Chronology of a Disaster
The area, now known as Sierra Leone was populated by the Temne people when the first Portuguese navigator arrived in 1460. The name Sierra Leone refers to the shape of the mountain, which can be seen when arriving at the coast, which looks like a lion.
Slave trade started around 1500.
Around 1550, a large number of Mande people came from Liberia and found refuge in the southern part of what is now Sierra Leone.
In the 19th century, formers slaves, freed from their North American masters, were repatriated to Africa and brought to Sierra Leone where they founded the free colony of 'Freetown'. By 1865 more than 50,000 former slaves had been brought to Freetown.
In 1896, the British government declared Sierra Leone a British protectorate to counter the progression of the French in West Africa. In 1898, the British government imposed a 'hut tax' to generate revenues for the expenses incurred in the management of the colony.
In 1908 the British government established a naval base in Freetown, securing their claims.
In 1961 Sierra Leone was recognized as an independent country and a prime minister was "appointed" by the British Consul. Over the next three decades, several coups and counter-coups followed between the pro-western interests who controlled the majority of the Sierra Leonean economy and the Pan-Africanist forces who wanted Africa to be returned to the Africans.
The pro-western interests won, establishing a one party rule under the dictator Siaka Stevens and the other dictator Joseph Saidu Momoh who succeeded the former in 1986. These men secured the control of the economy for the pro-western interests.
Although Sierra Leone is a very rich country, the foreign corporations continue to export all the profits from the exploitation of the country’s natural resources (diamonds, minerals, agriculture, tourism, etc.) abroad, leaving the country on the brink of starvation.
In response to this situation, a group of men take up arms to fight the foreigners and their puppets who run the country, in order to take back the wealth for the people of Sierra Leone. The rebel group is the RUF or Revolutionary United Front.
In July 1991 the rebels of the RUF control 1/5th of the country. They terrorize civilians, accusing them of supporting a system that exploits them. Their motto is; "No More Slaves, No More Masters. Weapons to the People. Power and Wealth to the People." They meet a weak resistance of the Sierra Leone army.
In 1993, a peace-keeping force was created by ECOWAS (The Union of West African States) and financed by the UN to intervene against the rebels. Thousands of Nigerian soldiers were sent into Sierra Leone to be part of such peace effort.
The deterioration of conditions within the Army and the realization of the rebels' motives forces the soldiers to join the rebels.
Starting in 1995, the pro-westerners create an independent militia known as Kamajor to protect their rights and fight the rebellion. The Kamajors brutally spread the war throughout the country.
By October of the same year, the RUF troops are now in control of one-third of the country and advance towards the capital, Freetown. A large portion of the regular army has joined the rebels in the field.
The government is completely inefficient and relies more than ever on the 2000 Nigerians based in Sierra Leone. In order to support them, it hires the South African mercenaries of "Executive Outcomes," a company that specializes in commando operations. They are paid through diamond mine concessions.
January 1996: Based on the total inefficiency of the government and the degradation of the country, Corporal General Julius Maada-Bio seizes power in a coup d'état. He is convinced of the need to share the power with the RUF and obtains a cease-fire. The international community adamantly opposes this partnership with the RUF, since the RUF's politics are opposed to the interests of the western world. The international community imposes an election while the country is in the middle of a brutal civil war which will clearly prevent people from being able to vote.
Seeing it as a maneouver from the international community, the RUF refuses the idea of election until peace is restored in the country. Despite the extreme violence, which followed the announcement of the elections, an electoral commission is put in place by the UN. The international community chooses Hamad Tejan Kabbah, a former U.N. executive, as its candidate, in order to protect their interests, as is now the case in several third-world countries.
March 15, 1996: Ahmad Tejan Kabbah wins the election.
Independent analysis of the polling results proved that the UN representatives manipulated the results in favor of Kabbah.
The hard line taken by President Kabbah, unleashes extreme violence between the different factions all over the country. Faced by such violence which starts to appear in mass media around the world the international community forces Kabbah to make peace with the RUF and the army.
February 1997: Despite RUF leader Foday-Sankoh's signature of the peace agreement he is arrested and jailed with other RUF members and army officers. This is a political maneuver of President Kabbah and his allies to ignore the peace agreement, break the RUF rebellion and the resistance of the Sierra-Leone Army.
On May 25, 1997 the Sierra Leone Army leads a coup d’état and opens the prisons to free their men as well as the RUF members. They open the rice warehouses, which belong to private companies and humanitarian organizations and let starving people help themselves.
The head of the army frees Foday-Sankoh and names him second-in-command of the government of a unified A.F.R.C.(Sierra Leone army) – RUF
Following the embargo imposed by ECOWASagainst the new government, the UN votes the Resolution 1132 on October 8, 1997. This resolution prevents trading of arms and oil with Sierra Leone. The ECOMOG bombard all ships transporting everything including food in contravention of the UN resolution also killing numerous civilians.
Over 200,000 people leave Freetown. The price of food increased astronomically and many families can only afford one meal per day. They cannot even count on humanitarian aid, which doesn’t reach Freetown anymore as ordered by President Kabbah and UK Ambassador, Peter Penfold.
President Kabbah, in exile, negotiates with a Thai banker. The banker will finance a counter coup d'état up to 10 million dollars in exchange for Sierra Leone diamond mining concessions estimated at 150 million dollars. On the suggestion of UK Ambassador Peter Penfold, mercenaries from Sandline, a sister company of Executive Outcomes, are put in charge of the operation.
February 1998: with the help of Sandline mercenaries, the ECOMOG forces launch an offensive to take back Freetown. Nigerian Alpha jets drop numerous cluster bombs, forbidden by international law, transforming entire cities into ghost towns.
The UN was questioned on this subject and answered that the embargo was not violated. However, two months later, Resolution # 1171 dated June 5, 1998 is passed. It specifies that the weapons embargo in Sierra Leone only applies to non-governmental forces, when it originally applied to all factions.
December 1998 - The rebels and the army have formally united as, The People's Army, and are entering Freetown. They attack the ECOMOG troops forcing them to withdraw to one-third of the city.
The rebel rampage allows the government to continue its propaganda campaign. They try to blame the RUF soldiers for the violence, painting them as these new barbarians responsible for all the suffering of the Sierra Leone people.
The international community and President Kabbah's government come under fire from the media, which publicizes amputations of civilians and the atrocities committed by the forces loyal to the government.
Fearing that the situation will worsen and the truth of the crisis will be revealed, Kabbah’s government is forced to sign a peace treaty and enforce it.
February 1999: The ECOMOG forces are reinforced by troops from Mali. The rebels are violently expelled from Freetown. The confrontations leave 6000 dead and a devastated city.
July 1999: President Kabbah goes to Lome in Togo to sign the peace treaty with Foday-Sankoh, who has been recently released and pardoned. This treaty includes the sharing of power with the RUF as it had been proposed in the past by Maada-Bio and Johnny-Paul Koroma. Kabbah's government will include four ministers from the RUF. One of the first decisions imposed by them, will be the cancellation of mining licenses held by foreign companies.
May 2000: Foday Sankoh’s bodyguards together with UN peacekeepers fire on a crowd outside Foday Sankoh's home. Kofi Annan declares Foday Sankoh personally responsible for the incident. President Kabbah order the arrest of all RUF hierarchy including ministers of his government in violation of the peace agreement.
Most of the RUF hierarchy die in prison from "unknown causes."
May 2005: President Kabbah is still in power in Sierra Leone, the natural resources are still controlled by foreign companies and Sierra Leone is now the poorest country in the world.