Civil Defense Forces/ Kamajors/ Kapras/ Donso/ Gbethis (Sierra Leone)

Country: Sierra Leone
Details of Formation: The term “Civil Defense Forces” (CDF) was first used between 1997 and 1998 and refers to several militia groups made up of traditional hunters like the Kamajors, Kapras or Gbethis. The goal of this umbrella term was to create a sense of unity between the independent militias. The CDF fought in the Sierra Leone War. They became increasingly consolidated as civilians started to distrust the military and sought to defend themselves. They were widely seen as the security force of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (Wikipedia).
Details of Termination: Although some parts of the CDF still exist, the official disarming process was concluded on January 17th 2002. Subsequently, the UN International Court accused CDF leaders for having committed atrocities.
Purpose: The group’s purpose was to fight RUF rebels as the military is seen as unfit to fulfil this task and provide security within their localities. They oftentimes captured RUF rebels.
Organisation: The leader of the CDF was Samuel Hinga Norman with Moinina Fofana as second in command. Allieu Kondewa was the military commander of the group. They were all put on trial in 2004 during the Special Court for Sierra Leone that was set up in cooperation with the UN (Wikipedia).
Weapons and Training: The government provided guns to the CDF. They defended their communities mostly by using hunting rifles but when they were disarmed, CDF members also handed in some assault rifles, including AK-47s (Amnesty International 2006).
Size: As many as 20,000 fighters are estimated to fight in the various militia groups.
Reason for Membership: no information
Treatment of Civilians: There have been several accounts of CDF members abusing children. They were indoctrinated and forcefully subordinated as child soldiers (Wikipedia). They were reportedly responsible for many cases of torture and extra-judicial executions of captured rebel combatants and civilians suspected of collaboration with rebel forces (Amnesty International 2006).
Other Information: The CDF had around 11,000 child soldiers among its ranks. The largest group within the CDF were the Kamajors (for more information see Kamajor group).
References: Amnesty International. 2006. “The call for tough arms controls: Voices from Sierra Leone.”

Wikipedia. “Civil Defense Forces”.