On Sunday 19th October 2008, I vigorously enjoyed as I danced to music from Segbwema’s High School Brass Band and Daru Women’s Calabash Seigurehs.
It was my second ever trip to Kailahun District. Dancing alongside hundreds and hundreds of white clad residents of Daru and its environs, up towards the famous 1937 Daru Court Barray in Jawei Chiefdom, what I felt was an inner sense of deep satisfaction that I had kept to my promise made to a dear friend, Kula Samba (pictured) ten years ago when she was executed on 19th October 1998 after having been found guilty, by a military court martial, of treason against the SLPP Government.
I was living in USA at the time but I had made a quiet promise on the day she was executed that I would one day return to ensure she was remembered not only as someone convicted of treason but more for the wonderful works she undertook in this country vis-a-viz needs of Child Combatants & Displaced compatriots.
I first met Kula Samba in 1995. I was one of the few Sierra Leoneans who had access to an email system that was installed in my activist father’s office by courtesy of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in Washington DC. The Internet was then a novelty in Sierra Leone but through the email system, I used to communicate with lots of Sierra Leoneans around the world. One of them was the famous Sierra Leonean Professor of Economics, Professor Kelfala Kallon of Greeley Colorado.
One day in 1995, Professor Kallon sent me an urgent email asking me to please locate his niece, a military nursing officer by the name of Kula Samba. He had tried to telephone her but he was unable to get through and he had an urgent message for her. So, it was that I contacted one of the sweetest persons I have ever known in this world: the Late Major Kula Samba. Our bond was instant.
At the time, I was working with displaced pregnant women at the Clay Factory Displaced Camp as part of my Final Year Dissertation Project on Diabetes in Pregnant Women and so I used to drive out very early in the morning to the camp to get blood sugar levels before the women had their breakfast. Many a time, I met Kula Samba would already be at the Camp’s Clinic doing some work for the Children Affected by the War before moving to the other Displaced Camps that were then scattered around Freetown. Those of us who saw what people living in Displaced Camps went through on a daily basis know what a demeaning and horrible state of living it was. For many others, especially Freetownians, the sprawling Camps were just slurs on their landscape that they never stepped feet in.
Even after I finished medical school & before I left for USA, I continued volunteering at Displaced Camps. It was on one such occasion, I recall chatting with Kula Samba about politics and I distinctly recall her telling me that her late father was one of those who founded the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) alongside others including a Paramount Chief from Kambia.
This is why I was surprised that she served the AFRC regime that violently overthrew the SLPP Government in 1997. She telephoned me in America and her response to my surprised query was really simple. This bonafide SLPP Daughter was apparently tired of seeing the sufferings in the Displaced Camps and she believed she could work for dialogue to be initiated between the SLPP and the renegade soldiers and rebels for a lasting peaceful solution to be brought about.
Some, say it was a poor judgment on her part. I say in response that time has a way of putting everything into proper perspective and allowing all liquids to find their levels. Kula Samba’s brother, Jaiah, whom I understand is a journalist in America, encapsulated it so poignantly; According to Jaiah, people allowed their anger [-with the senseless violence and wanton destruction-] to cloud their judgment back then.
I believe such judgment, if not warped by anger, could have realised the need to advocate more strongly for internal national dialogue against the unleashing of Nigeria’s military might. The Debate about the merits and demerits of what General Sani Abacha wrought in this land under the title of “successful military intervention” will go on for decades. I am however confident that time has a unique way of soothing anger and subsequently allowing calm, emotions to analyze events past.
Anyway, my intent in immortalizing Kula Samba’s name into a Scholarship Programme is not to point fingers about whether it was wrong or right to have her executed but to give the memory of the numerous good works she did on this earth, a chance to overshadow whatever bad perception of her that might wish to linger on along the corridors of History.
As for me, I promise that for as long as I have breath in me, I will do all in my power to continuously highlight injustice, bad governance and human rights abuse whenever they occur in this land. It is the least I can do as my own contribution towards ensuring Sierra Leone does not slide back to where it was on March 23rd 1991. May Kula’s soul continue to rest in perfect peace. May I never stay silent in the face of injustice as injustice will take us back to where we were when rebels fired the first shot in Bomaru, Kailahun and started a cascade of sad events!