A response to SLPPs allegations on security situation in Sierra Leone
The attention of Government has been drawn to a very mischievous press release circulated by the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) with a deliberate attempt to misinform members of the public and at the same time to drive fear in the minds of the citizenry at a time when President Ernest Bai Koroma is preaching the message of peace and national reconciliation.
The recent press release signed by the flag-bearer of the SLPP, Julius Maada Bio, suggesting that the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) party is recruiting and arming ex-combatants for the purposes of registering pro-APC supporters simply exhibited dishonesty in handling public affairs and possibly an indication of ignorance as to how the National Electoral Commission (NEC) handles the registration of citizens for electoral purposes. If any group of persons are guilty of disregarding NEC rules and regulations, and if any group of persons is anxiously undermining state institutions for the purposes of gaining political power – however hopeless in their efforts – it is the members of the SLPP.
The SLPP’s press release contains grave allegations close to suggesting that the Ministers of Defence and Internal Affairs are on the verge of committing a coup d’etat by arming ex-combatants and other civilians, but gives no justification as to why the two ministers would want to arm members of the public or any proof to the effect. Government has already verbally denounced the contents and vicious agenda of the SLPP’s press release and at the same time continues to remind members of the public that Maada Bio’s press release seeks to scare people of goodwill out of Sierra Leone.
By circulating such a sadistic press release which dishonestly claims that ex-combatants are being re-armed and that citizens from neighbouring countries are being smuggled into the country for purposes of registering them for voting, some foreigners in Sierra Leone have already commenced to dispatch their wives and children out of the country for fear that the November elections would be a bloodbath. One of the mobile companies rolling out has already shut down its offices waiting for further instructions from their proprietors.
Maada Bio’s press release can be seen as a satanic document aimed at creating a state of instability and uncertainty in Sierra Leone. Many credible observers have drawn the conclusion that a poorly-organized and poverty-stricken SLPP cannot win the presidency in November. It is exactly because President Koroma has worked so assiduously to earn himself a second victory on the first ballot that has made the SLPP jittery to the extent that they are bent on infusing a state of instability by provoking violence to cause the international community to suggest power-sharing. This power-thirsty strategy of the SLPP is already widely known, and Maada Bio’s press release is supposed to be the document to prepare the ground for the violence which the SLPP is planning to introduce or has already started introducing. In other words, the press release will be kept as a document in the SLPP’s efforts to convince the international community that ‘we said so’.
The truth of the matter, however, is that, it is the SLPP that has developed the tradition of bringing in citizens from neighbouring Liberia to the so-called SLPP strongholds of the south-east for the purposes of swelling their votes as manifested in previous elections, causing elections chief James Jonah to slice at least 70.00 votes in 1996 and Christiana Thorpe to cancel many results in 2007. But the introduction of the biometric system of registration has certainly wrong-footed this tradition. Going by the argument of one of the elders of the SLPP, Dr. Abass Bundu, the south-east of Sierra Leone belongs to the SLPP and that party dominates that part of the country. Therefore, if the argument is extended, it is the SLPP that has the opportunity and wherewithal and clout to recruit people from neighbouring countries to that part of Sierra Leone.
Government has also noted Maada Bio’s reference to the International Criminal Court (ICC) – a foolish suggestion that has no substance at all. For a series of questions can easily be asked: which human rights offences have been committed in Sierra Leone by this government? How many Sierra Leoneans have been executed extra-judicially or even judicially? How many have been deprived of their political rights? Who has violated the state Constitution? Any attempt to respond to these questions can easily suggest that it is the likes of Maada Bio that should qualify for appearance at the International Criminal Court for overthrowing a legitimate government, violating citizens’ rights, and executing people extra-judicially.
