Tony Blair and Sorious Samura

20 April 2012 at 01:47 | 4806 views

Sorious Samura is a citizen of Sierra Leone. Sorious, who thirteen years ago was a relatively low-level SLBC TV camera man, went stratospheric when he risked his very life filming gruesome scenarios of drug-crazed rebels who would have dismembered him for sheer hilarity during the cataclysmic invasion of Freetown on January 6, 1999 – the blood-chilling video of freshly-cut stumps of the victims of our ‘rebel war’, the summary execution by foreign troops of children suspected to be combatants, was shown with blood-cuddling effect on the psyche of the world who watched Sorrious ‘CRY FREETOWN’ documentary.

Over the past ten years, Sorrious has built up an impressive international reputation for producing video documentaries that would turn the spotlight on chronic and often ignored problems of Africa. Media ammunition from Sorious’ media arsenal was effectively unleashed by Sorrious at his Motherland – with his recent much-debated ‘Timbergate’ Al Jazeera-aired video documentary that claimed to had done an expose of illegal logging, and tried to rope in Vice President Sam-Sumana into the political gallows. For the records, let me state categorically that Sorious’ probable expose on illegal logging was laudable.

The consequences of illegal logging in Sierra Leone will be much worse than the 11 years of scorched earth war of Foday Sankoh’s RUF rebels. Foday Sankoh’s rebels steered one of the most nauseous and brutish wars in human history – with the symbolic amputation of people its over-publicized horror; but, a war in which dice would be cast to determine the sex of fetuses, and women would be savagely disemboweled with blunt knives; and babies dumped into boiling pots of palm oil to give them ‘Christian baptism’. What could be worse than that? Chopping off our huge tropical trees for export in the quest to make money is much worse than the Hitler-ian atrocities of Foday Sankoh!!

In 1988, as a co-founder and Executive Director of the Save My Future Conservation Society, which sired GREENLOVE in Liberia, I listened to an evening lecture inside the residence of the British ambassador to Liberia, H.E. Michael Gore, an ardent bird watcher, a keen ‘green’: we were lectured on the horror of Sierra Leone having lost about 87 percent of its virgin tropical rainforests. It is in tropical rainforest regions like are found in Sierra Leone are found trees from which much-valued hard woods are chopped – and sold at enormous profits in the European and American consumer markets by international players; with only a fraction of that profit going to locals who own the forests. Some of the trees have taken thousands of years to grow. One tree alone would be the home for some 100 different plant and animal life. When you destroy a single tree in our forests, you destroy the home for hundreds of species. Maybe, forever! Extinct!!

For example: A tree you find in a forest in Kenema would not be found anywhere else in Sierra Leone; and could only be found in a forest inside Ivory Coast. Maybe, the most tragic loss: the knowledge of the utilitarian value of a single such tree by traditional herbalists – to cure disease like ulcer, cancers, back pain, toothache, etc. – could be lost forever, as the tree is destroyed. Sad fact: for even if a similar tree is found in the Ivory Coast, the herbalists there would not know its medicinal value. So, you begin to see why I stated earlier that destroying the few remaining forests in Sierra Leone could be much worse than Foday Sankoh’s ‘rebel war’. Without such speculative scenarios, the issue of the relationship between forests and Food Security appears to be lost to even the majority of our learned elite.

The luxuriant growth of tropical rainforests give the appearance of ‘plant growth logic’: rich soils equal rich plants. For the geographical terrain of Sierra Leone, this logic is deceptive. For the tropical rainforests it is rich forests growing on poor soils. When you chop off the tall trees, the rich undergrowth of plants, you expose the poor soils. The heavy rainfall of the region means the top soil would be washed away into human uselessness - into rivers and oceans. Food Security would then become a mirage. We cannot talk of diverse growth of food at a sustainable level if we continue chopping off the trees. Whereas we are already forgetting the effects of Foday Sankoh’s war on us within a decade, the effects of the destruction of our forests – the diseases that won’t be cured because there are no medicines; the hunger that would be stimulated as nutritious foods would not be grown – would last hundred of years. Maybe, forever!. So, Sorrious did do a good thing in highlighting the enormity of a problem that we are not putting in perspective, and not lending the necessary urgency to. Then, why have I swept the golden robe of patriotism off the boxer’s frame and prematurely-wrinkled face of Sorrious?

