Civil society calls on Sierra Leone police to release parliamentarian Conteh after arrest for alleged import of firearms

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 July 2021:

A member of parliament of Sierra Leone’s main opposition APC party – Emmanuel Saidu Conteh, was arrested last week, on allegation that a vehicle he had shipped into the country contained firearms and ammunitions on arrival at the Queen Elizabeth seaport in Freetown.

But according to reports, Mr Conteh has denied any knowledge of the vehicle and the contents alleged to be firearms by the police.

Supporters of the MP are accusing the police of planting fireamrs in the vehicle in order to frame the MP and have him arrested on false charges in conivance with the ruling SLPP party.

A civil society group, Civil Society Alternative Network (CSAN SL), has written a letter to the Inspector General of Police, calling for the release of parliamentarian Conteh. This is what they said:

“Our attention has been drawn to a radio interview by the Public Relations Officer of your institution (Media 1) about the Honourable Member of Parliament for Constituency 129 Emmanuel Saidu Conteh who is under your custody at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) since last Friday, after receiving calls from the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) deployed at the Sierra Leone Ports Authority (Water Quay) whilst in Parliament.

“It is alleged by your personnel that he was in possession of firearms and was requested to go for questioning at the Sierra Leone Ports Authority (Water Quay) when the Director of CID ordered his arrest.

“Sir, this is the third time it is happening now in the last 3 years, were Honourable Members of the Sierra Leone Parliament are arrested and detained with immunities removed by the Speaker of Parliament. Notably, prominent amongst these MPs are Honourable Sheka Samai from Pujehun District, who was wrongfully charged for an incident in Sahn Merlin Chiefdom, Honourable Lahai Marrah from Falaba District, wrongfully arrested by the SLP for posting in a Parliamentary WhatsApp forum which is an extension of Parliament, but the leadership of Parliament was against the detention, and now the Honourable Emmanuel Saidu Conteh of constituency 129 in Freetown.

“According to the SLP, Honourable Emmanuel Saidu Conteh is alleged to have been in possession of unlawful arms and he is currently under detention at the CID Headquarters in Freetown, he has spent almost 7 (seven) nights in custody.

“Sir, be informed that Sec 99,100, 101 and 102 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, gives immunity to sitting Members of Parliament. However, your personnel have not been magnanimous in any way with Honourable Members of Parliament who they should salute/respect, but rather have resorted to either arrest and detained them and at the same time allegedly beaten them up in their respective offices, especially during the state opening of Parliament in May 2018.

“Sir, you will agree with us that government comes and go but the Sierra Leone Police remain as “A force for good,” as you are aware that democratic Policing is now a norm in modern society. In essence, Civil Society Alternative Network (CSAN SL) is recommending that your humble and esteemed office do the following:

1.Immediately release the Hon Member of Parliament without conditions attached to allow him continues his Parliamentary sittings.

2.That the Sierra Leone Police continue to respect the United Nations Protocols on International best practices of good policing.

3.As the Network start preparing to go to Supreme Court for interpretation on the various sections that has to do with immunity of Members of Parliament, We want to encourage the Sierra Leone Police to stop the unlawful arrest and detention of Honourable Members of Parliament who have immunity as enshrined in sections aforementioned in the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.

“Our network is a group of seasoned, matured and experienced Human Rights Advocates, and it is committed in working with the Sierra Leone Police to enhance their capacity in good Policing in the country.

Yours faithfully,

Thomas Pa Alie Babadie (Mr.), Chairman, Civil Society Alternative Network (CSAN SL) 2nd Floor, 37 Mends Street, Freetown

CC:  The Hon Speaker of Parliament

Secretary to President

Leaders of Opposition in Parliament

Clerk of Parliament

Independent Candidates of Parliament

Director of Criminal Investigations Department

Independent Police Complaint Board

Civil Society Organizations

Amnesty International

Media/Press”

14 Comments

  1. “Young people look for happiness while the aging and aged look for peace”. Let’s help to make Sierra Leone a better place for us all.
    The story around arms and ammunition proliferation in our country at such an awareness age is very unhealthy. No one would be trigger happy to hear of such development for our land. To this end I say ‘let’s help to make Sierra Leone a safer country’.

