Opinions' free; Facts are sacred
Journalists Should Be Spared!
Journalism, by all implications, is an extremely dangerous profession. Throughout the globe, journalists are targetted by different groups for different reasons. The journalist is not spared even as he performs his sacred duty of informing the public.
From Lesotho to Spain, Canada to Australia, and even as far as China, journalists are made to bear the brunt of political intrigues, social and economic deprivation and worst of all, rebel atrocities.
Many of our colleagues have lost their lives while others have been incarcerated (some without any due process of the law) just because a particular grouping does not favour them. It is unfortunate that those whose role is to expose rebel atrocities, political wrongdoings and economic rogues should be killed or jailed. Perhaps the obvious reason is that journalists always like to write or talk what does not concern them.
But no. Journalists are part and parcel of the society in which they live. Whatever happens therein affects them just as it affects other people. What then is the point of staying silent when you know that what is happening directly affects you? The idea therefore of targetting journalists is wrong, abhorrent, unacceptable and inhuman.
This brings us to our current situation. Many decent journalists have lost their precious lives during this odious war. Some have had to run away to foreign lands. Journalists like Paul Mansaray, Juma Jalloh and Conrad Roy have lost their lives in this brouhaha while Seaga Shaw and others are yet to come home.
At the moment, Abdoul Kouyateh of Wisdom Newspaper is still detained by the police for what, we are yet to ascertain. He has spent three weeks in detention without being charged. The government has kept sealed lips over his incarceration. While journalists are being picked up and detained by the government, the rebels are busy slaughtering the others.
Honestly, we do not know what to do. We are targetted by both the government and the unrepentant rebels. The killing of foreign journalists by the rebels came as a shock to everybody. Can you imagine innocent people being murdered by rebels? This shows the degree of the murderous inclination of the butchers. They will stop at nothing as long as they want to shed blood.
We in this press unreservedly and totally condemn this unacceptable act of the rebels. We are calling on the international community to bear pressure on the RUF to stop this senseless and murderous crusade. UNAMSIL should be given all the support necessary to accomplish their task.
To the government, we are appealing for the revisiting of our colleague’s issue. We are asking that either he be charged or released. His continued detention without trial smarks dictatorship and not democracy. We are also calling on the rebels to stop their carnage and destruction. They cannot fight the whole world.
Journalists and indeed innocent civilians should be spared the horrors of incarceration, mutilation, rape and death. We are merely performing our duty as watchdogs of the society.
POOL EDITORIAL: MAY 15TH 2000
We condemn the fighting!
The recent upsurge in hostilities between the United nations Peace keeping forces and combatants of the Revoluntionary United Front is a major cause for concern for many SIerra Leoneans including those in this presshouse.
Just as the war-stricken people of this battered nation are beginning to put things together, this unfortunate development has occurred. The situation has become so fluid and uncertain that it seems as if the country is once more degenerating into chaos, something patriotic Sierra Leoneans will be unwilling to digest.
We in this press therefore unreservedly condemn the recent and continued clashes between the Revoluntionary United Front of chairman Foday Sankoh and the United Nations peace keeping forces. We are not oblivious of the fact that when two elephants fight, it is the grass underneath them that suffers.
In this vein, we ask all the parties concerned especially the RUF to exercise restraint and religiously abide by the dictates of the July 7 Lome Peace accord which is the blueprint for peace, progress and development for the country. We are also calling on Chairman Foday Sankoh to prevail on his boys to release all the abducted peace keepers and allow them do their jobs of disarming ex-combatants without let or hindrance.
Needless to say that every peace loving Sierra Leonean is worried about the ugly incidents, and needless to say that scores of civilians might have been killed already during the fighting. This is the more reason why we in this press frown at any move to use force to settle this crisis. We are with the strongest conviction that fire cannot extinquish fire. We all know what happened when force was used to solve our nine-year debacle.
We do not want the same thing to recur. We believe however that enough pressure should be brought to bear on Sankoh for him to come to the realisation that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for one man to fight a dozen. He shold also be made to understand that the indemnity granted him and his movement ended July 7 last year. He will therefore be held responsible for any crime his movement commits after that date. We are also calling on President Kabbah and his government to fulfil their own part of the bargain. The should realise that the nation will hold them responsible for anything unpleasant that happens to the citizenry.
It is the government’s sacred duty to provide adquate security for the people. We need not say that that SLPP government has always failed the nation in that direction.
In this regard, we are once again calling on Kabbah to do everything humanly possible to maintain and improve on the peace we have achieved since the signing of the peace accord.
No more fighting; peace is all we want. Sankoh and Kabbah should allow us to live our lives.
At 39, what’ve we achieved?
Under normal circumstances, when a man is thirty-nine years old, he is expected to be independent of his parents. He is now a source of succour and help; somebody that is looked upon as capable of handling the affairs of his family. The parents who may now be growing old expect much from this son.
But if at that age, he is not able to prove his manhood, then it is not only a shame to the parents and family, but also a big disappointment because their much-cherished son has become more of a liability than an asset.
Rather than being the helper, this manikin has become the helped. Definitely, his parents will have to dip their fingers into their meagre means to help a failing son. With love and kindness, the disappointed parents will have to continue supporting their ill-fated child until such time when he can stand on his own.
But the question is, will such a desperate situation obtain until the parents die? No, if the son has any sense of pride, he will do something to come out of such disparaging situation.
This analogy can be brought down to the state of Sierra Leone, a country that has not known peace, progress and development since independence in 1961.
Our history books tell us that Sierra Leone was colonised by Britain. During this period, some signs of sanity and development were eminent. Several infrastructure, including schools and colleges were set up.
This little country gained worldwide fame and recognition so much so that it was given the fitting name of the ‘Athens of West Africa’.
After acquiring some overseas education, our grandfathers felt that enough was enough, and that the white colonial masters should pack out of the country.
