By Yanguba Kai-Samba
The rule of law must prevail and the police must be allowed to show their impartiality.
For too often, criminals are getting away with crimes.
Indiscipline and lawlessness in the west African state of Sierra Leone are of major concern.
But what is more alarming is that the police and other law enforcement role in protecting the citizens appears to have been subsumed for political expediency that are often far short of justice for the victims.
There have been an awful escalation of violence against persons that went on without police, not able to conduct arrest and prosecute the assailants.
When the APC , now the country’s main opposition, was in governance, the then main SLPP opposition party headquarter in Freetown came under brutal attack. Several people were allegedly beaten, wounded and there were report of serious sexual assaults including rape on women.
There were no arrest or prosecution of those responsible for the attack, which it was deemed, to have been politically motivated violence.Nothing was done by way of arrest and prosecution.
A couple of months ago, police attacked the APC opposition party headquarter in Freetown, firing tear gas whilst party officials and supporters were in the building. The police said their actions was actuated by provocation . But the B B C correspondent ,Umaru Fofana ,who was on the scene said he didn’t see any provocation. Nothing came out of it by way of prosecution.
In 2018, a new government came to power. The Sierra Leone People’s Party. The oldest political party, that was reputed to be the party of law and order, has now characterised itself as PAOPAS, which translated in English , means “It must be, by all means.”
This party was civil and attracted many noble men and women across the country, who never used or condoned violence and thuggery. The party had never initiated violence, believe in it or deployed violence as a means of seeking power and keeping it, even though, my knowledge of thuggery and political violence informed me that SLPP was at the receiving end,most of the time, in the historical rivalry between the two parties, APC and SLPP.
But with the entrants of the former junta leader, Julius Bio, SLPP adopted the catch phrase, “fire for fire” meaning we will respond to violence with violence.
Never in the history of intra-party leadership election of the SLPP had there been the grotesque violence and thuggery that culminated in the stabbing and murder in Kenema of a supporter of rival presidential candidate.
The alleged attacker was reported to have link to Julius Bio who was the leading contender in the SLPP presidential candidate.
But the incident took place when the APC was in power. Arrest was made and the suspect detained.
However, no trial of the accused took place up to the time the APC lost power in 2018 to president Bio.
With SLPP in office, the man in custody accused of murder was released. No justice for his victim.
The SLPP leadership campaign itself was marred by unprecedented violence and thuggery, in the history of the party’s leadership election. No less than 20 cases of serious assaults , wounding including sexual assaults, were reported to the police. Some of these cases may still be on the police file but no actions were taken and no justice for the victims.
Following the SLPP victory in the 2018 presidential election, politically motivated violence erupted in mainly the Southeast, which is the stronghold of the newly elected party, the SLPP.
The violence cost lives, significant destruction of markets stalls, internal displacement of people and damage to properties to those who were deemed not supporters of SLPP.
There were calls to president Bio, including me, to institute an enquiry into why such violence could have occurred and who were behind it. It fell on deaf ears. The opportunity for President Bio to assert himself as a disciplined one nation leader was lost.
No justice done to the victims, who lost their livelihoods and homes as many were forced to flee.
More alarming are the rumours, which are difficult to ascertain ,but it is instilling fear and anxiety in the country, that there are politically sponsored thugs targeting and attacking political opponents.
My gravest concern that prompted me to write this commentary is that political interest groups are undermining the rule of law and impeding the work of the police as the principal law enforcement agencies in the country.
I draw the readers attention to the report from the B B C correspondant, Umaru Fofana, that some assorted committee that comprised of journalists, civil society and a minister had investigated the brutal assault on two accredited female journalists, by two armed bodyguards of President Bio and had recommended their dismissal and required one of them to issue an apology.
I had vehemently and fearlessly condemned that barbaric act of violence and called on President Bio to immediately dismiss them , whilst police conduct their investigation.
This was an arrestable offence that our police should have dealt with by prompt arrest and prosecution and not by adhoc administrative settlement that fell short of retributive justice.
Another creeping politicization of the country’s institutions is seen in the fanfare of hands off our girls.
By all means, the first lady Fatima Bio should not be criticized as she has a lot to contribute in empowering women in a male- dominated society where women are really having a raw deal.
In spite of her good intentions, the welfare of girls and women in general comes under the statutory responsibility of the ministry of gender and social welfare.
Perhaps, it is appropriate , at this stage to ask few questions.
1) is this hands off our girls project an NGO
2) how and where is it getting funds?
3 ) and this is very important, is it not duplicating the role of the gender and welfare ministry ?
4) is it working in collaboration with the ministry of gender and social welfare or is it accountable or report to the ministry because the ministry is the political and policy decision making body in this matter.
Women are facing by far a disproportionate deprivation and socio-economic injustices. From wife beating, physical violence in abusive relationship, sexual assaults and violence, exploitation,housing problems and unemployment.
Many women are forced to endured years of beating, cruelty at the hands of their partners, husband or boyfriends because they have no where to go .
There is no homes for abused women who are in abusive and violent relationship to seek refuge .
A society that is build on the cultural myth of women’s inferiority , and seeing women as sex objects , needs a seismic shift in changing attitudes.
The male brain works differently from that of women’s , according to some psychologists, but they are more intelligent and smarter from my own experience with them, having attended co-education boarding secondary school and through my adult life. Society and policy makers should recognize this.
A comprehensive and coordinated policy to eradicate the inherent patriarch domination perpetuated against disadvantaged and subjugated women in society is required and to achieve a credible results , it cannot be in isolation.
Government and the first lady need to engage and support the ministry of gender and social welfare to address problems facing our women holistically.
Hands off our girls is part of this crusade but it is oozing up too much air of politicking.