In an organisation as gigantic as the United Nations, things sometimes go missing. A stapler here, a pen there… Oh yeah, and that time they lost an entire infantry platoon in Sierra Leone. Good thing too, because that platoon teamed up with the British special forces to defeat a massive attack by Gangsta Rap fanatics. This is their crazy story.
The Revolutionary United Front (RUF) was a rebel army that fought a failed eleven-year war in Sierra Leone, starting in 1991 and ending in 2002. It later developed into a political party, which still exists today. The three most senior surviving leaders, Issa Sesay, Morris Kallon and Augustine Gbao, were convicted in February 2009 of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Revolutionary United Front initially coalesced as a group of Sierra Leoneans which led National Patriotic Front of Liberia elements across the border in an attempt to replicate Charles Taylor’s earlier success in toppling the Liberian government.
The RUF was created by Foday Sankoh, of Temne background, and some allies, Abu Kanu, Rashid Mansaray, with substantial assistance from Charles Taylor of Liberia. At first, the RUF was popular with Sierra Leoneans, many of whom resented a Freetown elite seen as corrupt and looked forward to promised free education and health care and equitable sharing of diamond revenues. However, the RUF developed a reputation internationally for its terrible cruelty towards the civilian population during its decade-long struggle, especially its practice of hacking off limbs to intimidate and spread terror among the population, and its widespread use of child soldiers.
When it was first formed, the RUF put forward the slogan, “No More Slaves, No More Masters. Power and Wealth to the People.” While its goal was clearly to change the government of Sierra Leone, the RUF gave little indication of what sort of government would replace it. The group did not advocate Marxism or any similar leftist ideology, nor did it advocate extreme nationalism or Fascism. It also did not claim to be a force fighting for a certain ethnic group or region. At one point, during ongoing peace negotiations in 1995, RUF published a pamphlet entitled “Footpaths to Democracy: Toward a New Sierra Leone”, which contained some rhetorical references to social justice and pan-Africanism.
Child soldiers were heavily recruited in the Sierra Leone Civil War; a total of 11,000 are thought to have participated in the conflict. Most were used for attacks on villages and on guard duty at diamond fields as well as guarding weapons stockpiles. Today, about 2,000 are still left serving in the military of Sierra Leone. The RUF made extensive use of child soldiers.
Thousands of abducted boys and girls were forced to serve as soldiers or as prostitutes, and those chosen to be fighters were sometimes forced to murder their parents. Guerrillas frequently carved the initials “RUF” on their chests, and officers reportedly rubbed cocaine into open cuts on their troops to make them maniacal and fearless. Before some battles and raids, the children were given mixtures of cocaine and gunpowder. The gunpowder mix was called “Brown Brown” and it allowed the cocaine to flow more freely through the blood stream.
For entertainment, some soldiers would bet on the sex of an unborn baby and then slice open a woman’s womb to determine the winner. The RUF abducted children aged 7 to 12, but were known to take children as young as 5 years old. The children were notoriously known by captains and civilians for their unquestionable obedience and enormous cruelty.
In response to the immediate execution of rebels by government forces, the RUF instituted a policy of cutting off the hands of captured soldiers with the intent of sending the message, “You don’t hold your weapon against your brother.” Brandishing machetes, RUF rebels amputated the hands, arms, and legs of tens of thousands of Sierra Leoneans. The RUF indicated that the reason for these actions was that amputees could no longer mine diamonds, which might be used to support government troops.
The election slogan at that time was that the people ‘had power in their hands’, so the RUF would hack the hands off to prevent voting. RUF members are also said to have practiced cannibalism. The government set up a refugee camp where they gathered amputees; the camp was situated next to the international hotels. They also helped fund the camps and gave them food and water.
Read more at Wikipedia
Children in the military – Wikipedia