Rebel action on the Kamakwie Road 1996–2001
Kamakwie is a large village in north-central Sierra Leone about twenty-five miles from the Guinean border where I lived from 1987-1990. This page is a compilation of news reports on rebel activity along the Kamakwie-Makeni road. Articles reproduced here are intended for educational, non-commercial use only. Copyrights are held by the authors.
March 1996: Massive turn out at the polls
Sa. Leonean Voters defy army, rebel intimidation and atrocities in massive turn out at the polls
Sierra Leone Progress
March 1996: 1, 2
Meanwhile atrocities by rebels or sobels were being committed all over the country in an effort by these armed men to disrupt the elections and derail the democratic process. Attacks resulting in killings, chopping of limbs, fingers, hands, ears, noses and heads in addition to the destruction of property were reported all over the country as the nation prepared for elections. These attacks took place in the eastern, southern and northern provinces. For the first time Gbendembu, Kamakwie, Tonko Limba Mala near Makeni, Rokulan and Rokupr were attacked. In Rokupr, the Imam of the El-ul-Fitri congregational prayers ending the Ramadan fasting was killed along with other worshipers. All in the name of disrupting the elections. But this even hardened Sierra Leoneans' resolve for democratic elections.
June 1996: Rokel Leaf shut down
Rokel Leaf shut down
Sierra Leone Progress
June 1996: 2
The once economically viable Rokel Leaf Company, a subsidiary of the cigarette manufacturers, Aureol Tobacco Company, ATC, folded last month after almost 40 years of operation in the northern province of Sierra Leone. According to THE NEW CITIZEN newspaper the folding up of Rokel Leaf was due to downsizing of the ATC work force from 400 to a mere 80. Rokel Leaf had specialized in growing and providing tobacco from local labor to the ATC for the manufacture of cigarettes. ATC's parent company is the British American Tobacco, BAT.
May 1997: VOA broadcast
Title=Sierra Leone / Refugees (L-Only)
Intro: Relief workers are expressing concern about the plight of refugees in Sierra Leone caught up in renewed fighting in the West African state. The US committee for refugees voiced its alarm after new clashes between government and rebel troops threatened to undo a fragile peace that has been holding in Sierra Leone since November. VOA's Maxim Kniazkov has details.
Text: US humanitarian workers say they are alarmed by a new wave of violence that swept northern Sierra Leone last week.
A policy analyst with the US committee for refugees, Tom Argent, told VOA attacks on villages, believed to have been carried out by anti-government rebels, left a gruesome scene.
Several villages near Makeni, one village in particular, Kalangba, had been attacked, and the army had found at least nine bodies. Close to 90 houses had been burned down, that scores of people had their arms or legs amputated apparently in attacks by the revolutionary united front.
The US committee for refugees also reports clashes between the government and the opposition Kamajoh militia in the east of Sierra Leone. The committee says that violence claimed 50 lives last week in the town of Kenema.
Mr. Argent says the new fighting deals a heavy blow to a November peace accord that was supposed to end Sierra Leone's six-years of civil war. Mr. Argent says it also puts on hold hopes of about 850-thousand refugees and displaced Sierra Leoneans to return home.
Nearly half-a-million internally displaced Sierra Leoneans were not yet able to return home because their home areas remained insecure. Additionally, an estimated 350-thousand Sierra Leonean refugees are living in neighboring countries — in guinea and Liberia. And, overwhelmingly, those Sierra Leonean refugees have not yet been able to return home in large part because of the continuing insecurity.
Mr. Argent says a refugee resettlement program implemented with international help since the November signing of the peace accord is in danger, particularly in eastern Sierra Leone.
The insecurity has prompted aid agencies, including the UN high commissioner for refugees to withdraw their personnel from the area, meaning that displaced persons and refugees, who already have returned, are no longer receiving assistance from these humanitarian agencies.
The US committee for refugees urges international relief agencies to suspend large-scale repatriation of Sierra Leonean refugees until violence subsides. It also recommends increasing aid to Sierra Leoneans, who sought refuge in neighboring countries.
May 1997: RUF attacks Leave 40 dead; Rebels capture town
This report is provided by the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), in cooperation with the US State Department. The services of various private news agencies, as well as other government sources are utilized. Owens OnLine distributes this report as a convenience to its members and is not responsible for content.
