By KABS KANU :
We the New Jersey contingent just got home from Washington DC . It is very late and my feet are burning and I can hardly stand on them, but I can at least bring this preliminary report about what happened today at the White House in Washington DC where two competing groups of Sierra Leoneans staged demonstrations today about the situation in their country.
I will do my best to present a balanced and accurate picture about what I saw today.
The two demonstrations did not draw a very huge crowd as expected , considering the seriousness of the issues at stake but the surprise of the day was that the Sierra Leoneans For Peace rallying in support of President Ernest Bai Koroma and the Government of Sierra Leone drew a larger crowd than the Concerned Sierra Leoneans , for all the noise and massive publicity made by the latter group.
I was surprised at the scanty crowd rallying in support of the former Vice-President Alhaji Samuel Sam Sumana. Since they were using the Lafayette Park, which is closer to the entrance, they were the first group I saw when I arrived . They were very rowdy indeed, heckling anybody passing by wearing red. I was surprised that the momentum that had been created about the demonstration on the social media was not borne out by the attendance. I was even more stunned when I walked down to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and found out that the Sierra Leoneans For Peace had a bigger crowd.
Dr. Fuambai Sia Ahmadu, Mustapha Wai and Jesmed Suma and SLPP supporters who organized the demonstration, to their credit, had given their action the widest possible publicity. They had been talking about this demonstration for weeks. They advertised it in online radio programs, newspapers and in the social media. They seemed to have the advantage going by the kind of publicity they gave their event .They had more Facebook and Whatsapp participants bragging about the event than the Sierra Leoneans For Peace. Only COCORIOKO and few pro-Ernest Koroma supporters like Patrick Foryoh, Unisa Thorlu Conteh, Sylvia Blyden, Susan Bona, Pasco Temple, Sulaiman Forna and Umaru Jalloh publicized the Sierra Leoneans For Peace demonstration.
SLPP SUPPORTERS MOVING IN TO ENCROACH ON OUR SPACE
The Concerned Sierra Leoneans , on the other hand, seemed to have the edge, bouyed by the demonstrations in the UK . They could even afford to bluff that they were the real recipients of the permit given for the demonstration and would not allow the Sierra Leoneans For Peace to use their occasion to stage a counter-demonstration as the permit was granted only for their demonstration and for articulation only of their message. Anyone with a contrary message was going to be reported to the Secret Service and possibly arrested.
A WHITE MAN JOINS THE DEMONSTRATION
However, the Sierra Leoneans For Peace seemed to have done a better strategic work behind the scenes, a testimony to the reason that the SLPP would find it very difficult to defeat the APC in free and fair elections. You have to give it to pro-Ernest Koroma strategists like Ibrahim Sanfa Kamara, Beatrice Conteh, Mariama Lowe-Bangura, Fynda Fillie-Faboe, Pa Yamba Lawyer, former Chairman Osman Conteh, Dauda Tombo Bangura , Queen Abie Bangalie-Mansaray, Sheik Daboh, and the team from New Jersey ( Kabs Kanu, Pavi Jalloh, Alimamy Turay, Susan Bona, Namina Kossey , Francis Kanu ) ,Kebbie Turay and team from Philadelphia , Amadu Koroma, Pasco Temple and others. The APC seems to be more politically savvy and they are big and excellent at strategy. They even had a brass band supplying music and drawing more attention. Therefore , their demonstration was more organized and more focussed , from the messages articulated on the banners.
Secondly, by a dint of fortune, the Sierra Leoneans For Peace were more strategically located . They were right in front of the White House and their position offered anybody watching or monitoring the demonstrations from the White House a better opportunity to view their placards . The whole street also seethed with foreign guests and tourists, foreign journalists ( I even took pictures with 2 of them ) and curious people from the nearby Capitol Building. Tried as they did with their chantings and marching, the Concerned Sierra Leoneans could not get the strategic attention from the people that mattered .They were far away from the action spot and what I would call the strategic observatory. Their placards and shouts were not being seen or heard by the targets of the demonstration–The White House, the foreign diplomats , tourists , journalists. To compound their problem, citizens of the Gambia were also demonstrating close to them so the messages were varied. . The Sierra Leoneans For Peace, on the other hand, were getting all the attention and momentum.
The Concerned Citizens became frustrated and angry and their emotions boiled over, another self-defeating mistake the SLPP supporters made which in soccer could make matters worse for a losing team, one of whose players could force the referee to give him a red card. . They who had made a big fuss about jealously protecting their space and allowing no encroachment from the pro-Ernest Koroma crowd actually violated their own stipulation by marching down to the periphery of the Sierra Leoneans For Peace’s space to display their banners and try to drown out their own sound. They had become tried of being outshone . The Secret Service intervened and ordered them back.
As if that was not enough some of their supporters caught on camera came down to the Sierra Leoneans For Peace’s space and started heckling and provoking and insulting their members. One realized immediately that the Concerned Citizens had lost their cool and were out to pick a fight and disrupt the rally of the Sierra Leoneans For Peace. They lost the moral battle right there , and made matters worse when two female members came , turned their backs, stooped and protruded and jutted their butts at the crowd of Sierra Leoneans For Peace demonstrators—An insulting and vulgar gesture women usually make to their love rivals , which is known in the local parlance as BUTTU PAN DEM . Yes, two SLPP women BUTTU PAN WE It was clear who was winning the demonstration and the moral victory and who was losing. But for the timely intervention of the Secret Service, there would have been chaos that the Concerned Citizens would have been accused of provoking. They were threatened with arrests if they did not return to their space and they complied and trouble was averted.
While the pro-Ernest Koroma demonstration was calm and peaceful, the Concerned Citizens were very rowdy. They screamed at and heckled everybody who passed by wearing red. They shouted “Ebola Thief ! ! ! ” at anybody perceived to be supporting the Sierra Leoneans For Peace.
The most dramatic moment came when white Americans, taken in by the theme of the Sierra Leoneans For Peace’s demonstration –Democracy, good governance, peace and the rule of law –joined the demonstration. Organizers gave them the special T- shirts they had prepared for the rally ; the Americans and Koreans ( ?) wore them and became part of the demonstration.
At State House or the Hill Station Lodge in Freetown , one man with the flashing smile , was beaming with glee. His supporters in America had won him the victory once again . PRESIDENT ERNEST KOROMA came out the victor once again. His supporters ‘ message was better articulated to the better target audience. Let democracy prevail in Sierra Leone. Let the Supreme Court decide the matter. No more war. No more bush-shaking. The International Community heard his supporters better .
Now, encouraged by the second successive victory , his supporters no longer plan a counter-demonstration at the UN in New York on April 27 when the Concerned Citizens would demonstrate again. Rather, they plan to stage their own demonstration at the UN few days later because they can make their message heard and understood better.