From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

What about Civilians in Sierra Leone's NPRC Military Junta? - A Look at Opposition Browbeating to Silence Bio’s Critics
By Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, OOR
Aug 24, 2012, 17:28

SLPP’s Browbeating to Silence Bio’s Critics includes a retort of; “What about the Civilians in NPRC?” - Dr. Sylvia Blyden takes a look at some of these NPRC Civilians including those who are mostly cited for being a part of the current regime or internationally recognised.

On Friday, 15 June 2012, a Gambian lady, Fatou Bensouda was sworn into office as Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague for a nine-year term making her a most powerful lady in international justice circles and highly acclaimed. Who is Fatou Bensouda and what relevance does she have to this article concerning Sierra Leone extra-judicial killings and role of civilians who serve a military junta?

I met Fatou Bensouda whilst I worked directly with President Yahya Jammeh as his Website & Internet Consultant cum Media Advisor for his 2001 re-election bid which he won by a landslide. Fatou was working as a Bank General Manager having been relieved of her duties as Gambia’s Attorney-General & Minister of Justice. Earlier, she had served Yahya Jammeh’s AFPRC military junta in several positions including as Director of Public Prosecutions and Lead Counsel for Jammeh’s Presidential Commission of Inquiry, then later she was Jammeh’s Solicitor-General and Legal Secretary before her stint as Jammeh’s Attorney-General & Justice Minister (1998 – 2000).

As he swore Fatou in, ICC President San-Hyun Song stated, “I am confident that her strong independent voice, legal expertise and genuine concern for human rights issues will contribute greatly to the continued fight against impunity”.

Fatou Bom-Bensouda taking Oath at The Hague

Now, I need not go into reputation of President Jammeh’s military junta and his subsequent civilian regime. That is well documented. What is of importance here is that being a civilian who served in a military junta is not a stumbling block to be recognised & hailed in international world.

Sierra Leone’s opposition SLPP has perfected the art of browbeating critics (i.e: Open-Call) of their choice of former NPRC junta ‘collective killer’ Maada Bio with a retort of: “What about the Civilians in NPRC?”. Today’s piece seeks to take a look at some of these civilians.

Let’s start with John Benjamin. In his testimony to TRC, he stated: “We must first and foremost note that the regime I served was a military regime, and matters such as coup and executions were not the domain of administrators or civilians like myself. I therefore had no input whatsoever into such matters”. Whilst Benjamin is today joining to ‘Open-Call’ SLPP critics by saying an Inquest is not necessary, the fact is that just less than ten years ago, he had publicly called for the TRC to, in his words, “throw light on the whole issue so that the true story is brought to the knowledge of us all, including my humble self”. Sadly, the TRC Report did not "throw light on the whole issue" but skirted around "the true story" so John Benjamin and us all, including the relatives, still remain without much needed knowledge of what happened and why it happened.

In March 1993, Dr. Christiana Thorpe, a former Nun and former School Principal of the St. Joseph’s Secondary School in Makeni started work at Ministry of Education as a Consultant. In November 1993, she was appointed by Captain Valentine Strasser to be Deputy Minister of Education. In August 1994, she was promoted to Minister of Education replacing Bassie Bangura. This means Dr. Christiana Thorpe had absolutely no connections with the NPRC on 29th December 1992 when Julius Maada Bio and his colleagues brutally slaughtered over 29 persons including a pregnant woman. Therefore, when we seek answers from NPRC actors concerning those killings, we have no right to include the name of Dr. Christiana Thorpe unless we are trying to be mischievous and/or malicious. I therefore want to urge the affected family not to name Christiana Thorpe as having been a part of those extra-judicial killings of December 1992. She was not.

In the same way, both Dr. Sam Sesay (current Agriculture Minister) and Dr. Samura Kamara (current Finance Minister) were only appointed to be NPRC Ministers in late January 1996 after Maada Bio overthrew Valentine Strasser. They served as NPRC ministers for a period of only ten odd weeks. Naturally, they both also had absolutely nothing to do with the extra-judicial killings of December 29th 1992. There are however fraternal ties between Maada Bio & Samura Kamara and to a lesser extent, between Maada Bio & Sam Sesay.

