ARTICLE PUBLISHED ON MARCH 23, 2006
15 YEARS ON, SINCE MARCH 23, 1991
AS THE MOTHER COUNTRY ENJOYS PEACE, WHAT LESSONS?
15 years ago today March 23, Sierra Leoneans woke up to the horrors and realities of terror personified as a group believed to be made up of elements of Foday Sankoh's RUF, Charles Taylor's NPFL and Blaise Campaore's regular army attacked the border town of Bomaru in Daru, south-east of the country.
News spreading like ripples to other parts of the country stated at the time it was not the start of an invasion from outside, but that Sierra Leonean troops killed were involved in an across the border motor vehicle deal with rebel elements in Liberia that had gone wrong. Those who posed as having inside knowledge insisted that it was an isolated incident that should not worry Sierra Leoneans.
As it turned out, the optimists were proved wrong, thus was the country plunged into a conflict that generated theories as to why Charles Taylor would want to install Foday Sankoh in Sierra Leone as part of a wider scheme hatched in the sands of Libya and which could have seen Khadaffi becoming godfather to puppets across the entire West African sub-region.
It was a war that brought images that are the stuff of nightmares, unimaginable horrors that can only be thought of by a truly sick and unstable mind.
It was a war that witnessed scores settled as family and personal feuds got settled with armed men and women, uniformed and non-uniformed getting embroiled and becoming mercenaries of no fixed or observed allegiances.
It was a war that brought the word "sobel" into the dictionary of Sierra Leoneans as regular soldiers paid from state coffers became "rebels" whenever it was convenient, thereby eroding trust in what had been a reputable institution.
Sierra Leoneans still recall trucks filled far above their capacity with looted goods moving from "liberated" areas to designated safety areas so ordered by senior officers using other ranks as their zombies as more areas became targets for "liberation".
It was a war that witnessed the armed forces becoming a symbol of fear and repression, loathing and deep-seated hatred as the institution became a part of the problem with those in authority recruiting the riff-raff who had no business wearing the colours of the national army.
Indeed, it was a war that saw the complete breakdown of discipline within the armed forces, in particular, the army whose personnel saw nothing wrong in openly smoking and trading in marijuana/diamba as well as the use of hard drugs like heroin and cocaine.
It was a war that brought untold wealth to those who fuelled it as the country's resources were looted with impunity. From diamonds and gold to cocoa and other cash crops.
It was a war that made certain operatives within the army rich and richer as more resources were poured into fighting a war they really were more interested in milking rather than putting an end to.
It was indeed a war that refused to account for the true number of men under arms as officers became rice merchants using the commodity as a fast money getter.
It was a war that saw strange alliances of convenience, mysterious deaths at the hands of hit squads and a war that engendered two successful coups as well as the reported failure of others.
It was a war, the mindless cruelty of which still has to sink into the minds of decent Sierra Leoneans trying to come to terms with the fate that befell the mother country.
It was a war, the genesis of which could be traced to the massive corruption, repression of dissenting voices, nepotism and an uncaring system of governance that fed upon the misery of the masses.
It was a war brought about by the lack of transparency, the lack of accountability and deprivation anchored to the "Di Pa Say" syndrome.
It was a war that was brought about because of the breakdown of decent values.
The truth became something that should never be said in public.
A war brought about because those in authority blamed everybody but themselves as the country slipped lower and even more lower on the ladder of development.
It was a war brought about by a system where the three arms of governance became one with the occupier of State House becoming judge, jury and executioner. Law maker, law interpreter and law executor.
Fifteen years on, has the present government heeded the lessons of history?
You be the witness and judge.