TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION
PROMOTION NATIONAL RECONCILIATION
AND NATIONAL REINTEGRATION
APC PRESENTATION - TUESDAY 5TH AUGUST 2003
His Excellency the President, Chairman and Members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Ladies and Gentlemen:
Our Party, the All Peoples Congress (APC) has been with you at your thematic and institutional hearings since you started Public Sessions on Monday, 5th May 2003. The APC attaches great importance to the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is with this in mind that my party has been very cooperative in making submissions and public appearances. This Commission is playing a cardinal role in our efforts to reconcile and unite our war torn nation and every Sierra Leonean must be thankful to you.
To pursue national unity and reconciliation for the well being of all Sierra Leoneans and sustain our hard earned peace indeed requires reconciliation between all sections of Sierra Leonean society. The People of Sierra Leone have achieved victory in war. Now they want prosperity in peace. We have learnt an instructive lesson as a nation that peace is not an abstract concept. To be real, it must be won and worked for.
The burden of responsibility for the reconstruction of our country and the reconciliation of our people now largely rests with the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) government. It is important for them to stay focused on this by running the country in a transparent manner and showing genuine commitment to building a democratic society where basic human rights, justice and equal opportunities are strictly observed. The APC hopes that the SLPP will live up to these expectations. We assure this Commission, the nation and the international community that the APC will never obstruct any genuine efforts of the SLPP directed at achieving these cherished aims. We shall however, vigorously oppose any actions that in any way attempt to interfere with the democratic rights and freedom of the citizens of this country. For it is precisely the systematic erosion of individual rights and freedom, the inability to administer justice fairly and biased approach to and opportunity that led to the tragic events of the past decade.
Among others, the causes of the RUF war included bad governance, political exclusion, and poor conduct of elections. These are the evils that are to be avoided especially during this crucial period of healing the social and economic wounds that have been inflicted upon us.
What is alarming at this time is that we are now witnessing the same vices of bad governance being practiced by the SLPP in a manner approaching callousness. We do not see the efforts at fence mending and removing, the seeds of division that initially laid the basis for the war. Instead of progressing towards unity the SLPP is deliberately widening the divide between the people. In fact it has gone so bad that many civil servants and public employees are afraid to talk to people known to be members, supporters or even sympathizers of the APC. There is a feeling of siege, a culture of fear among those holding positions in community - a fear that they may lose their jobs if they are seen associating with anyone who is remotely associated with the APC. People are locked out of offices, friends avoid socializing with assumed APC friends, employers hesitate to employ anyone with a taint of APC on him or her. Contracts of Government, NaCSA and Parastatal are only awarded to known SLPP supporters. Even temporary holiday jobs for students are given only to those whose names appear on an SLPP supporters' list furnished by SLPP executive from the relevant college. This is depriving individuals of their basic rights and throwing the policy of equal opportunity into the political dustbin. A growing number of Sierra Leoneans now complain of this highly divisive policy. Such a policy of deprivation can only lead to frustration, alienation and ultimate bitterness. It cannot sustain lasting peace.
We appeal to the SLPP especially HE the president, to take positive action in deeds and words, to educate their members that in our young and fragile democracy, the concept of the winner takes all is unacceptable. In whatever party one finds oneself, they must be accorded the same rights and privileges and share the same duties and obligations.
Corruption continues to plague our country; much is desired with regard to arrest this malaise. Efforts made so far to fight against corruption have failed. The fight against corruption now needs a new and robust approach. It must be prominent in our agenda to move forward. Democracy, sustainable peace, national development and reconciliation cannot be achieved if corruption is not properly and seriously addressed.
Another precept that must be accepted by all if peace and reconciliation are to be sustained is that sovereignty belongs to the people. This is a cardinal principle of democracy that must be ingrained in the minds of Sierra Leoneans - especially those I authority. Failure to accept this basic tenet of good governance has been one of the major causes of instability in our country, matched only by unbridled corruption. The rigging of elections has become an art in Sierra Leonean politics. We ought to stand by the name of this Commission and speak the truth - all elections from 1967 to 2002 have left much to be desired. Various strange election theories and phrases aimed at rigging have been coined by the fertile imagination of politicians who wished to interfere unfairly with election results and tip the balance in their favor. All of this was carried out with corrupt had picked political servants of the ruling party that go under the name of a National Electoral Commission. Thus the peoples' will has been thwarted over and over again with the resulting bitterness, anger and frustration. National reconciliation cannot be achieved with an SLPP puppet National Electoral Commission. The APC accepted this commission's conduct of the May 14, 2002 Parliamentary and Presidential elections in the interest of national peace and reconciliation. We recommend a re-constitution of the National Electoral Commission.
Bad governance has also given the military and rebels a welcome excuse to tread into areas where they have no business. We in the APC recognize that a ballot box is the legitimate medium for change of government and condemn in the strongest terms the intrusion of the military in the governance of the country - whether it was by Hinga Norman in 1967, Valentine Strasser in 1992 or Johnny Paul Koroma in1997. But to ensure that these tragic events do not recur, we have to commit ourselves - all of us, of whatever political shade - to the ideal of the sovereignty of the people by holding free, fair and transparent elections at all times. When the people have spoken through the ballot box, we must accept it.
