Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 February 2018
Will the people of Sierra Leone experience violent free elections on 7th of March 2018? This question must be asked tonight, after last night’s orgy of violence that was unleashed in the norther town of Kamalo – the hotly contested hometown of the ruling APC party candidate – Dr Samura Kamara.
Several people – largely made up of supporters of the opposition SLPP are reported to have been injured, with their party leader believed to have fled for his life, after his vehicle was set upon by APC supporters in Kamalo.
But of course, as is usual in these violent confrontations, the truth is usually the first casualty. Both sides have today blamed each other for the violence.
European Union election observers have been deployed in Sierra Leone to observe and report on the elections, but cannot be expected to be everywhere in the run-up to polling day.
Both SLPP and APC have today published their respective statements on the causes of the violence and who is to blame. The police are conducting their investigations, and there are calls for impartiality in their endeavors.
This is what the opposition SLPP are saying tonight, in a statement tilled – Assassination attempt on Brigadier (rtd) Julius Maada Bio:
“The Sierra Leone People’s Party wishes to express grave concern over the assassination attempt on its Presidential Candidate, Brigadier (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio on Tuesday 20th February 2018 in Kamalo, hometown of the APC Presidential Candidate, Dr Samura Kamara. Bio was in Kamalo to address huge crowd of SLPP supporters as Tuesday was the designated campaign day for the SLPP in Karene District.
“In a well-organised assassination attempt, APC thugs targeted the vehicle of Brigadier (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio with stones and other dangerous missiles leading to the smashing of the door mirror where the Presidential Candidate sat and causing several dents on the vehicle. Brigadier (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio narrowly escaped through another vehicle but several injuries were inflicted on Party members and vehicles damaged.
“We view this assassination attempt on Brigadier (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio not as an isolated incident rather it is part of a systematic plan by the APC to create chaos in the coming elections, undermine the peace of the country and intimidate SLPP members and supporters ahead of polling day.
“Similar incident of well-organised attack on SLPP members and supporters also took place in Tokeh on Sunday, 18th February 2018. The Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr. Ibrahim Washinghai Mansaray took APC thugs to Tokeh before the arrival of the SLPP Presidential Candidate, Julius Maada Bio and many supporters were brutalised and arrested. In many areas especially in the North, there is also now a pattern by supporters of the APC to destroy posters and banners of the SLPP Presidential Candidate.
“It is also regrettable that the narration of the Local Unit Commander during a radio interview on the political violence in Kamalo was not only bias but most importantly factually inaccurate. The allegation by the Police Officer that gun shots were fired by security personnel of Brigadier (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio is a clear evidence that the police officer was feeding on APC rumour and smear campaign. By repeating such an APC rumour, the Police Officer has undermined the integrity of the police investigation.
“The assassination attempt is a worrying development few weeks before elections day. Therefore, we are calling on our development partners and moral guarantors to ensure that the APC commits itself to peaceful and non-violent elections. The SLPP wishes to reiterate its commitment to peaceful elections but also maintains that we will resist any form of political violence against our members and supporters.
“Finally, the SLPP calls on the APC Presidential Candidate, Dr Samura Kamara to unequivocally condemn the assassination attempt on Brigadier (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio in Kamalo and urges Dr Samura Kamara to publicly disassociates himself from such a dastardly act. Such an attack in the hometown of Dr Samura Kamara against Brigadier (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio represents the worst of political intolerance at a time when the APC Presidential Candidate had campaigned in the home district of the SLPP Presidential Candidate without any incident of attack.” (End).
But in response to accusations of inciting and perpetrating political violence and attempting tpo assassinate the SLPP leader – Julius Maada Bio, this is what the ruling APC National Secretary General – Alhaji Osman F Yansaneh, said in a published statement:
“The APC strongly condemns the violence and unruly behavior of members of the Sierra Leone People’s Party in the birth place of the APC Presidential Candidate, Dr Samura Kamara.
“On Tuesday 20th February the convoy of Retired Brigadier Maada Bio passed through Kamalo. They had been moving from Kamakwie raining serious insults through the various chiefdoms.
“In Kamalo, SLPP decided to place SLPP campaign materials on structures owned and erected by Dr Samura Kamara. On being warned against these provocative acts, they moved straight to Samura Kamara’s mother raining insults and tearing posters.
