• June 14, 2019

Restrictive Political Participation is Killing Democracy in Sierra Leone

Restrictive Political Participation is Killing Democracy in Sierra Leone
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By Joseph A. Kamanda  

Intimidation of all forms are being mated against opposition All People’s Congress (APC) supporters, by Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) gangs-Soja team, who are belligerently perpetuating violence, intimidation, sexual harassment, secrete killings, merciless beating ups and wounding of opponents as well as directly targeted armed robberies. Government’s harassment and humiliations frequently come in the form of politically motivated Police invites via Criminal Investigations Department, unlawful arrests and detentions of former government officials at CID cells, to the peak of several failed attempts at arresting the APC national chairman and leader, former president Dr Ernest Bai Koroma.

Police teargas attacks on the APC national headquarters and random arrests of party supporters and charged to courts in different parts of the country are as well represent government’s intimidation tactics against opposition parties. And recent alleged high handedness act by SLP AIG Lahai was a premeditated forces order well planned to be executed by officer Lahai in any anti-riots police operations against APC supporters. Anonymous SLP-OSD personnel attached to the Operational Support Division headquarters reveals during a discussion in bus whiles traveling from Lumley to King Hammer Road Junction.

Lahai maybe taking the cue from that 25th April, 2018 SLP-OSD  personnel from Central Division who upon receiving orders from above, stormed of the well of the House of Parliament, forcefully dragged out 68 newly elected APC MPs, thus prevented them from voting in the elections of Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the house since they are in the majority, and in their absent SLPP worriedly elected passport ‘convict’ Dr Abass Bundu as Speaker, and Hon Sengehpo Thomas as Deputy Speaker of parliament, on grounds that APC MPs defied high court injunctions, under the veils of approaching systematic political intimidation.

But it is unimaginable for a new democratically elected government stepping in for the first time, and started destroying the very foundation of democracy; supremacy of parliament, a mere killing of democracy if not only in parliament but the country as a whole; the denial of the rights opposition MPs the rights to vote in debates is wrong, undemocratic and parliament was the wrong place for the practices of that April 25th gimmicks.

From that induction of violence and intimidation formulae right in the well of parliament by SLPP authorities to date, democracy has been subdued to an authoritarian rule under a special semblance of democracy. In fact, from to Police chief Dr Richrd Moigbeh to the least personnel dishonorably received widespread of public condemnations, by and large suggesting that IGP Dr Moigbeh resigns to save the name of the SLP from the mud, and advised government to refrain from sending OSD SLP personnel on United Nations and African Union peacekeeping operations for fear of unethical behaviors while on postings.

Violence and persecution strategies against vulnerable people could be scarcely disassociated from the leadership of the retired military leader, who does not wants other political parties to participate in the democratic governance processes of Sierra Leone. The 25th April 2018 incident at parliament has so far midwife series of excursionist strategies against oppositions – NGC, APC, and C for C by way of stifling their collective democratic participation in debates on key national interests in parliament, as well as those he considers as not supportive of the failed direction agenda. This is due to that fact that the ruling SLPP lacks majority voice and respectability in the House of Parliament, and does not wants to respectfully lobby the majority opposition APC MPs. Instead, with the wrong backings of the undemocratic ill-tolerant executive, SLPP MPs continue bulldoze their ways in the well to get whatever they want from the House starting from their first day at work in parliament which are enough pointers to government’s clear display of contempt for the rule of law, procedures and due processes, as for them everything can be easily done through violent, so don’t wonder why there has been too many constitutional breaches so far.

These threats are by the day subduing APC and other opposition political supporters in Kenema, Kono, Kailahu and Freetown where the ruling party continues to use multiple bullying strategies to scared people, communities, offices and most times sacking them from their jobs, amidst gross socioeconomic injustices and human rights violations against vulnerable people in the name of divide and rule politics, that is giving more developmental attentions to the ruling provinces than in the northern region.

Furthermore, several villages and communities in the south and eastern districts tribal heads were removed from their positions by the incumbent SLPP government through a letter signed by the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development immediately after the elections, on suspicions of them being supportive to the last APC government. Swamps, farm bushes and mining sites to name the few were as well withdrawn from pro-APC northerners in wards and constituencies in Kenema, Kono, Kailahun and Pujehun districts. Such is not peace at all, nor do we call it democratic governance, considering the spate of violations and abuses of the rights of vulnerable peoples, depriving them from politically participating in governance at local levels for winner takes all democracy. This deserves the attentions of the international systems before Sierra Leone reverts into a total disregard for democratic institutions, which has the propensity of rapidly killing democracy in Sierra Leone.

Democracy by principle goes along with so many ingredients as political participation, very strong institutions, independent of the judiciary, rights to assemble and protest, free press, freedom of speech, checks and balances and regard for minority rights among others, which are practically rapidly missing in nowadays Sierra Leone democratic dispensation under the leadership of the so-called father of democracy, president Bio.

However there is actually no room for inclusion or collective participation of opposition parties under the new government, not even opposition MPs, can attempt as they always back out from debates to deliberate by way of peaceful protests so many calculated constitutional breaches by and in the interest of the executive. That besides, the indiscriminate dismissals of public and civil servants in such manners preventing them from making contributions towards the governance processes of the country are also political intimidation and rights abuses being perpetuated by senior SLPP government officials under the watchful eyes of president Bio.

Moreover these purposeful deprivations of citizens from participation in the democratic processes of the country, was also violently replicated in the Tonko Limba local council election, where the ruling SLPP operatives used intimidation and violence, rigged and won the election in opposition APC support base, followed by recent popular oppositions NGC, C for C and APC, boycotted local council election in Port Loko which was also won by the incumbent party.

It could be recalled that opposition political parties recently protested against government calling on the chairman and national returning officer of the National Electoral Commission, Mohamed Alie Conteh to resign from his position. NGC, APC and C for C have vowed not partake in any future elections if Conteh is not removed as head of NEC. But government didn’t listen to the opposition parties, rather and went ahead conducted the recent election in Port Loko, showing no regards for their views as they won it, using violence.

At places of work intimidation strategically formed part of the administrative patterns and structures of the new management, with workers constantly being subdued to routine harassment and coercion from their bosses at ministries department and agencies, mostly leading to their forceful resignations, proceedings to leave to retirements, illegal and untimely sackings of people they suspected of being opposition APC supporters, members and sympathizers.

These cowing opposition parties in my humble views will always continue as long as president Bio and the SLPP stays in power because violence and political intimidation against opponents is the only possible option the SLPP normally utilized to rig elections and is sets to apply violence most probably in the nearest possible future to sustain its firm grips on power, if parliament fails to resurrects from its deadly slumber and continue to nurse our democracy.

Nevertheless, these are not new tricks in the Bio politics and didn’t come as a surprise to some of us who know the president and have come to religiously observed his political culture and leadership attitude, from his National Provisional Ruling Council days, onto his term as then opposition front runner to now, he has always been that aggressive extremist as he does not want to work nor deal with people from other parts or regions of the country…do you remember his conspiracy fallout with former chairman Captain Valentine Esegrabo Melvin Strasser in 1996 and I won’t relent in reminding you Mr president that it is not business as usual as you are now serving as president Bio of Sierra Leone and he should be seen relating well to all as a national leader, rather than you continue to divide the country as its rapidly tearing apart by unhealthy and destructive political divides.

The March 2018 elections clearly underlined cracks and divisions in Sierra Leone’s democratic rule and with the current state of affairs is disbelieving if democracy is really prevailing in Sierra Leone, where strong democratic institutions are being swallowed up each and every day by the powers that be, through intimidation in civil and public service structures such as the Police, the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, the judiciary, using pending court petitions cases against APC MPs since day one are prominently being displayed in the political behavioral activities of pro-SLPP civil and public servants working with the Bio government.

Such mounted pressures on the opposition particularly APC MPs, members and their grassroots supporters are replicated everywhere in Sierra Leone; with clear a line of demarcations drawn between people of both political divides. “Wi nor dae change, usai wi dae na dae wi dae”, meaning; “we can’t change nor move but stay where we are,” are popular sayings by ordinary people, amidst constant sufferings. So even outside main stream politics, Sierra Leoneans strongly remained divided along series of divided and rule government policies currently being implemented by the SLPP administration.

Why the divisions? Is it because of the greed and selfish human tendencies, or a new comer idea in politics of a winner takes all, which is not democracy in my assessment of democracy because it limits participation and without participation, respect for minority rights among other values then it is not a complete democracy at all. And mind you Mr President and your government, Sierra Leoneans want a true, sincere and complete democracy wherein full participation of opposition political parties in parliament will be a must, and the acceptance of the voices of the minority people at elections and other democratic processes is also well heard.

More importantly, democracy everywhere in the world works with inclusiveness and collectively participatory inputs wherein everybody is given the opportunity to make meaningful contributions in the national discuss and the overall development processes of a nation, which is actually deficient in the case of Sierra Leone under president Bio and the SLPP new direction government. Maybe it all formed part and parcel of the Bio novelty of democratic rule Sierra Leone is enjoying, in which democratic values have been rapidly replaced by undemocratic tendencies of intolerant, exclusions, imbalance allocations of state resources, a semi-dictatorial, an authoritarian rule among other archaic military manners of governance.

For some people, the second coming of the SLPP rule is considers as a mere war waged on democracy by the governing cultic clan headed by president Bio himself who had long instructed his supporters in a dinner video saying that he as a leader, has be to mild and cautious as per protocol demands but instructed his supporters remained strong and aggressively vigilant against their APC opponents everywhere they are faced with confrontations. And following president Bio’s secrete dinner video statement, there has been widespread of intimidation of APC supporters using the Police, the judiciary, the Anti-Corruption Commission, COI and that malicious catch up technical audit report all in furtherance of a continuing political persecutions against opposition members, with little or no regards for the rule of law, human rights violations and abuses, freedom of speech and free press, political participation, inclusive governance processes and represent a complete hijacked of democracy and the supremacy of parliament.

On a final note, I want to respectfully plead with the SLPP government of president Bio give some breathing spaces to opposition – NGC, C for C and APC MPs by firstly ensuring that they work and serve their constituencies as opposition representatives and not as praise singers of the ruling executive government because legitimate political and democratic participation in the governance processes at all levels, whiles the SLPP keep preparing itself for a very healthy democratic competitions come 2023, if at all you believe in his policies. So Mr president don’t kill our democracy, create a level playing field as it was done for you by your predecessor former president Koroma, to allow meaningful contributions from opposition parties towards the processes as mandated by the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, which made provisions for political, democratic as well as rights to peace and life.

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