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Archive for April, 2004

Encouraging signs from erstwhile Heart of Darkness

Tuesday, April 20th, 2004
EDITORIAL
Encouraging signs from erstwhile Heart of Darkness

Tuesday April 11, 2006

When one takes his mind back to the political dynamics in Sierra Leone three decades back, one cannot help but breathe a sigh of relief that the nation is heading towards a bright political future .The jubilant scenes that almost crippled life in sections of the city yesterday after the People’s Movement For Democratic Change ( PMDC)  got their final registration papers , paid glowing and remarkable tribute to the political renaissance that has swept Sierra Leone. 

charles margai 06

 

CHARLES MARGAI – LEADER OF THE PMDC

Three decades ago, it was virtually a crime to form an opposition political party in Sierra Leone. The octogerian politician , Dr. John Karefa -Smart,  will never forget his ordeal at the hands of the then ruling All People’s Congress ( APC ) when he decided to form another political party to challenge the Siaka Stevens oligarchy. 

This paper will waste all available space on this website cataloguing all the travails and perils patriots suffered  when they tried to form political parties or spoke their minds against the deceptive politics, corruption and shamefully  inept performance  of the government. The Editor of this paper was jailed  at the same Pademba Road Prison for blowing his mind to his students  about political thuggery and economic malfeasance . Forming another political party was a calculated  fatal risk , a  life-threatening exercise that imperilled  not only  the lives of the leader but his family and friends.

We must thank God that today we are free to form alternative  political parties. We must thank God that today, we can mount the rooftops and damn this government without any fear of violent reprisals. Much of the credit go to the international stakeholders who have almost outlawed one-party states and political dictatorship in countries that depend on them for economic bail-outs. Democratization of the body-politic of the nation is now a precondition for the acquisition of loans and foreign assistance from donor countries and Britton-Woods institutes they control.

However, we think the SLPP government too deserves to be commended for cooperating with international stakeholders and donor agencies to democratize Sierra Leone. A Chronically self-indulgent government would have preferred to fall out with stakeholdes and donor agencies than play ball with them and change the country.

We want to congratulate the PMDC  for their huge victory today .We hope the party will seek to embellish and nurture responsible and democratic politics in Sierra Leone by depending on the ballot box to fight its rivals .Conversely, we hope the Elections Commission and the SLPP  will give the PMDC  a level playing field to prove its mettle in Sierra Leone politics.

It is a new day in Sierra Leone and we all deserve a pat on our backs.In the not-too-distant future , we will all feel proud to be Sierra Leoneans once again, by the Grace of God.

A loud and clear warning to politricians

Monday, April 12th, 2004

 

A LOUD & CLEAR WARNING TO POLITRICIANS

STATEMENT BY JOHN LEIGH re 2004 LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS

The local government elections just concluded appear to many thoughtful observers to be a wake up call – a loud and clear warning to our tired and uninspiring political leaders that the vast majority of Sierra Leone voters are unhappy with the status quoand may be looking for an appropriate alternative to the badly tainted existing political parties.  The midterm voting patterns do not paint a pretty picture of things to come for either the SLPP or the APC, nor the PLP or independent candidacies.

Without a national organization with credible leadership behind them, most independent candidates went down to defeat.  This is the sad outcome even though a good number of them are quality individuals who can be expected to provide far better leadership for their communities than some of the candidates handpicked by narrow-minded, unscrupulous political bosses, probably on the basis of cronyism, favoritism and nepotism.

To many people, the PLP continues to be the outlet for grievances, deeply held, by mostly disgruntled military elements and those that benefited tremendously from the brutal, bloodthirsty AFRC/RUF junta during a period of great calamity for ordinary Sierra Leoneans.   One would think that after two valuable years’ membership in parliament, the PLP would have by now come up with policies and programs to expand its narrow base, especially in light of the poor leadership record of the SLPP.   If the PLP does not wake up, it faces a strong likelihood of loosing its parliamentary representation in 2007, leaving unhappy military elements with no political outlet.  This is not right!

My congratulations go to the APC and its leader, Mr. Ernest Bai Koroma, and his team for APC’s stunning success in Freetown and in the Western Area.  Its defeat of the SLPP in the capital was so complete as to leave the mouths of SLPP Members agape.   The APC did well also in northern districts but not as well as in the 2002 parliamentary elections.  And, of course, APC did very poorly in southern and eastern districts.

