|By Patrick Muana||
The ongoing arrest and detention of former NPRC official and Sierra Leone war hero, Lt. Col. Tom Sahr Nyuma (Rtd), has yielded a series of new twists.
|Amputee…..victim of the rebel war|
Reports from Sierra Leonean amputee refugees who were surreptitiously contacted by Homeland Security officials indicate that the INS is only now wildly hunting for evidence to suit broad and untenable charges of human rights violations (among others), for which they have detained Tom Nyuma. The amputees are victims of the most egregious of human rights abuses as their arms, legs were lopped off in frenzies of violence that gripped Sierra Leone during its civil wars. They are unanimous in their independent statements that Tom Nyuma is a hero who was least involved with the political affairs of the NPRC government and completely dedicated to fighting against rebels who were devastating parts of Sierra Leone – especially the east, which is Tom Nyuma’s home district.
“How can he be guilty of human rights abuses when he is the one who put his life on the line to save us, our families, and our villages from rebels and sobels,” the amputees asked. “When those corrupt APC officials were executed, Tom Nyuma was far-away at the war front in Daru where we had just been rescued,” another interjected. “If anybody is guilty,” another continued, “it is the rebels who wore military camouflage and rebellious soldiers (sobels) who killed and maimed people like us.”
The Sierra Leonean amputees disclosed that contrary to the leading questions asked by the Homeland Security officials, they had told the Homeland Security officials that Lt. Col. Tom Nyuma had left an undoubted legacy of heroism and bravery as he led his men from the front in battling against RUF and NPFL rebels and other forces (including rebellious Sierra Leone army troops called “sobels” or “soldier rebels”) that were inflicting untold violence on civilians. The amputees also pointed out that without regard to his personal safety, Tom Nyuma had fought to protect civilian settlements and villages, and in cases in which the civilians had been in grave danger, had evacuated them to safer areas. “This is the Tom we know, and who every Sierra Leonean knows. Tom Nyuma is a war-hero and a very decent human being,” the group’s leader noted.
Independent reports attest to the bravery and commitment of Tom Nyuma as a soldier. Documentaries shot during the war by independent British Broadcasting Corporation journalist and presenter, Hilton Fyle, document in pictures scenes of ululating men and women singing the praises of a young army commander as he brings food, medicine and hope to a war weary population. Testimonies given by even prosecution witnesses during the ongoing United Nations supported Special Court for Sierra Leone trials (which is trying people most responsible for gross human rights violations) have lauded the role of Tom Nyuma in protecting civilians during the war. Former and current serving officers and men of the Sierra Leone army are effusive with praise for Col. Tom Nyuma who is praised for his discipline and courage as he organized and fought back against rebels.
Evidently, the Department of Homeland Security is merely painting Tom Nyuma with a broad brush. What they call “evidence” are generalized statements about human rights in Sierra Leone in general and nothing specific about Tom Nyuma’s specific role in any of those alleged abuses. A former top US diplomat with responsibilities in Sierra Leone and Liberia indicates that Tom Nyuma was an exemplary military officer who is soft-spoken and very polite. “I have a very favorable impression of his role as a serving officer in the Sierra Leone military,” he said. The Department of Homeland Security has tendered in no specific piece of incontrovertible evidence that indicates that Tom Nyuma issued orders or gave commands to his subordinates to commit abuses. Instead, all of his subordinates point out that Tom Nyuma led by example and with bravery.
Two Sierra Leonean diplomatic staff members who were contacted indicated that they are unaware of Tom Nyuma’s imprisonment, but that that they would expect the Department of Homeland Security to notify the government of Sierra Leone through its diplomatic missions in the United States that it is holding a Sierra Leonean citizen (Tom Nyuma) on specific charges. Going further, one of the officials (who refused to be named), noted that “if Col. Tom Nyuma (Rtd) was ever guilty of human rights violations, the Sierra Leone government has had more than ten years within which it would have initiated appropriate and adequate legal processes to bring him to trial. That the government has not done so in more than ten years and as former NPRC officials are still serving as senior officers and commanders in the national army speaks to the significance and validity of those so-called country reports.” He noted that it is not in keeping with protocol for the Sierra Leone government, through its missions, to inquire about the whereabouts of all its citizens because the Department of Homeland Security through the United States government is aware of its obligations under international law. However, he wished that the Department of Homeland Security would meet its obligations as soon as possible and grant a free, open, and fair trial of a Sierra Leonean subject using specific and clear evidence.
Tom Nyuma’s plight has worsened lately. The father of two and Ohio resident has had sporadic contact with his children and family since his arrest and detention.