Social media is a mixed blessing for information exchange and with the easy use of mobile phones to record and capture pictures of events, there is now no hiding place for those who threaten the security of their nations. In the UK, it is now a common practice for those who go abroad to engage in nefarious activities such as terrorism training and become members of ISIS or Al Quaeda to have their citizenship stripped off them and deported to their second country of nationality for those with dual nationalities. Whether this is something we must consider in Sierra Leone is one for the security agencies to contemplate but events of the past weeks are resulting in ominous signs that there are those in this country who may be planning to gain political power by the use of force or a reversion to anarchy and civil war.
First it was the Sierra Leone Peoples Party’s Lahai Leema who threatened that the SLPP is ready to endorse another war in Sierra Leone if the results of the forthcoming general elections do not go their way. Despite several calls for Mr Leema to be made to account for those words, the security agencies have not heeded to the need to bring him up for questioning. Nonetheless, when someone of that stature raises the spectre of violence, the government is expected to listen.
This past week has seen the spectre of violence again raised by another high ranking member of the SLPP, Chairman of SLPP UK & I branch, Mohamed Yongawo publicly endorsed the sentiments expressed by Mr Leema in a high priced dinner held somewhere in the London. Whether Mr Yongawo was attempting to impress his audience to reach a fever pitch level of grievance against the ruling APC Party so as to support a position of “coming to power by force” as the Paopa wing of the SLPP now dictate, his words were gauged to cause incitement and sedition. It is unclear whether his position is a creeping acceptance of the impending defeat that the SLPP face at the coming polls but what is more sinister is the seriousness with which the opposition is determined to come to power.
Those who have observed the dynamics of conflict in many states have endorsed the supposition that the threat of violence is a characteristic determinant of state failure and the degradation of conflict to war. Some scholars have therefore sought to instil in peace building, a rationale for suppressing state failure by the establishment of foundation institutions. The Police for example are a primary institution recommended for securing the foundation elements of law and order to the extent that in a situation where the Police ceases to adequately function as it should, the slide to state failure will become manifestly amplified. It is for this reason that the Sierra Leone Police must be seen to perform its statutory function to maintain law and order and account for the security of the people. In doing this, the Police must keep at bay, those who may condescend to threaten this nation with violence of any kind and at any time. Lahai Leema and Mohamed Yongawo are two people who are known to have combat experience, have demonstrable abilities to draw down violence and as such are people known to have the capacity for violence. These two people should be closely watched so that the nation is assured that their capacity for violence cannot be activated against this nation. Lest anyone is minded to take the utterings of these men lightly, it must be noted that these two men have military background and are both aligned to the Maada Bio Paopa wing of the SLPP. They are “Bio’s boys” and hence their thirst for power is limited only by the ambition of their leader and in such a situation, it is clear that their intentions about violence as a means for attaining power is indeed a real option for them. Maada Bio knows no other way of gaining power other than by violence, coup d’etat and counter coup.
It was Yusuf Keketoma Sandi who, in 2016 wrote of Mr Yongawo when he took over power as Chairman of SLPP UK & I, as a man who keeps his words, particularly referring to Mr Yongawo’s declaration during his acceptance speech that come 2018, the SLPP will be in power. For a man who had the inclination to assert that the SLPP should be for everyone, he has been quick to distance himself from that position from such pluralist standpoint to that of a contrived Paopa convert and their narrow vision of singularity. His assurances in 2016 that were given to the KKY and Timbo factions at his election have now been turned on their head as he openly promotes the position of the Maada Bio wing of violence and their message of coming to power as if it is a matter of right or entitlement.
There is another twist to the alarming threats of war that the Maada Bio boys have issued and for which the public must be alerted. When Leema’s utterings was first made, some of his proponents came up with the retort that Ernest Bai Koroma made a similar threat to the then SLPP Government when he said that he “would make this country ungovernable,” were he not to win the democratic endorsement of the people of this country in 2007. The allusion that this statement is the same as that which Leema insinuated, is derived from the import of Ernest Koroma’s statement against that which was intoned by Leema on national radio. When an opposition leader uses the term “making the country ungovernable,” he is well within the rights to peaceful protest to oppose the Government and to make the life of a government difficult to rule when as a matter of fact, such a Government may not have a majority in Parliament to govern effectively. It is by nature, the very essence of political opposition to make a ruling party dysfunctional and hence incapable of functioning as a government.” Opposition parties are contrived to make their countries ungovernable to the extent that they are expected to oppose a government that has clearly lost the confidence of the people. In its proper context, Ernest Bai Koroma made his statement at a time when Sierra Leone was already identified as a post conflict state that required regime change in order to stop the country from moving into another state failure or conflict situation. This was a decision made by the international community serving on the ground and it was they who had refused to further bankroll a government that they knew was wasting resources and lacked appropriate accountability. While the SLPP government of President Tejan Kabba was failing and the prospect of a handover to Berewa was seen as a further decline to fragility, the same cannot be said of the present APC government. Lahai Leema’s comment on the other hand is more intense and has a greater force or threat of violence in its ramifications. He portended that it was the APC, by not relinquishing power to them as a matter of entitlement, that would create “a theatre for war.” How he came to that conclusion is in terms on account of the false premise that because the APC has served for two terms, there should be a de facto change of government at the next round of voting. The falsity of this premise is underpinned by the fact that Mr Leema failed to ascertain any constitutional or democratic foundations that or for saying so. In endorsing Mr Leema’s statement therefore, Mr Yongawo colludes with someone who has issued a threat to war and must be complicit in any charge of sedition that may be levied against Mr Leema. That these two are barrow boys is not in dispute, what is the case for contention here is why on earth the Inspector General of Police has not asked his people at Slater Terrace to have some very stern words with them or otherwise ask them to be more explicit in their utterances, both here and anywhere else. One thing that is certain however is that the drums of war will not sound too lively here again as no one will dance to their tune.