Hate speech in northern Sierra Leone – a dangerous trend and height of folly

PUAWUI   DR SAMA BANYA: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 September 2019:

Most readers of Social media must have seen the video by now. It is reported to be events at a political campaign meeting in the Falaba and Koinadugu districts of Northern Sierra Leone.

I do not recognize the speaker at the time of the recording, but according to the footage on the video the meeting was being addressed by two prominent sons of the soil, Momoh Konteh and Kelfala Marrah.

Both are of the opposition All People’s Congress (APC) political party; and as far as I am concerned and more importantly, citizens of Sierra Leone.

I have met and spoken to Kelfala Marrah (Photo) only once, when his wife who was a staff member of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation when I was Minister there, introduced him to me.

He was then Chief of Staff, the first appointee of the newly created post in the office of President Ernest Bai Koroma. He had gone to see his wife off at Government wharf after what she described as a short visit. It was dusk and with the poor lighting in the area I could not discern the gentleman’s face. In short I would not recognise him were we to meet again.

Readers may recall the time when routine postings were published in the ministry. Mrs Marrah was one of those affected, as she  was recalled after more than two tours in her London post. Her husband was already in Sierra Leone, but orders came from above to cancel her posting. Obviously she was a privileged staff member and had to stay at post not necessarily in the government’s interest, but so that she would continue to look after their children.

In the APC, like in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, some comrades are more important than others. The decision itself was an embarrassment to J B Dauda who was Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time.

I have never met Momoh Konteh (Photo) and would pass him without recognising him. In the video recording both men were preaching naked and vicious tribalism. Up to this moment only one national newspaper has criticised the offenders without naming them.

In 1965 the then APC opposition leader Siaka Stevens the founder and leader of the All People’s Party and later President of Sierra Leone, was campaigning in the Ginger Hall area to be the Mayor of the Freetown municipality. Ginger hall was the home of the Mende Tribal chief in the Western area – Madam Koroma; it also carried a very large Mende population.

The bank of Sierra Leone had introduced the new national currency – the Leone, whose denominations carried the portraits of three prominent Sierra Leonean professionals – Doctors MCF Easmon, Davidson Nicol and Claude Nelson-Williams. Cynics referred to the notes as well as the bank of Sierra Leone as “The Blood Bank” because all three directors were registered Medical Practitioners.

Mr. Siaka Stevens (Photo) waved the bank notes to his audience, and told the crowd: “wuna see den korpor ya?” (Do you see these bank notes?) He read out the names of the three directors on the notes, and  asked his audience weather any of them was Mende?

And he concluding with utter contempt, he added: “and yet wuna say dis na mende government? You are being deceived when people say that your SLPP government is a Mende government.  This SLPP government has neither the interest nor the care of Mende people but a Creole one.”

That to many people  was the beginning of the introduction of tribalism in the Sierra Leone body politic.

In the 1967 general elections the anti-Mende propaganda was very prominent among APC leaders and supporters. Unfortunately the trend has only got worse and reached its climax since the APC lost the Presidency to Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio.

In the first place, the APC has still refused to accept the reality that it has lost power to the SLPP to which it refers in the most derogatory terms, including – Junta government, Mendecrat etc. Their action continues to be divisive, with no effort or interest on their part to bring about cohesiveness in either their campaign speeches or in any kind of situation. They continue to be deliberately divisive.

Take a look at President Bio’s present cabinet and, forgetting any comparison with President Ernest Bai Koroma’s Cabinet decide that it is a Mende cabinet. But this aspect of their behaviour should not surprise anyone because it had been repeated several times.

Even before Christiana Thorpe handed the Presidential run-off to their leader, Mr Koroma had declared that he would make the country ungovernable were the SLPP to be victorious.

People like Kelfala Marrah and Momoh Konteh have taken up the tribal cry and introduced it in the most vicious and hateful manner into the current campaign speeches in Falaba and Koinadugu.

I was minister of Interior and Local government in the one party government of President Siaka Stevens during the 1982 general elections. I was confined to the Koinadugu District where tribal conflict between the Fullahs and the Yalunka’s were so intense that the election process had to be cancelled.

The story was the same in the Bombali constituency of late Thaimu Bangura, between the Temne ethnic group and the Fullahs and other tribal ethnic groups. There again the election process was abandoned because of violence.

Because of those events, citizens of the constituencies remained unrepresented in Parliament for the next five years.

The danger with the Marrah and Konteh diatribe is that they are the accumulation of all that is being said by their party. And unless it is nipped in the bud, it will have dire consequences for the peace and stability of our country.

