Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 January 2018
Alhaji Musa Tarawally was at the offices of the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) yesterday, where he held discussions with the head of the PPRC – Justice Hamilton, and signed the 2018 Elections Code of Conduct.
Three days ago, the PPRC ordered Musa Tarawallie and his CDP party to remove all posters and billboards from public spaces, which bears Islamic connotation, as they contravene the laws governing the conduct of elections in the country.
Musa Tarawallie, who many in Sierra Leone say was a member of the deadly rebel Kamajor movement, is in defiance.
He says he does not see anything wrong in his use of the wolds ‘Allah is One’ in his election campaign posters.
There are videos showing Musa Tarawallie at local campaign rallies, where the chanting of Islamic verses by his followers was evident.
But Musa says he is doing nothing wrong, though critics say that he is abusing the Islamic religion for personal political advantage.
The PPRC has been subjected to heavy criticism for its wording of the public statement it issued to Musa Tarawallie, ordering his party to remove his Islamist posters and billboards.
The PPRC is being criticised for its use of the word ‘terrorism’ in its statement, which many have construed to mean an association with Islam.
The PPRC in its meeting with Musa Tarawallie and after, made a public apology for any misunderstanding its order issued to Tarawallie may have caused, as there was no intent to associate Islam with terrorism in its statement.
The PPRC said yesterday that it “wishes to refer to its Press Release of 8th January, 2018 in which it ordered the Leadership of the Citizens Democratic Party (CDP) to bring down all its posters and billboards.
“The Commission regrets that the message was completely misconstrued by some members of the Islamic faith. The PPRC wishes to assure them that the meaning construed purportedly linking Islam to terrorism was not intended.
“The Commission wishes to unequivocally state that it regard all religions including Islam as sacred and will never do anything to slight the image and integrity of any religion.
“However, the Commission wishes to state that in the performance of its mandate, it should ensure that all registered political parties comply with the provisions of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, the Political Parties Act of 2002 and the Terms and Conditions of their registration.
“Section 35 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No. 6 of particularly Sub-section 5 prohibit any Political Party to operate, function or use any name, symbol, colour or motto that has exclusive or significant connotation to members of any particular tribal or ethnic group or religious faith.”
But the PPRC is also resolute, that Musa Tarawallie must comply with its order for his party to remove all posters and billboards with Islamist connotation from all public space.
“It is therefore in this regard and pursuant to Section 6 (2) (a) of the Political Parties Act of 2002 that the Commission wishes to ensure that the CDP take the necessary action to comply with the terms and conditions of their registration.”
The President of the country’s Inter-Religious Council – Sheik Abu Bakarr Conteh is supporting the action of the PPRC, ordering the CDP to remove all posters and billboards with the slogan “Allah is one” from public spaces.
In an exclusive interview with Radio Democracy 98.1, Sheik Conteh pointed out that: “People must not use the name of Allah to gain cheap popularity in politics”.
Furthering that, “the name of Allah is not cheap and people must not use it to trigger division in the country. Religion is religion and politics is politics,” Sheik Conteh said.
Alhaji Musa Tarawally spoke to the BBC Focus on Africa yesterday, shortly after telling the PPRC that he will not be removing his Billboards as he does not consider the phrase ‘Allah is one’ to be in breach of the PPRC Code of Conduct.
He told the BBC that his message as a presidential candidate to the people of Sierra Leone is that the country must turn to God, if it is to get out of poverty and underdevelopment. He said Sierra Leone can only become prosperous when people put God first. People must stop following secret societies and masquerades, Musa told the BBC.
Earlier at his meeting with the PPRC, Musa is believed to have told the Chairman of the PPRC: “The politics of this country has been embedded in shrines, masquerades and secret societies. This is how politicians have been using secret societies to fool our people, using the shrines during elections and then dump them and keep them poor. My leadership is faith based. I have never joined any secret society in my life. I am not a member of any secret society. I only believe in God and I live by the principle that Allah (God) is one. We all serve the one God. My mission in politics is to put God first, as it is with everything that I do in my life”.
But many in Sierra Leone are not convinced. They believe that Musa Tarawallie is a fraudulent and crooked politician, who is abusing Islam for electoral advantage. He is being warned to leave Islam out of politics for the good of the country.