By all indications, certain miscreants within the ruling All Peopleís Congress (APC) party are bent on destroying one of Sierra Leoneís post war institutions which every patriotic Sierra Leone is currently proud and boastful of. That institution is the Office of National Security (ONS) with offices currently at State House. These ill motivated individual political fanatics want to use that viable and credible security institution as a place for paying compensation to people they deem as having sacrificed a lot for the APC party; irrespective of their qualification or suitability for posts within the ONS structure. If Sierra Leoneans are to regret anything in recent times, it would be the politicization of the Office of National Security.
Since the coming to power of the All Peopleís Congress (APC) party in 2007 there have been several calls from this misguided group of partisan thinkers within the party that Retired Brigadier Kellie Hassan Conteh be sacked from his current post as National Security Coordinator (NSCoord), a post he has held with distinction since the inception of the ONS in 2002. No doubt, the current NSCoord has the confidence of President Ernest Bai Koroma because of the retired Brigadierís frankness, open mindedness, discipline, experience and no-nonsense character as far as national security coordination and management is concerned and as far as his responsibilities are outlined in the National Security and Intelligence Act of 2002.
Success stories abound about the ONS under the leadership of Brigadier Conteh. I want to state with no iota of hesitation that, the ONS is one of success stories of Sierra Leoneís post war reconstruction. Besides it being one of the success stories, it stands out as the most efficient, reliable and disciplined institution to emerge out the thinking of Sierra Leoneans in recent times. Had it not been for the strong character, high sense of responsibility and high intellect of Brigadier Conteh in the management of security and its related issues, the ONS would have since crumbled under political pressure. That is why up to date, the ONS remains high on the list of supported local institutions of the British Department for International Development (DfID). The ongoing construction of a permanent and befitting office on Tower Hill is a pointer of the equal confidence the British, Sierra Leoneís highest donor contributor has in the leadership and the way and manner the office is run.
Under Brigadier Conteh as NSCoord, the fragile relationship between the police and the army on one hand was strengthened thus bringing the countryís two major security agencies eye to eye with each other. The NSCoord, in furtherance with his desire for a peaceful co-existence between the forces recently cemented what would have caused a break in the good relation between the two forces following the Waterloo incident. Under the current NSCoord, Sierra Leone as a post conflict nation, has been able to conduct local and national elections without any form of outside assistance. I think if Sierra Leone is being commended for conducting an election which saw for the first time in the countryís political history, a peaceful transition of power from an incumbent government to an opposition without any raising fracas as was evident in Kenya, then Brigadier Conteh and his competent and trusted men and women at the ONS share a large portion of that international accolade.
The determination of the ONS to ensure a peaceful conduct of the 2007 elections; the desire of¬† the ONS to ensure fair play for all political parties without fear or favour; the wish of the ONS for Sierra Leone to demonstrate to the wider world that we can hold elections on our own without no international peacekeeping force; and the need to demonstrate to Sierra Leoneans that ĎWe can do ití; the ONS held a strategic stakeholders conference when the heat of the 2007 elections was reaching boiling point to tell the political parties and politicians that the country will not allow them to plunge the state into another round of conflict. I think those Sierra Leoneans who are true patriots, appreciated the move by the ONS, especially the hard and frank statement delivered by the NSCoord, Brigadier Kellie Hassan Conteh. The performances of Brigadier Conteh and the rest of the ONS personnel are exemplary and there is much to write home about.
This is why, I candidly believe that removing Brigadier Conteh from the helm of the ONS will not only destroy the good works of that coveted office, it will bastardize its independence, and overturn the coordinating role for which it is established to become, a political tool for the victimization of political opponents and other forces of criticism.
What is worrying to me with regards the successes registered by this gallant Brigadier and his able men and women is that detractors are still bent on seeing the back of the Brigadier to use his position to compensate a lesser experienced and politically biased former military officer, a retired Colonel S.I.M. Turay, known to be closely associated with the ruling APC.
Like I stated above, any attempt to move in direction will see the dwindling of the respect and confidence that the people are having in that institution. It will be transformed into a secret agent kind of security outfit that will be hunting and hounding political opponents. It will be transformed into a racketeering cartel, with which the business community, rich individuals etc, will be intimidated under the guise of threats to national security. The ONS instead of coordinating national security, highlighting national security concerns, identifying security threats and finding comprehensive responses to these concerns and threats, will be like the police was in the 1970s, 1980s and the early 1990s.
It is high time in this country that we preserve institutions and individuals who have done remarkably well in the course of national service to this nation. Political compensations have in most cases not proved to be futile. It is like satisfying the individual and killing the nation. S.I.M. Turay is definitely not fit for the post his few party supporters and other detractors of the national good are yearning for. To be the NSCoord requires someone who is diligent to the state rather than a political party. I am not against the being of political parties. What I am against is their blindness to what is of interest to the national good. They are egocentric, self centered and have the tendencies of doing whatever it takes them; and this is mostly bad, for them to perpetuate themselves in power. I think Brigadier Conteh has held himself above these and has maintained his apolitical stance. What ever the ONS has done; what ever advise the ONS has given; and whatever decisions that office has taken are all in the best interest of government, the state and the people. They have set themselves a benchmark which has been maintained and respected by not only the senior officials, but even the security personnel and drivers.
But one would wonder whether the President is not part of this grand plan. Silent is consent, it is said. The President with all his constitutional powers to hire and fire should prove himself not part of this diabolic plan to undermine the progress of the state. He should and must speak out in defense of his able lieutenant, someone who has sacrificed a lot for the existence and survival of the state, rather than leaving him at the mercy of disgruntled and ill guided persons in the name of party loyalty. I think President Koroma should by now have known the intents and purposes of some of the people around him. If he is genuine with himself, he must have realized most of these playing the sycophant around him are not true patriots. They are merely faking patriotism. Certainly, none of those people around you, whom I presume are confusing your intellect, can prove being more patriotic than Brigadier Kellie Conteh. His records are there for all and sundry to see. He took the ONS from scratch to be one of Sierra Leoneís success stories in addition to NASSIT, NRA to name a few.¬†
I urge President Koroma to maintain the status quo at the ONS. Those operating that office are now very experienced and I think they are true patriots. Patriotism is not a matter of talk-talking; it is all about oneís dedication and commitment in the execution of oneís national responsibility. Brigadier Conteh and his team have so performed and this is why any attempt at meddling politics with the operations of the ONS will boomerang with such negative propensity that may not leave the state in its usual state.¬† I therefore strongly do not believe that the ONS should have any new boss especially one that may not be able to match with the moral challenges of that all strategically important national security coordinating outfit, at most for a long time to come.
¬© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.