Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 June 2022:
After an orgy of political violence swept through Bendugu Town in the Tonkolili district of Sierra Leone last Tuesday, where scores of people were injured and many properties destroyed, the impartiality of the Sierra Leone police is once again being called into question.
The country’s main opposition party – the APC are accusing the ruling SLPP of violently attacking their supporters ahead of constituency bye election, which the SLPP have denied with counteraccusations.
But it is the actions of the police that many in Sierra Leone find worrying, as the country slowly prepares for presidential and general elections in 2023.
A report by the European Union published last year, accused the Sierra Leone police of lacking independence and inability to enforce law and order impartially.
Writing in reaction to last week’s violence and destruction in Tonkolili – a district regarded as an opposition stronghold which the ruling SLPP must win in 2023, the United Nations’ Resident Coordinator in Sierra Leone – Babatunde Ahonsi is calling for inter-party dialogue. This is what he said:
“The United Nations in Sierra Leone expresses concern over the violent incidents that occurred on 7 June 2022 in Bendugu town, Sambaia Chiefdom, Tonkolili district, ahead of the by-elections for the Member of Parliament of Constituency 056, leading to injuries to people and damage to properties.
“The United Nations deeply condemns all forms of violence and calls on all parts of society – including political leaders and party supporters, traditional and religious leaders, national and local institutions, and citizens in general – to commit to a spirit of tolerance and to work together to maintain peace in Sierra Leone.
“The United Nations in Sierra Leone calls for a prompt investigation of the incidents so that perpetrators may be brought to justice. The United Nations in Sierra Leone urges dialogue, including between political parties, to resolve political differences and stands ready to support such dialogue.”
Dr Samura Kamara, the opposition APC presidential candidate at the 2018 elections said this on his tweeter feed:
The United Nations representative is right in expressing his concerns about the direction of travel for our country under this one directionless Bio government.We need leadership from all political actors to lead our country from the front not the back . Quite clearly politics have all but by name becomes a blood sport in our country.At the moment the Bio government have shown little appetite to stem the level of violence that is now becoming a regular occurrence in our country at the drop of a hat . Whether is in the North , South, East or West bye -elections are now becoming like a political tinderbox waiting for the fuss to be lit by corrupt politicians that by their very actions or the lack of have shown lip service in the Democratic dispensation by using their positions of trust and clout for their own selfish agendas to fulfil their political dreams and topping up their bank balance.. Instilling fear in communities with the us versus them mentality which only serve one purpose to keep them in power as long as possible is now becoming the hottest currency doing the rounds in the country .
No talk of national development for the common good ,but plenty of national realignment.Time and time again we’ve witnessed the same manner of violence directed at the grassroots opposition members real or imagine by Bio and his army of supporters and some members of the Sierra Leone police force that are now acting unashamedly like an auxiliary force belonging to the service of the SLPP party rather than the state .Unless Bio show some leadership and all leading politicians of all party colors come together and bury their differences and condemned this unacceptable behaviours and say enough is enough,I am afraid our country is dancing dangerously towards the brink . The very security of the state of Sierra Leone is hanging on the balance.And if we took note of what is going on in the ECOWAS region there are very few country’s that can claim the mantle of peace and security like we enjoy today. Or be it if we are happy to call Sierra leone peaceful. Throughout his four years in office we have seen Bio’s thuggish elements or “RAY RAY BOYS ” or better still paid Uber for higher thugs masquerading around the country and harrrasing and beating up people and in some cases killing people as members of the Sierra Leone police force act like look outs instead of making arrests or taking the necessary actions to stamp out this menace in our society.The triggers for election violence can come in all forms, but the overriding indicators that make it possible can all be traced to the perception communities have about their government and the political process and those entrusted with the powers to exercise those rights over the people. Transparency, fairness , accountability and playing by the rules without any fear or favours and respect of the rule of law and free press is all communities up and down the country are asking for .
The idea this violence that erupted in Bendugu bye elections is spontaneous and not planned by Bio and some members of the Bio election team, is. like the suggestion the moon landing never occurred.This wanton acts of violence with neighbours that have lived side by side peacefully for many years , will suddenly come to the conclusion the local priest , the Imam or the primary school teacher was in fact an opposition supporters that have been hiding in plain sight with their true party colours that they deserve death and destruction of their properties, the only way to restore community relations and cohesion is not only foolserrand. but disheartening.The hiring of party thuggish elements to promote Bio’s agenda and act like unofficial party election monitors in this bye elections will not have gone unnoticed by our toothless national electoral commission , that is now acting like Bio’s cheer leaders as he unleashed unimaginable violence to communities up and down the country that will not support him come 2023.This acts of state sponsored barbarism needs to be investigated and punish .And those powerful politicians that are actively participating and promoting this violence in our communities should be brought to book .