Panhard VBL recce vehicle and Pinzgauer All Terrain Vehicle on ECOMOG operations in Freetown, Sierra Leone. 1999

Panhard VBL recce vehicle and Pinzgauer All Terrain Vehicle on ECOMOG operations in Freetown, Sierra Leone. 1999
By Bill Vann
21 February 1998

Following a nine-day offensive and a bombardment of the city of Freetown,Nigerian military forces succeeded in toppling the military junta which seized power in the West African state of Sierra Leone in May of last year.

Nigerian troops, operating under the auspices of a West African peacekeeping force known as ECOMOG, took control of Freetown on February 13. The fighting left thousands dead and wounded and turned tens of thousands into refugees. Sierra Leone faces the most severe famine threat of any African country, with as many as half a million in danger of starving. Looting broke out in the capital and other cities and there were reports of crowds killing supporters of the junta in the streets.

This is the second major intervention by Nigerian forces in West Africa in the guise of peacekeepers. ECOMOG was created as the vehicle for Nigeria’s
intervention into the eight-year-long civil war in Liberia. It began its Liberian intervention in 1990 with the principal aim of preventing warlord Charles Taylor from coming to power.

After seven years of fighting and tens of thousands of deaths, the mission was declared a success following elections which placed Taylor, who had reached an understanding with Nigeria’s ruling clique, in the presidency.

In Sierra Leone, the stated mission of the Nigerian-dominated peacekeepers was to restore the country’s elected president Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah to power. Kabbah was overthrown on May 25 of last year, in the third coup attempt launched by the military during his 14 months in office.

Nigerian commanders claimed that the decision to launch a final offensive against the military junta of Major Johnny-Paul Koromah was provoked by an incident in which a Nigerian soldier stepped on a land mine. In reality, Nigeria had grown increasingly impatient with the junta’s stalling on an accord reached last October calling for the disarming and demobilization of both the junta’s forces and militias backing Kabbah, and the reinstatement of Kabbah’s government by April 22.

Nigeria has assumed its internationally-
recognized role as the chief enforcer of constitutional order in West Africa despite the fact that the country itself is ruled by a corrupt and despotic military regime. Headed by General Sani Abacha, this dictatorship came to power following the abrogation of the election won by Moshood Abiola five years ago. Abiola remains imprisoned as do hundreds of other opposition leaders, trade union officials, journalists and accused military opponents of the regime.

To retain its power the regime has resorted to mass arrests, terror and executions, such as the 1995 hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa and his associates, as well as assassinations, as in the case of Abiola’s wife.

For Abacha and his cronies, the peacekeeping role has proven a godsend. Just as their regime has robbed Nigeria of staggering amounts of wealth, so too it has managed to turn war into a very profitable business. Nigerian business interests connected with the military have carved out a major role in Liberia and are doubtless pursuing a similar path in Sierra Leone. Others have grown rich through war profiteering, supplying arms, food, fuel and other supplies both to the ECOMOG forces and the various factions in the war-torn West African countries themselves.

Nigeria’s function as peacekeeper has likewise helped legitimize the regime internationally. There might seem to be a contradiction in Abacha playing the role of chief enforcer of United Nations
Security Council resolutions in West Africa at the same time as the Clinton administration is denouncing Saddam Hussein as a “tyrant” and invoking the resolutions of the Security Council as a pretext for launching an attack on Iraq. One word, oil, goes a long way toward explaining this apparent anomaly. In the case of Iraq, military action helps solidify US control over the vast reserves in the Persian Gulf.

In Nigeria, however, Abacha is already safeguarding the profits of the US oil conglomerates, while the fate of the other impoverished countries of West Africa is of little consequence to Washington. However, as Saddam Hussein’s case proves, there is nothing permanent in such relations. Abacha may find himself one day transformed into Washington’s bogeyman and a target for US attack,should the interests of the US-based multinationals so require.

Most of the approximately $12 billion in oil pumped out of Nigeria every year goes to the US. Oil accounts for 95 percent of Nigeria’s foreign earnings. The exploitation of this natural resource,
however, has benefited only the oil companies and Nigeria’s ruling clique, at the expense of the country’s 90 million people. More than 30 percent of Nigeria’s national income presently goes to service a $30 billion foreign debt, incurred under a structural adjustment program imposed by the International Monetary Fund.

Unemployment has soared as the value of the Nigerian currency has plummeted. Under the Abacha regime Chevron and Mobil oil, which are tied to Bank of America and Citibank respectively, have managed to strengthen their grip over
Nigerian oil, at the expense of their French, British and Italian competitors. As long as these interests are served, the Clinton administration and Congress are content to use Nigeria as a regional
policeman and instrument for suppressing the strivings of the Nigerian workers and oppressed


About beegeagle

BEEG EAGLE -perspectives of an opinionated Nigerian male with a keen interest in Geopolitics, Defence and Strategic Studies
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  1. beegeagle says:



    June 03, 1997
    FREETOWN, Sierra Leone

    Fighting eased in Sierra Leone’s capital at nightfall Monday after a day of shelling from Nigerian gunboats and fighting between Nigerian troops and rebels allied to leaders of an 8-day-old coup.

