Diplomats condemn violence in Sierra Leone but short of accusing APC of terrorism

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 May 2020:

If president Bio was expecting the international community to support his bid to declare the country’s main opposition political party – the APC a terrorist party, then he would have been in for a shock when he met representatives of the diplomatic community last Thursday, at his Presidential Lodge in Freetown.

After recent spate of youth violence in the country and the killing of over 40 unarmed prisoners in the capital by presidential guards, for which the president lays blame on the doorsteps of the opposition APC, the international community it seems are unconvinced about what the president says are the overwhelming evidence backing up his allegations.

Addressing the foreign diplomats and calling on them to help his government fight what he refers to as “terrorism” in the country, president Bio said: “Every state the world over (including the UK, US etc) delegitimizes the use of criminal violence by persons or groups to intimidate the public and upend the rule of law. Where this directly targets state authority and the rule of law, it is declared an act of terrorism against the state. I am sure you will agree that such criminal violence that endangers life and property, public safety, or interferes with the peaceful governance of the state is unacceptable and must be addressed within the confines of the laws of this country.

“Beyond condemnation of such criminal violence against the state and state authority, we expect our partners to cooperate very closely in supporting peace, public safety, and security at all levels and at all times. Investigations have identified members of the All People’s Congress party including a former Member of Parliament of that party as being responsible for incitement and acts of violence. One would expect the APC to condemn and dissociate itself from such persons and their acts. They have yet to do so.”

In response, the diplomats condemned all forms of violence in Sierra Leone but stopped short of following the president’s footsteps in labelling members of he opposition APC as terrorists. Instead they heaped praise on president Bio and his government for their efforts in handling the Coronavirus pandemic.

Resident Coordinator for the United Nations, Sunil Saigal, said that they condemn and would continue to condemn all forms of violence in the country, adding that the focus of everyone should be on fighting the COVID-19 and to make sure it does not have a further negative impact on society. He also called on all political parties to refrain from violence of all sorts and support the national efforts in fighting the virus.

Head of European Union Delegation, Tom Vens, commended the president for his engagement a few days ago with leaders of civil society groups, noting that as diplomats they are  encouraged by the initiative and leadership shown by the president in creating space for dialogue with CSOs. He said that as development partners – the diplomatic community is against any act of violence or intimidation that is standing in the way of the country moving forward.

But Tom Vens would not be drawn in labelling the APC as a terrorrist group, nor did he cast blame for the violence in the country on any political party.

Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Sierra Leone, Ambassador Ibrahim Habis Ugbada, acknowledged that the spread of the coronavirus in the country is slower than had been expected, as he commended the government for its good work and assured of the international community’s support for the country’s development.

This is what President Bio said:

“Let me, from the outset, share Ramadan greetings and pray that the fullness of the blessings of the month be granted to all members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps in Sierra Leone.

At this difficult moment of the Coronavirus pandemic in all of our lives, I thank everyone present for promptly responding to my invitation to a meeting.

I salute and associate strongly with focused and intensive multilateral global efforts by countries and international organizations including the United Nations, the WHO, the African Union, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and ECOWAS, among others, in battling this highly infectious and deadly pandemic.

On behalf of the Government and people of the Republic of Sierra Leone, I wish to express my sincere condolences to families in all of our countries that have lost their citizens and loved ones to this deadly pandemic.

Sierra Leone is committed to all global efforts at preventing, protecting against, and curtailing COVID-19. Sierra Leone is fully supportive of global initiatives to enhance health security and build capacities for responding to health emergencies, especially disease outbreaks that threaten global development.

ON COVID 19

Sierra Leone’s response to COVID-19 was early and well-considered. Even before our index case, Government and partners had triggered off healthcare protocols, reactivated all EOC pillars, and set up structures for quarantining, testing, disease surveillance, contract tracing, and isolation and treatment centres.

Our technical and resource capacities have been further bolstered with generous support from our friends and diplomatic partners. For that, we are most grateful.

In as much as COVID is here, I may wish to remind partners that our healthcare facilities are in great need of necessary medical supplies, equipment, and infrastructure as we continue to deal with Maternal and child health, malaria, HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and other disease conditions.

