Monday, January 27, 2014

Choitram Hospital's Disgraceful Conduct

Choitram Memorial Hospital
Early yesterday morning we received  news of the untimely death of Rtd. Lieutenant Colonel Tom Nyuma former Secretary of State for the Eastern Region of Sierra Leone and Undersecretary of State for Defence, after a long period of declining health. Barely some hours after the announcement of his demise, we started receiving "WhatsApp" pictures of the body of the former battlefield commander  probably taken with a cellphone camera right inside the hospital room at Choitram Memorial Hospital where he passed away at 4.30 a.m local time.

By the end of yesterday, this horrible picture was all over social media including Facebook, Google+, and electronic mail, you name it.

Many conscientious Sierra Leoneans both at home and in the diaspora were particularly miffed at such a blatant violation of all the tenets of patients rights.Why would a hospital like Choitram which is fast making a name for itself as one of the best hospitals in the country allow such wanton disregard for the memory of an individual who had played such a major role to defend the country from the insanity of depraved RUF rebels who had had no respect for human life and dignity. A man that had risked his life on hundreds of occasions to confront rebels in the jungle, when he could have been sitting comfortably as a minister in Freetown, reading about the war through reports.
Late Tom Nyuma

Even if the individual involved had not been such a notable person as Tom Nyuma, every patient regardless of their social or economic status, has the right to privacy, confidentiality, respect, freedom from harm, and dignity, among other rights. These rights are sacrosanct and should be the foundation of any modern medical practice. For you to allow an individual with a cellphone into a health care situation, particularly when the patient is at your mercy or is incapacitated, is not only crude and uncivil, but is a violation of of both the ethical and legal codes of the medical practice.

Those in the management of Choitram Hospital ought to know better. Even if you locate a hospital in the midst of the darkest jungle in Sierra Leone, the rights of patients are sacrosanct and inviolable.

The behavior of the staff of that hospital is symptomatic of all the problems that ail us as a country. Until Sierra Leoneans start to respect the basic underpinnings of decent societies, we would always continue to wallow at the bottom of every conceivable list of human development.

I sincerely hope that the management of Choitram would investigate this travesty and sanction the culprits, as a society in which there is no respect for the vulnerable, is a society that has no moral foundation.

The Tragedy of South Sudan

Independence Day
Just a year or two ago, the world was rejoicing at the birth of the brand new country of South Sudan in Sub-Saharan Africa. Here in the United States, the joy at the independence of the largely Christian South played into the anti-Muslim narrative that has gripped the country since the heinous World Trade center attacks of September 11 2001.

South Sudan has traditionally been a hub of US Christian charitable activities as many of the American Christian right saw the liberation of the largely Christian southern region of Sudan from the Muslim north as a sort of modern day crusade reminiscent of the epic struggles between Richard the Lighthearted and Saladin in the epic crusades of the middle ages.

So when South Sudan finally got their independence, black Africans were glad and proud that their brothers were finally liberated from Arab domination and rule and Christians across the world saw it as just another victorious chapter in the centuries old struggle against militant Islam.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir

For those of us who are keen students of contemporary African political history, the liberation of South Sudan was viewed with mixed feelings. Though we were immensely happy that the South Sudanese were finally free, we were also cognizant of the fact that the new leader of the country lacked the charisma and transformative leadership style of long time late South Sudan freedom fighter and symbolic leader Dr. John Garang, who had managed to become a central leadership figure for all the many disparate tribal militias and ethnic factions who had dominated the landscape of the south during the long struggle for political sovereignty .

Unfortunately, John Garang died in a helicopter crash on July 30, 2005 just as the dream of nationhood for the south was being realized and the world had to settle for his deputy Salva Kiir, a a veteran freedom fighter who lacked the formal education, charisma and political savvy of Dr John Garang de Mabior and had gained  prominence in the SPLM/LA primarily through his military exploits on the battlefields of South Sudan.

Salva Kiir joined the rebellion against northern rule as a young man in 1960. In 1962 John Garang, then a student, also joined the rebellion but the leaders were anxious to ensure that bright young men received education and persuaded him to continue his education in Tanzania, from where he won a scholarship to study in USA. After graduating with a BA in US, Garang won a scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley but decided to return to Tanzania and complete his post graduate studies at the University of Dar Es Salaam. After his studies John Garang went back to South Sudan  and joined the rebellion.
Late John Garang de Mabior

In 1972 the first north-south civil war ended with the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement. John Garang was incorporated into the regular Sudanese army and became a career soldier eventually attaining the rank of  Colonel. It was during this period that he came back to USA and obtained a Masters degree in Agricultural Economics and a PhD in South Sudan agriculture. But by the early 80s, the North-South tensions were flaring up again.

In 1983 Colonel John Garang, sent to quell a rebellion of Southern military officers defected from the Sudanese military and joined the ranks of the Southern rebels who wanted nothing short of complete independence for Southern Sudan, although his vision of Sudan was a united country with a secular government. Eventually John Garang became the  military and political head of the rebellion.