If it were indeed true that the current local government elections prove that APC is in the resurgence, as claimed by some APC supporters happy with the results in Freetown, then the APC should have won some seats in both of those provinces, especially in light of the obvious antipathy to the SLPP in those areas as evidenced by the proliferation of independent candidates and low voter turn out.  Alas, tens of thousands of voters decided to sit out the elections or vote independent rather than support the APC!  This is telling.

Thus the message to the APC from these local elections is to strive and widen its appeal beyond its usual base.  But given the odious reputation the party acquired over a quarter century of malfeasant governance, such is not going to be an easy task.   A lot depends on how the APC handles victory.   Will it deliver good governance or will it be a mirror image of the corrupt, inept and tribal SLPP?  Or, are we going to experience another Stevens/Momoh catastrophe?  The APC’s victory in Freetown is an opportunity for Mr. Koroma to display leadership.   I will be looking to see whether he measures up.

The heavy trouncing and thrashing of the SLPP in Freetown and environs is shameful but not unexpected at all.  The large number of party members who chose to contest as independents against official party candidates, as well as the low voter turnout in SLPP’s strongholds demonstrate the low esteem of the membership for the party’s weak, tired corrupt and uninspiring leadership surrounded by some with odious reputations.

Nothing defines the arrogance, the selfishness and the blindness of the SLPP leadership more than its choice of Mrs. Banya as the SLPP candidate for the office of Mayor of Freetown.  That unreasonable decision alone was enough to send tens of thousands of angered voters into the lap of the APC, even though the APC was not their first choice.

SLPP’s election disaster in the Western Electoral District and the decision of many party members to sit out the election in party strongholds amount to a wake up call; a loud and clear warning to those who control the party to move away from manifest malfeasant governance and to reverse their penchant for cronyism, favoritism, nepotism and tribalism.  People clearly want a merit system that will put the public interest first.

The lack of proper leadership within the SLPP is amply demonstrated by its secretariat’s notoriety for avoiding transparency and promoting despotism.  In the meantime, the Party has become and/or continues to be the despised depository for unsavory politicians with publicly known reputations as SLPMB looters, DIMINCO wreckers, political harlots, hijackers of Party apparatus, marginalizers of the membership, parasitic sycophants and assorted opportunists.  Such people have no scruples dealing with lying, lowlife liars to unfairly attack conscientious citizens deeply concerned about our country’s future.

The contempt which sections of the public hold towards some of our government leaders can be gauged by such aliases ascribed to them as: Mr. Money Man, Ronko, the Gambler, Mr. 15%, Gabteh Karkah, Money Nyapu NyapuMr. Whayo Manetc.  The US Embassy in Freetown recently announced that the United States government is issuing a visa ban against known corrupt public officials and their families thus prohibiting them from traveling to the United States.   The British Government has sent three cabinet ministers to Freetown to plea with government leaders to stop their corruption – all to no avail.

Yet Banya’s statement released to the press on May 24 expresses satisfaction with the elections’ results and blames APC machinations and election management errors for SLPP’s stunted performance, barely two years after its huge sweep of the 2002 elections.  Banya is sadly mistaken if he does not understand that it is SLPP’s malfeasant and malevolent party and government administration and its association with odious characters that are responsible for its relatively poor electoral showing.

Banya’s smug satisfaction with SLPP’s relatively poor election results and in the face of low public esteem for the Kabbah Administration, at home and abroad, if not corrected soon – together with the difficult task of remaking APC’s dreadful image – may very well combine to produce the catalyst that may give birth to a New Movement in national politics to wipe the slate clean, so as to press ahead with the social and economic development of a badly wounded people in a country wrecked by greed and ineptness.

APC SAYS COME BACK INEVITABLE

Wednesday, April 7th, 2004

ERNESTKOROMA2006

APC LEADER ERNEST BAI KOROMA : SEATED LEFT IS VICTOR FOH

Friday March 3 , 2006

Supporters of the All People’s Congress told COCORIOKO  yesterday that an APC  come-back to the leadership of Sierra Leone was now inevitable. The APC  members  who came from a broader spectrum of the the U.S.  society talked to Editor of this newspaper ,  Rev. Wilfred Leeroy Kabs-Kanu, after reading  portions of a letter allegedly written by former Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to the U.S, Mr. John Ernest Leigh.

In the letter , which is being circulated on the internet, Mr. Leigh , apparently responding to a Mr. Wai about the alleged discovery of a plot to kill the leader of the People’s Movement For Democratic Change ( PMDC) , Mr. Charles Margai, launched a blistering attack on the PMDC  and said that Margai was losing ground because of his association with the APC . Mr. Leigh indicated  that  Margai was losing patronage as a result of this association  because a section of Sierra Leone was  living in the dread of an APC come-back. He cited other reasons why he felt the PMDC  was only a big hype.