Accordingly, on April 27, 1961, we gained independence and became a “free” nation. In the first few years after independence, especially those during the reign of Sir Milton Margai, there were signs of progress and development.
But after that, this nation started to progressively retrogress, much to the surprise and dismay of our colonial masters. Rather than moving forward, we are always several steps backward, thus keeping us out of tune with global trends.
Today, we are thirty-nine years old, but what have we achieved? Nothing. What have we as a nation to show to our colonial masters? Nothing, except war, corruption, tribalism and the Pull-Him-Down syndrome.
It is a shame to say that even though we are as old as 39 years, we are still entirely dependent on our colonial fathers for everything. If Britain does not give us, we are without. What a pathetic scenario. Why then did we ask for independence? Was it to kill ourselves over paltry things?
We in this press do not think so. We believe we asked for independence because we thought we were capable of running our affairs. And indeed we are capable if only we come together as a people and a nation; we are capable if we stop killing ourselves for nothing, and put Sierra Leone above all else.
That is why we are calling on all the political leaders, the stakeholders in the peace process and every Sierra Leonean to put the past miles away and inculcate patriotism and develop the country.
Sierra Leone is for Sierra Leoneans. Nobody, not even the British, will develop it for us if we continue to kill ourselves. We should inculcate a sense of pride and nationalism and make the country a place fit for human habitation.
Otherwise, our fathers will wean us.
The Irony of the curfew...
Curfews are introduced when there is a national security threat. The essence is to forestall any form of danger, thereby protecting the lives and properties of the civilians.
Basically, during curfew hours, everybody, except those empowered by law, is expected to stay indoors. This will make light the work of the security forces in the execution of their duty. Curfews are therefore a protective means for the ordinary man. Or at least this is the expectation of the people.
However, the situation is radically different in the western area where, though there is an 11:00pm to 6:00am curfew, the spate of armed robbery and night attacks is extraordinarily high. Even though there ought to be protection of the people from security related hazards, this is far from being the case. Rather civilians are exposed to unimaginable danger especially during the thick of the night. People are killed almost on a daily basis, while properties amounting to millions of leones are carted away. What an irony.
We are left to wonder who the perpetrators are as the prime suspects are always men dressed in military fatigues. Are these people soldiers or what? If they are indeed members of the security forces, then the irony is even greater as our protectors have become our villains. If they are civilians, then the question is, where are these people getting the brand new uniforms and arms from?
The apparent answer is that there is a security hiatus which is costing us our precious lives and properties. The question we would then like to ask the government is this: What is the use of maintaining the curfew if you cannot provide adequate security for those you claim to protect? Or is it the case of as along as the President and his ministers are well protected, you do not care a moment about what happens to the ordinary civilians? We must therefore say you have failed the people of this nation again.
Hill station and Spur Road alone are not Freetown. Thousands of traumatised and war-wearied civilians live in the central and east of the city. All of them are exposed to the danger which these nefarious armed robbers are posing.
If the government cannot protect them from the diabolical bandits, then there is no need for the continuation of the curfew as it has probably outlived its usefulness. It is during curfew hours that all sorts of unimaginable horrors are taking place.
It is our belief that if there is no curfew, people will become keepers themselves. They will be able to stay out late into the night and guard their lives and properties. We feel the bandits and robbers are having a field day because the unprotected but law-abiding civilians always go to sleep early because of the curfew. If there is no curfew, these thieves will not succeed in their exploits.
We are therefore calling on the authorities to re-axamine the usefulness of the curfew vis-a-vis night armed robbery. We are aware of the constraints of the security forces in terms of both personnel and logistics.They want to do the job diligently and expeditiously but they are hamstrung by the lack of logistics.
So, why not do the alternative of lifting or shifting the curfew so that the civilians can help in the protection of the city from the marauders?
It is a humble suggestion.
APRIL 7TH 2000
It is of course ethical if a politician compensates a thug, a vulgar diplomat, a talkative educationist or even a sly businessman with a high position in either government or private circle for a ‘role’ that person played for either bringing or restoring him to poower.
We have seen it even as far back as the mid sixties when Sierra Leone was just creeping from the cradle of colonialism. However, such politics of compensation was covert as the leaders then were patriotic and nationalistic. Their sole intention was to build national cohesion. Therefore, their act of giving political appointments to people was done out of afelt desire to bridge an otherwise diabolical gap between the various tribes and regions.
The trend continued during the heydays or rather bloody days of Siaka Stevens who adeptly manipulated that little or sacred document called the Constitution to bring in the infamous one-party state. From the look of things, the ordinary man in the street would swallow hook, line and sinker the theory that as a result of the altercations among the tribes especially the Temne in the north who perceived themselves as owning the All People’s Congress party, and the Mende in the South and East who were bent on bringing back the Palm Tree party, the one party state was the best solution.
No wonder we all ignorantly danced to the tune of the witty Siaka Stevens. He, in turn, fished out prominent SLPP politicians like the late Francis Misheck Minah and Salia Jusu Sheriff and brainwashed them with his theory. Ignorantly if not selfishly, they joined the fray and helped Pa Shaki to fleece the nation of both its human and natural resources. That is why when the present politicians and their cohorts are heaping blames on the APC party for the country’s problems, I just turn my face and pout my lips both in derision and amazement. Why can’t people accept the fact that we are all responsible for the country’s present state? Anyway, let me go on.
Of course, as a matter of fact and expediency, Shaki had to compensate his man who had stood by him during his days of manipulation. You may think I am referring to the late Sorie IbrahimKoroma, popularly known as S. I. Koroma. No! Siaka Stevens was not crazy enough to hand over the batton of leadership to a man he considered a threat. For him, making S.I. his successor would be tantamount to committing suicide.
However, the clever old man told the nation that S. I would not be able to govern well as he too was growing old. He (Shaki) needed a young, energetic man who could steer the ship of state, a man with vision and strength, a man with the heart of a Lion.
