Pa Baimba Sesay
In any given state, there is no military academy that gives training
on how to run the affairs of state. Rather, the training a military
officer gets from his academy is how to protect the territorial
integrity of his country, and protect lives and property. In essence,
the military has no role in a country’s political affairs. This should
be the acceptable norm where all things are equal.
It was in 1992 in Sierra Leone, the month was April, the day
Wednesday, April 29, that a group of young military men overthrew the
legitimate APC Government of Joseph Saidu Momoh. The government of
Momoh, I must admit had a number of existing challenges at the time,
notwithstanding the fact that, the worst civilian government is much
more acceptable in a state than the best of military regimes.
Reasons advanced for the removal of the then APC led government ranged
from mismanagement of state resources, to suppression of the press.
The leader of the young military men was to be known later as 25 year
old Capt. Valentine E. M. Strasser. At his youthful age, there came
the promise of improving the lives of the people, and bringing an end
to the civil war. Alas! With the months that followed, those ills
which had form major reasons for the removal of the APC were to be
seen to form part of the day to day operations of the military regime.
The worst to occur was the execution of a number of reputable states
men, with the incarceration of some and the forced self-exile of many.
Four years into his rule guided by an advisory body, Valentine
Strasser was to be removed by his Number 2. The rest as you know it.
The APC Party that Valentine Strasser and team had deposed was to be
voted into power again by the people in 2007, differing from the death
call of the young Valentine Strasser in his first statement to the
nation. While the APC is come back and now thriving in wellness,
Valentine Strasser is now said to be in a state of his former self.
One only needed to have listened to his BBC interview recently to know
his state of affairs.
The manner in which Sierra Leone has handled the Valentine Strasser
Case especially in the shadows of the lengthy processes of the Truth
and Reconciliation Committee and the United Nations Special Court for
Sierra Leone has left the world wondering about the moral reputation
of this country. Every nation has a path so dark that it would never
desire to revert to. What hold that path in the time line of the life
of every nation are principles of leadership and policy. Has Sierra
Leone exhausted the means of bringing the Strasser Case to rest? I
don’t think so. Did the reign of Strasser as Head of State bring
goodness with it? The response would depend on the school of thought.
What is important is Sierra Leone must take a decision on this matter.
The international press has continuously referred to the Strasser Case
in derogatory ways for Sierra Leone; the World Press.Org calls it
“Harvest of Shame: Former Sierra Leone Ruler Valentine Strasser”; the
New Statesman called it “The Vagabond King”. How many more name
calling do we have to wait for?
Therefore, with the magnanimous and humanitarian nature of the All
People’s Congress, a people-centered Party, it has come as no surprise
to read of how the current Vice President, Hon Victor Bockarie Foh, is
extending what I would refer to as the political olive branch,
bringing Strasser out of the shadows of his past to the glories of
today, with resounding assurance of government’s commitment to not
only restore his dignity, but also calling for the need to forgive and
reconcile. I should make the point that, if there is any institution
that should be bitter, angry and never be prepared to forgive
Strasser, it should be the governing APC. Not only was it taken to the
political wilderness for decades by the deeds of the NPRC, we also saw
how, merely calling the name APC was made to appear as a taboo in our
political history. Not only were people like Comrades Ernest Bai
Koroma, Victor Bockarie Foh, late JS Momoh, Edie Turay, Osman
Yansaneh, etc politically harassed, the NPRC made life difficult for
Today, this is the Party (APC) that has opened its arms to Strasser.
Difficult as this may appear, we cannot overemphasize the fact that we
all are humans, and we are all sinners and as long as one accepts that
he is a sinner and he confesses his sins, the Lord will forgive him.
The move by the Vice President, with the blessing of the President,
should be acceptable to all Party Comrades. This is what makes APC a
great institution. This is time to move on as a country. The decision
by Comrade Foh to embrace his party’s foes must have been chosen
smartly and with caution and in the national interest. Peace and
Reconciliation should be the way forward for Sierra Leone. This can
change our political dynamics as a country. A bitter pill to swallow
but which heals. My view!
John Baimba Sesay
Sierra Leone Embassy
7 Dong Zhi Men Wai Dajie,
Chaoyang District, Beijing
People’s Republic of China