Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 December 2015
After spending almost thirty-six hours behind bars on false arrest in Freetown as a prisoner of conscience, the authorities in Sierra Leone have decided to release Alie Kabba on bail.
His release comes after a worldwide call by SLPP supporters and the Sierra Leone Telegraph demanding his immediate release. But the bail conditions are nothing short of a gagging order, aimed at silencing the presidential hopeful.
Sources in Freetown say that the bail conditions include the surrender of his US passport and all other travel documents. He has also been ordered not to make any public statement, comment or give an interview.
These conditions provide clear evidence of the Koroma government’s determination to silence the opposition and the media in Sierra Leone.
Since arriving in Sierra Leone two weeks ago to start his campaign for the opposition SLPP presidential flagbearship, Alie Kabba has been speaking publicly about the government’s failings and the culture of corruption in high places.
The release of Alie Kabba has been facilitated by the good efforts, resolve and determination of members of the SLPP national executives led by chairman Chief Somano Kapen (Photo) and lawyers representing Kabba.
It is not yet clear what sums of money may need to be paid by those acting as sureties for Alie’s bail, but this is expected to run into hundreds of millions of Leones.
Alie Kabba was arrested yesterday morning, Wednesday 23rd December, under a trumped-up false claim of bigamy.
But supporters and friends of Kabba say that his arrest was politically motivated so as to damage Alie’s chances of contesting the presidential election that is due in 2017. They are calling for his immediate and unconditional release from jail.
Commenting on the arrest of Kabba, criminal lawyers in Freetown say that they were surprised that he was arrested by the police, given the fact that there is a matrimonial case in court brought by the local government minister, who alleges that Kabba has committed bigamy.
Legal observers also say that Kabba must be treated as innocent of bigamy until proven guilty by the court. And until such time, the police have no business arresting Kabba on the orders of so called powers from above – a euphemism for State House.
Sierra Leone currently faces a huge problem of credibility and image in the international community. The arrest of journalists and opposition politicians will further damage any goodwill the country has with the international community.
Can the international community continue to trust a president and his ruling party that is becoming ever increasingly like the Chinese Communist Party, to which senior members of the ruling APC have sworn allegiance?
Sierra Leone needs $1 billion handout from the international community to help rebuild the country’s economy and health systems that have been destroyed by decades of neglect, corruption and poor governance.
The return of Sierra Leone effectively to a one party state by muzzling the opposition and media, will make it very difficult for the government to continue to receive foreign aid and investments.
No honest investor wants to put their capital in an unstable and politically volatile country like Sierra Leone, where political repression and the curtailing of civil liberty is increasing at an alarming pace.
last week in Kono in the east of the country, ruling party supporters burned down the house of the opposition SLPP party chairman before voters went to the polls in a by-election that was marred by violence and intimidation.
The election was won by the ruling APC with a majority of over 60%.
President Koroma is looking to change the country’s constitution next year through a referendum, so as to allow him to contest presidential election for a third term in office.
But the political risk of pursuing this personal ambition at the expense of the country’s stability is very high.
Recent events in Burundi have shown what people’s power can do when a president abuses his constitutional authority in office, to pursue his selfish ambition of extending his stay in power. Hundreds of people have so far died in Burundi with the rise in political and ethnic violence.
The ruling APC in Sierra Leone does not have a very good track record of peacefully accepting electoral defeat at the polls, and there are fears that the 2017 general and presidential elections will be bloody.