With regard to COVID-19, we have garnered and used mainly local resources to support the different pillars. Our medical personnel have recorded impressive successes. We have also used innovative technology solutions and other strategies. We are appealing for support in specific areas:

  • Co-leadership on driving coordination among various pillars and support and strengthening specific pillars within the EOC – testing, logistics, quarantine administration, risk communications and social mobilisation, and contact tracing.
  • Support for local research and development especially with local partners like DSTI
  • Support for surveillance and contact tracing so that our fight is informed by consistent and real-time data. To complement local technology solutions and personnel capacity, we would like to equip our workers with devices such as tablets and phones.

THE ECONOMY

With regard to the economy, we have launched a Quick Action Economic Recovery Plan, details of which we shared with this community. Generally, responses have been favourable although further interventions by our development partners will help stabilise the economic situation and prepare the country for a smoother take-off at the end of COVID.

PEACE AND SECURITY

We are all aware of the recent unfortunate incidents of criminal violence in Lunsar, Tombo, Foredugu, and Pademba Road Correctional Centre. Government has a responsibility to ensure law and order throughout the country. Those who incite, support, perpetuate, or benefit from such criminal violence are not making peaceful political expressions.

As moral guarantors of the peace we enjoy in Sierra Leone, we expect an unambiguous condemnation of such criminal violence from our development partners.

Every state the world over (including the UK, US etc) delegitimizes the use of criminal violence by persons or groups to intimidate the public and upend the rule of law. Where this directly targets state authority and the rule of law, it is declared an act of terrorism against the state. I am sure you will agree that such criminal violence that endangers life and property, public safety, or interferes with the peaceful governance of the state is unacceptable and must be addressed within the confines of the laws of this country.

Beyond condemnation of such criminal violence against the state and state authority, we expect our partners to cooperate very closely in supporting peace, public safety, and security at all levels and at all times.

Investigations have identified members of the All People’s Congress party including a former Member of Parliament of that party as being responsible for incitement and acts of violence. One would expect the APC to condemn and dissociate itself from such persons and their acts. They have yet to do so.

As Government, we have initiated dialogue on national cohesion and peacebuilding and we have engaged the leadership of the APC. We are open to further dialogue with clear objectives of making permanent peace. We expect you, the moral guarantors of our peace and our partners in development, to patiently urge the APC to cooperate and participate in dialogue that brings about a permanent cessation of all acts of hostility and criminal violence against the state. We believe it is best for Sierra Leone and for the future of Sierra Leone that partners continue to invest in peacebuilding.

My Government has also met with civil society and we have agreed on a permanent framework for identifying structural and other imbalances that have triggered and could trigger conflict in our country. I have appointed the Honourable Vice President (who has extensive national and international civil society credentials) to work closely with Civil Society on those and other issues pertaining to further opening up democratic and civic spaces. We will invite you, our international partners, to actively participate in those dialogues.

In conclusion, let me once again thank the international community for standing by us and we believe that by heightening and broadening future cooperation, we will all make Sierra Leone what we all desire – a favourable destination for business, and a peaceful and well-governed state where the rule of law is supreme.

I thank you.” 

15 Comments

  1. Bilal, with all due respect, as you are entitled to your political integrital inconsistencies you call opinion, so too Young4na is obligated to his own political but straight-call opinions as well. If you dont want to be tackled head on on matters that demand integrity, especially the issue discussed here, then start to name the colors exactly as they are, otherwise, as the rolling stone gathers no moss, so shall all forumites of this platform be subjected to be countered on any issue they happen to participate in, especially when you get stuff wrong.

    Therefore, don’t get mad for calling you out on misleading talking point or opinion. At the end of the day, both of you are defending your parties anyway! Finally, we all read the same piece – both of you read ok? But should we all have to interpret it the same way? Nope I guess! But the reality is, there is a specific underlying truth that should not be misinterpreted or denied at all. When you deny that truth, you surely going to have people coming at you. In this case, you were caught! So just relax and keep going. No one is going to beat you up or stop you from making your points, even if they are wrong or right. By the way, have you ever heard the phrase “it’s your opinion”?…Then look no further than that….

  2. Fellow country men! Let’s not follow the path that keeps us divided but the path that unites us as a nation is worth following.
    In the midst of all differences, let us communicate to the outer place with oneness as a nation.

    Thank you all and may Allah protect us all! Ameen/Amen!!!