People were therefore little surprised when the then Force Commander, Major-General Joseph Saidu Momoh was selected by the old man. We were full of expectations. We thought or probably felt our problems were over. Yes, the soldier would definitely use his expertise to upgrade the living standards of the people. We saw in Momoh the potentials of a strong and energetic leader who would turn the trend of events for the poor, suffering masses. We danced and sang for him; we doffed our hats and head-scarfs to our new-found joy. We even told Momoh not to worry as he was chosen by no one but God. And indeed, Momoh did not worry. He sat quietly with folded arms across his broad chest and watched helplessly as the nation sank into a quagmire of bankruptcy and doom.
So,you see what this politics of compensation can do, eh? Momoh was not the least capable of running a home, not to talk of a country. But in order to appease him for the protection he gave Pa Shaki, he was given the mantle of leadership which was unfortunately too heavy for him to carry.
One good thing about Momoh, though, was his philosophy of the Green Revolution. If given the right support and actualised, this concept would have ensured food sufficiency for all. But Momoh’s lieutenants were more concerned about filling their filthy pockets with the country’s wealth than with the improvement of the lives of the people. So Momoh failed woefully.
We clamoured for change. We did not not however know how and when that change would come especially with a civil war in our hands. No wonder everybody, including students, took to the streets when Momoh was chased out of power. There was a sigh of hope as the National Provisional Ruling Council of Valentine Strasser raised our hopes. We all acclaimed the young man as our saviour. The only person that differed from our opinion was Shekito of the Blank Tank fame. He told the whole nation that Strasser was not the country’s redeemer, and indeed he was right.
The politics of compensation filtered down to the Strasser military regime as Bassie Bangura was given the position of Minister of Education just because he was the Principal of a Secondary School the military boys attended. Unfortunately Bassie could not perform as the Ministry was too big for him. Sahr Samuel Sandy’s father was also compensated with a fat position. Such compensation was justifiable as Sandy was killed on the day of the coup by a senior military officer. Sandy, as I was made to understand, was one of the architects of the coup but he did not live to see the fruits of his labour.
After a period of four years, the ‘democratically’ elected government of Alhaji Tejan Kabbah came into power. How he came, what he did and is still doing is the subject of my write-up next week. Stay tuned!
APRIL 5TH 2000
The prevailing security situation in Sierra Leone is relatively better than what most people would imagine. It is refreshing that the RUF is opening up and are now playing the game by the rules. Areas under RUF control which were considered inaccessible and extremely dangerous now have UN presence.
However, we at The Pool continue to emphasize that the expectation of the majority of truly peace-loving Sierra Leoneans is for a fast and thoroughly co-ordinated DDR programme. The Lome Peace Accord envisaged the comprehensive disarmament of all factions. Recent utterances by very important stakeholders to the peace process are negative and hold the potential to derail the process, prolong the suffering of our people and reverse what small progress has been made by the government in recovering from the war and re-establishing a viable economy.
There ought to be no confusion in the interpretation of the peace accord as it relates to disarmament.The provisions are unambiguous and demand that parties involved in the crisis surrender their guns, ammunition and any other war related materials to the United Nations peace keeping force.That any one party to the coflict should attempt to dictate the terms and impose conditions on the disarmament process is unacceptable and unfortunate.The controversy over who to disarm first is unnecessary and irrelevant.
Chairman Foday Sankoh has repeatedly complained about the lack of inducements and absence of structures that should be put in place to ensure a smooth and successful DDR programme. Sankoh observed that it was only when the combatants were assured of their welfare needs would they as faction leaders be able to persuade and influence the combatants to disarm, demobilise and reintegrate.
So far, the problem is not so much the question of deployment but disarmament. The UN peace keepers have deployed in Makeni, Magburaka, Lunsar, Bumbuna and Mile 91 since December 1999. This rapid deployment has not yielded the desired results as no single combatant has disarmed in these areas.
Just a couple of weeks ago, we witnessed a marked improvement and positive signal from the RUF who have opened areas formerly under their control to UNAMSIL for nationwide deployment. The combatants’ expectations seem to be centred around this Dollar-for-gun concept.
The good thing about this nationwide deployment is that our distressed and starved people would heave a sigh of relief, for it is expected that relief agencies and humanitarian organisations would resume operations, taking advantage of this positve turn of events.
We will continue to urge the faction leaders to demonstrate, in practical terms and actions, their willingness to end the suffering of our people, who have had to endure indignities and inconveniences of all sorts.
We also ask government to be decisive and pursue strategies that would motivate the combatants and accelerate the DDR programme. If the dollar-for-gun concept is the most plausible option, then follow it and end this terrible chapter in our country.
EDITORIAL - APRIL 3RD 2000
Dr.Alpha T. Wurie, the current Education Minister, is presently considered by many as a man under tremendous pressure and uneasiness due to the ongoing teachers’ strike action.
Indeed, Dr. Wurie must be uneasy, not for fear of losing his job, but for the fate of the school children who stand to be the losers.
Some aggrieved teachers have been calling for the immediate dismissal of both the Minister and the Director-General of Education, Dr. Alfred Bobson Sesay. This call by the teachers to most political analysts came as a surprise as they reflected on the teachers’ welcome march on March 10, 1998 when the democratically elected government of president Kabbah was restored to power.
To be precise, on this day, the biggest banner was that of the Sierra Leone Teachers Union (SLTU) which was hung right at the cotton tree. It read, “Please president Kabbah, retain Alpha Wurie as Education Minister”. It therefore sounded extremely ironical for the same teachers to demand the head of Dr. Wurie.
For the teachers to have carried such a message in 1998, they must certainly have seen great potentials and hope in Dr.Wurie. They saw him, no doubt, as a man determined to raise the standard of teachers from the state of beggars to respectable beings as their profession demands.
