Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 July 2019:
With less than a month to go before by-elections are held in Hamilton, in the far west of Freetown constituency 110 in Sierra Leone, both the two main political parties have once again drawn swords.
Yesterday’s by-election campaign rally by the opposition All People’s Congress Party (APC) turned violent, leaving several people injured and properties set alight. The deputy organising secretary of the APC – Karamoh Kabba, has been arrested on suspicion of being involved in the violence.
It is not yet clear what started the violence. There are conflicting accounts from the supporters and leadership of both the ruling SLPP and the opposition APC, blaming each other.
According to the BBC reporter – Umaru Fofanah; “Police have arrested Karamoh Kabba, the deputy organising secretary of the opposition APC party following violent clashes in Hamilton on Monday evening between supporters of his party and the ruling SLPP. It follows the torching of two vehicles parked inside the compound of Josephine Jackson who is the candidate of the ruling SLPP ahead of a crucial parliamentary bye-election on 24 August. Police accuse Kabbah of complicity in the violence.
“But speaking to me before he was taken to the Adonkiya police cell, Kabbah said he was not at the scene during the clashes saying instead that their own party supporters were stoned and injured during what was their party’s turn to hold a political rally in the area. Mrs Jackson said he saw Kabbah and some other opposition bigwigs leading the attack on her house. The police local unit commander CSP Musa Bandabla said the rally had ended when opposition supporters returned to the area.”
Both the APC and SLPP leadership have issued statements denying responsibility and blaming the other for what could be the resumption of a new wave of political violence in Sierra Leone, following general and presidential elections which were held over sixteen months ago.
This is the statement published last night by the APC Secretary General – Osman Yansaneh (Photo):
“The APC would like to bring to the attention of the general public that Monday 29th July 2019 was approved by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) as the day allocated to the APC to launch its campaign and rally in constituency 110 in the Western Area.
“The launching ceremony at the Goderich Community Centre was successfully conducted and the party members went on the campaign trail as is required by NEC. No other political party is allowed to come out to disrupt the process or come out to campaign. The party members rallied in several villages and towns to sensitize their supporters and everything went on peacefully.
“However members of the APC were violently attacked by thugs of the SLPP candidate at Hamilton village. As a result several APC supporters sustained severe injuries from stabbing and stoning from these thugs. Many victims were conveyed to the emergency hospital for treatment. The Deputy Organising Secretary Mr Karamoh Kabba who visited the victims decided to report the matter to the Adonkia Police Station.
“It was while he was making a statement at the police station that somebody said Karamoh Kabba was present at Hamilton where the fighting took place and was immediately arrested. The National Secretary General reported this unfortunate incident to the Deputy Inspector General who said he had not been informed by his junior officers about the incident. He promised to look into the matter and get back to me.
“When the NSG later contacted him again he assured me he will ask the ADONKIA police to take Karamoh kabba’s statement and get him released. The others who are from the SLPP were at liberty to make counter reports or claims. Up to the time of sending this message Karamoh Kabba is still detained at the Adonkia police station.
“The National Secretariat is urging the police to immediately release Karamoh Kabba and pursue those who disrupted the APC rally and unleashed unwarranted violence against peaceful party members and supporters of the APC.
“Singed: Amb Dr Alhaji Osman F Yansaneh, NSG APC”.
The statement by the General Secretary of the ruling SLPP – Napoleon Koroma, was equally evasive. This is what he said:
“In the early hours of this evening, the Sierra Leone People’s Party candidate for the parliamentary bye election in Constituency 110 Madam Josephine Jackson, came under attack by supporters and hoodlums of the APC on the day prescribed for the APC candidate to rally. (Photo: Napoleon Koroma).
“Madam Jackson’s house was pelted with stones and other offensive materials and eventually her vehicle was set ablaze and burnt to ashes by the assailants. Several of her relatives and well-wishers were wounded, an unarmed RSLAF personnel was also injured.
“The SLPP takes a dim view of this incident and unequivocally and in no uncertain terms condemns this barbaric and crude tactic deployed by our opponents who have already sensed defeat in the August polls and want to scuttle it.
“We call on the police to institute a swift investigation of the attack and prosecute whosoever is found culpable. We also demand full protection of our candidate including her house.
“Meanwhile we are admonishing our supporters to remain calm and desist from any retaliatory action. As a law abiding party, we want to respect the security forces and allow them do their work of investigating the ugly incident.
“We want to assure our members in Constituency 110 and any other parts of the country that the party will do everything within its reach to protect them. This attack will not in any way forestall our campaign program. We entreat all to be steadfast and remain law abiding.
“Signed: Umaru Napoleon Koroma, Secretary General”.
The police are yet to issue a statement about the violence, but are believed to be conducting an investigation, which many say will lead to nothing, as is the case with all previous political violence in Sierra Leone.
No one will be held responsible and accountable for yesterday’s violence. But what is certain is that yesterday’s skirmishes signify the beginning of more serious violence at other election campaign rallies, scheduled for the coming weeks and months.
Sierra Leone remains one of the poorest countries in Africa, with over 70% of young people out of work. The economy is facing serious challenges which the Bio-led SLPP government is yet to address, such as rising inflation, the declining value of the Leone, low national productivity, rising government borrowing, continuing over-reliance on mining, and very low export revenue.
Political violence can only worsen the country’s economic crisis and drive away foreign investors.
This is a video showing former president Koroma who is the chairman and leader of the APC, welcoming his party supporters at his home in Goderich before heading for the election campaign rally which later turned violent yesterday: