How many times can we say NEVER AGAIN? Op ed

Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 August 2022:

Looking at the social media clips on Wednesday August 10 this year, you cannot help but conjure the memories of the January 6th massacre, which left an indelible mark on the psyche and conscience of our nation, Sierra Leone. What happened on this day has no doubt undergone several christening rituals. While some prefer to call it a demonstration, others described it as a riot, a protest, a demonstration, terrorism/insurrection, etc.

Our constitution grants all citizens the right to PEACEFUL protest, assembly and demonstration. We clamour to exercise this right but conveniently omit the qualifying adjective at our pleasure. What happened on Wednesday was anything but peaceful.  Irrespective of your political persuasion, irrespective of your opinion of the overall saga, it is plausible to conclude that the majority of Sierra Leoneans agree that the destruction of property and the loss of lives was not the answer to any of the problems.

Thankfully, the dust is seemingly settling, and there can be no better time for moments of reflection. Interestingly, this moment of reflection has engendered the proverbial blame game, which many use as the antidote for the hearts and minds of the public. It is safe to say that the PR machines from the associated parties have gone into overdrive. The spin-doctors have moved into second gear, as they trade excuses and analysis of how we got here in the first place. The causes of this regrettable chapter in our history remain varied, from internal to external sources. One common denominator among these is the issue of “incitement”.

There is a general understanding or explanation, that those who engaged in the wanton destruction and deaths were “incited”. While it remains difficult and near impossible to deny this accusation, it leaves one wondering whether the participants were unwilling but weaponised conduits. The thrust of this piece is to reinforce the need to give peace a chance. However, any attempt to give peace a chance would not be complete if we do not take a collective look in the mirror. That comes with a sense of honesty as humanly possible, patriotism and a genuine desire to live and let live.

Why?

While it is generally agreed that the debacle was in response to the current economic situation and living crisis of ordinary Sierra Leoneans, other schools of thought and especially from government circles believe that this was a politically machinated exercise devised and executed with maximum precision to  dislodge a democratically elected government. Others go as far as tie this sad event to a widely held notion and accusation that it is segment of the opposition APC’s mission to make Sierra Leone ungovernable. For the purpose of this piece, a quick look at President Maada Bio’s speech to the nation might just give us a point of departure here.

Sadly, and according to thesierraleonetelegraph.com newspaper, “But many are worried that President Bio’s emotionally charged response rather than a cool, level-headed speech will serve little purpose but risk driving thousands of youths underground to pose more threat and danger to the peace and stability of the nation”.  In his speech, President Bio vowed to, “Crack down hard on violent insurrectionists, their collaborators, their sponsors, and their supporters. My Government will relentlessly fight those who would rather use terror and gruesome violence to achieve political goals,” (thesierraleonetelegraph.com, 13/08/22).

The military was one of the earliest casualties of the events on Wednesday when Bio shuffled the deck. According to President Bio, “Before August 10th, they had severally identified themselves on social media as APC Warriors, PPP, and persons who are determined to capture political power even at the cost of hundreds of lives. For some time now also, some politicians have been raising tensions with divisive language and threats to make this country ungovernable. Their known surrogates and associates have stated that they will continue to illegally use violence to unseat the democratically elected Government. The events of August 10 were a clear statement of their collective intent. (thesierraleonetelegraph.com, 13/08/22).

If the above statement is anything to go by, is it time to ask some questions here? Remember that these are just questions for the mirror. Firstly, was there a clear and present danger to Sierra Leone? Was there an imminent threat to the peace and security of the nation? If so, how seriously did the government take these threats? What did the government do about these threats? If “some politicians have been raising tensions with divisive language and threats to make this country ungovernable”, what did President Bio and his administration do about that? How prepared was the government, in mitigating and ameliorating such threats.

These are just some of the questions many are raising. Did President Bio take his eye off the ball? Did his administration underrate the threat? What were the risk assessments and risk management plans like, if any? Was there a sense of complacency? Was there a misplaced self-assurance? President Bio rightly named the hot spots, “Makeni, Binkolo, Magburaka, Kamakwie, Lungi, Western Rural, and Eastern Freetown”. These are widely regarded as the opposition APC strongholds, seemingly lending credence to the political backdrop of the ownership of the carnage. Some might question whether these are the only places that feel the economic pinch. Why not Kombayendeh or Regent?

