This is the remarkable and heroic story of a few hundred Kamajor traditional hunters who decided to reconquer Kono, their province. The rebels of the RUF (Revolutionary United Front) had been there for ten years, having pillaged it and chased out the population brutally in order to exploit its diamond deposits.

The Kamajors lived in refugee camps in Guinea, where the local population reluctantly gave them hospitality, until the rebels launched looting raids within the refugee camps themselves, causing havoc amongst the villagers, enraging the Guinean soldiers and bringing to an end the distribution of food by the UNHCR and NGOs.


The Kamajors then responded. They set up a structure of command and armed themselves with a few hunting weapons, went out to pursue the rebels and drive them away from the border. Their success came as a surprise even to themselves, and they set about recovering weapons and ammunition.

They then launched a major offensive with the objective of recapturing their regional capital, Koidu. They walked for four weeks, organising themselves into several units. Their code of ethics is such that they did not allow themselves to commit any exactions along the way.

As they neared their goal and the confrontation with the RUF rebels, they were met by a helicopter from the UNAMSIL ( United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone). The UN delegation tried to dissuade them from going any further. The Kamajors did reach Koidu, but they did so in UNAMSIL vehicles. Prevented from engaging in combat by the UN, they were unilaterally disarmed contrary to the assurances they had been given. The photographer was kept away by the UN so that he could not witness the disarmament.

Having left from a camp in the north, the Kamajor warriors were packed into a camp in the south. Meanwhile the RUF rebels continued to exploit the diamond mines while the UN turns a blind eye.

Instead of firmly confronting the rebels who use terror to rule over the country, the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (which in fact is the former African peacekeeping force, ECOMOG, led by Nigeria, which has been granted a mandate by the UN) has compromised itself with the rebels and given them in peace what they had not obtained in war. In preventing the patriots from resisting, the UNAMSIL has given the stronger side an unfair advantage and so humiliated their victims a little more.

The Kamajors are organised along the lines of a secret initiatory society. They have very specific rites with roots deep in the spirituality of Africa. This spirituality consists of three components: Ancestors, Spirits, and God. They practise a kind of magic which gives them supernatural powers but which can do nothing against the will of God. They use water as a medium for these powers which make them impervious to bullets and adversity. Each day at dawn and at dusk they recite a long Muslim and Christian prayer with ritual chants in their ethnic language, Kono. They are respected and admired by the people of their province.

April-May, 2001 - Sierra Leone - Guinea

Patrick Robert

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