Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 January 2018
Sierra Leone’s ruling party – the APC, last night published a statement into the political violence which erupted in the heart of the capital Freetown last Saturday, with at least one person confirmed dead and scores injured.
Senior APC party grandees – led by their presidential candidate Samura Kamara, took to the streets to celebrate the nomination of their candidates when the violence erupted, leaving several unanswered questions as to why Dr. Samura Kamara (Photo) was among the hundreds of red cladded youths riding their okada unlawfully into the central business districts of the capital.
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It is not clear what started the violence, but there are reports of APC party supporters carrying machetes, knives and sticks at the party rally. It is believed that alcohol and drugs may have played a big part in fueling the violence.
But the APC general secretary – Osman Yansanneh, last night denied the involvement of APC party supporters in the violence. He blames opposition parties. This is his statement:
“As the Governing Party, and the Party set for victory in the March 7th, 2018 Multi-tier Elections, the All People’s Congress (APC) Party remains focused, voter sensitive and determined to continue the peaceful mobilization of its members and supporters towards winning the Presidential Elections, an overwhelming majority in Parliament, and the Local Government Elections on March 7th, 2018.
“In line with this, we came out with hundreds of thousands of persons all over the country to register support for the nomination of our presidential parliamentary candidates on Friday, January 26, 2018.
“However, it has come to our notice that agent provocateurs from an opposition party known throughout the past five years for fermenting violence even amongst its members and supporters infiltrated our ranks along Campbell Street in Freetown, burning tires brandishing knives and stabbing people to create impressions of chaos.
“These agents of chaos had earlier worn green shirts and attempted to intimidate our supporters at Lumley, Wilberforce and Wilkinson Road in the West-end of Freetown, but a swift intervention from personnel of the Sierra Leone Police prevented them from unleashing their dastardly acts.
“They then changed tactic by accessing and putting on APC regalia and therewith infiltrated the ranks of jubilant APC members and supporters to cause violence and give an impression that such an outrageous violence, as in the incidence that occurred on Campbell Street in Freetown, was the handwork of bonafide members and supporters of the All People’s Congress.
“The All People’s Congress is not oblivious of the fact that certain opposition parties are gripped by fear and panic over the large turnout of APC members and supporters on Friday January 26, 2018 and have come up with puerile and baseless press releases to console themselves and paint a negative picture of the APC.
“The party’s attention has also been drawn to how this opposition panic led the SLPP to attack our supporters and office in Pujehun on Saturday January 27, 2018.
“They wounded three of our members who are now responding to treatment hospital, pelted our Pujehun offices with stones and damaged most of the windows. They were clearly baffled by the large turnout of our members and supporters in Pujehun on the nomination of our Parliamentary candidates.
“The APC is also not oblivious of the fact that the SLPP has refused to sign an MOU with the Sierra Leone Police committing their party to peaceful conduct during the elections and cooperation with the police to ensure peace on elections day.
“We have also been notified of the conduct of certain officers and members of the NGC on various social media platforms threatening APC members and supporters with violence and generally transforming their party into a clique of cyber instigators of violence and public disorder.
“The APC totally condemns without any equivocation, the acts of violence from these agents provocateur in Freetown, and other SLPP members and supporters in Pujehun.
“Furthermore, we condemn SLPP’s refusal to commit to peaceful elections, and ask that they join the ranks of parties including the APC that have committed themselves to peaceful elections in the country. We also condemn the threats of violence and other uncivil behaviour by NGC members and supporters against peaceful Sierra Leoneans who hold contrary views to them.
“The leadership and general membership of the APC want to thank the Sierra Leone Police for their timely and swift intervention to deal with the incident at Campbell Street in Freetown. We call upon the Sierra Leone Police to speedily investigate the said matters and make public their findings.
“The APC is on the path to victory, and no amount of opposition shenanigan will stop us from mobilizing our members and supporters and the general citizenry of Sierra Leone to ensure, secure and celebrate an emphatic and peaceful victory in the first rounds of the March 7, 2018 Presidential, General and Local Government Elections.”
As is often the case with such political violence in Sierra Leone, president Koroma was out of the country attending the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa,, raising questions yet again about the party’s ability to govern without president Koroma, whose constitutional two terms mandate ends in a few months – after elections taking place on March 7th 2018.
This speaks to the narrative of critics and cynics who say that the violence was orchestrated by the ruling APC to make a case for the declaration of a state of emergency which could see elections being postponed indefinitely, thus prolonging Koroma’s stay in office.
But president Koroma has, on several occasions made it clear he has no interest in hanging on to power after those elections.