• January 10, 2024

BIO’S ACTION: SLAP IN THE FACE OF ECOWAS

BIO’S ACTION: SLAP IN THE FACE OF ECOWAS
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International Relations professor and a political scientist among several others have urged the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to intensify pressure on President Julius Maada Bio to grant the offer made by the Commission for former President Ernest Bai Koroma to be relocated to Nigeria.

The ECOWAS Commission request proposes that former President Koroma should be granted a temporary asylum and be relocated to Nigeria while his trial continues in Freetown, as required by ECOWAS and UN instruments, which state that such suspects have the right to be granted asylum.

The request, according to the Foreign Affairs Minister Musa Timothy Kabbah, was discountenanced by the Government of Sierra Leone even before the slated date for relocation of the former President on 4 January this year.

Instead, former President Koroma was charged to court on Wednesday 3 January for alleged treason and other related offences by the Criminal Investigations Department, automatically defying ECOWAS Commission and turning down the offer made for the relocation of the former president.

The act of defiance of the Government of Sierra Leone under Bio has so far been described by the regional bloc as “insulting” to ECOWAS.

Commenting on the ramification of the response of the Government of Sierra Leone on the letter addressed to President Bio via the foreign ministry in Freetown, Dr Imam, an International Relations Professor expressed worrying concerns that the implication of the rejection of the ECOWAS Commission offer by the Sierra Leone authorities will be very serious.

He opines that it can take Sierra Leone back to the dark days everybody is praying against – the days of the conflict era when the country lost more than fifty thousand people during the civil war from 1991 to 2002.Another political sscientist observes that the problem is not just an ECOWAS matter, and if it is not handled well now it will end up having an international dimension. He therefore suggests that ECOWAS must use some of its instruments that allow the former political leader to be temporarily relocated to Nigeria.

These concerns emerged following the outright refusal of the Sierra Leone Government to accept the ECOWAS Commission offer. The concerned experts thus entreat Sierra Leone authorities to grant a brief asylum to the former president to be relocated to Nigeria, while on trial for the foiled November 26, 2023 coup.

Why should Sierra Leone defy the ECOWAS Commission at a time like this is a question the regional bloc must provide answers to. ECOWAS, we are told and know so well, has seen it all than one could even imagine.

So if it is not because of the duplicity of ECOWAS in their dealings with both sides in addressing the political problem in Sierra Leone, the ECOWAS Commission would not be paying the ultimate disrespectful price it is now receiving from the Bio government.

This is so especially that the Bio regime’s bullying and cruelty have been turned a blind eye to, allowing it to carry out political repression and constant persecution of past and present leaders of the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) and other vulnerable peaceful citizens in close to six years now.

Under the watch of ECOWAS, political repression of the opposition has continued to be the order of the day, since Bio was declared president of Sierra Leone on 4 April 2018 to date.

The heat of trending political bullying by the ruling class has gone to an extent that most opposition politicians and their followers have fled the country for fear of being victims of the existing circumstance in the country.

ECOWAS has been seeing it all but is sadly doing too little in mitigating the conflict or consolidating peace in Sierra Leone. ECOWAS also turns a similar blind eye to and seals its lips on issues affecting other West African countries, such as Guinea Conakry, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso until political tensions in those countries have gone out of hands. That speaks to the fact that ECOWAS barks but hardly bites even when problems are escalated in member states.

Evidence of such a state of affairs was the lacklustre manner in which ECOWAS as an observer mission handled the June 24 elections and rushed to congratulate Bio amid concerns of widespread irregularities from the opposition APC, and domestic and foreign observers.

What is clear here is that it is the fact that ECOWAS always fails to call things by their right names, which is the more reasons the Commission is being treated now with disrespect by the Julius Maada Bio regime. Had ECOWAS been themselves by condemning all the wrongdoings uncovered prior, during and even after the June 24 election, the ECOWAS Commission should have been intact, without a challenge by the Government of Sierra Leone. But ECOWAS compromises everything, the regional bloc can boast of by encouraging all the bad governance of Bio and his SLPP administration. They were in Abuja watching Sierra Leone perishing in the wicked hands of the despotic leader without doing anything to stop the killings and human rights violations all because of the unholy courtship between President Tinubu and Bio.