Even if the APC describes it as a witch hunt, because of the inherent danger of the situation, the development must be nipped with immediate effect. Beyond that, the law enforcement officers must follow the matter up with appropriate , so that those irresponsible people are brought to justice.

Delay or failure to do this can only encourage the disgusting trend. It may spark a conflagration, when other people would have thought that enough was enough and be tempted to take the law into their own hands. Is that what we want, at a time when our country is in the lime light and for the right reasons?

17 Comments

  1. The gigantic problem Sierra Leone political trend is perpetually facing, is tribalism. The concept of tribalism was brought up by our scoundrel politicians belonging to the various ethnic groups. As soon as, they realize that, they will contest in an election, they use hate speech against the other political candidates to gain votes. They will use many ways to befool the electorate to dance to their tune. They say vote for me, I am your tribesman, living in the same locality, etc.

    The thresholds precedent elected political leaders must do to fight against tribalism is clear and simple: create employment for the teaming population beyond tribal lines; stop harassing and demoting a particular tribe; learn to involve all tribes in the strides to develop the nation. Avoid hate speech! But oh our politicians will not do so; they think they will not get the support of their tribe men if they show themselves to love all tribes.

  2. If this article was indeed written by Dr Sama Banya from kailahun District then shame on him. Perhaps age is telling on him to the point that his knowledge about Sierra Leone political history is fast fading and blind to political reality or call it ‘real politik’.

    As previous commentators have mentioned before my comment, in summary that sierra Leoneans are not divided by ethnicity but by political associations and noteably the sLPP is predominantly mende dominated and by comparism to the APC which is made up of all ethnic backgrounds including ethnic minority and attract all young, old, men, women, poor and rich.

    Dr Sam Banya to attack Dr kaifala marah and momoh konteh of tribalism without knowing them in person and make a thorough assessment of these persons is an indication of deficit in thinking. First of all the two are from different tribes. I will not labour much now to educate him who these people are, better left for a thorough response to this article at a later date.

    Leema or the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs to describe the content of the article as a worrying development shows how short sighted he is and with an additional problem of deficit in thinking. Personally each time I hear him speak on TV or radio interviews I get sick for a week. His discription of the article will not go without response. I end my comments with this: the author of the article is a mende and a strong SLPP man.

  3. I do not think it is a matter of tribalism but politics. Sierra Leoneans are intertwined in their cultures from different region. The politicians are the ones preaching tribalism and showing this out by their actions. They want to divide us.

  4. This article is somewhat complex in nature. Apart from the dangerous message or environment it is advocating, it is seemingly immersed in an atmosphere of ironies and paradoxes. In the first instance, even though the writer is strenuously trying to denounce hate speech in Sierra Leone’s politics, he failed to come up with concrete solutions (or remedies) to the problem.

    The writer is quite aware of the existence of hate or tribal speech in the country’s polity, as far back as to the colonial times, and also conscious of the magnitude at which this divisive element of tribalism has been propagated and polarised across the country by the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), albeit looking for achaic and ill thought draconian measures that would only stoke the flames of an already tense situation.

    In a way, the writer seems to cunningly create a conflict or division between the Fullahs and “other tribal ethnic groups”, including the largest group, the Temnes. It also sounds ominous that the writer seems to advocate for remedies that would DISENFRANCHISE certain groups or sections of the society at the advantage of his party, the SLPP. Dr Banya is still not convinced that his party would ever win a free and fair election, although he believes they should cling to power ‘at all cost’ – paopa.

    The usual jab at the All Peoples Congress (APC) party is not uncommon by this writer. The continuous blackmail of the APC as a violent party, and the finger pointing at former President Earnest Bai Koroma as the catalyst to the failures of the present SLPP government. All in all, the article is badly written, confusing and contradictory. Was Siaka Stevens campaigning as a Mende candidate against the Creoles or as an APC candidate against a Mende dominated SLPP government between 1965 and 1967?

  5. Andrew Kaikai;

    Its unfortunate that you think one tribe in Salone is the only one practicing tribalism. My best friend who is from Kenema and a die-hard SLPP supporter subscribes to the same unsubstantiated claim, although he also has issues with the Krios.

    The fact of the matter is, our local people are known to be very friendly/hospitable to strangers. Irrespective of tribe/region, there is no area a stranger can visit without being accommodated with open hands. By all indications, tribalism mainly exists in politics, used as a tool by greedy politicians for their personal gains. This notion of the absence of a predominant population of the Mende people residing in North makes the Themnes tribalistic, can be described by all indications as absurd.

