IN MEMORIAM SYMPATHY TO ALL VICTIMS OF THE RUF WAR - INCLUDING THE 6,000 OR SO VICTIMS CAUGHT-UP IN FREETOWN ON THE PATH OF THE DRUGGED INVADERS. IT COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED OR AT LEAST MITIGATED.
Remember January 6, 1999? That was the day a combined invading force comprising Foday Sankoh's RUF rebels, Johnny Paul Koroma's renegade SLA-AFRC junta troops and savage jungle NPFL forces supplied by President Charles Taylor of Liberia, arrived inside Freetown and immediately unleashed bloody mayhem on virtually every human being in its path.
The very first thing the advanced RUF contingent of the invading force did was to break wide open the Pademba Road Prison - thus freeing, among others, Mr. Stephen Bio who was the exclusive arms purchasing-importing agent for both the NPRC & AFRC juntas and for the RUF as well. Later, the rebels tried to cut down the centuries-old Freetown Cotton Tree but failed.
President Kabbah tried to flee to Guinea but President Lansana Conteh declined to receive him. Prez Lansana Conteh is reputed to have advised Prez Kabbah to stay and fight like a man instead of running to Guinea each time there was coup trouble in Freetown. Kabbah and some of his colleagues, including Dr. James Jonah, then found refuge with ECOMOG Forces at Lungi Airport.
The notorious January 1999 invasion need not have happened at all because the SLG had received advanced warning in late October 1998 from the SL Embassy in D.C.
In late October 1998, a sympathetic US radio journalist I had befriended and who was intimately familiar with my non-stop anti-coupligan campaign, had come to visit me at the SL Embassy in Washington, DC to inform me that s/he had received information that the RUF Minister of War, a Mr. Rogers, then based in Bo Waterside, Liberia near SL's Southeastern border, would soon be calling him/her to brief him/her on RUF on-goings and would I like to confidentially listen-in on the conversation?
I accepted with alacrity!
The journalist soon arrived in my office with a radio-phone contraption, handed me his/her radio-phone extension while s/he used the other handle to converse with Rogers. Soon, Mr. Rogers' radio-phone call came in and he quickly began speaking.
Here is what I over heard. Mr. Rogers told the journalist that it was the RUF's plan to spend Christmas 1998 in Freetown at the State House and that they will be coming with a big force put together and trained by Liberian authorities and would include the AFRC-RUF junta troops that ECOMOG had evicted from Freetown in early February that year. He said the plan was to remove Kabbah and install Foday Sankoh as president.
I thanked the journalist who soon left after minor poverty refreshments. Thereupon, I telephoned President Kabbah with the news and followed up immediately by facsimile to both the Lodge and the Foreign Ministry.
I heard nothing and got no feedback from anyone in the Lodge at Hill Station or from the Ministry. Weeks later, I got reports from friends at the Lodge that Kabbah did receive my messages but everyone close to him was laughing and describing me as the Prophet of Gloom and Doom. Further, no one needed to worry about any invasion as everything was under ECOMOG's control!
When I heard nothing from the SLG, I began telephoning people whose telephone numbers I had with me as soon as I heard that NPRC Sarge Musa - now with the AFRC-RUF junta as were Julius Bio, Dr. Abass Bundu and other ex-NPRC junta boys - had already been at Waterloo and had accidentally blown himself up to smithereens.
The invading forces had traveled by foot via bush paths to the Western Area bypassing all ECOMOG troops posted to fix positions on the highways. The invading forces staged fake skirmishes here and there along their way as a ruse to deceive ECOMOG and divert its attention from their secret bush routes. They thus succeeded in infiltrating men and weapons into the city unnoticed.
RUF weapons were transported in fake coffins to cemeteries and stored in elaborate built-up old Creole graves to await the bulk of the invading forces. Thus in no time upon their arrival, the invasion was in full swing by fully armed troops all over the city as far as Brookfield.
The invaders came prepared, able, willing and anxious to kill, rape, maim, burn and to freely loot under the RUF's Operation Pay Yourself scheme.
Hence, for the want of a shoe of attention, the SL Kingdom was nearly lost to Foday Sankoh & Charles Taylor - amidst vast numbers of casualties and extensive carnage within the city in just a few violent days of anarchy.