In his speech, the President gave a report on the developmental strides his government has achieved in the last four years. He spoke about the efforts made to keep a lid on price hikes on fuel, the midwife of all the economic strife. He spoke about keeping business running, paying salaries regularly, social safety payments, cash transfers and loan facilities to generate small businesses. He mentioned the efforts made to keep the free quality education and healthcare projects prioritised. Theses were all highlighted against the backdrop of global events including the Covid-19 pandemic and most recently the Ukraine-Russia crisis. It would be deceitful not to acknowledge the impact these events have had on the world’s economies, including Sierra Leone. However, did President Bio’s speech come too late, too little?

So, in the spirit of the blame game, who is to blame?

One of the perennial criticisms Bio has faced is the lack of communication from his team. Many accuse his government as “too aloof and detached from the people”. It is interesting that president Bio prides himself as the “Talk & Do” leader. Many would subscribe to the “do” side of things. I wonder how many would do so for the “Talk” bit. We know that his administration is adept at giving reams of press releases. Nevertheless, there is a significant difference between paper release and voiceprints.

There is bonus in creating that human touch between the governors and the governed. It goes a long way to see a face behind a voice. Spin-doctors, information attaches, press secretaries and self-appointed jelibas can only do so much. You cant out a price on what the impact of seeing your president on television, telling you that he feels your pain, he understands where your are coming from, but most important, he is working very hard to address the situation. Would you find that refreshingly reassuring? I do not know about you, but I would.

Considering what we know, that “For some time now also, some politicians have been raising tensions with divisive language and threats to make this country ungovernable. Their known surrogates and associates have stated that they will continue to illegally use violence to unseat the democratically elected Government”, what would have happened if President Bio had delivered a similar address to the nation a week or so ago? Would that had stopped the riots? Should Bio engage his people more in the big conversation? Should he listen in action? To all intents and purposes, could such a speech had demonstrated empathy and strengthened the human connection with the electorate nationwide,   in these desperate times?  Nevertheless, in a separate interview with the BBC Focus on Africa programme, President Bio was honest to acknowledge unemployment of the youth and hardship as contributory.

Nothing is more important than empathy for another human being’s suffering. That is not to suggest a lack of it in this case.  We know that power usually comes from our awareness of our cultural strengths and our boundless capacity to empathise with our brothers and sisters. Former British politician David Miliband once said,” Good politics starts with empathy, proceeds to analysis, then sets values and establishes the vision, before getting to the nitty gritty of policy solutions”.  We do have well-meaning politicians in our midst. Are they in the majority? Your guess is as good as mine is. This brings us to the role of the opposition APC party in the unfortunate saga.

As the finger pointing goes, the APC leaning Mayor Aki-Sawyer has reportedly come under attack from certain sections of the administration, which allegedly accuse her of inciting the violence. She vehemently denied the accusation and believes that as part of a long running attempt to remove her from office, she has become a scapegoat for convenience (the sierraleoneneantelegraph.com).  As a member of the APC, does she represent the apparent widely held conviction that the APC party was the architect of this debacle? In response, the APC party released a statement in the immediate aftermath of the bloodshed.

The party “unreservedly condemn violence in every form”. It reminded “all stakeholders that citizens have a constitutional right to engage in peaceful protests, done within the confines of and with respect for the law”. It reaffirmed that “as a party, we continue reaffirming and reinforcing our commitment to sustainable peace and national cohesion. More than ever, our democratic institutions and processes must live up to the constitutional tenets and respect the rule of law” (thesierraleonetelegraph.com-11/08/22).

So, where did we hear this before? Many are wondering why the APC party not make such declarations, when self-appointed individuals were issuing threats in the name of the party. There are many social media video clips showing individuals draped in APC party colours, masquerading as mouthpieces for the party. So, many are wondering why did the APC party not publically condemn or disowned these individuals at the time? Why did the party not distance itself from them? How beautiful can it be to remain silent when someone expects you to be enraged? Is this another “too late, and too little” political balm? “For evil to prosper, it takes the good to do nothing” (E. Burke). Where does that leave the APC party in this saga?

