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.