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NOTICES & DOCUMENTS  

Mrs. Manjia Balema-Samba Letter Of Appeal For Slaj To Assist Me Get Justice From The Judiciary
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Feb 2, 2010, 17:22
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Mrs. Manjia Balema-Samba
31 Kalilu Street, Kenema Town, Eastern Province, Sierra Leone
Telephone:+232-76-808062 Email: parkinsonmanjia@yahoo.com

LETTER OF APPEAL FOR SLAJ TO ASSIST ME GET JUSTICE FROM THE JUDICIARY

The President,
Sierra Leone Association of Journalists
56 Campbell Street, Freetown.

Tuesday November 24th 2009.

Dear Sir,

LETTER OF APPEAL FOR SLAJ TO ASSIST ME GET JUSTICE FROM THE JUDICIARY

I am Mrs. Manjia Balema-Samba, a female journalist working for the United Nations Radio covering South-Eastern locations and the State-owned SLBS Kenema radio. I host a popular Live Phone-In Radio Programme that is enjoyed all over the Eastern Province every Sunday afternoon in Kenema, Kailahun and Kono. I am a married woman since 2006 when my beloved husband, Mr. Balema Samba took my hand in marriage. Long before I met my husband, for a period of three years from 2001 until 2003, I used to date the current Paramount Chief of Small Bo Chiefdom, Hon. P.C. Mohamed Dhaffie Benya who currently lives in Blama, the Headquarters of his Chiefdom. My former partner is today a very powerful man since he is also the Honourable Paramount Chief representing Kenema District in the House of Parliament. As a very powerful man in Sierra Leone, his support is needed by many other powerful politicians who give way to his whims just to make him happy. After three years of being with me, in 2003, after he won the Chieftaincy with my help, he left me and later married a woman by the name of Joan Satta Freeman. This woman went to school and spent her life in Kenema and was always known by the name of Joan Satta Freeman before she got married and became known as Mrs. Joan Satta Benya. No other name but Mrs. Joan Satta Benya is her correct name

HOW IT ALL STARTED

Now, why did I have to keep my cool? It is because the name Hindue-Gbuatiyeaya in the Mende language when translated to English means "A woman who successfully wins a mans attention from another woman". Elongima in Mende when translated means "A Conqueror who can never be overcome by another" and of course the meaning of "Winner" is well known in English. Therefore, it was implicit that, whoever was pushing that boy to make the call was trying to provoke me that Joan Satta Benya had won the heart of Paramount Chief Mohamed Dhaffie Benya from me. Everyone listening to that programme understood I was being provoked. The person wanted me to react in a negative manner over the air to those names but, like a professional journalist and a matured woman, I kept my cool the three times the caller did it. The recording of that entire Palm Sunday programme is available.

I BELIEVE IN THE RULE OF LAW

sister. They have molested me so many times but however, this was the first time they were bringing their antagonistic provocation of me to my workplace as a woman journalist over the air. I realised that if I did not do something to cease this provocation, it will get worse and they might eventually provoke me to commit a breach of the peace or to do something unprofessional over the air that would make me lose my job as a well respected journalist.

To get respite from all this provocation of me which had now extended to affect my job as a professional female journalist is the reason why I decided not to commit a breach of the peace but to go by the Rule of Law. I went for Justice but what I have now gotten is Injustice and this is why I am writing down today at length all of my problems I have faced. These problems came to me just because I chose to go for justice through the Laws of the Land rather than commit a breach of the peace.

HOW I SOUGHT RELIEF THROUGH JUSTICE SECTOR

I first took the complaint to Section Chief Mr. Possible Kallon who forwarded the matter to the Nongowa Chiefdom Speaker Daniel Neka who interviewed me and then forwarded the matter to Kenema Local Court No. 1 for action. That Local Court summoned Joan Satta Benya to answer to my claims against her of Public Provocation and Humiliation of Person using a Mobile Phone. She went to Chiefdom Speaker Daniel Neka and publicly responded that since she was a winner, she would only answer the summons if the Local Court added the title of "Winner" to her names so indeed the Local Court summoned her in writing as Mrs. Joan Satta Winner Benya.

The matter was first called up at the Kenema Local Court No. 1 on 30th April 2009 and on that day I gave evidence and also my primary witness, Martha Fullah (who had first proven the ownership of the offending mobile phone number to be Mrs. Benya) also gave evidence in front of the Local Court Panel. It was a Public Hearing and to the full view of the gathering, I was harshly cross-examined by the Joan Satta Benya and another woman Franco Benya whom she brought along but although they both tried to inflame me with their questions, I never gave way to anger but politely answered all their questions. The two of them also cross-examined my witness. Both me and my witness were also asked questions by the Panelists headed by the Local Court Chairman Sao Amara and we answered all questions asked. When it came time for her to make a defence, she asked for an adjournment and when a proposed date of a few days thence was given, she asked for a longer adjournment citing that she had church functions to undertake. The Court gave in to her request and gave a long adjournment to May 11th 2009 as she had requested. It should be noted that the Local Court was extremely pliant to all her lawful requests throughout the Hearings.

