March 25, 2023

Ebola Virus has a beginning and an end. It started in May 2014 and ended in November 2016, and everything went back to normal. The ceremony marking the end of Ebola was held in Miatta Conference Hall in Freetown where ex-President Ernest Bai Koroma officially declared the end of Ebola.

Unlike Ebola, Corona has a beginning, but does not seem to have end. Corona’s index case was recorded in March 2020 but official announcement about its end is yet to come from government. Many Sierra Leoneans have expressed concern, and called on government to officially pronounce that Corona is over as the country slowly enters the electoral period.

They fear that government might use Corona as the last resort to stifle the main opposition when all other methods would have failed. Several tactics have been employed by President Julius Maada Bio to ensure that APC (All People’s Congress) is held to ransom ahead of the 24 June elections. It is clear that SLPP (Sierra Leone People’s Party) government has failed the state, and the only way it hopes to come back to power is to weaken its main rival, the APC.

Sierra Leoneans have seen firsthand the use of the police and the courts by government to its advantage, despite failing to achieve any political objective. The resistance to injustice is just too tough. The ruling party has failed to stop APC from holding a convention and choosing a flagbearer. Bio’s government has also failed in nailing down APC politicians by legal means. Upon assumption of the presidency in 2018, Bio and his henchmen made outlandish allegations of corruption against former government officials. The allegations which hinged mainly on corruption are aimed at nothing but to kill and bury APC in the sand.

Government is less successful in this venture as the key target, former President Ernest Bai Koroma could not be crucified. Koroma who was the key target kept his head above waters since no case was found against him. President Koroma is today known for criss-crossing Africa and the world to build peace and democracy a move that threatens SLPP.

It is clear that since all methods have failed, the last one could be the use of a Corona case to derail campaigns, rallies and the election itself. The extent to which SLPP government used Corona to achieve their politically destructive moves would hardly fade away from people’s minds. The detection of the first case of Corona prompted several harsh measures on the part of government, and the aim by all standards, is to oppress opposition politicians to kill their spirit.

A single case of Corona prompted government to declare a state of emergency all over Sierra Leone. While debating for the declaration of the emergency, opposition politicians were worried and jittery about illegal and reckless infringements on their rights, freedoms and civil liberties as well as those of their supporters.

But, such fears were allayed; they were lured into participating and accepting the emergency by the promise that it would be used only to contain the virus and nothing else. This promise however was not honoured by government. It was a mere hoax and bait. It was during the emergency period that most of APC’s political activities were put on hold on several occasions.

Several injunctions were imposed on APC to prevent them from carrying out their internal politicking. On the other hand, the ruling party had a field day. They held all their political activities during the emergency period. When President Bio returned home from Lebanon after a 21-day visit to the Asian country at the height of Corona, large groups of SLPP supporters converged on the streets to welcome him. Questions were raised about whether government meant business in the fight against Corona or using it as just a way to stifle the opposition.

Some reliable sources also made it clear that most APC politicians would be trapped in the country during the electoral period especially during campaigns and rallies, if at all they will be permitted. No one knows the method SLPP would use: it could be Corona or the police and the courts. Most APC politicians were arrested and detained indefinitely and rendered incommunicado using the state of emergency to justify government’s action.

Former Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Dr Sylvia Blyden was detained for 21 days in police custody for misdemeanour offences, a serious violation of her human rights. Sedition and publication of false news are not felonious or capital crimes that should warrant a prolonged detention. The Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991 specifies 10 days as the maximum detention period for capital offences and 72 hours for minor ones.

It was also during the emergency period that former Defence Minister, Alfred Palo Conteh and other officials were charged with treason related crimes that landed them in prison for close to a year. They were released after it was found out that they had no involvement in the crimes alleged.

It was also during Corona period that former Minister of Political and Public Affairs, Karmoh Kabba was arrested and detained for what the police called disorderly behaviour and malicious damage during a re-run election in Freetown. Government ministers who destroyed election materials in police presence were let off the hook.

No one was held responsible for such illegal acts because they belonged to the ruling party. Even a notorious SLPP thug who also destroyed election materials and caused physical injuries enjoyed a field day. To date, the names of prominent APC politicians are still on a government “White Paper” and moves for them not to take part in politics have been made. The latest was the case filed by Francis Kai Gbondo, a man widely seen as an SLPP agent in the APC.

Even APC’s newly elected flagbearer, Dr Samura Kamara is not yet out of the woods as he still battles it out in the courts. His name also features in the “White Paper”. Former President Koroma too who many see as the backup for Kamara is not yet free from the courts. It is safe to say that if the law frees APC politicians, Corona might be invoked since SLPP will stop at nothing to ensure political continuity after June 24.