Sierra Leone Telegraph: 01 February 2018
Last Friday’s violence which brought Freetown to a standstill, when supporters of the ruling APC went on a rampage and orgy of destruction – with at least one confirmed dead, is a worrying reminder of the fragility and precarious nature of politics in Sierra Leone and the ruling APC’s determination to hang on to power – by any means necessary.
Although the ruling APC have denied responsibility for the violence, which comes just five weeks before elections are held, there is little doubt tension has been rising in the country, as president Koroma and senior APC grandees rachet up the rhetoric.
Yesterday, the Embassy of the United States of America in Sierra Leone, issued a stern warning, as it expressied the concerns of the US government. This is what it said:
“The U.S. Embassy is concerned about recent reports of violence and loss of life. We extend deepest condolences to the victims and their families. We appeal to all Sierra Leoneans to remain peaceful and respect the democratic process.
“While this is a time to engage in political activity, exchanges should be civil, and take place in an atmosphere of tolerance and respect. (Photo: President Koroma standing behind president Trump at the Saudi Summit last year).
“Anyone who would infringe on peaceful expression of political views at the risk of public safety should be held to account. We applaud the political parties that have committed to peaceful campaigns by signing on to the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) Code of Conduct.
“The U.S. Embassy urges all parties and candidates to reiterate to their constituents their commitment to a non-violent, law abiding and peaceful democratic process”.
Last Friday January 26th 2018, violence erupted in the middle of the ruling party’s rally to mark the nomination of their presidential candidate Dr. Samura Kamara. The violence left at least one youth dead and several others seriously wounded.
Several police officers were injured as they tried to end the fighting among APC youths dressed in their red sun symbol t-shirts, throwing stones, carrying sticks and machetes. (Photo: Ruling APC presidential candidate – Samura Kamara, taking part in the rally which became violent).
The APC youths, also set fire in the middle of a major street – Campbell Street, as they blocked all movements of pedestrians and vehicles, preventing innocent civilians from exercising their freedom of movement.
In response to the violence, the opposition have called for a thorough investigation by the police, and for the Political Parties Registration Commission to take steps to put the ruling APC under proper control, so as to avoid sending the country back to war.
Just two days before the ruling APC rally violence, on the 24th January 2018, one of the opposition parties – the Coalition For Change Party (C4C) which is led by the former vice president Sam Sumana, who was unconstitutionally sacked by president Koroma, issued this statement, expressing concern over the ruling APC’s abuse of state power:
“The Secretariat of the one-month-old Coalition For Change Party (C4C) has observed that the ruling All People’s Congress Party (APC) is systematically and serially suppressing opposition parties and thinks this is undemocratic as well as unacceptable.
“The C4C is reliably informed that the People’s elected Vice President and Presidential Candidate, Alhaji Chief Sam-Sumana (Photo) is reportedly top on an APC ‘crush-them’ list.
“They plan to mobilize false witnesses who will swear on oath that he has given them arms to keep for whatever reasons, and then arrest him.
“The C4C Secretariat is aware of the APC’s game plan to eliminate their strong opponents one at a time, beginning with the Alliance Democratic Party (ADP) whose Leader and Flagbearer Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray, is battling charges of “illegal possession of firearms” and other charges. Kamarainba is currently in court on the said charges.
“Next on the APC list is the National Grand Coalition Party (NGC) Flagbearer, Alhaji Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella, who is currently isolated, accused of, and, contending a “Dual Citizen” conundrum that APC believes will ultimately disqualify him to run as a presidential candidate.
“The Citizen’s Democratic Party (CDP) leader, and Flagbearer, Alhaji Musa Tarawally will be next on the list of APC’s operation “Crush them” simultaneously with the C4C Flagbearer.
“The Secretariat views these tactics as the last kicks of a dying horse and calls on the general public to be very vigilant in keeping watch over our country as we move into campaign mode. The Secretariat believes that the APC will fail to achieve their goals because the people of Sierra Leone are tired of the state of affairs of our nation.”
According to reports from the country’s National Electoral Commision, sixteen candidates will contest Sierra Leone’s presidential election on 7 March, the electoral commission has announced. They are: Dr Samura Kamara (APC), Mohamed Kamaraimba Mansaray (ADP), Samuel Sam-Sumana (C4C), Alhaji Musa Tarawallie (CDP), Mohamed C. Bah (NDA), Dr Kandeh K. Yumkella (NGC) (Photo), Patrick John O’Dwyer (NPD), Jonathan Patrick Sandy (NURP), Kandeh Baba Conteh (PLP), Charles Francis Margai (PMDC), Beresford Victor Williams (RNIP), Gbandi Jemba Ngobeh (RUFP), Rtd Brig. Julius Maada Bio (SLPP), Mohamed Turay Sowa (UDM), Henry saa Kubata (UNPP) and Josephine O. Claudius-Cole (UP).
The European Union Election Observation team has arrived in the country to help ensure Sierra Leone’s elections are free, fair and credible, said Tom Vens – the European Union Ambassador to Sierra Leone.
“This is good news, because we need every help we can get to ensure that these elections are free and fair, with no intimidation,” a supporter of the National Grand Coalition (NGC) party told the Sierra Leone Telegraph.