Tom Nyuma Dies in Sierra Leone
|Tom Nyuma aka Ranger|
In 1992, Tom Nyuma rose to prominence as one of the members of the military insurrection that removed the immensely corrupt regime of President Joseph Saidu Momoh from Power, after almost two decades of one party rule in the country. A protest over conditions of service at the Eastern war front led to the flight of the former Major General turned president out of the country, causing the protesters to institute a National Provisional Ruling Council headed by Captain Esegrabo M. Strasser as Head of State.
During the 4 years of NPRC rule, Tom Nyuma gained prominence as one of the few cabinet ministers who frequently donned military fatigues and went to the war front to confront the rebels. Many people in the East of Sierra Leone view Tom Nyuma as a war hero who managed to defend the area against the advances of Foday Sankoh's Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and prevented many parts of the Eastern Region from falling into the hands of the RUF.
At the height of the civil war, Nyuma's detractors and RUF propagandists spread the news that he was collaborating with the rebels, but they could never explain how a sitting defense minister could collaborate with rebels and not have them succeed. It was later learnt that RUF had deliberately started the rumors to demoralize elements of the military. In 1994 when I had the chance to talk to Tom Nyuma about these allegations, he was deeply saddened at what he saw was the ingratitude of Sierra Leoneans.
|Foday Sankoh and Nyuma in Lome|
During the mid 1990s, the RUF was in awe of Tom Nyuma. In a peace conference between the RUF and the Sierra Leone government Foday Sankoh himself told Tom Nyuma that he had always wanted to meet him, as he had been on of the strongest obstacles to RUF plans during the peak of the war.
After the hand over to civilian rule, Tom Nyuma, who was now a senior officer in the military did a brief stint in the armed services and then left for USA. Tom Nyuma's sojourn in USA was unremarkable as he mostly avoided the limelight. He was reportedly deported from the country around 2007and went back to Sierra Leone. During the 2007 Presidential elections campaign period. Tom Nyuma was violently attacked by members of opposition leader Ernest Bai Koroma's security detail. During the attack he received major head trauma but never received expert medical attention.
|2007 Attack on Nyuma in Bo|
In 2008, Tom Nyuma was elected as Chairman of the Kailahun District Council winning with an overwhelming 87% of the votes. However his tenure as district council chairman was not very successful. As an opposition party Councillor, he was also seen as being to close to the ruling All Peoples Congress Party.
In the 2012 elections, Tom Nyuma threw his support behind President Ernest Koroma instead of his party candidate and former military colleague Julius Maada Bio, even though he strenously denied reports that he himself had abandoned the SLPP.
Over the past few years Tom had been declining in health, a condition many believe was the effect of untreated head trauma during the attack in Bo, as he had never regained his full health after the attack. Tom Nyuma grew up in Fourah Bay College where his father was a long term employee. He was from the Kissi ethnic group and will always be an integral part of the history of 1990s Sierra Leone.
Tom Nyuma died this morning at 4.30am in the Choitrams Hospital in Sierra Leone.