Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of longtime WorldNetDaily contributor Anthony C. LoBaido’s series on white mercenaries in black Africa. In this installment, LoBaido details the brutal mercenary war in the troubled West African nation of Sierra Leone. It was there that the elite, white, ex-special forces soldiers from South Africa and the UK battled limb-hacking rebels, cannibalism and piracy for the sake of diamond profit. Their private war became a personal affair in an almost epic quest to save the black African children being butchered by the local irregular militia.
In Part 1, LoBaido covers the colorful history of white mercenaries in Africa and the attempt by black leaders to make them extinct.
Take the wine cup of this fury at my hand, and cause all the nations to whom I send thee to drink it. And they shall drink, and be moved, and be mad, because of the sword that I will send among them.
– the prophet Jeremiah
CAPE TOWN, South Africa – When it comes to mercenaries, it could be fairly said that South African Bert Sachse is “the real thing.” Sachse is an elite special forces soldier who can handle everything from logistics to intelligence gathering to diplomacy, air-to-ground special forces tactics and even the close up “hard killings.”
A charming and wiry man with bright eyes, this writer remarked upon meeting him: “I “had been expecting Arnold Schwarzenegger.”
Sachse simply smiled and flexed as though in a bodybuilding pageant. Clearly, being a special forces soldier involved far more than muscles.
Sachse’s story is a long and amazing road that sheds a great deal of light on the exploits and motivations of the modern mercenary.
“I got involved with (mercenary group) Executive Outcomes (some years ago). Eeben Barlow (the founder of EO) did the wheeling and dealing. Eeben and I have spoken and socialized. He is a pleasant guy and we have a working relationship,” Sachse told WorldNetDaily during an interview in Cape Town.
That relationship eventually led Sachse, a 34-year veteran of the old Rhodesian and South African special forces, into a war unlike that which he had ever seen before. More specifically, it was a mercenary war in Sierra Leone.
A troubled and unstable history
In 1995, the ruling military counsel in the West African nation of Sierra Leone contracted the UK-based mercenary outfit Sandline to restructure and retrain the Sierra Leone army. This tender was extended as a means to fight the brutal rebel Revolutionary United Front, or RUF, rebels. The RUF, which had started as a student movement in the capital of Freetown, was receiving training and logistical support from neighboring Liberia.
Liberia, founded by former U.S. President James Monroe as a colony to repatriate ex-slaves, was led back then by Charles Taylor, an escaped convict from the U.S. Taylor is best remembered for asking that “only black soldiers” from America be sent to his country to help stop the anarchy. The Bush administration rejected that racist notion and immediately began to seek closure on Taylor’s misrule.
In February of 1996, just six weeks after an officer’s coup overthrew its president, the acting (though unstable) military government of Sierra Leone was set to hold the first multi-party elections in that country since 1977. Sandline, the kissing cousin of the South African mercenary group Executive Outcomes, was tasked with the job of stopping the ensuing civil war that had broken out in the wake of the coup.
The civil war raging in the nation at that time featured pockets of resistance spread around remote areas of Sierra Leone. Not surprisingly, the areas Sandline was commissioned to subdue were those rich in minerals. Also not surprisingly, the RUF was active in those particular areas. Various Middle Eastern terrorist groups were also interested in these same diamonds, and this point was not lost on British Intelligence or the CIA, even before 9-11.
The RUF was ostensibly opposing the sketchy regime of Joseph Momoh in Freetown. Foday Sankoh, a former corporal in the army, was at that time the leader of the RUF.
The RUF had been hounding Sierra Leone since March of 1991. They fought together with troops from Liberia on loan from Charles Taylor and mercenaries from Burkina Faso. That troika invaded Sierra Leone and sought to take over the diamond mines in Koindu. That was the real reason for the fighting initially.
Sankoh had been exiled to Libya and there he’d embraced the “Pan African” ideal that sought and continues to seek (under the guiding hand of the ANC and Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe) a united African continent free of Western (read “white”) influence.
Sankoh’s indoctrination in Libya took place in the era preceding the rise of IMF and World Bank loans and credit, the revaluation of gold in exchange for debt relief, the Internet and high-technology agreements, various agendas of transnational corporations, GATT and the World Trade Organization’s de facto trade regime, white mercenary armies and the black African auto-genocide of HIV/AIDS.
