The writer of the following piece, Samuel B. Conteh, is currently the oldest practising newspaper editor in Sierra Leone with decades of experience. He is the great grandson of a famous Temne warrior. He comes from a long line of Temnes - both on the mother's and father's sides. He is currently The Managing Editor of the oldest privately owned newspaper in Sierra Leone, The New Citizen Newspaper.
The majority of Sierra Leoneans are illiterate and perhaps uneducated and are therefore, very suggestible and gullible; more so among members of the Temne tribe. It is for this reason that I must ask the Satellite newspaper editor to tell us why he is dangerously inciting the Temnes and making them to feel marginalized and perhaps lead them to their own destruction as it happened during the reign of Siaka Stevens.
To incite illiterate, especially uneducated groups is suicidal on the part of those who swallow your divisive messages hook, sinker and line. This is the reason why the efforts of Satellite and other news organs are very disturbing and must be abandoned quickly with apologies to the nation.
Why are you inciting the Temnes in your publication of May 18 2012 in a very bold front-page banner headline – PDP LAYS AMBUSH FOR THE APC, when you know that incitements of that nature will cost many people their lives? Surely, the thrust of your argument in that story bore no relations with your headline and you know it! It was a camouflaged headline that said little or nothing about PDP Ambushing APC. It dwelled on the ‘sufferings’ of Temnes and can cause disaffection, leading to disaffection, rebellion and death.
This question is relevant because we are seeing some members of the Fourth Estate and some wicked politicians once more using tribalism cards to sow the seeds of discord among Temnes and to make them dissatisfied with their present status in today’s Sierra Leone.
Assuming that you do not know, this was exactly what happened in the early 70s shortly after Prime Minister, Siaka Stevens, took up office following a bitter political rivalry between the APC and SLPP that ended in self-exile for the two leaders and a protracted national insecurity espoused by armed groups that brought untold suffering on this nation.
When some divide-and-rule journalists and politicians of yesteryears started to incite the Temnes against the government of Dr. Siaka Stevens, many Sierra Leoneans took it as a joke and allowed the matter to rest in the wise judgment of the Temnes who unfortunately did not understand the intention and impact of the campaign to sow seeds of distrust and discord in the old APC directed against them. The Temnes thought they saw rescue heroes in the dim distance when what obtained were villains and sadists in disguise.
The Agitators of Doom first accused Siaka Stevens of marginalizing the Temnes who had fought so hard to bring him to power. Incitement, because, Siaka Stevens only marginalized the Temnes after inciters had shattered the peace that existed through black lies and fast falsehoods. Originally, some Temnes were flattered but finally shattered by what they thought was good for them.
And after a long campaign of induced disaffection, some Temnes started to believe what the papers wrote and read some form of marginalization in everything Dr. Siaka Stevens did, creating countless bad blood, suspicions and fear that always climax with the extermination of the weaker group by the stronger group.
We all know that no group can be stronger than a government, let alone the state in a virtual dictatorship; or in an unjust society such as the Sierra Leone we left behind fifty years ago.
Some media houses having convinced a sizable number of Temnes that they were not receiving a fair deal from Dr. Siaka Stevens succeeded in creating a monster of hate and non-cooperation that actually led to the worsening of the cordial relationship between Siaka Stevens and his faithful friends among who were APC founding and foundation members. The celebrated journalist, Ibrahim Bash-Taqi of Tit –Bits fame who happened to be Siaka Stevens blue-eyed boy and Minister of Information was depicted as the Number-One-Enemy of the powerful Siaka Stevens, through the mischief of mad penmanship.
After convincing many to be aloof by the power of their pens that they were unjustly marginalized and that there was no future for them in the APC of Siaka Stevens they had labored and suffered for, the divide-and-rule media moguls of that time suggested that either the Temnes would destroy Siaka Stevens or Siaka Stevens would destroy the Temnes. That was wickedly prophesied. The wickedness of powerful and bitter pen pushers saw no middle of the road solution to the misunderstanding, save the extreme, embodied in the ‘we cannot co-exist’ – ‘I kill you or you kill me’.
The unholy journalists urged the Prime Minister they had feverishly frightened out of his wits to get rid of the Temnes in his Cabinet and possibly in all high ranks of the APC for his own survival or he must say a regretful goodbye to peace and progress forever. “No half measures in politics, if you miss these rascals, they will not miss you,” they protested to Pa Siaka and challenged his patience and callousness.
The pressures to do wrong that can descend on leaders are strikingly unimaginable. Imponderable! Siaka Steven was finally convinced that he had no good Temne on his side anymore because of the secret warfare unleashed by journalists on a mind bungling mission to crush helpless Temnes and stop them from enjoying the fruits of their labour in the APC. Capitulation to the wishes of the wicked is often the result; and Siaka Stevens was no exception. He was not an angel.
They continuously referred to very staunch APC members as the ‘Tonkolili Group’ that must be exterminated for Siaka Stevens to enjoy his leadership and bring total peace and development to Sierra Leone; only when they were out of the way - in death.
