March 25, 2023

As June 24,  2023 election comes closer, President Julius Maada Bio intensifies police and military brutality on opposition politicians. The aim is to create an environment of terror and intimidation to keep political opponents off from the political landscape. It is a subtle  rigging tactic Bio has been pursuing since he came to power in April, 2018.

A prominent politician, Lansana Dumbuya is the latest victim of Bio’s terror. Dumbuya, the newly elected APC (All People’s Congress) Secretary-General was brutalised by security operatives deployed at State Lodge claiming that they acted on  President Bio’s orders. “The police officers who assaulted me said they were ordered by President Bio,” in tears, the APC scribe narrated his ordeal.

The security personnel did not stop torturing him even when he introduced himself to them as the APC Secretay-General. Dumbuya’s driver too was was not spared. He was similarly manhandled and left him with serious injuries. The two are responding to medical treatment with no one knowing the outcome.

The newly elected APC flag-bearer, Dr Samura Kamara has condemned the attacks and called on the authorities to investigate. It is not clear whether the police would launch a full-blown investigation against the deviant police officers.

This press tried, but failed to reach head of police media, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Brima Kamara to respond to allegations of police brutality on the APC Secretary-General. No senior officer at police headquaters could respond to the allegation .

A State House press official contacted by this press also declined to comment on the allegation against the President. The  scribe’s bitter encounter with police at State Lodge was preceded by violent scenes at Calaba Town in Freetown while Dr Samura’s caravan was en route to the city.  Police fired teargas at crowds who were on the streets to welcome  the newly elected  APC flag-bearer.

It was a running battle between the forces of law and order and the civilians. But, persistent firing became unbearable as the crowds could not put with the situation. The itching smoke of the baton gun drove many to their houses, but resurfaced only when Samura arrived at the scene.

This press witnessed the police firing, and  interviewed victims. Amadu Kamara was one those badly affected by the teargas canister. In a choking breath, he told this press that while they were on the streets to receive the new flag-bearer, some SLPP supporters appeared from nowhere, and a scuffle ensued between them and APC supporters.

The police intervened, but were not neutral as  they pointed their barrel only at APC crowds  while sparing those from SLPP. The double standards policing  has always been a major challenge for the Sierra Leone Police especially issues relating to the two political parties. The police are always there to support members of  whatever political party in power. They readily accept orders from government officials although the police has operational autonomy.

The country’s laws  particularly the Constitution of Sierra Leone, 1991 provides that the operational command and control of the police force is vested in the Inspector-General of Police. In the exercise of those functions, the police chief  is not subject to the control or direction of any person or authority. This clause is less operationalised as the police are still subservient to politicians at the helm of affairs.

It is therefore difficult  to ensure a peaceful and orderly society as long as the police continue to take order from the political elites. Waves of violence also took place in other parts of the city during Samura’s festivities thus  creating a situation of fear and panic.

President Bio’s action to the men in uniform is unknown at the moment, but many say nothing will come out of it. An opposition politician who spoke on condition anonymity accused Bio of nurturing impunity in the forces of law and order as long as it is an act done to protect SLPP.

He said Bio hardly disciplined his men once  the brutality is done to members of other political parties. The incident in Kambia where an APC member was brutally murdered by SLPP supporters was cited as a bright  example.

No SLPP supporter was arrested for the killing in Tonko Limba chiefdom because the deceased was an APC member. The police which should be an independent agency backed the killers as they offered them  a field day.  How can political violence stop in a country where police officers fear to enforce the law on supporters of ruling parties.

Aritstole’s notion on law enforcement is very much relevant here. The philosopher of the ages strongly argued in one of his enlightened moments that the laws are like cobwebs in which weaker animals are trapped and stronger animals break through. This is the current situation into which Sierra Leone has been trapped raising fears about how the elections would look like in the near future.

The APC politician also took Sierra Leoneans’ minds to the political violence in Constituency 110 in the Western Area where Khadijatu Davies of the APC and Josephine Jackson of SLPP ran for a parliamentary seat in a re-run election. On vote-counting day, SLPP thugs unleashed terror and mayhem to APC politicians and ECSL (Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone) staff. Vehicles were burned down, election materials vandalised and electoral  staff put under siege in police presence, but no one was made to bear the consequence of their action.

The worst act was the destruction of election boxes and ballot papers by a cabinet minister, Kabineh Kallon in police presence.

Instead of arresting him, the police let him off the hook owing to fear of government reprisals. However, senior APC officials including a former minister were arrested and detained. Karmoh Kabba who was Minister of Political and Public Affairs languished  behind bars for a long time before granted bail. An albatross still hangs on his neck as the case is still pending in court. After a brutal killing of inmates at Pa Demba Road Correctional Centre, Sierra Leoneans widely expected the President to show remorse and express condolence to the deceased’s families.

The public was however taken by surprise when President Bio appeared on state radio and TV and threatened that his government will not relent in its crackdown on political opponents who he called terrorists. “My government will hit, and will continue to hit harder,” this is Bio’s exact words after the April, 2020 Massacre at the prison yard.

He made no effort to bring the killers to justice even when it became clear that his guards from State House carried out the extra-judicial killings. Tagging APC politicians and the deceased as terrorists is a blatant complicity with the killers, a way of justifying their deaths.

All over the world, it is quite clear that a terrorist should not exist, and thus inmates also should not exist. President Bio repeated the same action on those killed in August 10, 2022 demonstrations. Instead of investigating the killers, President Bio named them “terrorists” and “insurrectionists” implying that it was legal for them to crumble under the barrel of the gun.

No one was investigated although there is an  investigation committee. Many say the committee is carrying out sham investigations since only opposition politicians have come before it.

Mayor of Freetown, Yvonne Aki Sawyer has been invited by the committee with no one knowing why. An APC politician, Ady Macauley was also held in custody for a day over allegations of inciting August 10, 2022 protests. The APC politician became suspect only for a mere expression of a legal opinion on the right to protest.

Instances of Bio’s complicity with SLPP perpetrators of violence are endless, and only God works out a miracle to save Sierra Leone during elections.