Opinion

Penfold: The Ultimate in Mass Deception?

11 February 2006 at 05:18 | 717 views

By Gbakanda Kamara in Norway

Peter Penfold’s subpoena to give evidence at the Hinga Norman trial is news received with mixed feelings and high expectations, like the story of Dr. Manet and the French citizen sent by the bank to free him in Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities.

He is a key factor in the direct British involvement in the Sierra Leone war ten years after the bloody and indiscriminate maiming, killing and ransacking of the lives of the poor and suffering masses had started. A war that should have been long over, if and only if, the former colonial master ( Great Britain) did not have her covert motives about the whole episode. The question is why the covert motives?

The answer to this all important question demands a brief reflection on the colonial and political history of Sierra Leone: a history that is recorded in various books, journals and newspaper publications but which can only be appreciated when these facts and materials are collated into one piece for the benefit of those who don’t have the time or the opportunity to do so.

It is however pertinent to clearly state at the outset that it is the intention of the writer to investigate and educate the readership, not to instigate or hold in contempt the special court about issues that should have been the primus inter pares in the deliberations of the Peace and Reconciliation Commission BUT WHICH WERE SHELVED FOR MORE EMOTIONAL ISSUES ABOUT THE WAR.

It must be recalled that Sierra Leone, the land where the trans-Atlantic slave trade was started by a British seadog and buccaneer made knight (John Hawkins) was the land where maybe out of historical conscience, the British came at a later date with ex-slaves to colonize.

Since the colonisation of that land in 1787 and the establishment of a "crown colony" in 1808, no effort was made to consolidate and develop a viable administrative machinery to see Sierra Leone govern itself until 1924 when the Slater Constitution was promulgated and the then protectorate was given a chance to begin to experience "Westminster type democracy".

The implication of this is that Sierra Leonean would be politicians in the protectorate, unlike their counterparts in the then colony, had less than forty years to learn, assimilate and practice a system of politicking and administration that was and is still completely different from their traditional modus operandi. A good source for this argument is "Government and Power in West Africa" by Robert.S.Jordan (Faber and Faber, 1969).

Also of importance is the discovery of minerals like gold, diamonds, iron ore and bauxite and the subsequent contracts awarded to British and British associated companies like De Beers Consolidated of South Africa. These contracts, as and when they were awarded, gave all the rights to leasehold and profits to these companies such that in the case of the diamond mining areas, Sierra Leoneans became foreigners and had to have a permit to enter those parts of their own country.

The diamond mining company, The Sierra Leone Selection Trust (SLST) had a 99 year lease hold on virtually all proven diamondiferous land across the length and breadth of Sierra Leone extending from the Kono district in the north east to Mattru and Pujehun Districts in the south. They also had 51% of the profits after administrative costs and tax.

In the case of the counterpart British company, The Sierra Leone Development Company (DELCO) operating in the Port Loko District the same conditions of operation obtained.

What was more, these companies exploited mineral resources like gold for SLST and bauxite for DELCO that were not part of the mining rights given in their respective contracts and the colonial masters did nothing to review the contracts or stop these acts of insincerity.

Then came 1961,the Great year of independence to a nation state with a population of less than 10% educated , few schools ,less than 1000 trained administrators and technocrats most of whom were from the then colony.

A wrong start in this whole process is that in as much as Sierra Leone was by then a single political entity, there was and still is lacking a national social consciousness, a situation typical of all emerging nation states at that time but which most, excluding Sierra Leone, have been able to manage if not overcome.

Why has Sierra Leone has not been able to overcome this is a whole topic of discourse in itself but in brief the reason is the misfortune of early change of leadership between 1961 and 1967.Within that period Sierra Leone became engulfed in processes that led to the war.

First, there was the forceful take over of the civil service by political manipulation. A civil service that should have been non-political became machinery for the protection of the ruling party which was by then the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP). This act undermined the efficiency of this all important administrative body and developed a tradition that still haunts the administrative sector of Sierra Leone, creating in its wake a redundant and corrupt system.

Secondly, the early death of Sierra Leone’s first Prime Minister(Sir Milton Augustus Margai),a death that some quarters view as foul play by an internal SLPP cartel that sought radical changes, led by the half brother (Sir Albert Margai) saw the defeat of the SLPP at the 1967 polls and the first military coup d’etat authorized by the then force commander ,Brigadier David Lansana, and executed by our special court indictee ,then Lietenant Sam Norman, and the son of the then Governor General of Her Majesty, Lieutenant Larry Boston.

