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Sierra Leone List of Extremely Violent Events Perpetrated

Sierra Leone List of Extremely Violent Events Perpetrated

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Sierra Leone: List of extremely violent eventsperpetrated during the War,1991-2002
 Leboeuf, Aline
Wednesday 5 March 2008
 
Sierra Leone: List of extremely violent events perpetrated during the War, 1991-2002
Introductory remarks to the entry
This entry attempts to present the known events of extreme violence that happened during the civil war inSierra Leone, whilst placing them in their historical context. The civil war lasted from March 23, 1991 toJanuary 11, 2002. According to the Crimes of War Project around 75,000 people lost their lives, 2 millionwere displaced and 20,000 were mutilated (Danny Hoffman, 2004: 216). However, according to DavidKeen, several different sets of figures are available, and [their] origins [...] are rarely explained.(Keen,2005: 1)As of yet there is no published academic research which provides a detailed historical narrative of theextremely violent events which resulted from the war, and that goes beyond the policy-oriented work of such organizations as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, No Peace Without Justice or the Truthand Reconciliation Commissions Report. There is, however, academic research explaining andcontextualizing those events (see for example Richards, 1996; Keen, 2005; Gberie, 2005) but withouttrying to describe those extremely violent events themselves in detail. This is a work in progress, becauseit uses existing and reachable written sources: it can therefore only provide a temporary storyof events.It is mainly drawn from sources of non academic literature, even though it refers at times to some articlesor books that provide historical data on the war and scarce data on the extremely violent events that took place. It mainly uses four non-academic sources that can nonetheless be described as well-researched:The reports of Amnesty International since 1996 (older reports have not been accessed yet).The reports of Human Rights Watch since 1998The small part of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commissions report that can be found onthe Internet (TRC, 2004).The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created in Sierra Leone at the end of the war (inaccordance with the Lomé Peace Agreement and the TRC Act, 2000) to reconcile the Sierra Leoneansand to confront the past. It sought to write the history of the causes, nature and extent of violations andabuses that took place during the war, using Sierra-Leoneanstestimony. It delivered a report inOctober 2004 that was officially published only during the summer of 2005.The Conflict Mapping in Sierra LeoneProgram of No Peace without Justice, 2004. No Peace WithoutJustice (NPWJ), a human rights organization, won a European contract to gather reliable informationso as to put together an accurate picture of what happened in Sierra Leoneand to inform the SpecialCourt of Sierra Leone. Basing their work on research conducted by Sierra Leonean NGOs, theypublished an Executive summaryreport that provides for a legal history of violations and abuses inSierra Leone.
I. 1991 (March 23) - 1993: Beginning of the RUF insurgency against theSierra Leone government and first occurrences of extreme violence on alimited scale.
On March 23, 1991, 385 Revolutionary United Front (RUF) fighters led by Foday Sankoh entered theKailahun and Pujehun Districts in Sierra Leone from Liberia. They had trained in Camp Namma in Liberia.2000 fighters from Charles Taylors NPFL (Special Forces) were deployed in Sierra Leone between March and April. Most of them were Liberian, with possibly a maximum of 100 other nationals fromBurkina Faso, Ivory Coast, the Gambia, Nigeria, Guinea and Togo (TRC, 2004, vol. 2, ch. 2, §72 and 380).The NPFL, or National Patriotic Front of Liberia, led by Charles Taylor, was the group that began theLiberian civil war in 1989.
 
