Friday, June 21, 2013

Interview With The Freetown Segbwema Blog Correspondent

Mwen Ke Devire
Freetown Correspondent
Yesterday,  I had the privilege of  talking with the esteemed Segbwema Blog correspondent in Freetown who now goes by the name Mwen Ke Devire.  We talked on the phone about a range of issues going on in Freetown Sierra Leone. This was the call.

Sebwema Blog (SB): Hello Mwen

Mwen Ke Devire (MKD): Hey SM how are you guys doing there in Minneapolis.

SB: Well we are planning to host a convention here on 30th August, so we are pretty busy right now. But my readers want to hear the latest from Freetown.  All the news we've been hearing lately has been about the President's Special Executive Assistant (SEA) threatening journalists in the country,  any other major news these few weeks?
Segbwema Blogger (SB)

MKD: Wow! Where do you want me to start? News has been pouring down like rain.

SB: Well let's start from your name why the change in name and why that foreign sounding name?

MKD: Well as you may have heard, State House is threatening to soon start enforcing the archaic criminal seditious libel laws, so I have to be very careful these days as the Segbwema Blog is viewed with some skepticism. I also heard that the food in Pademba road is not very tasty these days. The Agenda for Prosperity has not yet reached the prison. The name is from a favorite song of mine by Kassav.

SB: Well I do not think you should be worried that law is for journalists, not  for bloggers.

MKD: The Sierra Leone police may not know the difference between a journalist and a blogger.  ISP Munu has said Sierra Leone police are trained to shoot before they ask.

SB. Well be careful then. What are the major news items in the country.

MKD: Well as you may have heard, several ministers have told journalists not to worry as long as they are operating within the law. The State house Communications manager also told Madam Blyden to cool off and not just talk as if State House is Awareness Times. They don't want their message running without control like diarrhea. Even the President has said that journalists should not worry as he will continue his excellent relationship with them.

SB: What was the reaction of the journalists?

MKD: They have now given the Special Executive Assistant (SEA) a new title.

SB: What is the new title?

MKD: (SHV), State House Vuvuzela, the official noisemaker of the government.

SB. Great title, I actually prefer that, as that is just what she has been doing. Has she apologized for the two million dollars misinformation. 

MKD: The President has forgiven her and they have also released the recording of the Saudi Prince Al Alsaud stating he gave only 1 million. It seems our girl is so busy talking that she does not have the time to listen. her frends say the power has gone to her head. People are advising her to marry, but Freetown men are running away as if they were being chased by a crazy leopard.

SB. Any other news?

MKD: Well they have discovered that Charles Taylor's major financier has been living right here in Freetown all these years, in plain sight of Munu's police. I guess the CID has been so busy investigating Kao Denero and Charles Margai that they failed to see the big Kahuna lying right under their noses.

SB: You truly believe they did not know? Mwen Ke Devire Freetown is small but deep brother.
Bah, Sankoh, Omrie Golley

MKD: True. The fellow has been wanted by Interpol for a long time. He is Senegalese Fula by the Name of Ibrahim Bah, a trusted confidante of Foday Sankoh who has been under UN travel sanctions since 2004 for his role as the go between between Charles Taylor and the RUF. He was also trained in guerrilla warfare in Libya. He has all these years been living in Freetown in plain site of the police Masquerading as a Mr. Balde.

SB: What is the latest on the dismissal of brigadier Komba Mondeh.

MKD: Well the rumor is that APC just wanted to revenge for the 1992 coup. You know that Major General  Joseph Momoh was the uncle of Defense Minister Pallo Conteh. Many people are surprised that Mondeh even lasted that long, as most of his NPRC team have long left the military long ago. People said he stayed this long because of his Kono background. But when Patriotic Vanguard started to write stories about him owing somebody money in USA, many people knew that they were after him. You know that Salone Monitor, Cocorioko and Patriotic Vanguard are all on APC's payroll. 

SB: Of course, we were somehow surprised as Mondeh is one of the smartest officers the Sierra Leone army has ever produced. He excelled in international assignments.

MKD: I don't think anybody cares about how good an officer is in the Sierra Leone military, it is all about how close you are to the powers that be. Even if you can fly the space shuttle it does not matter.

SB: Sad. Any other news?

MKD: Well the funny news is that the Deputy Agricultural Minister Marie Jalloh said on radio that there is no food insecurity in Sierra Leone, as 98% of the people are not going around the streets of Freetown begging for food.

SB: Did she really say that on radio?

MKD: That was just the start. She said that food security is a matter of perception. According to her there is food in Sierra Leone, but the problem with the Sierra Leone people is that they only eat rice. She said that there is a lot of cassava and potatoes in Sierra Leone. So according to her, hunger is in the people's mind as there is a lot of food and APC has worked hard to make food available. They are now going to concentrate on livestock.

SB: Well that is a new and interesting concept. If you now get up in the morning and feel hungry, just say to yourself that hunger is a matter of perception. As long as you convince yourself that you are not hungry, you will be okay.

MKD: Exactly!

SB: God, where does Ernest Koroma get these people from?

MKD: Strong campaign supporters, maybe another relative.

SB: I also heard that we now have a Hezbollah connection?

Hezbollah Weapons at home of
Sierra Leone Acting consul
MKD: Oh yea, a Sierra Leone Lebanese fellow who is actually the Acting Sierra Leone Consul to the Nigerian city of Kano had his home raided and a cache of weapons of mass destruction belonging to Hezbollah was discovered. His name is Abdu Hassan Tahir. He is already under arrest in Nigeria. Another problem is that his house is just within striking distance of a police station attacked last year by the Nigerian fundamentalist terror group Boko Haram.