These factors combined to form a virtual, post-modern neo-colonialism that shattered the paradigm that had existed between the West and Africa since the early 19th century and perhaps far earlier.
In actuality, the new Pan African ideal is embodied in “Nepad,” (the New Economic Program for African Development), which was and remains funded in large part by the UK and the futuristic economic aspirations of the British Commonwealth, European Union, Bilderbergers, United Nations and other major players seeking major social and monetary restructuring on a transnational scale.
Not to be forgotten is the emerging African Union, which seeks to merge all of Africa into a single political, economic and military block that by default could eventually become a part of the emerging one-world trade and government regime.
British Intelligence and the colonial hangover
Sachse’s story of commanding the operation in Sierra Leone is an amazing one on many levels. It is in many ways the film “Tears of the Sun,” moving from reel life to real life.
Certainly, nothing Sachse had studied at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst could have prepared him for what he would face down in the jungles of West Africa. Nor could a combined 34 years in the Rhodesian and South African special forces.
“The operation was handled more by Sandline than by EO,” Sachse told WorldNetDaily. “More of it was run from London than from Pretoria.”
Asked why that was so, Sachse replied, “Well for one thing, Sierra Leone is a former British colony.”
It should come as no shock that it was the mining concerns of a large corporation that lay semi-hidden behind Sandline’s newest cash cow. In this instance, all evidence pointed to Branch Energy, a South African mining company with gold and diamond interests in Sierra Leone, as well as a lucrative kimberlite – a diamond-producing gravel – formation holding in Kono.
EO/Sandline’s links in Sierra Leone are complex. They point to the mercurial British entrepreneur and ex-military man Anthony Buckingham. Mr. Buckingham is rumored to be an astute businessman and a former underwater attack diver. He in turn has links with Branch Energy and Sandline International. Sandline was co-founded by Buckingham and Simon Mann, a former British SAS officer. Mann has been convicted by a court in Zimbabwe of trying to plan a coup against the leftist dictator in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea.
While the activities of the old South African Defense Force and Civil Cooperation Bureau lay most often in the shadows, the activities of Buckingham and EO were immediately surveyed by the British intelligence community at large.
For example, British defense intelligence published an official report stating that Ranger Oil paid the scholarly and erudite Mann and Buckingham a cool U.S. $30 million to organize the foreign mercenaries to fight in Angola.
An EO-London version of the mercenary outfit was set up on Sept. 7, 1993, as a British company to work as a joint venture with EO-South Africa. This was documented in a “Secret U.K. Alpha Eyes” intelligence report published by a British intelligence agency. The report was supposed to be hidden from the CIA, NSA and other pro-British Western intelligence agencies.
Linking Sandline with EO was child’s play. For example, Sandline and EO shared a UK office located at Plaza 107, Kings Road in Chelsea. In another arrangement, Sandline and Branch Energy shared a UK office at 535 Kings Road, London. In the words of that French policeman Inspector Renault in the film “Casablanca,” “It was all very convenient.”
British Intelligence (MI-6) was also very interested in Sandline and Executive Outcomes. Back then, British Intelligence wrote that EO’s influence in Africa presented a “cause for concern.”
British defense intelligence wrote, “EO will become even richer and more potent, capable of exercising real power even to the extent of keeping military regimes in being. Its influence in sub-Saharan Africa could become crucial.”
Speaking of the success of EO in Angola, South African intelligence wrote, “The OAU may be forced to … perhaps offer EO a control for the management of peacekeeping, continent-wide.” The OAU was the forerunner of the emerging African Union, or AU, which, along with the G8, has sought to stamp out white mercenaries in African and replace them with regional, rapid-deployment peacekeeping forces.
Despite the best efforts of the analysts at MI-6, there were precious few who truly understood what EO /Sandline was, how it was divided up or who owned it.
When it came to EO-London, nowhere was Buckingham listed in public records. Luther Eeben Barlow and his second wife, Sue, were listed as the primary owners.
Of course, EO and Sandline are virtually interchangeable, and the interests of the British super-elites and super-rich UK industrialists also come into play when it suits their respective parties. This was readily apparent in Sierra Leone.
In a corporate game of wheel-of-fortune going on in Sierra Leone in the mid 1990s, Branch Energy was bought out by Carson Gold, which in turn was gobbled up by a bigger fish called Diamond Works Ltd. Diamond Works is financed by Ivanhoe Capital Corp. in Singapore. Australian mining magnate Robert Friedland, the head of Diamond Works, denied any linkage to Sandline and EO’s operations.
