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CARL catalogues root causes of current youth violence

May 15, 2020

By Hassan Gbassay Koroma

CARL’s Ibramhim Tommy

Executive Director, Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), Ibrahim Tommy, has yesterday told journalists that, although the recent spate of youth violence cannot be justified in anyway, but as an institution, they believe it is important for the country and Government of Sierra Leone to reflect on key justice related issues that had taken place in the last two years-to be able to understand why there is tension in the country.

He said in as much as they  condemn  violence in all its forms, but  they believe that wherein  genuine  grievances exist in the country unresolved, those grievances can be manipulated for different purposes-political or otherwise.

He observed that the country is split right in the middle and that one approach cannot be used to address the current tension in the country, thus urging the president to expand the space for dialogue.

Tommy recalled that in April, 2018, the main opposition All People’s Congress  (APC)  had 68 seats in parliament while the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party  (SLPP) ultimately had 49 seats, but that during the election of the Speaker of Parliament,16  APC Members of Parliament  were booted out of parliament by a court order.

He said beyond that incident, ten APC Members of Parliament were also dismissed out of parliament by the High Court, and that the dismissed APC MPs later filed an appeal which took closely a year for the appeal to be assigned to judges.

He said those MPs were aggrieved and their supporters too due to the delay on the part of the judiciary to hear their appeal.

“In this country, most people are loyal to their political parties and the people they support than their country, so it is easy for people to get angry when the people they support are thrown out of parliament,” he said.

The CARL Executive Director observes that the country is currently confronted with a very serious health issue- the coronavirus pandemic.

He said while the country is busy fighting to eradicate the COVID-19 pandemic, youth are engaged in violence acts in Lunsar, Tombo, coupled with the attempted prison break which led to loss of lives and destruction of property.

He said as an organization, they sympathised with the family members of those who lost their lives during the incident at the Pademba Road Correctional Centre.

He catalogued the spate of youth violence  in the last five months, citing the youth terrorized incident at Malama Thomas Street, supposedly  involving supporters  of the ruling SLPP and the main opposition APC, with the government doing nothing, even though some arrest were made.

He cited another violent clash between supporters of the two political parties at the headquarters of the main opposition APC, with those responsible never brought to book.

Ibrahim Tommy noted that had the government had done a very good job in fairly and independently dealing with those actions, youth violence should not have gotten where it is now.

He said they welcomed the setting up of a committee to investigate the incident at the Pademba Road Correctional Centre, but urged the government to disclose to the public, members of the said committee, timeline of the investigation and terms and conditions.

He said the recent acts of violence were clearly criminal and unacceptable, with no justification, thus urging that perpetrators be punished.

He further observed that the police and the judiciary have not dealt with those violence in a very decisive manner to ensure that they are clearly making a statement to rule the perpetrators out and make them know that violence is criminal and unacceptable.

He said government needs to review its current position and engage more actively with the opposition and keep citizens informed and engaged.

 He said they believe that there was need for leadership across the board- at the level of the justice sector and at the level of the police -to ensure that investigations are done impartially and independently.

“We are aware that President Julius Maada Bio made a speech, that speech was effective to the point that it’s sent a tough message to the perpetrators of violence.  But, it is our position that the accusatory tone of that message may have just constricted or narrowed the space for dialogue especially with the main opposition APC,” he said.

He said while the government is fighting a common enemy- COVID-19, all hands are needed on deck, adding that the country cannot be feuding while fighting the virus at the same time.

He said COVID-19 itself is resolute and not giving up, hence needed a solid unified nation to confront it.

He urged the ruling SLPP and the main opposition APC to collectively undertake engagement with their supporters on the need to eschew violence in the country.  

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