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RTD. CAPTAIN ALIMAMY MAROUF SESAY - a civilian wrongfully tried by a military court-martial and summarily executed PDF Print E-mail
Written by A TRIBUTE by Thomas B R Yormah Email: tom_yormah@yahoo.com; Tel +23276626488   
Thursday, 20 April 2017 11:59

On Sunday 26 March 2017, three very close family members were 'laid to rest' at a Thanksgiving and Memorial service held at the King Memorial United Methodist Church in Freetown. That service celebrated memories of the following family members: Mrs Lydia Sesay nee Yormah (my elder sister), her son Rtd. Captain Alimamy Sesay, and Madame Gbonu Yormah nee Gbloh. 

Although these departed loved ones had died and were interred several years ago in my absence that thanksgiving service enabled me to truly emotionally connect with their demise. For one of the deceased the circumstances of his death did not permit us to give him a fitting funeral so to me that service served as his fitting, albeit belated, funeral service. That event has now freed me from the encumbrances that had prevented me for almost 19 years to put my thoughts about his demise on paper. This piece therefore serves as a tribute to his memory.

Alimamy Marouf Sesay, the first son of my elder sister, Lydia Sesay, lived with us at Contractor's Flat on Fourah Bay College (FBC) campus while he attended the Albert Academy. He had just completed his GCE Advanced Level programme and before we could plan his next academic challenge his paternal uncle, Mr. Sidique Dao (now late) got him enlisted in the Sierra Leone Army as a cadet officer. Those were the days when one had to have a strong political backing to be eligible to join the armed forces and I guess the young man saw it as an opportunity to carve out an early career as an army officer so he ignored my advice for him to opt instead for an academic career. He did well in the army and rose rapidly to the rank of Captain, to the delight of even this sceptical uncle. Alimamy, however, became entwined/embroiled in a benign disciplinary web that got him premature discharge/retirement from the army through little fault of his.

After a short period of soul searching he came to me with a proposal to pursue a career in IT, a decision I supported fully. However, before we could get him an institution to enrol the Johnny Paul Koroma coup d'état that overthrew President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah's government happened. Amid unconfirmed reports that the retired Captain Alimamy Marouf Sesay was now in cahoots with the band of coup makers and rebels, he came to visit me one evening at House K3, Kortright, FBC campus. I was amazed to see this retired military officer dressed fully in military uniform and I immediately scolded him for that. I told him he had been discharged from the army and therefore had no business wearing the military uniform he had on. I told him I had seen, since the coup, a lot of civilians wearing military fatigue but as an ex-soldier he should be mindful of the negative implications of civilians wearing military uniforms. He then told me the Head of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) Junta, Johnny Paul Koroma, had requested all retired military officers to join them to help stabilise and consolidate the junta. I told him the coup was an unpopular one which did not have domestic support nor that of the International Community. I finally admonished him not to ever attempt to come see me while dressed in military uniform. He then said good bye and left. Little did I know that conversation would be the last I would have with him.

A few days later I was able to acquire enough fuel to escape Freetown and fled with my family to Conakry via Pamlap. The next day we flew to Cotonou, Republic of Benin and lived with Dr. and Mrs Braima James as "refugee guests". While in Cotonou I naturally kept monitoring (via TV and the Internet) how the situation was panning out in Freetown. I was therefore able to know that Alimamy was among those people the ECOMOG soldiers arrested and locked up to enable the legitimate government of President Kabbah to return to power.

In the trials that ensued, the suspects that were arrested were divided into 2 categories viz., army officers, on the one hand and civilians, on the other who were involved in the coup and its aftermath. The former were to be tried by a court martial while the latter were to be tried by a civilian court. However, in spite of it being public knowledge that Alimamy Marouf Sesay had long been discharged from the army and hence  a civilian, he was lumped together with the active military officers and tried by a military court martial. I made Trojan efforts  from Cotonou to reach  Alimamy's  Lawyer, Francis Conteh (now late) and was successful in  getting him to drive home the fact that as a retired military officer, the young man should not  be tried by a military court martial. However, lawyer Conteh’s subsequent gallant efforts to correct the error of  Alimamy’s trial category, were in vain and  sadly, the civilian, Alimamy Marouf Sesay, was tried by a military court martial, found guilty and executed by a firing squad on 08 October 1998 at age 29 years 11 months; exactly a month to the day of his 30th birthday, having being born on 08 November 1968. To my knowledge, he goes down in history as the first and only civilian to have been tried by a military court martial, found guilty and publicly executed by a firing squad. He also happens to be the youngest Sierra Leonean to suffer that ordeal.

