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Monday, 20 July 2015
BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY : THE 1975 APC EXECUTION OF SORIE FOFNAH AND FOURTEEN OTHERS, 40 YEARS AGO - 19th JULY 1975 :
By David Jabati
Forty years ago, July 19 1975, to be exact, a sad chapter was written in the political history of Sierra Leone when Dr. Mohamed Sorie Forna, one of Sierra Leone’s most brilliant politicians, together with Lieutenant Habib Lansana Kamara, Ibrahim Bash Taqi, Brigadier David Lansana, and Paramount Chief Bai Makarie N’silk, among others were executed at the then Pademba Road Prison, now Male Correction Centre in Freetown.
The piteous spectacle outside he then Pademba prison, where the men who had been killed by hanging were displayed for about an hour to send a strong message, sent shock waves throughout Sierra Leone and beyond.
The marathon trial of Mohamed Sorie Forna (Siaka Stevens’ former Minister of Finance) and fourteen others riveted the nation. And the eventual execution of Dr. Forna and Ibrahim Taqi (former Information Minister), two distinguished Sierra Leoneans who played a pivotal role in the All People’s Congress’ election victory in 1967 – was not only a burden of grief to family and loved ones, but a terrible loss to the entire nation. It was a national calamity that had immediate and far-reaching repercussions and consequences. The executions alienated the support of many northerners, especially at Tonkolili (an APC political stronghold during the 1967 General Election) and fueled the flames of popular discontent against Siaka Stevens and the then APC led government.
Stevens’ popularity as leader of the All People’s Congress and Prime Minister of Sierra Leone started to erode in 1971 when his government executed Brigadier John Bangura – the man who literally handed over power to him in 1968 – together with Jawara and Kolugbonda. The three were the first high-ranking officers to be executed in Sierra Leone after independence in 1961. Sources very close to prison authorities then have it that Brigadier John Bangura wept on the eleventh hour of his execution – finding it hard to believe that Siaka Stevens, the man he handed power to, turned down his plea for mercy. It was also revealed that Bangura never faced the gallows; he was beaten to death when he refused to make his last walk to the gallows. What a terrible way to end, for a decorated officer that was held in high esteem!
On December 31, 1992, the tragedy of 1975 was revisited when the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC), a de facto government, headed by 27-year-old Captain Valentine E. M. Strasser, executed 29 people, among whom were James Bambay Kamara, Inspector General of Police, and Sandhurst-trained soldier James Yayah Kanu, who was field commander in the war against rapacious Liberian rebels and Revolutionary United Front fighters. The brutal manner in which Bambay and twenty eight others were executed – including torture, mutilation, the pouring of acid and the burial of victims in a mass grave, left many Sierra Leoneans screaming: “monstrous injustice – a senseless massacre!
Captain Valentine Strasser, a young man with a short-lived dancing career and with little more than a high school diploma, who was hailed as a hero on April 29 1992, lost the support he initially had when he toppled the effete regime of Joseph Saidu Momoh. Captain Strasser and his fellow young officers (in their twenties), from the war front, who forcibly took over the affairs of State, made a big political blunder by extra-judicially executing Bambay and others. Like Siaka Stevens, Strasser’s popularity took a nosedive after the gory killings of one of Sierra Leone’s finest, Col. Kawuta Dumbuya, popular movie actor and journalist Salami Coker, a palm wine tapper, and an innocent woman. Reacting to the executions, the late Brigadier A.T. Juxon Smith, Sierra Leone’s first military head of state, had this to say:
“The events and actions on April 29, 1992, which led to the formation of the NPRC, is an act of treason. I therefore cannot fathom how a treasonable organization can accuse, try and execute Sierra Leone nationals for treason. It is plain simple murder for which the NPRC collectively and individually will have to answer to the people of Sierra Leone in a court of law when the day of reckoning comes, however long delayed. I hope the NPRC has kept the transcript of the trial and that a genuine copy has been deposited in the archives.”
To this day, no single NPRC officer has been brought before a court of law in Sierra Leone for murder. However, SAJ Musa, believed to have been the mastermind of those massacres, was killed around Waterloo while leading a battalion of rebels and renegade soldiers to dislodge the SLPP government. Captain Valentine Strasser, who was Chairman of the NPRC, is believed to have gone mad as result of all those curses that have hurled at him. The others, though not mad, have been subjected to a whole lot of insults and public humiliation. Tom Nyuma, considered to be “the strongman of the NPRC,” was shipped out of the US. During the 2007 election, he was seriously manhandled by a former colleague, Idrissa “Leather Boot,” for (allegedly) attempting to assassinate APC presidential candidate Ernest Bai Koroma while on a campaign trail in the southern province.
The swift trial and hasty execution of 24 soldiers for serving under the AFRC/RUF junta (which toppled the less than one year old elected SLPP government on May 27 1997) by the Sierra Leone People’s Party Government headed by Alhaji Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, triggered a firestorm of condemnation from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The executions, which occurred on a Monday in October 1998, came as a real shock to the then United Nation’s Secretary General Kofi Annan, the European Union and many in the International Community who played a role in the restoration of Kabba. Prior to the execution of the 24 soldiers, ill-guided enthusiasts of the SLPP had embarked on a pogrom. All those suspected of having ties with the AFRC/RUF junta were rounded up and set on fire. A car tie was placed around the neck of the victim; petrol was poured and then set ablaze. They called it “neck-lacing” SLPP style!
The story continues to date.
THE FIFTEEN ACCUSED PERSONS:
1st Accused: Mohamed Sorie Fornah- Medical Practitioner/Businessman
2nd Accused: Habib Lansa Kamara- Trader
3rd Accused: Ibrahim Bash Taqi- Public Relations Consultant
4th Accused: Abdul Bai Kamara- Businessman
5th Accused: David Lansana- Unemployed
6th Accused: Abu Mohamed Kanu- Businessman
7th Accused: Albert Tot-Thomas- Businessman
8th Accused: Alusine Bedor Kamara- Motor Driver
9th Accused: Hamed Bundu Kamara- Trader
10th Accused: George Thompson- Store Keeper Kissy Mental Home
11th Accused: Issa Jalloh- Businessman
12th Accused: Bai Makari N’Silk- Unemployed
13th Accused: Alimamy Mansaray- Police Sub Inspector
14th Accused: Mohamed Turay- Police Sergeant