By Sorie Fofana.
Captain (Rtd.) Valentine E.M. Strasser shot to stardom on 29th April 1992, when he became the youngest Head of State in West Africa. As the coup leader, he became the Chairman of NPRC (National Provisional Ruling Council) and Head of State of the Republic of Sierra Leone in 1992.
The NPRC coup was widely acclaimed and endorsed by the International Community. It was a welcome relief for majority of the people of Sierra Leone.
Captain (Rtd.) Valentine Strasser remained as Head of State until 16th January, 1996 when he was overthrown in a palace coup by his second-in-command, Brig. (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio.
Captain (Rtd) Valentine Strasser was escorted in to exile in Guinea, Conakry by the new coup makers.
Exile In UK
Captain (Rtd) Valentine Strasser went into exile in the United Kingdom, after a brief stay in Guinea, Conakry.
In the UK, he enrolled as a student at the Warwick University in Conventry. He had a difficult life as a Law student in the UK. He had to drop out of the course because his presence at the University of Warwick in Conventry attracted a media circus on the campus.
On top of that, some Sierra Leonean students (especially the daughter of a former APC Minister, Benrina Kanu) persistently staged demonstrations against him on campus.
One of his lecturers even refused to allow him in his class because of allegations that, he had committed human rights abuses during his time as Head of State in Sierra Leone.
Capt. (Rtd) Valentine Strasser dropped out of the University of Warwick and sought solace in the official residence of the then Information Attache at the Sierra Leone High Commission in the UK, Mr. Gibril Samura.
By the way, Mr. Gibril Samura was appointed by Capt. Valentine Strasser as Information Attache at the Sierra Leone High Commission in London whilst he was Head of State. They had been childhood friends long before Capt. Strasser even thought of joining the Army.
At great risk to his job, Mr. Samura kept Capt. (Rtd) Valentine Strasser at his official residence at 29 The Avenue, Kilburn, London NW6 7NR for several years.
Mr. Samura is a very grateful man. Even after the SLPP came to power in 1996, Capt. Strasser was still staying at Gibril Samura’s official residence at Kilburn.
On an official visit to London as Head of State, the late President Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah asked Gibril Samura (who was still Information Attache until 2002) to extend an invitation to Capt. Valentine Strasser to meet him (President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah) at the official residence of the Sierra Leone High Commissioner to the UK at 3 Ingram Avenue, Hampstead.
Gibril and Capt. Strasser arrived at the residence of the High Commissioner for a meeting with the then President, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.
President Kabbah could not hide his emotions when he saw Capt. Strasser. He shed tears. Strasser was in a pitiful state.
As President, His Excellency Ahmad Tejan Kabbah asked the then Finance Minister, Dr. James Jonah (who was accompanying the President at the time) to look at ways and means to support Capt. Strasser.
When he was asked what he wanted the State to do for him, Capt. Strasser said he wanted the Government of Sierra Leone to give him a loan of US$10m (ten million United States dollars) for him to start an oil business.
It was at that point that, President Kabbah concluded that, Capt. Strasser really needed some psychiatric assistance.
He later told some people that, the country (Sierra Leone) could not afford to properly look after Capt. Strasser’s pressing needs in London.
President Kabbah encouraged Capt. Strasser to return home and the State would make certain provisions for him in order to rehabilitate him. He said that, Capt. Strasser’s condition at the time was a national scandal.
I succeeded Gibril Samura as Information Attache at the Sierra Leone High Commission in the UK in September 2002. During my brief interactions with him, I found him to be a very pleasant person.
I became the immediate occupant of 29 The Avenue Kilburn, London after Mr. Gibril Samura was recalled.
After Capt. Strasser left 29 The Avenue, he went and stayed with his girlfriend, Anne Metzger at Angel in North London. Before he returned home, he was sleeping rough in London.
It is not difficult to tell the lifestyle of Capt. Strasser from the way he looks and from the way he dresses.
In the run-up to the 2012 elections, Capt. Strasser regained recognition when he was included in President Koroma’s reelection campaign team. He was used by the APC to spite the then SLPP Presidential flag bearer, Brig. (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio.
When Ambassador Victor Foh was appointed Vice President (without Parliamentary approval), he took Captain Strasser on a tour of the South/Eastern Region. The VP was publicly criticized by the eldest son of the late James Bambay Kamara for parading with the man that ordered the brutal killing of his father. Alfred Bambay Kamara now works in the office of the Vice President.
Ambassador Victor Foh is a very tolerant man. He is not a vindictive man. Even the man who prosecuted him during his treason trial is now his best friend. They wine and dine together at his official residence on Spur Road in Freetown.
Visit To State House
According to the State House Communications Unit, President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma on Monday 31st July, 2017 publicly introduced Capt. (Rtd) Valentine Strasser to the visiting Ivorian President, Alassane Ouattara at State House as Sierra Leone’s former Head of State.
Capt., (Rtd) Valentine Strasser’s condition has deteriorated sharply. Why can’t the State assist him? No matter what anybody says, Capt. Strasser served as Head of State for almost four uninterrupted years. Such a man deserves nothing other than a decent life.
President Koroma can use his executive powers (or supreme executive powers) to transform Capt. Strasser’s pitiful state and give the man a befitting status as a former Head of State of this country.
The State can even provide a decent accommodation for the man, provide him with a chauffeur-driven vehicle and at least, a monthly living allowance for his upkeep.
To introduce the man in such a pitiful state to a visiting Head of State is nothing but ridiculous and embarrassing. It is a national disgrace!
Let President Koroma do the necessary thing to elevate Capt. Strasser’s status in society. At least, the man deserves a comfortable lifestyle, which the State can easily afford to provide for him.
Capt. Strasser’s current plight is pathetic!