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.

12 Comments

  1. It sent a powerful statement to see the leaders of 2 minority parties taking the forefront for the sake of peace and stability in Sierra Leone. Dr Olufemi Claudius Cole of the Unity Party and Dr Kandeh Yumkella of the NGC party together walked into the APC party office to talk peace.

    We need more women contributing and taking a forefront position in politics. The men, we do love them, but they get too boisterous a lot of the time. The women help to temper things down and help bring calm to an inflammatory situation.

    From the videos I saw, it was exciting to see that Dr Cole was not there as ‘Dr Yumkella’s handbag’ but spoke and made meaningful contributions. She was appalled that such anarchy took place one week after the Bintumani 3 peace conference and Dr Yumkella emphasised on de-escalation of the situation.

    They did far far better than the APC Chairman for life, who was seen relaxing in a baffa with a bottle of beer in his hand, in this holy month of Ramadan. I have muslim friends who could not understand why a former head of state could not respect his muslim compatriots.

    I hope sanity has now prevailed. However if what I am reading is true, that APC are having another meeting this week, then they are creating a rod for their own back and I would urge APC supporters to stay at home quietly, avoid going to the party office and avoid confrontation with the police or anyone. You have been warned. You see what happened last week.

    Finally, NGC’s statement was very well in place and an eye for an eye will indeed make the whole world go blind. I however think that UNITY and NGC parties should have come out with a joint statement and not just a statement from the NGC.
    Well done to both parties and as always there is nothing better than a peaceful nation.

  2. If APC is now ready for peace talks after the intervention of KKY, what is going on? They had all the chance to discuss issues at Bintumani 3 but they refused to attend. The police have a duty to protect life and property which they have done without killing anyone.

    The APC are on record saying they will make the country ungovernable if they are not in power. EBK said so in 2007 and Samura said the same in 2017.The only peace talk should centre around their acceptance of SLPP as the party in governance. There is no way we can run a parallel system.

  3. The one and only problem with the APC Party is EBK. He doesn’t want to stand before the commission of inquiry and doesn’t want another chairman for his personal property…which is the “APC Party”. EBK is holding our country to ransom, this is the naked truth….. I hope that KKY can convince HIM to stay away from APC politics in order that young, smart, dynamic and progressive APC members can take over control of the Party.

  4. Why should a conflict between the APC and the police warrant a peace conference between the APC and the government of Sierra Leone? If the New York Police had a conflict with supporters of the Democratic party would that warrant a peace conference between the Democratic party and the government of president Donald Trump?

    Why are we so quick to diminish the office of the presidency of Sierra Leone by drawing it into every little conflict taking place on the streets of Sierra Leone? I have yet to hear any mention of the name of the Inspector General of the police, Dr. Richard Moigbe. Is this not the man that APC folks should be criticizing? What have president Julius Maada Bio and the SLPP got to do with what happened between the police and the APC?

    Moreover, if the APC cannot listen to members of the International Community is it the leader of another political party in Sierra Leone, a man that badly wants to be president of Sierra Leone, that they will listen to? Why in fact would Dr. Kandeh Yumkella be ever called upon to resolve a dispute between the SLPP and the APC? How many times has Yumkella not made derogatory remarks against president Bio and the SLPP?

    Look, the SLPP and the APC do not have to be best of friends for Sierra Leone to be properly governed. These two parties have been antagonistic with each other for decades. Yet no war has ever broken between the two. All Sierra Leoneans could wish for is respect for the rule of law on the part of members of all political parties. Correspondingly, I do not consider Dr. Yumkella or any other leader of a political party fit for any emissary role in conflict resolutions between major political forces in Sierra Leone.

    • Binta, thank you first of all for your contribution and I respect your views. Let’s make this point clear; No one asked Dr. Yumkella to mediate between the APC and the SLPP. It was the initiative of his party and himself to start this PEACE talks. I have one simple question for you Binta. What would you do if your neighbor’s house is on FIRE? Will you go and help put out the fire? Will you call the FIRE BRIGADE? Or, will you just sit down and wait till the fire engulfs your neighbor’s house completely? Mind you, your house risks burning too.

      Politics aside. What Dr. Yumkella is doing is exactly what any responsible POLITICIAN should do when PEACE AND STABILITY are threatened. In fact, before this incident, he and his party most times do not say anything when there are conflicts such as this. Most people including myself become upset and voice out our anger at him and the NGC. However, we are happy this time around.

      It was not only the NGC that condemned what happened, the C4C has also condemned what took place recently with a press release. So, starting a peace initiative by Dr. Yumkella is welcomed by all the opposition parties in PARLIAMENT. That is good news for our democracy. Also, I do not know what you meant by saying that the APC cannot listen to the international community. Can you please clarify?

      Finally and to be honest with you Binta, Dr. Yumkella’s peace initiative must be welcomed by every peace loving Sierra Leonean. Every Sierra Leone must applaud and encourage the learned doctor’s peace initiative. AH LIE?

  5. Is the Sierra Leone police always a political force or national force capable of maintaining law and order without exerting voice on defenceless civilians ? Should the Sierra Leone police behave as the RUF rebels and military used to behave on defenceless citizens during the civil war?

