Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 May 2022:
Alhaji Kemoh Sesay, former transport and aviation minister in the Koroma-led government appeared at the magistrate court in Freetown today, after spending a few days in jail accused of insulting President Maada Bio.
Sesay was captured in a video which went viral on social media speaking to his supporters in Port Loko, where he described the president as a killer and a thief, accusations many in the opposition APC have thrown at the former military leader after dozens of unarmed prisoners were slaughtered in cold blood by presidential guards at the country’s main prison at Pademba Road in Freetown.
President Bio is being held accountable for the deaths of several people in Makeni and Tombo, where security forces opened fire on unarmed protesters. Critics of the president are also accusing him of the extra-judicial killing of dozens of people, after a military coup by soldiers under his joint-command in 1992.
Supporters of Kemoh Sesay (Photo) are calling on the Judiciary to throw out the case, claiming that Sesay was merely making “factual allegations” against the president.
Appearing in court this morning, Sesay’s lawyer – Charles Francis Margai heading a battery of fifteen defence Lawyers, requested bail whilst challenging the jurisdiction of the Magistrate Court.
Bail was granted in the sum of Five Hundred Million Leones, with two sureties, along with his travelling documents lodged with the courts. The case was adjourned to next Wednesday, 13th of May, 2022.
Sesay, was remanded in custody last Thursday by Magistrate Sahr E. Kekura (Photo) in Freetown, after answering to one count of Cyber Stalking and Bullying contrary to Section 44 (2) (b) of the Cyber Security and Crime Act of 2021 which critics say has now replaced the repealed criminal libel laws that, for over fifty years had been used by successive governments to curtail free speech in Sierra Leone.
According to the particulars of offence, “Kemoh Sesay between March and April 2022, through social media, via WhatsApp, in Port Loko District, Bakeloko Chiefdom in the Northern Province of the country, did wilfully and repeatedly communicate directly to the President, Dr Julius Maada Bio in a manner that he knows to be false, for the purpose of causing danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, ill will or needless anxiety to His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio or causes such a message to be sent.”
In a democratic state, shortsighted and desperate ruling political parties, that clandestinely institute laws for self preservation, are sure to be at the receiving end as the wind of politics blows. We were told SLPP instituted the draconian 1965 public order act in desperation for self preservation. This bad law was later used by the APC under the leadership of Siaka Stevens to stifle public censorship.
Almost 60yrs later, the same SLPP political party with desperation and shortsightedness have instituted another draconian law for censoring cyberspace, a communication medium which is here to stay and will only continue to grow as technological advancement develop. Surely the chickens will come home to roost as the clock ticks.
Is free speech a crime or are we seeing the slow resurrection of the 1965 Criminal and seditious libel Act that we were told has been confined in to the dustbin of history back in 2021 ?The recent case of Mr Kemoh Sesay being dragged and arraigned in front of our courts for saying loudly in public what majority of Sierra Leoneans talked about around the dinner table , or the poyooh watering holes for drunkmen and women that can be found in streets corners in every part of Sierra Leone ,can’t be seen or taken as an isolated incident.Dr Samura , Dr Bright , Mrs Femi Cole , and many others that believe in the right to free speech, but because they belong to the wrong political parties have made the same undignified trip to the police and our courts to explain themselves about what they spoke about in public.The reality they never misspoke but they spoke about the prevailing conditions we found ourselves since Bio took office back in 2018. This blah , blah ,blah blah can only be described as over reaction by the police and our learned judges that are trying to make a name for themselves by undermining the rule of law and free speech .
The leopard will never change it’s spot .We all recalled the treatment of Dr Bylden back in 2020 and others that were detained on the behest of Bio over Facebook postings against the President and his wife Mrs Fatima Bio .That was before the repeal of the 1965 criminal libel Act for which Bio and his cohorts were louded both within Sierra Leone and by our international development partners , that finally starts to see our country moving in the right direction and championing freedom of speech in a continent where governments are activity trying to undermine the rule of law and curtail freedom of speech.Egypt , Uganda, South Sudan , Guinea , Cameroon under Paul Biya , Angola , Equatorial Guinea , Ethopia , and Eritrea. Same taxi different driver .Many people will say Freedom of speech has it’s limits .of course it has it’s limits.Making incendiary statements that undermine the security of the states , Hon.Abu Abu , or causing alarm and Panic that results in deaths and injury is not exactly exercising your right to free speech.
For instance if you are sitting in a crowded Cinema hall and shouts fire any resulting death and injuries as a result of your statement will inevitably lead to your arrest and questioning by the police for causing public nuisance. Or if you are flying thirty thousand feets above sea level on board a passenger aircraft and shouts bomb is not freedom of speech .Thats class as terrorist intent .Our criminal justice system that are supposed to be defenders of freedom of speech are actively working with the Bio government to roll back all the rights and liberties given to us by the 1991 Sierra Leone Constitution.Like a Cat with nine lives , democracy has many ways of surviving even if it’s been trampled upon by the big boots of Bio.
Bloody hell. What the hell is going on in Sierra Leone? Why has Sierra Leone become a hell hole for intolerance? Are we all not Sierraleoneans? Ladies and gentlemen, I will not say in public what Mr. Kemoh Sesay said against President Bio. You know what will happen if you abuse the President in public these days. But who knows what I say in private. OK, talking to myself. My advice is that we must respect the law, even if we believe it’s not ideal. This law was passed by the full blessings of our parliamentarians, who are representing us. So, there is no point of criticism. Also, most people don’t understand anything about this law, which is also not good. The government is yet to educate the people of Sierra Leone about this new cyber law. What I believe was missing, was the fact that, no provision was made for someone to withdraw his or her statement incase of violation. What is wrong if someone insults the President and at the same time asked to withdraw and apologize for the insult within a stipulated time before any police or court proceedings?
I watched debates in the house of commons where the speaker always ask lawmakers to withdraw rude statements against the Prime minister. What will happen in Sierra Leone if a law maker says that President Bio is a liar? Will he be asked to apologise and withdraw his statement or will the police be waiting outside parliament to dump him at Pademba Road? Terrible stuff. No good. Political tolerance must prevail in our country. That’s it!
My advice to everyone is to be careful of what you say against any public figure when you are resident in Sierra Leone. I hope this law will not only cover rulling party members, but every Sierraleonean. Finally, our lawmakers are partly to blame for this law. Some lawmakers should be voted out in 2023, because some are part of the problem. I urge President Bio to show compassion towards such problems. Although no one is above the law, I was not happy and very upset with the way Blacker was treated. The judge or magistrate should have followed the example of the judicial proceedings for the mentally challenged in The Netherlands. God bless Sierra Leone.
Thanks to the New Direction government and the opposition parties in parliament for passing the 2021 Cyber Crime law. Cyber space is the new medium of spreading “BIG LIES” and bullying.
Cyber Warfare is even more dangerous which is now evident in the war between Russia and Ukraine. Major financial scams occurred over the internet.
Finally, thanks to our security apparatus for averting any anarchy in our country as was the case of January 6 due to the Pademba Road Prison outbreak. Burning down the only Police Station and Health Care Facility in Tombo , preventing government authorities to transfer government generator to our Airport and attacking SLPP office in Makeni, and burning down the house of the Paramount Chief and killing his relative in Lunsar, these are all RIOTOUS CONDUCTS but not peaceful demonstrations.
The party of the architect of the “Cocaine plane” smuggling in our country Kemoh Sesay has used our youths as political pawn in order to tarnish the image of President “Talk and Do” Bio which will again backfire on them in the upcoming 2023 presidential elections campaign.