West Side Boys (Sierra Leone)

Country: Sierra Leone
Details of Formation: The West Side Boys emerged as a splinter group of the military and were later part of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), a group of soldiers that allied itself with RUF in the late 1990s after they seized control in Sierra Leone by ousting President Kabbah through a coup. However, in 1999, as a result of a failed peace accord, they transformed into a pro-government militia, supporting the government in their fight against RUF rebels (Wikipedia, Utas/Hörgel 2008).
Details of Termination: In 1999, the West Side Boys became involved in the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration process. However, the demobilisation was interrupted by the reappearance of RUF rebels, posing a threat to Freetown. Consequently, the West Side Boys were rearmed and fought for the Kabbah government. In 2000, members of the West Side Boys turned their guns on their government allies (Utas/Hörgel 2008).
Purpose: The West Side Boys safeguarded Freetown from the advancing RUF rebels in 2000. They worked together with Civil Defence Forces and the Sierra Leonean Army. The militia then battled to protect the government they had fought against during the preceding three years (Utas/Hörgel 2008).
Organisation: Some of the senior West Side Boys’ commanders had been personal bodyguards in the NPRC government (military junta 1992-1996). Many of the initial leaders shared a background in die Sierra Leonean Army and the ongoing close cooperation contributed to the militia’s effectiveness (Utas/Hörgel 2008).
Weapons and Training: The group utilised conflict diamonds to purchase many of their weapons, that included AK-47s, several other guns and rifles and mortars. Most vehicles they used were hijacked from UN food convoys (Wikipedia).
Size: The group size had expanded to about 600 members but later suffered from around 200 defections (Wikipedia).
Reason for Membership: Besides former soldiers, the group also included children who were abducted by recruiters after their parents were killed (Wikipedia).
Treatment of Civilians: One news source suggests that the West Side Boys conducted a series of rapes on defenceless civilians.
Other Information: --
References: Utas, Mats/Jörgel, Magnus. 2008. "The West Side Boys: military navigation in the Sierra Leone civil war." The Journal of Modern African Studies 46 (3): 487-511.

Wikipedia. “West Side Boys”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Side_Boys