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Agony of a collaborator PART XX


The first three sets of charged civilian collaborators were faced with a new, unforeseen problem. Solomon Ekuma Berewa, the SLPP Attorney General had begun to re-awaken fresh emotions when, in a very cleverly contrived move, he compared the treason trials of Francis Minah and others in 1987 with the ongoing.


Francis Minah, a vice president under Momoh, had conspired with seventeen others to overthrow the government by unlawful means. The drama and revelations that unfolded in those trials could make interesting reading in some other book I intend to write. The lawyer that represented F.M. Minah was Solomon Ekuma Berewa.

After nearly two years of often bitter and acrimonious exchanges in the various courts (High, Appeal and Supreme), Minah, along with 13 others were subsequently sentenced and hanged.

They were hanged in October 1989, a month that was symbolic to Berewa as he chose to commemorate their deaths by executing 24 soldiers on the same date nine years later. I shall soon come to that.

The labelled collaborators had a monumental task ahead as the selected judges had made up their minds and already knew the final verdict even before the contracted ‘witnesses’ started giving evidence to corroborate Berewa’s hypothesis. Meanwhile, a deluge of criticisms against Johnny Paul’s indecision and weakness began, as the court verdicts got frighteningly close. Labelled collaborators no longer deluded themselves into believing that things will get better.


Outside of Prison, SLPP propagandists called for a swift trial. I made sure I listened to the Radio of death, FM 98.1, every day in an effort to assess public opinion about us. The call for our deaths continued with undiminIshed intensity. Nothing doused the feelings of hate and revenge imbued by the SLPP loyalists. They made sure they dominated radio phone-in programmes to castigate us and to reinforce their desire to expunge us from the face of the earth.

The SLPP effectively stage-managed the anti -AFRC demonstrations and used such occasions to justify their display of absolutism. If a few dozens of SLPP thugs made a nuisance at some orchestrated rally calling for the death of collaborators, Julius Spencer would promptly trumpet such a farce as being the collective opinions or overwhelming majority speaking. Spencer, a little known drama teacher, had suddenly been catapulted to cabinet rank, as an act of gratitude for his vociferous denunciation of the AFRC. He used his dramatic skills well.


Spencer, alias, Joe Williams and Alie Bangura (an unrefined countryman) alias Abdul Akim believed that to be chosen to hunt down targeted people was the highest accolade bestowed upon them. They became bogeymen, and in later editions, I shall vigorously demystify the attitude and actions of these two SLPP agents of death.


On Monday 3rd August 1998, I listened to a radio discussion programme on the proposed ‘Truth Before Reconciliation’. In fact, most SLPP thugs were calling for JUSTICE BEFORE RECONCILIATION meaning, they would reconcile with our bones in the graves. I had an odd sense of deja vu just as a particular speaker made this suggestion. I became dejected and, for the first time, sent a conduit (yuba) to my mother with a very heart-breaking message: “Tell my mother, she either bribes to get me out of this hell now or it would be too late”.


The last of my mother’s exiguous savings were expended to secure my freedom. Honourable Catherine Latiff Kamara ( I use‘honourable’ because she is indeed a Member of Parliament, not indicative of her dishonourable behaviour in fleecing my poor mother) led my mother to believe that she could get me out of Prison if a certain amount was given to her. My unsuspecting mother, eager to rescue a son from the claws of death, paid the fee in full. I was not released, nor was I ever going to be by the SLPP, for I was among a group of specially targeted collaborators reserved for later drama.


I was still listening to my radio when I heard a stir outside my cell. I quickly turned down the volume and concealed my most prized treasure to find out what was amiss. There were pockets of an assorted mix of collaborators. I could see the distraught faces of my colleagues engaged in an animated conversation. What were they talking about? What was happening?

Pademba Prisons was never short of news. I remember one Thursday morning when a friend of mine entered my cell unannounced and, gasping, reported that president Kabbah suffered electric shock in his bedroom over night. Such wishful and evil thinking against the President was the commonest thing. The name given to the carriers of unfounded stories was VOPP (Voice of Pademba Prisons) and there were several such people. “Why are people in such a pensive and restless mood?” I asked, no one in particular.


“Mr. Sam is dead. He died last night under suspicious circumstances,” Philip replied, adding “he was poisoned as is evidenced by his blackened corpse”. My initial reaction to this was to join the bandwagon and fire off a few choice words to the Prison authorities for this naked murder. Then, I thought about it. I had no proof; this was an allegation which needed careful study. I went to the prison doctor for his opinion after the postmortem. The doctor gave me a very professional reply without looking at me, “Sam died of intestinal complications”.

That was it! The legally minded call it MENS REA, the guilty state of the mind. What the doctor told me was not true. On the contrary, BORAX was mixed in Sam’s food which killed him. But why would anyone want to kill this intelligent lecturer? It was many days later that a common law criminal disclosed to me that borax was mixed in our food to kill those of us who have shown a resilience to emotional suffering.


