Isha Johansen, Mohamed Kallon and the OSD
By Abu-Bakarr Sheriff
Once again the Operational Support Division (OSD) – the para-military wing of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) – has shown their true colours in the ongoing saga involving the head of the Football Association (FA), Mrs. Isha Johansen and national football legend, Mohamed Kallon.
The duo, no bedfellows recently, following controversial FA elections which saw the former elected ‘unopposed’ as president of the FA, following the latter’s disqualification under dubious circumstances, have reportedly not being on speaking terms. The current saga erupted last Thursday, 6 March, after a junior team owned and managed by Kallon was eliminated from the current FA Cup organized by the FA.
Reports say Kallon and his supporters were dissatisfied that the match referee terminated the game before the 45 minutes as per regulation, in favour of the winning team – Nothingham Forest – which is owned by an ally of Mrs. Johansen, Victor Lewis. Apparently Kallon was engaged in a bitter argument with Lewis, and he (Kallon) is alleged to have used several foul-mouthed words against the FA boss! That is improper and unacceptable from a legend of the game and a model to many who enjoy watching the beautiful game, and those who have set themselves the arduous task of emulating his heroics on the field of play, not least his FC Kallon junior team. And for this, he should be punished by the FA, as well as apologise to fans of the game.
But, that does not excuse the insensate behaviour of Madam Johansen, such as to lose her cool and slap another person, let alone a man. First, she is the partner of a certain European diplomat, and for that reason she is expected to behave in a genteel manner, one that is expected of a wife of a diplomat.
Secondly, which is the bigger picture here, she is the head of the FA and the only female in that position among FIFA’s 193 members, after the lady from Burundi was ousted from office. So, it behooves Isha to behave in a manner that will not bring the game into disrepute. However, that is what she has done, by her action of hitting Kallon. The argument that she was provoked is inexcusable and cannot mitigate the fact that she has brought shame and disgrace to the country, football, womanhood and above all her diplomat husband! A woman who publicly fights with a man and goes to the extent of hitting him is not a woman of substance and cannot/should not be emulated by other women. Of course the same applies to any man.
Therefore, what is best for Mrs. Isha Johansen is to resign and offer a public apology to the people of this country, especially the womenfolk, whom she has let down in immeasurable proportions! Also, she has to apologise to the national football family for bringing the game into disrepute. Certainly, the game is not meant for brutes or those who cannot control their temper, but those who in times of adversity and serious provocation will stand tall and acquit themselves with honour and dignity. She has failed that test, without any iota of doubt and the honest thing for her to do, without further damage to her already tempestuous reputation, is to resign and quietly take some time off from the beautiful game, lest she brings further disgrace to our nation.
That said, the response of OSD officials in the current saga speaks volumes about whether or how our so-called ‘Force for Good’ has transformed from the pre-war era, when many referred to them unflatteringly as mammals on four legs who were willing and ready at all times to do Siaka Stevens’ bidding, be it to ‘shoot and kill, make arbitrary arrests and unlawful detentions’. If how they treated Kallon, by detaining him for eight hours, even when he is the victim in this saga, is anything to go by, then there is nothing good in efforts to transform the para-military wing of the police. And it further lends credence to calls by members of the public for them to be banned altogether, because their excesses, in terms of the abuse of human rights, are at best chequered.
Fortunately, times have changed and Sierra Leoneans, at least the majority of us, are not prepared to relive the atrocities of the war years. Hence, we are determined to stand up to those excesses, including but not limited to a clear abuse of process, to arrest Mohamed Kallon for more than seven hours, all in the name of interrogating him for being slapped by Mrs. Johansen.
We are even emboldened by the fact that no less a person than the Inspector-General of Police, Francis Munu, is on record to have said that such matters should be handled by General Duty police officers, not those trained for crowd control and to provide close protection for officials of state and to guard public buildings and important installations. The question though that begs an answer is how many times OSD officers would be told their exact job scope or modus operandi? It is such attitude and behaviour which put the entire police force in a bad light.
It is no surprise, therefore, that civil society groups are in Geneva, Switzerland, this week engaging the UN Human Rights Committee on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And one of the many issues they highlighted was police brutality, and I should add, abuse of process by our men in uniform.
In light of the above, the leadership of the police force should ensure that their men behave in accordance with the Code of Conduct and with respect for basic tenets of human rights and the rule of law. No doubt the new head of the Independent Police Complaint Board, Mr. Val Collier, has a lot to do in terms of bringing sanity in the force, especially the OSD wing.