Thursday, October 31, 2013

Preparing for the Agenda for Prosperity

After years of promises, one could be excused for becoming an African pessimist. From the moment we were born to this very day, successive leaders have told the citizens of my poor country Sierra Leone that things would be better.

From free education to free health care, we have heard it all. So if today we express a healthy dose of skepticism, it is not unpatriotism or cynicism as some would call it, but just plain old common sense. Believing in lies all your life is not idiocy, it is madness. So for now, my approach to African political promises is simple; seeing is believing, and it does not matter which party is making the promise.

Our country Sierra Leone is facing a youth population explosion problem, especially in the urban areas. The result of the protracted civil war of the 90s was the movement of people from the rural areas to the relative safety of the urban centers of Bo, Makeni and the capital Freetown.

Freetown a beautiful colonial city with serious geographic limitations is now home to a population that is more than five times its optimal capacity. The Freetown City Council's meager resources has been unable to cope with this congestion, resulting in the expansion of coastal slum areas, unsanitary and densely populated ethnic settlements and the piling of garbage and sewage in the streets. These conditions of course become ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes and cholera spreading bacteria.

Just a year ago Freetown experienced a massive outbreak of bacteria that resulted in the deaths of many people in the city  forcing the government to set up an emergency committee apparently devoted go tackling the outbreak.

But the greater problem with this urban explosion has been the massive growth of unemployment in these areas. In Freetown for example, there are few private sources of employment aside from government. Most of the NGOs set up after the war were plagued by corruption and incompetence and folded up as soon as external sources of finance dried up. Population trends in the country indicate that things are only bound to get worse if some honest policies are not put in place by the government, or the private sector is not empowered to take a lead in development.

As of now the youths in the country have mostly bought into the government's agenda for prosperity, a soviet styled plan meant to stimulate economic development. There are however several conditions that will make it difficult if not impossible to achieve the goals of the agenda.

Firstly, market based development is never government driven. The best government can do is to create the necessary environment for the private sector to thrive. Having read the agenda for prosperity it is a beautiful plan that is essentially a mishmash of capitalism infused with a healthy mix of socialism. Government play such a large role in the plan that bureaucracy alone would be sufficient to kill it.

The other problem with the agenda is that is a great economic statement based on a very weak economic foundation. The labor skills, the capital resources and the energy requirements necessary for this plan to work are just not available in Sierra Leone. In this day and age, development in the absence of electricity is simply not possible. Sierra Leone youths lack the skills necessary for the jobs of tomorrow and the universities have not adapted fast enough to prepare graduates skilled in using contemporary technology. Many graduates of our universities lack even the basic skills in social and scientific research even with the proliferation of software that can do most of the analysis necessary for good data interpretation.

Is everything lost for the youths of our country? The simple answer is no. The advice I have for the youths of Sierra Leone today, especially those in the urban areas, is to do all they can to get a great education or acquire good technical skills.

Even if the government were to somehow miraculously create thousands of jobs today, many of the country's youths will still lack the skills to qualify for them. If pushed with enough force, square pegs can still fit in round holes, but the end result will always be less than optimal.

Not everybody can be a businessman, but even those who just want to go into business will benefit from some knowledge of accounting and business principles. School always pays. You can lose everything, but education is life.

To conclude, youths of today have to be responsible for their own agenda for prosperity. Go to school, if you can't go back home and grow something. Prepare yourself thoroughly so that on the day the prosperity train gets to Freetown you will have bought a ticket to jump on board.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Be Careful What You Wish For

Ex-President Kabbah
Seasoned diplomat
I heard that former Sierra Leone President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah has not been well lately. I wish him all the best and many will keep praying for him.

Well meaning Sierra Leoneans will always remember President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah for dragging Sierra Leone out of the mouths of hell. A veteran UN diplomat, Tejan Kabbah took over power from the Julius Maada Bio led National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) government and ruled the country over a tumultuous period, from 1996 to 2007.

A seasoned international diplomat, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, a civilian, was able to end the long running civil war that both the All People Congress (APC) and NPRC governments under three military leaders, Major General Joseph Saidu Momoh, Captain Valentine Strasser and Brigadier Julius Maada Bio had been unable to end, by marshaling immense diplomatic skills and engaging the international community to help end the war, disarm the militants, put the main perpetrators of the mayhem on trial and ensure a thriving democratic environment.
Starting to Miss Me?

President Kabbah was a model African democrat. Pressurized on one side by the rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and on the other by mutinous members of his own military who were not comfortable with his style of leadership, Tejan Kabbah survived one failed coup and another successful coup and was the first Sierra Leone leader to maintain a government in exile, when Major Johnny Paul Koroma of the Armed Forces Ruling Council and members of the RUF overthrew his Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) government, forcing him to take temporary shelter in neighboring Guinea for a protracted period, while the country descended into atrocious anarchy. It was only through a combination of people's resistance and external military intervention that chased the murderous AFRC bunch out of power and restored democratic rule once again.
Maj. Johnny Paul Koroma

The period of return from exile was the darkest in Kabbah's otherwise stellar legacy, as he was pressurized to put on trial and sentence to death some of the prmary characters responsible for the wanton killings of the AFRC period . The civilian population of Freetown also embarked on revenge attacks on some of the main supporters of the coup. Some or our friends had to escape from Freetown with men disguised as women.

Bio-Kabbah Handover
Tejan Kabbah maintained a rocky relationship with some sections of the country's press.This sour relationship is today touted by  some of his historical detractors, who try to use the legal prosecution of some of the journalists in the country at that time to somehow paint the picture that he was an intolerant leader. In context however, with the country still  at war,  some members of the press had aligned themselves with an AFRC junta that was hell bent on derailing the democratic gains in the country.  Some of the journalists referenced had not only collaborated with the coupists, but had gone all out to paint bad pictures of Kabbah's government in a concerted bid to give legitimacy to the Johnny Paul-Sam Bockarie led coup that was totally  unnecessary and just succeding in plunging the country once more into months of hell, with the backing of Liberian human rights convict Charles Ghankay Taylor.

