RUF is fighting to save our people
RUF is fighting to save our country
RUF is fighting to save Sierra Leone
Go and tell the President Sierra Leone is my home
So go and tell my parents they'll see me no more
We're fighting in the battlefield and fighting forever
Every Sierra Leonen is fighting for his land.
VO: Foreign mercenaries fighting in Sierra Leone's civil war in 1996. They are allegedly still there today - involved, along with Nigerian troops, in the battle to defeat the RUF rebels. This is a war which revolves around minerals.
They are bringing in mercenaries, to come in and kill us and get us out of Freetown - and they did it before. They kill inncoently to bring Kabbah back and Kabbah said that was the price to pay for democracy. And we are not going to allow that again - People who kill our people for democracy.
VO: Deep in the jungle of the West African republic of Sierra Leone, the guerrilla is getting ready for another day of struggle. It is still early morning. Woman and children leave their villages to spend the day in the bush, seeking refuge from the Nigerian bombers…
The war began eight years ago and thousands have been killed on both sides, … The guerrilla starts the day with Muslim and Christian prayers.In recent years the regime has censored all News from Sierra Leone and until now the guerrillas version has remained untold. The war has made it nearly impossible for outsiders to visit the rebels in the jungle; so the government has succeeded in maintaining a monopoly on all information.
Let them see the true picture of RUF. That we let the whole world understand that we are freedom fighters. That we are not hooligans, that we are not looters, that we are no rapers, but we are sincere peace seekers for the whole African continent, Oh God!
VO: The rebels of the Revolutionary United Front regard themselves as a poor man’s army. Many soldiers are women and children, their weapons and uniforms taken from defeated Nigerian soldiers. ECOMOG, the West African military alliance has participated in the war since 1991 on the side of the president.
These Nigerians are very tricky. Each time they attack, we fight them, and when they run out of food and ammunition they put up a white flag and call for a ceasefire. When Johnny allowed that, they had another chance. Flying in ammunition and foof for their men. As soon as they pick up strength, they attempt another attack. And we're not going to allow that any more.
Even the UN never approved the attack that took place on Freetown to reinstate Kabbah. The Nigerians did it on their own, because they though they were an African power.
VO: But the government, with support of the African superpower Nigeria, portrays a very different picture. According to them the rebels are bloodthirsty war criminals, guilty of atrocities and hideous crimes. The guerrilla isolation in the eastern part of the country has made it impossible for them to counter these accusations.According to Sam Bockery, the present leader of the guerrilla, the president’s allegations are baseless; he claims that the regime in Freetown is guilty of worse crimes…
We have gone to the various front lines, and I have seen the destruction the shelling is. They are planting these land-mines because we are in the bush. They want to get us out of the bush. That's why they keep on planting mines. These civilians have no food. They have to go to the bush. So they get there and they are blasted with mines. So they go and say we are maiming the civilians because we have no access to communication as they have.
VO: It is not only the country population that has suffered during the war. In July, August and September of 1997 the Nigerian airforce bombed the capital Freetown on a regular basis in order to bring Kabbah back to power.
They are hiding everything they did. How can the world be so cruel to look at the Nigerians killing our people on the pretext of democracy, when it is our mineral resources they are after!.. Thousands of civilians were killed. Not 100s. they will not tell you, because they have a blanket on the news.
VO: The RUF guerrilla – The Revolutionary United – was founded by former army corporal Foday Sankoh, as a protest against corruption, favouritism and foreign interests controlling the county’s natural resources. A peace accord was signed in 1996 between the rebels and the government. Shortly afterwards Foday Sankoh was imprisoned under mysterious circumstances while on a visit to Nigeria. No-one has heard of him since, and the rebels have taken to arms again.
The only solution is to release our leader Foday Sankoh so that he may come to us and whatsoever they may discuss with him for a lasting peace, we expect him to come to us and convince us.
VO: At present the guerrilla is in control of large parts of the country, something the government has been very careful to hide from the world. The President, Tejan Kabbah, claims to be the democratically elected leader of Sierra Leone, but elections only took place in those parts of the country under his control, which meant that half of the population was unable to vote.President Kabbah would not be in power if it weren’t for the support from Nigeria. The Nigerian troops are present under the flag of the ECOMOG, the West African military alliance, but the reason for their presence seems to be purely economical.
On the 20th December we captured this town. After a day's battle, the Nigerians pulled out. We have to chase them. we have to prove to them that Sierra Leone is our soil and we are not going to destroy us all here.
ECOWAS is composed of 16 countries. And before an ECOWAS troop leaves to attend any mission they're suppose to have half or two-thirds of the majority. But only Nigeria, unilaterally, because they are after our mineral resources, is trying to fight to bring Kabbah back to power.
VO: Despite enormous gold and diamond resources, Sierra Leone is one of Africa’s poorest countries today. Hardly any of these resources have been used to finance education and medical care. Corrupt governments and foreign companies have pocketed the profits.
This war is not about democracy, this war is about money, about business. Both the British High Commissioner and the American Ambassador are involved in mining in this country. So the fact that they became so interested in Kabbah after he was overthrown was no surprise to a great number of us, they were trying to protect their interests.
VO: Nigeria is not the only foreign power that has actively participated in the conflict. Great Britain has, according to the rebels, actively supported the intervention. The Sandline mercenary group, supported by the British government, who have been our colonial masters, who we've been expecting to find a real solution to solve Sierra leone's crisis… but failing to do so they have decided to side with the government to derail or prolong the Sierra leone crisis.
VO: Sam Bockery is not the only one making these accusations. An official investigation has been opened in London as the Foreign Office is said to have been involved in sending mercenaries to Sierra Leone, and the High Commissioner is suspected of having breached a UN arms embargo by helping to smuggle in 30 tons of weapons to bring Kabbah back to power. Arms smuggling is not the only means in this war, government controlled propaganda is another. While we were visiting the areas controlled by the guerrilla, the BBC World Service reported that they had been successfully taken over by Nigerian troops.
The BBC report today is completely false, propaganda and baseless…. You expect him to say anything that he may say that make the SLPP look good to the outside world. The Nigerians are lying, we are still in control of That they have taken.
VO: Outside the cities and towns, it is the rebels who are in control. Their knowledge of the jungle and their ambush techniques are no match for the Nigerians.
So on behalf of the high command until you people can be turned over
VO: But government forces have control of the skies.The areas that are under guerrilla control are rich in diamonds and gold and they are bombed regularly.Large areas of the country are devastated by these bombings…The villages and towns visited by the team were empty and in ruins, due to the constant air raids.The RUF has at present no plans to lay down their arms, they are waiting for their leader Foday Sankoh to be released from his imprisonment in Nigeria, and they are also waiting for support from the international community.
Nobody else can solve this problem except the international community itself as they are doing in other countries, Bosnia for example. I think you will not want to solve those kind of crisis in a crooked way. You follow up the right channel; the right channel will solve the problem. This is the channel we are looking for in Sierra Leone. But they have not taken the right channel for peace because they are siding, taking Kabbah special, more than Sierra Leonians.
VO: When evening comes the Nigerian bombers disappear and women and children return to their homes. In one of their houses lies a 250kg unexploded bomb from a recent air raid.
We have been branded bandits by those that sent you. We do not hold you responsible. Those unscrupulous politicians have sent you people to fight for a cause which you do not have the right to fight for.
Do you have any message….
fulfill their promise.