It would be recalled that the first rounds of the 1996 Presidential and Parliamentary elections were marred by violence. Voters in most of parts of the provincial towns of Bo, Kenema and Makeni suffered and their fore-limbs amputated by rebels dubbed sobels who were terrorizing these areas instilling fear and harassing a good number of them, thus preventing them from exercising their democratic rights in most of the areas. It was dubbed “Democracy by the bullet” by voters who were prevented from voting as the rebel who had aligned themselves with the soldiers demonstrated their unwillingness for the conduct of the elections. The NPRC junta headed by retired Brigadier Maada Bio supported peace before elections while the politicians wanted elections before peace. For the politicians, the peace before elections campaign was an excuse to prolong the stay of the Khaki boys in political office, since they were not able to end the war as promised; they were finding ways to stay in power and continue plundering the economy.
Failing to achieve their objective of peace before elections, crude and undemocratic methods were introduced.
However, after several closed door consultations and meetings with heads of the NPRC junta and the military, the Presidential run-off election between Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah (SLPP) and Karefa Smart (UNPP) was conducted under a very peaceful atmosphere with no reported cases of amputation, harassment or intimidation from the rebels, “sobels” or the military.
Just few days to the 2007 Presidential run –off election between Solomon Ekuma Berewa (SLPP) and Ernest Bai Koroma (APC), there has been reported cases of violence in the southeastern province and the city of Freetown between supporters of the two political parties. Last week, during one of his campaign tours in the provinces, the leader and Presidential Candidate of the APC was attacked in the town of Segbewema in the Kailahun district where the RUF commenced its onslaughts on the people of this country in March of 1991.
As if the attacks in the southeastern part of the country were not enough, Saturday 1st September 2007 saw part of the city of Freetown turned upside-down as political party supporters along Wallace Johnson Street brandished cutlasses, knives and other weapons.
The Administrative Officer attached to the Central Police Station, Assistant Superintendent of police, S.B. Kargbo was knifed by a political party supporter while performing his constitutional duty of protecting lives and properties.
Speaking to this reporter in an exclusive interview, Monday 3rd September 2007, the officer explained that he was in his office at the Central Police Station when he was informed by one of his junior officers about violence being perpetrated by youths around the government Wharf area.
“I was later informed that an Inspector of Police was handling the situation.” ASP Kargbo said, adding that few minute later he was told that the situation was getting out of control. “I ordered my men to prevent the violent youths from coming towards the station, but unfortunately they failed to realize that some of them had already gone towards Connaught Hospital” he noted, and when asked by the reporter to identify the youths, he said they are SLPP supporters who explained to police that they were retaliating against the APC supporters. “We advised them not to take the laws into their hands but they failed to listen to the police” ASP Kargbo explained. While holding discussions with his men about possible strategies they could use to disperse the protesters they saw one of the supporters with a sharp cutlass coming towards them while others were carrying bottles, stones and knives.
ASP Kargbo said, while trying to control the protesters that had already surrounded them during the period, one of them used a cutlass to strike him on his left arm. He was rushed to the Kingtom Police Hospital for medical treatment. Meanwhile, the police are having in their custody the suspect (name withheld) with the exhibit (cutlass).
Political observers have dubbed this year’s election “Democracy by Cutlass” stating that the politicians are using their supporters to intimidate the voters with the use of cutlasses, knives and other weapons.
According to AIG Chris Charley, police had no knowledge about cutlasses and other weapons stored around Wallace Johnson Street which are now being used against law enforcement officers. However, it is not known whether or not the suspect in police custody would be charged to court. The Administrative Officer ASP Kargbo is currently responding to medical treatment.
Few weeks back, the police patrol team arrested ten ex-combatants in a white Hilux van late at night and were detained at Jui, Hasting when unexpectedly others came from above to AIG David Sesay, head of the Operational Security Division (OSD) for their immediate release