Hate speech and tribalism – Rwanda a lesson for Sierra Leone

Sulaiman Stom Koroma: 17 March 2018:

We must never allow what happened in 1991 in Sierra Leone to ever happen again. Some of us suffered, lost loved ones and property. During the 11-year civil war, it was believed that thousands of civilians were killed, maimed, raped or forced to become child soldiers; and half a million displaced. Mineral resources and properties were looted. The civil war was one of the bloodiest in Africa.

To date, we can still feel and see the scars the 11-year civil war has left. By now we should have learnt our lessons; and pray that we do not take part in or allow anything that will divide our country ever again.

Just after the first round election results were announced by the National Returning Officer, declaring a runoff this week, I started seeing messages of hate and tribalism all over social media.

If you don’t know that this can cause a conflict – worse than the civil war we had, then see the Rwanda scenario:

“The genocide was sparked by the death of the Rwandan president Juvenal Habyariman, a Hutu, when his plane was shot down above Kigali airport on 6 April 1994.

“In Kigali, the presidential guard immediately initiated a campaign of retribution. Leaders of the political opposition were murdered, and almost immediately, the slaughter of Tutsis and moderate Hutus began.

“Organized gangs of government soldiers and militants hacked their way through the Tutsi population with machetes or blew them up in churches where they had taken refuge.

“From April to July 1994, members of the Hutu ethnic majority murdered over 800,000 people, mostly of the Tutsi minority; The genocide spread throughout the country with staggering spread and brutality, as ordinary citizens were incited by local officials and the Hutu power government to take up arms against their neighbors.”

In just one day, there were over 8,000 people killed, and for the period of 100 days which the genocide lasted for, about one million people were killed (a number which two of the leading political parties did not get in the first rounds of the 2018 presidential elections). An estimated 2,000,000 Rwandans, mostly Hutus were displaced and became refugees.

The media played a significant part in the Rwandan genocide.  Prior to the genocide, radio stations and newspapers were carefully used by the conspirators to dehumanize their potential victims.

During the genocide, radio was used by the Hutus extremist conspirators to mobilize the Hutu majority, to coordinate the killings and to ensure that the plans for exterminations were faithfully executed.

I hope we will learn from this, and immediately stop the hate speech and tribalism in Sierra Leone. We want a peaceful democracy.

1 Comment

  1. My perspective on the situation in Sierra Leone at this moment is quite different from Rwanda, because the major problem is within the North since the APC is now insisting that all northerners are prohibited from voting for the SLPP, because the south easterners voted overwhelming for the SLPP.

    The reality is that the South Easterners have always tried to go the extra mile since independence, to prove that they are not tribalistic or violent. Kai-Samba and Brewa gave their support to the late president Siaka Stevens without receiving any reprisals from the South-Easterners.

    After the economic civil war the SLPP elected a northerner, the late president Tejan Kabba as their flag bearer, without any reprisal. In 2007 South-Easterns Charles Margai and Sam Sumana, gave power to the APC and in the 2012 elections, Brigadier Maada Bio a Mende choose Dr Kadi Sesay who is a Temne as his running mate.

    But I believe that the people are wiser than in 1967 when tribalism was used as propaganda, and now the voters are focused on issues that are affecting their lives and they are not interested in going back to war.

    My only appeal to the APC is to allow freedom and peace to reign around the country by allowing people to vote their conscience.

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