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
On 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
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.