By Martin Kijangbe
Thank you for reading my second article. I am sure it has started opening your eyes on why the charge against Chief Hinga Norman and his hunters may disturb any patriotic Sierra Leonean. For long our country lost the luster of peace that has been fundamental to our national social milieu and cultural heritage. We had witnessed false testimonies been given against innocent people. We have seen how those that designed false testimonies against political opponents met the requirement for benefits from political patrons. We have seen how people sacrificed even their academic reputations, moral beliefs and basic human values as long as the political system is serving their own purposes. Many of us thought that the end of anti-democratic rule in Sierra Leone and the specter of the war would foster a new conscientiousness that will be centered on national unity, hard work, truth, creativity and self-development. But what we have today as demonstrated in the silence of the educated elite on issue of Chief Hinga Norman patently shows complacency on a very important national issue-because they do want to risk chances. This is understandable but mind you history watches us as these moments of truth pass by.
In this article you will learn about the layers of complex and mean relationships that RUF conjured and the disloyalties in the Army and the patent betrayal of our people, at the time the country needed patriots must. I will conclude on asking salient questions about postwar justice. Once more thanks for your interest in this matter.
Why Are Sierra Leoneans Silent About Chief Hinga Norman & His Hunters’ Fate?
Dear friends, there is a popular saying that when the cream of society rests on mediocrity that society is doomed. Why has this issue not come into our national political discourse? Here are some reasons why?
v The issue has been dressed in political emblem, thus it has become partisan. Chief Hinga Norman was serving the SLPP interest therefore our support of his course will validate the SLPP and we do not want to give support to our enemy.
v The issue has been smeared into nauseating tribal fragrance, so people from other tribes cannot touch or smell the issue. The common saying among their tribal caucuses is: ” Let us leave that Mende Chief to perish and let his brothers and sisters fight his case.”
v The issue has been dressed in volatile hay of cannibalism. Therefore who will march for people who hide under the cloak of cannibalism, to seemingly fight for our liberation? “Although they liberated us but we cannot justify their cannibal act.”
v The issue has been labeled as an international issue, so it is above local approach. Any one that is considered a reprobate must be left alone to suffer. Right now our national survival depends on international support. So we should not say anything regarding this matter because it is seen as a genuine concern to the international community.
v It has been cloth into an untouchable robe of the UN therefore anyone who it accuses must be left alone to perish, because that is the world’s organization that has been instrumental in our peace process. Casting any aspersions on the court by nationals of Sierra Leone would undermine its credibility.
But if some or all of these views are the resisting forces from talking about a good course that liberated the country from the hands of those evils men or political dissidents that reverted the civilization we had struggled for over 197 years (153 years before Independence and 44 years after independence), then we need a reconstruction of the mind to think as new Sierra Leoneans in this 4th Republic. The basic lesson from the war that we may only whisper today is that when the rebels were ravaging the East and Southern Provinces, there was no national sympathy or readiness or strategy to even condemn the rebels. It was believed to be the Mendes fighting the Mendes. With time, the war spread sequentially to almost every area in the country. Then Sierra Leoneans started to label the war in collective terms. The rebels became bad people to everyone. That was the time that many knew that the rebels did not mistake but they were following plan aimed at destabilizing every part of the country. Here we are today, through our own silence and lack of support in measured terms we are taking human value and dignity away from the heroes who put together a robust force to dismantle the fury of the rebels and forced them to the negotiating table.
Complexity of the War The Kamjors Fought
Friends in Part II of this series, I shared with you the evolution of the Sobels as a betrayal force and the Kamajors as a resisting force. There were more layers of complexities that many people did not know about. I wish to humbly share these layers with you and then leave you with your conscience to judge for yourself as to who Chief Hinga Norman and his men should be in our national discourse?
