BY MARCUS A. BANGURA ([email protected])
Friday, 19th August 2022.
The August 10 peaceful protest and its tragic end had come and gone but left scars of bitter memories of barbaric, brutal, inhuman and savage killings of Sierra Leoneans by Sierra Leoneans, including civilians and security personnel in which nearly 30 people have been killed with the destruction of public and private properties as well as alleged extra-judicial killings during and after the protests as well as the arrests and detention of hundreds of persons in the country.
Given the above, the propagated peaceful protest which started with a Sit-at-home on 8th and 9th August, reached its climax on August 10 but went off the cuff and like a powder keg exploded and degenerated into a titanic tragedy leaving behind a bloodbath perpetrated and unleashed by Sierra Leoneans, mainly armed security personnel and peaceful protesters. The violence was characterized by barbarism, savagery, hooliganism and insensitivity in broad daylight in gross disregard for law and order, peace and security, and without a spectre of reflection of the carnages of the civil war that left thousands of Sierra Leoneans killed and maimed and properties destroyed.
According to sources, the August 10 peaceful protest which turned violent was propagated by some Sierra Leoneans living abroad under the canopy of PPP (Peoples Power in Politics) through social media. It was imbibed by frustrated youths who were overwhelmed by the high cost of living and underrated by state authorities, with either side turning blind eyes and deaf ears to the upshot the protest will bring on peace and security to the country, governance and businesses, and above all, on innocent citizens.
Examining the impasse, it goes without saying that the failings of the government to recognize the protest and describing it as faceless; the intensity of the faceless organizers calling for the protest at all cost and the desperation of the protesters to come out in large numbers and voice their grievances and the reaction of security forces, especially the police, who believed the protest was illegal and must be prevented at all cost and view it as an attempt to attack and overthrow the government beyond the ballot box, were the main drivers that precipitated the clashes between the police and protesters, resulting in the tragedy of August 10.
In our estimation, Citizen’s Forum for Democratic Accountability (C4D) thinks that the August 10 tragedy and loss of emotions have been driven by deep-rooted bitterness nursed over the years due to wounds inflicted in the past and left uncured to a point of diminishing returns in which armed security personnel and unarmed protesters refused to strike a balance of peace, tolerance and love for one another as Sierra Leoneans but rather relegated themselves to acrimonious hooliganism and barbarism as if they were remotely controlled and regulated as stooges and in turn, gesticulated with aggravation and destruction of lives and properties.
The situation became so hot-blooded that the spate of violence became unhidden as disturbing footage or images of scenes of unspeakable carnages quickly proliferates the social media with the roof of disorderly behaviour leaking more than ever, in addition to the prior ranting of hate speeches due to the polarization of society stimulated by the spate of unemployment, inflation, high cost of living, poor conditions of service, police brutality, arrests and detentions during protests, the challenges of good governance and the independence of the judiciary and human rights abuses as well as alleged political intrigues, manipulations and marginalization among others. The polarization of society has given rise to divisions, suspicions and distrusts among university political brotherhoods, civil society organizations, youths, politicians, public and civil servants, teachers and in every facet of the lives of the people in the country, compounded with lack of tolerance, love and respect for divergent views and the criminalization of perceived political affiliations among others.
It is an indisputable fact that the August 10 mishap has inevitably jogs our minds back to the 11 years of ravage and blood-spilling civil war (1991-2002) that left thousands of Sierra Leoneans killed and maimed in cold blood and property destroyed for which the Human Rights Watch asserted that ‘’over 50,000 people were killed and over one million people were displaced and fled the country’’ Despite the devastating effects of the civil war, it seems that Sierra Leoneans are in total oblivion of the past carnages, deep scars, anguishes and savageries left by the civil war by which the country has geometrically retrogressed and shattered.
Its high time, school going pupils in primary and secondary school are taught about the historiography of the civil war and by extension the history of Sierra Leone to enable them to comprehend the full chronicles, events, emotions and dramas of what happened in the past compared to the present for the benefit of the future and tell what works and what does not work.
In our frustration and sadness, the past and present governments have done nothing to include the historiography of the civil war into the school curriculum and make civic education expedient and compulsory in schools, irrespective of the fact that the school curriculum had been restructured several times. Moreover, it is sad that governments have treated the recommendations of the TRC Report with a pinch of salt, an important subject matter that should be included in the school curriculum. C4D is of the view that history is like a laboratory in which we experiment with the past in our quest to know why people behave in a particular manner, understanding the political culture, customs and traditions of our people to enable the transformation, detection and prevention of disasters or combats events that will create unrest. The absence of history and inadequate civic education in school, as a compulsory subject, is a major factor in our problems, and August 10 is no exception.
Whilst C4D subscribes to the government’s move to investigate the impasse and bring the alleged perpetrators to justice, we beseeched the government to equally establish an independent, impartial and inclusive investigative body that should be devoid of security personnel to build public confidence, avert suspicion and distrust since security personnel and protesters perpetrated the killings and destruction of properties. And, to keep the peace and maintain security, C4D also calls on the president and state authorities to take advantage of the present situation and heal the wounds of the past by swallowing the bitter pills and imbibing the ideals of peaceful dialogue and alternative dispute resolution as recommended by well-meaning Sierra Leoneans, civil society, the international community, and above all, the President of ECOWAS but anything other than that will not only undermine the peace and security but will destroy the good image of Sierra Leone as one of the most peaceful countries in the world.
In conclusion, C4D calls on all Sierra Leoneans to be mindful of lost time because time once lost is never regained unless we transform our crude mentality of hate, intolerance, divisions, regionalism and tribalism into tolerance, respect and love for one another, otherwise, we are doomed for continuous deadlock and adversity. Therefore, let’s consider ourselves as one country, one people with one future, for we will either rise together or fall altogether.
SYLVIA IS BEGGING DR. LAHAI
Hello Dr. John. This is Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden OOR. I note your Open Letter. However, this looks too loooooooong to read. When will I be able to read all this Sir? Also, why do you write an Open Letter to someone but do not draw the person’s attention? That’s not nice.
Why do you also allow your Page to be used to throw nasty abuses at the Subject of your writings? See the kinds of trash being thrown at me on your Page. It’s uncivilized and uncouth of them Dr. John and you should be able to delete such 🗑️ trash.
Anyway, without more, let me inform you that Sierra Leone CANNOT lose MCC funding because we fight Domestic Terrorists. No way. Oosai you pull that idea??????
Infact, there is a 32 pages publication by the current President Joe Biden administration on the importance of fighting against in-country Terrorism.
The Biden document diligently explains in the words of President Joe Biden himself as to why we should NOT dismiss Domestic Terrorism of the kind we saw on August 10th where police officers were targeted, stoned or macheted to death and their corpses set alight on the instructions of Adebayo.
I urge you to get a copy of that White House document and read it. It will take you out of your state of misplaced thinking.
The White House publication is called “National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorists” and it was published by the Biden Administration in June 2021. Go get it, read it and you will join me to THANK President Maada Bio for his apt usage of such a term.
For the records, if President Bio continues to see me and my urgings as anything other than a PATRIOT writing PATRIOTICALLY, he will live to regret it.