However , talking to COCORIOKO  yesterday, APC supporters bragged that nothing would stop the party from winning the 2007 General Elections and regain the leadership of the country.

The APC  members all agreed on one point–That the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP)  has done such a  very bad job since they came to power in 1996 that the whole of Sierra Leone was crying for a change.  They believed thatno conscientious Sierra Leonean would  vote this time round for the SLPP because according to them the party has destroyed the country and has made no significant development since it started ruling the country. They complained that corruption had worsened in  the country and that all Sierra Leone’s social instututions had fallen apart. . Sierra Leoneans , they went on, had no more confidence in the SLPP and believed that only a more progressive leader with a better vision for Sierra Leone would rebuild the country.

The APC supporters also drew attention to the deadly feuds in the ruling SLPP which they predicted had split the party and will cause their downfall in 2007.

The APC  members said further than in their youthful leader, Ernest Bai Koroma, the APC  had the man who will transform Sierra Leone into a developed nation. .Theysaid Mr. Koroma was the most credible of the Presidential candidates for the 2007  Elections.

However,the letter by Mr. John Leigh portrayed a gloomy picture of the APC ‘s past records  and the 2007 outlook for the party as well as  the slim chances of the PMDC  winning in 2007. and he made an interesting forecast that if the SLPP placed its problems behind it, it will win the elections.

Mr. Leigh said he spoke to people and was made this stinging evaluation of Margaii : “People in SL now realize that the PMDC is a crude attempt to hyjack the Third Force Movement that was much talked about in SL in 2004/5 simply because Margai
must lead. I heard Margai himself state over Radio 98.1 last August that what Sierra Leone needs is a benevolent dictator. I am told by some in the PMDC that Margai acts within this organization as though he is that dictator . ”

READ THE ERNEST LEIGH LETTER , A COPY OF WHICH WAS SENT TO COCORIOKO , BY ONE OF OUR READERS.

Dear Mr. Wai:

Thank you for copying me on the message below.

Having just toured our country, I find the quoted Evening Scoop report
absolutely ridiculous and nonsensical. The reports seems to me as a crude
staged attempt to create the false impression that Mr. Margai is important
enough in the scheme of things in SL for an opponent of his to want to
eliminate him by violence from the coming political contest to win control of
our government.

As far as I know, no political opponent of Mr. Charles Margai will gain
anything from assassinating Mr. Margai. I do not believe the Evening Scoop
report below at all.

For your information, I returned to Massachusetts only yesterday after
approximately a month’s visit to Sierra Leone. I traveled around the country
ex! tensively but quietly. I talked to countless people of various political
persuasion as well as with ordinary citizens; and I drank poyo in countless
villages. I even ate palm oil-fried fresh fish in Gbondapi, Pujehun District
and Zakitomboi over native rice everwhere.

I can assure you that my conclusion is that Mr. Margai and his PMDC are minor
and declining factors in our political landscape. While Mr. Berewa has
problems, support for the SLPP is slowly growing and if Berewa campaigns
properly with a clear message with a clean competent team, he and the SLPP are
likely to emerge victorious come 2007.

There is no doubt that Mr. Margai has followers in Bo and in Freetown and
maybe in Kenema township and in Koidu. In all these places his support is
contracting and is limited to mostly low grade noisemakers – san san boys,
honda drivers, ex-combatants, carwash boys, etc. In Kenema, the small
pro-Margai group there is silently dissappearing ! and its leadership discouraged
by PMDC thin leadership base. The absence of senior personalities around Margai
has caused some of his campaign workers in the Bo area to start to drift back to
the SLPP. Others are vehemently denying that they were ever with Mr. Margai in
the first place even they they admit they are unhappy with the SLPP leadership.

Elsewhere else in SL, Mr. Margai appears to me as an absolute non-factor.
From what I have observed, Mr. Margai appears to me as merely an internet
wonder based on support mainly from academia abroad.

People in SL now realize that the PMDC is a crude attempt to hyjack the Third
Force Movement that was much talked about in SL in 2004/5 simply because Margai
must lead. I heard Margai himself state over Radio 98.1 last August that what
Sierra Leone needs is a benevolent dictator. I am told by some in the PMDC
that Margai acts within this organization as though he is that dictator . As
far ! as I know, many of our people are leary of dictators, benevolent or
otherwise.