Date: 14 May 1997
Reuters reports that rebels from the united revolutionary front (RUF) have captured the town of Kamakwie, 90 miles from Freetown, after seven hours of heavy fighting. Casualty figures were not available, but it is reported that many bodies were left lying in the streets. A peace accord was signed between the RUF and the government in November, designed to end the war which erupted in 1991.
Date: 16 May 1997
Paris AFP reports that attacks by the revolutionary united front have left at least 40 people dead this week. Ten people were reportedly killed in the northern town of Kamakwie, while earlier attacks in Bomaru left 30 others dead. In Bomaru, of the 30 injured civilians, most suffered from blunt wounds from machetes and other crude weapons. Refugees arriving in guinea said that several dozen civilians, mostly women and children, were massacred in northern Sierra Leone amid clashes between government and rebel forces.
May 1997: Personal correspondence
Date: Thu, 15 May 1997 21:22:33 -0500
From: Don Carter <email@example.com>
Subject: Bad news about Kamakwie
You may have heard but I will pass this on anyway.
Just heard from my mom. She passed on the following information.
Our Wesleyan Mission Hospital at Kamakwie was looted two days ago by the rebels along with the Pharmacy and the Dispensary. Everything was taken and the mission homes were burned. Sixty houses in the town have been burned and six people killed. The rebels came two days ago and are still there. There are 8,000 refugees in Makeni at the Wesleyan Conference center. The US Wesleyan Church has sent $5,000 out to provide food and medical supplies for the people in Makeni. The Kamakwie hospital was very well known all over West Africa.
A few days ago they burned the town of Pbendembu [Gbendembu] where I lived and destroyed the town and all but two of the mission buildings. Several people were killed and some were taken by the rebels, God knows where. This is the third town they have hit in a week. Thought you would like to know.
Date: Mon, 19 May 1997 22:47:57 -0500
From: Dr. M. J. Vreugdenhil <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Don Carter <email@example.com>
Subject: War in Sierra Leone
I arrived home, back in South Africa, Saturday night, having left Freetown, Sierra Leone Friday afternoon. What an emotional week I had!
When I landed at Lungi (the airport in Freetown) I found that rebels had attacked Gbendembu that day. There was no news as to the damage. The next morning we learned that Gbendembu had virtually been destroyed. It was reported that only about six houses were left standing, over 130 houses destroyed, including our mission homes. Providentially, the new Bible School buildings were only looted. Our clinic was also burned.
Then Monday night the rebels attacked Kamakwie, and the military, sent to provide security for the town, ran in full retreat. Much damage was done to the town, but it was not totally destroyed. Approximately 60 houses were burned. Our hospital was heavily damaged and looted, but the mission homes were spared.
By the time of my departure Friday afternoon the whereabouts of the rebels was unknown. Rumors abounded, but only the Lord knows where they are. The entire Northern Province is in a panic. Many towns and villages are empty as the people have gone into the bush.
It was reported that the band of rebels that are marauding the North number about 400, mostly teenagers, but heavily armed. Who these rebels are, what there motivation is, and where do they get their arms are questions that everyone is asking, but no one seems to have the answers. And there are rebel attacks also in the Southern and Eastern provinces. It was reported last week that about 60 people were killed in the town of Kailahun in the far east of S.L. The brutality of the rebels seizes people with fear. They rape and kill, and they cut off hands, fingers, feet, etc. The devil is loose in Africa — and he is no friend of mankind, but uses men to kill and mutilate fellow humans.
Rebel activity as reported and shown on CNN usually does not affect us very much. But it tears something up inside when rebels attack people you know, dear friends and people with names and faces you recognize. When the homes you've lived in are destroyed, it brings war pretty close to home.
We thank the Lord that the radio transceivers we left in Sierra Leone when all of us as Wesleyan missionaries left in January 1995 are still working. They were a godsend during these days. We had more accurate and up-to-date information regarding what was happening in the Northern Province than any of the local news media in Freetown, or the BBC.
Things look grim for Sierra Leone. The civilian government elected just over a year ago is weak and lacks the support of the military and the people. Things are ripe for a coup. We can only cry, — and pray.
I keep in touch with our people in Freetown and will let you know of any further developments.