SB: Lord have mercy! We now have ties with Colombian cocaine, Hezbollah and Boka Haram.

MKD: Well the Boka haram angle is being seriously investigated by the Nigerian government, there is no direct link between us yet. That is why we should be careful of all these fitta fatta foreign appointments.

SB. Exactly, just a few week ago the Sierra Leone Minister Plenipotentiary to Canada Arthur Porter was arrested in Panama for massive corruption in Canada. He was living in Panama saying he was doing cancer treatment. When they came to arrest him he showed his Sierra Leone diplomatic passport. They arrested him anyway the nest day. He is now under lock up. He was a prominent medical doctor and at one time a prominent head of Canada's spy agency.

MKD: Maybe corruption is in the DNA of the Sierra Leonean.

SB: MKD I have to let you go, my minutes are running out. stay safe brother and take care. Will call you again next week.

MKD: Ok, I was reading the latest "Ponder my Thoughts" by Mr. Andrew Keili.  Well talk to you next week goodbye. Don't forget to send some bananas.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

State House Communications Team Puts Blyden in Her Place

Jarrah Kawusu-Konte
State House Communications Manager
The State House Communications Team in Sierra Leone has come out to forcefully denounce the uncoordinated and problematic messages the the Special Assistant to the President Sylvia O. Blyden has been issuing to the public without consulting other members of the government's communications unit in Freetown. 

It can be recalled that over the past few weeks, Sylvia Blyden, the former editor of the Sensational gossip tabloid Awareness Times, who was recently appointed to assist the President as a Special Adviser has been making a lot of random and chaotic statements that do not befit the dignity of the presidency and  have the tendency of creating unrest in the small West African country.

Using mainly her Awareness Times tabloid paper and the social media network Facebook as her primary communication tools thereby bypassing  official government communication channels, the Special Assistant to the President has in recent weeks advocated for the arrest and imprisonment of Julius Maada Bio the main opposition party flagbearer in the  2012 elections in the country , has called for the arrest of the leader of the Peoples Movement for Democratic Change, Lawyer Charles Margai, has threatened the current and immediate past presidents of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists with incarceration under the seditious libel laws of the country which most people want to be repealed, and has publicly claimed that she will say what she wants to say, because she told the president before her appointment that she cannot be controlled and he had promised her that she could write what she pleased.
Sylvia Blyden

In the past two weeks however, Sylvia, instead of projecting positive views of the presidency seems to have become the major subject of the news in Sierra Leone, an attention she always craves with unbridled passion. There is now absolutely no talk of the President's second term agenda or even talk of the supreme court decision to throw out the court election case of the opposition SLPP, as the President's special assistant has made herself the front and center special news item in the country.

In the past week, after threatening journalists in the country with jail terms and writing that they will be "sanitized," the Deputy Minister of Information Theo Nicol came out against some of her statements in a late bid to exert some control over the message coming out of State House. Instead of exercising caution, the President's Special assistant put the minister in check by writing that her own position of SEA was of cabinet rank. Theo Nicol as a deputy minister was not of cabinet rank and consequently had no authority to tell her what to do. The only person that could directly control her was the president and he had said he was not going to control her.
SLAJ President
Kelvin Lewis

When Sylvia however contradicted the State House Communications team about the amount of money donated by the Visiting Saudi Prince to Sierra Leone Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud , stating that it was $2 million instead of $1 million for health and youth activities, the State House communications Unit came out requesting for her to clear the air on the statement, apologize to the president and apologize to the communications team. 

Jarrah Kawusu Konte of the State House Communication Manager who has been the main communications man in State House over the past five years did nor mince words when he told Sylvia that she should be more responsible in the statements she puts out to the public. He accused her of over zealousness and a bid to usurp the functions of the communications team, a function they had been doing effectively over the past few years. Jarrah reminded the Special assistant that it was the Communications team that was the official organ for reporting on the presidents activities, but unfortunately the Special Assistant had started to believe this was her function and had waded into rough and unknown waters, causing the present uncoordinated and problematic flow of communication from State House.
John Baimba Sesay

In a less direct statement, The Sierra Leone Press Attache to China John Baimba Sesay wrote that the President has done many great things and that it will be "painfully disastrous and unacceptable for anyone to directly or indirectly undermine such great works and whoever attempts such should be asked to wait for a while" 

Feeling the heat from the President's circle, Sylvia Blyden this morning took as usual to Facebook quoting the book of Judges and stating that Gideon was also tested several times in the Bible. She stated that over the past few days starting from Friday June 7th to Monday June 17th she had had to run several political tests on her life. The results of the tests she claims indicate that she did not need to be at State House working for President Koroma in order to serve what she claims is "God's purpose in my political life." The use of God's name by Blyden. She says it has been great working for the President, but it was now time to read the meaning of her signs.

Many Facebook forum members condemned Sylvia Blyden's blasphemous use of God's name, remembering that this was the same woman who had publicly come out to reject the indictment of Liberian mass murderer Charles Taylor for crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone. Others stated that it was just a ploy for the President to ask her to stay, thus adding to her air of self importance, as she did not intend to go anywhere. Other APC members are publicly hoping she will go, as she is seen as a negative influence around State House, always posing for pictures with visiting dignitaries to feed her monumental ego and spreading gossip about other party members. Sylvia's incendiary language and caustic manner has caused her to be kicked out of many Facebook forums.

