Coup d’état is a relic of the past
Many local and International newspapers have confirmed the arrest of an unspecified number of soldiers over an alleged foiled mutiny in the mid month of August, 2013. The detention of the alleged conspirators was also confirmed by Sierra Leone’s Military Chief, Major General Samuel Omar Williams (in photo) on August 17, 2013. But how credible are these accusations? Is the military spilling over its crisis to the general public?
According to the bi-weekly Politico Newspaper, the accused soldiers were arrested at the Tekko barracks in Makeni and then escorted to a holding centre in the capital Freetown, Sierra Leone. The newspaper cited sources putting the number at between nine and twelve soldiers. The botched mutiny allegedly targeted the person of the President.
Indeed, when government cannot confirm or deny that a coup was foiled and pending charges of treason has been filed; no arrest or detention should have been executed in the first place. The Military Chief, Major General Samuel O. Williams should not order the arrest and detention of these officers if credible evidence does not support his claim.
The general public was misinformed by the inconsistency of what the military reported and what government officers are speculating. Now, the real question remains: Is this an attempted coup, a mutiny or a political witch hunt? Are we going back to the playing books of Siaka Steven? If we fail to learn from the past, history will remind us of the peril of irrational thinking.
Decades ago, military legend like Brigadier John Amara Bangura faced his ominous fate when he spoke for democracy and justice after handing power over to Siaka Stevens in 1968. Former Information Minister of the Siaka Steven’s administration, Ibrahim Bash-Taqi, lost his precious life when he was accused of plotting to overthrow his government. Francis Minah did not escape the ritual of the “search and destroy” political tactics of the Momoh government in the late 80’S.The finger prints of judgmental failures hangs over the history of our governments.
Importantly so, the government of President Koroma should have dispelled such rumors and set the record straight that: it was merely some disgruntled military officers who wanted to express their grievances and that the matter has been resolved within the jurisdiction of the military institution. But to throw the country into a tail spin of speculations and counter speculations for so long is reckless and unnecessary,
And, the lack of timely response on the part of government amounts to a breach of public security. Investigation should be ongoing and no arrest should be made until credible evidence indicates that a crime has been committed. In a democratic nation, citizens who disagree with government whether it is the military or civilian population should be treated fairly without prejudice and strictly in accordance with the law.
The government took the wrong direction in violating the rights of these nine military officers by arresting them without a court issued warrant especially when such action cannot be substantiated from the military code of justice. If the reasons for detention are due to the allegation of holding a so-called illegal meetings or merely a speculative accusation of planning to kill the defense minister and kidnapped the President; then their arrest was warrant-less and failed to meet constitutional human right standards.
Accusation of such magnitude deserves some professional and detail investigation before any government action is taken accordingly. It is so unfortunate for the military to be overzealously engaged in such improper conduct without respecting the rights and liberty of these nine or twelve arrested officers. It seems assumption and suspicion may have driven the military and some government officials to take such an unwise and undemocratic decision. The Attorney General and Minister of Justice needs to advise the President that a potential civil right violation may have occurred in this case.
The military in Sierra Leone are going through some internal challenges. The general discontent from low salaries to housing facilities and the lack of better working conditions have been the paramount grievances many in the military have been advocating for about several years now. They deserve better and must be treated with respect and dignity.
However, some overzealous politicians are misinterpreting the legitimate voices of these outspoken military officials as enemies of the state or would-be coup plotters. Their remedies are to eliminate and destroy their good reputations. It is outrageous that they are been unfairly targeted and badly treated without the due process of the law.
We must respect the views of others and allow rooms for dialogue and compromise. Military officers who seek to register their grievances should not be condemned as coup plotters or mutineers. We knew what happen to the bad judgments of Siaka Steven, Valentine Strasser and Momoh. Many innocent lives were lost and families were left to bear the agony of permanent separation with their love ones. We must prevent such mistakes from happening again.
The Military Chief, Major General Samuel O. Williams should look into the alleged grievances of these military officers, set up a fact-finding task force and recommend a plan of action to the President. The military Institution is the protector of peace and security in any nation. They must be protected as well and cared for as they continue to serve our nation with honor and distinction.
Minister Paulo Conteh should also apply strategic solutions to addressing the deplorable conditions and lack of opportunities within the military such as promotions, better pay, family incentive programs and working conditions as attractive tools to improving the general welfare of the military. And good efforts like that will reduce tension, remove discontent, prevent acrimony and potential conflict in the future.
The tradition of eliminating military men and women who speak against the state should not be a ritual or a political witch hunt to terrorize and marginalize patriotic loving Sierra Leoneans. We should use our military and civilian laws where applicable to hold people accountable when the break the laws of high crime.
Speculations and assumptions are primitive applications to use when making serious decisions about national security matters. It undermines our credibility as a nation and degrades our standing as a guarantor of the fundamental human rights of our citizens. Both President Koroma and the Attorney General should unconditionally call for the release of these officers and reestablish the long standing record of being the most pro-human right government in Sierra Leone.
If sufficient evidences are available to charge them of a treasonable offence, let the law take its course. Nobody should seek to disrupt the peace or attempt to remove the constitutionally elected government of the people. They should be held liable and accountable if a competent court of law proofs it beyond a reasonable doubt. But government itself cannot be the enforcer of the law on one hand and the interpreter of the law on the other hand.
Each and every one, whether it is the military or the civilian population are entitled to the presumption of innocent until they are found guilty by a competent court of law. Thus, government must not act as the chief justice of the law and the law enforcement officer of the court at the same time. There is a separation of power among the three organs of government. Overlapping and going beyond the call of official duty is tantamount to the abuse of power.
At a time, when our green, white and blue flag is flying high with the glowing prestige and the international reputation of being the new emerging democracy in Sub Saharan Africa, it is a slap in the face for government to encourage the quick elimination tactics of the past – branding enemies as traitors and coup plotters in order to get rid of them. The barrel of the gun is no longer the way to achieving legitimate power in Sierra Leone, the ballot box is the only one-way road that leads to State House.
May our nation continue to be the realm of the free! And May peace and freedom reign over our land!
By MC Bah Atlanta, Georgia- United States of America
About the author:
The author can be reached via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. MC Bah holds a degree in Business management with a concentration on public administration at Strayer University, Atlanta, GA- USA. A former Presidential aspirant for the NDA party at the 2012 elections, he works and lives in Atlanta with his wife and two sons. M C Bah also work with non-governmental institutions to help promote education, health care support and digital technology for Sierra Leone.
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