Wesleyan World Missions, Africa Area Office
P. O. Box 486, Brakpan 1540
Republic of South Africa
Phone: (011) 742-1014
May 1997: Refugees to cross into Guinea
Fighting Causes Sierra Leonean Refugees to Cross into Guinea
Wendy Lubetkin, USIA Staff Writer
Source: United States Information Agency
Date: 23 May 1997
The resumption of fighting in Sierra Leone has caused at least 6,000 refugees to cross into Guinea, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which said May 23 that it is temporarily suspending all repatriation efforts to Sierra Leone. UNHCR said the new influx of refugees to Guinea began last week, and appears to be associated with the fall of the town of Kamakwie to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Guinea hosts 250,000 Sierra Leonean refugees out of a total of 380,000 who fled their country between 1991 and 1996. The remaining Sierra Leonean refugees are in Liberia (120,000) and The Gambia (4,000). UNHCR began repatriating refugees to Sierra Leone on a small scale in February 1997 and had hoped to begin a large-scale repatriation later in the year. "We have suspended all repatriation movements to Sierra Leone for the time being," said UNHCR spokeswoman Pam O'Toole.
Date unknown: Reuters
[Sorry, but I lost the details on this report. I assume it's from May 1997.]
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Sierra Leonean rebels have captured the northern town of Kamakwie after heavy fighting which left many corpses in the streets, the army said Wednesday. Army spokesman Col. Abdul Sesay said rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) seized Kamakwie, 90 miles from the capital, Freetown, after seven hours of fighting Tuesday. "Government soldiers fought bravely to stop the rebels taking the town, but the rebels attacked in large numbers and they were also heavily armed," Sesay told Reuters. He said corpses were left lying in the town but that casualty figures were unavailable for either side. Church sources who fled to the northern regional capital Makeni, 55 miles from Kamakwie, reported that many people were killed in the fighting. "I ran past 18 bodies as I escaped. Many of them were young boys, about 14 to 16 years old, carrying guns and machetes. But there were also the bodies of soldiers and civilians," said one church source who asked not to be named. Military sources say the army has been overstretched by more than 10 attacks on northern towns and villages by RUF forces in the past week.
A peace accord signed between RUF leader Foday Sankoh and President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in November was designed to end the war which erupted in 1991 in the impoverished West African state. The accord has been put in doubt by violent incidents not only by rebels but also by militias of local hunters, who once fought alongside the army. The leadership of the RUF was thrown into confusion in March when one faction, outside Sierra Leone, claimed to have deposed Sankoh. But when officials of the group tried to return home they were held by Sankoh loyalists in Sierra Leone. Sankoh is staying at a hotel in the Nigerian capital Abuja, and it is unclear whether Nigeria's military authorities will allow him to leave.
The war in Sierra Leone has killed more than 10,000 people.
February 1998: Personal correspondence
Date: Mon, 23 Feb 1998 22:04:30 -0600
From: Don Carter <firstname.lastname@example.org>
You might be interested in this transmission which I received a day or so ago.
News reports indicate the rebels, defeated and driven from Freetown, are now on the rampage across the country with many of the towns and cities being ravaged. We hear that Makeni and Magburaka are empty of people as all have fled into the bush or to rural villages. Abu said there is no communication of any kind with our Wesleyan headquarters in Makeni. Rumor has it that Kamakwie was also attacked by rebels.
Dr. M. J. Vreugdenhil
Wesleyan World Missions, Africa Area Office
P. O. Box 486, Brakpan 1540, Republic of South Africa
E-mail: email@example.com; Phone: (011) 742-1014
May 1998: Rebels attack cattle farmers in the north
Inter Press Service
FREETOWN, May 4 (IPS) - While the West African Peacekeeping Force (ECOMOG) has managed to contain rebel attacks on villagers in eastern Sierra Leone, cattle farmers in the northern part of the country have not been so lucky.
According to reports reaching the capital of Freetown, former troops of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) in the north are stealing cattle and harassing farmers in the area.
Most affected are towns and villages in the Bombali district, about 180 kilometres from the capital, where armed remnants of the junta, which was deposed in February by ECOMOG, are on the rampage. They are reported to be armed with AK-47 and AK 58 rifles.
"In just over two weeks, I've lost to cattle rustlers 100 cattle and two of my herdsmen, who were tortured and then shot dead," said Pa Wurie Jalloh of Kamakwie, 250 kilometres from Freetown in the north.
