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Monday, July 04, 2005

The Death of Sierra Leone

There was a very moving article by Aminatta Forna in yesterday's Observer on her father's execution by the Sierra Leonean government thirty years ago, and the madness that followed in its wake, and the slow rebuilding going on today.

Back in Freetown, during this trip, my step-mother Yabome (whom I have called Mum since I was a child) shows me the front page of a newspaper. On it is the text of my father's 1970 letter resigning from his post as minister of finance. Following an article I wrote in a British newspaper, somebody in America published the letter in full on the web. Subsequently, two newspapers here have followed suit.

The predictions my father made in that letter have proved to be astonishingly, tragically accurate. He foresaw how Sierra Leone would become a one-party state. Foreshadowing his own death, he accused the president of using violence to silence his critics. He revealed details of Stevens's spending, over which the two men had argued bitterly. In a later letter, written hours before his execution, he talked of the end of the rule of law, the coming anarchy.

In the week that follows my conversation with Mum, two men of my father's generation, one a politician, the other a diplomat, make the same remark: 'Your father signed his own death warrant with that letter.' The comment is stunningly insensitive. I stare at the expression on the face of each speaker. What is it I see there? Not remorse or humility, certainly; rather, a strange satisfaction.

The second man goes on to add that, back in the Seventies, a friend had once kicked him under the table for criticising the government at a dinner. 'Thank goodness,' he laughs. 'I made sure I kept quiet after that.' When he has finished, I do something I have never done before. I tell him what a shame it is that an entire generation did the same, all the good men who did nothing.
A must read.
|| RPH || 5:17 PM || |