  2. Everyone is saying this saying that. But have we all really asked these questions: Has the MP been found guilty of arm possession through a court of law? Was the legal due process followed during his arrest? Was he treated fairly? How many days should any citizen be kept in police custody before he could be released or charged to court? Because let us all remember that, as no one is above the law, so too does everyone deserve a fair trial.

    Why cant we all urge this administration to follow due process in fighting wrong doing – lawlessness, corruption, etc? Doing that does not mean we are asking APC or any other party to disobey the law. We just want every Sierra Leonean to be treated fairly and according to the law. Remember: What is good for the goose is also good for the gander. No matter how long is the night the day is sure to come.

  3. Sahr Matturi, could you answer this question: Is there a warrant for the arrest of Earnest Koroma either from the courts or from ACC?. IG Sovula is a belated arrival on the scene. Don’t forget that both the police and army are under civilian control, which makes Maada Bio their boss; the army and police chiefs can be removed by him at any time. What Bio cannot do is interfere in a court ruling or ruling from a body that is constitutionally empaneled like ACC.

    You cannot parallel what is happening in South Africa with what is happening in Sierra Leone. In Sierra Leone the Rule of Law and independence of the judiciary are hardly respected because we have a corrupt and rotten judiciary. This is precisely the opposite in South Africa, and that’s why former president,Jacob Zuma , is in jail. Law enforcement (a totally different branch of government), sprang into action when violent protests resulted after the former president turned himself in to start his jail sentence for contempt of court by failing to appear to answer charges of corruption while in office. The most important thing to note is a judge was about to issue a warrant of arrest for Jacob Zuma when the better judgement of the former president decided him and he turned himself in. While in jail for the next four months Mr Zuma would have plenty of time to reflect on his time in office which has now brought him to grief; so many people have been killed because of him. Earnest Koroma is on match down the same road.

    IG Sovula, as far as can be ascertained, has not been given a warrant for the arrest of Earnest Koroma, which would makes it arbitrary for him to take on such a task on his own. He is a law enforcer not a law interpreter. With the solid backing of the army if needed ,IG Sovula can execute a clean arrest of Koroma. Those who believe that the former President is untouchable and may want to behave like the supporters of Jacob Zuma should be treated the same way as those in South Africa. Law and order must prevail in our dear country. The unbearable stench of corruption which now permeates the Bio administration is the only reason why Ben Kaifala cannot issue a warrant for Earnest’s arrest. The irony would be too monumental for such a move.

    • I don’t have a clue Mr Santhkie Sorie if any warrant of arrest was issued for the most popular and all time powerful and most respected former President and former Commander in Chief of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed forces, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma. What I know was how IG Sovula showed his professional skills to save Sierra Leone from it’s own South Africa. Thank you very much Mr Santhkie Sorie and may God bless our former Commander in Chief of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces(who of course will face President Bio in 2023 as the APC flagbearer if we are not careful) and IG Sovula. God help the South African President to deal with the backlash he created for not making a wise decision on the people’s Commander.

      You don’t mess around with the people’s Commander when your country is sitting on a ticking bomb of unemployed youths and a hungry population. Arresting the people’s commander will trigger many destructive political, social and economic chain reactions which will leave in regret mode forever. That’s it. God bless Sierra Leone and the South African people.

  4. Firearms. Methinks the honourable member has been chatting the wrong woman. If I remember from my days in Sierra Leone and the general mentality of the SLPP, it is probably woman issues. I do not think anyone would be that stupid.