JOAN SATTA BENYA & HER WITNESSES START & CONCLUDE TESTIMONIES

On May 11th 2009, she finally gave testimony and produced two witnesses; both of them being teenagers. Her testimony was that she knows nothing about me and that she had been fast asleep when her phone was used to make the three calls. One of the teenagers was a boy who told the Local Court that he was indeed the one who had called me over the air to send the strange announcement but he claimed that at the time he sent the request, his aunty had been fast asleep. He was asked by the Panelists who gave him access to his sleeping auntys phone and he said he just found it lying and decided to use it. He was also asked how would he send a request for the listening pleasure of a woman who was asleep and would not be able to listen to the request and he said he had intended to inform his aunty when she woke up that he had used her phone to send such a request for her through Manjia Balema-Samba. He was asked if he knew of any problems that might exist between Manjia and his Aunty over his uncles issue and he said he knew not. Her other witness was a teenage girl who told the Court that she was the one holding her Auntys phone. She could not explain how the phone left her hand and got into the hand of the other witness, the teenage boy. She said she heard the request over the radio but she was in the kitchen and only heard the name Benya.


At this point, Joan Satta Benya asked for the matter against her to be dismissed and for the Teenage Boy to be charged instead as he has confessed to using her phone without her consent. The request was turned down as the Local Court Panelists said she owned the phone and was responsible for it. She then asked for another adjournment saying she had other witness but when it was to be adjourned to the next day, she again requested a longer adjournment which the Court complied with and so the matter was adjourned to May 19th 2009 a much longer date as she requested.


On May 19th 2009, she came with the brother of her husband the Paramount Chief as another of her witnesses. However, all he had to say was that he heard the request over the Radio but he did not hear all the names mentioned. He said he only heard the name Benya and nothing else. Joan Satta Benya was then asked if she had any other witness or anything else to say and she said she had finished her Defence. At this point, the Local Court Chairman said he would close down to give a decision in the matter as the proceedings were concluded and all sides had been exhaustively allowed to state their case. Joan Satta Benya once again requested a long adjournment for the final judgement and so the Court gave a date of May 27th 2009 for the final ruling to be delivered.


SENIOR STATE COUNSEL TIMOTHY SOWA


Sometime in the week following, I happened to meet the Customary Law Officer for the Eastern Province (Principal State Counsel Tim Sowa) who mentioned to me that he had received a request from one Joan Satta Benya to transfer a matter in which I was the complainant to another Local Court. I wondered aloud to him whether a matter that had been exhaustively concluded and reserved for judgment was transferrable. And he did not give a satisfactory answer but in what seemed like a joke, he said he wanted a goat from me. I was curious and worried that some games were being played. I went to the Local Court and expressed my misgivings to the Local Court Chairman, Sao Amara who then told me to my alarm that he had been called up at almost midnight a day or two before by the Resident Minister East, William Juana Smith, and advised not to give a ruling in my favour against the wife of P.C. Benya as P.C. Benya was helping the ruling All Peoples Congress to penetrate Kenema District. He explained that he was asked to delay judgment until William Juana Smith, returned from a trip to Lebanon he was undertaking. The Local Court Chairman however promised me that his Court would give a just decision without fear or favour on May 27th 2009.


FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH ATTORNEY GENERAL & MINISTER OF JUSTICE


I was still concerned over the comment made by Lawyer Tim Sowa and so since at that particular point in time, the Minister of Justice, Attorney General A.F. Serry-Kamal was visiting Kenema, I was taken to him by a prominent Kenema Youth Leader, Sidie Kajue on May 26th 2009. We explained my concerns over a matter having been exhaustively concluded and now awaiting judgment being threatened with a Stay Action and Transfer to another Local Court. I pondered as to how you can transfer when Hearings have finished and the two sides are just now waiting for Decision to be given by the Court? In my presence, the Honourable Minister of Justice telephoned Mr. Tim Sowa and explained to him that I had raised the concern. The Justice Minister explained to Mr. Tim Sowa that since the matter was concluded and waiting judgment, if would be best for them not to interfere but instead advise any aggrieved party to lodge an appeal within 15 days of judgment.


STAY ACTION FROM LAW OFFICERS DEPARTMENT OF KENEMA


The next day, May 27th 2009, I went to the Local Court but to the surprise of everyone gathered, a Letter dated May 22nd 2009 was sent to the Local Court from Kenema Law Officers Department which called for an immediate Stay Action of the matter as had been apparently requested by Mrs. Joan Satta Benya. It was sent to the Court that morning and was signed by one Lawrence K. Bockarie, the Local Court Supervisor of the Ministry of Justice. There was uproar and confusion in the Court.