MI-6, mercenaries, diamonds and terrorists
In Sierra Leone, British Intelligence was interested in the EO/Sandline operation because “diamonds from that area were being used by terrorist groups around the world to fund their operations” against the West, Sachse told WorldNetDaily.
“This is a totally different ballgame. In this game, one doesn’t ask a lot of questions. But I can tell you that as an ex-colony, the UK felt the responsibility to take an interest in the diamonds sold there, the merchants, terrorist involvement and stopping that flow.”
Continued Sachse: “We went into Sierra Leone in our own interests. I think we could have handled the whole thing ourselves. As I said, we are not mercenaries but think of ourselves as ‘privateers.’ We went in where no other government would. I know the Yanks don’t like losing guys for nothing. The Brits made it easier by turning a blind eye, seeing how far things would go.
“You ask why wasn’t our operation stopped?” he continued. “One can assume there is a link between Sandline and British Intelligence.”
Sachse said that Sandline/EO put pressure on the rebels and that the Brits condoned this. The rebels would be denied access to raw materials, “by which there was money to be made.”
While fighting in Sierra Leone, EO/Sandline received help from the British military and were in contact with British Intelligence. For example, a television crew filmed technicians from a British frigate docked at Freetown fixing a Russian-made helicopter that was being used by Sandline/EO in the war against the RUF.
Sacshe told WND: “We needed a good CASEVAC (Casualty Evacuations) system. We learned about CASEVAC in the Bush War in Angola. We used the Russian MI-17, like a Dakota. We have good pilots.”
Good equipment was vital for this operation, Sachse said.
Asked if Luther Eeben Barlow just walked into the Kremlin and simply said, “Ivan, I need some attack helicopters?” Sachse replied, “The arms trade is kept close to the chest. As for arms in Sierra Leone, there was the government and our own means.”
Russian equipment is chosen in some instances over that which was manufactured in the U.S. or other Western nations.
“Russian equipment was made for the local guy. It falls in the water. No problem. Look at the AK-47. Western weaponry is more precision-oriented. You have to know what you are doing. But if it gets some dust in it …,” Sachse said.
Asked to elaborate on Sandline and EO’s interaction with British Intelligence, Sachse said, “I am the man at the top of the pyramid. I can’t get into detail about my contacts with various intelligence agencies, be they British Intelligence or the CIA. It would cause too many problems. People at the top just don’t talk that way.”
Concerning the 35 tons of Bulgarian arms shipped to Sierra Leone that turned all of the UK into a media-driven uproar, Sachse, as always, put things in perspective free of political and mass-communications spin.
“They were AK-47s meant to refit the Sierra Leone army. Remember, they would throw down their weapons and run away when the RUF engaged them. There was nothing the British could do about this shipment. There was no way that Peter Penfold (a top British official in Sierra Leone) could have intervened. He did not know the shipment was coming. Mr. Penfold was forced to resign over the arms scandal and most Sandline operatives feel that was unfair. All of the arms deals were done outside of the UK – no threat of us going against the law of the land, at loggerheads or contravening the law. Penfold could not have tracked where the shipment of arms came from or when it was delivered. It was out of his hands,” Sachse said.
“The British (representatives) in Sierra Leone were well-disposed toward us. They saw the need for some positive action to be taken to stabilize the situation, although they couldn’t openly support us for political reasons. But they were sympathetic toward us, very pleasant, nice. There was frustration that nothing was being done. Obviously, they knew we were the answer to the problem.”
Pondering the hysterics over the 35 tons of AK-47s from Bulgaria sent to Sierra Leone by Plaza 107, Sachse was resolute.
“We were merely trying to re-supply the Sierra Leone army, which, as I said, threw down their weapons and ran away when facing the RUF in the field. Of course, the ECOMOG (the West African peacekeeping force operating at that time in Sierra Leone) commanders knew the shipment was on the way. It was unloaded by the Nigerians and taken to their base. It was stored at the airport and only a very small percentage of those weapons got to the Sierra Leone army. The Nigerians got to keep almost all of it. You can imagine that they sold them elsewhere,” he said.
“Sierra Leone is corrupt. If you’ve got the money you can buy anything. You get stopped every five minutes on the street by the police and there are small bribes to be paid. You can’t move a foot without someone wanting something from you. The officials in the country are so poorly paid; this is how they must supplement their means.”
