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WHERE HAVE ALL THE YOUNG PEOPLE GONE?
Transitioning ex-combatants towards community reconstruction after the war in Sierra Leone
Paul Richards Steven Archibald Khadija Bah James Vincent1
...en de burgemeester zei: “dat van de duizend ducaten, dat was natuurlijk maar en grapje. Je hebt goed gedaan, maar honderd ducaten is meer dan genoeg...” “Weet wat je doet” zei de vreemdeling....Geen van de kinderen keerde ooit weer terug. (DE RATTENVANGER VAN HAMELEN) (And the Town Chief said “the thousand dollars [we offered to pay you to remove the rats], that naturally was a joke, you have done well, but a hundred dollars is more than enough” “Be aware of what you are doing” said the Stranger...And none of the children ever came back again.)
We gratefully acknowledge the contribution of Krijn Peters in introducing us to some key informants in the RUF and for clarifying important details of the movement’s campaign history, based on his forthcoming PhD thesis.
1. Abbreviations ........................................................................................3 2. Executive summary .................................................................................4 2.1 Two ‘Thematic’ Recommendations:..............................................................6 2.2 Four Specific Recommendations ..................................................................6 3. Introduction ..............................................................................................8 4. Methodological Considerations ........................................................................8 5. Scope and content of the report ......................................................................8 6. The importance of understanding the mood of ex-combatants ..................................9 7. The purpose of the study...............................................................................9 8.The approach ........................................................................................... 10 9. A brief history of the war ............................................................................ 10 10. The war as a crisis of rural youth.................................................................. 11 11. Demobilization........................................................................................ 12 12. Entry qualification ................................................................................... 12 13. Exclusion and alienation; implications of the entry qualification criteria .................. 12 14. Some basic data on disarmament ................................................................. 12 15. Skills training ......................................................................................... 13 18. A lost generation ..................................................................................... 15 19. The CDF ................................................................................................ 16 20. The nature and mood of the CDF .................................................................. 16 21. The CDF in demobilization.......................................................................... 17 22. RUF fighting women ................................................................................. 18 Case Study 1: The signaller’s tale...................................................................... 18 23. RUF “bush wives” .................................................................................... 18 24. ‘Agrarian servitude’ ................................................................................. 19 25. Diamond work: ex-combatants in Tongo Field .................................................. 20 26. Diamond servitude? Ex-combatants in Kono ..................................................... 20 27. Self-demobilisation, anonymity and subsistence:............................................... 21 28. Fear of the Special Court ........................................................................... 23 29. Self-integration: new occupational solidarities ................................................. 24 30. Occupational interest groups: the Bike Renter’s Associations ................................ 24 31. Opportunists, ideologues and victims............................................................. 25 32. A CDF group revisited................................................................................ 25 33. General conclusion................................................................................... 27 34. Specific conclusions.................................................................................. 28 35. Recommendations.................................................................................... 28 References ................................................................................................. 33 Annex 1: .................................................................................................... 35 Table 1: Civil Defence Forces of Sierra Leone, summary of nominal roll and arms statistics, Kenema District .............................................................................. 35 Annex 2: .................................................................................................... 37 Table 2: ex-combatant representation in clubs and associations affiliated to Independent Youth Forum (Bo Branch), at 14th September 2003 ................................. 37 Annex 3: Background to the demobilisation process; 1995-1998.................................. 38 Annex 4: Recruitment and return - the picture in some Liberian border localities............ 39 Annex 5: The symbolic significance of the training packages; a ritual of demobilization. ........................................................................................... 42 Annex 6: Three ex-combatant agriculture projects ................................................. 44 Annex 7: The tale of two sisters........................................................................ 45 Annex 8: Interviews with ex-RUF women (trainees, Praise Foundation, Makeni) .............. 47 Annex 9: Legal literacy; Bo Bike Renters Association ............................................... 49
Abbreviations Armed Forces Revolutionary Council All Peoples Congress Civil Defence Forces Disarmament, Demobilisation, Reintegration Disarmament, Demobilisation, Reintegration Process National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilisation, Reintegration National Provisional Ruling Council National Recovery Strategy National Social Action Project Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper Revolutionary United Front Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces Sierra Leone Army Truth & Reconciliation Commission United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone
AFRC APC CDF DDR DDRP NCDDR NPRC NRS NSAP PRSP RUF RSLAF SLA TRC UNAMSIL
Ex-combatants from the war in Sierra Leone were followed to assess the state of their transition towards reintegration. Field investigations were undertaken in a number of regions (including the borderlands with Liberia, the Kono and Tongo diamond fields, the former “frontline” between north and south, and the rebel axis of Bombali and Tonkolili Districts). A focus of our enquiries was placed upon “equality of opportunity of inclusion” (ToR). Our main findings can be summarised as follows: Disarmament and demobilization have succeeded, but reintegration is far from complete. We found the illegal gun almost entirely gone from Sierra Leone, and that many excombatants have made some progress towards civilian acceptance and reintegration within their communities, helped by NCDDR demobilization and reintegration activities. But substantial numbers complain their benefits package is incomplete. Others claim to have been defrauded by their commanders in the demobilization process, and as a result have been denied reintegration assistance. Some may, as a result, suffer worse social exclusion than before the war. ii. Informants claimed that both RUF and CDF commanders collected weapons from their fighters and redistributed them to kin or friends, or traded weapons on the black market to allow purchasers to register dependants as “child combatants” (to access free basic education offered on demobilization). For every false ex-combatant there must be a real ex-combatant without benefits. The numbers excluded in this way are in dispute, and a qualitative study such as ours can only supply indications. But where NCDDR believes the numbers to be small, various ex-combatant sources put the numbers as high as 50-60 per cent of all gun-carrying ex-combatants. iii. Ex-combatants claim the problem of exclusion to have been as severe amongst the government-supporting CDF as amongst the government-opposing RUF. NCDDR believes the CDF group mainly to comprise older initiates who took little or no part in the fighting except as advisors. Our own data tend to cast doubt on this claim. In one case only three out of eleven CDF officers present in a meeting had obtained demobilization cards. The rest claimed their guns had been “reallocated” by their chiefdom commander to non-combatant relatives. iv. Other CDF fighters took part in operations armed only with local implements, so were never qualified for demobilization. But they believe they have a moral case to be treated as veterans, based on their sacrifice in the national interest, backed by various promises made by government during the war. As Zimbabwe shows, the alienated “veteran” can endure and replicate itself as an oppositional category over many years. Our data suggest that government needs to take the marginalization and disgruntled mood of so many CDF fighters very seriously indeed as a potential challenge to its longer-term authority in rural areas. v. There is a similar problem in the case of women fighters (mainly from the RUF). We found numbers of young women who insist they were fighters whose weapons were removed by male commanders and re-allocated to non-combatants. Post-war “normality” reasserts a gender stereotype that women could not or should not fight. This makes it hard to establish accurate figures for the number of female fighters (we interviewed several young women who convinced us they were, indeed, full combatants, but who chose not to proclaim the fact). An informed RUF source suggests there may have been as many as four women for every ten men under arms. If this is the case, many have since “disappeared” in the demobilization process. Those we found were living in extreme circumstances (e.g. by prostitution or in “forced” rural marriages and unable to return to their families). vi. The fate of female ex-combatants (that of extreme social exclusion) is shared by an even more needy group; young women abducted into the RUF by force as “combatant wives”. The movement itself regarded these captives as “mobilised” (see Richards et al. 1997). These “combatant wives” were excluded from demobilization (despite the protests of some agencies) since the NCDDR programme focused on weaponry and not on mobilization as its i.
entry criterion. We encountered one woman and her two daughters who had managed to acquire a clip of ammunition while escaping form the RUF with which they later “demobilised”. But most are entirely without benefits or means of support. Many fear to go home, imagining they will be unacceptable to their families or as marriage partners, though through no fault of their own. Some come from beyond the borders of Sierra Leone (having been captured in Guinea or Liberia). They pose no security risk, but their rights have been abused, and the state (and international community) must now accept the obligations of a duty holder towards them. No group is in greater need of reintegration assistance. vii. Local civilian attitudes to ex-combatants are often surprisingly tolerant, though this varies by faction and locality. CDF fighters are more readily accepted than RUF fighters (though both groups harassed civilians or committed atrocities), and ex-combatants living in their home ethnic communities (e.g. former CDF fighters in the south, and RUF fighters in northern Kailahun District) are better accepted than (the many) fighters who remain ethnically displaced. Acceptance of displaced ex-combatants at times reflects a degree of exploitation by civilians. We found evidence of male ex-combatants providing cheap rural labour and of female ex-combatants locked in local marriage relationships over which they had little control. viii. All parties (ex-combatants, NCDDR, local civilians) agree skills training programmes are only a start. Some ex-combatants are positive that with further training they will find sustainable employment. We encountered some masons, carpenters and tailors reported to be providing a useful service in more remote rural communities where skills shortages are severe. In other cases, however, ex-combatants had sold tools packages and moved to the diamond fields, unconvinced they could make a living via their new craft. ix. A rather large number of ex-combatants encountered were waiting for the complete delivery of promised reintegration benefits, and were becoming uneasy as the scheduled date for closure of NCDDR loomed. They also complained about the inaccessibility of NCDDR staff and poor communications. NCDDR claims it deals with discrepancies as they come to light, but it was unclear to us how it sets about discovering such discrepancies. NCDDR seems not to be present in “off-road” communities, and ex-combatants sometimes face considerable uncertainty about when and where benefits are to be collected. x. Ex-combatants also made many complaints about the inefficiency, duplicity and inaccessibility of implementing partners. We encountered implementing partners who had “shut up shop” with caseloads apparently incomplete. Complaints were made against others for removing ex-combatants’ registration cards, in order (it was suspected) to divert resources, or who failed to answer or address repeated complaints. In one case it was alleged that NCDDR ignored complaints lodged against a project run by a field officer's close relative. We were in no position to assess the truth of these complaints. xi. The commissioner agrees that deficiencies exist. Those that have been uncovered have been dealt with. There are several cases pending, he notes, with the anti-corruption commission. Yet the message seems not to be getting to the clients “on the ground”. The anti-corruption commission has been very slow to proceed with indictments, but NCDDR seems not to have explained this circumstance to the clients affected. Thus it is clear that NCDDR has - for whatever reason - problems with its image, credibility and communications, so far as clients are concerned. This adds to a more general sense of disillusionment revealed by our fieldwork among the rather larger number of young ex-fighters excluded from the reintegration process. The resulting situation might be fairly described as volatile. Our overall conclusion is that reintegration of ex-combatants after the war in Sierra Leone is hindered not so much by negative civilian attitudes, but by a strong sense of grievance among young people who believe that they have not been fairly treated in DDRP. Vulnerability is highest among groups excluded from demobilization. Often vulnerable to labour exploitation before the war, young people omitted from the DDRP have become more vulnerable since the end of hostilities. Our evidence suggests that some have slipped into agrarian or domestic servitude and that others are working for starvation wages in the diamond fields. Those who are furthest from their homes face the worst difficulties. This especially affects members of the RUF. “Elite” fighters - including some women combatants - successfully reintegrate with their
families because they have assets, but impoverished rank-and-file without NCDDR number, or abandoned “bush wives”, simply have no resources to go home. Family reunification (a key to reintegration) is being actively prevented - we believe - by misinformation spread by diamond supporters and village “husbands” that all RUF ex-combatants are stigmatised, and that a return home will be dangerous. The misinformation, we conclude, facilitates exploitation of youth labour, one of the roots of the war. If the threat of future outbreaks of violent conflict is to be minimised the long-term causes of the war must be addressed. We underline three ‘key issues’ and offer six recommendations. • Rural youth is hampered by lack of education, limited opportunities for employment or selfemployment, lack of rural infrastructure (particularly roads), poor access to markets, inadequate credit and training facilities. • Prospects for rural youth are further undermined by oppressive social and institutional arrangements, notably early marriage for women, unjust fines inflicted on young men, insecure land tenure arrangements, and a propensity for elders to use custom to “tax” young farmers. • Perpetuation of a colonial distinction between “citizens” and “strangers” hinders development of a strong rural civil society. Rural “outcasts” constituted a nucleus around which the RUF formed. 2.1 Two ‘Thematic’ Recommendations: (i) Prioritise a conflict mitigation approach, emphasising a concern with root causes. This requires addressing the flow of fighters, and other migrants, within the wider West African subregion. The approach should be to reduce the incentives to selling labour as a fighter by increasing the incentives to “legitimate” labour. Major attention needs to be paid to the political and civil rights of young migrants, both within and between war-affected countries in the sub-region. This implies GoSL working with the appropriate regional organization (ECOWAS), as well as a sub-regional approach by donors. (ii) Foster a new open agrarian opportunity structure within Sierra Leone. The main aim should be a better integration of agricultural production and mining. This implies better roads, modernization of land tenancy agreements (to reward innovative migrant farmers), scale-neutral and tenure-neutral agro-technical innovations, and better administration of local justice and policing, so that young people making jobs for themselves in the countryside by supplying agricultural produce to the mining districts lose less to “customary” appropriations, dubious court cases or rent-seeking officials (e.g. police check points). 2.2 Four Specific Recommendations
Action to address the needs of combatants excluded from the DDRP We propose two new categories: ‘Youth directly associated with war’ (YDAW), and a subcategory ‘Women directly associated with war’ (WDAW). We make several specific suggestions to deal with this extremely vulnerable group (formal recognition of YDAW within national policy and programme instruments, NaCSA to assess numbers of YDAW in areas of known high concentration, support be identified and provided to NaCSA to conduct such assessment, assessment output to provide baseline information necessary for the design of projects aimed at reintegration and livelihood opportunities to YDAW, identification of local and international organizations that can demonstrate capacity to facilitate formation of YDAW project groups, assist them to develop project proposals, and train individuals or groups). Action to address the needs of women directly associated with war. The report highlights that there are significant numbers of women (perhaps thousands) taken into the RUF as “bush wives” or “camp followers” who now feel unable to return to their home villages. Commercial sex work in urban areas, or life as a coerced “village wife”, are among the few survival options available. WDAW are among the most invisible and disadvantaged of all young people directly associated with the war. The Government of Sierra Leone needs to uphold its obligations as signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination
Against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and identify and target assistance at WDAW. There is need to assess the scale of the problem, to involve WDAW themselves in design and implementation of training/reintegration projects, and to offer assistance, including schooling, adult education, basic skills training, family tracing services and counselling programmes. Parents actively looking for children “lost” through abduction into the RUF might be an effective force (if mobilised into a strong well-supported national association of concerned parents) to locate WDAW in “forced” marriages or detained as “wards” with identities changed by their “adoptive” households. Develop initiatives to curtail labour exploitation in diamond mining. The survey points to the inherent danger in employing tens of thousands of ex-combatants with extensive experience of bush warfare tactics, in conditions which they themselves regard as akin to slavery. The regulation of the diamond industry is, to say the least, a daunting proposition. However, leaving large areas unregulated should not be considered an option; the potential implications are too serious. Recognising that the mining industry will continue to attract and employ young men from Sierra Leone and the sub-region, and that the diamond fields currently provide “safe haven” for combatants who move between sub-regional conflicts, the study endorses ongoing efforts by GoSL and their partners in the mining industry (including trade unions) to reform mining and introduce codes of practice. We advocate that government, donors and NGOs should prioritise a “mining exit” scheme (i.e. a programme to help mine labourers to acquire skills for rural agrarian reintegration - e.g. through agricultural extension activities, such as Farmer Field Schools, specifically aimed at support of part-time food cultivation or agricultural land reclamation in mining districts). Specific human rights focus on rural exploitation is needed The Government of Sierra Leone and its donor partners are striving to enhance the promotion and protection of human rights, and there is a burgeoning human rights “community” in Sierra Leone. However, there is as yet a disconnection between the activities of the largely urbanbased human rights organisations and the people in rural areas who regularly cite “rights and democracy” as priority needs. Engaging with the issues presented in this report in human rights terms could immeasurably advance the promotion and protection of human rights in Sierra Leone. For this to happen effectively there needs to be a specific focus on rural justice issues and the agrarian causes of the war. Local debate on outmoded rural institutions, the exploitation of the labour of young people, and deficiencies in administration of local justice became apparent in the round of DfID supported “chiefdom consultations” organized by the Governance Reform Secretariat in c. 70 chiefdoms in accessible parts of the south and east of the country in 1999-2000, and this consultation initiative now needs to be revived and extended to all parts of the country. The results should be fully reviewed by government, and findings acted upon. Specific efforts should be made in improving the consultation methodology to include all impoverished groups of young people with weak support networks not directly associated with war but vulnerable to potential future involvement.