At this point I must caution the government on the pending local government elections, which rumor has it that they may be held on a non-party basis. We believe that local government is an excellent forum for developing our young democracy and empowering the people. The word non-partisan smacks of the one-party politics that the APC thankfully dumped into the political dustbin over a decade ago. To avoid dissatisfaction and anger, we suggest that the Local Government Elections are held on a democratic ticket with parties fielding their candidates. If we lose, we will accept it with dignity; if we win, we shall be gracious in victory. But we do not fear to accept the verdict of the people. What we must fear is their anger when they perceive that they are being consistently deprived of their rights.
Further on the question of reconciliation, it would be pertinent to learn some lessons - very pertinent lessons - from former President J. S. Momoh. On attaining power, Momoh demonstrated a good spirit of national unity and reconciliation by inviting a number of SLPP stalwarts who had been in self-exile for along time. The late Sir Banja Tejan-Sie and Maigore Kallon (former Chairman of the SLPP and Foreign Minister in both the Albert Margai and Kabbah regimes), were personally invited by President Momoh to come home; they were both given red carpet welcome by the President a Substantial assistance to enable them restarts their lives after a long absence from home. Accompanied by the then Second Vice-President Salia Jusu-Sheriff, they were flown in the Presidential helicopter to Bo and Kenema so the people would know that it was time to heal the wounds of the past. Dr John Karefa-Smart was likewise accorded the same courtesies. A beneficiary of this symbolic reconciliatory gesture by President Momoh is our present Head of State, President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. Houses and properties confiscated by the military junta that seized power in 1967 were returned to their respective owners. Paramount Chiefs Komkanda, Alikali Modu and Koblo Pathbana were reinstated and their staffs of office returned to them.
Most importantly, President Momoh reversed an earlier decision by his predecessor and reverted to the original date of April 27th as the National Day instead of April 19th (the day Sierra Leone attained Republican State). On April 27th 1987, President Momoh held a State Memorial Service at Sir Milton Margai's grave because he wanted to use that as another symbol of national unity. After all, Sir Milton is the founding father of independent Sierra Leone and it is only fit that he be the symbol of a united Sierra Leone. All surviving Ministers who served under Sir Milton and Sir Albert and members of the Margai family were invited and they all laid wreaths on the grave. It was a touching moment to see Sierra Leoneans from different parties standing side by side, paying homage to this icon of our nationhood - President Momoh, late G.S. Panda, D.L. Sumner, John Nelson Williams, Chief Sam Margai and former President Siaka Stevens. But sadly, when President Kabbah held a service on April 27 this year at the same spot in memory of Sir Milton, Momoh's laudable example was not followed. Instead of making it a national service, President Kabbah chose to make it only an SLPP affair thus detracting from the unifying symbol of our national hero. We suggest that in furtherance of national reconciliation, future services of this nature could be used to further national unity, not pamper narrow partisan politics.
The saddest thing though is that President Kabbah and the SLPP have now meted the most uncompassionate treatment to former President Momoh who strove so hard to reconcile this nation. The irony is that it was President Momoh who worked selflessly to bring the multi party constitution we now enjoy into being. Lest we forget or anyone detracts from Momoh's efforts at ushering in multi-party politics (as many SLPP diehards constantly but unsuccessfully try to do) I quote from one of his speeches on his efforts to introduce a multi-party system of government.
In early 1990 while addressing the people of Kono and Kailahun, I initiated the debate on returning the country to a multi party democracy as long as that was the wish of the majority of the people. Without any form of pressure, I drew the nation's attention to the debate that was raging in other parts of the world and to end the collapse of Eastern Europe's one party dictatorships. After that statement, the debate become wide open and everyone has had the opportunity of freely participating in it.
Working for, and introducing multi party democracy was Momoh's ultimate effort in trying to bring peace and stability to our nations. This man died frustrated in Guinea, denied of all his benefits from the state. President Kabbah and the SLPP government would have made a big leap towards reconciliation if they had rehabilitated President Momoh. For sustained stability, other former Presidents, now and in future, should be treated with the dignity and compassion they deserve. This should have been done not as a favour to Momoh, but because it is the right thing to do.
It is pertinent at this stage to note that the SLPP continues to illegally occupy APC properties including the Party's National Headquarters at 39 Siaka Stevens Street and its Multi purpose (We Yone) Building at Old Railway Line, Brookfields. These properties were never the subject of any Judicial Commission of Inquiry but were forcefully seized by the illegal military NPRC Junta. Yet the SLPP continues to endorse a military illegality by unfairly appropriating these properties to their use. This is surely not the golden path to reconciliation that we all want to see. We believe that in the interest of national unity and reconciliation, all properties seized by Commissions of Inquiry since 1967 to January be returned to their owners.