    When will the civil war which was declared to have ended since 18 January 2002 end in the minds of Sierra Leoneans? Does Sierra Leone want to be another Rwanda which could be the ugliest? When will the civilian populace of Sierra Leone leave the political arena and go about their normal daily activities after elections? If Sierra Leone needs total peace what should we the educated folks do to achieve that?

    Sierra Leone is on a time bomb which should be defused immediately.

  6. I became ashamed to be called a Sierra Leonean the moment SLPP came to power. For over forty years we now have political prisoners. What a shame on you. Of course, the judiciary is a disgrace to that nation. Hang your heads in shame as you are the mockery of the world. Find yourselves other professions as you have wrecked this noble one shamelessly.

  7. More than ever before, the nation needs Dr Yomkella if peace and tranquility are to return to Sierra Leone unconditionally. Whenever KKY speaks, one hears a gem of class and forthrightness which are completely absent within the political class of the country as well as their blind supporters, some of whom claim to be well educated with PhDs .

    When it comes to APC and SLPP issues, these so-called educated people are the worst illiterate one could find anywhere. They lack common sense and are ready to engage in street fights just like the everyday “poyo” drinker who is never sober.

    The background to the clash between the police and APC supporters is somewhat still murky. Some say the latter mounted barricades, lit up car tyres for reinforcement and were throwing projectiles at the police, whereupon the police responded with teargas canisters – shot straight into the APC head offices.

    Yet some would appear to be saying that there was no provocation on the part of APC supporters who were just engaged in singing songs of protest, aggrieved by their loss of parliamentary seats through a court order. Where does the truth lies?

    One thing cannot be doubted – the animosity between SLPP and APC spans decades, gaining in intensity after the 1967 general elections when Siaka Stevens emerged as the executive head of the country, eventually forcing many opposition leaders into exile. Those who chose to remain and fight were sent to the gallows on fabricated charges of treason. It was about this time that the name S.I.Koroma – later to be commonly known as Argba Satani became known to all households as it was associated with the violent nature of APC which has remained to this day.

    Therefore, to see Dr Yomkella rising above the thick of the fray to try to bridge the gulf of hatred and blood feud between APC and SLPP is salutary and laudable. It is a monumental task that needs skill and courage, not to mention patience and the hand of the Almighty.

    If most Sierra Leoneans are following the political activities of KKY, it is probably the time for them to start wondering whether they should give the distinguished gentleman a chance at the presidency. Here we have a man whose forceful words are always measured even when he is being critical, as evidenced by his response to President Bio’s speech in Parliament and contribution to Bintumani 3.

    A KKY presidency would give a suffocating nation a taste of fresh air to avoid death at the hands of APC and SLPP. Being out of power for a little while should give both parties time to take stock of themselves and change their respective cultures.

    Let us don’t forget that Dr Yomkella himself has been inflicted with emotional pain by APC. His uncle was killed by them, but he is still willing and ready to engage them. How much more humane and manly one can be?

  8. Indeed, one has to give credit where its due – Dr Yumkella, without any doubts and questions in my mind, keeps on outshining others by impressing the nation with his thoughtful considerations, ideas and observations. I sincerely think in desperate times like this, there is a need to show our indelible appreciation and enthusiastically applaud him.

    It was the honesty and directness in his words that got my unflinching attention; and Heaven and all the Celestial realms know fully and very well that I am not someone who becomes easily influenced, inspired or galvanized by someone else’s suggestions, utterances and opinions, no matter how sound and articulated they may be.

    The APC thank him and Madam Cole for their kind and heartfelt gestures towards our gallant supporters presently in the custody of the police. Rest assured, our days and nights of peaceful protests are still going to continue, increase and become more frequent until our concerns are adequately met and addressed.

    I have always maintained that a country where a judiciary resembles a puppet in the hands of government, will always keep on spewing and disgorging continuous problems and disasters into our calm and peaceful society, through their already corrupt, compromised, improper and unethical rulings.

    You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that our nation has long been totally crippled by gross ineptitude and lack of genuine abilities of discernment at all levels – from the markets in Freetown to State House; this can been seen. But Market women are in a world of their own. We should leave them out of this unfixable mess we find ourselves captured by, and held like hostages for ransom we don’t know how to pay.

    Anyone will agree that it’s fair to say that we are still trapped in ancient times and shackled by the enticing lusts and pleasures, prevailing in the domains and bedrooms of sinister political debaucheries and whoredoms, where everyone and every thing can be priced, bought and sold.

    Our nation presently, aptly resembles an accident, catastrophic in its nature that has already occurred – how to get the shattered bits, fragments and pieces together – now that is the big question. It won’t be easy because everyone has already been bought and sold countless times over by men sitting on thrones of greed, tribalism and selfishness.

    The tentacles of corruption it seems, has accomplished its mission – everyone is now securely in its unshaken grips that resembles handcuffs made of iron and steel. Desperate times these are, that demand desperate measures: its time to dismantle all the institutions of this nation completely and start all over again from scratch, with a new and different mindset.

