PRESENTATION TO THE TRC ON THE THEME: THE DECEMBER 1992 COUP TRIALS AND EXECUTIONS
BY BRIGADIER (RETD) KELLIE H. CONTEH
Introduction (Selected Paragraphs)
1. I am thankful to God Almighty for me to be here today to witness the beginning of the healing process of what many of us thought a couple of years ago would never come - and that if it came we would not be here. I want to thank the TRC for inviting me to contribute in throwing light on the terrible tragedy that befell our nation and perhaps in that way guide us away from a similar tragedy in future. I have been invited to present on the theme: The December 1992 Coup Trials And Executions” focusing on some specific questions which the TRC has posed.
15. New sets of challenges were introduced into our already troubled Army when a group of young officers and their men on April 29 1992, overthrew the APC Government. Most troubling was that the coup makers made up of young and inexperienced officers and soldiers constituting the core of the regime had very little or no trust for virtually the rest of the Army. Although they replaced the APC, which we all had experienced had become a bad political entity the NPRC was no better.
17. The coup was a popular one and it quickly gained the support of the military and the public alike. But like many coups I have read or heard about the NPRC coup makers overthrew the APC Government only to replace it with a Government far worse in many respects.
18. Dubious business people both nationals and foreigners had a field day seeking all sorts of contracts to buy just any type of military hardware for the Army. They even procured amphibious tanks!
Any Specific Knowledge of the 1992 Coup and of the Events leading to the Executions, including Judicial Processes for Trials
26. I do not mean to be brash in my submission under this topic but please permit me to say simply that I was not aware of the alleged coup of December 1992 nor was I aware of any judicial process for the related trials. Whatever I heard came from hearsay alleging that some officers at Pademba Road Prisons together with some others outside were planning a coup. I was never convinced and I am still not convinced that there was any coup plans for real. If there was, I have always questioned, why did they not arrange for a Courts Martial trial. If there was any Court Martial, my department would have been copied the convening Instructions. There was no convening instruction copied to us to my knowledge.
27. When some of us raised the question as to whether they were tried, very muffled answers came back. And two quite morally bankrupt senior officers at some stage said they carried out the so-called trials. I knew they were lying and trying to cover up the tragic mess the hasty decision had led the regime. One of the two officers was himself executed after the Court Martial trials that followed the removal of the AFRC regime. The other is alive and still serving. He should be in a better position to talk about the judicial processes for the trials if indeed there was any.
28. My questioning of those types of ill-informed decisions was always interpreted as being anti-NPRC. They always had more than a handful of sycophants who associated themselves with such decisions and their overall reckless behaviour. Their argument being - “Nar de bobor dem Govment”. Well, I hope that having gone through the disgrace they suffered when the Army finally collapsed, they who argued that the NPRC could do whatever pleases them because “Nar dem Govment” will by now have learnt their lessons that the Army is meant to serve the interest of the state and not any political entity.
The Peculiarities of the Situation and how these played out in the Political and Social contexts in Sierra Leone
29. There were so many strange things that happened during the NPRC regime. However, whatever they were, one could arguably suggest that they were a violent extension of similar happenings during the last few years of the APC.
30. The NPRC established Supreme Council, which was supposed to be the highest forum on National Policies. But like the APC, many key issues of Government was discussed and decided by an inner circle of the coup makers themselves. In many instances such inner circle forum lacked the expertise or guidance to make informed decisions. The decision for the executions of the alleged coup plotters of December 1992 was one such decision. One would have expected the Supreme Council to meet. But that did not happen. Instead, unbeknown to many of us, the inner circle perhaps with some of their friends, met at some place, cooked up some theory and decided to execute the alleged plotters. A similar decision was taken by the inner circle when one Private Turay was abducted from 34 Military Hospital having been shot by an NPRC officer for allegedly plotting a coup. I never saw the soldier again.
31. Another strange aspect of the allegations and the executions was the seeming targeting of Limba Officers. Many NPRC Officers developed an uncompromising attitude against many Limba Officers from the day they took over - a phenomenon that continued perhaps till the end of the NPRC regime. They had come to believe that the Limba Officers had been the benefactors of the APC rule and therefore should not be trusted. I personally found this development very very unfair. I found it very unfair because I knew of many Limba Officers who suffered like anyone else during the APC regime. I knew of Limba Officers who genuinely spoke out against certain APC bad Governance practices. I found it quite disturbing for especially one of the most outspoken Limba Officers who consistently spoke against certain reckless behaviour of the APC to be accused and executed just because of who or what he was. A trial could have allowed for their defence and the truth would have been most likely established.
32. These executions impacted badly on the fighting spirit of many Limba Officers and indeed many other Northerners. The event was on the lips of many serving officers and man either in the field or at home with their families. It was seen as a witch-hunt of particular groups of people and it created distrust amongst the officers.
33. There was a general cry from the International Community of foul play by the regime. It lost some face and I do not think the regime recovered since. The situation only got worse with a lot more excessive behaviour than many had imagined.
The Consequences of all the foregoing...
34. The cumulative effect of the ill-informed strategies and tactic used by the NPRC and their general bad behaviour both publicly and privately was that the RUF remained undefeated, and an Army more undisciplined, confused, disorganised and far less motivated than the one they inherited from the APC.
35. Ranks within the military no longer meant anything unless you had a political office attached to it. They were dished out so frequently and were not attached to the length of service and experience of the holders. It created a breakdown of the promotion system and consequently affected the morale of the troops.
36. Hitherto respectful soldiers also learnt from NPRC and their bodyguards a culture of intimidation against civilians. Whilst this was not itself introduced only when the NPRC came to power, it became an entrenched and near-institutionalised culture during the NPRC regime.
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