SLPP Thuggery, Police Brutality in Bye-Election and Lopsided Policing in Sierra Leone…

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Perpetual SLPP Thuggery, Police Brutality in Bye-Elections, and Lopsided Policing in Sierra Leone

 30th March 2022

The Consortium of Progressive Political Parties (CoPPP) regrets to inform the general public and the international community that the vile temperament of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) and, by extension, the security sector and the judiciary towards opposition political parties and other dissenting voices are causing great harm to our hard-earned democracy and bringing upon our people much indignation,  unnecessary suffering, and disenchantment that may compromise the peace and security of our country.

It is now evident that the approach of the Sierra Leone Police to law enforcement is high-handed and lopsided, as demonstrated especially in their way of policing bye-elections since H.E. President Julius Maada Bio assumed the mantle of power in 2018. Ironically, the police and other arms of the security system are unleashing violence on the population, all in the name of protecting them from violence.

We, the members of CoPPP, would like to state categorically for the information of the general public and the international community that contrary to the baseless and unfounded propaganda that has been spreading on social media recently that CoPPP is sponsoring thuggery, we will neither descend into nor support any acts of violence despite all the provocation and threats of violence to which we are being subjected. We have remained peaceful for four (4) agonizing years amidst perpetual indignation and brutality at the hands of the SLPP government. Let it be known that we will work within the ambits of the law and will remain peaceful and law-abiding until we vote the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) government out of power in 2023.

Nonetheless, we would like to remind the public about some of the worst offenses that the SLPP government and the Police have been committing against us as political parties and against the people of Sierra Leone:

On 23rd March 2022, Dr. Dennis Bright, Chairman of the National Grand Coalition (NGC), and Mr. Arthur Pearce, Chairman, Western Area of NGC, were subjected to a whole day of gruesome interrogations at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for allegedly mobilizing thugs and carrying out subversive activities. They based these allegations on an incident in which Dr. Bright was leading a delegation of member political parties of CoPPP as guests of the APC at the bye-election rally in Constituency 073 and had met and greeted a group of strangers on their way.  The National Secretary-General of the APC party was also invited to the CID and questioned about his knowledge of the same people that Dr. Bright and Mr. Pearce had met for the first time on that fateful day.

In the bye-election in constituency 073, on Saturday 26th March 2022, the SLPP government again unleashed the fear, intimidation, and violence it is now well-known for at bye-elections in their textbook approach to “dealing with the opposition.” Contrary to the terms of the communiqué signed under the watch of the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) by the three contending political parties in the bye-election that only allowed accredited party officials and a limited number of vehicles to monitor the conduct of the bye-election, the SLPP party, however, like in all bye-elections, swarmed the constituency with high-profile politicians alongside heavily armed police and military officers to intimidate voters, beat up, arrest and incarcerate opposition politicians.

The Acting District Chairman of the APC party, Mr. Alie Suma, reported that five (5) supporters of the APC party were brutalized and arrested in constituency 073 bye-election at Church of God Primary School polling center code 10186 in Koyachiefdom on the 26th of March 2022 and are presently detained at Masiaka Police Station. The detained supporters are 1. Pa Abu Kargbo, 2. Osman Bangura, 3. Abu Koroma, 4. Abdul Karim Koroma and 5. Ibrahim David Kanu.

Mr. Suma also reported that four (4) APC supporters were arrested by the Police at Mamama on the 27th of March 2022, including the constituency Chairlady and the Limba Chief of Koya, and are presently detained at Mile 38 Police Station. They are 1. Chief Kamolo Conteh (Limba Chief), 2. Aminata Conteh (Constituency 073 Chairlady), 3. Zainab Thinker Bangura (Zonal Chairlady at Mamama) and 4. Yusif Kamara.

The APC youth leader in Mammama, Mr. Osman Kamara, was attacked by SLPP thugs, beaten up badly and left to die. He is presently at the Waterloo Government Hospital, struggling for his life. 

An APC parliamentarian who served as a polling agent was molested and assaulted by SLPP thugs on the polling day. Typically, despite the assault and brutality meted out against opposition political party members, not one SLPP member has been called for questioning by the police — they all walked away freely protected by the Police even after committing acts of election violence, intimidation, and vote-rigging.

These incidents quoted above are a perfect demonstration of the selective, overbearing, and aggressive approach that the Police adopt regarding bye-elections and clamp down on freedom of speech and expression in Sierra Leone today under the regime of H.E. President Julius Maada Bio.