Later that month, Gibril Massaquoi was surreptitiously removed from prison and taken to the Cape Sierra Hotel. In the presence of Max Khobe, the chief mercenary, Berewa offered Massaquoi a house, car and scholarship to pursue further studies if he agreed to testify against Foday Sankoh and implicate him in several charges Berewa had already concocted.

Massaquoi refused to play ball but Berewa was not a man to put off easily. He used another opportunity and had Gibril taken to Wilberforce, this time to the mercenary spokesman, Chris Olukulade. Again, heaven was promised Gibril if he agreed to frame the IRCR (International Committee of the Red Cross) with duplicity and supplying arms and ammunition to the RUF. Solomon Ekuma Berewa, now bohemian, was setting the stage for a repetition of history and a date in October was the date he had in mind for good reason...



Agony of a collaborator PART XIX

The Court appearances had begun and this caused very emotional scenes in Pademba Prison. It was about this same time that the prison authorities permitted us to a two-hour physical exercise every Saturday. This change of heart on the part of the prison officers was not out of sympathy or love for us, but rather to comply with standard prison regulations. Since we were ultimately going to be sentenced and condemned to death, prison statutes provided that a condemned prisoner should be of a given weight to ensure that the process of executions at the GALLOWS was not delayed.

Once the first three sets of labelled collaborators started court appearances, their diet was ‘improved’ considerably. Members of the legal profession had a field day. Some lawyers demanded as high as ten thousand dollars as legal fees. Even in spite of these extortionist acts, SLPP government agents threatened, blackmailed and carried out physical assaults on those lawyers that expressed willingness to represent certain collaborators.

Even though our spirits were dampened by the consciousness of imminent death, we made use of the Saturday recreation time to our full advantage. The prison football field was situated close to the female section of the prison compound.

Every Saturday I made sure I went to the field not for the purpose of exercising, but in order to have a glimpse at a woman, just any woman, as the ladies didn’t care much about exposing their bodies. Some of them could be seen parading their corridor with only an underwear and I never missed those scenes, for I soon realised that merely feasting my eyes on our ladies was enough consolation as the act helped to ease off a lot of tension in me.

Sadly, this minor token was also banned and we were told later that because of our increasing intimacy with our female collaborator counterparts, the senior officers would no longer allow us to play football. We devised a new strategy to defeat this monstrous ploy to deprive us of our new-found entertainment.

At least we were able to converse with our colleague female collaborators even though we had to ensure that no prison guard was watching. There were no toilets in Pademba prison. This meant that any one that desired to ease off the digested matter would have to squat in an open AUTOPIT which, incidentally, was situated close to the female section! So you see, those who were naturally shy found it extremely difficult to answer to the call of nature in the full glare of women!

I used the pretext of going to the toilet to talk to several females like Major Kula Samba, the lady that was to be executed by firing squad (the only woman to have faced a firing squad in the world). The SLPP was definitely extraordinary. Soon afterwards, our church programmes on Sundays were also cancelled and the church locked.

The church was closed to prisoner use because former president Momoh was alleged to have preached an anti SLPP sermon. In fact ex-president Momoh never preaced at any given time. The strategy of the prison officers was to ensure that as labelled collaborators, we should not be allowed to enliven ourselves, regain strength and adapt to the harsh prison conditions. We were made to live in a perpetual psychosis of fear, frustration and humiliation.

The SLPP extended the hunt for collaborators to neighbouring countries. For this, several so called pro democrats were contracted. Richie Olu Awoonor Gordon had elected to pursue and apprehend labelled junta journalists seeking refuge in West African states. He paid, out of his pocket, (some of A.K Sesay’s dollars inclusive, no doubt) to chase Ibrahim Seaga Shaw in Senegal. Olu Gordon spotted Shaw in Dakar airport and wasted no time in hollering-REBEL, REBEL. The by-standers, genuinely bewildered, thought Gordon was mad as it was strange for a rebel to stupidly surface in an obviously dangerous place like the airport.

‘What does rebel mean?’ A French lady asked Olu. Olu replied that Shaw and others had continued to serve as journalists during the nine months of illegal junta rule in Sierra Leone. I knew about this through my secret radio(sent in by a YUBBA). Shaw didn’t even bother with Olu as he simply brushed the part of his shirt rumpled by Gordon’s grip and boarded a flight for Paris.

In spite of this setback, Olu Gordon reported back home that he had ‘arrested’ Shaw and that the Senegalese authorities were presently detaining him. His colleague pro democrats heartily clapped, not in the least suspicious of his deception. Already, there were at least a dozen journalists firmly locked and others amongst the charged, for serving as propagandists for the AFRC. The irony of Olu Gordon’s action was not lost on us given the fact that he was among a group of journalists that received bribe from Colonel A.K.Sesay to embark on positive propaganda on behalf of the AFRC. I desired to find out more about the perfidious act of Olu Gordon and his new posturing as a true blooded pro democrat.