3. Introduction Disarmament, de-mobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants (DDR) are key aspects of the peace process following 11 years of armed conflict in Sierra Leone. The main vehicle for DDR, the National Commission for Disarmament Demobilization and reintegration (NCDDR) ceases its work on 31st December 2003, and it is important to ask how well have the ex-combatants settled down after the war. Have they reintegrated, and found new roles, in a changing society, or are they still significantly alienated and “at war” in their minds? What further steps might be needed (under different or new programmes) to assist the normalization process? Or is the question wrongly conceived, and should we be asking about the emergence of new and different states of communal and collective engagement in post-war society? The present study is a contribution to addressing such questions. It seeks to follow groups of ex-combatants in the reintegration process, and is primarily concerned to document what has happened to them, and to reflect their mood, based on their own assessments. It is thus a qualitative cohort study, of specific groups representative of some of the main predicaments, as these vary by gender, age, faction and region. The analysis is based primarily on the testimony of the ex-combatants themselves. 4. Methodological Considerations As with any methodology a discourse-oriented approach has limitations. Economists of war are inclined to dismiss the entire approach as “anecdotal”, asserting that all such testimony must be self-justificatory (Collier 2000), failing to note the self-justifications they themselves impose upon their interpretations of numbers (Richards 2004). Discourse is only valuable where wellgrounded in understanding of local social processes, and this contextualisation we have attempted to provide in the parallel social assessment study, to be read in conjunction with the present report (Richards et al. 2003).2 But in conflict situations we dismiss discourse at our peril, since it provides important clues to the mood, motivations and likely further actions of the principal agents of violence. In dismissing ex-combatants’ testimony as “anecdotes” (or “lies”) we miss the possibility that they might mean what they say, and thus underestimate a real and present danger. But there is a further reason to take the testimony of ex-combatants seriously. It is an approach mandated by the conflict-mitigation approach, grounded in human rights theory. Violence of the kind seen in the Sierra Leone civil war (inter-generational, inter-communal) is not a manifestation of “original sin” but of extreme denial of basic rights of some of the poorest segments of society over many years. It is relevant to note that Sierra Leone is not only the poorest society on earth (according to the Human Development Index) but also the most unequal, having now surpassed Brazil in that dubious distinction. This is a shocking fact in such a small, compact and inter-married country (Brazil, by contrast, is huge). This inequality reflects (it has been argued elsewhere, Richards 2003) a pervasive history of domestic slavery in the rural interior, the consequences of which still linger in social attitudes to impoverished rural youth, and the current “overseas” orientation of many sections of the national elite. The resultant alienation can only be addressed by the new start promised by democratic transition. Social inclusion is not just a matter of offering benefits or inducements but is also fundamentally - a matter of justice. The DDRP is a key vehicle in offering reintegration opportunities and also a framework of justice within which young people who have tasted antisocial violence can reorient their lives. By seeking to intervene in these lives, NCDDR has become - according to rights theory - a duty holder. One of its duties is to listen to its clients. If a first reaction is to dismiss the testimony of ex-combatants as “anecdote” this is half way to dismissing their experience as of no account. 5. Scope and content of the report Our report, we need to make clear, is not an evaluation of NCDDR. As the Terms of Reference
2 We should also add that we have carried out some of the work for the present study in an area where some of the ex-combatants have been known to one of the researcher in the course of fieldwork carried out over 20 years.
require it limits itself to documenting in qualitative terms the mood and experiences of representative groups of ex-combatants, and making recommendations to assist their further reintegration. The discourse we summarise below reveals extensive unhappiness among excombatants. Much of this unhappiness reflects the unmitigated social exclusion that (it can be argued) triggered the conflict, and requires now to be addressed by deep structural reform (which we discuss further in the social assessment report, Richards et al. 2003). However, it must also be acknowledged that some of the unhappiness also refers to the DDR process itself. We make no claims that ex-combatant complaints (of corruption or mismanagement, for example) are anything other than points of view. These perceptions may arise from misunderstandings or lack of correct information. But a point we do make - and it is central to our conclusions - is that NCDDR and its successors have a duty to take this unhappiness seriously, rather than to deflect it as “unfair criticism” of an organization “trying to do its best”. NCDDR has already commented on our material to the effect that what it reveals is not new, that the organization has been adapting to the problems as they come to light, that corruption among implementing partners has been addressed by various sanctions (including indictments prepared for the Anti-Corruption Commission) and that the deficiencies the ex-combatants we have interviewed report are “definitely not systemic”. All this we accept. But it is also to miss the central point of our report, which focuses attention on the perceptions - the collective mindset (or mood) - of the majority of the ex-combatants interviewed. 6. The importance of understanding the mood of ex-combatants Young people went to war either because they felt discriminated against or because they were supporting a democratic transition. Those who were stirred by injustice feel the old discriminations remain. Those who fought to support democracy feel that promises they were made have not been kept. NCDDR is talking about how well it has addressed material need. The ex-combatants are talking about whether or not they have acquired their rights. It is this gap that our report tries to bridge. It goes without saying that delivery of benefit should be brought to a full conclusion by NCDDR, but what now hampers fuller reintegration (we argue) is that the DDR process (DDRP) itself has fostered further difference and division among groups of ex-combatants, and that this sense of division now hampers the ability of many ex-fighters to move on. It is not new information, in fact, that women fighters or sections of the civil defence force were excluded from demobilization, even if numbers are in dispute. What we argue, however, is that there must now be extensive interaction with the disgruntled groups, leading to assessment and (where appropriate) recognition of the justice of such claims. The key operative phrase in the terms of reference (below) is “equality of opportunity of inclusion”. We suggest that a key to follow-up work will be a period of intensive listening and learning, followed by participatory mobilization of communities and ex-combatants for collective action to address issues of discrimination and injustice, ‘perceived’ or otherwise, in DDRP. A suitable framework is already provided by the “participatory” protocols for community collective action specified by the National Social Action Programme (NSAP). Transitioning excombatants towards community-based reconstruction, we conclude, requires at the present juncture a new emphasis on rights in relation to needs. 7. The purpose of the study As per the terms of reference, the study has two purposes: - The analysis of key opportunities and constraints to the equality of opportunity of inclusion of juvenile, female and adult ex-combatants in the national recovery programmes of the government of Sierra Leone. - To augment existing NCDDR reintegration assessments (November 2002, completed, and July 2003, in progress) with information gained through emphasis on qualitative analysis and community-level conflict analysis.
The ToR requests material that would allow ex-combatant reintegration issues to be mainstreamed within the Social Assessment study (Richards et al. 2003), written in support of the National Social Action Programme (NSAP), and for advice that would assist NCDDR and successor agencies to undertake short-term transition support beyond the training and support packages already delivered, pending fuller introduction of NSAP and a national support programme by the Ministry of Youth. 8.The approach As indicated in the introduction, our approach is qualitative, and based on follow-up of cohorts of ex-combatants, either in training or in re-settlement. Material was collected in small group interviews or in one-on-one interviews with ex-combatants and staff of NCDDR and implementing partners. We also talked to civilians about their impressions of combatants, the effectiveness of their training, or apparent reintegration problems. To cover a range of groups and localities we conducted fieldwork in various localities - the Tongo and Koidu diamond areas, the Liberian border (Pujehun, Kenema and Kailahun Districts), the former “front line” between the CDF and RUF in the centre of the country (in northern Moyamba District and parts of Tonkolili District) and the RUF "stronghold" of Makeni and adjacent parts of Bombali District. We made specific efforts to include females in the sample. We also sought to interview groups that claimed to have been combatants by-passed in demobilization. Partly as a result of our regional focus our data mainly reflect the position of former CDF and RUF fighters. To cover adequately ex-Republic of Sierra Leone Military Forces personnel would have required more work in Freetown and home areas of high army recruitment, such as parts of the northwest and far north of Sierra Leone. 9. A brief history of the war The war in Sierra Leone emerged from the activities of a Libyan-supported coalition of radical students protesting the All People’s Congress one-party political system of President Siaka Stevens during the 1970s and ‘80s. The Sierra Leone Green Book sect split. A splinter went on to form the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) c. 1982. Some members of the group travelled to Benghazi where they received guerrilla and ideological training in the late 1980s, and then joined the faction of Charles Taylor fighting the war in Liberia. Taylor assisted the RUF to launch its guerrilla campaign in Sierra Leone from two points on the Liberian border (Bomaru in Kailahun District and Mano Waterside in Pujehun District) on March 23rd 1991. Much of the history of the RUF from 1991 to 2000 depends not on its own strength, but on dubious decisions made by those seeking to deal with it. Atrocities by the army in the earliest days of the war drove a number of civilians into the movement. After a military coup deposing the APC in April 1992 the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) tried to consolidate its power by achieving outright victory over the RUF, hiring a South African-based security consortium.3 The RUF was excluded from elections conceded by the NPRC, and the incoming civilian government re-organised local civil defence militia into an offensive para-military force (the Civil Defence Force [CDF]) to dislodge the RUF from its forest bases. With its secure bases under attack the movement became seriously destabilised, and resorted to outrages against unarmed villagers in areas of CDF operation (including a spate of “random” amputations) that shocked the world. Matters were then complicated by an army revolt, and the democratic government of President Kabbah was driven into exile in 1997. A military junta tried to gain some legitimacy by making peace with the RUF, inviting the movement into a power-sharing arrangement. A short period of brutal instability followed until Nigerian-led West African peacekeeping troops displaced the
Precisely what the South Africans did in 1995-6 is a silence in the history of the war. But it is widely assumed that their dismissal by the Kabbah government on the advice of the IMF (on cost, rather than security considerations) allowed the RUF to survive and assume a more deadly form than hitherto (Porter 2003). They were replaced in 1998 by a British firm, also supplying security services to the mining sector in Sierra Leone.
junta and restored the rightful government. In 1998 the RUF (and junta survivors) invited (or accepted the offer of) a group of international entrepreneurs and military suppliers to re-train and re-equip its forces in return for diamonds and mineral concessions. The revived RUF took over the Kono diamond fields and swept on towards Freetown. The eastern part of the city was attacked, with large loss of life, on January 6th 1999. RUF and junta forces were repulsed by West African peace keeping troops, but the expense of peace keeping operations, and loss of life, convinced in-coming Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo that Nigeria should withdraw from Sierra Leone. The Lome peace accords were then negotiated with the RUF in July 1999, RUF leader Foday Sankoh released from jail and an interim government, with RUF ministerial representation, formed. A UN force (UNAMSIL) began to deploy in April 2000, to replace the departing Nigerians. Poorly organised and briefed, UNAMSIL was widely distrusted, not least by the RUF, who seized large numbers of UN hostages, occasioning British intervention.4 This was intended to allow UNAMSIL to deploy more fully and to reorganise. The government arrested large numbers of RUF leaders in Freetown, after a demonstration and shooting at the house of Foday Sankoh on 8th May. A reorganized and redeployed UNAMSIL focussed on building the RUF’s confidence in the peace process. The Pakistan and Bangladesh battalions in particular won over the majority of the RUF in the field, and disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration processes5, commenced from May 2001. The disarmament and registration stage was effectively completed within eight months, and President Kabbah declared the war at an end in February 2002. 10. The war as a crisis of rural youth A crisis of agrarian opportunities for young people clearly contributed to the willingness of certain groups of young people to rally to the RUF, and to the leadership’s confidence that even abductees would soon see the validity of the struggle. At the root of the crisis lies not only government failure - inadequacies of rural education, for example - but also the oppressive nature of “customary” rural social arrangements (early marriage for women, and “bride service” or fines for “woman damage” inflicted upon young men). The following are interview extracts evidencing both voluntary adherence by rural young people to the RUF, and linking the war to exploitation of the labour of young people by the rural landowning elite. - “I joined the rebels purposely because of difficulties we were having... The RUF was encouraging us to help them in their fight so that later we could enjoy a proper life...there were about 20 young people in my village - 7 girls and 13 boys, who joined the RUF willingly, without force. The main reason was the lack of job facilities and lack of encouragement for the youth. [This was] why the RUF [was] fighting.” - “[The chiefs] levy high fines on the youth, if you are sent to do a job and you refuse. Up till now the chiefs are pressuring us. They can summon [s] you...making you to pay a lot...” - “Chiefs protect their own children from doing communal work.” Peters (2002), Archibald & Richards (2002)
This intervention is seen as the decisive factor in persuading the RUF that it could not win the war, but (even in British circles) military action by Guinean forces against RUF units supporting rebels seeking to overthrow Lansana Conte’s regime Guinea, February-March 2000, is seen as at least as important a factor (Porter 2003).
Agreed in the Abuja cease-fire accord, 10th November 2000
The war has not changed the nature of this agrarian crisis - only made it more intense. Prospects for demobilization and reintegration are dogged by failure to address root issues. 11. Demobilization6 There were initial difficulties in lining up donors and implementing partners for demobilization from 1998. When money was found, few international NGOs expressed interest in implementing DDR-related activities. “Men-with-guns”, it was reasoned, were the perpetrators of the outrages in Sierra Leone, and DDR thus promised to benefit perpetrators not victims. The NGO response can be criticised for failing to consider the long-term “structural violence” against young people producing “youths-with-guns” in Africa.7 UNAMSIL undertook the actual disarmament, with registered ex-combatants then becoming eligible for reintegration benefits under the National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (NCDDR). 12. Entry qualification The basic qualification for entry into the UNAMSIL disarmament process was possession of a modern weapon.8 This excluded large numbers of CDF (perhaps 80%) who fought only with shotguns, bush knives and “magic” jackets. Commanders, who registered the names of the fighters serving under them, gathered the guns. This has been a source of corruption. Both CDF and RUF commanders disowned many of their troops, giving the registration to civilian dependents instead, in some cases wives and children, in others to the dependents of powerful civilians (e.g. chiefs) in communities where commanders hoped to re-settle. For every “fake” ex-combatant, there is likely to be a “real” fighter excluded from the DDRP. 13. Exclusion and alienation; implications of the entry qualification criteria If recruitment to the RUF reflected the “detached” and disillusioned state of many rural youth, the sense of detachment has now been greatly increased for those ex-combatants who feel cheated over demobilization benefits. The alienation of the CDF is particularly worrying; the rank-and-file fought a “patriotic” war to recover land for its chiefs, and the majority of fighters, who put their lives in jeopardy without modern weapons, now feel as “excluded” and dispossessed as the RUF. If rural alienation caused the war then the war may eventually recur. 14. Some basic data on disarmament There have been three main phases to DDR: Phase I lasted from September to December 1998, following the restoration of the Kabbah government in March, and halted by the RUF attack on Freetown in January 1999. This involved 3,183 combatants (including mainly “junta”, i.e. former government, troops surrendering to ECOMOG forces). Phase II ran from October 1999 to April 2000 (after the signing of the Lome peace accord), and was halted by the RUF abduction of UNAMSIL forces. The number of ex-combatants involved was 18,898. An interim phase - May 2000 to May 2001 saw 2,628 fighters disarm.
For background to the demobilisation process see Annex 3.
Even now, the donors, and their advisors, worry that disarmament has “rewarded the perpetrators”, and advocate (in future) balanced approaches in which there is “community reintegration”. Arthy (2003) suggests, for example, that for every group of ex-combatants benefited there should an equal group of non-combatants benefited. But “reintegration” - we suggest - places rather a lot of emphasis on the idea that “communities” are functional entities in rural Sierra Leone. Nor does an emphasis on “balance” pay sufficient attention to differences in need within and between the groups of young people associated with war (the distinctions drawn below between mobilised, armed, elite and rank-and-file combatants). Arthy, himself, is clear that donors must pay much more attention to the causes not the consequences of the conflict.
In some cases female dependents disarmed on the basis of possessing clips of ammunition. Where team-managed weapons (RPG, mortars, heavy machine gun, etc) were concerned several fighters per weapon were registered).
Phase III (after the signing of the Abuja accords, November 2000, and with UNAMSIL fully deployed to all former rebel-held territories, ran from May 18th 2001 to 5th January 2002, and involved demobilization of 42,551. This amounts to a total of 67,260. Faction strengths are not precisely known. The RUF may have accounted for about one third of the total number. It should be remembered that only one in five of CDF fighters were conventionally armed, and that the “unarmed” CDF are not included in the total. For example, records for the Kenema CDF show that only about 14% of fighters were armed with weapons acceptable to NCDDR as a basis for demobilization. The actual number of CDF fighters in Kenema District was 16,491 (about 22% of the male age cohort 18-40).9 If we add in about 10 per cent for males aged 18-40 mobilised by the RUF we arrive at a figure for total mobilization of about one third of all males in the age group. This figure should be adjusted upwards both for rural areas and non-elite groups. The conclusion is perhaps 50 per cent of all ordinary rural males in this part of eastern Sierra Leone had some direct experience of fighting.10 15. Skills training DDRP aimed first to collect and destroy weapons, and then to offer financial ‘allowances’ and a training package. While the allowances keep ex-combatants going in the immediate term, most worry about what will happen when provision ends. The training packages are intended to provide a basis for reintegration but, by common consent, are too perfunctory or of too low a quality to offer much immediate chance of real employment. The Commissioner of NCDDR himself is clear that each package is only an “introduction”, and expresses the hope that excombatants will pursue training through other channels. Quite who will provide the training, or how it will be funded is unclear. Some ex-combatants do indeed view their training package as a useful first step, hoping they might continue to acquire skills through the local apprenticeship system. Others opt for other kinds of work. A fortunate few become riders of motorbike taxis in provincial towns, others become security guards, and large numbers drift back to (or never left) the diamond pits in Kono and Tongo Field. Ex-combatants regard the most attractive packages as those that offer a return to education, or entry in to computer skills training. These appeal to the relatively well-educated leadership classes within the RUF and CDF. The second most attractive set of packages covers artisan skills such as vehicle driving or maintenance, or carpentry or tailoring. These packages appeal to combatants with weaker educational backgrounds who rose through the ranks within their movements. Some ex-combatants rate the agriculture package to be the least attractive. They feel it has less intrinsic worth than schooling or technical training, but this may reflect the “urban bias” of government policies in Sierra Leone over many years. Some ex-combatants actively opt for agriculture, however. Many CDF fighters were farmers to begin with. Amongst the RUF group some of its leadership continues to believe the country requires an agrarian revolution. 16. The potential importance of collective action around agriculture Only about 16 per cent of ex-combatants registered for the agriculture package. Some CDF rank-and-file, however, stated agriculture as their first preference (they fought for their villages and to recover their land). Many are members of the larger land-owning lineages, with ready access to land for cash-crop plantations. Oil palm is of particular interest,. Help in establishing domestic livestock production was also attractive to some.