In January 2005 North and South Sudan signed a comprehensive peace agreement and Dr. John Garang became Vice President of Sudan with Omar al-Bashir as President. Later that year tragedy struck the south when Garang, returning from a secret mission to visit his friend President Yoweri Museveni in Uganda was involved in a tragic accident. The Ugandan presidential helicopter that Dr. Garang was returning in crashed killing him and several of its occupants. After the initial confusion surrounding the crash, Salva Kiir head of the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army was named as the successor to John Garang and became Vice President of Sudan.

Veteran Fighter Kiir
Salva Kiir who had spent all his life fighting the north saw no vision of a united Sudan wanted complete independence of the South. He was eventually able to lead the region into independence on July 9 2011, with him as President and his former rival Riek Machar as Vice President.

Riek Machar was a senior member of the SPLM/A who broke away from John Garang's faction in 1991 and formed SPLM -Nasir. Riek Machar wanted complete independence for South Sudan while John Garang wanted a secular united Sudan and the two became bitter adversaries, with Riek Machar receiving assistance from the Sudanese government in Khartoum to fight Garang's SPLA. In 1997 Machar signed a peace agreement with the Sudanese government and became a senior adviser to the President. However the relationship between Machar and the Khartoum government did not last as he mended fences with Garang returning to SPLM as a senior member. Machar had studied engineering at the University of Khartoum and later proceeded to UK where he obtained his PhD.
Dr. Riek Machar

South Sudanese independence was achieved after the death of Garang.  Salva Kiir who had always been true to the main SPLM/LA and succeeded Garang became President while his old rival Riek Machar became the nation's first Vice President. South Sudan's independence was met with celebrations all over the world, but even at the birth of this new country, its teething problems were glaring.

One of South Sudan's main problem was that the leaders of the new country were all former rebel warlords, some of whom had spent years fighting each other. During the war period Riek Machar's faction had been sponsored by the Khartoum government to fight the main SPLM of John Garang. The President and Vice President were therefore not very comfortable with each other. There were also heavy ethnic tensions as Salva Kiir and Riek Machar were from the rival Dinka and Nuer tribes who were historic rivals before and during the protracted conflict.

The other problem that South Sudan faced was huge expectations from a people who had fought many years for liberation. Unfortunately many of the youths of the south had grown up in a culture of war rather than education and the country was faced with a large population of uneducated youths hungry for a better life who had never learnt the skills to become productive citizens and who viewed themselves largely along ethnic lines.

At Independence some areas of the national boundaries between South and North Sudan were not clearly defined, especially in some oil rich regions. Also South Sudan could only export oil through the pipelines of the North. This led to tension and military conflict between the two and the situation is still volatile. 

Stoking the Embers of War
So when last year Salva Kiir decided to fire his entire cabinet, most of whom had been former warlords, the only question that was left asking was when will the conflict begin again. As the present situation demonstrates, the answer was not long in coming as the country has descended into bitter civil conflict with opposing political and ethnic factions busy tearing the young country apart.

The only hope for this conflict is that the African Union is now a mature organization, skilled in years of conflict resolution. With this body taking the initiative as African brothers and impressing upon the South Sudanese the triviality of renewed conflict after so many years fighting for liberation, the hope is that the leaders of the factions and the President will ultimately see sense in trying to negotiate a peaceful end to the current quagmire. South Sudan only needs to take a look around Sub-Saharan Africa to see example of countries like Burundi, Rwanda, Nigeria and others that have engaged in protracted ethnic conflicts and learn from their mistakes and successes. Most importantly Salva Kiir has to realize that currently his is a country of equals, all men who devoted substantial portions of their lives to the struggle for the liberation of their country. To think that he will just suddenly marginalize them at this time by political decrees is foolhardy at best and reckless at worst.
Veterans of Former Wars

The African Union has to be particularly vigilant and be on the look out for the usual foreign war hawks who exploit such conflict situations by trading in arms and ammunition while acting as conduits for the illegal exploitation of minerals and other natural resources. South Sudan has so much potential, and it is the moral responsibility of all Africa to ensure that this new country receives the technical, diplomatic, educational, and economic support it needs at this delicate time. 

The efforts of the main players of the Addis Ababa Peace Agreements signed on January 23rd, 2014 under the auspices of the East African Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) need to be lauded and bolstered. The role of countries like China who are only interested in Africa for the exploitation of mineral resources and could care less for the welfare of the people should be closely monitored.
Back to Old Business

South Sudan will face tough challenges in the future due to the enormity of its natural resources, the low supply of skilled labor, the lack of political experience, and the uneasy relationship with the North. But Given the immense mineral and Agricultural wealth of this vast country, there is hope of a very bright future, if only the leaders can free themselves off the shackles of ethnic prejudice and learn to see themselves as South Sudanese first. Salva Kiir must be educated to the fact that any political situation in which a large number of people feel marginalized is inherently unstable. Though the South Sudanese leaders have only known conflict all their adult lives, they must give peace a chance if only for the people of their country who have for so long known nothing but blood and sweat.

Segbwema Blogger
Sheku Sheriff

Author's Note. The historical references were collected from a variety of electronic sources. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author Sheku Sheriff and do not represent that of any organization with which he is associated.