The accusation that Dr. Wurie is the architect of the suffering of teachers is to say the least, unfortunate.
Rightly, Alpha Wurie, is the political head of the Ministry. But, like all other Ministers or heads of parastatals, the central government is the main financier which provides the necessary funds to the various institutions.
Dr. Wurie will not be so callous and wicked as to keep within himself billions of leones meant for teachers. Except if he intends to lose his job. Surely, if the government had allocated the necessary funds to Dr. Wurie, and in turn, Wurie fails to pay the teachers, he would not have been on that seat by now. Dr. Wurie should therefore not be used as a scapegoat for the failure of government to live up to its responsibilities.
The dialogue between the SLTU and the Education Ministry must continue and both parties must exercise flexibility for the sake of the poor innocent children who have been suffering for the past nine years. It is normally said, when two elephants fight, it is the grass that is underneath them that suffers. In this case both parties are elephants and the children, the grass. Enough is enough. Government must endeavour to address the teachers’ concern for the children to go back to school.
For the sake of Peace...
The atrocious nine-year civil catastrophe is now over. Indeed, some atrocities are still being committed and armed bandits still ambush vehicles but thanks to the July 7 Lome Peace Accord which gave the people of this country a sigh of relief, a ray of hope and a feeling of belonging, Sierra Leone has a lot to be thankful for since the past year and a half. The anarchy which was the order of the day is long gone. UNAMSIL are now in Kono and are in Kailahun and in the North. 5,000 more are coming very soon.
Once more the traumatised ordinary citizenry are living their normal lives in the main towns without fear of an unexpected rebel attack on their town. Once more the highways are being plied by vehicles.
Though the disarmament of combatants is yet far from complete, the people are confident that this time round, no more guns will be fired. They are sure that they will go back to their farms unmolested; they have strong hopes that they will be able to live their normal lives again without being chased by gun-toting boys whose desire is to kill and amputate.
The Lome Peace Accord has given the people the feeling of patriotism, which was lacking during the decade of inferno and brutality. It is the Bible that has brought together the killed and the killer, the villain and the offended.
No wonder the accord itself is sacrosanct. Its provisions and clauses must be adhered to by the letter. Nobody, including the moral guarantors, should be allowed to fidget with it. We are aware of some of the lapses and violations of the accord perpetrated by some of the factions.
But we believe that such violations should not be allowed to derail the document. We are also aware that some of the provisions are months behind schedule, especially that of the disarming of all ex-combatants and the reluctance of the moral guarantors to put their money where their mouths are. This is disturbing. But again we do not see this delay as putting a spanner into the works as it is easier to make war than to consolidate peace.
That is why we are asking everybody to be patient and not do anything that will plunge this battered nation into the sea of doom and disaster again. Anything we do now might give some people the leeway to send us back to horror and nightmare.
That is the more reason why some of the complaints and concerns put forward by the combatants, especially their leaders, must be addressed without delay.
One of such concerns is the United Nations ban on all former junta leaders and their sympathisers. We believe the world body imposed such ban to confine the coup leaders within the country and afterwards rout them from power.
This aim has been achieved: there is no longer an Armed Forces Revolutionary Council junta. The democratically elected government is back in power, and it has signed an agreement with its archenemy - Foday Sankoh. He is now in Freetown, apparently enjoying the status of a vice president. Some of his men are ministers in Kabbah’s government. Is this not a sign enough that the war is over? Why maintain the travel ban?
As an independent and objective press, The Pool does not see any rationale behind the continuation of the ban as far as the present circumstances are concerned. It seems as if people do not trust the document they appended their signatures to. Well, if they do not, we do.
The Lome Peace Accord will not and cannot be fiddled with. So the continued travel ban on the people who signed it, especially the Revolutionary United Front and the AFRC, only means that there is still no confidence and trust among the signatories. This may be a recipe for disaster, which is the last thing the average Sierra Leonean wants.
Again, it seems as if in addition to the UN travel ban, there is also an internal ban on the RUF/AFRC leaders. Recently, the RUF leader invited parliamentarians to go with him to Kailahun so as to expedite the disarmament process but the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone, UNAMSIL, said otherwise.
Perhaps they want to confine Sankoh to Freetown. We are not supportive of such a move as we consider it inimical to the entire disarmament process.
From all indications the rebels are still loyal to their leader. Therefore his presence and that of the parliamentarians would have gone a long way to helping and accelerating the disarmament of the combatants in the notorious rebel heartland.
We are therefore appealing to the United Nations and the international community to consider the reversal of the travel ban on the former junta leaders in the interest of everlasting peace in our beloved land, Sierra Leone.
The reason proferred that the RUF or AFRC will travel out to sell diamonds is not a viable one. If the rebels want to sell diamonds or buy arms as they have been alleged to be doing, we all know they do not need to leave Sierra Leone to do so.
So, please lift the ban to strengthen confidence building. Sierra Leone needs trust amongst all the warring factions more than anything else right now.
A TEST CASE FOR KABBAH.
March 20th 2000
The Islamic festival of Eid-ul Adha has come and gone. Once again we were able to see the masquerading of masked devils all over the city. It was a beautiful spectacle with people gradually putting the past behind them.
As usual, the celebrated Eastern Paddle masked devil showed its popularity as people from all walks of life came from far and nigh to catch a glimpse of the once-in-a-year devil.
There was singing and dancing all over the city. And no incidence of violence was reported, thanks to the astuteness of the organisers, the security forces and peace loving Sierra Leoneans.
One remarkable thing about this year’s celebration was the heavy presence of ex-combatants, especially the former Sierra Leone Army Personnel based at Okra hills. To say the least, these people turned out in large numbers apparently to send a message to both the government and the international community.
The message, embodied in songs, was simply: Give us the dollar and we give you the guns. It was indeed a poignant but factual message. What these people were telling us was that the slow pace of the disarmament process is largely due to the haphazard way through which payment is done.
