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?

17 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.

  6. This is a big slap on the face of the nation. Our leaders are acting like kids. How can a whole VP divert protocol and he claims to be a leader. We should have grown above this. We should be thinking about how to create employment and how to improve the education system in our country. He should be focusing on what to do for Sierra Leone with his remaining years in governance, not looking for audience with a presidential aspirant. These are the moments that make us feel ashamed to call ourselves Sierra Leoneans.

  7. This incident crowns everything that is wrong with Sierra Leone. Religion and politics should not be mixed. However, many who have nothing to offer see religion as an easy way to power. It is only in Sierra Leone that religious leaders are seen to surrender their pulpit to politicians to address their congregants. The pulpit should be a sacred place meant only for the religious leader to give his summon and address his congregant.

    Unfortunately, the Temne Mosque is not the only culprit in this blasphemous act. The last time it was written a Pastor Mambu allowed president Bio to open his retreat at the Siaka Stevens Stadium. If we want God/Allah to return to Sierra Leone we have to keep politicians out of our religious houses. They can go there to worship as ordinary citizens but not as guest of honour to be granted the pulpit to address the people. All that politicians say to please people is lies and lies. God and Lie do not stay in the same room.

    In the video, the Imam or speaker who says he is talking for the Jammah said that they Okayed Dr. Samura’s visit to the Mosque. On the day in question the speaker further said that the vice president came in quietly. If that is what happened, then there was no need to ask either of the two politicians to address the congregation after the prayers. I did not hear the speaker saying that the VP asked to be given audience. This is something that only came out in this article.

    The VP is a devoted Muslim worshiper and also well read in the Quran, he knows that he would not force himself to speak in Allah’s house. The article concluded by saying that “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.”

    The question is, did the VP asked to address the congregation or it was just some in the congregation including the Imam who are used and have turned Allah’s house into a political rally point, who wanted to have the VP say a word and which definitely did not go down well with Samura Kamara’s supporters? What if Dr. Samura was the President or VP and he goes into the Fullah Mosque or Mende Church to pray unannounced (which could be done for security reasons), would he accept that the congregation misbehaved to him because they do not politically support him? Would he expect his opposite politician to intervene to coil the situation as respect for his office?

    In some social media groups an old picture of the VP that predates his sojourn to the VP is shown coming out of the Temne Mosque after his Friday prayers. So the VP is not new to this mosque but in Sierra Leone politics has not only infected our tribal lineage, it is gradually eating into our religious lineage as well. It is onerous on religious leaders to keep the purity and holiness of their places of worship from becoming political theatre. I am happy to be a Jehovah Witness where we say no to earthly government and fake religion.

    The VP should have departed quietly as he came in since to him Friday Prayer is a religious obligation as a practicing Muslim and a man who is said to be versed in the Quran himself. Dr. Samura if he was there to just praise God even though he is not a Muslim, should have left immediately after the prayers and not use the occasion to give political speech.

  8. Oh AL BASHARIA Management!! You guys have been indulging in this myopic political loyalty and misinterpretation of the religion for far too long. When is this going to stop for ALLAH’S Sake? However, one thing that elites of this noble forum cannot fathomed out is the gigantic truth that lays bare for them all to see and called out, is what I cant comprehend at all. Rather, everyone is busy calling a political shot. Look here guys, the tiny truth here is that officials of the masjid should not have accepted Mr Samura’s request to make a statement in the mosque, period!

    If he chooses to come and pray like any other servant, it is his right to do so, even as a Christian. But on the other hand, for him to be allowed to deliver whatever sermon, which everyone knows is not going to be a muslim sermon to a masjid congregation, especially from a Christian and a political leader, really baffles the few like me. The AL BASHARIA I know, which I was a member of when I was in alone (just dont know if they still have me in their data as a member since I have not been participating actively for a very long time), is a place of worship and should be devoid of political activities.

    For management of the AL BASHARIA to grant an invitation to a Christian who has not converted to ISLAM to make a statement or deliver a sermon for the sake of political campaign rhetoric and not for any Islamic purpose, and above all in a masjid?..That is wrong and should be condemned by all of us here reading this. This should not be an APC or SLPP thing. We already know that everyone belong to a political party, but to take that sense of belonging to the mosque I believe is the wrong thing to do; and management should have made a mark on that one, instead of engaging in political dialogue as usual.

    We should strive to change the long archaic ignorant practices that have engulfed our religious leaders by calling them out for making wrong decisions, and for doing the wrong things. It is not a crime to strengthen the younger ones and the institutions as well. Call a spade a spade. Also,the vice president as a Muslim has the right to go into any masjid in the country to pray. He will be forgiven if he went there purposely to pray. But if he was there for political purposes and to disrupt the peace, that too was wrong.

    Let us say even if the vice president, after realizing that Samura is in attendance, since his aim was only to pray, he should have walked out the sooner he finishes his prayer. He should not have requested to make a statement or deliver any sermon. For him to request to deliver a statement in such a place, would want to make us believe that there is an iota of truth to his hidden motives (making sure that he is noticed as VP of the country, and Send a message to political opponents).

    Look here guys, Masjids are mainly for prayers. Though other religious activities can take place in a masjid, but solely politically motivated ones are not accepted. visiting for AOB should be done after prayer hours and in closed doors! And above all AL BASHARIA should stop indulging in these political games. Islam in particular should be different from national politics. The two should be separated in order not to misinterprete or change the ideology of the former. BASHARIA Management, you guys started all this brouhaha. Please quit this foolishness and nonsense. Keep the MASJID away from politics and put it in order!….Waa Salam!

