Sierra Leone Telegraph: 31 May 2019:
A peaceful protest and demonstration organised by Sierra Leone’s main opposition APC party has today turned ugly, as violence erupted outside the party’s office in Freetown, where crowds of supporters had gathered in their red party colours to protest against what the party describes as unfair treatment from the government as well as abuse of power – allegations the government denies.
Two days ago, the opposition APC called on its members and supporters to come out to the streets dressed in red, marking two days of protest. “Tomorrow Thursday 30th and Friday 31st May respectively, has been declared A RED DAY BY OUR PARTY leadership. All comrades are kindly requested to put on our dynamic APC party’s traditional RED AND WHITE on Thursday and Friday as a form of solidarity to our APC party and our beloved mama Salone”. This is what the official announcement said:
But in response, the deputy internal affairs minister – Lahai Lawrence Leema, issued a stern warning against the planned APC protest, saying that those organising the protest will bear the greatest responsibility should the peace and harmony of the public be breached.
“It is hoped that the APC leadership keeps the conduct of their membership in shape. If anyone of their member relies on the vague and fictious claims the APC leadership is making to justify any form of lawless behaviour and venture into perfecting any lawless conduct in any part of this country, the law shall bite with the seriousness it deserves.
“The APC must take notice that this government is busy fixing up the mess they left behind and rebranding the battered image of the country we inherited from them. Hence, the APC leadership is unequivocally admonished to desist from any form of subversive threat or act. As any such act amounts to disturbing the president’s peace. Let it be noted that such act will be addressed with the seriousness it deserves. You are warned,” warned Lahai Lawrence Leema – Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs
The capital Freetown was calm yesterday Thursday, with just a handful of supporters out in the streets dressed in red, including the former president Ernest Bai Koroma.
But today, serious violence erupted in what has been described as “another showdown at the OK Corral”, as riot police arrived at the APC party office in Brookfields this lunchtime to quell what they said was fast becoming a public disturbance, with stones and other missiles being thrown at the police, to which they responded with volleys of teargas.
Several APC supporters were arrested, including the APC party publicity secretary – Cornelius Deveaux, who managed to escape.
There are no reports so far of serious injuries or fatalities, as the police continue to restore calm. But the situation remains tense and very fluid.
Today’s protest by the APC has been timed to coincide with this morning’s High Court seating, where petitions against 12 members of parliament of the APC party, who won seats at the March 2018 general elections, were decided by Judges. And when the decisions came, they were met with angry protest by senior APC executives and supporters demonstrating at the party office.
Reporting on the scene at the High Court today, BBC’s Umaru Fofanah said: “Dramatic and unprecedented rulings by two High Court judges in Sierra Leone today have disqualified 10 opposition APC party parliamentarians. Nine of their seats have automatically gone to the ruling SLPP party with one to be rerun. It followed petitions by the ruling party against 16 of them on allegations of rigging, violence and receiving salaries from the consolidated revenue fund less than a year to the March 2018 elections. (Photo above: APC strongman – Publicity Secretary Conelius Deveaux, among those arrested for riotous behaviour but managed to escape).
“A lawyer defending the disqualified MPs, Africanus Sesay told me that they would appeal the decisions of the judges as well as go to the Supreme Court to argue that the courts lacked the jurisdiction to rule because the four-month period within which to do so had elapsed. Lawyer for the ruling party, Musa Mewa says the rulings are “partially satisfactory”.
“On the matter of the four-month period having elapsed, he said that was a non-issue because lawyers for the opposition had raised preliminary objections which had dragged the case. With today’s ruling, and as things stand, the SLPP have 58 seats, the APC 57 with two by-elections due to the rerun ordered today and a deceased MP. NGC party have four seats, and C4C have 8. There are also 14 traditional leaders representing the 14 geographical districts. Meanwhile the APC say that 33 petitions they filed against the SLPP have still not been listed for hearing.”
Results of key political battle grounds read out at today’s petition hearing, are quite shattering for the opposition APC – losing its majority in parliament, as the ruling SLPP now takes over the following seats:
Ahmed Joseph Kanu – Constituency 108; Rev Horace Vicent – Constutuency 111; Emmanuel Sahr Gbekie – Constituency 116; Tennyson Hindolo Sandy – Constituency 120; Abdul Muniru Lansana – Constiutuency 121; Alieu Ibrahim Kamara Constutuence 122; John T Koroma – Constituency 127; Benjamin Turay – Constutuency 128; Abdulai S Morray Conteh – Constutuency 130.
Live report received from AYV TV in the last few minutes, says that parliament is now swearing-in the following Members of Parliament who today won petition cases in the High Court:
Abdul S. Murray-Conteh SLPP will replace Osman Timbo APC in Constituency 130; Abdul M. Lansana SLPP will replace Ahmed Mansaray APC in Constituency 121; Alieu I. Kamara SLPP will replace Mohamed S. Karim-Carew APC in Constituency 122; Benjamin Turay SLPP will replace Abu Bakarr F. Sillah APC in Constituency 128; John Telso Koroma SLPP will replace Sirajin M.R. Kamara APC in Constituency 127.
After today’s swearing in ceremony of new MPs, SLPP will now have 58 Seats (Majority), APC 57 Seats (Minority), NGC 4 Seats, C4C 8 Seats and PCMPs 14 Seats respectively, says AYV.
It is also understood that those found guilty today of electoral fraud, having failed to resign their public service jobs before registering to contest the 2018 elections as required by law, have been ordered to repay all the salaries received back to the state.
These are some of the scences witnessed today: