Sierra Leone
This article was added by the user . TheWorldNews is not responsible for the content of the platform.

A tale of two election campaigns in Sierra Leone – one marred by police violence and the other protected by power of incumbency

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 13 June 2023:

As Sierra Leone’s presidential and general elections approach, the two political Argonauts – Maada Bio SLPP and Samura Kamara APC, are fiercely reaching out not only to their traditional supporters but the opponent’s stronghold, where they need to convince voters to vote outside the comfort of tribalism and political patronage

Amid this frantic cross-crossing of the country’s geographical terrain by the two main presidential candidates – Maada Bio and Samura Kamara, questions are being asked about the use of the power of incumbency and police powers by the ruling party to deny the free movement of the main opposition APC from reaching out to voters. In Sierra Leone, the political scales are unbalanced.

Last week saw mammoth crowds at two major election campaign rallies in two different, though electorally vital districts of Sierra Leone that will play a significant role in determining the winner of the June 24th general and presidential elections.

In Bo district, Southern region – a ruling SLPP party heartland, President Bio was welcomed by large crowds with fanfare and jubilation. It was even rumoured  that hundreds of opposition APC  supporters went to the SLPP rally to declare for the party. There was no violence.

According to President Bio writing on Twitter immediately after the Bo rally: “Today, it was a carnival on my campaign trail as we were welcomed to Bo District by a sea of people.” Samura Kamara could not say the same, after his rally in Kono. He does not have the power of incumbency nor support of the police on his side.

What happened in Kono is in sharp contrast to the fanfare and jubilation that was witnessed in Bo district. Kono is an electoral swing district which any party that has hope of winning the elections must win.

Samura Kamara’s rally in Kono was marred by police violence, targeting his convoy once again as thousands of APC supporters were peppered with volleys of teargas cannisters.

Though this intimidation and naked abuse of power aimed at stopping the opposition APC from conducting its legally prescribed political rally did not stop their  loyal supporters, questions are being asked once again about the impartiality of Sierra Leone police and their ability to supervise an election that has so much hanging over it – the peace and stability of Sierra Leone.

The result of the June 24th presidential election is likely to mirror that of 2018, with President Bio possibly struggling to avoid a run-off. And if a run-off does come, it will be the voters in both Kono and Freetown that will decide the winner.

APC are confident of winning Kono and the capital Freetown on the 24th of June, and so too is the SLPP. But will violence and the use of police powers prevent free and fair elections in those two most important regions of Sierra Leone?   

In Kono last week, the APC Presidential Candidate – Dr Samura Kamara braved what looks like state sponsored police assault to lead thousands of APC supporters to the Koidu City field where he delivered a message of hope, unity and economic development.

Prior to Dr Samura and his supporters’ entry into Koidu – the district headquarters of Kono, supporters of the SLPP  had mounted roadblocks to prevent the APC campaign rally from going through Kainkordu Road, a major route to the town field where the APC was designated to hold their rally.

The SLPP’s only justification was that the APC must not be allowed to process on the street where the SLPP has its office. Such shocking intolerance and violence have been a feature of this 2023 elections campaign, since the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL) announced their Campaign Calendar in May.

According to APC campaign managers, “the ruling SLPP has constantly embarked on a strategy of obstructing APC campaigns by attacking the APC on their ECSL officially designated campaign slots. In every single town and district, APC supporters have been attacked and wounded with machetes, sticks, knives and other instruments of violence. In every single one of these attacks, the police have either been complicit or aided and abetted the well-orchestrated violence against  the main opposition. And so it was the case last week in Koidu.

“Instead of clearing the unlawful SLPP roadblocks to allow APC supporters safe passage, the police decided to launch an unprovoked attack on the main opposition Presidential Candidate and his supporters.  But Dr Samura Kamara, in his trademark calm and peaceful disposition, directed that his supporters refrain from any form of retaliation and instead chose an alternative route to Koidu town field.”

At the Koidu Town Field,  Dr Samura Kamara sent a strong message to the police, admonishing them to work for the people of Sierra Leone, rather than support and sponsor a political party.  “To the security forces, you are not serving the President of Sierra Leone…you are serving the people so start behaving like professionals …there was absolutely no need to fire teargas on our supporters,” Samura said.

He assured his supporters that the APC will no longer bow to police intimidation and will legally resist any attempt to stifle the freedoms of the people of Sierra Leone.