Salone News

Sierra Leone: Paul Kamara’s New Mission

31 December 2005 at 02:27 | 1255 views

By Abu B. Shaw, London Vanguard Bureau Chief

A new political party is germinating in Sierra Leone. It is diligently but quietly planning to throw its hat in the ring to fight for political power in the country come 2007, when the next general and presidential elections will be held. This was exclusively revealed to the Patriotic Vanguard by Paul Kamara, who went in to prison as a fearless journalist but came out as a determined politician.

Speaking from the capital Freetown on a mobile phone recently, Paul Kamara, publisher and editor-in-chief of the For Di People newspaper said President Tejan Kabbah’s Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) government has forced him to move from his much loved journalism career to full time politics. “My primary aim now is to regain my health and then concentrate on the formation of a political party with other people as soon as we possibly can,” Mr. Kamara maintained.

Mr Kamara was freed from Pademba Road prison on November 30, 2005 after a Court of Appeal ruling on his double libel convictions which he surprisingly won, a rare occurrence in Sierra Leone. Touching on his ailing health which evidently blighted his Christmas celebrations, Paul said: “I feel very sick at the moment. I have other medical complications as well which I cannot disclose. I have not been receiving any thorough medical treatment. My bad leg (referring to his right leg which was shot by armed men a couple of years ago) has worsened my health condition. Losing my appetite is of great concern to me.” Paul Kamara said.

This fearless journalist was shot by unknown armed men in front of his printing press at Kissy Road on February 26, 1996 during the reign of the youthful military junta of the so-called Brigadier Julius Maada Bio’s NPRC 2 military government. Paul was then a minister in that government. Bio’s tenure lasted for a record six weeks only to be followed by general elections that ushered in President Kabbah’s SLPP government in 1996.

“Pass the message of the emergence of our political party to the outside world,” Paul Kamara urged the Vanguard. The name of his new political party was not readily available as Paul was not in the mood to let the cat out of the bag. He however responded by giving a hint about the name and the objective the new party is aiming at. Paul’s formula was mathematical: “NPRC plus AFRC plus Youths equal to Third Force.” He added that the party will be a True Democracy party, a party of God and guardians of truth.

Born 12th August 1956, Paul Kamara could not hide his delight over his success at the Court of Appeal in Freetown especially after being proven not guilty. “The truth has prevailed. All the propaganda stuff that certain individuals, particularly in press circles at home, were dishing out against me have all been discredited thanks to the adjudication of justice.” It was surprising that the FDP editor could pay special tribute to former staff of the Expo Times newspaper for their vision and constructive criticisms then of President Tejan Kabbah’s SLPP government. “I used to misconstrue such criticisms myself. I was wrong. Now we are on the same wave length,” Paul Kamara confessed.

Things are not rosy for Paul Kamara at the moment. Beside his poor health, the editor’s For Di People newspaper is actually struggling. Paul Kamara confirmed that there is only one computer in the newspaper’s office. “We used to have two printing presses, many computers but everything got damaged because of security forces carrying out government orders to ransack our offices shortly before my arrest last year. Even for us to hit the newsstand once a week nowadays is no child’s play,” Paul noted.

When questioned whether he is receiving assistance in cash or kind Paul said he had received some offers of assistance from abroad but has not received anything yet.

Paul Kamara was whisked to Pademba Road prison on 5th October, 2004 after a Freetown High Court sentenced him to two years concomitantly (four years in total) for two libel suits filed against him by two political heavyweights, President Kabbah himself and Justice Tholla Thompson. President Kabbah took editor Kamara to court for publishing a commentary on Commission of Enquiry report on President Kabbah that was released to the public in the sixties. The president was then a Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

The said Commission, the Justice Beoku-Betts Commission set up in 1967 to investigate coffee deals at the Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Board gravely castigated the then young Kabbah. Justice Beoku-Betts concluded in his findings that Mr Kabbah was dishonest and should never be allowed to hold any office of public trust. Paul Kamara argued in his articles that since President Kabbah did not fight to clear his name, he was not qualified to hold public office. President Kabbah and government lawyers took advantage of the notorious Public Order Act of 1965 of the Sierra Leone Constitution, a law which states that truth is no defence in a libel against the government to send Paul to jail as punishment.

In Justice Tholla Thompson’s case, Paul Kamara called him a dangerous criminal in several FDP stories. Thompson, then president of the Sierra Leone Football Association, was accused of siphoning monies belonging to the association into his pocket. He denied these allegations and a libel law suit followed.

In his interview with the Vanguard, Paul used the opportunity to thank the President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo and all journalism associations world wide for their influential role in putting pressure on the government to have him released. Paul, who languished in prison for one year, has also called on SLAJ to intensify their struggle to have the notorious Public Order Act of 1965 abolished in order to usher in proper press freedom in Sierra Leone.

Photo: Paul Kamara, from journalism to politics.