NO PEACE FLOAT/PARADE – UNLESS AND UNTIL…….!!

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By: Winstanley. R Bankole Johnson

I understand that the Chairperson of our Electoral Commission Sierra Leone (ECSL) – indisputably tethered to State House – Mr. Mohamed Konneh has allotted a specific date for a joint Peace Float/Parade between the All Peoples’ Congress (APC) Party and the Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party (SLPP), presumably to either demonstrate to the world that political tensions do not exists between the two major parties or that he is on top of situations.  Incidentally I insist the ECSL is indisputably tethered to State House because if they were not, they would have challenged the unconstitutional “Presidential Directive” to conduct the June 24th Elections on Proportional Representation (PR) basis, which even the Speaker of Parliament Dr. Abass Bundu had earlier averred would constitute a treasonable act without a national referendum.

Volte Face

I would be astonished if the APC Party becomes ever complicit and fall for that bait for a charade of a proposed joint Peace Float/Parade. But I suspect the prior support or concurrences of both the Political Parties Regulations Commission (PPRC) – whose role the ECSL would appear to have usurped – and the Security Sector (Police principally) must have been obtained on that.  Whatever the backstory, I am intrigued by two questions popping up from this volte face by the Security Sector towards the APC Party as follows:

  1. If for the past five uninterrupted years the Security Sector have been consistently declining APC requests and applications for parades/peaceful public assemblages (amongst themselves) ostensibly on grounds of avoiding infiltration by thugs and vagabonds with contrary intentions, what makes them think that (given President Bio’s public aversions that our Security Sector cannot be up to the tasks during this electioneering period) those same thugs and vagabonds will not infiltrate crowds on the day of the proposed Peace/Float Parade to cause mayhem and blame it all on the APC Party supporters?   
  2. What guarantees would the ECSL, PPRC and Police give to the APC that in the event the Peace Float/Parade degenerates into public riots, the Police will not use it as a ploy to selectively mass arrest and mass detain our APC rank and file members until after the elections just so as to reduce our number of voters countrywide?

“Ambush”

In the same way that a single “Sparrow” does not make a “Summer”, so too it is that a single Peace Float/Parade for APC and SLPP parties – ostensibly organized by the very institutions that all along have been the harbingers of hate, oppression, suppression against the APC and for the worsening political divisions in this country (PPRC, ECSL and Security Sector) – cannot make lasting peace between the two parties. And if I am permitted to paraphrase from a recent letter from the SLPP Secretariat to the Sierra Eye, organizers of the proposed Mayoral Debate between APC’s Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr (OBE) and SLPP’s Gento Kamara, the intention of the ECSL would seem like a ploy to “ambush” the APC Party and its supporters into what is evidently a pre-cooked shambolic process to just give the world the sunshine (that a sort of “Gbanya Fakie Peace” exists) and in the process expose them into orchestrated riots and eventual selective mass arrests and detentions until after the elections. It could also be a ploy by the SLPP to feign crowd support (which they evidently don’t have as was recently observed by the EU Country Head) and to capitalize on APC popularity countrywide by showing those same video clips of massive crowds to the International Community as evidence of a kind of national unity and political stability that has long departed our shores. Remember how the SLPP leveraged on a photo opportunity with former President EBK during a State House rapprochement to deceive the UN in 2018 that peace exists in Sierra Leone when that was not the case?

I do not trust the abilities of the PPRC, ECSL and Police to be impartial in the event of a breakdown of law and order orchestrated by SLPP miscreants embedded within APC ranks during those Peace Float/Parades or for whatever reasons. We have witnessed too many brushes between the Security Sector and the APC that has caused the latter serious damage to continue trusting them. And I just believe that as a Party, we would be more comfortable to work with more credible partners and media houses to facilitate a real inclusive and respectable Peace Float/Parade than with the Police to show that the APC is, and has always been a political party genuinely committed to peace and stability.

