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COMMENTS & OPINIONS  

Leave Limbas to Dwell in Peace!
By Limba Elder Statesman
Feb 23, 2009, 00:24
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A senior member of the Limba ethnic grouping in Sierra Leone who is also a retired Elder Statesman, has called on Awareness Times newspaper to publish an appeal on behalf of the Limbas. According to the politician who prefers to remain anonymous so as not to "take away focus from the message to the messenger", he is "very concerned and very fearful" that the populace is being sensitised to perceive members of the Limba tribe negatively.

"I hope if you publish my appeal, this will make Sierra Leoneans reflect on how unjustly Limbas are being painted for no salient reason," the Limba elder said adding that even if he passed away from this life now, he wanted his "Limba children to continue to peacefully co-exist with children of other Sierra Leonean tribes like Mendes, Temnes, Fullahs, Creoles, Lokos, Susu, etc. etc"


LEAVE THE LIMBAS TO CO-EXIST IN PEACE:
By a retired Limba Politician
Over the years the Limba people have come under serious vilifications as if they are a foreign species from Mars. If it is not about their tribal organisation the Akutay Friendly Organisation, which has gone into hibernation for now, it is about jobs or other preference given them on tribal basis.

I think it is about time the records are put straight in their proper perspective.

Let it be known for the benefit of all, especially the skeptics that the Limbas are among the few out of the sixteen tribes who are indigenous to Sierra Leone. Over and above this indisputable fact, they are reported to be the 3rd largest tribe in the country with a core of highly educated and experienced personalities.

Should a proper and reliable census be conducted it will be realised that the Limba populations is much higher than imagined.

With this background analysis let me now address the issue of the Limbas being perceived to be receiving preferential treatment from the government in terms of jobs.

The APC first came into governance after it was initially deprived of that opportunity in 1968. Readers may recall that the party won the general elections held in March, 1967. Following that victory Brigadier David Lansana on the instigation of some top SLPP big wigs staged a coup which brought a temporary halt to the assumption of power by the APC in 1967 thereby introducing the military into the politics of Sierra Leone for the first time. Since that time i.e. 1968 the cabinets which were formed by the late Siaka Stevens included only two (2) Limbas in the persons of late C.A Kamara-Taylor and Formeh Kamara. It is needless to state that Mendes, Temnes and other tribes pre-dominated those cabinets. It was not until 1982 that a third Limba man in the person of Sanie Sesay was first appointed as a Minster of State, Finance and later a Cabinet Minister in 1984. Within the same period two other Limba men, in the persons of Sylvanus Sama Kamara (Murado) and Philipson Kamara were appointed Minsters of State. Thereafter no other Limba person was appointed a Minister until 1986 during the presidency of Major General Joseph Saidu Momoh when Birch Conteh, Philipson Kamara, Ben Kanu, Dr. Yembeh Mansaray and Thaimu Kamara were appointed Minsters. Messrs E.T. Kamara, Patrick Johnson and Bambay Kamara were appointed Ministers by virtue of the offices they held as party secretary general and Inspector Generals of Police respectively. In other words, anyone who held those positions during the one party era would be appointed to the cabinet irrespective of the tribe to which he belongs e.g. I.G Eric Musa and Major General Sheku Tarawallie. From the foregoing it can be seen that between 1968 - 1992 when the party was unconstitutionally overthrown by the Khaki Boys, again on the instigation of the opposition, a period of about 24 years, only eleven (11) Limba men were appointed Ministers, 2(two)of whom were appointed as Ministers of state. Compare these figures with the number of Ministers from among the major tribes within the same period.

It is pointless naming names here. What is incontrovertible is that there were scores of Mendes, Temnes and other tribes men and women appointed to the executive arm of government within that period,

Now let us look at the Civil Service within the period under discussion i.e. 24 years and extending to the years 2001 making a total of 33 years. The number of Limbas appointed as Permanent Secretaries does not exceed three (3). These were Samuel Deen, Manso Samura and Samuel S.A. Sankoh. It must be noted that apart from these three persons there were a good number of other Limba civil servants who were equally qualified and experienced enough to be appointed but because of the tribal coloration they were deliberately ignored. It would seem to this writer that to be Limba tribalism always served as a barrier to such appointments. It is as if the Limbas are confined to be hewers of wood and drawers of water. This writer has often been incensed when told he does not "look like a Limba man" probably because of his appearance and demand. This is an absolute insult to the tribe generally and the individuals in particular. He is very proud of his Limba parental lineage whatever be the perception of other people.

Let me now focus attention to the period 1996-2007. In his eleven (11) years rule as the SLPP President of this Republic, Alhaji Tejan Kabbah, in complete disregard for the Limbas in this republic inspite of the fact that they are the third largest tribe in the country did not consider appointing any person from among them to the Executive except for a period of about eight months in 1996 when he appointed a qualified Limba engineer in the person of Kabbah Kamara as Deputy Minister of Works. The ink he used to write this appointment had hardly dried on the paper before this gentleman was given his marching orders. It was as if there were no other competent Limba persons even within the membership of the SLPP to be given consideration. It will be recalled that the APC and some other parties supported the SLPP candidate in the runoff election in 1996 between Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and the UNPP candidate Dr. John Karefa Smart. In consideration of the APC support, the winner Ahmad Tejan Kabbah offered the party the Energy and Power portfolio which was turned down. When the party (SLPP) realised that Koinadugu District was not represented in the cabinet it was then that Dr. Yembeh Mansaray from Kabala was appointed to that Ministry. It was just coincidental that Dr. Yembeh Mansaray happened to be a Limba man and certainly not because of his tribe.

