Dr Kandeh Yumkella on peace mission to end injustice and political violence in Sierra Leone 

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 June 2019:

Political dialogue is in short supply in Sierra Leone right now, following last Friday’s violence at the country’s main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party offices, where police used lethal force to stop the dangerous escalation of violence.

Several APC supporters and their party leaders were arrested, and some are still in detention.

Although an uneasy calm has returned to Freetown, there are fears violence may once again erupt as the APC is now planning to hold another meeting next week at its offices in Freetown, to discuss possible protest against the continuing detention of their supporters without charge.

Many of those still locked up behind bars are in desperate need of medical attention, after sustaining injuries during confrontation with the police.

Relationship and communications between the ruling SLPP and the opposition APC have seriously broken down, with the APC threatening to continue its policy of ‘passive resistance’ until their political, constitutional and legal concerns are addressed by the government.

Yesterday, the parliamentary leader and 2018 presidential candidate for the National Grand Coalition (NGC) party – Dr Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella, was out on the streets putting his United Nations experience into use, helping to establish a sustainable peace building framework through dialogue between the government, the police and the opposition APC.

Dr. Kandeh Yumkella was joined by the opposition Unity Party Leader (UP) –  Madam Femi Claudius-Cole, on a visit to the APC office yesterday, where they met the APC Secretary-General – Dr. Osman Yansaneh.

The trio discussed last Friday’s violence and the need to establish dialogue between the government and the APC so as to peacefully resolve their differences.

Dr Yansaneh (Photo) thanked both Yumkella and Claudius -Cole for their peace initiative, which he warmly welcomed, and said he is ready and willing to re-establish dialogue with president Julius Maada Bio to discuss key concerns of the APC and peacefully seek redress.

The two ‘peace emissaries’ also visited the police headquarters – Central Investigations Department, to see the conditions in which about ninety APC supporters are being held and their medical requirements.

They spoke with senior police officers as well as those arrested, and were successful in gaining the immediate release of a senior APC official – Mr Bai Mahmoud. (Photo Below – Bai Mahmoud is on the right).

Speaking about conditions at the CID where the detainees are being held, Dr Yumkella said:  ”Well, it was reminiscent of the time my younger brother and seven friends were caged up in the same cell at the CID after being denied bail for a pepper spray.

“However, seeing so many female supporters of the APC squatting on the floor, some with injuries, is abhorrent and inhumane. In fact, it is surreal and poignant just as it was then for my brother and his friends. We can only ask the Almighty God to grant us the strength and courage to pursue peace and put our country, Salon Fos. We must all work towards a just and cohesive society.”

Yesterday, the NGC party issued a statement about Friday’s violence, police heavy-handedness, the need for justice, and serious peacebuilding efforts towards national cohesion. This is what the statement says:

The National Grand Coalition Party (NGC) laments the events that took place on Friday 31 May 2019, which it sees as symptomatic of a broken political system in urgent need of repair.

First, we condemn the judicial delays that have resulted in 10 rulings on elections petitions pertaining to the March 2018 vote for members of parliament. Why have we had to wait 14 months for these rulings?

And why are some matters still outstanding? We remind the judiciary that justice delayed is justice denied. Such delayed justice has ethical and practical considerations, especially in the context of our lawmakers in Parliament, which is why it is always preferable to resolve these matters quickly.

Second, we condemn the selective justice apparently at play in Sierra Leone today. Why is it that petitions predominantly of concern to members of the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) have been resolved while matters of concern to other political parties, in this case the All People’s Congress (APC), have not even been listed for hearing?

Why is it that petition cases brought by members of the NGC, and similar to those upheld on Friday 31 May, were dismissed by the judge without lawyers acting for NGC being allowed to present their cases. We recall with horror the violence visited upon our supporters in Tonko Limba, Kambia, Mile 91 and parts of the Western Area, to give just a few examples.

Not only must justice be done, it must be seen to be done. We recall that rampant injustice was one of the main factors identified by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as a cause of the civil war this country was subjected to not so long ago.

Third, we condemn the excessive use of force by the Sierra Leone Police, including firing teargas canisters directly into the APC headquarters in Brookfields, as reported by Umaru Fofana on the BBC Focus on Africa and relayed live by AYV Television.

State security forces have a duty to maintain internal security and law and order, but they must do so humanely, respecting the human rights of the public at large.

