Kamajor: So Called Immortal Warriors in Sierra Leone
In fashion at least they were no less dreadful than the rebels they were fighting. Ordinarily, they were hunters, not of beast, but of human beings - those perceived as enemies. Kamajor in Mende means hunter, a title previously held by Mende warriors, elder Mende artisan hunters. The largest deployment of the Kamajor before the civil war was during the Hut Tax War (1898) when chiefs administered the Ngoyia (unity) oath to members of the poro society (male secret society).
While the original idea behind the Kamajor during the civil war (1991 - 2002) may have come from members of the Eastern Region Defense Committee, it was Chief Samuel Hinga Norman, a military man and Regent of Jaiama Bongor Chiefdom, who led the military training and strategic deployment.
The Kamjor military training was mixed with the mysticism of the poro society. This is why Alieu Kondewa, a local magician was Chief Initiator of men and boys into a society that was believed to protect them from bullets as long as they adhered to certain restrictions. While the Kamajor of ancient times were meritorious title holders in society, the modern version required only membership of the poro society. This is why many child soldiers were enlisted into the militia.
As part of their rituals and ghostly appearance the Kamajor were usually adorned with human body parts, clothing dug out of graves, and other talismanic ornaments. They walked around with all kinds of weapons and juju strings like Zombies out for blood.
While the Kamajor and other Civil Defense Forces such as Tamaboro, Gbeti, Donso, etc. were later accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, at some point during the Sierra Leonean Civil War, they were the only defense for civilians in the face of rebels or rogue soldiers who were forever ready to commit horrendous crimes against them. It is for these reasons that former British High Commissioner Peter Penfold referred to Chief Norman as the Winston Churchill of Sierra Leone.
Chief Norman, who also served as Deputy Defense Minister, died in 2007 while standing trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone.