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Tuesday, June 28, 2022
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WHITHER TRUE DEMOCRATIC PLURALISM?

By Winstanley. R. Bankole. Johnson

First reports that our APC Party publicity Secretary Mr. Sidi Yaya Tunis had been invited to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) were real dampeners to my spirits. Initially I thought it was the work of pranksters, but actual disappointment set in after confirmations on the matter from reports filed in by the BBC stringer Umaru Fofana. From those BBC reports I was unable to discern anything incendiary or inciteful. So my initial doubts were justified given that Sidi Yaya Tunis, recognized by the PPRC and globally as the Publicity Secretary of the main opposition APC Party would appear to have been taken in for questioning by the Police for doing his lawful duty to wit: Publicizing the APC Party through the airwaves, and all of which was happening under a political dispensation that is priding itself with the setting up of a National Peace and Cohesion Commission as evidence of its commitment to democratic pluralism.

Archives

My spontaneous reaction to Sidi Tunis’ ultimate detention was to visit our archives to trace video clips featuring three prominent SLPP personalities during the latter days of the APC regime as follows:

  1. An interview by an international Press house to obtain Mr. Bio’s views should former President Ernest Bai Koroma attempt to postpone the 2018 elections
  2. A public address by Francis Ben Kaifalla as a member of a rights group called “The Renaissance” in which he was calling for a nationwide protest (without the requisite Police Clearance) on a day he dubbed “Black Monday” – everybody was to wear “Black” on that day
  3. An interview by Radio Democracy of Lahai Lawrence Leema as Publicity Secretary of the SLPP during which, waving a copy of the National Constitution, he publicly invited the Military to wake up to what he considered their constitutional obligations and to “intervene”.

All of the above videos and the incidents they depict occurred in the latter days of the APC government in power, during periods of heightened political tensions. Though they all had a proclivity of sowing bad blood or worsening political rivalries, yet none of their actions was ever considered incendiary or inciteful enough to have warranted Police invitation to any of them for further investigations on grounds of disturbing peace and social order. Nor did the APC government seek for the extradition for Mohamed Yongao (now compensated as our Envoy to Russia) for insinuating threats to destabilize the entire country whilst addressing his party supporters at a UK gathering prior to the elections.  As a matter of fact on the day Lawrence Leema was being conveyed from the CID precincts, an SLPP Youth-man sprawled himself in front of the Police truck deliberately obstructing its further movement, but even at that he wasn’t arrested and taken into custody for “obstructing Police Officers in the execution of their lawful duties”. 

Between the elections of 2018 to date, despite their many unsavoury utterances, the Police never called in any member of National SLPP Grassroots Committee for questioning for openly threatening to “annihilate and exterminate all past and current APC Party memberships, office bearers and their entire relations and to further ensure the total destruction of all their lives and properties from the face of the earth even before the security forces step in bring the situation under control”? 

Can anything or statement be more incendiary and hateful??

From interviews conducted with the BBC Stringer Umaru Fofana and our APC Scribe Ambassador Dr. Osman Foday Yansanneh, the only sin Mr. Sidi Yaya Tunis would appear to have committed and that seemed tantamount to sowing national discord was to have publicly revealed our Party’s alternative strategy to progress to another level of engagement with its memberships (“Level 3”), so as to properly canvass them to ensure that they do everything that is lawful to unseat this government at the next elections. The word “Lawful” was repeated many times over during that interview to discard any doubt that insurrectionist intentions are contemplated.

Tolerant

And I don’t suppose that strategy should be peculiar to the APC Party only. In fact prior to the 2018 elections SLPP functionaries – more particularly its Publicity Secretary Lawrence Leema – were on the airwaves repeatedly urging their SLPP memberships to “make it their civic responsibility to vote the APC government out of office”.  So if the SLPP are on record to have openly campaigned on a ticket in 2018 to “redeem Sierra Leone from the APC using lawful means” unmolested, what then is making it an offense now for the APC to begin our own campaigns on the same theme of “redeeming Sierra Leone from the SLPP” come 2023 – unmolested? Or thus a further indication that the APC can be more tolerant?

It will be a matter of serious concern to the ECOWAS Community of Nations particularly and the United Nations at large if in a multi-party democracy like ours Publicity Secretaries of opposition parties worth their salt cannot sufficiently articulate their Party’s ideologies (for example to rid this country of SLPP) and their strategies (such as the APC progressing to Level 3 using all lawful means of mass voters registrations and mobilization for voting on elections day), as the next elections loom, or if they are precluded from doing same . Then of what use are opposition political parties and the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC)?

Already opposition parties are complaining of persistent political harassments and Police intimidations in various forms, which are the very reasons for the formation of the COPP. And if simple canvassing on the airwaves by the Publicity Secretary of the main opposition party can now constitute incendiary, hate and incitement then of what uses are our Party Memberships and Voters Identity Cards? Might as well we just declare Sierra Leone a One Party State again!! 

Peace Guarantors

And this is why I think the UNDP and other local peace guarantors may need to step up their acts by proactively intervening to (as our Secretary General Yansanneh puts it) to “tranquilize” this growing volatility ahead of the 2023 elections by agreeing a Road Map and Code of Conduct before things degenerate further, as they are bound to if unchecked as we progress towards the next elections. Their starting block should be the unconditional release of Mr.Sidi Yaya Tunis with appropriate apology.

No matter how hard we work governments are bound to change, but all law-abiding citizens would prefer such changes to be done lawfully, just as Mr. Sidi Yaya Tunis and the APC are contemplating because this is the only country we have.

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