Breaking News: Sierra Leone’s former social welfare minister – Dr Sylvia Blyden arrested

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.

4 Comments

  1. We are praying that this matter will be settled with mutual respect. For Sylvia’s sake let us avoid recriminations. God’s blessings to us all.

  2. S. J Koroma, the video link you provided just prove that you are a fake news peddler. I watch the entire clip, no where did Dr. Blyden explicitly state that “She went that far to say that no one recognizes him (Bio) as President and that people will not yield to his commands”. On the contrary, she was simply calling for the president to bring all Sierra Leoneans onboard in the fight against convid-19. Yes, its a fact that our nation is more divided along tribal and political lines more than ever before.

    There is a big mistrust for the government especially among supporters of the opposition parties, so it’s true that a certain percentage of the population will never abide by or believe whatever messages some government officials are propagating. Again, she was simply expressing her own personal opinions which she is entitled to. So you guys need to stop this character assassination. There are members of the current administration who have uttered outrageous and controversial comments in the past, no one is calling for their arrest.

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