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AGONY OF A COLLABORATION - Part 17
AGONY OF A COLLABORATION: PART XVII
As a sequel to President Kabbah’s maiden address following his reinstatement, we no longer deceived ourselves of an early release. There were a few gullible collaborators who deluded themselves into believing that denouncing the AFRC and denying ever being close to them would secure and facilitate their release.
"PETER(S) DENIES CHRIST"
The greatest and vigorous denials of Johnny Paul had begun. President Kabbah’s uncompromising call for tough measures had unnerved many collaborators. Key players in the AFRC military administration traded accusations against each other. “ I was taken from my home under heavy military escort and forced to accept an appointment in their illegal regime”. Once boisterous functionaries of the AFRC were now castigating the system.
Others had worse and more derogatory remarks. “Johnny Paul was a buffoon. Whoever predicted to him that he was a presidential material made a fool of him.” Where those utterances precipitated by the misery and dehumanising prison conditions or were they a desperate move to exonerate themselves in self-righteousness for fear of death or long- term jail sentences? I sought for a rationale to the GREAT DENIALS, greater than those of Peter against Christ.
As I sat in my cell that Tuesday morning pondering over the emerging tension -packed atmosphere, Tamba Gborie, the brave soldier who announced the overthrow of Kabbah and his SLPP, briskly walked in.
“Hi fellow, he began, “why do you look so sad?”
“Tamba, some of our colleagues are denying ever knowing us. What is worrying is that they might be tempted to implicate other persons especially now that we are being interrogated at the Criminal Investigations Department,” I replied.
Gborie looked at me for a long time, apparently weighing his words before he answered.
“Comrade, I want you to understand that none of you presently detained feel more bitter than I do. I was betrayed by my very friends in the AFRC who abandoned me in this jail in their hasty retreat from town. What could be more treacherous than this act? But look at what happened, nearly 60 percent of AFRC top brass are here after being apprehended in scattered locations within and outside the country.”
This reply was the primer, my guide to appreciating the apotheosis and deeper feelings of imprisoned persons at Pademba, with regards to Nigeria’s blitzkrieg invasion of Sierra Leone. I did a quick capitulation: Upon their costly reinstatement, the SLPP took their revenge by instigating the mob into attacking the country’s prominent opposition leaders particularly APC stalwats.
SLPP'S MASS GRAVES AT KOSSOH TOWN!
For several days, kamajor elements as well as SLPP thugs ran amok. Within the first twenty-four hours of routing Johnny Paul’s AFRC, two hundred and thirteen labelled collaborators were gunned down by hired Nigerian mercenaries. The existence of four mass graves at the Kossoh town map area provides unimpeachable evidence and proof of my assertions.
SLPP'S GAS CHAMBERS KILLED 68 "COLLABORATORS"!
In Freetown alone, sixty-eight labelled “JUNTA’ were burnt alive including renown Islamic clerics. Sheik Mujtabah was burnt along with his Holy Quran by SLPP agents of death. There was a kind of logic, given the psycopathic behaviour of SLPP thugs. Their object was persecution, torture, murder and getting even with perceived enemies for the sake of power.
Still, the ferocity, vengeance and despotism directed against labelled collaborators eludes my comprehension. SLPP thugs had developed their own ‘GAS CHAMBER’:- tyres were hung around the victim (labelled collaborator) and petrol sprayed on him to ensure a fast and spectacular death.
Local so-called Human rights activists nodded their approval and pleasure.
“There is some sort of activity outside” observed Gborie. We reluctantly went out to find out.
“Have they brought some more detainees?” (detainee was our preferred name to prisoner, not that it made any difference) I asked no one in particular.
Someone replied that five very important prisoners had arrived.
“They have come with Colonel A.K. Sesay, Flight-Lieutenant Victor King, Arnold Bangura, Nelson Williams and L.D. Howard.”
My heart missed a beat as I saw Colonel A.K. Sesay staring at the prison compound. He was to become the most prized prisoner until he and twenty three others were executed by firing squad in October 1998, sending to an early death the country’s most intelligent, courteous, innovative and respectful military officers. The SLPP was determined to wipe out what they now called a rebel army.
