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The APC Commission of Nonsense

The APC Commission of Nonsense

The APC government’s planned commission to investigate the death of Bambay Kamara and 28 others, during the reign of the NPRC, was conceived in deceit and could have disastrous consequences more so when senior APC politicians like Rtd. Lt. Col. Sim Turay have started using the commission as an opportunity to promote tribalism. The commission to investigate the wrongful deaths is more invested in political witch-hunting and settling of scores, than it is about redressing human rights abuses of the past. The exercise has all the trappings of the old APC scheme (99 tactics) of using deceit, chaos and fear to perpetuate their stay in power, and to sew discord in the nation. The sad reality is that the key players of the current scheme are all directly linked to President Ernest Koroma. (Photo: Morie Alpha, author)

The devious intent of the investigation was made manifest from the outset through the shameless attempt by the President Ernest Koroma’s Press Secretary, Skeka Tarawalli, to misconstrue the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s condemnation of impunity as his unequivocal support for the APC commission of enquiry. It had to take President Koroma himself to issue a retraction, which stated that Mr. Ban Ki Moon did not in anyway endorse the APC ‘grand scheme.’ This retraction may have come after President Koroma was probably politely reminded that a government should not tell lies on the UN Secretary General.  However, the Presidential Press Secretary continues to keep his job in spite of this howler; there could be no better way to demonstrate that Mr. Tarawalli had the blessings of his boss. This is a bad start for a government which thinks that attempts by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Sierra Leone Special Court to address wrongs of the past are not good enough.

Recent pools by the media in Sierra Leone have shown that the majority of Sierra Leoneans simply want to leave the past behind. They are satisfied with the work of the TRC in investigating human rights abuses of the past and most people have chosen to move on with their lives in the interest of peace and national cohesion. What the government should focus on now is implementing the recommendations of the TRC, primarily, compensating victims of the country’s civil war and abolishing the death penalty – a weapon which past governments have used to eliminate their opponents.  Another commission to investigate the deaths of Bambay Kamara and others could open a Pandora’s box which neither the APC government nor the people of Sierra Leone are prepared for after time and millions of dollars have been spent on the TRC and the Special Court.

The killing of Bambay Kamara and others in 1993 by the NPRC government is not the only instance of state sanctioned execution in Sierra Leone; it was started by the first APC regime in the early 1970s and continued right on to the previous SLPP government that left power in 2007. Therefore any fair investigation of political killings of the past should go as far back to the 1970s and no preference should be given to the Bambay Kamara group. Ironically Bambay was one of the key architects of the early APC strategy to annihilate perceived political enemies.

It was the APC that started state sanctioned killings of political opponents in the early 1970s. It all started when President Siaka Stevens embarked on an exercise to purge the Army of potential dissidents. In the process, he executed Brigadiers John Bangura and David Lansana and, imprisoned Corporal Foday Sankoh, who later became the infamous Revolutionary United Front (RUF) leader. As a show of his ruthlessness, President Stevens went ahead to execute members of his own APC party, Mohamed Sorie Forna and Ibrahim Bash Taqi, for criticizing his despotic rule in 1975. President Stevens used the executions and the violent events of the 1977 general elections to cower the opposition SLPP into capitulating to his call for a one party state. Stevens established a presidential death squad, the Internal Security Uint (now Operational Support Division), which he staffed with party loyalists.  The rest of Stevens’ rule was marred by extra-judicial killings and state tyranny, prominent among was the assassination of Bank Governor Samuel Bangura and the Dorgbowosui raids in Pujehun district. Stevens’ successor, Joseph Saidu Momoh, continued with the same pattern of political killings. President Momoh hanged former Vice-president Francis Minnah, police officer Gabriel Kaikai and others in 1990 after a questionable treason trial, an elimination plot which is widely believed to have been masterminded by Bambay Kamara. Since then, subsequent governments have used the death penalty as the suitable weapon of choice to eliminate their political enemies. It was used against Bambay Kamara and some perceived APC sympathizers after the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) coup that ousted the APC in 1992. The successors of the NPRC, the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) used the death penalty against some of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) coup leaders after the coup was reversed in 1998. The TRC described the judicial processes that preceded the NPRC and the SLPP executions as seriously flawed. While in opposition, many senior members of the APC openly backed the murderous AFRC-RUF coup makers described by Special Court prosecutor, David Crane, as “hounds from hell ….in a macabre dance of death.” People like the current APC information minister Ibrahim Ben Kargbo (I.B Kargbo) and APC Secretary General Victor Foh pampered the AFRC and the RUF as they looted, plundered, raped, maimed and killed.

If the APC government is serious about addressing state supported-killings in the past, it should call for an open and all inclusive enquiry that will investigate the killings that took place in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Such enquiry should not serve as subterfuge to revenge for the overthrow of the APC-which was a popular coup – or as a ploy to silence potential political rivals in the 2012 elections. What is most worrying is that some senior members of the APC have started using the commission of enquiry to fan the flames of tribalism. Former head of military intelligence under the President Momoh’s, Rtd. Lt. Col. Sim Turay in a Jul 5, 2010 article published in Standard Times made the unfortunate assertion that the Sierra Leone civil war was a tribal war waged on Northerners, Creoles and APC supporters by South-easterners. Every sane Sierra Leonean knows that the war was as a result of the collapse of the state due to previous APC misrule, and the perpetuators of violent crimes during the war had no real allegiance to tribe, region, political ideology or nation. Their key motivation was power and greed. The perpetuators came from all of the ethnic groups in Sierra Leone and they unleashed their terror throughout the entire country; no ethnic group or region was spared.