Second, Mr. Margai’s recent prior association with Omery Golley has damaged
part of his support base. People remember RUF cruelties as well as Golley’s
leadership role and are completely unsympathetic to him. Mr. Golley is, of
course, entitled to the lawyer of his choice especially in defending against
capital criminal charges. And while Mr. Margai showed courage in agreeing to
defend a loathsome character once in the leadership of the dreaded RUF, he
showed very poor judgment in accepting the assignment from Golley in the first
place. This drove some of his support away.

Third, to make matters worse, Mr. Margai has now opportuinistically bowed to
pressure from within his camp and now appears to have unceremoniously abandoned
his client and his case. This very recent decision became public during the
last days of my visit has created the impression that M! r. Margai is
unprincipled and opportunistically bends as the political wind blows. Such
makes for poor leadership.

Fourth, the impression is widespread in the places I visited and among the
people I spoke to, that Mr. Margai is in an unholy alliance with the APC. This
widespread belief may not be based on facts but that is irrelevant at this
point. What matters is the perception of the public.

Those members of the public – in both the North and East and the South – who
remember what they perceived as the callous notoriety of long-running APC-led
pre-war governments appear to be systematically keeping away from Mr. Margai in
a desperate attempt to prevent another APC victory. Fear of another APC
government is endemic in many parts of Sierra Leone.

Fifth, the CKC Incident of circa November 17, 2005 has rightly or wrongly
created the unfortunate legacy that the PMDC is suffering from leadership
immaturity and unnecessary recklessness! and that the party is populated by
riff-raff types.

Six, as for people like myself, we see Mr. Margai as a lightweight allowing
himself to be sorrounded by a number of notorious personalities at once
opportunistic, stupid, crooked and up to no good – the exact type of remedial
personalities that the Third Force hopefuls had wanted to permanently eliminate
from public service. The fact that those remedial undesirables continue to be
visible in apparent senior position within the PMDC has thrown into extreme
question Mr. Margai’s level of intelligence and his everyday commonsense.

Today, our country is a very peaceful place, even amidst fantastic poverty,
unsatisfied want, vast inconvenience, hardship and very poor national
leadership. But if there is widespread general consensus of any one issue then
that issue is that absolutely no physical violence is to be perpetrated against
the person of any political opponent or public official. The citizenship is
determined to let the forthcoming campaign and political contest be
violence-free and to let the voting take its natural course. The public
intends to peacefully submit to the winners.

I am therefore convinced that the report about the purported attempted
assassination of Mr. Margai is without any factual basis and I suspect that it
may have been deliberately planted to fool the public regarding how Margai is
perceived by his competititors. In my opinion, the purported Margai attempted
assassination report is not worth the ink used to print it let alone the
cheaper paper it is printed on.

The press in Sierra Leone needs to be nutured to meet professional standards.

Thanks once again for keeping in touch.

Sincerely,

John E. Leigh
Attorney at Law
60 Thoreau Street,
Suite 176
Concord, MA 01742

 

Liberian human rights activist questions U.S. war on terror while “Chief Terrorist ” lives freely in Nigeria

Saturday, April 3rd, 2004

CHARLESTAYLORGUNPOINTING (600 x 916)

Taylor during his heydays as a rebel leader

Sunday April 3, 2004

Liberian human rights activist, Sheikh Sackor, has written U.S. President George W. Bush asking him  to step in and have his country’s former rebel leader and dictator Charles Taylor  bundled to Freetown to face war crimes charges in the Special Court of Sierra Leone.

Mr. Sackor questioned how America could be waging a war against terror all over the world while Taylor, whom he described as a Chief terrorist sponsor in West Africa and the worst form of dictator , is being allowed to live freely in Nigeria  with “impunity “.

Mr. Sackor appealed to President Bush to bring pressure to bear on Nigerian leader Olusegun Obasanjo to surrender Taylor to David Crane and the Special Court in Freetown. Mr. Sackor, in his letter, outlined not only the atrocities committed in Liberia by Taylor and  his rebel soldiers but also how he transported the war to Sierra Leone . Over 250, 000 people died in Liberia at the hands of Taylor’s forces and other combatants while more than 50,000 perished in Sierra Leone.

MEANWHILE,  another Liberian intellectual  and former Education Minister in the Samuel Doe military junta , Dr. Boima Fahnbulleh, who recently returned home to engage in farming, as he said , has also called for the arrest of fugitive Charles Taylor, whom he wants to be taken to Sierra Leone to stand trial for war crimes.