Sierra Leone Telegraph: 01 May 2023:
Faced with defections to the ruling SLPP and disqualification from the forthcoming elections by a High Court injunction, opposition Coalition for Change (C4C) Party is fighting to stay alive, with just over a month before presidential and general elections are held.
And so too is the political future of the former C4C party leader – Alhaji Sam Sumana uncertain, following the decision of the All People’s Congress Party (APC) to banish him from the party in 2015, when he was controversially removed as Vice President of Sierra Leone.
Sam Sumana whose C4C party that he founded won eight parliamentary seats at the 2018 elections, has been struggling to find his political voice since executives of the C4C party announced he was no longer their leader.
But today there are rumours Sam Sumana may be joining President Bio’s ruling SLPP, following the defection last week of three C4C members of parliament including their parliament leader – Saa Emerson Lamina to the SLPP; and leader of the NGC – Dr Kandeh Yumkella’s signing of an alliance agreement with the SLPP. (Photo).
If Sam Sumana joins SLPP, this is certain to give President Bio landslide victory at the polls on June 24th, with the majority of Kono district and Kambia district voting SLPP.
Although Freetown and the North of the country will largely vote APC, under the Proportional Representation (District Block) electoral system and the manner in which the country’s district boundaries have been redrawn and new ones created, the ruling SLPP is expected to win the largest number of seats across the country on June 24th.
In the meantime, the executives of C4C are calling on the international community to prevail on the ruling SLPP and the judiciary to end their strangulation of C4C, following a High Court injunction that could prevent the party from contesting the June 24th elections.
Photo: Members of Parliament of the Coalition for Change in Kono – Hon. Musa Fofanah (Const. 023), Hon. Rebecca Yei Sam (Const. 029) and Hon. Saa Emerson Lamina (030) – formally join the Sierra Leone People’s Party and declare support for the re-election of President Bio).
Writing in a public statement published last week, this is what the Interim Leader of C4C – Alieu Iscandari said, accusing the ruling SLPP of using the country’s Judiciary to destroy C4C:
“In a shocking display of the government’s disregard for the rule of law, the judiciary has been used to prevent C4C, a political party in the country, from participating in the forthcoming national elections. This is an alarming development that reinforces fears that democracy is under attack by those in power.
“C4C has been outspoken in its criticism of government policies and has demanded an end to corruption and impunity. This blatant misuse of the judicial system has only served to further erode faith in democratic institutions while silencing dissent and criminalizing differences of opinion. It is a disturbing reminder of how those in power can exploit their positions to stifle opposition.
“The opposition is a critical part of a functioning democracy, and it is essential that their voice is heard. The government’s actions are a clear violation of the right of the people to engage in the political process without fear of retribution. It is an affront to the basic principles of freedom of speech and expression, which are guaranteed by the Constitution through section 26.
“The government must be held accountable for its actions. Citizens and the international community must unite in condemning this attack on democracy and demand that the government take immediate steps to reverse its unjustified and illegal actions. Only then can democracy in the country be preserved.
“The government’s recent actions towards the C4C political party must be condemned for their clandestine nature and potential for abuse of judicial power. The C4C, which began as a protest movement with a simple mission to create a more equal and democratic society, has seen its goals undermined and questioned through the unconstitutional use of the courts by the Executive.
“Recent events have demonstrated that the government has resorted to abusing its influence on the judicial system to silence its opponents in a way which could not be achieved through the standard channels of political debate.
“The C4C’s legal case was marked by several inconsistencies, including a lack of due process and evidence. Furthermore, the refusal to provide the party with a fair hearing and it basic legal rights, suggests that the intent was to see the C4C collapse.
“These actions are further proof of its disregard for democracy and its commitment to using the judicial system as a tool for political gain. The outcome of the injunction by Justice Simeone Allieu slammed on the party is emblematic of the government’s refusal to accept any criticism of its policies and its willingness to resort to undemocratic tactics to silence its opponents.
“The international community must now act quickly to condemn the government’s attempts to silence its opposition and to ensure that the C4C’s rights are respected and protected. This is a fundamental step in the fight for democracy, and it must be taken seriously if we are to ensure that justice prevails, and the rule of law is respected.
“The government’s recent actions against the C4C political party through the judiciary and its former Leader in Parliament Hon Emerson Lamina, who acted as a double agent within the party to destabilise by aiding and financially supporting his proxies to sign an affidavit for the injunction slammed on the eve of our National Delegate Conference, have been both unconstitutional and unprecedented. The government’s overreaching has led to a massive crackdown on the C4C party and its members, which has put a tremendous amount of pressure on them to conform to government’s ideological view – even though they have done nothing wrong.
“The government’s behaviour shows a disregard for the law and diverts attention away from more pressing issues within the country while focusing solely on persecuting an opposition political party. This contravenes our nation’s constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech, assembly and expression – all of which are integral pillars of a healthy democracy.
“Furthermore, the lack of any legal basis for the injunction granted by Justice Allieu and any failure to have regard to the significant effect of such draconian action, particularly without any undertaking for damages on the part of the Plaintiffs has only heightened the sense of injustice that many feel.
“The government’s actions also undermine notions of fairness and due process:
- Denial of the right to hold the Party’s National delegate conference.
- Denial of fundamental rights and freedoms: C4C’s freedom to express themselves politically is being threatened with restrictions that are far from necessary or proportional to any perceived threat posed by their activities.
- Abuse of power: The government is using its authority to suppress legitimate political opposition by targeting members and associates without proper cause or any legal justification for doing so.
“The judiciary’s actions against the C4C political party have, in turn, infringed on the rights of supporters of the party. The civil and political rights of C4C supporters are now being denied as a result of the government’s clampdown, including an injunction against TINOEC that has resulted in a significant curtailment of their right to participate in politics and forthcoming general elections slated for June 2023.
“It is essential that civil and political rights be ensured not only for C4C supporters but for all citizens of the nation if we are to protect our democracy.
“The international community has been vocal in condemning the government’s illegal activities against political parties. Several international organisations and leaders have spoken out, including the European Union (EU), the United Nations Human Rights Council, Amnesty International, and the United States Department, among others. They have called for free and fair elections and for the government to address its human rights concerns.
“The international community is united in its demand that the government respects its citizens’ right to freedom of expression, assembly, and speech and demonstrate greater transparency in its actions against C4C. It is essential that these demands be met to ensure CREDIBLE, free, fair, and inclusive elections.
“The government’s attempt to clamp down on the rising influence of C4C through the judiciary serves to undermine democracy and the rule of law. It sets a dangerous precedent that further entrenches a culture of impunity and abuse of power. It is a worrying development that requires urgent attention.
“It is essential that the government and all other actors involved take the necessary steps to ensure the protection of civil and political rights, and that the people of Sierra Leone can express themselves freely and safely. International support is essential in this endeavour, and a concerted effort must be made to ensure that the government is held accountable for its actions and that C4C and all other citizens are respected and afforded the same rights and freedoms. Only then can the people of Sierra Leone be assured of a free and fair democratic process.
“Finally, C4C leadership must remain proactive by continuing their efforts to educate their supporters about democratic principles, enhancing public engagement in efforts towards reform, and furthering their mission in concrete ways despite any attempts by the government to hamper their progress. We urge our supporters, well-wisher and members of C4C political at home and abroad to remain steadfast and as we continue our fight for justice and a better Sierra Leone. Long live C4C! Long Live Democracy! and God bless the people of Sierra Leone.”
With just over a month before elections, there are rumours Sierra Leone may be heading once again to a de facto One Party State, as several leaders of opposition parties are lured by the ruling SLPP to join its ranks in return for jobs and cash.