Pa Jalloh adds that more than 2000 cattle have so far been either stolen or shot indiscriminately around Bombali, while twice that number have reportedly been taken by the marauding bandits in other northern towns and villages.
Since the junta was dislodged by ECOMOG in March from its northern headquarters town of Makeni, hundreds of AFRC soldiers and their allies from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) have retreated to the villages with their weapons.
The retreating rebels have set up bases in Krubola and Bafodia communes in the northern district of Koinadugu, which borders neighbouring Guinea.
ECOMOG is yet to be deployed in the northern areas, since it is still trying to rout out the remnants of the junta in Sierra Leone's two major eastern districts, Kono and Kailahun. This leaves a security vacuum in the north.
According to some ECOMOG officials, inadequate manpower is delaying their overall deployment into outlying towns and villages in the country's interior.
"The bandits(rebels) often attack us in broad daylight with rifles, disposses us of money and belongings and then go on a shooting spree of our cattle," said Samba Iyne, a cattle farmer.
Foday Lahai Kamara, a cattle trader in Manjoro village, about 45 kilometres from Makeni, told IPS that most of the cattle stolen from Bombali district by the rebels are being re-sold in neighbouring districts.
"The cattle they steal in Bombali are sold in Koinadugu district, while those stolen from Kono district are re-sold in Tonkolili district," Kamara said.
When the local farmers and herdsmen put up resistance, they are allegedly tortured, and some have been killed. Their cattle also have been shot in large numbers.
Cattle-rearing is a big business in Sierra Leone's northern districts, which supply beef to the rest of the country.
Alhaji Sallieu Shaw, who comes from Bafodia, said the cattle rustlers have opened conduits on the border with Guinea and are engaged in a flourishing business with Guineans.
"Sometimes they drive in big trucks with dozens of cattle across the porous border into neighbouring Guinea where they sell their loot," he said.
"You can't do anything. You just stand by and watch as they pack your cattle in trucks and drive away, after discharging warning shots in the air," Shaw added.
The Guinean authorities have not commented officially on the allegations of cattle being traded across their border.
"Unless the authorities crackdown hard on poaching rebels, there will be a scarcity of beef and a corresponding upsurge in prices," said farmer Mammadu Bah.
June 1998: SLBS broadcast
Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service
National News Summary
9 June 1998
Christian Assistance for Under Developed Societies Everywhere CAUSE, CANADA has started humanitarian assistance to vulnerable people in Kamakwie, Sella Limba Chiefdom, Bombali district in the north.
Speaking to the SLBS, the Programme Co-ordinator of CAUSE CANADA, Theresa Benjamin said the three-month exercise was funded by the organisation, The Bread for the World, Germany and drugs provided by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
She said that the organisation would undertake the feeding of these malnourished children and their mothers on a daily basis for the next three months in order to improve their health.
Quite apart from that, she went on, dry ration would also be provided from time to time to augment the feeding needs of these vulnerable women and their children.
The Organisation also made similar donations at the Kamakwie Wesleyan Hospital where amputees are currently admitted.
A vaccination exercise for malnourished children was also conducted in the township and plastic sheetings were distributed to victims of fire disasters. The next exercise is expected to take place in July this year.
September 1998: Personal correspondence
Date: Fri, 18 Sep 1998 09:01:35 +0000
From: Don Carter <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: SL update
Just got this this morning. Grim reading.
The news coming from Sierra Leone continues to be grim. RUF rebels continue to cause death, destruction, and mayhem across a large portion of the Northern Province of Sierra Leone where most of our Wesleyan churches are located. In addition, there are reports of hundreds of deaths due to disease, malnutrition, and starvation.
I spoke with Abu, our mission agent in Freetown, on the phone this morning. The town of Kamalu, located just seven miles from our Wesleyan hospital at Kamakwie was almost totally destroyed with over 60 people killed. The village of Laia, 16 miles back in the bush from Kamalu, and surrounding small villages were attacked and it is reported that 47 people were killed. The rebels then went by bush paths south through Kagberi, Kortohun, and down behind Kalangba (the names and locations are known to former Sierra Leone missionaries). Wesleyan churches are located in many of the towns and villages in this area. Many people throughout the area were killed. Most of the people of this area are now scattered in the bush. Some people escaped to Makeni and some made their way to Freetown. Abu said he learned that two of his brothers were killed in his home village near Kagberi. The town of Fadugu on the road to Kabala was completely destroyed, according to reports. This was the second major attack by rebels on this town. The paramount chief in Fadugu was killed, hacked to pieces, and burned. There is no news of our pastor or Wesleyan people in Fadugu.
