Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 September 2018:
A young man has died in a shocking orgy of political violence in a northern town of Sierra Leone where by-election was being held yesterday, in Ward 196 constituency of Kambia District in the Tonko Limba Chiefdom.
According to conflicting and unconfirmed reports, the young man is alleged to have been shot by security forces after fighting broke out between supporters of both the ruling SLPP and main opposition APC parties.
Six months after general and presidential elections were held in Sierra Leone, the country is yet to return to normalcy which should allow the newly elected government to get on with the business of governing the country.
The by-election which took place yesterday, Saturday 29th September 2018, was called by the National Electoral Commission (NEC), after the death of a sitting local councillor representing the opposition APC.
The violence which marred yesterday’s polling – prompting the NEC to cancel the election, has exacerbated the political row between the ruling SLPP and the opposition APC, with the later accusing the SLPP of murder. (Photo: Young man dead in election violence in Sierra Leone yesterday).
The police are yet to make a statement on yesterday’s violence and the death of the young man.
Few weeks ago, another young man died in a police narcotics raid at a village in the Mile 91 area of northern Sierra Leone.
Investigations into the death of the young man in Mile 91 is ongoing, but the police and army have denied responsibility for his death.
Yesterday’s political violence and death of a young man in the Kambia district, is just another reminder of the fragility of peace building efforts in Sierra Leone, after ten years of brutal civil war which ended in 2001, leaving over 50,000 people dead.
While Sierra Leone has held three general and presidential elections since the end of the war, there are fears the country may plunge into another civil unrest, if efforts are not found by political parties and the government to find a common ground to resolve serious post-2018 election governance issues and distrust.
The reality today is that there are political forces determined to make Sierra Leone ungovernable by any means necessary, so as to force another presidential and general election, or hasten the legitimacy of the ruling SLPP as an elected government.
But many Sierra Leoneans believe that the creation of an extra-parliamentary opposition as a political movement opposed to the ruling SLPP government, is not only inimical to the country’s democratic pathway to peace-building but dangerously counter-productive.
The country’s main opposition APC are deeply bitter about the outcome of the general and parliamentary elections held last March, with the SLPP Julius Maada Bio winning the presidency by 51.8%, against the APC candidate – Samura Kamara polling 48.2%.
Although the APC party lost the presidential election, ironically it won 68 of the 146 parliamentary seats, making it the largest single political party in parliament.
But despite this majority, the opposition APC says that they are not being allowed the space to operate legitimately as an opposition.
The ruling SLPP with its 59 elected MPs is relying on the support of the remaining 29 non-APC MPs and Paramount Chiefs to pass legislations through parliament, thus diluting the political strength and power of the main opposition APC to influence and stop the governing SLPP in conducting its affairs in parliament.
This inability to democratically thwart SLPP’s plans and business in parliament is causing enormous frustration for the opposition APC, who are now accusing the SLPP of using unconstitutional tactics to suppress the APC’s legitimate role as an opposition in parliament.
The opposition APC are also complaining about what they regard as the SLPP’s use of the police and their supporters to perpetrate violence in their APC strongholds – including yesterday’s election violence in the Kambia district which they say led to the death of a young man.
It is not clear who killed the young man in Kambia yesterday. But what is certain is that Sierra Leone’s political landscape is as tribalistically polarised today, as it was before the general and presidential elections were held last March.
Both the ruling SLPP and the main opposition APC must pull back from the brink and tone down the rhetoric to avoid Sierra Leone degenerating into chaos and widespread violence.
The Sierra Leone Telegraph is calling for the formation of a Cross-party Peacebuilding Commission, which must include religious groups and civil society organisations, to look into the grievances of all sides and make recommendations.
The Police Complaints Board that is currently investigating the death of the young man in Mile 91 a few weeks ago, must speed up its work and publish its report.
Investigations into the death of the young man at the By-elections in Kambia yesterday must also be speedily and fairly pursued, and those responsible brought to justice.
In the meantime, both the Party-Political Registration Commission (PPRC) and the National Electoral Commission (NEC) must carry out their own independent investigations into the collapse of yesterday’s polling, so that lessons can be learnt; as well as ensure that those politicians held responsible for the violence face the full force of the law – including banning from national politics.
This is the NEC statement published yesterday: