Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 August 2022:
President Bio has officially announced the setting up of a Special Investigation Committee to look into the causes of the street protests that erupted in several areas of the country on August 10th, 2022, where more than twenty civilians were killed and six police officers died.
The challenge now, is for the investigators to impartially go through the tons of video evidence, showing heavily armed security officers shooting live bullets at demonstrators, as well as angry youths attacking police officers, if it is to find and bring to justice – the killers of the police officers and civilians.
According to CNN report; “Hundreds of people took to the streets of Sierra Leone on August 10 to protest inflation and the rising cost of living. CNN’s Katie Polglase speaks to a man who says his friend was shot dead by police.
Sadly, there are fears the investigation itself has been prejudiced even before it starts, after the government and many of those appointed to carry out the investigation, had either – during or immediately after the deadly riots, took sides by condemning the demonstration as illegal.
Furthermore, by describing the demonstration as an “insurrection”, and those taking part as “terrorists”, President Bio and his government have seriously tied the hands of the investigators to produce the conclusion of their report before the investigation gets underway.
The committee’s terms of reference published by State House, does not help. It calls for an investigation “to examine both the immediate and underlying causes, sources of finance, execution and consequences of the insurrection as well as the response of the security forces”.
Critics of the government, including opposition political parties have rejected many of the names on the list of investigators appointed by President Bio. They are labelled as pro-government stooges, whose independence and impartiality are highly questionable.
These are the names of the investigators: Chairman – Lawyer Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai; Secretary to the committee – Security Sector Expert – Laurence Bassie; the Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board – Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles who is on record to have criminalised the demonstrators in her public statement; Office of National Security (ONS) Coordinator, Abdulai Caulker – who many have criticised for the ONS’s handling of the demonstration, before and during its occurrence; President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) – Ahmed Nasralla; President of the Sierra Leone Bar Association – Michaela Swallow – who last week condemned the demonstrators as criminals; the Executive Director of Defence for Children International – Abdul Manaff Kemokai; President of the Women’s Forum – Sally Ndimawa Adams, accused of making public statements describing the demonstrators as criminals; President of the Inter-Religious Council – Archbishop Tamba Charles; National Chairman of the Council of Paramount Chiefs – PC Charles Caulker; Chairman of the recently established National Peace Commission – Sheka Mansaray; Chairman of the Political Parties Registration Commission – Abdulai Bangura; Chairman of the Independent Media Commission – Victor Massaquoi; Chairman of the Retired Senior Police Officers’ Association – J F Kanyako; and the Chairman of the Sierra Leone Ex-Servicemen’s Association.
Noticeable by her absence is Marcella Samba-Sesay, the Director of the Campaign for Good Governance, a civil society group, who recently spoke out about the economic hardship people of Sierra Leone are enduring, saying that the ‘government had not clearly articulated to the majority of people why the economic challenges had worsened’.
In an article published by the UK Guardian Newspaper, this is what Marcella Samba-Sesay said: “There is an information gap in the country where the government’s message doesn’t reach many people. They have not effectively communicated to people why things are getting bad and that is making people angrier.”
Commenting on the fact that anger has been rising over the police’s persistent and habitual refusal to grant permission to protest, she said: “But most of the time, when the issues are political, the police will say no, so people who want to come out and protest have not been given the permission to do so.”
“People are really suffering, and feel the government is not responding or allowing them to have a voice,” Semba-Sesay said. “We need people to be able to channel grievances through legitimate means.”