Sorious’ video lack journalistic balance; aiming to ‘kill’, not to cure
When I compare Sorrious with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair the Al Jazeera hatchet man begins to reek of sordidly ulterior motives. At the CEO SUMMIT in London organized by the prestigious THE TIMES newspaper on March 19, 2012, Tony Blair in a rousing speech of optimism for a ‘New Africa’ expressly praised Sierra Leone and Liberia for turning on the electricity lights in Freetown and Monrovia - where there had been darkness. Tony Blair, the Oxford-university educated resonant and charming man who lives in a $4million mansion in London, who is probably the most globally renowned and relevant post- British Prime Minister in Britain’s history, stakes his enormous prestige on President Koroma for poignant reasons. President Koroma, who was honored to give the keynote address at THE TIMES CEO Summit Africa on March 19, has wrought about the greatest developmental strides for a post-war country in recent Africa. For about thirty years the Marampa Mines had been closed – until President Koroma attracted blue chip investors in London Mining to open it; now, African Minerals in Sierra Leone is mining the third largest iron ore deposits in the world. The Chinese are investing $1.3 billion in agriculture development in our country. This complements the Smallholder Commercialization Programme, with government launching 193 Agricultural Business Centers (ABCs) in every chiefdom in the country – poised to transform Sierra Leone the way the Industrial Revolution transformed Europe some 300 years ago. ADDAX is developing bio fuels in the Northern Province, changing sugar cane into electricity energy – the first in Africa. Hilton Hotel, among the top three largest and most famous hotel chains in the world, is constructing a five star hotel at Lumley Beach, near one of the most idyllic beaches in the world which Sierra Leone is endowed with.

Tell me, if you mind is not sooooo jaundiced, so politically partisan, whether you would not marvel at the four lane roads being constructed from Congo Cross, Wilkinson Road, Juba…through Goderich…Adonkia…Lakka…- as one breathes in the sparkling beauty of one of the best beaches on planet earth, with its tantalizing warm ocean waters. “O…Ernest….A ya….U done do well, O!!!”: the patriots would breathlessly croon.

Of course, fake patriots like Sorrious Samura would not see all the impressive development in Sierra Leone – even as the world has been gripped in the throes of a global financial crisis. If Sorrious had patriotic intentions, or, at worst, shown a slight sense of journalistic integrity with its mandate for even at worst a semblance of journalistic objectivity, he would have made contact with the Sierra Leone Environmental Agency (SL-EPA), and interview the erudite London-trained environmental lawyer, Madame Jallow, who is displaying uncompromising toughness in bridling the giant mineral mining companies that bristle our landscape. A patriotic Sorious would have made mention of the Gola Forest Reserve, and the collaborative partnership with Liberia to preserve one of richest biological forests on planet earth.

Sorious was more intent on besmearing his Motherland, and perpetuating the stereotype image most of the Western media have of Africa – of miasmic corrupt officials; of war and famine; of hopelessness – just to earn some more thousands of dollars. Those who applaud Sorrious have been brainwashed to feel themselves INFERIOR (anything a foreign media, or, foreign institution, publicize about Sierra Leone is automatically given credence in their inferior minds!!); to be blind to even stark development in their own country. Tony Blair used the slightest opportunity he had in a five minute speech at THE TIMES CEO SUMMIT AFRICA to inject positive words about Sierra Leone – Sorrious Samura used the wonderful opportunity he has in Al Jazeera to tarnish his country; to kindle disaffection in his country. It could be that there is something much more sinister in Sorrious’ documentary. Remember, Sorrious accidentally made it into the big time filming the carnage of the RUF in January, 1999. This time round, he could be hoping to catalyze another grotesque round of killings. So, Sorrious’ camera can roll. So, the dollars would flow into Sorrious’ bank account.

Too bad, Sorrious! When the dollars flow through the iron ore exports, organic cocoa exports, petroleum exports to make Sierra Leone a Middle Income country as President Koroma envisions, there would be peace and Justice in Sierra Leone.