CHARLES FRANCIS MARGAI AND THE SIERRA LEONE PEOPLES’ PROBLEM

Rev. Alfred Munda SamForay

Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.

James Russell Lowell, The Present Crisis

 

 On April 16, 2018 State House announced: “The general public is hereby informed that it has pleased His Excellency the President Julius Maada Bio, to appoint Mr. Charles Francis Margai Attorney General and Minister of Justice”. At the time of his appointment Parliament was not in session and Mr. Margai was the only cabinet member in President Bio’s government. Under the Sierra Leone Constitution, the Attorney General has to be a lawyer in good standing with the Sierra Leone Bar Association and does not need parliamentary confirmation. So Margai went straight to work. We were told that his job aside from being the chief legal adviser to the president, was to make the crooked places straight; make the high places low.  All eyes and ears were on Margai as it was assumed and believed that he would bring justice to the nation by going after all those, particularly members of the previous government of the All Peoples Congress party, who may have enriched themselves at the public’s expense. After all, there were widespread reports of misuse by government officials of donor funds for Ebola victims and victims of the devastating mudslide that killed untold and unknown thousands of citizens. For the dead, the voiceless masses, the poor and the powerless, Margai was going to be the voice of the one crying in the wilderness. He was the political equivalent of a messiah of sorts, setting at liberty those that were oppressed. For the administration which Mr. Margai was serving and President Bio, in particular, one could almost hear the ghost of John F. Kennedy waling, “Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of….” Then there was silence in the land. It wasn’t John Kennedy after all; just a dream of bygone years.

REV. ALFRED SAM-FORAY

Then came news on June 11 exactly fifty days to the day that sounded eerily similar to the one we heard on April 16. “The general public is hereby informed that it has pleased His Excellency the President Julius Maada Bio to appoint Dr. Priscila Schwartz (nee Fofana) Attorney General and Minister of Justice”. Like the Day of Pentecost which ushered in the Christian era fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, this latest news came like a rushing, mighty wind, and we were all confused. Christian marriages that only last this long are usually just annulled – like they never actually happened. Political marriages are another matter altogether. So far neither President Bio, nor Mr. Margai has given any reason why he was dismissed from office. With the deafening silence from both ends, Sierra Leoneans are left with the most reliable source of news in the country – rumors. Some believe that in his zeal to correct past wrongs, Mr. Margai may have over-reached the scope of his job description by wanting to investigate not only the past ten years of the previous government but as far back as fifteen years that would include the previous SLPP government. In which case, the corruption net Mr. Margai wanted to cast might drag in even people in the present government of President Bio. There was a report of a house belonging to a retired Brigadier that was demolished at Mr. Margai’s behest or knowledge that angered the military brass which Retired Brigadier and now President Julius Maada Bio was once a part of.

Then there is the Charles Margai factor to consider. The maverick politician who never seems to fit in with any government in power. Granted Margai’s marriage with the government of President Bio’s predecessor, President Ernest Bai Koroma, lasted for a season but longer than the one with President Bio. But that too ended in a bitter divorce. Shortly after Margai’s dismissal other rumors backed by recorded interviews with local news media began to circulate the social media. There were vivid allegations by Mr. Margai that President Bio’s family was in bed with the rebels who devastated Sierra Leone for eleven years during the country’s sadistic civil war. In one such recording, Margai claimed that President Bio’s older sister was the mammy-queen (god-mother) of the rebels and that Bio’s older brother, legendary footballer, Steve Bio, supplied weapons to the rebels. “How can we trust this country to a man like that?” Margai asked rhetorically. It is guilt by association as the learned lawyer, Charles Margai himself knows. No proof has ever been offered that President Bio himself profited from or supported the rebel war. By all indications, Bio was a distinguished Officer & Gentleman of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces who risked life and limb to fight the rebels. But Margai made his point about President Bio’s trustworthiness or lack thereof as Commander-in-Chief. Notwithstanding, Sierra Leoneans voted for Bio even if the election itself was more or less rigged and fraudulent at several fronts. In any case, in several constituencies and polling stations people cast more votes for the rebel party, the RUFP, than they did for Mr. Margai’s PMDC party. It’s like Jewish-Americans voting for the American Nazi Party. Which might explain why no Sierra Leonean has ever won the Nobel Prize in Physics or anything else.

THE VOW (AND CURSE) OF SILENCE. Since President Bio and Mr. Margai have both taken a voluntary vow of silence on the sacking of the former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, both gentlemen being probably the most talkative politicians in the country at least relative to President Bio’s immediate predecessor, President Ernest Koroma, let me make things very simple, if burdensome, for both gentlemen. Both as a minister of the Gospel and a citizen of Sierra Leone, let me state categorically that the souls of Sir Milton Augustus Stribely Margai, Sir Albert Michael Margai, President Siaka Probyn Stevens, President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, Professor Alpha Lavalie and Honorable Samuel Hinga Norman (last two were murdered while in pursuit of peace and security of our country) shall all remain restless and haunting on anyone presently or previously in office who separately or in concert with anyone else to defraud the poor and oppressed people of this tortured nation. Or who knows or has reason to know of any valid reason why Mr. Margai was removed from office if such removal was for political expediency and not misconduct or failure to perform his sworn duties as Attorney General and chief legal adviser to the president. May the worst elements of Governor Clarkson’s Prayer and the Psalms of David be visited on such person or persons, their children and their children’s children yet unborn.

Since Mr. Margai’s dismissal, the head of the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission, Ady Macauley, has been sent on what the government called indefinite “special leave” even though Macauley’s position is one of several offices with security of tenure given its sensitivity.  According to Agence de Presse Africaine, the ACC chiefs’ special leave came as the Commission was about to unveil one of the largest corruption indictments in many years.  Again, may the souls of all those who died in this nation’s bloody civil war, the victims of the Ebola Virus Disease and the tragic mudslide also remain restless and haunting for anyone who has knowledge of why these anti-corruption personalities are being fired before the people of this country know who is keeping them in such abject and needless poverty. And let the blessing and peace promised to every citizen of this country forsake their homes and their children and their children’s children yet unborn. Mr. Margai’s appointment as Attorney General was no private or gentleman’s agreement between him and the President. As such, the people of this country have an inherent right to know the truth concerning his dismissal. We shall know the truth and only the truth shall set one and all free from the curse of silence. The zeal of God will perform this. AMEN.

FREE EDUCATION AND ALL THAT JAZZ. A little girl came to my place of business yesterday to buy ice. I asked her why she was not in school. She said her uncle told her that it was a public holiday. Apparently, her uncle who sells water in the lorry park is the Deputy Assistant Minister of Education and he alone has custody of government information concerning public holidays. A few minutes later, a boy of the same age came by also to buy ice. I asked him the same question. “I just sat to the NPSE (Primary school exams) and I don’t have to go to school anymore”. That is not true, I told him. Plan B: “My aunt told me as soon as I buy this ice I will go to school”. It’s 9:30 now and you have about 30 seconds to be out of this place. Go tell your aunt to buy her own ice. Less than 30 minutes later, another little girl stopped by. They did not finish braiding her hair in time to go to school, she said. It was Monday after a three day Eid Ul Fitr holiday weekend. You too have less than thirty seconds to get back home before I really get mad. Of course, these semi-illiterate rascals could be our future pediatric neurosurgeons and Nobel Prize winners if they ever finish reciting “Capital A, small a, Capital B, small b….Capital Zed…” They will also most likely be the next criminal gang members terrorizing our communities unless we make it our personal business to make sure they stay in school. Otherwise, the much heralded free education program of President Bio’s New Direction government will just make their plights worse than what it is now.

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