Sierra Leone: List of extremely violent events perpetrated during the War, 1991-2002
The RUF opposed the All People Congress (APC) one-party regime of President Joseph Saidu Momoh, andlater declared that it aimed to restore multi-party democracy in the region. Until June/July 1991 theyenjoyed some limited success, acquiring control of up to a fifth of Sierra Leone. They began to attack SLA(Sierra Leone Army) positions in the south of Kono District. But then a counter-attack by the SLA -supported by Liberian militia forces recruited in the refugee camps (soon organized as ULIMO, the UnitedLiberian Movement for Democracy, cf. Sawyer, 2004: 446) - forced them to retreat and challenged NPFLscontrol of the Liberian side of the border. The RUF then lost control of several towns in the border region.Its Liberian back-up was severely restricted according to Richards, the mercenary section of the RUF leftSierra Leone in 1992 (Richards, 1996: 8).On April 29, 1992 a coup dEtat by dissatisfied junior officers sent to the front paved the way for theestablishment of the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC), and Captain Valentine Strasser becamehead of state. The war continued, with the RUF pushing from Kailahun into the diamond-rich Kono districtby September of 1992. Its capital Koidu was a major site of conflict during October and remained sothrough much of the rest of 1993. The SLA began to use the help of local civil militias to fight the RUF.By December , the RUF had lost control of Koidu, Pendembu and Kailahun town, and was thought to haveeffectively lost the war. The NPRC declared a unilateral ceasefire and this marked the beginning of a newphase.During this period, the war developed into what can be seen as a more conventionalwar especiallycompared to the rest of the conflict on two fronts ( in the Kailahun and Pujehun Districts), with civiliansettlements treated as strategic targets. Suitably, the TRC referred to this period as a ConventionalTargetWarfare(TRC, 2004, vol. 2, ch. 2, § 125-131), even though this notion of conventionality shouldbe used with caution. Civilian settlements were targeted by the RUF as military objectives (for control of the territory and recruitment), which resulted in systematic forced displacement of the population. The RUFtargeted and killed individuals with political, economic and social power (Richards, 1996, p. 8). Themercenary part of the RUF movement also used terror and looting tactics in an excessive manner, but on alimited scale during this period (Richard, 1996; TRC, 2004, vol. 2, ch. 2, §382). While the SLA apparentlycommitted only a few acts of violence against civilians during the first part of the war, there arenevertheless reports that suspected collaboratorswith RUF were killed, as the SLA slowly began toadopt RUF-like tacticsafter the NPRC coup. 10,000 people may have died from 1991 to 1992, accordingto Zack-Williams (Zack-Williams, 1999).** (Gberie, 2005: 58-79; Richards, 1996; Zack-Williams, 1999; Amnesty International, 1996a: 11; NoPeace without Justice, 2004; TRC, 2004, vol. 2, ch. 2, § 125-131; Sawyer, 2004: 446; Keen, 2005: 84-106)
1991 (from March): The RUFs inland-moving campaign.
During their first two attacks on March 23, onBomaru and Sienga (two villages on the Liberian border of Kailahun district) the RUF killed one SierraLeonean army major, one lieutenant and eleven civilians, looted the towns and withdrew into Liberia aftertroops from the neighboring Daru barracks counter-attacked,according to Lansana Gberie.He alsomentions that the NPFL had conducted other attacks earlier in Sierra Leonean territory (for example, onDecember 18, 1990) (Gberie, 2005: 59).From March to July, as they were advancing through Kailahun and Pujehun Districts and then acrossBonthe, Bo, Kenema and Kono Districts, RUF/NPFL forces abducted civilians to recruit them ascombatants, or to carry looted property and perform domestic tasks. Around 800 civilians may have beenabducted to work in farms in Kailahun District in July (No Peace without Justice, 2004: 73). Some of thoseforces specifically those following instructions from Charles Taylors NPFL according to several sources(Richards, 1996; TRC, 2004, vol. 2, ch. 2, § 382) killed civilians, including , according to NPWJ,possibly 100 people in Pujehun District in June and 62 people in Kailahun District in July (No PeaceWithout Justice, 2004: 73). They are also reported to have also tortured civilians, committed sexual crimes,burned civilian residences, and targeted government and traditional authorities (all in unknown numbers).Paul Richards contests that in order to compensate for its limited numbers of troops and occupation

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