“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it” said the great statesman, Winston Churchill of United Kingdom. Today, it is appearing as if some members of this current Government of Sierra Leone have not learnt much from this country’s traumatic History. As a result, the government is playing games with its image and by extension, with its ability to govern a peaceful and united country.
It is no longer a secret that certain media houses have been trying to whip up bitter flames of tribal unrest in this country. It reached a climax following the decision to hand compulsory retirement to certain officers. The opposition media vigorously tried to paint the APC as a hater of Mendes.
Fortunately, this newspaper was able to come out forcefully to debunk the ‘hate Mendes’ diatribe when we pointed out the top hierarchy of the military trusted by President Koroma were all Mendes and even the gentleman given APC symbol to contest and win parliamentary seat in the President’s Freetown constituency was a Mende man. But imagine if this newspaper had not existed? Just imagine the vacuum!!!
Now we have an unfolding situation with investigations within the military. Although this Government is yet to tell us what it is actually investigating, going by unsubstantiated reports in local and international media, a group of soldiers had plotted to stage a “mutiny” with intent to distress this Nation because of allegations their tribe (the Mendes) were being victimised.
Going by how local and international media have been allowed to trash image of Ernest Bai Koroma as a President who sacks Mendes from the army and who sacks “thousands” of Mendes from other jobs, the “mutineers” will have found willing bastion of support for their moves. In essence, the country would have been thrown into chaos with possibility for a tribal conflagration to occur.
There is nothing to arouse more passion in a human being than a threat to its grouping it belongs to. If you tell the Mendes of the South East that they are under threat from the APC, it will arouse passions in bosoms and get them to try to do the unthinkable in order to protect their tribal grouping.
A government which sits by sponsoring and chinking glasses with the very same journalists, who are pulling its needed image down, is a government that is totally not serious about its very existence as a government or the sanctity of the State. It is a reckless government! Mark my words.
The laws acting as deterrent to State insecurity are the seditious libel laws. They are in place to ensure politicians and journalists do not incite undue bad blood within the citizenry to the extent that a section of the citizenry will feel persecuted enough to take up arms or stage a coup plot. However, not only is this Government of Ernest Bai Koroma content to sit by and allow such dangerous lies to go unchallenged, it actually is courting the purveyors of such lies without strongly engaging them to retract the LIES that have the potential to send the country up in flames. As we say in Krio, “ee tan lek dem do the government!”
In as much as I can say it is reckless journalism being practised, I can also say this inability to curtail reckless journalism is nothing other than RECKLESS GOVERNANCE and is exposing many APC supporters to terrible risks to their welfare! History teaches us what happens when such Coups occur to push out the APC!
Sadly, rather than forcing the errant media practitioners to retract their publications and assuage the damage in the polity, this Government sits by complacently, doing NOTHING; with some even giving unbelievable excuses of saying Ernest Bai Koroma was allowing “freedom of speech”! Freedom of speech as the Nation is taken down the hill of tribal disaster? Nonsense!
Officials are supposed to be governing a country and yet they sit by in complacence as the media is inciting erroneous tribal incitement? Let us put aside deterring journalists by prosecuting them. This government is not even caring about getting errant journalists to retract lies of tribal hate!! Instead of getting retractions from them, they pump them up financially with government adverts! Can you imagine? Many government officials do this because they are simply corrupt and are trying to protect their individual selves forgetting the greater good.
This Government fails to recognise that such un-retracted tribal hate creates dissatisfaction in the land and seditious situations borne from creation of unrest and chaos.
Such state of dissatisfaction can produce foolhardy coup plots by those who believe the incitement from journalists is enough to get the Mendes in the society to back what they would present as their explanation that a coup was necessary because the Mendes are being persecuted by APC.
They will say a tribal level playing field was needed.
Instead of realising the grave danger emerging from the reckless journalism, you have old heads proudly coming out with banner headlines boasting that “APC HAS NOT JAILED ANY JOURNALIST”. Check out NEW CITIZEN for reference.
A major seditious publication left unchallenged was that in an East African powerful international media house which was sent around the world and authored by a highly unprofessional fellow who has been allowed to operate in here after The Gambia threw him out. This fellow, Kemo Cham, filed a seditious article to the international world starkly naming President Koroma as tribalistically sacking all non-Northerners from the top military hierarchy. Nobody from the government even squeaked a sound of protest to his handlers and principals in Kenya and London! The story remains online to this day; totally unchallenged!
And some wonder why many in the outside world can insist President Koroma is a tribalistic figure. They have read this is so and no one has forced the writers/publishers to retract!
Any serious government that is mindful of its responsibilities should protect its honour as it is only through such protection of its honour, that it can continue to retain its legitimacy in the eyes of the citizens it serves.
The Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) clearly says many youths of the South-Eastern provinces, joined the Charles Taylor rebels in 1991 because they perceived the Freetown-based APC Government of late President Joseph Saidu Momoh as not being in the interest of indigenes of the South-East.
Paragraphs 138-139 on PAGE 33 of Volume 3A of TRC Report says:
138. The central District of Bo was the heartland of the SLPP from the inception of the era of party politics. Although several SLPP stalwarts switched their allegiance to the APC in order to take up positions in the one-party government, there was a general feeling among the residents of Bo that their fortunes would be vastly improved if the SLPP could be revived and restored to power.
139. For this reason, the idea of “revolution” in Sierra Leone was popular in Bo. Many inhabitants of the District were even in favour of an armed action to overthrow the APC and scores of youths travelled to Kailahun to volunteer for the RUF in the first few months of the conflict.
After this 1991 “revolution”, there was the 1992 coup by mostly South-Eastern junior officers. It brought untold sufferings on APC politicians and their families. This is why this Government has to go back to the drawing board as to how it manages its desire for “freedom of the press” clean sheet as against the National Security of this Nation.
If President Koroma ends his tenure abruptly because he has learnt nothing from History, APC will have no-one to blame but itself. Many APC members suffered at the hands of the coup of 1992. That coup led to a situation unfolding where even ordinary distant relatives of APC politicians were rounded up and chucked into Pademba Road prisons like animals. They suffered so much and many of them died.
If journalists continue to be allowed to incite undue tribal hate in this country without deterring them, History will hold President Ernest Bai Koroma’s Government responsible for tribal conflagration under the guise of a Coup Plot or Mutiny. Going by the History of what happens to APC politicians and their innocent family members when the APC is overthrown in a coup plot, it will be very hard to forgive any such repetition in this land!
This continuous and unwarranted tribal hate incitement in the media has to be curtailed.
If we have to apply the seditious libel laws to curtail it, then so be it. I rest my pen. Krioman say Lonta!
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.