The ECOMOG forces (mostly Nigerian peace-keeping soldiers) in Makeni cannot or will not venture into the bush to attempt an offensive against the rebels. It is rainy season and many bush roads cannot be traveled with vehicles. As well, ECOMOG gets little cooperation from the people because of the threats of the rebels. Anyone suspected of aiding the government or ECOMOG is tortured and killed. The city of Makeni continues to receive threats of rebel attack.
The capital city of Freetown remains relatively calm and secure. Abu said the people are very confused, not knowing what will happen next. Continue to pray for Sierra Leone. Pray for the safety and protection of the people.
Dr. M.J. Vreugdenhil
Wesleyan World Missions, Africa Area Office
P. O. Box 486, Brakpan 1540, Republic of South Africa
E-mail: email@example.com; Phone: (011) 742-1014
November 1998: A year of atrocities against civilians
Sierra Leone 1998: A year of atrocities against civilians
AFR 51/22/98 (November 1998)
On 6 September 1998 the town of Kamalu, near Kamakwie, in Bombali District, was attacked by rebel forces. At least 40 civilians, including children, were reported to have been killed in the attack; others were seriously injured with machete wounds. Some of those killed had been first been subjected to torture and sexual abuse; others had been burned alive. A Paramount Chief, Samura Bangura, was reported to have been abducted from Kamalu, together with some 50 others.
December 1998: Big massacre in Gbendembu
Big Massacre in Gbendembu
Sierra Leone Progress
December 1998: 2
More than 100 civilians were massacred recently in the northern town of Gbendembu 17 miles from Makeni in the Bombali District by a 400-strong, armed rebel group. Many people who had fled to a nearby bush were marched back to the town Wesleyan Church where they were executed. Some were beheaded and others had their throats cut. Among those executed were Mrs. Marie Fornah, wife of the pastor of the church and the pastor's uncle.
April 1999: Humanitarian crisis reported in S. Leone as peace forum opens
Humanitarian crisis reported in S.Leone as peace forum opens
7 April 1999
President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone appealed to the conscience of rebels at a peace forum Wednesday, as reports of a humanitarian disaster in the north of the war-ravaged state reached the capital.
Hundreds of thousands civilians trapped in the northern provincial town of Kamakwie in the Sella Limba Chiefdom were said to be facing one of the worst crises since civil war broke out in 1991.
"More than 20 people die every day in Kamakwie (120 kilometers/75 miles north of Freetown) because of hunger, lack of medical attention and atrocities caused by the rebels," said Amadu Kamara, who arrived in the capital on Wednesday.
"Even the reserve foods that were left behind by non-governmental organisations have been carted away by rebels in various attacks," Kamara said.
He said there were no drugs at the Kamakwie health centre and that all health officials have fled the town.
"Many of the wounded and sick are being treated by native doctors," he added.
Fighters of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) stand accused of waging a terror campaign against civilians, looting villages and raping and mutilating inhabitants.
The RUF invaded Freetown on January 6 and although its forces were chased out two weeks later by Nigerian intervention troops, the rebels remain very active in the interior.
Some 6,000 people were killed in the Freetown clashes.
April 1999: Kambia District fully in hands of rebels
[Details on the origin of this report were lost.]
AFRC/RUF Forces under the leadership of Gibril Massaquoi are fully in control of Kambia district once more. From Gbalamuya, the border customs post all the way down to Batkanu and into Kamakwie are under the control of rebel forces.
The Guinean ECOMOG soldiers have withdrawn to Pamalap and to their own border towns. The Guineans are only located in one district of Sierra Leone presently and that is the Port Loko district.
Also, the Guineans have been "courteous" enough to allow traders to take food, petrol and other needed items into Sierra Leone.
May 1999: Personal correspondence
Date: Fri, 14 May 1999 17:30:37 EDT
Subject: Kamakwie Road
What follows is an e-mail that I received today from Dan Smith. I think it may be of interest to you and those who view your page. Dan has no problem with its distribution.
