By Bashiru Sahid Conteh…..
Lieutenant General Samuel Omar Williams, the recently retired Sierra Leone Chief of Defence Staff is reported killed by armed people at his private residence at Devil Hole Areas along the Freetown- Waterloo Highway at about 0300 hours today, Thursday 22nd Dec, 2016. May his soul rest in peace.
SO Williams is one of the 2nd group of Officer Cadets sent to Cairo-Egypt to be trained as Regular Career Combatants from 1976 to 1979.
Myself and SO first met at the then Benguema Training Center when they were sent there for refreshing training and myself of 6 other Officer Cadets were withdrawn from the Ghana Military Academy by late President Siaka Stevens after the June 4 Revolution in which some of our GMA instructors were key players.
My friendship or brotherhood with SO Williams became stronger when both of were posted to the same unit, 2nd Inf Battalion at the then Teko Barracks in Makeni under the leadership of Col AO Kamara, as platoon commanders in 1980.
Even when I was posted to Moa Barracks in Kailahun District, Eastern Sierra Leone and him attached to BTC in the Western Areas in 1986, our friendship still remain strong as he used to go to me on weekends, and any time I am on Freetown mission I must check on him at BTC.
At the outbreak of the Liberia Civil War, SO Williams was now at the Murray Town Military Headquarters as a General Staff Officer Grade 3 under then Major Kelly Hassan Conteh as GSO 2.
I was removed from Moa Barracks to serve as Adjutant of the Sierra Leone Contigent with the ECOMOG Intervention Force in Monrovia Liberia.
When Charles Taylor supported the Cpl Foday Sankoh’s RUF invasion of Sierra Leone, apparently to put pressure on the Sierra Leone Government in order to withdraw its force from the Liberia ECOMOG Ops , some selected officers including myself were withdrawn from Monrovia to join with the Guinean Arty personnel attached to Daru in order to halt the rapid advance of the RUF/MPFL Rebel Fighters.
Within very short period, the Eastern Battlefield situation was changed in favour of the Sierra Leone Government. Captain Strasser and some young officers became WIA during the battle to stop the Sankoh’s RUF rebels from capturing the MOA Barracks. Young Lt Mansah Korom got Killed-in-Action (KIA). Strasser, on his discharged from hospital, was employed as paying officer under the then Major KES Boyah as the newly appointed Commanding Officer of 2RSLR.
I became the Operations Adjutant of the Tiger Battalion which was composed of Officers like SAJ Musa, Maada Bio, Komba Mondeh, Komba Kambo, Idriss Kamara, Charles Bayoh, Taqi (aka American) Victor King, SI Sesay, Chandeka, among others.
Some of these officers later became the key players of the NPRC Regime that removed the President JS Momoh APC Government on April 29, 1992.
SO Williams and KH Conteh were the two Military Headquarters Staff Officers that were appointed as the Supreme Military Council members of the NPRC.
I was later withdrawn from the frontline and made the NPRC Member in charge of the International Airport with some special security responsibility.
I was given short notice to go on an advance Inf Officers training course in USA Ft Benning; GA.
At the end of my training, I was appointed Sec of State East and SO Williams Sec of State South.
SO Williams, RY Koroma, AK Sesay, SFY Koroma, JP Gbondo, among others were now Lieutenant Colonels whom Captain Strasser decided that we must remain to serve as NPRC Ministers but all of the key players of the NPRC who removed the APC should go back into the army to prosecute the war.
They only accepted with the condition that Brig KH Conteh should be replaced by Maada Bio, whom they said they could prefer to work with.
Strasser therefore decided to promote Maada Bio to the rank of Brig Gen and appointed him the 1st Chief of Defence Staff in the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces.
So Bio became the Deputy Head of State, Chief Sec of State and Chief of Defence Staff. Captain Strasser initially decided that we should handover, and those who want to study should go out, and those who want to continue with the military should stay.
But when Strasser expressed another position whilst the NPRC Finance Minister, Dr John Karimu had already won the NUP leadership in a national delegates convention held at the PK Logde, he lost the supports of his inner Supreme Council members including John Benjamin, Tom Nyuma, Maada Bio, Komba Mondeh, Charles Bayoh, Idriss Kamara, Karefa Kargbo, and even his own Chief Bodyguard Amara Koigoi among others.
I was invited by Captain Strasser for an emergency Supreme Council meeting but I was not able to pick up SO Williams from Bo City as usual because the Aircraft was on chartered flight to Kono, but I only used my influence for them to lift me to Hastings as the pilot was a personal friend.