    Its a bold decision we must make, otherwise all hope is lost. Listen, the human rights abuses committed by an unremorseful Police force will continue to happen unless strong institutions that ensure proper training, professionalism and accountability are strategically put in their rightful places.

    I mean, lets be serious for a minute – even Class 5 children will tell you that Maada Bio is not sound, intelligent and competent enough to handle the complexities involved in the building of a shattered nation that resembles a dilapidated, ramshackle house with angry tenants still residing it, stubbornly creating all its numerous challenges and problems of instabilities.

    Men like Bio should not be allowed ever again to compete for positions of power; they belong in the Military Barracks where their daily duties will be to shine boots until the become like mirrors, iron heavily starched khaki uniforms, and supervise the distribution of ammunitions.

    State House is not for Bio. We need a standard, a criteria that measures the abilities and intelligence of individuals in the areas of critical and logical thinking, acute problem solving and the practical implementation of ideas.

    Qualifications should be the least of our concerns, because I have seen doctorate degree holders who still can’t spell simple words correctly – men who are shockingly impractical and still not knowing like toddlers – the differences between their knees and their elbows. Disgraceful isn’t it? Well, live with it, for those are the people now in positions of power. Rising Sun Will Rise Again!

  9. I really do not think that the Government of Sierra Leone or the SLPP should be drawn into a nonsensical situation that was the sole creation of the APC. The imbroglio between the APC and the Sierra Leone Police should be solved by leaders of both organizations (the APC and the Sierra Leone Police).

    APC leaders had long threatened and pronounced that with the SLPP in power, the APC will make Sierra Leone ungovernable. And yesterday’s confrontation with the police was a manifestation of that threat. But the Sierra Leone police cannot stand by and watch a bunch of hoodlums in red regalia break the law by erecting barricades on streets, terrorizing innocent citizens and burning tyres everywhere. It is a fundamental task of the police to protect life and property and they acted in a very professional manner at the APC office. Bravo to our gallant police officers.

    I was raised an APC pikin in Freetown. But it is the philosophy of thuggery and violence, the rarray boy mentality and lawlessness that had me and many others withdraw our support for the APC. My late father of blessed memory would be turning in his grave on hearing that I am now a critic of the political party that he raised me to honor and serve.

    Fair enough. But my loyalty to Sierra Leone trumps any political party considerations. I consider myself an independent political thinker but a supporter of the policies of president Julius Maada Bio. I believe that president Bio should be given a chance to transform our country. APC folks were in power for eleven years and all they did was destroy the economy through greed, callousness and impunity.

    In opposition, the APC have proven to be even worse than in governance. The party’s parliamentarians are controlled by Ernest Koroma, who is the party leader for life, Osman Yansaneh – the man who collected salaries as high commissioner to Ghana without ever showing up for work and Minkailu Mansaray – a man who will soon be dragged before one of the judges of the commissions of inquiry to answer to charges of theft and fraud. Are these the men that are now talking to Dr. Kandeh Yumkella about peace?

    If Yansaneh and Mansaray were interested in a peaceful Sierra Leone, why did they assemble APC supporters and urge them into lawlessness only to cower under tables in the APC office when the police professionally took over the situation to restore law and order?

    And why was Cornelius Deveaux – another APC architect of lawlessness, seen fleeing the police when he was about to be arrested? Are these the folks that should lead a major political party in Sierra Leone?

    I am all for dialogue and peace and I believe that if the APC were a serious organization, they should sit down with the leaders of the police and renounce violence. The APC should stop inciting their members into lawlessness and violent behavior. The party will not win elections with that mentality.

    Times have changed and the APC should adapt to the changing nature of time. The times when thuggery and the threat of violence were tools for the assumption of power in Sierra Leone are over. Evidently, with their despicable and primitive behavior in opposition, the APC has not won any new sympathizers. Instead, the party has retrogressed at such a pace that one wonders what would be left of it come 2023.

  10. Great initiative by Dr. Yumkella. He really deserves praise for what he has started. Preaching peace in such dangerous times is vital. I usually accuse Dr. Yumkella and the NGC for being SILENT on such important issues. Remaining silent on national issues like this is not an option for any political party. He has just done what any responsible POLITICIAN should do. One can really see that the NGC means business according to their press release.

    GOD BLESS Dr. Yumkella and the NGC for starting this PEACE INITIATIVE. A solution to move forward must be found. I pray and hope the APC and the SLPP will listen to Dr. Yumkella and the NGC’s PEACE INITIATIVE.

    I also appreciate the learned doctor’s comment on the need for a POLITICAL DIALOGUE. As I said and stated in some of my past comments, POLITICAL DIALOGUE must have preceded BIMTUMANI THREE. So, the whole conference was putting the cart before the horse. What is now happening after this conference is just DISGRACEFUL and people like Dr. Yumkella and the NGC have come to realize that.

    According to the editor, the APC is planning another march/meeting next week and it is also said the police are also determined to guard the peace. I hope that both parties play according to the rules. Again, no one wins in CHAOS AND ANARCHY.

    Finally, thank you very much Dr. Yumkella for your peace initiative. This I believe will tone down the RHETORIC and bring people together. GOD BLESS YOU.

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