 I believe that in order to serve as deterrent to future coup makers, ECOMOG (the standing army for military intervention in cases of violent overthrow of civilian regimes) ensured that the execution was televised and beamed round the West Africa Sub-region and the world; that was how I was able to view that sad scene live! I still recall how I felt that day - how I refused to eat food the whole day. But more significantly my thoughts were constantly with my sister, Lydia, then a refugee in Guinea; how can a mom take the sight of bullets being fired at her blindfolded beloved very young son? I wondered. Naturally that sight or the thought of it turned Sissy into a near nervous wreck and this stampeded her to run to the UNHCR to seek asylum and refugee status. Sissy eventually suffered a series of strokes; that lingering emotional stress eventually led to her early demise. I remember talking to her on the phone from Kansas City (USA) after the first stroke - even in her trials and tribulations she never ceased to be the mentor and family education trail blazer. She reminded me of her role in seeing to it that my name was changed during early primary school from Thomas French to the present Thomas Yormah and kept reminding me that I belonged to a royal house; that our dad was a Paramount Chief - facts I was completely oblivious of as our dad died while I was in the cradle and brought up by my maternal uncle, Joe French. 

On subsequent further investigation I gathered the following facts about Alimamy's demise:

  • Rtd. Captain Alimamy Marouf Sesay was never involved in the planning nor in the execution of the coup d'état that overthrew President Kabbah.
  • There was no report that Rtd. Captain Alimamy Marouf Sesay killed or harmed anybody while collaborating with the ARFC Junta.
  • When Alimamy Marouf Sesay was foolish enough to respond to the call by junta leader, Major Johnny Paul Koroma, for ex soldiers to help in sustaining the junta he was posted to be in charge of President Kabbah's deserted residence. It was under his watch that the President's residence was extensively looted. Additional information received was that Alimamy himself may have been involved in the looting. It would appear this was his cardinal crime/sin, which I must agree was a grievous one. But should this have amounted to a treasonable offence - for which a young man below 30 years ought to have been killed?
  • The other civilian collaborators who were arrested along with Alimamy were eventually released without a trial. This means that if he had been correctly classified as a civilian, Alimamy, and perhaps his mother, Sissy Lydia, may still have been alive today.
  • It appears because most of us who are emotionally connected with Alimamy's demise were out of Sierra Leone when the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC) deliberated this case was never captured. I am still in the process of investigating further into why this omission occurred, in an attempt to fill the gap in our tragic contemporary history.

This case was prosecuted by an SLPP government. In fact the prosecutor was the then Attorney General, Lawyer Solomon Ekuma Berewa - who eventually became the 2007 Presidential Flag-bearer for the SLPP. My puzzle here is how an experience and brilliant lawyer, a devout Catholic and a family head - a father - got to terms with prosecuting a 29-year old civilian by a military court martial and eventually got him killed on a flimsy crime of looting his President's residence?  The young man was at worst a civilian collaborator and looter, recklessly dressed as a military officer.

Please permit me at this juncture to bring in a politically relevant topical dimension. The current political landscape is fertile for dynamics that call for the realignment of forces with a view to sanitise our presently rotten Augean stable. If the reincarnated soul of Alimamy were around observing I bet he'll be asking/musing: "Uncle, what are you still doing in that party that wrongfully killed me?". I hear you my nephew! However, my response will come in a separate subsequent piece. Suffice to say that if I were to look for excuses to be politically footloose the foregoing is more than enough reason for me and my relatives to have quit the SLPP long ago.

Prof T B R Yormah is uncle to the late Rtd. Captain Alimamy Marouf Sesay

 

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