So, where does that leave our youths in all this?

It is no surprise that many see our youths as cannon fodder for political intrigues. We see them as victims of elaborate schemes to channel our political ambitions. It is no wonder that the youths can be used, abused, misused and later refused on several fronts. They form the bedrock of our perennial unemployment statistics.  Throughout our history, there has been very little to write home about our youths. Lest we forget, our youths personify our painful reminders of our decade long war. The majority was born, bred, and breastfed on the ravages of our war. It is one thing to disarm the youths of weapons, but it is an entirely different proposition to detoxify them from their trauma.

This is no attempt to provide a convenient excuse for their behaviour. Nor is it an attempt to absolve them of any responsibility in this saga. However, we must remember that these youths, majority of whom are young adults today were child soldiers yesterday. They could pass for a bye product of our senseless war. It was gut wrenching to see them beating an already dead police officer to death. It takes an enormous amount humankind’s capacity for savagery, brutality, lack of empathy and compassion to mete out such behaviours. It is obvious that the war provided such acquired capacity for violence, and that is not an excuse.

Our politicians cannot deny knowledge of this. Therefore, why do our politicians weaponise our children’s psychological trauma? Why do they use and misuse them as political missiles against their opposition? With what happened on Wednesday, does that give credence to   Wole Soyinka’s quote that “only in Africa will thieves be regrouping to loot again and the youths whose future is being stolen will be celebrating”? If the youths of today are the leaders of tomorrow, what kind of world, are we bequeathing to them? What would be our legacy for them? Do the events of Wednesday 10th demonstrate our penchant to attract chaos or just being tragedy thirsty?

To all intents and purposes, do our political parties know that dimming the other person’s light does not make yours shine brighter? Why have we lost the ability to see the good in others? With all the recriminations, finger pointing, accusations, and fallouts, are our politicians shutting the barn door when the horse had already bolted? Was this an avoidable episode in our chequered recent history? How many times do we have to say “NEVER AGAIN?

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter (MLK). With partisan politics replacing the integrity of journalism in our country, where does that leave our FIFTH ESTATE?

Don’t forget to turn the lights out when you leave the room.

 

 

11 Comments

  1. GOD BLESS YOU, SIR MATTURI

    These folks were not brought up in liberal societies where the traditions of freedom of speech, freedom to be different , civility and democracy were enshrined. I am sure they were brought up and schooled in backward communities upcountry where the Chief is supreme and even his fart smells sweet . Any divergent opinion is a big abberation that warrants insults , threats and even extrajudicial extermination.

    Thanks to the internet today, I can support whom I want . When I was growing up in Sierra Leone, we did not have such opportunities and many of us who dared to be different were marked for arrests, jail or even murder. The Siaka Stevens Government was very allergic to criticisms and we, who worked for the media then , walked in a minefield. I was jailed for being the only journalist that told the APC Government in the SLPP “The People” newspaper that it was wrong to send thugs to FBC to attack the students who staged the 1977 students demonstration. I told the government it had overreacted and had set adrift a storm that will consume the country. I was arrested at work and taken to Pademba Road Prisons. While in jail, everything that I predicted happened.

    Let journalists support whom they want. That is democracy. Let the SLPP Government stop criminalizing free speech and the freedom to be different. After all, we all cannot be saying the same things. After all, we have chronic sycohants of this SLPP Government, praising even their killings. It is their right. If they have right to support the SLPP Government and its crimes, why is it not a right for somebody not to support them, if we believe in democracy ?

    SLPP supporters are the most undemocratic and the most repugnant attackers of anybody who does not support their party. I have seen it under President Kabbah and now under President Bio. I do not see anything wrong with the article written by Abdulai Mansaray. He was expessing his views . Aren’t people free anymore to give their independent views ?

    Anyway, thank God for people like you, Titus Pratt, Mohamed Bah and others who are the liberal voices on this nascent forum. Please continue educating our misguided brothers.

  2. Kamanda Solomon, would you care to elaborate on your statement. Albeit, your syntax and grammar is baffling, one should place it at the door of anger and haste.
    I believe sycophant is the word that you were trying to use.
    On this forum, we do not condone kangaroo courts or vicious slander, however, we also maintain freedom of expression. Therefore, where is your evidence of sycophancy and low intelligence of the editor? On what basis do you make the accusations and where is the context?
    This situation reminds me of the innocents who lost their lives in the war due to people with low intelligence accusing them of being a supporter of Kabba or Sankoh.
    In those far off days, when I was a lad, it was instilled in me that one should not make false accusations based on spite or hatred. A lack of morals and ethics seems to be a plague on the nation.

  3. “Looking at the social media clips on Wednesday August 10 this year, you cannot help but conjure the memories of the January 6th massacre, which left an indelible mark on the psyche and conscience of our nation, Sierra Leone”. -Abdulai Mansaray:

    There is a saying that “There is no Peace without Justice,” and a world-renowned organization goes by that name. While we might all be familiar with this sentence, we as a nation, including the elites among us, have never analysed the true meaning behind the statement and how failing to adhere to it leads to repeated injustices.

    In 2002 when the late President Kabba signed the Lomé Peace deal, he committed one cardinal mistake: shelving to the dustbin the statement “No Peace without Justice.” Many would argue that President Kabba had his hands tied and that he was pushed against the wall. But it is a fact that the poor judgement of the Lomé Peace accord is what we are experiencing today.
    Many who committed heinous crimes were let go for free. In fact people, who had their loved ones killed or maimed before November 1996, never received justice in any form or shape. The country saw their loss as irrelevant. There was no accountability, no justice to the victims, and no lessons learned. So when we said NO MORE”, we were not speaking with sincerity.
    The Genocide in Rwanda stopped on 28 July 1994 when the former Habyarimana regime and the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) ran away into the DRC, and the Rwanda Patriotic Front of President Kagame took over the country. Many did not know that the fighting continued until 1999 as the FAR, which reorganized itself as FDLR, repeated attacked Rwanda, causing much harm to civilians and the RPF. The UN-backed International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was set up in 1995 to try those who bore the greatest responsibility for the Genocide in 1994. The Rwanda government knew that many would not reach the threshed hold to be tried by the ICTR. Even with limited resources, the Rwanda government decided to try those who committed atrocities in their communities through a local judicial panel called ‘Gacaca’ in Kinyarwanda. These local judges had the authority to hear cases and sentence people to prison. Since the Gacaca was set up in the communities where the perpetrators committed the atrocities, it was straightforward to get the truth because the victims, witnesses, and perpetrators knew each other. Currently, and we are talking about 28 years after the Genocide, the Prisons in Rwanda are full with perpetrators some for just one killing that they omitted during the genocide, some for using their papers or radio stations to agitate people who went on to commit crimes . From Rubavu Prison in Gisenyi to Nyarugenge Prison outside Kigali to Nyanza Prison (where our Sierra Leoneans convicts are held) in Nyanza, Huye Prison in Butare, and the Rwamagana prison, to name but a few, the minimum inmate at each of these prison is 8000 plus. At the same time, the government is pursuing reconciliation but not with those who killed others. The result, Rwanda paths to normalcy is smooth, and guarantee.

    That cannot be said of Sierra Leone. Our Peace effort was cosmetic. In Sierra Leone, we thought that trying three leaders from each of our warring factions at the UN back Special Court was the best. It was not. For example, people like Augustin Gboa, who became a sector leader of the RUF in 1999, did not commit as much atrocities as did Sergeant Idriss Kamara, aka Leathearboot or Junior Lion or Mike Lamin, or Sergeant Akim Sesay or Kamoh Lahai Bangura of the CDF. But because Leatherboot, Sergeant Akim Sesay and Junior Lion were not seen as high ranking AFRC members, they walk away as freemen enjoying their loots and war largesse. Further, Leatherboot was rewarded as a senior presidential Security Officer at the State House by President Koroma. What message did that send to the youths who were seen on video killing police officers with sticks and stones when the likes of Leatherboots are their heroes and inspirations? There are countless examples of Leatherboot from the RUF, CDF, and AFRC who never paid for the crimes they committed against Sierra Leoneans.
    In the 10 August 2022 mayhem, some of the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the RUF/AFRC war are said to be the faceless instigators and motivators of the youths that took part 10 August 2022 mayhem. A picture of one of the 10 August 2022 perpetrators indicates that his nickname is MIKE LAMIN. Wasn’t Mike Lamin one of the RUF commanders who were never held to account despite his crimes in Sierra Leone? Do you see how a young man could nickname himself MIKE LAMIN because of his admiration of the real Mike Lamin? So you see why failing to hold wrongdoers to account always tend for history to repeat itself.
    In Rwanda, people, including journalists, are paying for their deeds. In Sierra Leone, former war crimes perpetrators are used and promoted as Political Marshals in the big political parties-the SLPP and APC- a recipe for disaster.