In 2018 Amnesty International produced a report documenting 10 years of use of excessive force by police to disperse spontaneous protests, with at least nine protesters killed and over 80 injured.

Yesterday’s display of force was a frightening continuation of this practice, which in fact dates back to the pre-independence era under colonial rule. SLP force directed at APC HQ yesterday was reminiscent of similar excessive police force used to quell SLPP supporters at their party HQ in 2007, 2008, and 2009.

We again condemn this apparent tit for tat, “do me, ar do you” pattern of reprisals. An eye for an eye will leave us all blind.

Now is the time to strengthen our state institutions and separate them from partisan political interests and break this vicious cycle of repression and violence.

Fourth, we repeat our call for the resignation or removal of the Chief Electoral Commissioner, N’fa Alie Conteh, or the conduct of a Judicial enquiry into the Tonko Limba bye elections. Had NEC done its job properly during the elections in 2018 and vetted contestants properly and assessed the levels of violence in the run-up to and during polling, these petitioners would not have had recourse to use the courts. Instead, over a year after elections, decisions by two judges have altered the fundamental makeup of Parliament and precipitated a full-blown crisis.

We must remember that Sierra Leone remains a fragile state: we cannot afford to take our peace and national cohesion for granted.

Indeed, the events of Friday 31 May came less than a week after the end of the three-day
Bintumani III National Dialogue Forum on Democratic Consolidation for Peace and National Cohesion (B3).

During B3, we heard delegates call for a separation between the state, the government, and the ruling party. Yet yesterday afternoon, live on AYV TV, we saw the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Lahai Lawrence Leema, who doubles as SLPP Public Relations Officer, speaking from SLPP HQ at the height of tensions chanting the ruling party’s slogan.

Was he on official ministerial duties at the time? Are we not entitled to expect our ministers, paid through taxpayers and donor funds, to dedicate themselves exclusively to their official ministerial duties on? Should the government “preach peace” but fan the flames of instability and discontent?

The NGC calls upon all actors to put Sierra Leone first. Emotions may run high, but this is a time for cool, calm hearts and heads to prevail. We call on leaders of all political parties to refrain from inflaming their supporters with heated rhetoric.

We call upon all citizens to remain law-abiding and avoid confrontation with rival supporters or the authorities. We call upon the police to be a force for good and avoid excessive use of force.

In the spirit of the communique issued at the end of Bintumani III, we as a party believe the way forward is dialogue between the leadership of APC and SLPP to resolve their differences and consolidate peace and national cohesion in Sierra Leone.

We call upon our moral guarantors to use their own good offices and channels of communication to assist in this quest.

As a party, we pledge to do our own part. We call upon all our supporters at home and abroad to remain vigilant but calm.

Furthermore, we shall actively seek ways to mediate between our brothers and sisters in our two larger parties to come together to find common ground in the interests of our beloved Sierra Leone. (End of statement).

It is not clear when those talks between the APC leadership and president Julius Maada Bio will start, and whether the former president and chairman of the APC – Ernest Bai Koroma, will lead his party into those talks.

What is certain though, is that the police are determined to use whatever means in their power to maintain law and order, despite accusations of serious human rights violations.

5 Comments

  1. Many misconstrue Kandeh’s primary reasons for returning home. While many of us may want to retire at home, not all venture to do so. Second he is often embarrassed by colleagues who ask him “are you not from Sierra Leone?” Who would resign from such a job voluntarily to return and subject themselves to life at home?

    From 2003_2015, I spent almost every February at home and 6 months in 2016 and 6 months in 2017. I observed and took notes on life in Freetown, Njala and in villages in Kamajei chifdom. I spent considerable time at poyo bars, garages, cemetery gates, ministries of defence, health, lands and others…all to feel the pulse of the people.

    Conclusion: Much was learned from the war but not fully sustained due to the leaderships that followed the war. When, if ever, the people learn what Kandeh is about, it’s likely to be a great turning point for Sierra Leone. That running mate of his – Andrew Keili, is even more thorough than we know.

    Andrew can build a team that can turn SL around in few years. Though an engineer, his fiscal skills are amazing. But they are not the only ones. We have several but who choose to stay away from all that stress and insult one has to bear. Yes, a leader must expect that!

    Another thing I have heard is that Kandeh is arrogant, proud and does not want to wait his turn to lead. What they see as arrogance is his over-confidence. KKY is very forceful in making his points because of his certainty. Try to make a casual comparison between Kandeh and Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore or even his son the current leader of Singapore. You will find lots of similarities.

