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Reply with quote  #1 


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.

Fil Bothi
Reply with quote  #2 
I do not want to argue Mr. JE Leigh. However his account is very flawed. I wish he could take his time to Read some of the AFRC and RUF witness and suspect transcripts that are on the RSCSL website. Some of the AFRC and RUF commanders made statements as suspects and witnesses and they testified.

One thing I am sure of and do not dispute is that the invasion of Freetown was purely the handiwork of the renegade SLA officers and their sympathizers who ran away with them when ECOMOG evicted them in February 1998. The RUF was hardly involved. SAJ Musa was against the RUF. The only bridge between the RUF and the SLA rebels was Johnny Paul. He was in RUF incarceration. The RUF and the SLA had fought  a bitter war in Kono in 1998 when they left Freetown. The RUF retreated to Kailahun while the SLA under SAJ Musa and Brigadier Gabriel Mani held the Kono and northern axis. The SLA rebels had a lot of collaborators in the Western areas.

The government of Kabba depended on the Nigerian ECOMOG forces since he own army had become renegade. The ECOMOG forces were no match for the SLA who adopted gorilla tactics. Many of the few SLA's who were loyal were slaughtered because ECOMOG used them as sacrificial lamp. SAJ would called Maxwell Kobe every morning after each defeat suffered by the ECOMOG forces demanding that Kabba reinstate the SLA and grant Amnesty to all renegade soldiers. Stupid Politicians who wanted their one minutes fames and loots always advised Kabba against such move. The ECOMOG forces and royal SLA forces were fighting on two fronts, they were fighting the invading SLA rebels that were gaining grounds on the western area and the RUF forces in the Provinces. Freetonians did not trust the CDF which was another problem. The condition was worsen when Abacha died. SAJ Musa whose idea was solely to install the SLA and granting of Amnesty to the SLA rebels died at Benguema where his troops captured a lot of arms and ammunition. That was the time the new SLA Rebel leader Staff Sergeant Tamba Brima aka Gullit sent a message to Sam Bockarie asking for reinforcement and a bargain to release Johnny Paul Koroma. 

By the time additional troops could come in from Nigeria, the SLA under Gullit had entered the Peninsular.  The first batch of ECOMOG troops sent by Abacha's successor General Abubakarr were all slaughtered at the Hasting Airport. That was the night twelve police officers were summarily executed at the PTS. More than 180 ECOMOG soldiers were slaughtered that night. Some were captured and just a handful survived and made it to JUI ECOMOG base.

The RUF reinforcement met the SLA rebels in Freetown. The only prominent RUF fighter in Freetown on 6 January 1999 was Gibril Massaquio. Gibril and Steve Bio were abandoned at the Pademba Road Prison by the RUF in February 1998. Issa and Mosquito wanted him dead. He survived and became the spoke person for Gullit during the first few days of the invasion. He escaped when fighters loyal to Mosquito and Issa led by Denis Mingo came to reinforce the SLA rebels in Freetown. Today he has a Phd and is safely somewhere in the West. 

There were no NPRC rebels in Freetown in 1999. Denis Mingo had been with the RUF since and was not a member of the NPRC. 

JEL like many other remembrance accounts I have read of late are making themselves the hero that they were not.

Fil Bothi
Reply with quote  #3 
I meant  the NPFL and not NPRC.
Spectator 007
Reply with quote  #4 
“SAJ would called Maxwell Kobe every morning after each defeat suffered by the ECOMOG forces demanding that Kabba reinstate the SLA and grant Amnesty to all renegade soldiers. Stupid Politicians who wanted their one minutes fames and loots always advised Kabba against such move.” - Salone Civil War Military Historian...The Might Fil Bothi

Excellent piece. However, I have to agree with Kabbah’s decision not to accept those guys at that time. They would have assasinated him and overthrown the government. There was way too much bad blood between them. Many of the soldiers executed in late 1998 had close friends within the renegade SLA group that were hell bent on seeking revenge.
Spectator 007
Reply with quote  #5 
Despite JEL’s revisionism regarding the war, the fact remains, he did play a very powerful role rallying diaspora groups, creating international awareness of the crisis, and providing critical support to the government of the day.

Good people sometimes follow the wrong path in life.
Reply with quote  #6 
FIL BOTHI! wan seke? Topeh derra?

Is Johnny still alive? If he is not dead, where is he residing now ever since he disbanded the Westside Boys?
Reply with quote  #7 
By Johnny, I mean Johnny Paul Koroma of AFRC fame.

Where is he hiding if not six feet under the Earth somewhere?
Reply with quote  #8 
Good to hear from John Leigh. I hope he is in good health.
Johnny 1 Vote
Reply with quote  #9 
John Leigh is wasting away in frustration. He is still very angry at the Late Tejan Kabba for sacking him.

His carpet-bagging move to the APC did not land him the retirement job he so badly wanted. So he is a very bitter old fool right now.

to add insult to injury, after Minister Paulo Konteh reportedly spat in his mouth for daring to want to run for the Presidency under APC, he has since retreated back to his man cave in freezing Boston. To answer your question Bra Knice, John Leigh is now a hermit and will remain in hiding for the foreseeable future. The APC did not tolerate his presidential ambition. They molested him instead - warning him that he was not in SLPP, where every fool can aspire to lead. The old fool is not a happy camper.

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