It is intriguing that the APC have chosen to focus on the crimes committed by the NPRC and gloss over crimes committed by the Steven and Momoh regimes. Sim Turay’s tribal sentiments have been expressed by some of President Koroma’s ministers like information minister Ibrahim Ben Kargbo (I.B. Kargbo), and defense minister Pallo Conteh who said on BBC that the civil war was directed at the Limba ethnic group.  How wrong Conteh was.  My personal experience during the war and those of several other Sierra Leones point to the fact that the war was neither tribal nor regional.  While likes of Sim Turay and Pallo Conteh were basking overseas in the loot they had carted away from Sierra Leone during the first APC regime, I suffered brutality in the hands of NPRC soldiers, was terrorized by the RUF, abducted briefly by the AFRC, molested and almost shot by kamajors, and beaten by ECOMOG forces. These were all acts of random violence, which the President Momoh’s army too was involved in during the early years of the war in 1991 and 1992. There were several instances of extra-judicial killings of so-called rebels in the south-east by President Momoh’s Army during that period. But there is no way one can describe the overall conduct of the war as tribal or regional. My experience resonates with many other Sierra Leoneans who experienced the war, including those who unfortunately were maimed. Most of them will agree with me that war was largely motivated by greed and desperation for power, and it was not a tribal war. I think the International Criminal Court (ICC) should start being proactive by listing the likes of Sim Turay and Pallo Conteh on their watch list before they unleash another Kenya style election violence on Sierra Leone. They should not wait until after the body counts start to mount.

Are the Sim Turays and Pallo Contehs along with the so-called commission of enquiry part of the APC grand scheme to rehash President Stevens fear and terror tactics of the 1970s? I cannot help but wonder why President Ernest Koroma is considering to appoint a person of Sim Turay’s caliber to serve as head of the Office of National Security (ONS), or still retaining Pallo Conteh as Defense Minister. It is difficult to excuse President Koroma from the tribal ranting of the Sim Turay and Pallo Conteh, because he has neither condemned them nor distanced his government from their unfortunate remarks. On the contrary, President Koroma’s appointments to public offices and sackings have been mostly based on regional lines. He has so far run the most tribalistic government in Sierra Leone since independence. Not even the Albert Margai, Siaka Stevens or Joseph Momoh governments could come close in terms of state sanctioned tribalism. To make matters worse he has recruited ruthless war criminals as close protection bodyguards- a continuation of Stevens Internal Security Unit.

If the APC government is not prepared for a fair and detailed commission of enquiry on state sanctioned killings of the past, it should not set up one in the first place. The people of Sierra Leone are not prepared for another political gimmick, especially one with a sinister intent.  Although the killing of Bambay Kamara and others was a crude attempt by the NPRC to get rid of its political enemies, it cannot be redressed by an inquest that is marred with bias and vindictiveness. If the APC is truly sincere about seeking justice for the families of Bambay Kamara and others, it should be prepared to seek justice for other victims of politically motivated killings like John Bangura, David Lansana, Ibrahim Taqi, Sorie Forna, Sam Bangura, Gabriel Kai Kai, Francis Minnah and others. Justice should come with admitting wrongs, making apologies and compensating families of victims, not with political appointments (as they have done for the sons of Francis Minnah and Sam Bangura), but with opportunities the families may have lost with the killing of their breadwinners. It could come in the form of provision of scholarships for school or college-going age members of those families.

By Morie Alpha, New Haven, Connecticut, US

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  • To Mani. Truth should prevail for all not only for selected groups this is where the tribalism and patisanilism lies.

    In my thinking the whole shit is all about setting the country backwards because Koroma does not believe in himself.

    17th July 2010
  • A judicial review is a way of uncovering truth and relegating lies to its proper place.A thing of truth is a joy forever.The discovery of truth has done a lot to the human race.This is why science will reign supreme and this is why it is injected into the ambiguous subjects like economics,sociology etc to make them clearer.Without the truth, evil will continue to rear its ugly head.
    The inquest is a necessary thing to do.It is not in anyway connected with tribalism.Tribalism is just an hypnotic phenomena to brainwash us.Let truth prevail!!
    Thank U.

    16th July 2010
  • An absolutely great piece. I fear for the wellbeing of my fellow Sierra Leoneans for the 2012 elections. I think the world misread the situation by thinking since 2007 went well all will be well going forward. I fear this is a mistake. As APC go all out to preserve their seat of government, the SLPP will be going all out to correct what they perceive as an injustice. Something has to give. 2012 is going to be the greatest test of democracy our country has seen since whenever.

    In terms of compensation for alleged injustices in the past, this is the only place I take issue with your piece. Bear in mind that Sierra Leone is not blessed with the kind of resources to adequately compensate alleged victims’ families. Therefore, political appointment can be a worthy proxy provided the beneficiaries are qualified for the roles they are asked to perform.

    16th July 2010

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