RUF Battle Group Cmdr
Sam Maskita Bockarie
The tolerance of Ahmed Tejan Kabbah is only now being appreciated in Sierra Leone. Under Tejan Kabbah, freedom of expression was a treasured commodity available to all. Musicians came out weekly with popular songs comparing his government to squirrels, rats and ground-pigs (a big rat found in the sewers of Freetown)

I can still remember a popular song at that time which goes as "the short wan nar squirrel, the tall wan nar gron pig, the fat wan nar arata", which was meant to describe the traits of the leaders at the time. Musicians like Emmerson Bockarie made references to officials as Swegbe and some were giving the government notice of vacation of State House

Under President Kabba the opposition parties were licensed to own and operate radio stations that were devoted to criticizing his government 24 hours a day and play music critical of his government, yet he made sure the musicians were free to explore their creative talent even though some saw it as an excuse to castigate his government and sow disaffection among the masses.Even after all the initial nonsense with Johnny Paul Koroma and Foday Sankoh, Kabbah allowed these men to become part of the peace process and government and they only fell by the folly of their own ways.

Now that the Ernest Koroma government has embarked on a crusade of sanitizing journalists and muzzling Freedom of speech, Some of us are left wondering whether Sierra Leoneans are not now saying to themselves, "be careful what you wish for as."
The Sanitizing Crew
"She has my full Support"

Opposition radio stations have been banned, music now has to be censored before release, press houses in Freetown are now subject to random raids by the country's increasingly trigger happy police. Opposition leaders are arrested for public statements and their homes and offices raided on the smallest pretext. The police have morphed from agents of law and order into agents of harassment and intimidation. The President's Special Assistant now gives edictslike an Islamic Fatwa and to show that she is untouchable, she has even warned the Information Minister Alpha Kanu that if he interferes in her case she will drag him before the Anti Corruption Commission.
Jonathan Leigh Victim
of Official sanitizing

While this is going on, Sierra Leone has once more started to see negative trends as government officials take their eyes of the economy to concentrate on a campaign of harassment and pettiness. The World Food program reports that Sierra Leone now has the highest inflation in Wast Africa with inflation rates at 11.5 and 10.9% between the months of April and May recorded. Food inflation rates remains above 10% essentially converting over 35% of  the population into scavengers. The World Food Program estimates that the average household now spends approximately 63% of their income on food, with approximately 52% of the population. The UN body warns of serious food insecurity in the country if these trends continue, but who is listening. The government's solution has been to bring in large scale commercial venture to displace small scale farmers in a bid to boost food production. The question of how these displaced farmers will earn their future livelihoods is still up in the air, as President Koroma's economic policies are orientated more towards short term popularity than long term development impact.
Koroma's Leadership

The Sierra Leone Association of Journalist seems to be the last body standing between Koroma's growing ambition to rule beyond his mandate be setting his attack dogs on those sections of the population that he has not already bought over. But as the history of African leaders show, tyranny is may be harsh, but always ends badly. Many members of even the APC party are wondering at the temporary insanity that seems to have descended on State House.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dark Clouds in Sierra Leone

1990s Sierra Leone
What is happening in Sierra Leone today is a real tragedy. Here is a country that barely a decade ago was engulfed in a horrible civil war in which thousands were mutilated, maimed and killed. The situation degenerated to such a primitive level that the international community had to step away from the sidelines and get forcibly involved to bring an end to the mayhem, and put the country on a path to multi-party democracy. Or so they thought.

Barely 12 short years after the all that bloodbath and mayhem, all the problems that led to the conflict in the first place are now rushing back into the country like a giant wave propelled by a vicious tsunami.

Just a year after President Ernest Bai Koroma was reelected for a second term on a promise of an Agenda for Prosperity, the political situation has become virulent, the economic disparity in the country between rich and poor has reached  levels unprecedented in any African country, with the educational system is in shambles, as exemplified by a deputy education minister violently raping a student just trying to get a scholarship. As if these were not bad enough journalists not singing the party tune are now hounded and treated like stray dogs for simply saying truth to power.
Voting for Lies

The new Sierra Leone political class today takes to print and social media to threaten those they have authority over, vowing that nothing will happen as long as they are in power.

 Fulfilling on the pledge earlier this year by the President's Special Executive Assistant that the Koroma government will soon start "sanitizing journalists," two journalists of the Independent Observer have been arrested for over twelve days and refused bail, contrary to all rules of human decency and in violation of both their human and constitutional rights, just for likening the President to a rat. At the same time, journalists close to the President just last week labeled the Vice President an ASS and use all type of unprintable invective against  opposition politicians and walk about free in the garbage filled streets of the country's capital Freetown. This same Special Assistant to the President now takes to print and social media, like someone deranged, insulting real and perceived enemies of the President, all in the name of protecting him, a situation that is making the Sierra Leone ruling class a laughing stock even among poor African nations.
Lost Moses?

Like rats addicted to hoarding, the President and his cronies are the sole beneficiaries of the immense wealth that the new resurgence of iron ore, gold, diamond, rutile and bauxite mining has brought into the country, while the rest of the people in the country are now living like slaves of an unrepentant Pharaoh. Those who saw in President Koroma a Moses coming to free them from poverty are seeing before their own eyes the gradual transformation of an affable politician into a power hungry tyrant doing all he can to hang on to power, even as the constitutional writing on the wall is telling him that he only has four more years.
Captain and Co-Pilot of the
Sanitizing Team

The President has fallen so much in love with sycophancy that he has selected the youngest and most ambitious sycophant the country has today and now seemingly listens only to her as she helps him destroy his four years legacy that was full of hope and promises of a brighter future. In Freetown today there in no more talk of an Agenda for Prosperity. Just a year after taking back power, all the agenda the people are interested in today is the Agenda for Survival, as the promises of better things to come are exposed for their emptiness, even as the living situation becomes worse for the majority of people around the country.

