Editor’s note: This is the third and final installment in longtime WorldNetDaily contributor Anthony C. LoBaido’s series on the white mercenaries in Africa and the extraordinary fighting services they’ve provided in African wars.
Part 1 covered the colorful history of white mercenaries in Africa and the attempt by black leaders to make them extinct.
Part 2 told the story of an effective band of mercenaries who turned the tide of a conflict in Sierra Leone.
Today’s installment explores the rampant cannibalism in Sierra Leone the mercenaries encountered while waging war there and the international efforts to shape the nation and its neighbors.
CAPE TOWN, South Africa –”There is a lot of cannibalism in Sierra Leone,” said Bert Sachse, a 34-year veteran of the South African special forces and commander of the mercenary war during the mid-1990s in the troubled West African nation.
“If you capture the enemy, you want to interrogate them. For the Sierra Leone army, they wanted to eat the heart and or other vital organs of their enemies. We would have to fly out the prisoners we wanted to interrogate on the helicopters back to Freetown so they wouldn’t be eaten. The MI-17 would fly over and the Sierra Leone soldiers would look up and say, ‘There goes dinner.’ They would look upset. In certain parts of Sierra Leone cannibalism is rife.”
Sandline and Executive Outcomes were the mercenary organizations, located in South Africa and London, for whom Sachse and his men worked.
Another Sandline soldier interviewed by WorldNetDaily commented, “One can only image the Sierra Leone soldiers eating the heart and other organs of an RUF prisoner. I have a mental picture of a soldier holding a heart in his mouth, and another eating a hand and Bert Sachse asking them, ‘How many times do we have to tell you not to eat the prisoners before we interrogate them? Didn’t you get the memo?’”
Continued Sachse: “When Kabbah came back, he had about 20 of the Sierra Leone army staff executed right in front of us. He said there was some kind of conspiracy. One of those executed was a military commander with whom Sandline/Executive Outcomes had worked quite closely. What could you do? The Nigerian peacekeepers executed them.”
It was not Breaker Morant with a cigarette and one round.
“They tied them up to trees and mowed them down. Guys got chopped. They were dead or dying and the Nigerians would call for more magazines of ammo,” explained Sachse while waving his arms to show how the Nigerians called for more ammo during the executions.
Sachse lamented the chaos so prevalent in African armed forces, saying, “Some soldiers in Africa were paid with bags of rice. A sergeant major might get five bags of rice, but another soldier with more children might get only one bag of rice and that would lead to bad morale. The Sierra Leone army was a bloody rabble. The SADF was efficient. It all started with the Rhodesian army. Minimum casualties and maximum effect.”
Sandline/EO’s operations in Sierra Leone turned sour for only one reason – finances, said Sachse.
“We put a lot of effort into stabilizing the situation. If they can’t pay us, then we can’t work. We can’t ship weapons, personnel and our own vehicles for no return,” he lamented.
Though the Sierra Leone government ultimately couldn’t afford Sandline, soldier-for-hire pay in Africa generally was competitive.
“The salaries were very good,” Sachse said. “In some black African countries, the majority of black special forces are used to good wages for good professional services. They were paid in U.S. dollars and the rand was falling. You look at British pounds, U.S. dollars and rands and you see they were good salaries.”
Sandline/EO became a political wrangle in the UK as previously mentioned, and this problem festered throughout the operation in Sierra Leone. The whole issue of legalizing PMCs probably got a good boost from the whole affair. After all, who is against stopping limb-hacking rebels?
Consider that in 2000, British troops returned to Sierra Leone after United Nations troops were overrun by the same RUF troops Sandline/EO had only recently vanquished. The British army retook the country again, and some 45,000 rebels were disarmed. It was like a cul-de-sac of sorts. Rebels attack. Mercenaries sort them. Mercenaries leave. Rebels take the country again. British army comes in to the former colony and disarms rebels. Rebels capture soldiers. SAS comes in and sorts rebels. There was a certain rhythm to it all, an ebb and flow. Yes, a cul-de-sac of violence. As Plato said, “Only the dead are the end of war.”
Says Sachse, “People could see a private military company operating in a theater could be a good thing and beneficial, and be sanctioned by the government. There is the question of why the idea did not catch on. If you use PMCs, you don’t need to send in British troops. If the troops are killed, the families are naturally very upset. The government sending in troops could lose votes and support in operations the citizens were not in support of.”
