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Violence will not eclipse our new direction

Yusuf Keketoma Sandi

27 September 2011


For the past week or two our political discourse has been literally hijacked by political violence - whether it was in Kono or most recently in Bo, or the marathon of acts of political violence - witnessed since 2007, against the opposition SLPP.

As a Sierra Leonean and like thousands of others who have been testament to our horrific conflict, I condemn every form of violence - because according to Martin Luther King Jr "Nothing good ever comes of Violence".


Likewise as a nation, we must remember that for almost eleven years we witnessed the most savage and vicious forms of violence perpetrated against defenceless people by their own compatriots: amputations; indiscriminate killings of women and children; raping and other sexual assaults on girls and women; malicious looting and arson.

We lost our loved ones, and to this day continue to live with the scars of our war. Therefore, our politics should not remind us of this hurtful past, but rather it must be the platform to discuss policies that will heal our wounds and put smiles on our faces.

This brings me to the recent Bo incident and its aftermath. Whilst I welcome the setting up of a committee to investigate the disturbances by President Ernest Koroma, I eagerly look forward to the publication of its report, so that it does not follow the trademark of the Shears-Moses Report of March 2009 Political Violence, which the government has refused to publish or act upon.

Therefore, I will fight off the temptation to comment on the disturbances so as not to prejudice the outcome of the investigating committee.

However, it is sufficed to say that contrary to the ramblings of the APC’s Auxiliary - Mohammed Bangura, Rtd. Brigadier Maada Bio did sustain a head injury: But by whom, and from where? The committee will soon tell us.

Nevertheless, it is shameful and blasphemous for Sheik Sillah of APC to insinuate in his interview with Exclusive Newspaper, that Rtd Brigadier Maada Bio might have been stoned by God. Well, the God who many of us serve does not throw stones. But if He does, then there are many APC Politicians that He would have stoned for putting our people through the present wanton Hardship.

With such provocative comment by Sheik Sillah and the sequence of political violence doled out to the SLPP for the past four years, it seems obvious that the APC plans to cow the SLPP before the 2012 elections.

Well, our dear APC friends, we are in a different decade from the 1970s! Our political history has taught us that during the 1973 elections, APC scandalously unleashed violence against the SLPP to the extent of kidnapping staunch SLPP supporters, which caused the Party to withdraw all its candidates and subsequently boycotted the elections.

Worse still, people recall the 1982 parliamentary election for which, according to David Lord (Conciliation Resources, Sept. 2000); in the southern Pujehun the APC used the Army to crush supporters of the SLPP during the election campaign in events known as the "Ndogboyosoi" war.

These two horrific incidents make it ever so sad and worrying as the SLPP in its recent press briefing recounted its four years of traumatic experiences of violence under the "new APC".

Therefore, what does it say of our democracy, where the official opposition cannot hold a meeting at its headquarters without the fear of hoodlums or thieves plotting to heist chairs party members sit on; or the computers, laptops and printers used to prepare minutes and party correspondence; or the fear of the generator being nicked?

And what about the women - young and old, who cannot concentrate during party meetings because they are afraid of rapists? This is not political violence but plain Criminality.

What about our Force for Good? Sadly, during these incidents of political violence, the Police Officers usually embark on either arresting the victimised SLPP supporters, firing lachrymatory agent (tear gas) against the SLPP supporters.

Notably in 2007, Brima Acha Kamara - former Inspector General of the police, bizarrely remarked following comprehensive looting of the party headquarters, that it was the SLPP youths who embarked on 'operation pay yourself'.

And now in a seeming ploy to undermine the political vibrancy of the SLPP, the Inspector General of Police – Munu, has ordered a blanket and indefinite ban on all outdoor activities of Political Parties in the guise of a 'cooling period'.

Whilst, I recognise the sacred duty of the Police to maintain law and order, and ensure the peaceful co-existence of all Sierra Leoneans, by the same token we do not want to live in Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe uses the Police to crush the opposition party of Morgan Tsvangirai.

