Political Violence and Human Rights Violations Threaten Sierra Leone’s Fragile Peace!

By Our Freetown Correspondent
The West African state of Sierra Leone is under serious threats of derailing the peace the country has been enjoying since the cessation of outright hostilities that eventually led to the declaration of the end of the brutal war the country has experienced in 2002.
As a result of the change of Government last March from the All People’s Congress (APC) party to the current ruling Sierra Leone’s People’s Party (SLPP) led by Mr. Julius Maada Bio, there has been an increasing spate of unprecedented political violence, gross human rights violations and targeted killings of innocent and unsuspecting supporters APC supporters especially in the traditional strongholds of the Southern and Eastern parts of the country from where the SLPP convincingly humbled the opposition.
Immediately following the victory of the SLPP, scores of villagers in Kono that hitherto did not vote for the current government were target that left scores deaths, women and children raped that left many more flee to the neighboring town of Masingbi in the North of the country.
The story is the same in Bo, Kenema, and Kailahun wherein known supporters of the APC were hounded and “exiled” to the North of the country for the crime of not voting the SLPP in areas largely perceived to be the stronghold of the government.
These incidents, among others, to the credit of rights groups and democracy organizations have been condemned and called on the government to exercise its legal authority over the state by calling on the supporters of the government to respect the right of others to determine the political party of their choice.
Quite recently, senior journalists from the popular African Young Voices radio and Television, including their prolific presenter Samuel Wyse Bangura, were arraigned before the House of Parliament for what the latter described as berating one of their members. This again attracted widely condemnation from media watchdogs both locally and internationally.
Just last week, another ace freelance reporter and a known APC sympathizer, Fayia Amara Fayia was ambushed by state police outside the precincts of the AYV TV immediately after he participated in a live audience program in which he was calling on the Government to respect freedom of speech as enshrined in the country’s 1991 constitution, the upholding of the rule of law and good governance practices. Fayia was whisked to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Sierra Leone Police where he was incarcerated, his working mobile phone confiscated and tortured.
Another vociferous critic of the SLPP government is journalist cum human rights activist Septimus Kanu. His crime is similar to the many victims of human rights abuses, harassment and political intimidation. He is a known critic of the government, especially during the campaign period prior to the last polls in March this year. Kanu has been a fearless critic that his family was also targeted immediately after the SLPP was announced victorious.
His aunt, who is living in Bo, one of the strongholds of the ruling party, was recently molested by desperate SLPP vigilantes for the “crime” of her nephew’s critical articles against the Freetown government. Her house and business worth millions of leones were either carted away or burnt down.
President Julius Maada Bio is particularly feared in Sierra Leone because of his checkered history of human rights violations in the country. In 1992, he and his colleagues overthrew the APC government and committed grave human rights violations. The extrajudicial killings by firing of the country’s Inspector-General of Police, James Bambay Kamara and twenty eight hours remain one of the sad memories of the country just as how their graves area mystery.
Julius Maada Bio who emerged as President following the country’s keenly contested elections in modern times is under scrutiny by rights groups and the international community for him to promote policies of national reconciliations, peace consolidation, respect for the rule of rule and the promoting the tenets of good governance and democracy if only activists and journalists like the Fayias, the Septimus Kanus and hosts of others presently in hiding or in exile out of the genuine fears of their lives as they continue to receive threats of intimidation and massacre from SLPP political desperadoes.
It could be recalled that Sierra Leone, alongside Rwanda, were singled out for support by the United Nations through the Peace Building Commission for support in order to inculcate the principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, peace consolidation in order to prevent a relapse to any forms of debilitating conflicts the two countries experienced in 1991 and 1994 respectively.
The wakeup call then is, in the case of Sierra Leone, the symptoms of the prelude of the war are all evident; political intimidation, human rights violations, murders and rape with impunity…precursors to the 1991 civil war.
This then calls for support from the international community to transcend the diplomacy of issuing our press releases if only to save Sierra Leone from yet another enervating conflict.
Afterwards, is it not said that a stitch in time saves nine?

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