SECOND ENCOUNTER WITH MINISTER OF JUSTICE HON. SERRY KAMAL


Fortunately, in the middle of the Confusion, Youth Leader Sidi Kajue received a telephone call from the Minister of Justice Serry Kamal who was by then, returned back to Freetown. The Minister informed that he was calling because someone had phoned him from Kenema to say there was uproar at the Local Court and he hoped it was not in connection with the complaint. Sidi Kajue explained the shocking development and the Honourable Minister of Justice Serry Kamal asked to speak to me. I explained in bitter tears and frustration but the Honourable Minister Serry Kamal spoke to me kindly and appealed to me to just calm down and travel to Freetown with this shocking May 22nd 2009 Letter so he could read it.


That same moment I left Freetown with the Letter and upon arrival, I went straight to the Minister of Justice Hon. Serry-Kamal who read the Letter and then gave me his card and a message for one Mr. Tunde Cole, the Solicitor-General of the Republic.


FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH THE SOLICITOR GENERAL MR. TUNDE COLE


I went to Mr. Tunde Cole first thing in the morning of May 28th 2009 and when he read the Stay Action Letter, in front of me and my Uncle Solomon Vandy who was visiting from America, he telephoned Tim Sowa and enquired why was the advise of the Attorney General being flaunted by him. To the hearing of us all, Mr. Tim Sowa vehemently denied knowledge of any such Stay Action and he also said he knew what he had been warned by the Minister of Justice and so he would not flaunt his orders and commit such an injustice when the Minister of Justice had warned against this. Solicitor General Tunde Cole then instructed Timothy Sowa to follow the instructions of the Attorney General as the matter had been concluded and to allow whatever decision was to be given to be rendered and then any aggrieved person can file an appeal within 15 days. At this point, the Solicitor General Tunde Cole asked me to go back to Kenema and wait for a new judgment date from Local Court.


I went back to Kenema and on my arrival, I received a Letter dated May 28th 2009 from the Local Court saying that based on the fresh advise of Timothy Sowa, myself and Joan Satta Benya should now appear in Local Court on June 4th for the judgment decision to be given. The next day, June 2nd 2009, I got another Letter saying Joan Benya had sent to say she was unwell and would not be in Court so they had decided on a new date of June 11th for the decision to be given.


MAGISTRATE KOMBA KAMANDA SUMMONS ME


On June 8th 2009, I was shocked to receive a summons from Magistrate Komba Kamanda, the Kenema District Resident Magistrate who informed me that his Higher Court had ignored the Order from Tim Sowa but based on an application from Mrs. Joan Satta Benya to him, he had forcibly Stopped the Local Court from giving a decision and instead, he was asking me to go and defend why he should not transfer the matter from Local Courts level to Magistrate Level. I got a lawyer, Sahr Quee Kamanda, to represent me on the adjourned date in June. To my surprise, Magistrate Komba Kamanda spent a long time throwing words at me to the hearing of the entire Court saying he was going to prove to me that the Minister of Justice could not interfere with Magistrate Kamanda in the way the Minister of Justice had interfered with Timothy Sowa.


MAGISTRATE INSULTS THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL & JUSTICE MINISTER

At this point, both my lawyer, Saquee T.G. Kamanda and State Counsel Tim Sowa, who was present in the Court on another matter, stood up and angrily scolded the Magistrate not to refer to the Honourable Minister of Justice in that derogatory manner but it yielded no avail and Magistrate Komba Kamanda continued to insult both the Attorney General and myself some more saying that because I was a journalist with access to what he called corrupt big guns in Freetown, I thought I was too powerful but he knew how to cut down journalists to their correct size and he would cut me down. He was basing all his insults on me from the information in the affidavit of Mrs. Joan Benya where she had written all sorts of lies against me and the Minister of Justice Serry Kamal. After he had finished throwing words at me, he adjourned the matter to another date in June but on that date, he did not even come to the Court but told his registrar to give me another date of June 23rd 2009. On that June 23rd 2009, Magistrate Kamanda came to court and to the dismay of my lawyer, S.T.G. Kamanda, the Magistrate said he had decided to take over the matter from the Local Court despite the fact that it had been concluded and reserved for judgment. He then made some more derogatory comments about journalists who felt they were above the Law would be taught a lesson by him in this case.


I am a cardiac patient with a history of heart problems and the entire shock of my complaint being turned upside down from me seeking justice into an issue of me being a journalist attacked by Magistrate in the Open Court, affected my heart condition and I started to suffer from palpitations which caused me to seek medical attention in Freetown. I sent a Letter of my condition to Magistrate Komba Kamanda and went to Freetown. In Freetown, after getting treatment and I was better, on July 6th 2009, I went over Radio 98.1 and explained to the public the injustice I was facing with a matter closed and reserved for judgment at Local Court being frustrated and taken over by a Magistrate instead of waiting for judgment and aggrieved parties going to appeal if they saw need. I explained how my personality was attacked in Open Court by Magistrate Kamanda. I also stated I was angry and disappointed with the Justice System in Sierra Leone, but, in my opinion, nothing that I said over FM98.1 can be termed as Contempt of Court. Unless saying the TRUTH is now to be considered as CONTEMPT. My words were the cry of a woman journalist seeking for justice in the face of sheer injustice. This was on July 6th 2009. The FM98.1 recording is available for listening so you can make your own conclusions.


RUMOURS FLOAT AROUND KENEMA THAT I WOULD BE LOCKED UP IN JAIL


About a week later, when I was preparing to go back to Kenema, I got word that Magistrate Komba Kamanda was planning to try me for Contempt of Court and sentence me to jail because of what I said over FM98.1 about the injustice I was facing. I explained to my relatives and they all accompanied me once again to the Minister of Justice Hon. Serry-Kamal along with my uncle who was visiting from the United States of America. My uncle, Solomon Vandy expressed serious disappointment with the Justice System in Sierra Leone especially the threat of a Magistrate sending me to jail for expressing out my cry for help from injustice.  He was very disappointed and he kept on asking the Honourable Attorney General Serry-Kamal if this was the Democracy that Sierra Leone was practising. Hon. Serry-Kamal listened carefully and openly expressed dismay to us over the issue which he had tried to warn his own staff not to play injustice to a woman.

 

MINISTER OF JUSTICE SENDS US TO THE HON. CHIEF JUSTICE


However, the Honourable Minister said since it was a Magistrate, he could not act on the matter but only the Chief Justice was the Boss of Judiciary and he was only Boss of the Law Officers like Mr. Timothy Sowa. Hon. Serry-Kamal then called one of his staff, a Mr. Kekura Bangura and told Mr. Kekura Bangura to take me and my uncle directly to the Chief Justice for us to explain to her how Magistrate Komba Kamanda had taken over a matter that was closed and reserved for judgment and how he was now threatening to send me to jail for Contempt.


On the way walking to the Chief Justices Offices from the Law Courts Building, Mr. Kekura Bangura told my Uncle that if the Chief Justice Tejan-Jalloh got to know of this issue, Magistrate Komba Kamanda would be in big trouble and so he pleaded for us to divert away from the Chief Justice and report instead to the Deputy Registrar known as Mr. Yoki whom was supposed to be a friend of Magistrate Komba Kamanda. I was very hesitant to do so as I wanted the woman Chief Justice herself to hear as a woman what I was suffering but Mr. Bangura pleaded that Magistrate Komba Kamanda was a young man with a future and if I reported him to the Chief Justice, it would spoil his file. So, my Uncle made a big mistake he will forever live to regret and he agreed and did not take me to the Chief Justice as we had been sent by the Minister of Justice but went to see Mr. Yoki the Deputy Registrar.


ENCOUNTER WITH DEPUTY REGISTRAR MR. YOKI


Inside his Office, Mr. Yoki listened carefully, read all my documents from the Local Court and the Magistrate Court and expressed similar sentiments that if the Chief Justice Tejan-Jalloh were to ever hear of the situation especially the threats to send me to jail, Magistrate Kamanda would have problems. Mr. Yoki picked up the phone and called Magistrate Kamanda and in my presence, he advised Magistrate Kamanda of the folly in his actions. They argued in front of me and my uncle for a long time over the phone and all the time, Mr. Yoki was warning Magistrate Kamanda that he should be careful. After a long telephone talk, Mr. Yoki told my Uncle that I should return to Kenema safely and there was no need for the matter to be brought to the attention of the Chief Justice Tejan-Jalloh anymore as it was resolved. It was a big mistake as it turned out, nothing was resolved with Magistrate Kamanda despite all the warnings he was given in our presence by Mr. Yoki.


I RETURN TO KENEMA WITH ASSURANCE FROM MR. YOKI


I was still taking my medical treatment but since another Notice had been served at my 31 Kalilu Street residence to be in Magistrate Court on July 23rd 2009, I took my sick self to Kenema to meet up the next adjourned date of July 23rd 2009. Upon my attendance in Court, Magistrate Kamanda, to the gleeful happiness of my antagonist, Mrs Joan Satta Benya, who was also present, proceeded to attack my personality and then to my utmost shock, he told Mrs. Joan Satta Benya that on that day, even though that was what he called the two of us there for, he would not be hearing the substantive matter concerning Mrs. Benya and myself but he wanted her and other members of the public to watch as he tried me for Contempt of his Court. He said he wanted to teach journalists a lesson about speaking ill things of members of the Judiciary and after he had set an example with me, other journalists will start to respect the name Magistrate Komba Kamanda as a powerful name. All of this, he said in the presence of the Open Court. He then proceeded to play the taped recording of my FM98.1 Interview which he had somehow retrieved from Freetown. At the end of taking two hours of the Courts time playing the recording, Magistrate Kamanda then proceeded to say based on the findings on the recording, he had found me Guilty of Contempt of Court and so he would be sending me to the Kenema State Prisons until he felt pleased to set me free. He however said if I forgot about my journalist yap yap but went down on my knees to beg him in Open Court for my Contempt of Court, he would not send me to jail. I responded to him that I had not committed any Contempt of Court but had made a Cry of Distress over the Radio so I would not beg anyone for saying my mind. I also said I was not to be insulted because I was a journalist.

 

MAGISTRATE KAMANDA SENDS ME TO JAIL INDEFINITELY


At this point, he became furious and started to bang on his table with his eyes wide opened. Whilst banging on the table, he said he would show me my Journalist power stopped inside his Court. Still with my head held high, I refused to be intimidated but produced my Medical Report from Connaught Hospital which showed I was seriously ill but he dismissed Medical Report and ordered police-women to take me straight to jail and openly told everyone that he would keep me there until September or maybe even until longer than September and it was from the jail that I would be coming to fight my case against Mrs. Joan Satta Benya. He openly stated in Court that when he has now sentenced me for Contempt, only Justice Matturi-Jones will be able to set me free and since she was not around, I will stay in the jailyard for a long time.


Without my medicines and with no food, in my sick condition, I was dragged from the Courts, walked through the streets from the Courts by police officers and taken to the Jailyard with Mrs. Joan Satta Benya and her crowd of revellers following in joy. When the jailyard door was slammed shut on me, I heard the supporters of Mrs. Joan Satta Benya shouting out mocking imitations of the door being slammed shut. They were dancing and singing out, Ba-Bam! Ba-Bam!! Ba-Bam!!! making the sound of a door being shut. I spent the night in jail with no food and no medicine and with a very high temperature and chills rolling on the cold floor very sick.

 

H.E. PRESIDENT KOROMA & HON. MINISTER I.B. KARGBO ARRIVE IN KENEMA

Fortunately for me, His Excellency the President and the Honourable Minister of Information, Alhaji I.B. Kargbo arrived in Kenema that evening for the PMDC Convention and according to my colleagues, they brought my case to the attention of His Excellency the President who asked the Information Minister to intervene and look into what sounded like serious injustice to his ears. The Information Minister, I am told, took the Presidents order so seriously that he provided two gallons of fuel for my colleagues to go and locate Magistrate Kamanda anywhere he was in Kenema. My colleague female journalists, Veronica Ensah of UN Radio and Jenneh Brima of Eastern Radio finally located Magistrate Kamanda and a whole throng of journalists took him to Capitol Hotel where Tim Sowa and a Court Registrar, Mr. Bangs-Kamara were already waiting. In the presence of my journalist colleagues, I am told that when Magistrate Kamanda was asked of the issue of my unlawful detention, Magistrate Kamanda denied to Hon. I.B. Kargbo that he had ever had me jailed. He said he did not know my whereabouts. My colleagues are ready to testify to this and even Hon. I.B. Kargbo might also be prepared to testify to this if asked. Eventually, I am told that a closed door meeting was held that finished at 1am before Magistrate Kamanda left the Hotel with Tim Sowa and the Court Registrar. If all of what he did was above board and legal, WHY DID MAGISTRATE KAMANDA DENY TO THE HONOURABLE MINISTER THAT HE NEVER SENT ME TO JAIL AND HE DID NOT KNOW MY WHEREABOUTS?? He denied because he knew he was very well guilty of a very serious offence of illegal detention of my person!


MAGISTRATE KOMBA KAMANDA RELEASES ME FROM JAIL


Although Magistrate Kamanda had boasted in Open Court that he would keep me in jail until September, the next day, because of this intervention of Hon. I.B. Kargbo into my unlawful detention, I was removed from jail in the same clothes I wore, still with no food or medicine given to me and extremely weak and sick. I was taken to the Court and now Magistrate Kamanda told the police officers to keep me in further detention sitting on a bench until around 3pm when he decided to let me go but not without making more and more mocking comments about me thinking because I am a journalist, I will make him fear me but he does not fear me. He said the people who fear journalists are only the politicians but he had no fear of journalists. He then said he was now going to forward my entire matter to the Eastern Province Resident Judge, Hon. Nyawo Matturi-Jones and it was her who would now cut the case between me and Mrs. Joan Satta Benya whenever she came back from holidays.


HON. I.B. KARGBO VISITS ME IN HOSPITAL & EXTENDS GREETINGS FROM H.E.


When he set me free, I tried to go and attend the funeral of my landlord who was being buried on that day but I was too weak and so I collapsed and was rushed to hospital where the doctors said I was suffering from very high fever, severe shock and heart palpitations. The doctors were so concerned over my welfare that they thought I would die because my heart was beating so abnormal. At the hospital, the Minister of Information Hon. I.B. Kargbo went to visit me with the SLBS Kenema Station Manager and other colleague journalists and Hon. Kargbo listened to all what had happened to me from my hospital bed where I was lying so weak and hopeless from the jailyard I was removed from. The Minister was very emotional for me and at one point, he even removed his spectacles and wiped tears from his eyes and he also extended the best wishes from the President to me, gave me Le200,000 cash and asked me to please put the disgrace behind me and take heart. He said he would work to make amends for me and even offered to have me transferred from Kenema to Freetowns Specialist Choithrams Hospital. I was in hospital for several days and then I was transferred to Freetown for further treatment of my condition as the Kenema doctors said they heard some funny sounds in my heart.


MY ENCOUNTER WITH HON. JUSTICE S.A. ADEMOSU


In Freetown, when my health improved, after some weeks, my relatives took me to one Judge known as Justice Ademosu at Roxy Building and I explained to him everything. He was shocked and angry and told me to get all the documents concerning the matter and make a written case to the Judiciary about what happened to me. Since all the documents were in Kenema, I left Freetown again and went back to Kenema to get the documents starting from the Local Courts to the Motions and others.


BAILIFFS & POLICEMEN ATTACK MY RESIDENCE IN KENEMA AT 6a.m.


Few days after my arrival in Kenema on October 6th 2009, early in the morning even before 6a.m, two police officers, Bernard L. Ndomawa 10889 and Kallon 5706 alongside one man who identified himself as a Bailiff and said he was named Mr. Kawusu, barged into my house and started to take away my belongings. When I tried to stop them, they beat me up in my bedroom, physically assaulted my aged mother also and said to my neighbours that they were there on the orders of Magistrate Kamanda and if any of my neighbours dared to stop them, they would have them arrested and charged to court for blocking a Magistrates Orders. They openly stated to the hearing of all my neighbours that I had taken the Magistrates complaint to Justice Ademosu but nothing will come out of the complaint but they will teach me more lessons that Journalists were not more powerful than Magistrates. They said this openly and I was quite shocked as to who told them this information to the extent of them even mentioning Justice Ademosus name. I was wailing and crying and my neighbours all came and asked these intruders for their documents to justify what they were doing to me and they said they had no documents but orders from Magistrate Kamanda through their Bailiff Bosses in Freetown. To his credit, one of the police officers, Kallon 5706, after I complained over the treatment, stopped and asked me if I never received any Notice from the Courts that I was to pay the sum of Le2,500,000 (Two Million, Five Hundred Thousand Leones) to one Mrs. Joan Satta Benya and I said I knew nothing of that and infact, I was the complainant but I had been sick in and out of Kenema and had not received any Notice from the Courts since I was sent to jail and had been told my matter will now only be handled by Justice Matturi-Jones upon her return to Kenema so I do not even know what they were talking about. At this point, Policeman Kallon 5706 stepped away from my house and refused to participate anymore in the exercise. He openly warned his colleagues to reconsider the move but the other two persons, the Bailiff Kawusu and Bernard L. Ndomawa 10889 both said openly as long as they had verbal instructions from Magistrate Kamanda, they would clear away my properties. So, that early morning hour, they looted my house of the following items:

       My Handbag containing $3,000 (Three Thousand Dollars) and 1.6Million Leones

       My Laptop Computer

       My Professional Video Camera

       My Sierra Leone Passport

       My Dining Chairs

       My Sitting Room African Chairs

       Two Standing Fans

They used a locally built push-cart (Omolanke) to place my furniture and then they pushed them away in the direction of the town. After this, I was traumatised, my mother was traumatised, my niece was traumatised; All my neighbours were all traumatised by the attack. Everyone was asking how could Magistrate Kamanda send to fifae my properties without ever sending me any Notice and without even the Bailiff coming with a single scrap of paper that would explain what he was doing if it was legitimate. Uptil today, no-one can understand how come my house was attacked and looted. No one served me any document to explain why they were looting. All they said was that I had to pay Mrs. Joan Satta Benya. For what? They did not say.

I GO BACK TO THE LAW COURTS TO DEMAND TO SEE THE HON. CHIEF JUSTICE

 

I went to the Police Station and made a comprehensive report on the matter and then I travelled down to Freetown again with all my documents. My uncle from the United States, Solomon Vandy who was fortunately visiting the country once again, went with me to the Law Courts to make a formal complaint. This time, we were both very determined to see the Chief Justice and my Uncle angrily said he would not leave the Building until he spoke to the Chief Justice but the Lawyer who was with me, took us instead to see one Justice Tolla Thompson even though I kept on saying I wanted to see the Chief Justice as she was a woman like me and she was presiding over all Magistrates but I was assured that I should explain to Justice Tolla Thompson.


MY ENCOUNTER WITH HON. JUSTICE M.E. TOLLA THOMPSON

So, we went and I explained everything from start to finish to Justice Tolla Thompson and he asked me questions in a very shocked and angry tone of voice against what Magistrate Komba Kamanda had done. After I answered all his questions, he told me to write an Official Letter addressed to the Chief Justice Umu Hawa Tejan Jalloh and he would ensure that the Chief Justice takes action on the matter and get back to me. So, I went back to town, typed a three paged Letter to the Chief Justice, enveloped it and took it along with my Uncle to Justice Tolla Thompson. To our shock, he tore open the envelope, read the letter addressed to the Chief Justice and then took out a coloured pen and started to underline sections of the Letter and also to mark some notes by the side of the Letter. I was confused because I now suspected that if he was going to mark down on a Letter meant for the Chief Justice but which the Chief Justice had not yet seen, it meant that he had no intention of giving the Letter to the Chief Justice because how will one mark coloured ink all over a Letter meant for your Boss even before your Boss saw it? I asked him why he was writing on the Letter meant for the Chief Justice and he just waved his hand dismissively. Justice Tolla Thompson then phoned up Magistrate Kamanda in the presence of me and my Uncle and told him that there was a serious complaint against him by one Mrs. Manjia Balema-Samba and he would need to respond to the complaint. Then Justice Tolla Thompson called in one man he introduced to us as a Senior Bailiff and he requested the Bailiff to give him the phone number of any Kawusu Bailiff who had recently operated in Kenema. The Bailiff left to go and get the phone numbers but did not come back when we were there.


TREATMENT OF MY ISSUE BY JUSTICE TOLLA THOMPSON


When we left Justice Tolla Thompsons Office on that day of October 13th 2009, I expressed concern to my uncle about whether the Chief Justice will ever set eyes on that Letter. I also pointed out that the tone of the telephone conversation between Justice Tolla Thompson and Magistrate Kamanda was one of brothers than a senior boss talking to a far more junior officer. However, I returned back to Kenema and waited patiently for a phone call or letter acknowledging my concerns but nothing came so I went back to Freetown after few days and I asked Justice Tolla Thompson for the status of my complaint but he said the Chief Justice was not yet ready to act on the matter so I should go back and they will get in touch with me. Indeed, I waited again and I came back to Freetown from Kenema a third time towards the end of October but it was the same excuse that the Chief Justice was not yet ready to act on my bitter complaints. It was now two weeks since I dropped off the Letter and when I got angry in his office and threatened to publicise the manner in which the Chief Justice was treating my issue as a woman herself, Justice Tolla Thompson proposed to me that he would take it upon himself to strike a compromise between myself and Magistrate Komba Kamanda so I would get my properties back again that was taken from my house until whenever the Chief Justice decided to take action on my Letter.


At this point, I told him I was seeking justice and an investigation of Magistrate Komba Kamanda so such happenings and abuse of the Judicial powers will not happen to another woman ever again. I said I want an investigation and not a compromise and then I demanded for him to make me see the Chief Justice but he refused saying the Chief Justice is not easy to see just like that.


WHERE I NOW STAND IN FRUSTRATION SEEKING FOR ELUSIVE JUSTICE


In frustration, I furiously walked out of his office and decided that the matter was now too much for me to handle all on my own but needed to get solidarity support especially from my colleague journalists. In the first place, I was suffering because of Magistrate Kamandas disdain for local journalists which he did not hide. So, I have decided to bring the matter to you to see how best you can help me to get justice.


I have been advised that Section 120(5) of the Sierra Leone Constitution gives the power to commit for Contempt only to the Superior Court of the Judicature and not to Magistrates so I have been advised that it was illegal for me to have been summarily sent to jail by Magistrate Kamanda under the guise of finding me guilty of Contempt of Court. It was an abuse of my human rights and a contravention of Section 17(1) of the Sierra Leone Constitution for which remedies should be applied including that remedy listed in Section 17(4) of the Sierra Leone Constitution.


