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COMMENTS & OPINIONS  

A Dangerous Inability to Recognise Hate Speech
By Sylvia Blyden (a Journalist for Truth)
Jun 6, 2012, 17:20
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In October 2011, Sorie Fofana, the publisher of the pro-opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) newspaper, GLOBAL TIMES, published dangerous and highly seditious comments. His publication clearly aimed at tribal incitement. The then SLPP Chairman for Koinadugu District, Alhaji Batorma Sheriff had just resigned from SLPP to join ruling All Peoples Congress (APC). Fofana, in a reaction to the resignation, published that Batorma Sheriff has betrayed the Mandingos by joining the APC. He furthered that It is sad that Batorman Sheriff has not learnt any lesson from the way APC treated Dr. S.B. Saccoh, his Mandingo brother.


The tribalistic publication of Fofana spoke of how Limbas of Biriwa deprived him of victory referencing an old 1995 elections loss of Batorman Sheriff and with a clear penchant for over-delving in tribal rantings as against policy issues in politics, Sorie published of how Sheriff had supported John Karefa-Smarts UNPP against his Mandingo brother, Ahmad Tejan Kabbahs SLPP.


The tribalistic and inciting publication was subsequently photocopied on A-4 sized sheets of paper and sent up to Koinadugu where Mandingos live peacefully with Limbas and the APC. The distribution of such dangerous tribal leaflets was then undertaken by opposition SLPP Executive members in the District in persons of SLPP District Secretary Alhaji Lamin Sesay and SLPP Organising Secretary Mr. Barba Sesay. SLPPs dangerous tribal antics had to be stemmed by a proactive Police Boss in Koinadugu.

 

In most post-war countries, such unwarranted, tribalistic incitement would have the publisher carpeted whilst the errant opposition SLPP politicians caught distributing the tribal incitement leaflets in Koinadugu would have also been sanctioned alongside their party.


Interestingly, that publication and other such similar publications did not catch the attention of persons like Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai of the Society for Democratic Initiatives and one Lansana Gberie currently engaged in subterranean efforts to promote the SLPP within corridors of global institutions and international policy Think Tanks. The writings also did not seem to concern the Independent Media Commission and its related bodies (Sierra Leone Association of Journalists & Editors Guild) or the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) which latter body regulates the conduct of political parties in Sierra Leone.


The use of such negative tribalism thus continued unabated. They reached frightening levels this year. It was only the speedy intervention of a group of local journalists (Journalists for Truth) over the national broadcaster which had helped stem frightening levels of tribal incitement of one of the countrys largest tribal groupings, the Temnes against smaller Northern based tribes like the Lokos and Limbas.


Again in this scenario, the GLOBAL TIMES publisher Sorie Fofana was the primary culprit who ceaselessly published a string of inciting publications aimed at raising tribal resentment within Temnes to get them to rise up politically against other Northern based tribes like the Lokos and Limbas.

 

Most frighteningly, SLPP Politicians also jumped on board and fuelled the tribal incitements with no less a person than Deputy SLPP Leader, Chief Somano Kapen giving out interviews in which he incited for members of Temne tribe to look askance upon the ruling APC which he claimed was promoting Limbas and Lokos over Temnes.


Once again, both PPRC and IMC as well as other so-called democracy activists like Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai all stayed silent and did not rise to the occasion of condemning such dangerous incitement of Temnes against Lokos and Limbas.

 

SLPP, GLOBAL TIMES and other media allies, even created a mischief laden list of so-called tribes of Cabinet Ministers showing the Temnes lacked proper representation. The pro-SLPP media also published made-up stories of Temnes being punished or sanctioned simply because they were Temnes and for no other reason.

 

It is against laws of the land for politicians and journalists to engage in such overt incitement based along tribal lines. However, GLOBAL TIMES, the SLPP itself and other pro-SLPP media houses all engaged freely on this pathway with no resistance from the Law Enforcers and no condemnation from Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai and Lans Gberie.

