• October 19, 2023

AN UNEASY CALM IN SIERRA LEONE

AN UNEASY CALM IN SIERRA LEONE
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As the nation’s moral guarantors made decisions that should in effect spell a weaning of Sierra Leone from being breastfed by our erstwhile colonial masters and international community, the country finds herself in an uneasy calm that could spell gloom (despair – more hardships) or doom (disaster – running street protests and what they portend considering events covering 2018 to 11th September, 2023) for the nation’s peace and stability going forward.

The people say they live in panic, not too sure of what will happen. They say each day comes with its own set of problems, many of them not problems that the country can solve without the assistance of the very people that have in effect told us to solve the presidential election problem ourselves.

We have been left to our own devices; which is not anything good to write home about. The SLPP regime has said through the minister of information that they will only be having presidential and parliamentary elections in 2028. So, we will not be having a rerun according to the party government; the EU has thrown us back to the courts and; the US has advised for us to head back to the House and city councils. Where does that leave this dialogue?

What is the dialogue for then if all of the APC’s stances have been so let down by the people the APC was hoping to come and save the day apart from them going to parliament and the courts? The SLPP is going into the negotiations that they will complete their five year term while the APC is going into the dialogue to prevent just that. This calm, this lull is not good. It is a powder keg, contents under pressure awaiting ignition, which could be absolutely anything, even the mundane.

The nation and the world is watching the stealing of a presidential mandate in the midst of all these military coups against such presidents in the region and beyond.

With the advice from the US and EU we have been told to put our trust in the judiciary that have over the years done things either in support of the ruling party or that further adds to people’s perception that the judiciary and our security sector – police, army, prisons as the most corrupt public institutions in the country.

The people’s main fear has to do with what would happen if the APC refuses to return to parliament or take their dispute to the courts for redress. That would leave the party with one other option: street protests. With the security sector showing over the years that they are not afraid of shooting protesters based on orders from above, the people say they only see more bloodshed and the insecurity that engulfs a polarised society.

‘Based on the EU’s report on the 24 June elections and the advice by the new US Ambassador, we can see that the two most critical stances the APC party had based their boycott on, not taking part in government and not taking their dispute to the courts, have taken a serious hit that points to the party going back to the drawing board. Should the APC decide against these advices then we should expect this stalemate to take an ugly turn: the sanctions will continue and the economy and people will continue to suffer as a result. Many people will become impatient with the slow pace of the dialogue and decide to take to the streets in protest,’ said a diplomat that spoke to Forum News SL.

He is of the opinion that the SLPP will not subject president Bio to a rerun of the 24 June.

‘The danger with a rerun is that many people that didn’t vote because of whatever reasons will vote and they will be very angry. Then there are those who although they voted for president Bio who will based on the hardships that they have experienced since 24 June not vote for him. A rerun would be a protest vote, and voters will be protesting against Maada Bio and the SLPP. Therefore we don’t think the SLPP will allow for a rerun, although president Bio is on record that he will win a rerun election.’

‘That leaves us with yet another point of contention: the chief electoral commissioner still refusing to release the much demanded and trumpeted disaggregated voting data by polling station. This very confusing and unusual decision by the commissioner has really embarrassed the nation because his refusal has made necessary speculations or inferences that had the SLPP won freely, fairly and credibly, Konneh would have released the results.’

‘Therefore the fact that he is refusing leads us to infer that the result is exactly as people have been claiming, which disclosure would definitely embarrass the ECSL, for which people have been rightfully calling for Konneh to be prosecuted. If it happens that we get our hands on the voting data and they show that Konneh had manipulated them then he should be prosecuted for bringing the nation to the brink of a civil conflict. Elections disputes are responsible for much of the civil unrest around the world. So, Sierra Leone is in an uneasy calm as this situation is far from over, with every day bringing us closer to what we fear most,’ our diplomat friend noted.

Speaking to armed police and army officers, they prayed for a quick resolution to the electoral impasse because they do not want to be told to open fire on their fellow citizens. They said the situation in the country is making the people see the police and army as their enemies because they see police and army officers as siding with the government, and against the people they are sworn to protect, whose payment of taxes is responsible for their monthly salaries and other perks.

‘This situation continues to impact on our economy. Things continue to get worse. Some people have gone months without pay. Those that get paid don’t get it on time. If this dialogue does not bring out what the parties hope for, what then should we be prepared for, sanctions and protest actions? We are calling on the APC and SLPP to see reason to sort out this situation as we are all suffering, no matter the party, tribe or region. This hardship and whatever will be coming don’t discriminate along party or tribal lines; everybody is game. We are calling on our leaders to come to their senses and prevent the nation from further sliding to a point where the tension that underlines this uneasy calm raises its ugly head,’ cried a military officer flanked by OSD officers who all concurred with him.

So, despite the calm that you see on the streets and other public spaces, there is tension brewing beneath. And there is no other way to sort out this mess than by facing and putting our trust in two of the most corrupt public institutions in the country. Based on the EU report that the APC engages the judiciary and the US Ambassador insisting that the party returns to the House and city councils, we have been told to stop circumventing or running away from trusting that the courts could deliver a judgement based on the law, not according to expectations or orders from above.

‘We hope that the APC will listen to advice. Right now the whole nation is looking up to what the party and the elected members will do. If they accept, we will move forward as a nation. If they refuse, we will continue to operate under a cloud of uncertainty, with an uneasy calm that could be rattled at any time. This is where the problem lies, not knowing what’s next for us as a country. This uncertainty is responsible for the lull that you see across the city. People say things are worse in the provinces,’ an OSD officer concluded.

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