But apart from the history of violence and coup-making for which the present NPRC/SLPP opposition is known, President Koroma, classified as one of the most effective leaders in Africa, will definitely appreciate the presence of the ICC in Sierra Leone prior to, during, and after the forthcoming elections. In fact, Maada Bio fully knows that it is President Ernest Bai Koroma who, after the Bo incidence where SLPP supporters went on the rampage to burn down buildings, initiated the idea of inviting the ICC to Sierra Leone. Just recently also on 21st January 2012 at the Attouga Stadium, making reference to the violence in Constituency 104 apparently carried out by operatives of the SLPP, President Koroma again reiterated his stance about inviting the ICC to Sierra Leone. Maada Bio can only pretend he does not know this, or he is playing a covering-up game, each of which is too bad for a presidential candidate.
Close to five years in office, President Ernest Bai Koroma has exhibited a sense of fair play and has allowed his political party to compete in free and fair elections to the extent that the ruling APC has actually lost political contests in bye-elections without any political reprisals or mayhem. It can be stated that Maada Bio, who has never been put to the test in administering a civilian government, can only learn from the experience of President Koroma who decided to learn from the bottom of the political system by first contesting for parliamentary elections before going for the presidential bid. The President’s experience in politics therefore puts him in a stronger position than all the other candidates for the November polls.
The attempt by the SLPP to send the wrong signals to the international community with the wailing of their members, pretending that they are the weeping boys, can at best be described as childish tantrums. This government will continue to promote the whole concept of fair play, freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the supremacy of the rule of law; and the President himself is such a gentleman that even a large number of SLPP supporters respect and admire him. Obviously, it is unfortunate for the rank and file of the SLPP that they are currently being led by a very unpopular and baggage-carrying presidential candidate who cannot match the shining qualities of President Koroma.
Even though a few of their members in the SLPP shout all over the country insulting very respectable citizens, it is exactly because of the indiscipline that has taken over the affairs of that party, and sometimes exhibited by very old people in the SLPP, that has caused some level-headed supporters of that party to desert it and switch over to the APC. The indiscipline of the SLPP is found in the fact that that party disregards simple parliamentary procedures by boycotting very important state functions such as the presidential speech from the throne. Indiscipline within the party is also found in the fact that even a statutory electoral body like NEC is openly insulted by unruly members of that party. Codes of conduct set by the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), the regulatory authority that supervises the conduct of parties, are willfully ignored by the SLPP. Even the Judiciary is not spared of their venom as they behave in a wanton manner even during court proceedings. The Sierra Leone Police, which the SLPP claims was their baby, is not respected by the majority of their membership who apparently believe that defiant and deficit behavior is the only way by which a party can prove that it is a strong opposition.
It is necessary to emphasize the fact that neither the government nor the APC as a party is engaged in arming ex-combatants and/or other civilians, just as it is totally untrue that the government is encouraging non-Sierra Leoneans to be registered for the forthcoming elections. The fact of the matter is that, there are currently no provisions for Sierra Leoneans outside of the country to exercise their franchise in their countries of residence. It is therefore legitimate and legal for those who can afford it to return home and take part in the electioneering process. And it is the influx of these Sierra Leoneans that has ruffled the SLPP to the extent of lying that ex-combatants are being armed.
The efforts by the SLPP to divert the attention of the President or the government from changing the face of Sierra Leone through the Agenda for Change are certainly puerile and futile.
Government reiterates its commitment to ensuring free, fair, and transparent elections through the adequate capacitating and equipping of all relevant stakeholders, including elections-related stakeholders and the law-enforcement agencies, in order to protect and safeguard this democracy that we have toiled for thus far and cannot mortgage on the altar of innate selfishness and primitive partisanship.
It should be stated that Government is viewing the option of taking appropriate legal measure to address the issue and also uses this opportunity to make it clear to members of the public that the country is in a state of stability, and that the vicious SLPP press release should not cause any member of the public to panic, even as more details of Government’s actions will be transmitted when and as necessary.OFFICE OF THE GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN MINISTRY OF INFORMATION & COMMUNICATIONS 8TH FLOOR, YOUYI BUILDING FREETOWN
09 FEBRUARY 2012
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