• April 26, 2023

WHY MACP?

WHY MACP?
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Sierra Leoneans and the international community, including the UN, the EU, the AU, ECOWAS, and the diplomatic and consular corps, especially of the US Embassy, the UK High Commission and the Russian Embassy, should know and consider that the Office of National Security (ONS) of Sierra Leone has declared that it would invoke the Military Aide to Civil Power (MACP) on the day the people of Sierra Leone will be going to the polls to cast their vote in the June 24, 2023 multitier elections.

 

The upcoming presidential, parliamentary, mayoral, chairperson and councillor elections, to be held on Saturday 24 June 2023, is a watershed event, since the electorate are ready to defy all odds to vote massively in the elections, despite the cumbersome registration exercise and the appalling voter identification cards that have so far been used to put a spoke in their wheel.

 

On Wednesday 19 April 2023 the ONS Coordinator Abdulai Caulker sounded the preparedness of the security sector to invoke MACP on polling day – Saturday 24 June 2023.

 

Mr Caulker made the disclosure during a news conference hosted at ONS headquarters, Tower Hill, Freetown.

 

The justification for invoking MACP is that government wants to ensure the elections are conducted devoid of violence and intimidation.

 

While this justification could be considered, it is however a feeble leg to stand on as these kinds of cautionary actions are always mostly counterproductive owing to the fact that such military presence intimidate and create fear in voters.

 

Thus, it must be stated that restrictions of free movement of civilians appear as another form of imposed emotional violence and intimidation. In the case of Sierra Leone’s unfolding skewed political events, the invocation of MACP is largely characterised with the on-going intentional domineering tactics aimed at overpowering vulnerable electorate to instil fears in their hearts and minds.

The objective is to let voters avoid voting scenes or environments on polling day to allow the full execution of already orchestrated rigging plans or tricks without disturbances under the canopy of an illegally imposed MACP.

 

Speaking to journalists in Freetown, Caulker said MACP will be robustly invoked during and after the elections. Over the years, before the June polls, there have been night roadblocks and checkpoints spread across the country far before the elections.

 

A statement issued by ONS confirms that MACP will be forcefully invoked during the elections. Only God knows why the use of the force on elections day.

Does the nation needs to remind the National Security Coordinator, Caulker, and his colleagues in the sector that political devotion is built on the footing of democracy, wherein every citizen is allowed the freedom to elect his/her political leadership without any form of intimidation, restriction, harassment or fear from any quarter of society? The forceful invocation of MACP on polling day would not be dispassionate; rather it is to heave support to the incumbent in the highly discredited electoral process. There has never been MACP in previous elections. Why only now ONS Caulker?

 

Why MACP in the upcoming elections in the absence of internal rift? Sierra Leone is certainly not at war. Some schools of thoughts have it that the security sector for long has undermined their own credibility due to their insincerity to the people they suppose to serve or secure in reality. Instead they have been seen manning checkpoints and roadblocks at night and forcefully extorting money from commuters and other road users without the affirmation of MACP. Is that why checkpoints and roadblocks are mounted across the country? If allowed to provide assistant to civilian power prior, during and after the elections, then it will be gross human rights violations of vulnerable civilians. Under the existing circumstances, there is no need for empty sloganeering of freedom and justice amid imposed permanent restrictions.

 

Others say bringing MACP on to the elections denotes the intention of the governing Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party (SLPP) to win the elections on the tenets of intimidating the people or voters with high presence of armed security personnel at polling centres. The security situation of the State does not warrant the forceful institution of MACP. Free, fair, transparent and credible elections are envisaged by all and sundry except otherwise.

 

The police have assured the nation of watertight security during and after the elections. The election is not war that requires the deployment of armed security personnel at polling centres to maintain peace and security. The role of the military of any country is defined in protecting its territorial integrity. Their expected role in the coming election is to secure the country’s geopolitical boundaries, preventing any intruder from external fronts from interfering with the internal politics of the country.

 

Political parties must guarantee the nation to maintain the peace during and after the elections. Political incumbency is not a mandate for dictatorial tendency to twist any state and democratic institutions into submission with the penchant to win elections at all cost.

 

The security sector is a state institution that should not be influenced by any political parties. These are securities relied upon for protection by citizens of the state. They should not be used as tools of intimidation to implement and tighten the peace and security of the people.

 

The military by prescription is to protect the territorial integrity of the State against foreign provocations. They should more or less provide security for the State against foreign aggression. The police are there to save lives and property, and can be more effective in providing the needed confidence in the coming elections without any form of intimidation.

 

Bringing the military into civilian authority should be reconsidered in order to avoid political discomfort and probable voter apathy on polling day, especially in villages where people are unfamiliar with such circumstances. The military never provide confidence but uneasiness in societal freedom, and once they are seen perambulating the streets or executing orders they would certainly create fear in the hearts and minds of the people.

 

There is every suspicion that the military would want to support the government.  We have seen them in their uniforms singing and dancing the name of President Julius Maada Bio, brandishing their weapons and making threatening remarks against the nation’s citizenry. If these same people are called to give military assistance to civilian power, there are no doubts the military officers will use the same weapons to intimidate or harm the people they tend to serve.

 

Evidence of this is also seen in the return of Dr Samura Mathew Wilson Kamara from the All Peoples’ Congress (APC) National Delegates’ Convention from Makeni, where the APC National Secretary General, Lawyer Lansana Dumbuya, was molested and beaten along with other members by military personnel and guards of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces attached to the Presidential Lodge at Hill Station. They unexpectedly mounted checkpoints along Regent Road, Hill Station, on the pretext of providing security details to the President. This discourteous and insolent act was greeted with no investigation and no statement from the State authority. Other people of the APC including former Mayor of Freetown City Council, Councillor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, were also molested and degraded at the same checkpoint and nothing absolutely came out of it.

 

What is the trust that MACP will provide the State with reliable security that will guarantee peace and equality to every political party? If, however, MACP is to be accepted, political parties must come together to define their terms in the conduct of the elections, rather than living the security of the elections at the mercy of MACP.

 

However, to avoid political intimidation, collective collaboration with the political parties is needed to tailor the terms and conditions of MACP’s intervention. This could be effectively done under the supervision of the Office of National Security (ONS). We have one president with different institutions to assist in the governance of the nation. The governance of the State is collective participation and not by dictatorial tendency. State institutions are formed in this direction.

 

Yes, peace is needed to greet the whole electoral process but not the peace of intimidation from the military presence. Bringing the police to maintain the peace in the elections is far better than having the military to intensify political intimidation during and after the elections.

 

The National Coordinator needs to reconsider the decision of bringing MACP into the political scenario of the State. Those breaching the laws of the State should be arrested and prosecuted as deterrent to other would-be offenders. However under the present regime, almost on a daily basis, political violence is seen perpetuated but no arrest or prosecution is made, as long as those involved are somehow connected with the ruling party. Had the perpetrators of violence been arrested, it would have demonstrated clearly that the Office of National Security was working hard to manage the security of the State.

 

In such a decision making at this time of politicking and electioneering in Sierra Leone, all political parties should have been called to sound their candid respective opinions on the maintenance of peace, instead of the unnecessary and forceful introduction of MACP on polling day.  With mutual consultation and involvement in taking a decision to introduce MACP, fairness, peace and security are assured in the elections, come June 24, 2023.

So ONS should do the right thing!

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