Arthur E. Pearce: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 August 2022:
The majority of Sierra Leoneans are experiencing a climate of fear of political reprisals, following the recent nationwide protest, as the government attempts to seize the initiative, and prevent further protests.
People are concerned about the impact on their livelihoods, business, and other interests, if they speak out. But increasingly, as the government continues to narrow the space for political debate and freedom of speech, it is becoming clear to all that silence is not an option.
More voices are needed, to amplify the voices of those who have been courageous to speak out.
As part of the Truth and Reconciliation process, Sierra Leoneans identified the institutional and democratic arrangements that needed to be put in place and build upon over time, to ensure that our country’s hard-won peace, after ten years of war, would be safeguarded.
During President Kabba’s reign, he made huge efforts to consolidate those arrangements. These came under strain during the Koroma presidency, but they held, resulting in a transition from APC to SLPP at the 2018 elections.
We were hoping that under President Bio, who regarded himself as the father of democracy, those arrangements would be strengthened and his government will usher in the change he proclaimed during the elections campaign in 2018.
However, since his government came into office, we have witnessed a full-frontal attack on those arrangements which we as Sierra Leoneans identified and agreed, were necessary to prevent our fragile democracy descend into war and anarchy once again, which no Sierra Leonean wants to see.
Following the recent nationwide protests, which pro-government media have framed as an attempted coup, we have witnessed the use of extra-judicial measures, such as disappearances, intimidation and killings which were commonplace under the NPRC / AFRC era with a specific aim of silencing our collective voice by instilling fear across the country as we approach the end of the Bio administration.
As a nation, and in the face of genuine economic hardship across the country, the people of Sierra Leone will not be cowered by these actions.
Our freedom, peace and democracy were paid for, with the blood of over three hundred thousand victims who died during the war. They were paid by the thousands of disabled men and women who are among us today, who yesterday, were cruelly gifted with “short sleeves or long sleeves”, when their legs and arms were amputated by bloodthirsty rebels.
Our freedom, peace and democracy were paid for by all of us, as a nation, who chose to embrace and forgive the sins of rebels, sobels and kamajors, in our quest for peace.
Therefore all Sierra Leoneans, whether rich or poor, Christian or Muslim, Fullah, Kissi, Kim, Krio, Kru, Kono, Limba, Madingo, Mende, Susu, Temne or Via, young or old, male or female; we all have a stake in the future success of Sierra Leone as one nation, and we are not going to sit back and be cowered into fear by these reprisals being waged in the name of the government. Sierra Leone belongs to all of us.
Furthermore, we cannot outsource our collective responsibility to speak up to Adebayor, because as we have seen, the government will delegitimise and dismiss our concerns as the actions of its opponents and those in the diaspora.
If we fail to add our voices to amplify those of the genuine protesters who took to the streets, government will continue to dismiss our legitimate concerns, such as the creation of job opportunities for our youths, not just for the political class; governing in the interest of all, not in the interest of a section of society; empowering women to take their place in society and our youths to take their place in the world.
About the author
Arthur E. Pearce is the National Grand Coalition (NGC) Party’s Regional Chairman of the Western Area of Sierra Leone.