If Maada Bio sees my Alarms against Ernest Bai Koroma as a personal beefing, he will live to regret it.
If Maada Bio sees my Alarms against Adebayo as anything other than the concerns of a true Patriot, he will regret it.
Maada Bio was blessed that I courageously stood in the Gap for our country between August 6th to August 10th. God used ME to save his Government. He may not be lucky enough next time.
If he listens to you and pussyfoots with Ernest Bai Koroma and Adebayor, he will only have himself to blame. Lonta.
Dr Lahai educates Dr. Blyden on the concept of Terrorism
To Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden OOR, my dearest sister,
From Dr John Idriss Lahai, your beloved brother.
I disagree with your classification of the August 10, 2022 protests as an “act of domestic terr0rism.” That said, this quick note is a corrective to this assertion. There are no homegrown terr0rists in our beloved country, Sierra Leone.
Before presenting my points, let me state the following:
1. For the record: I condemn all acts of “vawulence” and terr0rism (foreign and domestic). I am not a party to such dangerous forms of human interactions.
2. As a researcher, peace/conflict/terr0rism studies, Sierra Leone studies, and youth studies are among my scholarly areas of teaching and research strengths — with reputable scholarly works to show for it.
On the subject matter: We have unruly youths with a temerity to commit “Vawulence” (I used vawulence here to escape the entrapment of Facebook’s Community Standards rules); Our youth are capable of transforming themselves into mini-berserkers whenever they high on, say, kush. However, the spontaneity of their “acts of vawulence” did not fulfil any of the classificatory conditions of domestic terror!sm.
For an incident to qualify as an act of terror (be it domestic or otherwise) it must (I repeat, it must) meet certain criteria. Note: in some cases (which is applicable to the case of Sierra Leone), fulfilling one criterion and failing on the others automatically disqualifies that incident.
1. POLITICAL CONDITION: Was the ideology of the protesters different from that of the government’s? No. Those chanting “President Bio must go” did not want to sway us from our democracy; they were not trying to replace our democracy with another political ideology, say, for example, theocracy (Christian or Islamic theocracy), communism or maxism. So this political condition was not met.
SOCIO-RELIGIOUS CONDITION: Did the protesters target a particular reglious sect (a religious sect that was different from theirs)? No. In fact, the protesters were neither a religious sect nor was religion a factor — people from all religions (including those who believe in African traditional religion, and the kufr or kafri or unbelievers) were amongst the protesters. So the socio-religious condition was not met.
ECONOMIC CONDITION: Did the protesters use f0rce (SALW; small arm$ and light weap0ns force) to destroy the economy of the state and prevent all forms of economic activities across the country? No. In fact, the economy was (and still, is) already in a mess; and hunger (induced by economic hardship and relative deprivation) was the reason for their protests. As a peace studies scholar, I am sure the President (during his time as PhD student in Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Bradford) did come across theories relating to the concept called “relative deprivation.” All peace studies scholars know (must know) about the workings of both horizontal and vertical inequalities and relative deprivation. Anyway, there is no need for me to discuss the economic parameters of vertical and horizontal deprivation and their performative functions in the creation of the necessitating conditions for protests across Africa. That said, the economic condition was not met.
CONFLICT-FELATED DEATHS CONDITION: Was the intention (and motive) of the protesters to k!ll people? No. Was the k!lling of our people planned before hand? No. Was the devilish act of k!lling our people the main reason why the protesters organised their protests? No. Was it not a protest against economic hardship? Yes! If yes, it means their primary or premeditated objective was not to k!ll our people. Against this backdrop, since the deaths were not intended and/planned prior to the protests, the conflict-related threshold was not met.
Remember: in all cases of (domestic and foreign) terr0r!sm, the perpetrator must have, as their primary objective, the intention to k!ll people; Yes! People were killed during these protests. We all condemn (in the strongest of terms) these avoidable deaths (may the souls of the departed Rest In Peace). But the mere presence of deaths (in a protest) does not, in itself, qualify as domestic terr0rism.
Hence, we should guide our beloved President (the only man I have supported since 2005; you know that; you didn’t like me for my unshakable love and support for President Bio, your new found love). That said, as we go about the “everyday” — navigating life’s challenges and doing what we must do for self and country — we should not sway from the truth. What happened on that fateful day (10th August) did not meet the threshold of domestic terror!sm. There are other words (there are plenty of them in the dictionary) to use, but domestic terr0rism is not one of them.
For the record: I condemn all acts of “vawulence” and terr0rism (foreign and domestic). I am not a party to such dangerous forms of human interactions.
Pardon the grammatical errors (if any; I am still recovering from an accident).
With love ❤,
DrJohn Idriss Lahai, your “tranga-yaes” brother.
Enthusiasm In Calling People To Register
By Saikujohn Barrie
I see many people including stakeholders calling on Sierra Leoneans to go out and register to vote in September to October, for the 2023 elections..
Interestingly and apparently, Governmnment stalewarts and Opposition supporters are determined for coming Presidentail elections.
Many people both government’s officials and agents and Opposition officials with their agents are indicating that they will be going to the provinces to urge their people to register in preparation for the elections.
As it is already started signaling, the coming elections will be fierce and hotly contested as both sides are determined to win.
This writer’s take is that, if you think Maada Bio has delivered on his promises and you trust him to continue then go out and register in order for you to vote him for second term.
On the other hand, if you think Maada Bio has not done enough or has not delivered on his promises, and you think you don’t trust him, then go out and register so that you empower yourself to vote him out come 2023.
I am just praying that every eligible Sierra Leonean gets the chance to register and vote.
I also pray that the people’s votes count and also their votes reflect the true and genuine votes cast…
I’m calling on everyone to come out and register to vote as you can only either maintain the status quo, or bring change the government if you are registered and vote.
Your vote is the light 💡 for your future…
I am pleased with the enthusiasm being shown by both interested parties.
I rest m case .
THE OSWALD HANCILES COLUMN
Administrative Violence Engenders Physical Violence
I had studiously refused to comment in this Column, or, in social media, on the Presidential-
alleged August 10, 2022 “insurrection” by “faceless”… “terrorists” in Freetown, resulting in mob justice on four uniformed police officers being publicly murdered in gruesome incidents. I do so now in deference to my many fans who have gotten to me, puzzled by my silence on a burning national crisis. I have been silent because of being immersed in cyber research on man-made Climate Change. (Climate Change is ongoing mass murder of Africans, and other people in the Southern Hemisphere, and if global temperatures rise to over 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, it could mean the intensification of such mass murder – resulting in billions of humanity being dead through dehydration and starvation, and the concomitant conflicts and wars after a breakdown of civilization as we know it; something which most Africans are oblivious of; and the African political leadership who know the magnitude of the consequences of Climate Change are not telling their people the truth about it). There has been widespread denunciations of the August 10, 2022 ‘demonstrators’ – most of those I saw on social media looked like children below 16 years of age, and the brutal murder of especially two policemen which was videotaped, and has gone viral. I underline the denunciations of the gruesome murders of those police officers; but like columnist Engineer Andrew Keili has done in his PONDER MY THOUGHTS column, I dispassionately call for balance. First….
