OCTOBER 13, 2014 By Gabriel Benjamin
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. The ultimate tragedy is not oppression and cruelty by bad people but the silence over that by good people” – Martin Luther King (Jnr.).
Drawing from the above time-honoured quotes, with a deep pain in my heart, I want to bring to attention the brutality of the Sierra Leone Police against bike riders. The brutality is out of control – it sucks. It runs both at sunrise and sunset without challenge, without mercy and without remorse. Today, against world trend and opinion, the Sierra Leone Police is using unnecessary brutal and lethal force to deny bike riders their civil rights.
How can the Police continue to get away with all these pernicious actions in Sierra Leone? This hostility must stop! The Sierra Leone Police are meant to protect lives and property of Sierra Leoneans, and not to subjugate, humiliate and systematically annihilate them.
Relevant authorities have tactically continued to look the other way as this malevolent practice from the police is continually meted out against innocent bike riders who themselves have been made to accept it as ‘the price they have to pay’ for daring to look for their daily bread against a remorseless police, with a relentless intent to wiping them off the streets of Freetown.
So it is that on October 9, 2014, the Police allegedly caused the gruesome death of Alpha Jalloh for plying the Central Business District. His ‘avoidable but untimely death’ was said to have been orchestrated by a police man on duty who reports say violently chased and afterward shoved him into the path of a moving truck which eventually smashed his head – may his soul rest in eternal peace.
Now, we ask the Sierra Leone Police: What does it take to stop bike riders who are unarmed civilians from plying the Central Business District? Just one police vehicle, at most, two stationed at strategic bus stops would do.
Why would senior police officers (ASPs and SPs) be seen holding stick to flog erring bike riders? Is this a sign of the typical Police hatred-driven hostility-attitude of “inflict the maximum damage possible” on hapless, helpless, unarmed bike riders?
Why issue licenses to bike riders in Freetown on a daily basis and rake in millions of Leones, when in actual fact you don’t want them to ply the streets of Freetown? What is wrong with bike riders eking their daily living by riding on the streets of Freetown in the face of harsh economic realities, made worse by the outbreak of the Ebola Virus?
Furthermore, does the Sierra Leone Police understand that today, the world will not tolerate the gratuitous injury and arrest of unarmed civilians – bike riders going about their business, even if such business is deemed “illegal” by them? Does the Sierra Leone Police understand that, should the bike riders indeed go for a protest-march against the continual harassment, intimidation and extortion they are daily subjected to by the police, they have the right to do so, especially when it affects their only source of livelihood?
These are rhetorical questions, indeed. The Inspector General of Police need not to be reminded of the answers – he knows very well, but has failed to call his men to order. Next the Police would arrest Sierra Leoneans for buying bikes!
For the record, the Police have been intimidating, arresting and imprisoning bike riders since regulations banning them from operating in the Central Business District were passed. Thus, inflicting maximum damage – physical, psychic, psychological and financial – on the bike riders. Also, for the record, no Police has ever been successfully tried, convicted and or imprisoned for such unconscionable, malicious and inhumane targeted systematic brutality on the lives, livelihood and property of bike riders. The Police always get away with the violation of the bike riders’ right. The unbelievably gruesome death of Alpha Jalloh on Guy Street, off Krootown Road, will be a test case for the Sierra Leone Police.
The Police should not be allowed to create an environment that will actively foster civil unrest in the country, especially in a time when the country is grappling with curtaining the continual spread of the Ebola Virus. It should take orders from the President, who by Sierra Leone’s Constitution is the ultimate head of the Sierra Leone Police.
There is a clarion call on President Koroma to stop the Sierra Leone Police from intimidating, harassing, extorting, brutalizing and killing bike riders in Freetown and its environs. He should scold the Police hierarchy for allowing its rank and file to turn their guns and sticks against bike riders. He should stop the continual provocation of bike riders by the Police in the country. It is not a matter or a case of waging war with the police; rather, it is all about the inalienable right of a people, a right recognized by the law of the land and in the final analysis, a right to survival and human dignity of a people – the bike riders.