From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Politics
Dr. Abdulai Conteh Joins the Call for Inquest
By
Sep 30, 2011, 17:22

The gentleman who was the Vice President of Sierra Leone at the time of the NPRC April 1992 military coup plot which overthrew the former APC regime, has added his voice to those calling for the Ernest Koroma administration to “immediately institute an investigation into the extra-judicial and unconstitutional killings of 29 Sierra Leonean citizens by the NPRC military junta between 28th and 29th December 1992”.

 

Hon. Dr. Abdulai O. Conteh, the former Vice President, former Attorney-General and national stakeholder, granted a lengthy informal interview to this press yesterday September 29th 2011, on an extensive array of topics covering a span of over thirty years. One of them which we are handling today is his breaking of his silence on how he managed to leave Sierra Leone untouched whilst the NPRC soldiers struck and rounded up most of the other APC officials.

 

According to Dr. Conteh, he was quite unwary of a coup having been in action that morning when he was waved to a halt by a group of soldiers at Wilberforce as he was being driven to work. They urged him to find safety as it appeared there was some disturbance in town.

 

“I drove back down Spur Road to President Momoh’s house. I met him inside his bedroom and we discussed the unfolding events following which I advised that we dictate a Statement to SLBS staff for national broadcast. My dictated words were then read out over National Radio as the approved words of His Excellency President Momoh” Dr. Conteh explained.

 

In President Momoh’s statement dictated to SLBS, Dr. Abdulai Conteh said he used the word “malcontents” and also possibly the phrase “disgruntled elements” which terms were to enrage NPRC soldiers when they later learnt from SLBS that it was Conteh who dictated the words as read out over the air.

 

“Everyone thought I left at the same time as President Momoh and S.I.M. Turay but I was right inside Sierra Leone for weeks after the coup; safely in hiding. I was actually still inside the country when Strasser got married to his wife some weeks after the coup. I had wanted to give myself up but fortunately, I was being guarded by loyal soldiers who were to give me the advice which saved my life,” Abdulai Conteh informed.

According to him, these loyal soldiers would go and mingle with NPRC soldiers, collect information and report back to him in his secret abode.

 

These loyal soldiers whom he likened to SIM Turay were the ones who advised him that the NPRC soldiers were very angry with Conteh specifically over the contents of the SLBS broadcast and they warned him that if he turned himself in to NPRC, his wellbeing would not have been be guaranteed.

 

“So I continued to stay in hiding at a certain residence for several weeks until I was smuggled out,” Conteh said. He however derided NPRC security network when he explained how he was driven “right through Wilberforce Barracks under their noses” whilst on his way to be smuggled out on a boat.

 

Conteh lamented the brutality of the junta which he said ‘junta boys’ masked with “massive propaganda against the APC party and APC officials so as to divert the attention of the public away from the NPRC’s criminal human rights abuses”.

 

“If those NPRC junta boys had captured me, nothing would have spared my life at the time they executed Bambay Kamara. The country would have been speaking of thirty executed in December 1992 rather than twenty-nine as I would have been 30th victim of that fateful December day,” Dr. Conteh opined.

 

“That could have been my son where the others’ sons stand today. I look on Julius Bambay Kamara as he struggles to clear his father’s name and I know it could have been my own son standing there,” Dr. Conteh states with some emotion.

 

Dr. Conteh said he wished he had been invited to the press briefing called up by the families this Monday so he could stand with the families and join them to make the call for the inquest but he revealed two days ago, he had a chat with Victor Jarrett, son of one of the executed victims.

 

“I insist this country needs the inquest as a catharsis... for closure. It is the only option to heal this Nation. We must have the whole truth. The families must be given the answers they seek... The country deserves to record its history correctly,” Dr. Conteh said.

 

The erudite lawyer lambasted those against the setting up of the inquest as not having the country at heart. He revealed of how, at the time he was Chief Justice of Belize, he was quietly intimated in certain diplomatic circles of steps by “certain diplomats” to mislead the United Nations that setting up an inquest will create instability.

 

According to Dr. Abdulai Conteh, that position was mischievous as it ran contrary to what the country really needed. He opines that if the inquest into the deaths was not set up and former NPRC soldiers are allowed to carry on in this country as if NPRC was not a serious human rights abuse regime which buried people in mass grave after brutally torturing them and pouring raw acid on them, then a lot of bitter and bad blood will run as undercurrents in the country which will be more detrimental to the national stability than anything else.

 

He said citizens have to insist that the Koroma administration abides by the laws of Sierra Leone which “clearly dictates that if relatives wish to know the circumstances behind unexplained deaths of their loved ones and they request for an inquest, a responsible government will have no option but to set up such an inquest,” he said.

 

The country’s former Vice President also profusely commended Awareness Times especially our publisher whom he described as “making all patriotic Sierra Leoneans so proud of her”. The former Vice President urged Sylvia Blyden not to be bothered with what her detractors wrote or said about her because “for so many of us out in the Diaspora, Sylvia Blyden is our heroine; we are so proud of her”. He also commended Dr. Seaga Shaw, the elder brother of this newspaper’s editor and urged Abu Shaw to follow in the brave footsteps of Seaga Shaw currently living in United Kingdom.

 

Dr. Abdulai O. Conteh was the Attorney-General & Justice Minister responsible for legal aspects of Sierra Leone’s transformation from a One-Party State to a Multi-Party Democracy, twenty years ago on October 1st 1991 when the current constitution came into force. It was upon his recommendation that Dr. Peter Tucker and others were appointed by President Momoh to the Constitutional Review Committee which produced that constitution, under his supervision, which we still use to this day. Hon. Abdulai Conteh fled Sierra Leone in the wake of the NPRC coup. A brilliant lawyer with international recognition, he was to be appointed Hon. Chief Justice of Belize by the Commonwealth; a position he held for ten years. He is currently contracted by the Government of Bahamas serving in their superior courts of judicature. Dr. Conteh is also on judicial contract to the Government of Cayman Islands.

 

Dr. Abdulai Conteh is presently on a one week visit to Sierra Leone to attend the wedding of his daughter and he used the occasion of his short visit home to walk into the Awareness Times offices unannounced - but to a warm welcome.

 

We will bring you more details of our almost three hours exclusive chat with Dr. Abdulai Conteh as the days go by. They will be extensively revealing.



© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.