Kill Police! Sow Anarchy!!
The murder of those police officers by clearly terrorists amidst the children and under-25-looking youth demonstrators was reprehensible; unacceptable. The police maintain law and order in any modern society. They rape your niece. You rush to the police. They break into your house, you think first of the police. They threaten you with a knife, you race to the police. You just can’t imagine the chaos on the city streets of Freetown with keke and okada wheezing about, and the gridlock, if there would be no police to control traffic. Yes, we grumble about some of the police who take bribes from commercial drivers on the highway. But, generally, we’re all safer that there are police in our society; and these police not only investigate alleged crime, there very presence is a deterrence to crime. When a group murders police officers with the aim of injecting fear into them and society, they put a knife viciously into the heart of all society. The profundity of the murder of those police officers should not be spasmodic outrage; the incident, and the role of the police, should be imaginatively and relentlessly packaged and inculcated into the majority. Having said that….
” There are always two sides to a coin”.
There is a Mende saying: “Bi ndia ngleh ma, bi dae nkar ma”. Literally, it is translated: “Reprimand the dog for eating the bone; but also chide the bone too for leaving itself exposed to the dog”. It means: Do not blame the person who takes a violent action; blame also the person who is careless and creates the circumstances for the violence to erupt. The man who is the co-founder, and Executive Director, of the most successful engineering consultancy in Sierra Leone’s history, CEMMATS; who is also a regular and famous columnist, Andrew Keili, in his PONDER MY THOUGHTS column titled “SL DEADLY PROTESTS: THERE ARE TWO SIDES TO A COIN”, wrote on “the condemnation of the violence” of August 10 being “swift and universal”; the ever witty Andrew Keili could have been satirical in this line: “President Bio wore his Commander-in-Chief hat to deliver a tough war-like message” on the August 10 “insurrectionists”. One needs to carefully read all the sentences of the accomplished professional, son of an Anglican bishop, Andrew Keili, to get his subliminal messages: He hinted that the Office of National Security (ONS) failed to be pre-emptive, and failed to realize that “availability of employment opportunities have also been acknowledged as national security goals”. About 70 percent of youth of employable age are unemployed in Freetown. That was about the same statistics when former President Ernest Bai Koroma (APC) governed between 2007 and April, 2018. To exacerbate that scary reality today, the four years governance of President Maada Bio has been one with the doubling of the prices of essential commodities like our staple food of rice, and malarial and typhoid medicines. That could mean that for the vast majority of people, living standards have dropped by about than half of what they were four years ago. Andrew Keili in his aforementioned article wrote that “The President has to spearhead the deep search into the root causes of our problem to seek viable solutions in a fair manner that keeps the country together. There are two sides to a coin”.
I am not one for using Andrew Keili’s gloved and oblique language. What I read into Andrew Keili’s words there is this: our President being “war-like” against alleged “terrorists” who come from largely one linguistic group, and one region of the country, risk a civil war – if the President fails to address “root causes”.
All Sierra Leoneans must have been palpably shocked by the demented VIOLENCE of the videos that went viral on social media of the policemen being pounced upon by berserk youth, and being pounded with sticks and irons until they died; with the trousers of one of the uniformed policemen lewdly pulled down his buttocks as he lay face on the ground – dead. But, we appear oblivious, or, we belie, the “root causes” of the institutional VIOLENCE of too many public sector workers, and parliamentarians.
When civil servants, and public sector workers in institutions like NRA or NASSIT steal the people’s money entrusted in their care (what is euphemistically called “corruption”) to enrich themselves, build $500,000 mansions, whilst the majority of people can barely afford two meals a day, and too easily die when stricken with malaria because they can’t afford malarial drugs with prices having doubled in four years, these government workers are being as VIOLENT as the alleged “insurrectionists” who murdered the policemen.
The role of Parliament includes “oversight” of public institutions – that is they should summon heads of public agencies, and ferret out mismanagement and corruption. Who can remember anytime over the past four years that Parliament has probed any public institution, and punitive action taken on them? Less than two percent of the citizenry would respond with a “yes” to that question. Who has forgotten the 2019 BBC interview of SLPP MP, Hon. Hindolo Gevoa, accusing his parliamentary colleagues of “corruption”, and how the entire brouhaha just fizzled out like that? If the Parliament was doing its job of oversight, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) wouldn’t be so inundated with corruption cases – and inspite of the award-winning feats of the ACC Commissioner, Ben Kaifala, there has been a dip in the economic fortunes of the country, and nosedive of living standards, for most people to appreciate Ben Kaifala’s relative successes in the War on Corruption. Why is that so? Remember, it’s Parliament that make laws. It is Parliament that made the law that a public official convicted in court of law would be fined Le50,000,000 (old Leones), and may be sentenced to prison for five years. This laughable punishment for corruption in Sierra Leone has served more as incentive for corruption, rather than a deterrent. (Imagine a public official who steals equivalent of $1,000,000 of public money and is convicted in a court of law and fined about $4,000 – he would make a profit of $996,000!!). It is in the War on Corruption which had sired our eleven years brutish and nauseous war that President Bio should be “war-like” about today. (With such a lax law on corruption, no wonder ACC Commissioner, Ben Kaifala, has been opting for out-of-court settlements from the alleged corrupt, and retrieving billions of old Leones from them).
Overhaul the Governance Systems
President Maada Bio in his early days as President would make dramatic 8:30 a.m. visits to government offices to check on those who would go to work late. No one got fired for being late with the same drama as those presidential visits. He dramatically discontinued his visits – without an explanation to the public. I have written often, and said on radio and television, if the ordinary citizenry know how lazy, how unproductive, especially senior government officials are, there would be an immediate and sustained revolution in our country. It appears as if most government workers spent most of their time watching Nigerian movies, or playing computer games; or gossiping; or passionately discussing politics. In government offices in Sierra Leone, hardly anyone gets rewarded, or, promoted, for working hard. And almost no one gets punished for being laggard, or not working at all. (I write from experience. For eight years [2003 to 2011], I was assistant commissioner for public affairs in the NRA; and for six years [2012 to 2018], I was media adviser to former President Ernest Bai Koroma at State House). It’s the rank corruption, and flagrant idleness, of public sector workers that President Bio should act militarily “tough” on – for it is they who have failed to do what government should do: create enabling conditions for the private sector, and civil society, to have greater trust in government, and work harder. Instead of that….
Guru’s Vexatious Tears
I shed vexatious tears for those women on Sanni Abacha Street, one of most lucrative thoroughfares in Freetown, whose wooden stalls were broken in the wake of the August 10 demonstration. Those entrepreneurial women – like our keke and okada riders; our cookery sellers… – work
98 times harder than those in government offices. Before sun rise; under the hot sun and under heavy rain; till after sun set… they are out of the streets trying to earn a few Leones profit to feed their children; pay their rent; buy medicines for their loved ones; being exuberant with their clothes and Independence. The blow against those Sani Abacha Street ladies was a vicious blow against drive and hardwork – especially when juxtaposed with the lassitude of the government workers who have mainly nurtured festering poverty since 1964. The women may support the opposition APC party; but it is the failure of government’s vaunted “strategic communications” teams at State House, and the information ministry, that these women have not apparently been won over to appreciate and support the President’s “Free Quality Education” programme. The regular overseas travels of the President has been derided as a waste – that has been largely because the communications outfits of government have largely failed to harness and package what the presidential foreign trips would mean, and failed to do marketing of ‘Corporate Sierra Leone’. What now?