What they implied was that they do not need to be kept in a particular place for a long time before they are paid. Rather, they bring their guns today, you pay them off. They will go to their towns and villages and reintegrate themselves into the society.
We in this press share their concerns. We do not believe in the long process of going through all those bureacracies before a disarmed ex-combatant is paid off.
Let us take the Liberian example. The disarmament process in that country was fast and quick probably because guns were exchanged for dollars. Combatants did not have to go through all those nauseating procedures before they were paid. Today, there is relative peace in that country.
We think the same system can be applied here if the disarmament process is to gain its required momentum.
We share government’s apprehension. But looking at the whole scenario, it is a fact that more money is wasted in the encampment of ex-combatants. The huge sums spent on feeding them could be utilised for something else.
So, why not try the Liberian example and rid ourselves of dangerous guns? It is a case for president Kabbah who, we believe, wants to see the end of the country’s nightmare as soon as possible. The combatants have spoken and we have heard.
Let us not allow this golden oppotunity to slip through our fingers. The disarmament process should be accelerated.
And this brings to mind the proposed donors’ conference on Sierra Leone taking place in Britain later this month. It is indeed very timely and appropriate, considering the hiccups which the Lome peace accord is experiencing.
It will be a forum where in all those hitches and stumbling blocks could be removed.
But what is the feasibility of such an august gathering if all the stakeholders are not there to give their contributions as to how the accord could be fully implemented? What is the use of giving huge sums of money to a programme that is slower than a snail? What is the idea behind the gathering if the warlords are seemingly not sincere to the entire peace process?
It is in this vein that we are humbly suggesting to president Kabbah and the donor countries not to leave behind the Revolutionary United Front leader, Foday Sankoh and the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council Chairman, Johnny Paul Koroma.
We believe that their presence in such an important conference will go a long to creating the right impact. It will also be an opportunity for the donor countries to talk sense into these two people so that Sierra Leone will once again enjoy the blessings of peace.
We are therefore asking Pa Kabbah to take the two stakeholders to the conference. This will definitely help build confidence and trust among the combatants.
Give it a try and see the result.
LANS GBERIE, YOUR RAT IS ALREADY DEAD.
March 13th 2000
The Pool received scores of emails from a widening pool of fans ever since our forage into the waters of cyberspace.
In total, the Pool received 53 email messages in just two days from grateful readers as far away as Tokyo and as near as Waterloo Street, Freetown.
In addition to the 53 emails, we also received an email from a man who just called himself email@example.com.
Nyakeh sent us an email that he forwarded from a discussion group. It was an interesting email. The first part was a critique of our editorial. The critique was a matured piece of writing by a man simply signing as SZ. SZ obviously lives out of Sierra Leone and has been feeding from the rat's vessel of lies.
Who is this rat? More on that later.
SZ was fazed because he thought that The Pool called President Tejan Kabbah a warlord who deserved to be lumped into the same category as JPK and Foday Sankoh.
The Pool did not refer to the president as a warlord. But some people might say that the term warlord aptly fits a president who preferred war over dialogue until President Clinton "got involved." But that's besides the point here.
Today's piece will focus on the second part of Nyakeh's email. In it, Lansana Gberie, the former FBC student who never did a single course in journalism, yet refers to himself as an investigative journalist, was firing cheap shots at our managing editor.
Listen to Lans:-
Readers can easily sense the depths of frustration in poor Lans Gberie's writings. His propaganda work he is currently doing for his NPRC Advisory Council mentors was being threatened by a newspaper team whose potential he knows all too well.
Lans Gberie appears to be confused. No doubt about this at all, at all. Lans Gberie co-wrote a pamphlet he called The Heart of the matter. In this pamphlet, he argues that the war in Sierra Leone is fuelled by diamonds. He argues that the war is fuelled by greed for diamonds.
Barely a short time after this pamphlet was released, CNN aired the Sorius Samura documentary entitled "Cry Freetown." Of course, in his well presented documentary, Sorius gives a balanced picture of what life was for the citizens of Freetown in January 1999.
This documentary was in such sharp contrast to the well tailored propaganda that has been ceaselessly pumped into the West by the agents of the SLPP including Gberie, the SLPP scholar - more on that later.
Before one could say Jack Robinson, there was Gberie on Concord Times(where else?) attacking the CNN documentary because he insisted that CNN was wrong to air that the conflict was about diamonds.
How confused can he get?
For those who do not know Lansana Gberie, Gberie is the Sierra Leonean who co-edited the publication called "The Heart of the Matter." He is a very confused man presently. One minute he will say one thing such as telling the whole world that the "Heart of the matter" of our conflict was about diamonds. The very next minute he is contradicting himself and scolding Sorius Samura for saying diamonds are the cause of our problems.
In one breath he will reveal how brave the Pool staffers are when we believe in something like we did in the NPRC days and the next minute he is calling us fools.
Although his contradictions appear confusing, when all is brought to light, his apparent state of confusion is not so confusing.
The bottom line is that Lans Gberie will do or say anything to promote SLPP's misguided un-nationalistic ketamia-ism. His waxing and wanings carefully studied, reveals a man desperate to see the SLPP painted as the good guys at all times.
In 1996, Gberie was sent to Canada on a scholarship secured for him by President Kabbah because of the coverage he did for the SLPP when he was attached to the Expo Times Newspaper of Freetown.
By 1997, his former boss at Expo Times and several of his colleagues (real journalists like the late Conrad Roy) at Expo Times had been locked up in jail for daring to question the wisdom behind the SLPP's action in rushing to embrace the Philip Palmer coup-plotters.
Within a few weeks of Expo Times warnings, things fell apart and Kabbah was seen in a Nigerian helicopter heading towards Madingo land with a briefcase holding at least one stolen huge diamond stone whilst the nation was left at the mercy of Koroma's AFRC boys and the incoming RUF rebels.
