Reign of terror in Sierra Leone’s Bendugu bye-election: Worrying development for the country’s 2023 elections

Alpha Kabia: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 June 2022:

There are disturbing reports of a reign of terror being unleashed in Sambaia Chiefdom, Constituency 056, Bendugu town North-east Sierra Leone. The terror comes ahead of the parliamentary bye-election in that constituency slated for 24 June 2022, with scores of supporters of the All Peoples Congress party (APC) wounded with machetes, houses vandalized, burnt down and ransacked, motor bikes set ablaze, businesses looted, and many supporters chased out.

One of the houses burnt down belongs to Mr Ibrahim Saccoh, on Saccohia Street. Saccoh is an APC supporter who also offered his land to Jalloh to build a fuel station in Sambaia Bendugu town, something the newly crowned Paramount Chief was opposed to.

On top of that, Rtd Lt Col. Joseph Sheku Jallah, the campaign manager for the APC candidate and nine others were arrested Wednesday June 8 and detained at the district headquarter of Magburaka. The detainees were later moved last Thursday to Makeni, the regional headquarter, before they were finally whisked to Freetown on Friday June 10 2022.

Eyewitness accounts blame the violence on police complicity and bias in favour of the ruling SLPP party. The bloodletting and vandalism unleashed in Sambaia Bendugu is not isolated; rather it is part of what many observers describe as the ruling party’s grand plan to have its way with the 2023 multi-tier elections through violence and intimidation.

In Constituency 110, in the Western Area, Constituency 046 in Koinadugu and several places where bye-elections have taken place, Sierra Leoneans and the international community have been exposed to what appears as rehearsal of what 2023 could become – violence and bloodletting.

The Sambaia violence started when on Monday, March 14, 2022, the Electoral Commission Sierra Leone (ECSL) announced the date for a bye-election in Constituency 056. It follows the resignation of the then Member of Parliament Musa Bamba Foray Jalloh. Jalloh held the seat under the ticket of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) following his surprising victory in the 2018 elections. His narrow victory was a surprise because the North-west region is widely regarded as the stronghold of the then ruling All Peoples Congress (APC); therefore, an SLPP victory there was completely unexpected even to the SLPP.

Constituency 056 is one of only two seats the SLPP has in this region, the other being constituency 039, Falaba district. Therefore, when Jalloh expressed interest to contest for Paramount Chieftaincy (PC), reports indicate that the SLPP were apprehensive of a bye-election in an area a victory for them is not entirely assured, despite the fact that they are in power. But reports indicate that Jalloh assured his party that once they facilitate his election as PC, he would do everything for the SLPP to retain the seat. What that meant could be the violence that is unfolding now at Constituency 056.

Since the announcement of the date for this bye-election, two of the APC ‘Campaign Days’ as prescribed by the ECSL campaign calendar have now been violently disrupted. The first was on April 16, when several APC supporters were attacked and wounded, and a couple of houses burnt down.

Among the victims of the April 16 violence, were Saio Sesay whose house was burnt down; Senise Mansary, former APC parliamentary aspirant for Constituency 056 who threw his weight to the current APC candidate. Mr Bockarie Sheriff was also injured during the April fiasco.

On June 7, another campaign day for the APC, the violent disruption of the APC campaign was replayed all over again. On Friday June 10, hundreds of residents were forced out of the town, many of whom are reportedly hiding in nearby bushes. Mohamed Fofanah, a brother of the Rtd Col. Sheku Jalloh explaining the circumstances leading to the arrest of Jalloh and the nine others, denied the allegation that the police found a gun at the resident of the campaign manager.

“They had conducted a search in his presence and found nothing of police interest. Satisfied, they even signed an undertaking to that effect. So, it is completely shocking that in his absence, another set of police officers with known SLPP operatives went back and then claimed to have found a hunting gun. It just doesn’t make sense,” Fofanah said.

