There was information of some people killed during the shoot-out...  Some soldiers were in preparation to visit the scene."852

1398. The Commission notes that the West Side Boys had become frequent visitors to Cockerill Barracks, the Military Headquarters, as their participation in official state security operations had increased between 6 May and 8 May.  They appeared to be welcomed as a result of the legitimacy newly bestowed upon them by the President's announcement that they would be reinstated into the Army.  Tom Carew, the Acting Chief of Defence Staff, was one of those who participated in the mobilisation of Government troops as further reinforcements on 8 May 2000.  Carew placed the leadership of this operation in the hands of the West Side Boys. 853

1399. This mission was to obliterate the chances of a peaceful resolution to the day's landmark events.  Yet in his testimony to the Commission, one of the West Side Boys again tried to characterise the participation of his cadre, alongside the Kamajors, as being an indication of their 'peaceful' objectives:

"During that time they were supposed to demonstrate - Sankoh didn't want peace; we wanted peace.  The President called Johnny Paul; then Johnny Paul called Tom Carew [the then acting Chief of Defence Staff].  They called us to go to the Lodge of Sankoh and secure the peace.

Hinga Norman came to Cockerill that morning with two vans of Kamajors.  Those were our partners in the peace operation.  It was about fifty (50) of all of us.  We are the ones who restored peace."854

1400. Various testimonies indicated that Tom Carew and M. S. Dumbuya were jointly responsible for despatching the 'Peace Task Force' unit from Cockerill Barracks to Sankoh's Lodge.855  Dumbuya admitted to the Commission that he had indeed assembled and helped to equip "a platoon of Government forces" on that day, but maintained that he did so under an illusion of good intentions:

"I even participated in advising them to go in defence of the nation."856

1401. The Peace Task Force unit travelled in a small convoy of Government military vehicles, using a route that brought it down from the upper hillside of Spur Road.  At the front of the convoy was an SLA Landrover with a single-barrelled Anti-Aircraft missile launcher mounted on the back.  This weapon was the heaviest artillery piece used by any of the forces during the inter-factional violence at Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge.  Almost immediately upon arriving at the scene, the West Side Boys released an Anti-Aircraft missile at Sankoh's Lodge,857 registering a direct strike and causing an enormous explosion that was heard "for miles around."858

1402. According to witness statements, the moment that the West Side Boys began shelling the compound of Foday Sankoh spelt the defeat of the RUF gunmen in the Lodge:

"One Landrover carrying an Anti-Aircraft (AA) gun came from the area of Wilberforce Barracks and started shelling.  Because of that, the firing that was coming from the area of the rebel leader's house stopped."859

1403. Cumulatively, the West Side Boys and soldiers of the SLA unleashed sustained automatic weapons fire as well as at least one Anti-Aircraft missile at Foday Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge on 8 May 2000.  Certainly at the point when they began their attack, there were still a large number of civilians in Sankoh's compound.  The range from which the West Side Boys were striking and the type of artillery they were using rendered their barrage totally indiscriminate.

1404. The Commission finds it impossible to regard the role of the Peace Task Force in this operation as having been peaceful or constructive.  The West Side Boys killed many civilians in and around the compound of the Lodge.

The Escape of Foday Sankoh and other Inhabitants of the Spur Road Lodge

1405. The RUF gunmen positioned at the perimeter of the compound and in the neighbouring buildings were gradually killed or flushed out by the heavy onslaught from the combined pro-Government forces of the Kamajors, the SLA and the West Side Boys.  While the Commission was unable to ascertain the exact number of RUF combat casualties, it is certain that practically the entire 'front line' of the defence of the Spur Road Lodge was eliminated.  In the process, it is most likely that the RUF men who fired at the demonstrators were killed.  The most senior ground commanders, Gibril Massaquoi and Dennis Mingo (alias "Superman"), were forced to revert to a strategy of escape:

"At this juncture, the RUF fighters that were defending Sankoh's premises retreated from the gate into the compound.  However, Gibril Massaquoi instructed the RUF fighters together with Superman to collect Chairman Foday Sankoh and leave the compound." 860

1406. It was later revealed to the police that Foday Sankoh spent most of the period of the gunfight hiding in a bedroom along with a Togolese lady he had invited to join him as a guest at his Lodge.  The lady, named Victoria Bataba-Ena, explained to the police what happened:

"Corporal Sankoh joined me in the upstairs bedroom and [we both] laid flat on the floor following persistent gunfire outside the house.  I saw bullets streaming into our (Corporal Sankoh's and my) bedroom from outside.  I never knew who precisely were shooting at us in the house.

[...] Corporal Sankoh was by then dressed in a black, long gown lying flat on the room floor close to me.  Not too long [after] I saw a certain young man who hurriedly entered the said bedroom and took Corporal Sankoh by the hand...  [Sankoh] hurriedly moved down the stairs with the gentleman in question, leaving me alone in the bedroom...  That was the very last time I ever set eyes on the RUF rebel leader Corporal Foday Saybana Sankoh."861

1407. According to testimonies from RUF members, Sankoh was led out of the back gate of the Lodge and through the compound of a neighbouring building, owned by a Lebanese family.  Sankoh's escorts were some of his most senior commanders and associates, including Gibril Massaquoi, Superman, Pa Daniel Kallon, Pa Mansaray, Idrissa Kamara (alias Leather Boot), Eldred Collins, Momoh Rogers and Kenneth Macauley.862  They were able to remove him from the immediate vicinity of the escalating gunfight and found an unmonitored route at the back of the compound that led towards the hills.

1408. This account of Sankoh's means of escape was corroborated by George Baba Musa, the caretaker of a nearby construction site.  However, Baba Musa recalled seeing men in UNAMSIL uniforms among those who escorted Sankoh:

"From the point I was standing at an open window of an unfinished house, I clearly saw Chairman Sankoh, whom I had seen many times, dressed in black attire and having a silver-coloured pistol hanging from his waist.

