Doubts Over SLPP Allegations

27 November 2012 at 17:10 | 2290 views

By Alpha Jalloh, PV Freetown Bureau Chief.

The series of allegations levied by the Sierra Leone Peoples Party, (SLPP) after the November 17 polls have evoked widespread doubts from the citizenry based on the illogicality and falsity of most of SLPP’s past allegations.

The Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) led by Charles Francis Margai whose performance in the November 17 polls has been very abysmal , according to provisional results that have been released through the media by the Independent Radio Network (IRN) has joined SLPP in building up allegations.

One of Charles’ claims is that he and his family voted in one polling station in the West of the capital, Freetown, but that it was announced as “zero”. But in a recount that has been carried out by the National Electoral Commission —of disputed results— it has been discovered at the National Tally Center of the Commission that there is record that Margai had only three votes but the error could have emanated from an Independent organization that compiled the provisional results and announced them. But IRN had made a disclaimer that results announced by them could not be accurate and were not official.

Observers say Margai’s noise was worthless because even the three votes if added to his “achievement”,would not make a difference in his current position. Baba Conteh of the Peace and Liberation Party (PLP) formerly led by Johnny Paul Koroma who is now wanted for war crimes has been very sincere and has gone on radio to explain that areas where zeros were announced for his party’s performance were areas where they (PLP) did not file candidates because of financial constraints. It has been observed that the same could have happened for PMDC and its leader Charles Margai who reports say is now making overtures to align with SLPP from which he defected after losing at SLPP convention elections twice and cried foul.

SLPP on the other hand has levied several allegations ranging from vote rigging to intimidation. They claim that they have all the “evidences”. But on the “evidence” of vote rigging, many people apart from NEC, have doubted certain allegations. The polls on November 17 were carried out openly. Voters had privacy to mark ballots but had no secrecy to cast them thus preventing what was experienced in the past in which some voters entered with their own ballots and dumped them into the boxes. So, for ballot boxes to be placed openly under the eyes of observers, party agents and NEC officials and even voters and then voters succeed to dump more ballots than they were given by NEC officials, have raised more doubts. This apparently has caused NEC to declare that whoever has evidences of vote rigging should make a report at the police station for investigations to be mounted. It has been observed that most of the “evidences” were acquired without the knowledge of other party agents, NEC officials and others who were present at the polling stations at the time the alleged incidents took place. The same applies to the allegation of intimidation in which SLPP claimed that NEC officials and others were put under gun point in one polling station. NEC claims that they have no such report from their officials and have therefore urged SLPP to make a report to the police.

In Kono where APC has swept the votes and SLPP has been making a hue and cry of vote rigging, NEC is recounting fifty- eight boxes. In a recount in another place called Tasso Island, no malpractice was discovered as alleged by SLPP.
Owing to past allegations by SLPP which were proved to be false, even police are now meticulous when handling SLPP allegations.

For instance, just after the 2007 elections, SLPP ex-combatants in the party headquarters looted the office. This was corroborated by my reporter Isata Lebbie who was in their midst up to twelve mid night on that day and by a very prominent figure who held the position of Bank Governor in the SLPP government. But at dawn, SLPP claimed they were attacked by APC thugs and the office was looted. These allegations were circulated world wide through various media outlets.

In 2007 also, when there was over voting in Kailahun and some areas in the North and West that supported Ernest Bai Koroma, Christiana Thorpe the Chairperson of NEC banned all areas proved to have over voted, but SLPP accused her of being pro-APC. While she was announcing the results at the British Council in Freetown, a Kenyan military personnel of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) testified that he met presiding officers directing voters on who to vote for and that many of the boxes were already filled by 10:00am at the Kailahun court barray. That may have apparently spurred Christiana Thorpe to annul the 477 polling stations in the south and east and 10 in the North and West. But SLPP was arguing that she should have played the “James Jonah style”, that is, remove the excess ballots that were not on the voters register and then leave the one hundred percent voting in favour of SLPP, something which caused Karefa Smart to lose the elections of 1996. Christiana stuck to her guns. To date, SLPP detests her and regard her as a devil.