“Since the emergence of Mr Maada Bio as an SLPP contender, that party has embarked on a systematic trail of political violence around the country, particularly against persons from all parties that are opposed to their Paopa ( dictatorial) leadership.
“With the commencement of political campaign season, the SLPP Paopa (dictatorial) leadership has refused to commit itself to peaceful elections, and they have severally over the media and other occasions incited their supporters to disrupt law and order.
“Over the past two weeks they have been burning and destroying APC posters in Bo and Pujehun, they attacked our offices in Pujehun and stoned the convoy of the APC presidential candidate as it moved from Moyamba to conduct campaign activities in Kenema.
“The APC in strongest terms, condemn the violent attack on the people of Kamalo and other SLPP acts of violence and intimidation.
“We call on the Sierra Leone Police to ensure that the perpetrators of violence are brought to justice.
“We also call on the SLPP leadership to ensure that their supporters conduct themselves peacefully and allow others to exercise their freedom to associate and belong to a political party of their choice.
“As the governing party, the APC remains committed to ensuring peaceful, fair and credible elections. We will not allow the forces of violence to reverse the gains we continue to make in ensuring a peaceful and democratic country.
“We call on our party supporters to continue to be law abiding and peaceful and to speak through the ballot box their total condemnation of the SLPP Paopa ideology, intimidation, incitement and violence.” (End).
As a concerned Sierra Leonean – Ibrahim S. Mansaray, commented in the Sierra Leone Telegraph comments page this evening: “We just pray for a peaceful, free and fair election. The country has been through a lot and nothing seemed to have improved after the civil war. So, whoever becomes president, please make the expectations of all sierra Leoneans your priority.”
But today, as the recriminations and blame game continues between the two oldest parties in the country for the resumption of political violence, the National Grand Coalition (NGC) party led by Dr Kandeh Yumkella was in the northern city of Kabala, where thousands of young people came out in a carnival atmosphere to meet and greet Dr Yumkella.
Dr Yumkella is now believed to be the formidable candidate for the presidency, if free and fair elections are held on 7th March 2018.
This is Yumkella visiting the slums of Freetown yesterday, where unemployment is estimated to be well over 90%.
As far as the people of Kamalo are concerned, Samura Kamara is already the president because he has been chosen by his Almighty Earnest Koroma who is the greatest leader for life, and the alpha and omega. How dare any opposition leader step their feet or attempt to post any other picture besides Samura kamara ‘s in his hometown?
What a bold move by Maada Bio – but that’s the meaning of democracy which simply means government of the people, for the people and by the people.
You do not need to be a political analyst or security analyst for that matter to get to the bottom of what happened in Kamalo. Bio is the Presidential candidate of the second most popular party the SLPP. Kamalo and Karena are the home town and home district of Dr. Samura Kamara, the APC candidate.
Bio would be committing suicide if he decides to take thugs in person to anywhere in the north and in particular Kamalo and Kerena district at the 11th hour of an election – hoping of winning. And I am sure Bio is not that stupid. Samura Kamara was recently in Bio’s home district and town in Bonthe and Tihun and his campaign went on peacefully.
There was no report of arguments from the residents of that town or Bio’s people in Tihun telling Samara Kamara campaign team as to where to walk or not walk, or where not to put up banner. This is what is expected in all parts of the country, be it the home town or district of any particular candidate. Tolerance is key to democracy.
Unfortunately, some people are not tolerant. A security analyst would succinctly assessed the recent security breakdown in Kamalo by considering for example the numerical strength that Samura Kamara’s people have in Karena and Kamalo, Bio would not venture to provoke mayhem. Rather it will be the other way round.
Secondly, if Bio is going to instigate violence, he would not put himself in harm’s way by fermenting violence in a place where he is present and where he cannot easily escape from. Remember Bio is an ex security officer and he knows the rule of engagement is for opposing side to always take out the head of the opponent and the rest would succumb.
Samura Kamara was not in Karene, so who is he going to fight if that was his aim. But Bio was in Karene to campaign on that day, a day that was legally assigned to him by NEC to campaign in that remote corner. Who will benefit much if the head of the opposing party is cut off?
Of course it is Samura Kamara. Who had the numerical strength to perpetrate such an act in Kamalo at that time? The Answer is Samura Kamara. So why are we finding it difficult to call a spade a spade? Bio is a former commander in the army who knew at the most difficult time in our army’s history that to survive brutal attacks and counter offenses, the commander cannot be at the front of the theater of war.
