Sierra Leone’s ruling SLPP party mayoral candidate ferments religious hate ahead of June elections

Alan Luke: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 March 2023:

When a failed politician uses religious bigotry in his election campaign to win hearts and minds of voters, questions must be asked about the desperation of his ruling SLPP party to stay in power for another five years, despite a litany of human rights abuses in Sierra Leone. (Photo above: Wife of President Bio – Fatima, endorses Gento Kamara).

Speaking to worshippers at the Kissy Road Mosque in Freetown, Mohamed Gento Kamara, the SLPP aspirant for the Mayor of Freetown, told worshippers that Muslims are discriminated against by Christians, resulting in higher levels of unemployment.

Mr Kamara (Photo) did not provide any empirical research evidence to the congregation at the Mosque to back up his claim, nor did he highlight any other probable cause for the alleged high levels of unemployment he claims are experienced by Muslim youths.

Mr Kamara also specifically mentioned the Krios in his message, stating that they should allow Muslims to hold the position of Mayor of Freetown.

The speech was laced with dog whistle tribalist and religious bigotry, marking a new low to the ethno-regional politics of the Bio led SLPP regime who would do anything to stay in power.

Calling for a Jihad, his speech has all the hallmarks of radicalisation which if encouraged, will create religious disharmony in a country priding itself for its religious tolerance, after ten years of brutal civil war.

This is Gento spewing religious hate to the congregation at a Mosque in Freetown:

Evidently, Gento, as he is popularly known, has not articulated any credible plan or policies to address the challenges Freetonians face every single day. Handpicked by President Bio for his money, he appears to have been overshadowed by the opposition APC’s Mohamed Money Jagaban Kamara, who is reported to be worth US$50 million.

With no credible plan or policies for Freetown, and popular attention and affection being shown towards Money Jagaban, in desperation, Gento is now resorting to religion, deliberately sowing seeds of hate among young impressionable minds.

Gento (Photo) should have taken time to explain to his audience that it is the failed economic policies of the Bio government, including the redenomination of the Leone, endemic graft and looting of state resources, diversion of international aid and locally generated tax receipts into private accounts, which the Bio government and previous governments of both APC and SLPP had presided over, that have created such appalling economic conditions where ALL youths (not just Muslim youths), are deprived of realising their full potential.

But thankfully, Freetown voters are too savvy to buy into Gento’s lie. They know that the Government of Sierra Leone is the largest employer in Freetown and nationally that has presided over the politicisation of all state institutions.

They are fully aware also that access to jobs is largely dependent on political allegiance. What Muslims and Christians in Sierra Leone are expecting of Gento, is for him to clearly announce a credible plan for transforming Freetown into a better place for its residents – not to whip up religious hate and violence.

Yesterday, the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party issued a press release condemning Gento’s religious bigotry, whiles the leadership of the Bio-led ruling SLPP remains silent:

“The APC notes a statement contained in a video recorded on Friday 24th March 2023 in the Basharia Mosque, Kissy Road, Freetown, showing Mohamed Gento Kamara, a Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) patron, financier and mayoral aspirant, displaying distasteful tribal and religious bigotry to the shock and disappointment of the congregation.

“Without a doubt, Sierra Leone has experienced significant levels of political division across regional lines under this Bio- led SLPP administration. It is tribal rhetoric like the one the SLPP mayoral candidate uttered on Friday that is responsible for the upscale of tribal tension in the country.

“Even more disturbing is the insensitivity of stoking tribal hatred in a house of worship with clearly hateful religious undertones. Sierra Leone is a predominantly Muslim country whose religious tolerance is globally recognized as inspiring.

“Therefore, such unfounded and mischievous politically motivated tribal and religious tantrums are unfortunate and constitute a potent threat to the peace and stability of our nation. This is particularly considering that the SLPP mayoral candidate attempted to put a wedge between Muslim Creoles and other Muslims.

“It is distasteful and dangerous that someone who is aspiring for an important political office like that could make such inflammatory comments. The APC shall document such tribal and religious bigotry as evidence of threats to our nation’s stability and shall firmly hold responsible anyone whose tribal and religious bigotry incites political violence.

“The APC calls upon all Sierra Leoneans to remain calm, tolerant, law-abiding, and peaceful. We urge you to firmly disregard the unfortunate utterances of Mohamed Gento Kamara as mischief-mongering and political desperation.”

The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) also published a statement yesterday, calling on the Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone (IRCSL) to take appropriate steps to prevent houses of worship from being used as campaign platforms to preach hate and intolerance:

“The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) is concerned, worried, and troubled after watching a video on social media in which the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) Mayoral aspirant, Mohamed Gento Kamara, is seen campaigning in a mosque and appealing to religious sentiments for votes.

“SLAJ vehemently condemns this type of campaign messaging from a political aspirant and further condemns the leadership of the mosque for allowing a politician to use their place of worship to campaign on such grounds.

“SLAJ believes the 2023 elections is not about religion or tribe or region or any other extreme considerations but should be on issues that can develop Sierra Leone and raise the standards of living of her people. “Religious tolerance is our last hope; it is the bedrock of our coexistence and our pride as a nation.

“A key component of SLAJ’s work during the 2023 elections is to combat disinformation and hate speech in all their forms. We will not allow this last bastion of our coexistence to be disturbed for political gains,” said SLAJ President, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla. SLAJ is calling on all political aspirants/candidates to be mindful of their campaign messages and refrain from using divisive sentiments for political gains.

“The peace, security, and cohesion of our beloved country is our collective responsibility. SLAJ also calls on the Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone (IRCSL) to take appropriate steps to prevent houses of worship from being used as campaign platforms to preach hate and intolerance.”

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