Chldren Looking for Prosperity
Even with all the new found mineral wealth, the average Sierra Leonean has never seen harder times. Only few people in the country are seeing any benefit from this massive infusion of foreign capital,  those close to the Koroma clan. The country is gradually becoming a one man show, with the President now becoming like a post colonial tin can despot, hiring and firing without regard to effect, driving the country into a future of uncertainty on a vehicle of empty promises. Just last week the Works Minister was fired. After spending billions of Leones on questionable road contracts and touting the reconstruction of roads around the city as part of the success of the first term, it is now gradually emerging that these contracts were done on the cheap, with most developing enormous potholes barely a year after being resurfaced. The shoddy road construction has now increased both the incidence and severity of flooding around Freetown, a city built at the base of mountainous terrain and historically subject to long periods of relief rainfall.

Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora who are either too lazy or busy to follow trends back home are now carefully fed propaganda packaged as "rebranding", peddled by the many paid press attaches who are paid to fool the gullible and the uninformed that everything is bright and rosy in Sierra Leone, and things have never been better. The do this while resting on their comfortable couches in foreign countries getting fat on the sweat of the poor Sierra Leonean.
Another Mugabe?

The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) that was set up by President Ahmed Tejan Kabba is now nothing more than a joke, as they continue to lose one easy case after another. Now staffed by another Koroma, the ACC's cases are poorly researched and hastily presented as their catalog of lost cases continue to pile up. The Anti Corruption Commission is now an epitome of incompetence and a typical representation of the mediocrity that has gripped the West African country as the President crusade of putting square pegs in round holes gather momentum.

My heart really goes out to all the poor souls sitting around waiting for an Agenda for prosperity that is sailing on a ship in the middle of an an ocean with a captain who is lost at sea.

Sierra Leone Democracy at Risk as Parliament Gets Ready to Degrade Speaker Position

Jonathan Leigh
Over the past few weeks the All People Congress (APC) Government has embarked on a campaign of intimidation of journalists and opposition figures in Sierra Leone.

Jonathan Leigh and Bai Bai Sesay, editors of the Independent Observer  have been arrested, locked up for days and refused bail for comparing the President to a rat. When the pro-government Awareness Times Newspaper had somebody writing as Mohamed Azonto Kamara calling the Vice President an ASS, nothing happened, as the publisher  of the rag, who is also the Special Assistant to the President has launched a campaign of disrespect against the VP on the grounds that people are disrespecting the President for his sake. She had earlier in the year promised the journalists in the country that they Will be ''sanitized," and it seems she is using her influence with the President to make good on her threat to 'sanitize' the few independent journalists left in the country.

The two journalists are both to be dragged out of prison today and arraigned in court on charges of calling the President a rat instead of calling him a toy lion. Of course these two journalists are definitely not members of the President's sycophantic brigade, a group of journalist who have now devoted their whole professional life to feeding the President false compliments. The Siera Leone President is notorious for his weakness for praise singing and people are getting prime jobs in the country, just singing his name.
Main Prison in Freetown
Pademba Road Office

However, as the whole Sierra Leone pays attention to the problems of Jonathan and Bai Bai, a more dangerous thing is happening today in the country's Parliament which if successful, will put the initial nail in the coffin of multiparty democracy in Sierra Leone and it seems as if the arrest of the two journalist and some opposition figures has just been a diversion.

There is a bill being introduced in Parliament today that will change the qualification requirements for speaker of Parliament, with the sole purpose of removing the current speaker and replacing him with a stooge of the president, as the current deputy speaker Hon. Chericoco is already Koroma's boy.

Under Section 79 of Act 6 of the 1991 constitution, the speaker of parliament must be from a legal background. The act states that the speaker of parliament " shall be elected by the Members of Parliament from among persons who are members of Parliament or are qualified to be elected as such and who are qualified to be appointed judges of the superior court of Judicature or have held such office"

Even though there is some ambiguity in the phrase "or are qualified to be elected," it is very clear that the writers of the constitution wanted a legal person to hold the office, as such a person will be able to understand the intricacies of the law making process and be of sound legal mind to interpret the provisions of the constitution.

However, the government is now using the ambiguity in the act to change the fundamental requirement of a speaker, so that anybody elected to parliament and can command a majority, regardless of legal or educational background can now become a Speaker of Parliament. APC Parliamentarians know a lot of things, but law is not one of their strong points.

Under the new amendments being proposed the section will now read as follows:
   The Speaker                     79(1) The speaker shall be elected by the Members of Parliament from among persons who are-
  • a. Members of Parliament and who had served as such for not less than five years: or
  • b. qualified to be members of Parliament.
Gone is the legal background provision, which means that any Jack or Jill who is awarded a party symbol and has influence with the President, now has the capacity to be Speaker of Parliament.
Speaker Justice Abel Stronge

What is even more troubling is that with the passage this amendment, there are moves underground to remove the current Speaker Abel Nathaniel Bankole Stronge and replace him with the majority leader of the house Sheku Badara Bashiru Dumbuya, who is a very close ally of the President. That being done, the two outstanding MP seats in contention will be decided in favor of APC, giving them 2/3 majority in Parliament and the ability to implement their grand plan, which is either to give their patron Koroma a 3rd term or make the presidency 2 seven year terms, as they will have the parliamentary majority to do as they please.

Alas, the whole of Sierra Leone is focused on the sensational journalists rat case, the constitution is being bastardized under their very noses.With the opposition SLPP plagued by perpetual infighting, it wont be long before Koroma and his cronies evolve from rats into crocodiles, devouring everything that lie in their paths.

