By Jonathan Leigh, Freetown.
Tom Nyuma has been brought down to Freetown this evening and hospitalized following the incident in Bo in the early hours of today in which he and two others were severely beaten on an allegation of attempting to assassinate APC Leader, Ernest Bai Koroma.
It was Finance Minister, John Benjamin who arranged for him to be brought to Freetown and also intervened for him to be treated in Bo when he visited the police station where he was briefly detained. The police were insisting that they obtain statement from him before allowing him to seek medical attention.
There are conflicting reports as to what exactly happened. An early report says Koroma arrived at the Countryside Hotel around 4am from Mattru Jong. He was tired and immediately checked into Room 4 of the hotel which was reserved for him.
Soon afterwards, some of Nyuma’s bodyguards were seen around Koroma’s room and his security suspected that they were on a clandestine mission. The suspicious bodyguards of Ernest Koroma then pretended to depart for their respective rooms. A few minutes later, it is alleged, Tom Nyuma surfaced and then went straight to Koroma’s room and while he was attempting to turn the door’s lock he was pounced on by Koroma’s bodyguards. Tom was alleged to be armed with a pistol at the time of the incident.
According to Police Local Unit Commander in Bo, Chief Superintendent Foday Umaru Karefa Dabo, they(the police) have been able to establish that Nyuma checked into the hotel shortly after midnight, three hours before Ernest Koroma’s arrival and it was around 3 a.m that he(Dabo) got a phone call from the Inspector-General of Police from Freetown for him to proceed to the hotel following a complaint made by Ernest Koroma to Acha Kamara about the incident.
The police say they were told upon investigation that two bodyguards of Nyuma were returning to the hotel after spending the night out. They subsequently encountered the bodyguards of Ernest Koroma, one of them being Idrissa Kamara alias Leatherboot.
Both groups of bodyguards are ex-combatants and knowing one another, the Nyuma group explained to them that Nyuma was at the hotel after being queried by the Koroma group as to their mission in the area.
Also staying in Room 22 of the hotel was John Benjamin who was returning to Freetown from Kailahun with some of his security personnel. Infact, he had to be smuggled out of the hotel through a back door and went straight to the police station to see Nyuma who was reportedly bleeding profusely.
Benjamin arrived in Freetown this afternoon as he had planned to travel with Nyuma early in the morning to Freetown, according to an arrangement between the two when they met at Daru close to the border with Liberia.
The two bodyguards to Nyuma were grabbed and severely beaten by bodyguards of Ernest Koroma. They also allegedly rushed to the room were Nyuma was sleeping with his girlfriend, broke down the door and took him out and he too was severely beaten.
Nyuma, according to reports, was passing through Bo from Daru where he had gone to see his relatives for the first time since he was deported back from the USA three weeks ago.
His girlfriend whose name was given as Lynette was also abducted but was later released.
Dr Kaitel, who was treating Nyuma confirmed he was hospitalized at Dr. Yillah’s hospital and his condition was said to be serious. He said Nyuma had a series of stab wounds on his body.
Chief Superintendent Dabo said they were trying to get Ernest Koroma’s bodyguards who are alleged to be involved in the incident for questioning but were unable to lay hands on any of them. He said he told Ernest Koroma to ensure they were turned over to the police for investigation.
Subject: LANSANA GBERIE SPEAKS
From: Independent Man
Date Posted: 19:25:22 07/23/07 ()
Entered From: adsl-68-127-105-250.dsl.pltn13.pacbell.net at 188.8.131.52
Lansana Gberie speaks.
VIOLENCE & ELECTIONS IN SIERRA LEONE
By Internationally Acclaimed Sierra Leonean, Lansana Gberie
Jul 23, 2007, 21:34 Email this article
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Over lunch the other day at Chatham House in London with some old friends there, I was asked – apropos of something that I had recently published in that venerable Think Tank’s magazine World Today on Sierra Leone’s forthcoming elections in August – my views about the much-speculated prospects of widespread violence during the polls. Will the government attempt to rig the elections in favour of its preferred candidate, the current Vice President Solomon Berewa, in the manner in which Nigeria’s Obasanjo did for Musa Yar’Dua? Where is violence likely to begin? What are the signs to look for in order to spot rigging?
As you can see, these come close to the familiar old question: Did you beat your wife? But one of the chaps at the lunch was going off to Sierra Leone as an elections monitor, so I tried to answer the questions very carefully. I noted that to begin objectively understanding recent and current events in Sierra Leone, one must first abandon two common (and cognate) assumptions about African politics: the idea that only government is capable of rigging elections in any meaningful sense; along with supporting idea that only government has the capacity and willingness to unleash violence on political opponents. I will return to these points in a moment.
First, a word or two about the elections. Sierra Leone has conducted two successful elections since its war ended in 2002. The first, nationwide Presidential and Parliamentary polls, held in 2002, overwhelmingly re-elected President Tejan Kabbah and his Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP). And in 2004, local government polls across the country witnessed significantly gains by the opposition All Peoples Congress (APC), including a win of the municipality of Freetown, although overall the SLPP carried far more councils. The Presidential and Parliamentary polls in August, however, will be far more significant than the previous two. They will be conducted wholly by the Sierra Leonean state, through its National Electoral Commission (NEC). The UN force Unamsil, which helped conduct the 2002 and 2004 polls, is no longer in the country to provide logistical support, security, and oversight. The elections, in other words, will be a crucial test of whether Sierra Leone can now finally be counted as stable and democratic. Success in this regard will mean that the elections have to be relatively free of violence and undue tampering. Failure, which is the opposite, is simply not option.
I make these obvious points to stress a larger one: which is that these elections are bigger, more important than the ambitions of any one presidential candidate or political party. They are about the future, the security and well-being of about 5 million souls.
Now to the point I made at the Chatham House lunch. In the course of researching and writing a large report on the elections for an international organisation recently, I chanced to read the report by IFES (the International Foundation for Electoral Systems) on the 2004 local council elections in Sierra Leone. The report revealed widespread irregularities, so widespread and egregious indeed that it has since not been released to the public. The report showed convincingly that the former NEC was dysfunctional – so much so that its polling agents across the board seriously tampered with the polls with impunity. A quick analysis of the findings showed quite clearly that candidates for the opposition APC rigged the elections (using polling agents) in many cases more comprehensively and competently than did candidates for the ruling SLPP. That was, in some ways, an eye-opener – even for me who knows a thing or two about Sierra Leone’s post-independence political history.
Electoral violence is part of that history. This is utterly regrettable, but one ought to bear this in mind. It is all very well now to state, and this is true, that the Sierra Leonean state now has a reasonable monopoly over armed violence, but the operative word is reasonable. It is not absolute. It is quite clear that the country’s stability is fragile, and sociopathic entrepreneurs, whether projecting themselves party leaders or warlords of sorts, can still cause enormous havoc and undo the hard-won gains of a very expensive peace (won after thousands of deaths).
To its credit, the Sierra Leone government seems very well aware of this. To any fair
observer, the government has, since the current electoral process began, been cautious to the point paralysis in dealing with evident challenges to the security of the state by some members of the opposition. I use the words “evident challenges” very advisedly. Bluster and chest-thumping on the campaign stump may have their appeal, but it crosses the line for a major party leader to explicitly threaten to unleash violence in the event of electoral loss. The two major opposition leaders, Ernest Koroma (APC) and Charles Margai (PMDC or Peoples Movement for Democratic Change), have made these threats publicly – Koroma, to a friendly newspaper in Freetown, and Margai, at several public gatherings. Nor can their threats be dismissed as mere bluster.
Shortly after Koroma issued his threat, the Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP), the group that represented the deranged guerrillas who spearheaded Sierra Leone’s decade-long carnage, announced that it had joined the APC to help defeat the SLPP in the polls. As an electoral force, of course, the RUFP is absolutely insignificant: it failed to win a single seat in both the 2002 and 2004 elections. Its value, as Koroma must understand, is purely symbolic, flowing from the (swift) logic of the machete: primitive violence and brutality. Following, Koroma instigated a rally of the APC ignoring the little legal requirement regarding police permit – and of course some violence was reported.