On the 9th of February 2022, Mr. Sidie Yahya Tunis, the Acting National Publicity Secretary of the APC party, was invited to the CID about an interview he took with Radio Democracy 98.1 on the 6th of February 2022. He would be jailed in inhumane conditions on false, baseless, and unfounded allegations of “incitement,” according to the Inspector General of Police (IGP).

On the 13th of December 2021, Madam Diana Konomanyi, the Eastern Regional Chairman for the APC, was invited to the CID for questioning over her comment on the APC party’s position on the botched mid-term national census that the SLPP government conducted in defiance of expert advice from the World Bank and other members of the international community. Before that, The CID also invited Alhaji Osman Foday Yansaneh, National Secretary-General of the APC, for the same reason.

Dr. Dennis Bright, the Chairman of the National Grand Coalition (NGC) party, was also invited to the CID on the 8th of December 2021 for a statement on Radio Democracy 98.1 about the same botched National mid-term census.

Madam Femi Claudius-Cole, the Chairman for Unity Party (UP) and Chairperson for CoPPP, was also invited to the CID for the same reason. While Femi Claudius-Cole was detained in a stinking cell at the CID, eleven women and three men were rounded up randomly around the police headquarters by the Police, brutalized, cramped up in a small truck, and taken to the notorious “Benghazi” torture camp used by the Operation Security Department (OSD) of the Sierra Leone Police. Many survivors of Benghazi have spoken about the savage and inhumane treatment that inmates there are subjected to.

On the same day, the Deputy National Organizing Secretary of the APC went to the CID headquarters to check on the status of his arrested party members, only to be picked up, arrested, and taken to Benghazi. Together with the fourteen women and men arrested earlier, he would spend two days in Benghazi with the three men under horrible conditions and seven days in the maximum-security Pademba Road Correctional Center and for the women at the Special Court Female Correctional Center.

In Ward 196 by-election, Tonko-Limba, a fourteen-year-old pupil, was allegedly shot and killed by an officer attached to the security details of the then NEC Chairman and National Returning Officer. And in the constituency 110 bye-election, a strange SLPP character called Arata, ministers of government, and senior government officials were caught on camera vandalizing ballot boxes and desecrating polling materials. Many more incidences of SLPP thuggery, police brutality, and lopsided police interventions abound in Sierra Leone.

Interestingly, in all of these incidences, only opposition party supporters and senior officers have been brutalized, arrested, and incarcerated by the Police. All members of the ruling party who have perpetrated acts of thuggery and violence at elections (in some cases caught on video) have been allowed to walk free without arrest, prosecution, or conviction, almost as if to embolden them for future acts of violence. 

As opposition political parties, we find ourselves in a difficult situation wherein Elections Management Bodies, including the PPRC and ECSL, regularly ask us to sign memoranda of understanding and codes of conduct which we willingly do and yet have to endure brutality, violence, and incarceration at the hands of officials of the current regime and the police which they control. 

It is pretty evident that this regime is systematically pushing the opposition to the corner and creating a back-against-the-wall situation that could cause them to react violently as a way of courting mayhem in this country and delaying their expulsion from power through the ballot by the disgruntled and disenchanted Sierra Leonean populace.

We repeat that we will not fall into their trap. We at CoPPP value the safety and security of our people; we deplore all forms of violence and intimidation against us by members of this corrupt regime; we will remain peaceful for as long as it takes and defend democracy by mobilizing the suffering masses of this country to vote the cowards out of power peacefully. We will then build a progressive and happy nation guided by our forefathers’ abiding principles and vision: unity, freedom, and justice.  

We, at this moment, demand that all those opposition supporters and members who were unfairly arrested, brutalized, and detained during the bye-election polling process at Constituency 073 be released immediately and allowed to return to their families.

We call upon the international community and all moral guarantors to intervene and help us hold the SLPP Government to account for all their undemocratic actions, particularly the pathetically crude way they are using the security system against the opposition and the ordinary citizens of Sierra Leone.

CoPPP also calls on our supporters and the public to remain peaceful as they prepare to vote this Government out of power in 2023. We wish to remind the public that no amount of intimidation or heavy policing should prevent them from voting, as this appears to be the SLPP’s strategy to force considerably low voter turn-out in opposition strongholds. 

Signed:

Femi Claudius-Cole, Chairperson Consortium of Progressive Political Parties (CoPPP)

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