All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’ - Edmund Burke

July 5, 2008

S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol 6 No 5

The Truth Shall Set You Free----------The wicked fleeth when no man pursueth---------Exposing human rights abusers




By Sheka Tarawalie (Shekito) in Manchester, UK

I wish Pa Sylvanus were alive. You may or may not know who Pa Sylvanus is. Or I should say ‘was’ - in human terms. In the national executive circles of the Wesleyan Church of Sierra Leone (WCSL), the name Sylvanus F. Koroma meant a lot. On Sylvanus Street in Makeni are the headquarters of WCSL, formerly known as the American Wesleyan Mission (AWM) obviously founded by American missionaries who through the years had representatives in Sierra Leone until the war terminated their uninterrupted presence.

On the same Sylvanus Street is the Wesleyan-founded Birch Memorial Secondary School, my humble alma mater. Adjacent to the school gate is a thick-wall-encircled magnificent house - Sylvanus compound. But the relationship between Pa Sylvanus and the Wesleyan Church is not just infrastructural; it is also personal. He sat on the Church’s national executive (WCSL has dozens of local churches dotted across Sierra Leone) for many years. The wisdom he brought to bear in the leadership of the church earned him the nickname “Rock of ages” - in apparent comparison to his Master, Jesus. And, poor me, I was privileged to sit with Pa Sylvanus on the Church’s executive prior to his death when I acted as ex-officio member/ Secretary. It’s an experience of a lifetime when you hear Pa Sylvanus speak.

But I had known Pa Sylvanus way before then. My father was (I could still say is) one of the pastors of WCSL and all his pastoral life has had to have a working relationship with Pa Sylvanus in administration, education, and evangelism. But their relationship even overflowed beyond the church when they both could not get their eyes off local politics.

Pa Sylvanus mastered the art of public speaking, my father learnt from him. Pa Sylvanus was a master English-Temne interpreter/translator, my father (who never went through formal education but benefited from a pastoral education), learnt from Pa Sylvanus - this is still being resonated in my dad’s local radio messages in Makeni. Pa Sylvanus was even at one time a regional electoral commissioner (a page of which Christiana Thorpe may have learnt about when she was Principal of St. Joseph’s Secondary School in Makeni).

Ladies and gentlemen, it was a privilege to have known  Pa Sylvanus, the father of President Ernest Bai Koroma; it is therefore a privilege to have known the president long before now. Of all Sierra Leonean journalists ( with all due respect to Kotho I.B. Kargbo and Mohamed ‘African Champion’ Koroma, the well-chosen Information Ministry duo), I think there’s none that has known President Koroma as much as I do.

Hailing from the same Bombali South constituency (with a couple of villages between his village and mine) is one thing, but to have come to know Ernest Koroma intimately was as good as having known his father. In Freetown we attended the same Kissy Dockyard Wesleyan church and we used to sit and stand side by side in worship and prayer. What was more, at one point the future president would drive me to and from church (wow) when it was a bit difficult for me to have done so.

In my childhood days, I had heard about Ernest Koroma mainly from my parents through his parents (his mother, Ya Alice, is one of the women’s leaders of WCSL, and my mother, in lieu of her being a pastor’s wife, has been interacting with her in meetings, seminars, conferences etc.); but I actually first met Ernest Koroma in 1991 when I was Social Secretary of the Bombali District Students Association (BODSA) at Fourah Bay College after he had offered to give the Alhaji Bangura/ Jallomy-led administration (Alhaji Bangura, also known as ‘Banco’, is today a civil servant at the Ministry of Social Welfare; while Jallomy, formally known as Ibrahim Jalloh, later worked for the Catholic-owned Caritas) free transportation to go to Makeni and offer free teaching classes to secondary schools in the township.

After that meeting, it was not hard for the sons of Pa Sylvanus and Rev. J.S. Tarawalie to find common ground for personal connection. Perhaps the greatest impact of President Koroma on my life came in 1996. After the SLPP government had imprisoned me for exposing the corruption that was being perpetuated at the highest level of the then establishment, disowned and found my Torchlight newspaper in tough financial difficulties following a blanket ban on advertising, the person that came to my rescue (you guess right) was Ernest Bai Koroma.

