Sierra Leone Telegraph: 01 June 2020:
Yesterday, 31st May 2020, is a day many in Sierra Leone – especially opposition APC supporters, who according to the results of the last general elections make up over 50% of the popular votes polled, remembered as another sad day in the country’s political history. (Photo above: Hon. Hariyatu Ariana Bangura was elected to represent constituency 116 but had her seat taken away from her).
On the 31st May 2019, swathes of APC parliamentary seats won at the 2018 elections, were unlawfully handed over to the SLPP party who had failed to win control of parliament to form a majority government.
Ten elected APC members of parliament had their seats seized, in what is seen by many as retributive justice – or as some would say – retaliatory justice, after a ruling by the High Court of Sierra Leone to nullify the election results of those constituencies, subject to an appeal by the APC.
But those appeal hearings are still held in abeyance after a year of procrastination and failure by the country’s Chief Justice, to ensure a speedy resolution to the highly inflammatory political dispute between the ruling SLPP and the main opposition APC.
Adding salt to injury, yesterday also marked a dark chapter of political instability, as heavily armed police fired teargas canisters at the opposition APC party offices on 31st May 2019, injuring several APC party supporters and placing dozens in detention, following the High Court ruling and the immediate swearing-in of ruling SLPP MPs by the Speaker of Parliament to replace their elected APC counterparts.
According to members and supporters of the APC, all of this took place under the watchful eye of the International Community, whom they regard as “moral guarantors of the country’s ever-growing fragile peace”.
According to AFP News reporting on those historic events a year ago – 31 May, 2019:
“Just minutes after the court ruling that revoked the parliamentary seats of ten leading opposition party legislators, violence erupted at the opposition APC party headquarters in Freetown. Dozens of people were arrested including senior opposition party executives and former ministers, according to a police source. The Sierra Leone high court on Friday revoked the parliamentary seats of ten leading opposition party legislators, wiping out their majority in the chamber and prompting clashes with police on the streets of Freetown.
“The court took the action against 10 of the 16 deputies of the opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) who were being prosecuted for alleged breaches of electoral law linked to the legislative elections which took place in March 2018. The court also ordered an election re-run for a parliamentary seat near Freetown. Nine of the deputies were kicked out immediately and replace by candidates of the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) who had come second in last year’s elections. The tenth will be replaced in a by-election. APC lawyers said they intended to take the case to the supreme court.
“Just minutes after the court ruling, violence erupted between APC supporters and police at the party headquarters in Freetown. Dozens of people were arrested, including senior party executives and former ministers, according to a police source.
“Our supporters were teargassed in our party office for hours, by the police, the main opposition party’s secretary general Alhaji Foday Yanssaneh told AFP. “Our party office was also vandalised and looted during the riot by the police. It’s is very sad day for our democracy,” Yanssaneh added.
“The court decision effectively wipes out the APC majority in parliament. The figures as they stand now are SLPP 58 seats and APC 57 seats. “It’s a victory for our party and the rule of law,” ruling party spokesman Lahai Lawrence Leema told AFP amidst jubilations at their party headquarters.
Yesterday, as APC supporters called for justice and the intervention of the international community, to press on the chief justice to swiftly bring this matter to a close, ruling SLPP party supporters were in no hurry to see justice being done.
Recalling what happened to their party after the 2012 general elections, this is what some SLPP supporters said yesterday: “SLPP MPs representing constituencies in Kenema and Kailahun lost their seats in Parliament after a similar court ruling – annulling their votes; and now that the tables have been turned, the opposition APC are crying foul play.”
But president Bio ran for the 2018 elections promising to end retributive and retaliatory justice in Sierra Leone. Today he has done the opposite.
His ruling party has become both the benefactor and beneficiary of retributive and retaliatory justice in Sierra Leone.
Will those ten APC members of parliament, now languishing in political wilderness after they were deposed in what seemed like a parliamentary coup on 31st May 2019 that was aided by the justice system, ever get justice?
These are the ten MPs awaiting justice – one sadly died a few weeks ago: Hon. Sheriff Carew (late) – const. 122; Hon. John Satti Kargbo const.111; Hon. Sirajin Rawlings Kamara – const. 127; Hon. Osman Abdel Timbo – Const.130; Hon. Ahmed Mansaray – const. 121; Hon. Momoh Kamara – const. 120; Hon. Abu Bakarr Foday Sillah – 128; Hon. Khadijatu Davies – const. 110 ; Hon. Hariyatu Ariana Bangura – const 116; and Hon. Kemokoh Conteh – const. 108.