By Foday Moriba Conteh
On Sunday 10th May 2020 the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party reacted to a statement that was delivered by His Excellency, The President Julius Maada Bio on the 8th May 2020. In its reaction, the leadership of the APC expressed great disappointment over the President’s speech which it says borders on the current security situation in the country.
According to the APC, the President wrongfully referred to their Party leadership and membership as “terrorists” and threatened that his Government will “hit hard and it will continue to hit even harder until this fight is won”.
The APC lamented over the fact that His Excellency the President could use the national address to denigrate a legitimate political institution which existence is in accordance with the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone and the Political Parties Registration Act of 2002.
Against that backdrop, the APC said it is important for the general public to note that the APC is not in any ‘’fight’’ with the Government.
The leadership of the party says it is dismayed that the Party has been wrongly implicated when the President asserted emphatically that: “Evidence emerging from investigations have named known local leaders and members of the APC as being responsible for inciting, planning, financing, mobilising, and in some cases actively participating in violent terrorist attacks against the people of this country”.
In that light, the APC Party said it wishes to make it known that they are a law abiding Party and since 4th April, 2018 when President Bio was sworn into office, they have kept within the confines of the law and have resisted all forms of provocation and intimidation.
They continued by stating how APC Party Offices were vandalized country wide, party loyalists brutalised, raped and killed and many of their members had their houses burnt down and some were forced to seek refuge in strange lands where they continue to languish in misery and squalor.
They said the APC would like to bring to the attention of the International Community and the nation that the statement of the President of 8th May, 2020, describing the leaders and members of the APC Party as ‘’terrorists’’, could serve as a precursor for lynch mobs to go after peaceful citizens of the country. They therefore called for their assistance in reminding the President of his commitment to be a President for all Sierra Leoneans and for the sustenance of the security of the State.
The APC said Sierra Leoneans may also recall that in response to certain unfortunate incidents, the APC Party sent a high powered delegation to meet with President Bio and his team in a bid to seek an amicable settlement in the best interest of peace and stability in Sierra Leone. It disclosed that the APC delegation included the Deputy Chairman and Leader, the National Secretary General, the APC Leader in Parliament and his Deputy, and the 2018 Presidential Candidate.
Leadership of the APC pointed out that President Bio was gracious enough to set up a Cross-party Committee to address the concerns the APC Party brought to his attention in that meeting saying that at the end of the day, despite all the efforts of traveling all over the country, gathering evidence of violent incidents and the report was presented to him the President, through the Director of the Office of National Security, nothing was done about it up to date.
They said the International Community and development partners would also note that even though they had serious reservations about the outcome of the 2018 Presidential and Parliamentary elections results, they did not resort to violence but rather they went to court to seek redress but regrettably their cases are yet to be listed or addressed over two years on.
The APC highlighted that the SLPP Government sent in the Police to beat up their Members of Parliament (MPs) and brutally chased them out of the Well of Parliament to pave the way for the imposition of a Minority Speaker. They said with all these the APC did not resort to violence but instead they issued several press releases calling on the Government and the International Community to intervene.
The leadership of the APC said on the 31st May, 2019, two important events took place that breached the Constitution and statutory provision of the country:
They mentioned how the Judiciary ruled to kick out ten (10) duly elected APC MPs from Parliament and ordered the swearing in of non-elected SLPP candidates who had lost the elections in outright contravention of the 1991 Constitution and the Sierra Leone Public Elections Act of 2012;
The APC also revealed how the SLPP Government attacked their Party headquarters, brutalised their members and detained 146 of them in custody and some of them are still languishing in the courts to this day but yet their party did not resort to violence.
They recalled the blatant display of thuggery and rigging in recent by-elections but most especially in Thonko-Limba and Constituency 110 in the Freetown Peninsular. The party said they all witnessed how the SLPP Government used the Sierra Leone Police, State functionaries and thugs including the Minister of Transport and Aviation to violently disrupt the elections and deprive the APC of their much deserved victory.
According to them one life was lost in Thonko-Limba and during that time the International Community urged the Government to setup an inquest into the death of the 14-year old school boy. “All of these cases have been taken up with the Judiciary for redress but regrettably, no action has been taken but yet the APC did not resort to violence,” they bemoaned.
