Samuel Hinga Norman

Samuel Hinga Norman (January 1, 1940February 22 2007) was a Sierra Leonean politician from the Mende tribe. He was the founder and leader of the traditional Civil Defence Forces, commonly known as the Kamajors. The Kamajors fought under the supported the government of Ahmed Tejan Kabbah against the Revolutionary United Front(RUF), which was led by Foday Sankoh and funded in part by Charles Taylor of Liberia. On 7 March 2003, however, Hinga Norman was indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for war crimes and crimes against humanity. He died on the 22 February 2007 in Dakar, Senegal while undergoing medical treatment.


Sam Hinga Norman was born January 1 1940 in Mongeri,Bo District, in the Southern Province of Sierra Leone. He joined the Sierra Leone Army in 1959 and served until 1972, ascending to the rank of captain. He also attended school during this time and received a diploma from the Officer's School of Aldershot in the United Kingdom.

Political Service to Sierra Leone

Entering politics, Hinga Norman became Deputy Minister of Defence, serving from April 20 1998 to May 21 2002). He then served as Minister of the Interior from May 21 2002 to March 10 2004, overlapping his indictment at the Special Court. He also served as the national director of the CDF, and tapped the traditional groups called the Kamajors to serve as a militia.


The Kamajors are a group of traditional hunters from the south and east of the country. They were originally employed by local chiefs, but under the leadership of Hinga Norman were used by President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah in 1996 to replace mercenaries (Executive Outcomes and Sandline International, both of whom helped train the force) as the security force of the government. The force eventually consisted of over 20,000 men, dwarfing the size of the army and the rebel groups. The Sierra Leone Army (SLA) was at this time supporting former coup leader Foday Sankoh against the Kabbah government. The Kamajors integrated themselves into the ECOMOG (a Nigeria led force) counteroffensive to reinstate Kabbah in 1998 after Freetown was taken by the Charles Taylor backed and Foday Sankoh led Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFCR), which was a combination of the rebel (RUF) and the former SLA.

Problems of the Kamajors

The Karmajors were not a professionally trained army. They were also made up by soldiers whose allegiances were not always clear. Many fighters in the civil war fought on different sides at different times. This led to the coinage of the term sobel or soldier by day, rebel by night, especially in connection with the SLA. The Kamajors too have been accused of pillaging, terrorizing, and killing. Less ambiguous is the accusation of recruiting soldiers under the age of 15, in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone

Sam Hinga Norman was indicted on March 7 2003 by the Special Court for Sierra Leone (TSSL). He was arrested on March 10 and plead not guilty on the 15 of the same month. His indictment accused him of

  • crimes against humanity for: inhuman murders and acts;
  • violations of Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions as well as Additional Protocol II for: acts of terrorism and collective punishment against the civil population, reached with the physical and mental integrity and the life in particular cruel treatment, plundering;
  • other serious violations of the humane international law due to enrolment of children of less than 15 years in the armed forces

Norman's trial then began on June 3 2004 along with those of Moinina Fofana and Allieu Kondewa. At the outset of his trial, Norman dissolved his legal team and stated that he wished to represent himself. He died while imprisoned during his trial.

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