PERSONS IN JUDICIARY ACTIVELY ENGAGING IN A COVER-UP OF ILLEGALITY


Right now, I am being reliably informed and I verily believe that Magistrate Kamanda is preparing papers to make it appear as if he did not send me to jail for Contempt but only to keep me in jail for a few hours but that he wanted Justice Matturi Jones to have presided over the Contempt allegation. If this information is true, then it means Magistrate Kamanda is a dangerous man who will stop at nothing to protect himself from trouble and is thus not fit to sit on the Bench. The truth is that in Open Court, Magistrate Kamanda told everyone that he had found me Guilty of Contempt of Court and he was going to sentence me to jail if I did not apologise to him for my Contempt of Court and that I would be in the jail and be coming to court from the jail for my complaint against Mrs. Joan Satta Benya. He conducted a trial for Contempt of Court during which he spent two hours playing the FM98.1 Recording, Found Me Guilty of Contempt and Sentenced me for Contempt indefinitely saying he would only release me when it pleased him. If he prepares any other document saying anything else, he is a dangerous schemer and not fit to be on the Bench presiding over matters.


I am also reliably informed from sources within the Judiciary that ever since this matter of my illegal detention and the shabby manner in which I was treated by Justice Tolla-Thompson came to light, frantic efforts are being made by certain persons to provide a cover for both the manner in which Justice Tolla Thompson treated my Letter to the Chief Justice as well as provide a cover or protection for Magistrate Komba Kamanda. I am told and I verily believe that in the entire Judiciary, there is no record of such a Letter addressed to the Chief Justice from Manjia Balema-Samba. However, the facts cannot be hidden and what is a fact is that I hand delivered a Letter with a serious complaint against one of her Magistrates for the attention of her as Chief Justice but six weeks after I delivered such a serious complaint, she has not yet taken any action on my complaint, which means she did not receive the Letter OR, if she got it, then she is either treating me with disdain or like Magistrate Komba Kamanda, she is treating me with contempt because I am a journalist.


JOURNALISTS & THE JUDICIARY: WHY SHOULD I SUFFER?


In the case of Justice Tolla Thompson, he spent a long time in his Office cajoling me to strike a secret compromise with Magistrate Komba Kamanda. During this time, he told me he had been treated very badly by journalists in the past. He named two specific journalists in the person of Paul Kamara of For Di People and Olu Gordon of Peep Magazine. I am therefore left with the feeling that, like Magistrate Komba Kamanda, Justice Tolla Thompson has some grudge against journalists. But why should I suffer because some people in the Judiciary have grudges against journalists? Is practising journalism now a crime in this country?


A POWERFUL CHIEF vs. A FEMALE JOURNALIST SEEKING JUSTICE IN SIERRA LEONE


This whole problem started with me being provoked in my job on duty as a journalist and it has continued with me suffering every step of the way simply because I am a journalist standing up to powerful people who provoked me to commit a breach of the peace. I know my former partner Paramount Chief Mohamed Dhaffie Benya is a man being actively wooed by the ruling Government so many people are doing things to please him even though his wife is the one who offended me. However, it is particularly disheartening to me as a woman journalist because the provocation over the air was gender-based. On all these occasions, I am being provoked to commit a breach of the peace but I have been a law-abiding journalist and now I am calling on you to help me as a journalist to fight this battle because now everywhere I go, it appears that people are reluctant to give me justice for fear of what I do not quite understand. Paramount Chief Benya, is the Honourable PC representing the whole of Kenema District and he is also very close to Resident Minister Eastern Province, William Juana Smith. His wife, Joan Satta Benya has offended me as I went about my job as a journalist and now that I am seeking redress, someone or some people are frustrating my efforts.


PLEASE, PLEASE HELP ME TO GET JUSTICE & MY PROPERTIES BACK ALSO


I therefore turn to you now for assistance in this matter. It is with deep pain in my heart that I am writing this appeal to you as a last resort for me to get justice. I am frustrated with the Justice System in the country but I know that I can count on you to help me get an answer as to why my complaint for right to be rendered has now turned to this monstrous problem around my neck. Is this justice? No.

As I said earlier in this letter, I am completely at my wits end in this matter and I am now tired of being sent from pillar to post as I seek justice all on my own with no solidarity from my compatriots even though the problems I am facing came about because of my profession as a radio journalist in service to my country. As your long suffering compatriot, I can only now rely on your assistance and intervention into this matter to ensure that justice prevails for me. What one person cannot do all on her own, her compatriots together can achieve success for her.


Also, this issue, though it might look like just a small Manjia Balema-Samba issue is really a microcosm of serious problems that have been plaguing this countrys justice sector. It is my hope that you can help me use your voice to bring attention of the world to some of these grave injustices that happen all over Sierra Leone everyday and which needs to be addressed to avoid the country developing bitterness once again. We know that injustice contributed to the civil uprising and senseless war as the Truth & Reconciliation Commission report tells us this fact to be true.


Whilst looking up with eager anticipation to your positive response,


I remain,

Yours truly,

Mrs. Manjia Balema-Samba


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

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