Opinions' free; Facts are sacred
EDITORIALS DATED BETWEEN AUGUST 17TH AND 25TH 2000
Like Kabbah, Like Sankoh, Like
The proposed International Court to try persons that have committed crimes against the people of Sierra Leone has provoked tremendous reactions from Sierra Leoneans abroad.
Articles, letters and commentaries sent to our website by Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora reflect anger and disappointment over the statement of Solomon Berewa, the Attorney-General that certain key players in the Sierra Leone crisis will not face the tribunal.
Abdul Kassimu, a Sierra Leonean in Mary Land, USA said, “When Berewa speaks, it is the government that speaks”. He argued that they in the Diaspora who have been campaigning for such a court to be established will continue to pile pressure on the World body to ensure that no selective justice is carried out, but that all those who the people think have a case to answer must face justice.
“From the investigations we have carried, we think both President Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, Lt-Col.(Rtd) Johnny Paul Koroma and of course the key suspect of all, Foday Saybana Sankoh, and some of his able lieutenants have cases to answer.
The atrocities committed by Sankoh’s rebels ranging from March 23, 1991 when his forces first attacked Bomaru town in the East, up to May 8, 2000 when over twenty innocent civilians were massacred in his own residence are strong evidence to implicate him.
The number of men, women and children amputated as a result of his war are another strong case.
The actions of Johnny Paul’s forces too are clear since the May 25, 1997 coup that brought his AFRC to power; the January 6,1999 invasion of Freetown where over 6000 innocent people perished, followed by rapings, kidnappings and amputations are strong pointers that he too has a case to answer.
The role of President Kabbah when he said over the BBC at the time he was in exile, “Yes, I invited them to use force. They are professionals,” referring to ECOMOG and its followed consequences are evidences too against the Head of State.
The actions and behaviour of the Civil Defence Forces which is an organ of the government’s local militias need to be clarified in a court of law.
The dropping of bombs in the city by ECOMOG with their mighty jets is an action that needs to be explained.
“We are not saying they are guilty or some of the actions were wrong, but the people and the World must know what necessitated those actions,” Kassimu concluded.
Eastern Union, From Objectivity
The Eastern Union (EU) is supposedly an umbrella organisation with the aim of mobilising descendants from the Eastern Region of Sierra Leone to promote a common goal and garner resources to rebuild the devastated region.
Nothing is wrong with such an organisation. We laud the efforts of its revered members. Similar groups are also in operation, both at village, chiefdom, and district, religious and regional events with similar aims and objectives.
However, this press was fortunate to lay hands on the minutes of one of the regular meetings held by members of the EU. Prominent people in society including Maigore Kallon and W.J. Siafa attended the said meeting.
This press cannot dilate on the details of the said minutes but what we can deduce from the contributions of certain members is that the EU is gradually deviating from its avowed aims and objectives. Rather, the Union is now on a hectic campaign for Northerners holding higher positions to be removed from those positions.
Such an act is not only diabolic but also a calculated attempt to divide this country into regional and tribal lines. This press cannot sit by and treat such an act with triviality and levity.
The press will continue to ring it loud that a single tribe or region can never rule Sierra Leone. It will only spell doom and destruction. Members of the Union, including Maigore Kallon, the current National Chairman of the SLPP, are reported to be paying fortnightly visit to His Excellency, President Kabbah to discuss certain resolutions from their meetings.
This press is made to understand that if the Head of state had adhered to the calls of the EU members, people like Alpha Sesay (Sierratel), Kandeh Bangura (Police) and a host of others might have found their way out of their present employment. This act should be condemned in no uncertain terms and in its totality.
We respect some of the prominent figures in the EU and hope that, these figures will guide the desperate ones in the interest of mother Sierra Leone.
This press is also cautioning members of the EU to be very careful with certain people like Tamba Komba who attends both APC and SLPP meetings and takes whatever is discussed from one party to another. Sierra Leone must be one and nothing else.
Welcoming the war crimes
Ever since the tragic events of May 8th, when several demonstrators died as a result of gunshot wounds allegedly fired by rebel supporters of Revolutionary United front leader, Foday Sankoh, a lot of theories have been put forward in respect of some form of court to try the RUF kingpin. The various key government functionaries have repeatedly maintained that “the trials are essential to check the cycle of impunity”. Under normal circumstances, this clarion call for the prosecution of persons who have been ACCUSED of serious war crimes, would be the most appropriate thing to do. But one would be tempted to ask: what abnormalities exist at present? Let me explain.
The definition of serious crimes is relative. In fact any behaviour aimed at reducing the basic humanity of mankind is criminal. High profiled financial impropriety definitely falls within this category of crimes against humanity. If for instance, a few individuals, be they ministers or cleaners, decide to defraud the state of colossal sums, depriving the destitute and impoverished population of health care and basic necessities, then I am sure they have a case to answer. State criminals, have by their actions, sown the seeds of discord and agitation.
I have often wondered how a government worker for instance, given the conditions of service, can afford to build palaces and castles complete with state-of-the-art devices and sleek limousines. Is this not a cause for discontent?
It is my intention to be very bold with this analysis. When the government talks about “bringing people to answer for crimes they committed,” I get confused. A man accused of committing a given offence is presumed innocent until proven otherwise after due legal process. Signals coming out of the seat of government are very troubling. It would seem there are already people who would be exempted from answering to the people for their roles in destroying lives and properties.
I have stated inter alia that there are abnormalities. For example, when it suits government they tell us: The Lome Accord is still viable. The only reason I can conceive of why our leaders say this is because they are going to be SELECTIVE as usual. If everyone accused of serious crimes is made to face the music, then let it be without an attempt to let off others who might be equally culpable. But if, as government is already saying, someone would not be prosecuted because that individual has shown remorse, then one begins to wonder whether remorse is all it takes to drop charges of the magnitude of crimes against humanity. Some of us were labeled with the deadly tag “junta collaborator,” when it suited the government. I was buffeted and incarcerated for three hundred and twenty odd days for sweet nothing and later, even though I was NEVER charged with an offence, I was told that I was now enjoying an AMNESTY. What amnesty? What crime did I commit?
How come someone just get up and say to you: “I forgive you” when you are very sure of yourself that you have not been confronted with an allegation of any wrong doing, proved in a court of law?
Certainly, imprisoning true-blooded Sierra Leoneans in the most appalling environment is a serious crime against humanity.
Very many people currently serving as commentators of the war crimes tribunal do not even know that they too stand accused of crimes against humanity. In Rwanda, for instance, the infamous radio station-Radio MILKHAULIN had their boss arraigned before the tribunal in Arusha for inciting the populace to carry our genocidal activities. Now, for a brief second, tell me, do we have a similar scenario here? Who was the head of the clandestine 98.1?