[...] [Sankoh] was being escorted by two men dressed in UNAMSIL uniforms, [who] were Africans.  I saw them hurriedly coming out of the compound through the main gate and running towards the back of the house followed by a group of his [Sankoh's] rebel body guards, who were fully armed and firing in all directions.  I believe that it was about this time that Foday Sankoh made his escape out of his house, through the assistance of men dressed in UNAMSIL uniforms."863

1409. The Commission noted the strong belief held by many members of the attacking forces, both Kamajors and soldiers, as well as members of the public, that Foday Sankoh's escape was facilitated by actual officers of the UNAMSIL deployment at the Lodge.  For example, Reverend SamForay testified that it was universally understood among the Kamajors that "a UNAMSIL armoured vehicle whisked away Foday Sankoh as the CDF closed in on his residence."864

1410. The rumour of official UNAMSIL involvement was refuted by the UNAMSIL commander at the scene in his statement to the police:

"I don't know how Foday Sankoh escaped from the house.  It would have been my pleasure to carry Mr. Foday Sankoh in my armoured personnel carrier in order to save him, as I am charged with the responsibility of his security.  [But] the armoured personnel carrier was parked about 100 metres from his house and there was no chance for me to go inside and collect Mr. Sankoh.  The said carrier took me to the Wilberforce Headquarters and I did not release it to go anywhere again."865

1411. Based on the preponderance of the evidence before it, the Commission takes the view that UNAMSIL's Nigerian officers deployed at the Lodge were not the ones who led Sankoh away.  There are numerous accounts from RUF members, in particular, which present a different sequence of events in a manner that speaks of factual consistency.  The Commission finds that Sankoh escaped the scene on foot and in the company of his own men.

1412. The Commission does not however rule out the possibility that some of the men who escaped from the Lodge with Foday Sankoh were wearing UNAMSIL uniforms.  It was reported to the Sierra Leone Police that the RUF had access to UNAMSIL uniforms in relative abundance.866  It was also apparent that the RUF sought to gather more such uniforms when it disrobed the UNAMSIL officers it had abducted during the previous week.

1413. The RUF had mastered the tactic of disguising its fighters in the uniforms of other forces during the conflict.867  It had deployed that tactic on many occasions to deceive enemies and onlookers alike.  Thus, while some of those who ran away at the same time as Sankoh were later found wearing civilian clothes, others named as Sankoh's escorts, including Gibril Massaquoi and 'Superman', were never apprehended.  Although it is not possible to be conclusive, the Commission finds it conceivable that RUF commanders may have appropriated the insignia of UNAMSIL in order to camouflage their identities while escaping.

1414. Nonetheless, UNAMSIL officers did nothing to slow down or obstruct Sankoh's escape when some of them were suddenly confronted by him at the rear of the Lodge.  Sankoh was reported to be extremely flustered by the events at his compound.  Members of his inner circle maintain that Sankoh had no inkling of the attack before it took place and was indignant as he left the scene.868  Thus a Nigerian Sergeant who was deployed in the back-up deployment on 8 May 2000 recounted how Sankoh confronted a small pocket of UNAMSIL soldiers who had retreated from the firing line:

"We withdrew across the road [at the rear of the Lodge] and took cover behind one house.  While there I saw Chairman Sankoh and his men coming.  They met us and he started shouting at us that we, UNAMSIL, are useless.  He said that we wanted the Government troops to come and kill him.

[...] He [then] sat down behind that house on a pipeline and he was saying that he wanted to talk to the President [by phone]... but one of his strongmen held his hand and told Chairman Sankoh to forget, let them continue with their journey; so they left and I myself ran to a hiding place for safety.  [Sankoh] followed the pipeline and they went away."869

1415. Sankoh together with up to 20 others then continued into the bush towards the hillsides at Malama, which involved passing through at least some inhabited areas.  As one of those who escaped from the Lodge told the Commission, the group eventually divided into different parts to continue its flight:

"After I had left, not too long after, I saw a crowd of RUFP members including Pa Sankoh himself.  As they passed on their way going towards the hillside, I followed them.  But firing was also coming from the direction we took.  That was the moment Pa Sankoh said: 'Let everybody choose his own way, as the group can be a target'.  I took the direction to the left with a few others...  All those who were carrying guns followed Pa Sankoh."870

1416. Sankoh became jaded and disaffected.  He told the commanders around him that he could not manage to undertake the journey through the hills on foot at the sustained pace required to make a clean getaway.871  Thus, Sankoh took one personal bodyguard, known as Pa Mansaray, with him to an obscure and private hiding place in the nearby bush.

1417. One of the younger members of the party that escaped from the Lodge explained how the remaining members of the RUF were thereafter left largely to fend for themselves under the direction of some of the other ground commanders:

"I ceased seeking Chairman Sankoh; however I went with the armed men to the other part of the hill where we were instructed to camp for a while.  We were there until night, when [our commander] told us to come down in search of Superman and his team.  When we came down we only saw Gibril Massaquoi, who told us that Superman and others had gone in search of Chairman Sankoh up the hills where they had left him.  Whilst I was with Gibril Massaquoi, then came Superman and told us that he had not seen Chairman Sankoh, Leather Boot, Colonel 'Wray' and others,

[...] Eventually Superman and Gibril Massaquoi gave commands to move to the jungle towards the area of Masiaka Town...  On our way heading to Masiaka, Gibril Massaquoi and Superman took some of their armed men and went a different direction I did not know."872

1418. It is worth pointing out that while many persons unconnected to the shootings of demonstrators at Sankoh's Lodge were imprisoned, many of them prior to the events of 8 May 2000, and have never since been released, the two main men who commanded the fighters at the Lodge became fugitives.  Gibril Massaquoi and Superman escaped with total impunity while innocent parties have suffered in their stead.  Gibril Massaquoi was in fact afforded temporary refuge on the evening of 8 May by Vice President Demby.  According to Massaquoi, he went to Demby's residence and was 'sheltered' while scores of soldiers, West Side Boys and Kamajors were out hunting for him.873 

1419. Back at the Spur Road Lodge, the last inhabitants to leave the house were civilians, mostly young children, who had been huddled in the cellar while the gunfight raged above them.  They were 'smoked out' shortly after 2.00 p.m., when a canister of tear gas was fired in through one of the windows by the attacking military personnel.874  In the panic of their attempt to escape, this group too became divided.  While the stronger, older children leapt the back fence to safety in neighbours' houses, some of the younger ones were gunned down in cold blood by Kamajors, West Side Boys and other Government operatives.875

1420. The remnants of armed defence in Sankoh's compound were finished off when the West Side Boys engaged them in close combat.  The two contingents of West Side Boys - those who attacked during the demonstration and those who arrived as 'reinforcements' - had by this stage united as one force.  Some of them were in SLA uniforms, some in civilian clothes, which bore testament to the tactics they had earlier deployed to infiltrate the civilian crowd.876  One of the last RUF combatants to leave Sankoh's Lodge was a 12-year-old child, who described his escape as follows:

"I came out from my hiding place in the compound and went to the place where the demonstrators were.  I found three male and one female bodies lying there.  I then returned to [Foday Sankoh's] compound when I saw some SLA soldiers coming to the scene of the incident.  As soon as the SLA soldiers arrived at the scene, [an] exchange of fire started between the remaining RUF armed men still at Pa Sankoh's compound and the SLA soldiers.  I then ran and jumped over the fence to the Lebanese compound... and followed the bush path as the SLA soldiers were chasing [me]."877