I got a call from Santigie at 6 a.m. Sunday morning. He had arrived several days before after walking via bush paths to Freetown from Gbanti-Kamaranka. His wife, Willimatu, who cooked for me for three and a half years, was in Makeni in December when the rebels raided. He hasn't seen her nor some of his children since, though he has heard news that she is alive and what general area she fled to. Santigie himself was in Freetown when the rebels invaded Makeni in December. Fearing for his family, he traveled to Kamaranka, and shortly after he arrived there (to find his wife had fled elsewhere) the rebels invaded Freetown. He has been in and around Sanda since January. He said that since ECOMOG drove the rebels from Freetown the Kamaranka-Kamakwie area has been their main base. He said there are thousands of rebels in the area, with a few hundred living in and around Kamaranka. He said they have stopped killing, mutilating, and raping, but still take all of the villagers' food and belongings. The people in Kamaranka, Kamakwie, etc. are virtual hostages. He said there are no health services, no transportation, little or no commerce, and no food for sale. The level of hunger, he said, is terrible. The rebels force local people to labor, including to make "natai", the brown oil made from the inside of the palm nut (it was awful to eat, did you ever get food that used it instead of palm oil?), which they use to fuel their vehicles because there is no petrol.
Santigie was able to tell me that Sillah, my chief, and many other people I asked about were alive, but suffering badly. He also told me about a few people who have joined the rebels, though there was no one I knew well, except one guy I used to play tennis with in Makeni who came from Kamaranka, named Benson Sesay. The stories were bleak, and Santigie did not have any of his usual cheer. He was going to set out that evening to look for a son, Alhaji, who, Santigie was told, was in the Lumley area, and then send the son to Wala (and island, I think) where Willimatu apparently fled when Makeni was attacked. He said he will ask the son to ask her to come to Freetown.
Santigie is using part of the money I sent him to take a six-month maritime course to train him to work on a ship — in hopes he can get out of Sierra Leone. I will call him again in a month or so for an update.
October 1999: Northern town reportedly burnt and looted
UN Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN)
There have been unconfirmed reports that a village near Kamakwie, some 50 km north of Makeni, was burnt and looted on Tuesday by armed elements, a humanitarian source in Freetown told IRIN. The source said the looting may have been connected to the fact that rice is being harvested in the area.
The Sierra Leone Human Rights Committee (SLHRC), a consortium of local and international human rights organisations, said in its most recent bulletin - issued on 27 September - that there were "frequent reports" that food distributed in the Makeni area was being taken from civilians by fighters.
"The 'food tax' is reported to still operate in areas under control of RUF/AFRC," SLHRC said.
October 2000: RUF opens arms depot in Kamakwe
Standard Times (Freetown)
27 Octobre 2000
Publié sur le web le 27 Octobre 2000
David Mahdi Koroma
In spite of the numerous assurances given by the newly appointed Revolutionary United Front (RUF) leader "General" Issa Sesay that his movement is committed to lasting peace in the country, Standard Times has learnt that the RUF is on a massive arms build-up and has opened an ammunition depot at Kamakwie in the Northern province.
Residents from Kamakwie who passed through Tonko Limba chiefdom to Freetown revealed explained that the task to stockpile arms in Kamakwie was delegated to the RUF northern axis commander, Col. Komba Gundama by the incarcerated RUF leader Foday Sankoh since May this year. Col. Komba Gbundama was instrumental in capturing over 500 UNAMSIL peacekeepers in the Makeni area, riding them of their weapons.
Apart from the arms depot which the RUF has opened in Kamakwie, reports say the town is now the launching pad for dissident Guinean forces who are involved in cross border raids in Pamlap, Farmoreah, Dakagbe and Madina Wula.
This press has also gathered that a good number of the items looted from the above towns were sold openly in Kamakwie by cronies of the Guinean dissident fighters who have flocked to Kamakwie because of its remote location.
Weapons seized from UNAMSIL and those brought into Sierra Leone via Liberia have now found their way into Kamakwie which a defence ministry source has described as the second largest arsenal of the RUF.
The arms buildup by the RUF was recently corroborated by a member of the UN Security Council who observed that the will on the part of the RUF is a tactical pause.
