THE LATE (RTD MAJOR) ABU NOAH'S TESTIMONY AT THE TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION (2)
The Brigadier was busy putting together his political his war machine. He had organized on travelling bases, group of officers and men to counter the elections that was going to come. I didn’t know about this though I had seen the signs all over the place. I knew something was wrong and something was going on but I was in the military academy then. They invited me to his house and he brought the subject; he told me what he was going to do. I listen and I thought this was a mistake. I sat there watching all the officers who were coming in either from the West or from the East. I mean the South or the East, I never saw a single officer from the North or the Western Area. I became disillusioned over the whole thing. I said it was bias and it was not going to work. So he left me briefly and all of them went into another room. By the time he came back I had left his building.
I never went there again. So this thing continued. He did not call for me again. Then eventually all the officers and men from the Western Area and the North were disarmed, all ammunition were removed from them whilst the other segment had ammunitions. But these other officers took contingency measures and for that we were arrested and thrown into prisons on framed up charges of wanting to overthrow Sir Albert. We believed no matter what happened the election result should decide who was to rule and we also believed, I particularly believed, that it would have been a very beautiful thing for democracy for Sierra Leone for the government to go into opposition. I believed then, I do believe it now that if Sir Albert had gone into opposition it would have been very difficult if not impossible for Siaka Stevens to become a dictator in this country.
I believe what we face today started from that moment when politicians were not prepared to accept the result of the choice of the people. From that incident a lot of things happened. Violence was introduced into the political arena, unemployed youths from all over the country were incited unto violence for political reasons. That ugly phenomenon is still with us. After the elections these youths were abandoned, their lives were not organized, jobs were not provided for them, they were left high and dry without bearing. So what happened, they had been disgraced, Freetown was too small to keep all of them, so they resort to sleeping in King Jimmy and they complained about it because we invited them unto politics. They established their own businesses they started selling diamba, cocaine and cheap wine. After they had bee used and abandoned they had no way to go and nothing to do but to continue in the trade that they had been introduced into, and this culminated into war.
Young men and women who were starving and had no work no homes, no bearings, in short they had no life at all. Those men were ready, they could go into anything and they were easy targets for those who were recruiting for rebels. Even now you could find them in the corners, King Jimmy, go there every time and you see these people there and the most painful sight is that you have children been brought into this setting, growing up in that setting. What happened in the past is being perpetuated, the future of our lives are not organized.
There is also the
Institutionalization of corruption. This was made manifest in the statement of
Siaka Stevens when he said that they are talking about Bailor Barrie and you are
talking about Davidson Nicol. This means “while people are talking about money
you are talking about education, are we surprised about what is happening now.
Did not our political leaders engender
Then another President came on, he said education is a privilege and not an obligation. Only those who could afford it sent their children to school, and those who could not were transformed into thieves. We see the police picking up the pick picketers everyday. Siaka Stevens wanted to stay in power by all means and used all means. After that, of course, we had the mushrooming of military governments. This started as a result of the action of Colonel Jumu who was then the battalion commander Politics had already been introduced into the army and it included our arrests, which we knew was going to be explosive. It precipitated the actions of Colonel Jumu when he arrested Brigadier Lansana, Siaka Stevens and the Governor General Sir Lightfoot Boston immediately. That was a noble action. I applauded that action. But it went wrong when they formed a military government; that was the beginning of a wrath that is still eating the further of the country. All they could have done to uphold the constitution was to have listened to the Governor General and spearheaded the constitutional replacement of a civilian government
They did not have to go and put the
Prime Minister in jail, put the Force Commander in jail and the leader of the
opposition and other authorities in jail. That was the first mistake. Though I
served as a commissioner I one of the subsequent probes, it was not my intention
to be part of any mechanism that entrenched the overthrow of any government. It
is not my business
The police is a civil force, you
don’t bring them and the army together in an operation. Let the police do their
Army commanders would start instructing people to go and arrest people and Police Officers stated grumbling about the illegality of the operation. The apprehension was all over. I did not know about it but they know that I was very close to Major Farahjoya. He was my friend so they grumbled to him that what they were doing was illegal and that they had to consult the Brigadier. So Farah told me. I asked him if he was sure. He said yes, I said where did you get this information from. He said from the Police, but that it was passed on to him by Amadu Kargbo.
We went to Amadu Kargbo, he took us to the Police Officers and asked them about the operation. They said this thing was unconstitutional, and that our colleagues had condemned the members of the NRC for the same action. We have been pushed into something that would land us in the condemn cell like those people. So I went to the Brigadier, I asked him if the operation was constitutional. He said he did not know, I said ‘Brigadier you don’t know and you are risking our lives. No, Brigadier this operation is going to stop now, I’m stopping it. I asked him to call the commissioner of Police Mr. Jenkins Smith. We decided to meet in the morning, and that no body in the interim should go out on an operation and I went out and dismissed everybody.
The following morning at 10 0’ clock, we went to meet the Commissioner of Police. We found them in their conference hall. No senior police or army officer was absent, we were all there. The Commander brought the subject up, the commissioner told us that the operation was illegal. This was stupid, how can we be taking part in an illegal operation similar to that for which our colleagues were in the condemn cell. We would not confront the Prime Minister with the issue; he would say something else. So we decided to take the matter to our commander in chief, the governor general to explain to him the situation, that he could talk to the prime minister to drop the operations.
