|There is a sinister attempt to discredit my modest
efforts for peace in Sierra Leone
MINE HAS ALWAYS BEEN A MISSION
FOR PEACE IN SIERRA LEONE
I have been accused, by a malicious group of people in my country,
of being a rebel sympathiser. Why? Because I have succeeded in winning
the inconstant trust and limited confidence of one of the main parties
in the Sierra Leone civil war - the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).
This fragile and innocuous relationship took a long time to
build and has involved tremendous risk and sacrifice in time, resources
and effort. I worked hard to gain it from the moment I realised that peace
and harmony could only return to Sierra Leone by engaging in meaningful
dialogue with the "other side".
When thousands of demonstrators were brought out into the streets
of Freetown, Bo, Kenema, and Makeni to chant the slogan "We want Peace",
they must have meant "peace with the enemy" not with their friends and
neighbours, unless they were being deceived by their leaders. I drew inspiration
for my peace efforts from that.
The purpose of the dialogue that I sought was to secure a means
of encouraging the RUF in the direction of peaceful negotiations leading
eventually to settlement of the civil war, with honour and reconciliation
on all sides.
I have thus played my part honourably by doing no more than
to respond to the call of duty to render public service to my country and
people. I must also, from the outset, pay a glowing tribute to scores of
equally, and even more, patriotic Sierra Leoneans whom I have been especially
privileged to work with, and who have committed themselves wholly to procuring
peace for all of us. A lot of them got involved a long time before me and
are still persevering. I commend them for their spirit.
As regular readers know only too well, I started this newsletter nearly
two years ago at the height of the civil war in Sierra Leone. At that time
I knew that enough was not being done to get to the root causes of the
war and to present a reasoned and unemotional analysis of some of the events
that were taking place behind the incidents of violence and destruction.
Although attempts were being made by ordinary civilians in the
country to contribute to the peace process, their efforts appeared uncoordinated
partly because they did not get the support of the soldiers who were then
in power and partly because of the lack of resources. It was also the first
time that a catastrophe on this scale had faced the country and there were
no precedents for dealing with it, other than external ones, to guide the
country and its citizens.
The only people who seemed to be making any headway, probably
because they had the clout and resources to go with it, were foreigners
and their NGOs. Indigenous Sierra Leoneans themselves did not appear to
be making any worthwhile impact.
I was also acutely aware of the dearth of information particularly
among those who would be in a position to help towards finding a resolution
to the war as it took its toll of indiscriminate death and destruction.
The local press was habitually hamstrung by the delirious antipathy of
the NPRC towards it. Journalists were being dragged to CID for daring to
bring the real, as opposed to the censored, truth to the attention of the
Sierra Leone public.
The international community did not care what happened to the
country. It was of no strategic importance to them. It was just another
Kaplanesque manifestation of anarchy in some corner of dark Africa! (See
Vol. 1 No 1 & Vol. 2 No 2)
False and malicious rumours
I cannot comprehend that because I took an independent personal initiative
to contribute to the peaceful resolution of the conflict in my own country,
compatriots in official circles, who have contributed absolutely nothing
towards the process, are going around spreading false and malicious rumours
about my role. It has been variously alleged that I, Ambrose Ganda - that's
me in the picture - was "the mouth piece of the RUF", "the adviser
of the RUF", "a sympathiser of the rebels", "the scribe for the RUF" etc.
How anyone who has been reading Focus on Sierra Leone can come to
that conclusion beggars belief.
Loathe as I am to personalise issues in this newsletter - God
knows how many times I have resisted the temptation! - I owe it to my subscribers
and supporters to clear any lingering doubts about my self-assumed role
as opinion leader and peace activist. This edition is, therefore, my fight
back against malevolent official machinations within the Sierra Leonean
body politic which started under the defunct NPRC regime and have continued
to thrive insidiously under the so-called new order.
A vicious propaganda
The NPRC military government under which this deliberate deception
commenced, had taken a dislike to my critical assessments of their misrule.
(See State of Despair serialised in FSL Vol. 1 Nos 2,
& 5.) They also felt upstaged by civilians
who appeared to be making headway on the peace front believing their successes
were casting doubt on their commitment to resolve the crisis in Sierra
Leone. One soldier reportedly commented that they could not allow civilians
this accolade. Their coup de grace was literally handed to them when a
letter was allegedly intercepted, in which my name was mentioned
in connection with a series of meetings that I held with representatives
of the RUF in Abidjan (Ivory Coast) in November 1995. These meetings were
reported fully and placed within the public domain. (See FSL Vol. 1 No
10 & Vol. 2 No 1.) The letter clearly said that I was not privy to
any subsequent discussions which took place between the writer and the
Nevertheless the NPRC Secretariat flashed news of my alleged
collusion with the RUF on the Internet, and gave briefings to the Sierra
Leone Press. Gullible netters and a less than candid section of the local
press regurgitated the NPRC line. It led to serious misunderstanding and
confusion about my role.
I immediately posted a rebuttal on Internet and sent copies
to editors of fourteen local newspapers. Three were courteous enough to
reproduce my response. Two continued to repeat the innuendoes. The rest
simply did not bother to publish my denial.
This state of affairs has continued under the present civilian
government. Ministers and civil servants visiting the UK have been telling
their selected audiences that I am perceived by their government as an
RUF supporter and that they do not wish to have any dealings with me. Contemptible
though this is, I suspect that these political nobodies feel insecure in
their new found positions of power and see anyone who is determined to
render public service to the country as a threat to their political ambitions.
I have yet to identify more than two people in the present Cabinet
who contributed significantly in bringing us to the present position where
they can now so complacently proclaim imminent peace for Sierra Leone.
Let me therefore, with modesty, recount my role in the peace
effort. I am, naturally, bound to omit those issues whose confidentiality
is a condition of my continuing to play the independent role that I have
played till now.
The birth of Focus on Sierra Leone
In November 1994 following the intensification of the war, there were
undisguised feelings of helplessness, abandonment and fatalism among ordinary
Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad. I therefore decided to start a newsletter
that focused exclusively on the search for peace, using my very moderate
personal resources. I was convinced that by analysis and objective reporting
of various issues about the conflict, I could contribute in small measure
to the elimination of rumour and deliberate misinformation which were cumulatively
fanning the flames of intransigence, hatred and mutual suspicion.
I was also struck by the lack of realism in the country, spurred
by the military authorities, that the RUF were not really to be taken seriously
and that their leader Corporal Foday Sankoh did not exist. The extent and
scale of the destruction convinced me that a sinister power, albeit disorganised,
was behind the mayhem.