Tom Nyuma Dies in Sierra Leone

Tom Nyuma aka Ranger
The Segbwema Blog reports the death this morning in Freetown Sierra Leone of Tom Nyuma, Sierra Leone's former Defense Undersecretary of Defense, Secretary of State Eastern Region, and recently Chairman of Kailahun District, Eastern Sierra Leone.

In 1992, Tom Nyuma rose to prominence as one of the members of the military insurrection that removed the immensely corrupt regime of President Joseph Saidu Momoh from Power, after almost two decades of one party rule in the country. A protest over conditions of service at the Eastern war front led to the flight of the former Major General turned president out of the country, causing the protesters to institute a National Provisional Ruling Council headed by Captain Esegrabo M. Strasser as Head of State.

During the 4 years of NPRC rule, Tom Nyuma gained prominence as one of the few cabinet ministers who frequently donned military fatigues and went to the war front to confront the rebels. Many people in the East of Sierra Leone view Tom Nyuma as a war hero who managed to defend the area against the advances of Foday Sankoh's Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and prevented many parts of the Eastern Region from falling into the hands of the RUF.

At the height of the civil war, Nyuma's detractors and RUF propagandists spread the news that he was collaborating with the rebels, but they could never explain how a sitting defense minister could collaborate with rebels and not have them succeed. It was later learnt that RUF had deliberately started the rumors to demoralize elements of the military. In 1994 when I had the chance to talk to Tom Nyuma about these allegations, he was deeply saddened at what he saw was the ingratitude of Sierra Leoneans.
Foday Sankoh and Nyuma in Lome

During the mid 1990s, the RUF was in awe of Tom Nyuma. In a peace conference between the RUF and the Sierra Leone government Foday Sankoh himself told Tom Nyuma that he had always wanted to meet him, as he had been on of the strongest obstacles to RUF plans during the peak of the war.

After the hand over to civilian rule, Tom Nyuma, who was now a senior officer in the military did a brief stint in the armed services and then left for USA. Tom Nyuma's sojourn in USA was unremarkable as  he mostly avoided the limelight. He was reportedly deported from the country around 2007and went back to Sierra Leone. During the 2007 Presidential elections campaign period. Tom Nyuma was violently attacked by members of opposition leader Ernest Bai Koroma's security detail. During the attack he received major head trauma but never received expert medical attention.
2007 Attack on Nyuma in Bo

In 2008, Tom Nyuma was elected as Chairman of the Kailahun District Council winning with an overwhelming 87% of the votes. However his tenure as district council chairman was not very successful. As an opposition party Councillor, he was also seen as being to close to the ruling All Peoples Congress Party. 

In the 2012 elections, Tom Nyuma threw his support behind President Ernest Koroma instead of his party candidate and former military colleague Julius Maada Bio, even though he strenously denied reports that he himself had abandoned the SLPP.

Councillor Nyuma
Over the past few years Tom had been declining in health, a condition many believe was the effect of untreated head trauma during the attack in Bo, as he had never regained his full health after the attack. Tom Nyuma grew up in Fourah Bay College where his father was a long term employee. He was from the Kissi ethnic group and will always be an integral part of the history of 1990s Sierra Leone.

Tom Nyuma died this morning at 4.30am in the Choitrams Hospital in Sierra Leone. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dynamic Ecobank Executive Director Dies in Sierra Leone

Mohamed Bah
Mohamed Bah the dynamic Executive Director of Ecobank in Sierra Leone, a Pan African bank that helps Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) across the country passed away this morning in Sierra Leone from a massive coronary attack and died while driving to the beach for his usual morning jog. He was pronounced dead at the Choitram's Hospital in Freetown.

Traditional commercial banking in Sierra Leone was long dominated by conventional banks which had always imposed significant hurdles to borrowing by small and medium businesses in Sierra Leone, as they preferred lending to established businesses and individuals with significant collateral to mitigate the risks of lending in the volatile region. Ecobank bucked this trend by starting to lend especially to SMEs.

Ecobank Sierra Leone is a member of Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI) which was established in 1985 with a view of loosening the stranglehold that foreign commercial banks had on commercial banking in Africa. It's mission was to encourage the financial integration and and development of the continent by facilitating lending to small and medium enterprises and encouraging savings among low income individuals.

Many small and medium businesses in Sierra Leone owe their success and survival to Ecobank under the exemplary leadership of Mohamed Bah. In recent times the bank engaged in promotions aimed at encouraging lending among various sectors of the Sierra Leone society, a country in which people are usually too strapped for cash to save any of their income. This poor savings culture means that most Sierra Leoneans are just a crisis away from financial disaster.

Last year, the stellar reputation of the bank was tainted by the activities of some employees of the bank who colluded with employees of the country's National Revenue Authority (NRA) to defraud the Sierra Leone government out of millions of leones of collected revenue. The bank acted very swiftly to hand the individuals to the authorities as soon as the discrepancies were discovered. Ecobank now ranks number 5 among commercial banks in Sierra Leone.

