Friday, 25 May 2012



·         On Sunday 24th March 1996, a Red Cross helicopter on board which was Ivory Coast Foreign Minister Amara Essy, as safety guarantor, landed in the Eastern Sierra Leone headquarters of the rebel RUF to pick up rebel leader Foday Sankoh and fly him to Yamoussoukro for peace talks with Julius Maada Bio slated for the next day. According to numerous media reports at that time, it was “Sankoh’s first trip outside of Sierra Leone since the rebels took up arms in 1991".

Now, it is a FACT that since Sankoh left Kailahun, Sierra Leone on that fateful day, he never returned back to the rebel bush headquarters until he died. So, if Sankoh spent time with any man or woman “in the bush”, it would have to have been between the years 1991 and March 24th 1996.

Indeed, it was sometime in 1991 that Foday Sankoh entered South-Eastern Sierra Leone by road from Liberia to a very glorious green Palm Fronds ‘torkpoi’ welcome with his then wife, a Mende woman named Mariama by his side. There was a video of that welcome ceremony available at military headquarters for many years during the nineties. The video was retrieved from Sankoh’s Southern Pujehun headquarters by gallant soldiers who had captured Pujehun back from the RUF.
In that video, both Foday and Mariama Sankoh were dressed in matching green attire and waved green palm fronds to a cheering crowd. This was few weeks after the actual invasion itself. Sankoh did not enter Sierra Leone on March 23rd 1991 but much later. Sankoh’s then wife, Mariama, a Mende woman, alongside the throng of South-Easterners who had formed the vanguard of entry all helped to convince the South Easterners that they were “freedom fighters”.
By the end of the conflict, Sankoh had long since separated from Mariama (who subsequently fled RUF held territory into exile in Ivory Coast). I extensively interviewed Mariama, Sankoh’s first wife in Abidjan in August 1999 during my extensive research into the origins and processes of the Sierra Leone war.

By the signing of the Lome Peace Accord in 1999, Sankoh had traditionally married another South-Eastern woman named Josephine Tengbeh (I also extensively interviewed Josephine). By the time he was captured in May 2000, Sankoh was now officially married to a lady of Senegalese descent, Mrs. Fatou Mbaye Sankoh. Highly educated and well groomed with a Western cultured upbringing, she was an epitome of a lady. Foday Sankoh was very proud of Fatou.

Fatou Mbaye Sankoh was the one who set up a website for RUF with absolutely no input from Sylvia Blyden, (yours truly). I first learnt of the existence of the website like everyone else - from media reports. It was created in year 2000 and could then be seen at

I created, alongside Gipu Felix George in December 1997, a website for the SLBS. The SLBS website which could then be seen at was a means of ensuring the world could have access to information from the country during the illegal AFRC regime. My intention and the essence of my volunteer work for SLBS was to neutralise the warmongers propaganda that Peace Talks were not possible between the Government in exile and the AFRC. Here is how news of the SLBS website was announced on Peter Andersen’s Sierra Leone Web news archives for 9th December 1997:
9th December 1997: Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) officially announced the formation of its internet website on Tuesday. “The site is still very much in its infant stages,” Director-General of the Mass Media Gipu Felix-George said in a statement. “However, we are doing a test run based on the events of November 27th 1997, the date the international community sent the first fact-finding mission to Sierra Leone since the events of May 25th 1997.” The web site, which was set up by Dr. Olayinka Blyden, operates from Freetown via a server located in the United States. Word of the SLBS site, which is not yet fully operational, was circulated on the internet last week in advance of the official announcement.

Few people might realise it but by a remarkable co-incidence in dates, tomorrow May 25th 2012 will mark the 15th anniversary of the AFRC coup and it will also mark the 13th anniversary of the commencement of the Lome Peace Talks which were primarily nurtured by President Bill Clinton of USA and President Obasanjo of Nigeria.

Many people have spoken of role of Jesse Jackson forgetting Jackson was just an envoy. It was U.S. President, Bill Clinton who sent Jackson alongside satellite phones for use by Foday Sankoh’s delegation to Lome. It was Clinton who, through Jackson, spoke from his (Air Force 1) presidential jet in mid-air to both Sankoh and President Kabbah to gently steer them towards the path of peace to Sierra Leoneans.

It was in May 1999 that Revd Jesse Jackson flew over to Lome, Togo at the urging of President Bill Clinton to basically enjoin peace talks. I also flew over to Lome at that same time from America. That was my very first time of ever meeting Foday Sankoh. I went as an advocate for peace in my country. Prior to that, by divine providence, I had arranged the first phone conversation between Sankoh and President Obasanjo using a three way line from my residence in America. That my strategic placement of being at the right place at the right time, amongst others, all helped to ensured the Lome Peace Talks went underway. It fuelled the peace process like jet fuel fires up a jet.

From the time Sankoh was flown out of Sierra Leone in March 1996 until he died, he never went back to the bush. I was a full time student from 1989 until late 1996 when I received my second medical degree and left for America to take my U.S. Medical Board Exams.

I was not an ordinary college student. As the first woman to make History in Sierra Leone as the first female University Students President, I was an outstanding female citizen even as a college student. I was quite prominent and I got to be regularly quoted in local and international media. The video clip of my speech on behalf of Female Youths of Africa at UN’s Beijing Conference for Women in 1995 was the signature clip to start SLBS TV Programme on Women’s Issues.
How could I have been “in the bush” during this period?

I have said it before and I will say it again, I am very, very proud of all I have ever done for my country, Sierra Leone. I have absolutely NO REGRETS for anything I have ever done concerning Sierra Leone. I was born great with a great destiny. I will continue to remain a walking living legend. I deserve every single honour that has been bestowed upon me in this land. And knowing how faithfully I have served my country over the years, I know this is just the beginning. More honours and laurels are mine to receive by the grace of God. Mark my words.

