Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 May 2020:
Two days ago, president Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone stunned the nation in a national TV and radio broadcast, when he told the people of Sierra Leone that: “Evidence emerging from investigations have named known local leaders and members of the APC as being responsible for inciting, planning, financing, mobilising, and in some cases actively participating in violent terrorist attacks against the people of this country.”
He also went further to state that: “The silence of the national APC leadership on the active participation of their members and executive members in these acts of terrorist violence, senseless loss of lives, injuries and wanton destruction of public and personal property is truly disconcerting,” – a very serious charge against the country’s main oppposition party, which could lead to the arrest of senior executives of the party and possibly also – the banning of the APC party from politics in Sierra Leone.
But president Bio presented no evidence to support these very serious allegations against one of the oldest political parties in the country – with the largest number of seats in parliament, following the 2018 general elections, until the ruling SLPP seized at least 10 of those seats, thus taking away the APC’s majority without proper due process.
In response to the president’s branding of the APC as a terrorrist party, the executives of the APC party yesterday issued a public statement, accusing the president of wrongly implicating the APC in the pockets of violence and rioting that erupted last week in some parts of the country, as well as the disturbance at the Pademba Road prison which led to security forces killing at least a dozen unarmed prisoners.
This is what the statement says:
1. It is with great disappointment that we listened to the speech delivered by his Excellency the President Dr Julius Maada Bio on the 8th day of May 2020, bordering on the current security situation in the country. In that statement, the President referred to our Party leadership and membership as “terrorists” and threatened that his government will “hit hard and it will continue to hit even harder until this fight is won”.
2.The APC laments the fact that His Excellency the President could use the national address to denigrate a legitimate political institution which existence is in accordance with the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone and the Political Parties Registration Act of 2002. It is therefore important for the general public to note that the APC is not in any ”fight” with the Government.
3.We are dismayed that the Party has been wrongly implicated when the President asserted emphatically that: “Evidence emerging from investigations have named known local leaders and members of the APC as being responsible for inciting, planning, financing, mobilising, and in some cases actively participating in violent terrorist attacks against the people of this country”.
4.The APC Party wishes to make it known that we are a law abiding Party and since 4th April, 2018 when President Bio was sworn into office, we have kept within the confines of the law and have resisted all forms of provocation and intimidation. APC Party Offices were vandalized country wide, party loyalists brutalised, raped and killed. Many of our members had their houses burnt down and some were forced to seek refuge in strange lands where they continue to languish in misery and squalor.
5.The APC would like to bring to the attention of the international community and the nation that the statement of His Excellency the President of 8th May, 2020 describing the leaders and members of the APC Party as ”terrorists” could serve as a precursor to go after peaceful citizens of this country. We therefore call for their assistance in reminding His Excellency the President of his commitment to be a president for all Sierra and for the sustenance of the security of the state.
6.You may also recall that in response to these unfortunate incidents, the APC Party sent a high powered delegation to meet with President Bio and his team in a bid to seek an amicable settlement in the best interest of peace and stability in Sierra Leone. The APC delegation included the Deputy Chairman and Leader, the National Secretary General, the APC Leader in Parliament and his Deputy, and the 2018 Presidential Candidate.
7.His Excellency was gracious enough to set up a Cross-party Committee to address the concerns the APC Party brought to the attention of His Excellency in that meeting. At the end of the day, despite all the efforts of traveling all over the country, gathering evidence of violent incidents and the report was presented to His Excellency through the Director of the Office of National Security, nothing was done about it up to date.
8.The international community and development partners would also note that even though we had serious reservations about the outcome of the 2018 Presidential and Parliamentary elections results, we did not resort to violence. Rather, we went to court to seek redress. Regrettably, our cases are yet to be listed or addressed over two years on.
9.The SLPP government sent in the Police to beat up our members of parliament (MPs) and brutally chase them out of the Well of Parliament to pave the way for the imposition of a minority speaker. Yet, the APC did not resort to violence. Instead, we issued several press releases calling on the Government and the international community to intervene.
10.On the 31st May, 2019, two important events took place that breached the Constitution and statutory provision of our country:
1.The Judiciary ruled to kick out ten (10) duly elected APC MPs from Parliament and ordered the swearing in of non-elected SLPP candidates who had lost the elections in outright contravention of the 1991 Constitution and the Sierra Leone Public Elections Act of 2012;
2.The SLPP government attacked our Party headquarters, brutalised our members and detained 146 of them in custody. Some of them are still languishing in the courts to this day. Yet, the APC did not resort to violence.