All CDF fighters were male.
Because the war started along the Liberian border, the team paid attention to patterns of RUF recruitment (or abduction) and return in this area. The results of the interviews indicate extremely low levels of return, suggesting the ‘disappearance’ of an entire cohort of young people. The interviews and accompanying analysis are presented in Annex 4.
The biggest frustration for ex-CDF fighters, however, is that many did not qualify for DDR because they fought with unconventional weapons. It was evident, during fieldwork, that while late or incomplete delivery of inputs angered an "elite" of registered ex-combatants, "rank-and-file" CDF were frustrated at having been by-passed altogether. Failures by implementing partners (some of whom, CDF organisers allege, are "front" organizations run by relatives of officers within NCDDR) angered the selected beneficiaries, and also caused sharp divisions within re-settling rural communities (e.g. between CDF fighters registered and those excluded). This appears to have reduced the amount of “social capital” available for new "community-driven" development programmes (such as NSAP). We would suggest that, for the CDF in rural chiefdoms, inputs would have been better offered on a group basis, e.g. food for work to fix farm access roads of benefit to the entire farming community. The engagement of some RUF ex-combatants with agriculture reflects the movement’s ideological training during the period up until 1996.11 Each of the three projects had similar features.12 Each tried to integrate villagers and ex-combatants around agriculture. Each was an attempt to modernise agriculture (through intensive wet-rice cultivation, improved inputs and in some cases tree-crops). Each was using NCDDR inputs as a platform to establish cooperative agriculture, based around productivity gains based on simple machines (chain saws, two-wheeled tractors, and mechanical food processing equipment. This is not to suggest that seemingly positive initiatives are easily replicable. The war has forged attitudinal and behavioural patterns that are difficult to overcome. As a fighting "machine" the RUF depended a lot on rural captives acculturated and trained as fighters within the movement. Many supported the movement not from conviction but as a means to stay alive. In a tough, "Darwinian", environment the weak or decent tended to be weeded out (some died in battle, others were killed in the summary executions that appear to have been routine in the latter days of the movement). Thus only the toughest and most ruthless have survived. DDR has to address the issue of what to do about these battle-hardened fighters from rural districts with few scruples and little education. Computers and intellectual arguments offer little appeal. While military service13, schooling or trades were the main options offered by the demobilization process, it seems clear to us that a greater emphasis should have been placed on agriculture, as better suited to the longer term needs of a majority of ex-combatants. Many of those who did not choose agriculture have opted for other training packages, such as carpentry, tailoring, and (for women) soap making and cloth dyeing. The six-months course, and tools package, is rarely enough to sustain a trainee as an independent crafts-person. To find employment in urban areas ex-combatants will need now to find informal apprenticeships to build on their knowledge. Additionally, they will need business skills and credit packages. Partners of some ex-combatants have qualified for "micro-credit", but (arguably) the amounts are too small and repayment rates too steep to launch a successful business.
An ideology unit, led by Ibrahim Deen-Jalloh, formerly of Bunumbu Teacher’s College, offered leadership training based on a mix of Libyan, North Korean and Nicaraguan materials, with some exposure to cooperative rural development in post-1971 Bangla Desh. This last has proven to be of some significance in the interaction between the RUF and Bangla Desh battalion of UNAMSIL. The agriculture projects are explained in detail in Annex 6.
Some of the RUF have been taken into the new British-trained national army (RSLAF), as have some CDF volunteers who learnt how to handle modern weapons, and “loyal” soldiers from the former government army (RSLMF). Some of the ex-combatants with the greatest aptitude for modern warfare have, in effect, been placed under military discipline. In its supervision the international training battalion (IMATT) emphasises keeping “tabs” on troops. But how successful this strategy will be in the longer term is open to doubt. Certainly, we encountered some recruits already “absent without leave”, living off urban crime, and others who claim to have been dismissed the new force for “nonsense reasons”. Every army recruit has brothers who serve as his unofficial apprentices, potentially swelling the ranks of dissident, but army-linked, groups such as the “West Side Boys”, who fought a short engagement with the British army in September 2000. These types still “hang around” the Mamba Point Hotel and “Bottom Mango”, adjacent to Wilberforce Barracks in West Freetown, muttering about “next time destroying the houses of the rich” (the impact of January 1999 attack was felt most in the poorer districts of East Freetown and the eastern suburbs).
Even so, some of the ex-combatants we talked to remain confident they are moving forward. One reason for this confidence is either that they have already found an urban apprenticeship, or that they feel they have enough experience to return to their villages and fill a local skills gap. In rural areas we frequently met with one or two ex-combatants (mostly from the locality) who had re-settled to meet demand for "rough" carpentry or basic tailoring. They often combined this work with part-time farming activities. But we also heard about tailors who knew they would never make a "go" of the business. Judging it would take too much time to learn what they did not yet know, they had sold the machine granted as part of their tools package, and moved back to Kono to dig diamonds. 17. ‘Problems’ with obtaining NCDDR training contracts The team encountered complaints about the “problems” some training institutes experienced in obtaining NCDDR training contracts. One example illustrates a consistently expressed view: a well known, externally supported vocational centre in Makeni - with a national reputation for quality – was excluded from participation in the DDR training program. NCDDR says they were slow to apply. The organization itself says its own accounting procedures (to international standards) would not allow it offer the "kickbacks" field staff would demand it believed. "To get work with NCDDR you have to be prepared to share", is how the ‘problem’ was expressed to us. "If you have 100 students registered, you take 60 or 40 and share the funding for the balance." We emphasise - as before - that we have no means to know if these perceptions are valid. We record them to alert NCDDR that it has a persistent “image problem”. In part, negative perceptions are fed by the evident low quality - not to say implausibility - of some of the training partners. We visited a “computer training” facility which had allegedly opened without possessing a single computer. 18. A lost generation The RUF based its appeal on the burning sense of grievance of a generation of young people embittered by isolation and social exclusion. Due to the dislocations of war, this generation is more isolated and excluded than ever. It was generally agreed that a majority of rank-and-file ex-RUF combatants and civilian personnel (including porters and abducted girls taken as ‘wives’) were at high risk of being “stranded” far from family networks of support. One interviewee noted that in Kailahun town she knew of large numbers of young people from Pujehun or Kambia Districts who had no means of contacting their families to find out how they might be received on return. The problem stretched across West Africa, she thought, at least as far as RUF “rear bases” in Danane (Cote d’Ivoire), Abidjan and Accra. The commanders held the key to the mobility of their dependents. Only the commanders had the power to disarm and reintegrate their groups, and some took the opportunity to abandon their “bush” groups and start a new life un-trammelled by past “baggage”. With the demobilization chits for the weapons held by the group they could form an entirely new domestic support group and forget the past. But if this happened on any large scale (and the going rate among informed commentators we spoke to suggested 50% of demobilised ex-fighters never took part in combat) then the number of stranded young people associated with the RUF could assume alarming proportions. At issue is how many people stood behind each gun? How big was the commander-led “bush” group in the RUF. Some accounts we collected suggested that it would typically be much bigger than the current domestic farming group (one head of household, generally male, and 7-9 assistants or dependents). Each commander had a small platoon of “war boys” (perhaps ten) to protect him and do his bidding, and behind each of these guns would stand several women and children. The total figure for each RUF fighter-led domestic group might be anything from 20 to several hundred. If c. 25,000 RUF “guns” were demobilised, and if each gun sustained 10 dependents then the diversion of benefits from 50% of these guns would mean a lost population of low-status young people of upwards of 100,000, a sizeable problem.
If we add this number to the equally large number of CDF volunteers by-passed in the demobilization process then the weaknesses and inefficiencies of the actual demobilization process (in which non-delivery of large parts of the benefit stream seems possible) pale into insignificance when compared to the number of younger people in the countryside stranded in oppressive domestic relationships or disgruntled at their lack of opportunities. If an agrarian crisis was a cause of the war then it seems likely the war has made it a good deal worse. 19. The CDF The CDF as a fighting force: interviews in Baomahun, Valunia Chiefdom: CDF formation began in the early days of the war in Bonthe District (Muana 1997) but was expanded with support of the Deputy Minister of Defence, Sam Hinga Norman, from the election of the SLPP government in early 1996. The government encouraged expansion in the Kono diamond fields and later in the north. CDF mobilization was first and foremost social mobilization. Communities wanted to go home, and realised they had to use local knowledge of the terrain and of the true loyalties of fighters. Guns and conventional counter-insurgency tactics were a secondary consideration. Initiates knew they had the “right” to their land, and initiators instilled confidence that with the famous “bullet proof” magic jacket a CDF was man invulnerable, whether possessing a weapon or not. This makes it all the more incredible that, during some of their operations, the CDF managed to capture hundreds of semi-automatic and modern weapons, which were then handed over to the government. These weapons are now a bone of contention. The majority of CDF fought without weapons, and were thus disqualified from DDR. Yet many had handed over enough weapons to the government for a large number of them to qualify for inclusion. They fought to recover their land, so have already “re-integrated”, but feel they are justified in asking for farming “packages”. We surmise that NCDDR “packages” are strategically designed to appeal to the RUF leadership (those with good education) and the main (and most violent) commanders - computer training is aimed at an RUF “elite”, tailoring and carpentry attracts the bush fighters with lower educational levels. For the CDF, this is hard to take. They cannot understand why those who fought for their land have been so generally excluded, even from the agriculture packages. They can prove their status as “mobilised” via their annual CDF ID cards, some dating back to 1996, and by certificates of initiation.14 The reasoning - presumably - is that the CDF were deemed loyal, and could thus be expected simply to get on with their lives. This assumes their lives are based on an already satisfactory rural opportunity structure. There is plenty of evidence this is not so, and that now the CDF are as alienated by rural poverty and oppression as RUF “volunteers” were before the war. Hence government and donors will have to revisit the question of agrarian development strategy if war is not to return. 20. The nature and mood of the CDF The point about CDF alienation is made very clear to us by AK, one of the leaders of the CDF in Kenema District. He is an engineering graduate, and a sophisticated, knowledgeable thinker. Much of his concern is focused on the Special Court, which has indicted Sam Hinga Norman on war crimes charges, for his leadership of the CDF. It was unwise (even provocative), he thinks, for the Special Court to have used the Sierra Leone
The commissioner of NCDDR (Dr Francis Kaikai) assumes these cardholders will be mainly older initiates who served as advisors, not fighters (personal communication, 6th November 2003). Evidence to contest this assumption is given in Section 31 below.
police to arrest Norman, since the police are a party to the conflict. Enmity between the police and the CDF dates from the time of the restoration (November 1997 to April 1998, i.e. the period covering the AFRC agreement to hand back power to the elected government and the Nigerian military intervention which enforced the agreement). This was a period when the police Special Security Division (SSD) remained loyal to the AFRC, but CDF men killed a number of police and army personnel in Bo. He notes that the indictment of the Special Court specifies this period as the time when the CDF allegedly committed war crimes. To send the police to arrest Norman does not look like justice; it looks like revenge. ‘A’ stresses that the CDF has received a double blow. It acted patriotically, and in defence of a democratically elected regime, and now finds its external “broker” in court. But it has also been largely by-passed by NCDDR. Even the agriculture package - the least attractive option, but the one in which CDF members have the greatest interest - is unavailable to the majority of the movement15. Even for those registered, the delays apparently built into the DDRP were too much. The rural fighters were mainly illiterate, and were easily fooled by computer lists of names. When an announcement was made in Kenema that benefits for registered CDF ex-combatants were to be paid 64 names were “not called”. These people were told to “come back next time, after we have checked the computer” but only six did. The popular perception is that NCDDR staff then diverts the benefits on the grounds the claimant was called but did not respond. AK states, “This is why, anywhere you go, you will never hear any good thing about NCDDR from excombatants”. 21. The CDF in demobilization This case material concerning a group of registered ex-combatants in Makali (Kunike Barina chiefdom) suggests that the experiences just described are quite general. The Makali group was first encountered in October 2002 during a DfID-funded consultancy on strengthening civil society (Jay et al. 2003). At that stage 110 combatants complained they had been registered but had not yet (with the exception of a small agricultural group) begun to receive training packages. In a follow-up meeting on 12th September 2003 a group of 88 assembled to report that they had now begun their training, but had lodged a long series of complaints about inefficiency or corruption on the part of NCDDR’s implementing partners (a British-funded consultancy and two Christian mission-based NNGOs). Alleged abuses included the delivery of sub-standard materials or tools, and only part of promised packages (e.g. partial payment of allowances or food for work). Cards were punched or dockets signed off as if the full amount had been received, on a take-it-or-leave basis. Anyone refusing to hand over a card to be punched was deemed to have refused the full package, and the goods were withheld. Promises to return with the balance had not, at time of writing, been made good. Implementing partners ceased visits to Makali since July. The leader of an ex-combatant agriculture group outlined the series of official complaints his group had lodged with the police, UN peacekeeping forces, the paramount chief, and the district officer, to no avail. The group had also written to other ex-combatant groups in Yele, Magburaka and Masingbi (in the neighbouring chiefdoms) to ask about their experiences. On hearing of similar problems, they concluded that their treatment was systematic. The team took down registration details and asked for a review by NCDDR (a request readily granted). To the grievance of registered ex-combatants must be added the equally great, if more diffuse, sense of frustration among a much larger number of CDF ex-combatants who have been bypassed by the DDRP. To leave the marginalised CDF to stew in its resentment seems a risky ploy, thousands of young men with extensive mobilisation and combat experience, and a
Kenema District CDF maintained very impressive data and records on demobilization in Kenema. They are presented in Annex 1, along with a brief note explaining an important paradox of CDF demobilization.
shared sense of grievance and exclusion, constitute a potentially volatile mix. This neglect is not only dangerous; it is a wasted opportunity. More could be done along the lines of the cooperative agricultural projects, organised by ideologically motivated excombatant leaders, but including village people. One of the potentially most interesting developments - because it apparently combines CDF and RUF elements, as well as civilians, is a project in Kailahun District. A former Deputy District Secretary of the Kenema CDF and a former RUF colonel jointly leads the project. We visited three projects of this kind, each exhibits evidence of the “horizontal” solidarity, and potential for self-integration, of the motorbike renters associations described below. Government - for the longer term security of the nation - needs to take any emergent cooperative agrarian groupings seriously, since they offer the potential to incorporate a large number of rural jobless young people, and to benefit from the short-term action plan for agriculture adopted by the Ministry of Agriculture (e.g. the farmer field school programme). 22. RUF fighting women NCDDR includes a small number of women combatants among its caseload. It has been suggested by some that these are all “false combatants”, and indeed it seems pretty clear from our enquiries that some are the non-fighting female partners of RUF commanders. But we interviewed enough female fighters from the RUF for it to be clear that there were real female fighters in the RUF, and that numbers (according to the women we interviewed) may have been larger than 5%. One interview extract readily illustrates the point. Case Study 1: The signaller’s tale AP was a Form V girl captured in the early days of the war in Kailahun, where her father was posted (the family is from Bonthe). With a secondary leaver’s level of education she was taken by the RUF for signals training. She explains that since the [high-status] women in the movement [such as herself] were assigned to commanders who protected them they did not have to fight, but that many had “the mind” to do so, and took on weapons training. She herself learnt how to handle a gun, and tasted battle on four occasions. But she was not a mainstream fighter. She claims that there were, in fact, a sizeable number of female fighters in her camp. She knows at least 20 who had guns but did not pass through NCDDR. Some were with their “boss”, who excluded the girls. Some were very young, and had children, and NCDDR would not accept them. AP, like so many in the RUF elite, opted for computer training, which she received and has now completed. Her concerns now are to acquire the equipment to set up and run an office services company in Makeni town. Some RUF women fighters - she informs us - refused to disarm (i.e. go through NCDDR). They did not want to be recognised - after the war - as fighters, and simply handed their guns to their commanders and found their own way out of the movement. She names one woman she knew, from Kambia District, who took this option [such women may have to take special care about how they approach their families and re-establish their “feminine” roles in the more deeply Islamic and conservative societies of the north]. Pressed on numbers AP thought that for every 10 RUF male fighters there would have been about 4 women fighters (in other words about 40% of the total fighting force). AP was a very intelligent and forthright interviewee, proud of her survival skills, and feeling that she had nothing of which to be ashamed; her evidence and estimates are worth taking seriously16. 23. RUF “bush wives” The RUF recruited heavily in the east, along the Liberian border. It also seized young women in far-flung raids, and forcibly deployed them within the movement (as “bush wives” or labourers) throughout the conflict. For instance, large numbers of schoolgirls were seized in eastern
Two further accounts of the different experiences female RUF fighters are presented in Annex 7.