The complacency of the inhabitants of Freetown which had escaped
the rigors of the war was another factor. I heard about people, including
friends and relatives, from the towns and villages up country, being slaughtered
and uprooted from their homes daily, as the war progressed from the South
East, to the South West and later into the North. But life went on as normal
in our Capital city. I myself, more than once, heard Freetonians on holiday
in London comment that the incidence of the war was being exaggerated and
that, in any case, it was just country people fighting among themselves.
For a long time, the war was not even officially acknowledged as a civil
war. People were led to believe that Sierra Leoneans were not involved.
Disagreement with the NPRC
Focus on Sierra Leone was my way of making amends for supporting
the coup of 29 April 1992 when a bunch of - I was to discover later -
illiterate, incompetent and deceitful soldiers took power just when every
Sierra Leonean wanted desperately to get rid of the APC government.
I endorsed the NPRC's coup on BBC African Service radio in the
expectation that they would tackle the war more resolutely but, in any
case, hand over to an interim civilian administration in eighteen months.
I personally financed and, with some of my compatriots, organised two demonstrations
in their support in front of the Sierra Leone High Commission in London.
In less than a year after coming to power the NPRC's behaviour
was almost indistinguishable from, if not worse than, the APC which they
had overthrown. The war got worse; breaches of citizens' human rights were
rampant. The regime became characterised by corruption, incompetence, arrogance
I was in the country when they executed 29 Sierra Leoneans,
including a friend - the actor and dramatist Salami Coker - on a trumped
up charge of attempting a coup. I resolved then that the NPRC could no
longer continue to enjoy my support. Instead of working towards a peaceful
or successful conclusion of the war, they had become one of the reasons
for the war continuing.
This was the genesis of the article State of Despair
referred to above. When it first appeared in West Africa magazine
(23 April-1 May 1994), most of the consignment for Sierra Leone was seized
and burnt on arrival. I badly needed an independent vehicle to air my own
opinion and that of anyone else who cared. Thus Focus on Sierra Leone
First contact with International Alert
I had just published the first edition of Focus in November 1994 when
I received a phone call from International Alert (IA) - the London-based
conflict resolution NGO. They thought there was an urgent need for ordinary
Sierra Leoneans to get involved in seeking a peaceful resolution of the
civil war. They explained their role as facilitators who were trying to
get the warring parties to talk to each other. They invited me to a series
of briefings about the war (as they saw it) and to a showing of a video
recording of the release of captured, or according to the RUF "rescued",
Western and Sierra Leonean hostages. I had hours of discussion with Dr
Sebo, their special agent, after which I became enamoured by the desire
to do all I could towards helping the peace process.
I also knew that many NPRC ministers and officials at the London
High Commission were regularly visiting IA's offices to be informed about
developments on the peace front. I have continued to contact IA on vital
issues to do with the peace process and they have always been helpful.
First contact with RUF
In April 1995, I got a call, out of the blue, at my office in London,
from Alimamy Bakaar Sankoh who was then the chief spokesman and
the Public Relations Officer of the RUF. I do not know how he obtained
my office number because it did not appear in Focus.
Sankoh (hereafter referred to as Bakaar to avoid being confused
with the RUF leader) said that Focus was too hard on, and unfair
to, the RUF. He said Corporal Foday Sankoh had instructed him to protest
about the erroneous views I held about them. He claimed to knew about me
and the role I had played for so many years during the APC regime, including
my writings and many critical comments he heard me make on BBC radio. He
thought I and others in the diaspora should get involved to facilitate
I rejected his charge of unfairness to the RUF but offered to
present their views, for the sake of dialogue, if they would seriously
consider a peaceful settlement of the war and, in the meantime, stop the
slaughter of innocent defenceless citizens. He denied that they were responsible
and assured me that "peace with honour" was their goal. Then he embarked
on a heated denouncement of the presence of foreign troops and the deceitfulness
of the NPRC soldiers.
After our conversation, my office colleagues could hear me muttering
to myself repeatedly "My God! I think we have got a breakthrough!"
RUF seeks help from credible Sierra Leonean elders
One Saturday afternoon in July 1995 Bakaar - the sole RUF person I
knew but only by telephone - again contacted me, this time at my home.
He desperately pleaded with me to go easy on them but expressed his appreciation
for the publication of a letter written by Foreign Affairs spokesman Ibrahim
Deen Jalloh, which gave the RUF's position on certain issues. (See
FSL Vol. 1 No 7 and my analysis of that letter in FSL Vol. 1 No 8.)
He said he rang specifically to enlist my help in contacting
senior Sierra Leonean citizens whom I thought could be useful to play a
mediatory role. I suggested Sir Banja Tejan-Sie - the former Head
of State and Governor General who resides in London and the distinguished
Dr John Karefa Smart in Washington DC. "But we do not have contact
numbers for these people. Could you please give us their addresses?" he
pleaded. I gave him their telephone numbers only, with a warning that he
should not disclose how he got them. He rang and spoke to both men. I later
admitted the fact about the telephone numbers to both Sir Banja and Dr
Karefa Smart; in the case of the latter, in the presence of delegates at
the Oslo Peace Conference in July 1995.
Bakaar and I talked on two further occasions after which I learnt
that he had broken away from the RUF to form his own political movement
- the Peoples Democratic League (See FSL Vol. 2 Nos 2 & 5.)
Association with Omrie Golley
In August 1995, as a result of the modest credibility I had established
in my contact with the RUF mainly through this newsletter, I was approached
by a Sierra Leonean Mr Omrie Golley (Jr.), Director of the National
Convention For Reconstruction and Development. He informed me that the
RUF were in Abidjan (Ivory Coast). "You are doing a wonderful job for our
country" he said "and I believe you can help to push this peace process
through. These people seem to have a lot of confidence in you. Why don't
you go, meet and talk with them and see how we Sierra Leoneans - as opposed
to foreigners - can get involved in bringing peace to our country? If anyone
can, you could be the one!"
I told Omrie that after the expense of producing Focus,
which is borne solely by me, I could not afford the resources to undertake
the further role of an itinerant peace facilitator. And even if I wanted
to, I had no annual leave left at work and would therefore require to take
special leave, without pay. He offered to defray the entire cost of the
That was how I was able to meet and interview, in person for
the first time, two of the RUF's top men - Mr Fayia Musa and Mr
Palmer. The actual encounter was facilitated by International Alert
whose agents were also in Abidjan.