Friday, October 25, 2013

All Peoples Congress (APC) Lawyer writes Strongly Worded Letter to Sierra Leone President Ernest Koroma

M. Alieu Iscandri

M Alieu Iscandari

Letter to the President of Sierra Leone.

dear Mr. President,

I received the following communication from State House,from one Sylvia Blyden who purports to SPEAK for you? here it is :

"Alieu, JUST F**K OFF. You are sick. Once again, go and seek help. U are sick bo... U are really sick... talking about EXPLODE... make ar block you sef. F**KING IDIOT"

Is this the level of communication that emanates from State house or have the standards really sunk that low since Ms. Thing your chief speaker came in. I have been hearing all around town that as soon as she passes by their are rumours of "there goes the neighborhood" I cannot understand for the life of me why you would hire a person with such foul mouth who has so far since her appointment failed to live up to the expectations of the diplomatic etiquette's that comes with working in such close proximity with your office. was this lady forced upon you Mr. President? I ask because it seems like since this lady has become your special executive assistant answerable ONLY to you, she has said a lot of Rubbish and insensitive posts, has continued to embarrass your government on social media and continues to say things that make people wonder If there is any control or if the command and control at state house has sort of broken down. And it seems as if the more she says the more it appears that nothing is being done to discipline her the more emboldened she has become. Listen Mr. President your administration is being embarrassed by her presence. Your party is fast loosing friends and supporters in sierra Leone and in the diaspora. This woman has problems in effectively communicating. If you insist on keeping this woman in office can you ate least pay for her to get a three month course on effective communication? We the citizens of sierra Leone need to know how long this Imbecile at state house is going to continue to embarrass our country and government.

On another note Mr. President I do disagree with the charges of sedition against the Journalists including Mr. Jonathan Leigh. It seems to me that you are not being properly advised on issues that are germane to the constitution. It appears also that one of the chief proponents leading the charge to "punish" these journalists is One Sylvia Blyden who I understand is the special executive assistant to you answerable ONLY to you. Is this the same person Mr. President who at the start of your administration did so much to embarrass your spouse and turn your marital into a ridicule? was she charged with sedition then? was this the same person who cartooned you as the devil with two horns and on another cartoon depicted you with knickers over your head. Is this the very same person who led the SLPP false claims that in about 20 minutes of violent confrontation a few APC men your personal body guards included walked in to the opposition head quarters and raped a few women that were in the opposition head quarters. Knowing fully well that all of that was contrived and false and the malicious intent of it was to give your embryonic administration a very bad reputation in international quarters. Is this the same person whose news paper had depicted you as a DICTATOR? Now I know we are about the same age Mr. President and we tend to forget quickly. why is it that you the target of all these personal attacks by this woman have forgotten about it and many of us those who genuinely love your leadership and the party have found it hard to forget the level of TREACHERY that this young lade had reached in destroying the party. Do you know how many of us members of this great party went online with evidence of our own to REBUT all the false claims that she had asserted against your party and your government?

I think personally Mr. President that someone who did all that I have alleged in the above paragraphs and nothing was done to her would now advocate for other journalists to be jailed for doing less? Do you really feel comfortable Mr. President working in such close proximity with some one who epitomizes that most vile of stealth animals a VIPER and who mires in such crass hypocrisy? What Jonathan Leigh and others wrote about you is POLITICAL SPEECH and is guaranteed under the constitution of sierra Leone or at least it should be. I ask that you order you attorney general to drop all charges against these journalists because even their arrest and incarceration is a violation of their constitutional rights.

Well let me tell you this Mr. President many people are afraid to tell you because they believe that if they do they may lose their jobs. Since I do not have a job to lose let me say this real quick so that when It happens that there will be a record that it has been said. You have promoted Sylvia Olayinka Blyden to a position of incompetence. I think in organizational management principles they call that the Peter principle. She is an extremely odious character, extremely intolerant of dissenting opinion, Rude to people that disagree with him, is brazen and has a tendency to be nasty. What gets to me is that none of this behavior is unknown to you. So the question I have to ask is when is it going to dawn on you that you have a LIABILITY rather than an asset in this woman. is she being brought in to do the dirty jobs.

Her attacks on the Vice President of our republic that man who now acts in your capacity now that you are gone out of town, were an example of her crass and class way of behaving. This appointment is NOT in comport with your agenda for change and you ought consider making a CHANGE at that level before she causes you , your government and party further embarrassment. I wonder how many documents she has secretly hidden away just to release at the right time to embarass your office.

Mr. President I have said my piece and who so ever reads this and doesn't like it MEK DEM GO POLICE. SYLVIA BLYDEN HAS NO PLACE IN YOUR ADMINISTRATION SHE IS A BADLY BEHAVED WOMAN.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

State House Palava Continues: Enter Azonto

Mohamed Azonto Kamara
Awareness Times
Using the Awareness Times Newspaper as a cover, President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone is now using the mysterious Awareness Times journalist Mohamed Azonto Kamara aka SEA to clear all the obstacles in his path to hand picking a puppet and installing him as leader of the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) party. A puppet that will be a potential future president of the impoverished and debt plagued West African Country.

Taking a cue from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who got around presidential term limits by appointing a stooge Dmitry Medvedev as a bench warmer President for one term and then coming back as President after the end of the first term, it seems as if all the old APC tactics of the 1970s are back with a vengeance.

Some time after the 2012 elections, some of President Koroma's stooges in the media and the government started to float the idea of a third term. The President's campaign manager Balogun Koroma went on radio and insinuated that having done such a good job it will not be a bad idea for the President to have a third term. Swift condemnation by citizens and independent media groups of the idea of a third term forced the President's handlers to quickly release a statement condemning overzealous people for propagating lies and forcefully stating that the President had absolutely no interest in running for a third term as he respects the constitution. Quietly however, most of the APC people that were publicly calling for a third term saw a change in their fortunes and were suddenly promoted to important positions, with the main idea propagator, Balogun Koroma, promoted to Transportation and Aviation Minister and put in charge of all future APC elections campaigns.

