The Nightmare of the West Africa Democracy Radio

By Musue N. Haddad

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

October 7, 2002

The Sierra Leone's Civil Society Movements in their determination to reverse the Independent Media Commission's decision to reject the application of the West African Democracy to establish a radio station will this week meet with their Vice President, Solomon Berewa.

Reports from Freetown said that the Civil Society Movement (CSM) have since August, when the Independent Media Commission (IMC) denied the West Africa Democracy Radio's application to operate a radio, been exerting every effort to have the Commission's decision reversed.

The Independent Media Commission cited "national security and public safety" as reasons for its refusal to grant permission to the West Africa Democracy Radio (WADR) to establish a radio broadcasting station in Sierra Leone.

Sources from Freetown said WADR had earlier been promised approval and support from the Sierra Leonean government until a Liberian government delegation visited that country in mid August.

"Everything appeared smooth between WADR and the Kabbah's government until President Taylor's delegation visited officials of the Sierra Leone government. After that visit, the nightmare started," our source from Freetown said.

Our source also said the Liberian Government delegation conveyed President Taylor's "furious" disapproval to the establishment of a broadcasting station in Sierra Leone by WADR.

"The Delegation warned the Sierra Leonean government of President Taylor's disapproval and with a stern warning that Kabbah should not forget that war in the region was not over. After that visit, the following week, the Sierra Leone Independent Media Commission officially disapproved WADR's application to establish a radio station," the head of a Sierra Leone non-profit organization who prefers to remain anonymous said.

In its communication rejecting WADR's application, the Commission among other issues highlighted the West Africa Democracy Radio proposal to broadcast beyond the territorial limits of Sierra Leone into those of other countries of the Mano River Union Sub-region and even beyond.

"Mindful of the fact that the recent devastating civil war in Sierra Leone (1991-2001) was at least partly the result of a neighboring MRU state’s factional displeasure with sub-regional ECOWAS intervention into their country's internal rebellion having been staged-posted from within Sierra Leone, which the civil war in Sierra Leone has only recently ended, with the scars thereof being still fresh and war reparation and are construction being only in their fragile initial stages," the Commission said in its resolution dated August 21, 2002 to WADR.

The Management of the West Africa Democracy Radio in response to the Resolution of the Independent Media Commission on its licensing application said its organization is far from being an instrument of instability.

WADR it is a non-partisan, non-profit and non-government development-driven entity aimed at facilitating the integration of the MRU basin and fostering stability and good neighborliness within the context of the MRU, ECOWAS, NEPAD and African Union protocols, the management said of its organization.

Commenting on its proposal to broadcast beyond Sierra Leone, the management of WADR said attempts to restrict broadcast signals from reaching beyond "territorial limits" can be "obviously futile, as is clearly evidenced , for example, by the daily (TV/ Radio) broadcast signals reaching Sierra Leone from Liberia, Guinea and vice versa."

It also took exception to the IMC reference to the West Africa countries intervention in Liberia.

"WADR categorically rejects the IMC's reference to the ECOWAS intervention in Liberia, thereby negatively correlating that otherwise noble and pan-Africanist mission with the objectives of WADR. WADR has no intention of intervening in the internal rebellion of any country. To the contrary, WADR seeks to promote genuine and lasting peace in the MRU countries," the management said in its response to IMC's communication.

The management said although WADR is baffled by the conclusion reached by the IMC, its stakeholders are not deterred by the commission's action.

"The IMC's action can not prevent the coming on stream of a radio station that would address the needs, concerns and aspirations of the long-suffering people of the Mano River Union basin. In this regard, the stakeholders are examining all options with a view to dealing with the situation...," WADR management said.

Several persons within the West African sub-region have described the decision of the Independent Media Commission of Sierra Leone as a situation that needs thorough scrutiny.

"The Taylor government can not continue to unleash fear and terror on other governments and people within the region. A radio station in Sierra Leone and other countries that broadcast to Liberia will help serve as a channel for the free flow of information, create oneness and solidarity among peoples within the region," a West African observer said.

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