Let us reject violence and selfishness, that could destroy Sierra Leone’s unity – Op ed

Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph:11 July 2022:

Like many countries around the world, Sierra Leone is experiencing social, political and economic speed bumps, after tough challenges in recent times. There is a saying that “a man who has never travelled, thinks his mother is the best cook”. However, Sierra Leone does not have monopoly on the hardship that is threatening world stability. The situation in Britain is described as a “living crisis, in Sierra Leone, “De gron dry and de game don big”, and to others it’s a “recession”. It just goes to show that not all lizards crawling on their belly suffer from stomach pain.

As the economic crisis deepens, fuelled by man-made self -harm and external forces beyond national control, it becomes unavoidable that the rippling effects could spill on to other areas, and especially the political sphere. The increasing political flashpoints between the ruling SLPP and opposition parties are not surprising, though regrettable. Like any other country, we are facing a national crisis; a time when we should all pull our collective resources to see our country through this near catastrophe. Sadly, this is not the case.

Recently, “ Femi Claudius-Cole and Dennis Bright were arrested last Sunday for allegedly inciting several women in Freetown to take part in street protest against rising cost of living and growing poverty in the country” (thesierraleone telegraph.com , 6/07/2022). The Sierra Leone Police released a statement on 06/07/22, that due to social media posts reportedly “laced with threats of killing drivers, motorcyclists, police officers and soldiers”, its release “clearly stated that no person or group was granted permission to embark on demonstrations on the said date “(sic 4th July) (the sierraleonetelegraph.com).

According to the police, and citing the Public Order Act 1965, the aim was among other reasons to” preserve their (sic-the) protesters safety; as it was likely that hoodlums and miscreants could have infiltrated and hijack the demonstrations, given the fact that serious threats of killings of people were already distinctly made on social media, in respect of the same”.

The police further cited Dr Dennis Bright cheerleading a banned group in the run up to the Ward 156 Koya bye-elections. According to the police, Madam Femi C. Cole was reportedly seen on social media posts “preparing placards, rehearsing songs and issuing out threats against the police and military, if they disallowed their unauthorised July 4 planned demonstrations”.

Section 26(1) of the 1991 constitution provides that: Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of assembly. (2)Nothing contained in or done under the authority of any law shall be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of this section to the extent that the law in question makes provision, which is reasonably required:

-1-in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, or public provision for the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community, or

-2-which imposes restrictions upon public officers and upon members of the defence force, or

-3-which imposes restrictions on the establishment of political parties, or regulates the organisations, registration and functioning of political parties and the conduct of its members; and except in so far as that provision, or as the case may be, the thing done under the authority thereof is shown not to be  reasonable justifiable in a democratic society.

It would be disingenuous to pretend that some of us are legal minded connoisseurs, but this excerpt from our constitution guarantees our unadulterated and inalienable rights to freedom of assembly. However, like every right that comes with responsibilities, we have the right to exercise such freedoms, “except in so far as that provision, or as the case may be, the thing done under the authority thereof is shown not to be  reasonably justifiable in a democratic society. Therefore, if the police press release was the backdrop for the detentions, was the requested and planned demonstrations “shown not to be reasonably justifiable in a democratic society”?

Taking into account the police’s reported threats on social media, were the reasons given by the police to reject the demonstrations justified? Were there perceived threats to national security and safety?

Let us remind ourselves that Sierra Leone does not have monopoly on strikes and protests. The world is awash with protests and strikes, which is unfortunately becoming, rightly or wrongly a hazardous past time.  Protesters in Sri Lanka set fire to the Prime Minister’s house and forced both him and the President to quit on Saturday. This is not to normalise such a behaviour, but it just goes to show the latent emotional grenades seething in societies, thanks to the economic crises.

Nevertheless, more than the anger, it shows that even with the best of intentions to demonstrate peacefully, how things can get out of control with unintended outcomes. Did these demonstrators intentionally go out to set the house on fire or just for a peaceful protest? Others would say that violence is the language of the unheard.

Irrespective of the political party in power, we do know that, “peaceful protests” and “Sierra Leone” have been strange bedfellows over the years.  Whether under APC or SLPP rule, we are regrettably all too familiar with the outcomes of protests and demonstrations in our country.

Despite the unintended and regrettable outcomes of past demonstrations, does that mean that we should not exercise our rights, “in the enjoyment of the freedom of assembly”?