Freetown during the raid of January 1999. This means that RUF (captive) “civil society” includes large numbers of young women seized and abused, and now widows or abandoned by their wartime partners, stranded far from home. Some of these women were married to commanders, who have moved to other women at the end of the war. Others are widows (their men killed in action, or murdered by the movement in purges). With children to raise, no family support, and no access to demobilization benefits, these RUF “war widows” often opt for a kind of low-status marriage in the rural districts in which they have found themselves at the end of the war. Village polygynists are more than happy to acquire a hard-working wife “for free”. If the escape route for the young men stranded in rural servitude is to revert to diamond digging (see below), the escape for these young women is to come to main towns and engage in commercial sex work. Those “afraid” of street life in town (as the women themselves put it) are in effect condemned to a lifetime of domestic servitude as ‘bush wives’ in rural villages17. Rural isolation and servitude is not an experience confined to female ex-combatants. 24. ‘Agrarian servitude’ ‘M’ is a former RUF fighter. A Mende, he was abducted in south of the country in 1991. As an illiterate teenage farm boy he learned nothing of the movement’s ideology. Most such recruits served as porters, or labourers in RUF farms. He spent most of the war as a member of the household of a leading fighter (Colonel J.). His “boss” taught him the rudiments of how to handle a weapon. ‘M’ ended the war with a semi-automatic in his possession, and was qualified to be registered for demobilization. Colonel J. collected M.’s weapon as required by NCDDR, but registered it in the name of a female companion instead. Colonel J. and his girlfriend joined a skills training programme and later settled in the diamond fields, opening a small tailoring business. M. was stranded in Magburaka, a Temne town and a main RUF centre at the end of the war, but without any demobilization support he was soon on the verge of starvation. He moved to an off-road village where a village headman took him on as his “stranger”. The man fed him in return for farm labour. The chief had a large plantation of 22 acres that he had established to educate his children, who were all away at school. The work was too much for the chief alone, so he was happy for M. to help him. When we met and interviewed M. (September 2003) he had to all intents and purposes slipped into a kind of modern-day de facto domestic slavery. He lived in an isolated farm hut on the plantation, 3 miles from the village. Speaking no Temne he had few social contacts. He was reliant on his patron not only for food but to pass on any information that might be gleaned from the radio about demobilization benefits. In a voice choked with emotion he told us how he had been “robbed” of his gun and benefits, was grateful to his current “boss” for rescuing him from starvation, but how, paid only in food and tips, he could see no way of reintegrating into society. His ultimate aim was to find his family, from whom he had been separated for 12 years. What he needed was a regular wage to fund a trip to the south to search. To make the journey he needed not only the truck fare (about a week’s wage at the national minimum, and far beyond his current resources) but also an amount several times greater to buy simple presents (cloth, soap, etc) through which affection and respect are conveyed in rural Sierra Leone. After years of fighting for survival with the RUF he was deeply uncertain whether would be viewed by his family as an outcast. He remains in his plantation hut.
Notes on interviews with five ex-RUF women, signed up for a tailoring course run by the Praise Foundation, Makeni, are presented in Annex 8. Their experiences give a sense of the range of circumstances and difficulties faced by “bush wives”. The general themes are loss of the man, lack of family help (e.g. to look after children), informal friendships as ways of making ends meet, and the likelihood that there are lots more RUF “widows” of similar backgrounds stuck in the villages.
25. Diamond work: ex-combatants in Tongo Field ‘M’ confided that he thought that his only chance was to dig for diamonds. To him, diamond mining was a lottery through which “God might grant me my portion”. Former ex-combatants are present in considerable numbers in Tongo. Many are ex-RUF, some (perhaps the majority) are, in fact, fighters who lost their guns in the demobilization process, and have no NCDDR numbers. It was from BD, the town chief of K. in Tongo Field, that we first heard the estimate that as many of 50 per cent of ex-combatants might never have passed through NCDDR due to cheating by their commanders. The chief thought there were more CDF than RUF among the undocumented combatants in Tongo. He reported both CDF and RUF commanders swapping arms to make favourable post-war alliances by including civilian dependents as registered “ex-combatants”, and named three RUF commanders he alleged gave NCDDR numbers to 200 of his kinsfolk from Pujehun. It is widely supposed that the attraction of digging is that diggers become rich.18 Few ever do. The returns to labourers in alluvial mining are low (OTI 2000). Wage rates compare with “subsistence” wages in agriculture. Why, then, do young men continue to see mining as an opportunity? Part of the answer is to be found in the way the “customary” system bears down upon the young, and a perceived freedom from such “custom” in the diamond fields. One young self-demobilised RUF ex-combatant in Tongo explained the matter as follows: “I am from B. in Nongowa Chiefdom. We have problems with our elders in that village. They force young men to marry their daughters as soon as we harvest our first bunch of palm fruits. If you refuse they cause more problems for you than even being in the bush as a rebel. They charge you to court for smiling at a girl, saying they had offered you a girl and you refused...But the bride price is not reasonable. You will be required to do all sorts of physical jobs for the bride’s family, like brushing and making a farm for the family, offering your energy as labour to build houses for them, and sharing the proceeds of your own labour, harvest or business, three-quarters to them, one quarter for you, or you will lose your wife and be taken to court for breach of contract... What most of us have done is to avoid the scene...here [in Tongo] you can get some respite and marry a woman of your choice. In B. marriage is synonymous to slavery.” Chief B. also comments on the position of women (many of them wives of combatants). He mentions Tegeh Agricultural Development project. A group of 63 people (men and women) from the village worked on a groundnut and rice farm, to raise money to draft and produce a project application, photograph the site, etc for submission to UNAMSIL, but “nothing came out”. But they sold 8.5 bu. of rice. The idea is to use this as a fund for micro-credit, to help the women begin business activities. “Women suffer more than men in Tongo, because they have fewer alternatives, and cannot mine”. For unskilled “rank-and-file” women or “bush wives”, small trading businesses are a viable possibility; there are abundant opportunities in a mining area, provided a source of credit is available. The alternative is “domestic servitude” in an often-unsatisfactory marriage, or commercial sex work (for which, of course, there also are abundant ‘opportunities’ in a mining area). Micro-credit for young women in such circumstances would seem to be something of a priority. 26. Diamond servitude? Ex-combatants in Kono Kono is, historically, the main alluvial diamond-mining region in Sierra Leone. According to some estimates the alluvials are close to being worked out. The significance of Kono in future
To some, the war in Sierra Leone is a clear instance of the “greed, not grievance” hypothesis (Smillie et al. 2000). For a sophisticated exposition see Addison, Le Billon & Murshed (2002).
will be in terms of kimberlitic (hard rock) diamond mining. But, for the present, the Kono alluvials remain a magnet for unskilled labourers, large numbers of who are ex-combatants. What happens in Kono now and the immediate future is of great significance to DDR, and the broader peace process (nationally, and sub-regionally). It is important to understand the ‘push – pull’ factors that bring ex-combatants to Kono, and also to better understand how they perceive their situation. 27. Self-demobilisation, anonymity and subsistence: The survey team was told by CDF and RUF commanders that large numbers of the ex-combatants in Kono did not register for DDR19. It was explained that “Many of them will never register, they are hiding from the atrocities they committed and do not want to be identified; this is the only place they can hide; they will stay here until something happens.”20. We asked what that “something” might be, and were told, “Well, some have returned from Ivory Coast, and others are still in Liberia”. The implication was that their services as fighters were a ‘service’ they could sell throughout West African sub-region, with Kono providing anonymity and income until another “opportunity” arises. But we give grounds below for believing that this “reserve army” is primarily a “reserve army of labour” for the diamond fields, maintained through threat of retribution for atrocities. Kono also provides subsistence for ex-combatants denied full DDR. We met CDF and RUF excombatants who had registered for the DDR process and received initial benefits (A and B on their demobilization cards), but who had not yet commenced vocational training, or (if they had completed training) were still awaiting tool kits. Those we interviewed were from all areas of the country. Most had registered for DDR in Kono, but many were keen to relocate to other areas once the full NCDDR package had been received. Some interviewees had registered in other areas, and subsequently moved to Kono (saying they had “given up waiting” for their full benefits packages). Of a group of 16 ex-combatants interviewed in N’Doryogbor village (5 miles south of Koidu), 10 had registered in Kono, and six had registered elsewhere. Of those registered in Kono, none had yet begun a vocational training programme, saying they had been “so often” to the NCDDR office to enquire about start dates, but had now given up. When asked why they remained in Kono (rather than returning to their areas of origin), they explained that the initial payment (Le 300,000) was depleted by monies “sent home” (to their villages of origin) as a “down payment” on their eventual return (Le 150,000 seemed to be typical), and the rest soon went on rent and household and family items such as beds, mattresses, cooking equipment, medical expenses, school fees, etc. (most had families with them in Kono.) With the money spent, and training programmes still to start (or be completed), return is not financially possible (transport for a family of four to Bo, for example, will cost approximately Le 200,000). Ex-combatants are, effectively, locked-in. There is no prospect of accumulating enough money to fund relocation unless a digging crew finds a big stone and a grateful supporter pays bonuses. It appears that these circumstances are forging common interests where there were previously factional divisions; effectively creating an overarching set of grievances common to all excombatants, whether CDF, RUF or AFRC. This emerged clearly from discussions with various groups about whether or not diamond work, under present conditions in Kono, represents a viable reintegration and livelihood strategy. The overwhelming answer was “no”. The going rate for a day of labour in a diamond pit, from 6
Mainly, they appear to be those who had their guns re-assigned by their commanders. Several respondents said the weapons were smuggled to Freetown where, reassembled, they were sold to buyers who then registered for disarmament benefits, or registered a dependent as a child combatant to qualify for schooling. CDF ground commander, Small Sefadu, 20/09/03
am–6 pm, is 1 cup of rice and Le300 (US$0.12). Currently, the supply of ex-combatant labour is such that anyone not willing to work at this rate is readily replaced by someone who will. Most have families to support, so will do the work for want of any alternative. Labour gangs are organised in teams of five, and each team is required to purchase a digging licence (Le 25, 000/month), the cost of which is loaned to the gang members by the “supporter”. The supporter organises, funds and hires-out the labour gangs. It was reported that many of these supporters are former RUF or CDF commanders who finance their activities with profits made from the disarmament process. The miners we interviewed are acutely aware of their exploitation, and the injustice of their position, but they remain in a situation that, for a variety of reasons, they appear unable to escape. One important aspect is that - apparently - former military control structures persist in the mining areas, and commanders continue to retain control over ex-combatants, either through patronage, coercion, misinformation, or fear. As observed above in relation to the RUF command and control structures, it may be the case that close functional relationships between senior commanders and rank-and-file fighters have been broken, with the movement’s “intellectual elite” moving to new activities and opportunities. However, at lower levels in the structure there still exist thousands of poorly educated rank-and-file fighters, many taken into the movement as children or early teenagers, who have spent 11 years under command in the bush. The evidence from Kono suggests that any vacuum created by the graduation of senior commanders and their chosen followers through the DDRP has been filled by opportunists, who see a potential to exploit large numbers of poorly educated, unskilled and socially alienated young people. But how do the ex-combatants themselves perceive their situation? Why do they endure these circumstances? What do they think will be the outcome of their present exploitation? In N’Doryogbor, the group we met with said they were “living as slaves”. They wanted to leave Kono, but had no money to do so, and no skills to offer if they did. We asked whether their feelings were widely shared; the spokesman, a CDF ex-combatant, said: “we are many thousands - and now we are all the same, CDF or RUF, we are all the same, we have got nothing from this war”. These sentiments were echoed in each of four meetings in Kono. If the sample is small, the message is consistent. The spokesman of the N’Doryogbor group, when asked what would happen eventually, said, “This can only bring war, we will go back, like Liberia”. We gained a glimpse of what this might mean during a meeting in the nearby village of Bandafayie, described to us as “an RUF village” with a population of “6000 miners”. Two community leaders (both presented as “commanders”) controlled the agenda and “policed” the comments of the CDF and RUF ex-combatants they presented to speak. Fear was palpable, one ex-combatant stood, visibly shaking, during a brief interview. However, one participant proved beyond their control. Describing himself as “an SLA man”, he told us how he and his “AFRC colleagues” had been integrated into the RSLAF after disarming; “but they never wanted us, and soon threw us out for no reason at all, it was a plan”. He spoke about the bitter mood of some ex-combatants, and then remarked that “organising for revolution (will) not be difficult; it will begin in the diamond areas...we [ex-AFRC] are in every area in the country, in Koidu, in Kenema, in Tongo; you should not assume that we have nothing to talk about; you should not assume that we do not meet.” He sketched on the ground how a small number of people could organise “cells” to take control of “key areas”. Was this just bravado? Lacking more comprehensive (qualitative and quantitative) survey data for areas such as Kono it is difficult to gauge the scale of the discontent. What is clear is that it definitely exists, and seems (logically) to be linked to current levels of labour exploitation in mining. Included or excluded, all now appear to be caught in the same situation; unable to afford to relocate themselves and their families, and unable to work their way out of the situation on a ‘wage’ of Le300 and 1 cup of rice per day.
The scale of the problem needs to be assessed. It is clear that there are thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of impoverished, disillusioned ex-combatants digging in the Kono diamond pits. Many of them move between conflict zones in West Africa. These groups spoke as one, aware of their exploitation and angry about their predicament. A common identity - abolishing previous differences - is being forged. It is also clear that former military command and control structures still exist, and that they are utilised, for the moment, to control mining labour. The system is maintained for a number of reasons - dependency, loyalty, and misinformation. Anger, alienation, exploitation and poverty are dangerous ingredients. Presently, each is to be found in Kono. People are tired of war, and seem pleased that it is declared at an end. This offers an important opportunity to assess the scale of the problem and devise strategies to address it. However, the opportunity will not last indefinitely. One group of ex-combatants, when asked if they would “return to the bush” if their commanders ordered them, said, “no, we are tired of war”. But later, in the same discussion, the group spokesman said, “for $100 we would go tomorrow”. 28. Fear of the Special Court In Kono, speaking to ex-combatants was more difficult than in any other part of the country. A factor is fear of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Special Court. On the first of our 3 visits to Bandafayie, the ex-combatants seemed keen to discuss DDR, until joined by a ‘community leader’ (a commander), after which the discussion was quickly brought to a halt. The leader said he would arrange a meeting for the following day, but nobody was waiting when we returned, and no one in the vicinity was prepared to talk. As we were preparing to leave a large group of children started to chant “TRC, TRC”. The negative reaction in Bandafayie was repeated in all three other locations visited in Kono (only in Kono was this level of hostility encountered in nearly five months of fieldwork. In a large mine near Small Sefadu an initial meeting to introduce the team and its purpose was open and friendly, but when we returned (as arranged) the following day, not one of 100 miners present was willing to speak. As we left, we could hear shouts from the far side of the mine “Are they TRC?” Seemingly, the TRC and Special Court generate fear. Is this fear being manipulated, perhaps by the “community leaders” (commanders)? There are obviously a few individuals who have good reason to fear exposure to the prosecutor of the Special Court, but equally obviously, the court is not going to prosecute thousands of illiterate rank-and-file ex-combatants mining on the edge of starvation (the court has announced widely, in fact, that it expects to try only about 25 persons with greatest responsibility for crimes against humanity). There is even less reason to fear the TRC, since this is reconciliatory not judgmental in purpose. We sensed deliberate misinformation. It may be that those who make good money from mobilising cheap ex-combatant labour stand to gain from telling any ex-combatant rank-and-file locked in the Kono sweated labour system that if they talk to outsiders they will be seized by the TRC or Special Court. On three occasions, in separate locations, we learnt ex-combatants had been told to stay away from the DDR process as the “snaps” taken at the disarmament stage produced four pictures; “one for Pademba Road 21, one for the TRC, one for the Special Court, and one for DDR”. The fear seems genuine, but where does the idea come from? No one could or would say how they had received the information. The rumour certainly works in the favour of those seeking to exploit cheap labour, viz. the commanders and supporters of mining labour gangs. Even if the “reserve army” waiting re-recruitment for fighting elsewhere in West Africa is no more than bluff or fantasy, finding solutions to the problem of sweated labour in Kono seems real enough. We discuss some practical steps in the conclusion below.
The main prison in Freetown.