This was countered by NCOs and two senior officers were invited to come and rule. They were Majors Juxton -Smith and Ambrose Ganda (both deceased).Both traveled on the same BOAC Aircraft till Las Palmas Airport in the Canaries where a telex was received declaring Juxton as the LEADER OF THE NEW MILITARY GOVERNMENT which became known as the National Reformation Council (NRC).

The NRC ruled for 13 months and was overthrown by NCOs again on the grounds of Juxton becoming a dictator, not a situation some view as a military intervention from a neighboring country aided by elements in the Sierra Leone Army.

Then came Siaka Stevens, a former trade unionist and Secretary General of the mine workers union and leading participant in all the workers’ strikes during the colonial period. Stevens’ epoch lasted for 18 years.

Within his rule Siaka Stevens introduced a lot of reforms that were not enjoyed by the former colonial masters. First, he asked for a review of the contracts of SLST and DELCO. These companies closed down operations on the grounds of not making profits and the terms of 51% profit sharing to the government of Sierra Leone made by Siaka Stevens being "unrealistic". Then he delinked the country politically by declaring a REPUBLIC on the 19th April 1973.

These two situations in particular made the British so mad that by 1979 notice of a delinking of the pound sterling as the fiduciary backing for the national currency, the Leone, was announced and Sierra Leone had to go the the special drawing rights of the IMF/WB, an organ that works to secure the interests of the multinationals, not governments.

Then regimes of devaluation after devaluation of the national currency followed coupled with a rise in internal corruption and fiscal scandals, leading to a total collapse of the system. An indictment that undermined and compromised the one party rule of the All People’s Congress(APC), itself a break away faction of the the SLPP was the planned massive withdrawals from the public funds. Leading to an acceleration, not freezing, of covert manipulations by an internal disgruntled, political cartel. A cartel, that enjoyed very top but secret international backing.

Also on the internal political platform this cartel adopted the philosophy of "if you can’t beat them join them". A position, that saw major players in the APC now in power with a few newer recruits, as the now ruling SLPP. A party accused by some international human rights and good governance organs of being the covert but little known sponsors of the RUF war.

This period was followed by six years of rule by President Joseph Saidu Momoh. Momoh’s epoch was plagued with rapid collapse of the economy forcing him to instruct the review of the one party state constitution and adopting the Peter Tucker constitution with a lot of modifications. The constitution that is in force today.

Within the same period of constitutional review and the declaration of the freedom to register parties for a multi party election came the Revolutionary Untied Front’s ultimatum and the start of the war on the 23 march 1991 at Bomaru in the east.

Then the military government, The National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) led by young and inexperienced military officers. This group was quick to receive the blessings of a disgruntled but politically blind public and the support of the evil cartel and the international community led by Britain. Then came 100 almost scrap military type Land Rovers and some weapons to the Sierra Leone army from Britain. Momoh had earlier made several overtures to the British Government for logistical assistance and support to no avail.

They were wooed into forming a National Advisory Council and a Constitutional Review Committee. A Committee, whose recommendations were rejected but having more or less the same people as members, manipulated itself into power by 1996.

Britain was to give full military support at a later date to the Kabbah regime AFTER THE 6 JANUARY FREETOWN ATTACK, at a time when the psychological, social and material fabric of the Sierra Leonean society had been destroyed and when the interests of a diamond multi national (DIAMNOD WORKS) operating in Britain had been secured.

The company made inroads in the country,it is alleged in most informed circles, through Peter Penfold dubbed Komrabai Penfold AFTER THE MILITARY INTERVENTION AND THE REINSTATEMENT of the Kabbah regime in 1998.

But why was there no British interest in the events in its former colony from 1991 until 2000? There are a million and more answers to this but one point that is clear is that they adopted the nonchalant and indifferent stance because of the actions of Siaka Stevens which they saw and labeled as pro-soviet or rather pro-communist populist.

So if Komrabai (the title is an insult to the people of Sierra Leone by the ruling SLPP, a group adept at propaganda and manipulations) Penfold is to appear to give evidence, without perjury to the court, he must tell it all in truth and nothing but the truth .Otherwise he will not be doing justice to himself, his country and to the still suffering and politically unconscious masses of Sierra Leone.

Finally, it is hoped the Hinga Norman’s trial will reveal the truth and make room for lasting peace in Sierra Leone.

Photo: Komrabai Peter Penfold

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