Ask about the related hysterics over a British television station broadcasting British sailors working on a Sandline/EO helicopter, Sachse said, “The British frigate came into port. The pilots struck up a relationship with the British Royal Navy’s aircrew over drinks. Our helicopter needed maintenance. We needed machinery and whatnot that we did not have. Our pilots and their pilots had a relationship of professional courtesy. I think that they (the British forces) must have cleared it, because he flew the helicopter in key side (dockside) for them to work on it.”
Sachse continued: “Tim Spicer controlled the military side of the activities in Sierra Leone. I flew often to London to meet with him inside Plaza 107. He was the man I directly reported to. He is easygoing, efficient, thorough and very good at trying to procure what we needed to be done in the field. My links to Tony Buckingham (the head of Plaza 107) are social.”
The way the mercenaries were running freely around Sierra Leone was proving too big an indignation for many of the natives to handle. At a conference held in Freetown in the 1990s, the head of the local teachers’ union called for the complete withdrawal of EO, calling them hard-core “apartheid attack dogs.” That exact quote made it past the media censors and eventually made the evening news. The man was jailed.
“It’s easy to cry ‘racism’ and ‘apartheid’” said Sachse.
“The fact is that we had both white and black soldiers working together. We get along well. We have fought and bled and died together.
“The government in Sierra Leone was so corrupt. Many officials were receiving bribes from the RUF in the form of diamonds. When we came in there to sort things out, that was stopped. I believe that is why we were so heavily criticized – not only were we defeating the RUF in the field, but we were also drying up the corruption. We were bringing stabilization to the country. So the critics were the corrupt ones and they were the ones who wanted to get us out. Wars in Africa are fought by the black man; they pay the biggest price.”
Sachse described how he met with Valentine Strasser, who back then was the de facto leader of Sierra Leone.
“He was a lieutenant in the army,” Sachse explained. “This was after the coup. We went to see him and he was half asleep. He had been partying all night. He needed to organize the finances to pay us. Sandline was set up as an organization to make money. The country’s finances were in such a (poor) state. As I said, the government was very corrupt at certain levels.”
Sachse described the way in which Sandline/Executive Outcomes carried out the campaign in Sierra Leone.
“I was asked to make an initial assessment on the ground,” he began.
“When I first got to Sierra Leone the first thing we had to sort out was the threat to Freetown. The primary objective was restoring freedom of movement. On the outskirts of town, the RUF was doing well. The regular Sierra Leone army was useless. We did the fighting ourselves. In their regular army there was no discipline. No training. You must train for counter-insurgency and go out and meet the enemy. The rebels were getting training and arms. The Sierra Leone army wore civilian clothes under their uniforms. If the rebels came they would take off their uniforms and leave everything behind, including their equipment.”
One is reminded of Mao’s dictum that “The enemy is our quartermaster.”
“We got after Foday Sankoh. Once Sandline got involved we began to provide an escort to the convoys – military consignment and diamonds. We lost under ten men in all. I think about six,” Sachse said proudly.
Limb-hacking, child-hating rebels
Sachse talked a great deal about what it was like to deal with seeing the black Africans, especially the children of Sierra Leone, having their limbs hacked off by the RUF rebels. Sitting in a Cape Town cafe, one could see he was visibly moved and affected by what he had seen. It was clear Sachse truly cared about the children of Sierra Leone.
“This affects me very severely – kids being mutilated. We in Sandline/EO did a lot to try and prevent the hacking off of the limbs in the course of achieving our objectives,” he told WorldNetDaily.
“You can’t go into shock when you see such things. You have to live with it and have a certain aloofness. You must be a hard-ass and continue to lead your men. You take a village; then you call in the medic.
“Typically, the limbs are not hacked off when you are there. You arrive after it has been done. The children are weeping. The children accept it as a punishment. Of course you have sympathy. These horrible crimes against the children happened in the absence of troops to protect them. Their wounds, by the time Sandline/EO arrived, had already grown gangrenous.”
Sachse elaborated on his involvement with the children of Sierra Leone.
“The kids are very affectionate. Kids come up and talk to you as a soldier; they are naturally curious. There is the exchange of cigarettes and sweets. If there is fighting, you push the children to one side – you don’t want them to be in the way,” he explained.