In all these circumstances the Limbas never complained. This is a tribe that is seemed to be not only docile and well behaved but also respecters of the rule of law. There are hardly any of the twelve (12) districts in this country where you will not find a Limba settlement. Go east, west, south and of course the north they are there.

In the east and the south of the country you will find them in their "elusleas" usually dubbed "Limber Corner" minding their business peacefully. One may therefore ask the question what justification any same person would have for castigating a Limba person whenever he/she is given a job within the state machinery.

Invariably whenever any Limba person is given any job it is usually based on merit, ability and experience.

It is no secret that the majority of Limba people in Sierra Leone are members/supporters or sympathisers of the All Peoples Congress ( APC).

Let it be known that this mass/blind support stems from no reason other than the fact that of all the political parties operating in Sierra Leone it is only the APC which, over the years, has given full recognition of the loyalty, dedication and steadfastness of the tribe. It is no accident.

This is one of so many reasons why, you would hardly see a bonafide Limba person lobbying for any position or consideration, whether political or otherwise from any arrangement that is not APC. That Limba person will invariably only be pursuing an endeavour in futility.

The "Akutay" Myth

As said much has been written about this organisation which is nothing more than any other tribal arrangement in which the members interact to share their concerns and get to know each other. Most if not all the other tribes have such organisations, like the Creole Descendants Union, Tegloma, and Ferensola - etc but none has ever been more vilified than the AKUTAY FRIENDLY ASSOCIATION.

During the Presidency of the late Siaka Stevens leading to the transition to the Major General Momoh administration in 1985, the old man who had held himself out as a Limba in his wisdom felt there was need for his tribes men to come together under one umbrella to consolidate their unity which proved eventually to be their strength. It was from these efforts that all shades of the tribe, irrespective of their sub divisions i.e. Biriwa, Sella, Thonko etc. (the tribe is sub divided into 13 dialects) were brought together in what was then known as the Akutay Friendly Association without any political aspirations. Through this association funds were generated through registration, membership dues, donations etc, from these funds arrangements were made to provide scholarships and other grants-in-aid to underprivileged but deserving school going children through a scholarship committee. The organisation held annual meetings on a rotational basis among the nine (9) Chiefdoms in the Northern Province. Please note that it is only the Limba tribe which has chiefdoms in all the five (5) districts in the Northern Province.

It is these rotational meetings that were grossly misunderstood which resulted in the organisation being tagged with all sorts of nomenclature such as kitchen cabinet, Limba hegemony etc. etc.

In the first place, because these meetings attracted very large crowds especially of non Limba people, all the deliberations were conducted in krio. Usually after the opening ceremony and presentation of reports virtually nothing else happen other than entertainment all the way. It was nothing other than a JAMBOREE. No serous deliberations were ever held. The fact that the matter in the meetings were usually dominated by non limbas who believe that they can achieve their ambitions through lobbying unfortunately they are usually disappointed because contrary to the belief that they can feather their nests through interaction with the powers that be these Akutay meetings were nothing other than a Jamboree or call it picnic. Akutay Friendly Association was nothing other than a toothless bulldog. A big myth.

Insult to the Limbas

To add to the woes of the tribe the former President Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabbah was so anti-Limba that he went out of his way and imposed his Madingoes tribesman as Paramount Chief of Biriwa Limba Chiefdom amid so many protestations including one from his Vice President at the time, Mr. Solomon Berewa. Can you imagine a Mandingo man being crowned Paramount Chief in a predominantly Limba chiefdom. The Limbas constitute over 95% of the remaining 5% spread among Madingoes, Fullah, Temnes and Lokos.The Limbas who felt aggrieved sought redress in court.

The issues raised in their pleadings to the supreme court of Judicature were referred back to the custodians of the traditions and customs of the Chiefdom. Thankfully the matter is now being handled by the Ministry of Local Government. The Limbas hold that the so called paramount chief was not eligible to contest in the first place and perhaps more importantly is the fact that the election was irregular. He is under suspension while government has set up a judicial inquiry into the whole saga.

Conclusion

The Limbas, as one of the indigenous tribes of Sierra Leone and one of the most peaceful and law abiding citizens of the country are appealing to Sierra Leoneans of good will to consider the role played by their tribesmen in the early development of this land. During the colonial days it was mainly Limba people who were engaged in laying the water channels and electric wires and poles especially in Freetown and other Major towns in the provinces. No wonder the Guma Water Company is nicknamed "Sorie Guma". Sorie is a typical Limba name. Why should the Limbas suffer from what this writer would refer to as inverse tribalism, meaning that because of their loyalty, dedication, honesty and steadfastness they are taken for granted. They do not complain unnecessarily. They have a contented disposition. Therefore are they not entitled to be considered for consideration to be given jobs and other benefits o the state?

This inverse tribalism against the Limbas has so gripped the psyche of the majority of their people to the extent that they have developed a phobia for identifying themselves as Limbas. The examples are legion. The ones which come to mind immediately are two of the prominent churches with scores of branches across the country. The writer is here referring to the National Pentecostal Church and the Faith Assembly Of God Church. These two churches were founded by bonafide and proud Limba giants; The Late Rev. Daniel Conteh and Pa-Sanpha (Tailor) Sesay. Both churches were named the National Pentecostal Limba church and the Faith Assembly of God Limba church by their respective founders. But apparently because of the phobia mentioned above the word Limba has disappeared from their nomenclature. Come on! No matter how we disguise ourselves, the Limbaism in us will not disappear. Let us show the world that good can come out of Nazareth; we should be proud of our tribe!

Please Oh Please Leave the Limbas Alone. They have every right just as the other tribes to benefit from the largess of the state as long as they deserve the consideration.


© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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