Sierra Leone Telegraph: 13 August 2022:
After his ‘forced’ return to Freetown from his holiday in London to speak to the people of Sierra Leone and the international community about the deadly protests which took place on the 10th of August, President Bio has spelt out his government’s plans to return the country to stability and peace.
But many are worried that President Bio’s emotionally charged response rather than a cool, level-headed speech will serve little purpose but risk driving thousands of youths underground to pose more threat and danger to the peace and stability of the nation.
Speaking in a nationwide broadcast yesterday, President Bio said he is going to crackdown hard on those he described as “violent insurrectionists, their collaborators, their sponsors, and their supporters”.
“In the coming weeks and months, Government will undertake necessary security actions meant to guarantee the peace and security of all citizens. While these may cause some unavoidable inconveniences, Government’s actions will guarantee all constitutional rights and freedoms of peaceful citizens. The security forces will, and must, act with great restraint and within their professional codes of service. But be assured that my Government will crack down hard on violent insurrectionists, their collaborators, their sponsors, and their supporters. My Government will relentlessly fight those who would rather use terror and gruesome violence to achieve political goals,” the President said.
But even as investigations into the causes of the violence ensue, human rights groups are worried about the level of extra-judicial acts of violence being perpetuated by the security forces and heavily armed SLPP party operatives, against anyone suspected of insurrection, collaborating with, and or sponsoring the demonstrators.
There are reports of the snatching and disappearance of hundreds of people across the country, believed to have been killed or locked up in secret locations in ruling party strongholds by security forces and heavily armed SLPP party operatives, led by the deputy internal affairs minister – Lahai Lawrence Leema, where their fate is uncertain.
Those arrested are being denied access to legal representation, which is a serious breach of the Geneva Convention on Human Rights. The Geneva Convention “specifically protects all human beings affected by armed conflict, especially those who are not, or no longer, directly engaged in hostilities”.
President Bio has reshuffled the top echelons of the military by sacking senior officers, including the Chief of Defence Staff who the Sierra Leone Telegraph understands, refused to use the full force and might of the army to quell Wednesday’s disturbance, which could have led to massive bloodbath.
President Bio is said to have lost confidence in sections of the military. Those sacked have been replaced by officers from the President’s tribal and political heartland, believed to be loyal to the President. There are allegations about the presence of at least a battalion of crack soldiers from Burkina Faso, who have been in Sierra Leone for the past two years as Special Presidential Guards. Many of these heavily armed soldiers were seen during the protests.
This is what President Bio said in his address to the nation yesterday:
Today, I greet you with a heavy heart. Let us mourn for and pray to God/Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to grant eternal peace to our police officers and other citizens who were violently killed on the 10th of August, 2022.
On that day, the peace, security, and stability of this nation were shattered by persons whose insurrection was pre-meditated, well-planned, financed, and executed with shocking brutality. Before August 10th, they had severally identified themselves on social media as APC Warriors, PPP, and persons who are determined to capture political power even at the cost of hundreds of lives.
For some time now also, some politicians have been raising tensions with divisive language and threats to make this country ungovernable. Their known surrogates and associates have stated that they will continue to illegally use violence to unseat the democratically elected Government. The events of August 10 were a clear statement of their collective intent.
The Constitution and laws of our Republic not only guarantee the right to free speech and peaceful protest, but they also provide applicable restrictions. As in all democracies, the right to peaceful protest should be exercised by identifiable persons, and it should not threaten public safety and peace. The right to protest should not be expressed as a right to violently murder police officers, burn down Police Stations, and disturb the peace of our country. Clearly, this was not a peaceful protest.
The unrest occurred only in parts of Makeni, Binkolo, Magburaka, Kamakwie, Lungi, Western Rural, Eastern Freetown, and towards PZ in Freetown. There were no protests in all other parts of the country including large parts of Freetown.
This was not a protest against the high cost of living occasioned by the ongoing global economic crisis. The chant of the insurrectionists was for a violent overthrow of the democratically-elected Government. The killings and destruction targeted Police officers and public and private property associated with the Government. Theirs was not a protest about measures undertaken by the Government to handle the challenges brought on by the global economic crisis.
