If my party is classed a terrorist entity, am I a terrorist?

Ibrahim S Mansaray: 26 May 2020:

In the early 1990s, Leonard Weinberg wrote the first and foremost article about the conditions under which political parties turn to terrorist activities. He argued that the links between terrorist groups and political parties have become common, often affecting each other’s appearances and disappearances.

Political parties labeled as terrorist include the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is linked to Kurdish militant separatism, as well as radical Islamist political parties linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). Donetsk Republic is another proto-state political party, which is classified as a terrorist organization by the Ukrainian authorities.

In China, Uyghur jihadists have established a terrorist organization called Turkistan Islamic Party aimed at seeking the independence of East Turkestan. The African National Congress and the Palestine Liberation Organization have all been branded as a terrorist organization at one point in time. Some, if not all, are geared towards their independence in their different approach to their political goals.

Bringing political parties to court to determine their liability for terrorism is a feature of the contemporary judicialization of politics. This tendency has direct implications for the constitutional division of powers, which is the most plausible reason why, in many countries, it appears inconceivable to attribute criminal liability to political parties.

During the Cold War, both the State and Defense departments dubbed Mandela’s political party, the African National Congress, a terrorist group, and Mandela’s name remained on the U.S terrorism watch list till 2008. In August of 1998, the State Department listed ANC among “organizations that engage in terrorism.” It said the group “disavows a strategy that deliberately targets civilians,” but noted that civilians had been “victims of incidents claimed by or attributed to the ANC”.

But the Defense Department stood by its language, and Mandela and other ANC officials remained on the terror watch list even as President Bush welcomed Mandela, newly released from prison, to the White House in 1990. The “terrorist designation finally proved too embarrassing for the US government to ignore.

In April 2008, during the last year of the George Bush administration, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told a Senate Committee that her department had to issue waivers for ANC members to travel to the United States.

Later that year, the terrorist designation was dropped after a bill, proposed by then-Senator John Kerry, passed both houses of Congress and was signed by President Bush. The African National Congress was in many ways the backbone of the resistance against Apartheid.

It began by using peaceful methods to oppose the system. The Sharpeville Massacre in 1960- where many black peaceful demonstrators were shot in the back by police was a powerful factor in the ANC decision to take up arms against the system. Margaret Thatcher, prime minister of Britain in the 1980s, called the ANC a terrorist organization, and her spokesman famously said that anyone who believed that the ANC would ever form the government of South Africa was ‘ living in a cuckoo land’. Apartheid came to an end in 1994 and ANC formed the new government with Nelson Mandela as president.

In a recent televised broadcast to the nation, president Bio labeled the largest opposition party, APC as a terrorist organization and financier of wanton destruction in the country.  This message comes against a backdrop of the country being highly polarized on tribal, ethnic, and party affiliations.

So many unanswered questions remain:  will president Bio meet with a “Terrorist Party” in his quest to form a national cohesion?  Is the Political Parties Registration Commission going to rescind the registration of the APC from a political party to a new Terrorist Party? Is this the dead end to peace in Sierra Leone? Has the door been shut? How can you turn around and sit with a political party you have branded a Terrorist?

The speechwriters of the president may not have weighed the ramifications of branding a political party a terrorist in a country where jobs are few to come by, where the economy is still on life support, where even the basic necessities of life are hardly to achieve. If there is anything president Bio needs at this crucial time is peace in a divided country.

If president Bio can boast of anything in the world, he should be grateful that the people of Sierra Leone, bulk of his SLPP supporters and even some admirers of the APC party supported him and made him president of Sierra Leone. It is a feat he should compare himself to leaders like Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Jerry Rawlings of Ghana, to name but a few. These are leaders who had the opportunity to rule their country twice.

It is a blessing and a gift from God, and anyone blessed with such feat as president Bio should consider peace, unity, and cohesion the landmark of his presidency. President Bio will only succeed in Sierra Leone when there is peace and the semblance of the people’s belief that he is the Father of the Nation, regardless of political differences.

The opposition All Peoples Congress may not be an award winner in terms of convincing people of their record on violence, however, the nomenclature of being a terrorist organization or financier of wreaking havoc on civilians, perpetrating wanton destruction on lives and properties may not be their cup of tea.