The Colombia Factor
If you ask any of the RUF ex-combatants, you would discover how young boys were drugged and the kind of drugs the rebel High Command was giving out to them. The rebels did not have time to grow the local Marijuana; they relied on the drugs fromColombia. RUF used the drugs from their fellow rebels in Colombia to drug our brothers and sisters-the child soldiers. It damaged their thought processes and influenced their actions, thus the barbaric brutality that characterized the Sierra Leonewar. The indoctrination that followed drugging of the child soldiers set the tone for the kind of atrocities that became the order of the RUF insurgency. Colombia became a very crucial support base of the RUF; our diamonds went for drugs in un-numbered quantities. Only the RUF high command knows how often and how much of our country’s diamond went into the drug for war deal. The drug deal was so entangled that in order for RUF to say “Yes to Peace” it must settle the entire circumbendibus drug deals it ventured in with the Colombia rebels.
The Burkina Faso Factor
Anyone whose village was attack knew that mercenaries from Burkina Faso were fighting along the RUF rebels. The salaries of these mercenaries were the diamonds peaked from alluvial mining. Because these people held lucrative diamondiferous areas for over nine years no one actual could tell how much was extracted from our soil to swell the pockets of Burkina Faso mercenaries and their president. The end of the war would mean no job for the mercenaries. Therefore the war was a lucrative venture commandeered by President Blaze Campori of Burkina Faso that kept fueling his groundnut economy. This enticed the mercenaries to fight so fiercely that our soldiers could not measure up to the RUF for most part of the war before the Kamajors emerged.
The Ukraine Factor
Ukraine is a dismantled communist country, whose dictator had more weapon and army than the civilian population. It was very easy for RUF to network with the un-engaged Ukrainians who easily sold their military hardware and services. It can be recalled how the Ukrainians perished on sea enroute to Freetown to consolidate the rebel grip onFreetown. British intelligence helped in buffering their pre-eminent attack on Freetown. For more than six years Ukrainians were selling weapons to the RUF. The extent of the involvement of the Ukrainians cannot be estimated today but it was deep because our diamonds were good international bargaining tools for the RUF and they were effectively used to destabilize our homeland.
South African-The Executive Outcome
We may recall those bloody years of Apartheid rule in South Africa. It generated a color war. This tug of war on a one-foot rope between color-tension poles polarized South Africa. The white dominated rule designed ways of running through black resistance. This struggle induced progressive growth in weaponry industry. African National Congress also acquired huge cash of weapons. At Independence South Africa had huge piles of arsenals which it had no immediate use for. Also there emerged a white dominated mercenary group called Executive Outcome that made use of the left over of weapons from the Apartheid regime.
The NPRC failed to recognize and dismantle the double loyalties in the Army and the ordinary people had discovered it and were getting fed up. So for the NPRC to appear effective it had to sign a contract with the Executive Outcome mercenary company. The basic element of the contract was that if the Executive Outcome clears the diamond areas and the Mokanjie and Sierra Rutile mines respectively, it would import its own mining machines and mine the diamonds uninhibited. This was a blank check given to the mercenary group for using post-Apartheid weapons in Sierra Leone and rewarding them with our diamonds. Note that the NPRC included the Sierra Rutile in the contract because the World Bank had just allocated $18M for the rehabilitation of the Rutile mines. Also note that Sierra Rutile is an American owned company (the largest in the world).
This deal was too good to believe. In this regard, even before the Executive Outcome debut the warfront, their high technology mining machines were imported to Sierra Leone and ready to operate. In less than three months the Executive Outcome had cleared Kono Districts and Mokanji and Sierra Rutile Mines. This speed unfolded a lot of intriguing maneuvers. Some of us believed that there was hidden arrangement between the Executive Outcome and RUF. This arrangement was to allow the Executive Outcome mercenaries to take control of the areas they needed to fulfill the terms of the contract given to them by the NPRC and leave RUF alone in other areas of the country to do their limb cutting, arson, rape, and abduction and any heinous crimes that suited them.
When President Kabbah took over, he withdrew the Executive Outcome’s contract. They became disgruntled and clandestinely lent their support to the RUF after they left the country. It was traumatic for the Executive Outcome to leave the country after exploring unusual diamond locations and seeing the prospects therein. Their support for the RUF increased the scope of REUF.