In another remarkable feat of puppeteering, President Koroma ensured that when the time came for election of the executive members of his ruling APC party, only his hand picked agents were selected ans returned unopposed to all the top positions. Credible State House sources state that their potential rivals were quietly ordered to back down, a situation that went unchallenged as all the former formidable rivals of the President had either been co-opted, sidelined or sent out of the country on diplomatic assignments as Ambassadors. Though there were reports of some quiet grumbling in corners, President Koroma's system of patronage and reward for personal loyalty had so weakened his potential rivals, that they all just wrapped their tails and went along quietly. Nobody wanted to lose that official vehicle or board membership of some bank or parastatal. Survival in Freetown today is at the discretion of Koroma deity.

To further exert his dominance over the All Peoples Congress political class, President Koroma firmly warned all those who were thinking of replacing him after the endof his term against making any overt or covert moves and threatened with expulsion from government, any APC politician caught campaigning for presidential office. His excuse was that it was not the time for campaigning, but a time for governing and he expected all his allies to pay 100% attention to running the country. The assumption that a person cannot be campaigning and simultaneously governing, flies in the face of all logic as even the president himself had been campaigning for reelection while running the country. The excuse merely portrayed the APC political class as a bunch of low brained individuals who could lack the ability to do two things at the same time. But of course, who dared to challenged the world's best President and risk the insult of Mohamed Azonto Kamara as women grow balls in Sierra Leone.
VP Sam Sumana

To further unify his control of government, President Koroma purged his government off all non-APC ministers like his Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) allies and those he did not see as being 100% loyal to him. PMDC having been totally routed in the 2012 elections were now regarded as a spent force who were no longer relevant in Sierra Leone politics. To prove just how irrelevant the PMDC was, after kicking most of their ministers out of government, the party leader lawyer Charles Margai was arrested locked up in a stinking prison cell for a few days over some careless statements he made about having hunters ready to defend him .Nothing came out of his days in a dirty cell, except his bruised ego and the belittling of the Margai name. Koroma had shown Margai who the boss was, there was a new Sheriff in town.

Currently, as President Koroma's power in Sierra Leone grows more absolute, some very negative developments have started taking place in the country. A couple of months ago the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) which is the country's main opposition had elections for their national executive. In the lead up to the elections, police in the country made some brazen raids on the office and residence of the President's main challenger in the 2012 Elections, Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, on suspicions that he was harboring some fugitives and reportedly had been stockpiling weapons with an intent to disrupt the SLPP executive elections if his preferred candidate did not win. The raid of course yielded nothing and many saw it as just a ploy to humiliate the ex-military strong man and test the extent of loyalty to him across the country. After effectively annihilating the PMDC, SLPP was now the main target on Sierra Leone's new road to APCdom.
Monologue Trouble

Just around the SLPP elections, there was news of a military mutiny  and some very low ranking military men were arrested together with the Bo mayor who was quickly released. Even though the government claims to have some low rank military men under arrest, the whole case is shrouded in mystery and skepticism and seen by many as a thinly veiled attempt to have gone after Bio if any problem had arisen in Bo, had his preferred candidate lost. Having completely paralyzed internal APC opposition and succeeded in making PMDC completely impotent, pundits believe that President Koroma and his cronies wanted to decapitate the political leadership of the SLPP using their internal party squabbles as an excuse. However, as of now he is content to leave the weakening of SLPP to themselves as the fight for leadership grows more acrimonious.

Currently, President Koroma's attention has turned to his final obstacle in APC, the country's Vice President and former political ally Sam Sumana who is alleged to have defrauded some American business partners between 2006 to 2007 and using the money to bank roll Koroma's ascendancy to to the Presidency, in return for the position of Vice President, an allegation that caused serious embarrassment for President Koroma in 2012, leading to speculations that the Vice President might be replaced on the ruling ticket. President Koroma of course kept Sam Sumana on the Presidential ticket, but immediately after the election, their relationship took a nose dive and there is now apparently no love lost between the two as is now manifested in the open battle between the President's Special Executive Assistant Sylvia Olayinka Blyden and Sam Sumana's ally the host of the popular Monologue radio program David Tam Baryoh.
The Boss and the SEA

Over the past few week's Sylvia Blyden's gossip tabloid, Awareness Times, has been full of derogatory statements against the Vice President, referring to him as scandal plagued and an embarrassment for having his allies saying bad things about the President. Things have gotten so bad that the balsy mysterious journalist called Mohamed Azonto Kamara has now twisted the Vice President's name in order to publicly insult him. Mohamed Azonto who 95% of adult Sierra Leoneans believe isthe President's Special Executive Assistant Blyden, has now created a new acronym for Vice President Sam Sumana, calling  him Vice-President Alhaji Sidique Samsumana (ASS), or (VP ASS), the term ASS being regarded in Sierra Leone as a tremendous insult, especially of a man with the traditional heritage of the almost powerless Vice President.

Sylvia Blyden has of course told everybody who cares to listen that she is not a minister but is of cabinet rank, answers only to the President and has been given the go ahead by the President to write anything she wants.
The Rape of Kono

However, giving the Vice President the very derogatory moniker ASS, with all its negative connotations is not viewed favoribly by many Sierra Leoneans as even if the man is not to be respected, he should be treated with the constitutional respect befitting the second highest office in the land, especially by members of his own government. Having an assistant to the President publicly insulting the Vice President is a new low in Sierra Leone politics and represents the utter small mindedness of the curent leaders of Sierra Leone. Even the president should be ashamed at the current state of affairs. Openly insulting the Vice President in a newspaper shows no respect for even the Presidency and it is a real shame to have somebody of Sylvia's caliber and mentality working in the most important office in the country.

A year ago, when the Al Jazeera Timbergate scandal broke in Sierra Leone, Sylvia was the main person defending the Vice President on Television and going after jornalist Sorious Samoura. She is now the primary tool in the humiliation of the Vice President, a lonely man who never truly learned the intricate workings and the cut throat nature of historic APC politics. He is now being rapidly schooled.
The Forgotten

After Sumana, the next target is the remaining journalists who have not been bought over. Unfortunately for those who intend to muzzle the press, they may also want to start thinking about investing in buying the Internet.

