Salone News

"Our Struggles Are Not Yet Over-"---- Students

16 August 2005 at 10:00 | 479 views

On May 25, 1997 the democratically elected government of president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone was overthrown by a military junta led by Major Johnny Paul Koroma. The deposed president and most of his cabinet promptly fled to neighbouring Guinea from where, between bouts of self-pity and bellicosity,they exhorted Sierra Leoneans to come out in full force to resist the junta with ’sticks and stones’ and anything else they could lay hands on.Meanwhile, students in the country under the leadership of the National Union of Sierra Leone Students (NUSS)had been quietly organizing and mobilizing. On August 18 1997,in a show of great courage and militancy, they went into action in massive demonstrations in Freetown and other parts of the country in which they called on the junta to step down.There were gruesome encounters with the lumpen militariat in the capital leading to the death of two students.To commemorate the sad occasion, some of those students now living in Canada have sent the following press release to the Vanguard:

STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY ON THE 8TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE AUGUST 18TH, 1997 STUDENTS’ PROTESTS IN SIERRA LEONE

August 18th 2005 marks yet another anniversary in the history of the struggle by students against tyranny and political oppression in Sierra Leone.

Exactly eight years ago, the National Union of Sierra Leone Students (NUSS) with active support from progressive social movements and civil society groups and organizations, organised nation-wide protests and took to the streets of Freetown and other parts of the country to strongly but peacefully protest against the usurpation of power by and the tyranny of the repressive and brutal military junta, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and their Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel allies who had overthrown in an infamous coup on May 25 of the same year, the legitimate government that had been democratically elected about a year earlier. The aim of the protests was to send a strong and unequivocal message to the brutal junta and their rebel allies that their action was unacceptable and that they should relinquish power and restore constitutional order in the name of the people of Sierra Leone. It was also aimed at drumming up international support for the restoration of democracy in Sierra Leone. The criminal rebel junta lived up to their infamy of brutality by unleashing gratuitous acts of violence on the defenceless and peaceful protesters.

While students have always been victimised and brutalised for being at the vanguard of struggles against political oppression in Sierra Leone, like resisting the corrupt APC tyranny in the 1970s and 1980s, and helping to force the equally corrupt and inept NPRC junta that had taken power in 1992 to return the country to democratic rule, the brutality unleashed by the AFRC and their rebel allies on August 18th 1997 was unparalleled in the history of the country and shocking in the depth of its depravity. Defenceless students and other innocent and unsuspecting civilians were wantonly arrested and brutalised, imprisoned, raped, maimed and even killed. At the end of the day scores of innocent civilians, including two students, Vaffie Konneh of Njala University College, and Morie Kallon of the National School of Nursing, were violently and cold-bloodedly killed in a cowardly manner by a criminal junta desperately trying to cling on to power at all costs.

As former student leaders involved in organising peaceful protests against political oppression in the past, we continue to unequivocally condemn all acts of violence committed against innocent citizens as a means of achieving political gains. We call on the government to do everything humanly possible to bring those responsible for such acts to justice. We call on NUSS to play the leading role to get the government to honour its promise of erecting a monument in the memory of all those who lost their lives especially our colleagues mentioned above, as a reminder of the sacrifices they made in the struggle for social justice and human emancipation.

On the 8th Anniversary of the August 18th demonstrations, we extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of our colleagues and friends Vaffie Konneh and Morie Kallon and all those who lost their lives on that day. Let us all continue to relentlessly fight for true democracy, human emancipation and freedom, human rights, gender equality and social justice in Sierra Leone and anywhere else in the world where those values are threatened. That is what, we believe, they would love us to do to honour them.

In this vein, we strongly call on the government and all political parties in Sierra Leone to avoid acts that would denigrate the memory of our departed compatriots and compromise the spirit of the struggle for democracy and human decency, ideals that we fought for and for which so many people lost their lives. While we have come a long way, we are still far from attaining the society we envision in our struggles against oppression. Incidents of corruption, political manipulation, poverty, gender inequality and the muzzling of the press are still widespread in Sierra Leone and they remind us that our struggles are far from over. The continuing imprisonment of journalist Paul Kamara, (editor of ‘For Di People’ newspaper) and the untimely death of Harry Yansaneh (his replacement), from injuries sustained in the hands of miscreants associated with the government are examples of undemocratic tendencies still prevalent in Sierra Leone. Therefore, we are calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Paul Kamara and the bringing to book of those responsible for the death of Harry Yansaneh. We also call on the government to demonstrate their commitment to democracy, respect for human rights, promotion of press freedom, the upholding of the rule of law, the enhancement of gender equality and a genuine and sustained fight against corruption. We hold these to be very pertinent to the maintenance of peace and stability in Sierra Leone, since the absence of these imprints were part of the reasons for the civil war and political turmoil in the country between 1991 and 2001.

May the souls of the departed rest in eternal peace

Long Live Democracy in Sierra Leone!!!

By Concerned Leoneans in Toronto, Canada

Signed:

Brothers

Ibrahim Jalloh (former President NUSS, 1996 - 98)

Abdulai Bayraytay (former General Secretary, NUSS 1996 - 98)

Winston Jalloh

Zubairu Wai

Photo: Journalist Paul Kamara: the struggle continues.

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