Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 December 2020:
Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) convict Augustine Gbao is the first member of the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) to benefit from Conditional Early Release. The former RUF convict was transferred on Sunday from Mpanga Prison in Rwanda back to his native Sierra Leone. He travelled yesterday Tuesday to his community in Blama, where he will serve out the remainder of his 25-year sentence under strict conditions and close monitoring.
Gbao has already served 17 years in prison, or two-thirds of his sentence. He is the third Special Court convict, but the first member of the RUF rebel group, to receive conditional early release.
In a decision dated 8 September 2020, Residual Special Court (RSCSL) President Jon Kamanda found that Gbao had fulfilled the requirements to apply for conditional early release, but he ordered a three-month delay so that Gbao could receive specific training geared to his understanding and acceptance of responsibility for the harm he inflicted by his crimes.
Under the terms of his Conditional Early Release Agreement, Gbao must report regularly to a Monitoring Authority consisting of the Sierra Leone Police, and he may not travel out of his requested area of residence without prior written permission from the Monitoring Authority and the RSCSL Registrar.
In addition to the General Conditions set out in the Agreement, Justice Kamanda has imposed a number of special conditions: Gbao is forbidden from approaching, either directly or through others – witnesses and victims or their families, and from trying to intimidate or interfere with those who testified against him. He may not meet with ex-combatants who served under him, or with other persons convicted by the Special Court, in a way that would violate the Agreement.
In addition, he may not engage in political activities, and he must conduct himself honourably and peaceably in the community.
Before leaving Rwanda, Gbao recorded an apology to the victims of his crimes and the people of Sierra Leone, saying in part “I am deeply sorry and I sincerely and honestly apologise to all Sierra Leoneans who suffered as a result of my action and negligence. I am humbly appealing to the victims and all Sierra Leoneans to find a place in their hearts to forgive me”.
His apology will be aired throughout Sierra Leone on radio and television in the coming days. Gbao, who was the Overall Security Commander for the RUF, was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including acts of terrorism, murder, rape, sexual slavery, forced marriage, cruel treatment, enslavement, pillage, and attacks against UN peacekeepers. He was acquitted on several other charges, including the use of child soldiers, the murder of UN peacekeepers, and taking peacekeepers hostage.
This is Gbao’s full apology:
“Good morning fellow Sierra Leoneans. I am Augustine Ato Gbao, serving Special Court sentence in Rwanda. I wish to express my candid remorse for the pain and trauma you people went through during the war, which I hold myself highly responsible for, for failing to act.
“I deeply regret my action that failed to at least lessen your pain and trauma at the time you people needed it most during the war. I wish to say wholeheartedly that I am deeply sorry, and I sincerely and honestly apologise to all Sierra Leoneans who suffered as a result of my action and negligence.
“I am humbly appealing to the victims and all Sierra Leoneans to find a place in their hearts to forgive me. Thank you all. May Allah bless us all. Long live Sierra Leone.”
Whilst the people of Sierra Leone are expected to conditionally forgive Gbao, he is also expected to abide fully by the terms of his release and resettlement in Sierra Leone. Most importantly, he must not be allowed to participate in politics – ever, in Sierra Leone; nor employed in the armed forces, police, or security services.
There is also an expectation now, that Gbao will give back to society as much as he took away, by committing the rest of his life to voluntary community service and humanitarian causes.
Indeed that is the right fact, with the will of God maybe, that mighty Allah will forgive you and ask the victims as well to do the same. Because no one knows like Him. But one of my main concerns also, is your safety, some people are wicked be careful there.
This early monitoring release as mentioned in the article, I am totally confused about the meaning. Do we have a probationary privilege and process in Sierra Leone really? Can someone tells me how? Innaa Lillaah Wa innaa elaih Raajoun to the whole victims that lost their gentle souls in the war. Meaning, we are from God and to Him we shall return.
Good lord Mr Gbao, the people of Sierra Leone may be will forgive you, but all the people who lost heir lives, I dont think the lord almighty will forgive. But as the English say – NO ONES KNOWS TOMORROW. May their souls rest in peace in heaven. Ina lilai wa ina ilahi raajiooun, means; we are from God and to him we shall return.
Let me start my acceptance of this man’s apology that he offered to the entire nation, during the barbaric horrific illegal war, he wages against his fellow Sierra Leoneans. The main reasons behind it, was unknown, but I am deeply worried for his safety. If possible; I would like Mr. Gbao to appear on the national TV and in the eyes of everyone, to witness him apologizing to our LEO’s family members that lost their lives in the front line. Also to the entire victims in the country.
I personally got a mixed message in this article concerning Mr. Gbao. Was this a probationary release or can we call it a house arrest? I am totally confused with the word early release closed condition monitoring” what is this? Can someone explain please? I have no clue. Can we call it (a good conduct release)? Mr. Gbao would be monitoring by the authority, is that meant “he will be provided a probation officer”? If the answer is yes, can we provide him an ankle restraint?. I don’t want us to be laughed at and we have to understand that we are not the only ones reading our articles.
I am also pleased that Mr. Gbao is lucky to survive to date and was able to face his victims and seek an apology from them, Sam Bockarie (alias msakita, Issa Sesay and the others were unfortunate to do the same. As for me in particular though, I lost my twin” SISTER” through that war. If Mr. Gbao comes forward and apologizes, I am ready to forgive him. My main concern is his own safety now…
Fellow Sierra Leoneans, let us forgive Mr. Augustine Gbao as he has realized His mistakes that He did during the brutal war in our beloved country called Sierra Leone; though we are still feeling the pain in our hearts for our loved ones who lost their lives. May Allah give them good road.
The release and apology of the former commander of the RUF Mr Agustine Gaob, is a timely reminder of our country’s dark history . I hope he is sincere in his apology. One can learn to forgive, but you will never forget about your loved ones that died due no fault of their own, because of unchecked corruption that bought us war. The thousands of Sierra Leoneans that died unnecessarily, may their souls rest in peace, should be honoured by fighting the cancer of corruption in today’s Sierra Leone. That way we will say they didn’t die in vain.
We should remind these corrupt politicians every waking morning, about what brought us war in the first place. The same reasons why Foday Sankoh, Sam Bokari, alias “MASKITA”, Issah Sesay, took up arms, against the state, is the same condition we are going through again . Only this time corruption has become open season for all would be POLITICIANS, and some public servants close to government functionaries. And where is Bio, the Anti Corruption President? He is submerged in it. Its no getting away from it Mr President. As someone who lost a grandmother that was suffering from dementia, locked up in her pan body house by young RUF boys high on drugs, and burnt her to death, only for my mother to returned from hiding and pick up what remains of her Skeleton and unceremoniously buried her bones, to give her the dignified burial she deserved. Some families never got that chance. And my family agony continues, since I lost two cousins, one Major Nasiru Barrie of the RSLAF, and Chernor Deen of Blackhall Road, during the rebel invasion of Freetown, dubbed operation no living thing.
It pains me to hear about the greed and corruption that brought us war in the first place is once again being perpetuated by corrupt politicians especially under Bio’s watch that promised us he will fight this cancer of corruption. When are these people going to learn that corruption will only bring us hardship and under development. And the brutal truth is, it threatens the security of the state. And worst, mutual suspicion among the tribes that make up this great nation we call Sierra Leone.
My Fellow Sierra Leoneans let all of us forgive Mr. Gbao for what he has done to us in Sierra Leone, since he has apologized to us as Sierra Leoneans.