Mohamed Bah a practicing Muslim was scheduled to be buried later today in Freetown.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Dr. Julius Spencer Arrested in Freetown

Dr. Julius Spencer
News reports filtering in from Freetown indicate that one of the heroes of the civil resistance to the brief military Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC)  interregnum that almost derailed multiparty democracy in the late 90s in Sierra Leone, Dr. Julius Spencer, has been arrested in Freetown on allegations by Information Minister Alpha Kanu that the Premier News which is published by Spencer's Premier Media published an article which the authorities considered defamatory.

The exact circumstances of the case have yet to be revealed, but Dr. Spencer who is the Managing Director of Premier Media and Alusine Sesay the editor of Premier News had their offices raided earlier today by personnel of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) with the confiscation of multiple media equipment including computers and documents, all of which were taken to the CID. Both Spencer and Sesay are currently in detention at CID.

Dr. Spencer is a renowned arts lecturer at the country's premier university Fourah Bay College specializing in dramatic arts who was instrumental in setting up an anti-junta radio network during the AFRC interruption. After the AFRC/RUF junta forces were driven out of Freetown and democratic order reestablished, he was recognized for his role by ex-President Ahmed Tejan Kabba by being appointed the country's Information Minister.

Dr. Spencer and Alusine Sesay's arrest are just the latest in the current spate of media harassment and intimidation that has gripped Sierra Leone since President Koroma was reelected in 2012 vowing a crackdown on libelous media. In a policy which the government calls media sanitizing, the few independent journalists remaining in the country have been subject to threats, arrests, denial of bail, public humiliation and trumped up court charges, while those who write favorably about the government are awarded diplomatic press attache positions and given other incentives.

In the overzealous restriction on media freedoms in Sierra Leone, even those close to the powers that be are not being spared. This was the case in the recent arrest of radio propagandist David Tam-Baryoh, who was detained for seven hours just for texting the Transport and Aviation Minister seeking clarification about his complicity in rumors of a planned attack on his radio station, in an excessive display of third world authority.

As stated by the minister himself, David Tam Baryoh had been at the beck and call of the ruling party during the last elections in 2012. Recently however, he is seen as too close to the Vice President who has reportedly fallen out of the good favor of the country's President.

Sierra Leone is a country that went through a decade of civil war in the 90s followed by a smooth transition from military to civilian rule and a peaceful handover of power by a ruling party to the opposition at elections.
Recently viewed  as a beacon of multiparty politics in an otherwise autocratic region, there are growing fears that President Ernest Bai Koroma is being influenced by his minions to hang on to power after his constitutional two-term limit is up, with the excuse that he has done so much for the country, in spite of an increased incidence of corruption, bribery, nepotism, tribalism and economic stagnation all in the face of increased exploitation of natural and mineral resources. The President and his Vice President are locked in a bitter political and personality clash that is being used by those close to the President to publicly humiliate his deputy.

The 1991 Sierra Leone constitution is currently under review, a process headed by a close ally of the President. Some months ago the results of two Parliamentary seats won by the opposition were annulled and the seats declared for the ruling party, giving the President control over both the executive and the legislative arms of government. With the control of these two organs of government and a judiciary that is traditionally allied to whatever government is in power, combined with undue influence over the constitutional review process, many Sierra Leoneans with a knowledge of the country's history see all the variables in place for the reemergence of one party dominance and the disruption of genuine democracy in the country.

Last year Dr. Spencer went to court to challenge the constitutionality of the country's notorious criminal and seditious libel laws which are regarded by many as negative vestiges of the country's past history. These laws are now used by the country's authorities with religious devotion.

As details of the arrest of Dr. Spencer become known we will keep you updated.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Balogun Koroma/David Tam-Baryoh Saga Continues: Enter Omotunde Blyden

State House Freetown
Some days ago while on a trip to Kono with Sierra Leone Vice President Sam Sumana and some members of the Vice President's family, Sierra Leone radio journalist David Tam-Baryoh was reportedly contacted by a lady friend of current Transport and Aviation Minister and former Minister in the Office of the Vice President, Leonard Balogun Koroma (Logus). The lady in question informed David Tam-Baryoh that there were plans afoot to "deal with him" conceived by none other than Logus himself. The reason for this planned perpetration of harm by Logus, according to the mysterious lady, stemmed from the fact that David Tam-Baryoh interviewed more opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) members on his popular radio program than he did members of the All Peoples Congress (APC) and in fact Tam Baryoh was a pretender.
Defiant DavidTam-Baryoh

Upon hearing this information from the grapevine, David Tam-Baryoh, instead of calling Logus to clarify the veracity of the rumor proceeded to write a text message to Logus telling him that he had heard the rumor and letting him know as he put it that "walls had ears."

In the text message, which has now been made available on Social media, Tam-Baryoh informed Minister Balogun that he heard that he was claiming that he was SLPP and a pretender. In the text message, he further stated that he had knowledge of machinations by few people in high places in Sierra Leone to burn down his radio station and the latest threat was coming at a time when he was privy to rumors of many threats against his person. Tam-Baryoh expressed outrage at the current rumors and stated that though he was helpless he was not without information on the many evil plans against him. Tam-Baryoh promised Minister Logus that he was going to let their mutual friend President Koroma know about the threats as he trusted his security to the President and was therefore sending him a copy of the text.
Koroma' Right Hand Logus

When Balogun Koroma first got the text, he was unaware that David Tam-Baryoh was in Kono in the company of the Vice President. He immediately sent a reply in response to David's text, expressing surprise at the journalist's allegations which he found completely preposterous and without merit. According to Logus, apart from the fact that he and David Tam-Baryoh were "Kono brothers," the journalist had been very instrumental to him when he was chair of the President's reelection campaign and had loyally interviewed him from every corner of Sierra Leone and given him air time on his radio program whenever he needed it. He also expected Tam-Baryoh to provide the same services to him in 2017/2018 and therefore wondered why he would have anything against him when he was so instrumental. Logus assured David that the information was totally false and asked him to reveal the identity of this mysterious lady. He implored David to remain professional and assured him that they will continue to remain to be brothers and friends. He also sent copies of his text to their mutual friend, President Ernest Bai Koroma.
Sumana's Right Hand David

The first friendly reply by Balogun was before he learnt that David Tam-Baryoh had sent the text to him while in the company of Vice President Sam Sumana in Kono. When news got to Logus that the journalist was in fact with the VP in Kono, the dynamics of current APC politics got into play, and the text message took on a different meaning.

Logus then proceeded to send David Tam Baryoh another text message now that he knew that the text had come while he was in the company of a man now viewed as not in the good graces of his boss the President. The second text is reproduced below Verbatim:

"My brother David, as indicated in my earlier text message, I wanted to call and have a one on one meeting with you with a view to understanding where you are coming from by associating me with people you claim are planning to "burn your radio station".
However, I understand you are with the Hon. Vice President in Kono, and on your return, taking into consideration the seriousness of your allegation, I want you to corroborate it by calling forward the so called Lady friend of mine who told you that; I am sure she is alive and you can bring her name forward.
You have always been a professional journalist and I am sure you want to maintain that position; except if you have an agenda against me by making such wild allegations.
Logus Koroma"

It was after these exchanges that somebody informed David Tam-Baryoh that there were plans to have him taken into custody for libel. When he got wind of the information that there was a police manhunt for him, he made it to the country's Criminal Investigation Department (CID) where he was interrogated for 4 hours, and kept in detention for 7 hours,  released only on a bail of one hundred million Leones and two sureties.

David Tam-Baryoh is a lucky fellow, as his close relationship with the President, who he likes to publicly refer to as his friend, might just have enabled him to be bailed out after only 7 hours in detention. Charles Margai the leader of the Peoples Movement for Democratic Change, once a close ally of the President and some journalist who have recently fallen in the cross hairs of the Koroma clan have not been so lucky. The poor politician and journalists were held for several days and refused bail because they had offended the gods of Sierra Leone.
Perennial Trouble Maker Blyden

It seems that David Tam-Baryoh's troubles are just beginning, as his arch-nemesis, the Presidents Special Executive Assistant Sylvia Omotunde Blyden has jumped into the mix, putting petrol into the already burning flames.

Immediately after the detention the loquacious Blyden got into action. She went on social media and wrote that as it were, only Balogun can now decide to "forgive" Tam-Baryoh, her present arch nemesis.

Sylvia who knows more about the libel laws of Sierra Leone that the framers of the Sierra Leone constitution had this to say in reference to the current controversy. "Only Logus Koroma can decide to forgive David Tam Baryoh and move on from this matter but with the defiance stance of Tam Baryoh to extent of writing that inane press release demanding an apology when he, Tam Baryoh, is the perpetrator and Logus the victim, I do not know oh if Logus will have the heart to forgive such continued recalcitrance... Truthfully speaking, ALL the elements for a successful prosecution for defamatory AND seditious libel are included in this case. Tam baryoh forgets he sent the libelous text to a 3rd party, President Koroma!! And since President Koroma is the immediate boss of Logus Koroma, by telling the President that Logus is so violent that he plans to deal with Tam Baryoh and so Tam Baryoh needs the protection of the President, Tam Baryoh has seriously defamed Logus Koroma to his employer which even has a possibility of costing Logus his job and his reputation to his boss. This is a TEXTBOOK CASE of criminal libel. I hope David Tam Baryoh quickly apologises and begs his Kono brother Logus Koroma, to forgive him his trespasses.(Blyden, 2014)
Journalistic Gladiators

Now that Sierra leone's beauty queen is in the mix, things can only get better. There are already calls for the investigation of David Tam-Baryoh's academic credentials. According to the Segbwema Blog correspondent in Juba, Freetown, speculation is rife in Freetown that David Tam-Baryoh has no PhD as he claims. Some are stating that attempts to verify his academic qualifications have so far proved to be futile and that he is the latest in the long line of bogus PhDs in the country. Tam-Baryoh's defenders are however stating that the fellow is a true intellectual and all his qualifications are real. It is reported that some of his supporters are even now saying that even the doctorate credential of Sylvia Blyden should be investigated as there are rumors that she was kicked out of COMAHS in Sierra Leone. Only time will verify these credentials and put all these rumors to rest. The position of the Segbwema Blog is that all doctorates are assumed valid, except proven otherwise.