“I have been in the special forces for 34 years, and I can tell you I would never allow any atrocities against women and children. I have very strong principles. Zero atrocities. We used our own doctors and medics to help the children whose limbs were hacked off in Sierra Leone.”
Asked why the RUF rebels committed such atrocities, Sachse replied, “The rebels would terrify the civilians. They would decide to ‘teach them a lesson’ for being pro-government and put ten or 15 pro-government civilians into a hut and then throw in two or three phosphorus grenades. One would be able to hear screaming inside the hut while the rebel soldiers stood outside laughing. There was total fear in certain areas as the rebels engaged in scorched-earth tactics.”
Sachse said that he knew that a few South African mercenaries (not affiliated with Executive Outcomes or Sandline) had gone to Liberia to train the RUF.
Asked how they could train soldiers who would hack off limbs, he said, “You are doing a job training soldiers. What they do with that training after that is out of your control.”
So could Sachse train soldiers who would go on to hack the limbs off of children? “No, I couldn’t,” he responded. “Those men worked for Charles Taylor during training. They were only training. They were not deployed. They (probably) figured, ‘I work for an organization. I train soldiers. What they do with that training is not my fault.’ They want to keep it clean.”
Sachse lamented the fate of children involved in war, both as victims and as combatants. Yet the phenomena of child soldiers is far from new. For example, “The Children’s Crusade” of the year 1212 saw over 15,000 youngsters organized on a military mission to the Holy Land. Around 7,500 marched under the leadership of a 15-year-old shepherd boy named Steven. Steven claimed that Christ Himself had called him to lead the brigade. The other half of this child army marched under the banner of a 10-year-old boy from Germany named Nicholas, who said that angels had appeared to him.
Sachse spoke more about the need to keep special forces tactics out of the media at large.
“Sandline operations like Sierra Leone were politically sensitive. The technology changes, but the techniques don’t change very much. You don’t want to jeopardize the next operation. Generally speaking, true special forces (like the) SAS and the Recces, what have you, don’t talk about it. What you’ve done, you’ve done. It’s about honor. It’s a code. You don’t talk out of turn. One does not talk about the actions one carries out in the special forces. The true professional does not talk about it drinking in a pub. It can affect your job, your family and yourself. Technology may have changed, but the techniques of special forces operations have not. You might wind up making someone else’s job harder in the future by speaking about your own operations.”
Sachse also explained his wariness about journalists.
“Usually, I am wary about talking to journalists. They want to pin certain things on you, saying, ‘You knew this and that.’ For example, I knew something about Dr. Wouter Basson and South Africa’s nuclear, biological and biochemical programs. Dr. Basson is a friend of mine. I met one particular journalist who tried to tie me to him. I told this journalist, ‘Look around Cape Town. It is orderly. There is peace. You have a life to lead. All of that is here because of people like me. … we had to stop the onslaught against this country, or it today would look like other countries in West Africa. A real mess would have been made here.’”
The Sierra Leone battle plan
Sachse took WorldNetDaily from A to Z in the entire campaign for Sierra Leone.
“We had 80 soldiers in total – 60 on the ground and 20 in the air wing. The command element was white and they were very good soldiers. In the South African Special Forces we had recruited black soldiers from the equator down. We had French-speaking soldiers, Swahili and others. We had black officers in the reconnaissance regiments. Many ethnic groups were represented,” he said.
During the interview, Sachse continually was confronted with the question of who was “we” when he spoke. Was “we” Sandline/EO and/or Branch Energy? It soon became pretty clear that when Sachse said, “our mines,” he didn’t mean Sandline/EO’s.
“As for Branch Energy, they had a mining concern, kimberlite, a large stake,” he said.
“They had to go underground for the alluvial diamonds. Vast amounts of money were involved, machinery and what have you. They were given concessions by the government. I would say that if I had to guess, the corporate interests involved are Tories, and as business guys, they support the government of the day.”
As it turns out, a liberal British politico, David Steel, was at one time a non-executive director with Buckingham’s oil group. Despite the government-business-intelligence connections that combined to organize the Sierra Leone campaign back in the UK, there was trouble brewing.
For example, in February of 1999, a month after the RUF’s horrible “No Living Thing” operation was launched, the British Parliament issued a report on Sierra Leone. This report blasted British Foreign Office officials and diplomats who “withheld” information from the Blair government concerning Sandline’s activities in shipping arms to Sierra Leone.