Peace? Or, Appeasement?
There is call for “peace” between the leadership of the “faceless” August 10, 2022 demonstrators who the President has accused have visible faces among the leadership of the APC. Would this be peace or appeasement? You remember that the Lome Peace Agreement of 1999 made RUF Leader, Corporal Foday Sankoh, “equivalent of Vice President” in the SLPP government of President Tejan Kabbah – a form of REWARD after ten years of the RUF’s scorch earth strategy of brutal rape of girls and boys; wanton murder; arson; disembowelment of pregnant women; amputation of babies, children, men and women. That appeasement did not work. Foday Sankoh’s thrust to overthrow the Tejan Kabbah government by May, 2000 was only stymied by courageous and life-sacrificing civil society in a public demonstration that sent Foday Sankoh scampering into the bush on May 8, 2000. President Maada Bio hails from Bonthe District, which is my paternal homeland too. I want him to succeed. That’s why I have been writing since 2018, and talking on radio and television, that he should overhaul the entire governance mechanism that he has inherited. I also offer the President that rarest of knowledge which I could be the only Sierra Leonean in the country to posses: how to control one’s emotions. That would guide the President not to be sentimental as he takes necessary tough action on his ‘internal enemies’, and to focus on his likely political enemies, and the violent enemies of the state who take it as their entitlement to be very corrupt. And the worst of those violent-corrupt citizenry the President must take violent legal action on are those committing violence on nature by illegally acquiring land on the mountains of Freetown and largely using money stolen from the people to construct their mansions.
Oswald Hanciles, The Guru
THE STUDENT MASSACRE!
A REMINDER TO
Brother Sirajin, tears welled my eyes each time I recall the events of 18 August 1997. And they come in the wake of another bloody massacre of yet unknown casualties including Evangelist Samson, Master and so many others, apparently killed in cold-blood.
As you stated, Sahr Kortequi, President of Comahs and Egerton Macarthy at IPAM who mobilized students; mainly from Njala University College to resist the butchery and extra-judicial executions carried out on a daily basis by the AFRC-RUF. Of course, For di People and Panafu; especially our great freedom fighter and pan-africanist revolutionary hero, Olu Richie Gordon was at the forefront.
Barely two weeks after my return from London and on crutches; president Kabbah was overthrown by the AFRC-RUF. For di People newspaper and sister organisation; The National League for Human Rights and Democracy; then launched the civil disobedience campaign. I’d merely survived death by a whisker under NPRC 2; and Dr Swee Chai Ang of the Independent Hospital in London said it was a miracle I was alive!
The morning of 18 August, lawyer Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie a member of our human rights wing was captured by the rebels close to his Kennedy St residence. We were however undeterred; and continued to release volleys of scathing and volatile articles against the murderous junta. Richie decided to join Kortequi; and like a lame duck as usual; I was busy working on the next day’s edition.
With many hundreds of others, Vannie Konneh, an Njala University College student, hit the streets on 18 August 97 to demand that the illegal military junta hand back power to the elected democratic govt. The junta began the killing as early as 9:30 am that day. The first death was at Savage St, near the Up Gun assembly point, where a young man had his arm hacked off. He later died from shock and loss of blood.
The enduring memory, the defining moment of that awful day was when the rebels cut off the boy’s arm, licked off the blade. Yes, it was a day for vampires and cannibals. Vaffie was amongst a group of students who moved from the Brookfields assembly point after the early morning arrest of Sahr Kortequi, of the National Union of Salone Students organisers, who planned the demonstration. Vaffie and the group came down to the Nurses Hostels on Lightfoot-Boston St in an attempt to rally the nursing students.
The rebels arriving in a blue pick-up truck, stormed the area around 11:20 am. The students scattered. Vaffie apparently hid in the Nurse Hostel bus. The rebels found him, shot him down and proceeded to mutilate the body. It was apparently not sufficient to kill – they also needed to desecrate the dead. At least, six students were slaughtered on that day. Many innocent by-standers were injured. Hundreds of students and youths were arrested and tortured.
But in their treatment of women, the RUF-AFRC junta exceeded even their usual standards of bestiality. Some female students who hid in the Hostel were found, stripped naked and taken to Defence headquarters. From there they were distributed to the houses of top AFRC-RUF personnel. Many of these ladies chose not to speak of the sexual abuse that followed. One of them brave enough to do so is an Njala student whom we called “M” to protect her identity. Here is her story.
“They took me to Zagallo’s house. I was still stark naked. Even though I was on my period, with blood streaming down my legs, they refused to give me a cloth to cover myself. They just laughed at me. Zagallo abused me and called me a prostitute. He told one of his officers to beat me with his belt. When he finished, they threw water on me and took me to Zagallo’s room. There he raped me several times. When he finished, he called his orderly. ‘Come and take her. Unu sef enjoy yah. Na College pikin. Esweet!” They roughly hauled me downstairs. Three of them took turns in raping me.”
M was held for over two weeks. For the first three days, she was not allowed to wear any clothes. Anyone of Zagallo’s brutes who wanted to rape her was allowed to.
22- year old Anne Marie Turay of Mountain Cut went into coma after she was sexually assaulted by six armed men at a block in the Mamy Yoko hotel. She was left bleeding profusely with serious vaginal pains and wounds and find it difficult to walk.
“They took me to one of the blocks within the Mamy Yoko hotel compound. I was immediately stripped and they took turns. By the time the third man was through, I fell unconscious.”
For di People newspaper incessantly condemned the 25 May coup and called for the restoration of constitutional legality and in the wake of unspeakable brutality and massacres, the newspaper declared civil disobedience against the AFRC-RUF. FDP urged the rebels to also seize the opportunity of the Yamassoukro talks with both hands; viewing it as a countdown to peace talks. The people’s willingness to sacrifice for democracy was proved at Bintumani 1 and 2.
It was tested and it stood firm during the disgraceful and murderous attacks on 26 February 96. And the people with few exceptions, have demonstrated to the AFRC-RUF that they prefer democracy with all its faults – to the uncertainties and insecurity of military rule. For our selfless commitment to human rights and democracy; the British-based International Press Directory Freedom of the Press Gold Award went to FDP newspaper. It was collected by then secretary general of the SLPP, lawyer Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie ( while the govt was in self-exile in Guinea), at the prestigious Dorchester Hotel in London. On 13 October 2001, the Northcote Parkinson Fund now John Train Foundation, whose Chairman the Soviet nobel laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn, awarded Paul Kamara: the Civil Prize Award for fighting tyranny in Sierra Leone and for steadfast resistance to evil at great personal risk.