I went to Colonel Sesay himself and inquired. “Colonel Sesay, did you give money to journalists for the purpose of propagating AFRC ideals?” I asked. “A lot, Colonel Sesay declared. But those we paid are the same ones that are now gearing up to give evidence against us at the ongoing trials.” A.K. Sesay confided in me that he gave$4800 to Olu Gordon. Even in his death, Colonel Sesay’s lamentation on the double standards of members of the fourth estate was unequivocal before a barrage of bullets riddled his head and chest.

I had just come out of Colonel Sesay’s cell when I noticed an ageing Lebanese who had been mistasken for a Ukrainian, sprawled languidly on the bare floor. “Old man, why are you here?” I asked. In broken English, the toothless man replied that he was bundled from the streets by SLPP thugs who accused him of being the Ukrainian pilot of the military gunship.

He continued, “what is really happening?” For an answer, I chose to give this depressed man a background. “On 25 May 1997, the ‘democratically’ elected government of President Kabbah was overthrown by a disgruntled coalition of army personnel from the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council AFRC and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) under the command of Major Johnny Paul Koroma. President Kabbah fled to exile in neighbouring Guinea. The ECOMOG forces, led by a predominantly Nigerian contingent, undertook the invasion of Sierra Leone.

President Kabbah returned to office on 10 March 1998 and declared that all AFRC players be taught a lesson. Now the situation has deteriorated even further, bitter fighting is currently going on between the AFRC/RUF and Nigerian troops and is intensifying. We have been targeted to await death and we are merely kept to satisfy and enthuse an eternal blood-thirsty SLPP” This was a very sobering resume I guess, for the Lebanese collaborator, cum Ukrainian took a long time without saying a word.

I quickly explained to him that my story was not meant to enervate him, but rather, to embolden him and bolster his courage. The procedures followed in charging a collaborator involved collating extracts of evidence against all those in a group. For instance, the first group involved twenty three prominent targeted collaborators whose first accused was Ajibola Manly-Spaine, the AFRC attorney-general and judicial secretary of state. The treachery of colleague collaborators could be found in these extracts of evidence that were collectively known as the INDICTMENT.

Charged collaborators, in an effort to exornorate themselves, disclosed how in fact they were strong SLPP supporters, voters for Tejan Kabbah and that they were coerced into accepting appointments in the illegal regime. The clever Solomon Ekuma Berewa,the man who took up the challenge to ensure that no collaborator survived the gallows, capitalised on this crack in the resolve of charged personnel who were later convicted. The process of charging labelled collaborators has introduced a new dimension - using the statements of one to implicate and subsequently convict the other.



Agony of a collaborator

Before the start of the treason trial though, Pademba prisons had been inundated by an incessant stream of egotist SLPP visitors. The SLPP wanted to be doubly sure that no important player and targetted politician was inadvertently left out of the treason drama. The general mood amongst us was one of complete and utter despair.

The treason charges elicited fierce denunciation of Johnny Paul. The once close confidantes of the junta leader were now making deprecatory remarks, for in their estimation, Johnny Paul had got them into a mess. Seventy civilians were arraigned before three well-chosen judges to dramatise a charrade of due process, for, the man who determined both the pace and final outcome of the FARCE was Solomon Ekuma Berewa, himself a former junta functionary.

Berewa, Tejan Kabbah and other very senior SLPPists served in the illegal military regime of Valentine Strasser. In fact President Kabbah was the Chief Adviser- A position he used to eliminate prominent non-SLPP persons.


The first set of thoroughly infatuated SLPP loyalists visited the prisons for one reason - to prove to us that, they and only they, would do what we had thought impossible. So on a bright Wednesday afternoon, Elizxabeth Lavalie and her SLPP caboodle stormed the prison and triumphantly announced their presence. She looked very satisfied with herself. We were all told to ‘comport’ ourselves and listen to her.

She looked mockingly at us all and gleefully rubbed her hands together glancing around the bunch of depressed human beings for one to start her victory speech on.

She chose me as that person.

I was holding a novel, again delivered to me by a Yubba(Vulture) so I caught her eye.

“I did not know we had studious collaborators;what are students doing here?”

I suppressed a deeper urge to strangle the hypocrite.

This woman, by the way, was the person who was to have been named Woman of the Year during NPRC days but when a filthy secret of hers leaked out, she was relegated to her appropriate ranking of .....of the Year. Please fill in the blanks as I want my writings to be read by children. Enough said!

