Sierra Leone Telegraph: 13 July 2020:
Political violence reared its ugly head in Kono, eastern province of Sierra Leone last Saturday, at the funeral ceremony of the late paramount chief Abu Mbawa Kongorba, when groups loyal to the ruling SLPP party clashed with the security staff of the former vice president in the Koroma-led APC government – Sam Sumana, leaving at least two people injured and the vehicle of the former vice president badly damaged.
There are conflicting reports as to what and who started the violence, as both sides make accusations and counteraccusations. The police are yet to issue a statement about what really took place last Saturday, at what should have been a solemn funeral ceremony befitting of a paramount chief.
According to supporters of Sam Sumana, the attack was an “attempted assassination of chief Sam Sumana by some SLPP representatives”.
A message of support from the opposition APC reads: “This is to record my sympathy and solidarity to you for the violence meted out to you and members of your convoy during a visit to Kono to attend the funeral ceremony of your uncle. The APC is following police investigations with keen interest and will come out with a definitive statement when the investigations completed as the party condemns violence from whatever source. Highest regards,- Ambassador Yansaneh, National Secretary General of the APC.”
But SLPP supporters deny the accusation. One such report said: “Expunged VP and APC reject Chief Sam Sumana continues to unleash his inclinations to violence by ordering his thugs to launch attack on SLPP Marshalls after he was denied VIP treatment at the funeral home of PC Abu Mbawa Kongoba in Koidu Town this evening.
“Similarly snubbed in Koinadugu at the funeral of late Momoh Conteh, Chief Sam Sumana drove down to Kono District to scope for relevance at the funeral of the late chief of Mafindor chiefdom. As he was not allowed to participate in the funeral discussions involving senior government officials, the paramount chiefs and family members, the gangster former VP ordered his boys to attack the SLPP marshals at the funeral house which resulted in the stabbing of one SLPP marshal by the notorious Adamu. Police are currently looking for Adamu and his band of thugs.
“In his usual false pretence to convince Former President Ernest Bai Koroma that he is a force in Kono, Chief Sam Sumana is also ready to sacrifice his Kono people to impress APC stalwarts. From all indications, it is evident that what transpired today in Koidu Town today is a demonstration that Vice President Dr Juldeh Jalloh’s politicking in Kono has reduced Sam Sumana to gangsterism in his bid to seek relevance. Majority of Kono residents including opinion leaders are openly criticizing Sam Sumana, calling him a thug with no finance and technical competence to match VP Juldeh Jalloh.”
A statement believed to have been published on social media by the Minister of Local Government, Tamba Lamina who is accused of “defending and justifying his role and that of the other two government ministers Hon. Philip Tondoneh and Hon. Chandaka in the attack on former VP Chief Sam Sumana for allegedly attempting to usurp his role as Local Government Minister and Master of Ceremonies in the burial ceremonies of the Late Paramount Chief Aiah ABU Kongobar of Mafindor Chiefdom, Kono District,” reads:
“The WhatsApp hype and misinformation is just an attempt on the part of light weight politicians to clamour for underserved attention. As Minister of Local Government and Rural Development with the mandate to provide support to and oversight over 190 Chiefdoms, how could a naive politician boxing above his weight be allowed to usurp my constitutional responsibility in the name of furthering his already flagged political capital?
“The issue is simple, Sam Sumana’s attempt to take over my role yesterday, was a clear attempt at embarrassing government. It was disrespectful and shameful to say the least. He only ended up embarrassing himself and such juvenile posturing has to stop. How dear him?
“The ceremony of the late Paramount Chief will continue as planned with the Ministry of Local Government playing a critical role in ensuring that a deserving Paramount Chief is provided a very dignified funeral in accordance with the customs and traditions of the people of Mafindor Chiefdom.”
And as the war of words and accusations continue, between the ruling SLPP and supporters of Sam Sumana, it was reported yesterday that the family of the late paramount chief has apologised to Sam Sumana. This is what the report said:
“The Kongoba family has today paid a courtesy visit to Chief Sam Sumana at his residence to apologise for the unsavoury incident that manifested during the traditional rites ceremony of the Paramount Chief.
“In the process of the visit, the family disassociated themselves from the ugly incident that resulted in damage to Chief Sam Sumana’s car and injury to his close protection detail. Speaking on behalf of the family, Mr. Kelly thanked Chief Sam Sumana for the fatherly role he has and continues to play in the family.
“From the inception of their father’s grave illness to yesterday, they confirmed that Chief Sam Sumana has been instrumental and called on him to continue his good will towards the family.
“As a family, they recognized him as a true family member. He therefore condemned the unfortunate act on Chief Sam Sumana yesterday and emphasized that the Kongoba family will continue to stand by him at all times. He commended Chief Sam Sumana for the peaceful manner he treated the unfortunate saga and emphasized that he has once again manifested that he is a man if peace. He stated that Chief Sam Sumana is the type of politician Sierra Leone needs, given its chequered history.
“Chief Songum Briwa thanked the Kongoba family for the love and respect shown to Chief Sam Sumana and noted that their apology symbolises that they recognize the relevance of the role Chief Sam Sumana had played in the family now and in the past years.
“Another relative present, Tamba Sandi, the C4C Chairman stated that he was impressed with the Kongoba family and called on them to continue the good relationship that is existing between the family and Chief Sam Sumana.
“Responding, the former Vice President, Chief Sam Sumana extended profound gratitude to the Kongoba family for the respect and recognition accorded him. Chief Sam Sumana told the family members that the name Kongoba is a household name in APC, saying the sick Chief has been a member of Parliament and a cabinet Minister in President J S Momoh regime and it was during the APC era that he became Paramount Chief, so if any political party wants to claim the sick body of PC Kongoba it would have been the APC party.
“The Former VP said what the SLPP demonstrated yesterday was cheap politics and expressed happiness at the manner the family handled the issue. He said what happened yesterday has been put under the carpet noting that this is not the time for politics and therefore called on SLPP not use this kind of forum to intimidate people.
“He told the family that his doors are always open to them for any support or assistance as and when required. His response was warmly received by the family as they departed to continue the traditional rites that need to be administered for such an outstanding Paramount Chief.”
Elections in Sierra Leone are not due until 2023. But what last Saturday’s violence in Kono shows is just how fractious and volatile national party politics has become.
You can watch a video here of Aiah Thomas speaking about what he believed took place last Saturday: