Civil Defence Forces - History


The term “Civil Defense Forces” was first coined in between 1997 and 1998 by expatriated Sierra Leoneans in Monrovia. The title encompassed “disparate militias previously referred to by ethnically coded titles”. The CDF included soldiers from the militia groups the Kuranko tamaboro, the Mende kamajoisia, the Temne gbethis and kapras, and the Kono donsos. The goal of the overarching title was to create a sense of unity and prerogative between the independent militias. The largest group involved with the CDF was the kamajoisia, or kamajors. Traditionally, the title “kamajors” is used to refer to the Mende belief in “specialized hunters empowered to use both firearms and occult ‘medicines’ in pursuit of big game” and against all other forces that threatened Mende villages. In Mende culture, the identity of the kamajors is synonymous with protection, and represented a similar meaning when community defense militias mobilized in reaction to the Sierra Leonean government’s failure to defeat the rebel forces of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The militia groups became increasingly consolidated as civilians came to distrust the military, which they saw as being as dangerous as the rebel groups. They soon fell under the influence and direction of academic Dr Alpha Lavalie and the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) Secretary of State East, Lieutenant Tom Nyuma,. The CDF increased its prominence and influence following the election of the Sierra Leone People’s Party into office in 1996, which was largely composed of Mende members. Sam Hinga Norman, the Regent Chief of Jiama-Bongor chiefdom, became a key figure in the kamajor movement and was appointed as the SLPP's Deputy Minister of Defense. The CDF was widely viewed as the de facto security force for the SLPP, and would come into direct conflict with the military after the military’s ousting of the SLPP government in May 1997. In coordination with the Nigerian-based Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), the CDF was able to reinstate the SLPP to power in March 1998, and would be officially constituted until the civil war was officially declared over in January 2002.

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