1421. The senselessness and human tragedy of the landmark events of 8 May 2000 are perhaps best represented by the testimony of Victoria Bataba-Ena, the only person who stayed in the Spur Road Lodge until the last shot was fired.  Bataba-Ena, a young Togolese lady who met the RUF delegation during the Peace Talks in Lomé, had come to Sierra Leone on a private visit to stay with Foday Sankoh.  Sankoh, as far as she knew, held a status equivalent to Vice President of the country.  She became an innocent victim of the armed assault on Sankoh's Lodge by Government forces.  She was arrested by soldiers and West Side Boys that evening and has been held in the custody of the state ever since.  This extract from her statement to the police portrays the helplessness of her plight:

"[Eventually] I had to hide in one of the downstairs bedrooms, where I stayed for over three hours.  At about 5.00 p.m. on Monday 8 May 2000 I was arrested by one man in plain clothes.  It was under the bed of the said bedroom I was arrested.  I was taken from the bedroom by the man in question, who I later learnt to be a Sierra Leone Army personnel who was a Captain.  I heard his men call him 'Captain' and to my dismay I saw so many armed military personnel in the compound by then.  I did not set eyes on any UNAMSIL personnel in the compound.  I also saw some men in plain clothes but they were very strange to me.

[...] I explained to the SLA Captain that I am a stranger from Lomé, Togo but this only fell on deaf ears.  The Captain and his armed military personnel started to beat me up with their rifles and I continued to cry bitterly."878

Analysis of the Killings carried out on 8 May 2000

1422. Approximately forty (40) persons were killed in the inter-factional violence that ensued around Foday Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge on 8 May 2000.  Almost all of them were killed by gunshots or rocket-propelled grenades fired between the RUF, the West Side Boys, the Kamajors and other security forces.  At least one man was crushed to death in a stampede.879  As the following analysis confirms, over half of the deceased were civilians, on both sides of the compound's walls.  At least a further fifteen (15) persons were wounded by gunshots or shrapnel and hospitalised as a result of the same incident.

1423. The information made available publicly by state authorities in relation to the deaths and injuries that resulted from this incident is substantially incomplete.  Moreover it is unbalanced and unsatisfactory to the Commission for the purposes of its impartial historical record.  This section attempts to present the evidence of the violations and abuses committed on 8 May 2000 in a more accurate light.

Casualties sustained on the side of the Demonstrators

1424. According to the Pathology Laboratory in the 'Mortuary Department' of Freetown's Connaught Hospital, nineteen (19) persons were registered by 11 May 2000 as having been "killed on the 8 May 2000 during the peaceful demonstration."880  The figure later increased to twenty-two (22) persons, a full list of whose names, ages and occupations was presented to the Commission by the Civil Society Movement:881

Name of deceased           Age

a. Harding Kallon                32 years
b. Kabba Bangura (Junior)   21 years
c. Foday Brima                   60 years
d. Abu Bakarr Conteh         16 years
e. Alhaji Sesay                   24 years
f. Peter Kargbo                  52 years
g. Musa Kamara                 26 years
h. Mariama Gassama*        21 years
i. Saio Marrah                    47 years
j. Ballah Turay                    27 years
k. David Jusu                      28 years
l. Komba Brima                   31 years
m. Saoman Conteh             48 years
n. E. T. Kamara                  32 years
o. Pa Kemoh Jusu               39 years
p. Lamin Massaquoi            42 years
q. Lucy Cole*                     35 years
r. Josephus Conteh             29 years
s. Manso Sesay                  38 years
t. Foday Bangura                47 years
u. Sulaiman Bah                 32 years
v. Alie Koroma                    Unknown

[* denotes female]

1425. It was noted by Festus Minah, one of the main organisers of the demonstration, that a number of those who lost their lives were innocent civilians with little or no conception of the reasons for the protest outside Foday Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge:

"Some of those killed did not even know what had brought about the demonstration - they only knew that there was going to be a demonstration because of the radio announcements."882

1426. The Commission's attention was also drawn to the fact that nine (9) of the original list of people killed were soldiers or other auxiliaries attached to the Sierra Leone Army.883  It is unclear what role these military personnel were playing in the demonstrations, or indeed how many of them were carrying firearms.

1427. The Commission holds the view that some of the deceased military personnel were present as combatants, particularly in the light of the testimony of a member of the Kamajors that among the dead bodies his unit removed from the scene of the gunfight were "some corpses in military uniforms."884  In six instances, the deceased were identified as soldiers before their names were even known,885 which indicated that they were in uniform or carried other military identification on their persons when they arrived at the mortuary.

1428. In addition to the deceased, the Commission heard from the Civil Society Movement that there were at least fifteen (15) persons registered as wounded and hospitalised on the side of the demonstrators.886  With the exception of one young girl, the wounded persons were all males between the ages of 17 and 50.  Indeed, the overwhelming majority of them fitted into the category known in Sierra Leone as 'youths', i.e. adult men in their prime.

1429. Most of the wounded persons were given the opportunity to make statements to the Sierra Leone Police in the wake of the shootings.  None of them was able to identify a particular gunman responsible for firing the shots, although in several instances a suspicion was stated that 'the rebels' or 'RUF securities' were responsible.  Other demonstrators referred more ambiguously to 'rapid gunfire' from a variety of directions.887  Donald Boston Mammah, who was shot quite some distance from Sankoh's Lodge in the part of the city known as Tengbeh Town, attributed his wound to "a stray bullet."888  Mammah claimed he had not participated in the demonstration nor gone near to Sankoh's Lodge for any other reason.

1430. The statements of the wounded were valuable in validating and corroborating the sequence of events described in the foregoing analysis.  The statements confirmed that the violence erupted because demonstrators were allowed to get out of hand: first, they cast stones and other objects maliciously towards the Lodge; second, they deliberately broke through the UNAMSIL barricade in spite of warnings that they would be shot at if they did so.

1431. The following anecdotes from wounded demonstrators help to portray the circumstances in which the shootings occurred:

"We were about to enter the road that goes to Foday Sankoh's residence when the UNAMSIL personnel on duty blocked us.  Some of the crowd became offended and started throwing stones into the compound of Foday Sankoh."889
 "I was at the forefront of the demonstration...  Whilst the procession was going on, we the demonstrators were chanting: 'We Want Peace! We Want Peace!'  Sometimes we were clapping our hands to suit the chanting, while others were beating drums... Chairman Foday Sankoh's RUF fighters were outside his compound... about 25 yards from Spur Road.