As we continue to wait Sylvia's decision my conclusion is that her statements are just a halfhearted bluff to gain sympathy. To write about politicians is one thing, but to be in politics, you have to watch what you say, and this may be an important lesson for an individual who feels she is too proud to learn.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Veteran Sierra Leone Journalist and International Press Institute React to Threats against Journalists.

Presidential Special Assistant
Journalists in Sierra Leone are reacting angrily to incendiary statements and threats of incarceration issued by the corrosive Special Assistant to the President Sylvia Blyden, who earlier this week embarked on a campaign of intimidation of journalists, apparently with the backing of State House.

Buoyed by a recent overseas trip with the president, the chronic attention seeker turned presidential confidante immediately made her presence known by stating that when she had been out of the country journalists had been accusing the government of regionalism for the selected termination from the military of a group of officers well below their retirement age. She bragged that now that she was back in the country, she was going to undertake what she described as "a long overdue sanitizing of the media in the country." Given the historical use of the term sanitizing in human history, a term used by Germans against the Jews during the holocaust, many in the media community have  reacted to the incendiary statement  with consternation and outrage.
SLAJ President Lewis

Given the reckless nature of the threats emanating from State House in a country still recovering from a decade long civil war, the International Press Institute was quick to condemn the statements by the President's special assistant, who is now the leading spokesperson for the government of Sierra Leone. Reacting to the threats against journalists in the country, the Executive Director of the International press Institute Alison Bethel Mckenzie issued the following statements "Given Ms. Blyden’s position, we assume that these reckless comments represent the views of President Koroma, and we are disappointed that the president would engage in this serious and unacceptable intimidation of Sierra Leone’s media. Ms. Mckenzie further stated that while it was important for journalists to practice the basic ethics of their profession, it did not mean that they were obliged to endorse any particular view point.

IPI ED Mackenzie
Speaking from Vienna Ms. Mckenzie who had visited Sierra Leone in 2012 before the country's elections also added that "Instead of threatening to employ outdated criminal defamation laws against journalists, the Sierra Leone government should endorse the Declaration of Table Mountain, which calls for the abolition of such laws on the African continent.”  

What is very troubling about the negative developments in Sierra Leone is that the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists who Sylvia has had a tumultuous relationship with, had been working with the government to outlaw the outdated criminal and seditious libel law in the country and it seems that Sylvia's growing negative influence on the president that has made many veteran party members uneasy, is threatening to turn back the the clock on press freedom in the country. 
Veteran Journalist George Khoryama

Veteran Sierra Leone journalist George Khoryama of the Sierra Leone local publication global times also came out very forcefully against Sylvia Blyden's unnecessary and wholly unwarranted ratcheting of tensions in the country. Ghoryama opined that since Ms. Blyden was appointed to the ill defined and redundant position of Special Assistant to a president who already has so many advisers, she has grown increasingly hysterical, rude, wrathful and outrageous, with vanity bothering on the verge of psychosis. He promised that the country's media will not succumb to threats from State House, but that they will fight Sylvia with everything at their disposal, secure in the knowledge that the president was not anti-media. He accused Sylvia of being in haste to make amends with a president she had publicly ridiculed for years.

Upon assumption of the role of Special Assistant to the president, Syvia had bragged that she had informed the president before her appointment that she will not be controlled and the president had promised her that she was free to operate as she pleased. If these constant threats against opposition functionaries and the media is the future of the Koroma presidency, then Sierra Leone is headed for a period of uncertainty and volatility, as the office of the presidency becomes a tool for Sylvia to use in her malicious vendetta against people whose view of the world do not coincide with hers. 

In recent weeks Sylvia has used her new position to call for the jailing of opposition leaders Maada Bio and Charles Margai and has now added journalists who are not on the government praise singing team into the mix. These threats and public outbursts are threatening to overshadow President Koroma's second term, as journalists and bloggers alike are determined to ensure that Sierra Leone's hard won democracy will not be derailed by a curtailment of press freedoms in the country. 

Government Threatens Journalists in Sierra Leone

Koroma and his Special Assistant
One of the loudest bragging points of the All Peoples Congress Party,  the ruling party in Sierra Leone has been that since the election of President Ernest Bai Koroma, no journalist has been imprisoned in the country. Paul Kamara the country's current Sports Minister was a journalist who was harassed and jailed by several past administrations and has come to symbolize President Koroma's tolerance for and cozy relationship with journalists.

Upon assumption of the Presidency, Ernest Koroma created the position of press attaches in many Sierra Leone diplomatic missions abroad and sent journalists loyal to his many years of struggle, first to attain the leadership of his party, and ultimately the presidency of the small diamond rich West African country of approximately 6 million people. The creation of the position of foreign press attaches was a deft political move by President Koroma, as he was able to send some journalists that would have been problematic in the future out of the country on diplomatic assignments, thereby effectively making them spokespersons for the government and making them toe the official government line, muzzling them in the process. The press Attache positions also ensured that a lot of the remaining journalists in the country soon started glorifying the president all in a bid to be sent on some diplomatic mission in the future.
Needs a Makeover

The recent scandal in Washington involving Sierra Leone's Ambassador making promises to online journalists for propaganda stories in return for political appointments, that included the Ambassador Stevens, the whistle-blower Joseph Sherman, Kabbs Kanu and the press attache Pasco Temple all point to the murky relationship between the Koroma presidency, money and propaganda in Sierra Leone.

