May 14, 2015 By Saa Matthias D. BENDU
The current Public State of Health Emergency in Sierra Leone was declared because of the outbreak of the Ebola epidemic in May, 2014. The Ebola epidemic has brought untold suffering to the citizenry of our beloved country, especially health professionals who felt its cruel brunt, as dozens paid with their dear lives. The Ebola epidemic adversely affected every sector of the nation’s development, but as it ebbs it leaves behind a trail of compounding problems.
Here I am paying attention to the Public Health Emergency which has been compromised by the APC regime, with total support by all the arms of government. Impunity has thus flourished under the said Public State of Emergency. The Public Health Emergency could be likened to a draconian instrument used by the Koroma-led APC government to detain the people of Kono district, while bypassing legal avenues.
During the Emergency, people from Kono district were brutally beaten and taken to the Pademba Road prison. We are authoritatively informed that 34 names were given to be arrested, although not everyone was picked up by the police. These are people in disagreement with certain politicians from Kono district, with the latter submitting their names, alleging they belong to the camp of the elected VP, Sahr Sam-Sumana. It seems the crime now in our country is to belong to VP Sam-Sumana’s “camp”.
Since their arrest, 14 are still languishing at the Pademba Road prison, denied bail several times now, after they were arraigned in court, months after their incarceration. The others on the list of 34 have fled the country, among them a local journalist, Tamba Fanday.
We have witnessed how certain people were brought down to Freetown and allowed to parade in broad day light from the APC party office at Brookfields to State House in support of President Koroma’s controversial sacking of the elected Vice President. But opposition members are always arrested, some in their homes in Freetown or their party offices – in Bo and Kenema – and even for peacefully demonstrating in foreign countries, like at the U.S. Embassy in Freetown.
Not even Human Rights Officers are spared the brutal beaten and incarceration into stinking cells by the Sierra Leone Police, as was the case in Kenema, where Hassan Yajah spent days in remand before he was released on bail.
Just few days ago on 30th April, 2015 to be precise, the APC party had a party delegates meeting in Freetown which attracted their membership from all over the country. They were given the green light because for the SLP, as long as you are a member of the APC party, you are free to do whatever you want, even under the emergency.
I abhor the fact that the police are being selective in enforcing the Public Health Emergency. The law should not be applied disproportionately to political opponents, critics and the vulnerable, while the powerful and well-connected slip through the enforcement net.
In view of the above, I therefore add my voice to organizations like the Human Rights Commission, Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law and Culture Radio, that the state of Public Health Emergency should now be lifted, not least because of the discriminating manner it is being implemented. It is no gainsaying that it is being used as a draconian instrument to suppress perceived political opinion critical of the government, and to settle political grievances, especially in Kono district.
In sum, the Public State of Health Emergency has been misused! It has outlived its usefulness; hence it must be lifted now!!
NOTE: The author is National Coordinator, Development Initiatives and Hope for the Vulnerable.