Did not their broadcasts incite mob action that resulted in acts of arson and brutal murder with the victim often burnt alive? Who authorised the invasion of Sierra Leone by mercenaries?
By the way the British mercenary group, SANDLINES would have to explain the part they played in dropping cluster bombs on our Parliament in which thirteen soldiers perished. Who massacred the peaceful residents of the slum area of Mabella? Oh my God, who launched long-range artillery from Lungi on the people of Freetown? Several dozens perished as a result of these barbaric acts against the people.
There are people who have assumed that they are above the law and have constantly escaped the moral and criminal consequences of their actions. If this cycle of impunity is to be terminated then war crimes is not the only factor. Big time fraudsters and perpetrators of serious crimes still breathe the purest oxygen that freedom and impunity has given them. Take the case of the Nigerian butcher, Captain Olabojey a.k.a. EVIL SPIRIT. This monster alone caused over one hundred and thirty eight deaths. He shot, at close range people fleeing rebel atrocities in the eastern suburbs of Freetown, including pregnant women.
Crimes against humanity in deed!! I saw people killing people unnecessarily. January 6, I saw it all and know for sure that rebel fighters did terrible things so terrible I fainted at the sight of one of such sordid scenes. My own first cousin was brutally amputated by AFRC rebels. A self-styled colonel hacked off his two limbs. I am happy that finally witnesses to serious crimes have the opportunity to give their evidence.
Welcome war crimes tribunal.
Our Parliamentarians Are
The call for an interim government ignited by the Very Concerned Citizens is witnessing preponderant debates among ordinary citizens of all spheres of life. This is particularly important because it brings to light the question of the sincerity and commitment of the present government and Parliamentarians to relinquish power after their mandate would have expired.
The debate, with its increasing momentum and popularity, is equally important in that at this juncture, it is serving as an outlet for the masses to express their concerns among which are that if this government continues to stay in power until elections, it will probably devise covert institutions and other forms of diabolical mechanisms to rig the forthcoming general and presidential elections; that the people will remain to be insecure as it has been conspicously demonstrated that the SLPP government cannot protect and safeguard their lives and properties. The issues of tribalism, sectionalism, compensational party politics, corruption and other vices which they were expecting the government to have eradicated are extremely rampant and conspicuous.
Such vices have been borne by the people for so long so much so that they have become a keg that has finally been exploded by a section of civil society on behalf of the majority of underpriviledged and voiceless citizens. It is a popular call and it is but fitting for both the governent and Parliament not to be jittery and paranoiac. It must be treated with all the seriuosness it deserves. This is basically because the right of the people to self determination should be promoted and respected. The people sacrificed a lot in terms of lives and properties to safeguard democracy. They did so in expressed terms and it stayed, though it has not been properly and adequately practised.
Now because of their desire to keep this democracy in its decent and true form, they are making their voices and feelings heard and felt. It is my view that rather than castigating people, the government and Parliament should work hands in gloves with the dissenting voices to bring about an amicable solution to the very important concerns of the citizenry. <>P>Otherwise, the people and the international community will interprete it to mean an attempt by the Tejan Kabbah government to bedevil the democratic tenets for the selfish interests of a few autocratic elites. Democracy, after all, is the wishes of the people.
The Very Concerned Citizens, the alleged mouthpiece of civil society, were merely notifying the government and Parliament that not a single hour or day will be allowed them to continue in power, come march 30, next year. By their pronouncement, it seems as if this is definite and constant like the northern star. I am sure this is the cause of the hullabaloo and uproar.
We, as true-blooded Sierra Leoneans, are worried with this latest turn of events. It seems as if the snake has decided to bite itself. But particularly worried are our some of our representatives in the House. A group of party loyalists are propagating the interests of their respective political parties other than the interest of the people they claim to be serving. No wonder they are jittery and overwhelmed with venom. This is simply because they fear that when the proportional representation system would have been scrapped, they would never show their faces in Parliament any more. But who should they blame? The old wise saying goes: Your works shall follow you.
The call for the transfer of authority to an independent administration that will oversee level ground political battle is a sell-out for them. These people owe their blessings to Dr. James Jonah and his proportional representation system. They are explicitly and clearly conscious that had it not been for James Jonah, no popular voting system would put them there. Therefore, with the benefits they are freely enjoying including the one million leones monthly salary, they will go all out to stifle and suppress anybody who thinks contrary to their political thoughts. You must toe their line before you become their friend. Other than that, you are a dead rat.
If you disagree with me, then tell me the reason for the panic, denigration, the vitriolic invectives by the MPs against a mere proposal which, to me, was quite in place. An authority that is mature, honest and sincere, will never react outrageously to such a circumstance. Rather it will invite the concerned groups to a tete-a-tete where they will reach a common understanding in the general interest of the nation.
But by their actions we have known them and indeed the reactions of our legislature and executive have given rise to suspicions that something fishy and dirty is definitely going to take place during the coming elections.
I think with the presence of the international community in the name of UNAMSIL and the establishment of an interim government after the expiration of President Kabbah’s term of office, the demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration programme will be conducted with no stone left unturned. One thing is explicit and that is with the SLPP in power no matter on what prolonged term, its special militia group, the kamajors, will not completely disarm. I am worried by this thought. Something has to be done fast to ensure the safety of the people.
I watch this unfolding scenario with disdain and utter consternation.
The call for an Interim Government on the expiration of the mandate of the present government by a group of some true-blooded Sierra Leoneans with the name, “Very Concerned Citizens (VCC) has met a plethora of condemnations especially from Parliamentarians and the President himself. Little did they realise that this call, a long standing one, though misunderstood by a disgruntled few, is the voice of the voiceless Sierra Leoneans.
Undoubtedly it is clear that both government and Parliament are determined to muzzle this clarion call on fictitious grounds of constitutionality. Yes, the 1991 constitution provides for the prolongation of the life of a government by six months in the event of the country being unstable. But it was against this constitutional provision that the proponents of an interim government as well as thousands of their like-mind compatriots are kicking.
They are with the strongest conviction that the SLPP has spent close to five years without doing anything meaningful for the people. What difference will it make if they are to stay for a further six months?
Taking suitability and concern as yardsticks for determining the continued stay in power of this government, it is worth noting that this country has had, and still has, many citizens that are much more concerned because they have their lives on the line of fire in order to safeguard it from total distintegration. So what next? The critics, I believe, are doing otherwise to keep in power and splendour a set of people that have reneged on their promise of protecting the lives of its citizens.
