Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sierra Leone Political Updates: The SLPP Wahala

Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie
Even before the first vote was cast in the November 17, 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections in Sierra Leone, there was a growing disquiet and uneasiness among rank and file members of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) over reports of a lack of unity of purpose between the leaders of the party at the highest levels of hierarchy. Quiet whispers seeping slowly through the grapevine indicated that though there was a hundred percent desire by all the top leaders of SLPP for a party victory in the November 2017 elections, Brigadier Julius Maada Bio's candidacy did not have the same universality of genuine support. Paradoxically, it seemed as if  there was a stronger desire among the leadership for the party to emerge victorious in the past in the November 2017 elections, than for Brigadier Bio to assume the mantle of President of Sierra Leone for a variety of reasons, or so it was rumored.

After the election of Brigadier Bio as party flagbearer involving a long, tough, contentious and sometimes acrimonious tussle between 19 aspirants, many embittered aspirants decided to defect to the ruling All Peoples Congress rather than endorse his candidacy. Some others, it was rumored, stayed only due to party loyalty, but their loyalty to candidate Bio was was murky at best. Given this state of uneasy acceptance of candidate Bio, there was a veil of suspicion and mistrust among the top party brass that continued to fester and simmer quietly in the background, but is now slowly coming to the fore as indicated by the series of competing press statements and counter press statements that are now emanating from the leadership with the rapidity of bullets from a malfunctioning rifle.
Chairman John Oponjo Benjamin

To understand the current SLPP conundrum in greater detail, it is important to understand how perception functions as one of the greatest and most effective barriers to communication. When an individual is bereaved, messages of condolence from acquaintances are an integral element of the grieving process that helps the individual to cope with the loss and gradually help them return to some state of normalcy. Perception has the ability to fundamentally distort messages of condolence. Imagine an individual who has just lost a very close and dear relative and has just received two sympathizers over for a visit, both bearing the same message of condolence, one she considers a friend and the other she considers a rival or an enemy. When the friend expresses words of sorrow for the loss of the close relative, the mourner accepts the condolence as a matter of fact and it provides him or her much comfort or solace to cope with the tragedy. When on the other hand the perceived enemy offers the same message of condolence, the mourner may become suspicious of the motive of the sympathizer and even imagine that they were there not to sympathize, but to gloat at their calamity. When there is suspicion and mistrust between people, even the most matter of fact statement has the tendency of being magnified, analyzed and taken completely out of context. Perception causes people to look at the world through different lenses and therefore can become an important barrier to effective communication and mutual understanding.
Brigadier Julius Maada Bio. Rtd

I am of the singular opinion that the current SLPP imbroglio has arisen largely as a result of mutual suspicion and lack of trust among leaders who view each other with skepticism. Using this detour as the basis for my conclusion, let us examine in some detail the current crisis as it continues to unfold from a purely my side, your side and then the truth perspective.

To summarize the current situation; on December 6, 2012 members of the SLPP National Executive Council (NEC) met at their Wallace Johnson Street headquarters to determine the course of action for the immediate future over the results of an election that they were convinced had been substantially rigged in favor of President Ernest Bai Koroma and his APC party. After the meeting the party Secretary General issued a press release that had three important resolutions. These resolutions were firstly, to ratify the meeting of the party leadership and President Ernest Bai Koroma on December 3, 2013. Secondly, to direct party councillors and parliamentarians to take up their posts and the third and now infamous Resolution 3 which stated that " the Flagbearer and Running Mate of the party in the 2012 presidential elections continue to provide political leadership of the party until the next party conference."

As soon as the press release saw the light of day, many in the party cried foul and expressed a strong disagreement with the now famous Resolution 3 which was was in direct contravention of Clause 5.1 (a) of the SLPP constitution that designates the chairman as the political and administrative head of the party and Clause 6.v which notes that in the event of an electoral loss, the presidential candidate and running mate shall become ex-officio members of the NEC.

A lot of stakeholders were of the opinion that Resolution 3 was a bad precedence, as it created the semblance of flagbearer in perpetuity and would also would give Brigadier Bio an unfair advantage in the event of a future flagbearer contest,  if he were to remain as the political head of the party. Other members were incensed that the motion that had been floored  and subsequently withdrawn due to some protests, but had somehow managed to have been surreptitiously inserted into the final press release and appealed to the Secretary General to withdraw that particular resolution with immediate effect. Tejan-sie however remained resolute and defiant and would not budge.

Around January 17, 2013, the SLPP Chairman John Oponjo Benjamin decided to release a counter press statement designed to assert his constitutional role as both the administrative and political leader of the SLPP and nullify the now infamous Resolution 3. Unfortunately for Chairman Benjamin,  the first rumors that got out were that the party chairman was about to declare himself as flagbearer in 2017. This rumor quickly spread like wildfire among the rank of Maada Bio devotees and they saw bright red. In typical mob fashion they proceeded to vent their anger on the chairman's vehicle which they vandalized comprehensively. News was that they also rained some choice invective on the Chairman, but with the direct intervention of Maada Bio,  he was able to leave the scene untouched and unharmed. John Benjamin decided to go ahead anyway and release the press statement nullifying Resolution 3 and resting the blame for the current party infighting squarely on the shoulders of the party Secretary General Sulaiman Banja Tejansie.
Hon. Musa Tamba Sam

On January 21, 2013 the Secretary General released a press statement chronicling his own version of the events and giving his reasons for the inclusion of Resolution 3 in the December 6th press statement that started the entire debacle. He argued that though NEC member Tamba Sam who had initially proposed the framework of Resolution 3 had withdrawn the motion after some vehement objections, "The withdrawal of the motion by Tamba Sam nevertheless did not change the mood prevailing in the Meeting in favour of adopting the message contained in the motion and in fact there was a demand from the floor that this be put in writing. This necessitated my inclusion of resolution 3 in my draft resolution" 

In essence the Secretary General, a lawyer had decided to include the resolution in the final draft even after it had been withdrawn on the sole basis of his opinion about the prevailing mood in the meeting, which he thought had been in favor of the motion, though it had been subsequently withdrawn.

Given the catalogue of events, one can easily see how a matter that could have easily been dealt with by the members of the NEC became blown out of proportions simply because the element of distrust and skepticism between the primary players was at a very high level. The question that comes to mind is why the need for a special designation for Brigadier Bio in contravention of the constitution. Did Team Bio somehow believe that some in the party hierarchy, notably the Chairman was not poised to act in the best interest of Bio? If so, then what was the basis of this belief?

As a legal practitioner, Secretary General Tejan-Sie clearly knew the implications of his unconstitutional move and though he took pains to explain the rationale for his decision, he is hardly able to convince most enlightened people. In the words of a former SLPP North America top executive and another lawyer, "Sullay knows or should know that what they did in that hall on that day is not just shameful, it is despicable and has no Constitutional bases." Most of the leaders of SLPP and some constitutional experts are of the opinion that Resolution 3 is unconstitutional and divisive, but was just a symptom of the high level of mistrust, mutual suspicion and lack of unity of purpose among party top brass at a crucial time in party history and if the players do not get their acts together, the long term impact of such internal wrangling is bound to have a substantial negative impact on SLPP going forward.

Many ordinary party members are fed up with the continual rancor,  but some see it as a natural reaction to the current events as people try to position themselves for leadership positions as within the next few years, as the flagbearer position, the party chairman position and the position of most of the members of the National Executive Council will come into play and the fight for recognition has already started.

Pro-APC press are having a field day, as the SLPP imbrioglo provides much needed fodder for some imaginative journalistic misinformation. However, as the APC is also set to elect new party leaders over the next year or two, the dance has just started and the Segbwema Blogger will continue to give analytic interpretation of current Sierra Leone political events.

Sheku Sheriff
Segbwema Blogger

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sierra Leoneans on my mind

Khadija Mansaray-Author

By Khadija Mansaray

We have a very beautiful country, fertile soil, abundant rain, rich minerals, natural harbour and more. Our population is about five million yet with all this we are one of the poorest countries in the world.

Why is Sierra Leone poor amid all the riches it has been blessed with? The answer: The people. We are unpatriotic, dishonest and hate each other. The fundamental values, or lack of them, ensure that the country remains poor. Some may say this is a harsh conclusion but the evidence speaks for itself.

