Sumanguru’s War Cry: A Commentary

11 June 2006 at 23:24 | 605 views

Olu Richie Gordon, a Freetown-based newspaper editor and human rights activist, comments on the recent call by the legendary student leader Hindolo Trye that all 1977 "revolutionaries" should join and rally behind the APC to restore Sierra Leone’s former glory.

By Olu Gordon, Freetown

9TH JUNE 2006


Hindolo Trye is at least honest in his conviction in joining the APC.

It’s been almost thirty years since I made the acquaintance of Hindolo Sumanguru Trye.

‘Made the acquaintance of’ perhaps isn’t the right phrase. I campaigned for Hindolo Trye to become F.B.C. Student Union President, using a pen-name (those who remember will remember; for those who don’t, or never knew - it’s not important) on the student notice board CHUKS PRESS.

Young Cats

It was my baptism into the world of politics and polemical journalism. Back in those days the Cats - young, centred around the radical club Gardeners, were engaged in a struggle for power with the more conservative students, mostly from the south-east and old teachers on study leave - Fixity.

It was the 70s, and as Dylan said, ‘the times, they were a-changing

Student protests
Influenced by Bob Marley, student protests around the world (I particularly recall the Ethiopian student uprising against the dictator Mengistu) and the anti-apartheid struggle (1976 was the year of Soweto), FBC students decided to take a hard time against the defacto One Party Dictatoship which had ruled Sierra Leone, since 1973 - when the SLPP withdrew from parliamentary elections against the violent APC.

Hindolo Trye, although of south-eastern origin, had spent a lot of his life here in the Western Area. In those days the Gardeners totally rejected any form of ethnic/regional identity. No Old Bo School Boys... (though I’m sure many attended it), no KONSU/Kono Student Union, definitely no ‘Fixity’. We were “cats and kittens of the New Age” as one prominent College D.J used to call us. And we were determined to challenge the oppressive Status Quo.

Actually it was the Oppressive Status Quo that hit first. In January 1977 police tear-gassed a peaceful student demonstration organized to show FBC’s solidarity with the liberation struggle in southern Africa.

I have written of Kenneth Kaunda’s visit elsewhere and how it directly led to the Student Demonstration of January 29, 1977 which in turn cause, the APC back-lash of ‘All Thugs Day’ on January 31, 1977 when we were assaulted on Mount Aureol and the glorious First of February ‘No College, No School’ when youths/students all over this country, joined the call for ‘free and fair elections’ and for an end to One-Party Dictatorship.

How it happened
I’m not going to re-hash those incidents all over again. What I am interested in analyzing was why and how Hindolo Trye, FBC student president in 1977 and figurehead of the struggle, decided to join the self-same APC in 2006; almost thirty years later.

We have had our differences over the years. In 1976 - 1977, I was a raw, politically naïve student. However over the years, I’ve picked up experience - and scars - of my own. During the NPRC period for example, I was an opponent of the young soldiers who were not ideologically strong enough to resist the temptation of The System that they’d staged a coup to overcome.


let me point out that last Friday I was extremely proud of Hindolo Trye. He at least had the courage of his convictions; whereas others, whom we shall not name, are merely following the SLPP as paid hirelings.

To some, who have not followed the political trajectory of the so-called Generation of 77, Hindolo’s political choice is not entirely understandable. Let’s clear up a few misconceptions about 1977 first.. so we’re all on the same page.

1. 1977 was the first struggle for restoration of Democracy

SLPP control
Some have accused the 1977 Generation of selling out to the SLPP and carrying out the demonstration purely under SLPP control.

Nothing could be further from the truth. 1977 was a cry of anger by a New Generation - a demand for basic rights and freedoms which had been stripped from Sierra Leoneans over an 8-9 year period (1969-1977).

Anyone who knows anything about Sierra Leonean history would realize that during Albert Margai’s budding dictatorship, Fourah Bay College was a centre of opposition to the SLPP.

Or let me put that in another way. The APC, initially founded as a leftist, pro-socialist party, was more in tune with the radicalism of the students and staff of FBC during the turbulent sixties. Remember Eldred Jones marched - in full academic gown - with other academic staff against Albert’s constitutional amendments!

When the APC betrayed its own creed, (we can probably date this from the 1975 executions of Taqi, Fornah etc), when mass corruption - worse than the SLPP ever perpetuated - stalked the land, the students (and many staff), of FBC reacted against the APC. There was no Grand Conspiracy to bring the SLPP back. Indeed, at the time, the SLPP (as was proved by 1978) had no stomach for the fight for power and tamely trooped into the APC.

Many students felt betrayed at the time. I still do. The SLPP and APC joined together to rape this country for over 14 years.

1977 was just the first of titanic struggles - which still continue - to consolidate a pluralistic democracy in this country.

To assume that Hindolo Trye, Pios Foray and Frank Kposowa etc were a Trojan Horses instigated by the SLPP to launch the struggle (simply because they were mainly of southern-eastern origin) is a gross historical over-simplification.

2. The struggle of 1977 was a struggle against dictatorship; not a struggle against the APC as such

The January 29, 1977 demonstration was a peaceful one. It called for free and fair elections, the disbanding of the Internal Security Unit (now OSD), an end to corruption, improvement in wages and salaries.

These were demands aimed at Siaka Stevens, who was acquiring the trappings of a dictator. Many students, including myself, came from pro-APC backgrounds (my grand-mother was a lifelong member of that party and, like most Creoles, had supported Siaka Stevens during the APC’s struggle for power 1962 - 1968).

But by 1977, the academics (for the most part), the judges, civil servants etc had all chickened out of the fight to uphold democratic liberties. They had fought Albert Margai, tooth-and-nail, but surrendered to Stevens with hardly a whimper.

We, young students/youth rose up only after APC thugs invaded FBC. And that uprising was National in scope. Off course many lobbied for an SLPP victory in the elections that followed (April 1978) but this was because, as I stated in point one, the country wanted a multi-party democracy one again.

3. There was a Pan-Africanist, revolutionary political dimension to the 1977 struggle


The flashpoint for the January 29, 1977 demonstration was Stevens refusal to allow an anti-apartheid rally to welcome visiting President Kenneth Kaunda a few weeks previously.

Liberation struggle
The liberation struggle in Africa was at its height 30 years ago. Exiled Zimbabwean, Namibian, South African students were all at FBC on U.N scholarships. Indigenous Sierra Leonean students learned a lot from them and the spirit of Chimurenga (struggle) was rampant on campus.

It is important to remember that when the student uprising was crushed and the One-Party Dictatorship declared, the radical Tablet newspaper rose out of the 1977 ashes. And when old/then current students decided to form a clandestine political organization to oppose the APC they named it Movement of the People of Africa (M.O.P.A.), taking as their cue Movement For Justice For Africa (MOJA), the radical organizations that had arisen in Liberia and Gambia, based on a Pan-Africanist orientation.


Photo: Hindolo Sumanguru Trye, left and APC leader Ernest Koroma, right.

Photo Credit: Cocorioko newspaper.