From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Ex-Combatants Should Not Misuse Second Chances!!
By Sylvia Olayinka Blyden
Feb 9, 2010, 17:18

This writer, like H.E. President Koroma, sees nothing wrong in giving second chances to former combatants from civil war years. Ex-combatants, if left to their own devices, could get up to nation-wrecking mischief or become pliant tools at hands of malcontents in society but if they are gainfully engaged & properly counseled, their skills at deploying violence would be channelled not into negativity but transformed into productive national service.

This is why we had done a front page appeal on behalf of Leatherboot some two years ago (See Below) asking for him to be given a second chance in life. It was in light of that appeal we published for him that we were all so sorely disappointed at Leatherboots’ totally unforgivable acts last March 2009 at the SLPP Headquarters.

Ex-combatants, who are given a second chance in life but who misuse such chances, should not be treated with kid gloves. They should be harshly dealt with.

The continuous reports of violence and lawlessness being perpetuated by members of the Presidential Guards is getting to be too much now.

It is time for Mr. President to publicly line up his Guards & publicly warn them against lawlessness & violence; just like he warned his ‘corrupt’ ministers recently. #END

Leather Boot Appeals to Sierra Leoneans

By Awareness Times Newspaper
First Published Friday Jan 18, 2008.

Idrissa Kamara, the former soldier and ex-combatant who has been amongst those personally responsible for the security of President Ernest Bai Koroma whilst Koroma was the Opposition Leader, has appealed to members of the public to give him a chance and not to fear him. Kamara, who is commonly known as Leatherboot spoke to Awareness Times in an exclusive interview yesterday January 17th 2008 shortly before he flew out of Sierra Leone for two months close protection training in Morroco.

It will be recalled that in the last week since news broke that Leatherboot had been absorbed into the armed wing of the Sierra Leone Police, there have been ceaseless condemnation of the move to bring him into the Police Force. Several newspapers expressing the sentiments of members of the public, have described Leatherboot and his colleague ex-combatants in terms that varied from “hired thugs” to “common criminals” to “army deserters” to “ruthless killers”.

President Ernest Koroma, the National Security Chief Kelli Conteh and the Police Boss Acha Kamara have all been mercilessly condemned for the act of bringing Leatherboot into the armed wing of the police.

However, for Leatherboot, there is no reason for the public to be concerned for their safety because he was now an armed policeman. He decries “negative press” from newspapers which he says never make any attempt to even speak to him but “just manufactured lies and published them against me”.

“I am appealing to my brothers in the newspapers to research more about me before they write against me. Let them speak to my former bosses like Captain Glover. Please, let us not destroy ourselves with lies. We are all young men, young Sierra Leoneans who should work together to build Sierra Leone and put the past behind us,” Idrissa Kamara pled his case to journalists.

Leatherboot has been involved or alleged to be involved in coup plots and has been placed under detention more than once by the erstwhile Kabbah Government only for him to always be released after not being found wanting. He fled the city to the jungle in 1998 and was a delegate to the Lome Peace Talks following which he eventually served as the Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Security under the Kabbah National Unity Government formed in 1999 post Lome Peace Accord. As fate would have it, he was re-arrested from his residence in May 2000 following that month’s dramatic incident that saw protesters killed at the Rebel Leader’s residence. Alongside his rebel colleagues, he was kept in detention for 6 years on Bonthe Island & at Pademba Rd Prison.

“I have a wife, 3 children, a mother, sisters, brothers and friends who are all members of the public. I am assuring ordinary Sierra Leoneans that I am not a ruthless killer contrary to the bad image of me they have got,” Leatherboot stated adding that when he was “completely acquitted and discharged after 6 years imprisonment” he went to pay courtesy calls on former President Kabbah, former V.P Solomon Berewa and the then Opposition Leader Ernest Bai Koroma.

“I explained to both President Kabbah and VP Berewa that although I had been punished for six long years despite my innocence, I had no bad blood towards their regime and I accepted it as the will of God but I asked them to help me rehabilitate my life especially as I had once served as Deputy Minister in the Kabbah Government,” Idrissa Leatherboot Kamara informed.

According to Leatherboot, Kabbah listened to him but all he gave him was “advise” and saw him off whilst Berewa did the same thing. However, he recounted that Ernest Koroma on listening to him, showed “genuine concern” for his desired rehabilitation.

“President Ernest Koroma listened to how I suffered in jail for six long years and he showed genuine concern for my desire to be rehabilitated alongside my colleagues and brought back to be productive members of the society,” Leatherboot informed.

Interestingly, Leatherboot recounted an article by Awareness Times published in the year 2006 in which this newspaper had called upon the erstwhile Government to see to the rehabilitation and reintegration of those ex-combatants who had then been recently released from jail.

“It was only Ernest Koroma who heeded that advise in your newspaper and worked with us ex-combatants from 2006 to have us rehabilitated and reintegrated into the society,” Leatherboot explained as he poured accolades on Koroma.

Further details of our interview with Leatherboot was published in the next edition and is also reproduced in today’s edition on this page. It includes his current relationship with Tom Nyuma, his time at the war front and most of all, what everyone wishes to know:- his current rank in the Sierra Leone Police Force.

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

Leather Boot is a Police Constable in Sierra Leone

By Awareness Times Newspaper

First Published Monday Jan 21, 2008

Popular Radio Broadcaster, Madam Hannah Fullah last Saturday during a Panel discussion aired by the UN Radio expressed what is perhaps of concern to many citizens, when she stated that it seemed improper for the ad-hoc bodyguard to the President, retired soldier Idrissa Leatherboot Kamara to be incorporated into the police and ranked above others who had served longer in the police adding the President should have sought the views of the public.

Fullah’s statement immediately sparked controversial debates in the city with ruling party stalwarts saying it was no-one’s business but the President’s who protected him whilst members of the opposition opined that on the contrary, by the President handpicking who goes into his Presidential Guard Police Unit, it was a sign that he had no confidence in serving police officers.

Part of the controversy was the lack of information about what was Leatherboot’s rank with some people even postulating that he had been made an Assistant Inspector General.

However, shortly before he flew out of Sierra Leone for special close protection training in Morroco last week, Leatherboot had spoken in an exclusive to Awareness Times during which he revealed that his current rank in the Sierra Leone Police was a "police constable" which rank was the lowest police rank.

"I am a police constable. It’s based on the results of my training in Morocco and my past military service, I will be assigned any other rank by competent authorities," Leatherboot stated.

Leatherboot also informed he was one of the first 16 soldiers sent to the warfront on March 24th 1991 following the outbreak of the civil war the day before on March 23rd 1991 adding that only five of the sixteen were still alive.

Asked about his relationship with retired Lt. Col Tom Nyuma whom he had the fracas and assassination incident with, he responded that concerned members of the public had worked to resolve some of their issues with each other. The ruling party newspaper has published a photo of Leatherboot & Nyuma shaking hands and smiling as APC Sec-General Victor Foh looked on.

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

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.