Good governance is anathema to us. We continuously elect bad governments and ensure they stay in power for too long. We cry for law and order but detest discipline and make enemies of those who enforce it. We frustrate good people. We fight them, accuse them, humiliate them and if possible physically harm them. The Sierra Leonean sense of right and wrong is completely twisted. We steal from our bosses and think it is ok because they have more than we do, they are wicked and evil if they decide to discipline us.
Freetown, Sierra Leone

A woman finds her husband cheating and she is unreasonable not to have expected it. The Sierra Leonean way of life is to rip the other off. Honesty and integrity are seen as weaknesses and not virtues. From the top to the bottom to cheat and lie is normal. In the markets we fiddle the meat scales, we dent the measuring cups, we add other substances to Gari and palm oil. We lie and cheat at every opportunity and all of this is acceptable business practice.

In management they talk about win-win situations but the Sierra Leonean only knows win-loss. We are always out to get one up on the other. Using and hurting people to get ahead is ok and sometimes even applauded. We completely abuse goodwill and shamelessly say ‘nar wey you fool’

Exploiting people in vulnerable situations is also ok. We have no respect for poor people and treat our domestic servants in the most appalling manner. We feel we have the right to verbally abuse poor people just because we have given them some food and shelter. We do a small good deed and follow it with numerous acts of cruelty and wickedness and expect to be loved for it. What we do to poorer relatives living with us and the so called ‘men pekin’ – ward – is disgraceful. We turn them into slaves for our children. We deny them the opportunities that would make them progress. We verbally, physically and even sexually abuse them and we scream ingratitude when they walk away.

We waste our energies on the silliest prejudices ever. Every group of Sierra Leonean thinks they are better than the other and that only they should progress. We make it a mission to hinder the progress of others. In institutions – academic or otherwise – we seek to further the interest of our own only. We believe that good things should only come to certain people and woe betides someone we look down on rise to a certain status or position. We scoff and laugh and fervently pray that they fall from grace so we can justify our prejudices. We have not yet learned that a humble beginning is no crime and that the people we should admire are the ones who achieve in spite of poverty. We are hung up on status and do the most disgraceful things to achieve it.

We are callous and heartless. We never really cared about the war and the sufferings of people until it came to our doorstep. Yes we were quite happy to keep partying in Freetown until our homes were burnt down too. Until we realized that our sons could be abducted too, our daughters could be raped and our husbands killed and that being elite was not going to save us. We all pretend that all the evil things in the war were done by rebels. But we know the homes of the privileged were swept clean by their neighbours, friends and family who moved in when the rebels left. How many of us lucky to have our homes untouched then proceeded to buy goods we knew were obviously stolen. The ‘item’ became commonplace in Freetown. The streets were flooded with stolen goods and it was ok. We were buying looted goods like they were going out of fashion.

In the aftermath of the war security became an issue and checkpoints sprang up all over the place. Now we had power over everyone. Now was time to humiliate our wealthy and snobbish neighbours. Get them down their cars and make them walk, search them in the most humiliating manner and let them know they were at our mercy. How many people did we point as rebels or collaborators because of personal vendettas, grudges or just plain envy? Those of us fortunate to escape to Guinea or Gambia, on our return we embarked on the most vicious witch-hunt ever. Everyone one left behind was a collaborator and must pay for it. To hang the collaborator became our mission. We give the impression that all rapes were committed by rebels but how many of our “respectable” men abused the women who came to seek shelter in their homes. How many displaced men abused their fellow displaced who were more vulnerable?
Natural Beauty

The Sierra Leonean is hungry for power. And it is a power to suppress and oppress the other especially the vulnerable. We are happiest when we oppress others. The teacher with the cane taking out his frustrations on a pupil, the manager with the promotion that beautiful girl wants, the lecturer with the marks yet another beautiful girl wants, the officer who allocates market space, the government minister with the lucrative contracts, even the school prefect. The list is endless and it’s all about power and exploitation.

We’ve perfected gossip and turned it into a national pastime. A person decides they've had enough of being overweight and opts for a healthy life style and lose weight. They become fit and slim and we say they have HIV/AIDS. I have never seen a people who rejoice at others’ misfortunes like we do. A woman is widowed and we smirk. A man abandons his wife and kids and we jump for joy. A family loses their home and we’re happy and laugh because now they shall suffer like us. We openly make fun of disabled people. We rejoice when people suffer loss or misfortune and cannot bear to see others happy and successful. We can’t help ourselves; instead we have to bring them down.

Our tendency to bury our head in the sand would be hilarious if it weren't so serious. All of our leaders are good it’s the people around them who mess things up. Our husbands are not uncontrollable perverts it’s the women out there desperate to get them. Our uncle can afford that swanky car despite his meager salary because his boss made a generous payout last Christmas. Our beautiful 21-year-old daughter is not dating that short and balding 56-year-old for his money. It’s the devil in the bush who takes the Downs Syndrome child away. The state of denial makes it easier for us to turn a blind eye to everything.

Then we come to the diaspora. You think we would learn something instead we take our wickedness to another level. The blatant exploitation and lack of regard for others becomes even worse. You would have thought the loss of status and the cleaning and care jobs would have taught us to appreciate people. But no! You would think the discipline we are forced to practice in our jobs and day-to-day activities would become ingrained. Again no! The speed with which we revert to type when among our own is phenomenal. We turn up late at parties, hardly give presents, talk down to people helping behind the bar, leave the toilets in a mess, steal what we can and go home. We really are a bunch of savages. We are among the world’s greatest litterbugs. The annual Fourah Bay-Foulah Town Outing in UK attracts the best and worst of our society. Whilst it brings us all together we leave the beaches in such a state it’s a wonder they don’t ban us. We litter with impunity failing to realise that is likely to be one of our own black brother or sister cleaning the beach the next day. How would we feel if we turned up at our cleaning jobs and met that same kind of filth? Yet we go on about how filthy other races are.

Our regard for the institution of marriage is a joke. We teach our daughters chastity at 13 and encourage them to be home-breakers when they turn 20. And now we have Facebook, a brand new platform to show how ugly we can get. While other communities use it more positively we do our usual thing. We bully and abuse.

But we have two good things. We are warm and hospitable to foreigners. We welcome them and make them feel at home. The Sierra Leonean will open his heart and home to anyone. We also have a very high religious tolerance. The Sierra Leonean will kill you for your property, your wife or your money but never ever for your religion. Although that itself begs the question, do we really care about God?

Every Sierra Leonean reading this knows we need to embrace the good and let go of the bad. But the question is: are we ready to change??!!
Today is the tomorrow that you worried about yesterday

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sierra Leone Political Updates: The Tale of Lahai and Kaikai

Moijue Kaikai
Today we take another match down the valley of the shadow of comedy that defines Sierra Leone politics and there is much to discuss. If politics in Sierra Leone did not directly affect the living standards of so many people, one would say that the Almighty was playing a practical joke on the people. In the Almighty's defense however, he took a small country, populated it with rivers, minerals and forests and then proceeded to seemingly hand it over to ego maniacal jackals.

The past few days in Freetown has been devoted to ceremonial charades. The President's nominees for ministerial positions  are supposed to parade before a parliamentary committee to determine their fitness for office. With the current parliamentary line up, even Joe Kpana in the village knows that this is a mere formality as the country's parliament is merely a highly paid rubber stamp rubber for the executive and whatever President Koroma wants, President Koroma will get. But as the country's laws still demand this formality, everybody is willing to comply. Some opposition MPs decided to make some of the appointees sweat by asking some not so tough questions and APC's army of propaganda specialists attired in the guise of journalism instantly cried foul.
Hon. Dr. Bernadette Lahai
"Moijue where is the 'O' Level"

Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs appointee Moijue Kaikai was asked by female MP Hon Dr. Bernadette Lahai for evidence of education at at just the 'O' Level, and APC cried foul, saying the Honorable member of parliament was trying to discredit him. Well that is a new one. If people who want to join the police are asked about their educational credentials, why is it
an embarrassment to ask a minister who is supposed to head a ministry concerned with social safety nets, children's affairs and gender issues about 'O' level education? If this fellow is to be dealing with children's affairs and it is universally accepted that in contemporary times education is the most important asset to give to children, then what example is being set by having a role model who did not even have the mental fortitude to get 'O' Levels. Mind you, Bo School was built for these fellows, the sons and nominees of paramount chiefs and even the poor Segbwema Blogger was able to get one foot in through the door.

Being accused of providing educational documents that were too scanty for consideration to the country's cabinet, Moijue Kaikai's evidence of a stellar education was that the very MP Bernadette Lahai had seen him attending school when she and his elder sister were friends. If seeing a person wearing a uniform to school is now the new evidence of education in Sierra Leone, then the country could qualify as a top nation of rocket scientists and nuclear engineers. The next Nobel Prize in Physics could even come from Segbwema.

