Rwanda was not a school picnic – lessons for Sierra Leone’s media

Puawui – Dr. Sama Banya

I spend a lot of my leisure these days on Social Media, especially on  WhatsApp, where many of the posts are biased political innuendos depending on which party the subscriber supports. Other posts could quite frankly be described as junk.

Others are simply vulgar and disrespectful of erstwhile President Ernest Bai Koroma or President Julius Maada Bio. However, I have learnt to filter these messages and to discard many of them as cranks coming from unsettled party activists.

Over the last few days, one post has caught my attention and I find it not only worrisome but dangerous, and a threat to the stability of our country. It purports to be front page headline of the opposition APC mouth piece – the WE YONE NEWSPAPER, which reads:  “APC to declare war if its leaders are taken to court for corrupt practices resulting from the Commissions of Inquiry (COI).”

It is not the first time that members of the APC have threatened the peace and tranquillity of Sierra Leone. Political violence was introduced into this country in 1968 during the staggered bye-elections which resulted from the decision of a biased high court of the time.

The majority of the bye elections affected SLPP Members of Parliament, many of whose leaders were already in detention, under the APC state of public emergency. Overenthusiastic supporters and drug inspired youths became migrant voters. On Election Day, they would visit the particular area, cause mayhem which often led to peaceful citizens, especially the then opposition SLPP members and supporters to leave the scene in peace.

The APC supporters would then impersonate the legitimate voters and cast their ballots for the APC. The tactic did not succeed in districts like Kenema and Kailahun. In Kailahun the-would-be invaders were stopped in their tracks at the Manowa Ferry.

And following that incident, Prime Minister Siaka Stevens and his APC government declared a public state of emergency and arrested leading SLPP supporters, including Paramount Chiefs and elders and locked them all up either in the maximum prison at Pademba Road or at the Mafanta Prison, just outside Magburaka in the Tonkolili district of northern Sierra Leone.

In the early 1970’s, when the National Democratic Party (NDP) was formed, decedents from the ruling APC, among whom were Dr. John Karefa Smart, Mohamed Sorie Forna and Ibrahim and Mohamed Bash-Taqi and many others, were arrested following a provoked incident orchestrated by the ruling APC.

Again a state of public emergency was declared. As I had written before, the APC violence had become unbearable that if the SLPP leadership under Salia Jusu-Sheriff had not withdrawn from the campaign, there would have been civil war in this country.

Not bordered by that action, the APC party went ahead and won all the seats unopposed which was when the country had her first one party state.

It was interesting to see all the Parliamentarian including Prime Minister Siaka Stevens (Photo) dressed in their Mao Tse Tong suits. This diabolical action would have been repeated if the students of Fourah Bay College had not demonstrated vehemently, during the university congregation at Mount Aureol in February 1977.

It was after that incident that I Sama Siama Banya, was persuaded to join Siaka Stevens’ APC, just before the 1977 general election. But that is another story that has been told elsewhere.

I have narrated all this, in order to warn those irresponsible elements who are threatening the peace of this country with talk of war. Nobody wants war, and neither is anyone afraid of it. The only restraint is that both membership of the SLPP together with other parties, including even the APC, are aware of the dangers inherent in a civil conflict – especially of a tribal (North versus South,  Mende vs Temne) context.

There is a Mende proverb which says that when a child declares where the family makes their next rice farm, he would most probably have heard it from his father or some other leading members of his family.

When the We Yone Newspaper talks about declaring war, the likelihood is that it would have been discussed or mentioned among the leadership of his party. Otherwise why has there been no condemnation from the leadership, nor has it distanced itself from the irresponsible statement.

I have endeavoured unsuccessfully since Friday to lay hands on the copy of the offending edition of the We Yone Newspaper. Be that as it may, I would like to sound a note of warning that if indeed that front page came from the newspaper’s editor, then  let him realise that he is playing a most dangerous game. And as the adage go: “He is playing with fire.”

Surely the disastrous consequences of the 1991 to 2002 RUF conflagration on the country, could not be lost on him. My last word to you Mr. editor of We Yone Newspaper is that, you must rethink your editorial policy when it comes to the peace, tranquillity and welfare of the people of Sierra Leone. It is not negotiable under this Bio regime, and nor is it late to be wise after the event.

Credit to Sierra Leone Telegraph.

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