After the election of Ernest Bai Koroma in 2007, Sylvia O. Blyden, the current Special Executive Assistant to the President, a position she has given the designation SEA, was a thorn in the flesh of President Koroma, detailing his extra marital affairs and cataloging corruption and influence peddling in his young presidency. APC operatives loathed Blyden who was then accused of being in cahoots with the opposition to undermine the Koroma presidency. Mohamed Sankoh a mass communication graduate with a fanatical devotion to president Koroma coined the term "Koromaism" to refer to devotion to the president and his agenda. Sylvia then wrote that " Koromaism includes the art of discussing the colour of underwear that male Sierra Leonean politicians wear; all such gutter materials published in a bid to promote President Koroma’s supposed successes. This is what Koromaism represents so far: The production of FILTH. Pathetic!

After the Aljazeera timber scandal broke, the revelation was a major embarrassment for the government, Sylvia Blyden whose journalistic fortunes had been on the wane saw an opening and quickly stepped in to defend the government and condemn and damn Sorious Samoura, the journalist who was behind the Aljazeera report on official bribery and illegal logging in Sierra Leone.

The Aljazeera scandal brought Sylvia closer to the Koroma presidency, after several months of her trying to shed her pro-opposition past. Initially, many members of the APC were skeptical of Blyden's loyalty, but became convinced about her about face when she aggressively went after opposition presidential candidate Julius Maada Bio during the 2012 elections in the country.
What's Up with the Blue

Since becoming Special Assistant to the President, Sylvia's main target has been journalists she disagreed with during her days as Awareness Times official editor, a function she now performs without naming herself. Her other targets are journalists who are not toeing the official government line. Everyday in Awareness Times or the social media Sylvia is using her newly minted position to threaten those she considers as being pro-opposition of jail time and endless court proceedings.

For the past two weeks in Sierra Leone the President's Special Assistant to Facebook has been using social media and her Awareness Times rag to warn journalists of being dragged to court on criminal and seditious libel charges. So far it has been just noise as usual from a personality who constantly craves attention, as none of the journalists she is threatening seem to take her seriously. Most ordinary people believe that this same woman who was the most vociferous critic of Ernest Koroma and now wants everybody to know that she is his staunchest defender still has to convince the world that this glaring hypocrisy is not just a charade.

The days of dark Africa when you could just drag journalists to court on trumped up charges and throw them in jail are a thing of the past in Sierra Leone, otherwise Sylvia herself would have been locked up long ago. Blyden is failing to realize is that the only way the Sierra Leone government under her influence can muzzle the press or the freedom of information is to effectively shut down the Internet or at most cut Internet service to Sierra Leone like Assad has done in Syria. Otherwise, she is just wasting her time and the Sierra Leone taxpayers money which is used to pay her. As long as cellphones exist and the social media grows in influence, Sylvia herself knows that she is fighting a losing battle.

My suggestion to the Special Assistant is that instead of focusing on journalists, more attention should be urgently given to that blue dress. We are tired of seeing blue. Now, that is sedition and libel.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Tegloma East Coast Luxury tour To Minneapolis Convention

Tegloma Convention Bus
Residents of the East Coast states of New York,  New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Washington DC, and Philadelphia who want to travel to Minnesota for the Tegloma Convention in Minnepolis on the Labor Day 2013 weekend now have an economical and luxurious option.

Mariama B. Bhonapha the incoming Tegloma Federation Social Secretary has made arrangements for a self-contained 56 seater ultra-modern bus tour from New York via Philadelphia to Minneapolis.
Mariama Bhonapha

The United Tours Ultra Modern Hybrid cruise Bus will depart from  New York on Thursday August 29th, 2013 at 9.00pm, pass through Philadelphia, the city of Brotherly love and arrive in Minneapolis, Minnesota at 11.00am. The bus will arrive in Minneapolis 5 hours before the Tegloma Federation Board meeting scheduled to start at 4.00pm on Friday the 30th August. 

Travelling in Style

The return trip to the East Coast will be on Sunday September 1st from Minneapolis, Minnesota at 9.00pm to reach New York the next day, Labor day at 11.00pm.

Mariama Bhonapha who hails from the popular town of Segbwema in Sierra Leone, is a member of the Tegloma Delaware Valley Chapter. Two years ago she arranged a very successful Luxury bus tour to the Tegloma Mini-Convention in Ontario, Canada.

The convention bus tour will be particularly useful as at $200.00 per individual to travel from East Coast to Minneapolis, it will be less than half the cost of flying, as flights from the east coast that particular weekend already cost more than $400.00 per individual.
Some Members of the Convention
Planning Committee

Speaking to the Tegloma Blog correspondent in Philadelphia, Mariama Bhonapha stated that given the importance of the Minneapolis Convention and the fact the this convention will be where the future leadership of Tegloma for the next two years will be decided, it was crucial that the East Coast, where Tegloma originated from, was well represented. She said that already Tegloma members were signing up in droves and was asking those interested to contact her immediately.  She gave her number as 484-716-2927.  She encouraged those travelling from New York to start contacting Ms. Zainab Wai immediately as space was only open to the first 56 people who contacted them.
Inside the Mall of America

The Tegloma 2013 Main Convention is going to be held in Minneapolis Minnesota. Minneapolis is renowned for the Mall of America, the largest shopping mall in the United States of America. It is also one of the coldest states in USA. The people of Minnesota are very welcoming and tolerant of diversity.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Sierra Leone Press Attaché to USA Under Blistering Attack.

Pasco Temple, the Sierra Leone government press attaché to the United States is not sleeping easy these days, as over the past few weeks he has been the latest subject of blistering and venomous attacks perpetrated by disappointed job seeking political propagandist Joseph Sherman on the Sierra Leone diplomatic corps in the United States of America.

