Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Charles Margai's Profile Rising Once Again in Sierra Leone

Opposition Political Firebrand
 Charles Francis Margai
Veteran Sierra Leone legal practitioner turned politician Charles Francis Margai, the son of Sierra Leone's second Prime Minister and nephew of the country's first post Independence leader Sir Milton Margai, has had some well publicized spats lately with the country's current First Lady Madam Sia Nyama Koroma over land in a suburb of the country's capital, Freetown.

Charles Margai recently  made some threatening statements in the country's capital, but it seems as if overreaction by the government and negative statements in pro-government media and the subsequent refusal of Margai to capitulate to the bullying tactics of the Koroma political and security machinery has caused his recently declining political capital to rise in the country once again, and he seems to be basking in the glory.

Margai had claimed that the First Lady had made a grab for a piece of land he owned at Aberdeen, a suburb of Freetown and she had then proceeded to send members of the country's police paramilitary OSD to the land, who had brutalized the caretakers and vandalized the protection parameter fence. Being incensed by this apparent misuse of state security forces and his perceived threat of official bullying, Margai had bragged that he had thousands of local hunters ready to come to his defense and had stated that he would cause a warrant to be issued for the arrest of the First Lady.

The Koroma administration ordered Margai to be arrested for making threats against national security. He was detained for a whole weekend while prominent members of his family were forced to go to the President's home town to plead for his release. In a classic miscalculation the President sent his notorious new Special Assistant Sylvia Blyden, a divisive character that Margai holds in particular contempt to go to him for a public climb down. Charles Margai stuck to his guns and refused to back down and was ultimately granted bail with no charge. 

As usual, pro-government media quickly rushed to condemn and castigate Charles Margai, a man whose decision to throw his weight behind the President in 2007 effectively handed him the presidency instead of the then incumbent Vice President Solomon Berewa. The government's US based propaganda mouthpiece, Cocorioko, edited by Koroma appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to UN Rev. Kabbs Kanu wrote that Charles Margai needed to be taken in custody, tried and sent to jail.
Kabbs Kanu
Margai Should be Jailed

Awareness Times a paper written by incendiary journalist turned Presidential Special Assistant Sylvia Blyden wrote that they had laid hands on a confidential paper circulating within government circles indicating that the prominent lawyer was crazy and needed psychiatric assessment.

Jarra Kawusu Conteh of the state house media team took to social media to label Charles Margai as a stray dog who they will control. The former defected Secretary General of Margai's party PMDC,and self appointed unofficial government spokesman, Mohamed Bangura, asked for lawyer Margai to be arrested.
Police in Action

A notorious journalist close to the President Mohamed Sankoh likened Charles Margai to a "spoilt brat" accusing him of having a basket mouth. In a particularly incendiary article carried in pro-government media, Sankoh insulted Margai, making disparaging remarks about his father and his family.

All the nastiness of pro-government media against Margai a man once very close to the president, his harassment by state security forces, pressure from State house and his refusal to capitulate in the face of this combined assault, has catapulted his profile in recent weeks particularly in opposition strong holds and amongst people who are growing increasingly fed up with state police brutality and the recent bullying tactics of the Koroma political and media machinery.
The Good Old Days
Not So long Ago

A prominent political analyst stated that as the country's main opposition The Sierra Leone People's Party is currently mired in internal controversy and consumed with an election court case, Charles Margai is becoming an important figure in the fight against the perception that the Koroma government is using state security resources to once again slide into the type of one-party system of government that destroyed the country in the past. Another observer stated that by treating Charles Margai as they are currently doing, the APC is once again showing the country that the only Sierra Leoneans they value are those that are within their party fold. Others are angry at the statements made against Margai's family, a prominent traditional ruling family in the country and a family that fought tirelessly for the country's Independence from Colonial rule.

Recently Margai, addressing a mammoth crowd in the interior of the country said that he will not be treated like another prominent lawyer, the late Francis Minah, a former Vice President of Sierra Leone who had trumped up charges brought against him, was tried and slaughtered in Freetown, even when there was no tangible evidence of his involvement in a coup planned by a group of soldiers. He also channeled the memory of Chief Hinga Norman, former deputy defense minister and CDF leader who was abandoned by the SLPP and died in custody.
Margai Supporters

Charles Margai has a history of highs and lows in the history of Sierra Leone politics. In 2007 he took a substantial number of votes in the Southern region of the country. In the run-off he threw his weight behind then opposition leader Ernest Koroma. Over the past few years however, the relationship between President Koroma and Charles Margai had deteriorated precipitously. In the last 2012 elections Margai's party was practically wiped out losing all their seats in Patliament.

But the recent incidents in Sierra Leone are causing many to view Margai once again as a man who can stand up to power. Many people have started flocking to his rallies around the country.

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