By Alpha Bedoh Kamara
Two individuals, distinct and unique, but having the same passion and patriotism for their country, and through their different approaches try to speak out the ills in society and proffering ideas for national intervention for better governance and development in Sierra Leone.
One is liberal, the other conservative; but both revolutionaries and pragmatic with a kind heart and determination to sacrifice for the good of society.
I am privileged to have worked with both men, benefit from their advice and guidance through hard and rough days to the good moments when we laugh over the struggles; as it was with Paul Kamara before and after he was released from prison. Our relationship wasn’t like a boss and mentor at the For Di People Newspaper but like a big brother.
We cross path at a time our nation was embroiled in a senseless war, when workers of the For Di People newspaper were always looking over their backs, afraid the unexpected will happen, and it often happened, for Paul had survived an assassination attempt when shot by unknown combatants in Freetown and left to die, and then the SLPP led ransack of our office at Short Street and confiscation of the computers by the CID and subsequent detention, then the assault on our then acting editor, Harry Yansanneh, who was manhandled by thugs of the then SLPP Member of Parliament, Fatmata Hassan.
Harry died of kidney failure few weeks after the attack – I could still remember while testifying at the inquest the crowds of onlookers thronging the filled courtroom and outside the court, demanding justice! But justice was never served. The perpetrators who were in police custody disappeared into thin air and the matter, like most others, ended in limbo.
These tribulations, among many others, were enough to break someone’s spirit; but not Paul! For a year and nine months, he was incarcerated for ‘defamation and sedition’ against the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone for raising an issue of public interest. At which time people in the government prevailed on him to apologize and be freed, but he said no. His resolve was unshakable and later won his appeal at the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone and was released.
Like Paul Kamara, Dr. Julius Spencer has had his own stories of tribulations, a survivor of political attacks and injustice, and threats to his life. Then-Managing Editor of the New Breed Newspaper, Dr. Julius Spencer was detained at the notorious Pademba Road prison and the paper later shuttered by the NPRC military junta who went ballistic after the New Breed published a diamond smuggling story that shook the nation.
In 2007, I was invited by Dr. Julius Spencer who informed me about his new vision and mission for the media in Sierra Leone, that he wanted me to join the team at Premier News. I could still remember meeting face to face with another firebrand. There I met Desmond Finney; Mr. Hardeen was there, also Mrs. Campbell, Jay Willie, among others.
I wasn’t prepared for an interview but it turned out to be an interview – I was landed the sub-editor job.
Like Paul Kamara, I met a mentor and father figure in Dr. Julius Spencer, one so patience and selfless that his commitment to work and principles could only be rivaled by few in society. Both men are workaholics, for few Sierra Leoneans will claim to work from 9 a.m to 12 midnight. I shared these hours with these two great men of Sierra Leone in their quest to be the difference in society by challenging the system through the media for the betterment of society.
Both have served as ministers but ended up leaving offices because of their principles and refusal to fall to the caprices of corruption, and in their own different ways positively contribute to the lives of young Sierra Leoneans, Paul through football, and Dr. Julius Spencer through the film industry. Today, thousands of Sierra Leoneans own their success through these two noblemen who relate to everyone in society regardless of tribe, religion, political party affiliation, or region.
I often say to friends that in Sierra Leone one cannot change society without taking a role in the system that determines the governance of the people. These two noblemen, in their different ways, are taking a path that was long awaited by the people. Paul Kamara pitching with the All Peoples Congress (APC) and Dr. Julius Spencer with the National Grand Coalition (NGC) is another unique transformation of two great individuals from the media to politics and whose active participation will provide the voice of the millions of Sierra Leoneans.
Sierra Leone needs people who are capable of taking pragmatic decisions and not people with shady characters. There is too much suffering and lack of foresight by our leaders and until people with the mindset to think independently and take a decision in the interest of the people will there be better schools, standard hospitals, employment, and economic stability.
It is my view that the history of these two great men, such as my small narrative, serves as witness to their sacrifices for the good of the country. While Paul could help change the narrative in the APC, Dr. Spencer could provide a breath of life in the NGC, which he is presently doing.
These two men, like other great Sierra Leoneans, risked their lives to bring peace in Sierra Leone. From donning combat uniforms, risking snippers and enemy firing, Dr. Spencer dared the streets to give moral to ECOMOG forces and protecting democracy, while Paul championed the media struggle against the rebels and promoting democracy and human rights.
Alpha Bedoh Kamara is the managing editor of the Specimen News and Award Winner: 2004-5 Newspaper Columnist of the Year in Sierra Leone.