The traditional Paddle dance of the people of Sierra Leone was on this past Independence Day on parade in almost all the major cities and towns in the country. The People of Makeni, Kenema and Port Loko celebrated their heritage in grand style.
But the various political parties, dominating the different areas, excluded the supporters of other parties in their spheres of influence.
In the city of Kenema, supporters of the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) were out with their own paddle in green, white and blue but with all the followers of the Paddle in green. They marched through that city singing songs in praise of the SLPP.
Mohamed Kamara, a PMDC supporter who stood by to watch the procession told Awoko that: “I could not join them as all the dancers have been asked to be in the party colours of the ruling SLPP.” He however went on to say: “Things should not be this way as the Paddle is a traditional devil signifying our culture and heritage and not a political party.”
Meanwhile, similar events also took place in the northern city of Makeni.
The Paddle was out in the apparel of a lion but with red pieces tied to it, and with the supporters all in the party colour of the All People’s Congress (APC) and some in the colours of the People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC). The police accompanied the masquerade.
The dancers danced through the main streets of the city singing slogans against the ruling SLPP. People in the colours of the ruling SLPP who tried to go about their normal chores were pulled and pushed at by the ecstatic dancers who had not wanted to see any other colour except red.
A worker at the Makeni City Drivers’ Union park, who decided to remain anonymous, told Awoko that the government and stakeholders really needed to beef up efforts to prevent “this colour” madness.
He went on to say that there was even a clearance from law enforcers that no other masquerades should be out on that day unless the APC supported Paddle.
In another development, there were clashes between dancers of other devils who had come out that day but were neither in the APC colours nor following the Paddle.