By Millicent Senava Mannah
The Institute of Governance Reform (IGR) launched a Report, on Monday 11th December, 2023 titled: “The Violence Entrepreneurs, Understanding the Actors and Incentives Behind the November 26 Failed Coup” at the institution’s Conference Room on Spur Road in Freetown.
Speaking during the launch, the Executive Director intimated that it is still unclear why gunmen attacked an armoury at Wilberforce Barracks on the 26th of November 2023 carting away an unknown quantity of heavy weapons and break into the main Correctional Centre on Pademba Road in Freetown releasing hundreds of prisoners.
“The 182 state security personnel reportedly killed by the gunmen add to a host of serving officers lost in the West African nation that has been tormented by incidences of violence in the last four years,” he bemoaned.
Lavalie maintained that the Sierra Leone public, including a joint parliamentary session of the opposition APC and ruling SLPP, have roundly condemned the latest incidence of violence. He continued that the President Bio has officially declared the event as a failed coup and the Police are investigating the matter and have made several arrests even inviting former President Ernest Bai Koroma for interrogation relating to the coup.
According to him there have been a bevy of mixed interpretations among commentators and interest groups, given the lack of disclosure about their motive. He stated that for some, the failed coup is motivated by economic hardship, and credibility issues with the June 24th election, and echoes a trend of coups in Africa (Mayeni Jones on BBC 28th November 2023).
He furthered that for others it is either a symptom of a deeper political division that leaves the nation in urgent need of political dialogue and reconciliation or is part of a chain of violent disturbances promoted by anti-democratic forces unsatisfied with the change of Government since 2018.
The IGR Boss said it must be noted that, the report dives beneath the various superficial interpretations of 26 November and goes one step further by attempting to unravel the background of the alleged suspects as a way to provide useful insights on the potential motives behind the coup and the possible entry points to building sustainable peace in Sierra Leone.
“We argue that although individual political party members might be named as suspects, there is no evidence that the 26 November incident was carried out by a political party, ethnic or regional grouping. Rather, we believe the event was merely an attempt by known ‘violence entrepreneurs’ who wanted to capture the State in ways similar to 1997 – for their self-regarding ends,” Andrew Lavalie postulated.
He further stated that political party sentiments, ethnicity, and economic hardship are simply tools exploited to gain public support for their cause; shielding their real desire to control and loot the State.
The Executive Director recommended that the government, in the immediate term must maintain professionalism in prosecuting and punishing individuals behind the violent crime in line with the rule of law, constitutional principles, and human rights standards and not to target any political party.
“In the medium to longer term promote greater reform of the security sector through rapid recruitment of personnel and providing training in ethics, inclusivity, and professionalism to the current serving men and women,” he stated.
He further recommended that political party leaders should reflect on their loss of image and leadership when they create space for ‘violence entrepreneurs; develop platforms for engaging and mobilizing voters on policy proposals; resist the use of violence and division as a political mobilization strategy; and begin to support the actions of the State to hold ‘violence entrepreneurs’ to account.
Andrew Lavalie also called on the International Community to recognize the reality of politics-veiled crime and begin to respond to crimes perpetuated by individuals rather than political parties and to support the capacity of the State to hold ‘violence entrepreneurs’ to account.
He concluded that Civil Society and the Media should recognize that they themselves can be instruments of polarization and hate, use their resources to develop and rollout public education campaigns , use online media to engage the Sierra Leone Diaspora and local groups on building movements for peace.