So, with reported threats made on social media, was the police right to ban the demonstrations? Were the demonstrators right to go ahead with their planned demonstrations, despite the police ban?

Unfortunately, it is becoming all too familiar to see social media posts, “inciting” others to engage in boycotts, civil disobedience, protests, demonstrations etc. These actions, though regrettable, have their political, social and legal merits. The irony is that the majority of these come from Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora. Sadly, they do so from the comfort of their leather chairs, while tucking into KFC and Macdonald burgers. Meanwhile, the man that is spurred onto to the streets may not even know where his next meal is going to come from.

It is one thing to exercise our rights, to demonstrate our rights and to criticise our governments of any political persuasion. However, is it morally right to persuade, incite, cajole, and instruct others to engage in such activities, while safely munching on KFC or MacDonald burger in Brixton or Maryland? Is it right to ask Santigie or Vandi to take to the streets while you are “Chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’, all cool” like Fresh Prince of Bel Air?

Our country is a democracy. We conduct our elections on democratic principles. The value of our democracy cannot be fully appreciated, until we calibrate it against the one-party system of the 80s.

We cannot fully appreciate our embryonic democracy until we measure it against the status quo that engendered our decade long rebel war. We cannot fully understand the value of peace and security if we wilfully try to bury the memories of the atrocities of the war.

As Sierra Leoneans, have we forgotten so quickly? Is there any justification to put party interest over national interest? Is it worth promoting partisan political party interests in exchange for a peaceful Sierra Leone? Should our politicians mortgage the lives and property of every citizen, as a price worth paying for a five-year cycle at the helm? I used to believe that politics was too important to take seriously.

In another development, Hon. Abdul Kargbo tweeted that “Sierra Leone Parliament is currently unsafe for opposition MPs. The thugs from SLPP party office are all over the gallery using motherly invectives against opposition MPs and our Leader.  We have withdrawn from the sittings for our safety” (thesierraleonetelegraph.com-6 July 2022). According to reports, “there was chaos and violence in the country’s parliament after five days of debate regarding the controversial Public Elections Bill. An opposition APC MP – Alieu Conteh sustained head injury, after he was stoned and became unconscious.” (thesierraleonetelegraph.com). Is this really happening in Sierra Leone? How did we get here? We can learn and emulate a lot from American politics, but storming our parliament, capitol- style is not one of them.

Every country faces terrorism from within and without. Dealing with such universal threats is a herculean task in itself. However, when such a threat transforms into domestic terrorism, and in effect political terrorism, you begin to wonder whether our country is once again, demonstrating its penchant to attract chaos, or ready to press the self-destruct button. This goes right through the heart of our democracy, and in effect the very essence of our political bloodstream. Is this desperation, hatred, intolerance or an engendered national suicide attempt?

So, what is the legacy that our politicians want to bequeath to the next generation? Lest they forget, our politicians owe it to all those who lost their lives during the rebel war. The least they can do is ensure that peace, stability reigns and there can be no greater, and deserving tribute for the sacrifices and losses we suffered as a nation.

Are we using violence as an excuse to avoid peaceful resolution of our political difference? Let us not camouflage violence under the guise of tradition, national honour and national security.

We implore our politicians to find political solutions, peace and restore tolerance, so that some refugees can return home. At least, going home is the deepest wish of most refugees.

Don’t forget to turn off the lights when you leave the room.

5 Comments

  1. At present there are lot of Walter Mitty personalities that still believe in the Bio project. Majority of people that display such ailments have symptoms of what is called depersonalization or derealization disorder which in the present state of the man made crisis facing our country’s is hard to find a cure for .And given the vast majority of Bio supporters suffers from such incurable disease, their road to Damascus moment is stretching to the distance .Unfortunately there are no short cuts to Jerusalem.The Sierra leone utopia they kept tell us about only exist in their fantasy dreams .Try telling them the truth the whole truth nothing but the truth about what real people are living and breathing everyday in our country is like banging your head against a brick wall. Their journey of denial continues on . Fuel by the propaganda we’ve grown used to with distorted evidence where facts are seen like aliens trying to invade Sierra leone the land of honey and milk to disturbed the status quo. Fasten your seat belts because we are going to see a lot of that as we head for 2023.In the old testament there is the lost tribe of Israel.Well we have a whole army of them we called the Bio supporters masquerading as soldiers of mischief .You are either with us or against us .And there is no room for compromise .Is either their way or the highway . And this are all the makings of the Bio supporters I christen the lost tribe of Sierra Leone that believe their salvation lies with the false prophet Bio himself .