That meeting was the prelude to a relationship of trust and
mutual respect between myself and the RUF. Why anyone should wish to misconstrue
this link baffles me. My account of that trip and the record of that interview
were placed in the public domain in the series of articles entitled A
Mission For Peace. (See FSL Vol. 1 No 10 & Vol. 2 No 1.)
As a matter of courtesy, when I returned to London I contacted
and visited the Commonwealth Secretariat where I briefed officials about
my reading of the situation and how I felt progress could be made. I do
not believe that they were impressed by my suggestions as they were already
biased in favour of elections, come what may. But I did at least apprise
them of my own candid assessment.
Who's to blame if I appear one-sided?
At my own expense I have maintained regular contact, by telephone,
with the RUF wherever they have been, and whenever necessary. At the same
time I tried often to reach the NPRC. I gratuitously sent each edition
of Focus to senior NPRC officials, including the two former Chairmen,
eight ministers and the NPRC Secretariat. I never received a single acknowledgement.
In addition, 20 copies specifically requested by Military Headquarters
at Cockerill were despatched. They promised to pay a subscription but never
did. I have continued the practice of sending each edition to key members
of the present [Kabbah] government.
I occasionally contacted persons associated with NPRC officials
and shared ideas about the best way for the warring parties to engage in
quiet dialogue. None of my overtures were reciprocated. It became clear
to me that I was becoming more one-sided. It worried me enough to often
raise it with trusted compatriots, including my friends John Joseph Adewole,
Fred Kamara, Emmanuel Moijueh Kaikai, members of the Sierra Leone Network
for Peace and Development (see below) and the recently formed Association
For Sierra Leoneans Abroad (ASLA).
If I appeared one-sided in my peace initiatives it was not by
design. But I could not therefore stop talking to and encouraging the RUF
the peace option simply because the other side - my governments of the
day - pretend that I and others who are active on the peace front do not
exist. I have kept my links with the RUF in the firm conviction that a
peaceful resolution with honour on all sides is worth striving for. The
RUF understand that and have more often, than not, kept their word and
treated me with respect.
London Peace March;
Sierra Leone Network For Peace and Development;
Oslo Peace Conference
On Saturday 8 April 1995, members of the Sierra Leone Peace Forum,
of which I was a founding member, committed to peaceful settlement, organised
a march in the heart of London. It was the most successful co-operative
effort ever by expatriate Sierra Leoneans. About 750 people attended. (See
FSL Vol. 1 No 5.) The NPRC spared no effort in trying to sabotage that
march but, happily, people did not yield to their intimidatory tactics.
I was the chief spokesperson at that march and no one who was present or
heard what I said could conclude that I was a rebel sympathiser.
Not long afterwards I was approached by an NGO - Conciliation
Resources (CR) - with a view to identifying a group of committed Sierra
Leoneans in the UK who might be interested in forming a supportive group
to complement peace efforts inside Sierra Leone. After months of preparatory
work members resolved to form themselves into The Sierra Leone Network
For Peace and Development. The Network has jointly, with CR, run two peace
workshops in Sierra Leone and recently submitted proposals for a Peace
Commission. (See FSL Vol. 1 No 10; Vol. 2 No 4.)
From 27 - 29 July 1995 I was a delegate at the Oslo Peace Conference,
held in Norway, which was organised by the Sierra Leone-Norway Cooperation.
We discussed the problems of peace and the options that were available
to the government and the RUF. A resolution was adopted which prescribed
the ways forward. (See FSL Vol. 1 No 9.)
At that meeting three other delegates and myself were selected
to represent conference at the forthcoming INEC Consultative Conference
on the Electoral Process that was due to be held in Freetown from 15 -
17 August. In the end I did not go - a decision that I now bitterly regret
- because my own sources warned me that my personal safety was at risk
from certain military members of the NPRC who were not pleased at my opposition
to their government. I opted on the side of caution - the idea of a dead
hero has never fascinated me! - and stayed away. My other co-delegates
Dr Christian Webber (Germany) Dr Columba Blango (London)
and Mrs Renee Spring (nee Horton-Coker) attended the conference.
Contact with the Freetown-based UN Special Envoy
When they returned to London, Columba and Renee told me that the UN
Secretary-General's special envoy in Sierra Leone, Dr Berhanu Dinka
me to get in touch with him. I did so immediately and for nearly three
months I talked on the phone with him about the possibilities of his meeting
and talking with the RUF. He had spent over a year in Freetown and been
rebuffed by them. They accused him, rather unfairly I thought, of being
partisan and of having a cosy relationship with the authorities in Freetown.
I remember explaining to Bakaar Sankoh that Dinka was an independent envoy,
his territory was inviolate, and his independence and impartiality were
not compromised simply because he was based in Freetown.
I found Dinka an easy communicator. He told me rather excitedly
that I could reverse all future calls to him and that my input was absolutely
critical in his plans. I told him that I'd rather make the calls directly
and eventually present him with an itemised bill. He agreed. I must have
made at least 7 calls over the three months or so with an average duration
of 20 minutes.
During one of our conversations, in addition to telling me about
his frustration at not being able to make physical contact with the RUF,
he told me that he had received an anonymous letter at his office in which
"Ambrose Ganda" had been suggested as a possible facilitator. It was not
clear for whom. I believe he thought it might have come from the RUF but
he was not sure. I was rather amused but he appeared to think that it pointed
to a possible breakthrough.
I promised to verify during my next contact with the RUF whether
they were the authors and, if so, why they could not tell me in person
during my previous conversations with them! My evaluation of it, then as
now, was that it was a prank, just like many spurious anonymous scripts
that were circulating in the country at that time, including one sent to
the British High Commissioner and another to my brother, Archbishop Joseph
Ganda, and many others. The RUF denied authorship of the note. Significantly,
I did not know at this time that a rift had developed between Bakaar Sankoh
and the rest of the RUF. (See FSL Vol. 2 No 2.)
Dr Dinka had also told me a few confidential facts which would
prove helpful in my next contact with the RUF. I pleaded with Bakaar, who
was now residing in Accra (Ghana), that it was in the RUF's interest to
meet, or at least talk, with Dinka. He said they would not talk to him
but would be prepared to meet the UN Ambassador in Ivory Coast instead,
if travel documents were provided for them. I relayed this to Dinka who
was adamant that the RUF must talk to him first, as the UN Secretary General's
envoy specifically assigned to the resolution of the crisis in the country,
or else he foresaw that they would "continue to have serious difficulties".
I promised to work towards a rapprochement.
Fiasco in Abidjan
In December 1995, news came that an RUF Foreign Affairs delegation
was in Abidjan to meet the OAU. I contacted Mr Golley and told him of the
possibility for us Sierra Leoneans to make our mark on the peace process
and that we should be in a state of readiness to proceed and meet the delegation.
I shared with him some of the information from Dinka. But without letting
me know, he contacted Dinka and they both arranged to proceed to Abidjan
in the hope of meeting the RUF. It backfired because as word got around
that Dinka was in the Ivorian capital, the RUF were spirited away by International
Alert - their minders - to a secret location on the outskirts of the city.
"Talk to Dinka for me" said IA's Secretary-General.
That evening, by a strange coincidence, I was preparing to travel to
Dakar (Senegal) for a capacity-building peace workshop, organised and run
by International Alert (IA).
I received a phone call from Dr Kumar Rupesinghe, the
Secretary-General of IA. He told me that Dinka had arrived in Abidjan,
ostensibly, to see the RUF but was refusing to talk to IA. Kumar said he
was equally resolute that the UN envoy would be denied access. He contacted
me because he had heard that I was in regular touch with Dinka and thought
that I might be able to influence him. He gave me Dinka's contact number
at an Abidjan hotel and kindly asked me to ring, at IA's expense, and persuade
him to first meet and talk with IA. "We have struggled to bring these people
out here to meet the OAU and he must talk to us if he wishes to see them"
I spoke to Dr Dinka for almost forty minutes and expressed my
dismay at his decision, without a cursory reference to me, to travel to
meet the RUF which we had agreed I was to try and facilitate. I believe
I succeeded in persuading him to accept the need to talk to IA's Secretary
Early the next morning, just before I left home for the airport,
Kumar, who had now arrived at his own hotel in Abidjan, rang to check whether
I had contacted Dinka. I assured him that I had and that Dinka would after
all be prepared, though begrudgingly, to talk to him. I believe they met
and talked in the end. Dinka also had his meeting with the RUF delegation
but only after it had met with OAU officials.
Dr Dinka and I finally met, for the first and only time in person,
at the Yamoussoukro peace talks in March this year. I found him a pleasant
and genuine emissary for peace in Sierra Leone. He had been rather impulsive
in acting the way he did. We have not been in touch since that time. I
have never claimed the cost of my telephone calls.
The peace workshop in Dakar was attended by a delegation from
Sierra Leone comprising members of the National Coalition Committee for
Peace (NCCP) and included Messrs Victor Reider (General Secretary),
Fornah, Davidson Kuyateh and Ms Daisy Bona JP., who heads
the Commission of Women and Youth which looks after displaced women and
children. Our meeting was fortuitous because it gave me a golden opportunity
to acquaint my compatriots of my activities and, at the same time, learn
from them the correct account of the situation and mood of the country.
In particular, their own thinking on how we could cooperate to forge peace
initiatives based on the recognition that it was vital for ordinary civilian
men and women to assume ownership and control of the peace process.
My opposition to the last elections
In opposition to elections before peace, I supported peace before elections
and argued this point, as most readers will appreciate, forcefully before,
during and after the elections. (See FSL Vol. 1 Nos 6, 7 & 10; Vol.
2 No 2.)
My stand tragically coincided with that of the RUF and the NPRC
both of whom had their own selfish reasons for not wanting the elections.
The position of those like me who wanted peace before elections was hijacked
and deliberately neutered by NPRC soldiers who wanted to use it as an opportunity
for staying in power. Thus our further demand that the soldiers should
hand over to an interim government of national unity, in order to save
us from bitter internecine political rivalry that could deflect the national
focus away from the peace objective, was blatantly ignored. The politicians,
too, did not like it as prospects of the sweets of political office beckoned
Just before those elections a coup took place on Tuesday 16
January and a new Chairman and Head of State, Brigadier Julius Maada
Bio took over. (See FSL Vol. 2 No 1.) His sister, Agnes, is a senior
member of the RUF delegation which had, in the meantime, left Abidjan and
returned to their base in Danane. I kept in regular touch, talking alternatively
to Mr Fayia Musa and Dr Mohammed Barrie.
A message for Chairman Bio
On Monday 29 February 1996, not having talked to the RUF for about
two weeks and worried about the increase in the level of violence in various
parts of the country as elections day approached, I rang Danane to talk
to Fayia Musa.
I was not prepared for what was to hit me. "Ambrose" he said
"I am glad you have called. We were trying to reach you with a very important
piece of information". I fished around for a pen but could not, in my excitement,
see the one lying right ahead of me.
I never wrote down what he said but, luckily, I was able to
remember every word of what he said to me. "The RUF War Council" he continued
"met yesterday and decided that they are prepared unconditionally for peace
talks to bring the war to an end. We insist only that the forthcoming elections
be postponed. We have tried to reach Chairman Maada Bio without luck. Could
you please convey this fact to him. Could you also kindly ring Robin White
at the BBC and ask him to ring us for an interview. We would also want
you to inform the Commonwealth Secretariat." Then he passed the phone to
Deen Jalloh (nee Bio) who gave me a personal message for her brother.
I was confused and did not know where to start. I needed Chairman
Bio's number urgently. So I rang a contact at the Sierra Leone High Commission
who said he did not know but he gave me four numbers including ousted Captain
old number which was dead when I dialled it. Then I tried Mr John Benjamin
(Secretary General of the NPRC). To my sheer relief he was there. I told
him that I had received a personal message for the new Head of State from
the RUF offering to talk peace if the elections could be postponed but
that I wished to personally convey this message to Maada myself. Benjamin
was disarmingly luke-warm about it but I was so emotionally charged that
the pain of his snobbery did not make a significant impression with me.
He said the Chairman was not there but that he will tell him when he came
back. It was not clear from what he said whether Bio was out of his office
or the country.
Captain Abdul Kamara to the rescue
In my desperation, I rang the numbers of the other NPRC members - Lt
Colonels Nyuma and Baio. The phones rang but no one was responding. Suddenly,
I remembered that only two weeks before, I had spoken to (retired) Captain
Kamara, the PRO of the NPRC until his resignation just before the elections.
The occasion then was when the NPRC secretariat put out on Internet and
the local Press the lie that I was an RUF supporter. He had reassured me
of his, and most people's, appreciation of what I was trying to do and
exhorted me to carry on regardless.
So, with confidence, I rang him and told him what it was all
about. With military precision he set about to link me up with Bio. Captain
Kamara's response is probably the single most important gesture that has
helped to restore my faith in the Sierra Leonean.