The late Hindolo Trye was the NPRC Minister of Information at the time of the illegal killings. In the repressive atmosphere of press censorship and military brutality back then, Trye had succeeded to suppress truthful media coverage of the illegal killings. Trye suffered from a sudden Heart Attack on the day (Wednesday July 25th 2012) relatives of those killed persons, stormed the Freetown cotton tree dressed in black whilst crying and chanting mourning songs for justice. By the next morning, Trye was no more. The shock killed him. May he RIP.

Current UNIDO Director Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, like Fatou Bensouda, is one of Africa's stars on the international scene. He is bringing laurels to his country of birth every single day. In 1994, he was appointed from his University job in America by Captain Valentine Strasser to become NPRC's Trade Minister. He was to honourably resign his position the next year (1995) before Maada Bio even overthrew Strasser. He has absolutely nothing to do with those extra-judicial killings of 1992.

The current Attorney-General and Justice Minister Frank Kargbo was indeed NPRC’s civilian Minister of Transport at the time of the killings. He was NOT the Attorney-General then. That position was held by someone else. Kargbo became Attorney-General the next year (July 1993). Kargbo was to later flee NPRC after he refused to prepare legal papers to execute several persons whom so-called Chairman of NPRC’s Mercy Committee (position held then by Maada Bio) had deemed warranting of instant death for supposedly ‘Collaborating with RUF’. They included a 77 years old man and sickly persons. Frank Kargbo knows a lot about the NPRC’s penchant for bloodletting & brutality.

To his very high credit in service to this Nation, it was Hon. Frank Kargbo, as the U.N. appointed Executive Secretary of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 2003 who played a very pivotal role in ensuring certain military actors were legally pressured into testifying to the TRC despite their initial reluctance to do so. One such person, Julius Maada Bio was to agree to testify but only on condition of it being behind closed doors. So whilst former President Tejan Kabbah, Captain Valentine Strasser and John Benjamin were cross-examined under oath publicly at TRC Hearings, everything Julius Maada Bio told the TRC was in secret behind closed doors.

It was in such closed-door testimony of September 30th 2003 that Maada Bio made his now infamous confessions about the gruesome manner in which his NPRC regime caused their innocent victims to suffer before they were killed, acidified and buried in a mass grave. The innocent victims of NPRC’s State-sanctioned, Extra-judicial killings included a pregnant woman, Miss Salamatu Kamara of Huggins Street in Freetown. Her relatives, many of them poor people, have been traveling to foreign embassies to join the protesters calling for an Inquest into the killings.

Julius Maada Bio was NPRC’s Deputy II to the Head of State, Third in Command and also the Supervising P.L.O to whom Hindolo Trye directly reported. At the time of the murders, all cover-ups (after the fact) as well as all information and management of intelligence information was under the purview of Julius Maada Bio as P.L.O. in charge of Finance, Foreign Affairs & Information and simultaneously, NPRC 3rd in command. In light of his words to the TRC which are incompletely recited in the TRC Report, it is clear that so far it is ONLY Julius Maada Bio who is on record to have seen the innocent souls alive being tortured before they were killed and acid poured on them. Therefore for now, it is ONLY Maada Bio whom we are 100% certain can be of help to the Nation in any Inquest to know how the tortures and killings went on.

There is no evidence for now to link any civilian member of the NPRC to those killings and as I stated in my opening, being a civilian who served in a military junta is not a crime. If it was a crime, Fatou Bensouda will not today be the internationally acclaimed and all-powerful Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Most civilians who served the NPRC have no case to answer and Hindolo Trye is now dead (R.I.P). However, Julius Maada Bio, the mis-named 'retired Brigadier', has a lot of questions to answer. There are many unanswered questions which successful browbeating (OPEN-CALL) by his stooges in the media and civil society have blocked from being asked of him.

However, his questionable candidacy has taken the search for answers to sky high levels. So, whether he wins or loses the November elections, the families can no longer take his silence to be acceptable for them. They will continue to agitate for answers and the world will have no option but to ensure they receive the answers requested. In an event of a Bio victory, can Sierra Leone then survive the ignomy of having a Head of State & Fountain of Honour evidentially named in such appalling tortures and brutal murders including that of a pregnant woman? Food for thought.

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.