It is most times said Sierra Leone sees more violence when it is election time whilst some strongly hold the politicians responsible for some of the violence. Those who have seen several elections in the country cannot easily identify one devoid of violence either pre or post.
Even before the political whistle was blown for the 2007 Presidential and Parliamentary elections, there were reports of violence and intimidation almost across the country. One significant incidence was that between former Vice President Solomon Berewa and presidential candidate for the SLPP and the presidential candidate for the PMDC, Charles Francis Margai in Bo. They had gone to Bo to grace their alma- mater –Christ The King’s College annual meet (CKC). That incident was definitely a political trail blazer in the South and we saw it up to the Tom Nyuma, Leatherboot saga unto Monday’s stone throwing.
This political violence seems to be segmented and no serious action is being taken against the culprits. It is clear that the politicians should be blamed for some of the unnecessary violence as they drug and set the youths against each other.
Former President Kabbah tried to discourage the pre- election violence that was occurring and when it became apparent that it was moving the wrong way, he threatened a state of emergency whose effects would have been devastating on the political climate. The unrest that ensued when the results were announced since September 17 is still continuing. The SLPP is claiming that they have been persistently coming under attacks from the APC/PMDC alliance and Government is not doing anything to arrest the situation. With all fairness, the SLPP does not need to re-explain the series of attacks against them since the election results were announced. The attack was first done in Freetown on broad day light when the SLPP head office was attacked, looted and damaged- that was reciprocated in Bo as well as in the North where the houses of their supporters were not only burnt but the supporters driven out of the town. In Kono, the consequent results speak for themselves.
These are serious political issues whose effect has a debilitating consequence on the socio- politico structures in the country. I have still not heard the affirmative warning from the authorities discouraging their supporters indulging in violence. We heard what the youths in Kono did for the san-san mining and other things done on some mining companies.
Dr Sama Banya( Puawi) is always asking why is it that any time the APC/PMDC are on their political business, they do so undisturbed but whenever the SLPP is out, you will hear of violence. Dr Banya’s question should be taken in to consideration as the question begs for right thinking answers. When the SLPP rallied with their mayoral candidate, they faced stumbling blocks on their way from Kissy road unto Sani Abacha street. Their rally was almost disrupted. Also when they rallied in Kono, Bo and in other places, there was some stone throwing but the APC/PMDC did theirs, and it was done undisturbed. Imagine where the fault lies and how to stop it.
You might have heard about another Bo incidence last Monday where the city was thrown in to pandemonium and last Tuesday in Tongo, where a political clash between APC and SLPP left several wounded. These incidences should be a worrying one for the President no matter under what circumstance but what infact I was expecting from the President was to have first tried to unify the country rather than drawing a line- albeit the cabinet and other appointments.
That might be one reason for seeing all these violence at a time we should be thinking of how to tackle the global crisis and other mal-administration. But it is still not yet late as there are several ways of unifying small Sierra Leone. The President mentioned that when he was running for the presidency that because of the voting pattern and the violence, he shall form his cabinet broadly to heal the wounds. Did that happen? You check.
The political scientists are always cautious when they speak of political annihilation and its effects on a country. The President should be advised on this issue nationalistically and not on partisan basis. Those who have lived long in this country remember well how political suppression did not only affect the country but it became a factor in the rebel war. Sierra Leone should not only be known for conducting elections, but should be known for upholding one of the principal tenets of democracy- which is political tolerance.
Can we retrospect how political violence and intimidation divided the country, and how it degenerated to tribalism and nepotism? Can we also retrospect how similarly such factors are destroying other African countries like Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia, Kenya and Zimbabwe to name but a few? If we could, then each of us should start advising ourselves or else?
By Ishmael Bayoh