Still on experiences of past activities of SLPP, critics recall another episode in which SLPP alleged that they were “attacked” by APC thugs including Issa Kamara alias Leather Boot, a security guard attached to State House and their women raped –in broad daylight. But intelligence reports revealed at the time that it was SLPP who attacked APC supporters because the APC mayor, who had just won, passed in front of the SLPP building dancing with APC supporters and APC supporters reacted in like manner. On the allegation of rape, the then IG Acha Kamara revealed to me that even when the alleged victims were referred to Rainbow, a center at Princess Christian Maternity Hospital known as Cottage Hospital, for tests, it was discovered that no raping took place on the victims. But SLPP accused Rainbow staff of being pro-APC. Leatherboot who went to save a pregnant woman and took others on board a pick up van to Connaught Hospital at mid day, was later accused of raping. Because SLPP could not substantiate their allegations with real evidence at the time, the then IG Acha Kamara who got his job through president Kabbah, could not make cases for prosecutorial purposes. A Commission of Inquiry was set up but found it difficult to prove the allegations of rape. It evoked anger and accusations from SLPP. They accused Acha the IG of police of taking sides with the APC government.

“But I cannot call white, black when it is not so” Acha Kamara told me in confidence at his office at one time.

Some political observers have also looked at another incident in Kenema, just after the SLPP convention, where Julius Maada Bio and his supporters claimed that they were “attacked”, but it was proven by police that they disobeyed police instruction not to go towards the APC headquarter. They ended having a confrontation with the APC members in the vicinity which led Rado Yoki, an SLPP MP, to end up on a charge of arson in court. The APC office was incidentally burnt down, but SLPP cried out that it was APC that attacked them and that the police were against them. Julius Maada Bio was “wounded” on the head in the ensuing fracas. He was advised to see a police doctor in Freetown but went to Ghana and came back after the “wound” had been “healed” which made it difficult for police to take action. But even just after the ensuing melee,( late) Dr. Soyei, who contested with Julius Maada Bio for the SLPP leadership but lost, claimed that it was his men that reacted after they were attacked by SLPP. But SLPP did not countenance his claims since their focus was on APC. Because of these series of allegations originated in the past by SLPP but could not be proven, many people now raise eyebrows whenever SLPP makes allegations.

“All these kinds of manifestations of lies, insincerity , criminality and tendency to create chaos would make you an unbelieving Thomas even if SLPP were one day to say the truth”, says one ex-cop who spoke to PV in Freetown.

Critics say now that SLPP seem to have lost the elections but have insisted on their allegations to be true and declare that the results should not be regarded as credible, it seems they are at the old games again. Observers fear that the international community who are not acquainted with SLPP’s games may be hoodwinked to swallow some of the prepared and manufactured evidences (like the one in rape case in the past) they now use to substantiate their allegations.

There is a strange theory now being circulated by SLPP stalwarts especially through the Attaya bases. According to them, Christiana Thorpe took sides with Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in 2002 and left Ernest Bai Koroma in the cold. In 2007, she took sides with Ernest and threw Solomon Berewa in the cold and this time round with SLPP being dubbed NPRC 3 which comprises most of those who were in the NPRC which Christiana Thorpe served, she would compensate SLPP and throw Ernest in the cold. But these could be far-fetched speculations that could serve as propaganda weapons against an opponent. Thorpe is reputed of being a woman who is as “constant as the Northern star”.

She disappointed APC when they lost the Local Council elections at Fourahbay Community, east of Freetown, and APC claimed that it was because SLPP supporters attacked one of their stalwarts in front of the polling station. APC also claimed it might have panicked other voters who did not turn up, but Thorpe said who ever had wanted to vote at that time would have voted. Those who did not turn up, never wanted to vote. With such disposition, she is reputed of being impartial towards any body or party and even insiders in APC were warned before elections not to be complacent because Thorpe has no friends. But SLPP with their allegations are still pointing fingers at her and some northerners in their Party who they accuse of being traitors.
Experience has now become an effective teacher in Sierra Leone.