Makeni Faceoff- APC Backs Ex-President Koroma, Lashes Out At Civil Society Groups, Govt
The Sierra Leonean main Opposition APC party has backed former President Ernest Bai Koroma after he was accused of organizing his supporters to block the way for Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), who last week was to meet the former leader at his home in Makeni.
Recall that on Thursday last week, hundreds of angry youths staged protests and blocked the road leading to his house, to prevent ACC investigators from meeting with him.
The former president is accused by the Commission of Inquiry into the corruption of mismanagement and abuse of power by his government during his two terms in office between 2007 and 2018, involving hundreds of millions of dollars.
In a statement by the APC signed by Alhaji Osman Yansaneh, the party’s National Secretary, it said it was appalled by the avalanche of press releases against the APC from the President Julius Maada Bio’s Government as well as the civil society groups.
It said: “The All People’s Congress is appalled by the flurry of press statements coming from supposed democratic institutions in regards to the incidence in Makeni on 8th October 2020 when the Anti-Corruption Commission was scheduled to meet with the former President, H.E. Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma.
“The statements hurriedly condemn the gathering of residents of Makeni who were out to show solidarity with the former President in respect of several instances of intimidation, name-calling, and harassment against his person. The APC is particularly dismayed by the fact that these institutions are overly selective in their condemnation of acts in the current state of affairs in Sierra Leone.
“While we detest every act of lawlessness and every threat to the peace and stability which our party has sustained in Sierra Leone throughout our tenure in governance we must register our disappointment over the failure of state and some non-state institutions to denounce the endless spate of human rights abuses, violation of constitutional rights of expression and assembly, abuse of processes and victimization perpetrated by the government of H.E. Julius Maada Bio since his assumption of office in 2018.
“Sierra Leone enjoyed the peace and political calm for almost two decades since the end of the war, and much of that dispensation was superintended by the APC Party. Former President Koroma’s administration had all the hallmarks of democracy, peace, and stability. There were no political prisoners; opposition politicians suffered no form of harassment while the rights of expression and assembly were guarded with the utmost candour.
“Sierra Leone excelled in international rankings on peace and tolerance and the former President received global attention for his demonstration of statesmanship. We conducted Presidential elections in 2018 without any form of intimidation of the opposition and handed over power peacefully despite the blatant irregularities that attended the results.
“Since this government entered State House our party officials and supporters have become the object of countless incidences of oppression, incarceration, killings, and trumped-up legal charges. As a political party, we have made several petitions to the Supreme Court on issues ranging from elections to the conduct of the Commissions of Inquiry but all of them were discountenanced with criminal arrogance. Yet none of these institutions bothered to denounce this as a recipe for chaos.
“The government on several instances has used both police and military forces to stifle peaceful protests of citizens, and in most cases live rounds of ammunition were fired at unarmed civilians. Many have died and many more injured by this show of brute force by state security personnel.
“Senior members of the APC who were either Minister in the former administration or current Members of Parliament have consistently been arrested and molested by officers of the current government. One such case is Alfred Palo Conteh’s matter.
“The former Minister of Defence, Minister of Internal Affairs and head of the National Ebola Response Centre was incarcerated for several months on bogus treason charges. He was later acquitted of the said charges but he is still behind bars despite several attempts by his lawyers to bail him pending the determination of his appeal against other less serious charges.
“The Anti-Corruption Commissioner has on a number of occasions ordered the detention of people who were already persons of interest and were being investigated by the Justice Biobelle Georgewill Commission of Inquiry on the same issues raised by the latter.
“Sierra Leoneans are witness to the National Electoral Commission’s rogue handling of Bye Elections across the country and how the former Chief Electoral Commissioner would in one instance announce results declaring the APC candidate winner and later reverse his declaration in the interest of the SLPP candidate.
“In another instance (in Constituency 110) the Commissioner’s refusal to announce the victory of the APC candidate even though the results indicate a clear victory only reveals a trait of ineptitude attendant with blatant disregard for democratic processes in a fashion that is out of place in the civilized world.
“We need not mention that in each of these elections SLPP rented thugs led by senior officials of their party who are also government ministers have shown up to disrupt the voting process, harass peaceful citizens and destroy voting materials in the full glare of the police. Neither arrest nor investigations were made to look into these several acts of violence.
“Additionally, while there is a ban on secret societies and masquerades Sierra Leoneans have witnessed on several occasions when masquerades show up at gatherings and occasions organized by government officials and sometimes no less a person than the President would be seen dancing with them. No press statements were made to condemn such acts of lawlessness.
“The APC is wondering how long will state institutions turn a blind eye to all of the horrible acts of injustice perpetrated by the government only to issue out statements to condemn the gathering of people who have lost confidence in the institutions that are constitutionally mandated to protect them. For how long will this lip service to democracy and the rule of law continue?
“President Koroma has, through an official press release and leaked audio on his conversation with the Inspector General of Police committed himself in very clear language to the ACC probe and any action that promotes the rule of law. This is in keeping with his demeanour as a respecter of the law.
“In conclusion, while we call on our numerous supporters to be peaceful and abide by the rule of law our resolve is strengthened to guard against any collusion by state institutions to cloak the truth and to work within the confines of the law to defend against campaigns of calumny executed by the SLPP government against the former President and members of our party.
“By this release, we call on our development partners and the international community to note the level of hypocrisy displayed by these supposed democratic institutions of the state and some non-state actors. We remain undaunted.
“God Bless Sierra Leone. Long live the APC.”