By Alfred Koroma
The Sierra Leone police has in a press release issued on Tuesday clarified that the allegation Samura Kamara made on his Twitter page regarding the bye-election campaign saga in Tonkolili District is ‘false.’
One of his Twitter pages, Samura Kamara, 2018 presidential candidate for the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) alleged that the Government of Sierra Leone ordered security officers to ‘shoot on sight’ supporters of his party at the campaign rally of the bye-election in Constituency 056.
At Mathura Checkpoint on the 7th June, police attempted to stop Samura Kamara who was travelling to Samaia Bendugu Chiefdom to join the APC campaign rally for the coming bye-election in the Constituency.
According to the Police, Samura with his entourage was stopped at the checkpoint because of security reasons. The Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone was also returning from a working visit to Ferengbenya Mines in the same Chiefdom the APC members were heading to on the same day.
Being the day of campaign for their candidate, Samura Kamara and the group of APC supporters following him viewed the police action as a deliberate ploy by the Government to prevent them from joining the campaign of their candidate, Jawah Sesay.
During the encounter with the Police, Samura took to Twitter alleging he had been threatened by the police. “A big standoff at the Mathura Checkpoint. I am been stopped from campaigning in Constituency 056 and I am being threatened by police and OSD,” he said.
But the Police say Hon. Mohamed Bangura who was part of the APC supporters accompanying Kamara instructed his driver to ‘ride over the Police Regional Commander of Tonkolili if he dare stop them from bulldozing’ their way to the campaign event. According to the police, this happened while discussion between the police Regional Commander and Kamara were ongoing at the checkpoint to let the APC popular politician see why it is not advisable for his followers to proceed to Samaia Bendugu at that material time. But the discussion to persuade Samura to differ his visit to the chiefdom went unsuccessful.
“All the actions of Dr. Samura Kamara and APC supporters on that day and place were aimed at provoking the police to act otherwise,” the Police wrote on in the press release published on Tuesday.
The campaign rally which the APC key flagbearer candidate and his followers ‘bulldozed’ their way to join, later culminated into personal attacks between supporters of the two main political parties, leading to violence that left people injured and properties destroyed.
As the violence unfolded, Dr. Samura on his Twitter page, accused the Vice President of holding secret meetings to heighten tension, and the SLPP Government of giving order to the security personnel to ‘shoot on sight,’ using ‘snipers to kill’ the opposition party supporters.
“This is how SLPP rules. By the barrels of the gun- political intimidation and orders to shoot on sight. Snipers used to kill opposition supporters – a day scheduled for the APC to campaign, the VP held secret meetings to further heighten tension,” the APC flagbearer aspirant said.
What sparked the violence during the APC campaign rally remains unclear as both political parties accused each other. While members of APC are accusing the ruling SLPP of precipitating the violence, members of the SLPP are as well accusing the opposition of employing violent tactics in their campaign to win a seat they lost in the 2018 elections.
But the violent act which both parties engaged on during the campaign rally has been widely condemned. The UN Resident Coordinator in Sierra Leone, Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) and the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone (ECSL) condemned the violence and called for immediate and speedy investigation into the saga.
As a result of the violence, PPRC and ECSL issued a joint press statement further conditioning all political parties’ rallies for the bye election. The press release says, Political parties can only campaign now on their respective dates in Town Halls, Barrays or open field with 24hours notice to the Police before any event of such takes place.
Constituency 056 bye-election scheduled to take place on the 25th of this month between Tholley Foyoh of SLPP, and Jawah Sesay representing APC has heightened tension between the two main political parties in Sierra Leone. .
The victor of the election will represent the Constituency in Parliament for the few months left to the next general elections in June 2023.
Until it was declared vacant in March, the tensely contested seat in Northern region of Sierra Leone was previously occupied by Hon. Alhaji Musa Foray Jalloh of the ruling SLPP who won the seat in the 2018 elections.
But the MP later contested and won a paramount chieftaincy election with a self-seeking interest to serve simultaneously, as MP in Parliament and as Paramount Chief of Sambaia Bendugu Chiefdom. He was barred by constitutional provisions, disqualifying him from maintaining the Parliamentary seat and declaring it vacant.
The vacancy became a minus-one for the ruling SLPP in the already hung parliament where the Government faces so much struggles to get through every constitutional instruments that requires legislative approval.
At the moment, the ruling SLPP has 58 seats whiles the main opposition APC also has 58 seats. So for both political parties, the bye-election is a must win battle as the seat will give the winner a narrow lead in the country’s legislative house.