[...] Whilst we were chanting, we could see the rebels making signs to us that if we advance to the compound, they will kill us.  On seeing the attitude of the rebels we the demonstrators decided to advance.  The UNAMSIL force then put up a resistance for us not to cross their barricade post; but... they found they could no longer resist the crowd."890
 "Arriving at [Sankoh's] residence, we were blocked by UNAMSIL personnel attached to Foday Sankoh not to enter the compound.  My group, including myself, used force to enter the compound.  The sooner we entered the compound, some members of the RUF who were in the compound with arms opened fire on us."891
 "As the firing intensified I had cause to run and jump a fence next door to Foday Sankoh's Lodge to seek refuge.  It was at this point I was shot."892

1432. The Commission notes that the demonstration ceased to be a peaceful affair after it was hijacked by the armed thugs of the West Side Boys and their accomplices.  Several of those who were wounded had become carried away by the influence the armed thugs had on the crowd.  Some elements of the crowd deliberately provoked and antagonised the RUF gunmen by charging at the compound with makeshift weapons893 accompanied by armed men.  This potentially threatening mob drew a terrible, violent response from the RUF personnel on duty.

1433. The Commission holds the RUF as a faction responsible for the shootings of members of the demonstrating crowd and, as far as they killed or wounded unarmed civilians, for the human rights violations they represent.  The Commission however cautions against the hasty categorisation of all those persons killed or wounded into one group, for example by describing them all as 'civilians' or 'peaceful demonstrators'.

1434. The President of Sierra Leone, Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, presented his own analysis of the events of 8 May 2000 in his testimony before the public hearings of the Commission on 5 August 2003:

"It was... inevitable that the harassed, brutalised and dehumanised citizens of Sierra Leone would finally rise against the excesses of the AFRC/RUF, which were in flagrant violation of what the people considered as the final peace settlement in the form of the Lomé Peace Agreement.

[...] The people organised a peaceful demonstration and marched on the residence of Foday Sankoh, the rebel leader, to insist on his observing the terms of the Agreement and to refrain from continuing with activities which obviously threatened the peace; activities such as the continued taking as hostages of UN Peace Keepers and the persistent laying of ambushes on the highways for unsuspecting civilian travellers.  His [Foday Sankoh's] response to this peaceful demonstration was the cold-blooded murder of 21 of the demonstrators."894

1435. The Commission notes again that among the deceased and the wounded there were those who carried weapons895 and who therefore fall to be classified as combatants.  The combatants among the crowd by their actions precipitated armed defensive action on the part of the RUF guards.  These combatants bear a share of the responsibility in precipitating the human rights violations against others that stemmed from the armed defensive action.

1436. It has not been proven to the Commission that Johnny Paul Koroma or the members of the SLPP Government, did anything to prevent the clash between different combatant factions at the scene of a civilian demonstration.  Indeed Koroma and others thrust their combatants into action among the demonstrators.  As such, Koroma and the SLPP Government are also morally accountable for the killing and wounding of civilians among the demonstrating crowd.

Casualties sustained on the side of the Inhabitants of Foday Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge

1437. The Commission learned of numerous deaths among the inhabitants of Foday Sankoh's Lodge on 8 May 2000.  The Commission also heard testimony as to the deaths of bystanders who had no connection to Sankoh or to the demonstrating crowd. The deceased persons in these cases were killed during the fierce inter-factional fighting that characterised the day.  Their deaths went unacknowledged by the Government.

1438. Through a variety of interviews and corroborative submissions, the Commission has compiled a list of those inhabitants of Foday Sankoh's Spur Road Lodge known to have died on 8 May 2000.  In the absence of proper records from an official coroner or mortuary, it was impossible for the Commission to determine accurately the ages of those killed; nevertheless, where details of background or occupation were provided to the Commission, they have been noted in the list that follows:

Name of deceased                   Details known

a. Juliet 'Julie' Sankoh*               Student at Laura Dove Secondary School
b. Fatmata Sankoh*                    Infant granddaughter of Foday Sankoh
c. Adama Sankoh*                      Niece of Foday Sankoh
d. Adama Koroma*                     Nurse and child-minder at the Lodge
e. Hawa Sankoh*                        Nurse
f. Hawa Lebbie*                          --- no details known ---
g. Haja Sankoh*                         --- no details known ---
h. Mikhail Khalilu Sankoh             Electrician and nephew of Foday Sankoh
i. Mohamed Turay                        --- no details known ---
j. Musa Koroma                           --- no details known ---
k. 'Ibrahim' (surname unknown)    An amputee missing the lower part of one leg
l. 'American' (real name unknown)   A driver for the RUFP
m. 'Tupac' (real name unknown)     Bodyguard to RUF Colonel Gibril Massaquoi
n. Mohamed Koroma                      Tailor in the tailor's shop near to the Lodge
o. Ibrahim Kamara (alias 'Heavy D')896  A driver for Foday Sankoh

[* denotes female]
Sources in endnote897

1439. In attempting to ascertain the manner in which these persons died, the Commission heard eye-witness testimony from members of Foday Sankoh's family who narrowly escaped from the Lodge on 8 May 2000.  One young member of the Sankoh family gave his insights as follows:

"We lost a good number of our Sankoh family members.  Most of them were killed as they were trying to escape from the Lodge and they couldn't make it.  Some of the small, small children were killed when they could not jump the fence.  There were other small children who were caught later in the bush and thrown in prison; like one seven-year-old girl."898

1440. Other inhabitants of the Spur Road Lodge later confirmed in their statements to the police that they had indeed been forced to leave some of the younger ones behind.  Mayilla Yansaneh was the foster mother of several children with the surname Sankoh.  She testified that she had been unable to carry along all of her six adopted children, who were between two-and-a-half (21/2) and ten (10) years of age:

"While on the ground [in the compound], tear-gas was fired into the compound, which started burning my eyes.  It was at this stage I jumped over the fence with the children.  I was unable to jump the second fence with the children.  I left the children in the compound and escaped for my dear life."899

1441. The Commission notes that none of the 'Sankoh children' who were left behind in the compound subsequently appeared on the lists of those taken into Freetown Central Prison and other detention facilities.  Indeed, they were never seen again by their guardians and relatives.

1442. These children, who were mostly young girls and all of them unarmed, were killed by the attacking pro-Government forces that rained heavy gunfire and RPGs into Sankoh's compound, namely the West Side Boys and the Kamajors.  The killings of children attest to deliberate and merciless targeting of civilians by these forces.  It exposes their collective moniker of 'Peace Task Force' to be cruelly out of place.