Let’s be reminded that since COVID-19 struck, Government has undertaken specific economic mitigation, recovery, and resilience measures that have kept essential food items and fuel on the market, kept businesses running, and maintained public services and regularly paid salaries. In fact, Government has reduced fuel and transportation prices twice in the last month alone. This is in addition to other social safety payments and cash transfers to poor and vulnerable populations and microfinance loans to women and youth.
The Government is expanding skills development and vocational educational opportunities and creating jobs in various sectors of the economy, especially in mining in the northern province, and small-scale manufacturing in other parts of the country. Government has also undertaken large-scale efforts toward food security and kept its free quality school education and healthcare priorities on course.
This insurrection, which was executed by clearly identified partisans using the cover of follow-on crowds including children, was characterised by targeted killings, wanton looting, and destruction of property. It was not a peaceful cost-of-living protest. This was simply an attack on the peace and security, an attack on the rule of law, an attack on democracy.
In addition to their overarching objective, the attacks were meant to violently disrupt the daily and normal activities and lives of ordinary Sierra Leoneans. To the international community, it was meant to present Sierra Leone as a place where law and order has completely broken down.
Government will not sit idly by for such persons to disturb the peace of this nation and derail the gains we are making in this nation. The full force of the law will be brought to bear on all those persons who attacked and killed police officers. They, their sponsors, and their collaborators will not go unpunished. There will also be a full investigation into the deaths of ordinary citizens who lost their lives in this senseless violence incited by these known persons.
In the coming weeks and months, Government will undertake necessary security actions meant to guarantee the peace and security of all citizens. While these may cause some unavoidable inconveniences, Government’s actions will guarantee all constitutional rights and freedoms of peaceful citizens.
The security forces will, and must, act with great restraint and within their professional codes of service. But be assured that my Government will crack down hard on violent insurrectionists, their collaborators, their sponsors, and their supporters. My Government will relentlessly fight those who would rather use terror and gruesome violence to achieve political goals.
As President, I urge every peace-loving Sierra Leonean to be mindful that our national unity, peace, and stability are essential for our survival as a nation. Let us continue to respect all the laws of Sierra Leone and remain law-abiding.
Just over twenty years ago, we turned our backs on using violence to resolve our differences. We have since made great progress to consolidate our democracy. My Government has made every effort to open up spaces for dialogue and peace. Bintumani 3 was meant to bring all parties together to forge a pathway to peace and national cohesion.
Since then, we have established the National Commission for Peace and National Cohesion. We have removed obnoxious seditious libel laws and Sierra Leone has made great improvements in global press freedom rankings. No journalist is in prison for the practice of journalism. There are no political prisoners and Government has abolished the death penalty. There are traditional and community leaders, youth and community groups through which citizens can freely express their views. My Government has maintained an open dialogue with civil society organisations and international partners.
Government also assures the right to peaceful protest as long as groups and their leaderships identify themselves and work within the existing laws of Sierra Leone. Peaceful protesters will be fully protected by law enforcement officials.
My Government has further undertaken progressive reforms to guarantee fundamental constitutional rights and freedoms, create opportunity, and ensure gender empowerment and equality. The dates for democratic elections have been announced over a year in advance and political parties are free to organise peacefully and present policies to citizens of this nation.
Fellow citizens, let me close by expressing deep condolences to bereaved families. We will fully investigate all deaths as a result of this violent insurrection. As a Government, we will honour the Police officers who were murdered with a civic funeral in respect of their service to this nation. Their deaths shall not be in vain and we will bring their killers and those responsible for their deaths to justice.
I thank you and may God bless the Republic of Sierra Leone.
The people of Sierra Leone and our Security forces have once again proved to the world that despite all the challenges, our country will continue to be a STABLE DEMOCRACY. Despite the early episode that occurred when the world was focused on saving lives and livelihoods, our country was still rated as one of the most peaceful country in Africa, and this other episode which occurred while President Bio was on vacation, and majestically walked back home instead of escaping to neighboring Guinea says a lot about the stability of our nation and effective institutions.
