As 11 SLPP stalwarts march to State House Rocks, broken bottles, and teargas canisters littered the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), Wallace Johnson Street head office and environ, after what was described by an eyewitness as a battle between the SLPP supporters and alleged All Peoples Congress thugs backed by the police.
The SLPP Secretary General Jacob Jusu Saffa said that such violent act “can lead to large scale conflict in [the] country.”
Asked what he meant by “large scale conflict,” Mr Saffa said that if such violent actions continue against SLPP supporters “it can erupt to a point [wherein] we have no option but to retaliate.”
Mr Saffa denied allegations that it was as a result of the barring of the newly elected Mayor George Herbert Williams from his office was what led to the conflict. “I spoke with the mayor congratulating him and he never made any complain to me [that he was barred from entering his office by SLPP supporters],” he said.
Mr Saffa mobilized an eleven-man delegation of top executives who matched to State House for a meeting they were supposed to have with President Ernest Koroma where they intended to subsequently report the incident.
As the eleven man delegation marched to State House the number grew larger- SLPP supporters chanting no violence slogans joined the dele that stormed State House.
However, the meeting did take place; Mr John Benjamin, JJ Saffa and few others were not allowed in to the meeting.
Mr John Benjamin who was part of the dele disclosed, “the President invited us for a meeting and his security told us he did not know about the meeting…so we are going back to our office to talk to our supporters.”
As the multitude returned to the party’s head-office, a man who was with the SLPP mass was caught and seen mobbed by some police officers at State House, while other police officers were seen throwing metal objects at the crowd who made moves to rescue the mobbed victim; another police officer was also seen removing his revolver from his holster threatening to shoot; and a military office engaged his rifle pointing it at death range at this reporter threatening that if pictures were taken he would shoot to kill.
At the party office, an eye witness called ‘Shegubehma’ who was shot with a teargas canister on the chest, narrated, “it all started on Tuesday, we were sitting at the entrance of the office when the mayor arrived, a lady- who is a SLPP party member- said during the City Council inauguration her phone got missing.”
He continued, “this was what aggravated the Mayor who said that the “woman is calling him a thief.”
“Shegubehma” alleged that the Mayor’s bodyguard started insulting the woman, I went to settle the dispute and the men advised me to leave.
“Five minutes to six in the morning,” he explained “a group of men alleging that they were sent by the Mayor stormed the office and started looting we tried to defend the office and called on the police when the police arrived they fired teargas inside the building and started beating our supporters.”
He disclosed that they were surprised by the actions of the police as they were expecting them to defend them instead of the police attacking them.
Local Unit Commander (LUC) Central Police Station, SB Kargbo explained that there was a riot between a group of SLPP supporters and others.
“We do not know what actually sparked up the riot,” he said
He disclosed that arrests have been made and the matter is under investigation.
The LUC also denied allegation that the police were supporting the attackers against the SLPP. During a telephone interview with the Mayor of Freetown, he denied the allegation made by Shegubehma, saying it “is a blatant lie.” He affirmed that he spoke with Mr Saffa on a cordial note and revealed “I had no altecation with anybody whatsoever.” The deputy secretary general of the SLPP, Alpha Timbo explained, “I was in my house when I heard from the Unity Radio there is an attack on the SLPP office as the deputy secretary general of the party I came to see what the situation was and indeed on my arrival it was crystal clear that an attack took place, the police surrounded the office and senior police officers at the scene confirmed that there was an attack on the office.”“We are saying this is unacceptable and we cannot continue to allow this in a civilized state,” he said. by Ophaniel Gooding