Of course APC's caboodle of imaginative defenders soon rushed to poor Mr. Kaikai's aid. One said that Moijue Kaikai had benefited from the colonial system of standard 1-4 education, in which a standard 4 student was far more educated than the SSS esucation of today. Unfortunately for this not so particularly bright defender, Mr. Kaikai is not old enough to have benefited from that colonial form of standard education and that particular line of defense does not hold water.

Another fellow minimized the importance of college education stating that afterwards, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, the pioneers of Microsoft and Apple were both college dropouts. The fact that both Jobs and Gates were the pioneers of the computer technology that has drastically facilitated contemporary scientific inquiry and revolutionized communication did not in anyway register to this unimaginative knucklehead. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs did not drop out of college because they were academic failures,  they dropped out because they wanted to focus on research in academic endeavors that were yet unexplored, a feat ten times more challenging than getting a PhD degree by memorizing a body of existing literature. Talk about a faulty premise!
Trailblazing Attila
One fellow even wrote on Facebook that the minister did not need to be educated because there were permanent secretaries and administrative secretaries who are the professional heads of the ministries and they write speeches and prepare reports for the ministers. I just hope one of these secretaries will be around when a primary school pupil asks the minister about the definition of gender.

Of course there are technocrats in ministries who have intimate knowledge of the day to day operations of their departments, but is that an excuse to have half literates being their boss and getting 5 times more than their pay. The ministry of welfare, gender and children's affairs is not the ministry of local government where you deal mostly with traditional chiefs. This is a ministry where the minster meets daily with visiting social scholars who would like information on the country policies on such social and gender issues such as safety nets for the aged, gender equity and bias, the education of the girl child, FGM, just to start naming a few. Is the minister going to always be calling the permanent secretary to each and every meeting or always be reading even when asked questions? For a country that has had a top class university in Africa for over 100 hundred years to have a minister without O levels manning such a vital ministry is not just an affront to the intelligence of Sierra Leoneans, it is a travesty.

Trade Minister Jubilee
Alhaji Usu Bioe
Then the comedy continued from there. Alhaji Usu Boie a potential 2017 APC flagbearer and mines expert was not sent to that ministry, but was sent to the trade ministry and what did he do? Well I do not know if he thought he had just won the Nobel Prize for international trade, but he took to the streets of Freetown cheering and waving to throngs of adulating supporters as if he had just been awarded the presidency. It begs the question, what is happening to Sierra Leone?

Well Some good News! Mohamed Bai Attila a blind musician and political activist became the country's first blind man to be made a minster in the nation's history. His appointment is a considerable step by the president in a continent where disability is viewed as a social and economic stigma and disadvantage and consequently there are very few accommodations for the disabled. Minister Attila is truly a trailblazer in Sierra Leone. The bad news is that he is the Deputy Minister for guess which ministry, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs. This ministry now has the unique distinction of having a head who is intellectually challenged supported by a deputy who is visually challenged. God bless the poor folks at the Welfare Ministry.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Sierra Leone Political Updates: The Snake Charmer from Hell

Snake Charmer in Kenema
Back when when I was preschooler growing up in my home town of Segbwema, Sierra Leone, we used to always be fascinated by the snake charmers that came to town. These were men who usually traveled with small white bags full of tamed, but very deadly snakes of the cobra and mamba variety. These were potent venomous snakes very common in the tropical jungles of eastern Sierra Leone that could bite and paralyze a fully grown adult before you could say "shokolokobangoshay" two times with your eyes wide open. These enterprising snake charmers would play with these snakes so casually and would even sometimes put the head of a cobra in their mouths, to the amazement and awe of people in the crowd and while they were doing this, you could hear a pin drop, such was the fear of people for the lives of these heroic snake charmers.

My juvenile mind was so impressed by the mystery of these snake charmers and the air and aura of mystic surrounding them that I told an uncle of mine that when I grew up, I would like to also be a snake charmer. My uncle quickly took me to the side and quietly and firmly told me to never  even think about that again, let alone say it. Boy he said ,"snakes and men are never suppose to be friends. Snake charmers, mysterious and fearful as the may seem, are always killed by their own snakes."

"Look Under You Foot"
Just a few weeks after my uncle discouraged me from my dream as a snake charmer, news came to Segbwema that the wonderful snake charmer that came to town had died somewhere around Gandorhun in Kono district. He had been bitten by his favorite cobra.

When Brigadier Julius Maada Bio was elected as the flagbearer of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party, Sylvia Blyden who had tried very unsuccessfully to block his election to the position, quickly decided to shift her loyalties from the opposition to the ruling All Peoples Congress party. Sierra Leone's Communication Minister Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo was one of those who were ecstatic with euphoria at Sylvia's switch of loyalty, as her attacks on President Koroma in the past had given her paper notoriety and boosted her circulation and sales.
As soon as she shifted her allegiance, Sylvia, understanding the regional dynamics of Sierra Leone politics, with APC popular in the north and SLPP popular in the southeast, quickly started to launch insane attacks on people from the southeast of Sierra Leone, accusing them of willingly bringing the rebels to Sierra Leone and inciting anti southeastern sentiments among people from the north, bringing up historical animosities. By November 2012 the politics of Sierra Leone had been transformed from an SLPP-APC rivalry to a north-southeast rivalry due to a campaign of disinformation and outright tribalism and regionalism mostly fueled by journalists in the country who decided to forgo news reporting for the dissemination of political propaganda.
"Satan Company Dem A Sniper"
Joseph Hills-Culture

Communications Minister Ibrahim Ben Kargbo suddenly and unwittingly became a very close friend and ally of Sylvia Blyden and suddenly he became  her "Uncle IB" in her Awareness Times tabloid. Ben Kargbo took Sylvia's bait hook, line and sinker and even had some APC  operatives arrange an award show in which Sylvia was given an dubious award that was personally handed to her by none other than IB Kargbo himself. The fact that this same Sylvia had been very close to the opposition SLPP, even calling veteran Sierra Leone politician and political commentator Dr. Sama Banya "Uncle Sama" in the past before crucifying him in public,  did not at register to I B Kargbo as he warmly embraced Sylvia like a long lost prodigal daughter from hell.

Well as my uncle once said, snake charmers are always killed by their favorite snakes. As soon as Sylvia gained a modicum of APC acceptability, she gradually and steadily began to undermine the communications team of the president. She started accusing them of letting the opposition control propaganda and labeling them as a "mumu team. "Mumu" meaning dumb in the local Sierra Leone Krio dialect. Over the past months her attacks on the country's communication team grew and she started to become the unofficial spokesman of the President Ernest Bai Koroma, with whom she has now developed a very strong personal rapport.
Brand New Buddies

The extent of human treachery can be seen from the response of Sylvia Blyden to the firing of Alhaji Ben Kargbo after the new cabinet reshuffle in the country to make way for a new administration. In an article called "Uncle IB, cold you heart now sir," Sylvia writes as if the firing of the veteran journalist turned information minister was a retribution for things he had done to her in the past, such as turning off his cellphone when her paper was suspended by the Independent Media Commission. She is also now claiming that the former information minister was complicit in the Aljazeera scandal that destroyed the reputation of the country's scandal ridden Vice President. She is now accusing her uncle IB of paying journalists to scandalize people in the government, thus deepening the old man's misery.

Given the degree of gloating and self congratulation of Blyden on Ibrahim Ben Kargbo's political demise, I can now understand why many years ago my uncle told me that human beings should never form close friends with snake, as one day they will bite, when the opportune time comes, as that is what they are known to do best. One can only imagine the degree of malice and callousness that abides in this lady's heart when she gives her uncle the following parting shot, "Cold you heart sir, we yone heart done cold since"

As the President's men start to fall by the political wayside those who are rejoicing should remember these words of the great Joseph Hills of Culture "when you dig a grave for your brother, remember to always dig two"
Segbwema Blogger

Let President Koroma Do What Makes Him Comfortable.

Evil Counsel
The president of any country on the surface of the earth does not rule alone. No single man can adequately carry out all the tasks that are necessary to ensure the efficient functioning of  a big village, let alone an entity as complex as a country. Each and every president may therefore depend to a large extent on a close group of  advisers or subordinates from whom he either seeks counsel if he is a democratic leader,  or who he depends upon to carry out his desires if he is an autocrat. Sometimes a president may have the best intentions, but if those close to him are more interested in protecting narrow personal interests at the expense of the greater good, then the narrow interests have a way of being presented to the leader as if it is what is best for the greater good. This strategy is Machiavellian, but very effective because of one philosophical truth "wrong is easy and right is hard"
Niccolò Machiavelli

Every president in the history of Sierra Leone came to office promising to develop the country; to reduce poverty, create jobs, increase food production, fight corruption and increase national unity. Every President knew that was the right thing to do, but over 50 years of independence, no president has been able to achieve even 30% of these promises effectively, despite years of trying. Which simply means that the right thing to do is also the hard thing to do.