    Was Victor Foh not the Minister of Finance in the illegal AFRC/FUF Junta, and yet he subsequently rose to become Vice President? What moral lesson as a nation are we teaching the youths?

    • Very, very good Madam, only issue is virtually everyone in Sierra Leone would have gone to prison and I doubt if Rwanda has the capacity.
      Ahmed Kabba first for breaching the Geneva convention by bombing civillian areas. Evil Spirit,the Nigerian soldier who killed hundreds in Aberdeen, Joe Demby the Kamajor boss,FM 98.1 for incitement to kill Alhaji Musa Kabia, Abu Black, Sakoma and countless Soldiers who were burnt with Tyres.
      The perpetrators of the massacre in Tongo Fields.
      The Nigerian army which imposed an illegal food blockade, which was not part of the UN resoloution, which stipulated an arms blockade. The R.U.F, S.L.A and the British for the sandline intervention.
      The issue here is on of public perception, it was a civil war, the downside of war crimes tribunals is that the image of the country is forever tarnished.
      To the outside world, do you think they consider that it was Issa Sesay an RUF or Alieu Kondewa,no, as far as they are concerned Sierra Leoneans are a barbaric lot which impacts on investment and development, therefore I would stipulate that the root of the present situation was the concentration on revenge rather than progress.
      The money for the special court could have kickstarted the farming industry or value added industries to provide jobs for the combatants, however, this has always been the stance of the S.L.P.P.
      Blood, revenge, and tribalism.

  4. With all due respect to those who carefully took their time in giving out their comments,it is very sad that in this country Sierra Leone,no one can express his/her thought freely. And I must comment to what happened on the 10th August 2022 with the saying”A hungry man is an angry man”.The economic situation is so hard that it has become unbearable. For a matter of fact,the sitting government must take responsibility for it’s citizens as promised during their manifesto, not to cast blames on those we referred to as thieves and reckless government. To crown it all,one should not blame his/her parents for his failure. Mr.President,those you referred to as terrorists are same persons that voted you in and you owe responsibility to them,not the other way round. And you that are used to saying”we are peace loving Sierra leoneans”not until we all come to our right senses, then this country will not come to it normal status, I pray that God changes the behaviour of all Sierra Leoneans.May we preach peace disassociate ourselves from public incitement. May God help we all.Amen!!

  5. Mr Solomon Kamanda you are the very embodiment of everything that is wrong with our. Country You are out of your depth and quiet litatlly a Boi apologist .Where were you when Bio delcread war on his so called terrorist back in 2020 when more than forty unarmed prisoners were killed at Pademba Road ?Where is your sense of self pity and righteousness about what happened on the day ?Attacking Mr Mansaray and the editorial of this paper is not only denying the facts as they were presented, which is balanced with no prisoners taken .After all no one is forcing or have placed a gun on to your head asking you to read and cram all the published article on the Sierra Leone Telegraph .If you can’t stand the heat don’t stay in the kitchen.My hunched here is since you lack the intellectual capacity to read and understands what the author of the article was trying to discern and convey and quiet rightly stuked to the facts , render your outburst as a Bio progangadist that don’t have the answer or suggestion of our country’s problem as we see it. Sometimes is best not open your mouth if you have nothing sensible to say .