The Overthrow of Valentine Strasser
The sacrifice of our nation’s diamonds to the Executive Outcomes did not settle well with the top military bras like Maada Bio, Mondeh, Tom Nyuma and Samuel Yajah to name a few. The Executive Outcome issue and the sneaky ways Valentine Strasser, who had promised the world that he was not interested in transforming his government into a civilian government, started having mad cravings and sinister inklings towards running for the political leadership in the pending General Elections. These two factors led to the overthrow of Valentine Strasser by his lieutenant, Maada Bio.
This overthrow further divided the country’s army into to factions because it gave way to an undisturbed electioneering process, channeled by James Jonah. About six weeks to the elections the division I referred to above came to light when the military dissidents, bombed the reputable James Jonah’s compound. A national conference was reconvened as a sort of referendum for the election or extension of the NPRC rule. The peoples’ representatives took the former. Therefore the way was clear for free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections by proportional representation. But the disgruntled soldiers kept disturbing up to the elections day. They started firing around the reservation area in Bo by 6 AM, but the local people and the Kamajors held them abase until the elections went without any debilitating incidence.
Before 1994 towns like Korribondo, Mile Siaka, Mile 91, Bo, Matotoka, Kenema, Daru, Pujehun all had well-established and equipped military arsenals. After the elections of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, there were no political old hands from the APC regime around the political rostrum. You can recall that NPRC had imprisoned some of those patrons (when the NPRC took Momoh out of power) on whose tickets some of the APC boys entered the army rank and files. During the NPRC and the emergence of democratic government, there were none of those patrons with whom those APC boys had hidden alliance or allegiance. But president Kabbah was to be protected by the same APC boys in the army; a clear misjudgment of security. Therefore, they were only waiting for an opportunity to show who they were really loyal to.
In 1997 that opportunity presented itself and Johnny Paul Koroma declared himself as president. As soon as this happened, immediately all those APC loyalists who were manning the arsenals listed above immediately pledge support for the Junta. All the ammunitions deposited at those military bases were commandeered and the rebels were called to join the Junta. As a result of this partnership, the rebels’ weaponry capacity increased to very high level-about 500%. The Junta now commanded the rebels and majority of the Sierra Leone army- the old APC boys and those who thought they would better make it in the chaos created by the war and the Junta takeover.
The Kamajors As Liberators
Dear friends, as I attempt to point out some of the entrenched linkages of the rebel support and the betrayals that were apparently exhibited, we can begin to appreciate the rock against which the Kamajors were going to fight. The SOBEL constituency gradually increased and when the Junta took over, they were no longer in the hiding.
How for humanity sake were these Kamajors going to take the country from the octopus-limbed gorilla fighters that had paralyzed our country for more than 8years? How were the Kamajors going to use local weapons to dismantle the military potency of the rebel cohorts in terms of numbers of fighters and power of the weapons? But bit-by-bit they started chopping away the chips and through providential powers they dismantled the rebel fire fury and deflagrated the course of the war.
Who would say that the local hunters did not kill? To clear the Kamajors of any crime, I will not do right to my conscience and to my people. They are not stones and sticks but human beings. So, they were ambushed. They were bulleted. They were betrayed and felt angry with those they suspected. They even interrogated suspected rebels and people testified against them. Some civilians set the Kamajors up so that the rebels would slaughter them? In many instances there were exchanges of fire between the rebels and Kamajors that led to many deaths. Do we call these deaths crime against humanity, when they were fighting to secure humanity?
Let me make a point here. The Kamajors were mostly from the localities. If say a Kamajor from my village Foya Mamangewor committed a blatant violation of a civilian that Kamajor would have to return to Foya Mamangewor after the war. His act would not go well with the local people who know his immediate and extended family members. His act would bring shame to his family members. Therefore there was always restraint on the side of the Kamajors. Beside that, Chief Hinga Norman being a British trained military officer introduced discipline and though military codes of conduct. The ultimate goal of the Kamajors was to free the people from the rebel insurgency and not to brutalize them. If the Kamajors were cannibals could the local people have returned to those areas the Kamajors cleared and made safe for the return of the ordinary villagers?
