BRINGING THE MABAYLLA PERPETRATORS TO BOOK - WHY THE CALL FOR THE ARREST AND INVESTIGATION OF THE PRESENT HEAD OF THE ARMY AND THE CHIEF OF ARMY STAFF
The Sierra Herald has always insisted and called for an investigation into the murder of civilians during junta rule during the night of September 3 and 4 1997. First reports, confirmed by the then junta spokesman Allieu Kamara spoke of fifty people killed and scores wounded with wounds so horrific that a good percentage of those succumbed to their wounds. The junta at the time was quick to blame Nigerian forces based in Lungi as part of the West African ECOMOG force.
The junta claimed that shells fired from the heavy guns based at Lungi and used to enforce the blockade against the junta had landed on that unsuspecting community during the night.
The Sierra again calls for justice for those who perished and a worthy compensation paid out to the relations of the dead as well as those who lived through it all, still nursing their trauma.
We want justice for all those killed, maimed, wounded and traumatised by those murders of the night of September 3 and September 4, 1997.
Justice has to be seen to be done and all those involved made to account for what happened that night. The junta swore, ranted and pointed all fingers at ECOMOG, but the people of Mabaylla and Freetown knew only too well that it was all a smokescreen, a part of the junta's diabolical scheme to force out Nigerian-led ECOMOG troops from the country.
Pronouncements on junta-controlled national broadcasting as well as correspondence from junta leader Johnny Paul Koroma put the blame for the killings at the feet of the Nigerian troops of the ECOMOG peace keeping force stationed across the estuary in Lungi in 1997 when the junta was in power.
Junta spokesman at the time one Allieu Kamara accused the Nigerian-led force of training their guns on the small area of Mabaylla and on that day and subsequent days mounted hate campaigns against anything Nigerian or bearing any reference to Nigeria.
Broadcasts made on junta-controlled radio and television called on citizens to rise up against Nigeria and anything with a whiff of Nigeria and at one stage forced civilians into a march that would have seen them being used as human shields should they have had to confront the Nigerians on the Sunday after the Mabaylla attacks.
Evidence on the ground however told a different story. Civilians who survived and who thought it best not to talk about what they saw on that terrible night have revealed the presence of armed men, some in civilian attire, others in military fatigues firing directly into survivors who rushed out of their homes after the first volley hit the unsuspecting residents of Mabaylla.
The attack on Mabaylla appeared to have been a very carefully planned Trojan Horse aimed at forcing the Nigerian contingent from their bases in Jui, 13 miles from Freetown and also from the country's only international airport at Lungi across the river in the north of the country.
The attack and blame game was meant to bring international pressure on Nigeria and Nigerian troops serving in Freetown to leave so that the junta can take extreme punitive measures against a civilian population that had refused to co-operate with it. With the Nigerians away, the junta believed it could hold sway over a hostage population that was still defiant.
It would be recalled that before the September 3 and 4 attacks "rehearsals" had been held using live munitions and propaganda to see just how effective it would be when such attacks were blamed on Nigerian troops.
THE FIRST TROJAN HORSE - On July 2, 1997 what sounded like discharge from heavy guns were heard from the seaward area of Freetown fuelling fears in the civilian population that the much-trumpeted ECOMOG-led "military intervention" had begun.
It is to be recalled that some weeks before this, veteran politician and a man who initially condemned the May 25, 1997 coup, Dr John Karefa-Smart had made nationwide and international broadcasts in which he stated that he had in his possession the intercept of a message from the Nigerian forces that they were soon to unleash a military operation aimed as flushing out the AFRC/RUF junta. He appealed for international intervention to stop an operation which he believed would flatten the capital to the ground using what he and the junta called "bombardment of the city".
The military operation, codenamed Wild Goose Chase, would, in the opinion of Dr John Karefa-Smart be a disaster ad would never be a successful operation as it would endanger the lives of the very hostage population it was meant to free from the grip of the junta.
(A Press Statement) issued by him and dated October 26, 1997 that year again made reference to the "June 2 bombardment")
On the same day, clashes broke out between junta forces and a deployment of Nigerian ECOMOG troops at a hotel in the Aberdeen area resulting in part of the building being engulfed in flames. Before the day was out a number of these Nigerian troops were reported by junta radio to have been "captured and taken prisoner."
The junta made capital of this - taking journalists who dared to areas around Juba and the general Lumley area where "missiles from the Nigerian bombardment had fallen".
A visit to the military hospital, 34, saw the remains of those who had perished as well as many who had received grisly wounds as a result of the "Nigerian bombardment".
The increasing casualty count with doctors and nurses genuinely trying to comfort the wounded was a picture of horror. The area where the casualties were taken had the tell-tale stench of blood more akin to the same smell that assaults the nose at the Dove Cot abattoir (slaughter house).
International news outlet reported the carnage which the junta used to good effect in making their demands for the removal of "the Nigerian troops from our land" to "stop killing our people".