I am making this known because he is now president. But at the time, when Ernest Koroma (as he was commonly known then) summoned me to his Reliance Insurance Trust Corporation (RITCORP) office on Siaka Stevens Street, he vehemently warned that he did not want this to be known.

Reason? The SLPP could target to destroy him if they knew that he was supporting a newspaper they hated so much. But what impressed me most was the man’s modesty. It would not take long for two of his best friends, Siray Timbo of IDEAS Partnership and Alimamy Koroma (now Minister of Trade), to let me into the secret that Ernest Koroma would want to enter into politics for no other reason than to bring a change.

Indeed, I agreed that if certainly he would do so, it would not be for another reason, having known his background.

But between then and 2007 so many things happened. Tejan Kabbah allowed himself to be overthrown, and as a journalist my focus turned to analysing the politico-military imbroglio which had taken centre-stage. I found myself  advocating against a military intervention that would be disastrous for us - a prediction that consequently turned out to be true.

But I first had to pay the bitter price of going into hiding (like brother Chernor Ojuku Sesay) from military interventionists who had quickly learnt the art of burning people alive and getting some satisfaction from it.

I knew the intervention was as wrong as the coup; and I knew - as common sense teaches - that two wrongs could not make a right. In the midst of the melee, and from my research of the situation, I developed some interest in Johnny Paul Koroma, who was mainly innocent but found himself trapped between an SLPP government that hated the Sierra Leone Army and an army that cannot be cowered by political demagogues.

The effect was political skulduggery and military coup-making.

So in the elections of 2002, when the old guards in the APC were putting up a fierce fight against Ernest, I knew the SLPP would win.

What I did was to register my protest by supporting the Peace & Liberation Party - but not without explaining to Ernest Koroma and his friends in word and in action, in bits, what I was doing.

In parliament, I had advised Johnny Paul to lean towards Ernest Koroma,  and they had started getting on well before the SLPP orchestrated another coup scare and botched an operation to catch Johnny Paul.

Very few people knew about my intentions to leave Sierra Leone. Ernest Koroma, who had become more like an elder brother, was one of them. I met him at his Goderich residence (not the first time you would know) and gave a thorough explanation of why I thought it would be better for me to be out of the country.

I told him how Britain needs to know about what is going on in Sierra Leone, and how I might be a vehicle to carry this information.

A good listener, and a man of brevity, Ernest agreed with me - before I ran to the new national headquarters of the Wesleyan Church on Berry Street in Freetown to get some valedictory prayers and blessings from church leaders.

Certainly, I know President Koroma is pleased with the contribution I made prior to, during, and after both the August 11 and September 8 presidential/parliamentary and run-off elections.

I know he would look back and reflect on where we are coming from; and I know he has the vision not only to know where we are going, but also how to go there.

He has demonstrated this in just a couple of months in office: an impressive cabinet, tough talk and action on serious national issues (including corruption, electricity, fuel prices, official behaviour),
credible international outings, and participation in cleaning Freetown.

For him to be inaugurated as the fourth Executive President of the Republic of Sierra Leone can only be the work of God.

Ladies and gentlemen, please accept my  very personal presentation to you of your president, my president, our president ERNEST BAI KOROMA.

May God bless both his supporters and critics, for I know he will deliver.

Further still, I believe Pa Sylvanus (like the biblical Sylvanus)  is having a good day in Heaven!

Over to my own critics!

Exiled Journalist
From Sierra Leone

And if you think that's the end of the story read this and get an insight into the mind of President Ernest Bai Koroma's "press officer". While you read also remember that this is what he has written for the consumption of the public and well imagine what he could have been saying to others including the APC Presidential candidate!!!! Imagine what he could be telling the ruling APC party echelon on "who are the new enemies of the state", who deserves "the death of a thousand cuts" etc etc. NOTE THAT ALL THIS IS COMING FROM AN "INDEPENDENT" JOURNALIST

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©Sierra Herald 2002