The desire for post war justice brought our country to where we are today; that is the sitting of the International Court to investigate war crimes. What is the legal apparatus or framework set to investigate all the rebels, their associates and their leaders with certainty? How much do these foreigners in charge of the International Court understand the socio-cultural and political dynamics of our people and which doses were injected into the war? How is the Court going to investigate these rebels when 80 % of the fighting forces on the rebel side were children? So, if we take the child soldiers out of the jurisdiction of the International Court because of the 1989 Convention of the Rights of Children (The Right of Children for Special Protection in Times of War: Children who are refugees or seek refugee status are entitled to special protection (Article 22). Children under the ages of 15 shall not be allowed to take part in arm conflict. Those that are affected are entitled to special care and protection (Article 38). Children who by any means experienced arm conflict, torture, neglect or exploitation shall receive special treatment for their recovery (Article 39) has been ratified Sierra Leone. Not only withstanding this, if the official soldiers that were legally headed by President Kabbah as Minister of Defense could receive protection what of Chief Hinga Norman? When it was war time these men were sacrificing their lives for the sake of restoring peace and democratically elected government. Tthey were called pro-government militiamen and now that the war is over and the booties of the war is long awaited peace and democratic elections, their nomenclatures have changed from pro-government militiamen to war criminals, cannibals and eventually prisoners. Who then are the actual war criminals? A relevant question to reflect on.
There is no postwar justice for properties of our labor that were stolen in daylight? The desire for postwar justice brought Rwanda to similar place and it has taken the Rwanda Court more than 8 years and still there is no clear conclusion or outcome? The International War Crime Tribunal is sitting at the Hague in Netherlands, with all the arrests it has made and the global support, there are no clear and justified conclusions that are devoid of politics, human factors and mistakes?
Indeed we are all yearning for justice. But as the fundamental instrument of reintegration is social justice, there should be clear understanding of the economic, political, cultural and social matrixes that constitute the reality of the people. We are yearning for justice to be done to Chief Hinga Norman and his men who stood for the country against falsehood and betrayal. We are yearning for justice when the rule of “cause and effect” would be an essential consideration within which to look for the truth. We are yearning for justice when the true testimonies against the Kamajors would come from those who were brutalized, dramatized, traumatized and made vulnerable and not from political weaverbirds that only want to destroy the beautiful foliage of the palm tree to make their own nests. We are yearning for justice when political undercurrents aimed at reducing some perceived opponents do not drive it? We are looking for justice from a sighted Court that would resist being imbibed into political pettiness and hidden vendetta. A Court that comes to the investigative table without any preconceived list of suspects given to them by political operatives in their own parties and highly placed opponents.
Yes my friends, the holy men are resting and the criminals are languishing in prison. The honest men and true liberators are sitting in air-conditioned offices, giving directives while the enemies of humanity are treated as prison gabs. The actual liberators are taking salutes and walking on red carpets, while the saboteurs are denied some basic human facilities, facilities such taking bath, change of clothes, brushing one’s teeth and lack freedom of visitation. The actual patriots have decided the fate of the seeming cannibals who fought to liberate this country when all military tornadoes were used by a divided and failed army and rebel cohorts; when every negotiations had failed; when the loyalty of the army had been sacrificed; when the president lost his authority to a mediocre; when the common people were starving to death and murdered in cold blood; when the public and private institutions were not functioning even to 10 % capacity because of the war; when our country was isolated and left alone to the grips of the rebels for 8 years (only after Kofi Anna learned the bitter lessons from Rwanda where he was special envoy before he became the UN Secretary General) and before the British came to our side. Whatever description people might give to Chief Hinga Norman and his men, to majority of Sierra Leoneans, they are heroes who were willing to sacrifice their lives for the peace and stability of their motherland. Whatever happens to them we are not going to take arms to free them but we believe in retributive justice. With the omniscience of our God who knows every secret, we submit the course of these heroes into His majestic hands. Lord, let the truth prevail.