Mohamed Sillah

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For the Sierra Leonean footballer, see Mohamed Sillah (footballer).

Mohamed Yahya Sillah was born December 12, 1949 in Massam Kpaka, Pujehun District, Republic of Sierra Leone. His father, Alhaji Yahya Sillah, now 100 years old, served as Regent Chief (Acting Paramount Chief) for several years in Dama Chiefdom, Kenema District in the early seventies. Alhaji Yahya Sillah was appointed to that high position by Sierra Leone President Siaka Stevens. His mother, Haja Mamie Zoe Mansaray, was a home maker. A journalist and human rights activist, Mohamed Yahya Sillah was a vocal torch-bearer in the transition efforts from military to civilian rule in Sierra Leone, 1996. As Leader and National Chairman of National Alliance Democratic Party (NADP), he competed the 1996 Presidential elections in Sierra Leone, becoming one of only thirteen political leaders that qualified to contest the Presidential and Parliamentary elections in the country at the age of 46. His adoring personality lured many Sierra Leoneans and media practitioners to view him as one of the most eloquent and charismatic politicians in Sierra Leone. Nevertheless, he received only 0.5% of the votes (3,723 total votes), good for 13th place. Although he protested the election results on BBC's Focus on Africa, he later suspended his protest "for the sake of peace." Mohamed Yahya Sillah continues to enjoy massive support from the youth and women supporters in Sierra Leone. In 2007, he withdrew his bid for national leadership in the Presidential and Parliamentary elections, citing inadequate funding and ineffective campaign management machinery. He later put his weight behind the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) presidential candidate, Vice President Solomon Berewa. When Berewa lost the elections, Mohamed Yahya Sillah gracefully congratulated the winning candidate, Ernest Bai Koroma, of the All People's Congress (APC) party. Mohamed Yahya Sillah vows to respect and help protect the dignity of any Sierra Leonean that is legitimately and democratically elected to office by the people of Sierra Leone.

EFFORTS MADE BY MOHAMED YAHYA SILLAH FOR HIS COUNTRY AND HIS PEOPLE: Before he entered politics in 1995, Mohamed Yahya Sillah was a human rights activist and humanitarian. In 1990, Mohamed Yahya Sillah came to the aid of thousands of stranded Sierra Leoneans and non-Sierra Leoneans in Liberia when that country was gobbled up by one of Africa’s bloodiest civil wars. During that period, thousands of Sierra Leoneans and foreign residents in Liberia stranded when the warring factions, made up of rebels and government soldiers, blocked all land and sea exits from Liberia. The move made it practically impossible for anyone to escape the onslaught of the rebel war. The Sierra Leone Embassy in Monrovia shut down, and the Sierra Leone government, then under president Joseph Saidu Momoh (APC), declared incapacity to rescue the stranded Sierra Leoneans. Mohamed Yahya Sillah was visiting Liberia at the time to cover the war as a journalist for his Atlanta-based African World News magazine, which he founded in 1983. Sillah faced the agony of a war that the rebels fought using supernatural means to enhance their warring gallantry. He recorded accounts of rebels drinking human blood from freshly slaughtered civilians as baits to endow their prowess to kill without mercy. Inside the grounds of the Sierra Leone Embassy in Monrovia, there were nearly five hundred stranded Sierra Leoneans, including children that hungered and thirsted because there were no food or sanitized drinking water. Mohamed Yahya Sillah and other concerned Sierra Leoneans that were refugees took charge of leadership at the Embassy.

However, as the refugees looked up to Sillah for leadership and direction, he took an intrepid but decisive action to save his fellow citizens by unilaterally accosting the rebels to lure them bring food for money to feed the hungry women and children. He succeeded in letting rebels sell bags of rice which he purchased and distributed free to all refugees at the Embassy. As assault on the Embassy intensified, Sillah decided to risk a rescue of all Sierra Leoneans and non-Sierra Leoneans from the Embassy to the safety of ECOMOG soldiers at Monrovia’s Freeport facility. He did so by paying combatant factions with his own money to facilitate passage through ambush points along the way. He succeeded at evacuating all refugees by help of ECOMOG soldiers in less than one hour before a missile, launched by rebel forces, destroyed the Embassy. At the Freeport, Sillah created what he called the Sierra Leone Evacuation Organization. Through that organization Mohamed Yahya Sillah evacuated five thousand Sierra Leoneans and non-Sierra Leoneans to Freetown over a period of ninety days through the Nigerian gun boat called The Ambe. Refugees and observers nicknamed Mohamed Yahya Sillah Junior Moses .

