Dear Major Johnny Koroma
I write as your compatriot and I hope you will find the time to read and heed what I wish to say. Unlike some others, I do not propose to insult you or to call your comrades names. I have already spoken to you on a few occasions and you are more or less aware of what my position is on the matter of the coup d’état that brought you to where you are and jettisoned President Tejan Kabbah off to where he is.
It is not correct that both of you find yourselves in the positions
that you are currently in. You rightly belong, as you passionately confirmed
to me, as a professional soldier, to the Army, first and foremost. I have
therefore no doubt about your credentials and intentions for our country.
It is to your honour and honesty that this letter is addressed in whole or in part. I, as you may be aware, have been quite concerned that the present crisis which has brought our country down on its knees should be resolved immediately, amicably and peacefully, without further bloodshed and disruption of civil life and well-being.
Let me also be bold to assure you that I am one of very few who will publicly state, in contrast to some others who would want the world to believe otherwise, that everything was not rosy in the country under the government that you have just ousted. Indeed in the very columns of this paper I have relentlessly hammered home the truth about some of the grave issues which were afflicting our nation and needed immediate attention. Sadly, no heed was paid to them. Instead the only accolade that I reaped was to be labelled a rebel. One miscreant on the Internet has even referred to me as “a professional dissident”. Why? Because when asked on a BBC programme why Sierra Leone is prone to coups, I sought to explain that a coup does not just occur in a vacuum and that there are conditions that can lead to it if they are not attended to.
Be that as it may, some of us - and I would like to include you in this category - were meant to work selflessly for our country and people. That is why I feel confident that, if you share these sentiments with me for our country, you will consider very seriously what I say in this open letter to you.
The lapses in government did not start with the government that you have overthrown. The history of successive administrations in our country is replete with failures to address many of the burning issues in our society. Even the government you have just elbowed out had already become complacent, behaving as if it was in power for ever and that nothing would put them out of it. I knew that if they continued that way and did not mend their ways they would be rejected next time at the ballot box. Yes, Major Koroma, at the ballot box NOT overthrown by a coup d’état! I think we should now move away from this method of changing those who rule over us from time to time.
I am bound to say to you, therefore, that however serious your grievances were - and I would endorse nearly all of them - they did not warrant another coup for Sierra Leone. That’s why I cannot in conscience support your coup – I supported the NPRC one (to my utter regret!). I however believe that you have legitimate grievances. But these can be addressed with the requisite political will and degree of tolerance.
I know for example that soldiers of the Sierra Leone Armed forces have had a hard time over the last six years fighting a rebel war, not of their making but of politicians who failed our people time after time, election after election. I know and I fully acknowledge the sacrifice of many SLAF soldiers who have died fighting to bring peace to our country. I am also aware that less than fulsome gratitude has come from the people of Sierra Leone who, because some of your own colleagues in the Armed Forces betrayed their professionalism and colluded with the enemy, lumped every soldier including yourself into the same basket of suspicion as rebel collaborators. But if you have time to read back copies of this paper, you will note that I warned the nation that if the war had not been fought gallantly by our soldiers, the RUF would have overrun our entire country three or four years ago.
So you can count on me as one of your countrymen who is neither ashamed of our army’s commitment in defending the integrity of our country nor ungrateful for the performance of your colleagues in our armed forces.
When we spoke the first time, you expressed genuine anger at the reference, by others, to you and your comrades as dregs and animals. Elsewhere in this edition, I have asked our country the question ‘Who created the dregs?’ I await a response which will probably never come. But we, I mean the people of Sierra Leone, have got no time to wait for an answer because our country is burning and we need to rescue it from the embers of illegal usurpation. All that I know is that only very few people have been enjoying the full benefits of being Sierra Leonean which, we were told, includes the enjoyment, in nearly equal shares, of the natural resources of the land.
So Major Koroma, I know your anger and that of the RUF who have joined to reinforce your ranks. Yes, I know a little bit about the RUF because I, unlike most people, took the trouble to meet and talk to them to find out why they had taken up arms against our people. I did not agree with their reasons but I understood their position. For that I was labelled a rebel collaborator by those who did not want to know the facts. I also appreciate, and I agree with you, that now that the RUF have come out of their hiding places in the bush, from where they unleashed some of the worst violence on innocent defenceless country people, as well as on your comrades in the army, they should be encouraged not to return there but be given a genuine option to participate in re-building our country.
But notwithstanding all of the foregoing, I hope that you can see that none of them affords you a good enough reason for your coup.
If however your intention was to throw focus on the fact that your grievances and concerns, including the delicate matter of the confrontation between the Army and the Kamajohs, were not being properly addressed by the government you ousted, then your coup has more than made the point. It is, however, a matter of profound regret that it was accompanied by the recklessness of disgorging the inmates of our prisons, including the most dangerous, onto our streets. It is evident that this act alone has made life very difficult not just for the citizens of our beleaguered cities but even for you yourselves, in your efforts to maintain law and order.
You and your RUF allies therefore owe us a duty to ensure that the lawlessness, murders and rapes, and the looting and robberies (Did I hear someone say there was lawlessness and armed robberies even before the coup?) cease immediately.
I think the time has come for you to open your heart to the pleas of your countrymen and country women for the return to constitutional rule. I do not believe any more violence is necessary for this to happen. Naturally, once the civilian government returns - and I have no set mind about its nature and composition - it will be made fully aware that its survival will depend on putting such issues as I have mentioned at the very top of its agenda. I am sure it will be guaranteed by the electorate of Sierra Leone.
This paper, Focus on Sierra Leone, has established a reputation for patriotism, objectivity and fairness. It remains on permanent standby for your beck and call, should you wish it to play any role, in collaboration with other compatriots, to create those conditions for you and your comrades to secure the release of our country from the stranglehold of the impasse that has been brought about by your unfortunate action of May 25, 1997.