    According to Bio’s gospel verse one direction “Do as I say don’t do as I do “. Don’t follow in his footpaths you might get tempted to riches of la la land by creating more divisions in the country .both tribally and regionally.The us versus them mentality have been their main rallying cry that helped maintain their foothold to power. They have no answers to the cost of living crises affecting families up and down the country .This effigy of mountain of lies and their patrons that seemed to master the art of divide and rule are slowly being exposed as false proheths and majority of Sierra leoenans are now ready for burn fire night because after all we are one country , one people and worshiping one flag , Greeen , White and Blue and should not take us for granted .For the lost tribe of Sierra leone still living in denial finding their way back Is a long threk to the real world where the vast majority of Sierra leoenans are trapped in a life of survival of the fittest . Monkey eat Monkey .Life under Boi’s Sierra Leone can’t get any worse than that .The idea that the violence we see in our streets and in the wells of the Sierra Leonean parliament is spontaneous or a spore of the moments incidents is not only tying to sell Fake news to gullible Sierra Leonean public , or to add insult to injury trying to get into the thinking process of the Inspector General of police .That Sierra leone we are told that exist in the outer galaxies that is far removed from the realities of everyday life under Bio ,where telling the truth is treated like an alien concept and in direct collusion course with planet reality that wants us believe a Messiah called Bio is upon us ,is not only out of sink with reality but full of hogwash.

    The greatest critics of the Inspector General of police is the inspector General of police himself through his actions and deeds. He has never shy away of showing which side he supports. Even his critics will admit the only thing that is consistent about him, he is consistent for being consistent for supporting Bio and his government .Thus far he has a front row seat or ring side seat for every controversy that happened in Sierra leone in the last three years ..This is not the first time our inspector general of police have had his supposedly sense of integrity and independent-mindedness put through the litmus test of carrying out his public duties judiciously and sense of fair play , but he and his force have failed with flying colours. The leopard will never change it’s spot .This Bio appointee remains royal to his boss and he is not shy to show where his royalty lies especially in moments of crises manufactured security emergencies , real or imagine by this one directionless Bio government. The list of unfortunate events under his command , the 2020 so-called Pademba road prison riots, in which forty unarmed prisoners were massacred by happy trigger members of the Sierra Leone police , the killing of youths at Makeni for the relocation of a standby generator , the beating up of Belgium market traders , while the Sierra Leone police stood by , the beating up of protesting pepper women against the rising cost of living , the use his team of CID officers to harass and intimidate political opponents like Dr Cole , Dr Bright , Dr Slyvia Blyden and former President Enerst Bai Koroma , is not a record to be proud off or defend by any stretch of the imagination .Much as we will like to see our inspector general acting independently from Bio , he will never change .You don’t want to cut the hand that feeds you .Trying to change him and the Sierra leone police force under his command is like trying to squeeze blood out of a rock .Lonta!

  2. I don my hat to the conservative and unionist party of Great Britain – unquestionably the most democratic party in the whole wide world – for occupying the moral high ground and coming to the considered conclusion that no one, i repeat no one, is remotely indispensable when it comes to leadership. Those conscientious Graduates of top UK universities (the creme de la creme) have shown that they have independent minds, moulded and tempered in those great UK citadels of learning, who do not walk tight ropes and know where their loyalties are when it comes to salient matters of state. The UK prime minister Boris Johnson has just been jettisoned from office and turned to a squatter in 10 Downing Street, Westminster, London, UK. In any banana republic such as Sierra Leone, the man who most people think is a teflon, could have been hero-worshipped as a God who is always right and does no wrong, considering the fact that he has more or less got most of the big judgement calls right – be it BREXIT, rapid vaccine layout, low unemployment rate.