“No more coup in this country.” “We will flush out the rebels.” “No dialogue.” “We shall fight this war to its logical end,” bla bla bla, were the quibblings of so-called pro-democrats like Julius Spencer, Alie Bangura, Elizabeth Lavalie, etc.
The SLPP was emboldened by the assurances given by the monstrous Abacha to provide the personnel, fighting against the AFRC/RUF alliance which had gone back into the jungle to take on the Nigeria-kamajor army.
The country had paid a terrible price in terms of human, infrastructure and economic. Nigerian callousness led to the cowardly act of bombing the Chinese built military headquarters at Cockerill, Freetown. The Nigerian alfa jet zoomed out of the setting sun and obliterated the multi million dolar facility - one of the best in Africa. Eighteen soldiers were pulverised and their remains blended with debris.
I was astounded by this act of naked aggression and genuinely stunned by Abacha’s action, given his record of anti-progress, anti-democracy, anti-human right, etc.
In all of this, the SLPP covertly recruited persons that were to constitute their NEW ARMY. They cleverly obfuscated their ulterior motive - a tribally biased and SLPP loyal army. Kamajor ‘jingoism’ was trumpeted so loud that it became nauseating.
By the end of July, the first three sets of civilian groups had been charged with treason, treason-felony, aiding and abetting, endeavouring and such other ridiculous gibberish. The man who took the challenge to ensure that every charged collaborator died, was Solomon Ekuma Berewa, the former legal spokesman in the illegal military junta of Valentine Strasser.
It was at this stage that we pleaded with God to expedite the demise of Abacha.
“Lord, hit the nuisance hard and fast” we prayed.
God heard our prayer, for the frakenstein monster was sent to his grave in a most shameful and bizzare manner.
The SLPP was shattered. There was a quiet and suppressed exhuberance amongst the jailed collaborators. The SLPP’s discomfiture was to be short lived as the persecution of labelled collaborators was to be pursued with renewed vigour and by God, an astronomical human casualty followed.
to be continued...
AGONY OF A COLLABORATION - Part 16
AGONY OF A COLLABORATION: PART XVI
By Augustus Mye-Kamara
As I sat glued to my illegally ‘vultured’ transistor radio that morning, colleague labelled collaborators became attracted by the steadily increasing crowd of listeners. We were all listening to the very first address of President Kabbah after he was SUCCESSFULLY RESTORED in February 1998.
His speech was long but absolutely potent and I was left with no doubt that the SLPP intended to eliminate every single player in the AFRC military administration. President Kabbah disclosed that he had known about the plot to overthrow his government three days before the coup was staged. He further revealed that his top commanders betrayed him by colluding with the coupists.
“No effort was made by my chief of defence staff to overturn the coup, and what subsequently happened was as a result of his treachery, deceit and ineptitude,” roared president Kabbah. He was clearly referring to Brigadier Hassan Karim Conteh. Parliamentarians heartily applauded him.
By the time the President concluded, Pademba prison was as quite as a graveyard, for everyone of us then knew that our days on earth were numbered. The speech was worrisome and the general mood in prison became eerily sombre, shattering and sobering.
I turned my face away to the heavens in supplication and pleaded with God to intercede on our behalf as the force against us- labelled collaborators was overwhelmingly powerful with an insatiable desire for human life. Nobody said anything for a long time after listening to president Kabbah’s pronouncement of the death sentence on all collaborators.
As the painful realisation of imminent death dawned upon us, the prison officers, for some inexplicable reason suddenly ordered us to move into our various cells. It was 11:47am. The usual lock up time being 5:00pm, I was very disturbed by this new development.
POISONING OF THE COLLABORATORS: But of course, nothing was strange or new in prison anymore. Those labelled collaborators who dared to speak out their minds too boldly against SLPP tyranny, brutality and politics of tribalism were poisoned with a substance meant to bind metal objects in carpentry workshops. This substance, known locally as ‘paste’was in actual fact CASAMITE, which had the capacity to bind the intestines of the victims and death usuallly followed within a few minutes but not until the victim had gone through a most tortuous agony.
I was in a daze as I walked towards my jail house with captain Simbo Sankoh closely behind. I waited until we entered the building before I engaged him in conversation. “What do you make of President Kabbah’s address to parliament?” I asked.