  9. Saidu Conteh, you always carry the tribalistic baggage around your neck. It will soon choke and strangulated you. Sierra Leone will only see progress if tribalists like you are extinguished. Beware what you propagate! Peace and love will prevail.

  10. The time will come when all Mosques and Churches would face huge taxes that will be levied against these materistic worshippers. It is Treason. We voted for the current SLPP government, but APC has no respect for our choice. Let them face the music. APC is Good for nothing. The rank and file of APC are rogues, dishonest thugs, blood thirsty rebels; ungrateful and secret lynching Killers. Worthless.

  11. It is what it is – it turned out that the mosque wasn’t full of pretentious and dubious worshipers. They heckled him the hell out of there.(lol) Two thumbs way up for those guys! My kind of guys! There is no explicit doctrine or law that separates religion from politics in Sierra Leone, so its alright for Churches and mosques to be used as platform by politicians. Its fine! Even in America where there is a law in their constitution emphasizing separation of Church and State, it still happens.

    So to hell with all the penny pinching ignoramuses that had once disappeared, and have now returned with their silly, poorly conceived opinions.(lol) It is what what it is – in politics there is a thin line between love and hate – don’t you ever try to cross that line. They came looking for trouble in Samura’s neighborhood, and escaped without a scratch. Next time they wouldn’t be so lucky. Word to the wise!

    It is what it is – APC supporters have no love for these little minded, tribalistic people. Do not try to harass, intimidate and push us; we are masters of the game you wish to play. Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

  12. Growing up in Freetown in the 1970s, I was once sitting in the First Class room of the Port Authority ferry headed for Lungi Airport with my parents when all of a sudden president Siaka Stevens entered with a broad smile. We all stood up as he came around shaking our hands. This was not the only time that I saw the president appear in places unannounced. As a christian, it was not unusual for the president to show up at churches on Sundays unannounced.

    The notion that a senior government official who is a Muslim should pre-inform the leaders of a mosque that he is showing up for Friday prayers is ludicrous. In non-political settings, the vice president must be seen and treated as a government official and not as a political party member.

    It follows that by allowing APC thugs in its midst to display their usual uncouthness, lawlessness and proclivity to violence in the presence of the honorable vice president, the famous Bombay Street mosque missed an opportunity to demonstrate its apolitical nature and its adherence to law and order in Sierra Leone. This perennial tendency toward chaos, confusion, turbulence and irresponsibility on the part of the APC is particularly reprehensible when weighed against the fact that it was displayed in support of Dr. Samura Kamara, a man who is under state investigation for embezzlement and grand larceny. Religious environments must not be transformed into places for disloyalty and rudeness toward government officials.

    • Thanks so much, it is very true what you wrote : “Religious environments MUST NOT BE transformed into PLACES FOR DISLOYALTY and rudeness toward government officials.”

  13. You see. Whilst the cat is away, the mice come out to play their pranks. Why can’t the SLPP and APC stop playing CHICKEN GAMES? What happened in one of our mosques is unfortunate and unacceptable. Thank GOD nothing bad happened. GOD BLESS all the FAITHFUL. AMEN AND AMEN.

  14. I have always maintained that the SLPP must put their reckless, insouciant attitudes and arrogance aside, and strive to govern in peace instead. Again they must aspire to unite people and not divide them – tread wisely and cautiously during their time in power. Its crystal clear to me this was a deliberate and calculated attempt by this mischievous SLPP government to use the Vice President as a pawn in the advancement of their shady, devious, little political games.

    Question: Why did the Vice President allow himself to be used by a bunch of Good for Nothing tribalists like a puppet on a string? Again, for what credible reasons did he agree to allow himself to be dangled like a bait in the midsts of a den of hungry lions? Something is seriously wrong with this man. No wonder they have shown very little respect for him thus far. A gentle crowd, that’s what it was. Things could have turned really ugly, and they would’ve had only themselves to blame for it.

    I think the Imam made a big mistake by letting this “Remote Controlled” Vice President that had popped up, out of the blue, without informing mosque officials to speak. They should have welcomed him warmly as a Muslim leader, and extended another invitation to him to return as their guest of honour at a future date to speak. That is the pragmatic and sensible thing to do!

    The audacity of these SLPP people! Who told you that you can come to a man’s neck of the woods,spout off,show off,and walk away unscathed? The man is lucky huh? Yes Indeed, count that as your luckiest day of 2019. (lmao)…Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

    • 1. A Mosque is not for political Rallies but if you listen to what the Imam was saying, you will see clearly that indeed this Mosque is partial.

      2. Dr. Samura Kamara is a Catholic, I do not see how he would me so popular in a Mosque. His last religious appearance was in the Church where he and Pres. Bio are members of the Congregation. But since Bio came to power we have not seen Dr. Kamara in the Church. “Love your neighbour…” Maybe Dr. Judeh Jalloh wanted to know why Dr. Kamara was going to the Mosque when he could have likewise gone to “their Church”.

      3. Dr Judeh Jalloh was the legitimate visitor to that Mosque, but we have seen how the Imam and Congregation are POLITICALLY and TRIBALLY driven.

      Your fallen Sun will not rise soon !

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