The party says their revered development partners would recall the widespread sacking of thousands of Sierra Leoneans, including some with security of tenure as provided for in the 1991 Constitution adding how they were all perceived as having some links with the APC also underscoring how they are now jobless and languishing at home but yet, the APC did not resort to violence.
According to the APC the fight against corruption is one that the party is on record as championing making reference to how they strengthened the powers of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) maintaining that they are therefore not averse to the setting up of Commissions of Inquiry (COI) that are consistent with the provisions of relevant portions of the Constitution and which do not infringe upon the fundamental rights of its citizens.
“We raised concerns that the COI were set up in contravention of the Constitution. The APC took the matter to the Supreme Court for interpretation. The matter is yet to be listed. Two years since, the APC did not resort to violence,” the party argued.
It says the APC said it believes in free speech and the defence of fundamental human rights pointing out that the track record of former President Ernest Bai Koroma in that sector is very apparent. They said regrettably, the APC leaders and members have come under incessant attacks, harassment and intimidation and many of their members have been arrested and detained on trumped up charges stressing how the APC is seeking redress through the courts, yet, they have not resorted to violence.
The APC told the nation that the SLPP Government chose to unilaterally terminate existing contracts of investors, increase taxes and make it increasingly impossible for the private sector to flourish in Sierra Leone. It says such naturally has attendant implications for the economy but yet President Bio blamed the APC Party for the mass closure of big corporations and enterprises the APC Government had attracted.
They said they note the reference to contributions he ,President Bio made in the fight against Ebola when the APC Party was in governance while the APC appreciates his sacrifice, saying they shall restrain themselves from delving into the nitty-gritty of President Bio’s involvement in the fight, and how it was facilitated by the goodwill of former President Koroma and the Government of Sierra Leone.
They said even in the absence of any goodwill from the Government, the APC has reached out to communities, developed sensitization messages, distributed food and other essential items to the needy and played their part (which they will continue to do) in the fight against Covid-19.
According to them the APC further notes, with deep curiosity, President Bio’s comments on efforts made by the Government, including dispatching a delegation headed by the Honourable Vice President Juldeh Jalloh to Former President Koroma in Makeni and leading to a meeting between President Bio and former President Koroma at State House.
Based on what the APC pointed out ,the meeting was intended to promote peace and foster national cohesion and admittedly, those steps are quite laudable going further to establish that during those engagements, a joint-communique between the SLPP Government and the APC Party was signed which was expected to serve as the basis for continued dialogue between the parties – APC/SLPP.
The party added that a joint- meeting co-chaired by the Vice President and their Deputy Leader and Chairman took place over six months ago and the Vice President promised to bring the outcome of that meeting to the attention of His Excellency.
They lamented that unfortunately, however, the Government showed little or no commitment to translate the content of the communique into reality stating that nothing has happened since then in spite of their continued calls on the Vice President to reconvene the meeting.
Leadership of the party expressed hope that the Government will focus on pursuing genuine peace and national cohesion through meaningful dialogue saying describing a significant percentage of the citizenry as ‘terrorists’ is certainly not how to keep Sierra Leone united and peaceful.
It also furthered that the APC Party wished to make it known that they remain committed to peace and stability in Sierra Leone adding that they however believe that there can never be genuine peace without justice. “We therefore call for peace and justice in Sierra Leone. We therefore insist on an independent investigation into the 29th April, 2020 alleged ‘prison break’ at the Male Correction Centre, Pademba Road, and the unfortunate incidents at Lunsar, Tombo and other areas in a bid to bring to book all those involved in perpetrating violence,” the APC furthered.
Concluding, the APC said they want to take the opportunity to reiterate and pledge their loyalty and support to the peaceful people of the nation and pledged again all their endeavours to improve the long-term welfare of all Sierra Leoneans.
The party said they are also herby registering their heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives on the 29th April 2020 at the Pademba Road Male Correctional Centre as well as to those who lost their lives in the violent disturbances in Lunsar and Tombo.