By Prof Sankara Kamara–
David Tam-Baryoh is now a free man. Thanks, in part, to our collective action via social media, the Government of Sierra Leone was shamed into realizing that in the twenty-first century, political uncouthness can be internationally exposed, with relative ease. Before the advent of the Internet, indeed–before Facebook became everybody’s plaything–dictators used the tools of national power to tell lies, confuse their people, and fool the international community. Not anymore!
When David Tam-Baryoh was arrested, the Sierra Leonean Internet community moved into action, determined to expose Ernest Koroma’s political incivility. We inundated Amnesty international with messages, followed by a flood of appeals to the British Foreign Office.
In one of my exchanges with Amnesty international, the organization assured me that it was watching the situation in Freetown with concern, and that all the mediums of communication were being used to register the international community’s displeasure at David’s illegal detention. Since Britain is highly involved in the anti-Ebola war in Sierra Leone, the British Foreign Office proved quite useful in letting the government know that Tam-Baryoh’s unlawful detention was unacceptable.
After a well-coordinated Internet campaign and the activities of well-meaning citizens on the ground in Sierra Leone, the government relented and released David Tam-Baryoh. All of us should congratulate ourselves. Social media did NOT directly lead to David’s release. However, our effective use of the Internet to publicize the government’s dictatorial style pinched Ernest Koroma into realizing that he cannot abuse power without being internationally exposed. If this were the 1980s, David Tam-Baryoh would have spent a long time in prison, before the government could even acknowledge his arrest. Fast-forward to 2014, we were too able to publicize his unlawful detention, and flood the British Foreign Office with appeals, in less than no time.
Welcome home, David Tam-Baryoh. I do NOT even know you. However, I know that you have human rights, which are inalienable. In theory, at least, Sierra Leone’s democratic constitution protects the human rights of EVERY citizen of the republic. When those human rights were abused through deceptive acts like the so-called “State of Emergency,” WE THE PEOPLE, countered with Internet campaigns, forcing Ernest Koroma to realize that in the year 2014, political banditry can be exposed, in the twinkling of an eye. Although David has been unchained and freed, I remain particularly disturbed to know that the president of a supposedly democratic Sierra Leone, can wake up in the morning and order the arrest and detention of a citizen, without even considering the due process of law. Civilized societies do NOT behave with such whimsicality. That is what dictators do, in Banana republics! For now at least, welcome home, brother Baryoh. Political primitiveness has been shamed, hence your release from unlawful detention.