The proponents are with the belief that any future leader of this country will be suitable in the eyes of the international community as long as the people support that leader. In this respect to say that president Tejan Kabbah is the most suitable leader for this country is a mere fallacy. He is on record as the only president in modern history to be ousted twice within a given mandate, a sign of gross ineptitude. Undoubtedly this country is blessed with people of untainted track records who, if approached to avail themselves of the leadership role of this country, can do better. We only need to be on the look out. Until we try it, we will not know them.
Where then should we scout for such honourable people to run this interim government until the next democratic process is in place? Certainly nowhere other than in Sierra Leone. One is forced to ask such a question because of the proliferation of envy, anger, hatred and jealousy that has lately characterized the Sierra Leone society. Should we as a people leave the destiny of this nation in the hands of people that have succeeded in securing for the nation a leadership that is dull, sentimental, indecisive and with no distinct principles on matters of state importance?
The disintegrating factors that have gripped this nation at present are unprecendented in its thirty-nine years of existence. This unravelled discord within the Sierra Leone society implanted by egocentric and myopic politicians and some unscrupulous members of the civilian population that have outlived both their natural and moral usefulness cannot be allowed to continue. A way forward must be found from among ourselves to salvage any unforseen scenarios.
Before the May 25 coup, the ‘democratically’ elected government had surreptitiously disbanded civil militia groups around the country, mainly in the north and the diamond rich district of Kono in the east, areas regarded by the party as opposition strongholds. The efficient security networks in these areas then became porous. This was done in anticipation of the likely outcome of the political ratzmataz that completely destablized and ultimately destroyed these opposition strongholds, much to their advantage. The same machination will obtain, come the next elections.
Whilst this was happening, the SLPP was strengthening its military wing, the kamajors. This militia group was only to defend SLPP strongholds mainly in the south and part of the east. Freetown, the capital, was only saved because it is the seat of power and the possible arena for international and other contacts. The other areas were left at the mercy of the destructive “revolutionaries” and the disgruntled soldiers.
This in essence has continued up to date with the majority of the inhabitants of these areas now living in despicable conditions either as displaced or refugees. Their homes are completely devastated. Their fate is determined by their origin. Coming from an opposition stronghold spells doom. What lies ahead of these political fiddles when peace shall have come remains a mystery. Is it the wish of our democratically elected government?
What a bizzare situation for a small country like ours. This political dramatisation has reached a certain height. I hope it stops here. Otherwise this nation will be torn apart.
If I may reminisce a bit, the unceremonious withdrawal of the 6th Battalion from Tongo field in March 1997 was the beginning of our woes as it frustrated the efforts of our gallant soldiers.
The call by president Kabba for an interventionist force and his subsequent disbanding of the entire army remains the main cause for the discord and lack of trust and confidence that have gripped this nation. This development witnessed an unprecedented level of destruction, maiming and killing and other human rights abuses unequaled to the period when the war was fought only against the common enemy, the RUF.
How then can the people continue to have faith in such a government? This is why it is but important to give due consideration to the call of the very concerned citizens for an interim government that will oversee the forthcoming democratic process.
Besides, should the displaced people boycott the polls, certainly this same inept and politically inefficient government will sweep an overwhelming majority. My fear in this case is that it will forestall political pluralism and supresss all forms of opposition. The SLPP in absolute control will surely spell doom for us all. Do we have to wait for that? Perhaps that is what the international community is also waiting for since president Kabba has been immortalized and portrayed as the only suitable Sierra Leonean and the SLPP the only party, the fitting political party, to rule this country.
Help us oh God to direct us as a people to the
OPINION - WEDNESDAY AUGUST 16TH 2000
Divorce politics from sports: Can it work?
For the past four decades, football bodies around the world have been consistently campaigning for politics to be divorced from sports. What in essence these football bodies are attempting to advocate most specifically is for their various governments to keep their hands off from the selection of personnel to run the affairs of soccer in their countries.
However, the success of this campaign, to me, is yet to become a reality. The problem does not lie with the individuals, but with the football bodies themselves including FIFA which is the umbrella organisation, and nearer to us, CAF which supervises soccer in the African continent.
FIFA, some of us know, has different categories of competitions, ranging from the U-17 World Cup, U-20 Youth Championship, Women’s World Cup to of course the most powerful of all, the senior World Cup. For FIFA to award the staging of these competitions to any country, the government of that country must express its willingness in writing in support of the bid. FIFA has never awarded the hosting of its tournament in a country whose government is not willing to host it.
CAF has never granted the hosting of the Nation’s Cup to a country whose government is opposed to it. Very recently, CAF withdrew Zimbabwe’s right to host the just concluded Nations’ Cup tournament because it argued that the Zimbabwean government was not fully supporting the FA.
With these conditions coming from the football bodies, can any one take their message of divorcing politics from sports serious? I don’t think so. It is common knowledge that one has to put one’s mouth where one’s money is. Nobody can expect a government to continue pumping money into its FA and has nothing to do with that FA.
In countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt, Morocco, France, Brazil, etc, the governments hire coaches on behalf of their FAs and pay these coaches through their FAs.
I therefore see no logic in the argument that governments should have nothing to do with the running of the game when the FAs in these countries are so bankrupt that they entirely depend on their governments to participate in competitions.
If actually FIFA and CAF are serious in their campaigns to divorce politics from sports, they must be in a position to provide huge sums of money every year to all countries, sufficient enough to meet the day -to-day running of same. If this is not done, the preaching of the gospel to divorce politics from sports is like throwing water on a duck’s back.
POOL EDITORIAL FOR MONDAY AUGUST 14TH 2000
The political temperature hanging over Freetown and indeed Sierra Leone is very hot and rancid. In the last couple of days and weeks, much talk has been parried about a new crop of Sierra Leoneans who have bestowed upon themselves the epithet, Very Concerned Citizens. We have followed all the debates so far espoused by the disparate groups engaged in this new war of politics.
Names, derogatory titles, dangerous insinuations, incredible revelations and so forth have been thrown at each other. This is particularly bewildering, given the fact that the group, Very Concerned Citizens, was very much pro-government in the recent past.
Politics, wise heads say, is a dirty game indeed. Who would imagine, even in his greatest fantasy, that the people now branded as ENEMIES of the state, power drunk, inciters and troublemakers, would have been referred to as thus a few months ago?
Incidentally, Madam Zainab Bangura, the lady who has suddenly become the central figure in this political slanging, is the head of an NGO whose primary role is to ensure that the populace enjoy good governance. Whether agitating for good governance includes calling on a serving government to create an interim administration at the expiration of its tenure is not for us to say.