He told me that the Chairman had gone to Nigeria that morning
but he thought he was already back that afternoon. He asked for my number,
then told me to hang up, and promised to let the Chairman know immediately
that I had an important message for him. Less than five minutes later,
he rang back to say that Chairman Bio was "there now waiting". I dialled
the special number he gave me and Bio personally took the call.
We spoke for about fifteen, maybe twenty minutes during which
I relayed the RUF's message. We discussed briefly the difficulties with
the new offer. He was frank with his comments and his points were valid
and reasonable. Without breaching the confidentiality of the conversation,
I can report that he did say he did not want to appear stupid in front
of the whole world having just assured the diplomatic community at a Press
conference, following his take over, that his government would adhere to
the time table for the democratisation process. He felt constrained therefore
to renege on that. He said the RUF had to do more than just ask for a postponement
of the elections but the ball was in their court. The RUF had been overtaken
by events. He asked me to relay these and other points back to them.
Before hanging up, I reminded the Chairman that it was important
that we all did whatever was humanly possible to end the war. I reminded
him that we were both victims of the war - his family home and home town,
just like mine later, had been destroyed and our families and friends had
been displaced. I then gave him his sister's message. He asked for my number
and said he would keep in touch. He never did after that!
Further tasks accomplished
Now that I had conveyed the RUF's message to the Chairman, I immediately
contacted the Focus on Africa desk at Bush House in order to talk
to Robin White whom Fayia Musa had specifically asked me to contact.
By a stroke of luck, it was Josephine Hazely - a Sierra Leonean
broadcaster and presenter - who took my call. Josephine told me that Robin
was away from the office. I told her what it was about. She said it was
"sometimes difficult to get that RUF number". Could I, she suggested, give
the interview on the air myself? I gave an emphatic NO! I explained that
I was not a member of the RUF or their representative. I was merely a conduit.
The RUF had their own spokesperson and they, rather than I, should be the
harbinger of this potentially good news for Sierra Leone. We agreed in
the end that should they not be able to contact the RUF I would be on stand-by
to be interviewed on what I had been told.
In the event my intervention was not necessary because they
were able to reach the RUF and the broadcast went out that afternoon to
my quiet relief and delight. What if, I mused to myself, the RUF changed
their mind after all my efforts? I would certainly be left looking like
As requested I also contacted the Commonwealth Secretariat to
relay the news to Dr Moses Anafu, Assistant Director (Political
Affairs Division), who interrupted a meeting he was attending that morning
to take my call. He expressed the hope that it might just be the breakthrough
that everyone was hoping for, although he was quite irreverent, almost
to the point of being dismissive, about the RUF's insistence on postponing
the elections. The Secretariat had put a lot of its time and resources
into the exercise and were not keen to see it being deferred yet again.
The RUF declares a cease fire
The next day, Tuesday, I wanted to know the reaction, on the ground
in Sierra Leone, to the announcement of the RUF's statement the day before.
My aim was to see whether there was any added information that I could
convey to Fayia Musa, by way of feedback, which he could usefully put to
the RUF leader and their War Council. I telephoned two popular and established
Trade Union leaders and a leading figure in the peace movement - all in
Freetown - for their assessment. I was told by each of them, independently,
that it had been the best piece of news that Sierra Leoneans had heard
for a long while but that the issue of the elections was rather going to
be extremely difficult. It was too late in the day, they said. Two of them
reminded me that the RUF had dashed people's hopes and expectations on
many occasions before and everybody was naturally sceptical about their
change of heart. The RUF needed to demonstrate a more positive and realistic
show of its intentions. I asked if they had any idea what that might entail.
One of my conversants then mentioned a cease fire. "Let them demonstrate
they really want peace. Let them declare a cease fire, be it for one day,
one week, one month - just something to give our people hope".
That day, I rang Fayia Musa and conveyed these reactions to
him. He promised to "raise it with the Pa and the War Council". But he
did not ring me back to tell me what, if anything, they decided. All I
know is that when I tuned my radio to listen to Focus on Africa
that afternoon, news of an RUF unilateral declaration of a two-week cease
fire was headline news. I felt quietly satisfied.
As far as I know, it is the same cease fire that was later extended
to two months and which implicitly continues to be in operation despite
reports of its frequent breach.
I had spent the good part of 48 hours on the phone, at home,
away from work, trying to get an aspect of the peace process on the move.
It cost me a bomb on the telephone but I shall not be asking Sierra Leone
government ministers for reimbursement!
Yamoussoukro 1, 2 and Summit meeting
One Friday afternoon an NGO representative I met in London who had
just travelled to Freetown called me from there to enquire rather pointedly
whether I was going to Abidjan. "For what?" I asked. "I thought you knew
all about this peace business. Don't you know there is a peace meeting
taking place between the RUF and the NPRC in Ivory Coast?" came the repartee.
"No" said I, with a rather deflated ego.
I did not know about this first meeting between the RUF and
the NPRC and I felt rather let down by the RUF - a point I made to Fayia
Musa which, he later explained, was due to a misunderstanding. They were
the first exploratory talks between both sides which, as we know, were
adjourned for the elections. When they resumed the decision was taken for
both Bio and Sankoh to meet.
The incident proved conclusively the vulnerability of "self-appointed"
independent peace brokers like me to being marginalised on the grand occasions.
People are quite mercenary and exploitative even in the delicate and humane
process of peace making. The saying "monkey work, baboon eat" affords a
fitting description. As a result, I vowed to keep a discreet ear on the
ground to pick up the slightest indication as to when the two leaders would
meet. I did not have to wait long for it.
On a Thursday afternoon Omrie Golley rang to tell me, agitatedly,
"I think we should be getting ready to go to Abidjan. Foday Sankoh is arriving
from the bush on Friday and we must be there, come what may". I protested
- prophetically as it was to turn out - that because we had not been invited
by any of the parties we might be seen as intruders. But Omrie insisted
that we had played a critical role up to that point and should not therefore
leave it to others to determine our own agenda. He undertook, as before,
to foot the entire cost of travel.
We arrived in Abidjan without any knowledge of the programme
of events relating to the summit meeting. Not even my friends at International
Alert gave me a hint!
The details of that event, including my arrival, and our hasty
departure for Yamoussoukro were reported in FSL Vol. 2 No 3. One reason
I was keen to be there was to investigate, at first hand, information that
I had received from a usually reliable source that there was a kind of
truce between the RUF and the NPRC to frustrate the forthcoming elections.
