• September 25, 2023

Too Much Guns in Town

Too Much Guns in Town
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The militarisation of Freetown and the outlying towns and villages has been growing ever since the Paopa train bulldozed its way into our government.

There are just too many guns and boots on the ground, which has given us the impression that we are in a full fledge police state. Heavily armed police and now soldiers can be seen all over the place with some brandishing their weapons in a menacing manner trying to cow or impress onlookers.

This situation has created a sense of fear and apprehension in the public who are aware of the officers’ penchant for obeying ‘orders from above’, which order they obey even if they are in contrast to their mandate as public security officers.

Since the first incident of police brutality against armless citizens out to protest their hardships and suffering under the New Direction regime that took place in a village around Mile 91, Tonkolili district, where a farmer was shot dead by armed police officers of the Operational Support Division –OSD of the Sierra Leone Police –SLP, the public has been overwhelmed calling on the government to try a different approach to dealing with the public, instead of using live bullets.

Since that incident it is not uncommon to see armed OSD and military personnel patrolling the city day and night. The presence of so many guns in the hands of people that have questionable reputations that are contrary to what people entrusted with such a life taking force should have is a constant source of contention from the public who reported that many of the men and women entrusted with assault rifles are not worthy of such responsibility.

Many of them, we have been told are either high on drugs, drunk on liquor or behaving in negligent ways that pose significant threats to the lives and properties of the public.

‘Many times here in Freetown we will hear of soldiers or OSD officers descending on a community searching for a weapon that an officer reportedly lost. How can you afford to lose an assault rifle? We should not be naïve and not consider that Big Fish had boasted that he will get a weapon. Where did he get it from? From a lady officer he must have been studying and knowing that she is reckless and not careful with handling her weapon. If there weren’t so many armed people on the streets, where would Big Fish get access to a weapon, if he does not go to the barracks? But he had an easy source to get his hand on the gun. If not for that soldier that shot Big Fish, we don’t want to speculate what would have happened had Big Fish had plans to take as many lives with him on his way out of this earthly experience,’ said a concerned citizen at PZ, who said they are always asking the armed officers what’s the reason for them being across the city with weapons day and night.

Another trader said the reason why there are so many officers with guns on the streets is to give the impression to the public that the government has everything under control. This leaves us in the precarious position of a nation that is at war, because the absence of peace means war. Unfortunately the war is between personnel of the Sierra Leone Police and Armed Forces of the republic against the people of Sierra Leone they are sworn to serve and protect.

‘The presence of so many weapons in the hands of state security people is causing a lot of fear, has deflated investor confidence and continues to leave us on the brink of all out running street battles between the state and the people they serve. We know that these people routinely lose their weapons, leading members of the armed forces to descend on communities in search of such missing weapons. This means that they will have to harass and abuse the rights of many people before they discover if at all, such weapons. We have been told that they never recover such weapons once stolen or missing.’

‘The fear is that with so many guns floating about we should not see the Big Fish incident as an isolated one because if we continue with this police state of ours then we should be expecting more incidents like Big Fish’s. And since our officers seem to lack manner of approach when dealing with the public, we do not expect for this current situation to get better if we don’t address how such officers handle their assigned weapons. If there is a fear that people want to destabilise the state, what better way for them to do so than by snatching weapons from negligent officers, or those brandishing weapons all over the place? Imagine if people across the country start snatching weapons from officers. The state must have a plan to limit the number of gun holding officers that either patrol or provide security for places of business,’ suggested a foreigner among the people that had gathered to discuss the topic of the proliferation of assault rifles and the fear that they weren’t assigned to responsible officers.

Therefore, if Sierra Leone is presently at peace, if there is no talk of a civil or any other unrest, if we are certain that we have done all we can to consolidate the peace and bring about national cohesion, then the first thing to deal with to show that we are indeed on the way to nirvana, then the state must recall all weapon holders back to the barracks.

‘If the state fails to address this situation of too many armed officers on the streets, then we should expect more incidents of members of the public snatching guns from officers. Now imagine that we have all agreed that Big Fish wanted to commit suicide but was too scared to do it himself. Now imagine if Big Fish had the intention to kill as many people before he was taken out, he would have succeeded. What if the next person to try such a move is more of a terrorist when compared to Big Fish? The militarisation of our streets and highways must come to an end if peace is to ever get a chance to flow all across the city and state.

We must give peace a chance, or else Sierra Leone will be another cowboy country.

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