29. Self-integration: new occupational solidarities A problem with alluvial diamond mining is that it appears to offer some relief from rural patrimonial (vertically-organised) structures of labour exploitation, but does no such thing. The mining labour system is no more than a modified version of the old chieftaincy system. It is vertically organised. The tributor sits above the “sand-sand” boys sweating at the bottom of a pit, and the supporter surveys from a distance. Police or military command structures also adapt well to alluvial mining. The apparent anarchy in Kono stems from that the fact that there are competing command structures supervising the digging. Nor is there much solidarity among diggers. “Sand-sand boys” believe in luck and spy on each other, anxious to detect any signs that one of their number might have pocketed a diamond and be on his way out of the pit. The scope for (interest-based) collective action by labourers (or other actors in the chain) is limited. And yet with many CDF and RUF “released” (during fighting) from the everyday restraints of prewar patrimonial order, and then again, on demobilization, from the grip of commanders, there has been some scope for new forms of “lateral” collective action to emerge, based on (nondiamond) occupational interests, an example of which is detailed below. 30. Occupational interest groups: the Bike Renter’s Associations An example is the emergence of (motor) bike renter’s associations in the main provincial towns, where post-war the two-wheeled motorbike taxi has gained ground at the expense of the conventional 4-wheeled kind. Self-reintegrated ex-combatants are prominent in each of the three associations we talked to (in Kenema, Makeni and Bo). The machines are imported from Conakry by Fula businessmen, who then offer them to riders on what are effectively hirepurchase terms over six-12 months. In Kenema the association combines students and ex-combatants. The students are prominent on the executive, with several sharing a machine (which they each ride part-time) to pay for their studies. They are either attempting university entrance or studying at the Eastern Polytechnic (riders have to be over 18). The organization has more than 600 members throughout the Eastern Province (with branches in the diamond towns of Tongo Field and Koidu) and an elaborate constitution. The executive works with the police and civil society in Kenema to report nighttime movements by suspected thieves. In Makeni (a major RUF base at the end of the war) the association is smaller (between 100-200 riders) and has a rather unruly, predominantly ex-combatant membership (the executive is struggling with basic issues like trying to get riders to ride less recklessly, to register their machines, and to pay for insurance). Some of the bike owners appear to be former RUF commanders, who rent bikes to riders formerly under their command. Bike renting is apparently one channel through which to invest the spoils of war. The Bo association is politically more sophisticated. An astute executive is working to improve discipline and safety, contests police harassment and has opened up training opportunities for female riders. Of 380 members (September 2003) the majority are ex-combatants; 54 (14%, RUF 12, SLA 4, CDF 38) are registered (i.e. passed through NCDDR disarmament and skills training, but moved on to bike riding under their own initiative) and 302 (79%, RUF 96, CDF 206) are undocumented ex-combatants. The large figure for the CDF is not implausible. Most youth in Bo Town - a major centre of resistance to the RUF - joined the CDF. The 96 who claim to be former RUF combatants without NCDDR benefit is some indication of the extent to which rebel excombatants either avoided formal DDR, and reintegrated themselves (a preference among abductees with supportive families, anxious for a returning member not to be “marked” as a former RUF fighter), or had spoils of war to invest, and/or turned to bike riding when “cheated” out of their guns by commanders. About half the executive are ex-combatants, including some former RUF fighters. They have
registered the association under commercial law, as a company limited by guarantee, and employ a Freetown solicitor as their legal representative. They avoid “big men” as political patrons, believing themselves to have been manipulated to fight the war, destroying their own environment in consequence. The “big men”, they point out, sent their families safely overseas, having “the wings to fly”. Young people had no such wings (i.e. alternatives to fast failing educational or health systems). For this reason, they have vowed not to fight each other with weapons again. Commercial law is a better tool, they argue22. The bike renters associations throw light on ex-combatant self-integration, new business opportunities under conditions of post-war economy recovery, and the politics of “horizontal” (interest-driven) forms of social association and collective action23. If vertical (patrimonial) organization is a problem in politics in Sierra Leone then the fact that the war seems to have triggered a growth of horizontal (occupational) forms of organization, especially among young people directly associated with the war, is a welcome development in a polity aiming towards sustainable democracy. 31. Opportunists, ideologues and victims Young ex-combatants are re-inventing themselves in a post-war world in which many old problems and deficiencies survive. In seeking to position themselves with advantage in this harsh and unjust world, they sell old comrades and dependents short. But opportunism is not the only response to the challenge of post-war integration. Initiation and the comradeship of conflict formed for many a new sense of collectivity that is quite durable. Despite external condemnation, many combatants continue to feel their struggle addressed problems, or had causes, that wider society cannot now avoid facing. RUF cadres recruited in the earlier period of the war and subject to ideological training still insist the country faces a crisis of jobs and corruption. CDF fighters, meanwhile, are insistent about the sacrifices they made, and that they should not be expected simply to “go home” without serious attention to the kinds of problems that drag down life for farmers in the villages. A minority, holding DDR benefits, is angered by the corruption apparent in the administration of these benefits. A majority is angry that they were by-passed entirely. They feel cheated by those who brokered with the government. Not only the ‘unrecognised’ fighters have been passed by. It is recognised (Arthy 2003) that DDR did nothing for groups such as “combat wives” (except where a commander redistributed guns to favoured women); it is now apparent that some have slipped into destitution, prostitution or “no-choice” rural marriages. But even worse off - because even less visible - are the RUF “civilians” (in effect a slave underclass) rounded up during the guerrilla war and moved far from their homes. These people are tainted by association with the movement, are invisible and uncounted by the agencies, and generally without any resources to return home and re-unite with their people. For those taken as children and attached to the movement for a number of years their sense of “home” may in any case be rather faint. Perhaps for this reason some of the more timid or traumatized girls appear to have settled for “no choice” rural marriage as the best for which they can hope. In effect, they seem keen to “forget” and start again.
32. A CDF group revisited
The first draft of our report (prepared to a tight deadline to “feed” the second Reintegration Assessment, from 3rd November 2003) was dismissed as a “study full of anecdotes”. Rhetorically it was asked, “What can one learn from them really?” The team met the Commissioner to assure him the material was truthfully reported, and warn that in our view the “lessons” were pretty
For an example of the Bo Bike Renters Association using legal tools see Annex 9.
We were interested to discover the level of representation of ex-combatants and women associated with combatants in urban occupational associations. For this purpose a small survey of the membership of trade and “street” associations affiliated to the Bo branch of the Independent Youth Forum was commissioned. The results are tabulated in Table 2.
clear - viz. many ex-combatants continue to feel deeply aggrieved at having been by-passed by demobilization and remain in a belligerent mood. We reiterated our view that this sense of grievance was perhaps more marked among the government-loyalist CDF than among former RUF fighters. The commissioner’s response was that most if not all the self-proclaimed CDF excombatants would have been peripheral to the fighting forces, perhaps mainly older men initiated as part of the movement serving only as advisors, not as fighters.24 One of the team (Paul Richards) took the chance to revisit one of the field sites to check the team’s material and conclusions. A first visit was made to Mogbuama, Kamajei Chiefdom, on 8th November, with the idea (initially) of checking what had happened in the case of registered combatants reported to the NCDDR executive secretariat in Freetown in September as not having yet had their full benefit delivered. CDF organisers then asked him if he would return two days later, after they had notified ex-combatants over a wider area (all the settlements north of Mogbuama as far as the provincial border about 25 km to the north are accessible only on foot). Richards returned at 9.30 am on Monday 10th November. The meeting began about 10 am with 150-200 in attendance; some had travelled up to 20 km on foot to attend. The meeting was divided into two parts. The first part discussed the case of NCDDR benefit holders who considered their benefit package to be incomplete. Eight names had been “sampled” for checks to be made in the NCDDR computer on an earlier visit by the team in September 200325. It transpired that five of these ex-combatants had now had their package fully delivered, bearing out the commissioner’s contention “that we are solving most of these ex-combatant problems as we come across them”. The ex-combatants, of course, wonder what is NCDDR’s methodology for “coming across” such problems. They complained that their own letters or visits to the Moyamba office had not earlier born any fruit, only reports by the team. We were then offered a further 17 ex-combatant registration cards where the “C” and “D” items still await attention and we took down details to hand on to NCDDR. There are real problems with the “solutions” NCDDR offers in such cases. After checks were made in the computer we had earlier informed HK, in September, that his tailoring skills training package had indeed been “on offer” for several months, but (according to the NCDDR HQ) in Mokanji (a town about 60 km to the south). He had hurried there only to be told that in fact he was to be trained in Gbangbatoke, another town some distance away. He ascertained that, indeed, this was his training location, but by now arrangements were being made to terminate the training programme and he was too late. The way NCDDR and its implementing partners communicate with ex-combatants clearly leaves much to be desired. The meeting discussed a current instance. That morning a message had been broadcast over Bo Kiss 104 FM radio saying that all NCDDR agriculture package beneficiaries registered for oil palm and piggery activities in Moyamba District were to attend a meeting with NCDDR staff in Moyamba town two days later (Wednesday, 12th November). The message (not heard by many in the meeting either because they had no radio or were walking to our meeting) said only “important matters would be discussed”. In northern Kamajei chiefdom there are nine excombatants registered for oil palm activities and 24 for piggery; half the pigs will be penned at a small facility in Senehun, and half in Gondama, a large village of about 1200 people eight miles north of Mogbuama. The pig and oil palm men faced a quandary. Many would spend the rest of the day walking home, only to set off the next day to walk back to a point where they could pick up transport for Moyamba in order to be on time for a meeting on Wednesday morning. The return fare would be
He also took the view that since these “alleged” fighters had no demobilization cards they were not the responsibility of NCDDR. However, if truly by-passed and disgruntled they do constitute a national security matter, which we believe must be investigated further and dealt with accordingly.
It should be added that many NCDDR cardholders only started to receive their packages in 2003, and that the current levels of agitation among ex-combatants specifically reflect the news that NCDDR is shortly to close.
Le 14,000 per passenger - over half a million Leones for the group of 33 - assuming they could find sufficient passing vehicles to carry them all. The purpose of the meeting was unclear. It might just be to tell them when to expect their final benefits. What they feared was that some or all of those benefits would be distributed at the meeting itself and that any person not attending would “lose out”. But it is harvest time and they are busy on their farms. In the end it was decided to elect two delegates, and hold a whip round for their expenses, to which we contributed. The second half of the meeting was devoted to the complaints of those who had not been registered for NCDDR, perhaps 100 or more. The mood became darker and much more angry. A man disabled in the fighting and unable to stand was brought forward. “What is to happen to him and the six other people in this area like him?” we were asked. Talk turned to the sacrifice made by dead comrades, and the destitution of their dependents. Ohers pointed out how much it had cost them to become initiates of the CDF, and the promises they had been made, at the time, by government to rid the country of the RUF. Matters threatened to boil over as excitement and frustration rose to fever pitch. One man offered an olive branch. “It is time to move on - maybe we can find compensation through community development?” he wondered.26 But another was adamant that “unless this one is settled there will never be peace”. He drew loud applause. The commissioner’s objection was outlined. “Was it not the case that those without NCDDR registration were mainly advisors and not actual fighters?” This was roundly rejected. Yes, some of the older men were advisors. They had been introduced as such when the meeting started. But eleven commanding officers had also been called to stand up and identify themselves (section ground commanders, and officers of CDF military police). These had all been gun-carrying combatants. “How many [of the eleven] had NCDDR cards?” we asked. The answer was “only three”. The meeting insisted that most actual combatants had been by-passed in DDRP. The fault lay - the meeting was clear - with the senior CDF commanders, who had called their own friends and dependents inside the demobilization process, and with UNAMSIL, “who had never even tested beneficiaries to see if they could crack open the gun”.
33. General conclusion
Reintegration of ex-combatants after the war in Sierra Leone is hindered not so much by negative civilian attitudes, but by a strong sense of grievance among various fractions of excombatants and young people directly affected by war who believe that they have not been fairly treated in DDRP. Among registered ex-combatants there are many claiming that benefits have not been fully delivered. Much of the blame seems to rest with the implementing partners. NCDDR and its successors - including the anti-corruption commission, responsible for investigating cases against implementing partners - still have much to do both to get on top of the existing case load, and to communicate with clients about unresolved grievances. But there are also many ex-combatants and young people associated with war who believe they should have been brought within the scope of DDRP and who are embittered, unstable and unable to reintegrate or move on because of their apparent exclusion. These claims require to be investigated, and appear to demand political as well as donor-supported solutions. The categories of claimant include fighters of both CDF and RUF allegedly deprived of their guns in disarmament by their commanders. Female RUF fighters figure prominently in such claims. Large numbers of the CDF, who fought with local implements, believe that government promises to the movement about a victory dividend apply to them. Their current anger may only be appeased by political action. But we also conclude that urgent attention needs to be taken to a category of young women hitherto excluded from demobilization - the so-called "combatant wives", "mobilised" by capture into the RUF, whose current extreme marginality and invisibility
This man was a tailor who first repaired clothes for the writer in 1982. His machine had been looted by the RUF and he had hoped to receive government compensation for being a CDF fighter. Now he had to stomach the bitter irony that fighters of both factions (and fake ex-combatants) had been given training and machines by NCDDR which they hardly knew how to use, when he was unable to ply his trade, and forced to revert to subsistence farming to stave off starvation. It is this kind of unfairness that feeds an ugly mood. His restraint and willingness to move on was thus the more remarkable.
puts them at high risk of further abuse. Hitherto, these young women have been excluded from demobilization, since they were not gun carriers, and presented no security risk. DDRP (by successor organizations to NCDDR) needs to be re-thought, with an emphasis not on security but on the needs and rights of affected populations, as the basis for conflict mitigation. The further transitioning of the existing NCDDR case load (other than completing the delivery of what has already been promised) towards reintegration, we conclude, is less a priority than reaching out to groups (such as abducted "combatant wives") closely associated with the militia forces but hitherto by-passed in DDRP.
34. Specific conclusions
Three specific conclusions align with recommendations on community driven development and poverty alleviation made in the Social Assessment report (Richards et al. 2003): (i) There is a need to see beyond the “registered” caseload in order to appreciate the greater problem. The disarmament and demobilization process has removed most weapons from Sierra Leone, largely by “getting the price right”. This offered a welcome short-term window of opportunity for consolidation of the peace process, but cheap weapons will flow back into the country into the hands groups other than the RUF, and a threat to durable peace will persist, unless the basic causes of violence and youth alienation are addressed. Thus, while it is important to deal with the remaining caseload of registered ex-combatants, and the aftermath of incomplete benefit delivery, it is imperative the needs of those who have been excluded from the process are now addressed. This should include not only the wider group of people associated with the fighting factions and unable to reintegrate (such as "combatant wives") but also young civilians whose continued marginalization might drive them into the arms of any future militia groupings. (ii) Taking account of unarmed CDF combatants, we calculate that up to a third or a half of all young men in some rural districts took part in the war. Direct involvement of young women is less, but still significant. Women might have accounted for over a quarter of RUF troops (though few registered as NCDDR beneficiaries). For every RUF gun (perhaps 25,000 in all) there might have been as many as four or five “bush wives”. Thus in the category “people directly associated with war” we are dealing with a very considerable proportion of young people from rural areas, mainly from the poorer classes, and many of these young people - “bush” wives”, unarmed CDF, etc - appear to have been omitted from the DDRP. What is now needed is a classbased approach that deals with the problems of this stratum in rural society more generally, taking especial account of the factors that make for vulnerability to incorporation into militia forces (past or future). This involves addressing the more general agrarian crisis affecting the mobility of the young rural poor in Sierra Leone (and the region more widely). (iii) We have presented prima facie material to suggest that, having been vulnerable to labour exploitation before the war because of the way rural institutions worked, young people directly associated with war but omitted from the DDRP have become more vulnerable to such exploitation since the end of hostilities. Our evidence suggests that some have slipped into agrarian or domestic servitude and that many others are working for starvation wages in the diamond fields. Those who have ended the war far from their rural homes face the worst difficulties. The country is not large but the roads are bad and transport expensive. “Elite” RUF fighters - including women - successfully reintegrate with their families because they have assets, but impoverished rank-and-file ex-combatants without NCDDR number and abandoned “bush wives” simply have no resources to go home. Family reunification (a key to reintegration) is being actively prevented - we believe - by misinformation, with diamond supporters and village husbands alike spreading the message that all RUF ex-combatants are stigmatised, and that a return home will be dangerous. The misinformation, we conclude, is functional to a more intensive exploitation of the labour of rural youth, one of the roots of the war. 35. Recommendations If the threat of future outbreaks of violent conflict is to be minimised the long-term causes of
the war must be addressed. Three ‘key issues’ frame six recommendations, the first two of which are broadly thematic recommendations, and the following four are more specific: Three key issues: • The present generation of rural youth is hampered by lack of education, limited opportunities for employment or self-employment, lack of rural infrastructure (particularly roads), poor access to markets, inadequate credit and training facilities. • Prospects for advancement are further undermined by oppressive social and institutional arrangements in rural areas (such as early marriage for women and fines for “woman damage” inflicted on young men), insecure land tenure arrangements, and the propensity of elders to use custom to “tax” the labour of young farmers. • Rural youth also often have weak political rights, due to the perpetuation of a colonial distinction between “citizens” and “strangers” (about a third of all the rural population are “strangers”). At its most severe, the problem affected the children of Sierra Leonean political or economic exiles driven into neighbouring countries during the period of “one party” rule, some of whom constituted a nucleus around which the RUF formed. The problem also features in the war in Cote d’Ivoire, and regional solutions will be required (under ECOWAS auspices). Failure to address the three issues just outlined will undermine the present demobilisation and reintegration processes and the future security and stability of the country. The main frameworks for response to the first two issues will be the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), the National Recovery Strategy (NRS), and the “sectoral” reforms and initiatives stemming from the current reviews of the agricultural, educational and justice sectors. The third issue requires a rights-based approach to political incorporation of young migrants, and involves not just the Government of Sierra Leone but also neighbouring governments and ECOWAS. Two ‘Thematic’ Recommendations: (i) Prioritise a conflict mitigation approach, emphasising a concern with root causes. This requires addressing the flow of fighters, and other migrants, within the wider West African subregion (fighters should be seen as a particular class of labour migrant, rather than a unique evil). The approach should be to reduce the incentives to selling labour as a fighter by increasing the incentives to other forms of “legitimate” labour. Major attention needs to be paid to the political and civil rights of young migrants, both within and between war-affected countries in the sub-region. This implies GoSL working with the appropriate regional organization (ECOWAS), as well as a sub-regional approach by donors. (ii) Foster a new open agrarian opportunity structure within Sierra Leone. The main aim should be a better integration of agricultural production and mining. This implies better roads, modernization of land tenancy agreements (to reward innovative migrant farmers), scale-neutral and tenure-neutral agro-technical innovations, and better administration of local justice and policing, so that young people making jobs for themselves in the countryside by supplying agricultural produce to the mining districts lose less to “customary” appropriations, dubious court cases or rent-seeking officials (e.g. police check points). Four Specific Recommendations: a) There should be action to address the needs of combatants excluded from the DDRP27. We propose two new categories: ‘Youth directly associated with war’ (YDAW), and a subcategory ‘Women directly associated with war’ (WDAW). Within these categories are some of the most vulnerable and isolated individuals in the country. The report has highlighted the potential dangers to national security should this group become
The focus on ‘ex-combatants’ made sense during the difficult early stages of DDR, but this focus should now be abandoned.
