Hate speech and tribalism – Rwanda a lesson for Sierra Leone
By: Sulaiman Stom Koroma:
We must never allow what happened in 1991 in Sierra Leone to ever happen again. Some of us suffered, lost loved ones, and property. During the 11-years civil war, it was believed that thousands of civilians were killed, maimed, raped, or forced to become child soldiers; and half a million displaced. Mineral resources and properties were looted. The civil war was one of the bloodiest in Africa.
To date, we can still feel and see the scars the 11-years civil war has left. By now we should have learned our lessons, and pray that we do not take part in or allow anything that will divide our country ever again.
After the first round election results of 2018 were announced by the National Returning Officer, declaring a runoff, I started seeing messages of hate and tribalism all over social media.
If you don’t know the propensity of these hate speeches – then see the Rwanda scenario:
“The genocide was sparked by the death of the Rwandan Habyarimana, a Hutu, when his plane was shot down above Kigali airport on 6 April 1994. In Kigali, the presidential guard immediately initiated a campaign of retribution.
Leaders of the political opposition were murdered, and almost immediately, the slaughter of Tutsis and moderate Hutus began.
Organized gangs of government soldiers and militants hacked their way through the Tutsi population with machetes or blew them up in churches where they had taken refuge.
From April to July 1994, members of the Hutu ethnic majority murdered over 800,000 people, mostly of the Tutsi minority; The genocide spread throughout the country with staggering spread and brutality, as ordinary citizens were incited by local official power the Hutu Power government to take up arms against their neighbors.
In just one day, there were over 8,000 people killed, and for the period of 100 days which the genocide lasted for, about one million people were killed (a number which two of the leading political parties did not get in the first rounds of the 2018 presidential elections). An estimated 2,000,000 Rwandans, mostly Hutus were displaced and became refugees.
The media played a significant part in the Rwandan genocide. Prior to the genocide, radio stations and newspapers were carefully used by the conspirators to dehumanize their potential victims.
During the genocide, radio was used by the Hutus extremist conspirators to mobilize the Hutu majority, to coordinate the killings and to ensure that the plans for exterminations were faithfully executed”.
Today, it is hard to see the mainstream media orchestrating hate speech. But with the advent of social media, nothing is impossible. It is now true that Incidents have been reported on nearly every continent. Much of the world now communicate on social media, with nearly a third of the world’s population active on Facebook alone. As more and more people have moved online, experts say, individuals inclined toward racism, misogyny, or homophobia have found niches that can reinforce their views and goad them to violence. Social media platforms also offer violent actors the opportunity to publicize their acts.
According to the Council of Foreign Relations”, Violence attributed to online hate speech has increased worldwide. Societies confronting the trend must deal with questions of free speech and censorship on widely used tech platforms”
Unfortunately, Sierra Leone has not passed any law prohibiting content sharing or taking legal action against the reckless use of social media.
In 2017 the government almost started the process of what they say was a process of ensuring the responsible use of social media, but this idea came under serious contention, as many believed that, it was a plan by the government to sensor and apparently band the effective use of social media in the country.
n April 2020, the government of President Bio says they are contemplating a crackdown on fake news on social media and that the process is in an advanced stage, but just as in the APC government, nothing on that has yielded dividends.
Recent audios and videos that are making rounds on social media have raised an alarm and have started creating panic in the minds and hearts of people who know and understand very well the history of the brutal war and killings the country has gone through. Where are our leaders? Where are our religious leaders? Where are the elders of this land? Where are the heads of our different political parties? Where are our Civil Society Organizations? Where are our Paramount Chiefs and Traditional Leaders? Are we waiting until things get bad before we make a statement to condemn what you are all seeing now on social media? Are we not dissociating ourselves from it because we haven’t seen the calamity behind it?
It doesn’t matter where you come from or who you support, hate speech has the tendency to reverse the gains we have made as a country, the peace souls died for, the future we are building for our children.
Let us don’t allow an “idiot” or group of “idiots” to drag us to the path where a photographer dragged us some 29 years ago.
I hope we will learn from this, and immediately stop the hate speech in Sierra Leone, or else something cataclysmic awaits us.
If Austin Johnny was a Limba and a senior member of the All People’s Congress (APC). Would he be free right now in Sierra Leone ?
And would he still have kept his lucrative job at the Port ?
Why is the government of Maada Bio only punishing that are not Mendes ?
Even within their SLPP party, Abu Abu was sacked (even if it was a temporal move) but all their Mende members who did worse; like Josephine who actually tortured a teen to the point of death, was not even questioned by the police. Austin Johnny called for genocide against non Mendes, not a fart was heard. Why ?
Are they now explicitly telling us that non-Mendes have no rights in Sierra Leone ?
They did not initiate an investigation when a minister threatened to kill opposition members in Makeni. They did no investigation when polling stations were attacked. Nothing was said when more than 40 innocent prisoners were massacred nor did they even sneezed when members of the SLPP called for genocide. But who can blame them. Check the names of all undersigned. They are all card bearers of the SLPP. Every bloody single one of them.
Dem nor able investigate insai salone. Nar Europe en America dem go investigate? Triple Bastada