I wanted to tell her to go to hell, but the sudden arrival of the greatest intellectual rogue saved her and possibly saved my life as the penalty then for telling one of the SLPP lord and ladyships to go to hell was sure death by cascamite.

James Omotayoh Jonah(Dr.), the fellow who served in the United Nations for over two decades but learnt very little about honesty and integrity breezed in.


Once he had taken his place in the prison corridor, Jonah reprimanded Hilton Fyle for “allowing little boys” like Johnny Paul to mislead him and destroy the country, after which he gave poor Hilton a lengthy lecture on not heeding to their warning and call for civil disobedience against the AFRC. Hilton Fyle, for all his bravery, simply replied, yes sir, yes sir to Dr.Jonah’s rantings. This is what Pademba Road does. A brave man like Hilton Fyle had been reduced to a muttering Yes-man.

I desired to follow Jonah’s every step and record his utterances in my memory. So, in spite of the bitterness I felt deep down against the SLPP agent of death, I chose to ‘escort’ the learned man who made a mockery of democracy and rigged the elections in favour of his UN buddy, Tejan Kabbah.

Though notoriously brutal, my house master (the prison officer in charge of my jail house) accorded me the privilege’ to stand close to him, a position that helped me to listen and see the self gratification exuded by the electoral cheat, prophet Jonah. He heaped praises on the prison officers for “the good job”. No doubt, Jonah was extremely happy to see us emaciated, broken and frustrated. I didn’t see the point of hanging around waiting to listen to further misplaced rhetoric, so I painfully gravitated towards my tiny cell.

At one stage I heard clapping but of course I didn’t know what prompted that misguided sycophancy from my colleague collaborators.

“Why were people clapping?” I asked Victor, the fellow with whom I shared a cell for all of my nearly three hundred and thirty days of illegal incarceration. “Dr. Jonah received applause when he disclosed that the president was considering releasing those who did not play active roles in the AFRC,” Victor replied.

I nearly suffered a heart attack, for how could Dr. Jonah, a kamajor and pro invasion campaigner win applause by simply saying what jailed men would love to hear - Release. I made my feeling known to Victor.

“My brother, the SLPP kamajors, be they illiterate or educated are sadistic beasts and their leader is the devil incarnate .... don’t be fooled by Jonah’s ramblings.”


The statements made by Jonah were beginning to dangerously take effect. The charged collaborators began to draw parallels and make comparisons. You could hear remarks like: “Why shouldn’t military personnel be charged”? “We are just ordinary civilians called to serve. Why is it that the coupists are spared whilst we are humiliated and paraded through the streets for court proceedings?” I quarelled with several colleagues that reasoned that way.

I kept reminding them about the deceptive character of Jonah, Berewa’s deceitfulness and Spencer’s vaulting ambition. It was Julius Spencer that incited and caused the turmoil, genocide and blood-letting which took place. Ordinary Sierra Leoneans were put indiscriminately to the sword for over a week, and the streets of Freetown, Bo, Kenema, Moyamba and Tongo flowed with blood, for in the course of SLPP conquest, the flames of tribal hatred were fanned.

Spencer’s newly won popularity was quickly translated into political gain - he became, immediately after routing Johnny Paul’s AFRC, a member of the provisional government. The Nigerian chief mercenary, Maxwell Khobe had become Governor in state (an acting president).

Giving the SLPP the benefit of the doubt had been the result of a curious blend of cynicism and naivete on the part of the impotent and hypocritical international community, which turned a blind eye on the human rights abuses and genocide perpetuated by Tejan Kabbah’s agents of death.

This was the sorry state of our dear country and yet the SLPP was obsessed with revenge. Those labelled collaborators who fell for Dr. Jonah’s lie and deception regretted their folly and stupidity in wishing equal punishment for every collaborator, as the SLPP knew exactly those they wanted to eliminate.


The SLPP, even before the obnoxious trials began, had already settled on the number to be executed - ninety-six, for in the final analysis Solomon Ekuma Berewa drew a parallel between the SLPP and British colonial actions in a few words: “Exactly 100 years ago this year the British colonial masters executed 96 people for refusing to pay the Hut Tax of 25 pence to maintain the colonial government”. Berewa was reacting to the belated hypocritical British condemnation of the executions. But I shall certainly come to that. Gradually the SLPP was fulfilling the pledge to kill all known opponents....

Later, we were to learn that a certain murrayman had predicted that the only way SLPP could secure themselves forever and forever entrenched in Sierra Leone politics was for them to publicly sacrifice 96 lives as a public warning to anti-SLPP dissidents just as the British had done during the Hut Tax Rebellion. According to this message from the evil spirits being worshipped by the SLPP miscreants' murrayman, it was only after the British spilled the blood of 96 Sierra Leonean "rebels" did the Hut Tax War end and the British enjoyed a "peaceful reign" in Sierra Leone.

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