“lost”, and further marginalised. To avoid this, we recommend 6 specific steps: (i) The formal recognition of YDAW within national policy and programme instruments such as the Government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, the National Recovery Strategy and the National Social Action Project. (ii) NaCSA should commission an assessment of numbers of YDAW in areas of known high concentration (i.e. Makeni, Kono, Kenema, and Kailahun etc.). The assessment would also generate data on area of origin, desire to return, barriers to return, present livelihood options, livelihood options on return etc. (iii) Appropriate support be identified and provided to NaCSA to conduct the assessment. (iv) Assessment output to provide baseline information necessary for the design of projects aimed at offering reintegration and livelihood opportunities to YDAW (in their current location, areas of origin, or preferred areas of relocation). (v) Identification of local and international organizations (civil society organizations, community-based organizations, NGOs etc.) that can demonstrate (according to established criteria) capacity to facilitate formation of YDAW project groups, support them in the process of writing and submitting project proposals, and offer skills training to individuals or groups. (vi) Form a core YDAW project Management Group, to include local and international partners, to assist NaCSA to establish and implement project design, approval, monitoring and evaluation criteria. b) There should be action to address the needs of women directly associated with war. The report has highlighted the fact that there are significant numbers of women, numbering in the thousands, who were taken into the RUF as “bush wives” or “camp followers”, and who now feel unable to return to their home villages. The report reveals that commercial sex work in urban areas, or life as a “village wife” in rural areas, are amongst the few survival options available. This group is among the most invisible and disadvantaged of all groups directly associated with the war. The PRSP and NRS offer the Government of Sierra Leone an opportunity to uphold its obligations as signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, by identifying and targeting assistance at WDAW. In particular, we make the following four recommendations: i) In concert with the proposed NaCSA assessment of numbers of YDAW, a separate exercise should be conducted to assess the scale of the problem of WDAW. ii) Given that many women in the circumstances we describe are reluctant to be identified, we advise that any assessment team consider working with small groups of volunteer WDAW already involved in training/reintegration projects. The survey team worked with such a group in Makeni, and found their knowledge of how to locate their comrades, and their ability to encourage them to engage with confidence, invaluable. iii) The formation of a working group of interested parties to assist NaCSA to develop an overall strategy to offer assistance to WDAW. iv) The overall strategy would include schooling, adult education, basic skills training, and family tracing services and counselling programmes for WDAW. It is also the case that parents are actively looking for children “lost” through abduction into the RUF. A strong (and wellsupported) national association of concerned parents might do much to locate WDAW detained in “forced” marriages or “wards” (male and female) whose identities have been changed by their “adoptive” households. c) Initiatives to curtail labour exploitation in diamond mining districts are required The survey has pointed to the inherent danger in employing tens of thousands of ex-combatants with extensive experience of bush warfare tactics, in conditions which they themselves regard as akin to slavery.
The regulation of the diamond industry is, to say the least, a daunting proposition. However, leaving large areas unregulated should not be considered an option; the potential implications are too serious. Recognising that the mining industry will continue to attract and employ young men from Sierra Leone and the sub-region, and that the diamond fields currently provide “safe haven” for combatants who regularly move between sub-regional conflicts, the study recommends that: (i) That ongoing efforts by GoSL (Ministry of Mines and Governance Reform Secretariat) and their partners in the mining industry (including trade unions) to reform the industry and establish codes of practice be strongly supported by the donors (currently DfID offers support to the Governance Reform Secretariat in this area). (ii) Codes of practice to be reviewed or established, to include attention to the issue of a minimum wage, working conditions, health and safety measures, an identity card scheme for registered miners, and sensitization on labour law and human rights. (iii) That there should be a review of relevant “governance” activities, such as the “informal” systems of labour regulation emerging in Tongo Field, or the impact of World Vision’s project campaigning for “ethical mining”, to identify aspects which may be replicable on a national basis. The government should clarify the links between informal aspects of “governance” in the diamond fields, and wider governance reform. (iv) That a working group on agrarian-mining interactions be formed, to complement existing efforts to reform the mining sector. This group will link interested parties such as the Mining Group within the DFID Governance Reform Programme, the Ministry of Agriculture, NaCSA, PASCO, the mines union, NGOs such as World Vision, and human rights organisations. (v) Government, donors and NGOs to look at the feasibility of a “mining exit” scheme (i.e. a programme to help mine labourers to acquire skills for rural agrarian reintegration - e.g. through agricultural extension activities, such as Farmer Field Schools, specifically aimed at support of part-time food cultivation or agricultural land reclamation in mining districts). d) A specific human rights focus on rural exploitation is needed The Government of Sierra Leone and its donor partners are striving to enhance the promotion and protection of human rights, and there is a burgeoning human rights “community” in Sierra Leone. However, there is as yet a disconnection between the activities of the largely urbanbased human rights organisations and the people in rural areas who regularly cite “rights and democracy” as priority needs. Engaging with the issues presented in this report in human rights terms could immeasurably advance the promotion and protection of human rights in Sierra Leone. For this to happen effectively there needs to be a specific focus on rural justice issues and the agrarian causes of the war. Local debate on outmoded rural institutions, the exploitation of the labour of young people, and deficiencies in administration of local justice broke out into the open during a round of DfID supported “chiefdom consultations” organized by the Governance Reform Secretariat in c. 70 chiefdoms in accessible parts of the south and east of the country in 1999-2000. DfID lost interest in follow-up activities once chiefdom administrations were re-launched in September 2000, and the consultation initiative now needs to be revived and extended to all parts of the country. The results need to be fully reviewed by government, and the findings acted upon. The approach could be taken over by NaCSA as part of its sensitization work for the National Social Action Programme. Specific efforts should be made in improving the consultation methodology to include all impoverished groups of young people with weak support networks not directly associated with war but vulnerable to potential future involvement. A rights based framework should be brought to bear on key issues, such as the exploitation of young people’s labour. In the previous (DfID-supported) iteration the implementing partners were a mixed group of national NGOs and an international conflict resolution agency, Conciliation Resources, with considerable knowledge of consultation methods. It would now make sense to include national human rights groups among implementing partners, under NaCSA
Abdullah, I. 1997. “Bush path to destruction: the origin and character of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF/SL)” Africa Development 22 (3/4) 45-76. Special Issue: Lumpen Culture and Political Violence: the Sierra Leone Civil War. Addison, T, Le Billon, P. & Murshed, S. M. 2002. “Conflict in Africa: the cost of peaceful behaviour.” Journal of African Economies, v. 11(3), 3650386. Amnesty International 1992. The extrajudicial execution of suspected rebels and collaborators. London: International Secretariat of Amnesty International, Index AFR 51/02/92. Arthy, S. 2003. Ex-combatant reintegration: key issues for policy makers and practitioners based on lessons from Sierra Leone. DfID, London, August 2003 (unpublished). Badiou, A. 2001. Ethics: an essay on the understanding of evil. (Trans. Pater Hallward). London: Verso. Bledsoe, C. 1980. Women and marriage in Kpelle society. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Collier, P. 2000. Economic causes of civil conflict and their implications for policy. Washington: World Bank. Fithen, C. 1999. Diamonds and war in Sierra Leone: cultural strategies for commercial adaptation to endemic lowintensity conflict. Unpublished PhD thesis, Department of Anthropology, University College London. Grace, J. J. 1977. “ Slavery and emancipation among the Mende in Sierra Leone.” In S. Miers & I. Kopytoff, eds., Slavery in Africa: historical and anthropological perspectives. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Holsoe, S. E. 1977. “Slavery and economic response among the Vai (Liberia and Sierra Leone).” In S. Miers & I. Kopytoff, eds., Slavery in Africa: historical and anthropological perspectives. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Jay, A., Richards, P. & Williams, T. 2002. Sierra Leone: a framework for DFID support for civil society. London: Social Development Direct. Kandeh, J. 2001 “Subaltern terror in Sierra Leone.” In Tunde Zack-Williams, Diane Frost and Alex Thomson, eds., Africa in Crisis: new challenges and possibilities, London: Pluto Press, pp. 179-195. Kriger, N. 1992. Zimbabwe’s guerrilla war: peasant voices. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Littlewood, R. 1997. “Military rape.” Anthropology Today 13(2), 7-12. Muana, P. K. 1997. "The kamajoi militia: civil war, internal displacement and the politics of counter-insurgency." Africa Development v. 22(3/4), pp. 77-100. OTI 2000. Diamonds and armed conflict in Sierra Leone: proposal for implementation of a new diamond policy and operations, USAID Office of Transition Initiatives, Washington, Working Paper, http://www.usaid.gov/hum_response/oti/country/sleone/diamonds.html. (August 2000) Peters, K. 2002. The storm is not yet over? Interviews with ex-combatants from the war in Sierra Leone, unpublished typescript, Technology & Agrarian Development Group, Wageningen University & Research Centre. Porter, T. 2003. The interaction between political and humanitarian action in Sierra Leone, 1995 to 2002. Geneva: Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (http://www.hdcentre.org).. Rashid, I. 1997. “Subaltern reactions: lumpens, students and the left.” Africa Development 23(3/4): 19-44. Richards, P. 1996. Fighting for the Rain Forest: war, youth and resources in Sierra Leone. Oxford: James Currey (reprinted with additional material 1998). Richards, P., Abdullah, I., Amara, J., Muana, P., Stanley, E., & Vincent, J. 1997. Reintegration of war-affected youth and ex-combatants: a study of the social and economic opportunity structure in Sierra Leone. Unpublished report, Ministry of Relief Rehabilitation & Reintegration, Freetown. Richards, P., Bah, K. & Vincent, J. 2003. The social assessment study: community-driven development and social capital in post-war Sierra Leone. Draft Report for World Bank and NaCSA. Richards, P., ed. 2004. No peace, no war: the anthropology of contemporary violent conflicts. Oxford: James Currey. Richman, M. H. 2002. Sacred revolutions: Durkheim and the College de Sociologie. Minnesota. Minneapolis: University of
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Annex 1: Table 1: Civil Defence Forces of Sierra Leone, summary of nominal roll and arms statistics, Kenema District
CHIEFDOM K/Leppiama Tunkia Koya Dama Nomo L. Bambara Niawa Lokoma Malegohun Wandor Simbaru Nongowa Langurama Golama Mende Gaura Dodo Small Bo No. of CDF Disabled Killed action in Child Combatants Shot-gun Semiautomatic RPG, LMG, Mortar
569 812 397 1543 263 1562 1002 483 1503 1149 1894 201 1893 458 686 2076 16491
6 2 10 34 2 15 6 29 1 9 27 3 34 19 6 8 211
26 (5%) 83 (10%) 40 (10%) 76 (5%) 20 (8%) 175 (11%) 26 (3%) 42 (9%) 26 (2%) 33 (3%) 158 (8%) 13 (6%) 86 (5%) 49 (11%) 36 (5%) 56 (3%) 945 (6%)
0 63 3 64 1 30 6 26 43 143 44 2 122 14 8 66 652 (4%)
34 103 33 105 28 172 13 68 102 51 203 1 51 50 130 125 1269 (8%)
120 (21%) 178 (22%) 49 12%) 224 (15%) 40 (15%) 550 (35%) 40 (4%) 71 (15%) 81 (5%) 99 (9%) 410 (22%) 19 (9%) 222 (12%) 80 (17%) 130 (19%) 146 (7%) 2459 (15%)
3 8 1 9 2 13 1 2 6 0 17 0 7 3 3 3 79
Table compiled by Ishmael Koroma Kenema District CDF maintained very impressive data and records on demobilisation. A. is concerned what will happen to them now the war is over. He notes the war became a national experience, after the attack on Freetown in 1999, wants the lessons never to be forgotten, and is interested in the idea of a documentation project as a kind of “war memorial”. Th figures on demobilization for Kenema (Table 1 above) help explain a paradox of CDF demobilization. CDF numbers in demobilization are quite large due to the spread of more modern weapons in the movement in the later stages of the war. But most of these weapons were controlled by the CDF based in Kenema township and the diamond areas. The recruits in these areas were more highly educated, and as with the RUF, the more highly educated were more likely to have a modern weapon, and thus to be able to join the NCDDR programme. This “urban bias” explains why a rather large proportion of the CDF registered by NCDDR opted to continue their educations (they were secondary school or college students to begin with). A. also adds that he distributed arms in his stores at the end of the war to the “big men” (Paramount Chiefs) in the movement to ensure that they could be included in the disarmament process. A number of PCs fought with the CDF, though this was perhaps more common in the south than the east. Rural commoners had fewer such weapons, and so only a small number are officially registered under NCDDR. If the “country boys” lost out in disarmament A. is clear that their disillusionment is now a factor of which donors and government have to take account. Because of initiation, and low dependence upon modern weapons, the rural CDF can maintain its “mobilization” for war without attracting apparent attention. A. implies that the rural movement is still highly “together”, and could pose a future threat. 35
The government appears to fear the CDF, and perhaps with good reason. Even requests to set up a veteran’s administration or war memorials to the dead are treated with great caution. A. has spoken to the president directly on the issue, who is sympathetic, but his advisors seem less willing to act. Attention to creating the conditions for agrarian take-off might in the end be the only option to deal with the potential security threat from CDF disgruntlement. IK then joins our conversation. He took part in the attack on the Zogoda in 1996. The attack was over ground (he denies any helicopter support, as some have alleged), and went from Blama to Camp Three Mile on the Blama road, then to Ngovokpahun, Bandawo (in Nyawa Chiefdom) and Sendumei, from where the Zogoda, the well-fortified RUF headquarters in thick forest to the south, was attacked. There were other camps in the vicinity - Camp Lion (the RUF training ground), Salolo Ground, and others. Many guns were captured, and also 85 heavier items (LMG, AA and RPG, plus many rounds of AA ammunition). These were then handed over to the Vice President (Demby) in October 1996. IK argues (as did the veterans of the contemporaneous attack on Camp Bokor) that if inclusion in NCDDR is based on handing over guns then the veterans of the Zogoda attack should all be registered.
Annex 2: Table 2: ex-combatant representation in clubs and associations affiliated to Independent Youth Forum (Bo Branch), at 14th September 2003
Number, excombatant NCDDR card holders, RUF NCDDR card holders, CDF Without NCDDR card, RUF Without NCDDR card, CDF Female partner, “bush wives” All Members
Bike Renters Assn Bo Tailors Assn Cassette Sellers Assn Commercial Sex Workers Ebony Hair Salon Electronics Radio Technicians Assn Gari Sellers Assn Gbotima Skills Assn Kakua Ngelley, Bo No 2 Bread Assn Kandeh Town Youth Komende Youth Kpetewoma Development Assn Moriba Town Youth Muloma Women, Bo No 2 New London & Njaboima Youth New Site Youth Development Assn Ngoyella Female Youth, Bo 2, Samami Samami Women in Development Susan’s Hair Salon Unemployed Youth
380 35 2 4 2 15 4 8 4 35 18 3 6 15 1 100 632
12 SLA) 4 2 18 5 2 1 48
38 20 1 1 10 4 1 2 3 2 5 50 137
96 3 1 4 2 2 2 1 111
206 15 1 1 1 5 1 3 11 8 3 2 7 50 314
?? 35 2 10 6 2 15 4 6 4 16 9 30 6 15 2 10 6 150 328
380 150 70 30 20 25 35 35 25 20 30 80 25 35 25 30 25 25 18 250 1333
Table compiled by Sonny B. J. Mokuwa.
