I am fully aware that many people were shocked when these sentences were carried out and that even today, much speculation goes on as to what prompted me to allow the law to take its course. There is even a fantastic rumour circulating that I had actually decided to commute the sentences to terms of imprisonment but that certain strong party members had forced me to change my mind. Let me put the record straight here and now. No single person, nor even the demon strations in favour of the death sentence that filed through the city, had any influence whatsoever on the action I was obliged to take. For me it was a dreadful act. I had to wrench myself out of my own character.
I had to shed all the personal feelings and sympathies and emanations of spirit which had accumulated in my own progress as a human being and, in particular, in the course of my acquaintance with the condemned men. But it was not in a personal capacity that I was asked to sign the death warrants. I still felt the moral responsibility in a deeply personal way. But I was able to act out of a sense of duty to my office. The limits of the law very properly restrict the power of a democratic head of state, but — thank God! — they also help him do his duty.
To view the whole thing dispassionately, and leaving personalities out of it, these officers were out to get rid of me not because I was a man they disliked called Siaka Stevens, but because I headed a government which they, or their backers, wanted to oust. Because of their actions, several people lost their lives and the Constitutional Government was all but overthrown. They were tried, found guilty of a crime punishable by death and so sentenced. The sentences were passed on to a Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy which recommended that the law should take its course.
These recommendations were then referred to me as Head of State for confirmation or otherwise in the normal way. I confirmed them not in my capacity as Siaka Stevens the man, the injured party and one-time friend of the chief accused, but as Executive President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, of the nation whose people I had sworn to serve. The peace and security of that nation had twice been threatened in the short space of five months and it was my solemn and avowed promise to the people to do all in my power to guard against any future attempts of this kind. There was no question where my obligations as President lay.