Sierra Leone Telegraph: 8 January 2016
A positive outcome of the arrest of Alie Kabba is that it has highlighted the inhumane conditions at Pademba Road prison in Freetown.
Alie Kabba is less concerned about the inconvenience that he had been subjected to, having been detained for four days.
Instead, upon his release, he immediately highlighted the plight of Sierra Leone’s forgotten – those who are languishing at the only maximum detention facility.
Recent pictures of the jail reveal that the government of Sierra Leone has no criminal justice policy, and those who are unfortunate to end up at Pademba Road are detained in degrading conditions.
These awful pictures remind us of the inhumane conditions in which black slaves were kept in overcrowded slave ships, bound for Europe and the Americas. Only this time, it is Sierra Leoneans who are meting out this treatment to fellow Sierra Leoneans.
Hundreds of prisoners are detained in cells designed to hold a handful of detainees.
They are locked up for hours and are denied regular food and drink.
They are not offered any opportunity for rehabilitation and are denied their basic human rights, such regular exercise or access to reading materials.
There appears to be little attempt to segregate prisoners that have committed very serious crimes, from those who have committed minor misdemeanours.
Lack of effective management at the prison, means that detainees can be unnecessarily held within the prison system on remand for unnecessarily long periods, before their cases are heard in court, in many cases for over two years or more.
On the 6th of January 2016, we remembered the atrocities committed by RUF Soldiers who joined forces with the AFRC military junta.
Over 7,000 of our fellow citizens perished during that incursion of Freetown.
The conditions in our prisons and the brutal massacre unleashed by the RUF/AFRC, have one thing in common – a total disregard for the lives of our fellow citizens.
When Ernest Koroma’s government shows such blatant disregard for the welfare of prisoners and keeps them locked up in inhumane and degrading conditions, it is only creating a breeding ground for future rebellion, increase in violent crime and thuggish behaviour.
In the face of this growing threat to our domestic security, the Sierra Leone Police, headed by the incompetent Inspector General Munu, has become politicised and corrupt, with police officers hanging out in key road intersections like a pack of wild animals, as they pursue motorists, bus and taxi operators for bribes.
The government of Sierra Leone is a mirage. It exists but doesn’t. With the Ebola epidemic, its excuse was that the crisis was unprecedented and that it had relied on the WHO, which itself was slow to act.
It has no explanation for the environmental disasters that the country is experiencing. Bridges and roads are collapsing, mudslides becoming more frequent.
The country receives one of the highest rainfall in the world and is blessed with a network of rivers flowing from the northeast to southwest and into the Atlantic ocean, yet is unable to cope with the rains, because the drainage network is clogged with rubbish – making Freetown one of the most filthy capitals in the world.
Freetown remains one of the darkest cities on earth. And I am certain would be hard to locate from the International Space Station.
Sierra Leone has find itself at the wrong end of every deprivation index, including life expectancy, infant mortality, illiteracy and unemployment.
Against the backdrop of a systematically failing state and failing economy, Ernest Koroma and his acolytes are demanding more time, and Julius Maada Bio was keen to endorse Koroma’s government as effective.
Thankfully there is light at the end of the tunnel. ‘ Time don done’ for Koroma and Bio.
Kandeh Yumkella, working with other progressives in the SLPP coalition, including Alie Kabba and Andrew Keili, will restore hope, create opportunity and bring about the transformation of our society, including improving the welfare of all citizens, especially those in our prisons.
Editor’s Note: Photos shown in this article are about five years old. The Koroma government does not publish verifiable photos, or allows anyone to take photos showing conditions as they are in the prison today).
About the author:
Alan Luke is a member of the KKY (UK&I) Communications Team.