Sierra Leone police brutality and the spill-over effect on government – Op ed

Lansana Fofanah: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 April 2021:

The Sierra Leone Police (SLP) has once again been in the spotlight over its high-handedness and alleged brutality on civilians in the country.

Having been branded as a ‘Force for Good’ after the country’s civil war, the expectations of the People are for the Police to restore the lost trust between them and the force, after undergoing thorough reforms with the aid of the United Kingdom, and donor partners.

The Police in any country are expected to protect the lives and properties of citizens and the State, and anything contrary to that will raise eyebrows and question their existence.

It is also expected that while executing such mandates, necessary caution must be taken to avoid any loss of life. This was not the case in Tombo, Lunsar, Makeni and recently Hastings, where lives and properties were lost in police operations.

After the Makeni riot on July 18th, 2020, a report published by thirteen non-governmental organizations including Amnesty International and the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law that went on a fact-finding mission, condemned the use of lethal weapons and random shooting by security forces.

Even the Sierra Leone 2020 Human Rights Report, blamed the Police for using live ammunition on protesting and armless civilians. That goes against the principles of the International Humanitarian Law.

Just a week ago, a Police Inspector was believed to have commanded some junior officers attached at the Operational Support Divisions of the Sierra Leone Police to intimidate residents around the Hastings community where the said officer has had a long-standing land dispute. The response by the Police was deadly as it resulted in the death of one Alpha, whose death some youths in the community have vowed to retaliate anytime soon.

Seeing the reckless behaviours of four officers that were linked to the Hastings shootings, the Force had no choice but to put them on suspension while the investigation is ongoing.

In the wake of that ugly incident, there came another shocking social media video showing police officers administering mob justice on a female suspect by hitting her on the head with a cartridge loader. Only a heartless individual could stand such a horrific scene.

Such an act has made the public question the professionality of some members of the Police at a time when community policing is at its lowest ebb.

Even the press release that was put out by the Police, was not commensurate to the punishment inflicted upon that lady that was supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty before a competent jurisdiction.

While there is every need to recruit Police officers, it would be meaningless if thorough criminal background checks are not done to ascertain whether some of these constables are fit to join the force.

This was how the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Nigeria started by suppressing the very people they were established to protect against ‘Yahoo boys’ and internet fraudsters.

The rampant killing and harassment of peaceful citizens by SARS prompted nationwide protest for the disbandment of the unit and called for a total reform of the Nigerian Police.

It is high time the Inspector-General of Police, Michael Ambrose Sovula rose to the challenge in making the force civilian-friendly and to adopt another approach to quell down protests in future.

The Vice President, Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, being the Head of the Police Council must engage the leadership of the Force before the situation becomes unbearable.

While these acts are being done by Police who don’t know the ripple effect, the Government of the day will always be the one to bear the burden.

Those reports will go a long way to affect the country’s performances on Human Rights and Peace Index, if something urgently is not done to correct those wrongs.

A stitch in time saves nine.

3 Comments

  1. In which direction exactly is our poor struggling nation headed? Anyone who claims that this dysfunctional, confused, maladjusted government is on the right track to progress needs to be given 40 lashes on their bare bottoms for being so naive and gullible.(lol)This corrupt President and his rag tag bunch of criminals have already done irreparable harm to the people of Sierra Leone.Its one thing to steal from the lame blind beggar roaming aimlessly on the streets of Freetown but to strangle them with your ill-advised policies and cause them to go to bed hungry is another matter altogether.

    Again,the killing of innocent unarmed civilians by the Police taking orders directly from State House should be alarming enough to give all of us reason for concern.This President is an authoritarian at heart; Comrade Josef Stalin would’ve been proud to have him as a friend because he doesn’t believe at all in the norms that support the Rule of Law, Individual liberties, Freedoms and the basic principles and mechanisms on which a thriving Democracy depends upon for its sustainability and support. The main reason why he has turned the SL Police Force to ruthless Gestapos is because he knows that in order to tighten his grips on power he would have to stifle free speech using tactics of terror, fear, anarchy and mayhem. Are these people in power criminals? Yes they are.Do they care about Sierra Leone? Of
    course not.

    Answer – A government on an erratic killing spree,or should i say on the ‘Rampage’ using the SL Police to do its dirty work; A President that is complicit,whose silence speaks louder than his words,signalling the Police have been given license to Kill should be tried for Crimes against Humanity when he leaves office.Gentlemen – there is more than enough evidence to drag this Criminal to the Hague;Its time for us to bring closure to the traumatic ordeals of the families of those he butchered while he was military head of State…And my sources in Freetown have informed me that violence against the innocent has always been a normal way of life for this President now in State House.Be rest assured folks, that day will surely come when we are going to hold him accountable for the atrocities he has committed against our people.

  2. “Since 2019, the general health of the country has been in intensive care due to suffocation from bad govanance, lack of rule of law and corruption.”-Moses Samuel Wilson

    This speaks volume. Do I need to say anything else…..since 2019 eem?

  3. Since 2019, the general health of the country has been in intensive care due to suffocation from bad govanance, lack of rule of law and corruption. This lack of governance has resulted in widespread poverty, chaos, indescipline, and low mortality rate across the country in recent times.  There has been numerous illegal and inhumane police shooting of innocent civilians since 2020, a most recent incident at Tombo Peninsula, Hastings suburb, Makeni Town. These irresponsible activities of government officials, and the police should not be tolerated in any shape or form. The Human Rights Commission in the country speaks and writes on some of these incidents, but lack of will power to effect any immediate legal action on behalf of the victims.

    The ACC Commissioner has, in recent times been on a country-wide political campaign and self-gratification mission, rather than enforcing the Commission’s objectives and achievements, if any. The Health Minister don’t seem to want to publically challenge the lack of support for his ministry for fear of offending his employer. He rather prefers to be passive. The Police Commissionner recently appointed has only once said anything publicly despite the very many critical situations since he assumed office. Neither does his PRO knows what and when to say something to the public when things get off track – security-wise.

    The entire nation is in political and unlawful lockdown. They have been held hostage by the lack of adequate govanance and professional policing in the country. “Jungle justice” is the order of the day. Everyone is in fear to say anything against these injustices and lack of rule of law. Everyone is watching the volcano boiling…but for now…who can cool the situation before its lava erupt. This, in a nutshell, is a lack of leadership. Someone gave the wrong instruction and order to these officers.

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