Our party's submission to the TRC stated that the RUF rebel war is the worst tragedy that has befallen this country. We laid bare roles played by international conspirators in fueling this national tragedy using our diamonds. We believe that the TRC has uncovered the role played by blood diamonds in the conflict and we recommend that various agreements recently entered into for the exploitation of our mineral resources - Diamonds, Gold, Rutile, Bauxite, Iron Ore - be renegotiated in the better interest of the nation and people in the mining areas.
The APC notes with satisfaction that evidence before the TRC underscores the Maladministration of the notorious NPRC junta that carried out many extra-judicial killings and brought mayhem to this nation. We believe it was a mistake on part of the SLPP to grant and safe haven to members of the NPRC without holding them to account for the horrible crimes they committed. In some ways, it could be argued that the license the members of the NPRC enjoyed served as a model of aspiration for the subsequent senseless actions of the AFRC junta. The APC recommends that the extra-judicial killings by the NPRC in December 1992 of former inspector General of Police James Bambay Kamara, Col Yayah Kanu and Kawuta Dumbuya and others be thoroughly investigated.
The unfortunate popularization of the term 'collaborator' by the SLPP resulted in the dismissals of many Sierra Leoneans from their jobs both in the private and public sectors and death by lynching of several of our supporters including Alhaji Musa Kabia, Sheik Mostaba, Sakoma following the restoration of the SLPP government in February 1998. These dismissals and killings represent premeditated vengeance and a sad chapter in our country's history. They remain the biggest blot in President Kabbah's democratic governance and must be investigated and appropriate reparations paid to members of their families.
When President Kabbah, the SLPP and the 1991 constitution were re-instated in February 1998, the Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic misjudged the situation and undertook some unfortunate actions that were detrimental to State Security, Peace and Reconciliation.
The Sierra Leone Armed Forces, the Police including the State Security Division should always be mad to enjoy their constitutional rights and perform their duties. Marginalizing them, depriving them of their privileges, housing the Kamajors at Brookfield's Hotel while the army was in dilapidated barracks all amounted to bad judgment, which fueled the crisis.
Even though they were dressed up in fake legality, Sierra Leoneans saw that the 1998 treason trials were unfair, irregular and had no legality. In a desperate effort to exterminate perceived political opponents, an obnoxious Public Notice No. 4 of 9th April 1998 was hurriedly issued thus amending the Criminal Procedure Act of 1965 and effectively denying accused persons of fair hearing. With indecent haste and reckless indifference, the Kabbah SLPP administration killed 24 (twenty four) soldiers - most of them senior officers - after a very poorly conducted court martial of dubious credibility.
The APC appeals to the TRC to address that miscarriage of justice against political opponents in the interest of reconciliation. We would like to see the TRC investigate those court martial trials. The APC believes that these revenge arrests, trials and execution cannot promote national reconciliation. They are a bad precedent for our fledgling democracy.
As a party, we are saddened that the SLPP has not rendered remorse and apology for these executions. The APC appeals to the TRC to recommend that the laws of Treason and Court Martial be scrupulously guarded to avoid abuse and misuse.
My party further appeals for a review of the death penalty, in accordance with current international human rights standards of justice.
The Strength of the APC lies in the many infrastructures developments the party undertook all over the country. Our greatest pride and strength are found within the pages of the 1991 Multi- Party Democratic Constitution (Act No.6 of 1991). This is our gift to Sierra Leone and we appeal to the SLPP to hold sacred this Constitution in the interest of democracy. Bad governance and undemocratic tendencies breed violence and revolt. We urge the SLPP to give Sierra Leoneans democratic governance. The Peace we are currently enjoying is a result of the resolve of all Sierra Leoneans to have peace. The APC congratulates all Sierra Leoneans for accomplishing this feat.
The brutal and inhumane amputation and other atrocities carried out by the RUF and Kamajors have left indelible scars in our society. These amputees are sad reminders that we must always strive to avoid actions in governance that may cause friction and tragedy. In the quest for reconciliation, the APC submits that amputees should be appropriately cared for and adequately compensated.
My party is proud of her record in office and these records are visible all over Sierra Leone. But despite all of our achievements, on has to remember that politics is not saintly and it becomes dirty with greed, impropriety and undemocratic overtures on the part of the players. As we urge our brothers and sisters in the SLPP to play the game according to the rule, we assure them that we shall also be doing the same; for we all owe it to our country, to those who suffered all forms of deprivation and those who lost their lives or limbs during this sad conflict. At the same time, we extend to all Sierra Leoneans of whatever political party a hand of friendship, with our hearts emptied of bitterness and hold everyone in a warm embrace of reconciliation. We have of course made mistakes over the years and to all those who we may have hurt in any way, we say - SORRY. The APC asks for your forgiveness.
Let us all henceforth commit ourselves to the democratic principles enshrined in our Constitution, let us all work together as brothers and sisters trying to achieve the same goal - the progress of our country and the furtherance of the well being of our people. We may express our different views about how to get there but as long as we respect our differences, listen to one another, hold human rights, justice and individual freedom sacred, fight against corruption, show compassion when in authority, I believe we shall find that harmony to work together and live in peace. In this way, the country will have cooperation, unity and peace and not suspicion, division and instability. I thank you.
Hon. Ernest Bai Koroma