On the other hand, all the things that are wrong are abundant in Sierra Leone.  Sierra leone has more than its fair share of poverty, illiteracy, prostitution, lack of electricity, poor health care and general destitution.. Though all of the above things are wrong, they are plenty because of a simple philosophical truth, the wrong thing to do is always the easy thing to do

One of the most trusted advisers of the President of Sierra Leone and the intellectual leader of his propaganda brigade is the editor of the pro-government Cocorioko online news outlet Leroy Kabbs Kanu, aka Reverend. This fellow also happens to be a minister plenipotentiary in the government, safely operating from the comfort of America. This morning I woke up to read an editorial in Cocorioko entreating the president to do what makes him comfortable to perform his job well and giving the president some advise to do this, which he, Kabbs, believes is in "the best interest of the nation"
The Face of Trust-Ben Kargbo

The gist of Kabbs advise to the president is as follows. Governing he say is delicate, the government is like a soccer team. The president is the goal keeper, the ministers are the defenders and they must work well together, otherwise even if the forward line is doing great, the team will not do its optimal best if the goalkeepers and the defenders do not understand each other as they will keep leaking goals. In other words those calling for the president to include youths, women and diversity in his new government were wrong, as in Kabbs Kanu's opinion, the President should only work with people he trusts, regardless of age, sex or background, as by doing so he will work better in the interest of "the country"

Anybody who has read Machiavelli's, "The Prince" will be amazed at the parallels between the letter to the Prince and Kabbs Kanu's advise to the president. Those who have not read "The Prince" should do so, as it is the sycophant's Bible. Kabbs is essentially asking President Ernest Koroma to "do evil so that good may come"

The article which Kabbs has promised his readers will have a part II, is wrong for Sierra Leone in every single aspect, from the first paragraph to the conclusion and we will wait to read and analyse the part two, maybe he will better be able to elaborate on his insane advise to the President.

In the first place if we are to take the soccer analogy, the President of a country is not a goal keeper, but the team captain, ensuring that every member of the team is effectively positioned at all times for victory. Or if it were to be a particular player, the President will possibly be the leading striker, scoring goals to ensure the team's victory, while his team mates at the back ensure a strong and robust defense. Even if we are to take the APC's own stated campaign position that President Koroma was the "world's best,"  then he is more like Lionel Messi than Victor Valdes. But if running a country was like running a soccer team, Sir Alex Ferguson would have long become the King of England.

The irony of Kabbs Kanu's advise is that for five years, President Ernest Koroma has been working mostly with people he trusts. The net result has been a plethora of scandals, an increase in poverty, a decrease in national cohesiveness and an increase in lawlessness. Just in the past week,  insiders are now accusing the former Information Minister Ibrahim Ben Kargbo who was up til this month one of the President's most trusted advisers of having always worked in his own interest and not that of the President.Now the president is being asked to do even more of the same, hoping to expect different results. What a load!

If you think that running a country is just about doing what is good to maintain your party in power at the expense of everything else, then President Koroma should listen to Kabbs Kanu's advise, sack all of them that are currently working with him and appoint members of his own family. Surely,who can you trust better than members of your own family? If you view the Presidency as a defense against your opponents then Kabbs Kanu's advise may be reasonable, but unfortunately the President, once elected, becomes not the president of his party, but the President of the country, even the opposition and he must learn to work with everybody, friend or foe, for the interest of the country. The American minority leader in the Senate Mitch McConnell once famously remarked that his main goal during his first term was "to ensure that Obama becomes a one term President." But for the progress of America, president Obama has to listen to the opinion of even a political adversary like McConnel, before he can make any important national decision.

If President Koroma is genuinely interested in not always listening to the same choir, if he wants an influx of new ideas, if he wants a government that is truly representative of the country, then he should discard Reverend Kabbs advise,  look beyond just those close to him and find remarkable youths, women and even political opponents who are formidable,  knowledgeable and interested in achieving genuine national progress, not just the progress of a close circle of allies.

What A Strange Sheep
The irony of Kabbs advise is that this man is supposed to not only be a political journalist, but a Reverend! But giving the role of the clergy in the propagation of Hitlers Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide, it is apparent that among the clergy are many wolves, quietly masquerading in sheep's clothing. With close advisers like Kabbs Kanu and Sylvia Blyden, Satan himself will be proud of Sierra Leone.

Usu Boie Kamara Faces Baptism by Fire

Alhaji Usu Boie Kamara
Former opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) strong man and flagbearer runner up Usu Boie Kamara, who switched over to the ruling All Peoples Congress Party (APC) after being asked to leave the SLPP just as he was about to bail from the party,  has some very tough challenges ahead in the immediate future.

Usu Boie Kamara was recently nominated by President Ernest Bai Koroma to head the Ministry of Trade in the country's new administration. His approval by the Parliament is a foregone conclusion as though he is relatively new in Sierra Leone politics, he is one of the few politicians in Sierra Leone that has huge followings in both of the two main parties in the country, as he is known to have very deep pockets and also very generous to those with lesser means. In a poor country like Sierra Leone, money and generosity will buy you much love and cross party acceptance.
Police Controlling Fuel Line in Freetown

Usu Boie Kamara is taking up the trade portfolio just at the moment when dire shortages of fuel has hit every corner of the country, practically bringing transportation to a grinding halt. In the capital Freetown and the main urban areas of the provinces, fuel rationing has led to extremely long and chaotic lines at Petrol Stations and the distribution of goods and services around the country has been seriously curtailed. Rogue traders and black-marketeers are also exploiting the situation by jerking up the prices of essential commodities, just when the people have spent a lot of money on Christmas festivities.
Ouattara Why?

The outgoing Minister of trade and Industry Richard Conteh who is now the president's Chief of Staff has attributed the drastic shortages to an unexpected halt to the shipments of oil to the country from the country's primary suppliers in politically unstable Ivory Coast and the hopelessly poor West African nation of Benin. Minister Conteh did not release details surrounding the halt in fuel shipment to the country, but stated that a shipment of fuel to the country from Europe was currently at the Free Port in Liberia, but was expected in the country yesterday, Thursday January 10, 2013. However, the outgoing minister and nominated chief of staff warned that the people should not expect an immediate relief of the situation, as the fuel still had to be offloaded and distributed to filling stations before the drivers can have access to it.  He however promised that the government will do everything possible to expedite the situation.
Richard Conteh 

The long fuel lines in Freetown and other cities have led to frayed tempers, resulting in frequent scuffles among those waiting in the long lines, adding to the already chaotic situation. Profiteers are also joining the lines to buy fuel not for use, but for resale on the blackmarket and some are charging up to ten dollars on the black market for a single gallon of gas. The result of the fuel shortages has been a concomitant increase in the prices of food and other essentials in the country adding to the country's already high inflationary trends.

Ordinary Sierra Leoneans have taken to social networks to express their frustration with the prevailing situation in the country. While some urge patience, as the President is still taking his time to put together a functional cabinet, many are saying that the resulting shortages are just the result of poor planning, as at the same time last year, the same problem occurred in the country and if there was serious planning such a regular occurrence would be avoided. Others are claiming that there was so much focus on electioneering during the past few months, that not much attention was paid to anything else, resulting in this dire situation just at the moment when the President's Agenda for Prosperity is supposed to start. As one young student sarcastically wrote on Facebook, " the first people to benefit from the agenda for prosperity are the petrol sellers." Others are blaming Allasane Ouattara the President of Ivory Coast stating that he has let President Koroma down, as Koroma was one of the leaders that went to beg Lauren Gbagbo to hand over power in the last Ivorian elections.
Queuing in Kenema

During his period of campaign for the flagbearership of the SLPP, Alhaji Usu Boie cited his long public and business experience, which he stated gave him the requisite skills to turn the country around and many ordinary Sierra Leoneans have high hope that he will soon be able to correct the situation and turn the tide around. If he is able to quickly stabilize the situation he will have demonstrated some competence at a time when APC members are already thinking about a new leader to take up the party mantle, as President Ernest Koroma is in the twilight of his presidency.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The 6-3-4-4 Educational System Debate in Sierra Leone

Dr Minkailu Bah
Sierra Leone is a country in which the journalists are doing a terrible disservice to the citizens. When I was a germ of a school boy attending Samaria Primary School in Freetown, my sister who was my guardian and a teacher at the time used to come home everyday with the Sierra Leone Daily Mail and throw it carelessly on a table or chair. This will always be the high point of my afternoon, as I will take the paper and carefully keep it in a safe place. After the Afternoon chores were done,  I will take the paper and my primary school dictionary, find an isolated corner in the house and immerse myself in the contents of the Daily Mail. In those days I took every thing that was in those pages as gospel truth and developed a deep affection for our President Siaka Probyn Stevens, as nothing bad was said about him in the Daily Mail.

