Sierra Leone
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U.S. State Department reports Significant human rights issues perpetrated by the government of President Julius Maada Bio in Sierra Leone

Despot – Julius Maada Bio

The United States Government of president Joe Biden has raised an alarming concern over what it described as Significant human rights issues including credible reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings; cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government or on behalf of the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence, including domestic or intimate partner violence, sexual violence, child, early, and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation/cutting and other very serious trampling on the human rights of the people of Sierra Leone.

The reports cited that in April the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) shot and killed an unarmed youth in the capital city of Freetown during a student protest. Authorities arrested and dismissed the four police officers allegedly involved in the killing, and as of September, they were standing trial. And the report also mentioned that in April 2020 a riot broke out at the Freetown Male Correctional Center, resulting in numerous injuries and 31 fatalities, including one corrections officer and 30 inmates. Following an independent investigation, Sierra Leone Correctional Services (SLCS) reported that the riot was sparked by several problems, including overcrowding, suspension of court hearings, and COVID-19 health restrictions.

According to the state department, there were several credible reports of the government or its agents committing arbitrary or unlawful killings. The Independent Police Complaint Board (IPCB), an independent civilian oversight mechanism, investigates security force killings and makes recommendations on prosecutions to the Sierra Leone Police (SLP).

The report further highlighted that on August 10, during demonstrations that turned violent, the police shot and killed 30 protesters, mostly unarmed youth, in the capital city of Freetown and in the towns of Makeni and Kamakwie. Protesters killed six police officers. The Sierra Leone police cannot execute such heinous crimes without orders from supreme authorities at State House and that includes the President.

There were also reports the police committed cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of prisoners or detainees.  In one reported instance, on June 12, the SLP arrested, detained, and shaved the dreadlocked hair of a controversial rapper, Alhaji Amadu Bah (more commonly known by his stage name LAJ), for an alleged offense.  Following media reports of the inhuman treatment of LAJ, the IPCB launched an investigation into the alleged police mistreatment.  The IPCB had not published its report yet.  Impunity remained a significant problem in the security forces, notably in the SLP.  While Amnesty International noted improvements in police leadership’s enforcement of disciplinary measures, other observers reported continuing lack of crowd control and human rights training.  The IPCB investigates police misconduct, with a mandate within the security sector to receive and investigate complaints from the public and advise the leadership of the SLP.

The anti-corruption Commission headed by a stooge of the President continues to hound opposition politicians including the current opposition leader and flagbearer Dr. Samura Kamara using trumped-up charges to prevent them from participating in the upcoming presidential election. Another prominent opposition figure, Femi Claudius Cole has been unlawfully arrested and detained several times by the politically jittery president who crushes descent by using force instituted by his barbaric security apparatus.

The Judiciary has become a bastion of corrupt criminal practices involving inept judges who follow strict orders from the presidency and abuse the trust placed upon them by the populace. The fact that the State Department has issued its damning report coupled with Amnesty International’s own report has brought into light the systemic human rights abuses taking place in the West African State and will certainly help in bringing worldwide attention and awareness to what is really going on in the country. And as Presidential elections are fast approaching it will also provide the electorate an opportunity to change the government through the democratic means of the ballot box and usher in a fresh alternative of good governance from a reputable son of the soil in the person of Dr. Samura Kamara of the APC.

The report has shown that the current government of Sierra Leone is unfit for purpose and regime change may be the only option for a reprieve of the situation for the people of Sierra Leone who have endured untold abuses at the hands of the despot Julius Maada Bio.

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