Although I did not support elections before peace, I was not prepared to
countenance any attempt to frustrate the popular will once the decision
to go ahead had been taken. If the information was true then I would try
to dissuade the leadership of the RUF - the only people whom I had access
to - from the idea. In fact I was told that it was not true although there
were suggestions that elements on both sides might have entertained it.
Humiliation at Yamoussoukro
I and my colleagues Omrie Golley, Osman Yansanneh - a personal
assistant to ex-President Momoh from Conakry, Lans Gberrie an independent
local journalist of Expo Times, were humiliated at those talks.
During what was supposed to be a meeting to get to know each other, we
were asked by Lt Col Charles Baio to leave the room because we were
not members of any of the official delegations.
As far as we knew, this session was neither plenary, official
or private. It was billed as a get-together while Bio and Sankoh were locked
away in private discussions. We had been led to believe that we were welcome.
Baio was only trying to be a shenanigan.
Golley refused to leave the room and protested that no one had
a right - certainly not petty despotic soldiers - to deprive Sierra Leoneans
of participating in the peace process. He pointed at the OAU's representative,
also in the room, and asked what better right she had more than us Sierra
Leoneans who had sacrificed our time and money to be there to lend our
support to the process.
I intervened to persuade my colleagues to leave the room if
in fact our presence was perceived as an impediment to peace; that we should
not be seen as a stumbling block to these people arriving at an agreement.
I reminded everyone in the room that peace was the business of every Sierra
Leonean including those of us who could afford to be present. To exclude
us, regardless of our travails, just because we were not part of an official
calvacade was not the way towards lasting peace. With that, we left the
Then the unthinkable happened. To our pleasant surprise - which
did a lot to reflate our by now deflated ego - the entire RUF delegation
left the room and followed right behind us. But my pleasure was short lived
because it suddenly dawned on me that this might be Charles Baio's way
of trying to establish that we were there as RUF sympathisers, considering
he had earlier specifically asked Fayia Musa to identify the members of
the RUF delegation, after which he had asked "the rest" to leave the room.
I therefore quickly admonished the RUF delegation to return
to the room and continue their "meeting together" while we waited outside,
lest their gesture of disapproval of our treatment be misconstrued by these
mischief makers as confirmation of our alleged "link" with the RUF.
None of the civilian members of the Sierra Leone delegation
offered a word in our support. We were not surprised. Their soldier fellow
delegates - an ill mannered and loutish bunch - had no respect for any
of them. They knew it.
Forty minutes later Foday Sankoh and Maada Bio emerged from
the room where they had been holding their private discussions and we all
joined in the razzle-dazzle.
Challobah to the rescue
The next morning we discovered that the infantile antics of Charles
Baio and his friends had clearly embarrassed at least one civilian member
of the delegation - the Foreign Minister at the time, Mr Melvin Challobah.
He invited the four of us to meet four of the NPRC soldiers - Baio, Nyuma,
Karefa-Kargbo, and Taqui - in his hotel room. After nearly two hours of
heated exchanges we managed to bury our differences, shook hands and dispersed.
We had threatened to depart Yamoussoukro that day but Challobah persuaded
us to stay for the remainder of the summit.
When Foday Sankoh was told about the incident he called us to
his lobby and personally apologised for the behaviour of the NPRC brats.
He protested that had he been made aware of the incident while he was having
his private talks with Maada Bio, he would have walked away because he
sincerely believed that peace had to be inclusive and must involve citizens
of the country, especially those who could afford to be there, whether
invited or not.
My interview with Foday Sankoh
When Maada Bio left, Foday Sankoh stayed behind and moved to the capital,
Abidjan. As I had an extra four days before my return to London, I visited
him and his delegation twice and managed on the third day to record a video
interview with him on how he saw the peace process and the future evolution
of Sierra Leone. I was the last of three others, including Reuters and
France Inter, waiting to interview him. I was also able to have a tête
à tête with other members of the RUF delegation. I left fully
convinced that the RUF was sincere about peace but like all fighting armies
they were extremely keen about issues like, what was in it for them? Where
would a settlement leave them after 5 years of fighting? What would be
their role, if any, in governance? How could they guarantee their own personal
security among a hostile civilian population? How would they assuage their
combatants? Above all, I detected a patent lack of trust and respect for
the evolving new order under President-elect Tejan Kabbah. I knew that
these and many other issues would have to be addressed before lasting peace
could be maintained in Sierra Leone. There are no short cuts.
Upon my return to London, in line with my avowed policy of keeping
the public informed, I publicly advertised (FSL Vol. 2 No 3) and showed
the video interview with Sankoh to a cross-sectional audience. (See FSL
Vol. 2 No 5.)
Me and the new civilian order
When I heard that President Kabbah was due to visit Yamoussoukro for
his first meeting with Corporal Sankoh, I was initially tempted to travel
there as I did for the Bio summit. I tried to contact the President but
when I could not reach him I left a specific message of assurance that,
if he travelled to Abidjan and wished to avail of my services in connection
with the peace process, I would try to be there and be willing to play
any role that he and the others thought that I might usefully play.
The summit meeting was postponed for another two weeks. When
it took place eventually, I did not bother to attend even though Golley
put the usual facilities at my disposal. As no approaches had been made
to me by the new civilian administration, I was not going to risk another
humiliation at the hands of more or less the same bureaucrats who, last
time, sat behind the soldiers when I was publicly snubbed. Bureaucrats
who, I have begun ominously to detect, are becoming officious, more concerned
with their own self-importance and indispensability, and believe they know
Luckily, while the summit meeting was taking place I accepted
an invitation to attend the Africa Peace Observatory seminar in Dakar (Senegal).
I kept in touch with developments in Abidjan and spoke to Foday Sankoh
on two occasions to enquire about the state of progress in the talks. He
bellowed back at me down the line - at my own expense! - "Look man, you
should be here to help this process along". I pleaded impecuniousness.
"Brah" he said "I understand".
More recently, when I learned about the breakdown in the current round
of peace talks (see FSL Vol. 2 No 5) I was tempted to go to Abidjan to
find out what, if anything, one could do to help resolve the impasse. But
I was advised rather strongly this time by those near and dear to me that
I should let things settle down as I was in a no-win situation while these
rumours about my role were flying all over the place.
The argument which sounded compelling at the time went like
this: If I went to Abidjan and (say) in concert with others a kind of accommodation
came about to break the impasse, my distracters would say that they were
right about my links with the RUF; similarly if, as some passionately believe,
"the RUF remained adamant" they would still blame people like me for "encouraging
Although I agreed with it at the time, with hindsight,
maybe I should not have allowed myself to be paralysed into inaction and
lose sight of my main objective.