I am sure he is not naive or foolish enough to forget that simple lesson in this hotly contested election, where he knows his opponent would like to have him dead if they can pull it off. I am sure he will not walk into such trap by leading a small group of thugs into the backyard of his opponent. If he wants to do that, he will do it in a neutral ground or in his hometown.
Let us stop playing politics with our security by pointing out the perpetrator in this instance. All fingers and constructive reasoning from a security assessment point at the supporters of Samura Kamara and his party.
I don’t think pointing fingers is the right thing to do at this stage of the electoral process. Sierra Leone politics has long been known for its long list of violence, intimidation and antagonism between APC and SLPP supporters. The end product to all of that was the pointless civil war, which saw the unnecessary destruction of lives and property. I’m pretty sure that all true loving Sierra Leoneans would not want a repeat of that episode.
The point is, you don’t have to be a hooligan to show your support for any political party. Just be a good person and a law abiding citizen, respect the power of the ballot box and believe that your vote counts. It’s time for us to grow up and value the electoral process as the means to exercise our right and vote for who you solidly believe would improve the lives of all Sierra Leoneans.
This APC-SLPP rivalry is getting too old and its time for all Sierra Leoneans to start judging political candidates on their potential to effect positive change for all sierra leoneans. Supporting the political process solely on tribal, regional or party line would do us no good, but continue with the same old problems and difficulties we inherited after our independence.
It’s time to start thinking about the issues affecting all Sierra Leoneans and vote for a candidate whose policies are good for the country as a whole. Let’s prove to the entire world that we’ve grown, and can conduct a free and fair election –
free of violence and intimidation.
This is an ugly event and should not be tolerated. I want all to recall what recent happened in Ukraine against the main opposition leader during his campaign tour. This is what APC wants to do – to silenced the three leading opposition party leaders – SLPP, NGC and C4C. In all reported violence, it has been the APC at the centre of it all. They are no longer using the police to perpetrate violence but cliques and gangs.
The police on the hand needs to show their neutrality since no one knows the direction of the wind that twists the tail of the chicken. We really would love to see the neutrality of police in this investigation but I doubt it. Kamakwie is just seven miles to Kamalo and if such an event was unfolding and the police were called to provide security but arrived very very late after the damage has been done, I am afraid.
It should be noted that Tuesday was the day designated for SLPP to campaign in the newly self created Karina District and region by President Ernest Bai Koroma. There was no need for any APC supporters to be in their red colour in that district if they haven’t any hidden agenda. Note also that SLPP booked the hall and were allowed to hold their meeting.
If we can check with Orange and Africel, we will be able to track all communication to Kamalo that day and the truth will be revealed.There were phone communications between the people in that town and top APC leaders. Please track this and you will know the truth if only these mobile companies are not biased. On that very day, similar incidence of violence was perpetrated by APC cliques and gangs against NGC in Mile 91 and C4C in Kono.
APC Samura went to Maada’s home town and campaigned, placed his posters and no body attacked them. I am greatly disappointed in the comments made over AYV by Ayuba Sherif that SLPP went to campaign in the heartland of Samura, where he has done mighty things. That they tried to place SLPP posters on Samura’s house, water well etc.
These crude lies are not expected of people we hold them in the highest esteem in this land especially when he was given second hand information based on what he was told. If this matter is investigated and the truth established, Auya should be held responsible for supporting this cliques and gangs. He did not show any political tolerance.
I was expecting him to have said, we will investigate and establish the truth but we are sorry for this ugly incidence. This just shows that what ever violence the APC cliques perpetrate, there are crude politicians who will defend them.
To avoid this ugly situation, here is what I am proposing. Since we have over 100 observers, I am suggesting that each Presidential Candidate be assigned one or two observers plus one military, one police and a journalist. They will use one vehicle. As for the police and military, each candidate should identify from the two forces who they want as their security men. The state should not assign them to the candidates.
I have long known this type of situation in Sierra Leone. For a lame man there is no other source to get power but through violence. APC is well known for this type of tactics depriving everyone but themselves the ruling of the country. Nobody should therefore, forget this type of intimidation and thuggery. The people must not fear voting for the person they love to lead the country.
International community should open its eyes to see and ears to hear all what’s happening in Sierra Leone. APC has plan to rig this election or to destabilise the peace we’re enjoying. APC has done nothing good for this country. And police seems not to be neutral.