Read Azonto's Insults here

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Taylor Prevented from Joining Allies in Rwanda

Unrepentant Liberian Tyrant
Charles Ghankay Taylor
To the last moment of his freedom, Charles Ghankay Taylor's megalomania remained on full display for the world to see. The authorities overseeing the former Liberian rebel war lord turned President's incarceration just refused his latest request to join his RUF buddies Issa Sesay and others in a special prison in Rwanda.
Charles Taylor who just a few weeks ago had  his fifty year conviction for  war crimes in Sierra Leone upheld by an appellate branch of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, has been making more demands since his arrest and transfer to the Hague than the queen of England herself.

A former Liberian criminal fugitive, Charles Ghankay Taylor mysteriously escaped detention in USA in the 1980s, came to Africa and was able to use the support of former Libyan tyrant Muammar Ghadafi and Burkina Faso despot Blaise Campaore to launch a popular rebellion against the murderous regime of Samuel Kenyon Doe in the small West African country of Liberia.
War Lord Taylor

After years of terrible rebel strife, Charles Taylor was elected President by the war weary people of his country in democratic elections that was supposed to end the bloody conflict. Many people voted for him because of the fear of what he would have done, had he not won, as he still had thousands of armed murderous youths in the countryside.  Furthermore his depravity, cruelty and absolute disregard for human life had been put on full display during the horrible years of civil war in his country.

Upon assuming power, Taylor, instead of behaving like a national leader, decided to use his position to humiliate, intimidate and payback his political adversaries and use his control of state resources to enrich himself. He became the grand chief patron of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a rebel group in diamond rich neighboring Sierra Leone that was an offshoot of his National Patriotic Front for Liberia. (NPFL)
Taylor Supporters 

As President Taylor used his influence and resources to provide arms, ammunition and manpower to his RUF allies in exchange for the country's diamonds and used his presidency as leverage to thwart every effort at achieving lasting peace in Sierra Leone. He was famously reported to have given international super model Naomi Campbell a small bag of uncut diamonds on a trip to South Africa, just to express his admiration. His disrespect for Sierra President Ahmed Tejan Kabba was no secret, a grave error that would one day come back to hunt him.
Taylor's Biggest Sierra Leone Fan
Olayinka Blyden

Eventually, Taylor's sins caught up with him, as his adversaries launched a counter rebellion that gave him no other option but to exit Liberia to save his skin. He was exiled to Nigeria with a promise to lay low. With growing clamor for him to face justice, he attempted as always to escape Nigeria, but was caught, bound, brought to Sierra Leone and sent to the Hague in Netherlands, from where he was tried and sentenced to fifty years in jail for crimes against the people of Sierra Leone. Unfortunately for Taylor, his crimes against his own people had made him flee, but it was crimes against his next door neighbors that would ultimately brought his downfall.
Taylor Asks to use Toilet

Taylor's stint in jail did nothing to lessen his monumental arrogance, as he and his team set out to minimize the impact of his influence in Sierra Leone and portray him as a friendly and benevolent neighbor whose sole interest had been to bring an end to the Sierra Leone conflict, and he had had no influence over his RUF allies. The special court of course did not buy Taylor's claims of innocence and sentenced him to fifty years in jail, an effective life sentence as he was now way past his prime after years of running around in the bush, chasing after power. After his sentence, Taylor decided to do one last Houdini act and appeal his conviction, but unfortunately for him, the court found his appeal to be without merit and reaffirmed his conviction.
Mrs. Ghankay Taylor
"My Husband is Innocent"

In Hague, Taylor has been a constant irritation to the prison authorities in the European metropolis. His main complaint has been the poor nature of the food. Who can blame him? From eating food fit for a president to eating mass produced mashed potato, gravy and Dutch cheese, I can't help but sympathize. No more bush meat from Kakata.
In his blind arrogance, Taylor fails to envision the thousands of his amputated and maimed victims who would give the world to eat the three meals a day that he is complaining about. He may have thought that prison was a hotel trip involving a spa treatment and my only regret was that he was not sent to New York's Riker's Island, but he may be sent to some comfortable over regulated British prison, where he will be pampered, spoiled and allowed to grow fat until he one day dies from a massive myocardial infarction.
RUF Ally
Issa Sesay-Rwanda

Taylor is truly incorrigible, demanding where he was to be jailed, so that he will be "close to his family," while the bones of thousands of his victims lie in forests and unknown graves. Of course what he truly wants is to join his RUF allies in Rwanda so that they may make a break for it if Rwanda descends into conflict.
He states that he fears being attacked if he is jailed in Britain. I wish Sierra Leone had a good relationship with Russia, so that he could be shipped to Siberia and see the difference between the Russian winter and Her Majesty's prison.
Of course Taylor has staunch supporters in the Sierra Leone government, notably the President's Special Executive Assistant Blyden who publicly grieved when Taylor was initially jailed in April 2012, blaming the people of Sierra Leone for the conflict. To compensate her she was made special assistant, in the sick tragedy that is the politics of Sierra Leone.
Charles Taylor Jr. "Chuckie"
97 yearss

Charles Taylor's son Charles Chucky Taylor Jr. an American citizen was tried some years ago in USA for war crimes committed in Liberia while his father was president and he was head of a notorious security unit. He was ordered to pay millions of dollars to five of the victims that he tortured and sentenced to 97 years in jail. 

As Mark Anthony famously said, "the evil that men do live after them." Taylor has joined the ranks of Hitler, Amin, Bokassa, Mengistu and the rest of the world's tyrants who we will remember long after the good people they killed are forgotten.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sierra Leone Political Updates: Zainab's Dilemma

Zainab Bangura
Zainab Bangura, the former Sierra Leone community activist turned foreign and health minister who abandoned a cabinet position in Sierra Leone's corruption plagued Health and Sanitation Ministry to accept a United Nations position as a Special Representative to the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict at the level of Under-Secretary General is currently a dilemma of sorts.

