17 January 2012
Violence continued throughout Saturday night in the Fourah Bay district of eastern Freetown, following a local council by-election, which left several people seriously injured, including the ruling party’s Lansana Fadika and the winner of the election – opposition SLPP candidate – Mohamed Kanu Mansaray.
As though Saturday’s carnage was not enough, tonight there are reports from Freetown that the opposition SLPP chairman for the constituency – Abdul Aziz Carew, is in hospital fighting for his life.
He is said to be in a coma, after heavily armed police raided his family home in Fourah Bay, Sunday, 15 January, 2012, with live bullets to arrest him.
According to witnesses Mr. Carew did not resist arrest, prompting questions as to the use of excessive and lethal force by the police, in enforcing the arrest of the opposition politician, who was unarmed.
Speaking yesterday afternoon on national television, the secretary General of the ruling APC – Victor Foe, said that his party has the capability, potential and numbers to inflict violence against the opposition, but were restrained during last weekend’s carnage at Fourah Bay.
Many in Sierra Leone are now wondering whether such capability and capacity to unleash violence will be used at the forthcoming general and presidential election in November.
Speaking at a press conference in Freetown yesterday, the opposition SLPP rejected accusations of being behind the violence, which took place on Saturday.
This is what the party’s Secretary General – Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie said in a written statement:
“The Sierra Leone People’s Party wishes to express its appreciation to the electors and Party officials of Ward 369 in Constituency 104 for returning Mohamed Kanu Mansaray the SLPP Candidate, as the new Councillor of that ward.
At the same time the Party wishes to express its utter disappointment and outrage at the level of intimidation and violence once again masterminded by the leadership of the ruling APC Party, particularly the Minister of Internal Affairs, Musa Tarawally, and the sitting Member of Parliament for Constituency 104, Hon. Tunde Lewally.
Needless to remind the general public that the Sierra Leone People’s Party have always been a Party of peace.
Starting with the restoration of the country to peace and stability in 2002, following a brutal civil war that lasted for eleven years, peace reigned throughout the country right up to the assumption of office by the APC in 2007.
Equally importantly peace reigned even during the elections of 2002 and 2007 under the leadership of the Sierra Leone People’s Party.
Since then the political landscape has become marred by violence, intimidation and thuggery especially during bye elections.
People in this country have experienced the pain, trauma and anguish of political violence and would not want their hard-won peace to be disturbed any further.
Specifically, we would like to remind the general public of the following instances of violence perpetrated by the APC against the SLPP:
– The attack and vandalization of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party offices in Freetown, Bo, and other places just after the announcement of the 2007 elections results.
– The attack on SLPP Headquarters in March 2009 during which women were raped, the Office and the Unity Radio Station were vandalized and set on fire.
– Police violence in the bye-elections in Tongo Field, Pujehun and Zimi.
– The assassination attempt on Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio from stone throwing APC youths in Bo on Saturday 9th September 2011 during the SLPP’s Flagbearer’s “Thank You” tour in that City.
Even between factions within the APC, their relations have been characterised by violence no less, as was evident in Kono in the incident between the Vice President and the Minister of Internal Affairs in 2011 and in the incident between the District Chairman of the APC and a Party Stalwart in the presence of the Secretary General of the APC Mr. Victor Foe, this year.
As a Party we are deeply concerned about the root causes of violence in our country.
The failure by the Police to carry out impartial investigations of the incidence of political violence, their highhandedness in the execution of their functions and the excessive executive interference with the Police, have all combined to erode public confidence in the impartiality of the Police and in their capacity to be an independent arbiter in any future electioneering process.
This situation and the propensity of the current Minister of Internal Affairs, Mr. Musa Tarawally, to interfere in the operational functions of the Police has been exacerbated and inspired by the failure of Government to adhere to its promise to the International community and the general public to publish and implement a Government White Paper on the Shears – Moses Commission of Inquiry.
Compare the promptitude with which some of the recommendations in the Kelvin Lewis Investigative Panel Report were carried out with the seemingly cavalier and sinister approach demonstrated towards the Shears – Moses Commission of Enquiry Report, as well as the deliberate decision of the Police not to bring to book the Police Officer that shot and killed the innocent bike rider in the Bo incident.
With regard to the bye election violence in Ward 369 in Constituency 104, the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) strongly condemns both the stabbing of an APC stalwart – Lansana Fadika and the serious assault inflicted on the SLPP Candidate – Mohamed Kanu Mansaray by the sitting Member of Parliament of Constituency 104 – Tunde Lewally.
We are also appalled at the highhandedness and level of brutality against the SLPP Constituency 104 Chairman – Aziz Carew on the night of Sunday 15th January instant by five truck loads of armed personnel of the Operational Security Division of the Sierra Leone Police.
This incident is yet another demonstration of the unacceptable and unlawful use of armed police that has come to characterise the politics of this country since His Excellency Ernest Bai Koroma and his All Peoples Congress (APC party) assumed power in 2007.
We also consider the general spate of political violence in the country to have now reached an alarming proportion giving rise to mounting public anxiety and foreboding about the elections of November 2012.
Many see the recent violent incidents in Freetown as a foretaste of what is likely to happen in the 2012 Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Council elections, if appropriate actions are not put in place now to ensure fairness and probity in the run up to those elections.
We therefore call on both Government and the International Community to ensure:
a) An independent and impartial investigation into both the spate of stabbings and other violent acts in Ward 369 on Saturday 14th January 2012;
b) An independent and impartial investigation into the shootings and police brutality by OSD personnel against Aziz Carew, members of his family in Ward 369 and others including a reporter from Radio Democracy (98.1 F.M) on Sunday 15th January 2012 , and bring those found culpable to book;
c) The release of the Report and White Paper on the Shears-Moses Commission of Inquiry and implement its recommendations.
d) The implementation of the outstanding recommendations contained in the United Nations sponsored Joint Communiqué of 2009 especially the establishment of an Independent Police Complaints Board.
e) A press release by all Political Parties reaffirming their commitment to preventing political violence with particular emphasis on the police and other national security apparata to exercise restraint.”
Both the government and police are yet to issue official statements on the Fourah Bay electoral violence.
In the meantime, opposition politician – Mr. Abdul Aziz Carew fights for his life in hospital, with shouts of police brutality and State House conivance getting louder.