Salone News

The Norman Arrest: Sierra Leone’s Day of Infamy

9 March 2006 at 06:39 | 440 views

Commentary

By Alfred Munda SamForay,

The Sierra Leone Working Group and the Hinga Norman-CDF Defence Fund.

Monday, 10th March 2003, will go down in the history of Sierra Leone as our national day of infamy. On that day, three years ago, while in his official capacity as Minister of Internal Affairs and Regent Chief of Jaiama-Bongor Chiefdom, the Hon. Samuel Hinga Norman was arrested, kicked and shoved into a police van then onto a helicopter and transferred to a mosquito infested former slave penitentiary on Bonthe Island south west of Sierra Leone. Norman was later transferred to the detention facilities at New England in Freetown. Three months later, two other high ranking members of the government sponsored militia, the Sierra Leone Civil Defence Forces (CDF-SL), former CDF Director of War, Moinina Fofana, and former High Priest and Chief Initiator, Dr. Alieu Kondewa, were also arrested at the orders of the so-called Special Court for Sierra Leone. All three men have been incarcerated at the detention center for the past three years while the cases against them drag on ad infinitum.

Perhaps the most shameful and diabolical aspect of Mr. Norman’s arrest and humiliation on that fateful day in 2003 was that his boss and confidant, President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, actually picked up the telephone and called Norman to make sure that the Chief was at his desk shortly before the Sierra Leone Police arrived to arrest Norman. The incident bears a striking resemblance to the betrayal of Jesus by one of his chosen disciples, Judas Iscariot, who kissed Jesus on the cheek just before his arrest by Roman soldiers on the orders of the kangaroo court set up by Jewish leaders who had become obsessed with Jesus’ popularity among the people. Judas later changed his mind and tried to return the thirty pieces of silver for which he had betrayed his friend and mentor. He killed himself before Jesus himself was hanged by the Romans. This is not necessarily a suggested path to penitence for Mr. Kabbah during this Lent season. However, the similarity between these two historical events is not to be lost on many Sierra Leoneans including this writer who consider Mr. Kabbah’s complicity in Chief Norman’s arrest not only as the ultimate act of betrayal of friendship but also as a convenient way for Kabbah to dispose of Chief Norman in favour of Kabbah’s Vice President and heir-apparent, Solomon Berewa. Berewa was last year elected by the ruling SLPP as Party Leader and candidate to succeed Tejan Kabbah as President of Sierra Leone.

Let’s fast-forward to 10th March, 2006, the third anniversary of Mr. Norman’s arrest. On Thursday, 9th March, the Supreme Court in the matter of Sam Hinga Norman versus SLPP, Jah, Saffa and Carew, is expected to hear arguments put forward by Counsel for Chief Norman stating among other things that the election, selection or by whatever means of Solomon Ekuma Berewa as Leader of the SLPP is unconstitutional and should be made of no lawful effect whatsoever. Mr. Norman also argues that the acceptance by Mr. Berewa of the position of Party Leader while at the self same material time serving as Vice President of Sierra Leone is in itself in violation of the constitution. If Norman prevails in his arguments, Mr. Berewa will be dispossessed of his title as Party Leader and the SLPP will have the option of holding another convention to elect its leadership.

Meanwhile, Berewa’s boss, President Tejan Kabbah himself is on the ropes from Mr. Norman’s legal maneuvers before the so-called special court. Norman and co-defendant, Moinina Fofana, recently filed a motion for a subpoena ad testificadum requiring Mr. Kabbah to appear as a witness for the defence. Kabba’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Fred Carew, presented an argument before the Trial Chamber as to why the president should not be subpoenaed to appear as a witness. It is, however, unmistakably clear from the Rules of Evidence of the court that Kabbah as Head of State has no immunity either to appear as a witness or to be held in contempt of court indicted, if he fails to appear or for perjury if he fails to testify truthfully under oath. Kabbah could also, if the evidence so leads, be charged for his complicity in planning and executing various battles and war strategies as testified to by various CDF commanders including Chief Norman himself who have appeared as defence witnesses. The decision is long over due and should be resolved before the trial resumes on 2 May, 2006. If the court for some unknown reason were to decide against Kabbah testifying, then is the court making a declaration that Mr. Kabbah is above the law and that the court is subject to the national constitution?

Whatever the outcomes of the matters before the Supreme Court or the Kabbah subpoena, it is now clear that for a country run by lawyers, Sierra Leone is now headed for a slippery road and that lawyers, despite their reputation, may not have a monopoly on craftiness. One way or the other, the indicted non-lawyers, Norman, Fofana and Kondewa, may have the last laugh at the expense of their tormentors. For their parts both the Trial Chamber and the Sierra Leone Supreme Court are bound by duty and conscience to deliver their verdicts with all deliberate speed. As Norman himself has often argued on his own behalf, justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done. It could be that if the justices of both courts where Mr. Norman seeks vindication and justice were to rule without respect of persons and according to the rule of law rather than fear and favour, the outcomes of the Kabbah subpoena and the that of the Supreme Court may render the outcome - whatever it might be - of the trial at the so-called special court itself of no consequence whatsoever.

In Martin Luther King’s rendition of the Hebrew Prophet, Isaiah, "Let justice roll down like rivers and righteousness like a mighty stream." Then and only then will Sierra Leoneans be able to put behind them this sad and most turbulent part of our history and fully engage themselves in the long-derailed national reconstruction and reconciliation. If the justices can find within themselves the courage to do this, then we might be able to paraphrase the words of Winston Spencer Churchill before the House of Commons in June 1940: Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties and so bear ourselves that, if the Republic of Sierra Leone and its government last for a thousand years beyond its day of infamy, posterity will still say, ’This was their finest hour."

Photo: Chief Samuel Hinga Norman

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