The momentous and unprecedented acquittal and discharge of 13 soldiers of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) has yet again demonstrated that the government of President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma is a government of FIRSTS. This government has made political history as the very FIRST to ever preside over the acquittal and discharge of over a dozen soldiers who were accused of treason. If this had been before 2007, like it happened in 1998 and previously in 1992/1993, all 13 soldiers would have been executed by firing squad.
Under the NPRC, some 30 Sierra Leoneans, including a famous military officer, Col. Yayah Kanu was slaughtered without any due process. In 1998 under the SLPP, 24 soldiers, including the first woman soldier (Kula Samba) were executed in cold blood after a charade court martial. But what we are seeing today is a complete departure from the old and bloody ways of governing in Africa.
President Koroma, who in 2012 was awarded the Abolitionist of the Year by Hands off Cain, an Italian human rights organization fighting against the death penalty across the world, has shown clearly that he has no appetite to end the life of any citizen of this country just because of power.
A retired military officer has described the outcome of the trial as a dream taking into cognisance the fact that when such matters come up in the military, the obvious is bound to happen. “The just concluded trial of 13 soldiers has served as an exception to the rule,” he said.
National Coordinator of Democracy Sierra Leone Alhaji Mohamed Warisay said that the verdict is a marker that “our Justice system is increasing in capacity and independence. It is also an indication that our democracy is growing as we are moving away from “Kill them all” system of politics to one that is nationalistic.” This also shows that the leadership of the country is honest with the people he is leading, he noted.
Civil Society activist Alphonso Manley of Civil Rights Coalition has opined that the outcome of the trial speaks volumes of President Koroma’s leadership traits as he doesn’t meddle in the affairs of the judiciary. Thus, the judiciary is really truly an independent organ of government. He called on African leaders to emulate the good example of Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Koroma.
Executive Director of Center for Accountability and Rule of Law Ibrahim Tommy has praised the tribunal for doing justice by the accused persons. “This is great victory for justice”, Ibrahim Tommy said in response to the verdict. “It is a reminder of the important role an independent court can play in enhancing respect for the rights of all.
We hope this verdict will help provide the soldiers and their families with a sense that justice has been done and bring closure on to this sad chapter in their lives”, Mr. Tommy added.
Valnora Edwin of Campaign for Good Governance expressed concern over the fact that all 13 soldiers were acquitted and discharged. She noted that CGG had been monitoring the case for a while now: Does it mean that someone told lies against them or there was not sufficient evidence? She asked.
In all of this, one sees clearly that President Koroma’s governing style is anchored on the fear of God and doesn’t believe in taking human life which is in the image of God Almighty. Sierra Leoneans should be happy they have a God fearing leader like Ernest Bai Koroma.