  5. This MP have more questions to answer than just dismissing the claims of not being aware of the arms found in his imported vehicle. There are thousands of Sierra Leoneans that buy second hand vehicles and put them in containers and shipped them to Sierra Leone. You most have the brain of a turtle to try and smuggling arms of any sort with out having the licence to do so. Now after the Major Poalo Conteh incident back in 2020,anyone with a short memory span that tries this sort of thing, was either not yet born when that incident happened, or there thinking faculties are so disturbed one will only advise them to go and seek mental evaluation in kissy mental home. For those deniers of history, our country went through a mad max civil war for eleven years, in which countless of our fellow Sierra-leoneans were brutalised, tortured, murdered, amputated and forced to leave their homes and seek shelter in other countries. The peace we are enjoying today was paid at a high price.

    We don’t want anyone, whether is Mr Saidu Conteh or his ilk or any other Sierra-leoneans that harbours such thoughts to think they are going to put our countrys security at risk again for their selfish aims. Never again. We’ve been through that road of hell, and we don’t want a repeat of that. The least you can do for our country, you can use your platform as a Parliamentians and advocate change by putting your ideas like what Dr. Yumukella is doing and open it for public debate. Our country is surrounded by a rough neighbourhood. There are soldiers of fortune all over the world. The recent assassinations of the Hati’s president Jovenel Moise and the attempted killing of his wife mostly by former Colombian soldiers, that has nothing to do with Hati’s interest, plunging that country to political uncertainty, and the continus wars in the Sahel, Mali, Burkina Fasso, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, should be food for thoughts for everyone .

    The gun should never replace the ballot box. We have seen enough violence in Sierra Leone.Given the world wide thight export controls of arms, how did this arms that found their way at Queen Elizabeth Quay in Freetown, evade custom checks in the place of origin mostly one will hazard a guess from Europe . Somethings doesn’t add up here.

  6. After seeing all those auwful, horrible, disgusting images and carnage coming out of South Africa, IG Sovula makes me feel Good and proud. Sierra Leone should have been in a similar position had it not been for the wise decision of this great IG of our times, not to bow to any pressure to force the arrest of Sierra Leone’s most respected and popular former President in living history, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, for what? I don’t know. My advice to every sitting African President is this, don’t take the popularity and enormous powers of some of your predecessors for granted. Watch very carefully before making any silly and empty political decisions on them. It can turn against you and leave you in a messy political rubbish. A word for a wise is quite sufficient.

    IG Sovula is someone we would like to work with in the Future by the grace of God. Yeah! He has done a very Good job till now in my view, although I’m still investigating his role in the Makeni killings. Anyway, thank you very much IG Sovula for preventing our own South Africa sometime ago. But make no mistake, you would be held responsible for any problems you provoke. Count me out. Period.

    Finally, I believe IG Sovula and his hardworking and Men and women would do what is right in the case of Mr Conteh. God bless IG Sovula. “We day na road”.

  7. Civil society in Sierra Leone has been one-sidedly favouring a political party whenever their party member(s) does wrong.This is not what a Civil society organisation is meant to be but rather to serve the nation with fairness and justice to all Sierra Leone regardless of their political affiliations. How on earth a member of parliament shipped weapons into the country and our so called Civil society are demanding for his release. This is sad and beyond ones imagination coming from a Civil society. Do they actually know their roles to the nation as Civil society organisation? Maybe they do but been influenced politically. So in my opinion, a one-sided organisation politically manipulated.

    Can any one predict how many lives those weapons would have taken if used on our fellow Sierra Leoneans? Why must a member of parliament who ought to know better be given or treated differently. The laws of Sierra Leone is bigger than everybody be you the President, parliamentarian etc, must be uphold.

  8. As I understand it Parliamentary Privilege is confined to the confines of parliament with certain guidelines or rules. As long as a Parliamentarian observes such guidelines and rules, no one can touch them . With Sierra Leone being the bent society as it is at the moment, parliamentary rules and regulations are at best tenuous and selective. The current speaker of the House, Abass Bundu, does not help matters either because he is crooked.