The APC party had handful of their members booted out of parliament, after spending close to a year in parliament. They resort to the judiciary for due diligence, a case that is still awaiting jurisdiction.  The APC party leadership has been uncharacteristically silent on many upheavals besetting the party, an accusation that has been levied on the doorstep of the Chairman and Leader of the party. His eerie silence has made many supporters calling for his removal.

To some, Ernest Koroma is playing the statesmanship game, just as his predecessor Tejan Kabba, allowing the present president to rule freely with no side distractions, while others want him to stand and address his supporters who are behind bars awaiting trial, speak on the spate of lawlessness in the country and the outbreak of the coronavirus scourge.  (Photo: Former head of UN in Sierra Leone – Michael Schulenburg meets Ernest Bai Koroma few months ago in Makeni). 

There is another school of thought that strongly believe that there is only one president at a time and the time should be given to president Bio to perform his constitutional powers.

President Bio may not be a typical politician with humor, eloquence, and a convincing strategist, however, his recent overtures to civil society and his engagement with the international community is a step in the right direction.

His inclusion of opposition members in the fight against the coronavirus scourge can be replicated in other spheres of political landscape to achieve his political goals.

President Bio may have all the strategists and elites in his government but his success on nationwide will only be realized when he incorporates competent citizens from all shades of the political aisle.

As the coronavirus continues to eat deep in our meager resource, and as the politics of polarizations seem  to be on the rise, president Bio has the herculean task of uniting the country and achieving his dreams for the country of his birth rather than criminalizing a political party that will be hard to eradicate from the country’s history.

If my party is branded a terrorist, does it mean I am a terrorist?


  1. In my personal opinion, I think that it’s unfortunate to compare the APC party to reputable political organizations that were trying to fight and secure their independence from dictatorial governments, while the APC party whose leadership was in prison (because he was opposed to our independence) while the SLPP government was signing our independence declaration. The APC was successful after winning their first election campaign to introduce terrorism in our country by terrorizing their own members that spoke against the leadership after practicing some of the bad policies that they accused the SLPP government of.

    Fortunately for the first time in history, President Bio has called their activities as “act of terror,” which I personally believe will change the trajectory of Sierra Leone for the better. Below is the link to where terror was introduced in the politics in our beloved nation:

    Sent from my iPad

  2. I think as a nation we need to ignore and try to move on, this is the only Sierra Leone we have (“terrorist, no terrorist”) let’s put all differences aside and work towards the betterment of our darling nation mama salone “Land that we LOVE”.

  3. “Sierra Leoneans you must morally re-arm yourselves. You are now living in a country where virtue is vice and vice is virtue. Since you have chosen looters of yester-years who assumed they have undergone a Pauline conversion because they were in opposition and opposed the past government. We need to choose our leaders well, you cannot choose past-thieves as leaders and expect a good outcome in the governance structures.” This was the outcry of the fiery and erudite Professor Patrick Lumumba to the gullible people of Sierra Leone.

    Why do Sierra Leoneans don’t reference their arguments from a rational standpoint and seem to forget so easily? Since the Bio-SLPP came to power in one of the most controversial elections in 2018, they had used the Commission of Inquiry as a device to shackle and mute the APC whilst taking the people for a ride into believing that they are the legitimate and righteous sect to occupy the political space. The APC had been placed in the political doldrums for quite some time now; though their most positive aspect was to retain their resolve in keeping the PEACE they had nurtured.

    The outcome of the inquiry did not favour the little conman residing at State House – his neatly coordinated hunting net failed to capture the biggest ‘sacred cow’, former President Earnest Bai Koroma (EBK). Now, the little thief is changing his tactics by branding the most popular party in the country as ‘terrorists’. He knows he is in the process of siphoning the country’s meagre resources; and is petrified to see an APC government put him in the dock for his pilfering and tyrannical atrocities. The critical question is: when are Sierra Leoneans (including journalists) going to think seriously about their country’s development and put this insecure and fake actor to account?

    • He is “petrified to see an APC government put him in the dock for his pilfering and tyrannical atrocities” indeed. However, We will be arround to make sure all those involved in siphoning our country’s resources by the back door, face the docks through an open, non biased and fair trial. No violations of their human rights, no unlawful incarceration and no selective justice. They will have to cough our money back. Thank you very much Mr. Alimamy Turay for putting the pressure, the records straight and talking straight. God bless Mr. Alimamy Turay.

