Sierra Leone Telegraph: 4 June 2019:
Sierra Leone’s Inter-Religious Council must intervene to find solutions that will end the ongoing political tension and impasse among political parties in Sierra Leone, especially between the ruling SLPP and the main opposition APC.
Last Friday’s violence at the offices of the APC is symptomatic of the scale of distrust that has developed in the past few decades, which is now threatening the peace and stability of the nation.
While it may seem politically expedient to simply ignore the troubled and poisoned political atmosphere in the country, one cannot ignore the impact this is having on the country’s economy and social well-being.
In just under two days, potential foreign investors will gather in London to hear from president Bio and his ministers about the investment potential Sierra Leone has to offer. And this all too important conference comes amid deep political tension and violence witnessed last Friday in the country’s capital.
The UK Foreign Office has issued this security warning to its citizens travelling to or already in Sierra Leone: “Following a recent increase in political tensions, you should take care to avoid large crowds and all political demonstrations . If you travel outside the Freetown peninsula, try to complete your travel during the hours of daylight, inform your employers of your whereabouts and make sure they have copies of your itinerary. Terrorist attacks in Sierra Leone can’t be ruled out. Attacks could be indiscriminate. You should be vigilant, especially in places visited by foreigners.”
Although similar warnings were issued on many ocassions during Ernest Bai Koroma’s presidency, it does the Bio-led SLPP government no credit or favours, just a couple of days before its Trade and Investment Conference in London.
And it doesn’t seem as though there is light at the end of the tunnel for peaceful co-existence between the government and the main opposition APC.
Someone needs to grab the bull by its horns and help broker peace between the two and across all of the political parties, so that Sierra Leone can put forward a unified and cohesive front in facing up to the huge economic and social challenges the country faces.
The international partners in Sierra Leone have today also issued a joint statement, calling for dialogue to end the political tension. This is what they say:
The Sierra Leone Telegraph is therefore calling upon the Inter Religious Council (IRC) of Sierra Leone to take on this peace mission as custodian and guarantor of the nation’s moral conscience. In carrying out this task, the IRC should do the following:
- Conduct an inquiry into the violence that took place at the APC office in Freetown.
- Present its findings and recommendations to the government, the police, the APC as well as all other political parties, the National Electoral Commission, the Political Parties Registration Commission and international stakeholders.
- Convene a peace and reconciliation summit involving all political parties and the government, with the international community stakeholders in attendance.
- Produce a Peace and Reconciliation Agreement to be signed by the president, the chairman of the APC and leaders of all other political parties, as well as the IRC as witness to the signing.
- Publish the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement.
- Produce and implement a Plan for the continuous monitoring and evaluation of compliance of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement.
- Organise regular Roundtable public discussions (TV and Radio) involving all political parties.
What is encouraging is that the Inter Religious Council of Sierra Leone, has published a statement expressing its position and concerns over the deteriorating political tension in the country. This is what it says:
“The Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone (IRCSL) is very concerned about the current political tensions in the country after the Bintumani III conference. This political tension continues to escalate with the tendency to create social unrest and undermines the peace and stability in the country.
The IRCSL condemns any action by political parties and individuals to insight and create chaos thereby undermining our hard won peace and stability through violence, hate speech and other malicious actions promoting disunity and division among Sierra Leoneans.
The IRCSL is therefore calling on all political parties and their supporters to respect the rule of law and desist from any form of violence, hate speech and malicious actions that has the potential to throw the country into chaos and instability.
We call on the government to take responsibility to peacefully resolve or address the ongoing political tensions and conflict in the country to enhance peaceful co-existence irrespective of tribe, region or political party.
We call on the security forces especially the Police to carry out their mandate of protecting lives and property with professionalism and respect for the rights of all citizens.
The IRCSL as “Moral Guarantor” of the peace of the country is putting modalities in place to work with other stakeholders to initiate a peaceful dialogue between the two giant parties – the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Parry (SLPP) and the All Peoples Congress (APC) within the shortest possible time.
Meanwhile, we call on all Sierra Leoneans to remain calm, maintain the peace and respect the rule of law. Remember that we only have one Sierra Leone and we all are Sierra Leoneans.
We call on all Churches and Mosques to continue praying for peace and stability in our country and to preach peace during our sermons to shape the moral life of our congregants and jamats for a peaceful Sierra Leone.” (End of statement).
The Sierra Leone Telegraph would seriously and urgently encourage the IRC to embrace the above proposal.