As the saga continues, the blog correspondent in Western Freetown will be very busy these few days trying to filter the truth out of the propaganda.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Kabs Kanu and Emerson

Emmerson Bockarie
To be honest, it was just a few days ago while browsing for indigenous Sierra Leone music on Apple's iTunes that I came across Emmerson Bockarie's much talked about music Kokobeh from his latest Album Home and Away. For any musician from West Africa to have a  new album on iTunes is a real feat and  a recognition by the electronics and music giant of real talent and fittingly, I duff my hat off to this worthy Sierra Leone musical ambassador.

The reason why I had not had much interest in Emmerson's new album in spite of a healthy respect for his past efforts was because I read Reverend Kabs Kanu's epic take down of the recent album even before I had heard the music. Kabs Kanu described Emmerson's latest effort as rubbish, thrash, poor and tasteless with lyrics that were simply put, infuriating, not my words, but the exact words of this man of the flock of Christ.
The great Music Critic Kanu

However, when I saw Emmerson's new album on iTunes, something did not quite seem right. If this music was as tasteless as the good reverend had described and the music was from a musician from Sierra Leone of all places, what was it doing on iTunes? Coincidentally, while pondering this irony over in my mind, I happened to read my college mate Sheka Tarawallie's more objective piece about the album, rejecting the message in the music but praising the musician. Of course Shekito accused Emmerson of tribalism. But that is vintage Shekito, he has been accusing people of tribalism since Jesus Christ turned water into wine. Just read his Torchlight Newspaper and count the number of times tribe is mentioned. Even in Fourah Bay College, if you had met Shekito using the toilet and told him you wanted to use it, he will come out, look at your face and accuse you of tribalism. He was just a plain nice guy with a tribalism obsession.

So yesterday I logged into my iTunes account, bought and downloaded this much talked about, derided and ridiculed album, connected my iPod Touch to my Bose speakers, took a cool drink of Diet Tonic Water and relaxed to listen to the terrible music and boy, did the reverend disappoint me!

For a reverend who is supposed to have a choir in his Church, I sincerely hope Kabs Kanu has no role to play in the music section, as truly  the fellow lacks the ability to tell a note from a chord and that's a fact. Kabs Kanu, trash, are you kidding me? The Reverend may tell me that he doesn't like Emmerson's message, especially when it is critical of his paymaster Ernest Koroma, but to say the music is rubbish and tasteless made me wonder if Kabs Kanu was not one of those unique individuals blessed with an ear that can find the croaking of frogs musical but the voices of humans irritating.

Even with all the propaganda he spews on a daily basis to the All Peoples Congress gullible, I did have a degree of respect for the good reverend. The reason being that I went to Methodist schools where we were taught to take the title of reverend very seriously. It is only when you come across people like Kabs Kanu that you truly believe the statement, "hustlers come in all shapes and sizes." This guy was just a plain old hustler with a bible. Simply put, Kabs Kanu's takedown of Emmerson is one of the most nonsensical pieces I have read in a long long time, the irrational effort of a hustler trying too hard.

Now some of us are mere bloggers, and we are prone to writing whatever comes to mind. I have never been a journalist, claimed to be one or been the CEO or editor of anything. But some of these dickheads claim to be serious journalists and want the whole world to believe this. For Reverend Kanu to write such a myopic and hopeless skewed and subjective piece is simply beyond me.

What I don't understand is that these guys have already tried to portray Ernest Koroma as the best leader since King Solomon, the world simply did not buy the crap. So why go further with this level of bootlicking, to get the pope to declare him a saint? No, as they say, he who pays the piper calls the tune.

Now let's come to the real crux of the matter, the accusation of tribalism. Emmerson who has always sang against the exploitation of power since his "Borbor Belleh" or "Swegbe" days, songs critical of ex-President Kabbah, was never a tribalist. Now that he is critical of Ernest Koroma's Presidency  he is now suddenly being accused of tribalism. If it were just Shekito doing the accusation, who would mind. But suddenly all the big APC "agbagbas" are up in arms accusing the fine artist of tribalism. The important question is this. Why do the paid agents of the Sierra Leone government always accuse people of tribalism whenever this government is criticized? Is it a case of old people feeling uneasy when dry bones are mentioned?

If you criticize me and I say you don't like thieves, does that not imply that I'm a thief? If anytime you criticize this government you stand accused of tribalism is it not a tacit acceptance by the government that it is based on tribalism? If you criticize Segbwema Moi and he says you don't like ugly people does it not imply that Segbwema Moi is ugly?

What Kabs Kanu should realize is that his sycophantic rant about Emmerson has no effect whatsoever on the perception of Emmerson as a great contemporary Sierra Leone musician. It is the sales of Emmerson's music and people's appreciation of it that matters. Let Kabs Kanu talk about 1960s Freetown footballers and we will listen, but his assessment of what is good and bad music is a topic sane people should not pay attention to. What I will advise Kabs to do is put this album in an iPod and hit the treadmill. he needs to lose some of that weight.
Does this Guy Know Hardship?