So the defiance to the orders of the ECOWAS Commission is being encouraged long ago by the bloc itself and the recent one by Sierra Leone is particularly condoned by President Tinubu.

In fact, President Tinubu as Chairman and the ECOWAS were the first that disgracefully congratulated Bio as ‘winner’ of the controversial June 24 polls amid widespread concerns of electoral irregularities, even while other nations and organizations have condemned the process and questioned its credibility. Why ECOWAS does now want to turn around and regulate democratic regimes that are transforming themselves into dictatorship like Bio’s? Has ECOWAS got tired of praise-singing the bad regime in Freetown?

Compromising the powers of ECOWAS can only bring shame and disrespect to the bloc, and now the struggle for respectability of the protocols and treaties of the organization from the Government of Sierra Leone and others can hardly work if ECOWAS remain the same way it is, for the authorities cannot be saying one thing and somebody in Freetown is going a different direction knowing very well issues surrounding the outcome of the election.

Apart from overlooking electoral robbery and insult to democracy, peace and stability in Sierra Leone, Tinubu has used the ECOWAS platform to reassure the Freetown regime saying: “we are with you.” That has been measured as misplacement of justice by ECOWAS against the wishes and aspirations of Sierra Leonean democrats and friends of the country. It has also painted a bad image of an un-blessed courtship of Bio, ECOWAS and Tinubu, knowing fully well what went wrong prior, during and even after the June 24 polls – an electoral process that received widespread disapproval by domestic and foreign elections observers.

Democracy and true Sierra Leonean democrats deserve better governance not bad governance. ECOWAS must therefore be seen doing the needful going forward with steady, but rapid progress, national development and economic growth in a peaceful and stable atmosphere, not as it is now under the cat and mouse gameplay of the Bio regime.

Playing by the rules will re-earn ECOWAS its lost glories even if not from Bio but from subsequent presidents of Sierra Leone with better understanding of the operations and protocols of international systems.

There is no way President Tinubu can tell the world that he is not aware of the political repression and constant persecution of opposition APC members and their supporters in Sierra Leone, when the fact remains that Tinubu and ECOWAS are fully aware of everything happening in the country. They are also seeing the sad demise of democracy in Sierra Leone and the birth of an ugly revival of human rights abuses and extra-judicial killings in the country under the despotic rule of Bio.

That President Tinubu is pretending not knowing about these awful happenings is a big shame on ECOWAS and the personality of the Nigerian president, for their deliberate and collective failure in addressing the already brewing conflict in Sierra Leone.

FORUM therefore humbly calls on ECOWAS and its leaders from across the region to step up and urgently address the situation in Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone stands with proven records of settling political problems in the West African region and beyond. It is thus disgraceful for ECOWAS nations and their leadership under Tinubu to be handling the current political situation in Sierra Leone with trivialities.

For the record, it would be recalled that Sierra Leone under the then leadership of President Koroma, as Chairman of the Committee of 10 (C-10) at the United Nations and at the African Union, amicably resolved the political impasse in Côte d’Ivoire sometime around Jun 2010.Why Sierra Leone’s problem should be treated so by the International Community and ECOWAS? ECOWAS should urgently act firm by matching words with actions in the areas of restoring democracy, peace and national stability in the country. The regional bloc must refrain from their double standards and duplicity and ensure that peace, democracy and stability reign in the West African region particularly in Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leoneans and friends of the country are fed up and tired with the military dictatorship of Julius Maada Bio who has shamed the ECOWAS Commission by rejecting the commission’s offer to grant former President Koroma a temporary asylum in Nigeria. It is therefore better for ECOWAS to heed to the advice of the experts, as Bio’s action is a slap in the face of the ECOWAS Commission.

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