Meanwhile, I will continue to inform those who do not know much about the Sierra Leone civil war about the true origins and processes of our war – it is of high importance. I will so it for as long as I have breath in me. No amount of intimidation or browbeating or nasty lies have been able to distract me thus far and by the grace of God, such will NEVER succeed. Look at how far I have come even as all kinds of lies have been manufactured about me? I will not be silenced by any scumbag – old scumbag or young. Only God can silence me and for now, I am still serving His purpose on this earth. Thank you.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Photo is me receiving an award for Awareness Times being Best Newspaper for 2011/2012
Dr. Sama Banya- SLPP "Yoyo-Man"- "Two foot ARATA" - acording to Foday Sankoh
  Pa Shaki looks in wander!!
Foday Sankoh, Sama Banya and the Yamoussoukro Talks : A Look at Sierra Leone History which some might wish to revise for the young ones - By Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden in AWARENESS TIMES -
On Thursday 25th March 1996, Julius Maada Bio and Foday Saybana Sankoh met in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast as a continuation of the February 1996 Peace Talks between NPRC and RUF. It was ostensibly the first time Bio was meeting Sankoh. The (in)famous photo of a uniformed Maada Bio hugging Foday Sankoh with both men all in smiles, was taken on that day.

For those Peace Talks, Maada Bio took along Dr. Sama Banya as the official representative of president-elect Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. Due to protocol, Kabbah could not attend the talks as he had not been sworn in. Kabbah was sworn into office, 4 days later in Freetown on 29 March 1996.

It was on 22nd April 1996, that new President Kabbah met formally with Foday Sankoh in Yamoussoukro for the first time. Kabbah did not take Sama Banya along with him because Banya had been a public relations disaster for the SLPP during the Bio-Sankoh peace talks.

During the 25th March 1996 Yamoussoukro Peace Talks, Sankoh had tongue-lashed Banya as one of the political opportunists who sold themselves cheaply and in the process, ruined Sierra Leone.

Sankoh had publicly scorned at Banya with a question, “You again?!” as he recounted what he aptly described as Banya’s shamelessness in politics with the words ‘Day before yesterday, you were SLPP, yesterday you were APC, today you are SLPP in front of me, Tomorrow, what will you be?’. Sankoh then took his time to outline how the nefarious activities of APC’s Sama Banya and his APC cohorts had led to the RUF taking up arms to ‘rid the country of APC oppression’.

It should be noted that Sama Banya was an APC Finance Minister who also acted as an APC Vice-President. After detailing the way and manner in which the APC’s Sama Banya killed and oppressed citizens, especially from the South-East; leading to citizens taking up arms to remove APC, Foday Sankoh also revealed how Sama Banya was so cheap that with all his stolen wealth as a thieving APC Finance Minister, Sama Banya would refrain from honouring honest debts to those who served him. The phrase “two foot arata” was first used on Banya by Foday Sankoh in Yamoussoukro, long before it became popularised by famous musician Emmerson.

Foday Sankoh recounted how Sama Banya was a thief who personally owed him money for photographs which Banya had asked Foday Sankoh to take of him in Kailahun during Banya’s APC heydays. Sankoh explained how, taking advantage of his then APC powers, Banya collected the photographs from Sankoh, promised to pay Foday Sankoh later but had never paid him since Banya saw Sankoh as a lowly photographer in Segbwema whose rights, he could abuse.

In Yamoussoukro, Sama Banya was speechless as Sankoh took his time to expose him thoroughly. On Banya’s return to Freetown, he was to eventually explain that he had “forgotten” to pay Foday Sankoh and when he “remembered” he owed Foday Sankoh money, he did not know where to find Sankoh to pay him. Few believed his preposterous explanation.

Rather, as hated as Sankoh was, many preferred to believe Sankoh’s accusation that Banya took of Sankoh’s photography services and then abused him of payment because Banya was a powerful top APC operative back then.

In those days, APC operatives like Sama Banya regularly trampled on the rights of citizens. The accusation of the APC’s Sama Banya taking advantage of Foday Sankoh, was a regular story back in those days. Stories similar to Sankoh’s recollection, whilst seemingly minimal in nature as compared to other egregious APC abuses like how APC’s Sama Banya got his own people killed in Kailahun for power, are all part of what led to the nation-wide dis-satisfaction against Momoh’s APC which dis-satisfaction, by the start of the RUF War, was tremendously high in the South-East.

Clearly, a public relations disaster like Banya was kept far away from the resumed Yamoussoukro Peace Talks by the astute Tejan Kabbah. Infact, throughout the March Yamoussoukro Peace Talks, Banya could not say a single word except to hang his APC-SLPP gray-haired head in shame. So, if I reference any comment made in Yamoussoukro, clearly it was not made by Sama Banya as Banya was shamed into total silence in Yamoussoukro.

Let Banya wait for my Part 2 of Charles Taylor: Sierra Leone’s Scapegoat to know whose Yamoussoukro comment I was referencing. In the meantime, I hope Banya read and digested yesterday’s piece by retired Police Superintendent Tayyib Bah. According to Tayyib Bah, “of the 20 or so RUF combatants that accompanied Sankoh to the Yamoussoukro Peace Talks, only one, and even that was a female, was a Northerner/Temne. The rest were South easterners.”

Tayyib Bah also predicts:- “until we accept responsibility for the barbaric manner in which we treated our kith and kin and atone for our sins, God, or retribution, will bring “punishment for [our] errors upon sons and upon grandsons, upon the third generation and upon the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:7

I rest my pen for now as I prepare to release Part 2 of a Sama Banya inspired series on Charles Taylor: Sierra Leone’s Scapegoat! #end

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.