Mrs. Bangura, a graduate of Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, was appointed to the position after years of campaigning for women's rights, especially in conflict situations, having been very active during the rebel conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia and having gained valuable experience  and international recognition for her role in an area of the world where the concerns of women are usually relegated to the background,  it came as pleasant surprise for most Sierra Leoneans when on June 22nd 2012, UN Secretary general Ban Ki Moon nabbed Ms. Bangura for this position, a very lucky break, as her ministry soon became embroiled in a scandal over diversion of GAVI funds meant for the immunization of children in Sierra Leone. Money disbursed by the Gates Foundation for immunization purposes was quickly diverted by top officials of the corruption infested ministry for personal use, while creating fictitious documents to cover their trail, in a country that has once again joined the ranks of the most corrupt places on the face of the earth, even as the public officials embark on bogus rebranding schemes.

The appointment of Zainab Bangura as a UN point person for the prevention of rape in conflict was universally praised in Sierra Leone as a major achievement for a woman coming from a country and society in which women are still to be accepted as equal partners in development, even though some eyebrows were raised over an instance in which she had largely kept quiet, when some rogue security personnel supporting her ruling All Peoples Congress Party party, broke into the Headquarters of the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party and raped women in broad daylight. Her silence on this issue to placate her political masters was seen as a negative on her otherwise impressive resume, but on the whole, Sierra leoneans of all political stripes congratulated her on an achievement milestone.
Alleged Rapist Minister Mahomoud

Zainab Bangura has been busy over the past year, flying around the world, advocating against the use of violence against women in conflict, especially the heinous practice of rape, which is a very common phenomenon in African conflict situations, as boys and men with guns routinely use rape as a tool for the humiliation of adversaries, for domination, subjugation and the feeling of superiority over members of the  female gender. Unfortunately , while Under-secretary Zainab Bangura has been traversing the globe talking about the dangers of violence against women and the heinous nature of rape, the open secret is that in her country Sierra Leone, violence against women and acts of rape are so common place that it seems as if the society is still frozen in medieval times.

In Sierra Leone, rape is not only a tool of violence against women, some men see it as a testament of their manlihood and brag about it openly. Sierra Leone as a society has a traditional worldview when it comes to sexual exploitation. Some Sierra Leone cultures still treat women as if they were commodities for trade. In the Eastern Region of Sierra Leone where we were bred, it is a common practice for families to make all the arrangements for the marriage of their daughters without even asking the girls for either their opinion or their preference. Among people of the Madingo Sheriff heritage from which we are descended, it was common for brides to only meet their husbands on their wedding day. The husband could look like a genetic cross between King Kong and Satan, but the girls will be stuck with him, with no way out. The situation in the north of the country is not any better.
New African Woman

When we were in Secondary school, some of our very intelligent female contemporaries who would have been potential medical doctors, lawyers or engineers were never given the chance, as their families were only too happy to drag them out of school and hand them over to men old enough to be their grandparents. The wasted potential of some of the girls I used to know in my hometown who were married off just to became farm hands and baby making machines, still troubles me to this day.

Unfortunately, the view of women as sexual objects does not just stop at the village or rural level, but is even more prominent among the educated elites and political class in Sierra Leone. Men use political appointments and appointments to top level positions as a vehicle for extra-marital exploits. Unfortunately, years of conditioning and acceptance of the status quo, has given rise to a class of women who see this as the only way to survive. You see them everyday in the streets of Freetown, elaborately dressed and moving from office to office, looking for favors, just to put food on the table or brag that they are also dating an important person. 
David Tam-Baryoh
Blame the Victim Strategy

Just recently Sierra Leone's Deputy Minister of Education Mahmoud Tarawally was involved in a situation in which he detained a female student who had gone to his office on the promise of help to obtain an overseas scholarship. The minister later took her to an isolated location and according to the student, raped her brutally, even though she repeatedly asked him to stop. Like a goat in heat, the Minister only stopped when he was well and truly satisfied. In a mark of true heroism, the student did not just go home crying as is usually the case in the country, but went straight to the police who in uncharacteristic fashion promptly affected the minister. The government had little option but to suspend the minister, as the news of the incident soon spread like wildfire in harmattan. The disgraced minster of course did not deny carnal knowledge of the student, but said it was consensual, even though he was the country's Minister of Education and she was an ordinary student.
Sports Minister Paul Kamara
Equates women with chickens

Unfortunately, as is always the case of female violence in Sierra Leone, nothing much will come of it. The now suspended Education Minister is a close crony of President Koroma and the case will likely not amount to anything. Already some in the political class are taking the side of the minister and a popular radio presenter David Tam-Baryoh already took to his popular monologue show and dehumanized the victim, portraying her as nothing but a gold digger and a woman with loose morals. This negative portrayal will make many women in the society think twice before coming out when sexually violated and Tam-Baryoh's callous action is a real betrayal of the rights of women in the country and shows how some African intellectuals can be taken out of the village, but society can never succeed in taking the village out of them.

Many human rights activists are now closely watching Zainab Bangura to see if she will say anything about this case, or just keep quiet about the fire in her own backyard, while traveling to Congo and Central Africa talking about violence against women. As the Christan Scripture rightly says, it is always good to take the log out of your own eye before taking the speck of dust out of others' eyes. Mrs Bangura it is about time you start addressing the female violence in your own tenement yard.

Is It Koroma-Sumana or Blyden-Tam Baryoh

Koroma's Vuvuzela
Olayinka SEA
The public press war between Sierra Leone's perennial trouble monger Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, the Special Executive Assistant (SEA) to that country's President, His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma and David Tam-Baryoh, the home buddy of the Vice President Sam Sumana seem to be turning from ugly to ungodly. Just when neutral observers thought the madness at State House could not get any worse, it has now become a full scale exhibition of lunacy.