    • We can only do that when we are truely ready to call a spade a spade.. speak truth to POWER…!

  3. Forgive me honorable ART, but i will like to emphatically restate that, as long as I continue to be a participant in this glorious, intelligent, forum, I will continue to ask tough questions and expose anyone who deliberately makes false information pertaining to issues emanating from our beloved nation. By all indications, thousands of readers flock to this medium due to the credible, fairness and balance, in your news reporting. So, I am of the firm believe that, this outlet was never created as an outlet for any propaganda machinery. What participants need to be aware is that, as much as we strive to hold our corrupt politicians accountable back home, the same will be done in this our mini-parliament. I want you to be rest assured that, i operate from an intellectual level, so those who think I will stoop down to their level are mistaken.

    • Goodness gracious!Diplomats are not expected to comment on other countries political stance? Where on earth did you hear,or learn such a fallacious idea? What exactly do you think diplomats were doing in 2011,at the United Nations in negotiations that finally led to the Invasion of Iraq? Again,what do you think the phrase ‘Diplomatic initiatives’ in the ongoing war in Yemen really mean? Find out,and quickly get back to me!

      Diplomacy is the business of peace, it is effective when it shoulders the responsibilities of asking tough questions;at its best,when it strives to create mutual understanding between aggrieved parties,and above all,highly effective,whenever it aspires to provide sustainable solutions for our worlds most complicated problems.

  4. What do you expect from diplomats? The majority are happy to have a well paid job; and only a small minority is brave enough to express their own critical concerns. That is an understanding of history all over the world.

  5. Bilal Coleman says—“ But when an opposition party with a sordid image of brutality and turbulence storms the nation’s central prisons and slaughters prison inmates in a botched rescue attempt of one of its own, terrorism becomes the most appropriate definition for such an act of vehemence and murderousness”

    Hmmm, so as per Mr. Coleman, is it safe to state that, the presidential guards, along with other security personnels, who were the only armed individuals and on record to have been the only individuals to discharge their weapons, resulting to the lost of innocent citizens, are part of the opposition rescue mission? Now if that is the case, have the investigative authorities announced or made public any findings or evidence linking a particular group or organization being behind the riot, other than the propaganda machinery of the PAOPA regime?

    Forgive me but some semblance of integrity must be shown if you demand to be respected in any setting, flatly fabricating things in broad day light, will only succeed in tarnishing your image and becoming a laughing stock.

    • Young4na – I do not post on this forum to seek the respect of an APC apologist called Young4na. I am a man of high integrity who is well respected by his peers. Also, you do not know me to determine the circle in which I operate or the information that I am privy to on a daily basis.

      Be forewarned that I do not appreciate your frequent subtle attacks on my character on this forum. I am sure you would not want a polemic to emerge that would lead to the expulsion of the two of us from the forum.

  6. I think if it is not for the setting and the the main players are in fact the president of Sierra Leone, and the diplomatic corps, you will pass this gathering as one of those spectacles you will choose to say here is an other public relations disaster in the making. Firstly, if president Bio is serious about reaching out and opening up a dialogue with the opposition APC, he needs to show some good will gesture and release all political prisoners including Dr Blyden and others that are awaiting trial for allegedly crimes against the state.

    Listening to the president the diplomatic corp’s will find it difficult to wrap their heads around some of the charges. Maybe our president should swap places with President Trump and the UK prime minister Johnson and experience what these two leaders go through in their respective countries in a 24 hours news cycle. He will end up locking up all the journalists that works for CNN, MNSB and of course the BBC. I am not going to talk about the free print media. Secondly the use of the word terrorism, if there is one thing you’ve achieved, is to introduce this new lexicon in the the political discourse of our country. The word terrorism is to spread fear in the general population and their ultimate aim was to overthrow the government.

    I do not think the prisoners that rioted and in the process lost their lives in Pademba road prison, went to sleep the night before with that in mind. Historically prisoners have never overthrown a sitting president. And coups are out of fashion. Mr President, that word Terrorist is a figment of the imagination of the people that are giving you the wrong advice. We do not have Terrorists in Sierra Leone. Nigeria Bokà Haram and Somalians Al-Shabbah, yes these are the real practising Terrorist organisations, not the All Peoples’ Congress party of Sierra Leone. We need peace in our country.