In regard to the British government’s Green Paper on legalizing PMCs, Sachse said, “I think people have seen the benefits of it. This is a very expensive business. There are political connotations. PMC soldiers go into the field of their own free will. In the British government, a lot of people accepted the fact of using a PMC, but because of their own political careers, they could not openly say this. The broad concept was ‘no,’ you can’t use them, but the Foreign Office saw the need, in Sierra Leone for example, and let things slide – and then they could see the eventual outcome.”
After Sandline/EO pulled out, the British army was sent in and trained the Sierra Leone Army.
After the British army was sent to Sierra Leone, things were going reasonably well, until a group of British soldiers were taken hostage by the rebels. However, they were promptly rescued by the SAS.
Speaking of that rescue operation, Sachse said, “You pay the ransom or go in – do or die. The SAS got intel, made a plan to go in – you have to take a chance.”
Asked if British soldiers should receive bonuses or stock options from British mining companies operating in Sierra Leone if in fact the soldiers are protecting their diamond mines, Pete Thompson of the RGBW regiment of the British army told WorldNetDaily, “I think you’ll find that the British keep a stiff upper lip about that sort of thing.”
Stuart Lane, an Australian on loan to the RGBW through the Long Look Exchange program and who was deployed to Sierra Leone told WND, “I’m going to receive a higher rate of pay when I am deployed in the field in Sierra Leone.” (Both Lane’s father and grandfather served in the British special forces.)
Allies and the U.S. agenda in Sierra Leone
Sachse explained the different groups fighting against the RUF and their roles and relationships:
“Kabbah was taken out in a coup. ECOMOG came in. West Africa is a funny place. If you can control the capitals of those nations, you can control the entire country. We had a very good professional relationship with ECOMOC. There was give and take. We gave advice, we used their artillery and spotted for them. We did not fight in battles (along) with them.”
Sachse described the roll the Nigerians played and not all of it was military in nature. EO/Sandline had some help in Sierra Leone. First, of course, there were Nigerian troops who wore the uniforms of the West African Peacekeeping Forces (ECOMOG.)
But they weren’t alone.
American flags were painted on two helicopters that were sent by International Charter Incorporated, or ICI, of Oregon, which is run by ex-U.S. Special Forces operators. Its founder is Brian Boquist, who has run for the U.S. Congress. He served in the Special Forces as a lieutenant colonel. In the past, Boquist started a private air-freight company called Evergreen International Aviation.
Yet the hard fighting was left to the South African mercenaries.
The Americans were there for transport and casualty evacuation for the Nigerian troops. ICI was fired upon, witnesses claim, and returned fire. ICI uses Russian helicopters and Russian pilots and crewmembers while in the field. It is alleged the Joseph Melrose, then-U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone, knew about ICI’s involvement.
In May of 1995, the Sierra Leone government told both the Americans and the British that they had hired Sandline/EO. In fact, ICI’s website has noted it was the “1998 U.S. Department of State’s small-business contractor of the year.”
In the 1990s, America’s agenda in Sierra Leone was to contain Charles Taylor’s influence and to keep the conflict from interfering with the already volatile situation in Nigeria. In Nigeria, Islamic militants would soon gain power, try to introduce Sharia law and actually go on to drive out the Miss Universe contest by carrying around signs reading “Down With Beauty!”
All of this occurred during the aforementioned RUF’s horrendous “No Living Thing” operation, in which the murder and cutting off of the limbs of children was at its height. It lasted four months, and RUF soldiers cut off the ears, arms, hands and feet of thousands. Many children were killed, at least 5,000. Over 150,000 had no homes. About four-fifths of Freetown’s buildings were burned to the ground including, hospitals, clinics, schools and churches.
Said Sachse, “The Nigerians wanted to stay around. They stripped the infrastructure of Sierra Leone – everything that wasn’t nailed down. Cars, car parts, running businesses – they had many fingers in different pies. Diamonds must have been a part of it. The ships they came in on, well, they weren’t going back to Nigeria empty, I can tell you that. The ECOMOG troops weren’t very anxious to fight the RUF, but they were happy to loot the country.”