11.You would all recall the blatant display of thuggery and rigging in recent by-elections but most especially in Thonko-Limba and Constituency 110 in the Freetown Peninsular. We all witnessed how the SLPP government used the Sierra Leone Police, State functionaries and thugs including the Minister of Transport and Aviation to violently disrupt the elections and deprive APC of our much deserved victory. At least one life was lost in Thonko-Limba. At that time the international community urged the Government to setup an inquest into the death of the 14-year old school boy. All of these cases have been taken up with the Judiciary for redress but regrettably, no action has been taken. Yet, the APC did not resort to violence.
12,Our revered development partners would recall the widespread sacking of thousands of Sierra Leoneans, including some with security of tenure as provided for in the 1991 Constitution. They were all perceived as having some links with the APC. They are now jobless and languishing at home. Yet, the APC did not resort to violence.
13.The fight against corruption is one that the APC is on record as championing. We strengthened the powers of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). We were therefore not averse to the setting up of Commissions of Inquiry (COI) that are consistent with the provisions of relevant portions of our Constitution and which do not infringe upon the fundamental rights of its citizens. We raised concerns that the COI were set up in contravention of the Constitution. The APC took the matter to the Supreme Court for interpretation. The matter is yet to be listed. Two years since, the APC did not resort to violence.
14.APC believes in free speech and the defence of fundamental human rights. The track record of the former President Ernest Bai Koroma in this sector is very apparent. Regrettably, the APC leaders and members have come under incessant attacks, harassment and intimidation. Many of our members have been arrested and detained on trumped up charges. The APC is seeking redress through the courts, yet, we have not resorted to violence.
15.The SLPP government chose to unilaterally terminate existing contracts of investors, increase taxes and make it increasingly impossible for the private sector to flourish in Sierra Leone. This naturally has attendant implications for the economy. But yet President Bio has chosen to blame the APC Party for the mass closure of big corporations and enterprises the APC government had attracted.
16.We note His Excellency’s reference to contributions he made in the fight against Ebola when the APC Party was in governance. While the APC appreciates his sacrifice, we shall restrain ourselves from delving into the nitty-gritty of President Bio’s involvement in the fight, and how it was facilitated by the goodwill of former President Koroma and the Government of Sierra Leone.
17.But even in the absence of any goodwill from the Government, the APC has reached out to communities, developed sensitization messages, distributed food and other essential items to the needy and played our part (which we will continue to do) in the fight against Covid-19.
18.The APC further notes, with deep curiosity, His Excellency President Bio’s comments on efforts made by the Government, including dispatching a delegation headed by the Honourable Vice President Juldeh Jalloh to Former President Koroma in Makeni and leading to a meeting between President Bio and former President Koroma at State House. The meeting was intended to promote peace and foster national cohesion. Admittedly, these steps were quite laudable. During these engagements, a joint-communique between the SLPP Government and the APC Party was signed which was expected to serve as the basis for continued dialogue between the parties – APC/SLPP.
19.A joint-meeting co-chaired by the Vice President and our Deputy Leader and Chairman took place over six months ago. The Vice President promised to bring the outcome of that meeting to the attention of His Excellency. Unfortunately, however, the government showed little or no commitment to translate the content of the communique into reality. Nothing has happened since then in spite of our continued calls on the Vice President to reconvene the meeting.
20.It is our hope that the Government will focus on pursuing genuine peace and national cohesion through meaningful dialogue. Describing a significant percentage of our citizenry as ‘terrorists’ is certainly not how to keep Sierra Leone united and peaceful.
21.The APC Party wishes to make it known that we remain committed to peace and stability in Sierra Leone. We however believe that there can never be genuine peace without justice. We therefore call for peace and justice in Sierra Leone. We therefore insist on an independent investigation into the 29th April, 2020 alleged ‘prison break’ at the Male Correction Centre, Pademba Road, and the unfortunate incidents at Lunsar, Tombo and other areas in a bid to bring to book all those involved in perpetrating violence.
22.We take this opportunity to reiterate and pledge our loyalty and support to the peaceful people of our beloved nation and to pledge again all our endeavours to improving the long-term welfare of all Sierra Leoneans. We also herby register our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives on the 29th April 2020 at the Pademba Road Male Correctional Centre as well as to those who lost their lives in the violent disturbances in Lunsar and Tombo.
Long Live the Republic of Sierra Leone! Long Live the APC Party!
Signed: Amb. Alhaji Dr. Osman Foday Yansaneh, National Secretary General — APC