    For most of the dignified and honourable people of the UK, a torch bearer and beacon of democracy, loyalty and patriotism to the country trumps any other parochial considerations of personal safety, friendship, career prospect, past help, schooling or region. His cabinet colleagues could have taken the easy option of sustaining in power someone with glaring moral and character flaws. They do not set the bar too low and will not allow their country to sink into abysmal depths of despair and decay like Sierra Leone by always following blindly theirleader.
    Talking about despicable depths of despair and decay, the recent unprecented sacrilege of an assault on the sacred of institutions – the Sierra Leone Parliament – is a new low. I remember vividly visiting the public gallery of Parliament a few times during my student daysto hear eloquent speakers of the past such as Abdulai Conteh, Jabbie, Shamsu Mustapha, Abass Bundu, Salia Jusu Sheriff, Thaimi Bangura et al strutting their stuff and holding onlookers spell-bound. Even the barbarians the RUF and their sidekicks tge AFRC sobels respected the sactitity and solemnity of our Parliament. Tgey were more than capable of applying their trademark policy of scorched-earth, yet our Parliament remained untouched throughout our then troubles.

    The omens in Sierra Leone simply do not look good. I watched the ceremony to open the new bridge and the president does not want to take any responsibility whatsoever about the cost of living crisis and strongly believes that the the gron is dry because of COVI-19 and the current geo-political tensions echoing similar sentiments of his predecessor ( remember the ebola and global lame excuses). This time around our president has gone one step further than his predecessor to condescendingly say anyone who thinks and believes otherwise and pointing the blame finger at him has a coconut head (coconutade). Go tell that to the glorious people of Sr Lanka. Sierra Leoneans are being taken for granted. Our sister republics of Guinea and Sierra Leone have experienced the same issues over the years but year-in and year-out they are heads and shoulders above us in what is the bottomline – the Human Development Index.

    Bra keep walking your tight ropes until you realise the new direction of travel of our country is towards a cliff edge. It is then, and only then, will you be tempted to rewind the clock.

  3. Warning shot! We will soon be coming out of the political self-beating, engaging our political gears and pressing on the political gas pedal of the 2023 political machine. We want to go on the offensive instead of staying in the political objective mode. Yeah!
    Did they hear what chief Sam Sunam said recently in Kono? Did they see the crowd? Is the APC listening? Did they get the message loud and clear? Will the APC do the right thing and synchronise it with Chief Sam Sumana’s vision for Sierra Leone? “Talk half lef half”.
    Ladies and gentlemen, listen to this cool and focused wonderful interview with Chief Sam Sumana –

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ro77Egwuhl4

    Thank you very much, Mr Abdulai Mansaray, for this wonderful article. The quoted area below touched my heart, and I will never forget to “turn the lights off when I leave the room”. Sierra Leoneans must be vigilant and ensure leaders are capable and ready to lead when they win every election in 2023. That’s it.
    “So, what is the legacy that our politicians want to bequeath to the next generation? Lest they forget, our politicians owe it to all those who lost their lives during the rebel war. The least they can do is ensure that peace, stability reigns and there can be no greater, and deserving tribute for the sacrifices and losses we suffered as a nation”.
    This part of Mr Abdulai Mansaray’s article is part of the vision of Chief Sam Sumana. We know from this interview where Chief Sam Suman stands. We respect that, and we are waiting for the time for political parties to be given the permit to start campaigning. Is the mother of all campaigns on the horizon? Again “talk half lef half”. Our country will get out of the entangled political woods after the 2023 elections. Inshallah!
    God bless Chief Sam Sumana, the Kono People, Mr Abdulai Mansaray and the people of Sierra Leone. “We been tell dem”.

    • Thanks Matturi but this sounds like it might have been a coincidence. Even up to my time of replying to you, I have not seen the video you’re talking about. I’m not sure about the similarities if any, but I’ll try and watch it later. Thanks.

  4. We have seen videos of MPs fighting one another in parliament over disagreement. However, It IS not reported anywhere that members of the public had gone to parliament to intimidate or perpetuate violence against MPs (be the ruling or opposition MPs) during their deliberation. If what is reported is true, I would suggest that the SLP lunch a speedy investigation and the hoodlums brought to book.

    I want to believe that the gallery and the MP sitting room at Parliament are covered with CCTV camera. If it is not, I suggest that the speaker of the house makes this a priority.

    At the same time, as we head to the 2023 elections, I suggest that members of the Public be barred from the Parliament gallery and that Parliamentary sittings be broadcasted on TV screen installed outside the Parliament building.

    IG Sovula, you have been serially accused of turning the blind eye when the light is on SLPP supporters or sympathizers. Now is the time to show Sierra Leoneans that you are unquestionably qualified for the job, and that you are loyal to the oath you took to serve the country faithfully. You should not allow miscreants who cannot control their penchant for rudeness or violence to soil your hard work.

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