MSF 1998 Report: Atrocities against civilians in Sierra Leone

From 6th April 1998, the surgical teams of the international medical aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) at Connaught Hospital, Freetown, started recording an alarming increase in the number of patients suffering from severe mutilations. This report provides further details of the injuries inflicted on the people admitted to hospital, as well as a summary of in-depth interviews with over 70 survivors conducted by MSF medical staff. The victims, mostly civilians, originate from the north-eastern region of Kono, where insecurity is still rife.

The history of Sierra Leone and the recent outbreaks of fighting need little introduction. The first democratically elected president Ahmad Kabbah was ousted in a coup in May 1997 led by Johnny Paul Koromah, commander of the Sierra Leone military junta, with the support of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The RUF/AFRC remained in power until February 1998, when, after failed talks in Conakry, the West African troops of ECOMOG (Economic Community of West African States Cease-Fire Monitoring Group) forced the coup leaders and their followers out of Freetown and into the isolated areas upcountry.

While the capital Freetown, major towns and villages are now held by Ecomog and relatively safe for civilians, large areas in the countryside around these locations remain under the control of the former Junta. Fighting is currently under way in the north, west and east of the country.

Between 6th April and 4th May 1998, the Connaught Hospital in Freetown received 115 patients, most of whom are severely mutilated. Connaught Hospital, which receives MSF support, is Sierra LeoneÃ?¹s only hospital with an orthopaedic surgeon.