The wise counsel of Expo Times had not been heeded so the SLPP government fell, ran away and left us all behind.
Those the government left behind had to weigh the situation and decide on the next best course of action for the nation.
Our Managing Editor, like several other editors including the Managing Editor of the Expo Times (Gberie's former boss) considered that they had a duty to do. They saw that with the way things had turned, only dialogue would resolve the problems contrary to the views of the government-in-exile and its' supporters.
Chernor Ojuku Sesay is a man of stature, a man of principles, a man who stood up to the NPRC's military high handedness at the time when Lans Gberie's SLPP strongmen, now in high places, were bootlicking NPRC boots for well paid jobs as National Advisers.
Chernor and over half of Freetown's editors came out with strong editorials critising the use of military force to bring back President Kabbah as against dialogue.
For this, they paid dearly when Kabbah was brought back.
In 1998 after the militarised return of Tejan Kabbah, Chernor's house was completely destroyed by SLPP thugs and all his property was carted away. His eight months pregnant wife was severely manhandled till she gave birth to a stillborn child. His staff members were either locked up in jail or they had to flee for their lives to avoid the burning alive spree of the SLPP thugs.
Why was all this done?
Simple. The Pool together with Expo Times and several other papers were all at the forefront of those advocating for a direct dialogue between the factions and the Kabbah government as against the use of military force which we argued would only push the junta out of the capital city into the provincial areas.
Our stance against militarism was taken by the SLPP to be an act of treason. Thousands were killed as junta collaborators indiscriminately by SLPP thugs using the guise of civil defence forces. Why? Why? Why? Because we pointed out the inevitable.
Because we pointed out what turned out to be the INEVITABLE.
Conrad Roy died in jail simply because of this. Chernor Ojuku Sesay's child died a stillbirth because of this. His wife was assaulted badly because of this.
And Lans Gberie is complaining because when he went to Freetown in July last year from his SLPP sponsored studies, he saw Chernor Ojuku Sesay living "big" in a "guesthouse" that according to Lans is only fit for Canadian SLPP proteges visiting in town for a few days.
Poor Poor confused Lans. He knows The Pool. He knows the extent The Pool would go to when the paper believes in something. We did it in NPRC days, again and again and again defying those with guns to expose NPRC brutality and corruption at the time when Lans Gberie's mentors were bootlicking for jobs.
Our Managing Editor is from a well known royal family. His father, Pa Alimamy Ojuku Sesay is current acting Paramount Chief of Koya. His father was the first local traditional dignitary whom the British Secretary of State for International Development, Claire Short, visited upon arrival in Sierra Leone. The Ojuku Sesays are a great family.
At the time Chernor finally returned to Freetown from his grandfather's village in Koya Chiefdom, several of his uncles and relatives were sympathetic to his plight. They ensured that he was given love, support and saw to his immediate needs. No Ojuku Sesay will ever be a pauper. However hard the SLPP tries to bring him and his paper down, Chernor Ojuku Sesay can only be brought down by the Almighty God who made him.
After Lans' SLPP thugs had burnt down Chernor's house in February 1998, carted away all his hard earned properties, manhandled his wife and killed his child, Lans was surprised not to see Chernor sleeping penniless and naked on the streets of Freetown.
Chernor has been in journalism for several years now. He was practising journalism when Lans Gberie was still in High School. He did not need rebel money to start his paper in 1992. He did not need rebel money to re-start his paper in 1996 and he did not need rebel money to start his paper in 1999.
As for "living big" maybe Lans should try and find out why Chernor's nickname since childhood has always been O'bluffer. Some people give sunshine to the world and give the almighty their burdens to take care of.
Obviously the Pool's appearance in cyberspace has scared the living daylights out of Lans and his SLPP mentors.
But really, who cares about this dead rat?
"What is this rat?" a reader wrote to us to ask. The rat symbolises the unpatriotic ones' propaganda team.
This anti-democratic propaganda rat hiding under the cloak of democracy. The same rat who, after we had signed a one year contract with Africa News Service manipulated to block our reports from appearing there much to the embarrassment of Fadi Chahine, the Africa Newsdesk person who was blocked by "orders from above."
We at The Pool say that despite all this, the rat is already dead. Just waiting to be taken out for burial.
Soon, Very soon, we will see who is more powerful. The Rat? Or the Truth?
SANKOH AND PARLIAMENT
The interpretation of the Peace Accord signed on July 7, 1999 in the Togolese capital of Lome has caused a lot of hiccups in its implementation. The issue of the deployment of the United Nations Peace Keeping forces known as UNAMSIL is one such problem.
Whereas the government and the United Nations are saying that there is a provision in the accord for such deployment, Chairman Foday Sankoh, leader of the revolutionary United Front, stresses otherwise.
This has led to the delay in the full deployment of UNAMSIL troops all over the country. As recent as last week, the Revolutionary United Front rebels blockaded a contingent of peace keeping troops trying to enter the diamond-rich township of Koidu. The stand-off which lasted for several hours only came to an end when the soldiers decided to return to their original bases of Kenema and Daru.
In the Northern province, there is a small presence of peace keeping troops in Port Loko and even Lungi. Makeni, the provincial headquarters, Magburaka, Kambia, Masingbi and other towns are still awaiting the full deployment of UNAMSIL troops.
This delay in their deployment is largely due to the somewhat different interpretations of the peace agreement. This has caused a lot of concern among the citizenry.
Ex-combatants continue to harass, molest and rape innocent civilians with impunity while their leaders make empty promises. They do not seem to be in control of their fighters any longer. In addition to this disturbing spectacle is the current stand-off between Parliament and chairman Foday Sankoh.
Parliament, as the House of Representatives, recently summoned Sankoh to appear before it in order for him to explain the delay in the implementation of the Lome Accord. Their move was a culmination of repeated reports of cease-fire violations by ex-combatants.