    In life, I have observed that when people are extremely good at what they do, they sound arrogant; but please dont focus on their arrogance. Instead, focus on the products of their decisions. Remember, Albert Einstein and Lee Kwan Yew were labelled arrogant. LOOK AT WHAT GOOD THEY DID FOR THE WORLD!!

    I visited Singapore and saw what Lee and his team did there. Standard of life comparable to England and one of the safest, honest and cleanest socities on earth. Lee is one of my ‘besties’! I challenge everyone, if you really care about Sierra Leone,and want to decide which leader among us is best for our country, please read his book – The Singapore Story: From Third World to First by Lee Kwan Yew. You will see how the governments of George Bush senior, Reagan and Magaret Thacher of England and other world leaders treated Mr. Lee and Singapore a country that depended mainly on its habour as the main economic driver.

    My fellow Sierra Leoneans, it is unfortunate that tribalism, illiteracy, poverty, lack of exposure and bad reasoning in our politics are preventing us from making the right decisions. Dont forget to read that book if you really care. Good bless us all.

  2. Binta, you raised a point or two that I must address. To start with, whether or not Dr Yomkella has an inordinate ambition to become president is completely immaterial in this context. In any case he is as much entitled to vie for the presidency as any other Sierra Leonean who meets the constitutional requirements.

    For KKY to stand up and say to all sides let us talk and try to find a solution to our problems, is remarkable and quite in keeping with any other mediation one can think of, be it international or not. We are not in a campaign mode for the presidency, but to jolt APC and SLPP into the reality that by continuing to be at each others throat has an adverse effect on the country.

    You mentioned President Trump, the Democratic Party and the American system. Well, if I have followed events correctly as an outsider, no one beats the Americans in throwing political dirt at each other just to gain the upper hand.

    You must remember, Binta, that President Bio is the overall head of the country. Most importantly the Inspector General of Police is an employee of his, whose actions directly affect the President by way of vicarious responsibility. Consequently, if the police are perceived to have behaved poorly, who should we hold responsible ultimately, bearing in mind that Maada Bio has the power to retain or dismiss IG Moigbe?

    I would rather a fellow Sierra Leonean try to bring peace among us than an international mediator who knows nothing about our culture and couldn’t care less. If International mediation were so effective,the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would have been resolved soon after 1948 when Israel became a state.

  3. Its totally absurd, and illogical to hear someone insinuating that because it is the Holy Month of Ramadan. It was wrong for an Ex-President to enjoy a cold beer, or even undiluted alcohol in peace and quiet if he chooses to do so. That’s just plain crazy I would say, if you ask my opinion about such a strange statement!

    We are all fully aware that the former President deeply admires, respects and wholeheartedly supports the Islamic tradition, so trying to distort and tarnish his image by using sinister, underhanded tactics will never succeed. Listen carefully, if you are sensitive and discerning enough, it would be easy for you to see bias,and contempt, menacingly veiled and hidden behind faces that may appear reasonable and logical.

    The Former President is not a Muslim, so leave him out of your childish, insensible psychological and political mind games. Someone answer me: Is it irreversible dementia that caused people to have easily forgotten all those years of overflowing, time-consuming contributions Koroma made to the Muslim communities while in office? Absolutely spooky,and weird! And frighteningly strange is it not, that what used to be enthusiastic applauses, has now almost overnight become bitter,indirect criticisms and mean-spirited rebuke?

    And lastly, let me reiterate what I have said countless times before – The APC is a party that believes in loyalty – unwavering, in it’s strictest forms, to our beliefs, ideals and ourselves; nothing can ever change that.! When Koroma and other leaders think the time is right, he will step aside and allow someone competent enough to take his place. But for now, he is the only Captain that sails our ship – so deal with it! Rising Sun Will Rise Again!

  4. ITIS TIME TO SAY GOOD-BYE TO APC AND SLPP. LETS USE THIS TIME TO EDUCATE OUR PEOPLE. STOP DANCING AND WEARING RED AND GREEN. IT IS TIME TO FOR A NEW START.

  5. My fellow Sierra Leoneans always remember this, EBK and Dr. Osman Foday Yansaneh are the most dangerous two people in the country. EBK not ready to stand the commission of inquiry trial, but time will tell.

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