May 25, 2014
years ago this day (and on a Sunday too) evil
was unleashed upon the people as beasts of no
nation overthrew the democratically-elected
government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. In
Sierra Leone's most savage coup bands of
drug-infused and alcohol fortified beasts in
human form and wearing the colours of the
national army attacked, without mercy those they
had sworn to protect.
Today Sunday May 25, 2014
marks the day seventeen years ago when Sierra
Leoneans in their own God-given country were
made to suffer at the hands of a band of APC-inspired
men wearing the colours of the national army and
actually carrying arms and ammunition bought
from the sweat of the people overthrew the
barely one-year-old democratically-elected
government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.
Residents of the capital
Freetown and indeed all over the country, trying
to come to terms with the enormous tasks ahead
in re-building lives were shocked to hear the
incessant sounds of gunfire as well as
explosions as that Saturday/Sunday night
metamorphosed from a quiet and orderly situation
to one of utter chaos and confusion. By the time
dawn emerged and people were still wondering
what it was all about, the streets of the
capital became deprived of the usual traffic of
civilians and civilian-driven motorised vehicles
as vehicles both military and commandeered drove
at high speeds with little or no regard to
traffic rules and regulations.
On board these vehicles
could be seen soldiers in fatigue greens with
open tunics showing their red vests underneath,
with gunfire adding a frightening dimension to
the lives of Sunday church goers who were still
trying to figure out just what was going on.
Many suspected another
military take-over even though somehow lingering
in their minds was a better judgement that no
soldier in his/her proper frame of mind would
dare contemplate such a move given the
sacrifices made by civilians under the previous
military junta of the NPRC to bring back
democracy to a country that has been wracked by
six years of war.
As the day wore on, with
the national broadcaster playing military band
music, listeners heard a rather muddled and
incoherent voice telling all those who care to
listen that the government of President Ahmad
Tejan Kabbah had been overthrown and that the
military was now in power.
Corporal Gborie, for
that was the name he gave the people, explained
the reason why the gates of the main prison
along Pademba Road had been flung wide open with
all the inmates allowed to walk out. Those who
took the opportunity included people who could
have been in custody for traffic offences,
theft, larceny, armed robbery as well as other
serious crimes like murder and were awaiting
trial or verdicts.
They were all allowed to
walk out because, according to Corporal Gborie,
the new armed and murderous rapists and
arsonists did not believe in the incarceration
of fellow Sierra Leoneans. Ironically, it was
the same set-up which later became known as the
Armed Forced Revolutionary Council, the AFRC,
that was to later imprison the same Gborie after
he was implicated in an armed robbery somewhere
The May 25, 1997 coup
was extremely unpopular among the majority of
Sierra Leoneans and the feeling was made known
to them. Within the ranks of the military, the
same could be discerned as experienced officers
refused to become a part in the initial stages.
Alarmed and probably getting quite jittery, the
new man in control who had been freed from
prison, one Johnny Paul Koroma made clear what
had been suspected all along - that some
sections of the military had been in cahoots
with the rebels of the Revolutionary Front, the
RUF in making the lives of the civilian
population a hell on earth. Indeed the
TRC report on the May 25,
1997 coup stated -
The mastermind of the 25 May 1997 coup was Sgt Alfred Abu Sankoh
(alias “Zagallo”). The coup was not detected by the officers or the military
intelligence because it was planned on the 24th and executed the next day.
Zagallo was a bodyguard to a former Secretary of State during the NPRC regime,
and had enjoyed a lot of benefits from that association. He was also a
footballer and had been associated with a number of Freetown clubs and was
finally requested to set up a football club for the army. The membership of the
club was to provide the nucleus of the coup plotters. Zagallo gave vent to the
frustrations in the army that led to the coup.
unnamed NPRC official mentioned in that report
was none other than the one and only Reginald
Glover who was the NPRC man in charge of the
mines and Zagallo's association with him could
have led to him grabbing, among other lucrative
ministries in their "government", that of mines.
It is worth noting that Glover had been sacked
from the NPRC after the palace coup by Bio that
ousted Strasser and as he was considered to be
too close to him was thus relieved of any
It was Johnny Paul
Koroma as the leader of the coup makers who
invited the limb-chopping, rapists, arsonists,
kidnappers, thieves and murderers to come and
join them in Freetown and other places with the
army posts in those areas advised to allow the
RUF to share meals, arms and all things
necessary, with them. The invitation extended to
and accepted by the RUF whose leader Foday
Sankoh was being held in a prison in Nigeria had
given them the go-ahead was not only to increase
the "troop strength" of the murderous usurpers,
but to render Sierra Leone ungovernable.