What at first looked like a joke became a serious struggle for life and death as the prophets of doom had succeeded in creating a dangerous divide in the ranks of the APC by turning the Temnes against all other tribes, or conversely, by turning all other tribes against the Temnes as a punishment for giving victory to Siaka Stevens in 1967.
As matters got worse, Temnes who no longer felt wanted in the APC joined forces with another marginalized politician, John Karefa-Smart, to form the ‘doomed before it started’ United Democratic Party (UDP) in 1971.
Within a short time, the then Force Commander of Sierra Leone Army, John Amadu Bangura was arrested and charged with treason for ‘trying to overthrow Dr. Siaka Stevens’. Fear had started taking its deadly toll within the APC. Siaka Stevens imagined that when he finally descended on prominent Temnes as planned, John Amadu Bangura, a strong Temne in arms, would be a threat to his extermination plan.
He was quickly found guilty and executed along with six others, to make it easy to stir up problems that would justify a bigger crackdown. That was just the beginning of an unholy alliance between the media and Dr. Siaka Stevens to get rid of the Temne group in the APC of whom he was made terribly afraid.
A small family quarrel had become a nightmare with no holds-bad and no goodwill intervention by those who could have dispersed the mountain of suspicion between the two groups who had labored together and should have enjoyed together. Those who had not labored wanted to deprive those who had laboured, a double punishment indeed.
Those Temnes who were still in the APC, led by Vice President Sorie Ibrahim Koroma denied his membership of that ethnic group and vowed to send all their leaders into their untimely graves, for any reason under the sun.
Coup plots were heard everywhere while Dr. Siaka Stevens exercised caution on the growing allegations that his end was near unless he exterminated the so called Tonkolili Group of Temnes.
All these happened just because a few immoral journalists were determined to sow the seeds of discord in the APC party and perhaps to cause the party to lose the 1973 general elections.
The smear campaign waged against the Temnes in the 1973 general elections did not cause the APC to lose the elections, but it caused the APC party all note-worthy Temnes whom Siaka Stevens had learned to terribly fear.
The merciless opposition media at the time pretended to champion the cause of the Temnes, but ended up endangering them when they lied to them that Siaka Stevens didn’t like them, that all key positions had been taken away from them and that they were a useless majority that was better ‘appreciated’ in another party such as the SLPP.
When Dr. Siaka Stevens left for Zambia on a four-day visit, a loud explosion was heard in the middle of the night near the home of second Vice President, C. A. Kamara-Taylor. In the twinkle of an eye, the energetic acting President of Sierra Leone, S. I. Koroma, who has vowed to exterminate the ‘Tonkolili Group’ sprang into action and before day break, all prominent Temnes in the APC were under arrest.
Even those who pleaded innocent and who were not even around Freetown when the explosion took place were only promised their freedoms if they would cooperate with the investigation and make incriminating statements to implicate the fifteen people on the death list of S. I. Koroma.
Temnes were set against Temnes with no hope of escape unless one was willing to buy his freedom by heavily implicating his brother in a coup attempt that is still a misery in Sierra Leone nearly fifty years later.
The feared and marginalized Temnes of that day included Cabinet Ministers, some Parliamentarians, Paramount Chiefs and other illustrious sons of Sierra Leone, including Dr. Mohamed Sorie Fonah, the then learned Deputy Prime Minister to Siaka Stevens, Journalist and later Information Minister Ibrahim Bash Taqi, Paramount Chief, Bai N’slik, N’fa Dumbuya and even John Karefa-Smart were all implicated totaling fifteen men in the dock and many more agreed to become state witnessed that must pay for their freedoms by telling unconscionable untruths they knew would cause the deaths of some innocent friends.
Of the fifteen men in the dock, only fourteen were wanted on the death row and so one of the fifteen men was acquitted and discharged, leaving the fourteen who could not gain from the prerogative of mercy. All those fourteen Temnes were executed just because Siaka Stevens was made very afraid of them and perceived they as his mortal enemies.
The burning question of today is why was Siaka Stevens afraid of those people? The answer is, because the Sierra Leone media had sown the seeds of distrust and discord between Siaka Stevens and the Temnes when the media tried to impress on the Temnes that they had not received a fair deal and Siaka Stevens didn’t like them on account of their dissatisfaction, which started like a joke.
The media at the time pretended to fight the cause of the Temnes when what they really wanted was to make them dissatisfied and to make them feel marginalized, used, misused and dumped in the hell of rejection.
And just as it happened before, we are beginning to read blatant incitements in newspapers, such as the Satellite making the same insinuations and inciting statements such as the ones that were published in the first term of President Siaka Stevens’ tenure.
In the days of Siaka Stevens, wicked media praised the Temnes for being industrious and hard-working but hated and marginalized by the powers that be inspite of their long suffering and hard work in ensuring the victory of Siaka Stevens.
The human mind being what it is it eventually believes in a sustained lie if it is constantly repeated and that was how some Temnes were made to feel sympathy for themselves when there was no cause for sympathy or anger.