This strong and steadfast speech shows consistency in his leadership. The link below shows that he is determined and consistent in protecting the Rule Of Law and Democracy in our beloved https://www.thesierraleonetelegraph.com/president-bio-declares-war-on-violence-and-shuts-door-on-national-reconciliation/
This is an another sophiscated grudges that been developing in the rusty hearts of the APC, since their removal from office in the late blessed 29th of April 1992, this terrorist party “APC” is unfits to rule this county anymore. We removed undemocratic dictatorship appointed by “Siaka Steven” so called government”, not only remov them but, kicked them out of power entirely. Let someone comes out and tells us when and where election was conducted, when J.S. Momoh came to power, that what you call a democracy ?. If at all we are abiding the rules of law; who supposed to become a president if the current leader is no longer effectives to govern?. Where was Sorie Ibrahim Koroma (S.I.) and C.A. Kamara Tailor?, when power was transferring to J.S. Momoh, who voted for him?. Everything subject to be changed, the dictatorship Era is over, and let us warned you, if you think you can stick your “ass” out of the country just to cost chaos and violence, to insult the soldiers, we will kick your ass where ever you are, fool. Yes, we kicked out the dictatorship one party state terrorist out of power.
If anyone thinks you can insult the country, the leaders and the soldiers, bring your ass here and join the demonstrators, and wait for the results. Your life chairman Ernest Bai Koroma instructed the entire APC supporters not to participated in the county’s census counting, thinking that Bio is a fool. APC campaingned to all supporters in all languages, I have the what’sApp tape voice recording of Ms. Diana Konomanyi, speaking in Kono telling people to locked their doors, let no one count them, is that what you call a democracy?. Having a college degree as a scientist “PhD, MSc, Ktd, C 1,2, ” doesn’t mean nothing, without earning wisdom is zero.
Naming all these past great leaders from Colonel Qhazzafi and the others you’ve mentioned here, ruled with an iron fist, tell us something about 1967, when Siaka Steven executed our brave country’s generals” Breg. Lansana and Breg. Bangura”? Bangura’s mother was only having Bangura as the only son, but he was executed anyway. Who does that, Bio or APC?, you guys have no remose for what happened last Wednesday, the whole world watching when the APC recruited the innocent youths to take another innocent lives?. Are you happy for those men and women, law enforcement officers to be mobbed, smashed their heads and brains killed like animals? How would you feel if this happened to your own family members in a broad light day?, this is disgraceful. Inciting violence is the answer really?. Calling Bio a junta gov’t, where were you when he was elected a president 2018?, only someone who’s out of touch can imagine that way. Warning for you, do not ever mess with the army there are many ways to revenge against you. EBK assassinated the late retired Army chief of staff here in cold blooded, think you that the world not aware of that. You said that EBK pardoned Bio, really? why are you lying?. Then you went beyond the boundaries accusing the editor if he wishes not to published your article, that man is working on his professionalism, he will publish it, so that the world will see the nakedness of APC. And I repeat terrorist party will never govern this country anymore. Never to mess with the Armforces of Sierra Leone.
Pheew, this is hot! Speak truth to power! Thank you Mr Bah for your honest and brutal analysis. I salute you sir for your honesty. As Sierra Leoneans, we are always pussyfooting around this subject of who President Bio really is. No one should feel intimidated or afraid to speak out. We should tell it like it is. I have been thinking the same about President Bio, but to see someone coming out and tell it so clearly, I thank you brother.
I agree, one day Bio must face justice for the insurgency and terrorrism that he brought to our country in 1992 and toppled our democratically elected government. Injustice committed in 1992 will always remain injustice in our hearts. many of us and our families are still grieving today for our loved ones whose lives were snuffed out by Maada Bio. Thank you once again brother Bah for your comment. God will bless you. Speak the truth and shame the devil. Thank you Sierra Leone Telegraph for giving us the platform to speak out. Salute!
Lets stop pussyfooting around the issue of what took place last Wednesday. I am a proud citizen of Sierra Leone and I feel disgusted over the killing of those policemen and policewoman and unarmed civilians. But make no mistake, I have no sympathy for Junta Brigadier President Maada Bio.
What he did to our country when he and his drugged-up soldiers marched to Freetown with heavy weaponry and toppled a democratically elected government is unforgivable. Who is Maada Bio to now call any one an insurgent or terrorrist. He and his renegade soldiers waged an insurgency against the State of Sierra Leone in 1992. So, he is an insurgent / terrorrist himself. It takes one to know another. Thats a fact. He is a war criminal, just like Charles Taylor and others and therefore belong in the Hague.