Annex 3: Background to the demobilisation process; 1995-1998.
Thinking about demobilization began in the context of the Abidjan peace process, 1995-6. The government army (the RSLMF) was at the start of the war about 5000 strong. Under the NPRC military regime (from 1992) it grew to about 13-15,000. Many of the recruits hastily trained to address the problem posed by the RUF were indeed recruited from the urban youth underclass Abdullah (1997) categorises as “lumpen”. A number of army units, led by officers loyal to the former APC regime, acting quasi-independently, engaged in extensive looting and diamond mining, often behind a “smoke screen of pretended engagement with the enemy. In mid-1996 the plan was for the army to reduce in size by about half. Col. Max-Kanga (executed in October 1998) was placed in charge, and had plans to train demobilised soldiers in crafts and skills associated with urban security (e.g. manufacture of welded door and window guards). Separate plans were made for the demobilization of the RUF. Little was known at the time about the movement’s true size or membership, but it was surmised that training would be needed in basic skills for rural integration. Responsibility for this initiative would lie with the National Commission for Relief, Reconstruction and Reintegration (Richards et al. 1997). The Abidjan peace process was stillborn. Several key RUF camps were destroyed by newly formed civil defence units (backed by Nigerian peace keepers and private security forces) in the run up to the signing of the Abidjan agreement. Field units of the RUF re-grouped in northern Kailahun, and the northern part of the country, vowing to fight on. Early demobilization plans were definitively ended when the Kabbah government was overthrown by a military coup in May 1997.
Annex 4: Recruitment and return - the picture in some Liberian border localities
The war started along the Liberian border. We made enquiries about patterns of recruitment (or abduction) and return in four border chiefdoms - Gallinas-Perri and Barrie (Pujehun District), Gaura (Kenema District) and Luawa (Kailahun District). The following notes provide a snapshot of how the first recruits disappeared into the RUF and what has happened to those who survived since the war ended. There is very little evidence of any return. In effect, an entire cohort of young people has disappeared. The main exception is northern Kailahun District, where there was some popular base for the RUF, and where many former cadres appear self-integrated. Some never left the locality, being in charge of local defence much like civil defence volunteers in other areas of the country. Blama, Gallinas-Perri Chiefdom: from an interview with Mohamed Tomba Massaquoi. The first RUF attack was in April 1991. They came from Liberia. During the first RUF attacks there was no killing. Then the RSLMF (government troops) took over, and started killing young people with tattoos [the RUF tattooed its recruits, a common practice for secret societies in the region]. The RUF kidnapped these young people, but when they came back they [the army and local people] killed them in revenge, because they said they had joined the movement (Amnesty International 1992). No RUF ex-combatants have yet resettled, only CDF. Of the RUF abductees some died, but some are still “out there”. People get news from time to time that their young people are still alive. The [abductee] RUF ex-combatants are quite numerous in this village - perhaps ten young people or more. People will accept the RUF ex-combatants because the government has told people them that they must. Some are girls. The girls will be acceptable, provided they come with their husbands. But it is doubtful they can marry our own sons. Nobody is above the law [but the statement implied contained a veiled threat of revenge.] Potoru, Barrie Chiefdom: from a group interview (mainly elders and some young men). The RUF first attacked on 6th April, 1991. There were 23 further attacks, up until 1993, when people finally fled to the camp at Gondama, or went to Freetown, Tongo Field etc. The first RUF contingents were mixed, containing many Liberians (Gio, Mano, Kpelle, Krahn, Bassa, Peje) and some Burkinabes (four fighters identified themselves as from Burkina Faso, some had padlock rings in their noses). The RUF made many camps in the forests around this area (Koniya, Golahun-Vaama, and notably the Jogoda, in the forest reserve [Zogoda, Kambui South Reserve]. A few people came back in 1996, after the election, but mainly they came in 1997. There was a lot of CDF recruitment from here. When the RUF first entered its forces did not kill. Only after the army repelled them did they begin to kill civilians. They said people had betrayed them to the government troops. Many young people were forced to join. Some were forced to carry loads. Other were taken for military training. Some young people joined of their own free will. Some of the ones forced to join later became renowned in the movement as fighters. Some RUF excombatants come secretly to see their families and then return to their demobilization bases in Daru, Kenema, Kailahun. Very few have resettled permanently, yet. They feel threatened, despite government announcements, they are scared. So they only come on short visits. More than 20 make short visits of this kind to Potoru. But it is hard to tell precisely. They are very cautious to reveal themselves. RUF girls will be acceptable with their husbands, but only if they respect the rules of society. [A case involving a RUF fighter, M, was then cited; he sued his wife to court for a love affair with a civilian, and the civilian was found guilty and fined; in short, even returning RUF can be treated as elders and awarded the verdict in a case of “woman damage”]. The local people are no longer afraid to farm near former RUF camps. One man - MS - is even farming this year on the site of the former Vaama camp, an defensible island of bush surrounded by swamps. Joru, Gauru Chiefdom, from a group interview with MJ (acting for the Paramount Chief) and various elders. The RUF first attacked in the first few weeks of the war. The majority were Liberians, but there were some Mende-speakers in the group. The northern half of the chiefdom fell to the RUF at that point. Mendekelema [a village half way between Joru and Daru on the old provincial road under the western edge of the Gola North forest reserve] was attacked on 27th March 1991, and 100 or more people were killed in fighting. Many young people were taken by force, to join the movement. April-May 1991 was a period of continuous forced recruitment and training. Many children were taken, all by force. Girls were killed and male youths conscripted. Many of those taken died in the bush, only a few survived. People returned after the army swept the area in 1991-2, but were driven to Kenema by the resurgence of the RUF in 1993. They only returned to Joru permanently in 2001. The rebels maintained a presence around Mendekelema - on their common boundary with Malema chiefdom - for much of the war. In all Joru was attacked 27 times. Attacks came from the northern end of the chiefdom, so this is the last area to be resettled. The final disarmament took place at Mendekelema in November-December 2001. The young people abducted by the RUF are too numerous to be counted. A few have returned, but none have returned to Joru. They will be accepted - it is realised that it is not their fault [we are sitting in the recently refurbished court bari underneath a poster from the TRC - bush no de foh troway bad pikin 39
“there is no bush in which you can abandon a bad child”]. Lalehun Tawoveihun (Gola Forest), Gaura Chiefdom, from a discussion with a mixed group of elders, young men and women. Lalehun is the last village on the western side of the Gola Forest, from where (pre-war) a track went across the forest to Pandebu on the Liberian border. The first RUF attack was June 1991 [launched from Pandebu, and led by a young man who had been a primary school boy in Lalehun - it ended in disaster for the rebels, when the group was ambushed by a Lalehun-based Fula “special hunter”]. There were many later attacks. People returned in 1992, with army protection, but the population fled again in 1993. Some people went to Kenema and became IDPs, others remained in adjacent villages, and some hid in farms and forest camps (Mende sokoihun, “corners”). The young men never really left, but hung around until an RUF attack in 1997, which drove them to seek refuge in Bo, Kenema, and Liberia. They only re-settled in 2002. The place is still badly damaged and they have had little or no help from any relief agencies (only a few tools from the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone). Most houses and the wells were damaged or destroyed. There are a large number of young people in Lalehun [evident in the meeting]. Some were captured by the RUF to carry loads in the forest, but were later released. None was trained to fight. There was a strong CDF presence later in the war. The ex-CDF volunteers are thinking of forming an association to rebuild the village, but currently lack the tools and other supports. They feel abandoned. Sandeyalu and Gbalahun, Luawa Chiefdom (informal interviews with 7 elders, 2 women, and 5 youths, including two RUF ex-combatants). Sandeyalu and Gbalahun are located at the eastern end of Luawa chiefdom, bordering Kissi Teng chiefdom, and in the general vicinity of the border town Gbuedu (Gboyedu), the final refuge of the RUF. The RUF occupied Sandeyalu from 1991-93, and the leadership was based here, in the “white house” for seven months (from May to November 1993) until driven out by Capt. Tom Nyuma and a contingent of the RSLMF. Nyuma’s family is from Sandeyalu. Sankoh went south to Nomo Chiefdom through the Gola Forest, eventually to settle in the “Zogoda” camp, while his lieutenants - Samuel Bockarie, Issa Sesay, Mohamed Tarawalie, Dennis Mingo, Morris Kallon - were ordered to form other forest bases (Camp Burkina, at Ngiyema in Kailahun [Tarawalie], Peyeima Camp adjacent to Tongo Field [Bockarie], Camp Bokor in the Kangari Hills [Kallon], and a camp on the ridge of the Malal Hills, in Northern Province [Mingo].28 We were shown the open “bunker” in the foundations of a part constructed house where Foday Sankoh was taken to hide from bombing raids by the Nigerian Alpha jets; the bullet-scarred back wall of the “white house” was the RUF “place of judgement” where numerous Sandeyalu people opposed to the movement were executed. The ex-combatants in Sandeyalu are organised into a single group with two chairmen (one for RUF and one for CDF). The CDF chair (SB was absent), but KB answered questions on behalf of the RUF ex-combatants. One hundred RUF fighters went from Sandeyalu and surrounding villages to Kailahun to disarm. Only about 50 received training packages. Kenei has walked to Kailahun town four times to enquire about his package but his name “has not yet come out”. He wants to do the course in carpentry, but now hears the programme is about to close, and that all the remaining case load must transfer to agriculture programmes. Sandeyalu was a village divided in loyalties for and against the RUF, and experienced much destruction (it was also heavily looted by the RSLMF in 1993). In some of the surrounding villages the level of destruction is much less. These include some of the offroad villages originally founded in the 19th century by farm slaves. Here the army never entered, and adherence to the RUF remained practically 100 per cent among young people. Today they are open - even proud - of their membership of the movement. Gbalahun is one of these “protected” places. Elders seem to have encouraged their young people to join the RUF, perhaps for political reasons, and certainly to secure houses and property. The RUF cadres hidden in the forest had been a major RUF training centre, and even when re-taken by Tom Nyuma’s troops closely observed Gbalahun. Threat of counter-attack during the brief period the army “held” the area discouraged soldiers loitering to loot.
From interviews with RUF cadres by Krijn Peters (quoted with permission). Peters’ informants claim the crucial meeting was at Pumpudu [CHECK] in Kailahun, and that Sankoh and his group, after their retreat through the Gola Forest, held Nomo-Faama for week, set an ambush for Nyuma (in hot pursuit) and retreated into the Gola Forest where the cadres built their first bafa [shelter] for Sankoh, before establishing the Zogoda. Tarawalie was ordered to leave Camp Burkina to found Camp Bokor and then the Malal Hills base, before becoming commander of the Zogoda. On the sack of the Zogoda RUF survivors made their way through the Gola Forest to the safety of Camp Burkina in northern Kailahun
We spoke to MK, an RUF rank-and-file ex-combatant in Gbalahun. He estimated that more than half of perhaps more than 200 RUF ex-combatants (there were no CDF in this settlement) had been by-passed in demobilization. He had put in for agriculture, wanting to do “bush work” (i.e. make a small plantation). He had been to the NCDDR office in Kailahun several times, and each time had been told to wait, his paper had “not yet come out of the computer”. The figure of more than half of all RUF ex-combatants “missed” by demobilization in northern Kailahun was agreed by a number of other sources we later talked to (see below). Many ex-combatants were self-reintegrated, and we noted evidence of several chain saw gangs feeding the reconstruction boom.
Annex 5: The symbolic significance of the training packages; a ritual of demobilization.
(i) Virtual Technology for Computer Training, Ladies’ Mile, Makeni. The centre was set up to service NCDDR benefit holders, but hopes to continue to offer private skills training. It began with a caseload of 56 ex-combatants and has since trained a second and third batch of 10 and 7ex-combatants. The centre is well-equipped and run by a competent young director, SS, who clearly knows his way round the machines and software systems he teaches. The centre has symbolic salience. The rented premises were once the HQ of the RUF communications. The ex-combatant trainees helped rehabilitate the building. They were all RUF, including 5 women, two of whom had been fighters.29 Twenty had education to Form 6 (university entrance) level, 10 had college level education (from Bunumbu and Milton Margai colleges), and the remainder were educated at least to Form 4 or Form 5 level. They were all RUF commanders, at a senior level (mainly colonels), and signatories of the Abuja accords. In short, the group comprised the core of the RUF leadership in Makeni, the movement’s main centre at the end of the war. Of the first batch of 56 about 40 remain in the Makeni area. Five have found work (two with the DfID CRP project). One - who was a trained soldier with the RSLMF before joining the RUF - is now working in Freetown as a journalist with a human right’s lobby organization. Some have resumed full-time education (we met one such trainee - DS - studying for his Higher Teacher’s certificate). But SS reckons at least 70 per cent of his former charges are now “idling around”. One has received additional support to set up an agriculture project. Many of the Temne-speaking locals in the RUF have reconciled with their families, because they joined in the later stages of the war not from ideological conviction but mainly to protect houses and families. SS thinks the problem mainly lies with the ringleaders from Kailahun, who cannot get jobs, but cannot go back because “their families know what they did”. Because of this, a number had no desire to go through NCDDR, but wish to “forget” and “merge”, so they “float” in Makeni, taking any small jobs, but ideally hoping to become a bike renter (i.e. a hire-purchase motorbike taxi rider). The RUF groups, SS, suggests, are very disorganised (“they fight among themselves”). Asked about the agriculture groups (one of which he had earlier identified) he remarks that the RUF excombatants interested in this option tend to be the early recruits from Kailahun. Later recruits are more interested in the taxi riding option. The farm group he mentioned is led by an RUF commander from Kailahun, and the members are all his “brothers” (i.e. early recruits with some kind of ideological orientation to the movement). This fraction of the movement has tended to maintain its command structure. Few of the “floaters” are lucky enough to get work as bike riders. More end up in private security. SS thinks maybe 50 per cent of his trainees are being re-trained as guards by Pentagon Security, a Freetown-based company operating in Makeni under a former Inspector of Police, but these tend to be the ones with families from Makeni. We presume the families vouch for their children, or are known to the inspector. SS explains that difficulties faced by ex-combatants from the south and east in reconciling with their families stem from losing demobilization packages due to the way commanders collected weapons and redistributed them to others. One who acted this way was K, once RUF commander of the building occupied by VTECH, and now a sergeant in the new British-trained RSLAF. SS mentions MK, a young fighter robbed in this way (he cannot read and write), and now lacking the resources to return to Kailahun to search for his family. SS adds, “The provocation will make him die”. (ii) CBAN computer skills training centre, Kailahun town, discussions with 14 male trainees and one female trainee. The discussants are all ex-RUF (one claims at first to be CDF but perhaps in deference to the majority affiliation changes his “side” by scratching out CDF on the paper circulated to collect names, and replaces it with RUF - a number of combatants fought for both factions). The female was once senior in the RUF women’s wing. In the RUF she was a civilian, but had a pistol for her protection, which qualified her to “disarm”. All are Mende speakers, and in informal discussion the previous evening gave evidence of still being under some kind of command-and-control. All are from Kailahun and have education to Form V level (i.e. they are secondary school leavers). They claim that the number of people in the RUF with such a level of education was not small. Even so, it is clear from the above discussion these relatively well-educated elements are an elite within the movement’s fighting core. The discussion centres on why they opted for computer skills training. The general view is that before the war Kailahun was “cut off” from the rest of Sierra Leone, and the world, and that the computer is an
One of these women, AM, a Kono, was leader of the RUF women’s league, and described as second only to Sankoh in the movement. She was among the first to go to Nigeria for the Abuja cease-fire talks.
essential tool to redress that isolation. Keeping Kailahun isolated was in fact deliberate policy by the Stevens regime, which had much to fear from dissidents in this district. But the isolation continues until this day. Even as we talked a truck bringing supplies for CBAN had bogged down at a notorious stretch on the road from Pendembu known as “Fire Burn”, closing the road to all traffic into and out of Kailahun town for 48 hours, until rescued by a breakdown truck from the Pakistani Battalion. The computer teaches about lots of things in the outside world, things that are not known in Kailahun. Now the district has a chance to catch up. When they joined the RUF [the implication is voluntarily] they never envisaged a day when the computer might arrive in Kailahun. They joined the struggle to signal their isolation and despair, but now new worlds of opportunity were opening before their eyes. AA says he wants to learn computers to set up to prepare project documents (he has some inkling of NSAP) in order to help Kailahun town develop. SN notes that any job advertisement requires computer skills these days. SK says to learn computing has been his dream from school days. AH says people had no access to computers unless they were outside the country, but now it is here and it is a big opportunity. It is a dream come true. MF says he will use the computer, if he gets the facility, to teach others. JG will use it in her office (she runs a family tracing project for ex-combatants) to organise documents and activities. It’s a tool for a job, she remarks. A [??] says it will bring benefit to the nation. CK wants to teach others, so that knowledge of both hardware and software becomes very common. GK works with a local NGO and aims to be able to train his fellow workers. AA wants to know hardware. His vision is to explore the relevance of electronics to human life, and then to teach. Most people in the group would emigrate overseas if they had the chance. MF is one who wants to go to America to make money in order to return and develop his village. But now the computer has arrived it makes a difference. Escape is no longer the compelling necessity it once seemed. Maybe there can be change “from within”. Internet connection - if it comes - would open a lot of new contacts, and end local isolation and discrimination. One of the organisers of the CBAN centre - a government scientist - remarks that as a secondary school boy in Kailahun in the 1970s it took him four years even to find out even how to apply to enter university.
