Sierra Leone: Opposition APC Condemns Thuggery From State Agents
By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma
Sierra Leone’s main opposition party, the All Peoples Congress Party (APC) has condemned the acts of violence, harassment and gross human rights abuses meted by state security forces on its members whilst calling the state security apparatus in the country to investigate the issue and bring the perpetrators to justice.
‘’We urgently call on the Chief of Defense Staff, the Inspector General of Police and Office of National Security to investigate these acts of violence, harassments and gross human rights abuses and bring the perpetrators to book,’’ the party said in a statement on Tuesday.
It could be recalled that on 22nd February 2023 during the occasion of the return to Freetown of the main opposition party’s flag bearer Dr. Samura Kamara and other newly elected the party members, some of its high profile members and supporters were allegedly violently attacked by security forces attached to the office of the president.
‘’We received reports of violent and unprovoked physical attacks on our National Secretary General; Mr. Lansana Dumbuya and his entourage, the driver and security personnel of the Mayor of the Freetown Municipality; Her Worship, Yvonne Aki Sawyerr, Madam Jennifer Kargbo; a former aspirant for the position of deputy national chairperson of the Party and the wife of the former minister of Finance and the occupants of her vehicle, the seizure of the vehicle and other effects of Mahmoud Tarawally; former Deputy Minister of Lands, the beating, molestation and temporary detention of Rtd. A.IG. Karrow – Kamara and a multitude of other supporters and sympathisers all perpetrated by State Security forces (Military Officers) believed to be members of the Presidential Guard Force, in no less a place but at a checkpoint spontaneously mounted close to the State Lodge at Hill Station in Freetown,’’ the party said in a statement.
Recounting her ordeal on local media AYV television, the city’s mayor Yvonne Aki Sawyerr expressed sadness and shock over her attack with her driver adding that she didn’t understand why the presidential guard forces would go at length in seizing her computer in an on the spot search on her official vehicle stating that such act questioned the country’s freedom of expression and freedom of movement rights as enshrined in its constitution.
‘’ I am deeply disturbed by this, and we will be taken the necessary steps in retrieving my laptop from the presidential guards. They have no right to seize my laptop even if my driver committed a traffic offence which I made to understand he hasn’t. What has my laptop has to do go through a check point,’’ the Freetown city Mayor questioned.
According to the party , it added that its secretary general and the passengers were asked out of his vehicle, his red cap roughly taken off his head and he was ordered to lay prostrate on the floor while his vehicle was ransacked stating that they were subsequently beaten mercilessly resulting in visible physical injuries and psychological trauma.
‘’Our Secretary General is still undergoing medical examinations and continues to complain of acute pain in his sides. Similarly, his vehicle, money and other effects were confiscated and up till now they haven’t been returned. Mayor Aki – Sawyerr’s driver; Hassan Kamara and her security guard were beaten up and the Mayor’s laptop and other effects belonging to Madam Jennifer Kargbo were similarly harassed at the same place with guns being directly pointed at her face while they rudely asked to search the vehicle. They threatened her and the passengers on board her vehicle and even damaged one of the door handles of the vehicle. As they were released, one of the guards smashed a half filled stout bottle on her vehicle. Thankfully she escaped unharmed physically,’’the APC party added.
The main opposition party went on to say that , the Truth and Reconciliation Commission cited the role of security forces in maintaining or destroying our fragile and hard-won peace adding they must not toy with it thus calling on the president to condemn the ugly incidents and to facilitate investigation of perpetrators.
‘’ We equally call on the President Bio led government to condemn these acts and facilitate the swift investigation of perpetrators to dispel any belief that the government had any hand in the intimidation and assault of our members. What we demand is a level playing field for all political parties. We must be given the freedom within the laws to operate just as is being done for the SLPP and its flagbearer. We continue to urge our members to remain law abiding, as the APC Party, the-government-in-waiting, will not afford to jeopardize the peace of our nation,’’ the opposition party urged.
The party further noted that these worrying conducts of state security forces do not bear well on our democracy stating that the country has made a lot of gains in consolidating its peace and improving its image in showing respect for human rights and tolerance to opposition members.
‘’We are still yet to locate some of our supporters who were manhandled and/or retrieve the vehicles and other property taken from them. There are also reports of police brutality on our supporters at Calabatown having been provoked by members of the Sierra Leone People’s Party’s Ataya base at Calabatown. The police in their trademark disproportional handling of events fired tear- gas canisters and nearly caused a stampede. Our party supporters were again beaten by police officers and bundled in trucks,’’
The main opposition APC Party further noted no intimidation tactics, harassment, arrests or bullying will scare them adding that they will not be fazed. Our people know what this election is about.
‘’It is about their survival and saving the soul of this nation. What was clearly evident was scare on their part so they resorted to intimidation. Rest assured, the APC will only take power through democratic means. Our resolve is to see a peaceful and prosperous Sierra Leone. We will use lawful and democratic means to gain power. We refuse to be provoked. We are concerned about the business of ameliorating the harsh living conditions of compatriots,’’
Meanwhile, rights groups in the country have called for swift investigation whilst also condemning the alleged attack on APC officials by state security forces.