Adama Thoranka, a native of Sambaia Bendugu and sister to one of the people hacked with machetes said she was worried about the ongoing violence in her community which she said is being perpetuated by the newly crowned PC, commonly known as Musa Bendugu. Eyewitnesses are also united on the point that all of this is happening with the complicity of the police.

Appealing the unconditional release of her nephew, 71 years old Mrs Chernor Sheriff said that the retired military officer was harmless, peaceful, and very helpful to the community. The aunt and all other distraught family members who witnessed the whisking away of their loved ones from the Mena Police station in Makeni to Freetown, said Jalloh is the breadwinner for several families. They said they are worried about his health and welfare while in the hands of the police.

“We want the people of Constituency 056 and Sambaia Chiefdom to know that the Campaign Manager Rtd Lt. Col JS Jalloh has been arrested together with other strong and consistent supporters of the APC Party,” said Alusine Jalloh, another member of the Jalloh Clan in Bendugu.

According to Jalloh, this is a clan feud which has been transposed into an already volatile political space. It follows therefore that Lt Col. Jalloh and P.C Jalloh are blood related, belonging to the same clan but different ruling families.

The retired military officer was a candidate in the just concluded PC election which many believed he would have won if it were not for the manipulation in favour the current P.C. The rivalry between the two worsened when a greater part of the Jalloh Clan openly declared their support for the APC.

The PC is reportedly upset because such a declaration of a large and influential family portends a clear danger to his aspiration to retain the parliamentary seat for the SLPP. Hence the disruption of APC campaign through a reign of terror to intimidate APC voters away on polling day.

 

6 Comments

  1. Thanks Mr Rogers for your question. That’s an interesting question no one seemed to have an answer to .The biggest known unknown that has been stalking our country since independence .Our country has become so polarised on tribal and political lines even your fellow Sierra leoenans that lives and breath the same air like you are me are in the eyes of many of their fellow countrymen and women doesn’t qualified them the right to be seen as a fellow human being but someone to be ostracised and put in their place just for committing the sin of supporting one political party against the other. To me that is biggest stumbling block we need to get rid off from the mindset of Sierra Leonean society..Whether he is APC , SLPP, or a member of the Sierra Leone police Force counts for very little .First of all we have to see him as a human being just like in the Bilble that says we are made in the image of God and we are all Gods children.Then beyond that he is your fellow Sierra Leonean and should be seen as such . And most importantly treated with dignity and respect regardless of which party he is affiliated with .SLPP /APC doesn’t matter .Everyone is entitled to their opinions as long as your speeches and statements don’t undermine the security of the state of Sierra Leone .Expressing one’s opinion or which party you support doesn’t give anyone the right to play God’s hands over your life and liberty .So supporting a political party, does that qualify him to be beaten up or in some African countries have a burning tyre placed overthem to suffer a slow agonising death .Politices is a nasty game but it shouldn’t be about life or death .Thats why Africa as a whole is still suffering from under development.Because we the ordinary citizens are not allowed to express our feelings peacefully and chart.a way forward for our countries.

  2. The wounded man in the picture above is wearing OSD and APC shirt. Is he a policeman or APC supporters?

  3. Indeed it’s shameful this kind of images to be broadcasted about my beloved country, for the whole world to see and as like a cinema theater, that’s sad. But at the same time for some of our people to chosen violence in order to gain some recognition, that also not real folks. If I look at some of these victims, I don’t believe if any relatives of the politicians are involve in this violence, name one single person amongst the victims, that you can name as one of the family member of any politician in the country. They advised them to stay away instead because, they don’t want them to get hurt by anyone. I can see people bleeding on the street, heads being chopped with a sharp object, my question is; why would you allowed to hurt your soul badly for a politician? don’t you believe that, you would be accountable for that folks?
    Elections taking places worldwide, USA, Europe and so on, but this kind of violence I’m witnessing in my country is unheard off, because of what?. Here is my piece of advises to the voters comes 2023, if you think that any of the major party has violence and blood in it’s hand, do not vote for that party, please the 70s are gone and it will never be back period. Some of our colleagues contributors in this platform, thinking about only how to win the election they don’t care about you at all. Some days ago I saw a white man leading Sierra Leoneans demonstrators, saying all none sense, how would you allowed this kind of person talking trash about your gov’t? the white colors would never allow you to interfere in their political system, try it in North Korea or China. We have to sit down and search our souls.