Certainly, the Very Concerned Citizens were still acting within their constitutional rights to articulate the possibility of having an interim government. If, on the other hand, the VCC had called for an interim government now when the present government still has a few months more, then one would have gasped, fearing that the deadly charge of treason would have been slammed on them.
But by the look of things, the over-reaction of government by embarking on this massive propaganda aimed at discrediting the personalities involved with the VCC is, to say the least, an indication that the present regime is nearing paranoia. We think that this is not good. Surely, threatening people with brimstones and hell fire simply because they are construed to be acting against a particular political party is not only unfortunate but also unnecessary.
The irony of calling people like Eric James and Unisa Alim Sesay rebel collaborators is obvious. Let us boldly ask this question: are we in a police state? Is one considered favourably as patriotic only when one does or participates in pro-serving government activities?
We are compelled to reminisce events of 1998 when in exile, members of the VCC were very actively engaged in discrediting the accursed AFRC junta. Have we forgotten so soon? There is no denying the fact that it is every citizen’s inalienable right to choose and determine their association, be it political party or otherwise. If a group of true blooded Sierra Leoneans make their thoughts known, does it constitute a criminal act?
This thing about the serving government stampeding its authority against persons who, in their estimation, are engaged in activities that affect it, is bad and should be discontinued. Who says one should be a follower of the Palm Tree before one condemns the senselessness of the RUF campaign? If bullets are fired, do they pick and strike along party lines?
The people of this war-torn nation are gratified by the utterances of our President, who has maintained, time without number, that he has no intention of extending his presidency by dubious schemes. We are very certain that come March 2001, His Excellency would organise polls for Presidential and Parliamentary elections.
Should any unforseen occurence hamper this from happening, then perhaps one of the alternatives would be to put in place an interim administration. This will prove that President Kabbah is indeed a man of his words.
In the meantime, the less said about the position taken by the Very Concerned Citizens, the better. Political witch-hunting will only exacerbate and compound the problems of our country. The present government should take cognisance of the fact that there is bound to be a plurality of views.
MONDAY JULY 31 2000
This call for an interim govt.
The mutterings about the formation of an interim government upon the expiration of the term of office of the SLPP government have finally become audible. Some people are with the belief that if the government is allowed to stay in power for a single day after its duration, it may do everything possible to perpetuate itself in power.
There are others who think the civil war can only be ended by a government that cuts across the political, regional, tribal and sectional spectra. For this class of people, the interim government is the only option. Such government, they believe, should be headed by a neutral person who has never been involved in the politics of this country. A small group of this class also think that this time round, women should be given the opporunity to be at the helm of government.
However, this call for an interim government, to say the least, does not seem to go down well with other people who have been quick to dismiss it as a political ploy by some disgruntled elements to wrest power by subsersive means. These people have the constitution as their Bible; it must be abided by to the letter. The constitution is sacrosanct; it must not be tampered with.
Be it as it may, this call for an interim government clearly shows that there are dissenting voices in the political divide. It is an indicator that President Kabbah has not been able to deliver the much-needed goods to the electorate. Apart from the war which has become a cancer, the economic degeneration, social decline, moral bankruptcy and political intimidation which the country has experienced are sending tantrums to the citizenry that they will still continue to be around if the SLPP government is around.
We however beg to differ a bit from such holistic view. We know the government has failed the people but we have to look at some of the things responsible for such dismal failure. We are in no way lending credence to the disappointing legacy of Kabbah and his group of opportunists he calls ministers. What we are merely saying is that we have to look at the several scenarios responsible for the poor performance. As long as these scenorious are not addressed, even Abraham will not be able to change the fortune of the people. Interim government or no interim government, the situaiton will be the same.
Having said that, we are convinced that the cry of the people for a neutral set of political governors to lead this country into the next general elelctions has to be respected. We do not see any reason for such wailing if Kabbah were successful.
Of course yes, the constitution has to be strictly respected. But as Jesus Christ says in the Holy Bible that the law is made for man and not man for the law. Considering the situation on the ground at that moment, the proportional representation system was introduced in 1996 even though the constitution has no provision of that nature. We all accepted it because we wanted to bowl out the NPRC junta. If we tampered with the constitution in the interest of the country, why can’t we do that now? The constitution is man-made; so there is nothing wrong in adjusting it as it has provisions for that.
What we are saying is that let the government stop feeding us the fat about the constitution. When it was to its own advantage, it accepted the PR system. Now that the wind is blowing against them, they are crying Judas. For us, the present call for an interim government is premature and untimely as we still have the war to contend with. However, a thousand mile journey begins with a single step. So, let the clarion call continue; let the alarm bell be rung.
The SLPP must realise that theirs is failure. They
should therefore give way to another set of people and
stop preaching to us about the constitution which they
themselves have bastardised and bastardised and bastardised.
A personal View
Journalism is a profession I used to admire and cherish. It smacked of decent, noble and objective men and women whose primemost funciton was to give the public news, views and entertainment. I used to read with reverence and joy news items from newspapers that had all the tenets of an objective press.
The main concern of those who called themselves journalists was the presentation of issues, especially those affecting all of us as a nation, and not the vitriolic personal attacks that have become the alpha and omega of today’s newspaper. As a layman, it was my fervent wish that one day I would become a journalist so that I could help in the re-building and re-shaping of my country.
Those days, yes, those good old days when one found pleasure in reading a piece of paper called newspaper without coming across any character assassination are gone. It seems as if the sweeping revolution that gripped the newspaper industry did more harm than good. It did not only bring about the rapid proliferation of sub-standard tabloids, it also brought into existence people who had no business in the profession.
Journalism then became a free-for-all industry wherein Jack would just get up one morning, put a small wallet under his armpit and parade the length and breadth of Freetown as a journalist. Nobody asks, nobody answers. But tell me, why should anybody ask when the house itself is as filthy as a dustbin? No doubt, the profession is very filthy. The filth has so entrenched itself that it takes a decade to scrub it off.
But you may want to know where the journalists themselves have gone. You may also ask why they have allowed themselves to be dirtied so much so that the profession itself is going down the gutter.
The answer to both queries is right in front of you. The people who proclaim to be journalists are busy mudslinging each other, leaving their basic and sacred duty to the public to swim in desperation for want of attention. They are so concentrated on throwing punches at each other that nobody seems to do what is right.
I am referring particularly to what I have been reading from the newspapers of late. I do agree there are differences of opinion and view in any organisational setup. But if the leadership of that organisation is matured and vision-oriented, those differences would be harnessed and shaped for the benefit of everybody. No organisation should allow itself to be remotely controlled unless it wants to become a disorganisation. I believe there are ways of seeking redress within the organisation if a member feels aggrieved. These ways should preclude any member from seeking outside help.
