Political row at a Mosque in Freetown that could have sparked widespread violence

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 October 2019:

Political temperature and popularity were tested by two leading politicians in Sierra Leone on Friday, but in the wrong place – a Mosque.

This is just not any old Mosque, but one of the most politicised Mosques in the capital Freetown, if not the whole country – the Al Basharia Mosque at Bombay Street in the East of the capital.

The Al-Basharia Mosque at Bombay Street is largely, if not exclusively, a Temne tribal Mosque. Most of its congregation belong to, or support the opposition APC party, whose 2018 presidential candidate and one of the leading contenders for the party’s 2023 presidential candidacy – Dr Samura Kamara, lives within walking distance from the Mosque. Dr Samura Kamara is not a Muslim – he is a Christian.

The area itself is densely populated – with a high percentage of young, vulnerable people, dogged by many years of chronic unemployment and poverty, who blame government and public officials for their poverty-stricken circumstances.

At the best of times, this is a part of Freetown where politicians would be well advised to tread with extreme caution, in order not to inflame tribal or religious divisions and unrest by their presence and utterance.

But on Friday, passions and tempers were ignited to boiling point, which could have led to widespread political unrest in the capital, when both Dr Samura Kamara and the country’s vice president Dr Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, appeared at the Mosque for last Friday’s Jumma prayer, and both wanted to address the congregation.

According to reports, Dr Samura Kamara, one of the leading contenders for the 2023 APC presidential election candidacy, had informed the Mosque authorities of his visit to the Mosque about two weeks ago, for which arrangements had been made for him to address the congregation – the majority of whom are APC party loyalists.

Just before the commencement of the Jumma prayer, vice president Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh arrived at the Mosque unannounced, to the surprise of the congregation and the Mosque authorities.

Both vice president Juldeh Jalloh and the APC presidential aspirant – Kamara (Photo: Samura – left, and Jalloh – right), not only greeted each other, but sat next to each other at some point – before or during the prayers, which proceeded peacefully, and with the expected decorum and dignity.

But chaos erupted after the prayer, when the vice president stood up to address the congregation, instead of the scheduled speaker – Dr Samura Kamara.

The Imam was caught in a difficult situation where he had to decide who should speak. Out of respect for the vice presidency, he decided to announce that vice president Juldeh Jalloh should speak. Passions and tempers flared. The congregation became angry at this decision.

People started shouting and booing as they heckled the vice president: “We want Samura, we want Samura,” they yelled.

This is one testing of political temperature and popularity that not only went wrong, but took place in the wrong arena – a highly politicised Mosque, full of opposition party loyalists.

Things could have turned very nasty – violent and bloody; and could also have spilled outside of the Mosque had the vice president not decided to give way and leave the Mosque, though embarrassed by the reaction of the congregation.

Samura Kamara then left the Mosque, followed by a throng of supporters who had gone to the Mosque to listen to his address, as he walked to his house at Montague Street which is just a short distance from the Mosque.

There are reports that Dr Juldeh Jalloh was initially expected to attend the Fullah Mosque last Friday for Jumma prayers, but decided instead to make an unannounced visit to the Al Basharia Mosque.

Many in the Al-Basharia Mosque congregation are accusing the vice president of trying to sabotage Samura Kamara’s visit.

But supporters of the vice president say that the authorities of the Mosque and their congregation were disrespectful to the vice president, and are demanding an apology.

They are also criticising the Mosque authorities for allowing Samura Kamara – a Christian to pray among the congregation. “The vice president is a Muslim and does not have to notify Mosque authorities before visiting their Mosque,” they say.

The Mosque authorities are accusing the vice president of breaking official protocol by not giving them prior warning of his intention to visit and pray at the Mosque, which could have ensured that appropriate plans were put in place to receive him.

Yesterday Saturday, 26 October 2019, there were reports of arrests by police, of some members of the Al-Basharia Mosque, identified as senior APC politicians.

What lessons are there to be learnt from this potentially explosive and politically engineered chaos?

5 Comments

  1. The All People’s Congress is doing it level best to cause the government of President Julius Maada Bio to fail. This is indeed an act of TREASON.

  2. In my personal opinion, I believe that the imam of the temne mosque lost an opportunity to educate his congregation that this is not an election campaign, and the Almighty Allah and the people of Sierra Leone has chosen President Maada Bio and Vice President Juldeh Jalloh as our leaders. He should have reminded them to respect the will of the Almighty and also treat our leaders and our fellow Muslim with the same respect that they have for our Christian brother ( Dr. Samura Kamara) who unfortunately lost the 2018 election.
    May the Almighty continue to guide our nation against tribal or religious violence.

  3. A mosque should not involve in politics. It is a place of worship. The Vice President should just walk in and pray because he a Muslim. Their attitude towards the Vice President is totaly wrong. They have to respect the Government. They have to take caution please.

  4. If only men will embrace candid criticisms and honest, thoughtful advice, the world would be a much better place than it is today. Hmmm! Let me borrow a line from the Great William Shakespeare here – Methinks the gentleman Andrew Kaikai does protests too much (lol). The truth is a bitter pill to swallow, Andrew isn’t it? Mr Kaikai doesn’t want the world to hear about the SLPP’s shady, disgraceful attitudes, and backward mentalities. (lol)

    Listen, I have diligently scrutinized, examined and studied how you guys operate for a very long time,and here’s the simple truth – your selfish, non compliant,indifferent motives are the reasons why our nation is lagging so far behind today. Of course corruption is part of the problem, but the “Do Nothing” and “My people first” attitude of previous SLPP leaders and its members are big contributors to the problem also. How many people have your government sacked since they came to power that are not Mende or SLPP sympathisers? – countless as grains of sand! That is a known fact!

    And who doesn’t know that this armchair Vice President of yours is a puppet dangling on strings controlled by mean spirited, resentful, tribalistic leaders of the SLPP behind the scenes? Why then do you have the office of the Chief Minister overriding and nullifying the VP’s decisions secretly behind closed doors. Goodness! These newest bunch of SLPP leaders are as shady as they can possibly be; even their past leaders, dead and gone had some amount of integrity, even though, well, it was smaller than a grain of mustard seed.(lmao)

    Andrew, empty threats are meaningless to me – If the SLPP wants to succeed they must wash their hands clean,and shun tribalism completely. Denying it will only worsen and totally compound the problem…The New Failing Direction must strive as best as they can, to bring about the Change Everyone Can Believe In….Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

  5. The Mosque should not have been used for political reasons or anything related to politics. Mosques are religious places and not political. Please brothers and sisters, try to make things function perfectly. Politicians should refrain from creationg problems in the country.

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