Ironically the good thing then (if you can call one party good) was that we had no multiparty and all the potential political rivals of Stevens at the time; Salia Jusu Sheriff, Sama Banya, Francis M. Minah, Abdulai Conteh, Thaimu Bangura, and all the prominent politicians of that era, from north, east, south and west were eating from the same basin. Though there was the occasional embellishment of the news in those days, by and large, people did not report their personal opinion and tawdry gossip as news and stuck mostly to the truth.

Today, with the exception of a few Papers like Awoko that stick largely to unadulterated facts, Sierra Leone journalists are the main propagators of disinformation and political malice in the country. Sierra Leone is country today that does not engage in honest debate, because anytime an individual attempts to proffer suggestions on social affairs you are either classed as  APC or SLPP. This of course reduces necessary debate to political labels and discourages the influx of new and revolutionary ideas. For those of us who are so passionate about education, the attempt by the usual loudmouths to frame the current 6-3-4-4 or 6-3-3-4 educational system debate in terms of attacks on APC or the education minister Dr. Minkailu Bah is sycophantic, cheap, dishonest and a real disservice to the youths that this system will ultimately affect.
Students in Sierra Leone

I am not coming into this argument as a layman, but as one who was intimately involved in the adoption of the current 6-3-3-4 system from the 7-5-2 educational system under which we were educated. At the period of the adoption of the of the 6-3-3-4 system I was an Economics examiner for WAEC and the Head of Social Sciences Department in one of the oldest schools in West Africa. Initially I was apprehensive and skeptical about the then new system and had to attend many seminars and educational workshops to be convinced of the potential benefits of the new system to students in English West Africa.

Though the old 'O' Level and 'A' Level system was excellent for turning out great scholars, it was a poor system for students or pupils that were not academically inclined in the traditional sense, as it placed very little emphasis on the acquisition of alternative skills and relegated technical education to the background. The 6-3-3-4 was expected to remedy this shortcoming of the traditional system by providing alternative paths and greater options for students of all caliber.
Teacher Doing his Best

In Sierra Leone however, the implementation of the 6-3-3-4 system has resulted in a precipitous decline in educational standards across the board and in the highly politicized atmosphere that prevails in the country the quest for a way out of this quagmire has been buried under the avalanche of political horse trading. I honestly believe that as Minister of Education the intention of Dr. Minkailu Bah to modify the system was borne out of the genuine desire to improve the situation, as the current situation is failing the students in the country, breeding a generation of half educated intellectuals. On the other hand, those who do not see any use in adding an extra year are doing so because the social and economic costs of adding an extra year will be tremendous, without a guarantee that it will help. Though the whole argument has been politicized by both of the main parties and their bevy of paid journalists, Sierra Leone educators need to put politics aside and honestly debate the current educational decline in the country. A future country of half educated citizens will be of little use to either the APC, SLPP, or PMDC.

The analysis by the Awareness Times opinion piece that the old system of 7-5-2-4 was 18 years of education is seriously flawed and a deliberate attempt to misinform, mislead and misdirect the debate. More than half of the people who went through the old system never went to sixth form, but went directly to college on the strength of their 'O' Level results. In the whole Eastern Province if I can correctly remember  there were only one or two sixth form schools and most of my colleagues went straight to college after 5th form. In the old system, some schools employed the practice of "Double Promotion" which made some pupils spend only 5 years in primary school instead of 7. So Madam Blyden's highly political analysis as usual is highly starved of facts as she is inclined to do.

And for those who see no need in adding another year, why should anybody have to be educated for 17 years just to get a first degree. A lot of countries around the world are now letting very bright students take college level classes while still in High school, taking years off college education.

There is no guarantee that if you jail a criminal for nine years instead of eight he is going to be a better citizen and the same is true for education. If the system is rotten, staying there forever will not make you better, not by a long shot. Sierra Leone's problem is not the number of years students spend studying, it is about a system with low incentives for teachers, lack of adequate supplies, antiquated technology, and a disregard for the primacy of education. Gambia has some of the best school examination results in West Africa and you know what, they have the same 6-3-3-4 educational system. Guess what, their schools are populated by teachers from Sierra Leone! Teachers who are college graduates in Gambia earn enough to take complete care of their families and therefore devote considerable time and effort to ensuring that their students get great results, at least in the recent past.
They Are All That Is Important

Teachers are very special people. Though you have the few teachers that have bastardized and exploited the system, preying on underage girls, the great many are folks that have decided to devote their lives to ensuring the progress of others. In Sierra Leone teachers are downtrodden intellectuals forced to exist on the margins of society, condemned to perpetual poverty and want. As Jesus Christ said, a house built on a foundation of sand will be easily washed away. Teachers are like sand in Sierra Leone and unless we start to treat them like rocks, the rot has just started.
Sheku Sheriff
Segbwema Blogger

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Quest For Political Appointment in Sierra leone Becomes Sublime

Gollum "My Precious"
Sometimes we all yearn for things and make an effort to get them. Occasionally people want things so badly that the yearning becomes personal, becomes an ache, a hole in their hearts. Those who are fans of literary master J. R. R. Tolkien's "Lord of The Rings" will know how desire for the fabled the "one ring" consumed the playful hobbit Smeagol, sending him away from hobbit folk into isolation and schizoaffective madness, eventually transforming him into the monstrosity known as Gollum.

In Sierra Leone, President Ernest Koroma is taking his time to choose his team from amongst the many prominent people who played a part in his reelection campaign, with many hoping for prime government appointments. While some of these minister and ambassador wannabes are subtle, working silently in the background, the desperation of a few have become so palpable that it is a phenomenon to behold, particularly now that there are very few ministries remaining.

In Sierra Leone of yore, ministerial appointments used to be tinged with an element of surprise. Those days cabinet reshuffles suddenly thrust relatively obscure members of parliament into the spot light. After the military interregnum of the early to mid 90s, President Tejan Kabbah used ministerial appointments to satisfy the old guard of Sierra Leone politics. To Kabbah, it was also a tool for placating rivals such as Charles Margai and Thaimu Bangura and an instrument for the consolidation of peace.

After winning the election in 2007, President Ernest Bai Koroma, suddenly thrust into the spotlight, deviated from the norm and introduced the concept of ministerial appointments for personal loyalty. President Koroma reached out to party supporters in Sierra Leone and the diaspora and gave prime positions to those who had played significant roles in his campaign for office, making many ambitious people in the West to pack up their bags, leaving mundane jobs overseas to be thrown headlong into the midst of Sierra Leone politics. Many were also rewarded with diplomatic appointments abroad.

This concept of appointment for reward, rather than appointment by best fit, markedly elevated the profile of the president amongst his supporters and in the 2012 elections, APC operatives were practically playing gymnastics, trying to outdo one another, shouting the world's best at the volume of their lungs all in a bid to increase their visibility and demonstrate their loyalty, strategically placing themselves in front of cameras for all the world to see, especially the Pa.
Self Promotion

2012 also saw the entry of new players into President Koroma's list of close and vocal supporters, many from opposition and journalistic ranks, many wanting to be the new "Shekito, the new Kabbs Kanu or the New Alpha Khan, and some of these folks have not been subtle, but have been so loud that it has become painful to watch. Titus Boye-Thomson, Sylvia Blyden, John Leigh, Gibril Gbanabome Koroma and many more new APC converts and old latent APC supporters started writing articles of praise about the president filled with majestic embellishments like, "the world's best", "fountain of honor" "the great Obai" and so on and so forth.

Just after the elections Gibril Gbanabome Koroma launched a tirade against Leroy Kanu of Cocorioko seeking to overtly replace the loyal reverend in the president's eyes, thus starting a cyber war in which many of the president's men took the side of the political clergyman.

But none of the new ministerial wannabes this season can earn a better grade for effort than my very own sister and new friend Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, and if President Koroma leaves her out of the remaining ministries or embassies, I do not know what this poor woman will do.
180 Blyden

After having spent the better part of the last four years as one of the most ardent critics of President Koroma, writing hundreds of articles about the president's personal lifestyle and the evils of those close to him. Sylvia decided that this year it was time to get aboard the APC express by making a 180 degree turn and spewing all the bile she had at the opposition and becoming the prime defender of APC. Her approach was so bellicose that it left even the solid APC diehards exclaiming "wow!"

