Government of Sierra Leone cannot silence APC, the opposition, and citizens into cowardice – Op ed

Sylvanus Fornah Koroma: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 15 January 2024:

I am starting this very serious article with an opinion that I believe is a growing concern and many people are raising it in a lot of discussions in and out of the country by both the citizens and non-citizens that have dealings with Sierra Leone.

First, there is a provision in the Law Officers Conduct of Prosecution Instructions Act of 1965 or/and the Statutory Instrument No.33 that I am imploring readers to also research and it provides: ‘Any offence allegedly committed by a lawyer that comes to the attention of the police must be reported to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice before any action is taken.’

It is strongly believed that it is against this backdrop that the Sierra Leone Bar Association has this fact inscribed on the identity cards they issue to their members. Are the police aware of this law or is this law no longer in use? We have seen several lawyers being called and investigated by the police without referencing or taking cognizance of the said law and it is becoming the norm that lawyers must investigate to protect the sanctity of the noble profession.

“Sierra Leone is being forced to become a police state/country by trying to control everyone into submission to the dictates of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP).” On the contrary, the laws of the country do not provide for a police state, and civil liberties that a police state seeks to control are enshrined in Chapter 3 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone in sections 15 to 30 of the same, and people are determined to protect the Constitution against unconstitutionality going forward.

For the records, a “police state” refers to a government where law enforcement agencies have extensive powers and authority, often at the expense of individual freedom. In such states, the police play a dominant role in maintaining control, sometimes leading to surveillance, censorship, and limited civil liberties.

This can be detrimental to democratic principles, as it undermines the balance between security and individual rights, essential for good governance in a democracy. Excessive police powers can erode accountability, transparency, and citizen participation, hindering the foundations of democratic governance.

What Sierra Leone is now experiencing in terms of the functionality of law enforcement agencies is appallingly marred with nepotism, tribalism, and other vices. The blatant cherry-picking by these law enforcement agencies in terms of who is to be investigated is so alarming that everyone now knows that the APC, the opposition, and anyone who is not in the good books of the SLPP leadership is targeted.

A case in point that I will have to comment on is the recent hate speech utterance by SLPP Joseph Sannoh against one of the country’s oldest tribes, the Limbas, who are originally from the North of Sierra Leone; and another hate and derogatory speech by SLPP Resident Minister North against one of the most populous tribes in Sierra Leone (many even believe it’s the largest tribe in the country.)

There is evidential record of this same Resident Minister saying he has instructed the Brigade Commander to kill anyone who demonstrates against protesters that the said minister chose to call rioters. Instead of sacking him for such a reckless statement, the Resident Minister was kept in his job after fulfilling his threats of killing the people he was to govern.

In recent times in Sierra Leone, the APC, opposition, the general citizenry, and the people in Sierra Leone have experienced a lot of threats and there are evidential videos that confirm that, but the law enforcement agencies turned a blind eye to these facts. However, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) was quick to invite the National Secretary General of the APC Mr. Lansana Dumbuya Esq. for investigation because he signed and published a press release.

Certainly, on the 11th of January 2024, lawyer Lansana Dumbuya signed and published a press release in his capacity as National Secretary General of the APC with the heading: “The APC Is Confident Of Former President Koroma’s Innocence, and Stands With Him”. He was immediately invited by the SLP for questioning pertaining to the political issues raised in the press release.

The former President is not just an ordinary member of this great and populous party, APC, but has served the APC in the highest capacity for the longest time in recent times. If I may jog your memories, ‘A political party is an organized group of individuals with shared political goals and ideologies. Its functions include representing citizens’ interests, shaping public policies, and contesting elections to gain political power.

Political parties contribute to the state by fostering democratic governance and providing a platform for citizens to participate in the political process. Members engage in activities like campaigning, policy development, and advocacy to influence political decisions and promote their party’s agenda.’

It must be noted that political parties, members, and leaders often share a common ‘political ideology’ that forms the foundation of their party’s ideology. A political ideology is a set of beliefs, values, and principles that guide and inform an individual or group’s political stance and policy preferences.

Political ideology serves as a framework for understanding society, governance, and the role of individuals within it. It is very important to note that members align themselves with the party based on shared beliefs, influencing their decisions on policy issues and political strategies.

Leadership within the political party typically reflects and champions the dominant ideology, guiding the party’s direction and shaping its platform. The interplay between the ideology of members and the leadership establishes a cohesive identity for the political party.

In the opinion of many, the heading of the press release only affirmed the considered opinion of the bulk of the party’s members which is in tune with section 23 subsection (4) of the 1991 Constitution which states: “Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved, or has pleaded guilty:

Provided that nothing contained in or done under the authority of any law shall be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of this subsection, to the extent that the law in question imposes on any person charged as aforesaid the burden of proving particular facts.” Therefore, the invitation for the investigation of lawyer Lansana Dumbuya by the CID is considered by many as a mere tool used by the SLPP leadership to silence any dissenting views.

The leadership of the APC has been constantly targeted with blackmailing strategies by both the SLPP leadership and its membership. One of the earliest of these strategies was when the current Deputy Leader of the SLPP made a derogatory statement in Port Loko as a sitting Vice President sometime in 2019, against the former President who at that time was the Leader and Chairman of the APC party.

The National Deputy Leader of SLPP, Dr. Juldeh Jalloh, openly commented that the then APC Chairman and Leader, Mr. Ernest Bai Koroma, should not participate in politics otherwise he would not be treated as a statesman. With the aid of technology, anyone can access this evidential fact with relative ease on YouTube and other media outlets.

As if that was not enough, there are evidential statements of the current National Leader of SLPP, Mr. Julius Maada Bio, making similar statements earlier made by his Deputy against the former Chairman and Leader of the APC. The National Leader of the SLPP openly called on the Northern Chiefs present on one of his campaign trails in Koya and gave them a message to warn the former Chairman and Leader of the APC, who was his predecessor in the presidency, not to participate in politics.

Again, the National Leader of the SLPP is on evidential record on his campaign trail in Kailahun wherein he addressed his audience and informed them that very soon he would put Ernest Bai Koroma in a tight place. There is a plethora of evidential proof of SLPP stalwarts restating and echoing these statements of their leadership against the former President who happens to be the last Chairman and Leader of the APC. Certainly, what I am saying is not trumped up, but is the factual and visual evidential statement of facts that can be easily accessed in this age of technology.

THE GOVERNMENT OF THE DAY CANNOT SILENCE THE APC, OPPOSITION, AND THE CITIZENRY OF SIERRA LEONE INTO COWARDICE even when he so desires. The only limitless entity is God Almighty. Maada Bio is not God, nor is Ernest Bai Koroma or anybody else in Sierra Leone. We all have our limits that we can for instance accept abuses, derogatory acts, and the like. Beyond that which we can accept, we would reject.

Julius Maada Bio may wield power for now, but it will not be forever, and the resilience of the APC, opposition forces, and the spirited citizens is proving to be an indomitable force. The narrative of silence and acquiescence is being rewritten, with each dissenting voice contributing to a collective roar that reverberates across the country.

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