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Sierra Leone: Lans Gberie Confirms Sylvia Blyden’s Position on South and Eastern Support for RUF Rebel Invasion from Liberia
By Mohamed Kamara
Jun 5, 2012, 17:17
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One of the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) international lobbyists Lans Gberie has yesterday confirmed the position held by Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden that Charles Taylor had willing allies in the South and East who joined the RUF because of resentment for then APC Government in Freetown.


In a piece which was ironically lambasting what Gberie called ‘dangerous ignorance’, the man actually ended up by quoting sections of the TRC report which now reveal that indeed South-Eastern families did urge their abled youths to enlist within RUF to fight APC Government soldiers.

Gberie, in frantic desperation, deliberately distorts quotations from TRC report in bid to blur readers’ minds. So, in today’s edition, we have the verbatim quotations and cited areas.

Please see below. Pay attention to Paragraphs 208 & 225 of TRC Report cited.


It is unclear why Lans Gberie chose to write such a confused piece for the SLPP papers but many observers opine it is an attempt to divert attention away from recent revelations that Gberie’s SLPP presidential candidate, Julius Maada Bio, whilst he was NPRC Deputy Head of State and Chief of Defence Staff, had been secretly sending soldiers to meet his RUF rebel sister in Danane, Ivory Coast where she had stationed as a rebel RUF diplomatic emissary; but without the public or NPRC military colleagues of his, ever knowing what he was up to.


With lack of defence for such treachery on part of Maada Bio towards his homeland, Gberie wrote the distraction article but ended up making contradictory positions in it.

Lans Gberie versus What TRC Really Said


Pages 137-138 and Page 140-141 of Volume 3A of Truth & Reconciliation Commission Report


Willing ‘Revolutionaries’ and the Influence of Foday Sankoh

205. There are, it would appear, some complicated sociological dynamics to be considered when looking at the concept of ‘volunteering’ one’s own or a family member’s services to the RUF. It is often in ignorance of such dynamics that Sierra Leoneans from outside the Kailahun District have expressed surprise and faint derision to the Commission that, at the outset at least, it had appeared that many families in Kailahun had actually urged their youngsters to join the RUF as a token of their support for the ‘revolution’.


206. The Commission heard of instances in which this phenomenon occurred; but these accounts do not warrant the stigma often attached to the people of Kailahun on the basis that they ‘gave their children to the RUF’.


207. At the time when the insurgents entered Sierra Leone there was deep-rooted discontent among many segments of the population, much of it attributable to the Government that the RUF declared they had come to overthrow. With this in mind it is possible to regard the acts of ‘volunteerism’ registered in Kailahun and elsewhere as symbols of an overriding will to change the system. At the early stages of the insurgency there was no means of knowing that the RUF would go on to become an even greater scourge on the people of the country than the oppressive Government they opposed.


208. Nevertheless a variety of individuals in both the East and South of the country, with particular emphasis on young men from rural areas, joined the RUF of their own volition, stayed with the movement until the end of the conflict and, in many cases, have gone on to become members of the Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP), which they feel still embodies their ideas for change. They comprise a category of recruits, first and most recognisably drawn from Phase I of the conflict, who absorbed the ideological rhetoric of the RUF’s orators, identified appealing elements to its agenda and decided in good faith that they should ally themselves to its insurgency. They are best described, in their own words, as ‘willing revolutionaries’.


209. ‘Willing revolutionaries’ testified in significant numbers to the Commission about their experiences before the conflict and their reasons for joining the RUF. The stereotype seems to fit a young man who had come from a lower-class background of abject poverty and whose parents had not enjoyed any favour or good fortune under the APC, despite often having worked hard in the agricultural sector. He had nonetheless been able to acquire enough education to perceive some of the blatant injustices to which he was being subjected; but at the point the RUF found him, he had lost all social bearing and was therefore open to the option of taking up arms.


210. This stereotype could be applied to thousands of former RUF combatants and it was borne out again and again by witnesses before the Commission. A common decisive factor in many of the stories told by ‘willing revolutionaries’ was that they had been ultimately convinced to join the RUF through a public address by Foday Sankoh or one of his compatriots, similar to the speeches described above. One young man narrated the impact an address by Sankoh had on him in the following terms:


“What Sankoh said was what really made me stay with the RUF for a long time – his argument was really convincing. He made reference to many Sierra Leoneans who had been killed by the APC; to the mismanagement of our natural resources, not just diamonds, but all the land – that there is a lot to boast of, but what does the average man have to show for it? He kept coming back to the point that Sierra Leoneans were being deprived of their legal rights; he talked about so much bad governance; how politicians were manipulating the people – through tribal politics, sectional politics and party politics… [He said] that unless we bridge the gap between the North and the South we can never establish national unity… and without unity we can never achieve progress. Pa Sankoh had a huge amount of national pride”.


211. Similarly ‘willing revolutionaries’ testified that they had seen the RUF as a means of effecting a positive change in the country, of freeing themselves from their soul-destroying socio-economic circumstances and of putting right some of the injustices that they perceived to have left them disadvantaged or marginalised in society. Through its discussions with these RUF junior commandos in this category, the Commission gained plentiful evidence of Foday Sankoh’s uncanny ability to exploit the legacies of the multi-faceted bad governance that successive political elites had wrought on the country.


212. It is indeed in this regard that the Commission has come to realise the centrality of bad governance, corruption, all forms of discrimination and the marginalisation of certain sectors of society among the causes of conflict in Sierra Leone. As has been discussed in the chapter on antecedents, these historical ills and injustices had prepared the ground for someone of Sankoh’s renowned manipulative ability to canvass among the people and find scores of would-be RUF commandos who could be brought on board with relatively little persuasion.


225. Moreover, the social, economic and political conditions were amenable to a programme of the sort that the RUF purported to stand for. The area was known to be a hotbed of support for the SLPP, which made it relatively easy to derive cheap ‘revolutionary’ capital out of the political inclinations of the populace by adopting a signature colour of green and an emblem of palm fronds as RUF symbols. The following testimony suggests that these tactics were a rather crude effort, since the symbolism was not even understood by some of the people who were meant to spread its practice:


“There was a little boy who ran up to me as soon as he saw me. He asked if I was a ‘Momoh soldier’. At that time they were speaking Liberian pigeon language. The boy asked me if I was a ‘Momoh soldier’. I said I was not a soldier. I asked him who brought the war. He said they had somebody supporting them and his name was Foday Sankoh [and] that he was a Sierra Leonean. ‘We have just come to remove APC’, he said. The other boy said that we should have a palm tree or a green cloth tied on our hand.”


226. The people were mostly farmers, who had received an especially rough deal under the APC because they were never properly paid for their agricultural produce and forced to labour long and hard to support their families. One farmer’s son who subsequently joined the RUF described his perspective in the following terms:

“Members of Parliament in the APC Government regime chiefly exploited and oppressed the poor farmers with their selfish and greedy ideas. They and their children evaded all works of life by eating out of the farmers’ farming activities… They would either cheat them of the money that was supposed to be paid for their produce, delay the payments, or pay the farmers by instalments instead of paying them everything at a stretch… They made sure that the farmers could not make any effective use out of their money earned from their plantations to make them become prosperous. We knew it was a deliberate act… so that everything should work at the advantage of the oppressors and at the disadvantage of the poor farmers.”


227. The Commission heard that when Sankoh’s revolution was launched through speeches laced with populism and panaceas, many villagers were convinced that they should support the RUF as a preferable alternative to the system under which they struggled. A combatant cadre grew out of many different sources of enlistment, including volunteers. There were high numbers of ‘willing revolutionaries’, as people were seduced by the simplistic RUF mantra that claimed the first step to material betterment was to turn the guns of the system against it: “Arms to the People, Power to the People, Wealth to the People.”


PUBLISHER’S COMMENTS: Please read the content of the distorted presentation of Lans Gberie in editions of pro-SLPP papers to see shameless deceit at its height. Stupid ramblings did he say? More in tomorrow’s edition

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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