In regard to dealing with the Nigerians, Sachse continued, “We had to clear our flights with our helicopters through ECOMOG. They controlled the Sierra Leone airspace. If we wanted a helicopter to fly in from Guinea, we had to clear it with the Nigerians. We had to clear it with the ECOMOG commander, and this cost us a lot of money – about U.S. $1,000.”
This is not surprising, according to the Sandline/EO commander.
“With the United Nations and various international agencies, they are looking to get the most out of the deal, even the World Health Organization. [However], a lot of the workers with these types of international organizations are genuinely decent people,” he said.
As the war wound down, Sachse continued to steer a course in Sierra Leone.
“I stayed on after EO left the scene, which was February of 1997. We needed to generate cash with the mining operation. As I said, the government was totally corrupt from top to bottom – they couldn’t pay us. The Sierra Leone army was still a joke. We would talk on the beach with embassy staff from America and the UK. They could not really get involved with us, but of course they knew about the situation and the hacking off of limbs of the children,” he said.
Sierra Leone’s place in modern history
Assessing the war in Sierra Leone is a complicated affair. By May of 2002, the situation was stabilized again and Sankoh was arrested and faced murder charges from a Freetown jail. He died on July 29, 2003.
Arms merchant Leonid Minim, a Ukrainian-Israeli businessman, was arrested in Italy in part for running arms to the RUF. The Ukrainian state arms dealer was involved with Minim and sold grenade launchers, ammo and thermal binoculars to him, which he in turn sold to the RUF. (Victor Bout, a well-known weapons merchant, also armed the RUF via Liberia.)
Charles Taylor was, in recent years, hunted by Liberians United for Reconciliation. A warrant was served for his arrest by a special U.N.-backed Sierra Leone court. President Bush, then an opponent of a world court, had, through his administration, helped to set up a regional court to try those accused of war crimes in Sierra Leone. With the U.S. finally prodded into exerting pressure on her former colony of Liberia, Charles Taylor was eventually deposed in favor of his son Chucky. Sierra Leone received 1 percent of the funds it requested from the United Nations to deal with the crisis. Liberia got a hold of 1.2 percent.
On May 14, 2002, Sierra Leone’s citizens, many of whom were burdened with Lassa fever, voted, and Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was re-elected. Many of the citizens casting ballots did so without hands, which had been cut off by the rebels.
As for Foday Sankoh, the UK Daily Telegraph published a half-page obituary on him in the July 31, 2003, edition. The obituary was entitled, “Foday Sankoh: Guerrilla leader whose followers raped, tortured, amputated and murdered their way through Sierra Leone.”
It reads as follows:
Foday Sankoh, who died on Tuesday aged 65, was the leader of one of the world’s most brutal guerrilla movements; for 10 years his RUF terrorized the people of Sierra Leone. … (he) was born on Oct. 17, 1947 into a poor farming family of the Jemme tribe of northern Sierra Leone, then under British rule. In 1956, he joined the Royal West African Forces and trained as a wireless operator and cameraman under British Army instructors, reaching the junior rank of corporal.
He moved to Bo, Sierra Leone’s second city and the home of Lebanese diamond dealers. There, in the innocent guise of a wedding photographer and video cameraman, he toured villages, politicizing students and villagers.
Sankoh emerged as a rebel leader in the 1960s. Briefly imprisoned for his political activities in the 1970s, in the early 1980s he joined a group of exiles in Libya, where Col. Gadhafi was sponsoring military training programs for revolutionary movements in West Africa.
Sankoh’s route back to Sierra Leone lay through the neighboring republic of Liberia, where he formed an alliance with Charles Taylor, the leader of Liberia’s rebel National Patriotic Front, which seized power in 1998 after an eight-year campaign of terror. Sankoh took part in the early stages of Taylor’s rebellion, then, sponsored by Taylor, established his own guerrilla movement and returned to Sierra Leone, launching an insurrection movement in 1991.
Sankoh’s outwardly gentle demeanor and his rabble-rousing charisma convinced a lot of people of his good intentions, and in its early stages the RUF attracted the support of idealists opposed to the corrupt regime of Joseph Momoh.
But revolutionary fervor soon turned to blood lust and rapacity as, encouraged by Sankoh, the RUF’s mostly young leadership sought to enrich themselves by getting their hands on the diamond mines of the east – Sierra Leone’s only source of wealth. Sankoh used the money from the gems to buy weapons and fund his rebellion and to support that of his ally Charles Taylor.