1443. The Commission heard testimony from one of the Kamajors who admitted to having carried out killings on 8 May 2000.  The Kamajors stormed into Sankoh's compound in the immediate wake of the shootings and briefly surveyed the carnage.  The following testimony indicates that there were casualties even beyond the named list above, including the Fullah trading family whose shop was struck by the Kamajors' rocket-propelled grenade:

"There were no dead bodies inside the Sankoh house as such... [but] there were plenty of dead bodies on the balcony and the terrace surrounding it; and at the shop where we had fired that RPG.  We came to know that one of the bodies was the owner of the Fullah shop.  They said that some of the others were civilians who had been living in the Sankoh compound as staff or [as] Sankoh's dependants."900

1444. The Kamajors did not remove or cover the dead bodies they found in the compound.  In fact they proceeded instead to carry out a massive looting spree without heed for the lives lost around them.  The Commission heard that the Kamajors, led by the Liberian commander Opabenu, ransacked the Lodge and retreated in the cars that had been abandoned in Sankoh's yard:

"I did not enter into the room of Foday Sankoh, not even the parlour, but I was within the campus.  I was the second man from the Government fighting force to enter into the campus, after Opabenu...  I took one vehicle from there to Chief [Hinga Norman]'s house and parked it there.  John Sonny took a LandCruiser.  There were up to eight or nine vehicles there, some of them vans, Landcruisers, jeeps...  Others took away the [bags of] rice, the furniture, documents, and even some computers."901

1445. The Commission is moved to express its dismay at the revelations of ill-gotten gains accrued by the Kamajors and their political masters as a result of their 8 May 2000 attacks.  The Deputy Minister of Defence, Chief Samuel Hinga Norman, was among those who accepted looted properties from the house of Foday Sankoh with total disregard for the rule of law; indeed, according to one member of the CDF, Hinga Norman made official use of certain items, including a vehicle that belonged to Sankoh.902  In particular, the following excerpt of testimony from a Kamajor alarmed the Commission for its suggestion of grave misconstruction of the concept of 'amnesty':

"The Article in the Lomé Accord covered us - whatsoever somebody had acquired during the war, it should remain to him.  That article had been preached by the authorities all over.  For my own part, I presently have money with me that was given to me for being part of the Foday Sankoh operation."903

1446. The various military personnel who later 'patrolled' the premises also acted in a manner devoid of respect for human dignity by failing to dispose of or otherwise deal with the corpses in the vicinity of the Lodge.  The task was left to a unit of Police Inspectors attached to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Sierra Leone Police, who went to Sankoh's compound on the morning of 9 May 2000.  The officer who headed this unit filed a statement with the police about his discoveries at the compound:

"On arrival at No. 56 Spur Road and its environs, we observed that it was the residence of Foday Sankoh, the RUF leader.  A further observation [we] made was that an unspecified number of corpses and RUF documents were scattered all over in and around the premises of No. 56 Spur Road.  In view of this [discovery], the coroner's officers attached to the Prosecution Division of the Sierra Leone Police were contacted; [they] later came and collected the corpses for the Connaught Hospital Mortuary, Freetown."904

1447. Despite the purported transportation of the corpses from Sankoh's compound to the mortuary, the Commission received no evidence that they were recognised by the Government of Sierra Leone as casualties of the inter-factional violence of 8 May 2000.

1448. While the deaths on the side of the demonstrators, including those of some combatants, were mourned in a state ceremony on Friday 12 May 2000, the deaths at the hands of pro-Government forces were kept silent.  The Commission condemns this latent selectivity in honouring the loss of civilian lives, for it undermines basic respect for human life in a democratic society.

1449. The Commission holds the West Side Boys directly responsible as factions for the killings of civilians on the side of the inhabitants of Sankoh's Lodge.  The Peace Task Force led by Johnny Paul Koroma carried out the most grievous abuses of all and were allowed to act with the utmost impunity because their acts were 'hushed' by the Government.

1450. Based on the clear and corroborated evidence above, President Kabbah approved of the mobilisation of the CDF, through Chief Samuel Hinga Norman.  The Commission wrote to the President about the use and deployment of Kamajors on this date seeking his explanation. In his response to the Commission the President replied: 

"No Kamajors were sent to Foday Sankoh's house during the demonstration on May 8, 2000.  As I have explained [in previous testimony], the demonstration which moved to Sankoh's residence on that day was organised by the Civil Society Movement and Parliamentarians, and it was made up of persons from all walks of life.  I cannot therefore see the basis for holding the Kamajors responsible for the outcome of that demonstration."905

1451. UNAMSIL must also take a share of the blame.  The contingent of UNAMSIL troops at Sankoh's Lodge underrated the gravity of the situation. It was no surprise that they deserted their duties at the time when their presence was most required.  The UNAMSIL High Command singularly failed to provide its own reinforcements, which opened the way for deplorable warlords and their henchmen from the West Side Boys and Kamajors to wreak further havoc.

1452. The security provided by the peace keepers at Sankoh's residence and to other RUF personnel was poor.  Two RUFP Deputy Ministers of the Government, as well as other key stakeholders in the peace process, were left to suffer at the hands of the mob.  This poor reading of the security situation allowed UNAMSIL to pull out its own men using an Armoured Personnel Carrier.  The peaceful civilians in the Lodge, who had put their faith in UNAMSIL for protection, were emphatically let down.

1453. The Commission wishes to highlight the fact that several RUF combatants were also killed on 8 May 2000.  In the enforced absence of Sankoh's entire personal security detail, an ad-hoc and unlikely group of persons had been armed by Sankoh as his own last line of defence.  This line of defence was called upon to act in the face of exigencies, which included the capitulation of the UNAMSIL presence, on 8 May 2000.  Its members responded by opening fire against the demonstrators and the attackers who accompanied them.

1454. The sole threat from the Lodge came from the RUF combatants in the last line of defence.  Yet that threat was eliminated as the RUF combatants were overcome militarily and most of the individual gunmen were killed.

1455. There are two profound implications attendant to the killings of the main gunmen at Sankoh's Lodge.  First, even after their deaths, the pro-Government forces continued firing on inhabitants of the Lodge, indicating their callous disregard for civilian life.  Second, those who were chiefly responsible for the civilian deaths on the side of the demonstrators were now dead.  The prospect of securing 'justice' for this incident in itself was severely diminished.  Yet the pro-Government forces launched into a reckless blanket strategy of arresting and detaining everybody else who had even the remotest connection with Foday Sankoh and the RUFP.