This was because a U.N. edict forbade such an activity. Sierra Leone President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah had been thrown out of office in a coup. Sandline and EO wanted to bring him back to power and in doing so, perhaps enter into the good graces of said government and their own British financiers, who in turn only wanted new and greater access to diamond rights in Sierra Leone.
All of this greatly affected Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and his “ethical foreign policy” program, which insisted on morals, environmental care and human rights as the core of British policy. (The proposed Tony Blair fresh-water pipeline from Kurdistan/Turkey to North Cyprus and over to Israel probably did not fit in well with Cook’s ethos.) There was a push for Cook’s resignation, but he was only demoted when Blair shook up his Cabinet.
Politics aside, Sachse had a job to do, and he did it with amazing efficiency.
“We had a force of about 20 at Rutah and a force at the mine in Kono to stop the stealing and stripping of the machinery there, used for digging for diamonds,” Sachse told WND.
“In Bumoena, we had about five guys. We didn’t need many soldiers. These are elite special forces; they can take on many times their own numbers, especially against these RUF rebels. They didn’t even mine the perimeters.”
“In May of 1995, Phase I began. We moved in and established ourselves in the capital. … Phase II was to make sure that we got paid, which meant getting the Kono diamond mine back in operation. Phase III aimed at looking to generate capital for the government in other areas of the nation. Phase IV was aimed to clean up other pockets of resistance.”
Sachse continued: “In Phase I we assessed the threat. The rebels sat outside the city of Freetown, about 20 miles away. We analyzed the situation and contained it. We had to deal with Freetown as it was about to be overrun. We went in and got briefed by intelligence sources. We built up our own intelligence sources from the Sierra Leone army. We got intelligence appreciation. We had a good working relationship with the Sierra Leone army commander at their military HQ. We had sophisticated radio equipment to monitor the RUF. We could listen in on what they were planning, what they were up to, and this gave us a direction.”
What plan did Sachse and his men come up with?
“We had very little choice,” he said.
“Based on the inputs, there was an obvious course of action. We went to Benguela and deployed. We had our helicopters and BMPs, which are armoured vehicles. The majority of the Sierra Leone army were not properly trained. We did our best to train them in the short time we had to work with them, but they were at least cannon fodder. The one thing we had in our favor was the MI-17 Russian helicopters. They had 50-caliber guns at the backdoor and on the sides. They flew out of the range of the RPGs while the enemy on the ground were within range of the 50-caliber guns.”
The RUF had never seen a force deployed against it like the mercenaries of Sandline and Executive Outcomes.
“We presented the enemy with a different problem – airpower. We knew how to position our soldiers and how to cut off the enemy. It’s a matter of battle-move-chase. There was good air-ground interaction. We cut off the enemy. We had a Cessna 337 recon plane, which is called a ‘push-pull.’ It could carry out recon for six or seven hours. Recon plays a big part in a war. The Cessna circles and circles. … the jungle only allows a certain amount of aerial recon,” explained Sachse.
“The RUF had a large force (but) I cannot say the number of troops. Yet it was a big force, enough to take the capital of Freetown. As for the Sierra Leone army, well, no one (in the citizenry) cared if they lived or died, and they were not being paid. The RUF were not used to meeting an enemy in the field with effective firepower. They came up against Sandline/EO. They were all drugged up, all fired up and we gave up zero ground. We cut them off and killed a hell of a lot of them. The first time they faced our soldiers they lost their will.
“Remember, the old South African Defense Force was a well-oiled killing machine par excellance. Africa has never seen nor will ever see, unfortunately, its likes again.”
Sachse continued: “This massive push broke up the RUF. They lost momentum, impetus, and it reversed the situation. We pushed them back quite far. They were not going to take the capital. They were doomed to their bases in the interior of the country and retreated to lick their wounds.”
Sandline/EO was on a roll.
“We then organized our vehicles and soldiers and set out on a convoy from Freetown to Kono. In dealing with potential ambushes, we looked for ‘killing ground,’ ground you can zero in on with good observation points and space to cut off the enemy if they break out. We had the helicopters fly overhead for reconnaissance. Between Freetown and Kono it is 125 miles. The RUF soldiers we encountered were told to fight or else. We would leap frog, move up, secure, sweep, clear,” he said.