In that meeting, Strasser had brought in two lawyers, Arnold Gooding and Claude Campbell in order to decree certain sections in the 1991 Constitution in order to probably qualify the then NPRC leadership as a contender in the 1996 General Elections which was expected to be conducted within the next 3 months.
But I asked a question in that meeting, ” who among us was interested to become a presidential candidate for an Election which was about to be conducted in less than 3 months and all of us were still in military uniforms and besides not a registered member of any political party? “. Naturally my question didn’t go down well with Captain Strasser, but perhaps saved me as Strasser had already boasted that he has a good number of Lt Col Supreme Council members and I was already a Lt Col.
Brigadier Maada Bio, John Benjamin, Mondeh, Idriss Kamara, Tom Nyuma, Charles Bayoh, Karefa Kargbo and other inner members decided on a Palace Coup which removed Strasser and Maada Bio became the New Head of State.
Maada appointed another Military Officer, Col Arkin Gibril (a medical officer at the 34 Military Hospital) as the Deputy Head of State and Chief Sec of State which probably didn’t go down well with John Benjamin who was expecting to be reappointed as Chief Sec of State by Bio.
My friend and brother, SO Williams also got annoyed because of his removal as Sec of State South when Col Komba Mondeh became the Army Chief of Staff and requested that he wants SO Williams as his MA to help him as SO was a trained and qualified staff officer. SO Williams was never happy about that arrangement but only frankly told me when he was appointed by Major Johnny Paul Koroma as his Army Chief of Staff during his 9 months rule. SO Williams was no doubt the brain behind the Johnny Paul Koroma rule. He was not only the member of the AFRC, but also very effective Army Chief of Staff of the regime.
When President Kabbah was reinstated by the Nigerian led ECOMOG Force, Kabbah later through the Lome Peace thing, accepted all AFRC members into the RSLAF.
So when SO Williams and few others came back to Freetown from the bush, I asked the permission to bring SO Williams into my house as a brother and friend which Kabbah accepted on the condition that I will be held responsible for any thing done wrong by him which I accepted.
SO Williams was with me in my private house for 7 years. He was able to impressed some IMATT officers as also a British trained (UK PCBC in the early 80s ) but not Brig General Friere. But fortunately the British General was a friend so I tried my best to save any embarrassment. SO Williams was given a brigade command after successfully serving as battalion commander after BSTT at the AFTC.
At War College, SO Williams would have been retired when he still at Abuja, but Joe Blell, the then Deputy Defence Minister was another NPRC friend, so he helped too. When I returned from War College, Willie was now employed as a Director of Logistics whilst I became the Director of Military Operations at the Ministry of Defence.
As Director Military Operations, I went visited all the Forward Patrol Bases in Sierra Leone within two weeks, and came out a comprehensive reports and recommendations which I believed are still not implemented by both the Government and RSLAF.
Reports and recommendations that probably created some impressions, and one or two of my civilian friends told me.
I have applied for secondment at the UN but wanted to get my promotion to the rank of Brig Gen as I had already done my War College successfully with a masters degree from UI, Oyo State in Nigeria. But I unfortunately got involved in a road traffic accident along the Freetown -Mile Siaka Highway which nearly claimed my life on official duty.
While good number of the middle level and junior officers and other service personnel were very determined to even contribute for to fund my medical, my contemporary, mostly the Generals less only one (RY Koroma ) didn’t pay the necessary attention.
With the supports of some civilian friends both in and outside the Government, I was rushed to Ghana for surgery, and later UK. I therefore requested for a medical retirement which was granted by the Commander-in-Chief and Head of State, President Koroma in 2012 in order time for proper medical attention or treatment.
SO Williams became the 1st Lieutenant General (***). I think he did serve the APC loyally which might earned him that rank. SO Williams was retired and replaced about six or seven months ago.
I felt his death as he was a brother as far as I am concerned. When I visited his Devil Hole Residence this morning, I had many questions on my mind which probably we need to address in order to avoid such sad, ugly and unfortunate development for all future security chiefs, CDS, Service Chiefs, IGP, DIGP, ONS Chief, Director of Correction Centers among others.
As CDS, Service Chiefs, IGP or Director of Correction Centers, one must naturally steps on the toes of many whether consciously or unconsciously during the execution of one’s official duty. So they need armed guard security after retirement. I outrightly condemned the killing of Lieutenant General(rtd) Samuel Omar Williams for whatever reason.
Maje no mistake about it, it has sent a very wrong and ugly signal out.
I hope and pray that the Sierra Leone Police will do everything humanly possible to bring his killers to book.
Willie, I personally forgive you as a brother and friend for anything wrong done to me from 1979 to your last days on earth.
May Lord God have mercy on my friend and brother, Willie. May his soul rest in peace.