Sierra Leone Telegraph: 8 January 2018
Sierra Leone’s political parties watchdog – the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) has today ordered the Islamist party – the Citizens Democratic Party (CDP), to remove all campaign posters and billboards that use Islamic language as its election campaign slogan across the country.
Since gaining independence in 1961, no political party has sought to exploit the country’s majority Muslim population for electoral purposes.
But the CDP party which was established by former housing and lands minister – Musa Tarawallie, has become the first party to position itself as an Islamist party using Quranic verses as its campaign slogan.
Over 70% of Sierra Leone’s population are Muslims. Until a few months ago, when a Nigerian pastor Ajisafe, stepped the mark by whipping up religious hate against Muslims during one of his church sermons, which brought the country dangerously close to mass demonstration and violence, both Christians and Muslims have always got on very well.
After several days of tension in the country, pastor Ajisafe was forced to recant. He issued a public statement apologising to the Muslim community for his reckless language and abuse of his pulpit.
But just as religious harmony and trust was beginning to return in the country, then came along Musa Tarawallie and his CDP party, using Islamic preachings at political rallies to win the electoral support of the almost five million Muslims in the country.
This Islamist approach has been condemned by many across the various political parties, with some describing Musa Tarawallie as using the Islamic religion to divide the country. Others go even further in their criticisms, by comparing Musa Tarawallie with Islamic extremist groups that operate in various parts of the world, including Africa.
A political analyst in Freetown told the Sierra Leone Telegraph that he is reminded of the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria as a benign Islamist group a few years ago, only to become one of the most dangerous terrorist groups in Africa today.
“If not nipped in the bud, we may regret allowing the CDP to continue its Islamist exploitation of religion for political purpose,” he said.
So, what has the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) done about it. Today, Monday, 8th January, 2018, the PPRC issued this stern order to Musa Tarawallie’s CDP party: “Pursuant to its mandate as provided in the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No. 6 of 1991 and the Political Parties Act No. 3 of 2002, the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) on Monday 8th January, 2018 ordered the Leadership of the Citizens Democratic Party (CDP) to bring down all its posters and billboards carrying the word “Allah is one” and any other picture depicting terrorism/ religious intolerance within forty eight hours (48).”
In several of Musa Tarawallie’s videos showing him at campaign rallies, the chanting of “Allah Aqbaar” and other Islamic verses, could be heard from his followers and himself as part of his political message to the 70% Muslim population in the country. (Photo: Musa Tarawallie before adopting his Islamist campain strategy).
Musa was sacked a few years ago by president Koroma as minister of lands and housing, after allegations of massive corruption dogged his ministry, and was last month arrested by police for investigation and later released.
Supporters of Musa Tarawallie are egging him on to ignore the PPRC ruling and continue his Islamist campaign. But he knows fully, the consequences of disobeying PPRC orders.
In 2009, a commission of Inquiry into political violence in Sierra Leone (The Shears Moses Inquiry), recommended that Musa Tarawallie and several others, must never be allowed to hold public office in the country. But president Koroma refused to honour that recommendation.
It remains to be seen whether the Islamist CDP party will remove their campaign posters and billboards in the next 48 hours.
Other political parties also came under the radar of the PPRC today. And this is what they were told: The Commission advised the Leadership of the Coalition for Change Party (C4C) “to desist from using the national colours that is the Green, White and Blue, as it contravenes the terms and conditions of their registration.”
Andi it also advised the National Grand Coalition (NGC) “to harmonize its colours and to desist from using individual colours during their political activities. This in the view of the Commission is a recipe for chaos and contravenes Section 13 of the Political Parties Act No. 3 of 2002.”
“The Commission also reminded political parties that are yet to go to convention to act in compliance with the provisions of their party Constitution failing which the Commission will advise the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to reject any nomination put forward by the affected parties.”
In another development, the Sierra Leone Telegraph was today informed by a spokesman at the PPRC about the reasons for the PPRC’s refusal to grant the People’s Democratic League (PDL ) a registration certificate to operate. This is what he said:
“The Commission has refused them registration on the grounds that some of the contents in their constitution have the tendency for create problems in Sierra Leone. They made a lot of accusations against both APC and SLPP; and both parties threatened to take court action against them. We’ve asked them to redo their constitution after which they should apply again.”
Presidential and general elections are due in Sierra Leone on the 7th of March 2018., and the PPRC is getting tough with political parties.