Simbo looked at me for some time before he made up his mind to give the reply that would remain in my memory for eternity. “Believe me brother, president Kabbah meant every single word he uttered. He is ready to wipe out all of us and sadly, there seem to be no opposition to the SLPP’s annililation of targeted persons whom they collectively branded as APC”.
Simbo abruptly stopped talking. He was in tears- bitter tears of disappointment, ingratitude and betrayal rolled down his distraught face.. He was still sobbing when an intruder, obviously one of the twentyone spies infiltrated into the prison to ‘report’ on us, entered my cell.
“President Kabbah has already ordained the executions of labelled collaborators it seems” interjected the SLPP spy.
I was so enraged by this remark that I launched a verbal assault on the wretch. “I wonder why we should be killed for serving a De Facto regime. Didn’t President Kabbah, Solomon Ekuma Berewa, Banda Thomas and many other top SLPP functionaries serve the military junta of Captain Strasser? Were they killed? If the president himself confessed having fore knowledge of the coup during its preparatory stages but failed to take action, is he not guilty of criminal negligence?” I lashed at this scum of the earth so severely that he had no opportunity to defend his SLPP.
My outburst clearly had an unsettling effect on him, for he left my cell without another word. “This fellow will report this encounter to the prison authorities” Simbo warned, to which I replied” I don’t give a hoot”!
Well, the prison officers definitely got the ‘report’ as I was called up in the office of the prison commandant to explain why I made, in their estimation, uncomplimentary remarks against the SLPP.
I explained to the commandant that I merely said the truth, bringing out the incidence of double standards and selective justice. Sensing that I was uncompromising, the prison commandant ordered that I left his office with the warning that “I take care of my utterances as the consequencies could be serious next time”.
I thanked the hypocrite profusely and left.
I reached my cell to notice that two more persons had been added to our number. We were now fifteen inmates in a tiny cell, full of filth and squalor. I knew beyond doubt that the increase was precipitated by my attack on the SLPP.
One of the new inmates looked emaciated and carried a very offensive odour. “You have obviously not had a bath for sometime” I observed.
“Oh, I was brought here in chains. The rest of my colleagues were brutally murdered by kamajor elements in Moyamba-seventeen of them. Most of them were disembowelled and their entrails prepared as a DISH for the consumption of new initiates into the Kamajor army. No doubt, an act of naked cannibalism”. He replied.
I wanted to find out more from my new friend. “But who are you and they that were murdered?” I asked. The fellow looked at me directly in the face and answered. “My cousin is a serving member in the army. He was deployed in Moyamba but I was based in Freetown. When the Nigerians begun their reckless bombardment of the city, I went to a safer area-Moyamba. I discovered later that my cousin was in that town and I went to stay with him at his residence. That was all.”
I shook my head in bewilderment. But certainly, the orgy of killings, butchering and banality visited upon associates of the AFRC was not just for the overthrow of the SLPP. Why, for instance did the SLPP thugs burn to death several hundreds because they ‘jubilated’ for the soldiers and what was more, why were we incarcerated for continuing our normal work routine during the period?
The answers to those questions soon became apparent as the team of investigators singalled that they were ready to begin the process of concocting the most ridiculous and bizarre charges against the targeted collaborators of 1998.
I had spent at least six months or one hundred and eighty-one days before I was called to make a statement at the criminal investigations department.
SLPP, respecters of human rights and DEMOCRATS indeed , but their own brand of democracy had just begun. . .
TO BE CONTINUED.
AGONY OF A COLLABORATION - Part 15
Agony of a collaboration Part XV
The hopes of the incarcerated labelled collaborators of 1998 were rekindled after we learnt about the imminent arrival and ‘TRIUMPHANT’ return of the President to his seat of power.
Alas, these hopes were premature and sadly misplaced, for contrary to our thoughts, president Kabbah, the former Chief Adviser to Valentine Strasser’s illegal government, had his own agenda.
Barely seventy-two hours after he was BROUGHT BACK by his staunchest supporter, Lansana Conte of Guinea and the irrascible dictator, Sani Abacha, Tejan Kabbah convened an emergency session in Parliament.