Now I have met Koroma a few times, and I know him to be a gentleman of an almost anodyne type. I understand this on a personal level. During a meeting with Koroma over a year ago in the course of work I was doing for the British government, Koroma mentioned that he would be traveling to London the following week. That visit would coincide with the launch of my book at Chatham House. I casually invited him to drop by. To my surprise – as well as immense pleasure – he did, and he bought a copy of the book, which I duly signed. So you see, all this sound too desperate, and Koroma should appeal to his better instinct and make a public renunciation of his threat.
I am not so sure about Margai. I have met Margai a few times since he broke away from the SLPP (in the process resigning as a cabinet minister) to form his PMDC. He had lost the party leadership to his senior colleague, Berewa, and found that the party was no longer good enough for him. This is, of course, his right; and he may be well correct in denouncing the leadership process as rigged. What is less clear is why he thinks that that experience guarantees him majority support for the presidency – and the failure to realise such a vote an indication of fraud for which violence must be unleashed on the nation. The PMDC, for all the initial enthusiasm (now almost completely waned) that greeted it, is a very new entity, rather like a new bookstore. No one has voted for it, and it can therefore claim no electoral support anywhere. This is just by way of delivery of some home-truths. The PMDC is an untested party, the leadership driven largely by the belief – half complacent, half demagogic – that disenchantment with the ruling party in some quarters automatically translates into votes for its most vociferous critic. As everyone knows, this is a dangerous delusion, and people close to Margai should be telling him this.
It is clear that no one is doing so. I met Margai last year with an American colleague. We were staying at the Cabenda Hotel, owned by Femi Hebron, founding member of the PMDC. My colleague and I – on assignment for the UK government – expressed an interest, to Hebron, in talking to Margai. Margai dropped by the next morning for a chat. I was impressed by his sense of commitment and determination. But throughout the one-hour long conversation, concentrated around what alternative vision he had for the country, the most concrete things I noted from Margai were, to the effect, “When my uncle” [Milton Margai] or “When my father” [Albert Margai] was in charge things were better etc…The next time I met with him was at his party’s offices in Freetown, where, at the All Political Parties Association (APPA) meetings, he vowed that he it was just a matter of time before he would be sworn in as President, and that the SLPP will not even come a distant second, so unpopular had the old party become. He claimed that he had no confidence in the NEC, the judiciary, and the police. I wondered how anyone wanting to be President of a country through a democratic process could be so contemptuous of its core institutions, but alas, Margai did not appear to get my point.
He already claims to have extra-legal instruments of coercion to defend himself and his interests. He has claimed to command the support of the bulk of the former RUF and Kamajor militia combatants, and therefore his party “has what it takes to protect its interests” – the quote is from the recent International Crisis Group (ICG) report (July 2007). Margai was being asked in the context of recent home burnings (over 100 dwellings destroyed in a series of arsons) in Pujehun District, a stubborn stronghold of the SLPP. I investigated this incident while in Sierra Leone recently, and found that the burnings were indeed perpetrated by ex-combatants and other supporters of the PMDC who objected to pressure being put on a PMDC supporter by his brother, the Paramount Chief of Malen Chiefdom, an SLPP supporter.
No one has been arrested for these terrible offences, even though the Sierra Leone Police intervened to put a stop to it, and many of the perpetrators are well known. Isn’t Margai, in a perverse way, right about the unreliability of the police after-all? The same kind of reckless lawlessness (and impunity) seems to be at the bottom of the recent violence in Kailahun District, another stronghold of the SLPP. Margai simply has little, or no, support in these areas, and what support he has is concentrated among the ex-Kamajors, who resent the treatment meted out to Hinga Norman by the so-called Special Court of Sierra Leone. (To the consternation of some of us – for long supporters of Norman – Margai has, since Norman’s death, been claiming to ‘continue’ Norman’s ‘legacy’! The fact that Margai was Minister of Internal Affairs, in charge of the Police that so brutally arrested Norman, makes no impression on the man! He certainly did not resign because of the shameful treatment of Norman; Margai resigned simply because he saw his presidential ambition frustrated by others in his former party.)
