Retired Captain Samuel Komba Kambo, one of six original officers that included Capt Strasser, Lt. S.A.J. Musa and Lt. Maada Bio, which successfully plotted the overthrow of the APC Government in 1992, has in a telephone interview with the Awareness Times newspaper revealed why he voluntarily quit the NPRC Military Government in 1994. At the time, he was overtly accused by the grapevines, of having siphoned millions of dollars that was given to him to purchase arms. In an exclusive interview with Awareness Times this week, he now explains his own side eleven years after he left Sierra Leone.
Komba Kambo explained to Awareness Times that it was upon the advice of Ms. Kiki Munshi, the Head of the USAID Programme at the American Embassy in Freetown who was also the one who found him placement at a top University in the United States, that he kept silent and painfully watched as he was slandered. He said that he is now a successful holder of several academic degrees with Masters in Finance, Electronic Engineering, and Computer Science and has been listed as an A+ student on the prestigious Deanís List in the United States.
According to Komba Kambo, who was then the Under Secretary of State for Defence (Deputy Minister of Defence), there were two groups of people in the NPRC hierarchy. Those who wanted to pursue the war to the end and those who wanted to offer olive branches to the rebels and talk peace with them.
He names himself and Maada Bio as being amongst the group which believed in having peace talks with the rebels. However, he stated that they were in the minority. According to him, he found himself increasingly having conflicts with his conscience as he strongly believed that after the RUF changed their tactics in early 1994 to a strictly hit and run guerilla tactics, it was now impossible for the NPRC to defeat the rebels. He also cited problems with some of the senior officers who were no longer comfortable with fighting the war whilst the young NPRC officers governed in Freetown.
"To make matters worse, as we governed, some internal rifts developed within the group. There was a lot of rifts although the public only knew of a few of them; notably the one between late SAJ Musa and Strasser. There was a lot of mistrust amongst us NPRC members. With this ugly trend of mistrust and my firm conviction that we had to follow the path of dialogue being a view held by the minority, I decided to be true to my conscience and quit the government of the NPRC." Kambo stated.
When quizzed about the allegation that he stole millions of dollars given to him to purchase arms, he explained as follows: "The role of the Under Secretary of Defense is to liaise with military commanders and come up with a list of arms and ammunition needed by the military. This list is then sent to the Presidentís office for scrutiny and the president would then invite the Finance Minister to see if we can afford the payments. My role stopped in producing a potential list of military needs. All payments and contract terms are then dished out by the Finance guys. The bulk of our weapons purchases were on credit terms and even in situations in which we have to deposit down payments, our Reserve Bank (dollar reserve) in the United States would make the payments directly to the vendor. Of course, the directive to make such payments from our dollar reserve was made by the Secretary of State for Finance (Minister of Finance) Dr. John Karimu. Dr. Karimu would make these directives after he would have worked out all modalities and terms with the arms vendor. Dr. John Karimu negotiated all the arms and ammunitions payments with the arms vendors during the NPRC." Kambo explained.
He further went on to point out as a way of evidence, "Since John Karimu is still in Sierra Leone, he will be in a better position to help me educate my fellow Sierra Leoneans that government does not give cash to ministers to buy arms. He will also no doubt be willing to confirm that indeed the report that I stole government money was all a black lie manufactured by certain people in and out of the NPRC."
"I swear to my God who has protected me all this time that if what those folks rumoured about me siphoning millions of dollars given to me to purchase arms was true, not even my parents would forgive me for such. It is a reprehensible crime. Stealing money from a poor desperate nation trying to fend off a brutal rebellion is a reprehensible crime." he emotionally stated, adding, "Maybe, if I stole money, I would have pursued other interests instead of spending countless hours in engineering labs and working part-time to feed my family whilst studying. But I thank God that none of this is true because of the strong morale fibre in me. I was raised by two God fearing, modest teachers. I will always be content with what I have and wonít step on others to get ahead." He ended.
|Mr Komba Kambo
Kambo however, agreed with Awareness Timesí assertion to him that the NPRC in general and he in particular made many mistakes. He acknowledged these mistakes and attributed them to him being young and misguided.
"If I am asked to get involved in a coup-plot today, I will reject it with every fibre of my being. Coups are never right. You start off with lofty ideals but you get corrupted by the immense power that you suddenly find yourself wielding as a young man. Additionally, you get civilians who come around you young soldiers and direct you to do things that are actually self-motivated rather than for the nation. Because you are naÔve, you just go along with their advice. I will urge all officers and soldiers that getting involved in a coup-plot whether successful or not is the worst thing that could happen to a young man." he asserted.
Kambo used the opportunity to apologise to all those he may have hurt whilst he was in the NPRC. He stated that to err is human but to forgive is divine. He therefore called for their forgiveness. He also expressed regret that he had to secretly leave Sierra Leone without informing his soldiers who all looked up to him for guidance and their livelihood.
"They looked up to me and I let them down. But I could no longer continue working in the NPRC. My conscience just could not allow me to do so." he stated.
More Kambo interviews to come.