The Whereabouts of Foday Sankoh in the Wake of 8 May 2000 and his Eventual Capture

1456. The UNAMSIL Patrol Reports prepared in the days after the events of 8 May 2000 were clear in their portrayal of the escape of Foday Sankoh from the Spur Road Lodge.  UNAMSIL maintained that Sankoh, along with his key commanders, followed the pipeline through the bushy areas at the back of the Lodge and headed towards Malama and Regent Village.906  The UNAMSIL officers who gave statements said that they were effectively incapacitated by the unexpected hostility of the demonstrating crowd.907  Apparently they neither 'captured' nor 'sheltered' Foday Sankoh.

1457. The last official word from UNAMSIL on the whereabouts of Foday Sankoh seemed to correlate with the testimonies given by various RUF members who escaped from the Lodge.  UNAMSIL based the following report on its interview of a local resident in the vicinity of Regent Village:

"It was revealed that Corporal Sankoh was 'fagged out' and could not continue to move; hence he is taking refuge in the forest while waiting for his men to come to his rescue."908

1458. On 10 May 2000, UNAMSIL further reported on its participation, alongside SLA troops and CDF militiamen, in a search patrol through the areas where Sankoh was thought to be hiding.  The objective of the patrol was to find Foday Sankoh, but the purpose of finding him was rather ambiguous.  The report first stated that the patrol was "despatched to locate and rescue the Chairman [Foday Sankoh];" yet at its conclusion it spoke of "apprehending the escaping men."909

1459. President Kabbah made a speech on the evening of 8 May 2000 in which he condemned the killings of "innocent and unarmed civilians by RUF rebels stationed at Corporal Sankoh's residence."  With regard to the disappearance of Foday Sankoh, the President remarked: "As I speak to you, the exact whereabouts of Corporal Foday Sankoh have not yet been determined.  A thorough investigation is, however, now being undertaken to determine where he is."910

1460. The stakes were raised on Saturday 13 May 2000, when Solomon Berewa, the then Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, made a presentation to the media to allege that Foday Sankoh had been plotting "to stage a very violent and bloody coup."911  Berewa's presentation, based on what he called "circumstantial material" that he never subsequently disclosed, prepared the ground for Sankoh's arrest.  Berewa built his case as follows:

"We have materials on the coup plan [hatched by Foday Sankoh].  This is not a speculation.  Some of his [Sankoh's] associates are giving us more details and telling us what Sankoh had in mind...  Foday Sankoh was anxious to have power."912

1461. Members of various fighting factions and large sectors of the Sierra Leonean population continue to believe in a theory that Foday Sankoh was held in the custody of UNAMSIL for over a week after 8 May 2000.  This theory was also the one propagated by RUF commanders at the time of Sankoh's disappearance.  Augustine Bao, who was based at RUF Headquarters in Makeni, gave an interview to the BBC on 16 May 2000 and called upon UNAMSIL to co-operate:

"They [UNAMSIL] should release our leader so that we should revisit the Lomé Peace Accord.  They don't have regard and respect for the leadership of RUF.  What about more when we are disarmed?  They will just arrest us; put us in a container and chuck us into the sea.  That is the aim of the UN and [President] Kabbah presently."913

1462. The Commission was given a plausible alternative version of events by Madam Fatou Sankoh, who claimed to have discovered accurate details of what happened to Foday Sankoh from close confidantes she consulted in the RUF.914  Madam Sankoh dismissed the notion of UNAMSIL custody and insisted that Foday Sankoh had in fact evaded capture altogether by taking refuge in a humble hideout in the hills behind his Lodge.  He was accompanied there by just three of his closest associates.

1463. One of Foday Sankoh's original companions in his hideout was apparently Dr. Steven Sahr Williams, the so-called humanitarian co-ordinator of the RUFP, who was to surrender himself to UNAMSIL troops at the Mammy Yoko Hotel.915  Another was Foday Sankoh's personal bodyguard, known to Madam Sankoh only as 'Pa Mansaray'.  The third was Mariama Morrison ("Mariama"), a female former member of the kitchen staff at Sankoh's Lodge.916  According to testimony from Madam Fatou Sankoh, Mariama inadvertently became an advantage to the Government in the game of hide-and-seek that led to Foday Sankoh's final capture.  The narrative given to the Commission by Madam Sankoh is summarised in the following paragraph.917

1464. Apparently Foday Sankoh and his three companions essentially went without food or proper drinking water for approximately one week.  Thus the RUF leader sent Mariama off to find water on or around 14 May 2000.  He gave her an ultimatum that she should return to him within three days; if she did not return, then he would know that she had either encountered difficulties or fallen into the wrong hands.  Mariama was trusted by Foday Sankoh beyond question.  Members of the RUF maintain that she did not betray Foday Sankoh by revealing his whereabouts deliberately, but rather was apprehended in Freetown by somebody who recognised her and was prevented from returning to Sankoh's hideout within the stipulated time.

1465. On 17 May 2000, Foday Sankoh and his bodyguard Pa Mansaray came out from their hideout at dawn and re-entered the public domain.  Foday Sankoh was captured and arrested almost immediately.  The BBC reported the circumstances of the capture based on interviews with local residents, summarised in the following paragraph.918

1466. As Foday Sankoh and Pa Mansaray moved along a footpath just behind the Spur Road Lodge, they encountered a man named Kabba Sesay who was on his way to take early morning prayers with his son.  Although Foday Sankoh asked to be assisted to take transport to the Nigerian High Commission, Kabba Sesay instead tipped off a former soldier nicknamed 'Scorpion'.  Scorpion fired at least one gunshot in the process of arresting Foday Sankoh, apparently killing Pa Mansaray and injuring Sankoh on the lower leg.  Scorpion is reported to have declared to a civilian crowd who arrived at the scene:

"Today I am a hero.  Today the Scorpion catches the lion.  The war is over." 919

1467. The Commission did not receive testimony from Scorpion or any other eye-witness as to the means by which Foday Sankoh was captured, or as to whether he in fact emerged from a simple hideout.  Equally, there is no concrete evidence before the Commission to support the contention that Foday Sankoh was held by UNAMSIL in the wake of 8 May 2000.  The Commission is unable conclusively to dismiss the latter possibility however.

