From the Editor’s Keyboard

Constitutional provisions for police and political parties in Sierra Leone

By  | 8 June 2019 at 22:09 | 1819 views

Any well established nation should have a national constitution to help regulate human behaviour and attitudes in order to ensure justice, the rule of law, peace, security and development.

My home home country,Sierra Leone, a tiny nation on the West Coast of Africa is no exception with a national constitution tagged " The Constitution of Sierra Leone,1991". Being an Act to make provision for a new Constitution of Sierra Leone,and for connected purposes (1 October,1991).

Chapter II- FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF STATE POLICY-Section 4, Fundamental obligations of Government, Constitution of Sierra Leone ,1991, " All organs of Government and all authorities and persons exercising legislative,executive or judicial powers shall conform to, observe and apply the provisions of this Chapter".

Section 35 subsection 1-
Registration and conduct of political parties " Subject to the provisions of this section,political parties may be established to participate in shaping the political will of the people, to disseminate information o political ideas, and social and economic programmmes of a national character, and to sponsor candidates for Presidential,Parliamentary or Local Government elections", while subsection 2 states that " The internal organisation of a political party shall conform to democratic principles, and its aims, objectives, purposes and programmes shall not contravene,or in be inconsistent with, any provisions of this Constitution".

Section 155- Establishment of the Sierra Leone Police Force subsection 1 " There shall be a Police Force of Sierra Leone, the Head of which shall be the Inspector -General of Police". Subsection 2 ’ No person raise any police force except by or under the authority of an Act of Parliament". Subsection 3 " No member of the Police Force shall hold office as President, Vice-President,Minister or Deputy Minister,or be qualified for election as a Member of Parliament whilst he remains member of the Police Force".

Section 156 subsection 1 - Establishment of Police Council " There shall be established a Police Council which shall consist of -
a. the Vice-President who shall be Chairman;
b. the Minister of Internal Affairs;
c. the Inspector-General of Police;
d. the Deputy Inspector-General of Police;
e. the Chairman of the Public Commission;
f. a Member of the Sierra Leone Bar Association who shall be a legal practitioner of not less than ten years standing as a practicing Barrister, and shall be nominated by that body and appointed by the President;
g. two other members appointed by the President, subject to the approval of Parliament. Subsection 2 " Every member of the Police Council shall take and subscribe the oath as set out in the Third Schedule to this Constitution". Subsection 3 " The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry responsible for matters relating to the Police shall be Secretary to the Council".

Section 158 subsection 1- Functions of the Police Council " The Police Council shall advise the President on all major matters of policy relating to internal security, including the role of the Police Force,Police budgeting and finance, administration and any other matter as the President shall require’. Subsection 2 " The Police Council may ,with the prior approval of the President,make regulations for the administration of the Police Force". Subsection 3 " Regulations made pursuant to the provisions of subsection(2) shall include regulations in respect of—
a. the control and administration of the Police Force of Sierra Leone;
b. the ranks of officers and men of each of unit of Police Force, the members in each rank and the use of uniforms by such members" and many more.

However, all was not well in Freetown on the 31st of May 2019 when police and supporters of the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) engaged themselves in a running battle with firing of tear gas canisters and the effecting of some arrests by police, pelting of stones by APC supporters and barricades with motor tyres around their the APC Headquarters,Brook fields,West of Freetown following a High Court election petitions ruling on that Friday May 31 2019 against 10 sitting Members of Parliament of Sierra Leone under the ticket of APC.

The affected members lost their parliamentary seats automatically. Police in the alleged scene claimed that APC supporters provoked them and that warranted their reaction while BBC’s Umaru Fofana told the BBC that for the two and half hours he spent around the APC Headquarters he did not notice any provocative situation. Prior to that commotion between police and APC supporters, the APC Secretariat issued a press release declaring Thursday May 30 and Friday May 31st Red Days which meant that all supporters of APC should be clad in red attire as a symbol of solidarity with the petitioned Members of Parliament

At Freetown Magistrate Court No. 1 on Pademba Road,West of Freetown, magistrate Hannah Bonnie on 6th June granted bail to 47 accused charged with Riotous Conduct during the May 31st ugly incident between police and APC supporters. The 47 accused were represented by a former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Joseph F. Kamara of the then APC led administration and other defense counsels. The matter should come up again on June 11, 2019.

So I would like to suggest that the police, political parties and all stakeholders always adhere to the country’s constitution with regards to law and order, human rights and state security. Everything is in the 1991 Constitution.