Sierra Leone Telegraph: 08 May 2020:
After weeks of uncertainty as to who is really in charge of the country’s internal security and control of the police force, amid growing social and political unrest across the country, president Bio has sacked his internal affairs minister – Mr Edward Soloku, ahead of a meeting with the international community at State House today.
Yesterday, a statement from State House simply says – “The general public is hereby informed that it has pleased His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio to announce the following appointment, subject to the approval of parliament: Mr Maurice Panda – Noah – Minister of Internal Affairs.”
The statement did not give any reason for the sacking.
But according to government sources speaking to the Sierra Leone Telegraph, there has been major differences of views between minister Soloku and his deputy minister – Lahai Lawrence Leema (Photo), regarding policing strategies and the usurping of the minister’s role and authority by Leema.
Several SLPP supporters had called for the sacking of minister Soloku and for Leema to take over the running of the ministry.
Lahai Lawrence Leema is president Bio’s top confidante on matters of State security. He is highly popular among the young SLPP supporters of president Bio.
Though hated by many – both inside and outside the SLPP party, especially supporters of the main opposition APC, Leema is effectively – at least for now – officially in charge of the ministry of internal affairs, until parliament resumes sitting, after MPs were sent home by the Clerk last week.
Sceptics of the government, say that the decision to close parliament was well timed, so as to enable Leema to officially take over the running of State security after the sacking of minister Suloku.
Similarly, sceptics are saying that the suspension of the courts by the chief justice last month, was done so as to prevent the courts from hearing all matters that are pending, with regards to the arrest and detention of opposition politicians.
But not much is known about the newly appointed minister of internal affairs – Maurice Panda-Noah, except that he is currently the chairman of the Road Safety Authority, where many believe his performance has been lack lustre.
He is said to be a mild-mannered loyal foot-soldier of president Bio, since his early days living and working in the UK, from where he helped championed Maada Bio’s Paopa movement and his 2018 election campaign victory.
A former colleague told the Sierra Leone Telegraph that Maurice Panda – Noah (Photo) has an IT background, and is suspected to be one of the brains behind the SLPP election team, which engineered access to the electoral commission’s election database in 2018 that gave victory to the SLPP.
His appointment as minister of internal affairs comes as president Bio meets with representatives of the intermational community in Sierra Leone today, to discuss the breakdown of law and order in the country and the growing social and political unrests that are paralysing much of the country into fear.
According to a statement issued yesterday by the ministry of foreign affairs, president Bio will be meeting with the diplomatic corps, the UN, EU, IMF, and the World Bank “to furnish the diplomatic community on the securtity situation in the country.”
Sierra Leone needs to quickly dig itself out of the dangerous and destructive cycle of violence, worsening political tension, and rampant abuse of civil liberty and human rights that have engulfed the country.
It is hoped that the international community and president Bio will today work out a road map and clear strategy that will lead to a peaceful resolution of the current political impasse, especially after the recent killing of at least a dozen of prisoners in cold blood at Pademba Road prison by the president’s security forces.
President Bio cannot afford his image to be tarnished once again by allegations of extra-judicial killing as it was in 1992, when 29 people where executed by his soldiers.
He must set up an independent public inquiry to investigate the killing of those prisoners and the causes of the prison disturbance.