Sherman's public meltdown started few weeks ago when he alleged that promises made to him by the country's Ambassador to USA in return for official propaganda in his online news outlet had not been kept. In a very bitter article, Sherman proceeded to rain verbal attacks on Ambassador Stevens and Kabbs Kanu, another propagandist appointed as Sierra Leone's Minister plenipotentiary to the United Nations.
Pasco's crime seems to be his attempt at coming to the defense of his diplomatic bosses, accusing Sherman of making unsubstantiated claims against the Ambassador and Kabbs Kanu and dwelling on personal issues. He accused Sherman of having a vitriolic temper and a history of lawlessness that has caused him to lose a teaching job and have his driving privileges withdrawn in the United States. He said Sherman's problems were of his own doing and advised him to change his ways.

Unfortunately,  Sherman who had already been on the edge for several weeks did not take kindly to Pasco's admonition and went off the handle, in a manner that has become his trademark over the years, more especially the past few weeks. In a classic case of weeks of pent up mental frustration and boiling rage, Sherman let Pasco have it all.

Sherman in now familiar fashion accused Temple of being a disgusting bootlicker with irrelevant personal achievements. He said Pasco had been a poor and hungry teacher in Sierra Leone who had dabbled in pretend journalism and had been lucky to have come to USA as a press attaché of an embassy infested with corruption. He claimed that over the past four years,  millions of dollars had been embezzled in the Sierra Leone US Embassy.

Sherman who claims to be one of the most eminently educated Sierra Leoneans, with several masters degrees and working on a PhD,  denigrated the state of journalism in Sierra Leone that would have allowed somebody of Pasco's caliber, who he compared to both a goat and a zombie,  to become a journalist in the country. He went on to emphasize that it was only as a result of the chronic nepotism in the Koroma administration that somebody like Pasco Temple would be given the diplomatic assignment he had in favor of more suitably qualified people.

Pasco Temple a graduate from Njala University in Sierra Leone was information attaché at the Sierra Leone diplomatic mission in Nigeria before he was sent to USA. He currently resides in Richmond Virginia.

As Sherman's rage continues and his public pronouncements against Sierra Leone's diplomatic mission in the country continues to grow increasingly bizarre,  many Sierra Leoneans are left wondering why the country's representatives would allow themselves to be embroiled in such a controversy when they are expected to project the good image of the country abroad.
The Angry Joseph Sherman
Kabbs Kanu, Sheka Tarswallie and Pasco Temple
Pasco Temple

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Charles Margai's Profile Rising Once Again in Sierra Leone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Proliferation of Nigerian Churches in Sierra Leone: Are They Good For the Country?

Pastor Sunday Adelaja of the Wonder
Bank Scheme (accused of embezzling
100 million dollars from his flock)
Since the end of the civil war in Sierra Leone, there has been a geometric growth in the number of religious establishments in the country. The RUF war wrought immense devastation and brought untold hardship to entire towns, individuals and families in the country. For those of us who came from areas that were for years under rebel control, the shifting of our towns and villages from rebels to soldiers to rebels and again to soldiers resulted in the total destruction of almost every tangible property we owned in the country. From houses built by our grandfathers to those built by our fathers, whole settlements were wiped out by Revolutionary United Front rebels who made it a policy of burning downs they were unable to hold, especially in the later stages of the war.

As a small boy, my mum used to sometimes take me to Koidu town on business, back in the heydays of the 80s when Koidu town was at its peak, an affluent settlement that smelled of money and brimmed with desire and hope. When I had the chance to go to Koidu in 1996, such was the devastation and wanton destruction of this once great metropolis that I could not hold back the tears and for the first time in my life I wept for a town, even though my own town of Segbwema also bore the brunt of the war, both during the period of RUF ferocity and even more so during the period of AFRC retreat from Freetown.

The progression of the war coincided with a steady influx and multiplication of Nigerian influence in Sierra Leone, first through ECOMOG, later through small scale businessmen, cheap Nollywood movies and more recently the proliferation of Nigerian evangelical churches of every shade and color, all over the country.

When a society becomes as devastated as Sierra Leone was during our brutal civil war, the end of the war is usually a period of the restoration of dreams and hopes for a better future. At the end of the war in Sierra Leone, the international community poured money into the country to promote and consolidate peace, restore stability, get the economy back on track and rebuild the country's bureaucratic and economic infrastructure.

Funds were made available for the resumption of big energy projects like  the Bumbuna Hydroelectric dam and the repair of old rural power stations. NGOs flooded  the country to assist with everything from the rehabilitation of rural clinics to the cultivation of essential crops and animal husbandry. But given the endemic nature of corruption that pervades almost every aspect of Sierra Leone society, many NGOs who could not operate in such a climate simply stopped their operations in the country or reduced their operations to bare minimum. After the funders withdraw financial support, the operations of a lot of NGOs could not be sustained and they simply folded up.

Though the government in Sierra Leone is currently engaged in some admirable infrastructural projects, the administration seems to have totally lost the war on corruption. The Anti Corruption Commission became compromised the day the previous head, human rights Lawyer Abdul Tejan Cole left the agency and was replaced by a close ally of the country's current President Ernest Bai Koroma, who appointed another Koroma to head the agency, thus bastardizing the war on corruption. The Anti Corruption Commission is now more popular for losing winnable cases than for anything else. The latest debacle being the inability of the ACC to convince a close ally of the Vice President, one Momoh Conteh a man that was filmed in a sting undercover investigation soliciting bribes from journalists pretending to be investors that was broadcast for all the world to see. Yet the country's judiciary still found a way to declare him innocent based on an ACC prosecution that was like primary school students trying to explain relativity theory to Albert Einstein. Such is the sheer incompetence of the current ACC.
Pastor Chris Kwakpovwe
Impregnated his Secretary

With the loss of personal wealth and assets by the majority of people during the war, the decrease in both NGO presence and funding and with the reemergence of corruption as a prime mover of economic activity, poverty is once again on the increase in the country in spite of impressive economic growth figures that mask the terrible inequality in the distribution of income in the country. 