After interrogating junta leader Johnny Paul Koroma, Parliament thought it prudent to hear Sankoh’s side.
However the rebuff and cold shoulder treatment which the House got from the Revolutionary United Front leader has sent shock waves throughout the country. No wonder when the House met last week, members expressed their anger and disappointment over Sankoh’s attitude and called for stern action against him.
This has created mixed feelings among the civilian population which continues bear the brunt of the war.
Sankoh’s reason for not honouring Parliament’s call was simple but poignant: the Lome accord granted him the status of vice president; so he is answerable only to the president, Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. But we believe there is more to it than meets the eye.
Sankoh’s recalcitrance may not be unconnected with the furore which his visit to South Africa caused. He may want to flex his muscles to prove to his critics that he is a major stakeholder in the on-going peace process.
From what we have gathered, Sankoh is not even attending the regular disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration meetings any longer. These meetings are held to review the progress of the disarmament process.
We view these developments as inimical to the peace and progress of this nation. We are of the opinion that if sustainable peace and development should once again reign, all the heads of the various fighting forces should inculcate patriotism and put the country above their idiosyncracies and disarm their fighters.
Sankoh, Johnny Paul and Sam Hinga Norman should meet regularly to iron out any differences or misconceptions that may impede the disarmament process.
Parliament, on the other hand, should not do anything funny that may send this country back to the old days of bloodshed and doom. Sankoh’s earlier refusal to acquiesce to their call should not be a recipe for disaster. We know the pride of Parliament is at stake but we believe the welfare and security of the civilians should be a priority.
We are therefore calling on chairman Sankoh and Parliament to reach a compromise solution so as to avert further attrocities. We should put this war of attrition behind us now for the sake of our children.
WHAT A CLIFF HANGER!
WHAT A CLIFF HANGER!
By Osman F. Koroma
I would love to see the day when Sankoh would be arraigned before Parliament to answer queries about the misdemeanour of his boys. It will indeed be the day when the angry and irate parliamentarians will tell Sankoh that they, as representatives of the people, are not happy with the way things are going. I will of course be there to listen to the tirades and invectives that will rain on Sankoh for testing the might of parliament.
My place will be up there on the gallery but I will be closer to the Speaker than anybody else. It will be a cliff-hanger as everybody in the House will either love or hate to listen what Sankoh has as replies to their questions. But I am apprehensive. Sankoh may not go and Parliament may be forced to evoke the constitutional powers it has.
I am sceptical, as any false move will send us back to the dark days of horror and doom. I am sad as Sankoh’s continued defiance and Parliament’s inability to act in consonance with the constitution will definitely be a bad precedent. I shed tears as the country’s constitution will be put to test.
The present stand-off between Foday Sankoh and Parliament has sent chills up the spine of many a Sierra Leonean. Looking at the scenario, one is apt to ask what will happen if Parliament uses its might to tell Sankoh that nobody, including the president, is above the constitution. Won’t it be the proverbial sledgehammer to kill a fly? For all I know, Parliament is the supreme law-making body. So we are all subservient to it. It wields a lot of power in the honest discharge of its duties.
However, considering the barrage of invectives which Johnny Paul Koroma received when he stood before Parliament, it behoves the jittery man to sulk and skulk, and even refuse, when he is called to the House.
Johnny was buffetted from all angles by Parliamentarians who could not hide their disgust and abhorrence against the AFRC. Had it not been the divine intervention of the almighty Creator, there would have been some fisticuffs in the honourable House. What an unpalatable spectacle it would have been.
Well if the junta leader who only reigned for nine months was almost lynched, what will happen to somebody who, for nine gruelling years, caused indescribable atrocities on poor, innocent and armless civilians?
I am not suggesting that it is this fear that Sankoh has. No, that is beside the point. I am only opining that Sankoh may be reeling from the wounds he inflicted on the people. He knows that he has to answer some caustic questions from the people’s representatives.
However, there is a snag here.
Supposing, as I intimated earlier, Sankoh does not honour Parliament’s call, what will happen to him? Will he be arrested? Who will effect the arrest? What will happen if he is arrested? I am thinking of the backlash his arrest may have. His boys are scattered all over the country and majority are still loyal to him. There is every probability that they will use the opportunity to inflict more atrocities on an already traumatised civilian population. And where will that leave the fragile Lome Peace Accord?
Sankoh’s defiance should be taken with caution. It seems as if we are between the devil and the sea. Either way is dangerous for us the civilians. Sankoh says he will not go to Parliament, and the House is talking tough.
But as one Parliamentarian put it, we should be very careful with the way we deal with Sankoh. He is indeed an ordinary citizen like any other person; he should be subordinate to the laws of the land, and he should be reprimanded when he falls foul. But candidly speaking, Sankoh has held this country to ransom for nine years, and he still continues to do so. We should do everything possible not to inflame a volatile situation.
It hurts, it burns and it is disgusting. The pride of the House of Representatives is at stake. A single individual is about to bring it down. Perhaps he has a card close to his chest. This card, we do not know.
If Parliament uses its legitimate power and incarcerate Sankoh, what will be the aftermath? I am not suggesting that anything sinister will happen afterwards. What I am saying is that Sankoh’s recalcitrance should not be seen as taking us back to those dark days.
There is already a silver lining in the cloud. Let us not allow it to slip away from our fingers. We all know that the disarmament process is painfully slow, much to the chagrin of peace-loving patriots, but it is better than it was a year ago.
Sankoh will not tell Parliament any new thing. Rather, he will try to cover-up all the alleged atrocities his fighters continue to inflict on the people. So why waste time on somebody that will prove to be a spanner in the works? We should devise new strategies to move the peace process forward. Let all the necessary structures be put in place for the disarmament process.
Sankoh’s refusal to stand before Parliament should not eclipse the good part of the Lome peace accord.
