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Like Charles Margai in Sierra Leone, like Moussa Ibrahim in Libya!

By J. Alusine Kamara E-mail: jalusinekamara@yahoo.com

 While just about every knowledgeable Sierra Leonean would be ‘au fait’ – positively or negatively – with the name, Charles Margai, the same will not be said about the name, Moussa Ibrahim.  Thus, folks may reasonably be wont to wonder why the comparative nature of this headlined article.

I was, to paraphrase it, ‘tickled pink’ – although being black I should be ‘tickled purple’ – when I heard Muammar Ghadaffi’s spokesman, the above-mentioned Moussa Ibrahim, declare they had a 65,000 (sixty-five thousand) well-armed ready to defend the city of Tripoli.  This statement which turned out to be borne of posturing in vain efforts to mask cowardice and forestall the inevitable, was aired about 24 hours before the Transitional National Council fighting force breached the security and entered virtually unchallenged into the city.

I knew this was plain blustering and categorized it with an unfortunate incident which had befallen us in the Charles Margai-led People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) in Bo city on our whistle-stop campaign tour during the preparations for the 2007 Presidential run-off election between the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) flag-bearer then, Solomon Berewa, and the All People’s Congress (APC) flag-bearer and eventual winner, Ernest Bai Koroma.

The PMDC had thrown its political weight behind the APC, to the discomfiture of some die-hard tribalists who felt it was a betrayal.  When the combined team of PMDC and APC functionaries entered Bo that evening, it was to the chagrin of those whose myopic thinking purported that since Bo was conceived to be the heartland, and by extension the fiefdom of the SLPP, we were ‘persona non grata’.

We had embarked upon this final campaign trip from Freetown and headed for the Northern provincial headquarter town of Makeni.  From there the team processed and progressed to Bo after making an unscheduled stop at the ‘mile 91’ junction.  When we eventually arrived in Bo that evening word reached us about plans in the offing to make our stay uncomfortable not only in Bo town, but also on our other stops in Kenema and Kailahun.

True to the information received on our arrival in Bo, at the break of daylight the following morning, the PMDC team which was then housed at the Savannah Hotel came under attack by a group of SLPP hoodlums led by the late Sidiquie Janneh, who had earlier on decamped from the SLPP to join in the formation of the PMDC, only to re-join the SLPP later.

 

As stones, sticks, etc were rained upon us at the hotel, the PMDC leader, Charles Margai, and others made frantic efforts to call the Police SSD officer-in-charge, commonly known as ‘Yaytay-yaytay’, and the Bo command Police boss, Mr. Buck. Alas, all their phone lines were ‘conveniently unreachable’ for over an hour!

As the situation hotted up to seemingly dangerous levels the PMDC leader then opted for, and embarked upon frantic calls to the then United Nations’ Special Representative of the Secretary-General (UNSRSG), and British High Commissioner, soliciting their help and intervention.  While some supporters were busy directing and fending off the attack, some of us including Femi Boyle-Hebron, were at the balcony with the leader.

Bemusedly watching Charles sweating it out with the ‘phone, Femi then tongue-in-cheek asked, “Charles, where are the twenty thousand ‘kamajor’ fighters you once bragged you had under arms?  I believe Bo town is the headquarters of the ‘kamajors’, so why are they not here to defend you and us?”

These posers did not go down too well with Charles and one could have heard a pin drop as well as observe the coldest and darkest stare to ever crisscross a man’s face as his displeasure at being reminded of his earlier blustering left him in no mood to stomach wisecracks.

 

Readers may want to know the reason(s) for the questions and the negativism it stirred in Charles mien then.  I will oblige.

 

Earlier in our sole campaign as the PMDC, we had received very credible reports that an ambush was to be laid for the campaign team while on its way to the provinces.  Comprehensive lists of seventeen (17) names were given to us as members of the ambush team, as well as a vehicle registration number.  These were duty forwarded to the then Brimah Acha Kamara-led Sierra Leone Police force.

However, when the said registered vehicle was intercepted by the Police around Masiaka, with the ‘infamous 17’ on the list given by the PMDC, and with them ominously armed with dangerous weapons, they were accosted and accused as ‘suspected armed robbers’.  To the best of my knowledge that was the end of the matter.

Either out of deep-seated fear which had to be plastered over with his blustering, or plain grandstanding Charles had gone on record as saying that he had over twenty thousand kamajors at his beck and call, and this must have been the primary reason why Femi, with a hint of sarcasm had aired his queries.

Of course Charles was astute enough to know that such posturing would ring alarm bells at the United Nations’ headquarters, the White House and US Congress, ‘No. 10 Downing Street’ and British House of Parliament, to name a few who had spent hundreds of millions of dollars to stabilize the country. And this turned out to be a wake-up call, so pressure was brought to bear upon the Kabbah-led SLPP not to be foolhardy. Cold calculations by Margai also hinged on the fear-factor which was injected in the body-politic as well as minds of the average war-weary Sierra Leonean.  This leveraging also proved in Tripoli, Libya, to be a non-starter as the 65,000-man defenders Moussa Ibrahim boasted about have turned into nothingness just as the 20,000 ‘Kamajors’ of Charles Margai’s figment of imagination ended up being.

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