By KABS KANU :
Supporters of President Ernest Bai Koroma and the government of Sierra Leone staged a successful demonstration in front of the U.S. White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC last Saturday April 11, 2015.
Organized by the Sierra Leoneans For Peace standing with the President, the demonstration was a direct response to another demonstration staged the same day at nearby Lafayette Park by the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP} parading under the name of Concerned Sierra Leoneans.
The so-called Concerned Sierra Leoneans led Dr. Fuambai Sia Ahmadu ( an associate of the former Vice-President Samuel Sam Sumana ) and SLPP operatives Mustapha Wai and Jesmed Suma were demonstrating to protest the decision last month by President Ernest Bai Koroma to relieve ex-VP Sumana of his duties . Mr. Sumana had been previously expelled from the ruling All People’s Congress ( APC ) for allegedly sowing seeds of disunity and chaos within the party and for allegedly instigating attacks on government officials. Mr. Sumana was then relieved of his duties as VP when he allegedly abandoned his job and sought asylum from the U.S. Embassy in Freetown because, according to him, he feared for his life, though the APC says it was proved that there was no threat on his life . The government statement on his dismissal said that by going to the U.S. Embassy to seek asylum, the then VP abandoned his official duties.
Ms. Beatrice Conteh ( Third from right ) and other members of the organization demonstrating in solidarity with President Koroma
Mr. Dauda Tombo Bangura and others demonstrating last Saturday
From right : Ms. Fynda Fillie-Faboe, Mariama Lowe-Bangura and Queen Abie Bangura
PA YAMBA LAWYER AND OTHERS DEMONSTRATING
DAUDA TOMBO BANGURA AND OTHERS DEMONSTRATING
The Sierra Leoneans for Peace do not only stand with President Koroma but believe that the SLPP should respect the rule of law and wait for the verdict of the Supreme Court which is presently looking into the constitutional implications of President Koroma’s decision. The SLPP called for illegal demonstrations in Sierra Leone in defiance of the State of Health Emergency now in force in Sierra Leone due to the Ebola Outbreak. The Sierra Leoneans for Peace are calling for peace, democracy, the rule of law and unity and are also propagating the socio-economic and political developments in Sierra Leone under the inspiring leadership of President Ernest Koroma.
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. Their rowdiness was immense . I was even more stunned when I walked down to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and found out that the Sierra Leoneans For Peace had a better crowd that was much more behaved and concentrating on articulating their messages carried on many banners being held aloft by demonstrating members. .
The Sierra Leoneans 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.
Dr.Ahmadu, Mustapha Wai, 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.
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.
SLPP SUPPORTERS MOVING IN TO ENCROACH ON OUR SPACE
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 on strategy. They even had an American 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 . 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 Sierra Leoneans 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 Sierra Leoneans 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.
Mr. Ibrahim Sanfa Kamara , the leader of Sierra Leoneans For Peace Standing with the President believes that since the matter of the former VP is in the hands of the highest court in the land , Sierra Leoneans should respect the Rule of Law and wait for the Court to render its verdict. He said that his organization condemns plans by the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP ) to stage violent demonstrations in Sierra Leone and destabilize the country.
Madam Beatrice Conteh of Washington DC , another leader of the Saturday’s demonstration at the White House, said that the demonstration was in full solidarity with President Ernest Bai Koroma and the Government of Sierra Leone. “It is a demonstration of our commitment to continue to support the President and the government and good governance in Sierra Leone. We do not want chaos. We do not want war. We want peace in Sierra Leone ”
She affirmed that President Koroma has done a lot of good things for the nation, but the opposition SLPP and some power-hungry elements do not want to show any appreciation, though the international community and stakeholders are cognisant of all the socio-economic and political developments of the President, she asserted . “We want to show the world that we appreciate what President Koroma is doing for our country “
Mr. Kamara and Ms. Conteh , meanwhile, have commended Ambassador Amadu Koroma, Rev. Leeroy Wilfred Kabs-Kanu and Mr. Pasco Temple for the efforts they are providing to enhance the work of Sierra Leoneans For Peace. They hope that others holding top positions will help likewise to promote the agenda and the work of the organization. ( NOTE : Ambassador Bockarie Stevens was out of the country during the weekend’s events on official duty in Sierra Leone ) .
At State House or the Hill Station Lodge in Freetown , one man with the flashing smile , deserved to have been 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.