The RUF imposed its will on the countryside with systematic barbarity, committing some of the worst atrocities Africa has ever seen in war that cost more than 50,000 lives. They included amputations of arms, legs, buttocks, genitals, ears and lips, the gouging out of eyes; indiscriminate rape; injections with acid; burnings alive and beatings. There were also well-attested stories of ritual cannibalism.
Many of Sankoh’s recruits were illiterate “pre-moral” children, some as young as 7, who were kidnapped from their villages, subjected to ritualistic indoctrination, plied with drugs and turned into killing machines. Some were said to believe that “Papa” (as Sankoh described himself) had magical powers that enabled him to appear and disappear at will.
Sankoh’s response to criticism was to deny stories of atrocities, although he was fond of quoting the saying, “When a lion and an elephant are fighting, the grass is going to suffer.”
In 1992, Momoh was overthrown by junior officers under the leadership of Valentine Strasser, who clung on to power in Freetown with the aid of a motley group of white mercenaries.
In January 1996, Strasser was deposed … in a bloodless coup and in February Ahmed Kabbah was elected president. … In November (1996) Kabbah and Sankoh signed a peace accord, but it did not hold. Within months, the Sierra Leone army, led by Johnny Koroma, mutinied, deposed Kabbah and struck their own deal with Sankoh, inaugurating a period of joint Armed Forces Revolutionary Council-RUF rule … violence only escalated. … The names of the rebel offensives spoke for themselves: “Operation Burn House” gave way to “Operation Pay Yourself,” then “Operation No Living Thing.”
In 1998, after a Nigerian-led force intervened to restore Kabbah, Sankoh was captured and placed under arrest in Togo. He was tried for treason and murder in the Sierra Leonean courts and sentenced to death in absentia. But his forces remained loyal and, in January 1999, infiltrated Freetown, killing some 5,000 people and coming close to driving out the Nigerians and sacking the entire city.
The death sentence on Sankoh was not carried out. Instead, the British government exerted pressure on Kabbah to pardon Sankoh and welcome him into government as, in the world of Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, “the only way to bring peace to Sierra Leone.” Sankoh was duly pardoned, given immunity from prosecution and appointed minister for natural resources and vice president, in return for a promise to renounce violence. In October 1999, a U.N. Security Council resolution, promoted by Britain and America, agreed to send a deputation of U.N. troops to man “disarmament centers” where Sankoh’s rebels would surrender their arms.
Again, Sankoh failed to keep his side of the bargain. In May 2000, seeing the U.N. peacekeepers had no stomach for a fight, he took 500 of them hostage. It was this incident that led to Britain sending troops to Sierra Leone in an operation that effectively ended the war.
Sankoh’s later gesture was typically bloody. Later on in May 2000, his bodyguards opened fire on a crowd of protesters outside Sankoh’s house in Freetown, killing at least a dozen civilians. Sankoh was forced to flee in the chaos and, after hiding for several days, he emerged dirty and hungry in the company of his witch doctor. The pair were caught and ruffed up before being handed over to SAS soldiers. In March this year (2003), a U.N. war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone charged Sankoh with crimes against humanity and violations of humanitarian law, including murder, rape, sexual slavery and extermination.
Despite his use of witch doctors, Sankoh claimed to be a born-again Christian, albeit of an unorthodox sort. “I’m a god,” he announced at a court appearance in June (2002). “I’m the inner god. I’m the leader of Sierra Leone.”
Sankoh, who was reputed to have 15 wives, is survived by at least one wife and at least one daughter.
That is the “official” British establishment media story about Sierra Leone. This is their idea of “history.” There is no mention of EO and Sandline as an elite force, rather only a “motley group of white mercenaries.” (In fact, many of those mercenaries were black Africans.) In the aforementioned obituary there was also no mention of the summary executions carried out by Kabbah’s orders. No mention of the pillaging of the Nigerians peacekeepers, nor of their massive theft of the AK-47s from Eastern Europe.
It is hoped this report will help to bring out more of the truth about the embattled history of Sierra Leone.
Read LoBaido’s column about his new Christian adventure novel, “Our Name is Legion.”