Playing the role of a police investigator it can be certainly stated that all the evidence point at certain ill-motivated persons who ignited the violence that took place in Bendugu last week.
The history of conflict between SLPP and APC goes back to shortly after the country’s independence in 1961. Sierra Leone became deeply divided between the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), drawing its support from the Mende-dominated south, and the All People’s Congress (APC), drawing its support from the Temne-dominated north and west.
According to the TRC, “Party politics became the greatest obstacle to national cohesion and identity”.
Rather than developing a strong publically-oriented State, each party developed a patronage network through which it distributed resources to favoured supporters, building exclusive chains of authority that extended from the capital to aligned chiefdoms.
Without going further to apportion blame for last week’s political violence in Bendugu, both the ruling SLPP and the main opposition APC must pull back from the brink and tone down the rhetoric to avoid Sierra Leone degenerating into chaos and widespread violence.
Ahead of the crucial June 2023 national elections, there are calls from concerned citizens for the formation of a cross-party Peace-building Commission, which must include religious groups and civil society organizations, to look into the grievances of all sides and make recommendations.
UN Resident Coordinator, Babatunde Ahonsi, after the Bendugu incident has called for dialogue between the two parties aimed at establishing common understanding, tolerance for each other and respect for law and order that will ensure the peace and national cohesion that President Bio seeks for when he set up the Bintumani III national conference.
In the meantime, both the Party-Political Registration Commission (PPRC) and the Electoral Commission must carry out their own independent investigations into the continued cause of political violence so that lessons can be learnt; as well as ensure that those politicians held responsible for the violence face the full force of the law – including banning from national politics.