As a lay person in the field of journalism, I must say I feel awful whenever I read from a newspaper the private affairs of another journalist. I stand to be corrected but if such unfortuante episodes continue to occur, the reading populace would have no option but to class journalists as a bunch of useless people who do not know their right from their left. And if that is the case, those who proclaim of being journalists have no business there. I expect journalists to be matured in the way they handle sensitive issues. But alas, I must say I am gravely disappointed. The flair and feel which journalists of yesteryears had are nowhere to be seen. The veteran journalists whose pre-occupation was the publication of objective, fair and balanced news have been overshadowed and ultimately overcome by young, less enthusiastic, fast-buck making people who would stop at nothing to get what they want. They have many ways of making themselves felt. Yes, the eight, twelve and fourteen-page newspaper has been replaced by a thin looking four-page newspaper that lacks the usual taste.
Added to such unpalatable spectacle is the fact that these papers continue to attack themselves rather than attacking issues of national importance. For me, it does not augur well for the profession, the society and the country as a whole. Every profession has its black sheep but these are always cultured and taught the tenets of that profession. However, this does not seem to be the case with the profession I used to cherish so much. It seems as if its centre cannot hold. So, its members have a field day attacking each other, much to the displeasure and discomfort of decent readers. Today, it is either Mr. A. of Press Z doing this or Mrs. W of Press C doing that.
What puzzles me is the fact that the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists is doing little or nothing to arrest the situation. I would like to say that if you wash your dirty linen in public, then don’t expect sympathy from those that are around. For me, it is a shame, a disgrace and a big disappointment to be hearing that those on whom we depend for accurate information are always at each other’s throat. It has become a case of the dog eating its own kind.
I understand that journalists are tearing themselves apart in the courts of law. These include the president of the journalist’s association. This is an interesting scenario. If those who are writing about people are taking themselves to court, then what should we, the ordinary readers, do when a newspaper writes about us? My humble advice to the belligerent journalists is that they should behave like matured people and settle their differences amicably rather than disgracing themselves in public. If they don’t, then they should not expect any mercy from the ordinary man in the street. No, not at all, because if a robber robs a robber God will only look and laugh.
PARASTATALS: Den of Political Stooges
Every time we listen to radio programmes on developmental issues, we feel sick for our beloved country. Theories, hypothesis, formulae, equations of various concepts on the socio-economic development of this country are discussed. These are all academic exercises and reflections.
Practically, every future planning needs historic data or some form of information on the past and present. The trend and causal factors are analysed and used to project for the future, considering a number of assumptions.
Panelists of economic and social discussion programmes don’t seem to have a thought about the above principle. They discuss issues from an imaginary or ‘dreaming’ point of view, leaving out the realities. If we take a look at where we came from and where we are, you will definitely conclude that we are heading towards dooms day.
The causal factors which led to our present dilapidated situation are still prevalent in the society. A larger proportion of these factors always emanate from parastatals. In fact, parastatals in many countries are considered to be the sources of both political and economic corruption and political instability. For this reason, international funding agencies are insisting that most of the government parastatals which have the potential of making a significant contribution to the economy must be privatised.
The point is, governments and political parties use the parastatals to compensate their supporters regardless of their competence to run such institutions. Most of such supporters are so poor that they don’t even care about what will befall them when there is a new government which might decide to investigate managements of parastatals during the previous government.
Shamelessly, such political appointees will plunder into the finances of the institutions and this will continue government after government, ending up to becoming a financial burden to the nation instead of an asset. But what is more sinister in this practice of maintaining such institutions under the control of government is the development of hatred, political differences,tribalism, nepotism, etc. There is too much dependency on political influence rather than professional competence and output for employees’ development.
As a result, political affiliation on rotational basis becomes the milestone of the institution’s level of employee turnover. When your party wins in the election and becomes the next government, you have the upper hand. Apart from doing whatever you like, you will suppress, marginalise and dismiss those that are not supporting your party. When your party loses in the next election, retaliation becomes a headline.
The tit for tat or all sorts of inquiries will be recommended leading to siezure of properties, imprisonment, self exile and other forms of displacement. There are also some people who are opportunists. Today they are here and tomorrow you find them there. When a particular party wins election, he will switch over from his original party. These people tend to give a seeming attitude of total loyalty more than even those who have struggled to bring up such parties. When the wind blows the other direction in the next election, he switches again. While all these practices are going on, people develop animosity, hatred and enmity for each other.
Consequently, a situation will arise where others would think that they have been marginalised and pushed to the wall. Therefore, for them to survive, they will have to fight back. Depending on the level of anger, education, experience and social background, such people may take explosive action of revenge, a situation in which we find ourselves today. Therefore, any future plan for the development of this country has to take into consideration where we came from, where we are now and the evolving factors that have led to this present situation.
If we are serious about making Sierra Leone a better place for human habitation, let us forget about who is there or here and just privatise these trouble-making sources of Corruption and Confusion called Government Parastatals.
Yes, there are some which you can say have a social role to play such as those involved in infrastructural development e.g. Roads, Regulatory Institutions, Terminal infrsatructure such as Ports and Postal Services. But even at that, public participation should be encouraged to ensure professional practices. It is not good enough to make them 100% government-owned. Governmentr is involved in politics and politics is not a commercial business but a financial consumer.
Government should know that the international financial institutions are no fools. When they put conditions for the provision of funds for a particular sector, a lot of studies would have been carried out to know how effective such funds can be utilised for sustainable growth. When therefore recommendations such as privatisation of certain institutions are made, they will want to ensure that it is done.
People should not therefore selfishly stifle such policies which will benefit the masses. It has now become apparent that the managements of those parastatals which have been named for privatisation are going all out to ensure that this does not happen. They will enter into all bogus arrangements, patnerships, bribing ministers, parliamentarians, permanent secretaries and even the local agents used by the international funding agencies for such policies to be carried out.
Why don’t we stop this selfish attitude that will only lead to the situation in which we are today! These managements will even prefer to make the institutions more unattractive so that government will continue to feel that no one will buy them if put out for sale. If these institutions can be operated viably under government control, nobody will make such recommendations of privatisation. But this is a known fact all over the world that these institutions can only be profitably operated under private ownership.
This is the trend and it has spread widely. It has not only brought about a healthy economic environment but also enhance political and social stability in countries that have implemented such poilicies.