We deluded ourselves of pronouncements of goodwill, reconciliation, forgiveness and early freedom. I in parlicular had the premonition that all of us were doomed and I strongly believed that an early release from prison was unlikely, in fact wishful thinking.
My fears were to be proved right, for in parliament, each and every speaker damned us for collaborating with Johnny Paul’s AFRC junta and called for measures that would not only serve as a LESSON to others (would-be collaborators) but as a deterrent to future coups.
As I sat on one of the filthy pavements in prison listening to the deliberations in parliament that fateful Monday, I was under no illusion that the SLPP would never feel satisfied until all targeted persons were EXPUNGED from the face of the earth.
For the first time in my life, I was genuinely scared, given the hate, prejudice, villification and vendetta espoused in the various statements made by SLPP loyalists. Some of the SLPP parliamentarians called for EXECUTIONS WITHOUT TRIAL whilst others used the opportunity to hit back at persons against whom they had nursed a grudge.
In particular, the APC party was singled out for bashing as the SLPP believed then and even now, that the AFRC coup was orchestrated, facilitated and financed by elements within the APC party. You could now see why any prominent APC politician that was unfortunate to have been present in Freetown during the invasion to rout Johnny Paul became a target.
Many such people were brutally murdered by so-called pro-democrats, who, in actual fact, were SLPP thugs. Let me explain - people like Alhaji Musa Kabia, Sakomah, Sheik Mujtabah and Ibrahim Turay were burnt to death. They were all strong APC stalwarts.What made their case uniquely incomprehensible was the fact that they weren’t soldiers, nor were they appointed to serve in any position during the nine months of military rule. But yet the SLPP made those people their first targets for extermination. The four of them were burnt alive after their personal effects had been carted away by SLPP agents of death.
I am not defending the APC here nor do I serve as their party’s prosecutor. I am merely bringing out instances of SLPP extremity, brutality and flagrant disregard for human rights, due process and vindictiveness.
Many of us were doomed and condemned to die and our incarceration was only a charrade to pacify the belated uproar of the inept, hypocritical International Community, which, having fanned the flames of fire, turned round to find scapegoats.
The United Nations gave tacit approval on the use of force and every means possible to reinstate President Kabbah. The genocide that followed as a consequence of their irrational and irresponsible RESOLUTIONS should be placed squarely on them.
Like I said, I was very worried that Monday morning, following the pronouncements made by SLPP parliamentarians, calling for TOUGH MEASURES to be used to discipline us for betraying them (SLPP). It should be noted that the SLPP had lived in political oblivion for close to three decades and they had resolved, on the assumption of power in 1996, that their party would rule for forty years. The coup of 1997 was therefore unacceptable - a denial and betrayal to them.
“Wait, listen, President Kabbah is making a statement”, I was suddenly awakened from my reverie by the sharpness of Victor’s voice. I hardly noticed his presence. By the way, a prisoner was not allowed to own a radio and the one I had was provided by a ‘YUBBA( vulture). In jail, since almost everything was forbidden by the Ordinance, we resorted to the underworld. If you saw a man with a tin of sardine, for example, you would be amazed as to how he got it. Should you inquire further, you would be told that the vulture flew in with it. The vulture, known by us, collaborators, as the ‘YUBBA’ was in actual fact a conduit which we used to ‘SMUGGLE’ certain basic necesities like toilet soap, cigarettes, medicines, etc. since official prison bureacracy was very much weighed against us.
“I am confident that Pa Kabbah will demonstrate magnanimity and order our immediate release.” Everyone turned to see the speaker of those words. It was Captain Simbo Sankoh. He was the Aide De camp to Johnny Paul Koroma.
“Why are you so sure?” I asked Simbo.
“Because I dreamt it and my dreams always come true.” Simbo replied.
Simbo Sankoh, his dreams were always true up to a point, but the one he had about Pa kabbah releasing us was definitely not true, for he and twenty three others were executed by firing squad on Monday 19th October 1998 amidst drumming and dancing by SLPP loyalists.
But of course President Kabbah was still making his first statement in Parliament since his restoration and I told Simbo to listen more attentively. Everyone was now listening intently to President Kabbah.
TO BE CONTINUED.....
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