1468. In particular, there remains some ambiguity as to whether the gunshot wound on Foday Sankoh's leg was sustained at the point of his capture.  In a statement given to the police on 13 May 2000, four days prior to Sankoh's being brought into custody, RUFP Secretary-General Solomon Y. B. Rogers said the following:

"I have no knowledge whether in fact Foday Sankoh escaped from his residence, but two days after the incident I was informed by [RUF] Radio Operator [Samuel] Lamboi at Cockerill Defence Headquarters that he was in the hands of UNAMSIL personnel with a shot in his leg."920

1469. Notwithstanding the uncertainty surrounding the circumstances of Sankoh's arrest, the Commission is assured that he was not admitted into the custody of the Sierra Leone Police under the same classification as the scores of other men and women whose arrests in May 2000 are analysed above.  Foday Sankoh's name does not appear on any of the prison records presented to the Commission pertaining to detentions during May 2000.921

1470. Perhaps inevitably, Johnny Paul Koroma heralded the arrest of Foday Sankoh as the culmination of his almost single-handed quest to 'restore peace' through the actions of his 'Peace Task Force'.  In an interview on the day of the arrest, Koroma again portrayed himself and his men as heroes acting in the interests of the SLPP Government:

"[Sankoh] was arrested somewhere behind his house, just by the hills, and he was taken to Lumley Police Station and then finally brought to me.  It was because my men made the arrest, and they... took him to the police station, and they in turn sent him to me, and I handed him over to the Government."922

1471. The responsibility for Foday Sankoh's custody and security appears to have been vested in the hands of the British Army from 17 May 2000 onwards.  According to reports on the BBC, Sankoh was transferred from RSLMF Military Headquarter, Cockerill Barracks to a 'secure location' by British paratroopers in a Royal Air Force helicopter.923  The Government of Sierra Leone kept the whereabouts of Sankoh for the most part a tightly-guarded secret.

1472. From the outset, the only detail about Foday Sankoh's detention that was universally agreed upon was its classification as another instance of 'safe custody' or 'protective custody'.924  The Commission notes that in accordance with the Emergency Regulations of 1998, the President of Sierra Leone thereby ordered Sankoh's detention without charge.  Foday Sankoh was never subsequently released from detention.  In March 2003 he was transferred to the custody of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, where he remained until his death on 29 July 2003.


1473. The Commission has come to understand that the Government of Sierra Leone deployed a 'catch-all' strategy in its efforts to secure the elimination of the RUF as a military and political adversary.  Having closed the net around Sankoh's Lodge in the days immediately prior to 8 May 2000, the assorted pro-Government forces proceeded to apprehend every suspected RUF member or affiliate they could find.

1474. In their testimonies to the Commission, suspects and witnesses alike described captures at gunpoint and threats of death that were strikingly similar to the events recorded in the period of 'mob justice' that followed the ECOMOG intervention of 1998.  The arresting authorities included West Side Boys, Kamajors, Sierra Leone Army officers and members of the Special Security Division (SSD) of the Sierra Leone Police.  This ad-hoc state security force effectively took the law into its own hands.  Having already killed, wounded and looted, the pro-Government forces engaged in armed pursuit, intimidation and torture, followed by arbitrary imprisonment of their captives in a variety of locations.

1475. The Government of Sierra Leone authorised and formalised these captures retrospectively, essentially drawing a veil over the abuses that took place.  The official records obtained by the Commission simply show that between 7 May and 17 May 2000, 180 persons who were suspected to be members of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) were arrested and detained.925  The Commission regards this figure as an unreliable reflection of the actual numbers detained.  As explained below, testimonies and later documents indicate that many more than 180 persons were put in prison, some of them for a matter of days, others for several years.

1476. In the absence of proper police records pertaining to these arrests and detentions, it has been left to the Commission to compile anecdotal evidence to convey the circumstances in which they took place.  Certainly, almost immediately after having 'cleared out' Foday Sankoh's Lodge, the state security forces began a massive 'manhunt'.  Most of the RUFP members who managed to escape from the barrage at Sankoh's Lodge had fled into nearby bush terrain towards the Freetown suburb of Malama.  Lacking sufficient bearings or knowledge of the area, many RUFP members became lost and tried in vain to find hiding places.  Others inadvertently moved in the direction of the Wilberforce Military Barracks and fell back into the hands of their pursuers.

1477. In statements given to interrogators at Pademba Road Prison in the weeks after 8 May 2000, many inmates gave detailed personal accounts of the events leading to their detentions.  A fairly typical sequence of events was described by the then Deputy Minister of Labour, Industrial Relations and Social Security, Idrissa Kamara (alias Leather Boot):

"I took refuge within the vicinity of the Ghanaian High Commissioner's residence at a neighbouring Government quarter where I hid myself.  I was there when I heard sporadic shooting coming towards my hidden direction and eventually I was arrested and placed under gunpoint by SLA soldiers.

[...] It was at this point that a Second Lieutenant ordered one of his men to open fire at me, [from] which I sustained three gunshot wounds on my left leg.  From this point I was brutally manhandled and stripped naked and later dragged to their immediate commander, one Lieutenant Kandeh (alias 'Big Joe') whom I know very well.  He in fact rescued me because his men were intending to execute me instantly."926

1478. Kamajors were prominent among those scouring the West of Freetown, determined to catch perceived key figures of the RUF movement.  The Commission found it remarkable that throughout the operation, the Kamajors appeared to work in harmony with the West Side Boys, their once arch enemies.  Several testimonies from captives mentioned more than one faction involved in single arbitrary arrests accompanied by brutal physical violations.  The following example comes from an RUFP member who had fled in fear from Sankoh's Lodge on 8 May 2000:

"I ran out of the house with a few others.  I escaped and on my way I came along some Kamajors and some West Side Boys.  I was caught around Wilberforce and they put me under gunpoint.  Fortunately for me they did not kill me, but [they] stripped me naked without briefs and I was beaten mercilessly.

One of the Kamajors bit my left ear, cut part of it off with his teeth and ate it raw in my presence.  They asked me to walk forward because they were going to kill me.

[...] Fortunately a Lieutenant [from the Sierra Leone Army] came and stopped them.  I was dragged to the Military Headquarters at Cockerill and dumped - locked in a cell.  So many others were treated in the way I was treated and taken to Cockerill.  The way in which we were arrested is out of the Constitution."927

1479. Potentially scores of people were tortured in a similar fashion by the Kamajor arrest squads during the afternoon of 8 May 2000 and in the following days.  Members of these units themselves confessed to the Commission that they had used aggressive tactics to carry out the arrests.  In one testimony, a Kamajor commander explained how he dealt with one of the RUF's 'strongmen':

"I said to [one group of] people: 'If you don't surrender I will kill you all'.  As soon as their strongman saw me, he went down; I said to him: 'If you don't come up, I will kill you'.  Then he came up and I disgraced him - I flogged him and I had a 'smash-up' with him.  He was arrested, beaten, undressed, but I did not kill him.  I decided to hand him over to the Sierra Leone Army, who took him to Cockrill [Military Barracks].  From there he was handed over to the authorities in concern."928

1480. No explanation of the reasons for arrest was given to any one of the prisoners with whom the Commission spoke, either among those who have subsequently been released or among those who remain imprisoned.  Nor was the legal basis for the arrests made clear.  The only possible legal correlation is that the arrests were carried out on the orders of the President and the State's intention was that they should be justified under the Public Emergency Regulations 1998.  Once again, therefore, the arrests and subsequent detentions in 'safe custody' constituted multiple denials of the captives' human rights and flagrant abuses of executive power.