What is wrong with Sierra Leoneans? Why are we so selfish and nepotic? If only and only if this government can do us this favour by ensuring that the institutions are privatised before the end of its term in December 2000 or January 2001, it would have been a favour to this nation. If you are all sleeping, another war is brewing out of the parastatals. No joke - it is going deep, deep down. People are now set for revenge because of what they are going through or what they have gone through. Please dismantle this tension now by implementing the recommended IMF/World Bank conditionalities. We don’t want another Foday Sankoh in this country. But if we don’t change attitudes, our policies, there are a lots of Foday Sankohs in the corner waiting for opportunities to arise.
Our Courts Are Pathetic
It is no gain-saying that the Judiciary is the most neglected branch of government. While the Executive and Legislative branches are heads over heels about fat salaries and better conditions of service, the Judiciary is left to wallow in a state of disrepair and utter neglect.
It is disgustingly shameful to note that the Law Courts building is an eye-sore and therefore a disappointment to many a Sierra Leonean. It seems as if the rehabilitation that was supposed to have been carried out has become a white elephant. Today, the once beautiful pride of this country stands dejected and neglected.
A walk into this relic will shock any lover of decency and neatness. The Court rooms are nothing to write home about. In fact their condition is behind human comprehension. It is utterly disheartening to observe that there are no chairs for Magistrates to sit on.
Last week, a magistrate had to lend a chair from a colleague Magistrate so that he could preside over a case. It was, and still is, a big disappointment. The few available chairs and tables are as old as Adam. So, they always creak and grumble under the weight of those sitting on them. The sitting accommodation for Court Clerks is no better. Rather, they have to patch and panel-beat the boards so that they have a place to sit on. As for the lawyers, your bet is as good as ours as they have to cramp and cluster in a small thing we cannot even call a bench.
The inside of the courts can best be described as spooky. The spiders have married the ceilings so much so that there are cobwebs everywhere. The windows are the worst hit as even an elephant can enter the court through them. What is referred to as entrance is just a big hole that has no cover. The moment you enter any court, you will straight off know that the head of the judiciary does not care a hoot about the deplorable condition of his subjects.
We can still recall when the Chief Justice was campaigning for his National Unity Movement party. Top on his campaign train was the rehabilitation of the courts and resuscitation of the Judiciary. Now that he is head of the noble legal branch, he seems to do nothing. It is even ironical to say that Desmond Luke is, or rather was, a lawyer. We even wonder if he has ever visited the Law Courts to have a first hand appraisal of their dilapidated condition. If he had, his conscience would have forced him to do something about the courts.
We are therefore passionately calling on government through the Attorney-General and the Chief Justice to come to the rescue of the Judiciary. The salaries and other emoluments of the judges and magistrates should be improved; the sitting accommodation in the courts should be a priority; the removal of cobwebs should be carried out, and the complete rehabilitation of the Law Couts building should be done if the judiciary is to assume its pride and beauty. Otherwise, accusations of bribe-taking by members of the judiciary will not die easily as they too have their lives to live.
Exactly a year ago July 7, the historic peace accord between the ‘democratically’ elected government of President Tejan Kabbah and the Revolutionary United Front of Corporal Foday Sankoh was signed in the Togolese city of Lome. It was supposed to put an end to the horrendous and callous atrocities of a nefarious war. The signatories to that accord some of whom called themselves moral guarantors were very optimistic that the situation in Sierra Leone would go for the better. Sierra Leoneans too breathed a sigh of hope that their sufferings, trials and tribulations were over.
The accord was historic as it heralded a lot of controversy both before, during and after its signing. Back home, the Civil Society Movement ‘coerced’ people into observing what the organisers referred to as Civil disobedience as the talks were going on in Lome. The end result of it all was that people lost properties worth thousands of leones only to warmly embrace the accord when it was finally signed.
In Lome, demands upon demands were made by the Revolutionary United Front, all of which were acceded to by Tejan Kabbah. To say the least, this was the genesis of the demise of the accord. A false position equivalent to that of a Vice President was created for Foday Sankoh to pacify him after he almost wrecked the almost completed talks. Hurriedly, one can say, an agreement which turned out to be a disagreement was signed. The gullible and war-wearied citizenry swallowed their pride and let sleeping dogs lie by accepting in good part the document.
But it is interesting to note that hell was let loose when both parties started dragging their feet over the complete implementation of the provisions of the accord. To start with, though the government was to give the RUF a senior cabinet position, it reneged on that probably for fear of being censured. For me, that was a lapse on Kabbah’s part as a man is a man when he keeps to his word. No mater what, the principles of the accord should have been abided by.
Then came the issue of appointing RUF members into parastatals and ambassadorial positions. The government said it had no money to do that. Whether it was sincere or not remains to be seen as just after the May 8 incident which caused the annihilation of the peace accord, Alie Bangura was sent to Ghana to take his office as High Commissioner. Was this not an indication that Kabbah was playing pranks with the accord? However, Kabbah tried his best to fulfill the other provisions of the accord.
For the RUF, there was an apparent lack of honesty and sincerity. The disarmament of rebels was a mountainous task for the DDR programme. Few disarmed as they were very wary. They were with the conviction (perhaps they were right) they would be apprehended after they had disarmed. But the main reason was that Sankoh who had then become Chairman for the Strategic Minerals Commission was dilly-dallying so that he could filthily enrich himself. He made his international contacts so much so that dollars came to him like manna from heaven, so to speak. He had a fleet of vehicles and provided ‘free’ medical care to residents of Lumley and its environs. He used his diamond proceeds to curry favour from politicians,doctors, journalists, lawyers and the ordinary man. If you cannot praise Sankoh for anything, you can commend him for his sly and witty character.
This notwithstanding, there was relative peace in the country. Vehicles and people were moving from one place to another right across the country. There was even talk of people coming from places like Buedu, Koindu, Kambia, to Freetown without let or hindrance. There was cosmetic peace though there were glaring indications of dishonesty and mutual mistrust on both parties.
Then came the issue of the United Nations peacekeepers. The expectations from the ordinary Sierra Leoneans were such that we thought the whole problem would come to an end within seconds. That was far from being the case as the mandate of UNAMSIL was peacekeeping and not peace enforcing like what the ECOMOG forces were doing. We cried foul when some 500 peacekeepers were taken hostage by the RUF rebels. There was furore and disappointment when it became clear that the UNAMSIL could not do anything to rescue their abducted colleagues. We wanted them to fuss and fight; we wanted them to get hold of Sankoh and incarcerate him until his ‘boys’ released the abductees. But the UNAMSIL had their own style. They believed in diplomacy in the settlement of disputes and not war, war and war.