Now, he should understand how it feels when an elected government faces the wrath of people who are fed-up of a corrupt and inept government. Bio has no morals. When he and his soldiers killed 27 people in 1992 in cold-blood, including police officers, soldiers, ordinary women and men, did he not think that the shedding of innocent blood is sinful and morally repugnant? Did he not think that one day he will live to see the same done to him? I pray that Bio will rot in hell. I believe in God’s justice, and one day, Bio will pay for his sins.
APC Ernest Bai Koroma made one big mistake when he pardon Maada Bio. He should have brought Maada Bio to face justice just like Maada Bio himself is now calling for leaders of the APC to face justice for crimes they did not commit last Wednesday, even though we know that Maada is guilty of the 1992 insurgency. Maada Bio is now paying Ernest Bai Koroma’s weakness with dispicable ungratefulness. Ernest Koroma knew that if he had pressed on the international community and UN for Bio to face trial at the Hague, would have risk taking the nation to another war. So he let Bio off the hook. Today Bio is teaching Ernest Bai Koroma and the APC a lesson they will never forget.
Mr Editor, you might refuse to publish my comment but it is the truth and nothing but the truth, so go ahead and delete my comment.
Finally Bio is coming out of his protective eggshell to lecture us about the importance of peace and stability .Some section of our societies have never experienced peace and stability since you were sworned in back in 2018 You have politicize and weaponised the Sierra Leone police .. They are the servants of the people not the SLPP party .The idea that you have Bukinabe special forces patrolling the streets of our country to quell and intimidate a hungry population because of the cost of living crisis affecting the world on it’s scope and reach is not only to satisfy the unelected hot heads within the Bio orbit, but clearly one will say with hand on heart Bio have lost the plot .You haven’t delivered on your promises..The lawrence Laiha Leemas , the Adebayos and many others like them are not the answer to our county’s fundamental problems .The sacking of Sierra Leone Chief of Defence Staff and his deputy and arresting demonstrators will not ease the economic pain and youth unemployment of some of this former child soldiers during our country’s civil war. And replacing them with your tribes men to head the army will only give succour to that charged you are unashamedly trablistic it goes to the heart of the problem that have define your chequered presidency . Which in the face of Sierra leneonan public opinion you are guilty as charge .
There is no defence or migrating circumstances for your actions or lack of . We cannot arrest and grow our economy out of the barrel of a gun .The only way we can grow our economy is through the clam and gentle roar of the engine of a tractor in the rice fields ,not a mounted armoured car full of riot police or foreign para military units It hacks back to the eighties, when President Stevens feeling under threat for you guess it the cost of living riots he asked for help from Ahmed Seku Turay and who duely obliged and sent Guinean para troops .Mission accomplished.!.Burkina Fasso have their own cost of living crises that led to the overthrow of the sitting elected government. Now that country is engaged in a deadly fight with Islamic terrorist that thinks they have the answers to their economic problems .So we will take no lectures about restoring clam and security in our country from Burkinabe military outfit .They should go back and fight in their own county .Whatever money you are paying to them can help few families from Makeni , to Tumbo and PZ or Devil Hole at Blackhall road.
Bio should sack Mr Laiha Leema Lawrence ,because he is the very embodiment of everything that have gone wrong in our country .We used to have a similar nonentity called Sam Bokari alais “Maskita” during the RUF wars .We all know hqw that ended .If the president is serious about changing the political calculus, in our country ,and create a road map of where he wants us to be in the next few months and years , he needs to assess the people he surrounds himself with.Invite the APC party leadership and all other stakeholders witness by our international peace guarantors and work out the way we want our country is govern for all not the few.No one have ultimate power .Power belongs to the people .Colonel Gaddafi , Master Sergeant Samuel Doe, Idi Amin Daddah, Emparo Bokassa , Captain Dadis Kamara , Cqlonel Mengusto Halinarriam , all ruled their country through an iron fist .They didn’t creat the necessary economic conditions and opportunities for their people .We know how they all ended up .We dont want that to happen to Bio and his government.We just want Bio to act like a true leader instead of reaching for his usual default button, is Bio against the world. He sees enemies every where .Bio is scared of his own shadow. Bio you are the president and act like one .And most importantly think and reflect carefully before you.make a public statement .Language matters.And all Sierra leoenans lives matters .APC /SLPP supporters we are all Sierra Leoneans.