1481. A variety of civilians were detained on the basis of patently spurious connections with the RUF, such as having resided with a member of the RUFP, or even having performed household chores for a member of the RUFP.929  The Commission further discovered the following specific instances of a 'catch-all' strategy against the RUF, in which the named individuals had at one time been members of the movement but had no ostensible connection to any of the events surrounding 8 May 2000:

  • Christian 'Junior' Boltman was arrested far from the realms of any of the RUF residences - he was staying at Kissy, Eastern Freetown with a relative and was arrested "on 7 May 2000 when a group of ex- SLAs headed by Sammy and 'Five-Five' waved to him and stopped him... Subsequently he was arrested and taken to an unknown destination";930
  • Mohamed 'Major' Bockarie was living on a displaced persons' camp; he was arrested by a group of CDF men from the same camp; according to a witness, the CDF men were acting on a tip-off by an informant that Bockarie was an RUF man;931
  • Bobby Fumba had disarmed and sought safe haven at a UNAMSIL Security Centre in Port Loko District from 5 to 8 May 2000; he had no knowledge of the incident at Sankoh's Lodge.  He was arrested and imprisoned along with other ex-combatants a full month after the event, despite having never moved away from the Security Centre.932

1482. Tellingly, the majority of those arrested in May 2000 remain in the custody of the state to the present day.  Four years have passed since their arrests.  None of them has been afforded a fair trial.  According to interviews, none of them has yet been properly charged with any offence before a magistrate of the criminal courts in an open and transparent hearing.  The continued detention of these persons in relation to the conflict in Sierra Leone is tantamount to a continuation of the conflict.  It is corrosive to the prospect of national reconciliation.  For every day that passes, the violation of their human rights is further entrenched.  The Commission finds that each of these persons is presently and continuously being denied justice by this Government of Sierra Leone.

1483. Additionally, many of those arrested and detained during the month of May 2000 have been subjected to torture and inhuman and degrading treatment during their time in state custody.  The Commission has conducted hours of interviews with present and former prisoners at Freetown Central Prison, Pademba Road.  The following account is a conglomeration of several individual testimonies that provide a comprehensive overview of the plight of RUF detainees, as well as a damning indictment of the human rights record of the present Sierra Leone Government:933

"To start with, we were locked up for complete six months, both night and day, from May to November without seeing the sunlight... except wherein somebody was fortunate enough to be called upon to go to the CID Headquarters for statement-taking.  The food is very poor; the medical facilities are inadequate as the hospital is always lacking drugs.  In some cases, two months can pass before we are given one bathing soap, one laundering soap and one tube of toothpaste.  For a long time many of us were sleeping on bare ground.

[...] On 14 March 2001, CID police officers unexpectedly came to conduct ruthless searching of our cells.  There was no sign of the prison wardens.  We don't know why the CID came that day - since being in prison, we were only ever searched by prison wardens.  During the searching by CID, many of us were grossly molested.  All hell broke loose; fighting was all over the place.  The incident resulted in the opening of fire, a shoot-out in the Pademba Road Prison.  Ten of our brothers were seriously maltreated to the point of near death.

[...] It was rumoured that these ten prisoners were to be executed, but UNAMSIL intervened.  Instead, on 17 March 2001, they were carried to a special detention facility, an old mortuary at Jui that was being used as an armoury dump.  They were kept there for five months, with no explanation given for the arbitrary transfer, or for the selection of inmates.

Most of the RUF who were left at Pademba Road Prison were seriously tortured.  They were kept under tight lock-up for complete three weeks.  Twenty-one (21) RUF prisoners died during the time of this lock-up, in addition to the late Secretary-General of the RUFP, S. Y. B. Rogers, who had earlier died as a result of the same maltreatment - 'steady batting' as it is commonly called among prisoners.

[...] The release of some RUF prisoners in late July and early August 2001 gave us hope that we were all going to be released within the shortest possible time.  Instead, all of a sudden, many prisoners were transferred out of the blocks and into condemned separate cells.

Then, after the midnight of 11 August 2001, at about 3.00 am, some armed SLA, SSD Police, Prisons and UNAMSIL personnel forcefully took us out of our separate cells and gave us a good beating.  There were up to 300 officers involved, including 'Eighty-Eighty', 'Scorpion', 'One Mohamed' and Major Ray England.

They handcuffed our two hands at our backs, plastered our mouths with heavy tape, covered our heads down to our necks with black execution bags and plastered our mouths again.  We were dragged out of the prison yard and thrown into waiting trucks just outside the prison gates.  We received more severe beatings before we were thrown into the trucks and even while inside the truck.

Everybody was treated the same way.  Some sustained very deep cuts and broken bones as a result of being hit by the security men.  Some prisoners toileted on themselves, while others urinated on themselves, because we all thought we were going to be killed.

Eleven (11) prisoners were at that time brought to the Mammy Yoko helipad and later transferred into a helicopter and loaded as cargoes; they were flown to Pujehun and spent nine months in Pujehun Prison.  Seven (7) other prisoners were treated the same way and transferred to Bonthe Prison.  The majority of the transferred prisoners were later brought back to Freetown for further detention.

Any time we have been visited by [human rights] NGOs, we put our problems to them as to how the Government has been violating our fundamental human rights.  According to Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other NGOs, they have taken up our case with the Government on so many occasions and have appealed for us to be set free, but to no avail.  The message always returned that this SLPP Government is very difficult to deal with and formidable when it comes to RUF matters."

1484. Detainees have been beaten with weapons, assaulted and routinely subjected to excessive force.  Detainees have had their mouths taped and their heads forcibly 'bagged' in executioners' bags.  Detainees have been denied their human rights with regard to their conditions of detention.  Protracted periods of solitary confinement and transfers to alternative detention facilities in undisclosed locations have been imposed on many of them.  The Government is responsible for this litany of human rights violations against detainees presently in its custody.  The Government is also responsible for the deaths of at least 21 RUF prisoners in state custody.

Results of the Commission's Investigations into the Circumstances of Persons Detained in the Custody of the State as a Result of the Conflict in Sierra Leone

1485. The Commission stands opposed to all forms of human rights abuse, irrespective of the identities of those responsible for them or those aga