|David Tam Baryoh|
Being Processed at Pademba
Before appearing on the political scene in 2007, Sam Sumana was a Minnesota Metropolitan State University business major graduate who convinced some business men in Minnesota to invest in diamond mining in his home district of Kono, with him in charge. When he got back home, Sam Sumana established his diamond business and had to opportunity to meet an ambitious politician Ernest Bai Koroma who had emerged as the flagbearer of the then opposition All Peoples Congress. Sam Sumana invested heavily in Koroma's campaign and was rewarded with the offer of being his running mate. They eventually were declared the winners of the 2007 election and the rest as they say is history.
After a four year term, President Koroma was again reelected as President on an Agenda for Prosperity. Though the election results were contested, the challenge was rejected on legal technicalities and the Koroma administration was returned to government. The relationship between the President and his vice had however eroded during the elections and both men were now mutually suspicious of each other and the situation has continued to deteriorate. The President has promoted the political adversaries of the Vice President from his home district to ministerial positions and largely kept the VP on the sidelines of national affairs.
|Vice President Sam Sumana|
In 2012 the President's newly appointed Special Executive assistant, Sylvia Olayinka Blyden launched a vicious attack against the Vice President and those close to him, using her Awareness Times newspaper to pour some choice adjectives on his head. Instead of calling him VP Alhaji Sam Sumana, she shortened his name to VP ASS, a very derogatory term in Sierra Leone. In spite of all these attacks, the Vice President had largely kept out of the public brouhaha. The Special Executive Assistance to the President soon grew too big for her britches, became too loud and grew quickly irrelevant. She was recently forced to resign.
The political malice between the President has however deepened as the Ebola crisis has worsened with the President now personally being in charge of all Ebola donations in the country. Recently a reputable international accounting firm KPMG Peat Marwick withdrew their accounting services to the Ebola fund over questionable financial practices.
Last week supporters of the Vice President began to be publicly arrested in Kono on the pretext of engaging in riotous affairs. Prominent among those arrested were the Vice President's sister Sia Sam Sumana and a norious government political thug named Adamu Ezei. The Minister of Political and Presidential affairs Karamoh Kabba personally traveled to Kono to supervise these arrests which he said were sanctioned by the VP himself.
The most prominent supporter of the Vice President in the country however is David Tam Baryoh, a journalist who hosts a popular weekly radio program called monologue that was in 2012 used to embarrass the members of the country's opposition, by pretending to be a neutral program. As the members of the Koroma support group have peeled away from Vice President Sam Sumana, David Tam Baryoh who considers the VP his kinsman has stood by him and is now seen in less than a favorable light by members of the government. Earlier this year Tam Baryoh was arrested and whisked away to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) over some text messages between himself and the Aviation minister Balogun Koroma.
Over the weekend sources in Freetown state that Tam Baryoh had discussed the ongoing issues in Kono on his radio program which was temporarily suspended during the year. On Monologue, Tam Baryoh had objected against the closure of colleges citing the fact that traders were allowed to interact in certain areas of the capital Freetown in even larger numbers. He also questioned the selective regional enforcement of the Ebola quarantine in the country and discussed the role the VP had played in bringing the President to power.
|The Road to Kono|
It seems as if David Tam Baryoh's recent Moonologue program on the pro-government star radio hit some raw nerves as he was yesterday arrested and is currently being detained at the country's maximum security Pademba Road Prisons, one of the most notorious prosons for human rights abuses in West Africa. This morning a group of journalists who went to see David Tam Baryoh were not allowed to see him on the pretext of an Ebola protocol. He was reported to be looking very poorly and constantly clutching his knees in apparent pain.
Upon reelection, President Koroma had promised that in his second term he would not be so friendly to journalists. The harassment of journalists over trivial remarks is slowly becoming the hallmark of his second term, even as the Ebola infection makes the work of journalists so important in the country. In Sierra Leone today journalists face a stark reality. You are either with the President and enjoy his largess or you are against him subject to censor and intimidation. Meanwhile Ebola continues to kill the innocent.