Sierra Leone today is trending towards the situation in Equatorial Guinea, where those close to the seat of power are extremely affluent whilst the mass of citizens in the country continue to wallow in abject poverty, with journalists in the pockets of the country's leaders paid to conceal the true nature of the terrible growing poverty by focusing on platonic superficial projects that have no appreciable longevity.

Into this mix, like bats out of hell, or heaven if they are to be believed, enter the Nigerian churches and their many apostles, pastors, bishops and prophets. 

Poverty and religion have always had a positive correlation. Nigeria, which has the potential to be the most affluent nation in Africa has through years of mismanagement, political instability and the insatiable lust for prestige and power, been transformed into one of the most corrupt nations in the history of mankind, thereby acquiring the unique distinction as one of the few countries in the world whose names are synonymous with corruption. Years of corruption in Nigeria has given rise to thousands of churches that have specialized in the religious art of promising deliverance to their congregations while still on earth.

These churches promise everything from the granting of pregnancies to barren women, to helping in the acquisition of visas to Western countries for those wanting to escape dim prospects in Africa. From helping politicians to win tight elections to helping individuals achieve domination over their enemies these churches have become huge businesses in Nigeria as millions of the country's poor flock to them and over the past decade their influence slowly seeped to other anglophone countries in West African and even to African communities in the Diaspora.

Sierra Leone with its diamonds, gullible and welcoming population and high level of illiteracy has become a magnet for all kinds of Nigerian chapels and assemblies, from Nigerian mega-churches to small time pastors just learning the ropes of the business. The influence of these churches has been facilitated greatly by low budget Nigerian movies which always end in a happy ending for the religious protagonists. In these movies, good always triumphs over evil, a situation that is impractical in real life, but with the extent of deprivation and hopelessness in most African countries, people are willing to believe anything that will promise the hope of a brighter future.
Dr. Albert Odulele
Convicted of sexual Assault

The invasion of these Churches with their eloquent, well dressed and fast talking pastors who claim to speak directly to God have almost made traditional brick and mortar churches that used to promise redemption in heaven to go out of the religion business. Traditional churches have either had to go out of business as collection plates shrank or the local pastors have had to turn away from old school religion to the new type of Christianity that promised earthly wealth and affluence and foretold promises of a great future in return for fat envelopes for the pastors and prophets that always seem to need money for one new project or the other.

In Sierra Leone today, Christianity is on steroids. Everybody is a born again of one sort of the other and the financial demands, the compulsory fasts and the propagation of the message that all others are damned have led to the break up of families and destroyed traditional scripture type of worship. Today it is very difficult to tell the difference between the Muslim marabouts, the traditional juju herbalists and the new type of fortune telling pastors that are now all over the place.

Everybody needs some sort of salvation, but future Sierra Leone governments need to seek the welfare of the people by closely monitoring some of the new religious establishments in the country. Sierra Leone has always been a very religious tolerant society in spite of all our other problems. The country's two main religious groups, Muslims and Christians, have always existed together in peace and harmony. But slowly, the religious intolerance that has blighted the landscape of Nigeria is slowly starting to rear its ugly head in Sierra Leone. Our country has too many divisions and enlightened Sierra Leoneans should not sit idly by and let our society import religious intolerance from foreign lands. What will come next after these intolerant churches, Boko Haram?

We are at a delicate point in our nation's history. After years of conflict followed by years of divisive tribal politics, what we do not need is predatory religion. Even the Bible warns of false prophets. If pastors want to come and spread  alternative religion, the test will be whether they are willing to go into the poor villages as the Christian missionaries of old did. If they are only willing to open their churches in urban areas and diamond settlements, we should seriously start to think about asking some of these prophets to go back home. There are millions of people in Nigeria who need salvation. Let them go and home and save their own people and encourage our own pastors to make church services more lively and interesting. We have many problems in Sierra Leone, but our salvation will only come through hard work, winning the war on corruption, loving our country and practicing religion with a healthy dose of sanity

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Ambassador Bockarie Stevens in a Feud?

Sherman Needs Papal Intervention
According to the garrulous Chief Editor of the Salone Monitor, Joseph Saidu Sherman, who has been accused of faking his last name to deceive Liberians that he was not a Sierra Leonean, the feud between himself Saidu Sherman, Ambassador Bockarie Stevens the Sierra Leone Ambassador to the USA and Reverend Kabbs Kanu of Cocorioko and Minister Plenipotentiary fame will soon be over, due to divine intervention by another man of God, Bishop Emmanuel Kuyateh of The Family Restoration Center in New Jersey.
Bishop Emmanuel Kuyateh

Joseph Sherman whose over ambition and monumental impatience has caused him to come out openly over the last few weeks lambasting the Ambassador and reverend Kanu and labeling them as egotistic manipulators only interested in themselves, has discovered that he has dug a hole so deep in APC circles within North America and beyond that he was about to be swallowed and has therefore decided to call on the services of the influential Bishop to intercede on his behalf.
Poor Saidu Sherman

Writing in his uninfluential online propaganda outlet Salone Monitor, poor Mr. Sherman, in a classic case of humility and climb down begs the poor Bishop to intervene on his behalf  by appealing directly to his religious sensitivity. Quoting directly from the Bible, Mr. Sherman reminds Bishop Kutyateh that "Blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called the children of God” (Mathew 5:9). Sherman cunningly wrote that it was the Bishop who first called him requesting a ceasefire in the ongoing feud between himself and President Koroma's men, in order to save some face.

