Exactly 17 years today, rebel forces of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council and the Revolutionary United Front (AFRC/RUF) invaded Sierra Leone’s capital city, Freetown, in the early hours of January 6, 1999.
The ensuing actions of the invading forces were characterized by extreme violence on particularly civilians in the forms of rape, mutilations and summary executions, resulting in the deaths of over five thousand people and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of others.
This singular act dealt a shattering blow to the fledgling peace process that the country was pursuing at the time of the invasion.
There was, therefore, a need to take urgent and concerted action to salvage the situation by first repelling the invaders and then bringing the peace process back on the rail.
In response to this urgency, the civil society of Sierra Leone, under the aegis of the Civil Society Movement-Sierra Leone (CSM-SL), worked with all progressive forces, particularly the ECOMOG forces led by the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Government of Sierra Leone, to drive back the marauding rebels in the face of extreme danger and difficulties.
JANUARY 6, A DAY OF NATIONAL MOURNING
I saw it all, I was ghastly, shockingly horrific, mangled bodies on the principal streets in Freetown.
It was chaotic, there was weeping and gnashing of teeth, parents fled leaving their beloved children at the mercy of the cold and the invaders, the affluent became poor, children orphaned, powerful mansions reduced to rubbles.
It was everywhere, the ambiance was an admixture of different bullet sounds, Hell was indeed left loose, we were subjected to law of the jungle, Alpha Jet enjoyed monopoly over our roofs, and the grimmest of all, was the countless number of casualties.
What a day, it should be a public holiday tagged as a National Day of Mourning, we should all mourn for the lives of the inestimable number of Nationals and Foreigners who died in January 6,1999 bloody bath.
The horrors of the Ebola outbreak may have Stolen our minds but few of us who dance to the tune of the past would still recall the calamity that befell our nation in January 6,1999.
I would refrain writing on the horrific scenes I saw lest I invoke the sad memories of that day.
Times fly though but what have we learnt from that awful period in our country’s transient history?
On behalf of the Directorate of Media Alliance for Civil and Political Awareness, MACPA, SLAJ and the Government and People of Sierra Leone, I would use this day to extend cables of condolence treats to the bereaved families of all who lost their precious lives during the senseless war in our country.
May their souls and the souls of all faithful departed, Rest in Perfect Peace.
Jonathan Hindolo Kurabu