On Thursday 25th March 1996, Julius Maada Bio and Foday Saybana Sankoh met in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast as a continuation of the February 1996 Peace Talks between NPRC and RUF. It was ostensibly the first time Bio was meeting Sankoh. The (in)famous photo of a uniformed Maada Bio hugging Foday Sankoh with both men all in smiles, was taken on that day.
For those Peace Talks, Maada Bio took along Dr. Sama Banya as the official representative of president-elect Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. Due to protocol, Kabbah could not attend the talks as he had not been sworn in. Kabbah was sworn into office, 4 days later in Freetown on 29 March 1996.
It was on 22nd April 1996, that new President Kabbah met formally with Foday Sankoh in Yamoussoukro for the first time. Kabbah did not take Sama Banya along with him because Banya had been a public relations disaster for the SLPP during the Bio-Sankoh peace talks.
During the 25th March 1996 Yamoussoukro Peace Talks, Sankoh had tongue-lashed Banya as one of the political opportunists who sold themselves cheaply and in the process, ruined Sierra Leone.
Sankoh had publicly scorned at Banya with a question, “You again?!” as he recounted what he aptly described as Banya’s shamelessness in politics with the words ‘Day before yesterday, you were SLPP, yesterday you were APC, today you are SLPP in front of me, Tomorrow, what will you be?’. Sankoh then took his time to outline how the nefarious activities of APC’s Sama Banya and his APC cohorts had led to the RUF taking up arms to ‘rid the country of APC oppression’.
It should be noted that Sama Banya was an APC Finance Minister who also acted as an APC Vice-President. After detailing the way and manner in which the APC’s Sama Banya killed and oppressed citizens, especially from the South-East; leading to citizens taking up arms to remove APC, Foday Sankoh also revealed how Sama Banya was so cheap that with all his stolen wealth as a thieving APC Finance Minister, Sama Banya would refrain from honouring honest debts to those who served him. The phrase “two foot arata” was first used on Banya by Foday Sankoh in Yamoussoukro, long before it became popularised by famous musician Emmerson.
Foday Sankoh recounted how Sama Banya was a thief who personally owed him money for photographs which Banya had asked Foday Sankoh to take of him in Kailahun during Banya’s APC heydays. Sankoh explained how, taking advantage of his then APC powers, Banya collected the photographs from Sankoh, promised to pay Foday Sankoh later but had never paid him since Banya saw Sankoh as a lowly photographer in Segbwema whose rights, he could abuse.
In Yamoussoukro, Sama Banya was speechless as Sankoh took his time to expose him thoroughly. On Banya’s return to Freetown, he was to eventually explain that he had “forgotten” to pay Foday Sankoh and when he “remembered” he owed Foday Sankoh money, he did not know where to find Sankoh to pay him. Few believed his preposterous explanation.
Rather, as hated as Sankoh was, many preferred to believe Sankoh’s accusation that Banya took of Sankoh’s photography services and then abused him of payment because Banya was a powerful top APC operative back then.
In those days, APC operatives like Sama Banya regularly trampled on the rights of citizens. The accusation of the APC’s Sama Banya taking advantage of Foday Sankoh, was a regular story back in those days. Stories similar to Sankoh’s recollection, whilst seemingly minimal in nature as compared to other egregious APC abuses like how APC’s Sama Banya got his own people killed in Kailahun for power, are all part of what led to the nation-wide dis-satisfaction against Momoh’s APC which dis-satisfaction, by the start of the RUF War, was tremendously high in the South-East.
Clearly, a public relations disaster like Banya was kept far away from the resumed Yamoussoukro Peace Talks by the astute Tejan Kabbah. Infact, throughout the March Yamoussoukro Peace Talks, Banya could not say a single word except to hang his APC-SLPP gray-haired head in shame. So, if I reference any comment made in Yamoussoukro, clearly it was not made by Sama Banya as Banya was shamed into total silence in Yamoussoukro.
Let Banya wait for my Part 2 of Charles Taylor: Sierra Leone’s Scapegoat to know whose Yamoussoukro comment I was referencing. In the meantime, I hope Banya read and digested yesterday’s piece by retired Police Superintendent Tayyib Bah. According to Tayyib Bah, “of the 20 or so RUF combatants that accompanied Sankoh to the Yamoussoukro Peace Talks, only one, and even that was a female, was a Northerner/Temne. The rest were South easterners.”
Tayyib Bah also predicts:- “until we accept responsibility for the barbaric manner in which we treated our kith and kin and atone for our sins, God, or retribution, will bring “punishment for [our] errors upon sons and upon grandsons, upon the third generation and upon the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:7
I rest my pen for now as I prepare to release Part 2 of a Sama Banya inspired series on Charles Taylor: Sierra Leone’s Scapegoat! #end