    The fact is, over 70% of the tribes in Sierra Leone call the Northern province their home, with Temnes being the majority. So if the Temnes are tribalistic, why are they sharing space with a majority of our other local tribes? It makes no sense for the Temnes to hate only one particular tribe while accommodating 99%. Besides, I have never heard of any tribal issues or discrimination in the provinces, even during our civil war, Sierra Leoneans from all tribes live in harmony.

    Now, inter-tribal marriages is very common in our culture, one thing we should all be proud of. I mentioned in this platform before, my wife is a Mende. My best friend from Kenema wife’s is a Mandingo; while my other friend, a Mende by tribe but born in Kono is currently married to a Temne woman.

  6. Strange is it not, that the only grievous thing troubling ,and disturbing the unproductive SLPP mindset presently, is that others have been given free licences and permission,to keep on marrying their “Beautiful Women?” (lmao)

    What would the Fullahs,and Madingos say in response to such an out of touch delusional statement then? Will they not say;
    “But we have women that look a thousand times fairer than your own, yet we give them away freely without complaining. Goddesses, with beaming smiles, rosy, gorgeous faces and skin smoother than butter,velvet and silk.”(lol)

    And again, will the pragmatic Limbas and industrious Temnes, stand uninvolved and not respond saying….” Let them marry all the wives they want; It is alright with us,it is fine…Celebrate endless orgies and debaucheries without restraint – Just give us the keys to State House, we have better things to do.(lol) Rising Sun Will Rise Again!

  7. One thing that was common in Sierra Leone and around the world was respect for the elders. Even if people do not respect them for anything else, they will respect them for their age which is always a blessing from our creator.

    It is also believed that age comes with wisdom and understanding because people who have enjoyed longevity, blessed with good health and sound mind, by maintaining their independence and continue to read and write should be counted as an extra blessing.

    Dr. Sama Banya who unfortunately I have never met, is a perfect example of blessing to our nation because God has given him an opportunity to enjoy his precious life by being a member of both SLPP and APC. I wish that every politician whether corrupt or not should have set a bright example like Dr. Banya by building a hospital or school instead of big gated mansions which will only benefit their immediate family.

    Some of those mansions are now in complete ruins – for example the home of late President Stevens at Brookfields is now an eyesore and the vacation home he built in the peninsula of Freetown has been destroyed by the forces of nature.

    I also believe that the most dangerous people are the educated people who lack common sense. They always think they are smarter than their parents or their elders from the village that contributed money towards their education, by sending them to big towns and sometimes abroad, because they usually talking down to them by using big grammar.

    Preaching tribal hate in politics is always dangerous. I believe that Dr. Banya has seen something dangerous coming from a far distance even though he remained seated, which most of us standing or even climbing walls and trees will never see, so we have to pay attention and listen to the words of wisdom.

    Finally I hope and pray that the Almighty will continue to bless Dr. Banya with good health and sound mind for all the lives that have been saved at your hospital because “ Whoever saves a LIFE, saves humanity and the world.

  8. Thank you doctor for a well explained piece. Marrah and Konteh should know that Sierra Leone belongs to every Sierra Leonean. There is no room for tribalism to exist. My father who stays in the USA came from the north and my mother from the south Moyamba district. We say a big NO to tribalism.

  9. Indeed, old age is a glorious thing,but not quite enough for helping little minded people, grow,mature,and become wiser. The worse kinds of old people are those who promote,and encourage dissensions, quarrellings,and disagreements. Is the writer such a person? Of course, he is.

    Its clear to me,that the writer is an opportunist who is desperate,and anxious to please the Bio government in return for fringe benefits,and scraps he could enjoy at old age (lmao). Again,the thing that confounds me the most,is the knowledge that the writer was once an errand boy for the APC,who ended up climbing the ranks. Clearly,he is far worse than a Pirate. Armed with positions of authority,and power,he ransacked,and robbed a fragile nation blind – overnight becoming influential,powerful,and rich.

    I don’t believe. a word this Political pirate is saying – he is as dangerous as a sharp,doubled edge sword,without a handle. Careful,or it will cut you mercilessly to pieces! Please stop stoking fires of discord,leave those two gentlemen alone; one Man’s meat is another man’s poison – “Hate speech” to some, is “Liberation speech” to others; Yep, depends on who you ask.