The fishy part about Sherman's story of an end in the feud was that it seems that at least publicly, only poor Mr. Sherman has been attacking the two other men and as far as I can recall, they have not reacted to any of his rantings, insults, humiliation, accusations of hypocrisy and manipulation, and so on. So it seems that in this particular case, all that the good Bishop really has to tell Saidu Sherman is, "shut the hell up," and that will end the entire problem.  So far the only feud Saidu has been having, has been with himself. When the press attache Pasco Temple tried to knock some sense into the skull of the perennially frustrated Sherman, Poor Pasco Temble became the latest subject of Sherman's unending tirades, accusing Pasco of being a novice in America and basically of not knowing what he was doing.
No Word from Bockarie Stevens

Sherman's latest attempt at cajoling Ambassador Stevens and Kabbs Kanu once again into their confidence after he had spent the last few weeks whining like an infant that has just lost his favorite lollipop can be read by following the link

Sherman is a classic case of the saying that age has nothing to do with maturity. I just hope all his insane rants will cause President Koroma to take notice of him and maybe send him as press attache to Mogadishu, now that we have troops there who will need some good media coverage infused with a healthy dose of propaganda.

 I wish Bishop Emmanuel Kuyateh luck in trying to mediate in Sherman's feud. The problem with the feud is that Sherman had decided to do a "Talabi" dance on Christmas day, where he Sherman was the Talabi, the drummer and the dancer all in one. Sherman has been the only one publicly beating his own drum and dancing to his own tune. The Ambassador and Kabbs Kanu have kept largely quiet. So how is this mediation going to take place? Will Sherman be brought to the Ambassador and Kanu and be forced to promise that he will keep quiet, or will his prostrate on his stomach and beg them to honor the promise they have made to him. We will wait and see how this particular wahala ends.
"Let Sherman Sweat"
Kabbs Kanu

Honestly, I do not envy Sherman these days. Our people have a popular saying wich goes thus, "When they say cover your bad part, they are not talking about your rear, rather they are talking about your mouth." Sherman's fiery temper, his rush to judgment, his native vindictiveness and his impatience is going to be his undoing, regardless of how many correspondence degrees he has accumulated.

Instead of Going to Bishop Kuyateh for mediation between Sherman, Kabbs and Ambassador Stevens, Sherman needs to go to Church to ask for prayers. This man does not need mediation. What Sherman needs is salvation. He can start by asking Rev. Kabbs Kanu to start praying for him before he even goes to a Bishop. I will love to be in that Church Service, to see REv. Pa Kanu praying for poor Saidu.

Sierra Leone Political Updates: On Land and The Sale of our Future

Sierra Leone
Just over the past few weeks there was a serious confrontation between the First Lady of Sierra Leone Madam Sia Nyama Koroma and opposition activist and former king maker Lawyer Charles Margai over some piece of real estate located around the tourist enclave of Aberdeen on the West Side of Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. There was some confusion over the said land even in pro-government newspapers, as some could not tell who the real owner of the land was. It was variously reported that the land belonged to the government, to Mr. Margai through acquisition from the now deceased original owner Basma, to the First Lady through a lease agreement with the government.

Rape of Sierra Leone
I do not want to go into theCharles Margai- Sia Koroma, he said-she said confusion once again, as this issue has been thoroughly masticated by the pocket paid journalistic class in Sierra Leone with most of them condemning Mr. Margai as wrong, a trouble maker and some even writing that he needed mental help, even though the journalistic that wrote that particular piece needed some serious academic help himself. 

For his troubles, Lawyer Margai spent that particular weekend locked up in close confinement, while the President sent his trouble maker Special Assistant Omotunde Blyden to get an apology from him. I would have told O. Blyden not to bother.  You need to know people. The type of ego Lawyer Margai has makes it difficult for him to apologize even to Jesus Christ, let alone some two piece retired journalist who has succeeded into converting State House into a hotbed of scandal barely two months after entering the building. But my reason for this blog piece is not about the Margais or the Koromas

My reason for delving into the issue this morning stems from a simple question; what if it had not been Charles Margai? What if it had been some poor schmuck from Segbwema who had no influence or lawyer? What if it had been a poor fellow from Lunsar who had saved all his business money to buy land on that said property? Would he would have been edged out and trampled upon like an elephant steps on a rat? As they say, "the destruction of the poor is in their poverty."

The Margai issues shines a bright light on the perennial malpractices surrounding land ownership in Sierra Leone, with the Ministry of Lands being a major part of the problem and always being squarely at the center of most of the scandals. 

Many years ago my brother in law bought some land in the East End of Freetown from some local Alhaji who gave us all the properly signed conveyances. Every thing was at it should be, very perfect. Just when we were about to start preparing the land, another owner suddenly appeared from nowhere, with the same land ownership documents, also perfect, as egal as our own papers with the sale to him having being made years ago by the same Alhaji. 

Luckily it was at the height of the war and some hungry Segbwema military personnel who had come from the war front for supplies were able to gently persuade Pa Alhaji to give us back every penny he owed. That was then when there was some semblance of order around land ownership. Trying to buy land in Sierra Leone today is like trying to buy some real estate in Satan's kingdom. The land owners are dishonest, their witnesses lack integrity and the Lands Ministry is mired in corruption. The problem is compounded by the fact that successive land ministry officials just neglect deals signed by their predecessors. Whoever is in power has control over the land, a very unfortunate event.

