Detention of opposition leader – calls for neutrality of the Sierra Leone police

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 07 June 2017

Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray, the presidential candidate of the Alliance Democratic Party (ADP) who was last week arrested for alleged possession of a taser which the police say is an offensive weapon, appeared in court today.

Kamarainba made his second appearance at the Segbwema Magistrate court, where his lawyers once again requested bail, after it was refused last week, prompting outcry from civil society groups, opposition parties and the media.

And after listening to today’s bail request, Mr Mansaray was granted bail, though the terms of the bail have not yet been made public.

But as concern for the injustice being meted out to the opposition leader grew, a coalition of three of the country’s most powerful civil society groups issued a public statement calling on stakeholders – especially the government of Sierra Leone, and justice and security institutions, ‘to take note of the country’s recent history, where denial of people’s freedoms and rights have led to extremism, conflict and disorder’.

It is clear that the granting of bail conditions for the release of Mr Mansaray today was heavily influenced by this statement:

The Institute for Governance Reform (IGR), Campaign for Good Governance (CGG), 50/50 Group and Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD) today note with concern the arrest and detention of Mr. Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray, the Presidential candidate of the Alliance Democratic Party (ADP) for alleged possession of a stun gun.

He has not been granted bail. We also note that, Jasmed Suma, a leader of one of the political movements has been arrested on two occasions in the last two months and was denied bail in one instance.

We have no intention of commenting on the merits of Mr. Mansaray’s case but rather, call on the Sierra Leone Police and justice providers to ensure that the safety and rights of Mr. Mansaray and all citizens are protected, and that there is a level playing field for political parties and interest groups in the lead up to the March 2018 polls.

“We understand the challenges faced by justice and security institutions. However, if police officers fail to demonstrate neutrality in handling politically sensitive cases, ordinary citizens will feel unsafe, while opposition parties will have to rely on themselves for self-protection”, says the Director of IGR.

We note that Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray’s arrest comes after months of complaints and allegations of attacks against him and his ADP supporters without investigation and punishment of the perpetrators.

In a recent (June 5, 2017) letter of complaint to the Chairman of the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), the ADP listed four incidences of political intimidation from alleged ruling party operatives resulting in the injury of ADP leaders and supporters and destruction of property.

“Such attacks and impunity are bound to meet the threshold of insecurity for opposition candidates in what is supposed to be a free democratic and secured space for all” says Dr. Aisha Fofana Ibrahim 50/50 Group.

We note that at least 80 percent of the reported attacks on the ADP leader and members have occurred in the ruling party stronghold of northern Sierra Leone where the ADP is competing as a new party.

We call on stakeholders, especially the government of Sierra Leone, and justice andsecurity institutions, to note our country’s recent history where denial of people’s freedoms and rights have led to extremism, conflict and disorder.

We believe that attempts to deny any citizen his/her right to vote or be voted for could undermine the gains Sierra Leone has been making toward peace consolidation. Already, Sierra Leone has witnessed situations in the last five years where election results in Constituency 05 in Kailahun district and Constituency 15 in Kenema District have been overturned in the courts, and the elected Mayor of Kono (Emmerson Lamina) has been sacked.

In light of these experiences, as we enter into a crucial election period, we call on security and justice agencies to demonstrate their preparedness to provide a level playing field for competitive party politics.

We understand that Sierra Leone’s security and justice institutions are working under difficult conditions and the heightened political environment building up to the election puts added pressure on national democratic institutions in our fledgling democracy.

Nevertheless, we encourage the leadership of the police and the courts to remain neutral and professional in carrying out the core justice and security functions of the state.

Our organisations value the partnerships we have with the Sierra Leone Police and the Judiciary and will continue to support them to realise their important roles in peace consolidation in Sierra Leone. In light of the above, we call on the following:

A. The Office of National Security ensures that reliable state security is provided to all opposition party leaders and opposition offices.

B. Recognizing the shortage of personnel and the high running cost of policing, we recommend that the SLP recalls all of its personnel providing security duties to private businesses. Instead, they should re- join their colleagues and provide state security and ensure the safety of citizens. GOSL should also consider looking into the funds raised from hiring out state security to private businesses over the years to determine the economic efficiency of such ventures.

C. The establishment of an independent panel led by the Independent Police Complaints Board to investigate all cases and allegations of attacks of opposition leaders and supporters including the conduct and response of the Sierra Leone Police. (End of statement).

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