    President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was
    ousted by the military May 25 in what was the West African nation’s third coup in five years.

    The International Committee of the Red
    Cross brokered a cease-fire to allow the
    evacuation of more than 600 civilians
    trapped by fighting around a hotel.

    Nigerian ships west of Freetown began
    bombarding the headquarters of coup
    leaders after talks between Nigerian and British diplomats and the coup leaders collapsed Sunday night. At least seven people died in the attack and fighting onshore.

    Mutinous troops responded by taking aim at the beachfront Mammy Yoko Hotel, where hundreds of Nigerian troops sent in to back the ousted government have set up a command post.

  2. beegeagle says:


  3. doziex says:

    Yeah Beeg, that was a moment in time. When the british spin doctors( BBC & CO) were beginning to out maneuver an unfocused nigerian media, as to who saved the day in sierra leone.

    By threatening to shoot the much better equipped british troops in all their world power, NATO membership glory, it is clear that the nigerian troops were merely acting out of frustration.

    As they slowly watched the UK use their press, and the UN to discount and water down the primacy of nigerian army’s sacrifice in the survival of the sierra leonean state.

    Meanwhile, stateside, neither the nigerian press nor politicians could be bothered.

  4. beegeagle says:



  5. beegeagle says:


    ECOMOG commanders said Friday that
    junta soldiers and RUF fighters have
    regrouped in towns along the Liberian
    border. “The combined rebel forces have
    in recent days been making desperate
    and futile attempts to retake Kenema,” the commanders said in a statement.

    Detained officers of Sierra Leone’s
    military junta are being taken from jail to help clear mines they planted to slow the advance of ECOMOG troops, ECOMOG task force commander Colonel Max Khobe said Friday. “We have taken those officers of the AFRC who planted the mines from the prison, and they are going to remove these mines,” Khobe said.

    “Many of these mines were planted on the roads. So far we have discovered 115 anti-personnel mines and 114 anti-tank mines.” Khobe said the mines posed a danger in areas already secured by ECOMOG. “We are warning people to keep to the normal places they visit and not to stray,” he said.”Several areas around Freetown were mined by the deposed junta to stop ECOMOG from entering Freetown or the towns and villages close to it.”

    Radio 98.1 reported Friday that British landmine clearing equipment was on its way to Sierra Leone. Khobe told reporters that roads eastward from Freetown to towns held by junta troops had been mined,slowing an advance that had been planned for this week.

    “We have control of large parts of the east and south of the country and very soon we will move into other parts of the hinterland,” Khobe said. “My next move will be to Kabala to the north, as I have learned the junta are based there,” he said, adding that he had maps of areas mined by AFRC soldiers in and around Freetown.

    Military transport planes have stepped up deliveries of logistical equipment in the past few days,and on Thursday night a military convoy arrived by road with three howitzers.

  6. beegeagle says:


    28 September: ECOMOG task force commander Colonel Max Khobe said
    Sunday that ECOMOG forces would tighten the blockade of Sierra Leone’s harbour, saying his naval unit “will intervene in full force to enforce sanctions and embargo mandated by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).”

    Khobe did not specify when the action would take place. “The naval boats will police the length and breadth of Sierra Leone’s territorial waters to make sure that even canoes and trawlers don’t dodge the ECOMOG net,” he said.

    “We are taking over from the air and infantry wings of ECOMOG and the naval ships will now carry out most of the military operations effected by the ECOMOG jets.”

    A statement issued by the AFRC on Monday said Sierra Leone would react “positively” to any attempt by ECOMOG “to take over two major ports as well as other miniports” along the coast.

    The Nigerian newspaper Sunday Tribune reported on Sunday that Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi told the United Nations Security Council Nigeria will continue to negotiate with the AFRC as long as the AFRC government does not give preconditions.

  7. Blackrev says:

    As usual, a lot to be learnt from a blog like Beeg’s.

    Back then my dad who was into politics was alway watching BBC and CNN for updates about the war (as I wasn’t interested) and I would get updates from him. I remember he always talking about protecting these brave men with vests and necessary gears that would have reduced the numbers of casualties. That if these men can live beyond the war, Nigeria will have more than a number of experienced army in warfare.
    Fast farward to 2013. Although a lot still needs to be done, our men are finally getting the attention they deserve.Kudos to the Nigerian military and to you Oga Beeg, without whose blog these things would have been just a faded memory for a lot of people.

  8. beegeagle says:

    Thanks, my brother. My mind tells me that it is our duty to document for posterity and remember in perpetuity the scacrifices made and to always honour the memory of gallant troops who gave an arm and a leg, many hundreds sacrificing their lives, in the wars and insurgencies in Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Bakassi Peninsula, the Niger Delta and in the Far North.

    For our tomorrow, their gave their today. ECOMOG – a great way of life!!

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