Tuesday September 28, 2004 :
Famed Sierra Leonean broadcaster, Hilton Fyle, on Saturday held his audience spellbound as he powerfully highlighted his harrowing experiences with the ruling SLPP government in 1997-98.
Fyle, who for over 20 years fascinated BBC listeners all over the world with his brilliant presentation of the popular NETWORK AFRICA program, was the guest speaker at a fund-raising and Awards dinner held by the New Jersey North American Branch of the opposition APC in Franklin Township, Somerset, New Jersey on Saturday night.
KABBAH : He almost killed former BBC Presenter Hilton Fyle
In an eloquent speech that held listeners captive and evoked all kinds of emotions, the former presenter of the hit SLBS/TV “GO-GO SHOW” in the mid-1970s,meticulously and carefully outlined how the dreams of multi-party democracy by the people of Sierra Leone were cruelly dashed by President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and his SLPP government.
Fyle said after his retirement from the BBC, which he served for over 20 years, he decided to return home after the SLPP, which came to power in 1996, promised the world that it was going to restore multi-party democracy in Sierra Leone. He realized that there was no better time for a true patriot to return home and help build his country. He said that he trusted the government and believed their promises because the government was composed of qualified individuals , who like President Kabbah, had distinguished themselves in public service ( In Kabbah’s case the UN ). He said he told himself that the much-awaited change had at last arrived in Sierra Leone and he must return home to help to develop the country.Considering that Mass Communication was one area that needed impetus in Sierra Leone, Hilton stated that he decided to return home to use the knowledge and experience he had gained for the benefit of the country.
The celebrated broadcaster said further that when he arrived in Sierra Leone he set up a radio station and a newspaper through which he expressed his candid opinions about matters of national concern, encouraged by his belief that the President and his government officials were well-educated people who understood the meaning of democracy and meant what they said ..
Mr. Fyle said that everything he broadcast on his radio or wrote in his newspaper were designed to promote the spirit odf democracy which he believed had been revived in the country.He however lamented that it did not take long before he realised that every promise the government had made about reviving and promoting democracy in Sierra Leone were false and that the SLPP had no intention whatsoever to make democracy work in the country.
Fyle explained that instead of promoting the democracy they had promised President Kabbah and his government were rather more inclined to perpetuating that retrogressive African mentality about leadership—That the Chief was always right and only he had the answers to the country’s problems and any expression of free speech from another quarter was a threat to his power. Fyle outlined the gross abuses of power Sierra Leoneans have endured and the violation of the principles of muti-party democracy he witnessed, along with the perpetuation of tribalism , during his ill-fated stay in Sierra Leone..
Fyle said Kabbah came to dislike him for the truths he broadcast or wrote and the President could have killed him but for the grace and mercy of God. He said that his presence before the audience in New Jersey on Saturday night was a testimony of the goodness and saving power of God. He spent months on death row , with his cell just a few yards from the execution chamber and gallows.
Fyle said Kabbah hated him because he spoke the truth about the President’s plan to use foreign troops and mercenaries to invade the country and restore his government which had been overthrown in 1997 by soldiers ..
He justified his decision to oppose the invasion because violence was unnecessary as the soldiers had signed an accord with the government and faithfully promised to hand power back to President Kabbah in six months. He intimated that the soldiers would have handed power back to Kabbah’s government because the international community and the people of Sierra Leone had put them under tremenduous pressure to abdicate power.
Fyle said his concern was that if Kabbah invaded the country with his foreign troops and mercenaries, thousands of innocent people would be killed and heavy damage inflicted on the country. He felt that the government should have waited patiently for the six months to expire, but he regretted the fact that Kabbah was so greedy for power that he could not wait and anybody who opposed his plan to use violence to return to power became his enemy.
Fyle spoke about the eventual invasion of the country by Kabbah’s foreign troops and mercenaries who used bombs and fighter jets to attack the army and in the process killed thousands of innocent people and destroyed the capital, just as had been feared. by peace advocates.
Fyle narrated that he was arrested, badly beaten up and cast into Prison from where the government later charged him with Treason , along with many other people, all of whom were found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.
Fyle spoke about the perils they faced in jail while awaiting execution .He stated that President Kabbah would have had all of them executed , but God answered their fervent prayers when rebels captured the capital, burst the Prison doors open and freed all of them.They fled into the bush with the rebels where he indicated that they underwent indescribable suffering and starvation, but managed to survive anyway, through the grace of God.
Eventually, he went on, the International Community forced the government to make peace with the rebels and all of them were granted amnesty and he found his way later to the U.S.
Fyle told his captive audience that he had forgiven President Kabbah and his government and he had been admonishing others who suffered the same way to forgive and forget. He avverred that there would be no peace and progress in the nation if Sierra Leoneans did not practice the virtue of forgiveness and reconciliation.
He however called on all patriotic Sierra Leoneans not to leave the destiny of their country in the hands of the corrupt and uncommitted politicians.Rather, they should make their voices heard for the good of the nation.
During the program, awards were presented to organizations and people who had contributed positively to the upliftment of the society. Among those who received awards were Morgage Banker, Mr. Foday Mansaray who had helped many Sierra Leoneans in Franklin own homes; Mrs. Batily Alghali, an educationist who helped many parents place their children in the Somerset Head Start Program where she was the Co-ordinator; former ADC to Heads of Stata, Dr.Siaka Stevens and Gen. Joseph Momoh , Mr.John Bangura, and the Franklin Police Department for their hard work in Community Policing.
APC New Jersey Branch Chairman, Mr. Alex Mansaray presented the awards on behalf of the party.
A speech was read to the audience by APC North American Chairman, Raymond Kabia, from the new Mayor of Freetown, Mr.Winstanley Johnson, the Guest of Honor, who was regrettably absent due to alleged problems being created for the new Freetown City Council by the SLPP government, which was not willing to co-operate with the council and had placed roadblocks infront of the FTC, according to the contents of the speech.