Honestly, as to hardship in Sierra Leone who do you really listen to, Kabs Kanu who is lying here in USA getting fat out of the Sierra Leone people's sweat just because he has a close relationship with a President who is addicted to superficial platitudes?

Look at this guy and tell me when was the last time he faced hardship in Sierra Leone. If you tell me, then I am the pimp with the Bible. Kokobeh!

Just enjoy the Music

Friday, January 3, 2014

Dr. Gberie's Take on Kokobeh has the Fat Reverend Fuming.

Emmerson Bockarie’s "Kokobeh"
Friday 3 Januaryr 2014
By Dr Lans Gberie.

Dr Lans Gberie
An artist’s impact may not always be measured by the amount of outrage his/her creation generates, but it is a good sign when it provokes. Emmerson Bockarie, Sierra Leone’s most important artist, will fit well in the category of national bard. By this I mean that his music—didactic, in a free flowing conversational style, calm and beautifully enunciated—embodies most completely the yearnings and neurosis of his fellow citizens. Bockarie’s most recent offering, released just about Christmas, is entitled “Kokobeh.”

The Krio word derives from the Twi (a Ghanaian language) for leprosy, an exquisitely appropriate image for the corruption and putrefaction that the artist so witheringly derides. Sierra Leoneans have come to expect such commentary from their most popular poet and singer, and the squalid wells of misgovernment and graft in the country continue to fire his imagination.
Rt. Rev. Plenipotentiary Kanu

When he released “Borbor Belleh” in 2005, Emmerson accompanied the song with a video showing a fleshy, heavily loaded man carrying a suitcase full of cash, his blokish exterior exuding prosperity as a physical secretion, and the starving little people around him only emphasizing his isolated well-being.

“Borbor Belleh” destroyed the argument, if there was any, for the re-election of then ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP).  Prince George’s (aka Innocent) hit song "Injectment Notice" seemed to have merely delivered the coup de grĂ¢ce with its cruder message and artless delivery, complete with a billboard image of a frustrated landlord giving the boots to his errant tenant, definite and resonant. The party and its candidate Solomon Berewa—the easily caricatured and humorless former vice president—lost those elections.

Kabs Kanu, the oppositionist journalist, was among the most vehement in hailing both the form and the matter of "Borbor Belleh."
Not so with “Kokobeh” which, like "Borbor Belleh" shows Emmerson at his most mordant and lyrical. Since the 2007 elections, and still now, holding the wonderfully inchoate position of Ambassador Plenipotentiary, Kabs Kanu last week reacted to "Kokobeh" with fury, both on grounds of its message and its aesthetic quality.
The quality of music, he wrote, is “so poor and tasteless that you [sic] do not want your country to be associated with it.” There is something, he wrote, called “creativity and the mode called euphony.”
Whatever happened to these?
Ah, he sighed, in his usual clerical disgust, “the sounds and the lyrics of the song are not only tasteless; they are infuriating as the musician labors to create meaning and impact.”

So I decided to re-listen to "Kokobeh" as a New Year gift to myself, and what a gift it was! It went with the very matching video. I also made sure a dictionary lay open before me to the word ‘euphony.’The wonderfully serene and beautiful voice, assured, without anxiety, began:
“If den pull det list for sack sack/When we dey fors for dey dark dark/We nor get tin for eat/den busy dey pack pack…Nar Pakistan una dey go?”
Ah, and this:
“We gee una power/You return fire…nar den normor dey see green paper/nar den nor born December 25.”
“We just dey go behen/the whole world dey go befoe…Nar so den score goal pan we/En den call am worl best…The logic behen agenda for prosperity/Nar den life nor mor dey prosper…The contri don broke don oh/ay yah kokobeh…”
I found myself leaping from my seat and shouting, like the sage who discovered apples and gravity 'Euphony! Euphony! Euphony!'

Emmerson had in 2010 issued “Yesterday Betteh Pass Tiday”—milder in tone, the artist’s subtler message a sign that he was merely giving notice. His blows have now landed. So that when I see my old old friend Shekito deploying Isaac Watts’ infant ditty to accuse our cosmopolitan bard of “tribalism” I know for sure that he gets the message.
Euphony isn’t the point: the point is Yesterday Betteh Pass Tiday oh!

An academic and writer, Dr. Lansana Gberie has written extensively on conflict, conflict management, human rights and peacebuilding in Africa. He is also author of A Dirty War in West Africa: The RUF and the Destruction of Sierra Leone (London: Hurst 2005).

Sam Sumana's Golden Boy in Hot Waters

David Monologue Baryoh
David Tam-Baryoh, one of main players in the propaganda machinery of the Sierra Leone government of Ernest Bai Koroma, whose main role in the last election was to get opposition members on the radio in the guise of providing a fair and balanced medium and then proceed to ask them embarrassing or belittling questions, while later having a panel of All Peoples Congress supporters tear apart any point the opposition spokesperson would have made when the person was no longer on the line, seems to be in some hot waters.

