In just one week this month, three journalists died in Sierra Leone. Just two days after we had laid Isata Lebbie to rest came news that George Wilson had passed away. As plans were being made for his funeral, Allie Sheriff also succumbed to what was said to have been injuries sustained from a motor bike accident. These three bring to around fifteen the number of journalists that have died since Catherine Gbaya-Kokoya bade farewell in November last year. May their souls rest in perfect peace.
Like the majority of other Sierra Leoneans who die daily, some of these journalists died after a long illness due to the lack of access to proper medical care or the resources to be able to afford such. And at least four others died as a result of road accidents among them, James B. Murray. Capt Murray died on 25 June on the Kenema – Bo highway after the military vehicle he was driving in somersaulted, killing him instantly. Like with many other deaths in this part of the world hardly has anyone bothered to investigate or hold accountable anyone for Murray’s death. This way we can bring him back to life.
I have said it before and will say it again that the work of a soldier is the only one I put ahead of a journalist’s contribution to the defence of the land and its people. Certainly not our politicians whose main if not only interest is either getting to power, returning there or staying there for their selfish interests only. So Capt Murray rare blend of being a journalist and a soldier made him an extraordinary person; hence my interest in his death and the cause thereof. This way we can bring back the fine officer journalist to life.
My investigations which have been corroborated by senior military sources reveal that reckless driving on the part of an officer of the International Military Advisory Training Team (IMATT) caused the easily avoidable death of the captain. Over-speeding by the officer caused the vehicle to somersault and crash-land on the main road just at the bump of a pothole, my sources say. And this has been confirmed by a traffic police officer who cannot be quoted for some strange reason. As it so often happens, the officer who was driving escaped almost unscathed. With an inquiry into the cause or reason for his death, his mother will see him again alive.
Murray’s mother had only two children. With him gone, she is left with her daughter who has a psychiatric problem, family sources say. His death, probably killing, could simply shorten the life of the old lady. In the last couple of weeks I have tried without success to get some understanding of the status of forces agreement between the Sierra Leone and IMATT. But I doubt it will include immunity for or sidestepping such recklessness not least because I understand that at least one of the officers on the vehicle expressed concern at the breakneck speed. By investigating this further, the late officer will again take up the pen and gun.
My concern should in no way be misunderstood to mean demeaning the contribution of IMATT in the development of my country as is so often the case even when people express genuine concern over issues. Rather it could even be for the interest for IMATT themselves whose assets and personnel could be saved if they exercise more care. They have been doing a fantastic job for this country in goading the direction of our military especially at the leadership and middle manpower levels from whom the Sierra Leone Police have a lot to learn not least at the top echelon. However, I feel someone should be held accountable, not necessarily for prosecution purposes, for the death of Captain Murray. After all even though I have not been able to get a hint on what is contained in the status of forces agreement I know for sure that no-one sends their troops overseas without first seeking a cover for them. But that should not include a cover-up. This way Capt Murray will come back and work with us.
Even the death of Michael Jackson which obviously was of a natural cardiac problem, is being investigated. What is wrong in investigating the death of someone who apparently died due to reckless driving on the part of someone else? This may also involve some form of compensation for the bereaved family especially the mother. I know the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces would like to do a lot for him but they certainly cannot afford it. I think so because the participation at the funeral of the RSLAF whose chief and deputy chief both turned out was phenomenal. I also know that the RSLAF and the Defence ministry would want to see the death of this fine captain who just completed his Master’s degree programme investigated. You see why we want to bring him back to life.
Murray was a very promising career journalist and officer whose entire life has been wiped out completely since his only child died a few months before he did. I know His Excellency the Commander-in-chief has a whole lot on his plate but it will not be too much for the asking if he were to hang heads with his top military bras and the head of IMATT on what could be done about the death of this fine officer. Whatever happens, the journalism fraternity can only pray for the soul of the late Capt James B Murray to rest in perfect peace and for light perpetual to shine on him. In fact, you are still with us.
Invariably, to our other colleague journalists who have died especially of recent, we can only continue praying for their souls to rest in peace and in one piece. May the good Lord spare our fraternity from the cold hand of death for some time yet, as we mourn those that have departed. There is a lot they definitely would have contributed to add to our strength. In our hearts and minds and prayers we always will remember them. From the reporter among them, like Isata, to the editor and proprietor like Fewry. From the youth among them like Marius to the aged like Sam Short. Rest in peace despite your lives having been cut short. By Umaru Fofana