In February 2007, the Zimbabwean Police banned all political rallies and activities in Harare. This was an obvious ploy by President Robert Mugabe to politically suffocate the opposition, led by Morgan Tsvangirai. The ban has been described as a "state of emergency"; whilst one international observer lamented that democracy was under siege in Zimbabwe.

Therefore, I want to remind I.G. Munu about the Policing Charter published in August 1998. Under the Mission Statement, specifically the sub-section titled ‘Our Values’, it states; "WE WILL RESPECT HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE FREEDOMS OF THE INDIVIDUAL".

However, the ban recently issued by the police, flies in the face of not only their own Policing Charter, as it infringes on the Political Rights, Freedoms of Association and Movements of the citizens; but seeks to put our democracy under siege.

To the SLPP, I understand and empathise with the pain, victimisation and above all the humiliation we have unjustifiably gone through for the past four years.

The present Arab Spring - whether in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen or Saudi Arabia has taught us that when political oppositions are subjected to years of oppression with the aid of state agents, the people are left with no choice but to take the law and their common destiny into their own hands.

However, as a student of Pacificism, I do not condone violent retaliation, but it will be utterly callous if the APC government does not recognise that all the criminalities committed against the SLPP in the guise of political violence must stop.

The patience and tolerance of the SLPP have been tested beyond political acceptance.

In pari passu, to us in the SLPP, we need to be reminded of the words of great Martin Luther King Jr., who once said; "If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in the struggle, unborn generations will be recipients of a long and desolate nights of bitterness, and your chief legacy to the future will be endless reign of meaningless chaos".

Therefore, we must not succumb to the temptation of APC’s violence to eclipse our New Direction, because what is at stake for this 2012 elections matter most to the lives of suffering Sierra Leoneans and young people trapped in joblessness.

  In the same vein, we need to be guided of the words of our Presidential Hopeful – Rtd. Brigadier Maada Bio, who stated in his glorious maiden speech:

"Fellow Sierra Leoneans, against this backdrop, a question often asked is: if, like the old APC, the so-called new APC decides to lead the country in electoral violence in the run-up to 2012, should we in the SLPP follow suit? With respect, I say No."

"The strength of our Party lies in our capacity, not in trading violence with the APC or any other party, but in upholding the sacred values for which our Founding Fathers had fought so hard and which today constitutes our cherished inheritance. Eschewing violence as an instrument of political change, however, should not be misunderstood or misconstrued as cowardice or timidity."

"We fear no party and we are ready to protect our supporters at all times. Only that our creed is freedom, not despotism; democracy, not dictatorship; the rule of law, not the rule of the jungle; human rights, not power; inclusiveness, not alienation."

"Spreading these values is the bastion of our security, our first line of attack and our last line of defence. And if the APC decides to divide the country in violence, so our resolve to unite it around our common dislike of violence must remain unshaken and unbroken. And we must send this message out to the country now," says Bio.

For our friends who stated that Rtd. Brigadier Maada Bio had not condemned the Bo incident, that maiden speech deflates such assertion - if they really care to know what has been Rtd. Brigadier Maada Bio’s position on the Bo disturbance.

As the APC Government celebrates four years in office this September, things have got worse for Sierra Leoneans: the country now has the third highest illiteracy rate in the world; a bag of rice is at its highest price of Le 145,000-Le170,000.

Since Pedro Da Cintra founded Sierra Leone in 1462, the country now has the highest record of joblessness among its youths; an economy recovering from coma with a shocking 18.4% inflation rate, and the value of our currency (Leone) depreciating at an alarming rate, with $1 = Le4500 and £1 = Le7152.

As such, the SLPP must continue to provide for our people an alternative government in waiting, with Rtd. Brigadier Maada Bio’s youthful leadership that will match violence with ideas, release our people from the prison cells of poverty, empower our young people with skills and job opportunities to maximise their fullest potentials, fulfil the greatest promise that each generation will be better than its previous generation.

But most of all: provide a New Direction in our Politics that will put smiles on the face of every Sierra Leonean, irrespective of tribe, religion, region, wealth, social status, educational status and political affiliations. YES HE CAN!

Yusuf Keketoma Sandi: BA (Hons), LLB (Hons) London


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