February 2001: Guinean forces kill, wound civilians in Sierra Leone
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch has spoken with witnesses and victims from twelve attacks, all within areas under the control of rebels from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The attacks, which took place in the Kambia, Bombali and Koinadugu districts of the country, also caused serious destruction of property and resulted in the displacement of thousands of civilians. These attacks, five by helicopter gunship and seven using artillery, took place in and around the towns of Rokupr, Yeliboya, Makasa, Kakuna, Sabuya, Mambolo, Rokel and Kamakwie. In the most recent incidents, on February 15, four civilians all from the same extended family were killed when an artillery shell crashed into the village of Sabuya, in Northern Kambia district. On the same day, artillery shells killed a three-year-old girl in Rokel village, also in Kambia district. The most serious attacks involved the use of helicopter gunships including the November 30, 2000 attack on the town of Rokupr, which killed thirteen civilians, and the January 26 attack against the town of Kamakwie which killed twelve.
Sorrie, a twenty-five-year-old student saw the bodies of 12 people killed when on January 26 the town of Kamakwie was attacked by two Guinean helicopter gunships. He confirmed the presence of significant numbers of RUF rebels but said their headquarters was untouched and none of them were injured in the attack.
I was sitting on the verandah when we heard what we thought was the sound of a load car backfiring. Then we realized it was the chopper and just then saw two of them heading for town from the West. I ran in and hid under the bed and then heard three loud explosions — everything shook. I was only thinking of my life. After it was over I went around town to see what had happened. The first one fell directly on a house in Section #2; it killed two women and wounded three more. The second one hit near the sacred bush — a place just behind town where we perform our rituals. I stood there while the others dragged l0 bodies out. They were all cut up and many had burned when the bush caught fire. Two more bombs lay unexploded near the Kamasury and Kamayasi streams. One rebel wanted to shoot at it but then another yelled at him and grabbed his gun away. The RUF HQ is in a two story building in area #3 which was about 150 meters away from where the closest bomb dropped.
May 2001: RUF trade arms for drugs
10 May 2001
The barter system of trading RUF weapons for drugs such as (cannabis sativa) in the RUF controlled town of Kamakwie in the Bombalie district has become a source of great revenue for RUF commandos coming from Tongo and Kono. The trade if not checked by UNAMSIL will not only pose a serious threat to disarmament process but will also undermine the gains UNAMSIL have made in recent times to push the peace process forward. The trade, which was conducted almost on a weekly basis, saw the exchanging of RUF guns from Tongo and Kono in return for kilograms of cannabis sativa.
Prominent among the weapons used in the trade are single barrel guns captured from the Bombali district Civil Defence Force (CDF) militia group that sundered to the RUF in Makeni in 1999. According to self styled Maj. Abu "for every single barrel I take to Kamakwie I get not less than 50 kilograms of cannabis sativa which the DDR cannot pay me.
Kamakwie town under the control of the RUF is widely known to have large number of cannabis sativa firms and extensive areas of cannabis sativa plantation in and around the town. Cannabis sativa is also the drug the RUF commanders force rebel child soldiers to smoke as a moral booster in any attack. It is therefore openly smoked in almost all RUF controlled towns.
October 2001: Disarmament begins in Kamakwie, Bombali District
UNAMSIL Press Release
30 October 2001
The Force Commander of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), Lt. Gen. Daniel Opande, yesterday witnessed the disarmament of Revolutionary United Front (RUF) combatants in Kamakwie, Bombali District, as the exercise concludes in the district.
More than 100 RUF combatants handed over their weapons to UNAMSIL peacekeepers. The weapons included hand-grenades, mortar bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, anti-aircraft, AK-47s, machine-guns and multi-barrel grenade launchers. Kamakwie is the last chiefdom to disarm in Bombali District.
Addressing a gathering at the Kamakwie helipad, Lt. Gen. Opande urged the local community to support the disarmament of RUF combatants in the area. He also reminded them that he had fulfilled his promise to deploy UNAMSIL peacekeepers so they could provide security during and after the exercise.
In his address, the Paramount Chief expressed concerns over the poor condition of the roads and bridges linking the area to Makeni and other districts. The Force Commander also met with the former RUF 5th Brigade Commander of Kambia, Col. Bai Bureh, who together with UNAMSIL's military observers, assisted in organizing the combatants. He later presented consignments of rice, drugs and other non-food items to the people of Kamakwie on behalf of Sector 1 peacekeepers.
Sector 1 Commander Brig. Gen. Shekari B.S. Biliyok, the Commanding Officer of the Nigerian Battalion 8, Lt. Col. T.S. Ishola, and other senior UNAMSIL military officers accompanied the Force Commander.