In 2012, David Tam-Baryoh's weekend monologue radio program became a political must staple in many areas of Sierra Leone. During the heat of the elections he was effective in minimizing corruption allegations against Vice President Sam Sumana, a personal friend and kinsman of Tam-Baryoh and a politician with a history of shady deals spreading from Minnesota and Missouri in the USA, to timber scandals in the hinterlands of Sierra Leone. Some businessmen in Minnesota who the Vice President defrauded even had a website set up to educate the world and Sierra Leoneans about his history of fraud. The website has since been taken down. 
Balogun Koroma

David Tam-Baryoh was very effective in negating the impact of these various scandals, using his wide radio reach to inform the country's largely uninformed masses that the allegations were the result of a concerted tribalistic campaign against the Vice President and an opposition conspiracy to discredit him, even though the Americans involved in the scandal had no idea what the difference between a Kono, Mende or Temne was. 

However, the largely gullible supporters of the Vice President swallowed Tam-Baryoh's bait hook,line and sinker, and the President reappointed him as his Vice Presidential running mate, a move that has made the international community take a second look at corruption in the West African state with negative consequences. Last year the country got the dubious distinction of being the bribery leader in the world and the government just missed up on a Millennium Challenge Corporation contract grant worth over 500 million dollars that would have helped revitalize public utilities in the country, primarily because of the level of actual and perceived corruption in the country.

However, immediately following the 2012 elections President Koroma had a falling out with his Vice President Sam Sumana over conflicting political ambitions. David Tam-Baryoh seems to have taken the side of his kinsman Sam Sumana, while the President's role in the matter was championed by his newly appointed Special Executive Assistant Sylvia O. Blyden, a political opportunist who had variously been in favor with former rebel leader Foday Sankoh, Ex-President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, Ex-Vice President Solomon Ekuma Berewa and now President Ernest Bai Koroma. Blyden quickly threw the spanner in the works, going after the Vice President and his main supporters, with David Tam-Baryoh as her main target.
State House Freetown

The relationship between Tam-Baryoh and Sylvia deteriorated hopelessly when the former published a story alleging that a lady close to the President had had a bastard child that was the product of incestous rape residing with her mother overseas. One did not have to be a nuclear scientist to see the parallels between the irascible Blyden and the lady in the story and the two then embarked on a public vow of mutual annihilation in which Sylvia seems to be currently winning the current round.

Yesterday news filtered to the Segbwema Blog that the popular radio journalist had been arrested in the capital Freetown over some stories he had been peddling against the champion of a third term for President Koroma, Aviation Minister Leonard Balogun Koroma.

During the early days of the first Koroma administration, Balogun Koroma was a Minister in the office of Vice President Sam Sumana. However, Balogun had mysteriously been unceremoniously fired from the position. A man highly schooled in the back room deals of Freetown politics, Balogun had slowly warmed his way back into the confidence of President Koroma and in recent times his political fortunes have been rising quickly, even while the political fortune of the Vice President has been on a precipitous decline.
The Owl and the Pussycat

Many rumors are swirling around Freetown about the perceived conflict between Tam-Baryoh and Balogun Koroma. Some are viewing it as just another chapter in the internal party struggle to prevent Sam Sumana from running for the APC flagbearer in the next Presidential elections. Some see it as another step in the move by the Koroma political clan to have him get a third presidential term in the face of wide national opposition to the unconstitutional move. There is also another rumor that some international foreign mining magnates were involved in a horrible local boat accident, but the minister wanted to both minimize the role of the businessmen and deflate the number of casualties involved, but Tam Baryoh had been against this and started spreading stories contrary to the official agenda.
Vice President Sam Sumana

More reliable news is that the arrest was the result of the exchange of some text messages between the journalist Tam-Baryoh and Minister Balogun Koroma in relation to some documents that an informant had promised to make available to him. He had reportedly accused the minister of a plan to burn down his radio station and deal with him because he was sympathetic to the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party. It is reported that the minister was not too happy with these allegations and put a hunt out for Tam-Baryoh. Baryoh later made it to CID where he was detained on charges of libel after four hours of interrogation. After almost seven hours in detention reports are that he was released on a bail of 100 million Leones and two sureties.

This current arrest is just the latest in the campaign of harassment and intimidation of journalists that has been the hallmark of the second term of President Ernest Koroma. Having practically bought over most of the journalists in the country, the few that have adopted an independent posture are being routinely arrested over spurious charges, detained for long periods in a stated bid to "sanitize" the country's media landscape of any journalist seen as not toeing the official government line. The influence of the paranoid Sylvia Blyden on a very indecisive President is seen as a reason why the president's second term has been so turbulent.

President Ernest Koroma
Another Gbagbo?
Many independent commentators are however drawing parallels between what is happening in Sierra Leone and countries like The Gambia and concluding that Sierra Leone is gradually seeing the rise of another West African tin can despot who wants to hang on to power when his time is up and is doing everything possible to create an environment suitable for the rise of a dictatorship. Even where those around the President are saying that he is a democrat who has no intention of extending his mandate, many people around the country are growing uneasy over the signs of the rise of tyranny.

The Segbwema Blog will monitor reports on the ground and continue to provide detailed analysis of this developing story.

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