 

Finally, when a group of concerned and patriotic local journalists realised the IMC and PPRC were not doing their jobs and the Civil Society was nonchalant about this tribal incitement of Temnes against Lokos and Limbas, they went over the airwaves and used their newspapers to effectively curtail the nonsense with factual narratives.

 

These journalists ranged from the countrys oldest practising newspaper editor Samuel B. Conteh of THE NEW CITIZEN to the countrys currently youngest newspaper editor, Dauda Musa Bangura of THE OWL.

 

It was only then that the Independent Media Commission (IMC) was to make half-hearted attempts to chastise the errant GLOBAL TIMES behind closed doors but did not go far enough with the issuance of a Statement of Condemnation and is yet to similarly chastise the SLPPs registered newspaper which as recently as last Friday June 1st 2012, repeated their tribal incitement of the Temnes.


As for the PPRC, it has stayed silent all this while.

 

Neither Lans Gberie nor Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai said anything against such tribal incitement because clearly such incitement serves certain purposes.


It is thus a matter of serious concern for observers to now note Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai and Lans Gberie alongside other members of the opposition SLPP, making comments against the truly patriotic journalists who have been working overtime to stem the nefarious and insensitive actions of the lunatic left actions of those who believe in whipping up tribal sentiments to gain political mileage.

 

Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Report of Sierra Leone makes a call on Sierra Leoneans to regularly discuss and highlight contents of the TRC Report as often as possible. This call is made throughout the entire report and especially more so on Paragraph 97 (on Page 22) of Vol.2 where it is stated:


Building a lasting peace in Sierra Leone can only begin with a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the countrys past. The past holds many lessons that will aid in forging a politically and economically healthy Sierra Leone. Knowledge and understanding are the most powerful deterrents to the recurrence of conflict as Sierra Leone strives to give meaning to the sentiments of Never Again.


Blood Diamonds did not cause or fuel the war in Sierra Leone. Rather, amongst main factors that led to the War are ethnic resentment and perceived regional suppression based on political beliefs. In the process of highlighting the dangers of such ethnic baiting, it was revealed in the TRC Report of how the terrible invasion of the capital city which left thousands dead in January 1999 might not have happened had the then SLPP Government with a South-Eastern support base, not deliberately undertaken a policy to refuse to well arm the Northern and Western areas of the country. That was clearly one incident of ethno-regional influences negatively affecting the war.


It is thus a laudable act of patriotism and within the full spirit of the TRC Act of Parliament for such sections of the TRC Report to be brought out for discussions in the wake of the dangerous tribal incitement that has taken over the policies of the opposition SLPP and their media Goebbels like Sorie Fofana of GLOBAL TIMES.

 

This is why it is a cause for concern to suddenly see the likes of Lans Gberie and Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai who have kept silent in the face of dangerous tribal card deployment from the opposition SLPP all this while, to suddenly start making noises in international spheres about my patriotic work to now be dangerous or Hate Speech.


I now submit that all of us Sierra Leoneans of patriotic fibre should very closely watch the actions, utterance and moves of Lans Gberie and Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai. With no intention to offend, I note that they both come from the South-East where it is now well documented that in 1991, resentment for the APC led to youths from that SLPP hotbed area willingly taking up arms under the guise of fighting APC.

 

Honest South-Easterners will acknowledge this TRC revealed fact and work together with us all to ensure it never happens again and the youths of the South and East are never so abused again. Rather, we have Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai and Lans Gberie issuing comments about Hate Speech and Dangerous Ignorance. So, my questions will be:


Is the TRC Report a dangerously ignorant document?

Is the TRC Report an act of Hate Speech?

Is the silence of IMC, PPRC and alleged Civil Society organizations in the midst of the dangerous antics of the SLPP and their Media Goebbels, acts of dangerous ignorance or of hateful silence?


Food for thought. I rest my pen.


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

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