From Awareness Times to Facebook Sylvia Blyden's new found love for EBK has been overwhelming. Over the last few months her tirade of insults against former opposition friends has been amazing to watch. From Dr. Banya, to Kadi Sesay to Maada Bio, none was spared her venom. When APC operatives started to praise Sylvia as a great journalist and even give her one of Sierra Leone's never ending pappy show awards, I told a friend of mine that maybe the Mayans were right, the world is going to end, given the things they had written about her in the past.

Since November 17, however Sylvia has become the Gollum of Sierra Leone politics and for the first time yesterday, after reading her piece in Cocorioko "Koroma Cabinet & The Youths: A Source of Pride." I felt genuinely sorry for the poor sister and think that President Koroma needs to give her something, even the ambassadorship of Syria. Maybe she can help broker peace between Assad and the New Syrian Army folks.

How desperation can change people. This woman initially announced immediately after the elections that she was leaving journalism for politics, calling the Koroma information team "mumu", but after the first two batches of appointments, there has been a loud as they say in Freetown, "spirit pass and there was a yaing" Now reading Sylvia Blyden writing in Cocorioko that she used to call an online rag, hoping to join the team of "palace canines" is a wonder to see and all what we can do is watch in amazement and see what naked desire and ambition can do to people. In an article full of "lay belleyish" embellishments, Sylvia has outdone even Kabbs Kanu himself and the Pa should take notice and give that prime Syrian appointment as a reward.

As they say, there is no permanence in politics and students of political science if observant can learn much from the seismic realignments going on in Sierra Leone. Many great dissertations can be written about the ever changing room of smoking mirrors that symbolize the political landscape of the small but deep West African nation of Sierra Leone.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Rape of Freetown: January 6, 1999

RUF Terrorist Foday Saybana Sankoh
 Sam Maskita Bockarie
On January 6, 1999,  exactly 14 years to this day, the people of Freetown the capital of Sierra Leone  woke up to the terror of a murderous invasion by elements of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).

During the Hague war crimes trial of Liberian War Lord Charles Ghankay Taylor, one of the perpetrators of this infamous atrocity, AFRC combatant Alimamy Bobson Sesay recounted the activities of that day from the view point of the actors.

Below is an extract from the testimony of Alimamy Bobson Sesay as reported in the Sierra Leone Daily Mail of January 8, 2011. This testimony is not for the faint of heart, so if you either cannot stomach stories of human carnage or do not want to remember that particular day, please stop reading.
Johnny Paul Koroma

Please note the following:
1 “Wit” means Witness (Alimamy Bobson Sesay).
2. “Pros” means Prosecutor Shyamala Alagendra
3. Judge Doherty was the presiding judge

Alimamy Bobson Sesay details atrocities in Freetown in January 1999

Prosecutor Shyamala Alagendra continues her direct examination of witness Alimamy Bobson Sesay:

Pros: You testified in relation to Gullit’s group and communication with Mosquito – that you would “bulldoze Freetown”. What did you mean by bulldoze?

Wit: That we would clear any military target in front of us while advancing.

Pros: You were explaining a two-pronged attack. An you said, “we were monitoring”. Who was monitoring?

Wit: The brigade Gullit was moving with had a monitoring set, which was monitoring all AFRC/RUF movements.

Pros: From Waterloo, did the troops you were with move anywhere?

Wit: We moved back to Benguema.

Pros: Did anything happen there?
Wit: I explained the attack on Benguema. What timeframe are you referring to?

Pros: Did anything happen in Benguema.

Judge Doherty: The witness looks puzzled. Please put the question again.

Pros: After Waterloo, your group returned to Benguema?

Wit: I want to be clear what you’re referring to.

Pros: You testified about a food-finding mission?

Wit: Yes.

Pros: You said that took place in Waterloo?

Wit: Yes.

Pros: Then you spoke about communications at the hills in Hastings.

Wit: Yes.

Pros: I was referring to the food-finding patrol in Waterloo. After that, where did you go?

Wit: We returned to the Hastings Hills, where the brigade was based. We saw combat helicopters bringing manpower to Hastings. Gullit said we were to organize another advance. We should go to disorganize the evacuation happening at Hastings. The troop was led by Basky. I joined it. We attacked Hastings.

Pros: Who did the helicopters belong to?

Wit: It was the Nigerian ECOMOG who were based in Hastings.

Pros: You said they were bringing manpower to Hastings. What is this manpower?

Wit: We saw reinforcement that the helicopters were bringing to the Hastings airfield. They were taking positions in that area.

Pros: You said evacuation. Who was being evacuated?

Wit: We saw the helicopters coming from the Lungi end, bringing ECOMOG forces to Hastings.

Judge Sebutinde: It’s still not clear what evacuation he’s talking about.

Pros: You mentioned an evacuation. What evacuation was going on in Hastings?

Wit: The helicopter was bringing Nigerian soldiers. We saw everything.

Pros: Was it only reinforcements that were coming into Hastings?

Wit: They had troops there. They were bringing more.

Pros: Were there people being removed from Hastings?

Wit: No.

Pros: What happened after you saw this?

Wit: Gullit said we should organize a team that would go down to Hastings to disorganize that troop.

Pros: What happened then?

Wit: He appointed Basky and some other men from both battalions. I too joined the troops. We moved and attacked Hastings.

Pros: Which battalions?

Wit: All of the battalions contributed manpower to attack Hastings.

Pros: How many battalions?

Wit: The various battalions: 1-5, the RDF and the Red Lion Battalion.

Pros: What happened during the attack?

Wit: We were able to disorganize the ECOMOG troops. We executed some captured ECOMOG soldiers. We burned the airfield and some aircraft, then retreated to the Hastings jungle.

Pros: Who was executed?

Wit: Nigerian ECOMOG soldiers – about three of them.

Pros: How were they executed?

Wit: We shot them to death.

Pros: Did anything else happen during the attack on Hastings?

Wit: We set fire to Hastings and burned some of the aircraft on the field. We returned to the temporary base we established in the Hills.

Judge Sebutinde: Is Hastings a village, a town, or what?

Pros: Where is Hastings?

Wit: Just after Jui. It has an airfield, and the police training school.

Pros: What happened after you returned to the temporary base?

Wit: Basky reported to Gullit about our performance. We were there for some time and we were attacked in the hills. We lost some of our men: our support firer, Johnny. And one of the commanders, a colonel. We repelled the attack, and Gullit said that we should make a brigade advance to Hastings, Jui and Allentown.

Pros: What do you mean by a brigade advance?

Wit: The whole brigade should move to capture Hastings, Jui and Allentown.

Pros: Did anything happen after he said that?

Wit: We prepared and recaptured Hastings. We had a very fierce fight with ECOMOG. We lost some of our men, and finally we were able to push ECOMOG from Jui, and captured Jui. Whilst that happened, Junior Lion and some other men used the route toward Grafton, whilst I, Tito and others captured Jui Bridge.

Pros: Where is Jui?

Wit: Just after Allentown. From Jui you go to Grafton.

Pros: What was your position at this time?

Wit: I was a combatant officer at the front line.

Pros: The troops you were with, who was leading that group toward Jui Bridge?

Wit: Tito was the commander. We crossed the bridge and they said we should wait. Tito left me and some other men to defend the bridge. He went back and got the “family members”. We went to a very small jungle near Allentown, and we were based there for some time.

Pros: Where was the Red Lion Brigade?

Wit: There in Allentown. It was only Junior Lion and some other men who went towards Grafton.

Pros: You’ve mentioned groups led by Tito, Junior Lion and Gullit. In relation to these groups, where was the Red Lion Battalion?

Wit: With the brigade – the group that Tito led. We established a temporary base at Allentown.

Pros: When was this?

Wit: This was January 4, 1999.

Judge Sebutinde: We didn’t get timeframes for the Hastings attack. I’m also not sure what it is that was burned in Hastings apart from aircraft.

Pros: When was the attack in Hastings?

Wit: Around January 3, 1999.

Pros: What was burned in Hastings?

Wit: It was the structures at the airfield and the old aircraft.

Pros: Anything else burned in Hastings?

Wit: No, we just attacked the military base and withdrew.

Pros: You said that the Red Lion battalion was with the group led by Tito?

Wit: Tito was the commander of the group that captured the bridge. The Red Lion Battalion then crossed the bridge, and we went and based at Allentown.

Pros: The Red Lion was with the brigade?

Wit: Yes, because in this advance we were mixed. It was not by battalion – we were together. We lost some men on the first attempt. Tito, I and others moved and captured the bridge. Tito returned to take the brigade.

Pros: When you talk about the brigade at this point, what are you referring to?

Wit: Gullit, the CIC, Bazzy – the Deputy CIC, Five-five – the chief of army staff, the adjutants, and the civilians we’d captured, whom we called family members.