Preconditions

My reservations thus far does not infer that the ECSL organizing a Peace Float/Parade between the two political parties is untenable. It is just that “PEACE” by its very nature (and unlike an event) is a process that has to be worked upon untiringly and continuously for effective and lasting results. It is the same as with for the atonement or forgiveness, remission and cleansing of sins that cannot be attained without penitence or repentance. Accordingly if the ECSL, PPRC and Security Sector are so desirous of ensuring lasting peace between the two well-known political antagonists (APC and SLPP), then their correct starting blocks should be at directing their “Principals” (President Bio and the SLPP) along preconditions as follows:

  1. Extend their unequivocal public apologies to the leadership and membership of the APC for branding them as “Terrorists”; “Unfit for purpose and not even for themselves”. A single day’s “Peace Float/Parade” will never be enough to atone for such irreparable damage caused to inter-party relationship over the last five years by the SLPP and its leadership against the SLPP, worsened by public assertions of the President Bio that: “Our country has always been divided”. Without that our International Partners will consider the SLPP as ridiculous to be seen parading the streets with those they once publicly declared as “Terrorists”.
  2. The “unconditional” release all APC political detainees on remand, including the restoration of any bail conditions seized – including from a former APC Councillor of the Freetown City Council that prevented him from being nominated to contest the forthcoming Local Council Elections
  3. Produce all (impartial) Investigative Reports on all public riots and massacres that resulted in loss of uncountable lives and properties and the disappearance pf persons since 2020 incorporating the Mile-91, Tombo, Lunsar, Pademba Road, 10th August riots and beyond – especially that on the death of late “Evangelist Samson”. All of such Reports – where deaths occurred – to be fully supported by detailed Forensic/Corona analysis
  4. Revisit compensation rates already paid and arrange for equal monetary payments to be made to surviving family members of all citizens deceased on account of those riots (from 2020 to date) irrespective of circumstances or work status to wit: Security Sector or Civilian
  5. A public commitment by the SLPP to prosecute violators of their party’s pledge to the peaceful conduct of elections campaigns in their South-Eastern strongholds and to stop the brutalization of APC stalwarts in those areas as seen recently in Bonthe, Bo, Moyamba, Pujehun and Kailahun – even on dedicated APC Campaign Days agreed with the PPRC, ECSL and the Security Sector.

It is unthinkable that the APC would condescend to any Peace/Float Parade when the level of political tolerance exhibited by the APC in their own North-Western strongholds is not being reciprocated by the SLPP in their own South-East strongholds. For example up to 29th May, various attacks were being orchestrated against APC supporters throughout the South-East regions (including a recent audacious attempt to attack the convoy of the wife of our Presidential Candidate Mrs. Betty Samura Kamara in Pujehun) without the police in attendance effecting any arrests.  

  • All restrictions or limitations imposed by the Security Sector on the number of vehicles and persons that should be accompanying our APC Leader and Presidential Flag bearer Dr. Samura Kamara are rescinded forthwith, and that from now on until the elections are over, his movements anywhere throughout this country should be as free and as unfettered as those of his counterparts Dr. Julius Maada Bio and his supporters.

Level Field

In the past we have witnessed the worst forms of atrocities being suppressed under the guises of “superficial” reconciliations called “Alternative Disputes Resolutions” which, rather than them healing wounds, have left them festering like sores and forming the basis for enduring pre-conceived but unsubstantiated and unfounded biases transcending generations. The APC Party therefore should not condescend to any Peace Float/Parade without the requisite guarantees from the government MDAs organizing or that will be supporting them.  The speedy arrival and strategic deployment of the International Observers and ECOMOG Forces particularly in the hinterlands is an imperative in this regard, because we all know that professionalism within our Security Sector is best manifest when they know that they are not the only ones armed.

What the public actually wants is that the elections processes be played according to the rules and be conducted on a level playing field that is Free, Fair, Transparent, Credible, Non-Violent, Fully Participatory and Inclusive.  Nothing more: nothing less!! A Peace/Float (charade of a) Parade is not a priority. Rather a speedy resolution of all above six (6) issues is what should be exciting minds at the National Elections Watch (NEW), Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) Center for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), Institute for Governance Reforms (IGR) and the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), as well as those of our International Partners supporting our elections processes – EU, Britain, Germany, USA, Ireland et al. 

As a grassroots political party whose memberships often bears the brunt of brutalization by law enforcement agencies, the APC leadership owes it to its support base that they are fully protected and guaranteed of their safety and security under the law before allowing them to participate in any Peace Float/Parade organized by the ECSL. Should the party ever make the sad mistake of swallowing any bait by the ECSL (that is still refusing to comply with the extant laws demanding publication of disaggregated Voters Registration Results by Poling Centers, Wards, Constituencies, Districts and Regions) to take part in any Peace Float/Parade before government compliance with the listed preconditions, then they should be ready to take full responsibility for the dire unforeseen consequences on them post 24th June.

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