By M. Allieu Iscandari :
With Solomon Berewa now incapacitated after getting another devastating stroke making him comatose and only waiting for the last nail in his coffin as votes are being tallied, let us turn our attention to the security under-performance by the outgoing Commander-In-Chief (CIC) and Minister of Defense (MoD) on a background as follows: “Peace partially returned to SL in November 1996 after the signing of the Abidjan Peace Accord, which was short-lived as both parties involved openly undermined it.
Chairman Johnny Paul Koroma (JPK) of AFRC had this to say to the nation on June 1, 1997- Fellow countrymen, you will surely agree with me that the unseated President and some of his round pegs in square holes collaborators dragged their feet in implementing the priority clauses stipulated in the Abuja Peace Accord related to developments of mutual forces to carry out encampment and disarming of combatants. The Commission of the Consolidation of Peace (CCP) was never given the attention needed to carry out its functions.
The RUF may have been tardy, even dishonest, in implementing their own side of the bargain, but that cannot in anyway justify the Government of Pa Kabbah through Fayia Musa, Philip Palmer, Dr. Mohamed Barrie and others in surreptitiously planning the arrest and overthrow of its leader, Foday Sankoh.
Both actions were wrongful. From that moment on the atmosphere got riven with distrust in which combatants on both sides inflicted unspeakable barbaric, heinous crimes and truly ghastly atrocities on innocent civilians. The negative spoils of the rebel war, due largely to the leadership blunders of the Commander-In-Chief, are incalculable to date. In his May 28, 1997 condemnation speech of the Kamajor civil militia and the SLPP Government of Pa Kabbah, JPK had this to say to the nation among others…In 1996, the same group that had been disbanded re-emerged as the Kamajors from being Kamaboys, and like in the days of the Hindu-Hindu, the Kamajors instantly targeted the Army as their perceived enemy. However, the military overlooked the activities of the Kamajors and fought alongside with them as local forces, but when the SLPP came to power, the SLPP government emphasized that the Kamajors should be given anti-military training which caused serious confrontation between the soldiers and the Kamajors. While the Army was only made up of 14,000 men, the number of Kamajors has swelled up to 37,000 men, vastly outnumbering the constitutional Army.
The SLPP, which got the full support of the Army after the election suddenly became very partisan in handling the security of the State. Welfare of the Kamajors was treated more seriously than the welfare of the Army. It was not surprising that a one time Chief Kamajor was appointed Deputy Minister of Defense who spent all his energy organizing the Kamajors. Even though the military had fought the war for five years, the SLPP spent all its time providing logistics for the Kamajors, and totally forgetting the welfare of the Army. The Kamajors in the eyes of the SLPP suddenly became a superior force, even though the Armed Forces is constitutionally responsible for the security of the State. The Kamajors started to engage the Army in battles causing the deaths of many soldiers.
Even though the SLPP claimed to have spent between 2 billion and 3.5 billion Leones on the Armed Forces every month, this was not reflected in the status of the ordinary soldier. The Kamajors, on the other hand, were well catered for as Deputy Defense Minister Chief Hinga Norman alone collected 35 million Leones on behalf of Kamajors every month. This does not cover the amount Hinga Norman collected from government to cover logistics for the Kamajors. Salaries for soldiers were delayed for long periods whereas monies to Kamajors were paid instantly on demand. Ration for the fighting men was reduced thereby putting a lot of pressure on the commanders who felt hard pressed to handle the same number of men.
The above-mentioned were legitimate grievances expressed by the military at the time needing attention but were instead irresponsibly snubbed by their Commander-In-Chief who was enjoying porridge in a porringer at his lodge with no seriousness even when told of a coup plot underway. Upon reinstating his Government, he wasted no time through court martial in executing the military high command, disbanding the entire Army and appointing Nigerian Gen. Maxwell Khobe as Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) thereby letting him (Khobe) access sensitive info of our National Security. Do you know that it is forbidden in the Nigerian Army for a senior officer to marry a woman from a foreign country lest he divulges/discusses security matters of interest with her? [This must be knowledge most likely gained from the incident between Samson and Delilah of the Bible.] That notwithstanding, Sierra Leoneans never protested against Pa Kabbah’s security appointments of Gen. Khobe and British Keith Biddle as Inspector General of Police. Unbelievable! [He has brought in again another Brit, Mr. Grant Wilson, as the new Director-General of Mines to gain knowledge of our strategic mineral resources. One thing I have come to know for sure is that Pa Kabbah is good at creating well paid jobs for internationals leaving out the locals, including new graduates to eke out a living on paltry sums.]
