Ministerial abuse of power lands local Imam behind bars – orders from above

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 31 July 2019:

State House in Freetown is yet to respond to reports of the unfair arrest and detention of the Chief Imam of Grafton Town in Freetown, after the government’s chief minister – Professor David Francis, allegedly ordered the police to carry out the arrest.

According to reports, the chief minister ordered the Imam’s arrest after receiving reports that the spiritual leader had instructed cleaning staff at the mosque to remove President Julius Maada Bio’s photo from the wall of the mosque.

It is understood that a cleaner had placed the picture on the wall without the knowledge of the Imam, and was instructed to remove it so as to avoid bringing the mosque into political controversy within its congregation.

It is reported that the cleaner reluctantly removed the president’s photo from the wall, and then reported the matter to the chief minister’s office. (Photo above: Chief Minister Dr David Francis).

Chief minister professor Francis, then ordered the arrest and detention of the Chief Imam, it is alleged.

Giving evidence at the police station, it is understood that the chief Imam told police officers that it was wrong for the president’s photo to be hung on the wall of the Mosque – a House of worship, as it is against the spirit of Islam and the teachings of the Holy Quran. (Photo: President Bio).

“Pictures of government authorities are not published in a House of God because it is Haram in Islam or Christianity. We respect government authorities but we don’t worship government authorities. So such photos are not allowed on the walls of our Mosques or Churches,” said angry worshippers at the mosque.

Grafton is a coastal town close to the peninsula, in the Western Area Rural District of Sierra Leone, and is home to many Aku Mohamedan Krios, who are believed to the largest inhabitants of the community.

The Krio language is the primary language of communication and the most widely spoken language in Grafton.

Despite several attempts by the Sierra Leone Telegraph to obtain response to these allegations from State House, officials remained tight lipped.

Many in Sierra Leone believe that chief minister Francis is perhaps the most powerful politician in Sierra Leone today.

A senior government official and SLPP party grandee, told the Sierra Leone Telegraph: “President Bio must curtail the powers of the chief minister, if not he will derail the president’s efforts in unifying the nation and cause chaos.. But sadly, I don’t think the president would have the courage to do so, given the immense control the chief minister has over what the president says and does on a daily basis.”


  1. How could the chief minister ordered such arrest to a man of God in his own municipality (mosque)? Sierra Leone is ranked as one of the most religious tolerant countries in the world. And matter of fact, politics has nothing in common with any form of religious worship in the country. But, it’s seems as if the Chief minister is slowly becoming a dictator in the country.

    • Why are we Africans stupid. What’s us the purpose of the portrait of the head of state doing in a house of worship which is used by many of different political affiliation,
      Has sierra Leone becomes the Africa north Korea?

  2. Was it Mr. Francis we voted for or JMB? The chief minister is becoming a dictator and Maada is becoming like a city mayor. How an appointed man like Mr. David Francis can order the arrest of a spiritual leader for removing the portrait of a political leader on the wall of a mosque.

  3. We are all arguing blindly so to speak. To dispel rumours, the professor himself should come out defending himself or else it will be construed as true. Being an intellectual who wants to contribute to the development of the country, this is the ripe time before the enemies of the state will capitalise on this and start a religious war.

    My heartfelt prayer is that the matter will be dealt with common sense and not political sense. Msy Allah or the Lord intervene.

  4. Anthony Moiba,Your first sentence captures everything, intensified by the implication that a public figure, including the President, cannot be shielded from criticisms and insults. As the saying goes “it comes with the territory”.

    Like you Anthony, I am completely baffled by what Senior Minister,Dr David Francis is alleged to have done: Ordering the arrest of an imam for who insisted on the taking down of a picture of President Bio in his mosque.

    But here is what I have always felt:The more educated a person is in a certain field the more illiterate and ignorant he or she becomes in the other numerous fields which the world has to cope with. Clearly Dr Francis is a victim of this; he seems to believes that his PhD in his field of studies encompasses everything which the entire world needs to know – he can even perform the most intricate heart surgery with exemplary ease.

    If the allegation against the distinguished gentleman is true,there is an urgent need for him to descend from his high horse, humble himself and ask somebody to teach him the fundamentals of Islam.Mrs Bio can help him tremendously in this regard and, if President Bio’s mother was still alive,she would have been another asset because she was a muslim.

    We have too many problems and divisions in our society which we have trouble solving or bridging – we don’t want to add religious divisions and problems to it.When it comes to religion we are at the top of tolerance – even the United Nations has acknowledged this fact.

    I am a Muslin and so are my children,but my wife is a Christian.

    • I hope what is being alleged against the Chief Minister is simply NOT TRUE. Otherwise,it will cost the government a huge public relations mess and may infact have calamitous electoral consequences for the ruling party down the road–given the decisive electoral gravitas of the Muslim vote in the country.

      I don’t know the Chief Minister personally, but I’m hard-pressed to believe that such an academically acclaimed (Ph.D. holder and professor) government official will allow power to go into his head to the extent of not knowing that mosques and churches are insulated from partisan politics of any kind. If there has been a mistake in this regard, the government should, without delay, free the Imam and apologize to him.

  5. Anybody that knows professor David Francis knows that the man is a perfect gentleman. He reluctantly entered into politics under the advise of president Julius Bio. Professor Francis is not a man that would be guilty of a dereliction of duty; let alone become power drunk to the extent that he would damage his well earned reputation. The man is only interested in making a contribution to the development of his country. That is what makes this story very suspicious.

  6. I just can’t imagine a well educated and experienced man like Mr. David Francis could order the arrest of an Iman because he took down the picture of the President. The President and his wife are subjected to insults almost every single day in the social media and newspapers, any journalist or activist brought to court or sent to jail because of that?

    • This story was in some of our print newspapers here. It has not been refuted. I agree that the chief minister is the most powerful minister in this government, and he wields arbitrary powers as he sees fit. Look at all the massive corruption allegations he made against former ministers in his GTT report which he said amounted to Billions of Dollars. Now the government is having headache to prove at the COI that the evidence is there.

      The man is a tribalist and a serious problem for the Bio administration. He may be a professor; but this means nothing to our politics here. A professor in peace studies? Please don’t make me laugh. He is determined to crush anyone that he perceives to be in the way of paopa.

    • Why are we Africans stupid. What’s the purpose of the portrait of the head of state being in a house of worship which is used by many of different political affiliation. Has sierra Leone become the African north Korea?

  7. Wasn’t the chief minister President Bio’s tutor at that suburban university in the UK where he was pursuing his PHD degree? Look no further for the reason why President Bio is shy of chastising the chief minister.

  8. There is more to this story than meets the eye. A religious leader cannot be locked up for ordering the removal of the president’s portrait from the wall of his mosque. President Bio is a very tolerant man.

    • Hi Joe, I also want to believe that there is more to this story, otherwise the council of Imams would have come down heavily on Government for such arrests. As a Muslim, I know we don’t hang photos in Masjids, photos of any kind. Only hangings like Islamic calendars, clocks without offensive rings are allowed to be hung in Masjids. No discussion of Politics except religious issues and prayers for any government of the day. Islam is very clear on Leadership especially Government as it equates it to represent Allah on Earth.

    • There is not much to this story my friend. That’s exactly what happened. The chief minister is slowly becoming a dictator.

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