The Kamajors of Sierra Leone: A Model for Survival Reply

by CYA

Survival Blog

Those that are concerned with TEOTWAWKI scenarios, as we are, can find great benefit in looking to history for meaningful lessons on what to expect and how to plan and prepare. In many of these circles we often here of and reference the heroic exploits of bands of citizen warriors throughout history.

Rogers Rangers, the Minute Men of New England, The Green Mountain Boys of Vermont and other Revolutionary War militia, The guerilla fighting Comanche and Cheyenne warriors of North America,  and of course the various books, movies and television shows that constitute our survivalist-militia paradigm. I wish to add another relevant and realistic event and militia group to our lexicon and highlight a bit of recent history that took place just about 3,000 miles from North America. This true and well-documented period of time and events can be mined by our communities for numerous insights into preparedness.

The tiny African nation of Sierra Leone first won their independence from the British Empire in 1961. This was a joyous time for Sierra Leonians. Sierra Leone, a beautiful nation on the West African Coast, with beaches to make many vacationers jealous, became a vacation spot for Europeans and Africans on holiday.  The country was awash with valuable minerals, metals, and diamonds which brought the financial interests of global powers.  If you were a member of the elite ruling class and politically connected then times were good and money flowed; allowing you an increasingly comfortable lifestyle. But by the 1970s corruption was entrenched. Wikipedia summarized:

“…politics in the country was increasingly characterized by corruption, mismanagement, and electoral violence that led to a weak civil society, the collapse of the education system…”

In 1968, [Siaka Stevens,] a popular leader rose to power and would leave office 17 years later with the result of turning what was once a constitutional democracy into a one party state.
The Prime Minister’s 17 year term of office is described by Wikipedia as:

 “…the 17 year plague of locusts” saw the destruction and perversion of every state institution. Parliament was undermined, judges were bribed, and the treasury was bankrupted to finance pet projects that supported insiders.”

He stepped down in 1985 leaving a short list of ineffective leadership behind him. Wikipedia characterizes the social ruin that the country now found itself in only 30 years after its independence, with the following…

“With the state unable to pay its civil servants, those desperate enough ransacked and looted government offices and property. Even in Freetown (the capitol city), important commodities like gasoline were scarce. But the government hit rock bottom when it could no longer pay schoolteachers and the education system collapsed. Since only wealthy families could afford to pay private tutors, the bulk of Sierra Leone’s youth during the late 1980s roamed the streets aimlessly. As infrastructure and public ethics deteriorated in tandem, much of Sierra Leone’s professional class fled the country. By 1991, Sierra Leone was ranked as one of the poorest countries in the world, even though it benefited from ample natural resources including diamonds, gold, bauxite, rutile ([the] main ingredient in titanium), iron ore, fish, coffee, and cocoa.”

This became the foundation for the decade long civil war that would lay waste to the country and forever change its people.

A rebel army named the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) formed and funded by the criminal government of neighboring Liberia, under convicted war criminal Charles Taylor, grew and quickly took over many areas of the country. This rebel movement was a result of the intense interest in the diamond mines within Sierra Leone and Liberia, and also the large number of disaffected youth that were easily swayed by riches, power, and promise of adventure. The Government of Sierra Leone and its army were either unable or unwilling to effectively challenge the well-armed and funded rebel army. The RUF  tormented the cities and countryside forcing children to become soldiers, getting them hooked on hard drugs, and encouraging them to engage in unspeakable behavior aimed at terrorizing the civilians into subservience. The RUF would quickly become known for rape, murder, torture, burning, looting, and a terror previously unknown in the region.

Sierra Leone, like much of Africa consists of both dense cities and rural countryside.  People fled the cities for their ancestral  homes still occupied by family in their rural villages. Many of these families can trace their family histories in these villages back hundreds of years. This is their native land. These were agrarian villages where people were mostly farmers. It was West African slaves from these areas that would make the American colony and future state of Georgia’s largest export and cash crop rice, grown in the lowlands of the coast similar to their homeland. The average home was armed with only farming tools and instruments.

Making a living from the land for generations, extended families controlled large fields and swathes of land to graze their animals and grow food. They lived in tight ethnic communities where everyone knew everyone. These were not people that were concerned with national politics. They made little to no money from the diamonds, gold, minerals, and everything else that drove the international greed for the resources of their country. These were extended families living a peaceful existence in their ancestral land, practicing and maintaining their culture and history. These communities had strong men that were willing and qualified warriors but these men were the first targets of violence, and they were not prepared or trained for organized military threats on their communities.

Imagine the ease that a light rebel army would experience when pulling up to a sleepy farming village, rounding up the able-bodied men for torture or execution, the male children for conscription, and the women and girls for slaves or throw-away sex toys. Rural police stations were no match for the rebels and would flee, be killed, or join them. Many in these villages became entertainment for depraved rebels mad with drug use and traumatized by their own situations. Old men and women were chopped down with machetes or burned to death with kerosene or car tires. Babies’ heads were bashed in by gun butts or by soldiers’ boots. Sometimes the child’s own parents were forced to bludgeon them to death at the gunpoint of crazed men and boys in soldier uniforms. Pretty girls became a commodity traded by soldiers. People were shot indiscriminately in the street and in their homes.  Houses, farms and fields were burned.  The chopping off of limbs became an all too often exercise and horrific scene during such attacks. The movie Blood Diamond starring Leonardo Dicaprio used the backdrop of this war to tell its story and illustrated many of these documented atrocities. [JWR Adds: Blood Diamond provided some valuable insights into the depravity of man under the circumstances of civil war. The history of the 20th Century is replete with similar examples, worldwide. (West Africa was not unique!) It was a surprisingly good film, despite Dicaprio’s pitiful attempt at mimicking a Rhodesian accent.]

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