May 6, 2020
The two grand old political parties-the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) and the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC)- have again engaged in their usual counter accusations-blaming each other for the attempted prison break that took place last week at the Male Correctional Centre on Pandemba Road in Freetown.
On Wednesday,29th April, panic gripped the entire city of Freetown after inmates at the Pandemba Road Male Correctional Centre protested and set ablaze structures within the precinct of the prison, thereby destroying millions of state property.
It is yet unclear as to what led to the protest but speculations are that it was not unconnected to the planned transfer of remand inmates from the Male Correctional Centre to the former Special Court facility on Jomo Kenyatta Road, after one of the inmates was tested positive of Coronavirus.
Several damages occurred, but the exact number of inmates that were killed is yet unknown. Initial report indicates that five inmates and two Correctional Service Officers died during the incident, but the figure keeps increasing with no exact details.
While details regarding reasons behind the protest and number of fatalities are yet to be established, the ruling SLPP has in a press statement accused the APC of being behind the incident.
‘‘It is obvious from the puerile press statement of the main opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) that their leadership was either part of the plot or accomplices to yesterday’s act. In their press statement, the APC Secretary General in full knowledge of the grave offences some of their members have been charged with and for which they are awaiting trial before our courts, has ignored the seriousness of the issue yesterday and as usual chosen to turn the situation into a political one,” claimed the SLPP.
The SLPP further claimed that preliminary findings indicate a well-orchestrated prison break with the intent to free detained persons standing trial for serious offenses ranging from treason to murder.
The party condemned the attempted prison break and ‘futile efforts to free some high profile prisoners,’ claiming that it was a well calculated ploy to disrupt the peace and serenity of the country.
The main opposition APC on the other hand, had also accused the ruling SLPP of orchestrating the riot to allegedly kill innocent civilians including opposition politicians, who are being incarcerated by the government for various offences of treason and murder.
“Without prejudice to any of the conflicting reports so far received from Government and media outlets, the APC notes with grave concern that some of the initial video footages that have made their way into the public domain show videos of known SLPP thugs like Tanibola that our sources tell us was never an inmate in that Correctional Centre. That he now found himself inside the Correctional Centre can only lend credence to the aspersions making the rounds on social and other media that this alleged prison riot was another dastardly ploy by the SLPP and its operatives to kill innocent civilians and inmates including senior members of our Party including Major Retired Palo CONTEH, Herbert George Williams, ABU Bakar DARAMY and AMADU Koita who at the time of the incident where in the custody of the security forces,” the APC claimed.
The APC further expressed shock that armed security forces raided the home of Palo Conteh, harassed the occupants of the house and took into custody the wife of their comrade.
The party also expressed concern over the whereabouts of their comrades, stating that all attempts by the leadership of the party and the legal team to reach them proved futile.
They claimed that reports making the rounds indicate that their comrades were being held under very inhumane conditions, and that the health conditions of some of them have deteriorated significantly.
“The leadership of the APC wishes to make it known to President Julius Maada Bio and the SLPP Government that the APC will hold them singularly and collectively responsible if anything is amiss to our Comrades and of course for the innocent lives that were lost during the skirmishes. The APC therefore demands immediate information on the whereabouts of our comrades, and access to them by our lawyers and leaders of our Party. The APC leadership wishes to inform our development partners and the international community that the harassment and intimidation of the APC and its members has now reached a level that is unbearable,” the party notes.
Meanwhile, police on Friday arrested and detained former Social Welfare Minister, Dr.Sylvia Blyden, who is a staunch member and advocate of the APC party. Her lawyer, Rashid Dumbuya, had posted on his Facebook page that police refused to grant his client bail, even after his intervention. It was not known as to whether she was granted bail as at press time.