Mohamed Yahya Sillah’s efforts attract the attention of American diplomats in Monrovia. In 1995, Mohamed Yahya Sillah and his US political Campaign Manager, Robert L. Herman (deceased), traveled to Brussels, Belgium on unofficial visit with the American Ambassador to the European Union, Stuart Eizenstat. In Brussels, he met with Ernest J. Fischer, 11, the US Consul at the American Embassy in Brussels. That Consul later was identified as a former Senior American Embassy official in Monrovia during the period Sillah evacuated Sierra Leoneans to safety. The Consul praised Sillah for his "fearless efforts to show leadership for your people at a time of crisis.” The American diplomat issued a statement documenting his impressions of Mohamed Yahya's Sillah’s efforts in Liberia.

MOHAMED YAHYA SILLAH TO THE RESCUE OF SIERRA LEONEANS IN THE US: In 2004, Mohamed Yahya Sillah embarked on another mission to save thousands of Sierra Leoneans from deportation from the United States after the US withdrew their protective privilege known as Temporary Protective Status (TPS). In September that year, Mohamed Yahya Sillah made a solemn appeal to the government of the United States of America not to deport Sierra Leonean nationals resident in the United States under the immigration’s Temporary Protective Status (TPS). In a meeting at the office of Georgia Congressman, Honorable John Lewis, at the Cannon House Building in Washington, DC, Mohamed Yahya Sillah told officials that although atrocities of a ten-year war in Sierra Leone seemed to have lapsed, conditions still remained volatile for Sierra Leoneans that escaped agonies of the war. “Sierra Leoneans would like to return home someday,” Sillah said, adding, however, that "Sierra Leone still posed an environment that was not conducive to accommodating the hundreds of thousands of Sierra Leoneans that were refugees and asylum seekers all over the world." In a communication to Congressman John Lewis, Sillah commended the United States government for graciously providing the Temporary Protective Status (TPS) to Sierra Leoneans that entered the U. S. as escapees from agonies of the war. He then appealed to the congressman to use the power of his office to intervene on behalf of the Sierra Leoneans that were threatened with deportation as a result of the TPS withdrawal.

Responding to the concerns raised by Mr. Sillah, Jessica Battaglia, Senior Policy Advisor to Congressman John Lewis, said that through Hon Lewis, the Georgia Congressional Office would forward a request to the Secretary of Homeland Security to reconsider the TPS issue for Sierra Leoneans. Later, the Georgia Congressman made a personal telephone call on Mohamed Yahya Sillah to reassure him of his interest in the TPS issue. Mohamed Yahya Sillah's efforts led to a TPS reprieve for Sierra Leonean refugees in the United States in 2004.

MOHAMED YAHYA SILLAH FIGHTING FOR THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF JOURNALISTS IN SIERRA LEONE: In 2004, Mohamed Yahya Sillah, as Leader of The National Alliance Democratic Party of Sierra Leone (NADP), followed with keen interest developments surrounding the imprisonment of a prominent Sierra Leonean journalist, Paul Kamara, editor of For DI People Newspaper, on October 5, 2004. Mohamed Yahya Sillah viewed Mr. Kamara’s imprisonment and the subsequent banning of his newspaper as a serious breach of the SLPP government’s commitment to press freedom and the constitutional exercise of free speech in the country. Mohamed Yahya Sillah feared that the court’s action against Mr. Kamara ratified the government’s power to continue stifling the development and progress of serious democratic institutions in Sierra Leone. Mohamed Yahya Sillah took a strong position against the President of Sierra Leone, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, that Mr. Kamara’s case with the President of Sierra Leone never should have led Mr. Kamara to jail. "The President of Sierra Leone," said Sillah, "is a public figure. In my opinion and that of the National Alliance Democratic Party (NADP), it is unconscionable for a national leader to take his own citizen to court to defend the leader’s reputation. I believe that a national leader’s reputation is better protected or venerated by the leader’s own capability to demonstrate exemplary leadership for the peace, happiness and security of the people the leader takes the oath to lead," Sillah said. Mohamed Yahya Sillah said it was a travesty of justice against the people of Sierra Leone for any leader or group of leaders to use their political powers as a potent weapon to settle old scores. "It is time our national leaders, both in the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary branches of government began to consider themselves as public servants rather than public celebrities," Sillah told the President. "Please let Mr. Kamara go! Jailing Paul Kamara and shutting down his newspaper will not scotch journalists from investigating and reporting on the imperfections of our leaders or the ineptitude of their governments," Sillah said. Mohamed Yahya Sillah reminded the President that well-meaning Sierra Leoneans both inside and outside of the country worked hard in 1996 to usher in a democratic system of governance that they felt could set the people of Sierra Leone free. Mohamed Yahya Sillah said that the exercise of democracy and the protection of human rights in Sierra Leone were fundamentals that must be consistent with the free exercise of conscience and the people’s basic right to free speech.