LEARNING FROM THE PAST - BE CAREFUL LEST YOU BECOME AFRAID OF THE FUTURE
Junta rule from May 1997 to February 1998 will always be etched on the minds of survivors as gross violations of human rights - extra-judicial killings, murders, rapes and all acts that can only be attributed to beasts in human form were visited upon a hostage population. In that atmosphere of fear, intimidation and sheer terror, certain publications, chief among them the Expo Times of Seaga Shaw and Gibril Gbanabome Koroma as well as another outlet Torchlight run by Sheka Tarawallie wasted no time to put in print (a permanent record) their undying love for the oppressors of the people and condemning all those perceived to be "enemies of the junta".
It is left with our readers to go behind the scenes and imagine what could have been said by these junta apologists of the media to their masters as they justified the junta excesses while pointing the finger at these perceived opponents of the awful horror that came into being on May 25 1997.
And this is why the Sierra Herald would want to send a warning, a word of caution to all those who would be tempted to capitalise on events in the mother country for selfish or whatever purposes, to be very careful about what they publish and should they get things wrong, genuine mistakes, be quick to correct what had been published.
The Dream Team publication is nothing new in the poli-tricks of Sierra Leone. Information minister I B Kargbo can bear the Sierra Herald out as a key witness in a similar event in the early 1990's.
Parliament had just approved a multi-party bill that signalled the end of one-party rule in Sierra Leone. This would now mean that the then-ruling APC would now have to contend with other political parties in General Elections and deep within the APC top echelon, there were those who saw a devastating defeat for a party that had used every means to stay in power including the elimination of party members thought to be following an agenda that "was not in the interest" of the APC.
By then the first shots had been fired in Bomaru signalling the beginning of the Foday Sankoh insurgency to get rid of the APC government then headed by the late Joseph Saidu Momoh.
It was during those uncertain times in the political labyrinth of the APC that a publication began to do the rounds in Freetown.
That publication, purported to be the minutes of a meeting held at the George Street office of then Inspector-General, the late Bambay Kamara alleged among others acts envisaged by the party stalwarts....
1. Steps to prolong the war in the east of the country....and
2. Using this as an excuse to declare a state of emergency.....and
3. Defer dates for General elections.
Whatever that leak was supposed to achieve apparently did not go the way wanted. Some local newspapers, after some hesitation, decided to test the waters by printing extracts. Others having experienced the wily nature of the ruling APC kept their copies safely somewhere for fear that should their offices be raided the document would not serve as evidence of anti-government activities.
Others just dismissed it as a gimmick - the reason being that the so-called minutes though having the names of people who attended - was not signed.
And so it is with the so-called Dream Team letter. Even as the Freetown authorities tried to get to the bottom of things with Defence Minister Pallo Conteh putting his foot in his mouth in the process, some gbatolites, shameless praise singers to the core were already pointing accusing fingers at the perceived authors.
According to sources at the Independent Media Commission, the IMC the We Yone radio had to offer a grovelling apology to BBC reporter Umaru Fofanah after the ruling party mouthpiece accused the journalist of being a part of the team that drafted that letter. Why Umaru? Because he dared report about something that was public knowledge!!!!
Meanwhile on the internet outlets scheming agents of the ruling APC were not only pointing fingers at groups of people, but actually identifying "the author" of the letter with recommendations to the APC government that the individual/s be hanged, quartered and drawn for "such acts of treason". Can you imagine?
No, it would be difficult for readers in their 30's to appreciate how far Sierra Leone has come and how thanks to the new order of things in the global village and with the internet thrown in for good measure governments in Sierra Leone can be drawn up sharp by the international community.
In those days the emergence of the letter would have led to arrests, incarceration, torture and charges being brought against political and other perceived opponents as cries of treason, coup attempts and other mob tactics would have been orchestrated by the ruling party to harass all and sundry thought to be "enemies".
And so the Sierra Herald would advise - Praise, praise and praise as much as you like your paymasters, but please be careful lest you be haunted by the past.
Ask the junta apologists now trying to re-invent themselves. Ask Ibrahim Seaga Shaw, ask Gibril Gbanabome Koroma and ask Sheka Tarawalli.
They know the wages of finger-pointing for political and material gains.