Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 February 2018
Will the people of Sierra Leone experience violent free elections on 7th of March 2018? This question must be asked tonight, after last night’s orgy of violence that was unleashed in the norther town of Kamalo – the hotly contested hometown of the ruling APC party candidate – Dr Samura Kamara.
Several people – largely made up of supporters of the opposition SLPP are reported to have been injured, with their party leader believed to have fled for his life, after his vehicle was set upon by APC supporters in Kamalo.
But of course, as is usual in these violent confrontations, the truth is usually the first casualty. Both sides have today blamed each other for the violence.
European Union election observers have been deployed in Sierra Leone to observe and report on the elections, but cannot be expected to be everywhere in the run-up to polling day.
Both SLPP and APC have today published their respective statements on the causes of the violence and who is to blame. The police are conducting their investigations, and there are calls for impartiality in their endeavors.
This is what the opposition SLPP are saying tonight, in a statement tilled – Assassination attempt on Brigadier (rtd) Julius Maada Bio:
“The Sierra Leone People’s Party wishes to express grave concern over the assassination attempt on its Presidential Candidate, Brigadier (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio on Tuesday 20th February 2018 in Kamalo, hometown of the APC Presidential Candidate, Dr Samura Kamara. Bio was in Kamalo to address huge crowd of SLPP supporters as Tuesday was the designated campaign day for the SLPP in Karene District.
“In a well-organised assassination attempt, APC thugs targeted the vehicle of Brigadier (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio with stones and other dangerous missiles leading to the smashing of the door mirror where the Presidential Candidate sat and causing several dents on the vehicle. Brigadier (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio narrowly escaped through another vehicle but several injuries were inflicted on Party members and vehicles damaged.
“We view this assassination attempt on Brigadier (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio not as an isolated incident rather it is part of a systematic plan by the APC to create chaos in the coming elections, undermine the peace of the country and intimidate SLPP members and supporters ahead of polling day.
“Similar incident of well-organised attack on SLPP members and supporters also took place in Tokeh on Sunday, 18th February 2018. The Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr. Ibrahim Washinghai Mansaray took APC thugs to Tokeh before the arrival of the SLPP Presidential Candidate, Julius Maada Bio and many supporters were brutalised and arrested. In many areas especially in the North, there is also now a pattern by supporters of the APC to destroy posters and banners of the SLPP Presidential Candidate.
“It is also regrettable that the narration of the Local Unit Commander during a radio interview on the political violence in Kamalo was not only bias but most importantly factually inaccurate. The allegation by the Police Officer that gun shots were fired by security personnel of Brigadier (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio is a clear evidence that the police officer was feeding on APC rumour and smear campaign. By repeating such an APC rumour, the Police Officer has undermined the integrity of the police investigation.
“The assassination attempt is a worrying development few weeks before elections day. Therefore, we are calling on our development partners and moral guarantors to ensure that the APC commits itself to peaceful and non-violent elections. The SLPP wishes to reiterate its commitment to peaceful elections but also maintains that we will resist any form of political violence against our members and supporters.
“Finally, the SLPP calls on the APC Presidential Candidate, Dr Samura Kamara to unequivocally condemn the assassination attempt on Brigadier (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio in Kamalo and urges Dr Samura Kamara to publicly disassociates himself from such a dastardly act. Such an attack in the hometown of Dr Samura Kamara against Brigadier (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio represents the worst of political intolerance at a time when the APC Presidential Candidate had campaigned in the home district of the SLPP Presidential Candidate without any incident of attack.” (End).
But in response to accusations of inciting and perpetrating political violence and attempting tpo assassinate the SLPP leader – Julius Maada Bio, this is what the ruling APC National Secretary General – Alhaji Osman F Yansaneh, said in a published statement:
“The APC strongly condemns the violence and unruly behavior of members of the Sierra Leone People’s Party in the birth place of the APC Presidential Candidate, Dr Samura Kamara.
“On Tuesday 20th February the convoy of Retired Brigadier Maada Bio passed through Kamalo. They had been moving from Kamakwie raining serious insults through the various chiefdoms.
“In Kamalo, SLPP decided to place SLPP campaign materials on structures owned and erected by Dr Samura Kamara. On being warned against these provocative acts, they moved straight to Samura Kamara’s mother raining insults and tearing posters.
“Since the emergence of Mr Maada Bio as an SLPP contender, that party has embarked on a systematic trail of political violence around the country, particularly against persons from all parties that are opposed to their Paopa ( dictatorial) leadership.
“With the commencement of political campaign season, the SLPP Paopa (dictatorial) leadership has refused to commit itself to peaceful elections, and they have severally over the media and other occasions incited their supporters to disrupt law and order.
“Over the past two weeks they have been burning and destroying APC posters in Bo and Pujehun, they attacked our offices in Pujehun and stoned the convoy of the APC presidential candidate as it moved from Moyamba to conduct campaign activities in Kenema.
“The APC in strongest terms, condemn the violent attack on the people of Kamalo and other SLPP acts of violence and intimidation.
“We call on the Sierra Leone Police to ensure that the perpetrators of violence are brought to justice.
“We also call on the SLPP leadership to ensure that their supporters conduct themselves peacefully and allow others to exercise their freedom to associate and belong to a political party of their choice.
“As the governing party, the APC remains committed to ensuring peaceful, fair and credible elections. We will not allow the forces of violence to reverse the gains we continue to make in ensuring a peaceful and democratic country.
“We call on our party supporters to continue to be law abiding and peaceful and to speak through the ballot box their total condemnation of the SLPP Paopa ideology, intimidation, incitement and violence.” (End).
As a concerned Sierra Leonean – Ibrahim S. Mansaray, commented in the Sierra Leone Telegraph comments page this evening: “We just pray for a peaceful, free and fair election. The country has been through a lot and nothing seemed to have improved after the civil war. So, whoever becomes president, please make the expectations of all sierra Leoneans your priority.”
But today, as the recriminations and blame game continues between the two oldest parties in the country for the resumption of political violence, the National Grand Coalition (NGC) party led by Dr Kandeh Yumkella was in the northern city of Kabala, where thousands of young people came out in a carnival atmosphere to meet and greet Dr Yumkella.
Dr Yumkella is now believed to be the formidable candidate for the presidency, if free and fair elections are held on 7th March 2018.
This is Yumkella visiting the slums of Freetown yesterday, where unemployment is estimated to be well over 90%.