  4. “Without doubt, the most common weakness of all human beings is the habit of leaving their minds open to the negative influence of other people”. For God sake what is wrong for people to exercise their franchises in a well peaceful atmosphere? Why should people result to violence when all that we seek for in life is vanity? All is vanity I say unto you.

    When this news break out, I felt very sad for my country’s reputation and think of what the future hold for our country when other nations seek to advance in development. In whatever perspective we position our mind on this issue, it still remains unattended. The struggle for power and wealth from family to the public sector has also been fierce and sometimes brutal for some people. All is vanity!!!

    If one family chooses to rule over a particular set of people in a particular locality, I believe that the merits goes for that ruling family. It doesn’t matter from what angle or party that winning candidate get his/her ticket to win. It is evident in Sierra Leone that some family members have enjoyed such amenities for years when it comes to party politics. Think of the Fadika family in Freetown West, the Kaikai Family in Pujehun, the Yumkela Family of Kambia, the Tunis family of pujehun, the list goes on and on and now we have heard of the Jalloh family emerging. Perhaps what the Jalloh family has failed to learn from the conduct of the other families I have listed, is the manner in which they have conducted themselves all these years. The family members I have listed above have always got representatives in the ruling and opposing parties. And each time an election is held, they win. It is like having a coin whose two sides are plated with a star. So each time you clinch the coin, the end result will be a star.

  5. The chickens are coming home to roost .No one should be surprise at the election violence unleashed to unsuspecting residence of Sambaia Chiefdom constituency 056 , Bendegu Magburaka District.Bio the octopus is once again putting his handiwork on full display to warn any would be political opponents what is in store for them if they tried to upset the political blancing act he is trying to achieve. The president is walking a tight rope and he will not entertain any distractors. When they history repeats itself , few people can argue with that.Bennito Mossulini’s fascist Italian black shirt paramilitary force and Hitlers stormtroopers in the 20s and 3os respectively , were violently deployed to put the fear of God to their political opponents. And it always works .And their violent behaviours mirrors what is exactly taking place in today’s Sierra leone under the watchful eye of Bio .

    Arguably, Bio’s Sierra leone police force that have ditched all pretense of being a national police force, in the service of the people of Sierra leone is now on active duty like a paramilitary force for the SLPP party. Anyone who pretends otherwise is either being economical with the truth or is suffering from amnesia.What a state of affairs , the people that are paid to uphold the laws and tasked constitutionally to enforce them are now in the camp of law breakers .This is dangerous for our country and national cohesion and doesn’t bode well for the 2023 presidential elections. In four years of divide and rule, deployed meticulously by Bio and his Poapa supporters the drivers of electoral violence are fully in the driving seat, destination unknown .All the seeds and ingredients of the risk of election violence have been watered and nurtured by Bio and his special members of the Repubilc of Sierra Leone police force .The arrest of Rt.Lt Col.Jalloh and the allegations of gun running is nothing new .Is part of Bio’s play book to accused former members of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces of gun running .We recalled the accusations made against Rt .Major Paulo Alfred Conteh of smuggling a hand held gun to State House on the invitation of Bio at the start of the covid19 pandemic in 2020.

    Since then whether it is accident or design, few people have endured the same hair brush treatment from Bio .Dr Bylden , Dr Bright ,Dr Femi Cole , Dr Samura and more recently Mr Kemoh Sesay .One thing they all have in common, they were never accused of gun running or in possession of a deadly weapon .Because that is stretching the lies to a breaking point. They are civilians. The only weapon they have is their brains .The red flags are all over us .Pratonage politics and the risk of political violence is always bubbling under the surface especially when communities feel the perception of state bias against them and their interest have been ignored by those that claimed to represent them and impartiality have all but been kick to the long grass .

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