In trying to advance the cause of the Temnes with mountain of lies, the media at the time made some Temnes believe that there was a travesty of justice and that the Temnes were the underserved victims.
That belief germinated in the minds of the illiterate and uneducated, it was the beginning of real injustice that finally materialized out of the fertile imagination of writers who only pretended to love the Temnes and paid lip service to their imagination of concocted lies.
Under the headline, “PDP LAYS AMBUSH FOR THE APC”, the Satellite newspaper blatantly incited Temnes the same way earlier publications in the elsewhere hostile and unpatriotic media did.
Once again, the self-appointed advocates of Temnes wielding divisive pens writing about and quoting faceless Temnes, narrating how their tribe has suffered for the APC party since 1960s, and charging that the APC is an ungrateful party are once again on the rampage without fear of the outcome of their evil endeavours.
The story in Satellite made heroes as well as victims and the presence of Dr. Mohamed Sorie Fonah, Ibrahim Bash Taqi, Bedor Sesay, S. L. Bangura, Sampha Koroma, Abdul Karim Koroma, Dr. Sallu Turay, A.B Kamara, Serry Kamal, Anthony Bai Kamara, Chief Madseray Sheriff, Alpha Kanu and many others with the intention of creating dissatisfaction among those on the list, who are still alive.
This article sought to promote a high level of disgruntlement and hopefully prepared for a repeat of what happened in the first term of Siaka Stevens between 1973 and 1975, when Prime Minister, Siaka Stevens executed all those who had helped him gained power through a two way disaffection campaign and through the creation of fear and suspicion among friends that always end with the destruction of the weaker group.
The story also tries to make a hero of Chief Somano Kapen of Mambolo who was never dethroned but resigned his position for imaginary oppression or suppression and wants somebody to carry his soiled cross and promote his battered ego at the expense of Temnes.
Even late Paramount Chief, Adikalie Modu of Port Loko who was assassinated by rebels was also associated with severe molestation by APC. The writer even suggested that no Temne has held any prominent position in this country during the APC regime (of Siaka Stevens.)
We ask this question because we are at loss to hear that no Temne has held any prominent position and we wonder whether Paramount Chief Somano Kapen was not holding a prominent position or if he was not a Temne.
The mention of Sampha Koroma, Dr. Abdul Karim Koroma, Dr. Sallieu Turay, should have cause the writer to advance the reason for their leaving public office, instead of leaving the readers to guess why and how they left public offices. It is obvious that their departure was not a loss for them but perhaps to the nation on account of their industry.
Equally important, the writer could have done justice to his story by quoting the people he interviewed along with their pictures if possible. He could have as well conducted exclusive interviews providing more details and credible sources.
Clearly and cleverly, the aim of the writer was to firstly make the Temnes feel sorry for themselves for real or imaginary victimizations; secondly, to make them angry and uncooperative and hopefully assume an offensive or defensive positions that would eventually cost them their lives.
We must however, inform the writers that this time round , these divide and rule tactics have failed and that 99.9% of the Temnes who read this story will never pay heed to this blatant incitement calculated to make them unhappy and uncooperative and eventually grave-bound.
Moreover, many Temnes do not really mind which tribe rules this country or not and their comfortable numerical strength and intimidating majority can always make them part of any government in Sierra Leone by the share force of their growing numbers and industry. Now that they know it, they cannot be perturbed by hypocrisy
We also that we are not slaves and we are not in chains and therefore need no liberators or agitators to talk on our behalf or emancipators to break imaginary shackles. We know that those who put ropes around our necks will have the other end of that same rope fastened around their own necks.
We urge all Sierra Leoneans to find ways and means to stop this type of journalism better known as the Rwanda-type of journalism that calls for the spilling of the blood of fellow Sierra Leoneans in very cunning and disguised sadism – taking pleasure at other people’s pains in the name of press freedom.
We have read many such disguised incitements.
Luckily, we are much wiser now, and can no longer be fooled by cloak and dagger journalistic practice that wants to plunge this nation into the furnace of tribalism.
We advise self-appointed sycophants on behalf of Temnes who do not need protection to leave us alone as we have learned to gently paddle our own canoes to safety and beauty.
President Ernest Bai Koroma is not President only for Temnes who must continuously be pampered; he is President for all Sierra Leoneans and he must seek a golden mean between extremes on which to anchor all his plans and efforts for peace and development of this God-given heritage.
Fifty years ago, some uncouth journalists tried to make Temnes feel secure by inciting them to turn against Siaka Stevens, but instead they pushed them into untimely graves through blatant incitement against Siaka Stevens APC government, emanating from drummed-up treason charges, stage-managed trials and inhuman executions against all logic in view of the long standing relationship between the accused and the accusers.
The first indication that hateful inciters will fail is the fact that we do not have a blood-thirsty and trigger-happy president at State House anymore; and the likelihood of political executions taking place in Sierra Leone is too remote to reward the efforts of unrepentant sadists wishing for another tribe-inspired blood bath.
We are now saying and will continue to say, “Enough Is Enough.”
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.