Olayinka Blyden, the former RUF rebel activist, whose short tenure at Sierra Leone's Statehouse has been marked by one unnecessary media crisis after the other, due to an unfortunate tendency of writing without regard to her new public role, is a woman constantly on the prowl for controversy and in a new heightened state of paranoia, she now sees an opposition conspiracy in almost every negative thing happening in Sierra Leone today.
Over the past month President Koroma withdrew from a trip to engage in various activities in the United States of America, including an address to the United Nations General Assembly. Olayinka duly informed the world, on Facebook, that the President would not be attending these engagements, citing an injury sustained in a game of squash and his intent to send members of his team other than the Vice President to represent him in these overseas engagements. Some on social media and in the press then started questioning loudly why lately, the Vice President has not been representing the President  in public engagements. This question seems to have rubbed the always irritable and irascible Blyden the wrong way. 
Monologue Tam-Baryoh
Rape Defender

Even before the grumblings about the Vice President being sidelined, Tam-Baryoh and Olayinka had had a public falling out over different stances on rape allegations made a few weeks ago against one of  the country's Deputy Education Ministers, Mahmoud Tarawally. MinisterTarawally had lured a female student looking for scholarship to a hotel and had proceeded to climb on top of her, allegedly without permission. 

The female student had rushed to the police all bloody, and accused the Education Minister of brutal rape. The Minister with the libido of a billy goat, was hastily relieved of his duties and he has not denied that there was sexual intercourse, but has firmly said it was consensual, even though the fact that he was a government Minister and the lady a mere student already creates a very unequal relationship in the first place. Even if there was consent, the power play in the relationship, the apparent abuse of office, the undue influence,are all variables bound to raise questions in the mind of Sierra Leoneans intelligent enough to look beyond party label.

Blyden and Tam-Baryoh had expressed different perspectives on the rape case, with Blyden siding with the victim and Tam-Baryoh seemingly coming out for the accused minister, especially when he took to his popular Monologue radio program and made disparaging statements about the lady alleging the rape, making her look not like an innocent victimm, but  like a woman with loose morals and a gold digger. 
Sam Sumana

Sylvia came out swinging against Baryoh's characterization expressing disappointment and publicly chiding Tam Baryoh for his ridiculous position. In response, Tam-Baryoh came out with a scathing article against Sylvia, making reference to a particular unnamed lady in the corridors of power who had been raped by a relative, causing her to abandon her child to her mother, a retired civil servant living in London. Of course one did not need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that Blyden was close to State House and her mother was a retired civil servant living in London. The rest is as they say, go figure!

Following the war of words, David Tam-Baryoh made a direct appeal to his "friend" President Koroma to get rid of Sylvia, accusing her of bringing the presidency into disrepute amidst an endless parade of public scandal. This direct threat to her job and free traveling privileges rubbed Blyden the wrong way and in characteristic fashion she has come out swinging against Tam-Baryoh, aiming for the jugular of Tam's friend and Kono kinsman, the Vice President Sam Sumana, aka "Sumana Timber"

Just a day ago Sylvia took to her Favorite medium, Facebook, and accused those who are complaining against the Vice President not representing the President at the recently concluded UN General Assembly of rudeness and pointedly asked the Vice President if he was not embarrassed at having people being rude to the President on his behalf. Pretending to be very angry for added effect the Special Assistant made references to several countries in the sub-region, including Liberia and Nigeria, claiming that there was no 'noise' in the media around their Vice Presidents and even referenced America, apparently unaware of the historical bad blood that has existed between some American Presidents and their Vice Presidents since the declaration was signed.

If the leaders of our Sierra Leone were not running a country, with their actions affecting the daily survival and lives of so many people, the current Sierra Leone government could have been likened to very bad play with actors who do not know their lines or a badly directed c-rate horror movie that is mistaken for a comedy. 
President Koroma
The Universe' Best

Here is a country in which the Special Assistant to the President, who just a few years ago was an opposition mouthpiece, is now publicly writing nonsense about the Vice President, a man who has been so undermined that even the messengers in his office now have a clearer role to play than the VP himself.

It is reported that the falling out between President Koroma and Vice President Sam Sumana occurred almost immediately after 2012 national elections. The genesis of the executive conflict is a mystery to many, but some are of the opinion that President Koroma did not want the Vice President to succeed him at the helm of the ruling All Peoples Congress and loathes the idea of him ever becoming President of Sierra Leone. 

This previously rumored bad blood between the President and his Vice was recently manifested by the fact that the Vice President Sumana was completely disregarded in the last APC party leadership election, in which the future leaders of the party where handpicked by the President from among his close buddies and regional cronies, with Sumana left out in the cold.

Sam Sumana's case is not help by the fact that President Koroma, who has a weakness for regionalism is surrounded by cronies who do not see Sam Sumana as one of them and are happy at the current state of affairs, as it will ensure that one among them will one day inherit Koroma's mantle instead of somebody they've never been truly comfortable with. Sam Sumana, one of the diaspora imports into Sierra Leone politics has never attempted to get truly involved in Sierra Leone politics and is viewed in APC circles as an extrmely aloof pretend bourgeois. 
The New Stars

Many in Sierra Leone now realize that Sylvia's public outburst is a reflection of what the President thinks at the moment and view her as the new barometer of APC politics. Her public pronouncements are a better indicator of the real going ons in State House than all the lame press releases that seem to be coming out these days with the rapidity of a misfiring automatic rifle. With the SEA publicly denouncing the Vice President, the Koroma-Sumana quiet quarrel is official. The SEA is like the child you send to insult your neighbor, because they do not care about the outcome of their behavior.

Sam Sumana was not much schooled in the intricacies, double dealings and back stabbing of Sierra Leone politics before he plunged in head first and is now having to learn the hard way that the average Sierra Leone will be calling you sir, while shoving his finger up your nose. After five years of being quietly celebrated in the country, the Vice President is now increasingly starting to look like a five year old once beautiful shoe, that has started to develop holes.
The Future

The ultimate curse of Koroma politics is being linked to the opposition. Blyden knows that by publicly associating Sam Sumana with the Sierra Leone opposition, he will be viewed with suspicion by the largely uninformed party supporters, especially those who are waiting for the Agenda for Prosperity, after being left behind by the Agenda for Change.

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