  4. Great stuff there by a humble writer. “President Bio has the herculean task of uniting the country and achieving his dreams for the country of his birth rather than criminalizing a political party that will be hard to eradicate from the country’s history.” But, we are now left with the Herculean task of convincing the extremists on the other side of the political divide not to embrace revenge and barbarity when their party comes to power in the not do distance future. Even though they have been branded as terrorists, we know, that they are not terrorists. They are just fine and descent human beings like everyone. The definition of the word terrorists is clear in the Queen’s language in any dictionary. We must all realise that the Queen’s language is not easy for everyone to master easily. People sometimes say things as they hear.

    There is a clear distinction between the picture of the President and the First Lady on one hand and that of the the greatest, most respected Commander in chief of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces ever and the former head of U.N. Mr Michael Schulenburg on the other. Another campaign ammunition. God bless Mr. Ibrahim S Mansaray for his brilliant article. Fascinating stuff indeed.

  5. Well now we come to understand that APC will surely get in to their shells and quietly wash their hands and feet, so that Bio can govern in peace. Yes of course the article is one of the best I have read in this forum. Ladies and gentlemen, for how many times this president has done all efforts to be in peace with the APC leadership to push this country forward without success? for how many times, even some couple of months ago, Bio administration distributed millions of dollars checks to the former president and his cabinet ministers – some how called a retirement package. What can Bio do again?

    I was one time sympathizer of the party leader for NGC, Dr. KKY, but today I am no longer, after I read his comments on face book about Dr. Sylvia Blyden, Paolo Conteh and the others. With all due respect I think he needs to keep quiet. I believe if he doesn’t want his supporters to go crazy against him, let he be silent from now.

    SLPP will fight APC with their character and the whole world will become the jury. If you want to talk about the lawless party in this country, look for APC no doubt. In 2015 APC kicked out Chief Sam Sumana out of office with humiliation and disrespect. Let APC remind themselves and understand that the 70s are over. May God bless this country mama Sa Lone.

    • No, no and Not correct Mr. Brima Sesay. Why are you always against popular, competent, fair, charismatic, progressive and popular politicians in Sierra Leone? With your own words, sometime ago, you used to be a supporter of Chief Sam Sumana, now you are not. History has just repeated itself. You used to be a sympathiser of one of Sierra Leone’s highly respected academics and politician and now you are not. Who do you really love and sympathise with Mr Brima Sesay? I believe, that I like/love President Bio and the Bio SLPP more than you do. Isn’t it Mr. Brima Sesay. Please reply me as soon as possible on this glorious platform. Thank you very much Mr. Brima Sesay for telling me how much love you have for President Bio and the Bio SLPP. God bless you.

    • I’m sorry but no one is interested in seeing SLPP fight the APC, or vice versa. That maybe a convoluted desire that you have, but the majority of Sierra Leoneans are not concerned with these two going at each other. However, it would be interesting to see the presumed fighting energy you’ve mentioned put forth to something much more productive, like putting in place a sewage system that works, which in turn will prevent many unnecessary illnesses that the population is prone to – I could go on for days naming things that could use the energy you wanting to see being exhausted on party fighting, but I’m sure you’re aware of them already. That would be something worth paying attention to, wouldn’t it, Mr. Sesay?

  6. The real terrorists are the ones now pointing fingers,and insisting,that a guiltless,blameless,passive opposition should cease,and desist from committing strange,imaginary,lawless acts that many believe are merely delusions,and illusions, being conjured up with unbridled tribalism,and vehement hatred in their own surly,silly,grumpy,diabolical,cynical,erratic minds.These men,SLPP Leaders,now in power always look like pathetic agonizing failures; they cherish speaking and acting without thinking objectively,and critically,because their faulty perceptions,and arrogant,bad-tempered inclinations,just wouldn’t let them succeed in their efforts to get things done.

    I beg to differ – a defective distorted SLPP mind,that is non-functional cannot summon up the courage,and skill,to bring millions of people together under one umbrella of Hope.For who is it,that has ever seen a travel guide that is totally blind,leading faraway travelers through a barren,inhabitable desert? Again,when has an old, broken,wheelbarrow with no wheels been seen hauling goods along for market women,in King Jimmy? The underachievers cast blame,and sprinkled it around like seeds because they know they are nothing but incompetent,abject failures.

