Sierra Leone: Banquet for Warlords

The barbarity of the Revolutionary United Front during Sierra Leone’s civil war is not to be underestimated, any more than the courage of peacekeepers and journalists who run the very real risk of being killed. It is no wonder that Freetown lives in fear of rebels that, together with rogue soldiers, killed some six thousand people in January last year.

The World Today Updated 28 October 2020 Published 1 July 2000 6 minute READ

Adekeye Adebajo

Research Associate, International Peace Academy, New York

But accounts of barbarism – and even human rights reports that are heavy on atrocities but light on explanations – can easily spill over into a ‘re-primitivisation’ of Africa, helping to propel the international community into a ‘fight or flight’ response. All the more reason to look carefully at some of the mundane and comprehensible internal and external reasons for the ‘anarchy’, and at some of the practical steps that could help to revive it.

We hear repeatedly that the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) barbarians are at the gates of Freetown in a battle between good and evil in the ‘heart of darkness’. We are witnessing ‘The Coming Anarchy’ in ‘The Hopeless Continent’. Rebels are cutting off hands and ripping out hearts. But there is good news too. The British cavalry has been called in. Pax Britannica is back in its old stomping ground to pacify the truculent natives.

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