Pros: When your group arrived at Allentown, did you meet anybody there?

Wit: The civilians had already left.

Pros: Did you meet the other groups?

Judge Doherty: That’s too vague. What other groups?

Pros: When you got to Allentown, where was the brigade?

Wit: When we captured Allentown, Gullit came and we established a base. Junior Lion and the other men who went to Grafton had not come yet. We were there in the jungle until evening, when we went to Allentown itself and occupied the houses. We were there until January 5, waiting for Junior Lion. On the fifth, Junior Lion came from Grafton. While he was advancing to meet us, we had a jet raid. We lost one of our colonels – Colonel Chucks. We continued waiting, almost towards 1:00 AM.

Pros: What jets?

Wit: The ECOMOG Alpha Jets, which we called the 448s.

Pros: You said you waited until 1:00 AM. What happened then?

Wit; Gullit called all the battalion commanders and military supervisors, and he addressed the troops. I was there. Gullit said that the troop was about to enter Freetown, and that he was ordering that because we were entering, we should ensure we burn all police stations. Secondly, we should open the central prison because there were soldiers there and Foday Sankoh was there. Other political detainees too were there in the prison. We should ensure those people were freed from the prisons. We should also make sure that those who opposed the junta forces be killed. He also said “from your pocket to my pocket” – we should threaten to kill civilians who do not give us their valuables. He said we should capture civilians and use them to gain recognition if we were attacked.

Pros: Who were you going to attack in Freetown?

Wit: The ECOMOG troop was based in Freetown, so we were going to attack them and the government based in Freetown.

Pros: Do you know if there were other forces in Freetown apart from ECOMOG at the time?

Wit: We were aware of the Kamajor forces and SLA forces loyal to the government – the Sierra Leone Army.

Pros: What was the size of Gullit’s troops at this time?

Wit: More than 1,000.

Pros: What kind of weaponry did your group have at this time?

Wit: We were well armed. We had SPGs – support propelled grenades, 60mm mortars, 81mm mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, LAR – light automatic rifles, SMG – sub-machine guns, AK-47s, and also machetes.

Pros: Did you have any kind of vehicle?

Wit: We hadn’t a vehicle at that time in Allentown. We did our attacks on foot.

Pros: What happened when the troops left Allentown?

Wit: Immediately after that, the brigade waited just for a while whilst the fighters were being organized. We were mixed. Four battalions moved. ECOMOG attacked, but we pushed them. We took Calaba Town. We captured Brewery on Wellington Old Road and based there. The brigade and the family members came. Gullit ordered a troop ordered a troop under Pikin, who was in charge, to take the new road to Wellington. [Several commanders] including myself used the old road. It was a two-pronged attack on Freetown.

Pros: Between these two groups, where was the Red Lion Battalion?

Wit: At that time, it was the brigade.

Pros: Where was the brigade?

Wit: Wellington Old Road.

Pros: That’s the road you were on?

Wit: Yes.

Pros: Was there any person leading the group on the Old Road?

Wit: There was NPFL, who led the RDF battalion. I was there. Kefokeh was there. The brigade was at our back. We attacked, advanced, and the brigade would move.

Pros: How far behind was the brigade?

Wit: Not too far.

Pros: Did the two groups enter Freetown?

Wit: Yes. We had a way to locate one another. We had a tracer. If you fire it, you can see it. We knew where they were, and they knew where we were.

Pros: What is a tracer?

Wit: If you shoot it there is a red light.

Pros: Can you explain how your group moved into Freetown?

Wit: We came as far as Kissy Mess Mess (ph) on the east end of Freetown and captured the police station. We burned down the barracks and advanced towards Shell Oil road. While we were advancing, those on the new road captured it.

Pros: Where did your group go after burning the police station?

Wit: We advanced towards Low-Cost and captured it. We were doing rapid advancement. We captured Shell Oil road. We moved as far as Saroulla Old Road. There’s a cinema there. From Saroulla, the troop moved and captured Fisher Lane – Old Road. When we got there, we met over 50 vehicles which had been abandoned. We waited there. Gullit came and said we should set them on fire to create an obstacle so that if ECOMOG came they would not be able to pass in their armed personnel carriers. We advanced toward Peter Bidi (ph) Junction and captured it. The men at New Road captured Ferry Junction. From there we advanced towards Benz Garage, very close to the Kissy Road Cemetery. ECOMOG resisted there, so I and the others stopped and continued to engage the ECOMOG forces. The men from the new road came and mounted an AA on top of a vehicle. They moved ECOMOG from the junction where they were based – at Up Gun. The troop moving from the New Road moved down to Ross Road while we took Kissy Road.

Pros: Please continue.

Wit: We moved towards Dan Street, Savage Square. We were there while the men using the New Road captured lower Savage Square, which was close to Cottage (ph) hospital. We pushed forward and captured ____ Junction, while the other troop captured ______. We were shouting Allahu Akbar. The Muslims use that expression – it means “God is Great.”

Pros: Why were you chanting that?

Wit: When we entered, we saw it that it was a glorious entry. It was a way to locate each other.

Pros: Where were the two troops?

Wit: We had captured Magazine Cut (ph) Junction. We took the Eastern police station while the other troop was moving toward Guard Street. They also came to Eastern police.

Pros: At the time the two groups met at Eastern police, do you recall the time and the date?

Wit: It was January 6, 1999. We left Allentown by 1:00 AM. We got towards that area around 6:00 AM.

Pros: What happened at Eastern police?

Wit: It was burned down and Junior Lion executed two captured police officers. From there, they used Kissy Street, now called Sani Abacha Street, coming down from Fourah Bay. We used Goderich Street. After that we advanced towards the library, very close to State House. We came up towards Tar Hill. The other group went to the Cotton Tree. We captured State House together. The brigade came – Gullit and the family members. They came to State House.

Pros: What is State House?

Wit: It was the office of the president, Ahmad Tejan-Kabbah.

Pros: Do you recall the time when State House was captured.

Wit: Around 6:00 AM or something.

Pros: What happened after State House was captured?

Wit: Gullit said we should go empty the central prison. We moved towards Pademba Road. We burned down the CID headquarters. From there we advanced towards Pademba Road Prison. We met some ECOMOG resistance, but they retreated. We broke into the prisons and met nearly 3,000 manpower there. So many people there who were with the AFRC.

Pros: How many people were released from Pademba?

Wit: I want to use the gents.

Judge Doherty: [to court officer]: Please assist the witness.

[pause in the proceedings until witness returns]

Pros: Can you tell the court how many people were released from Pademba Road Prison?

Wit: About 3,500 people. Because they were mixed.

Pros: What do you mean, “mixed”?

Wit: There were SLAs, some RUF members and some political detainees – including some prominent lawyers, some women, and some criminals.

Pros: At this point, do you know where the Red Lion Battalion was?

Wit: It was a mixed group. Some were at State House with Gullit. Some were with us to open the prison.

Pros: Earlier you said the Red Lion Battalion consisted of RUF, STF and former NPFL-AFL?

Def: The witness said earlier there were SLAs too.

Judge Doherty: I recall that too.

Pros: Out of the groups that formed the Red Lion Battalion, which groups did they come from who were with you at the prison?

Wit: The Liberians were with us because we were expecting to be targeted, so we were well prepared.

Pros: You said that among those released from Pademba were prominent lawyers. Do you recall their names?

Wit: Yes, Osho Williams, Manley Spain, and the ex-president: Joseph Saidu Momoh. We did not meet Pa Sankoh there. They said he had been taken somewhere else that same day.

Pros: Do you recall any of the names of the women released?

Wit: There was Honorable Kai of the AFRC.

Pros: Do you recall the names of an RUF released?

Wit: Gibril Massaquoi was amongst them. Steve Bio too was there. They also had some junior ones, but those names I can’t recall.

Pros: After the release of prisoners, did you go anywhere?

Wit: We advanced toward New England, went towards Brookfields, captured Brookfields, captured the Youyi Building, and advanced to the National Stadium because we had information that there were soldiers based there to be trained to attack us. We entered the stadium and set the soldiers free. We told them to report to state house.

Pros: Who was going to train the soldiers?

Wit: We heard that ECOMOG was going to train them – some of our former colleagues.

Pros; What happened then?

Wit: We went back to the Youyi Building. Some of our colleagues were ambushed at Congo Cross, and died. They did not wait for us. So we retreated and went back to State House.

Pros: The soldiers you met at the stadium – how many were they?

Wit: Not too many – about 100. We broke open the place and asked them to move to State House.

Pros: Did they report?