I believe the SLPP Paopanistas must bear this in mind, and not derail the nation’s sacred struggle for democracy, human rights and constitutional legality. Let’s not forget those who lost their lives for Salone’s democracy and freedom; including those in the recent extra-judicial executions.
Paul Mandela Kamara
18 August 2022
Freedom of speech and the crisis of responsibility in Sierra Leone
BY Abdulai Mansaray
19 August 2022:
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Freedom of speech is a pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins”. Freedom of speech is a right, granted as a universal tenet and guaranteed by our constitution.
Our constitution also gives every citizen the right to assemble. Therefore, “freedom of speech” is not a privilege, but an organic necessity in a great society. The definition of free speech is unanimous. It is how we exercise our right to free speech that gives it a tributary life of its own.
So, what is freedom of speech?
In simple terms, freedom of speech is “the power or right to express one’s opinions without censorship, restraint, or legal penalty”. However, one man’s free speech can be another’s hate speech; one man’s free speech can be another man’s incitement, etc. In Sierra Leone, we had the Criminal Libel Act, a vestige of the colonial era.
Until President Bio tweaked it, several governments and especially the late President Siaka Stevens used it as a political sledgehammer against the opposition and dissenting voices. Interestingly, it was comparatively easier in those days, to identify authors and publishers to account for their words and stories.
The advent of the internet and social media has plunged the world into an anarchy of misinformation, disinformation and fake news etc. Is it any wonder now, that “freedom of speech” has become one of the most fluid, controversial and slippery concepts on the political and social landscapes?
The late Idi Amin of Uganda once said, “There is freedom of speech, but I cannot guarantee freedom after speech”, while others believe that freedom of speech includes the freedom to offend people. So, what happens if in exercising your freedom of speech, you cause “harm” to others? Is that reason, while recognising freedom of speech, we created laws including libel, slander, defamation, incitement, instigation and causing of offence, etc.?
Before the advent of the internet and social media, governments designed licencing and copyright laws as safeguards. We had authors and publishers to hold accountable. Today, we have a new breed of “bloggers” and “influencers” who sometimes remain faceless and elusive. Voice changers are used to hide identities. Those who host such websites and social media platforms continue to use disclaimers as shields to absolve themselves of any responsibility. Some platforms use fact checkers, as the name implies, to decipher facts from fiction. Is that in recognition of the potential harm that freedom of speech could engender? Does that mean that being offensive can be an offence these days? Sadly, such offences spill on from individual to collective groups, which can be religious, tribal, racial, gender etc. This is what gives rise to generational and collective revenge.
It is not surprising that like other countries, Sierra Leone faces major political challenges evolving from the dark side of the information highway. The traffic light system on the information highway is not only difficult to regulate, but equally near impossible to balance between freedom of speech and censorship.
Is there a need for censorship on social media?
Censorship is a word that naturally generates the abuse of freedom of speech. With the fluidity of information in social media, and with the inherent risks of harm being perpetuated, is it time for stringent censorship?
What would such censorship mean for the rights to free speech and freedom of speech? Before we hasten to condemn censorship wholesale, it might be worth noting that censorship already exists with the approval of society. We already use censorship to protect vulnerable sections of society. Take the film industry for example. We have X rated films, films that require parental guidance (PG), and TV shows you cannot broadcast before certain times (watershed). Law enforcements spend millions of hours trawling the internet, albeit with difficulty to protect minors from predators.
In many communities, gory images are blacked out, pixelated, or redacted. Websites and domains are taken down without consent to prevent harm. Programme makers now accompany some shows with apologies for “anything viewers might find offensive or disturbing”, and in addition offer support. It might sound, “Woke”, (alert to injustice) but it is also human decency. Is that not censorship? Is that not necessary censorship?
Social media may have given franchise and a voice to the previously voiceless and unheard. It has taken the power of the media from the hands of the few to that of the masses. Some see social media as democracy in communication. It is everybody’s and nobody’s, to ply the good, the bad and the ugly around the world.
Sadly, it is the hazards and harmful sides of social media that take prominence in societies and communities. At face value, you would think that the benefits of social media are massively outweighed by the harm done by the unruly and unknown mob.
We cannot deny the fact that the risks posed by social media, if not “unregulated” have the potential to destroy communities, break down cultures, dismantle status quo, and wreak untold damage. Lips sink ships. The destabilizing effect of an unregulated social media cannot be overemphasised.
Unfortunately, some of our media outlets in Sierra Leone have no compunction in splashing pictures and images of accident victims, the dead and the infirm. Just scroll through your video clips of August 10, 2022, and see rioters trying to kill a man that was already dead. It made the front-page news in all its glory.
Instead of trying to save their fellow humans, some were busy getting the best shots during a recent boat tragedy. You wonder what these people would have done if they had witnessed the Titanic. Selfies or Photoshop? Do these editors and publishers know the desensitizing effects such images have, especially on young minds? Do they care about the dignity of the dead and their families?
Moreover, what does the Independent Media Commission (IMC), which claims as its central vision “To protect the interest of journalists and protect the public against exploitation or abuse by media institutions”, about that? With the freedom of speech, and the freedom to choose, it is the associated responsibility to choose that determines individual differences.
Is self-regulation the answer?
We used to live in a world where people searched for the truth. We now live in one that we run away from the truth. It is a time of deceit, where telling the truth is a revolutionary act and a treasonable offence. As governments throughout the world, rewrite rules, regulations, laws and guidance to keep up with the fluidity of the internet and social media, “cybercrime” has insidiously waltzed its way into the legal, political and social parlance and frameworks of society.
So, is “freedom of speech” the greatest threat to “freedom of speech”? Do we need governments to regulate what we say and when to say? On the other hand, does my right to free speech give me the right to infringe on the rights of others? Since every right comes with its responsibilities, can we as citizens be trusted to manage the rights of free speech, with all its inherent responsibilities? Should we exercise our rights but ignore the responsibilities that come with such rights?
When President Bio tweaked the Criminal Libel Law of the Public Order Act, 1965, the relief among media merchants was palpable. The irony is, more people received invitations to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) headquarters in record numbers. They included members of the political oppositions, public servants, and even Blacker, who was diagnosed by the public assessment as mentally bankrupt.
Under the guidance of Dr Sovula, it became almost weekly press releases about such invitations. Most of these invites were for the “guests”, to explain social media clips, utterances or other alleged misdemeanours. Was the increase in numbers, a reflection of the authorities tightening the screws on law and order, or to intimidate and muzzle free speech? (Photo: A mentally ill man in Sierra Leone by the name of Blacker, criminalsed by the police for exercising his right to free speech).
Could it have also been a sign that having decriminalised or tweaked the Criminal Libel law, some people, like kids in a candy shop, did not know what to do with the newfound freedom? Either way, there was a measure of excessive enthusiasm somehow.
Irrespective of your views on the freedom of speech, we can agree on certain facts here. The world is afflicted by a misinformation pandemic. We are all victims of the misinformation virus and trapped in the info-wars. “Fake news” is the new currency.
Can we self-regulate in exercising our rights to freedom of speech? If so, could we do so without the need for regulations, oversight and stalking from governments? Is the need for self-regulation imperative or optional? If so, a major step towards self-regulation could be “accurate information”.
