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Security commentary by APC NA Chairman

Security commentary by APC NA Chairman

As a Sierra Leonean and the current Chairman of the APC North America branch, I want to once again share with you all some security issues regarding our beloved country Sierra Leone.  Since my teenage days to present, I have seen the same security lapses, previous Presidents/heads of state have had in their administrations. Therefore it is my desire to share these security issues as a result of the trend I have seen and witnessed over the years.

I have seen in the past, our leaders, civilians as well as military; take security matters for granted; starting from their own personal protection going to that of the general populace and the country as a whole. The late President Shiaka Probyn Stevens had a grip on security matters of the nation at that time. Was it because he served in the Police force at the time prior to his ascendancy to the Presidency? I cannot conclusively say but we can draw inferences from that claim so, you be the judge.

The APC of late President Joseph Saidu Momoh:

When the late Major General Joseph Saidu Momoh came to power, despite his military background, he took security matters for granted. I still have fresh memories of military personnel/officers who departed Daru Barracks through Kenema headed for the capital of Freetown and overthrew the then APC government of late President J.S Momoh. I was serving the Sierra Leone force as an intelligence officer then, attached to the Kenema police station in 1992. I knew then that urgent intelligence reports/communications were sent as to what the real mission of those military officers was. The reports were never acted upon. Those intelligence reports were totally ignored and I wish we had computer systems then so that those reports could have been traced today. When those officers entered the city of Freetown, they started firing sporadic shots in the air, as alleged, in demand for food and logistics. The Special Security Division (SSD) personnel took a move to counter and repel the disgruntled officers but again, then Inspector General of Police the late Hon. James Banbay Kamara (May his soul rest in peace) ordered the SSD boss to calm his men down and further stated in Creole as follows: (Una Lef them, Na ration then Cam for) meaning the officers/mutineers were acting-up for their ration. He then climbed the stairs and headed for his office at the Police Headquarters.

Few hours later, what seemed like a mutiny or request for food/ration was transformed into a coup D’état and subsequently led to the overthrow of the APC government in April 1992. The point I am trying to make here is if the authorities then, had listened and acted upon the intelligence reports by taking counter measures; the situation could have been totally different. I also remembered when the late Lieutenant Colonel James Yaya Kanu came to the C.I.D. office in Kenema, and requested his departure be booked in the Station Diary as he left Kenema headed for Freetown to stop or calm down his men from outrageously acting out. The life of a brave and courageous soldier who never had the opportunity to return to his post as a commander of the most hailed Cobra Battalion in Kenema.

Captain Valentine Straser and the NPRC Regime:

Now I would like to shift a little bit unto the former National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) Chairman former Captain Valentine Essegrabo Melvin Straser. Despite his military training and length of service in war zones i.e. Liberia (ECOMOG) and Sierra Leone, he was callously thrown out of office by then Captain Julius Maada Bio and others in a palace musical-chair coup. Let me give you a background information on this sensitive revelation: Sometime in January 1995, during a graduation (Passing-Out) ceremony of newly trained cadet officer at the Benguma Military Barracks, Cpt. Straser was provided intelligence reports about a planned palace coup d’état.

As an intelligence officer then charged with the responsibilities of checking Hotels, electricity and petty traders’ affair in Kenema, there was no doubt in my mind that another coup plot was in progress and would not take long before it happened. During one of my routine hotel check exercises at the Ribbi Motel in Kenema, I discovered a strange name in the hotel (Ledger) book.  I then decided to conduct a face to name verification and requested to see the guest in person. I saw a strange fair in complexion tall handsome man whom I identified to be a Malian. I requested to see his passport but the man vehemently refused to give it to me, claiming that he was a guest of the #2 man in the country who was no less a person than then Vice Chairman of the NPRC Cpt. Julius Maada Bio. 