Wit: I did know them especially. When we got to State House, we realized a large number of soldiers had reached there. When we got to State House, we heard Mosquito over the international radio. He said that his troops led by Tamba Alex Brima had captured State House and broken open the prison, and overthrown the government of Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. He said they are now trying to capture the military barracks in Freetown.

Pros: Do you know how Mosquito knew of the capture of State House?

Wit: Yes. The morning that we entered State House – the first thing Gullit did was to set up the set and inform Mosquito and the other commanders that we had captured State House and needed reinforcements.

Pros: How did you know about this communication?

Wit: Even before we left for Pademba Road, Gullit called Mosquito.

Pros: Do you recall if Mosquito responded during this communication?

Wit: Yes, he said there were preparations underway, and that Issa and Superman had captured Makeni and were pressing towards Freetown to reinforce us.

Pros: After this communication, do you know if there was any other communication?

Wit: Yes.

Pros: You said that after State House was captured, the first thing Gullit did was to call Mosquito and other commanders. Who were the other commanders that Gullit informed?

Wit: Issa Sesay and Superman.

Pros: On what date were these communications?

Wit: The early hours of January 6.

Pros: How do you know that Gullit called Issa Sesay?

Wit: It was in my presence.

Pros: How do you know about the communication between Gullit and Superman?

Wit: After he spoke with Mosquito, he spoke with Issa. In my presence also, he called Superman.

Pros: Did you hear any other radio announcements than the Mosquito announcement?

Wit: Five-five also went on the interntional radio and said the troop led by Gullit overthrew the SLPP government. He said that civilians should comply with all rules and regulations.

Pros: Did you hear any other radio announcements that day?

Wit: FAT Sesay, the brigade administrator, also confirmed over international radio that he was in State House. He said Alex Tamba Brima had led the troop and that all military men should surrender.

Pros: Was Alex Tamba Brima reporting to anyone?

Wit: Yes. He reported everything to Mosquito.

Pros: At this time at State House, were other commanders present?

Wti: Yes. Bazzy, Five-Five, Woyo and the other military supervisors, and even Hassan Papa Bangura was based in State House.

Pros: What was happening there?

Wit: The troops were all moving around and bringing young girls and women to State House. We also captured some Nigerian ECOMOG soldiers and brought them to Gullit.

Pros: How many young girls?

Wit: All of the members of the troop brought young girls. Some even brought girls for the commanders.

Pros: What happened to the girls?

Wit: What I saw was that the commanders were sleeping with them – using them as women.

Pros: What do you mean – “used them as women”?

Wit: The young girls who were captured and brought were forced to do anything. They had sexual intercourse with the commanders.

Pros: What was the age group of these girls?

Wit: Most of them were 14-16. You also had SBU boys that brought others, 8-9 and slept with them.

Pros: What do you mean “slept with them”?

Wit: They used them for sexual purposes.

Pros: How many SBUs were doing this?

Wit: I can’t recall because almost all the commanders had SBUs. There were many SBUs that we took from Kono, Camp Rosos, up to Freetown.

Pros: Did you see anything around the State House?

[brief interruption in video/audio]

Wit: …we shot civilians…

[brief interruption in video/audio]

Wit: …Sometimes when we went on patrols, so many things happened. There was looting. Every commander was looting. Any civilian you saw, whatever they had belonged to you.

Pros: Apart from looting, what was happening?

Wit: Civilians were in the streets. They were dancing and said they wanted peace, that we were their brothers. They were dancing and singing.

Pros: Did anything happen to those civilians?

Wit: The ECOMOG jet dropped a bomb on one group of civilians. They thought it was the junta troop that was jubilating.

Pros: You testified about what happened to Kissy and Eastern police stations, and also the CID. Did anything happen to other police stations in Freetown?

Wit: Yes. Also the central police station was burned down.

Pros: How do you know?

Wit: We went on patrol to that area. When we got there we saw the place. We set the place on fire.

Pros: Who burned it?

Wit: The SLA and RUF and the mixed STF and whole troop that entered Freetown.

Pros: Were you there when central police station was being burned?

Wit: Yes.

Pros: Did anything happen to other police stations?

Wit; We went to the Quay, and Gullit ordered 05 that we should burn the station there too.

Pros: Anything else with regard to police stations?

Wit: As far as I can recall, these are the ones we burned.

Pros: How long did you and the other troops remain in Freetown?

Wit: Three weeks and a half, I think.

Pros: Do you recall if anything happened in the second week of January 1999?

Wit: Whilst we were at State House, we got information that ECOMOG forces were as far as King Tom and moving toward State House. Gullit ordered Basky and others to repel the ECOMOG forces. WE moved there and pushed them. We killed people and burned houses in King Tom. Later we went back to State House.

Pros: Were you there in King Tom?

Wit: Yes.

Pros: Where did you get the information about ECOMOG forces coming to King Tom?

Wit: Gullit brought the information. So we went and attacked ECOMOG. We also killed civilians there.

Pros: How many fighters were in your group that went to King Tom?

Wit: We were more than 150.

Pros: Why were civilians killed?

Wit: Gullit gave us information that it was civilians who called on ECOMOG to come and base there.

Pros: How were they killed?

Wit: We knocked on their doors, pulled them out, and shot them to death.

Pros: Did you participate in that?

Wti: Yes.

Pros; How many civilians were killed?

Wit: Many. I can’t recall.

Pros: What was burned in King Tom?

Wit: Some houses.

Pros: Were these houses empty?

Wit: No, the doors were locked. We burned the houses and heard the screaming while the houses burned. They died in there because we did not move from there until the operation was completed. We ensured that nobody came out.

Pros; After this operation, where did you go?

Wit: We retreated to State House. We met Gullit on the way. He told us that from King Tom to State House was now a death zone – up to Tower Hill. Anyone in that area must die. He said that the civilians had started leading civilians to attack us. So we later came and blocked the area heading to the Cotton Tree.

Pros: Did anything happen in Tower Hill?

Wit: Junior Lion said he executed civilians there. He said he had done some heavy killings there. I was standing there. Basky was there when Junior Lion came and told us at the Cotton Tree.

Pros: When did these killings happen?

Wit: Around the second week in January, after the attack in King Tom.

Pros: Which groups formed the 150 men you went with the King Tom?

Wit: SLA, RUF, STF, the former fighters of the NPFL in the AFL – they were all part of the team that went to that area. They had headbands with “NPFL” or “RUF”.

Pros: Who had these headbands?

Wit: The STF, RUF, and NPFL men fighting alongside us.

Pros: What color were these?

Wit: Most were red.

Pros: Those with the red headbands with “NPFL” and “RUF” – who were they?

Wit: The STF men, the Liberian guys who came – the former NPFL fighters, and the RUF.

Pros: Do you recall anything else happening in Freetown during the second week of January 1999?

Wit: Yes, so many things happened. I recall when I visited my family around Guard Street. I saw my family house had been burned down. I asked who was the commander who burned it. They said it was Captain Blood, assigned to Bazzy. I realized that Blood had captured about seven men and decapitated them. He was attached to Bazzy, so I had nothing to say to him.

Pros: Who were the seven decapitated men?

Wit: They were all young men captured in that area. He said they were collaborators.

Pros: Were you there when he was decapitating them?

Wit: Yes, when I moved to meet him on the same Guard Street where my family’s house was, I saw him doing it. I couldn’t do anything because Gullit ordered us to do burnings and kill people.

Pros: Do you recall anything else that happened that second week of January?

Wit: We had a call from RUF Rambo in which he said they were preparing reinforcements. We had started getting some threats from ECOMOG. He said the SLA Rambo was advancing with Superman and others. Gullit gave him a location for us to receive them in Allentown. That happened…

Pros: How do you know about this communication?

Wit: It took place just after we started receiving threats to ECOMOG. He called Rambo, the RUF commander, and said we were getting pressure from ECOMOG. Rambo said they had moved with Issa as far as Hastings with SLA Rambo. He said they had some fear because maybe Saj Musa was amongst them.

Pros: How do you know about this communication?

Wit: After the second week, we were at State House. It was there that Gullit sent this message. Myself, Col. Eddie and some other men were chosen to go to Allentown to receive them.

Judge Doherty: What does he mean about Saj Musa? At this point he was dead already.

Pros: I was going to lead him back through this portion to clarify some things.

Pros: Where were you during this communication between Gullit and Rambo?

Wit: State House.

Pros: Where was the communication?

Wit: State House.

Pros: How do you know about it?

Wit: I was there and heard it. Rambo said they had some fear because they’d heard a rumor that Saj was dead, but they did not believe that.

4:30 (5:00 with the delay in video and audio): Court is adjourning for the day. The proceedings will continue at 9:30 tomorrow morning.

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