By KABS KANU
The United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and Responsibility to Protect supports a system of response to what is now dubbed EARLY WARNING SIGNS to nip in the bud potential threats of chaos by taking “effective action in response to situations where populations are at risk of atrocity crimes …. or where these crimes are ongoing.” The premise on which the system of early warning signs is built is that “these crimes do not happen overnight. They are processes; they require planning and preparation. There are warning signs, and common risk factors, both structural and dynamic, that can lead to or enable the commission of these crimes.
The UN believes that “Once the risk factors are detected, it will be possible to identify measures that can be taken by States and the international community to reduce the likelihood of atrocity crimes occurring.” We have started seeing these early signs of intent by political extremists to commit atrocities in Sierra Leone.
Whereas as neighbouring Liberia conducted its own recent presidential elections in a relatively peaceful manner, early warning signs emerging from Sierra Leone create the uncomfortable feeling that our own elections might be different and packed with violence , unless strong and robust measures are put in place immediately to stem these early threats of turmoil now being feared by a good number of Sierra Leoneans. What happened in Kono and Kamalo creates the spectre that Sierra Leone has still not dealt effectively with the problems of extremism and political intolerance, which were contributing factors to the 11-year civil war that destroyed the nation and left thousands of people dead. What happened in Kamalo and Kono is not accidental. The bedlam in these towns were calculated events that could give birth to more acts of lawlessness, violence and serious conflict.
When you listen to the bitter and belligerent tones manifest in the threats of the opposition parties —especially the Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP) and the National Grand Coalition ( NGC)— that they will not accept the elections results if they suspect foul play and that they are ready to INJECT VIOLENCE against the ruling All People’s Congress ( APC ) this time, you begin to fear that they are not planning to accept defeat this time round, whether it is fair or foul. When you listen to the very angry tone of political participants in radio and TV talk shows, in videos and audios or in posts they release on the social media, you know that extremism and political tolerance still run deep in the veins of rabid supporters of political parties in Sierra Leone . And this is not good for the nation.
There is no election in Sierra Leone that has not been replete with high tension and conflict between the APC and the SLPP . The stakes have always been high. But this time the stakes are even higher because two breakaway political outfits have joined the race whose utterances have not inspired any confidence in Sierra Leoneans that the days of extremism and political intolerance are over. They are the SLPP clone, the NGC , whose supporters are hard core extremists going by their utterances in the social media and the Coalition for Change ( C4C) , led by the still very aggrieved sacked former Vice-President of the APC Government, Alhaji Sam Sumana.
From their utterances ( As heard in the social media and on radio, TV and newspaper articles ) and actions ( As was seen in Kamalo and Kono ) , supporters of some political parties have still not learnt that the days of uncivilized, unprogressive , despotic , all-or-nothing and bush politics are over. They still do not believe that the days of bush-shaking are over. These desperate men want power at all costs and are determined to bulldoze their way to State House by violent means . They have not learnt that this is a new era of democratization and respect for the Rule of Law when power is acquired through the ballot box.
From all we have heard and seen, it looks like their determination to create mayhem in Sierra Leone will be disguised under an already preconceived resolve to find faults with the elections and not to accept the results, if they lose. For them, it is either victory or mayhem in Sierra Leone. Once they lose, they will manufacture every conceivable alibi to dispute the results. Maada Bio has issued these threats over and over , subtly . NGC supporters in the social media are making no bones about their intentions to go on the rampage if their presidential candidate , Kandeh Yumkella, does not achieve victory.
The government must not play down or ignore these threats.
Since the Government has the primary responsibility to defend and protect the lives of the people and their properties , it must not allow these anarchists to take it unawares as was done during the Ndorgborwusui conflict in 1982 and rebel war in 1991 . If the Kono and Kamalo events are replicated anywhere and the impression is given that the opposition wants to ignite trouble in the country , the government should immediately invoke the Military Aid to Civil Power (MAC-P) in all parts of the country to put a dent to possible plans by nefarious forces to make the elections chaotic and disruptive and governance impossible, if they lose, as they have threatened . While I concede that the Police is primarily responsible for ensuring internal peace, and that we now have a well-trained and equipped police force, any additional measure that will stop this nation from going back to war must be considered at this crucial time of our country’s history . Undemocratic forces must not be allowed to carry out their threats to make Sierra Leone ungovernable if things do not go their way.
We cannot afford another war , but it does not seem like political extremists and anarchists understand this message. While Liberia seems to have learned the lessons of war, we in Sierra Leone seem to be awaiting for our country to be reduced to total rubble first and dead bodies to litter the whole country to learn that war is not good.
Another reason that government must not hesitate to invoke MAC-P is that the SLPP , NGC and C4C want to blackmail and smear government to the international community. Their modus operandus is to provoke mayhem and chaos and implicate the APC to make it look to the international community and international stakeholders that the APC Government is introducing violence because it wants to cling to power at all costs. They believe that if they succeed in perpetrating such a misperception, it will appeal to any misguided stakeholders looking for regime change , who might then throw in their support in the event that these parties dispute the results of the elections.
There is no need for any Sierra Leonean to fear MAC-P if our intentions are not to create trouble on March 7, which is polling day in Sierra Leone.
We , the peaceful and progressive people of Sierra Leone, want a free, fair, clean and peaceful election, devoid of threats to the lives and properties of our citizens. I am sure peace-loving Sierra Leoneans would not mind if I appeal , on their behalf, to government to invoke MAC-P without any delay if rabid political anarchists attempt to endanger life and property and the electoral process.