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21st January 2019

Tribute to a Departed Brother Alpha Shaw, Fearless Journalist, Student Activist and Leader

The Organiser newspaper publications have wholeheartedly been dedicated to the loving memories of elder brother, mentor and role model Mr. Mohamed Alpha Shaw, widely known as Alpha Shaw.

Alpha Shaw was known to the Shaw family as 'Babahen' meaning 'Father'. He was named after our maternal grand father, a great grand dad himself. To his peers in Kenema, Alpha Shaw was known as 'Nongolue' meaning son of Nongowa. His peers in Freetown, especially on Dan Street, Fourah Bay, where he last resided, 'Babahen' was simply called 'Slide Shaw'.

The editor and publisher of newspaper, Abu Shaw, is the younger brother of Alpha Shaw. 'Babahen' was one of the most brilliant journalists of his generation. He was a fearless journalist, a brilliant student activist and a humble leader. Dan Street Fourah Bay in Freetown, where he lived until his last days would always  

Babahen's visionary write-ups in various topics in the media and his oratory skills that still linger in the minds of those who knew him personally and officially, were vivid testaments to his versatility. His Alma Mater, Ahmadiyya Secondary in Freetown aka 'Zintabba' would always remember his eloquence in many of his school assembly speeches.

He wrote many incisive, controversial and factually based articles for the radical Tablet newspaper in the 70s and 80s, many of which were distasteful to the corrupt APC government of President Siaka Stevens. 'Babahen' also contributed immensely to the Progress newspaper and the Sierra Leone Daily Mail edited by late Fode Kandeh and late Arika Awuta Coker respectively.

'Babahen' died on July 17, 1980, few days after Sierra Leone hosted the Organisation of African Unity OAU conference. He passed away at the tender age of 22 at the Connaught Hospital in Freetown. He was admitted for tetanus infection and had a lock-jaw. He could not speak in his last days. Rather fishy that the hospital did not allow any one to see him before he passed away. Every efforts by one family friend and brother Tejan Kpaka who was at the Connaught hospital to see him proved futile. Sadly, he died with no family member or friend by his death bed. All secrets gone till eternity.

Was it political foul play? Only God knows! Few months after his death, the APC government raided and burnt down the Rawdon Street offices of Tablet newspaper. Editors Hindolo Trye and Pios Foray were forced to go in to exile. And that was the untimely end of Tablet, Sierra Leone's most famous and patriotic radical newspaper in history.

His sudden death was a real shock to the Shaw family in Kenema and nationwide. His Alma Mater Ahmmadiya Secondary School in Freetown was particularly shocked as he passed away whilst waiting for his A-Level results.

Few weeks before his death, Alpha Shaw was elected Chairman of the Young Stars Football Club, the most famous youth association in Kenema. 'Babahen' attended St. Paul's Primary School in Kenema and later the Government Secondary School in Kenema. He took his GCE O'Levels in 1978 at the Independent Memorial Secondary School in Freetown. 

This was how Sierra Leone newspapers heralded the sudden death of 'Babahen': The Daily Mail wrote - 'Alpha Shaw, One of the Most Brilliant Students in the Country, is Dead'; The Progress newspaper wrote - 'Leader Alpha Shaw Dies'; The Tablet newspaper wrote - 'Genius Alpha Shaw is Dead'. Also in the Tablet newspaper, a tribute by Dr. Jimmy Kandeh, his political soulmate and brother, wrote -'A Tribute to a Departed Brother, Alpha Shaw'.

'Babahen' had so many notable quotes: 'Even though the coat matters, the man in the coat matters most'. Another primary quote reads: "A man, who is ignorant of the society in which he lives, who knows nothing of its place in the world and who has not thought about his own place in it, is not a free man even though he has a vote."

His corpse was brought back to Kenema by the President of the Fullah Progressive Union and business tycoon Alhaji Bailor Barrie. Late Bailor Barrie was married to our mother's elder sister. 'Babahen' was laid to rest in Kenema town. A fitting football match in his honour was played at the Kenema Town Field between Young Stars and a team from Freetown involving his peers. Those who knew him still believe 'Babahen' would have had a bright future had he lived longer.

'Babahen' was the pioneer of the journalism profession in the Shaw family from Kenema. Alpha Shaw's embodiment of the spirit of journalism continues to flow in the family's blood stream up to this day. The Organiser newspaper thought it wise to dedicate it in his name.

Your honesty, kindness, selflessness and love for everyone will never be forgotten. You are always in our prayers. It's hard. I still feel the pain of your death up to this day. Rest in Peace big brother and may God's Perpetual Forgiveness and Everlasting Light Shine on You. Amen.

TRIBUTE: Alpha Shaw

Journalist, Student Activist, Leader, 1958-1980

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