Sierra Leone Telegraph: 6 April 2015
But with a government that is becoming increasingly touchy over the activities of the country’s main opposition political party – the SLPP, the fight against the deadly Ebola is being seen by opposition politicians and civil society groups as a pretext for political harassment and intimidation by the government’s security forces.
Two weeks ago, the police issued a public statement warning against public meetings and processions. But there was no warning against the private gathering of people with common interests for social reasons, at private residential locations.
And it is debatable as to whether the current Ebola public state of emergency law prohibits the gathering of people with a common interest from socialising privately at a residential location.
This question is important, because there have been several privately held social gatherings by ministers and senior ruling party members at private residential locations, without any interference or hindrance by the police.
Similarly, recently groups of ruling APC party members have organised street protests in support of the government under the full gaze of the police and security forces.
Whilst the opposition SLPP have threatened to stage what they described as ‘passive disobedience’, should the president fail to rescind his unconstitutional decision to sack the vice president, they have instead avoided any course of action that could lead to chaos and instability in the country.
But this weekend, the government has gone all out looking for an excuse to provoke the opposition politicians into reacting, which could result in the president issuing an order for widespread political crackdown and arrest.
This is a report from Fatmata Yansaneh about yesterday’s unprovoked arrest of key opposition SLPP members in Freetown:
Sierra Leone’s main opposition party (SLPP)’s Regional Chairman of the Western Area – Manso Dumbuya, Med –K and 19 other party members have been arrested by the Sierra Leone Police at the residence of Manso Dumbuya in the evening hours of yesterday, Sunday, 5th April 2014.
The arrests were made as some members of the SLPP in the Western Area visited the Regional Chairman, to quietly celebrate the Easter Holiday just as many households across the country are doing.
According to eye witness, Police officers who made the arrests did not inform Manso Dumbuya and others about the reasons for their arrests, except when they were taken to the Ross Road Police Station where they were told they have been arrested for “unlawful gathering” under the emergency laws.
The arrests cannot be unconnected with a directive classed as “orders from above” in a bid to intimidate opposition party members. The government is believed to be in fear of political reactions, following the recent unconstitutional action of President Koroma.
Another eye witness who was at the scene of the arrests, said: “This is just another ploy by a weak government, which has lost all legitimacy to govern. But any attempt to intimidate SLPP members will be resisted across the country.
“Why police officers are sent to arrest citizens in a house, just for visiting their SLPP Chairman for the Easter holiday, is beyond anyone’s imagination. This is not a police state. I was at the residence and a number of the people were only visiting Manso Dumbuya for the Easter Celebration.”
Following the arrest, senior SLPP members, including the Deputy National Chairman and Leader – Dr. Prince Harding, the Regional Chairman South – Soloku, the Regional Chairman North – Alhaji Alpha Kallon, the SLPP Legal Adviser – Lawyer Eke Halloway, Lawyer Alpha Timbo, the former National Secretary General – Jacob Jusu Saffa and many others, visited the Ross Road Police Station to demand the release of Manso Dumbuya, Med K and 19 others.
At the Ross Road Police Station, many SLPP grassroots members and supporters turned up to show solidarity for their members, who have been arrested by the police following an order received from above.
At the time of writing, it is understood that Manso Dumbuya and Med K have been detained at the Ross Road Police Station, whilst the other 19 members have been transferred to an undisclosed location.
The reason for transferring the 19 members to an undisclosed location was not given by the police, but inside sources revealed that the 19 members have either been taken to Jui or Hastings.
According to the SLPP members, if police can arrest people in their houses for Easter celebration, then the next step is to start arresting people in their bedrooms and bathrooms.
It could be recalled that under this same state of emergency, many senior APC members have been holding gatherings in their houses without any arrest from the police.
Mr. John Bonoh Sisay – the cousin of President Koroma, despite the state of emergency regulations, organised a political meeting where he declared his ambition to lead APC, and yet no arrest was made by the police.
Also, under the state of emergency, the boss of NACSA – Alie Badara Mansaray, organised a social gathering at his residence, where he had in attendance – Palo Conteh who is head of the National Ebola Response Centre, Joseph Kamara the Anti-Corruption Commissioner and many other ruling APC senior members.
Yet, no arrest was made for “unlawful gathering” even though in both of the gatherings, they had at least 20 APC members.
It is clear now that members of the APC are exempted from the state of emergency laws, whilst opposition politicians are being harassed, intimidated and arrested.