I insisted to get his passport and then, the man hastily called military personnel from the 4th Battalion to come to the Motel. Upon their arrival, I was asked by then (Adjutant) Lieutenant Alieu Kunateh, to treat the matter easy.  I guess, no Sierra Leonean would doubt when someone in authority ask a subordinate to treat something easy, you all know what it means in our country. Upon my return to the office, I submitted a report on the incident and provided a clear picture of my observations and how the entire saga ended. Two weeks later, Cpt. V.E.M. Straser was manhandled and overthrown by then Cpt. Julius Maada Bio and others we know in our midst.  Again I want you to remember that Cpt. V.E.M. Straser, was informed about the planned coup before his departure to the graduation ceremony, he was further intimated at the parade ground that the firing pin to the Anti-Aircraft (AA) machine gun had been removed. Cpt. Straser was further strongly advised not to go back to Cockriel military Headquarters after the ceremony however, he ignore those security advices and went with the coup plotters, thereby resulting to his overthrow. The rest of the story is known by some of us and therefore need not mention dwell on it too much.

Former President Alhajie Dr. Ahamad Tejan Kabbah:

The former President was in denial then that his Presidential Guards deserved a security allowance of Le 30,000 a month. I served former President Tejan Kabbah as a (Body Guard) Presidential guard during his first term in office. I have personal love and tremendous respect for the former president; he is a man of moral character, religious and has a good heart.

Nevertheless the former President had tremendous security challenges then, but I think he did not make use of the opportunities he had to equip the Sierra Leone Army.  I was stunned when the SLPP led government of former President Kabbah announced the disbandment of our national Army for an ill-trained local militia. I wondered then why a President of a nation would disband his national Army when in fact, his country was in the middle of a civil/rebel war. It is my opinion that during former President Kabbah’s tenure of office, the Sierra Leone Armed forces had an opportunity to be equipped militarily. Especially when we consider the former president’s influence and the opportunity to host one of the largest United Nations and ECOMOG Peace keeping forces ever in an African conflict zone then.

Another security issue was that the former President used to go out at night without security escort believing that he was democratically elected by the people of Sierra Leone as such, no one would ever think of harming him. But that belief was made false on May 25th 2007 when he was chased out of office by junior military officers of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC – Order Ranks) for being less proactive on security matters.

Now to President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma:

Therefore, it is my open advice that the President’s popularity should not overlook his security consciousness. I just want to make this expression: Even when you rub a lipstick on a pig, it always remains to be a Pig. Therefore, I respectfully suggest that the president learn from past security mistakes by his predecessors. I am appealing to the. President to continue to recognize the fact that there would be no stability without adequate security measures and there would be no effective security without logistics. We may believe that the people of Sierra Leone loves you so much, but that does not mean you are all safe to be somewhere in town/streets without security escort. From a security point of view, it is my opinion that such a move is not in your best interest especially as we are moving toward the November 2012 elections.

As an insider and one of your own, may I point out that the security set up of our country needs to be revisited. I believe this information has been relayed several times and I think it is important that action is taken to address this very important issue. I observed a political threat looming our country, I think we as a nation, need to act fast in order to alleviate the security threat that is in the air.  I would advise the Office of National Security (ONS) to take counter measures to thwart that ploy as soon as it can in order to save our country from impending violence.  If for some reasons, this office did not see it as an issue worth addressing now, then it has all right to feel so.

One thing I strongly believe is that when matters of security concern are brought to the attention of public/nation, we as responsible citizens are bound to find the time and ways to know what is going on, and then take swift actions to address those concerns through our security agents.  It is my conviction that some people would be surprised and even wonder why I decided to come out public with this commentary. The reason is simple. I want all to know that “our country is first” and to help put a stop to same security mistakes being repeated by every head of state. Fellow countrymen and women, please let us help save our country.  Let us help our government by increasing our personal security alertness among us, and from the village level, towns and our porous borders as well.

During my last trip to Sierra Leone in April 2011, I deliberately travelled through Liberia in order to observe and assess the security situation between our two boarders. It was clear that there was a lack of security presence/mechanism. I found this situation very unfortunate especially as we approach the multiple elections this year.

May I inform you that toward the just concluded Liberia presidential election in November 2011, I saw with my own eyes, many young men initiated into the local Poro society along-side our boarder in an effort to grant them an opportunity to register and vote in the just concluded elections in Liberia. And I was then secretly informed that it goes both ways, come the Sierra Leone elections; young men from Liberia would also be initiated into the same society in order to grant them an opportunity to register and vote in the forthcoming elections. It is my personal conviction not to treat any information lightly so, this information was reported but was subject to review and assessment.

