Free At Last: Paul Kamara Is Free!

By  | 30 November 2005 at 04:29 | 1422 views

While progressive journalists everywhere celebrate the release of our brother in the struggle, Paul Kamara, we at the Patriotic Vanguard would like to thank everybody at home and abroad especially the executive of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) and some members of the diplomatic community in Freetown notably the United States embassy for putting maximimum pressure on the Kabbah government leading to the release of our colleague.Special thanks also go to Reporters Sans Frontieres(France) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (USA) for the wonderful role they played to secure Paul’s release. Bravo and thank you all!

In a country where jailed journalists and political prisoners never win appeals, the SLPP government has surprised its crtics with the spectacular release of journalist Paul Kamara today after winning his appeal in court.While waiting for more information on this piece of good news from our Freetown correspondents, we re-publish below an article written a few weeks ago by the editor of this paper.

The Plight of the Two Kamaras (November 13, 2005).

By Gibril Koroma

Politics is an unpredictable game anywhere in the world but in Sierra Leone it is one of the the most unpredictable and intriguing games in town. In this commentary Vanguard editor Gibril Gbanabome Koroma looks at the fate of a journalist and a politician both of whom are caught in the net of the country’s messy politics where intolerance, ingratitude and the desire to grab power and maintain it at all costs is number one priority.

Reports from Freetown, the Sierra Leonean capital state that Paul Kamara, the jailed editor of For Di People newspaper presented a pathetic sight when he briefly appeared before a Freetown judge last Wednesday as part of his appeal process.

Paul, who onlookers said appeared thin, emaciated and very frail is behind bars for writing an article in his newspaper titled: "Kabbah Is a Real Convict". The article was a commentary on the Beoku-Betts Commission of the 1960s which among other things found President Kabbah(then a top civil servant) guilty of corruption and recommended that he never be allowed to hold public office in Sierra Leone again.The commentary of course infuriated Kabbah who set the corrupt judicial machinery into operation. The journalist was later found guilty of "Seditious Libel" through the the country’s outdated and barbaric and colonialistic libel laws.

As we write these words Paul is desperately fighting for his life in the cold and damp cells of Freetown’s infamous Pademba Road prison. A prison where prisoners "live" on a starvation diet and where medical personnel are often invited only to examine corpses for burial, not for medical treatment.It will be a miracle if Paul comes out of that Golgotha alive after serving his four-year prison sentence.It will also be a miracle if he wins the appeal against that sentence. Political prisoners and prisoners of conscience never win appeals in Sierra Leone. Therefore,only continuous and constant pressure from local organizations and the international community would save the life of this journalist.

A few miles from Paul’s prison cell, another notable Sierra Leonean lies in his bed at the brink of death. He is Mr. Osman Kamara, former PDP parliamentarian, former minister and former head of the PDP. Osman, who was a firebrand in parliament, is said to be seriously sick and may die in a couple of weeks if not immediately flown abroad for medical treatment as the medical facilities in the country are woefully inadequate to deal with his undisclosed illness.

What is pathetic about Osman’s case is that his party, PDP-Sorbeh, was the major factor in Kabbah’s victory in the general elections of 1996 when the late PDP leader Thaimu Bangura offered his support to Kabbah as opposed to Dr. John Karefa-Smart Kabbah’s opponent at the time. Thaimu was later made Finance minister and Osman, who was Thaimu’s deputy in the PDP was later appointed Trade Minister by Kabbah. With this background, many people in Freetown are wondering why Kabbah has not extended a helping hand to a man whose party and who personally has offered so much support to him.

What links Paul Kamara and Osman Kamara is that both men’s lives are in danger and that both of them have served Kabbah before (Paul risked everything in 1997 to campaign for the return of Kabbah when the latter was overthrown and escaped to Guinea). Osman of course gave total support to Kabbah inthe run-off of 1996 and the general elections of 2002.

It remains to be seen what Kabbah will do or will not do for these two men.

Photo: Paul, emaciated and frail from his prison experience.

Photo Credit: Awareness Times, Freetown.