    Silence is gold .No human is perfect .Our country is going through hell and all of us want to try and make sense of it.Like I suggested before our country don’t need the Lawrence Liaha Leemas nor can we stomach the Adebayos .After all we are all Sierra Leoneans that want to see good things happen in our country .And if this is the only convenient way you find easy to contribute on the on going debate full of half baked ideas and general animosity towards the intelligentia and people who are trying in their own way to point out Bio lack of leadership and his one direction government in the right direction, you might as well continue to play succour to a failing government .I wonder how much of your life have change since Bio took office ?This midum is not for propagandist.

  6. So who is or are the author/s of this brilliant journalese per excellence. There is brilliance in the use of the mirror metaphor which seems to objectively sum up what’s wrong with us as a nation. However, more questions have been asked than we can fathom the answers at this material time. Normally, when things go wrong, the healing process starts with these sort of questions.. Nonetheless, these questions require not only President Bio and the political elites of Sierra Leone but all of us as a nation including those of us living abroad to work on from now on to 2023 and beyond. The gruesome images of Bloody Wednesday caught on social media have become a huge embarrassment, when our children and some colleagues ask “ what’s wrong with you people in Sierra Leone?”

  7. Thank you very much Mr. Abdulai Mansaray, you’ve done so many incredible things to this noble platform, I personally appreciate you, As a real patriotic Citizen of this great country” SierraLeone”, only inexperienced someone who claimed this country as his which isn’t true, can criticizes you, after taking your relentless time to educate us. The only person that the terrorists organizations will be happy for in this forum” Sierra Leone telegraph” in your article, you must insult the current administration, use indecent languages against the pres. Or his family members, you will receive all praises. What happened to this country is unheard of,.
    Mr. Mansaray please do not stop, no matter whatever name they call you, the terrorists have no remose or sympathy for our law enforcements officers that lost their lives. Not even care what their families going through. I am callingon all international communities to intervened to stop no terrorism in Africa.
    This is what the enemies of the free world looking for, safe haven. We are tired of APC, really disappointed this tiny west African state, you will remain an opposition forever. I see nothing that Mr. Mansaray says wrong in his current article, attacking him makes no sense. The most an accurate qualified writer in this forum today, nobody like him, it’s wrong to attack his experience folks. Very intelligent and eloquent in writing✍. Thank you Sir and we need you. All those responses terrorizing this country, must brought to justice. My message to the President(Bio), you’ve to defend this nation.

  8. Editor General and Publisher of such newspaper is a secophant and hypocrisy to the highest degree.

    Your comments does not represent a global high IQ in the world.

    Stop writing such sad and very inexperienced knowledge you have acquired over the years.

    • Hallo, Mr Solomon Kamanda. You have to apologise to the Editor and the writer. On this glorious platform, we cannot accept anyone to come and make such sarcastic, rude, silly and absurd remarks on those doing their best to bring us the news while enlightening us on the current affairs of state in Sierra Leone. It is unacceptable to some of us. Going further, it is a public insult and nuisance to the highest degree. There is no reason to become discourteous to the writer and the Editor. Did you read the entire article?
      The article has something for everyone. If you are APC, defend or criticise the area you feel comfortable with. Vice versa if you are SLPP. I will be ashamed of myself if I behave carefree and in such an undesirable manner. Respect others if you want others to respect you. You have every right to your opinion, but we as forumites have the right to ours too. The writer has the right to publish his article. Do you agree with me? If you don’t like the article, stay away from it or discuss any issue you have responsibly with the writer. That’s it, my friend. Try and apologise as quickly as you possibly can, Mr Solomon Kamanda. In my view, failing to apologise will put you in a defensive position on this platform. Believe me. Days ago, it was Mr Kabs Kanu, and now it was Mr Abdulai Mansaray. Where are we taking this glorious forum to? Ladies and gentlemen, let’s avoid attacking the writers and the Editor irresponsibly. Let’s treat them with respect. God bless the Editor, our writers and all forumites. “Waitin the man day talk”?

      • Since I couldn’t tell whether Mr kamanda was writing English in Krio or Krio in English, I couldn’t dignify his outburst with a response. Nevertheless, forumites have already reminded him of our responsibilities, to be responsible here. Nuff said. However, never hesitate to challenge or express your alternative views here. Just stick to the issues and keep it civil. All of us have the right to be stupid. Don’t abuse the privilege.

Tell us what you think

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.