We drove up to the governor general and the Brigadier addressed the General on the issue. The Governor General was shocked. ‘What is this?’ he asked, ‘are you people arresting politicians? why did you do that? The prime minister never told me about it. The Prime Minister does things without telling me.’ We suggested to him that he tells the Prime Minister to drop the operation, and that we are not planning anything against him. The governor-general thanked and asked us to come back at 12 0’ clock, the same day. He said he was going to get the Prime Minister and his Cabinet to explain this matter and he wanted us to be there.
At 12 0’ clock we all met in the office of the governor general. Fortunately I was ten minutes late. As I was arriving I saw a group of soldiers coming up independent avenue with all sorts of weapons, singing songs of praise to the Prime Minister and the APC and condemning the Army and the Police. I parked my car, walked out of the door, took out my revolver, lifted it up for all of them to see and told them to stop singing immediately and that everybody should go and wait for the Prime Minister at his office.
As I turned around moving into the
hall The Honorable S.I. Koroma and C.A. Kamara-Taylor were coming out. I told
them not to worry, that everything is over as I have dispatched them. The two
men thanked me and said that the guys could have
He told me they knew what the guys
were planning and that I should not be a Party to it. I replied that since they
knew, and I did not, I should go into the meeting to find out, and that whatever
I do would then be observed by the government. We entered the hall. The Governor
General, the Prime Minster, Force Commander, army and police officers were all
The First Commander turned to the Police and Army officers for confirmation, but nobody stood up for him, they abandoned him. I felt bad, mad, I really went out of my head, then moved into the centre of the hall, asked the First Commander to sit down and then turned to the Governor General and asked him whether it was not him that told us the operation was illegal and that he was going to tell the Prime Minister. He finally answered in the affirmative after I repeatedly posed the question to him. ‘Why then,’ I asked, ‘was he blaming the Force Commander’ He finally told the Prime Minister what we agreed upon and the matter was resolved.
What I am trying to show here is that the calibre of the officers in the army at the time were not the same, and that there were others who would have done what I did to put things aright while at the same time maintaining respect for the authority. But we did not want them to use us the way they wanted. Some allowed it and saw it at an opportunity to fly to the top of the officer corps. We saw the result of this later when you have private soldiers shooting up to Lieutenants and lieutenant to Colonel and Brigadier General. What sort of nonsense is that?
This was the trauma we went through when the civilians laid lots of politics with the military, and soldiers sat down and allowed the destruction of this beautiful institution with impunity.
Siaka Stevens institutionalized corruption because he wanted to keep his power at all cost. Everybody could do whatever he wanted to do as long as it did not touch Siaka Stevens’ power. But even if he was dreaming and you were some cause of some misfortune to him in the dream, if you are not careful, you would see yourself the next day before a kangaroo court, found guilty and hanged.
You look at the judiciary and wonder how members of such a respectable institution that should upkeep the constitution and protect our rights and liberty would allow themselves to be used by people like Siaka Stevens. For instance while Brigadier Bangura and others were being tried, parliament passed a law that affected these people there and then and they were eventually hanged. The judiciary allowed all this to happen right under their noses. Go even now to Pademba Road and see how people are still on remand for more than two years. Soon the place is an incubator of criminals, people come out of as hardened criminals. Lawyers have too many case loads and there are lots of delays in delivering justice. People are not getting justice, which as we all know is integral to our constitution.
Mr. Commissioner you know I spent 10 years 8 months in jail wrongfully because Siaka Stevens would have brought Guinean soldiers here without informing us. We stopped the coup, but there was some misinformation about Sierra Leone being at war with Guinea, and Guinean soldiers invited by Siaka Stevens were all over the place taking shots at the soldiers and that created tensions in the barracks. So we said we should have a meeting with the prime minister and his ministers.
The meeting took place in the town
hall. Again I was late. When I arrived, my first shock was to see a Guinean
Lieutenant with guns piled on the ground which obviously he had taken from my
colleague officers and soldiers who had gone to the meeting. He told me to
surrender my gun. I said, ‘what! you come all the way from Guinea to this
country to ask for my gun in my country. I am the constitutional soldier here.
What right has he. I pushed him, moved two steps above him, turned round and
said to him I am going to that hall with my gun, that the only way you can stop
me is to shoot me. He didn’t move so I entered
I got angry. Tom Caulker was chosen to address the Prime Minister. He was talking but I looked around at the faces of these Guinean Soldiers and their conquering stance I got extremely angry and walked up to Tom Caulker and told him to sit down. I turned to the Prime Minister and said if these funny people dared fight again in this country again we will deal with them so well that they would not forget us in a hurry.
I asked that the Guinean leave the hall. The prime minister told them to do that. But I also added that if any one of them should fire a single shot in the country, we would interpret that as a declaration of war and we shall attack them. Then I told the Prime Minister that we were fed up with the bloodshed in the country and that we have killed and killed but there seemed to be no end to the killings.