Salone News

30 Minutes with Paul Kamara

5 January 2006 at 08:22 | 508 views

One of our London correspondents, Saidu Kaye Sesay, was recently back home in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. He saw many things, including Paul Kamara, the country’s most famous contemporary journalist. Excerpts of the encounter:

By Saidu Kaye Sesay, London, UK.

It was not a planned interview. Just was one of those ‘just checking’ on an old pal and mentor; a courtesy call if you like.

I arrived in Freetown, Sierra Leone from the UK on the 25Th November 2005. After being welcomed by corruption, greed, squalor and everything else in the midst of the natural beauty of the one and only city that I love, what more could I desire than the welcome news that Paul Kamara, Managing Editor of For Di people has been freed from jail; not before he had won his Appeal Court’s battle. This happened well into my first week of stay. My source of information? A senior civil servant who seemed happier than me. I however reminded him that it was a victory of good over evil. I then secretly planned my voyage of rediscovery.

How would I visit my mentor without being trailed, as I learnt from numerous ‘bush radios’ that he was under surveillance?. I made up my mind. One thing I knew for sure was: By any means necessary, Paul Kamara I must see.
Readers who expect an image of me sitting with Paul in the familiar walls of Short Street, which earned the name of Fleet Street, would be disappointed. Much water has passed under the bridge. Dr. Fatmata Hassan had written her own script; Fleet Street had been phased out, except for a chosen few. Paul Kamara and the legendary For Di People are now relocated; even before Paul finished serving the jail sentence dished out by the ruling class. Somewhere along Pademba Road (any thrills?) is now Paul’s office. And he regarded that as an other door opened, Bob Marley style.

Seeing Paul these days is like taking a gamble. You might or might not, depending on the first guy you asked on your way in. At the basement of the building are shops and other operations. The first man I asked seemed reluctant to direct me to Paul’s office, but offered a kind direction to a group of three youths I considered to be printers. Asked about For Di People’s office one of them told me to go to the last floor. When asked whether Paul was in, one of them who seemed to be caught between doubt and protectiveness rudely told me to go to the last floor. This guy, to my mind, thought I was some sort of officer. I however ignored him, and followed the polite directions given by his colleagues.


I walked my way to the last floor, where in the centre of a large parlour, was seated the man himself. I called out his initials MPK, but silence I got for a reply. Yes, there he was glued to the keyboards of his computer, putting the finishing touches into another piece. Realising that there was no taking his mind off those keys, I told my escort to take a seat with me. Seated there I recognised Yaama, Paul’s daughter who was seated with two gentlemen, I later understood to be staff members. I exchanged courtesies with Yaama and settled back to wait for the Guru. One of his staff informed him about my presence. Not long after, Paul got up from his seat and approached me, hands widely opened.

Before I could even greet him, the man started pouring revolutionary vibes. He spoke of how he believed that his long journey of establishing the truth was almost accomplished, revoking an image of going down a hill, as we say in Krio, na run don. He further accentuated his points by making reference to the ferocious lyrics of the new crop of homegrown musicians with themes that are politically fired. Of particular reference was the music of a youth that made a caricature of the perceived forerunners for the 2007 Presidential elections. The three, widely believed to be APC’s Ernest Koroma, PMDC’s Charles Margai and SLPP’s Solomon Berewa are described as squirrel, arata (rat) and gronpig(ground hog) that are determined to exploit the ‘farm’ (Sierra Leone’s economy). In strong terms, the artist warned politicians to stay off the electorates, pointing out the hopelessness of their promises.

Third Force

Speaking about a third force, Paul denounced Charles Margai as the heir apparent, suggesting the emergence of a genuine third force made of soul revolutionaries. How and who will form this force he did not say. He was however confident that things will take a natural turn, basing his opinion on the radical lyrics of the emerging musicians.
To say Paul is bitter about his incarceration would be an exaggeration. He rather regarded it as a continuing transition that purified him and made him stronger.

Family Affairs

Paul heaped praises on the resilience of his wife Isatu, and daughter Yaama. Like a real family affair, Isatu managed the newspaper whilst his husband was in jail. Yaama had to quit school to assist with lay out. This, Paul pointed out, was the valuable price of education. He however moaned the reality that he no longer has a formidable staff, and that he was bankrupt. He however expressed his optimism about the future.

Willing Spirit

My judgement of this encounter was that Paul was really sick. Prison had taken its toll on him. Apart from looking skinny, he was limping; an hangover of what I concluded to be gun shots he survived in 1996 compounded by long months of incarceration in that sordid dungeon, with little or no medical attention. To my mind, though Paul still has a willing spirit, his flesh was weak. It would be of greater help if he undergoes a thorough medical check up.
As I prepared to leave, I planned a formal interview with him that was never to be, because of some unforeseen obstacles. Sorry Paul, but you di system.

Photos: Paul Kamara (left) and the author, Saidu Kaye Sesay(right).