    It’s not unusual in a parliamentary democracy for an honourable member to say to another “step outside and repeat it”. It means that parliamentary privilege allows a parliamentarian, in the house ,to do or say many things without facing the wrath of the law. However if if they do the same thing outside, they cannot invoke parliamentary privilege. And this is Honourable Emmanuel Conteh has found himself. He cannot claim any privilege as an MP for bringing arms and ammunitions into the country, a country that’s fragile and tense. Only a water-headed person from APC can do such a thing. The Paolo Conteh case did nothing to alert Emmanuel Conteh that his bravado would make him a guest at the unique Paramount Hotel (Pademba Road Prison). The Sierra Leone Police (SLP), based on prima facie evidence have not acted outside their scope of authority.

    IG Sovula should hold on to the MP until a thorough investigation has been implemented. We have enough social problems in the country without it being awashed with privately owned guns which in other countries has led to an increase in murder rates. The government should use this opportunity to tightened whatever gun laws we may have.

  9. Cases of alleged possession of illegal firearms by members of the APC is becoming rampant and all have been proven to be false. My advice to our former President and Sierra Leone’s most successful Commander in Chief of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, Chief Sam Sumana, Dr Samura Kamara, Mr Richard Conteh, Dr Abdulai Conteh, Retired Major Paoli Conteh the Great, ainsi de suite, is to make sure that a sufficient outside perimeter of your residences are cleared and made visible from afar, make sure your vehicles are well guarded and if possible, install vehicle tracking and video monitoring systems in your houses and vehicles. Bra informed me about the possibilities of such technologies. It’s not rocket science he said.

    More importantly, and this is for our former Commander In Chief of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, is to make an inventory of the number of arms you are entitled to for your personal security as former President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, the most respected, the most popular and valuable former President of Africa and the best Commander of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed forces ever. Sometimes, political rioters and hoodlums take the merry-go-round tactics to reach their evil destination. But that is not going to happen.

    God guide and protect our former Commander in Chief of the Sierra Leone armed forces, his wife and family. Stay safe. “We day na road”. Have they started packing their suitcases to “get SAHLONE sorted”? I hope they do. God bless Sierra Leone.

  10. Honorable Saidu Conteh huh? That name sure sounds familiar. Oh well, the SLPP tentacles of injustice will spare no one that they consider as a direct threat to their President’s reelection chances that is already on quivering, unsteady ground. Everyone was quiet when the man in State House slaughtered 40 unarmed inmates in Pademba Road Prisons; Where were the civil rights group then?

    I remember clearly calling on Civil society groups to not let this President get away with his hands stained with blood but it all fell on deaf years; Honorable Conteh how does feel now to be framed and wrongly accused ? When Prisoners were killed you and your colleagues were as quiet mice trying to save your skins; Now terror has grown wings, their nets of treachery have be reinvented so that they can now catch the big fishes at ease.

    I am not going to call for your release because you were among those who were cold, distant and indifferent to those who died at Pademba. Perhaps, just perhaps after the storm has past, and your heavy downpour of tears comes to a trickle you would have truly learned your hard lessons well. Next time stand up for what is right – Being spineless makes you an easier target for the enemy…Good Luck to you Sir.

  11. This is happening in Sierra Leone because civil society organisations have decided to dress up in political party colours. Let us allow the police to please do their work without let or hindrances. And let us all render our assistance to stop the lawlessness.

  12. An increase in the proliferation of firearms has a direct causality on crime and political instability. Politicians who engage in criminal acts that have the tendency to once again put the nation on a path of carnage, should not be protected. They should face the law. What the civil society can call for is due process through the courts and the criminal justice system. They cannot call for his release as only the courts have a right to do that. I hope that the SLP and the rest of the Bio administration will not threaten the peace and stability of Sierra Leone by caving in to the demands of these so called “civil society” groups

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