    • I think you are missing the point Jalloh. The UK and the U.S are different from our case scenario. In the UK and the U.S, people criticise the government for the wrong doings but will never incite the public to wreck havoc, never. If anyone dares they will face the full force of the law. Your freedom of speech and assembly are enshrined within the ambit of the law anywhere in the world. You can not call disorderliness and lawlessness Freedom of speech and expression. If there is any please help me quote it from any law book or constitution in any country. By the way let me just give you a gist of some political prisoners in the U.S:

      1. Byron Shane Chubbuck
      2. Leonard Pettier
      3. Luis V. Rodriguez
      4. Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin
      5. Sundiata Acoli
      6. Mumia Abu-Jamal
      7. Zolo Agona Azania
      8. Herman Bell
      9. Kojo Bomani Sababu
      10. Jamil Muntaqim
      11. Joseph Bowen
      12. Venronza Bowers
      13. Fred Burton
      14. Romaine Chip Hitzgerald
      15. Richard Mafundi Lake
      16. Robert Sett Hayes
      17. Joy Powell
      18. Debbie Sims
      19. Janes Hollowy
      20. Rebecca Rubin.

      These are just 20 out of 54 political prisoners in the U.S. You guys take the west and the U.S for granted. Some of you are narrow minded or you don’t think rationally at all. What the U.S and the west tell you about them it is 100% true. You do not navigate beyond that. Also check this out, gender based violence in the UK is 4 times that in Sierra Leone. But you will never hear this on the media. Their focus is only on the African continent. If you do a meta-analysis on human rights abuses in the west and the U.S, you will come to realise that these people are nothing but deceptive.

      Look at the recent incident that happened in France, the Yellow vest protesters, do you know how many were killed, charged to court and jailed? Why did the human rights organisations in France do not make any noise about that? They know that these rioters went beyond their human rights limits. Salone man mentality hmmm!

  7. It angers me to see that all these diplomats,foolishly missed an opportunity handed to them on a silver platter, which they could have used to address the root and principal causes of the violence going on in our country and remind this inept, lawless President about the importance of giving prominence and distinction to the Rule Of Law and the Tenets of democracy.

    Again, not a word of concern was mentioned about political prisoners and the 40 unarmed inmates who were slaughtered by this brutal, authoritarian regime with blood-stained hands. What a waste of time it was! Of what benefit is it to the people of Sierra Leone, for diplomats to put on boldly, shamelessly on display, their contemptuous public and brown-nosing of a mean-spirited and undemocratic President? Ladies,and gentlemen, the shortcomings and lack of good judgement you have showcased on this matter is totally disappointing and confounding.

  8. I would not have expected the Diplomatic Community in Freetown to come out swinging and labeling the All People’s Congress a terrorist organization. That is not how diplomats behave. Diplomats deal with people in a sensitive and effective way. They negotiate or broker deals between angry parties, using artfulness to accomplish their goals.

    However, short of calling the APC terrorists, the diplomats did not disagree with president Julius Bio for rightfully calling the APC terrorists. So, the definition of the APC as a terrorist organization sticks. And since such definition comes from the occupant of the highest office in the land, its legitimacy cannot be called into question.

    It is also instructive that president Bio was not being mean-spirited in characterizing the ultra violent APC as a terrorist organization. But when an opposition party with a sordid image of brutality and turbulence storms the nation’s central prisons and slaughters prison inmates in a botched rescue attempt of one of its own, terrorism becomes the most appropriate definition for such an act of vehemence and murderousness. Suffice it that APC’s history of violence and turbulence has caught up with it. Thus, the diplomats in Freetown may not have called the downward-spiraling APC terrorists, but they did not raise a finger against the president of Sierra Leone calling the APC terrorists. In politics, it is a big deal to allow the opponent to define you.

  9. Our man at State House reminds me of my 3 year old daughter, who after starting a fight with her older siblings, will come running to me, demanding that I scold her o;der ones without first investigating the issue. It is really pathetic observing our government behaving like toddlers, going about terrorizing innocent citizens, only to turn around and point fingers at the victims as the culprits. This is what happens when you combine extremism, along with clueless classroom so called professors, who had never managed anything in their lives, except preparing PowerPoints and making exams papers. Our nation is indeed doomed for the foreseeable future.

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