There is no guarantee that accurate information would ensure self-regulation, just as freedom of speech is no guarantee for freedom after speech. Nevertheless, it is a step, and a journey of one million miles starts with a step.
Is censorship a necessary evil?
If every right carries a responsibility, shouldn’t we be exercising those responsibilities with the same enthusiasm as our demands for freedom of speech? We cannot demand freedom of speech as compensation for the freedom of thought that we hardly use. Should freedom of speech protect us from the consequences of saying stupid things?
How can we clamour for free speech if we are not ready to take responsibility for our right to free speech? Should I falsely shout “fire” in a packed cinema hall because it is free speech? Can we eat our cake and have it back? We are at crossroads, and we face a crisis of responsibility. This is no longer just about pleading for freedom of speech, but also to ask what it really means, and how we can sustain and regulate it. Can we achieve that by silence?
How do we protect, defend, and uphold the right to freedom of speech without infringing on the rights of others. How do we ensure the security of a nation without taking steps to enforce the law against perpetrators? Who decides what free speech is and what is not? What is the threshold for free speech and criminal responsibility after speech? How can we protect the freedom of expression against the abuse of power?
Do we have enough safeguards to ensure that the right to free speech is not lost in the quagmire of national security? When we decide to use our freedom of speech in a harmful way, are we not destroying the responsibility that comes with the very freedom of speech we claim to defend?
Sadly, this brings us to August 10, 2022. A major theme in this saga is “Incitement”, and the Sierra Leone diaspora is rightly or wrongly heavily linked in the equation. Incitement conjures a sense of gullibility and vulnerability. It would be contemptuous to comment on the veracity of that, while investigations are on going. Interestingly, one of the first and common phrases an immigrant learns on reaching the West is: “This is a free country”. America is fondly called “the land of the free”.
Many of us in the diaspora came to the West, on the back of asylum claims and refugee status. Words like freedom, freedom of speech, harassment, victim, and many more, conveniently found their way in those applications for asylum or refugee status. Have we forgotten what drove us from our motherland in the first place?
The relationship between the Sierra Leone communities across the diaspora and the motherland is well documented, and Western Union, Afro International, Remitly and Money Gram can testify to that. Sierra Leone’s GDP shares an umbilical cord with its diaspora community.
Many are dreaming of going back to make a difference or to retire. All the political parties in Sierra Leone have appendages in the diaspora, and the yearly fund raising for those political parties are calendar highlights. Every political leader including EBK, Bio and Yumkella meets with their supporters as part of their itineraries when they travel abroad. Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora add flavour to the Christmas pilgrimage and plumage. Even the rate of the dollar plummets during the “Jesse” season. Therefore, while living in free countries, was “incitement” the best export commodity.
Imagine Pa Santigie’s view about the diaspora, after losing his police son and being told that the midwives for the riot reside abroad? What about Aunty Jenneh’s, losing her only okada-riding son during the saga? You would hope that the actions of the minority do not tar the majority with the same brush.
While no one is disputing the naked facts of hardship in the country, Sierra Leone cannot claim monopoly on the world crisis. Equally, the administration cannot absolve itself of some responsibility and as partner in these difficult times. While some see riots, protest and demonstrations as the voices of the unheard, our rights to do so must be PEACEFUL.
Our rights to freedom of speech should not infringe on the rights of others. We cannot pretend all is well. The people have the power to revoke or renew any political party’s licence to rule. If we seek alternative governments, there is a process, and it should be free, fair and peaceful. That process should be of the people, by the people and for the people. Violence is neither the way, the language or the process.
While investigations to bring the culprits to justice is on-going, we pray and hope that we don’t make martyrs of them. If a dog bites you, you don’t bite it back. An eye for an eye will only make the world go blind. Don’t forget to turn the lights off when you leave the room.
LIFTING OUR COUNTRY UP: SIERRA LEONE WILL RISE AGAIN!
MOHAMED PA-MOMO FOFANAH ESQ.
Please bear with me as this is a long piece. Much has happened since I went on Radio Democracy 98.1 in 2018, when our former President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, was pushing for a third term and legal minds needed to debate the national constitution in order to tell him that the basic law did not permit a third term, whatever Samaritan the outgoing President thought he was then. I had taken similar positions about our constitution, with my Learned Senior Colleague, Mr. Charles Francis Margai, against the late Mr. Solomon Berewa when we proceeded to the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone to say that it was unfair and illegal for a “public servant” to seek presidential seat whilst still serving as public servant and using state resources and power to campaign on a purported democratic level plane. My spirit was similarly not daunted when I argued on several occasions that our constitution did not stop dual citizens from running for at least Parliamentary seats!
However, for reasons of my family and professional practice (I believe a nation thrives more on family commitment and one’s personal development) I, over the immediate past years, withdrew a bit to give space to people I consider my contemporaries in the elderly youth bracket to give their best to the nation, but it appears all is really not well. This piece is therefore an endeavor to say my bit in what everyone believes are troubling times. It will, however, be forward-looking, for I believe that all is not lost, our beautiful country, Sierra Leone, will and must rise again!
I therefore commence by expressing my sincere and deep condolences to the bereaved, and wish those who have passed away during our challenging, sad and troubling times in history an eternal, peaceful rest!
Respect for Law and Order:
Democracies all over the world have succeeded because of their respect for law and order. Such law is built on sound foundations of respect for the laws that govern us, including in particular, our national constitution, equality before the law, respect for individual rights (whether we like or dislike each other), duty to serve the nation well (whether in the public or private domain and irrespective of one’s creed, tribe, place of origin or your gender), obligation to be accountable (especially if you are paid and supported from tax payers’ money), duty to protect public, and by the same stretch, private properties, and inter alia, an imperative duty to be always fair and just (especially if you are chosen to be a judge or arbiter of the alleged failings or wrongdoings of your fellow men). All of these values are interestingly provided for and secured by our constitution and the laws that support it, even though they nonetheless require reforms and amendments.
In view of the above, the recent mayhem by violent protesters is strongly condemned!
Our problem has always, however, been with lack of respect for the laws we have and seek to protect. One therefore loses the moral high ground to hold criminals to account when one is busy breaching or showing no respect for the very laws one espouses and claim to protect. We cannot claim to be law-abiding citizens whilst we show no respect for our sacred constitution and laws!
The Three Organs of Government (Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary):
The three organs of government, Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary, are the foundations of our constitution and democracy; and our success or failure as a nation rest squarely on how well they perform and how those who serve in these organs remain true to their oaths of office, laws that govern us and their determination to keep us together as a nation. These organs are separate in their functions but are designed to interact meaningfully for the good of society.
It is absolutely a joke to enact well-meaning laws and only try to uphold and enforce them against those we perceive as enemies, whilst pampering those from whom we seek favors. No one entity or person is greater than the other, it is merely our self-seeking perceptions, ambitions and gains that permit us to believe that everything about the success of our nation rests alone upon the executive and the Presidency. Our governors and leaders campaign and take sacred oaths to SERVE US and US alone!