We became despondent and bingo! the Civil Society Movement played on our intelligence and lured us into marching into Sankoh’s house and teach him a bitter lesson that he would never forget. We thought with the RUF leader’s demise, the movement would crumble. What a capital miscalculation. The demonstration took place and twenty-two precious lives were lost. Of course the ex-junta leader was playing his gimmicks in the background. He called a big meeting wherein thousands of his followers were told to assemble at designated points for their arms. To me, this was a costly mistake committed by the government. Johnny was not the right person to do that as we have a Chief of Defence Staff, a Deputy Defence Minister and a Commander-in-Chief or at least an Attorney-General who should have announced a coup plot. The re-arming of the old SLAs was, from all indications, a deadly mistake.
Today, these people are using the same guns against the people while Johnny Paul, who caused the problem, sits and watches helplessly. He can no longer order his bush boys to surrender their guns. Today, they are throwing spanners into the works of UNAMSIL. What good then has Johnny Paul’s so-called peace vision done to this country.
It is an irony that instead of consolidating peace, the ex-junta leader’s boys are consolidating war. If the situation degenerates further, we know who to hold responsible. Today, what appeared twelve months ago to have put an end to a horrendous nightmare is no more. It has been manipulated and thrown into the gutter.
Drugs: a menace in Sierra Leone
Are you aware of the fact that in 1996, the Minister of Health in Sierra Leone was one of the African Health Ministers who appended their signatures in Abidjan to wage war against the rampant abuse and trafficking of drugs in Africa?
The significance of this document, like all other treaties, is to totally involve a government to help the World Health bodies in the fight to eradicate the use of dangerous drugs.
It is also worthy to note that the United Nations World Health Organisation had embarked on the training of categories of individuals from various disciplines to educate and equip them in the drugs war. This has been going on for over a decade now and is still going on.
In Sierra Leone, beneficiaries include law enforcement personnel, journalists, Anti-drug activitists, Customs officers, etc. The question one may be forced to asked is, what have these beneficiaries done to interprete the acquired knowledge into real action?
The journalists’ role is to expose the drug barons, outlets and of course the various centres where drugs are available. The fact is that journalists have been playing their part. Almost on a daily basis, one comes across various stories of drugs abuse in the local tabloids. But are the law enforcement bodies executing their roles? The answer is, No.
The police cannot tell me they are not familiar with the various areas where dangerous drugs are sold publicly. Drugs are no longer hidden. Take a drive along Frederick, Sackvile, Regent and Sibthorpe Streets. Go to the Eastern and Western parts of the city. Youths, both male and female, are seen publicly smoking marijuana or Diamba, sniffing cocaine or injecting themselves with all sorts of dangerous drugs. These drug addicts care less about the laws of the country. My investigations have revealed that, everywhere in the city where palm wine is sold, drugs too are available there.
Customs Officers at the various border points, air and seaports cannot tell me they are not aware of drugs being smuggled in the country mostly by Nigerians.
How many times have custom officers arrested people for drug trafficking? Very very seldom. This points to the fact that either our Customs officers are inefficient or too corrupt to accept heavy bribes from these drug barons to carry out their trade without hindrance.
The rebel war, of course, has added insult to injury. All fighting factions are guilty of the rampant abuse of dangerous drugs. Sierra Leone, from investigations, has become the highest consumer of dangerous drugs than any other country in Africa. It has the most porous border points for the trafficking of dangerous drugs from and to the outside world. This is dangerous and very unfortunate for a country which is a signatory to the fight against drugs.
The government through its law enforcement agencies must redouble its efforts to minimise this menace. Our youths have become addicted to drugs and more are being converted to this deadly act.
This Newspaper campaigns against drug abuse. We welcome articles, write-ups, opinions, etc.
Help to fight against Drug abuse. Drugs are dangerous. Stop their use.
June 26th 2000
The hostage-taking saga that almost stalled the operations of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force, UNAMSIL, has come to an end. Though some, if not all, of the hostages were mistreated by rebels of the Revolutionary United Front, we are deeply gratified that they are now back in Freetown.
We are also gratified by the fact that none of the contributing countries whose men were involved in this unfortunate episode is thinking of a pull-out. All indications point to the hard truth that the abducted peacekeepers had a rough ride with thier abductees. In addition to the lack of proper food and lodging facilities, the men were also subjected to all sorts of inhuman treatment such as flogging and tying them against trees. What an unpleasant experience at the hands of people, if not monsters, who do not understand what the term ‘civilisation’ really means.
But all said and done, our peacekeepers are back to base, ready more that ever to carry on with their work. Though they were traumatised, the UNAMSIL personnel are very resolute in their bid to bring total and everlasting peace and security to a bleeding nation. Their three weeks’ stay with their captors did not in any way demoralise them. We are very much happy about that.
We are also grateful to President Charles Taylor of Liberia for facilitating the release of the peackeepers. Taylor may have an ace up his sleeve as far as the Sierra Leone crisis is concerned, but we must give him some credit. We are quite aware that the Liberian President’s hands are filthy with our problems; we are aware that he vowed to make us, Sierra Leoneans, taste the bitterness of war, and indeed he carried out his threat. But when he used his devilish influence on the RUF to salvage an ugly, distasteful and embarassing situation, we join the United Nations in saying a big thank you to him.
We are with the fervent hope that Charles Taylor would use whatever influence he has to stop the rebels from committing further atrocities on innocent people; we also hope Taylor would talk sense into his compatriots for them to stop fighting.
Having said that, we very much concerned about the arms and ammunition which were siezed from the abducted UN personnel. The men have been released but what about the arms and heavy weaponry? They too must be released. It sounds dangerous and disastrous if the rebels continue to use those weapons.
Our source intimated us that some of the siezed amoured vehicles and heavy artillery were used by the rebels during their attack on pro-government forces in Lunsar. Does that not smack doom and disaster?
We are very much apprehensive about the thought that the rebels might have coerced the peacekeepers into training them in the use of the weapons. We are also worried by the fact that the rebels have moved all their heavy weaponry to Kono in readiness for any assault by government forces.
In this wise, we are calling on the government to bear pressure on Charles Taylor to release those weapons. The government should use its international connection to retrieve those arms from the rebels. Also, the United Nations from which those arms were siezed should do something to get them back. They should not only concern themselves with the release of the personnel; the arms are equally important.
We are therefore calling on President Charles Taylor, the
government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations to
do all in their power to get back the arms from the rebels.
REFLECTION - June 26th 2000.
The country witnessed another brutal massacre of civilians who took to the streets to exercise one of the democratic rights on May 8 this year by Sankoh’s RUF rebels .
On that fateful day, twenty-two innocent souls were killed and up to the moment of writing this piece, the several others that sustained serious injuries are still hospitalised.