This is just Freetown, where we assume the enlightened people are. If you go to the provinces where the paramount and town chiefs have the greater say in land ownership and the contracts for the transfer of land are usually by word of mouth, the situation becomes even murkier. The corruption in land ownership in rural Sierra Leone makes even Freetown look like purgatory compared to hell.
Do We Really?

The involvement of government in the lease of rural land to foreign companies in a bid to promote agriculture has just made the situation worse, as uneducated rural people are being made to sign lease agreements they do not understand, thereby sometimes releasing their interests in their property for eighty or more years. Could you imagine sitting for 80 years waiting to get back your village land?

A report on land deals in Sierra Leone commissioned by the Oakland Institute in Carlifornia found that by early 2011, close to 500 thousand hectares of farmland had been leased or were under negotiations for lease by the government with double that amount identified as still available. The report found out that there was no transparency and no public disclosure of these land deals. Of the four investors studied by the report; Addax Bioenergy of Switzerland, Quifel Agribusiness (SL) Ltd of Portugal, Sierra Leone Agriculture a UK subsidiary and Sepahan Afrique of Iran, only one had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Sierra Leone. These companies have local agents or coordinators to identify land for lease and negotiate the agreements with the local communities. Evidence was found that these local agents take unfair advantage of the local people and convince them into thinking that they will benefit from these deals and fail to adequately inform them of the consequences of the loss of farmland and the negative environmental impact of large scale agriculture. The Momoh Kontehs and Alex Mansarays were the agent types, only interested in filling their own pockets.
Displaced by Agriculture

When President Koroma took over as President in 2007, he declared Sierra Leone open for business and called for foreign investment in mineral exploitation and agriculture. Much emphasis has been on the mining sector with the agricultural sector flying under the radar. However the incentives for foreign investment in agriculture are just plain insane. In order to lure foreign investors the government gives a 10 year tax holiday on on investments in rice and tree crops and these companies pay zero import duty. The government also allows 100 percent foreign ownership in all sectors, allows no restriction on expatriate employees and permits these companies to send all the profits they make back to their home companies. Very few countries in the world have such lax investment rules. It is lost like opening up your country and inviting outsiders to come and grab what they may. 

All this is done under a so called "Agenda for Prosperity." It is only by close examination of these underground deals and the characters involved that one can deduce that it is of course an agenda for prosperity, but only for the prosperity of a few. With a population that is either too illiterate to truly know what is going on, or with an educated population that is either too partisan to care or too involved to acknowledge the harm, Sierra Leone is slowly digging its future into a hole of uncertainty all in return for cosmetic development schemes such as solar street lights. 
Beautiful Country

What is even more troubling is the lack of oversight of the activities of these foreign firms and the lack of an effective environmental protection agency. The whole scale agricultural projects will surely cause deforestation with a subsequent impact on local flora and fauna and local weather conditions as the rain cycle becomes interrupted due to the cutting down of trees and an interruption of the photosynthetic cycle. The country's journalists are too busy singing sycophantic praises to care.

As a man coming from the rural area, I am encouraged by the road construction around the country and also by the fact that the economy is improving. Hoever, as a futurist, I am really concerned with the socioeconomic impact of these developments. With the country signing one loan agreement after another, with international investors allowed to more or less do as they please all in the name of an agenda for prosperity, are we celebrating present happiness on a foundation of future volatility? I hope not, but we will continue to dig into these and many cosmetic beautifications that proliferating around the country. We as common people will start doing the work that our journalistics are failing to do.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Tegloma Convention Booklet

The Media Committee of the 2013 Tegloma International Convention is inviting Tegloma members, Sierra Leoneans and friends of Sierra Leone for short stories relating to Sierra Leone for publication in the convention booklet.

All the stories must be at least a page long and must be relevant to either Sierra Leone or to the African Diaspora experience. No story that is defamatory,  libelous or scandalous will be accepted. Stories must not also be in favor of a particular political party or ideology.
Stories that dwell on the following topics will be particularly welcome:
1. Sierra Leone Culture and traditions
2. Education
3. Philanthropy
4. Health Care
5. Immigration
6. The Refugee Experience
7. The Tegloma Experience
5. Sierra Leone Business ideas and Entrepreneurship
6. Tourism in Sierra Leone
8. Sierra Leone Wildlife
9. Sierra Leone rural life
10. Jokes

If you have a great idea, you are doing a great humanitarian venture in Sierra Leone and would like the whole world to know about it, send a short story to the editorial team of the Tegloma 2013 Convention Booklet.
Any and all stories and accompanying documents or pictures must be sent to the:
Media Committee Tegloma 2013 Convention
C/O Sheku Sheriff
Chairman Convention Media Committee

All stories sent to the media committee becomes the property of Tegloma.  Only stories accepted by the media committee will be published and publication of any story is not guaranteed. No plagiarism will be accepted. Stories may be edited by the media committee and sent back to the author for approval before publication. No edited story will be published without the approval of the author.
Advertising will also be done in the booklet. Anybody who wants to advertise a book they have authored, has a shop or business they want people to know about, or want to advertise an event, occasion or to celebrate a graduation, wedding or new addition to the family is encouraged to advertise in the Tegloma Convention Booklet.
Advertisement Costs
1. Full Page: $100.00
2. Half Page: $75.00
3. Post Card Size: 50.00
Advertising in the Tegloma booklet is a great and cost effective way to increase your business visibility as the booklet is going to be distributed all over the world. So do not pass up on this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Contact the media committee now!!!!

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