The Parliamentarians should, for now, think of ways of putting this sad chapter to a close. Sankoh may want to have a scapegoat. Let Parliament not lend itself to that. It is actually extremely excruciating and irritating for an individual to defy parliamentary order. But let us be cautious. Let us not give him any chance of reneging on the Lome peace pact.
It takes a day to make war, but it takes years, if not decades, to make peace. Sankoh’s behaviour is indeed a cliff-hanger aimed at creating another bombshell. There is more to it than meets the eye. The man himself should realise that the people have suffered for almost a decade as a result of his revolution.
He should now show some amount of sincerity and honesty; he should give the people a chance to rebuild their tattered lives again. His appearance before Parliament will go a long way to assuaging the fears of the people with regard to the peace process.
WHO CARES ABOUT A DEAD RAT?
In the Pool with Sorie
“Who cares about the dead rat? Only the hungry looking vulture”. These were the remarks of Editor OFKAY when Chief Ojuku told him that some Kakabelleh politicians wrote to African News Online, saying that The Pool newspaper is a rebel press.
“ They have been saying it again and again but look at us. I don’t care a damn about what they say about us. If you listen to the noise of the market, you won’t buy anything,” OFKAY lectured Chief.
“Gentlemen, to another topic please. Sankoh has arrived, it is necessary to have an interview with him particularly on the circumstances behind his trip and the subsequent reactions of the people back home,” Chief Ojuku Sesay told his fellow fishes in the pond,after carefully acknowledging his deputy’s sermon.
“It will make an interesting reading to the public,” remarked OFKAY. “But how could we lay hands on him; after all we haven’t made any appointment with him?” asked Sorie Ibrahim Sesay who had just breezed in from nowhere.
“Man, cool. Everything has been worked out. All we need to do is to arrange ourselves and move to his Spur Road residence for the interview,” replied Augustus Mye Kamara of the “Agony” fame. Immediately thereafter, big fish Ojuku alerted four fishes in the pond, together with the photo-journalist, Abu Whyte Fofanah.
After all the protocols had been observed it was time for Sankoh to face the desperate fishes who had vowed to fire him with all sorts of questions, ranging from his alleged deportation from South Africa to his position on the UN’s of force to deploy. And after an hour and a half interview with the PAPAY, the five giant fishes retired to the pond only to find the Computer Secretary and typist waiting patiently for the other fishes to return. “You have kept me beyond my normal time here today. I expected you earlier than this time,” grumbled Musu.
“Bo you too lek grumble, how you bisness tan so ba?” querried News Editor Sayoh Kamara who had just entered the pond from one of his beats.
However before the departure of the fishes that day, it was smiles all over the pond as the big fish had just brought in the long awaited “manner from heaven”.
“Gentleman the paper is a hot cake in the market today. The interview was fantastic and more so, those who had read the interview in our newly established website wanted to secure a copy. So, that makes it hot,” reported chief vendor Alimamy Sesay.
But before then, the other fishes had been patiently waiting for the sharing of the “baskit’ which was tentatively suspended for the past few weeks.
“I am really hungry, gentlemen. What is happening? Has Ojuku released the basket?” enquired OFKAY. “I think both of us share the same fate. I had waited for so long for it. If it is not coming out, let us be informed so that I would leave this place,” said Augustus who seemed to be running out of patience.
At last the “baskit” came out of the big fish’s office and the distribution was accordingly made to the increasingly impatient fishes.
“Where is Adizatu”? asked a visitor in the pond. “She is not at work today due to some domestic commitments,” replied her colleague in the pond.
Readers, it was indeed a lively week for all the fishes in the pond and I can assure you that they are determined more than ever before to give you the taste of your money through their investigative and professional journalism. So stay tuned as objectivity is our watch word.
March 8th 2000
THE CRUX OF THE MATTER
The war of words among the different stakeholders in the peace process has apparently eclipsed the entire disarmament programme.
It has resulted to the abysmal refusal of ex-combatants to surrender their guns to the peace keeping forces as called for by the Lome Peace agreement.
This is worrying, as reports coming from the provinces speak of tension building up between the various factions.
While the leaders are busy in Freetown accusing each other of insincerity, the combatants are busy wreaking havoc on an already traumatised civilian population.
Recently, Foday Sankoh claimed that he had information that there are plans to arrest him and some of his top commanders.
Chief Hinga Norman, the Deputy Defence Minister, on the other hand, has expressed the fear that if the Civil Defence Forces known as kamajors are disarmed before the Revolutionary United Front rebels, the latter will again pillage the country, while the former junta leader Johnny Paul Koroma told Parliament recently that his men at Okra Hills would not disarm because the RUF rebels wanted to attack the city.
This development clearly shows the precarious situation in which the Lome peace agreement has found itself .
The crux of the matter, we in this press believe, lies is not in the sincerity of the leaders of the warring factions, but in the apparent lack of trust. Nobody trusts the other. Everybody feels something will happen to him after the complete disarmament of his fighters.
In the midst of all this is the ordinary man who continues to suffer at the hands of unruly combatants. He is still being killed, maimed and abducted. Non- Governmental Organisations do not have access to rebel-held areas, and the United Nation’s Peace Keepers are yet to deploy nationwide.
The faction leaders do not seem to be serious about disarming their combatants. Rather, they keep on issuing empty orders to their men, which does not augur well for the peace and development of this beleaguered nation. We are therefore calling on these warlords who have held the people to ransom to inculcate the concept of trust and give peace a chance. The people have suffered for too long.
At this point in time, all they need is nothing but total peace so that they can rebuild their shattered lives.
We urge them to actualise the July 7 Lome Peace agreement which is months behind schedule.
President Kabbah, Chairman Foday Sankoh and Johnny Paul Koroma should trust each other and give peace a chance.
The Pool Newspaper
1, Short Street