Hard Times 30 Years on… NPRC Coup Today
It is 30 years today after the National Provisional Ruling Council forcefully took over state governance from President Joseph Saidu Momoh, then Head of State (1985-1992). The NPRC guys had it as their main rhetoric the reformers and redeemers of the nation.
Their aim, they argued, was to free Sierra Leone from what they referred to as economic stagnation, bad governance, oppression and tyranny among others. Captain Valentine Strasser, Lieutenant Sahr Sandy, Lieutenant Solomon Musa, Lieutnant Tom Nyuma, Captain Komba Mondeh and President Julius Maada Bio, a second lieutenant at that time were the protagonists in what many writers referred to as a bloodless coup. Despite the rhetoric on reformation, Sierra Leone, to date, still continues to fester in the worst of conditions.
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She is plagued by abject poverty, under-development, bad governance, inflation and economic maladministration among others. Sierra Leone’s economic malaise today could be traced back to her immediate past dating from 1980s to early 1990s.
One of the most marked events that took place in 1980 was the hosting of OAU (Organisation of African Unity) now AU (African Union) conference in Sierra Leone which landed Sierra Leone in a dire economic state.
Prices of basic goods and services spiraled out of control casting bleak future for Sierra Leoneans. Short-lived Measures were however taken to stem the tide of the economic meltdown, but the hardship lingered. Not too long in 1985, President Siaka Stevens handpicked a weak successor, Major-General Joseph Saidu Momoh who was confronted with the new and daunting task of rebuilding the economy.
Hopes were high that Momoh would turn the situation in favour of Sierra Leoneans owning to his military background. He however wanted to great by extending an Olive branch to all those in exile not knowing that great men make great mistakes.
Those Momoh brought home were men who had attempted on President Stevens’ life to take over state administration by the use of arms. Momoh broke a moral injection that says “Trust No One’ although nothing works without trust.
It was sad and horrific to learn that those Momoh trusted saw his back power, and ensuring extra judicial killings, human rights abuse and suppression of free speech that occurred at that time were still kept alive by history.
Those men who were responsible for Momoh’s fall ruled for a while, and most have been swept away by the cruel hand death. Others still live around, but they are mere shadows of the glorious former selves. The unhappy end of those who took power through the use of arms is weighing hard on them.
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The man who initially led NPRC, Captain Valentine Strasser today sits on a wheel chair with no one knowing what will happen in a moment. One of them however occupies the nation’s highest office with little difference from his leadership in the NPRC regime.
Recent history has taught that President Bio graduated from military academy as a second lieutenant in the Sierra Leone Army in October 1987 at age 23, and his first posting as a commissioned officer was at the Lungi Garrison in Port Loko district in the same year.
Bio’s first appointment after NPRC coup was Secretary of State South stationed in the country’s second capital of Bo, but was later moved to Freetown to serve as Secretary of State in charge of Information and Broadcasting. Bio was later promoted to captain alongside other junior lieutenants. Since Bio is a leading member in a coup that kicked out the APC government, Bio served as the Supreme Council of state member throughout NPRC’s stay in power.
He later became Strasser’s deputy following the dismissal and exile of the former deputy, Solomon Musa to the UK. Many Sierra Leoneans accused Bio of disloyalty to his former boss, Strasser when he master-minded a putsch that saw the latter out of power over a dispute within the Supreme State Council.
Other members wanted to seek peace with the RUF before going into multi-party elections slated to take place in 1996 or go ahead with the elections regardless of the raging war at that time. The counter-coup was backed by prominent army officers including Tom Nyuma, Komba Mondeh, Reginald Glover, Colonel Idris Kamara and Colonel Kerefa Kargbo. The clueless NPRC chairman, Valentine Strasser lost the glory, courtesies and prestige of power when he was handcuffed at gun-point by military guards who should protect him.
He was immediately flown into exile in a military helicopter to Conakry, the capital city of Neighbouring Guinea. Bio moved to the United States after his retirement from the military where he reportedly earned Masters degree in International Affairs from an American University.
Bio fell foul with the American law during his stay there, and was deported. A great chunk of his time was spent in the UK from where he bounced back to contest for elections in Sierra Leone in 2012 and 2018.
In 1990, Bio was among a contingent of Sierra Leone Army posted to Liberia to the West African Peace-Keeping force to keep the peace in Liberia at a time the tiny West African country was in flames set by disorganized bands of guerilla fighter. The fighters were fighting to over Samuel Doe’s government who saw as a dictator and oppressor.
Reports showed that thousands of Liberians fleeing to Sierra Leone thereby exposing the country’s fragile security and adding to the economic hardship. After a year in Liberia as an ECOMOG (ECOWAS Monitoring Group), the Sierra Leone Government ordered Bio and several members of Sierra Leonean soldiers serving in Liberia to immediately return to Sierra Leone, and report to the Army Barracks in Daru, Kailahun district to add t the newly formed 600-man battalion of soldiers to repel the Revolutionary United Front rebels who had attacked villages on the border between Liberia and Sierra Leone in March, 1991.
According to Nightwatch Newspaper, the soldiers included such soldiers as Solomon Musa, Valentine Strasser, Sahr Sandy and Tom Nyuma. All these have today have left the shores of politics except Bio who shows an inclination to remain. But, 2023 is the deadline and a redline he would not cross.