Special Court: A Daniel Come To Judgment?

11 February 2006 at 04:02 | 482 views

There are many views among Sierra Leoneans on the Special Court for Sierra Leone; such views also include differing opinions about the war crime indictees and people yet to be indicted (if ever). Here is one of such personal views from one of our London correspondents:

By Saidu Kaye Sesay, London, UK

The Special Court in Sierra Leone, to my mind, is as good as over, with revelations emanating from a principal player in the Sierra Leone war, junta interregnum and subsequent restoration of the so-called legitimate government of Ahmed Tejan Kabbah. Before the restoration of the Tejan Kabbah government, the international community and the political big shots of Sierra Leone were caught in the interpretation of two phrases ‘the constitutional order’ and ‘a constitutional order’.

According to think tanks from both the SLPP and AFRC, ‘the constitutional order’ carrying the definite article meant the restoration of Kabbah’s SLPP, whilst the AFRC brains, including Dr. Abass Bundu argued at the conference hall at Cockerill (Military HQ) that what the international community wanted was the restoration of ‘a constitutional order’ which loosely interpreted meant a fresh election

Komrabai Penfold
Peter Penfold is a household name in Sierra Leone with a mission: the restoration of constitutional order. He was held in high esteem by the people of that country because of his philanthropist gestures and genuine emotional attachment to the deprived people of Sierra Leone. So esteemed was the man, that immediately after the restoration of the Tejan Kabbah led SLPP government, the ex-High Commissioner was crowned honorary Paramount Chief by the people of Lungi, where some of the most horrible fighting took place, thus adopting the name Chief Komrabai Penfold.

Hopeless Regime
Stories abound about the involvment of Peter Penfold in Sierra Leone’s crises. When the junta toppled Kabbah’s government the role of Penfold in negotiating a safe passage and juicy packages for the coup leaders was widely rumoured. Having failed to lure the coupists, Penfold relocated to Conakry, Guinea where the dethroned president and majority of his cabinet colleagues were seeking refuge. Penfold was again caught in the schemes and intrigues of the regime that eventually led to its restoration. But Penfold had to pay a price; the loss of his job as Britain’s High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, amidst claims of his brokering the infamous SANDLINE deal. The truth is still shrouded in mystery, but maybe the anti-climax of ‘Sierra Leone’s Special Court’ would lay this bare. Whilst the likes of Lord Avebury argued in the British parliament about the futility of restoring a hopeless regime, Penfold had hopes in the people of Sierra Leone, little realising that the traitors of the land are the very powers that he wined and dined with.

Truth would last
Whilst all of these sordid activities happened, culminating in the setting up of an irrelevant and unpopular Special Court, the ever courageous Sierra Leoneans silently whispered that the truth would last. Indeed the truth is ‘beginning’ to rear its head. Not that the citizenry were not privy to the truth, but intimidations and fear of being forced to wear the dreaded tags of junta activists /collaborators/sympathisers, with its attendant butchery and burning alive of our compatriots kept the entire populace like cringing dogs before cruel masters, painfully silent.

Dishonest and callous
Peter Penfold has now taken the witness stand at the Special Court. In as much as he intended to exonerate Chief Sam Hinga Norman, a principal indictee at the courts, he has given Sierra Leoneans and the world an insight into the dishonest and callous world of the country’s political class. Not that this is strange to some of us, but try though we did to bring this malaise to the attention of our compatriots and the entire world, our efforts were belittled by the lopsided logic of political spinsters, who dished out negative propaganda that was shamelessly imbibed even by the so called Big Brothers. But maybe now the world would listen, as I believe that this is a testimony of a genuine witness who meant well for the people of that country.

No respect
I do not wish to comment on what Kabbah would or would not say, if and when he appears before the court. We now know that Kabbah was not only aware of the formation of the CDF, but actually set up the structures and designated roles.
We did and still know that whilst Kabbah was globe trotting, seeking military support for his cause, Norman initially stayed behind to pacify the junta to hand over power. So, who is the villain and who is the saint?
We knew, and it is now becoming clear that Kabbah had little or no respect for the national army. Otherwise, how would a Commander-in- Chief decide the fate of his army by merely pronouncing the rationing of food in a crisis that bordered on the security of an entire nation?

These and more, are questions we expect Kabbah to answer, and not, repeat not, with his usual mumblings and inanities.
And I do not say this lightly. If the Special Court cannot deliver us from the evil claws of this dictator, we might as well resort to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which to me sounded more serious anyway.

Photo: The author, Saidu, on a recent trip to Makeni, Sierra Leone.