As Sierra Leone precariously move towards preparing for the 2018 general and presidential elections, it seems for now that it’s the country’s main opposition SLPP making the news for all the wrong reasons – political violence.
Sierra Leone needs a strong and caring government that is committed to tackling poverty, destitution, squalor, disease, chronic unemployment, and the deepening regional and social inequalities that are opening up – driven by tribalism, corruption and cronyism.
But above all, Sierra Leone needs opposition political parties that do not simply criticise the Koroma government, whose failures and inability to show leadership and provide good governance has become unacceptable and intolerable.
It is now becoming painfully clear that the opposition SLPP is fast losing credibility to serve the people of Sierra Leone, not only as a viable government in waiting, but to provide the necessary moral compass that is needed to govern and lead all six million people in the right direction to prosperity.
The people of Sierra Leone may be suffering under the corrupt and abysmally inept APC government, but senior members and leaders of the SLPP must know that the people of Sierra Leone are not obliged to vote for the SLPP simply because they have had enough of the ruling APC; nor are they obliged to elect the SLPP to run the country, simply because they are the only visible opposition shouting down the Koroma government.
The people of Sierra Leone will only vote for the SLPP, if they can show that they are capable of running the country better than the failed ruling APC, and also perhaps more importantly, that the SLPP has the moral backbone to govern the country.
If the opposition SLPP cannot show the people of Sierra Leone that they are a credible opposition, capable of providing strong leadership and good governance for the whole country, in the absence of any other opposition movement, then the ruling APC will once again be elected in 2018.
Whilst inter-party political violence is nothing new in Sierra Leone, especially in days leading up to and during national and local elections, what is worrying today, is the intra-party political violence that is now slowly consuming the psyche of senior opposition politicians, whose followers have become Rambo style foot-soldiers, willing to commit murder for politics.
Young men are being groomed by brutal and rogue politicians to become political mercenaries, to silence and eliminate those with whom they disagree. Yet the international community remains quiet.
What these politicians need to be reminded of, is that they will be held accountable for not only their own actions and utterances that lead to widespread violence and murder, but the actions and behaviour of their supporters, by the international court in The Hague.
As it is with Charles Taylor and Milosevic, so shall it be with those politicians in Sierra Leone today, who are inciting, promoting, fueling and providing the leadership, resources and emotional space to those willing and prepared to kill, intimidate and harass those with whom they disagree or dislike.
Since the brutal murder of the young man last Friday in Kenema – believed to be a supporter of John Benjamin who is aspiring to lead the party, allegedly by a strong supporter of another SLPP presidential aspirant – Julius Maada Bio, the SLPP executives appear to have gone to sleep.
There has been no public statement from the SLPP party office about this criminal act of barbarism. And this serious and disgraceful omission and lapse of judgement is not lost on the Koroma government either.
This is what the Koroma government is telling both the nation and the leaders of the SLPP, published in a statement yesterday:
Ministry of Political and Public Affairs
29th May 2016
Political Violence in Kenema
On Friday 27th May 2016, the Ministry of Political and Public Affairs received reports about skirmishes among Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) supporters in Kenema.
The incident reportedly started as a disagreement between two main SLPP factions in what was supposed to be a peaceful meeting , then later developed into a serious stand-off between supporters of Rtd Brigadier Julius Maada Bio and Mr John Oponjo Benjamin.
The situation reportedly led to the destruction of private property and the killing of a young man believed to be a supporter of Mr. John Benjamin. Police have since arrested a key suspect also described as a staunch supporter of Rtd Brigadier Julius Maada Bio.
As we unreservedly condemn this act, we wish to express a serious concern over the recurrence of political violence especially among members of the main opposition party.
As the Ministry charged with the responsibility of providing oversight on the activities of political parties in the country, we are calling on the leadership of the SLPP to ensure sanity prevails within its rank and file.
We believe that the foundations of our democracy shall remain weak if the opposition fails to live up to its expectation of providing alternative development policies that will guide government on its mission to accomplish essential service delivery to the people of this country.
In view of this, we wish to make the following recommendations to the Sierra Leone People’s Party.
1) That the national leadership of the SLPP come out with a statement to unequivocally condemn the killing of an innocent supporter.
2) That the party fully cooperate with the police and other law enforcement agencies to bring the perpetrators to book.
3) That the family of the deceased is duly compensated.
4) That the SLPP leadership maps out effective strategies that will bring a stop to the spiraling violence among its supporters.
Finally, we are calling on the Sierra Leone Police and the Judiciary to speedily investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of this unfortunate incident.
The Ministry, on behalf of government wishes to express sincere condolences to the family of the bereaved.
9th Floor, Youyi Building
End of government statement
This is a statement published by Julius Maada Bio last Saturday, about the killing of the young man in Kenema:
But Sierra Leoneans deserve better, as the opposition SLPP is being held to ransom. Perhaps the time has come for the few patriotic Sierra Leoneans within both the SLPP and the APC – with the moral backbone, love for country, commitment and capable of running the country – irrespective of tribe and regional origin, to say goodbye and take leave of these two parties, and go on to form a new viable government in waiting.
Sierra Leoneans deserve a better future and an alternative political leadership. Where are the Alieu Iscandris of the ruling APC, the Alie Kabbas and Kandeh Yumkellas of the SLPP?
Speak and act now, or forever hold your peace. Sierra Leone needs you. Sierra Leone needs a new alternative political movement NOW.