Consequently, we have a strong stake in determining, through elections, who our representatives and governors should be. We owe it to ourselves to choose leaders who are not stooges to party politics and often the never-do-wells and sycophants that surround them during campaigns. We need leaders who can think above the self-seeking minds that surround them! My little political experience has taught me to know that the easiest and most lucrative employment space for failures in life and/or indolent happy-go-lucky people is politics. They cajole to get power, and use power to get quick riches and enslave their electors. They have no clue or are not interested in sound policies and how to sustain them; it is all about their turn to be happy and to live well now and always.
So, in the coming elections we should be particularly watchful and extremely careful about who we return to Parliament and the Presidency. Five years is too long a period to wait for those whom you elect to change, for they will use the power they have anyhow to protect their personal gains!
The Judiciary in Particular:
Among the three organs mentioned above, the Judiciary should stand tall and firm always. The pulse of sober democracies is defined by the seriousness of their judicial organs. Ordinary men and women seek justice in the courts when they are aggrieved, politicians also do the same both within and out of power. People only seek the gates of the courts because they believe that when all else fail, a just and fair institution will avail to give them redress. Similarly, respect for the courts and the legal system gives mark of acceptance of a nation by the international community.
So, our business, moving forward, is to keep the courts absolutely out of politics! But it is not only about keeping the courts independent and impartial in the manner they deal with cases and dispense justice, it is actually about firstly, getting the right caliber of men and women to uphold strict tenets of the rule of law, justice and fairness; and secondly, about holding judicial officers to account when they blatantly and open-endedly pervert justice for personal and political gains. Court orders and judgments must be sound and prompt in coming; the judiciary should be well-resourced and fearless in decision-making; the appellate courts must be quick and detailed in reviewing and determining judgments and orders of the lower courts; and above all, discipline should apply across board to those who fail to keep their oaths of office and ethics of their calling.
It is indeed the case that our Judiciary, like the other two organs of government above, is in need of drastic institutional and personality reforms, some of which are ongoing; for the progressive development of a nation rests on its level of judicial seriousness!
The Police and Security Forces:
Whilst it is the case that a sound Judiciary will help curtail political and Police excesses, the Police as an institution certainly calls for reform too, both short term, before elections, and long term, after elections. The ordinary man’s first point of call for dispute and crime investigation is often the Police, which should investigate crimes and in some cases social misconduct impartially. Good elements in the Police have always stood up for what is right, and I sincerely pay tribute and respect to Police officers and other security forces who stood up against the recent uprising.
However, the Police as it stands is still a far cry from what it should be. For the past two and more decades of my legal practice, the Police has been a tool of politicians. The politicians will dictate who to arrest and detain and for how long, the laws notwithstanding. Similarly, the concept of investigating crimes is a one-way street, the complainant is almost always right. So, it is often the case that criminals will run first to the Police to be complainants, and in the process either weaken their victims’ case, or sometimes even make their victims the suspects. In a recent case that I am aware of, a hardworking youth involved in a corporate industry was brutally murdered at a wine bar and his dying body deposited at Waterloo. Some young boys who knew him as their “pappay” in the area, rushed him to the hospital. The Police later arrested them as suspects and detained them for about 21 days before realizing that they had no evidence against them. In the meantime, not one plain clothes officer went to the identified bar to at least pretend to get the evidence!
Moving forward as a country, we need a disciplined, professional and well-resourced Police Force that serves the nation and ordinary Sierra Leoneans, and not just our chosen representatives and governors. The Police (and for that matter the Judiciary and Anti-Corruption Commission) acting on “orders from above” should be a thing of the past, if we are to put our democracy to the test and rest. It was thus a big moment in our history when former Police Inspector-General, Mr. Keith Biddle, charged the late Hon. S. B. Marrah, then Majority Leader of the House of Parliament who was revered by H. E. President Kabbah, to court for assaulting a Police officer on duty!
The Army and other security forces should equally be patriotic and impartial in executing their duties to the State; their business being to impartially defend the lives and properties of every Sierra Leonean. The foreign/UN training of segments of the Army and the Police Forces should thus show out when on national duty.
Our history of violence during the nation’s civil insurrection has clearly taught us to be true to ourselves, love one another and stand above bigotry, sycophancy and ethnic or regional hate. It begs the question to be religiously tolerant and inter-marry each other but yet remain politically divided; such state of affairs only exist when never-do-wells and charlatans (both at home and abroad) identify their political and selfish goals ahead of us, often through party politics, and use them to plunder the state and divide us. Never again, should we permit this state of affairs to prevail and continue!
And in order to remove the above sense of hope from rhetoric to action, it is time well-informed, well-meaning and enlightened Sierra Leoneans with a patriotic mindset, whatever their discipline, stepped up to fill the political space. This will certainly not be a welcoming idea to those ill-motivated folks whose breadbasket is the political plantation; but to eschew leadership challenges because of the smears that self-seeking charlatans peddle is to resign oneself to the blame game of mediocrity and generational finger-pointing. The constructive political debate or national dialogue must therefore start now, as it is often out of hard times and economic challenges that nations rise to map out their positive future!
Genuine and peaceful dialogue also means truly reviewing our current economic, social and constitutional situations and setting out a blue print for coming generations, so that successive political systems and regimes do not interfere with or derail our democratic path to success using tribal, regional or partisan underpinnings. I pray that our country rises again from the debris of being the first in many things after our 1961 independence until we lost it all through successive self-seeking power acquisitions!
May Allah bless Sierra Leone always!
JULIUS SPENCER IS SINGING A SONG OF CONVENIENCE
@ Kapri Kolugbonda
Dr. Julius Spencer is a great media guru. He is also a very good actor. But good actors do not always make great singers.
In his article titled “What Pa Kabbah Taught Me” Dr Spencer comes out preaching loud.
I will gently put aside the little question of “why did he not preach this passionately when the threats of violence were being mouthed all over the place”?
First, we have to emphatically establish this:
Nobody wants war!
Especially a government in power, with nothing to gain from such a serious conflict!
Even the totally misled young miscreants who flippantly threaten the country with rants of “war” in their endless social media outbursts may think twice if only they knew what war really looks like. It is ugly. Very ugly! War brings out the worst of humanity to inflict unspeakable horror on all of humanity. War breeds monsters!
The sad thing is that these callous social media voices of conflict carry a deluded image that paints scenarios that may be at complete variance with reality: they believe war is just a matter of the aggressors picking up any gun of their choice to open deadly fire on their perceived “enemies”, rape their loved ones and loot their properties; meanwhile they (the perpetrators and their families) would easily skip all the horrors and fly out to KUKU-LAND somewhere in Eastern Japan where they would be warmly welcomed as golden refugees and forever fed on moose cheese and Jamón Ibérico.
Madness is sadness!
let’s hop into some history here. Quite a good number of our readers may recall that during the dreaded rebel insurrection in Sierra Leone, Julius Spencer emerged as one of the most influential voices of the conflict, helping to direct the underground MOVEMENT that drove the war into the heart of, particularly, the city invaders!
Years later some of his detractors have even likened Spencer to the notorious Hotel Rwanda Manager, Paul Rusesabagina who was, for decades, treated as a “hero” but convicted just last year for his lethal role in the genocidal war against the Tutsis.
Although Spencer carried an equally strong image at the time yet that comparison with the Rwandan genocidal “hero” would be considered a stretch too far and hugely unfair by the majority of us who supported the reinstallation of democracy and a return to sanity. “He was on the right side of history” the chorus would ring! And with a lot of truth to it!
Certainly many Sierra Leoneans rightly applauded the collaborative actions of Spencer at the time (and even now), but those who were supporters of the Johnny Paul Junta were never amused. In fact they were understandably furious over Spencer and Zainab’s dramatised broadcasts that set out to expose, delegitimise and even dehumanise the desperate “we want peace” faction of a then heavily divided country, in a series of scathing radio programs that threatened surrender or death to the lumpen “revolutionaries”- a poisonous potpourri of drugged youths and deranged elders feeding mutilated corpses to fatten eagle claw vultures. At that stage there was not much room for dialogue or “show of understanding”.
It was a question of “speaking to the rebels in a language that they would best relate to”. In fact during different phases of the conflict, more players were called in to “talk Lingala” to the rebels. There was the ECOMOG from all over West Africa, the Sandlines from the UK, the Executive Outcomes from South Africa the ULIMO refugee outfit from Liberia, the Gurkas from God knows where. All heavily armed and totally focused on “doing the job”. Together with the KAMAJORS, the GBINTIS and the DONSOS the RUF rebels were eventually made to take leave of their madness and to forcibly “fall in love” with PEACE!
But this result was not achieved without a lot of destruction and (forever regrettably) a ton of needless deaths. Certainly it was not just the Sermon on the Mountain that brought Foday Sankoh and his crazed cohorts to the table of decent dialogue.
History does not encourage mankind to give in to people who gang up to trade in the death and destruction of others. Nazi Hitler attacked Europe and tried to erase civilisation from all of society, the British rallied and the world stood firm. In the end it was not the waving white paper from Neville Chamberlain that brought back peace to the world; it took a good dose of Churchill’s “sweat, tears and blood” to re-set the balance.
What history teaches us is that “appeasement” does not work with people intent to change the status quo through gratuitous violence.
Of course Peace is mankind’s ultimate umbrella under which we survive and thrive. Without peace, nothing has much of a value!
But the way to achieve peace or to maintain it might sometimes prove more complex than the simplistic pronouncement of it.
In certain situations those who use the instruments of threat and the tools of death to inflict pain and suffering on others must be made to understand that society will never tolerate their ways! The law should be made to confront them in all its outstretch breath and pouncing weight.
Peace is a hard piece of invaluable treasure to treat with levity!
If anybody should know that much I would bet that the retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio would.
Before he was voted in to become president of the republic of Sierra Leone Maada was in the final stages of his Phd in PEACE and conflict studies. Long before that phase Maada was one of those few brave men who took up arms (as a national mandate) to neutralise the bloodcurdling RUF threat to our beloved country. So this is a man who understands the meaning of Peace and knows what War really looks like. He has experienced both at very close quarters!
Therefore his calculations would not just be based on some fancy preacher-man -theories but they are firmly grounded in touching reality.
Although his background is rooted in drama, I also believe that Dr. Julius Spencer has adequate experience of violent insurrections and the threat it poses to everyone in society. In large swaths of the country, Spencer shot to great popularity as the rebellious AFRC junta became increasingly unpopular and people sought to reinstall the democratic order that had violently been jettisoned. His was a voice that championed the line of “not giving in to violent hoodlums”.
In fact when things got really heated, Spencer was quick to ditch the Journalist’s Mic in favour of the Soldier’s Gun. He was no preacher of peace at the time. One of the enduring features of the counter- offensive to sweep the rebels out of Freetown and give people a breathing space was shot in a video documentary mounted by the award-winning Sierra Leonean film maker, Sorious Samura. In that clip of starkly brutal film, our man Spencer, who is now a lay preacher of peace, could be seen fully kitted in combat attire and hunting down rebels (or perceived rebels) with a loaded gun at the ready, settled in company with ECOMOG soldiers who, at many a heated stage, shot almost anything in sight that presented a threat and anyone that moved in an unfriendly fashion.
So Spencer is no pacifist. Far from it! He used to stand his ground!
And unlike what he may want us to believe, Alhaji Tejan Kabba was no pacifier either
At first, President Kabba stood out as your normal UN bureaucrat who simply disbelieved “rumours” that were pointing towards a barbaric rebel invasion of Freetown. He paid for his complacency with his presidency and Sierra Leoneans paid for it with their lives.
When he returned from exile Tejan Kabba quickly metamorphosed and matured into politics. The rest, they say is history!
President Bio has forever scrapped the death penalty, the very tool that Bandaylay and his handpicked successor found so handy in inflicting raw carnage on their political opponents. Does that act of unprecedented political magnanimity also “teach” Julius Spencer any lesson?
What about this record: a loud political opponent walks into State House to meet with the president carrying a loaded gun. He is allowed to walk alive out of State House and subsequently to walk free out of prison unscathed.
Does that “teach” Spencer anything laudable?
And talking about Pa Kabba’s undeniably praiseworthy role in bringing peace to Sierra Leone by appending his signature to the Lome Accord, what Dr. Spencer may have conveniently forgot to mention is that before Lome there was Abidjan and before all of that there was Yamoussoukro.
Why not give everyone their deserved dues?
Both the Abidjan Peace Accord of 30 November 1996 and the Lome Peace Agreement of 7 July 1999 couldn’t have come without the foundation on which it was built.
Peace would never have been possible without the face-to-face meeting in Yamoussoukro between Brigadier Bio and Corporal Sankoh on the 25–26 March 1996.
That was the very first time when the elusive Foday Sankoh, who was bitingly dismissive of everyone else, came out of the bush to meet with anyone.
So yes, Pa Kabba did amazingly well by appending his signature to the peace treaty but I believe that a lot of credit should be accorded to his predecessor who built the foundation for the final structure. And that predecessor was no other than the retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio whose love for Peace and love for country moved him to fly to Yamoussoukro, via Egypt, and embrace a man whom he had spent a good part of his youthful life fighting against, a man whose bandits had stormed Brigadier Bio’s hometown of Tihun to ramshackle the township and slaughter his close relatives.
This is a man who had to smile to a butcher and embrace the killers of his own close friends in the war front and his relatives at home in order to bring peace to Sierra Leone. A few days after that historic Peace Meeting in Yamoussoukro Brigadier Bio was back home working to transfer power to an elected civilian president, barely 3 months after taking power.
How many people we know in the circumstances would do that much?:
So yes President Ahmed Tejan Kabba can teach us all a lot of things about Peace, but if we have to be fair, President Julius Maada Bio is the greatest teacher of Peace in all the annals of our presidential history.
But does that mean he should relax the reins of Justice and sacrifice the country to a murdering horde of arsonists on the excuse of “peace”?
I don’t think so!
COULD THIS BE THE ACT OF OUR “CONSCIOUS YOUTHS?” WHY PARTICIPATE IN A DEMONSTRATION ORCHESTRATED BY FACELESS INDIVIDUALS?