• August 14, 2023

AUGUST 10, 2022 – MISSED OPPORTUNITY FOR DIALOGUE

AUGUST 10, 2022 – MISSED OPPORTUNITY FOR DIALOGUE
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It’s been a year. Yes, it has been a year since the 10 August 2022 nationwide protest, tagged “Black Monday”, that resulted to the deaths of civilians and state security personnel and the destruction of police stations and posts across the country.

With all the talk of settling the present presidential results debacle for the sake of peace, unity and national security, FORUM is of the strong opinion that the 10 August protest was a missed opportunity for a constructive national dialogue that would have left no space for the problems we have brewing at Fort Thornton (State House) at present.

A ranking member of the muscled opposition All People’s Congress – APC national executive has said that things got so hard with the prices of goods and services running like Usain Bolt, ‘we had no alternative but to strike’.

‘All other avenues were exhausted but the government overreacted by shooting armless civilians who were just upset with their material condition at that moment that was insufficient to meet their needs. Things were so bad that those that normally assisted the homeless, disabled and the sorts were complaining of hardship for which they had to cut down on their spending. Really what would have happened had the protesters allowed to carry on with their peaceful processions?’ one of those that had gathered around rhetorically asked.

The nation and the Government of Sierra Leone under the watch of President Julius Maada Bio would have set a great example that protest actions cannot / wouldn’t have been considered as a veil to overthrow a democratically elected government and destabilize the state. By allowing the protest, the government is given an opportunity to get to read the protesters’ placards with messages stating their grievances, which would have served as empirical research data for authorities to know the feeling of the masses and map out strategies as how to address the situation starting right there with a constructive national dialogue.

‘This is a great starting point for national dialogue. Government by reading what the protesters had to say on their placards will go back to the drawing board to design plans and actions to settle the people’s complaints. By allowing for people to stage protest and other strike actions, governments are given the opportunity to get first hand display of the people’s problems. By listening to the people directly about their problems, the president and the government can do away with the middleman that might want to exaggerate the people’s condition to steal from the president, state and people of Sierra Leone,’ she said.

A year after the 10 August 2022 protest, today we are some steps ahead of where we were five years ago.

‘The dialogue that we are currently begging for, that we are seeking to move forward after how the June 24 presidential elections was won, would have started a year ago if the people were allowed to enjoy their constitutional rights to freedom of choice, association, expression and speech. All government was expected to do via the Sierra Leone Police and other security forces was to provide security for the protesters to express their views on the then situation until they reach their end point. In the meantime, while all this is going on, the government would have gathered from the people’s placards what their grievances were for the party to come up with programmes designed to assuage the people’s plight.’

Had the regime focused on the needs or interests of the people they are supposed to serve, August 10 would have been used as a springboard into the dialogue that we are desperately seeking at present.

We went into the elections with key players with dissenting views that were not addressed and left to chance. Nothing really gets solved by being left to chance. Other factors might affect how the issue is resolved had the incumbent follow the trajectory of its predecessors.

Police officers and some members of the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party – SLPP that spoke to FORUM said President Bio started on a firm footing with foundations set by his two predecessors who worked hard to set things up for him. All he had to do was continue the steady developmental trajectory that made the late former President Alhaji Ahmed Tejan Kabbah and ex-president Ernest Bai Koroma popular and winning their second mandates that with overwhelming acceptance by all and sundry as free, fair, peaceful, transparent and credible electoral processes.

We expected for President Bio to embrace the change in our governance narrative that his two previous bosses had started for which the country, our national economy, our peace and security grew in leaps and bounds for which the people were happy. Both Kabbah and Koroma were popularly re-elected without the kind of stiff resistance Bio’s second term ‘elections victory’ has been met with, due to the nature of polarized form Sierra Leoneans went into the June polls.

That the nation continues to be so polarize alone ethnic, political and regional lines, by President Bio’s plans and actions since 2018, the call for dialogue to settle the 24 June electoral impasse should have started on 10 August 2022. Considering the gains or advancement in peace and dialogue that were effected under Kabbah and Koroma, Bio has taken us in the wrong direction in the last five years. That we don’t expect this time around in his second term. He should have consolidated and raised the bar up a notch in preparation for his successor as the two men before him had done.

Although he started on the wrong footing it is still not too late for Bio to set things right by being genuine that dialogue will resolve the present political stalemate that is threatening the peace, national unity and security of Sierra Leoneans and friends of the country.

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