By Mohamed Massaquoi in Kenema
Hundreds of Sierra Leoneans from various walks of life, including President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament, representatives from various Districts and City Councils across the country, relatives and friends of the former Resident Minister East, were in Kenema last weekend to give a hero’s burial to the late William Juana Smith, who passed away few weeks ago at the Choithram Hospital in Freetown, after a protracted illness.
The burial ceremony of the late Resident Minister was a unifying event, as it brought together thousands from across the country.
The remains of Mr. Smith was taken to several places within the township of Kenema before he was finally buried at residence at Reservation Quarters in Kenema.
Women, youth and school children lined the main streets of Kenema as the funeral cortege passed, to pay their last respect to the late minister.
Residents of Kenema and the eastern region, which is a stronghold of the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party paid tribute to him for his political tolerance, uprightness, humility and high sense of democratic values, evidenced in his stewardship of the district and region without any serious political conflict.
In his tribute to the late William Juana Smith at the Kercher Memorial United Methodist Church in Kenema, President Ernest Bai Koroma commended the former for his diligent services to his people, adding that he was a serviceable resident minister who always demonstrated quality and admirable leadership that is worth emulating.
“He is gone but his enviable character has been clearly shown for the past days from Freetown to Bo and to Kenema where he is finally laid to rest; may his soles rest in perfect peace,” he said.
Councilor Anthony Fony of the Kenema City Council referred to the late resident minister as a hero and a respectable father who has always provided mentorship to many politicians despite their political differences.
“His used to be my friend despite he is APC and I am SLPP. He was one of the oldest serving members of the APC and even when the party was in opposition, he demonstrated strong political leadership and political tolerance. He was a friend of everybody, his death is a big loss not only to the APC but to all of us who think that he was the best politician to manage this region,” he said.
Smith was born on the 14th October 1944 in Limba Town, Bagbo Chiefdom, Bo district, to late Mr. Samuel Juana Smith. He attended the District Education Committee School, in Jimmi town and later proceeded to the St. Andrews Secondary School in Bo.
Both his political patronage and long years of unbroken loyalty to the APC and his travails as a journalist summed up his dedicated service to party and nation, spanning years of work at the Sierra Leone Daily Mail as a reporter, vendor and later a news writer, before later becoming editor of the APC newspaper – We Yone.
As a newspaper vendor, the late Smith was instrumental as an under-cover distributor of the We Yone newspaper. He served the ruling APC in various capacities, beginning from an ordinary member to becoming district secretary, district chairman, and regional chairman respectively.