Now that the true facts of my involvement have been put to the
Sierra Leone public I will continue - official delegate or not - to deploy
whatever energy and resources I can garner in the cause of that objective
- the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Sierra Leone.
I will not be intimidated
That these doubts persist about my role is hurtful and I partly blame
the new civilian government for it. With all that they know, their silence
is less than helpful. As I said earlier, the allegations have been repeated
by their visiting ministers and, I am also told, by the some officials
of their Party - the SLPP.
I am no stranger to President Kabbah and his team of peace negotiators.
More than most people, they know every bit about my consistent role not
just over this war but in over twenty five years of consummate campaigning
for probity, accountability and good governance in Sierra Leone. Yes, I
have been a rebel against successive corrupt and repressive APC governments.
I opposed them with relish. But in opposing them I used the pen in preference
to the sword and it worked. There is no reason for me to want to change
that strategy now and support the violence of warfare!
The present government should therefore entertain no doubts
whatsoever that, should they deviate by deed or omission from the legitimate
expectations of the electorate of Sierra Leone, they will get the same
denouncement that greeted the aberrant ways of their APC and NPRC predecessors.
By the same token they are assured of my commendation as long as they stick
to the correct national agenda. But I will not be intimidated.
When last August I asked Philip Palmer and Fayia Musa of the
RUF why they chose to take up arms to fight their cause, Palmer reminded
me rather pointedly: "You used to send your newsletters to our campuses
in the 70s and 80s when we were students. I remember SLAM (Sierra
Leone Alliance Movement) and I still have some old copies! We students
agreed with what you wrote about corruption and repression under the APC
administration. But you see, whereas you were content with just writing
and exposing these people we decided to do something about it. We took
up arms to reclaim our rights which were being trampled on by Siaka Stevens
and the APC. That's the difference between you and us". We agreed to disagree
over our respective methods of redress.
Its back to work ...again
At the end of January this year, the encroachment on my time
and the pressure on my job resulting from my forays and excursions on the
peace front had reached the point where I had to make a difficult choice:
to commit myself, full time, to the peace process or concentrate on my
job in which my performance was being adversely affected.
On 1 February this year, I took six months's special leave,
without pay, from my office so that I could devote my time and energy exclusively
to the peace process, not forgetting the monthly production of this newsletter
- itself a major full time project. I made my availability known to as
many people involved in the process, some in (NPRC) government and others
including key persons in at least two of the major political parties. If
they did not take my offer at that time I can not see any sense in them
making slanderous allegations against me.
I however must singularly mention the implicit recognition given
to me by the leader of the National Unity Party, Dr John Karimu who,
about a month prior to the last elections, telephoned me from Freetown
one morning to inform me, on behalf of his Party, that he was nominating
me for membership of a National Peace Commission which they were contemplating
setting up, if they won the elections. I remember telling John that I could
not make an undertaking to a political party, for fear of compromising
my independence, but that if they won the elections and became the government
and still felt that I was a worthy acolyte for peace, then I would be more
than happy to accept the role.
It was Alexander Pope who said "Blessed is the man who never expects,
for he shall not be disappointed". I am not disappointed for my own sake.
The experiences I have recounted here have been absorbing, at times gruelling
but rewarding and self-fulfilling. But I am angry for the sake of my country
and it grieves me.
I return to work in October having recently asked for an extension
so that I can tail off some outstanding assignments. One's resources are
never finite and I am currently struggling to meet my own private commitments
and responsibilities like any one else.
It would have been nice to see real peace break out during this
period. But there has been no diminution in my personal commitment to the
peace process. My modest contribution to the search for a durable and just
settlement, with honour on all sides, will continue with even greater intensity.
How much more intense might that be if only more men and women of honour
in our country stood up to be counted!
As long as we allow the spoilers in our midst - the real rebels
against peace in Sierra Leone - to hold sway, our country will forever
remain in the back woods of retardation to which both the disfiguration
of our towns and villages and the uglification of our once beautiful landscape
so eloquently testify.
***** There is no significant development on the peace front to report.
The impasse reported in the last edition still remains *****
June - July
CHRONICLE OF VIOLENCE
..... AND SUFFERING
While there has a been a dramatic drop in the level of violence, especially
in the number of deaths and mutilations, many towns and villages up and
down the country are still being attacked during the current cease fire.
Complacency in government circles is leading to a false sense of security.
***** Over 300 rebels were reported to have attacked a quartet of villages
in the North - Royanka, Mathoir, Mafonkay and Rokimbi. They abducted a
number of women and children and took away food supplies. No deaths
***** Moyamba District is reported to be a hotbed of increased rebel
activity. Attacks recently took place in Yoyema and Kwelu.
***** More attacks took place in the Bo District. At Yamandu on the
Bo-Kenema highway 5 villagers were killed in one raid. In the same area
last year, a group of women peace makers walked into a trap and 17 of them
STILL ON THE WAR .....
NEWS MANIPULATION OR FACT?
A totally misleading propaganda plug for Executive Outcomes (EO) was
recently screened on BBC television during prime time viewing on the 9
o'clock evening news. The mercenaries were presented as a humane, good
samaritan force which was there to help their "brother Africans" settle
their quarrel. The dogs of war were credited for "bringing the war to an
end in Sierra Leone and for bringing peace back to this west African country
that has been plagued by five years of civil strife". A clip was shown
of so-called "refugees streaming back" across some border into Sierra Leone,
now that peace had come. President Tejan Kabbah (we believe) unsuspectingly
added credence to this deliberate fabrication with an endorsement of the
assumed role that EO had played. That very week armed men were attacking
villages in the Bo, Moyamba and Tonkolili Districts (see Chronicle above).
Most people who watched the program were left in the sure belief that the
war was now over. [Tell that to the one and a quarter or so million
citizens, holed up in choking towns and villages, who dare not take to
the highways and return to rebuild their lives!] The programme also
claimed that a final peace agreement was expected to be signed by that
week. [If anyone has heard of any signed peace agreement, please let
this paper know!]
AND WHY WON'T THEY DISCUSS OUR WAR?
The local press has been incensed by the fact that with all the summits
taking place in West Africa, not one has the war in Sierra Leone been featured
at. The Eastern Post plaintively wrote in its editorial: "African leaders
[including our own] have been discussing conflict in Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia,
Liberia, etc. Who chose the scale of preference? Why is Sierra Leone left
out (of the agenda)? Our war is like any other war and if the international
community particularly Africa do not treat it seriously, we shall end up
in unwanted floating canoes on the west coast".
RED CROSS IS ACCUSED
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been accused
by the civilian government of favouring the RUF in its distribution of
humanitarian aid. Further allegations claimed that ICRC was gun running
for the RUF. A flabbergasted ICRC spokesman described allegations as ridiculous
and untrue. Government recently asked ICRC to suspend the delivery of humanitarian
aid to rebel territory but operations were resumed after protestations.
The further ban on cross-border operations has not been lifted.
NEWS **** NEWS **** NEWS **** NEWS **** NEWS
The NPRC's ban on all public officials who appeared before the Laura
Marcus-Jones Commission in 1992 has been revoked by government on the recommendation
of West Indian Mr Justice L U Cross. The government has also promised to
return nearly 140 million leones and 60 properties to about 30 civil servants
from whom they were seized by the former NPRC government. [Do they mean
there was never any corruption in Sierra Leone?]
Syl Cheney-Coker, the Sierra Leonean poet and novelist, was declared
joint winner in the 1996 Commonwealth Short Story Competition for his entry
NEW SCANDAL AT TREASURY
The government is reported to have unearthed a racket that has cost
the Treasury almost half billion Leones, siphoned out of pension and other
treasury funds over the last 15 months. Four thousand cheques belonging
to fictitious pensioners were cashed in the process.
..... A blessing
The curse of the diamonds continues tease Sierra Leone. First a 243
carat extremely valuable diamond was discovered in Kono; the following
week a 500 carat diamond of less lustre was unearthed. The new government
congratulated itself for being open to the public about the finds but reserved
the best praise for the owner who decided to use legal channels to declare
and sell his diamonds rather than go through illicit channels.
...... A curse, as illicit mining sinks KONO
Kono is sinking - very fast - beneath its own weight! Reports say the
discovery of the latest crop of diamonds is attracting a flood of fortune
hunters to the district. Denied access to the rich mining plots, illicit
miners are digging and tunnelling under houses in towns and villages. Koidu
Town is said to be the worst affected - mining was taking place right in
front of the police station. In nearby Yengema Town, where expatriate staff
used to lived in opulent surroundings, the subsoil has been turned inside
out beneath disused swimming pools and derelict staff quarters.
AG IS UNREALISTIC
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr Solomon E Berewa,
has decreed that Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad should file any complaints
they have against the NPRC [but why not APC?] with the Commission for National
Unity & Reconciliation - [wait for it] - in 10 days. The operative
dates were July 1 - 10. [Don't complain - at least you know now!]
ROBBERIES TURNING TO A PLAGUE
The incidence of armed robberies in the cities, and on highways, especially
Freetown, is reported to have reached crisis proportion. It is one of the
legacies bequeathed to the 100 day-old civilian government. Three new operational
police zones have been created for the city. [But who patrols the highways
if, as it is being claimed, peace has now come?]
FLOODS KILL 7 IN FREETOWN
At least 7 people have been killed and 30 seriously injured following
one of the most violent storms to hit the capital. Flooding occurred after
2 days of torrential downpour. Nearly 20,000 displaced people were, again,
JOURNALIST IS SEIZED
Edison Yongai, editor of Point, one of at least 5 new local newspapers
launched since the return of civilian rule, has been taken into custody
at CID for publishing allegations of corruption against 5 Ministers. [Question:
If the story is not true why won't the "aggrieved" ministers take action
in court to clear their names? Surely there are libel laws at their disposal!
What has it got to do with the police or the government?] (More on
this and other stories here in the next issue of FOCUS.)
STILL AT THE BOTTOM
For the fifth year running, Sierra Leone is still firmly embedded at
the bottom of the league in the UNDP's Human Development Index. The 1996
report says out of 174 countries Sierra Leone was placed 173, coming just
THEY MAKE THE DIFFERENCE
The editor and proprietor of this newsletter is the victim of a blatant
lie. It is important that he and many others who are working for peace
in Sierra Leone should do so in the fullest assurance that the public continues
to trust and support them, and they also enjoy its confidence. To have
a hanging cloud of doubt over their motives cannot be right in any circumstance.
That is why this edition of Focus has been dedicated to this long
discourse about one person's activities. Many more peace activists have
been vilified without a chance to reply. They should take solace and comfort
from this narration.
Sierra Leoneans must learn to accept that in war, any one of
the warring factions is bound to regard the other as the enemy. Whether
we like it or not the RUF regards the government of whichever hue as the
enemy, and the government likewise. That the government is elected does
not make one iota of a difference on the battle field. Therefore, from
the moment when the parties opted for peace, the process for achieving
that objective no longer remained the sole prerogative of both or any one
party - Government or RUF.
It is wrong, even deceitful, to pretend that government alone
has all the solutions that we need for securing peace. By the very fact
that it is party to the conflict, even though we all agree it did not start
the war, the government is seriously handicapped right from the beginning.
It cannot therefore be judge and jury in its own case. That is the raison
d'etre of mediators, negotiators, conciliators, facilitators, etc.
Encouragement must therefore be given to initiatives emanating
from outside government, its nominees or agents. Capable and respectable
individuals who are willing to offer their services, should be encouraged
to do their bit to push the process along. Being independent they can exercise
a freedom of action without being partisan; because their services are
gratuitous, they do not have to be a burden on the State or the taxpayer;
and being true patriots, they have a vested interest in securing peace
for their own people without the desire for gain. We must not vilify such
men and women. They make the difference between peace and continuing warfare.
The National Psyche (Focus
Vol. 1 No 8)
..... Sierra Leoneans have at various times tried
to contribute, out of the goodness of their hearts, to the good of
the country. But a large number of them have been discouraged by
the negative attitude of some of the most vociferous and malicious of our
citizens. People have this unhealthy urge to impute the wrong motives into
even the simplest gesture by their compatriots. As individuals we
have failed to accept our own personal limitations and responsibilities
as citizens; and as a nation we have failed to recognise that there are
people in our midst who are better than us at doing certain things.
Instead of giving them credit and encouragement, we go all out to discredit
them and devalue their efforts simply because it earns them - not
us - some recognition, or they are not members of our family or tribe.
We are envious of the successes of each other. We enjoy bringing
each other down and would rather encourage, or extol the virtues of, strangers
than our own people. This attitude, which is rampant especially among
the so-called educated class, has paralysed the good and honest potential
leaders in their tracks. It is almost as if Sierra Leoneans do not
want any one to lead them. Yet every society needs a leader. Someday,
alas, someday we will have to make that choice and woe betide our country
if that person proves to be another let down."