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Sierra Leone's Kelfala Kallon Swallows His Words
May 7, 2009, 17:18
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Professor Kelfala Kallon of Greely, Colorado, who on April 22nd 2009 had used unbecoming language against the SLPP Chairman, John Oponjo Benjamin because of the latter’s matured handling of the political violence and intolerance, has now swallowed his words and instead describes himself as John Benjamin’s greatest supporter.

"I must state categorically that JOB has no greater supporter than me for what he has done since he took over the leadership of our beloved SLPP," Kelfala Kallon wrote in a piece published on Page 7 of today’s edition.

Kallon, in his April 22nd piece published, had indicted John Benjamin actions as having the effect of making him feel like vomiting (‘nauseatingly outrageous’ he had slammed). He then went on to accuse Benjamin of being a ‘yeliba’[griot] and a ‘sycophant’ who was amongst those Sierra Leoneans who had perhaps lost some of their common sense. Kallon had then gone on to lambast Benjamin for his overtures towards President Ernest Koroma’s own olive branch, as being part of a "sycophancy-inspired cacophony that seems to be presently afflicting even the SLPP leadership".

However, in his today published article, Kallon, who is away from Sierra Leone and thus ill-informed, has tried to make amends for his early ranting by claiming his hardliner and extremist language were misunderstood by others.


Setting the Record Straight

By Kelfala M. Kallon

A few weeks ago, I read in Awareness Times that SLPP Chairman, John O. Benjamin (JOB), was under tremendous pressure from SLPP "hardliners" and "doubting Thomases" for supporting the peace initiatives outlined in the Inter-Party Communiqué signed by the leaders of the APC and SLPP on April 2nd. Knowing the SLPP for our fidelity to peace, inter-party political tolerance, and the rule of law, I could not imagine any SLPP member taking JOB to task for agreeing to work with the APC leadership to end political violence in the country. And until I read in a subsequent Awareness Times editorial titled, "Applauding the SLPP’s John O. Benjamin," that the "likes of the SLPP’s Professor Kelfala Kallon has (sic) mistaken John Benjamin’s maturity to be weakness," I would never have thought that I was among the alleged SLPP hardliners alluded to in the earlier article. Obviously, I only made this infamous list of SLPP hardliners because the paper’s editorial team had misinterpreted my objection to JOB’s claim that the APC have brought political tolerance to Sierra Leone.

Generally, I never engage in debates over labels because I learned long ago that they are mere smokescreens whose only purpose is to trick those being labeled into ignoring the substantive issues of a disagreement in order to defend themselves against the labels pinned on them. I am also fully aware of the venerable Puawui’s reminder to us that mislabeling the tail of a dog as its fifth leg will not give it five legs. Therefore, but for the very long-lasting, respectful, friendly relationship that has existed between me and the distinguished proprietor of Awareness Times, I would have just allowed her paper’s editorial staff to continue creating imaginary third "legs" for me and other SLPP hardliners, especially when the labels is so opaque that even a blind person can see through it with ease from a mile away. Therefore, for this time alone, I will violate my rule and offer the following defense in my behalf.

Before I do that, however, I must state categorically that JOB has no greater supporter than me for what he has done since he took over the leadership of our beloved SLPP. I also recognize that he and his team are very new and will therefore make mistakes from time to time. Hence, they deserve a little "honeymoon" period from all of us. However, I sincerely think that we would be doing them and our party a great disservice if we just shower praises on them regardless of what they say or do. This was the basis of my objection to his preposterous claim that the APC have brought political tolerance to Sierra Leone. If, on the contrary, he had use the the opportunity of his visit to APC Headquarters to challenge President Koroma to be the father of political tolerance in his party, he would have received my greatest admiration and commendation. Instead, as I saw (and continue to see) it, JOB dressed the President in what every honest Sierra Leonean who has followed political events in the country since President Koroma took the reins of power would see as illegitimate, ill-fitting, "borrowed robes."

The only reasonable explanation I can think of for my being on the Awareness Times list of so-called SLPP hardliners is that the paper’s editorial team had not carefully read my articles on the recent anti-SLPP violence and the consequent Peace Communiqué. Had they done so, they would have remembered that I urged President Koroma in an open letter, which they published, to eschew partisan and regional considerations and enforce the law without fear or favor in order to secure our fragile peace. Therefore, I was very happy when the President eventually went to SLPP Headquarters and promised to punish anyone who committed crimes against our party on March 13 and 16. I was even more gratified by his guarantee that, as long as he is President, no one will ever again haul a stone against the SLPP. (I only hope that they will not start hauling more lethal missiles at us in the future.)

Because the only thing that is consistent about this President is the wide chasm between what he says and what he does, I wrote another article, titled "Trust but Verify" (which was similarly published by Awareness Times). In that piece, I urged that we give the President the benefit of the doubt about his announced intentions, subject to him taking the necessary first "steps" that would "verify" his sincerity about his most recent promises regarding anti-SLPP violence.