Before dilating on what some people perceive as the blunders surrounding that peace demonstration, it is but necessary to examine the causes of the demonstration.
On May1 this year, it was alledged that the RUF leader, then chairman Foday Sankoh ordered his men to abduct over 500 UNAMSIL personel in the north of the country.
This, action coupled with the snail pace of the disarmament, was seen as a last straw to broke the camel’s back to the arrest of Sankoh particularly the Freetown populace who have seen this as been long overdue.
Therefore when Parliamentarians and some members of the Civil Society Movement (CSM) asked Freetonians to come out on that fateful day and demonstrate against Sankoh’s naked aggression, the call was answered to without any examination of the implications.
I must state here that the demonstration itself was very untimely and unnecessary, considering the then volatile situation and manner in which it was organised and implemented.
In the first place I see no justification for the mobilization of people to take to the street at that time, when the organisers themselves did not know the type of individuals that would take part. Under such circumstance, unscruplous individuals used the occassion to sabotage the programme..
Another major blunder that was evident on that May 8 unfortunate incident was the failure of the organisers and the government to provide security for the people. They were aware of the fact that Sankoh had been making a military build up at his Spur Road residence since last year as was constantly echoed by local tabloids. Adequate security arrangements should have therefore been put in place to counter any eventuality. But alas, that was never done; instead poor, innocent and unarmed civilians were pushed to Sankoh’s house and twenty-two lives perished.
Other schools of thought argued that there was no justification for the orginisers to allow people to storm Sankoh’s residence to demonstrate. They agreed that Sankoh, being a rebel leader, should not be trusted. But according to them there were many areas such as the Victoria park, National stadium and even the UN building for people to air out their views on the issues pertaining national security.
I subscribe to this view, considering the dangerous threats made by Sankoh’s rebels at his residence at a group of women who visited him on the same purpose two days earlier. And besides, I do not know of any demonstration during which the residence of the targeted individual was visited.
The demonstration became even more dangerous when on the eve of that day, several callers on a phone-in programme called for the mutilation of Sankoh should they reach his residence.
I am not defending Sankoh, but it is neccessary to highlight some of the lapses of the organisers as a lesson for future demonstrations. Everyone will agree with me that killing Sankoh is not even enough compared to the series of crimes he and his RUF rebels have committed and are still committing against the people of this country. I do not even believe it is the solution to our crisis.
Now, most of the peacekeepers have been released, but the entire disarmament process has become an academic affair as the war continues to rage second after second.
As a result more souls continue to be lost, properties destroyed and the future to the end of war continues to be bleak.
It is in the light of the above that I want to categorically state that the May 8 demonstration, far from achieving it aims and objectives, only succeeded in exploding the violatile situation, which, to all intents and purposes, has further deepened our crisis.
When the Lome Peace Agreement was signed almost a year ago, it was greeted with euphoria and fanfare, as it was seen as the perfect blueprint for the permanent cessation of death and destruction in the country. Indeed for a while and to a great extent, it gave to the average Sierra Leonean some respite.
Although the accord was intermittently obstructed by certain unwarranted incidents, it still continued to serve a useful purpose as the obstacles were overcome through dialogue. This gave confidence to Sierra Leoneans that indeed dialogue was the only way out of the country’s nemesis. People were able to move at least to some parts of the country that had been inaccessible for quite some time. It was seen as a means to ending the nine years of tribulations.
Forgiveness and genuine reconciliation as a prerequisite for peace had been wholeheartedly accepted by ordinary citizens and even victims of heinous crimes.
Had this pace been enhanced, what we are currently faced with would have been a thing of the past. This was however comprehensively overshadowed by the total lack of confidence, honesty and commitment on both sides.
The people’s confidence and the beam on the face of mother Sierra Leone have systematically evaporated.
Perhaps one of the covert reasons that were unbeknowing to the ordinary hopeful Sierra Leonean was suspicion and lack of trust by both parties. By this show of distrust, they both renege on their pledge to ensure peace and stability to the people of Sierra Leone.
By the terms of the Lome Agreement, there are specific provisions that urged for the settlement of conflicts and misunderstandings through identified channels, without resorting to the use of arms. Neither of the parties resorted to such mechanisms as a means for conflict management.
On the other hand, the government particularly reneged on its pivotal responsibility of asserting its absolute control over national affairs in the country. For instance, the RUF and its leadership were left alone all by themselves to determine their activities without any check.
Evidences provided by documents retrieved from Sankoh’s enclosure manifested how careless and unconcerned the government was. No wonder the RUF leadership felt big for its shoes.
The refusal of government to award the RUF with positions to parastatals, ministries and diplomatic appointments, the reluctance of government to remove impediments that prevented RUF/SL sympathisers from holding or returning to their jobs, coupled with euphemisms of possible reprisals against RUF members and alleged sympathisers once the disarmament was completed are burning issues that cannot to overemphasised.
Likewise, the abduction of UNAMSIL personnel, the continued occupation of economically viable areas and their attendant plundering, the continued detention of civilian hostages and the alleged external inferences on the RUF contributed considerably to the resurgence of hostilities.
The question here is: Would these problem areas not have been resolved by the parties? Where commitment and honesty were available undoubtedly, it is indeed very possible to have resolved them. But why? The covert agendas of both sides could not in any way be compromised for peace and stability for the Sierra Leonean people.
It is without doubt that the people have suffered for far too long, and want peace. The people especially those that suffered direct physical pains in the hands of perpetrators had swallowed the bitter pill, just for peace. This was an indication that the people will not settle for anything other than peace. War for nearly a decade has yielded only devastation and death. Within a month alone, humanitarian organisations have reported hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons, who are once more faced with despicable conditions.
The people do not want any war again that will finally nail their coffins. Their lives have been re-reduced well below standard level. Anything that is done now towards the military prosecution of the war will be detrimental to the welfare of the people. The people need to rebuild their shattered lives, upgrade their health status, maintain their children, send them to school and prepare them for the task of responsible manhood. The meagre resources the country is receiving should not be seen to be directed towards a war that cannot be won militarily.
The people’s desire for peace and stability should not be overshadowed by the quest for political hegemony, thereby obstructing the direction of the people. Their acceptance of the Lome Agreement and their show of acceptance of perpetrators are again an indicator that nothing other than peace is on their minds.
Therefore if the government and its allies are gearing towards war, the people are gearing towards peace. Nowhere in this modern world has war succeeded over war to attain peace. Only if Sierra Leone is to be an exception. But who will survive to explain the story to posterity?
The Pool Newspaper
1, Short Street