The Bo Town Incident:

As a former Intelligence Analyst and a criminal Justice professional, I want to make a quick comment on the Bo Town incident in relation to the Kelvin Lewis investigation Panel Report. As I read the said report, I discovered that almost everything relating to that incident is being blamed on the police personnel. As a professional, I tend to take a different position on this issue for the following reasons:

a)            The Sierra Leone police force is ill equipped when it comes to crowd control
b)            How can 150 general duties and 48 OSD police officers maintain control of an estimated crowd of over 5,000 or more in an area like Bo Town? I do not want to discredit the report, however, if challenged; I will definitely state some facts out there by answering questions from members of the public or the investigating team.

It has become a tradition in our country to blame the police whenever things go bad, thereby failing to understand or, to address the fundamental issues affecting police personnel and the force in general. If the police are given the basic tools they need for each operation and then fail to perform effectively, there is every reason to criticize them. The police would never be effective in discharging their duties if they do not have in their possession what it takes to do their job. So fellow citizens, we should be considerate and at least, commend the Sierra Leone police personnel for their daily sacrifices in the execution of their duties with limited resources and logistics available to them.

The 2012 Elections:

As we approach the November 2012 multiple elections, I am strongly appealing to the Hon. Vice president, Chief Sam Sumana who happen to be the chairman of the Police Council; the Minister of Internal Affairs/Interior and the government of Sierra Leone in general, to lay down security strategies and to be followed by a plan “B” incase plan “A” did not work as intended. I want to assure everyone that our country has a professional police force that is content. When I say content, there is a whole lot of explanation behind my statement. We should know that the police are good at handling internal security matters only if they are given the tools and the support needed to do so. I know we all have friends, relatives and colleagues that are serving the police force and we talk to them all the time.  We know their struggles and what they need, let us advocate for them so; they would have a grip on security matters of our country. 

Reflection on past incidents:

Now let us reflect on past riotous incidents starting with

a)            The Clock Tower/SLPP party office incident in Freetown 2010
b)            The ruthless incident of March 2010 in Tongo Fields
c)            The Bo Town incident
d)            The Kono incident
e)            The recent incident at constituency 104 in Freetown etc.

If we take a deeper look and decide to run a full security analysis, the bottom line would be that there was little or no adequate security preparedness as a plan “B” in the form of a counter measure if things go bad. I hope the authorities would see these incidents as wake-up calls and then, prepare for action come the general elections in November

Therefore, I would like to conclude this segment of our country’s security awareness commentary by calling on all those concerned to always put our country’s interest above anything else. Before our affiliations to various political parties, we are Sierra Leoneans first. Let us think about the Green, White and Blue and our national pledge. I am therefore, strongly appealing to the government of Sierra Leone to bring back the National Pledge to the finger tip of the people. I suggest the National Pledge be pasted in every corner of Sierra Leone as we did for our 50th Anniversary celebration. The National Pledge should be played at the beginning and end of every radio or Television program so our people, would endeavor to know what it means. Please watch out for my next episodes on the following:

a)    The causes for the January 6,1999 RUF rebel invasion of Freetown
b)    The fake trial and execution of late Col. Hassan Conteh and other military officers
c)    Why the national Army was disbanded during the SLPP regime
d)    The May 25th Military takeover by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC)
e)    Counterfeit currency issue in the country etc.

I thank you all for your time and may the almighty God richly bless Sierra Leone and its people.

Al-Aziz Turay, President APC-NA

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  • I hope Turay isn’t indirectly advocating scare-mongering politics. His lame security experience back then doesn’t match with today’s realities. Sierra Leoneans today heavily subscribe to a philosophy of ‘live and let’s live’. They live in hope, and not in fear. They have faith in the goodness of their fellow compatriots, and not in their flaws.

    Perhaps Turay would do our country better if he starts preaching to us a message of optimism and love, rather than scaring us about a mythical monster that doesn’t exist at all. We refuse to be frightened!

    6th March 2012

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