Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 May 2018:
The elected Mayor of Freetown who was recently sworn into office was physically attacked yesterday by a crowd of people believed to be supporters of the SLPP, who were gathered outside their party headquarters, just yards away from the Mayor’s City Council office.
The mayor was badly shaken and sustained injury to her arm, but not thought to be serious. It is not clear what sparked the violence, but what is known is that the SLPP party office has for far too long become a den for unemployed youths, whose threatening and sometimes violent behaviour have been well catalogued.
The vicinity around the SLPP party office has become a no-go area to anyone other than supporters of the SLPP party, and president Julius Maada Bio must put a stop to this.
The police have given up all hopes of restoring sanity to the area, after years of lawlessness and thuggery.
According to some reports, “she was attacked and chased into her office. An SLPP supporter hit her with a wooden plank twice, causing a fracture to her wrist and elbow. She received treatment at the Choithram hospital.”
Writing on social media, Mayor Aki-Sawyerr said: “I would like to once again thank God and thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve as the Mayor of Freetown. I am passionate about our city and committed to working with the central government and with all Freetonians to transform Freetown.
“Unfortunately, I was verbally and physically assaulted yesterday by a few people who perhaps do not understand that I am the Mayor of all Freetonians and not some Freetonians. I strongly condemn all acts of violence and appeal to Freetonians to keep the peace at all times.
“Yesterday’s attack is being investigated by the Sierra Leone Police. Let me use this opportunity to thank the leadership of the Sierra Leone Police and the Minister of Internal Affairs for their support and interventions yesterday.
“I am confident that they will ensure that justice is done and seen to be done. I am also certain that the necessary steps will be taken to ensure my personal safety and that of all Freetonians. We have so much to do as we forge the path to a transformed Freetown. I remain excited and committed to that vision. Let us continue the work with peace in our hearts and in our actions.”
This is the Mayor speaking on Radio 98.5 FM about the attack:
This ugly incident has sparked a political response from the opposition APC – Mayor Aki-Sawyerr’s party. The former attorney general and minister of justice in the Koroma led APC government – Joseph Kamara (Photo), said: “It has come to the attention of the general public that the newly elected Mayor of Freetown, Her Worship, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, was physically attacked and her personal security gravely compromised.
“As citizens we must condemn the perpetration of physical violence on innocent people no matter what their status. Such conduct become of greater concern when they are politically motivated.
“The attention of the Government is drawn to the continuing incidence of unwarranted attacks, intimidation and harassment of people with political opinions other than those of the Government of the day. The propagated war on lawlessness is now on the test.
“We urge the Government to immediately and publicly condemn, as well as take appropriate legal prosecutorial measures. Not lip service anymore. The risk of political reprisal and vengeance stare at us in the face and threaten to bring our beloved nation to the brink of chaos. This must be avoided and can be avoided.
“We further urge our Members of Parliament to increase the voice volume in Parliament on matters concerning the continuing incidence of politically perpetrated violence and victimization. Sierra Leone is ours to preserve and to build.”
Official response of the opposition APC has been swift. This is what Cornelius Deveaux – the APC National Publicity Secretary said: “The All Peoples Congress has been sufficiently briefed on the physical and verbal attack meted on Her Worship the Mayor of Freetown Madame Yvonne Aki Sawyer yesterday Wednesday May 23, 2018 by irate and rowdy supporters and members of the Sierra Leone People’s Party.
“The APC condemns this act in its entirety and wishes to draw the attention of the SLPP government and party that such acts, if not contained immediately, has the propensity to undermine the peace and stability which this nation has enjoyed since 2002 and particularly in the last ten years resulting to Sierra Leone being class as one of the most peaceful countries in the sub region and the world.
“The APC further notes with concern that following the announcement of the March 31, 2018 presidential run off election results, scores of supporters and members of the APC including family members have been subjected to various forms of intimidation and violence in different parts of the country and more particularly in the south and eastern regions.
“The APC also draws the attention of the international community and other relevant stakeholders, as brokers of peace after a decade long senseless war, to these acts of blatant human rights violation.
“The APC acknowledges the role played yesterday by the Sierra Leone Police in protecting the Her Worship the Mayor of Freetown Madame Yvonne Aki Sawyer and urge the SLP to speedily investigate the matter and to also provide additional security to Her Worship the Mayor.
“The APC notes that the attack on Her Worship the Mayor of Freetown is a deliberate ploy by the SLPP to divert public discuss from the much talked about ‘diamond turn stone’ and is also reminding the SLPP government and party of its constitutional obligation to ensure that peace and stability prevails and that we coexist as one nation.
“The party calls on its members and supporters to remain calm and steadfast and assures all that their security and safety is of utmost importance and that Her Worship the Mayor is safe and remains excited and committed to discharge her duties without fear.”
While this violent incident could have the propensity to ignite political tensions and widespread violence in the country, both parties must strongly resist attempts by extremists within their respective parties to exploit yesterday’s incident.
The Bio led SLPP government nor the SLPP party itself has responded to these reports and allegations. But the minister for internal affairs spoke on radio and this is what he said:
The internal affairs minister who is responsible for managing the country’s police force was present at the scene, and could be seen on this video consoling the Mayor after the attack by alleged SLPP supporters: