Dr Binneh’s triumph in Luton after years of hardship

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A PHD student from Sierra Leone overcame years of hardship including losing eight family members to Ebola before his graduation in Luton last week.

Abou Binneh Kamara, 38, known as ‘Binneh’ spent four years in Sierra Leone studying the long distance course with the University of Bedfordshire through a specialised scholarship.

It was not without severe hardship.

Notwithstanding faulty electricty and poor internet access, Binneh also lost his elder brother, nieces and nephews, and others during the Ebola crisis.

“About nine of them died of the Ebola disease,” said Binneh. “I had very serious psychological stress. I lost my brother and also the Attorney General of Sierra Leone – who was like a mentor to me.

“I’m saddened that they are not here to share this joy with me.”

In spite of the difficulties, Binneh soldiered on and completed his PHD thesis – How The Media Reports War Crimes. He formally graduated in a ceremony at Putteridge Bury last Tuesday.

His mentor at the university, Professor Jon Silverman, said: “Given what Binneh has been through ... to do this in Sierra Leone has been a remarkable achievement. I knew from the beginning he had something about him to see this through.”

Binneh’s achievement makes him only the second graduate of the University of Sierra Leone to have earned a PHD. After studying accountancy at university, he worked in Sierra Leone as a political journalist during the 1990s.

“I wrote a lot about the illegalities of the ARFC military junta,” said Binneh. “I had so many death threats. By my early 20s I had to go into exile in Guinea. I was afraid and waited about a year until I returned to Sierra Leone.

“I went to the School of Law and in 2005 was called to the bar.”

After years of practicing law, Binneh became a magistrate in Sierra Leone last year and also lectures at the country’s sole university.

In the future, Binneh hopes to join The International Criminal Court at The Hague – a position he feels prepared for by his experiences.