    The clock is ticking – almost two years gone,and nothing tangible to show for it,but unprofitable finger pointing, ceaseless bickering,and quarrelling…Learn to build things with your own hands,instead of begging from outsiders for help,Make your own beds,and see if you will not sleep peacefully on them! Be up,and doing,time,and tide wait for no man!…Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

  10. Who preaches and practices tribalism? The temnes ofcourse. Let’s look at the northern province landscape, how many mendes have homes there? Temnes are always welcome with open hands in mende land, they marry our beautiful girls and use our resources.

    • What about those Temnes who are welcome with open hands in Kono land to marry the most beautiful girls/women in the world? Is it a fair question to ask Mr. Andrew KaiKai?
      Never mind Andrew. GOD BLESS YOU.

  11. Indeed. A dangerous RANT that must be condemned and stopped. But, who is responsible for this BLUSTER? APC, SLPP, Mr. MARRAH or Mr. KONTEH? Thanks Dr. Banya for keeping us informed. GOD BLESS YOU.

  12. Well I don’t think we should completely focus on just the mentioned Noble men from the opposition side. But I believe we should rather be just in condemning both sides as it is no news that both have made it a tradition to preach tribalism in this political era of Sierra Leone.

  13. Hate speech, tribalism, regionalism and all forms of discriminatory practices should be condemned and abhorred by all patriotic, peace loving Sierra Leoneans. In a small country likes ours with meager resources, it makes it all the worst for our so called politicians to adopt and practice such appalling schemes.

    Now coming to the article, I am of the understanding that the writer Dr. Banya, is a staunch supporter of the regime and a long time party loyalist of the SLPP; however, as an elderly statesman, one will expect he retires from partisan politics. By all indications, his life long experience in politics should have been a valuable tool to bridge the gap between our war mongering politicians. It is my view that he is more interested in fanning the flames.

    The fact is, hate speech, tribalism, regionalism etc, exist and are being used for political gain on either side of the political spectrum. In contemporary Sierra Leone, we have all witness how the 2 major parties employed such unpatriotic and destabilizing schemes. During the EBK regime, there were glaring evidence portraying party loyalty and to a certain degree tribe as a precursor to gain employment. This phenomena is even more glaring now with the Bio regime as many civil servants deemed as APC sympathizers dismissed from their jobs.

    My expectation is, such an elderly statesman like Dr. Banya will serve as a father figure, advising either camps to resist employing such unpatriotic acts. By all indications, he enjoys a good rapport with a number of the leadership in both the SLPP and APC camps, so why not use such an opportunity to put our nation on a stronger footing?

    Constantly writing out articles with one sided historical contexts, painting one side as being the evil doer, but turning a blind eye to the evil existing on the other side will never achieve positive results. In essence, our elder statesman is guilty of doing exactly what he is accusing the opposition of — demonizing them for political gain.

  14. Let’s forget about party politics for a moment. When you have two prominent members of a minority ethnicity openly preaching tribalism, what would we expect when members of the two major ethnic groups in the country decide to return fire?

    Kelfala Marrah and Momoh Konteh, I believe are Korankos, an ethnic group that accounts for about only 1% of the population of Sierra Leone. In a perfect world, members of such an ethnic minority would be the ones preaching against tribalism because they do not stand to gain anything from a highly tribalistic Sierra Leone. So what really do these hatemongers want to accomplish?

    Given the present voting patterns in Sierra Leone, Marrah and Konteh would neither be nominated to lead their present political party in general elections nor would they ever have a sniff at the presidency if they decided to form their own parties and run for the presidency. So what do these two bigots gain from inflaming tribal passions in Sierra Leone?

    It is incumbent on the leadership of the APC to condemn the reprehensible comments of Marrah and Konteh. We live in a new Sierra Leone, which is leaps and bounds better than the dystopian society where Marrah and Konteh wielded power.

  15. Thank you so much doctor for a well guided piece. You are indeed a statesman. These desperate politicians who have no vision for their people, believe the only way to gain political leadership is to preach ethnicity. Its a shame to see people like Kelfala Marrah and Momoh Konteh preaching tribalism, just because they want to win an election.

    • Dr.S.S Banya is a Bo School Boy, Mende by tribe and one of the showpiece emblems that demonstrate that the APC is not tribalistic and northerners are predominantly not tribalistic. Dr. Banya is witness to the fact that the SLPP was founded by Patriots of the north who handed over leadership of that party to Sir Milton Margai.

      The elderly man should do better. Granted that operatives of the APC are wrong. What are the solutions? It is not sufficient to blame the APC and do nothing to demonstrate that you know better. The leader who does not bring solutions to ailing problems is the same as one who perpetrates them. Manners Maketh Man.

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