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Saying Goodbye to a Fallen Comrade – APC Smith

Saying Goodbye to a Fallen Comrade – APC Smith

Every time a colleague of mine passes away I feel sad and reflected. William Juana Smith (in photo), aka APC Smith’s passing has left a void in my heart and in the APC political party that will be difficult to fill. He was much esteem in our party in which he served and was generally recognized as one whose acts and deeds were worthy of emulation. I always pay tribute to colleagues, and by William Juana Smith’s death, it gives me another opportunity to share with you history of the All People’s Congress (APC) party in which Mr. Smith served with integrity and devotion.

The APC party was founded by Siaka Probin Stevens and was formed after the independence talks at Lancaster House in London.  The only delegate that did not sign the independence document was Siaka Probin Stevens. Thereafter, on returning home he launched the election party before the Independence Movement which later became the All Peoples’ Congress (APC) party. The party was then officially recognized and registered in September 1961.

Siaka Probin Stevens

Siaka Probin Stevens

Many people may ask, how Williuam Juna Smith was nicknamed, APC Smith.  Simply because, he was a young Mende man from the South got married to the APC in 1963.  He was recruited by the Limba tribal headman PA Momoh (father of Prince) in the SLPP dominated District of Kenema Eastern Province Sierra Leone.  This region was popularly known to form a political empire called the “Three K’s” that is, Kenema, Kono, and Kailahun in the Eastern Province.

William Smith was from Mendeland, spoke Mende perfectly, and as usual the SLPP expected him to be a member of their party  but in spite of the many problems he encountered regularly, APC Smith stood firm and supported the APC – A Northern based organization to the disgust of his tribal members and never looked back.  During his tenure as District Secretary, Regional Secretary, and a We Yone Newspaper vendor for the Eastern Province, he did not ask nor did he fight for any position even when the party took power in 1968 but continued to serve loyally the All Peoples congress under extremely difficult conditions in the Eastern Province and kenema district in particular.

Our astute leader Dr. Siaka Probyn Stevens was sworn in second time as Prime Minister of Sierra Leone in March 1968. Our leader believed that his emergence as leader of the APC and Prime Minister of Sierra Leone was nothing short of divine intervention and immediately thereafter he had this to say, “God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform. He plants his footsteps upon the waves and rides storms.”

Once sworn in as Prime Minister in 1968, Dr. Siaka P. Stevens was to serve the country well, never mind the numerous challenges both economically and politically, making constitutional changes to transform our country Sierra Leone to a truly sovereign and Independent Republic thus ending British rule that lasted a hundred and fifty years.

The Regional Secretary APC Smith in the Eastern province like his counterpart in the Southern Province Patrick Swarray as well as Skeku Deen in the North all joined hands with the APC National Youth League; a Dynamic Women’s Organization countrywide then headed by Nancy Steele later taken over by Dankay Kabia supported the founder and leader in the heroic struggles of the APC.

During this period, William Smith served diligently in all and every position the party offered him never complaining but helped to popularize the ideals and values of this political organization.  The Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party (SLPP) was founded as a “countryman party” but the policies the leaders pursued after independence compelled Siaka Stevens and his caucus to breakaway from the so-called “countryman party” to form the APC – a party for the masses.

What were the achievements of APC Smith and what roles did he play during the struggles of the APC party from 1963 to 2014? Because of his long tenure serving in different capacities, it is virtually difficult if not impossible to recount many of his activities as party organizer.  He just served in whatever capacity he was called upon to assume in the building of the party and the development of our country.   He was able to recruit many people from the east and south into the fold of the party – one stalwart such as Victor Bockarie Foh a top civil servant who himself a Mende from the south and many others, youth, men and women into the party.  Yes, it is true that because of his loyalty, a lot of Southerners and Easterners joined the All Peoples Congress which is normally referred to as the “Temneman’s Party”.

Egerton Tamba Kamara, author

Egerton Tamba Kamara, author

I cannot end this tribute to a fallen comrade if I fail to talk about this episode.

The rebel war and the military coups affect the political spectrum of the country in our modern times. The late president Ahmed Tejan Kabba was elected and was ousted in 1997. On the return of Dr Tejan Kabba from the Republic of Guinea the entire leadership of the APC was rounded up and sent to the Pademba Road Prisons charged with the offense of collaborators who incited the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) to overthrow Tejan Kabba’s government and seize power.

On the 6th of January 1999, the RUF and AFRC forces marched to free us from the Pademba Road Prisons because they learned that the SLPP were planning to eliminate the entire leadership of the APC Party.  Comrade William Juana Smith, Mayeila Yansaneh, Victor Bockarie Foh, Osho-Williams, Hilton Fyle, Harry Turay, PC Alimany Dura, ex-President Joseph Saidu Momoh, and my humble self walked out from the Pademba Road Prisons as fugitives of the law when the gates were thrown open by the rebels.  Thereafter, seventeen of us traveled to Makeni, later move on to Kono and Colonel Vandi despatched us on foot to Buedu Town in the Kailahun District of Sierra Leone.

Comrade William Smith was one of us and in spite of the open detention we found ourselves in Buedu under the command of Sam Bockarie alias “Maskita” of the RUF, William Smith stood firm to tell the rebels that he was an APC man to the core.  Some of our colleagues were tempted to deny that they were members of the APC but APC Smith was furious. When the peace talks were concluded in Togo, we all returned home to Freetown to continue the struggles of the APC until APC Smith was appointed Resident Minister Eastern Province, a position he held until his demise.

As an elder statesman myself and someone who worked with APC Smith for over 15 years, I would like to comfort the bereaved family and, at the same time, thank our young President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma and the Party he now leads for his humanitarian support to all Sierra Leoneans during their lifetime and when they depart to take a peaceful rest from their labors irrespective of their location or political affiliation.    May God bless him and his family.  “La luta continua” – “The Struggle Continues”.

ET Kamara – retired Secretary General of the APC Party. 

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  • Did the author of this article actual mention the word astute and Siaka Stevens in the same sentence, let alone same article? Please tell me this is a mistake; Siaka Stevens single-handedly destroyed this country and was the main reason for Sierra Leone’s bloody civil war. Any reasonably sensible person will tell you that Stevens used the country’s resources as his own, dismantled all public instutitions, and murdered anyone who disagreed with him.

    18th May 2014

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