Sierra Leone Telegraph: 01 May 2020:
Sources close to the family of Dr Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, who is the former social welfare minister in the Koroma led APC government, have confirmed in the last hour that Dr Blyden has been arrested by armed police officers, who arrived at her residence this morning at Cockle Bay in the far West of the capital Freetown.
This latest development follows the arrest of the wife of the former minister of defence – Retired Major Palo Conteh two nights ago in Freetown.
Palo Conteh has been charged with treason, and is in custody after allegations that he went to State House for a meeting with the president carrying a gun.
As political tension mounts in the country in the last few days, there have been calls on social media by several ruling SLPP party operatives for the arrest of Dr. Blyden whom they regard as a fierce critic of the Bio led government.
Three days ago, the country’s deputy internal affairs minister – Lahai Lawrence Leema made threatening statements about the possible arrest of Dr Blyden.
Just yesterday, the SLPP chairlady for the party’s Women’s wing – fatmata Sawaneh warned Dr Blyden in a recorded audio message published this morning by the Sierra Leone Telegraph, that life could be made difficult for Dr Blyden and others regarded as ‘subversives’.
And, just hours after publishing that audio message, Dr Blyden was this morning visited by truck loads of armed special security forces and was arrested.
The Sierra Leone Telegraph understands that Dr Blyden (Photo) has been taken to the Criminal Investigations Department in central Freetown for questioning.
But supporters of the opposition APC say that her arrest is a precurser for a major crackdown on political opponents in the country.
“This is not democracy, this is military-style dictatorship we now have in Sierra Leone, where the opposition cannot exercise freedom of speech and liberty to hold the government accountable without risking police arrest,” a senior executive of the APC who is now in hiding told the Sierra Leone Telegraph.
“The three days coronavirus lockdown declared by president Bio last night is a crackdown smokescreen to facilitate the arrest of opposition politicians using the State of Emergency that the country is now under. God help Sierra Leone,” he said.
Yesterday, Dr Blyden posted a message on Twitter informing her supporters that she understands that the deputy internal affairs minster was planning to silence her by arresting her. But she told her supporters not to take any notice of that threat as she has done nothing wrong other than hold the government accountable through free speech.
It seems now that in Sierra Leone, freedom to criticise the government comes at a heavy price. Other opposition politicians are now in fear they may be next to be arrested.
Supporters of the opposition APC say that they are placing the international community on high alert for a major political crackdown in the country.
And in the last hour this message was published by the Sierra Leone America Human Rights Foundation (SLAHRF) in Washington DC:
“We can officially confirm that Sierra Leone Police Officers have entered compound of Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden at Cockle Bay in Sierra Leone and are now banging on all her doors.
“We want it to be made known that she meant it when she said that she knew she was at risk under President Bio in a State of Emergency but safety of Sierra Leone is bigger than her self interest during this Covid-19 Coronavirus outbreak. Hence she had made her endorsement of the proclaimed State Of Emergency.
“……….Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden two weeks ago (was) in front of the office of the Ministry of Internal Affairs when she went alongside colleague former ministers to advocate for the Human Rights of their detained former minister colleague, Alfred Palo Conteh, to be upheld whilst he was under detention. May God bless you all in Sierra Leone.
“Signed by: President & Secretary General of the Sierra Leone America Human Rights Foundation (SLAHRF), Washington DC. Friday May 1st 2020 at 9:30am Sierra Leone Time.”
So far, there has been no comment or statement by officials in the Bio led government or the Sierra Leone police about Dr Blyden’s arrest.
The Sierra Leone Telegraph will bring you more on this developing story as it unfolds.