Much as I strongly detested the Jan 6 invasion of the capital and the mayhem caused especially by our military, however, I admired their bravery in taking head on well-trained ECOMOG troops who had at their disposal heavy artillery, including Alpha Jets. The ECOMOG Force-Commander, Gen. Shelpedi, was stunned at the tactical maneuvering and gallantry of our battle tested Army. Indeed our wo/men in uniform are the true Lions of the Mountain of SL and are the most seasoned soldiers on the continent. Had it not been for their gallantry in taking hostage 310 ECOMOG soldiers on June 2, 1997 at Mammy Yoko hotel, Freetown would have been reduced to rubbles from the fire power of the Foreign intervention force. Our military deserves a standing ovation from all well-meaning Sierra Leoneans. If the Americans can be so proud of their Marines why not Sierra Leoneans. And I see no reason why anyone should behave like the out going CIC who disowned his military for outsiders. Can anyone tell me why s/he thinks that Pa Kabbah must not be put on trial for stirring dissension and deliberately playing cat and mouse game with our servicewo/men in uniform. [I am confident that he will be indicted by the Special Court sooner rather than later.]
As a matter of fact just days after Jan 6 invasion the CIC left his Army in the battle front in Freetown and traveled to Conakry to attend President Lansana Conte’s inauguration. It was a surprise that the CIC can leave his house and military coming under fire to enjoy all types of dishes in Guinea. Incredible! Not even Uriah could do such a thing and in fact had this to say to King David whose pleasurable lifestyle in a time of war reflects that of Pa Kabbah: Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing! [2Samuel 11:11 NIV].” What was even more disheartening about his trip to Conakry was that all his colleague Presidents from other African countries including small Gambia arrived gorgeously for the occasion in their Jets, but Pa Kabbah on a smoky UN helicopter which provoked laughter from those at the Gbesia International Airport. And to this day SL does not have a Presidential Jet of her own. With all the mineral wealth why should our President be dwarfed or get missing in action in a gathering with his/her counterparts? We need to something about this and restore pride to the office of the President.
On March 8, 2000 a peaceful demonstration to Foday Sankoh’s house was organized by the civil society in Freetown (to the knowledge of the CIC) which turned violent killing 22 people in cold blood. No commission of inquiry has been set up to date to investigate why Pa Kabbah as Commander-In-Chief and Minister of Defense failed to provide the people at the rally on that day proper security coverage ahead in case of any eventuality from the rebel leader and group. Listen to this, the Americans are still asking and grueling their leaders why 9/11. Is the life of the ordinary Sierra Leonean not equally important?
Our country is like a prostitute that has been raped by her very lovers and left to die, but she will live. You only need to go up Hill Station and its environs and see that our outgoing elected officials have asked what SL can do for them instead of the wise saying of John F. Kennedy “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.”
Let us flip the page to another subject. I have heard people say that APC-rule led to the rebel war, which is true. However, what is also true though is that the war started from SLPP’s traditional strongholds including Kailahun which is still a ‘No-go area’ for APC. With any two sound premises one can arrive at a logical conclusion, and it is for you to make. The devil is in the details. During the time of the APC, the RUF was not able to cross the Eastern Province where they had started their insurrection in 1991. The first time hostilities spread outside the province was during the time of NPRC, which had tried to justify its overthrow of the APC on the grounds of the latter’s ineffectiveness in defending the people against rebel aggression. So it made extravagant pledges of ending the war swiftly, but in the end it failed. The RUF not only forced a war economy on SL; they left an endless trail of unrecognizable shadows of once settled and thriving communities. The motives of RUF looked murky except for the pretext of ridding the country of corruption, misrule and one party system. Its insurrection had begun at the very time the much maligned APC Government of Late President Momoh was laying the foundation for democratic elections under a new multi-party constitution adopted in 1991. All that anyone opposed to the rule of Momoh needed to do was to wait and take part in the then impending elections and vote him out of office. But instead the rebels and their backers took up arms and chose violence. How could they reconcile that with their professed belief in democracy defies comprehension.
Prior to 1992, it is reasonable to credit APC with substantial infrastructural development as well as with an extraordinary good record of bonding its rich and tantalizing ethnic diversity. In other words there was no tribalism during APC rule as seen today with SLPP. Of course there is no doubt of the fact that APC made mistakes along the way and some were serious. An example was opening up diamond mining to all and sundry, a policy that scuppered any ambitions it may have had to turn things around. The result of this openness was diamond smuggling, which became a whole industry in itself, defying regulatory control and plummeting the public purse as never before even to date. It was later to fuel the war today known as blood diamonds. But let us face it: Unlike SLPP today APC made these mistakes under a one party system or at a time when there were no checks and balances. So which is more guilty of misrule, APC or SLPP?
In my own opinion the Late Momoh was by far a better President than Pa Kabbah for the following 3 reasons:
Unlike Pa Kabbah, Momoh was courageous to admit failing the nation
Momoh reasoned with us the students in 1991 and 5 months after our demonstration he lifted the ban on democracy
When overthrown in 1992 Momoh fled to Conakry and unlike Pa Kabbah, he never fought his way back to power with blood and on dead bodies. According to him the God who gave has taken away, which was reflected in his song ‘Momoh si don saful nar God don gee you pawa wata wae na fo you e nor go run pas you’
If Pa Kabbah were a true uniter he would have awarded in his two terms in office the Order of the Rokel to some of his political rivals, including Dr. John Karefa-Smart for being a seasoned political veteran and Senior Citizen of SL. But instead he chose to give cronies, including Dr. Julius Spencer for helping reinstate his Government from exile. Such awards are merited based on (longterm) national duty not on close ties. Blessings, MS