JUNE 2, 1997 - THAT NIGERIAN NAVAL BOMBARDMENT STORY. WHAT REALLY HAPPENED?
In another section of this edition journalist Richie Awoonor Gordon gave his account of what happened on June 2 as the junta made up of rogue troops and rebels advanced on Nigerian troop positions at the Mammy Yoko hotel.
June 2, 1997 will always be remembered by those who witnessed what really happened and lived to this day to recall how propaganda was used to convince the outside world that Nigerians were raining bombs on the capital Freetown. It also provided the excuse for the likes of John Karefa-Smart and Abass Bundu, both failed Presidential elections candidates to report to the world just how wicked the Nigerian forces have been to Sierra Leoneans in their own God-given land.
Residents along Wilkinson Road at the time recall that no bomb from Nigerian ships offshore ever landed in Freetown as the junta and its supporters were claiming. They recall how a masked dancer dressed in leaves and in the thick of the "celebrating" crowd was killed instantly when mortars placed on positions on the Wilberforce hill area landed in the crowd killing many as well as horribly wounding even more.
The junta helicopter gunship also proved effective in the campaign of murder and deceit as its guns and bombs were used to spray civilians.
At the military hospital, called 34, the stench of blood, fresh blood intermingled with the groans of survivors as doctors and nurses battled to save those they can help.
The smell/stench of blood hung thick in the air - the same as is to be found in a busy cattle abattoir.
Medical staff on duty could not help noticing the characteristics of the wounds and as trained staff were all too aware that this was the handiwork of the junta. They dared not speak their minds nor question the milling junta soldiers and RUF rebels, all armed to the teeth and ready to shed more blood in covering up their deed.
The deaths, already put on the sounds of Nigerian guns earlier in the day, was capitalised upon as the first phase in a programme to discredit the Nigerian forces was put in operation.
One medical doctor, a certain Dr Sesay (now deceased) also knew what had happened but he too dared not say things as they were. He would have been killed outright for making his suspicions public - such was the desperation of the junta.
Indeed at the hospital, junta activists were heard saying "this is what will happen if the Nigerian plans for military intervention goes ahead. It is you the civilians who will suffer. We are trained soldiers and we will ensure that we don't get hurt...but you civilians - it can only be death as you can see".
It took two who dared say it publicly and out of the reach of the junta's bloody talons, James Jonah and Desmond Luke to inform the world through the BBC and other international media outlets that the story about Nigerian bombs or shells landing on Freetown were not true and that the junta was using the first misleading sounds of shelling from the sea as the perfect excuse for the deliberate killing of unarmed civilians.
Indeed when one senior soldier at the time, who had packed in his lot with the junta was asked to show where some of the Nigerian shells had landed, he took the curious reporter to somewhere around the Juba barracks where the reporter was shown what looked like holes that could have been made by a mortar bomb that had not hit its intended target.
All the one flat apartments/lean-tos that pass as barracks housing soldiers were unscathed and looking their usual self....and yet this senior officer wanted to be believed that the holes were caused by shells from Nigerian offshore batteries!!!!
Such was the initial "success" of the June 2 deceit that it was not surprising, say watchers, that a similar devious plan was hatched for Mabaylla (September 3-4 1997) after Nigerian soldiers of the ECOMOG force foiled the junta's many attempts at further acts of mass murder.
Ten years on, the lie remains on file with grieving relations still awaiting an investigation into those June 2 deaths as well as, more importantly, holding to account all those who were involved in the planning and execution of the murders of unarmed civilians on June 2, 1997.
Those involved in that cover-up must also now come out, ten years on and tell the true story of June 2, 1997 - the day the junta claimed it was the Nigerian shells that claimed the lives of innocent civilians.