“The Sierra Leone army had no maps. We produced our own maps in London and bought whatever else we needed. The rebels worked with minute maps, tourist maps. Our maps were far more sophisticated and were updated with satellite imagery. But in reality, Sierra Leone had not changed that much. Our own maps were a good scale. We had aerial photography maps, accurate planning. You can’t fight in the jungle – it’s too thick. All of our sorties were pre-planned flights.”
Sachse said that the RUF “had sympathizers” in Sierra Leone in every walk of life.
“At the airport, for example, when our helicopters flew out going east, a call would be made to the RUF, ‘they’re on their way.’ But where were they going exactly? We would confuse the RUF. Soldiers are told to sit and watch in the field. Hours and days go by and they get bored. They say, ‘They won’t come today,’ but that’s the day you come.”
Then Phase II of the operation began.
“At the Battle of Kono – Phase II – the enemy decided, or whoever had trained them, ‘If you are going to make a last stand, you make it here.’ This was on a certain approach to town. There were no spaces through the mountains. There was an approach, coming downhill, and then a bridge over a river and then you went uphill again approaching Kono,” Sachse said.
“It was a nice area to defend with the right equipment, and if you had the training, you could hold here. Rolf Van Heerden led the operation into Kono. He was my second in command. He was a very effective commander in Angola with Executive Outcomes. He was skilled enough to read what was happening. He used air support wisely. He softened them up with the mortars and the RUF withdrew.”
Continued Sachse: “We went into Kono. The RUF had withdrawn into the jungle. We took control of Kono and set up our headquarters and defenses. We secured the approaches to the town and our base. We mopped up the resistance and set up patrols. The RUF kept coming back in little guerrilla groups, launching probing attacks.
“We had our vehicles and mobilized the correct counter-measures. We neutralized the enemy in Kono and worked with local authorities to get the town running on normal footing again. We shared intelligence with police and the (other) authorities. There was a curfew from dawn till dusk and patrols in the city at night.”
The strategy employed by Sachse was working.
Sachse continued to explain that part of the operation: “The helicopters would fly at night back to Freetown. The enemy was not used to being recced at night. In the field you make fires. Before Sandline/EO was deployed, the rebels had a life of luxury. But we recced them day and night. They had to cook, but fires make smoke. The Sierra Leone people turned against them. The RUF angered them by doing things like taking all of the (much needed) drugs from the local hospitals. The RUF was now on the run from Sandline/EO. They began to abandon their wounded. We would detect movement in their camps and we would attack,” he said.
The Sachse spoke with something not unlike joy.
“Since their initial winning streak, the RUF was totally in reverse gear,” he said.
“For the RUF and their leaders, their newfound freedom was over. They were unhappy soldiers, guerrillas living hand to mouth. No more Sierra Leone army to face. Instead, (they faced) our elite killers. No more goodies from the locals. They began to run out of supplies and ammunition.”
Sachse said that Kono had around 6,000 citizens when Sandline/EO arrived on the scene.
“And they had more citizens when we left. We left behind about 40 men in Kono to guard the diamond mines and equipment there and about 20 in Rutah. In Kono, the diamonds were being produced again, but there was a lot of illegal mining going on. Authorities were bribed. Everyone was there in their own interest. There were illicit diamond deals going on. The Lebanese came in. It was all wrong. This was not like DeBeers (with controls on the mining). But even DeBeers tried (mining) offshore of Sierra Leone.”
Soon it was time for Phase III.
“Phase III involved us going to Rutile (which, strangely, is the name of both a rare mineral commodity and the name of the town). We met minor resistance and we pushed them out. Rutile was not lucrative to the enemy, as it needs to be reprocessed. It was a prestige target. There are alluvial diamonds there and titanium (used for fighter jet engines.) Rutile is very rare; only in Australia, Richard’s Bay, South Africa and in Sierra Leone can you mine it. Those three places, that’s all. The Australians and South Africans had an interest naturally in keeping the Sierra Leone operation closed,” said Sachse.
“We went down to Boenkemena and stabilized the area and pushed out the rebels. ECOMOG came in to occupy the town and help to run it. (Foday) Sankoh’s headquarters was attacked with Nigerian artillery.”
Tomorrow: Part 3 of the series explores the rampant cannibalism in Sierra Leone and the international efforts to shape the nation and its neighbors.
Read Part 1, “White mercenaries in black Africa.”
Read LoBaido’s column about his new Christian adventure novel, “Our Name is Legion.”