By Amin Kef (Ranger)
Various individuals and institutions, including diplomats and Non- Governmental Organizations, have unequivocally condemned the ugly 10th August, 2022 protest that erupted in the East End of Freetown, Western Rural area, particularly Waterloo and in some parts of the Northern Province that claimed the lives of security personnel and civilians as well as leading to the wanton destruction of Police Stations, the burning down of two Government buses with some looting taking place.
What has been so interesting in the condemnation messages is that nearly all have been calling for a dialogue to take place between the Government and those said to be behind the protest.
Interestingly, how this could take place when the Government is claiming that there has been no known individual or a particular group that has come forward to state that they are responsible. To reference the Minister of Information and Communications, Mohamed Rado Swaray, there are “Faceless Politicians” behind the dastardly acts that occurred.
On the contrary, the main opposition APC Party has, in a Press Statement, dissociated itself from it.
For now all that we know is that a Sierra Leonean by the name of Adebayor, residing in Holland, has, via Social Media audio messages calling on Sierra Leoneans, especially the business class to embark on a three day protest commencing on the 8th August, 2022, with a two day sit at home action culminating in a nationwide protest on the third day. The said Adebayor dubbed it the People’s Power Protest (PPP).
It must be noted that having gained a foothold in the opposition frontiers, especially among followers of the main APC opposition party, with his incendiary messages against the ruling SLPP led Government, headed by President Julius Maada Bio, the majority of the gullible populace that have been keenly listening to his audio messages, on a daily basis, consider Adebayor as their liberator, the embedded Voice of the Voiceless to such an extent that they have been idolizing him, believing hook, line and sinker the divisive political messages he has been spewing.
In a country where the illiteracy rate is high and many not properly knowledgeable about global trends and governance issues ,any political shenanigan or misinformation churned out by a propagandist, who has the ability to sway emotions, will have many falling for it. And it is this political short sightedness that had been rife among the masses that Adebayor has been skillfully exploiting to create the impression amongst the vast majority that the SLPP Government is not doing anything better to improve the standards of living of the masses.
Coinciding with the global economic crisis, which the majority in this country are oblivious of or may simply dismiss, Adebayor’s propaganda messages and hate speeches seemed to fit and sit well with many.
It therefore came as no surprise that his call was yielded to despite previous warnings by the Police and other entities to refrain from any protest action. As was stated the resultant effect was loss of lives and properties.
Though he has denied being aligned to the APC Party, however, any sensible person who has listened to his audio messages will definitely conclude that he has a leaning towards that very party. His ranting are undoubtedly pro-APC, very much sympathetic towards the party’s cause.
It must be registered at this juncture that as far as the current situation stands ,against the Government’s stance that the protesters are terrorists, it will definitely be very difficult if not impossible for any form of dialogue to take place, especially as no individual or group will like to be associated with the unfortunate events of that day.
What we should be bothered with now is the way forward. How to ensure that there is no recurrence of the ugly incident. But before that, it is important to know the alleged causative factors of the protest.
Some have attributed it to high cost of living. However, that may sound hollow because at this material moment Sierra Leone is not the only country that is facing harsh economic times as even some of advanced countries were are yearning to become are feeling the pinch.
Indeed, amidst the difficult economic times State and Non-State actors have been making stringent moves to cushion the effects.
Others have mentioned youth unemployment but in a country where the vast majority of young people don’t want to be innovative, are reluctant to work hard to make a living only to resort to criminal activities to maintain unhealthy lifestyles; nothing productive is expected from them. As vulnerable as they are, politicians easily manipulate them to attain their selfish desires or ambitions and that was exactly transpired.
And it was the vast majority of these young people who jumped on the streets in the guise of protesting against harsh economic times when in actual fact they have been brainwashed by politicians to go on the rampage with the aim of unseating the Government or make it very unpopular.
Besides, their other intention was to go on a looting spree but met stiff resistance by the Police. Those using them for political gains, by trying to make the sitting Government unpopular, were in the minority on that day and the young people who out were not politically charged but rather they were in a looting mode.
The way forward could be beefing up the communication channels by ensuring that there is not a long communication gap between the President and the citizenry. In a country where only the few listen to news it will only be a positive move on the part of President Bio to be updating the citizenry about the strides Government is taking in addressing socio-economic issues.
Also, the communication units of the Government must be robustly explaining global trends in ways that the vast majority will come to realize that economic hardship is not only peculiar to Sierra Leone. The Ministry of Information and Communications must be commended in that direction as they already embarked on such outreach sensitizations drives but much need to be done. Positive Government interventions must be repeatedly explained for more people to understand the strides being made.
Furthermore, those whom thorough investigation proves were deeply involved in acts of vandalism must be made to pay the price for their actions according to the dictates of the law. That will serve as a deterrent to others who may be tempted to do the same.
Government must also prevail on the International Community to make it illegal for nationals of one country residing abroad to incite others back home in a destructive way to create tensions and erode the peace.
That hypocrisy in international relations must be brought to the fore with the West preaching the consolidation of democracy on the one hand and on the other hand providing safe havens for saboteurs, dissidents and instigators.
Steps must be taken to monitor the Social Media in order to know those really fanning the flames of protest and take drastic action against them for dividing the nation. Already, the steps taken recently to put in place the cyber law and making it workable was a step in the right direction in that respect.