Written by Hadi Bah    PDF Print E-mail
Stockholm syndrome had no role in kidnap of Sierra Leonean diplomat
News - Politics

The recent kidnapping of Nelson Williams, Sierra Leone's deputy high commissioner to Nigeria exposed inaccuracies and the use of imprecise language by government spokesmen trying to articulate the Koroma administration's positions.

situationOn the morning of July 4, four days into Williams' capture without a statement from the president's office, Adbulai Baratay, a presidential spokesman with impressive verbal skills, was participating in a live studio interview on Radio Democracy 98.1FM when he was asked about President Koroma's views. Speaking in Krio, a language common in Sierra Leone, Baratay answered that diplomatic negotiations between heads of state in kidnapping situations were governed by something called the Stockholm syndrome. He added that the Stockholm syndrome could facilitate the release of a hostage or cause an escalation of the situation based on what authorities divulged publicly.

It is true that secrecy is essential in hostage situations, but the Stockholm syndrome, a condition that affects mostly women in hostage situations who develop solidarity with their captors, has nothing to do with what governments say or do. The condition was made famous in 1974 when newspaper heiress Patty Hearst was brainwashed into joining the Symbionese Liberation Army, the group that kidnapped her into robbing a bank. Her defense at trial was that she was a victim of Stockholm syndrome, a term coined by Swedish psychiatrist and criminologist Nils Bejerot.

On Wednesday July 6, when it became known that the deputy ambassador had been released, it was the turn of Mohamed Bangura, the minister of information to join the same program via telephone. Bangura whose academic credentials or lack thereof this writer is neutral about but which have been fodder for his critics on social media was unfocused, confused and inconsistent.

With an idiolect now familiar to many Sierra Leoneans, Bangura delivered a homily about the leadership qualities of President Koroma rather than concentrate on the Sierra Leonean diplomat whose life had been in danger. He announced that President Koroma had created a Situation Rooming (a tidbit that should have made headlines) which became the venue for many crisis meetings. Bangura patted himself on the back by letting slip that he was a member of the cabinet, as he loudly publicized the president's unprecedented love for Sierra Leoneans and the many sleepless hours he spent in the Situation Room trying to free Williams.

Bangura described Williams as a "giant soldier," and a "highly statesman," of "high repute." He also said Nigeria was a "big players" in the world. And according to Minister Bangura, it was kidnap victim Williams' family who gave "moral support" to the government and not the other way around. He assured his audience that the government of Sierra Leone was doing everything in its power to prevent such unfortunate incidents from reoccurring in the "feature."

No word on whether Williams was given a medical examination or debriefed after his ordeal. The location of Sierra Leone's new Situation Room was not disclosed either. The one at the White House which is formally known as the John F. Kennedy Conference Room is situated in the basement.

No doubt President Koroma worked hard for the release of Williams, there is a problem in the telling of how he did it.