  7. Absolutely well written article with historical context of the ‘terrorist’ word usage in the sphere of politics. As clearly articulated in the article, the speech writers of the president have indeed done a disservice to him and our nation at large in incorporating such a loaded word after a few disturbances across the nation. If there is one leaf we need to borrow from western nations is that, regardless of the wanton destruction of lives and properties in incidents such as a massive shooting or riotous conduct, the word terrorism is hardly applied unless foreign nationals are involved in carrying the act or Islam has been cited by the perpetrators.

    The rational behind the hesitancy of western nations in using the term terrorism against their own is simple — citizens (family members) can sometimes resort to irrational behaviors whenever they deem too many injustices piling against them. In a typical home for example, your son might choose to vandalize the family car if he perceives too many injustices being done to him at home. Likewise, in a country, citizens/youths in certain localities might challenge authorities and go on the rampage, destroying properties if they perceives too many injustices done onto them.

    In context, all these incidents fall under the umbrella of domestic or national abnormalities. Clearly, the solution is usually to carry out a thorough investigation and seek to mitigate the reoccurrence of such incidents. In contemporary Salone politics, there has been recorded incidents of violent incidents perpetrated by both supporters of the 2 major parties, with sometimes the loss of lives. Both Late president Kabbah and EBK had their share of national disturbances and riots, yet they never choose to employ the word terrorism. So it’s really disheartening for our current president to have been misled by extremist elements within his inner circle.

  8. A political party is a group of organised people who share the same ideology, that field candidates in an election with the sole objective to win political power and implement their ideological beliefs. On the other hand terrorists are people who use unlawful violence and intimidation of the population to achieve their political goals. The IRA, ETA, Charles Taylor NPLF, and our own very deranged and disturbed Foday Sankoh and his RUF. Therefore, it would have come as a great surprise to many of his countrymen, when president Bio designated the APC party as a terrorist group. If the president hold those beliefs strongly, he should ban the APC from contesting elections.

    In which case every card holding member of the APC party becomes a potential terrorist. So the definition of a terrorist doesn’t cut mustard, because the APC as a political party contested an election just like the SLPP party and lost and conceded defeat. In majority of cases terrorists don’t form a government, they have to form a political party before they are acceptable to the general population. They can’t fight their way to power. The president should stop politicking and think of the ramification of his words. I have huge respect for the president and words matter. Maybe that is reason politician fought tooth and nail to stay in power because once you leave office the next government will come after you like a run away train.

    Just think for a moment if the terrorist APC government have stayed in power either by hook or crook, I will put my life to it all this police and the army personnel backing this government will be running around like headless chickens carrying out vendetta against president Bio and members of the opposition SLPP. What is going on today is not healthy for our democracy. We all need to get on because unlike big countries like Nigeria you can’t split Sierra Leone into tiny enclaves of seventeen tribal homelands.

  9. President Bio is one of the admirable presidents around the world. I was rendering some care services when a caucasian woman heard my accent and she asked where I am from and I said Sierra Leone. As soon I said that, she replied that “she wished other presidents in Africa can be like President Bio”. Citizens of Sierra Leone should embrace and desist from violence. President Bio is not a violent person. If one can recall back in 2012 when he lost the presidential election, he strongly encouraged all his party members to refrain from violence.

    • He is universally admired based on the assertion of one person you had an encounter with? I’m sorry but that is a logical fallacy. Your argument simply doesn’t follow. On the other hand let’s suppose that what you have stated is nonetheless true, are you suggesting that Sierra Leoneans should admire him also because of that one particular reason? If so then what would this admiration be based upon? Would it be based upon the fact that he’s a popular figure within the world population, or are we supposed to base the affinity that we suppose to have for him on the basis of his performance as president of our beloved nation?

      To put it in other terms, how does the adoration that the world supposedly have for him fits into the way the people of Sierra Leone scale him for the job that he’s doing as president?

  10. Today, not only in Sierra Leone, it is usual to muuzzle critical people, opposition with tags like terrorist or conspiracy theorists instead of leading an open fundamental and sure controversy discussion which belongs to a real democracy.

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