Nowhere did I even suggest, let alone say, in either article that the SLPP leadership should not work with anyone, anywhere, anyhow, in order to maintain our fragile peace. And in even my piece ("Na Buakay Dehn"), which obviously got the bile of the Awareness Times’ editorial staff boiling, I did not object to the SLPP leadership’s support for the Peace Communiqué. I did, however, register my shock at, and disapproval of, JOB’s erroneous claim that the APC have brought political tolerance to Sierra Leone. And because I believed that even he knew the opposite to be true, I concluded that he had behaved like a "jeliba".

I must say that I was, therefore, surprised that the editorial staff of Awareness Times was quick to equate my factual disagreement with JOB with an alleged opposition to the Communiqué. Perhaps my surprise is due to the fact that in my line of work, it is universally recognized that factual disagreements should be always resolved by appealing to the relevant facts, not by attaching unsavory labels to those with whose views we disagree. I, therefore, expected that if anyone or any entity disagreed with my take on the issue, that person or group had a duty to adduce evidence or arguments that would point out my error(s). That the very intelligent editorial staff at Awareness Times failed to do this is beyond belief.

Indeed, the tremendous support that Dr. Abass Bundu’s very blunt address about the violent history of President Koroma’s APC should tell us that I am not alone in concluding that JOB’s coronation of President Koroma as the procurer of political tolerance in the country is precipitous and lacking of empirical support. Moreover, while in Dallas for the inauguration of the Dallas Chapter of SLPP, North America, I decided to poll an admittedly unscientific sample of party members (9 men and 6 women) with whom I spoke about the JOB’s approach to the APC since March 16th. The results seemed to mirror what I had gleaned from the 20 emails I received from SLPP supporters (in both Sierra Leone and the Diaspora) immediately following the publication of "Na Buakay Dehn,"—which is that a very significant majority of SLPP supporters do not agree with JOB’s claim that the APC have brought political tolerance to Sierra Leone.

For instance, although all the male respondents in the Dallas sample supported the SLPP leadership’s support for the Peace Communiqué and JOB’s visit to APC Headquarters, none of them agreed with his claim that the APC have brought political tolerance to the country. All of the 6 female interviewees also favored the SLPP leadership’s support for the Communiqué. However, all disapproved of JOB’s reciprocal visit to APC Headquarters because the man who eyewitnesses claim had supervised the alleged rape of 6 SLPP women (Leatherboots) was still untouched by the law at the time of the visit. They even suggested that the SLPP delegation should have walked out of the APC Convention in protest of the high profile it gave to Leatherboots. Finally, like the men, none of the women agreed with JOB that the APC have brought political tolerance to Sierra Leone. On the contrary, both male and female interviewees suggested that the APC are indeed responsible for the political intolerance that has gripped the country since they came to power.

The editorial staff of Awareness Times will perhaps be surprised to know that it was "the SLPP’s Professor Kelfala Kallon" (not even the "likes" of him) who explained to our disaffected SLPP sisters that if JOB’s reciprocal visit to APC Headquarters is the missing ingredient in getting the APC to eschew political violence once and for all, it would behoove all SLPP members to support it because it would prevent future anti-SLPP violence. This, I told them, would reduce the probability of more SLPP women being raped in the future. The editorial team of Awareness Times would be also surprised to know that it was the same "SLPP’s Professor Kelfala Kallon" who told the SLPP women that because we have the International Community to thank for the APC’s thirteenth-hour conversion to political tolerance (for now, at least), an SLPP walkout at the APC Convention would have robbed us of any political capital that JOB’s deft handling of the crisis might have already won us in the international community.

My hunch is that if one polls a random sample of SLPP members in Sierra Leone, a very significant majority would hold similar opinions as the ones expressed by the admittedly unscientific Dallas sample. This is because every SLPP member and supporter knows that only the full implementation of the spirit and letter of the Communiqué will protect them and the party from future APC thuggery. Additionally, they also know that unless the letter and spirit of the Communiqué is implemented, nothing can protect them from the work-place discrimination (in the form of directed sackings from the civil service and other state institutions and the APC’s revealed Northern preference for appointments) that they have borne since President Koroma took the reins of power.

If my hunch pans out, it would then be reasonably concluded that mainstream SLPP members in Sierra Leone are likewise in agreement with my position on this issue. Thus, it would be a mistake for anyone to label such a mainstream view as a hardline position—when the reverse is, in fact, true.

In conclusion, let me reiterate that although JOB and his team have my unflinching support, I will not blindly support everything they do, every time. Therefore, I will echo Awareness Times’ very apt message to President Koroma (in an editorial titled "Sorry Mr. President but Bad Works Deserve ‘Bad’ Articles"), which is that while "good works" will receive my gratitude and commendation, "bad" ones will always receive my most passionate disdain and criticism.

Finally, to bring some much needed humor to this silly debate about hardliners and soft-liners in the SLPP, I suggest that those who disagree with anything I write or say in the future should blame my impertinence for espousing something with which they disagree on "Buakay dehn". Not to "me sheffi, sheffi"!!!

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

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