Margai seems to be in too much hurry. In every human endeavour the line between ambition and impatience, commitment and desperation, determination and over-zealousness, can be very thin, and it demands enormous good sense and nobility of purpose to maintain a fine balance. For an important politician in a situation like ours, maintaining that balance can make all the difference in the world.
Someone should tell Margai that it is simply not realistic for him to expect his PMDC to make significant electoral gains, let alone win the Presidency, in so short a time since its inception. The two traditional parties, the SLPP and the APC, are still very strong. And whatever its many faults, the current SLPP government cannot, by any measure, be considered a failure: a government that has maintained the fragile peace, more than tripled enrolment in schools, built or refurbished hospitals and police stations across the country, constructed or refurbished hundreds of miles of roads, in the constrained circumstances that Sierra Leone found itself in since the war, cannot be considered a failure. This Presidential election, someone must tell Margai, is really a contest between Solomon Berewa and Ernest Koroma…
Subject: Re: LANSANA GBERIE SPEAKS
From: Cornelius Hamelberg
Date Posted: 21:52:51 07/23/07 ()
Entered From: c-2b8472d5.01-32-73746f42.cust.bredbandsbolaget.se at 184.108.40.206
All the familiar echoes and puffiness. Indeed “Monkey noh dae lef im black han” comes close to the question, “Have you stopped beating your wife?”
Two points of observation about this article which is culled from Miss Sylvia’s SLPP speak-easy called “Awareness Times”. Other points to follow.
Writing for popular consumption, Mr. Gberie is certain: “Sierra Leone has conducted two successful elections since its war ended in 2002.”
Much can be said about the background to the elections and the conditions and atmosphere in which the 2002 elections was conducted. The 2002 Elections were slightly flawed since the government did not – was not able to assert territorial sovereignty over some of the East of Sierra Leone – where voting was slightly disrupted – or did not take place.
But moving fast forward to today, more importantly, as the fateful day August 11 approaches, questions are still being raised about the alleged or expected neutrality of the former Lady nun who forsook/ deserted her vows to become the Christina Thorpe who has since then been appointed Director-General of the elections/ Electoral Commissioner
Another question that we must look into and which and it’s reasonable to want to know the answer as to whether the reasons Mr. Eugene Davies the Electoral Commissioner gave for resigning from his post, have been addressed, and whether Miss Thorpe who has replaced Mr. Davies as Electoral Commissioner has inherited the same situation but without protest and complaint because she is more compliant with the wishes of her bosses who appointed her.
Fears about her neutrality persist. She is feared to be a pliable woman who is also ready willing and able to make the kind of compromises that no nonsense Mr. Davies was not prepared to make.
2. Yes, Hon Charles Margai may well be “correct in denouncing the leadership process as rigged” as even Mr. John Leigh an SLPP party stalwart and failed aspirant for SLPP Party leadership – and we are to assume an impartial an honest and independent witness and most significantly, a declared enemy of Mr. Margai – was also defeated at that election in which he (Leigh) failed to even a win a nomination. Charles Margai managed to get all of 34 votes at that Makeni Con-bent / Convent- ion. And if what Mr. Leigh says is true about his colleagues, then Mr. Margai has every reason to be DISGRUNTLED.
Until very recently (before it became apparent/ dawned on him that Mr. Berewa was not going to appoint him his running mate) he had appointed himself to the post of Mr. Berewa’s resident mouthpiece on this Cocorioko forum, although he had tried to convince us and all his comrades in the SLPP that the Makeni affair was not a convention at all, but a “conBention” prearranged and Bent in favour of Mr B-erewa and that it was at that ConBention that he was “ROBBED” of even a nomination. Yes, he and not Hon. Charles Margai repeatedly told us that the voting was rigged in favour of Mr. Berewa. He wept profusely real tears about it (the spilt milk) or was it only sour grapes?
Why did Eugene Davis resign as Electoral Commissioner?