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.

14 Comments

  1. To me, all these burning, killing, threatening people that are now in opposition, they are powerless but have a say into issues about the country. President Bio might not be unaware of these happenings – don’t say otherwise. How can this government fear the opposition APC when they have all it takes? We expect Dr Bio and the SLPP Government to pay attention.

    The people of this country are desperate as I write. Desperate because it’s two years now and the condition of living is not favorable. The covid-19 has made things much worse with skyrocketing of cases. The problem is not the opposition leaders or those being arrested but the sitting government of Dr Bio.

    In a Patriotic point of reasoning, how can opposition APC still have control of the prison officers of the Freetown Maximum facility at Pa Demba road if it’s not a ploy to eliminate Rtd Paolo Conteh, Albert Williams, Daramy and Koita and make it look like it was a prison break, if they had succeeded in killing those political opponents?

    This is country is going into doom if reasonable care is not taken….Do we really want to go to war again? I guess no serious Sierra Leonean will want to go to war. But if under intense pressure, there’s possible likelihood, considering what we saw in Freetown.

    • I would like to ask you the question: Do you remember why Albert Williams and Daramy are at Pademba Rd. Prisons? They are there to answer for what they did during the former regime. Exactly in the last days of the presidential elections. It is a case of the Govt. of Sierra Leone (representing a deceased Journalist) against the 2 mentioned above. Do you know this?

  2. Yes Mr. Anthony Moiba, you are right. The right wing ideology is growing not only in Germany. Look at Polland, Hungary, Brazil, Chile and a lot of other countries. It is a result of the neoliberalism and their politicians. We the ordinary citizens can’t trust them. We have to stand up and fight for real democracy in Germany and in Africa.

  3. Most people can’t see the forest for the trees. What is all this hoopla about inviting our most learned Doctor Sylvia Blyden for questioning? The truth is, she has been baiting this government from the time the APC party lost at the last General Election. If truth be told, Sylvia has been a very hash and uncompromising critic of President Maada Bio, even before he became President. She employed her Awareness Times newspaper to besmirch, belittle and denigrate his character during his first run for the presidency and I must say she succeeded in some ways in tilting the election in favor of Ernest Bai Koroma.

    And these attacks have increased from Sylvia and her APC comrades ever since President Maada Bio, became duly elected. Any other person may have had enough with her antics but not President Bio. In the face of constant hurtful and sometimes inciting comments, our President has shown tolerance, magnanimity and restraint. I have heard that his own party supporters criticize him in close quarters for not pulling his weight. Some have opined that as a former Military brass, they were expecting him to throw the fear of the devil into the cowardly APC provocateurs and their underlings but it appears our President is afraid of a fight.

    Be it as it may, our President has remained stoic and determined to steer our country away from heightened tribal rhetoric and division. So, to hear folks describe him as a dictator and accuse him of trampling on the rights of people like Sylvia opposition is laughable.

    Sylvia is much to blame for her blabber mouth and to say she was not looking forward to the confrontation and…… basking in the sunlight is to deny the devious nature of her mind and the avowed statement by Ernest Bai Koroma and his APC to make our country ungovernable.

    • Man, what are you here rambling about? The woman is arrested for simply expressing the way she feels about the government, and here you are jabbering as if she went on a killing spree. Who gave these villagers the right to prosecute someone for simply speaking their mind?

  4. What is her crime, please? Will it be ok for any sitting government to arrest any citizen who is critical of the activities of the government? Will you say the same thing if APC or NGC were in power and an SLPP leader get arrested for simply being vocal? Please man up and reply to me Mr. Sillah.

    • Have you been chanced to listen to Mohammed Kamarimba Mansaray critisizing the Government of Pres. Bio during the past 12 Months? He Has been very active doing so but not so disrespectful as Silvia does. She went that far to say that no one recognizes him (Bio) as President and that people will not yield to his commands. And that she would advice that Pres. Bio involves ADEBAYOR in the fight against COVID-19 being that the People of Sierra Leone would prefare listening to ADEBAYOR. To me, this is very degrading for the Pres. of S.L.

  5. There’s clearly a règlements de comptes here (settling the score)
    Good luck Sierra Leone

  6. Dr Blyden has always been deviant. She derives pleasure in being so. Before she became a minister in the past govt, she was arrested for drawing a caricature of the president with a horn on his head. She knows how to take care of herself when she “stares a storm in a tea cup”. Wait and see.

  7. Well, the SLPP Women’s Wing Chairlady knows more. On her video, she doesn’t just threaten the silence of Dr. Sylvia Blyden and call for her arrest, she also revealed the time herself and other top government officials went to the Pademba Road Correction Center. It was as if they were working there a first shift. Seriously!! what were they doing there at that time? What was she doing at Pademba road at 3am? Who called for her assistance? Is she the Chief Prison Officer? which I believe at that time was having fun in his bed.

    This powerful SLPP chairlady has many questions to answer. Again, what about the heavily armed Presidential Guard Force Unit (PGFU)? What were they doing there at that time? Which security unit that was there that only deemed it fit to call the Sierra Leone PGFU for their reinforcement? No more security protocols in Sierra Leone? This is getting interesting by the minute.

    Is this the way the SLPP administration is going to treat Sierra Leoneans for the rest of their tenure? I really hope not. However, there has been no signs of ease in Sierra Leone in the last two years at both economic, social and political – and even moral issues to say the least. It is almost becoming too much to bear.

  8. “They are desperately preparing for their second term or else revert to war, mark my words, they are testing the waters….” Tamba Baku eh

    Revert to war for arresting Palo Conteh and Sylvia Blyden? Makes no sense to me. Those that attempt to commit a crime or disturb the peace especially during a State of Emergency must be arrested. Nobody is above the law. Not even the president. We should patiently await the results of government’s investigations.

  9. We as a people should encourage the leadership to be upright and try to make history for the common good. A good leader is one that puts the interests of his people before self. Please stop the nonsense and bring the people together.

    • We are in the 21st century, most of those that are ruling Sierra Leone today used to live in the west and might have seen or experienced good management at work. To go back and behave as if you guys have never been in the west makes me sick. To move forward in that country, is to run from the major disease called tribalism.

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