Annex 6: Three ex-combatant agriculture projects
SP leads a project assisted both by NCDDR and the Bangla Desh battalion in UNAMSIL. His ideas came from a mixture of sources, including the short biography of Kim Il Sung (with its advice to form semi-secret bases in the forested mountains to fight the Japanese by ambushing them for their own weapons, a passage marked in the margin of SP’s copy, “RUF”) and a recent leadership-training course offered by USAID. He was the son of an opponent of Siaka Stevens driven into exile in Liberia, and he had undertaken secondary schooling in Liberia, but later found himself in Abidjan, where he had consorted with students, helping them learn English. He had also grown cabbages for a living, with a student friend (now in university in Bouake), in the village of the Ivoirian coup leader, the late Robert Guei. He had risen to be a colonel in the RUF, and was in command of Magburaka at the end of the war, and villagers reported independently - that he was a great improvement over his predecessor, showing some respect for civilians. He was thus welcome to stay in the area, and enjoyed the support of the Paramount Chief, who had helped secure a 25-year lease on the land used by the scheme. SP had come to the attention of the Bangla Deshi battalion, as part of their “confidence building” activities with the RUF in 2001. He told us that as a graduate of the RUF ideology programme) he had read not only about the revolutions in North Korea and China, but also about the reconstruction of Bangla Desh (former East Pakistan) after the war in 1971. In the bush with the RUF he had already learnt about professor Younis, micro-credit and the Grameen Bank, and the significance of self-help cooperative farms. His mind had turned, at that time, to how to make the peace and rebuild the rural areas in Sierra Leone after the war. “Liberation wars in so many countries” he told us, “had led to rapid development of education, health and agriculture”. Thus meeting the Bangla Deshi battalion was to him “a sort of dream come true”. There were no NGOs operating in RUF territory until c. 2001 (he was then still armed), and the first 18 months of his project was dependent on food for work form the Bangla Deshi soldiers, but what was more important was they way they connected him to practical ideas and inputs to build the agriculture project. He works closely with a group of his “brothers” from the movement, and aims to build a national programme for agrarian renewal. When the time comes the “brothers” will be ordered to disperse - to carry the agricultural and organizational messages to their home areas. This may be hard, but “sacrifice is necessary for national development”. The reason Sierra Leone has the lowest post-war economic recovery rate in the world, he thinks, is due to extreme centralization (too much is lost in transport, per diems and contractors living off other contractors). “People have to be empowered”. Participation will be the key. He recalls that in ideological training cadres were asked, “what are you bringing the people, and are you fit to rule?” As indicated above, we would sometimes be shown examples of the literature the movement used in the bush. In one case this was Authority and Power, the conference proceedings of the First International Symposium on the thoughts of Muammar Al Qathafi, Benghazi 7-15th April 1983, published by the World Center for Research and Studies on the Green Book (Tripoli, 1984), a book apparently once having belonged to a Pa-Wusha Kamara of Fourah Bay Road in Freetown, but now the proud possession of a chainsaw touting Benghazi-trained RUF colonel leading a project to integrate 30 or so RUF ex-combatants and several hundred villagers through swamp farming activities in a chiefdom in Kenema District (the chain saw was an NCDDR-funded income generating project to raise funds for the swamp rice activity). Half of the book’s 14 chapters were contributed by South Asian authors (including 3 from Bangla Desh). The twocontributions from sub-Saharan Africa came from Sierra Leone and Nigeria. Salieu Neh Kamara “Secretary General of the Group, Final Arts, Fourah Bay College, Freetown”) wrote about ethical aspects of the Green Book. In the essay authored by the Nigerian contributor (Shehu Umar Abdullahi, of the Department of Islamic Studies, Bayero College, Kano) someone had marked up the following striking passage: “A host of fertile land in the so-called Third World has been rendered barren through the application of certain bad-looking grains called FERTILIZER [sic] which are specially and deliberately produced by the enemies of humanity to destroy our arable lands so as to make us perpetually dependent on the West.” (p. 64).
Annex 7: The tale of two sisters
R. and A. are sisters from Kailahun, both captured by RUF in the early days, as children, but in different incidents. A. (who was smart, and pretty, even as a child) was captured in Daru in 1992, and became part of the entourage of a prominent fighter (Black Jesus). She was taken as an “adopted child” [mEn pikin] by the women in Black Jesus’s group, and grows to physical maturity in a highly protected environment. Black Jesus moved to Liberia (where he was killed) but she had by this time been assigned to Hawa, the senior wife of rebel commander Samuel Bockarie. Hawa was also a fighter. “At that time there was discipline...if you committed rape they killed you, how much more if you were a girl protected by the wife of Maskita”. Safe from sexual harassment, she opts for military training after refusing a husband suggested by her group in 1997. She was by this time in the Makeni sector. She was sent to fight in Kono, on Maskita’s orders in 1998., and later - in a lull - returned to Makeni to look for her mother, but was told by Issa Sesay that the women had been killed. This led to suspicions about her own loyalty. She escaped in a battle between Issa’s RUF troops and CDF at Njagbema-Fiama in Kono in 1999. During her time on combat operations in Kono the RUF engaged in diamond mining. As a trained fighter she also managed a mine for two months, and it was this money (Le 500,000) with which she escaped and was reunited with her father, a former government civil servant in Bo (she laughs at our remark that she must have been a “sand-sand girl” - she held the gun, clearly the boys still did the sweated labour). She has self-demobilized after the war, and as a beautiful, clever, witty young woman has readily found a niche for herself among the Kenema diamond elite (by her own account, and evidenced by her elegant appearance at the interview). She did not like fighting, but in a fight you had to follow orders. If she was told to “spray them” this was what you had to do. She now just wants to forget about the war. Her last intention is to be recognised as an ex-combatant, and thus has no interest whatsoever in NCDDR. Her clothes and shoes make it clear she is not hard up. Her half-sister has a different story, which both confirms and expands the account of A. R. was taken when she was in Class 6 in primary school, in Buedu (beyond Kailahun). At first, she mainly carried loads on endless bush marches. Those who could not keep up were generally killed, for fear they would inform on RUF presence if left behind. Several times she tried to escape. The men who helped her in one case were shot dead. Escaping girls who were considered “fine” (as she was) were often spared and brought under the wing of a commander. Commanders frequently accumulated large domestic groups. Each “big man” might protect up to twenty girls, who would grow to be his wives, or partners for his men, and if they were patient each woman might have the support four or five children (some her own offspring but others “adopted”). A powerful commander would take careful steps to ensure his own group of “daughters” (as potential partners for his men) were never molested. Sexual experiments by young rankand-file fighters were considered capital crimes. She was more protected in her young teenage than in the wider society. In time she entered into a relationship with a young fighter (Mohamed, who she has heard is now dead), and as her man advanced in the movement, under Issa Sesay’s command, she also acquired status. “Other ranks” were punished unless they addressed her as “madam”, or by her name. Where before she had but one change of clothes and head-loaded ammunition boxes all day, she now travelled in a hammock when tired and had the pick of the fine things the RUF freely redistributed “especially to the women they liked”. She then describes how she moved to “Maskita”’s bush camp at Peyeima outside Tongo Field, and later into one of the diamond mining villages itself. Here, in about c. 1997-8, she seized the opportunity to change sides, during a CDF ambush. She explains how, using Mende cultural markers, she was able to reactivate her earlier identity as a captive labourer. A CDF fighter took pity on her, and helped her settle in Kenema - implied is the possibility of a relationship. She has now just had her first child. The father is an ex-combatant, but has “disappointed” - i.e. abandoned - her (he took advantage of her, she explains, because her parents are dead and she “has no strong person behind her”). Her boyfriend did not want her background with the RUF to come out, so she has applied for no benefits. But a female friend has helped her learn some sewing. She wants to resume this, when the baby is older. The interview is a long one - after some early hesitation R grows in confidence, and she seems reluctant to let us go. There is something on her mind. She is evidently still in shock from some of the scenes she has witnessed in the RUF. She begins to talk about the “morraymen” (diviners) from Guinea who helped the RUF fighters prepare for battle by making sacrifices [pOl sara]. She is at pains to tell us that there was religion in the RUF (“they worshipped a lot...during fast month the rebels kept fast, or they went to church to pray if they were Christians”). But this “order” within the movement contrasts with the 45
“madness” of some fighters at the battlefront. This was when the fighters - so sexually constrained in camp that only a “big man” was allowed to initiate a virgin to sexual activity - carried out their rape. The front rank of fighters, she explained, felt free to abuse any women they caught, and the second rank, apparently railing at their own inferiority, carried out the most appalling acts of violence and mutilation against the damaged women they then encountered. She then tells as about an appalling massacre she witnessed when Morris Kallon (now indicted by the Special Court) killed 50 civilians to obtain a “sacrifice” of five gallons of blood on the instructions of his “morray man”. She is worried that the memories will still drive her crazy. At the time she prayed. Now she is an assiduous in attending church. Others tell us they think she was probably a fighter. This might explain the depth of her evident trauma, and the apparent eyewitness accuracy of some of her observations concerning the wave-like phenomenon of “military rape” (cf. Littlewood 2000).
Annex 8: Interviews with ex-RUF women (trainees, Praise Foundation, Makeni)
Their experiences give a sense of the range of circumstances and difficulties faced by “bush wives”. The general themes are loss of the man, lack of family help (e.g. to look after children), informal friendships as ways of making ends meet, and the likelihood that there are lots more RUF “widows” of similar backgrounds stuck in the villages. These five women were rather forthright and determined, in some cases fighting hard to raise children “on the street”. - AK I: she and her husband were originally abducted and “dragged” to Koinadugu District by the RUF. Her man - a civilian - was killed at Fadugu. She now has no man. Her brother was also killed in the war. But she grabbed a gun at Kabala and was “demobbed” at Lungi. - MT: is a civilian, from Kono, driven to Masingbi, Magburaka and Makeni in attacks by the RUF. The RUF killed her man. She is “on the street”, and has no help. - AK II: was also based in Kono, and driven to Makeni by RUF attacks. The rebels killed her man. She has a child, which she looks after as best she can. - MK: she is from M. village, whence the RUF drove them to Magburaka and then Makeni. When seized by RUF a commander called Bai Bureh looked her after. He died [was killed], and she went to another combatant, became pregnant, and tried to run away. They wanted to kill her. From then she had no care-giver. Two years ago she gave birth. The father is dead. She had a female friend who had access to a gun and disarmed. Her female friend helps her [from her own benefit package]. She has no other resources. -AS: she is from Makeni (but is a Kono). After bombing in Makeni [by ECOMOG] she fled to Mange Bureh, lived in the bush for a time, but developed a stomach sickness and returned to Makeni. She then ran away again to another village, with her granny. The sickness returned. And “then the hand chopping business started in 1999". She took off again, moving from house to house in fear. The boy she was with went with her. After threats to her mother she left for Lunsar in 2001, to disarm, and the boy disarmed with her (a friend gave her a weapon). She was given a demobilization number, but didn’t do any training - her family told her to forget it, so she would not be stigmatised (her father took over responsibility for her basic needs). There are 50 women in the Praise Foundation group. Most are northerners or from Kono. AK says there are lots of other RUF women in the villages, who are too afraid to “come out”. Many are ashamed or simply fearful. AS says she is not surprised at this reluctance - she still meets on the streets of Makeni from time to time an ex-combatant who once (in RUF days) flogged and scarred her. The women say they would be willing to work on a expenses-only basis at weekends to try and identify RUF women “lost” in villages, anxious to re-unite with their families. One of the Praise Foundation group helped us locate some of the “lost” RUF women in the area north of Makeni (on the road to Kabala). RUF ex-combatants are still in some kind of command structure in this area, and a Mende ex-combatant was contacted to help organise interviews with “RUF women”. In Fadugu it transpired that the women are mainly local. The community is apparently keen to retain its women, and is prepared to accept their RUF ex-combatant husbands, provide they settle and show the respect of son-in-law to father-in-law. The Paramount Chief of Wara-Wara Limba chiefdom (Kabala), asked in 1996 about local girls abducted by the RUF, had made exactly this prediction. If the girls still wish to be married to their captors, and the boys agree to settle peacefully, the chief asserted they would be accepted (Richards et al 1997). Doubtful about returning to the east, from where many originated, these sons-in-laws have accepted what is on offer, and their wives are not anxious to lose the rather powerful protection of their families by moving away from home. They have their children with them, and could be considered successfully self-resettled (though interested in programmes that might help them deal with some of their bad experiences). It is perhaps their husbands who are more vulnerable to post-war exploitation (of their labour, for bride-service, for example). It was made clear that RUF excombatants without wives (or abandoning wives) would (and had already been) forced to leave Fadugu. Seemingly, local interests actively try to ensure that RUF “bush wives” maintain their marriages to willing sons-in-law. An RUF woman (even if abducted) is probably unmarriageable to a non-RUF partner (potential husbands apparently fear insubordination more than, say, any heightened risk of HIV-AIDS), so it seems better that they should remain married than acting as village “loose cannons” (threatening morality, i.e. the control village elders still retain over sexual access, as their means of controlling the scarce labour of youth). Where the women are outsiders the picture seems very different. In a cultural system in which wealth is reckoned in people (Bledsoe 1980) ward-ship and adoption are highly valued. Already, the war has spawned “orphanage” projects that (in effect) lead to the creation of new extended families at donor expense. In one orphanage visited in Bombali District in 1996 the children were from the south and east, and mostly from Muslim families. The parents or other relatives were sometimes known still to be alive, 47
and living in camps in Freetown, but the project had made no effort to foster the family connections (by running a regular bus trip from Freetown, for family members, for example). The orphanage was a new (and wellprovided for) world, in which the children were assuming new identities, living in family groups with caregivers on a campus approximating a European or American suburb. They were all being brought up as Christians. Turning “orphans” into members of (new) families has a long history in the region (it was the main mode of incorporating IDPs from the days of the 19th century trade wars). But under the convention on the rights of the child, which has been signed into Sierra Leonean law, a young person has a right to her name, and identity, and should be allowed to make her own decisions about religious affiliations. Enforced “wardship” is thus an abuse of basic human rights. We had some suspicions that at least some of the group of young RUF “bush wives” being offered care and protection by householders in Bumban may have been undergoing the same processes of “re-socialization” as just described for the (donor-funded) orphanage project. An “Aunty I.” who appeared to the team to be the “guardian” of a group of ex-RUF women and girls (presented to us in the hope of registering for benefits) was very determined to control the interview process. Asked to leave, so the girls could talk confidentially, she listened at the door, visibly uncomfortable and anxious, and burst back in on the proceedings after a short while, constantly interjecting, prompting and providing answers. Makeni was once a safe refuge for children affected by war from all over the country. There was a camp at St Francis Compound in Makeni for orphans and children associated with war. But after the RUF attacked and took over the place the children fled. Local families in Makeni and environs took many in. The meeting led us to suspect that many of these girls might be of a similar background, perhaps kept in Bumban more or less against their will to be raised as “wards” in local families. It seems a risk that the identities of some children may have been changed to reduce the risks of their being found by their true parents. The situation requires detailed investigation.
Annex 9: Legal literacy; Bo Bike Renters Association
They give an example. It costs up to Le 500,000 to get a bike on the road (for registration and commercial insurance). The Road Transport Department takes the money and then sits on the papers sometimes for a month, claiming administrative delays in Freetown. But required to repay Le one million/month on the machine, or lose it, the rider needs to earn revenue from Day One. The executive suspect the RT Department passes the names of pending registrations to the police, who then harass the riders for bribes or fines. They suspect transport owners are behind this, anxious to reclaim ground lost by 4-wheeled taxis. In February 2003 this flared into confrontation between riders and the police in both Kenema and Bo, the arrest of 32 riders and imposition of high fines (averaging Le 100,000). The association went on strike, supported by women traders, who are among the major clients of the two-wheeled taxis. According to the executive, the confrontation required the intervention of the [British-seconded] Inspector-General of police, and court action by the association’s lawyer, who succeeded in having fines reduced by an average of 40 per cent. Strikes and court actions - they suggest - are new weapons in a struggle for a fairer and more inclusive society. The executive is clear about potential weaknesses on its own side, e.g. the need to improve safety. It has rules against inadequate footwear, speeding and dangerous riding, and for dealing with passenger complaints. Fining, suspension or corporal punishment can punish riders who fail to meet standards -. The executive agrees, however, that rival associations should be perfectly free to organise as they wish. The association would be willing to federate under a more general civil society umbrella, provided any such apex organization supplies helpful advice, representation and monitoring, but the executive is openly sceptical about the mushrooming of self-appointed civil society groups, referring scornfully to “those fake organizations that make an office with three chairs”.