January 6th 1999 or J-6 is a solemn day for Sierra Leoneans. This is the day that the civil war officially arrived on the doorsteps of the capital city. Sometimes called ‘Operation No Living Thing’, or ‘Invasion of Freetown’ it was on this day the rebels of the Revolutionary United Front tortured, raped, and massacred the residents of the city.
I had fled the country 2 years earlier and was living in the US. But the stories of what happened to our brothers and sisters in Freetown on that day will haunt me for the rest of myself.
Today we remember all those who died in Sierra Leone on that day and on every other day during the entire war.
We shall never forget.
More about J-6
The AFRC/RUF offensive against Freetown began on December 20, 1998, but the “rebels” entered Freetown only on January 6, 1999. According to a doctor, on January 7there were already 200 corpses in Connaught Hospital’s morgue, then occupied by the RUF/AFRC (Human Rights Watch, 1999b: 39). During the following few days, groups within the AFRC/RUF raped and mutilated and killed civilians, but it seems that most of the atrocities were committed during the second phase of the offensive, as ECOMOG and pro-government forces (Kamajors, Special Security Division [SSD]) launched a successful counter-offensive that pushed the “rebels” out of Freetown and increased their eagerness for revenge. This counter-offensive began on January 10. On January 22 the battle began for Calaba town (Human Rights Watch, 1999b: 23). In the following days the RUF/AFRC offensive had been defeated and the second retreat of the group from Freetown areas was to be an even more violent scorched-earth campaign than what took place the year before.
– Culled from Mass Violence
On January 6, 1999, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) entered the capital city of Sierra Leone, Freetown, as part of an offensive to overthrow the government of the All Peoples Congress. The RUF rebels attacked the city and randomly massacred its inhabitants. The rebels gunned down fleeing civilians, burned homes, committed rape, amputated limbs, and gouged out eyes. The RUF brought down an almost arbitrary wave of ruthless terror on Freetown that claimed more than 7000 lives (Human Rights Watch 1999).
One RUF rebel stopped a Freetown inhabitant, James Kajue, at gunpoint as he was trying to flee the city in his stationwagon with his family. The rebel demanded money from Mr. Kajue before another rebel approached the scene and said, “Why are you wasting your time with these civilians? Just kill them all.” The RUF rebel then emptied his AK-47 into the car, killing six members of James Kajue’s family, including his infant grandson (Human Rights Watch 1999).
– Copyrite Bryte GreenStein/NYU