Here's something worth
recalling from the TRC report -
Later in the day there was a phone call from London to Major
Johnny Paul Koroma by Omrie Goley the external spokesperson of the RUF, who said
he had heard the radio broadcast calling on Sankoh to join the new government.
He said that in the interest of peace he was going to make Sankoh’s phone number
in Nigeria available to the coup plotters. Major Johnny Paul Koroma then called
Sankoh in the presence of some of the coup leaders such as “Zagallo” and Tamba
Gborie. Major Koroma told Foday Sankoh that the war was over and invited Sankoh
to take over the leadership of the new government. Sankoh replied that this was
impossible since he was detained in Nigeria...The
invitation to the RUF was justified as necessary to end the war.
Golley mentioned in that TRC report is the same
man the rat has sent to South Korea as our
representative to the people of that country.
What a way to kick in the teeth all those who
suffered at the hands of the AFRC/RUF.
read further and you are bound to agree with us
that the invitation to the RUF was to swell the
ranks of the coup makers as well as to make the
country ungovernable as the TRC heard from one
of those who came to join the army in Freetown.
“Some of us were in the bush at
that time, we only heard an instruction that we are to go and join the AFRC
junta; that it is because of peace that we should join them and then the UN will
come in between for peace. So that gave the passion to some of us – when the
command was given, there was no time to waste. In the space of three days, some
good number of the RUF left their hiding places and came to bigger towns. Some
were sent to Bo, some were sent to Kenema, some in fact went as far as Freetown...But when we came to Freetown,
after a couple of times, we saw different issues; things were looking somehow
unsuitable with regards to what they had told us in the bush. So, some of us
who had far-sighted thinking started to leave from Freetown. We said: ‘hey,
this is not the peace, this is just a sort of suspended government’.”
That was not all. There were reports of
clashes between the RUF and AFRC in what they had formed as the People's Army.
The RUF refused to attack certain positions occupied by the Nigerian-led ECOMOG
forces alone and insisted that the AFRC provide men too for such operations.
They had never forgiven the the army boys, sobels when their numbers got
decimated during an attack to wrest control of Lungi airport from the Nigerians.
It was reported that a huge convoy of the
Peoples Army was moving from other parts of the country to beef up their troop
strength in Freetown when on the way, they got orders to attack Lungi and take
the vital Lungi international airport.
The Nigerian ECOMOG defenders could not
believe what they saw through their binoculars.
Truckload after truckload of the Peoples Army
singing and displaying their weapons as they threatened to "free" the airport
from the grip of ECOMOG. The defenders prepared for the expected onslaught,
moving civilians from certain villages in Lungi to the non-operational areas of
their troops for their own safety. They then waited for the snaking column to
get within range of their weapons.
They waited until the advancing column passed
the communication towers perched high above the town - and then opened fire,
starting with targeted fire on the commanders and then on the vehicles and men.
The rest as they say is history but true to
pattern when they are given a real pasting by ECOMOG, it was the civilians in
occupied areas like Freetown that paid the price with increased incidents of
violence and murder perpetrated against them. Residents of Freetown could hear
quite distinctly the thud during the firing of heavy weapons in Lungi as the
defenders beat back the Peoples' Army of Johnny Paul Koroma and Foday Sankoh.
Two years ago, in 2012 we brought you this
reminder and the order of things under the rat.
This was what the respected news outlet
"Africa Confidential" had on its pages:
Major Johnny Paul
Koroma,33, led a successful coup d'etat
against the Kabbah government. Kabbah's
Nigerian and Kamajor guards appear to have
been surprised and the President was
airlifted out to Conakry in neighbouring
Maj. Koroma was a
poorly educated soldier who had been
over-promoted with the rapid army expansion
of the early l990s. Fearful that he would be
dismissed when the army was 'down-sized', he
had already been implicated in one coup
Earlier Koroma had also
been involved in corrupt accumulation,
including asset-stripping of the rutile
mining operation. He put together a
ramshackle military junta amidst widespread
popular unrest against his intervention.
Dressed in a tee-shirt
and baseball cap, barely articulate, he made
an unprepossessing head of state. After the
coup, there were days of looting by soldiers
who commandeered cars and persecuted members
of Tejan Kabbah's party.
Ah lest we forget, don't be surprised should
you notice that the supporters of the beasts during our troubled times would
again get bitten by the amnesia bug.