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Former CSL chairman blasts planned demonstration

31 August 2018 at 12:29 | 1930 views

By Mustapha Wai, former chairman, Concerned Sierra Leoneans (CSL)

Protests and demonstration are an integral part of exercising one’s fundamental rights to free speech as provided for in the constitutions of democratic countries like my native country, Sierra Leone and my adopted country, the United States. I strongly believe that these rights have to be protected at all times regardless of who is exercising them at a given time. So let it be with our brothers and sisters in the APC party that are planning to demonstrate in New York.

However, the purpose, timing, as well as the independence and motive of organizers of any demonstration go a long way in swaying public opinion and convincing targeted decision makers. By understanding these intricacies, Concerned Sierra Leoneas (CSL) arguably became the most impactful group of advocates in the Sierra Leone Diaspora within a very short time.

And that brings me to why i have decided to write this piece. In the last couple of days, i have received many telephone calls from members and sympathizers of both the opposition party, the APC and the ruling party, the SLPP regarding the planned demonstration and counter-demonstration. The sentiment shared by those in the APC party is that this is payback time for the anti-government demonstrations carried out by CSL in the past against the APC Government, in addition to registering their opposition to what they describe as selective arrests and prosecution of former government officials accused of corruption. They misleadingly describe these arrests and prosecutions as human rights violations.

In other words, the purpose of the APC anti-government demonstration is to pay back CSL and to pressure the new government against their efforts in holding former corrupt officials to account. Now contrast that with the purpose of demonstrations carried out by CSL; which were to demand accountability for millions of Ebola funds stolen government officials while our people died, the unconstitutional sacking of the elected vice president, and to kick against third term for President Koroma in contravention of the country’s constitution.

The second criteria to look at is who the organizers are behind the demonstration and how that gives away their true motive. While the names of the organizers of the planned APC demonstration has not been officially disclosed, which in itself is telling; it is rumored that many are desperate and disgruntled former officials of government, including propaganda-in-chief, Kabs Kanu. Now contrast that with the diverse independent-minded group of organizers of CSL including myself, Dr. Shekh Umarr Kamarah, Mohamed Bangura, Jesmed Suma, Sallu Saidu, Patricia Thorpe, Dr. Fuambai Ahmadu, Aiah Fanday, Benjamin Kaingbanja, Ahmed Kargbo, Dr. Fuad Sheriff, Rhoda Smith, and many more wellmeaning Sierra Leoneans. Organizers of CSL did not belong to a single political party like those desperate characters organizing the APC rally. We had no political agenda. In fact many of our organizers do not belong to any political party in Sierra Leone. We were not desperate or disgruntled because we had lost our political appointee jobs in government. We were not demonstrating because we wanted jobs in any government either. We simply organized because we wanted to draw the world’s attention to serious violations that were taking place in Sierra Leone.

The third and final criteria to look at is the timing of the demonstrations. The need for public protests against the APC Government came in the second term of the administration when all other attemps failed, and when those in power felt they could do anything and get away with it. The arrogance of President Koroma was climaxed in a video that went viral on social media, in which he claimed that if he wanted to extend his term, he could and no one can do anything about it. For the president to make such a public threat knowing full well that the constitution bars him from extending his term, the interventions of CSL became absolutely justified.

Many violations took place during the first term of President Koroma’s APC Government. These include several politically motivated attacks on opposition SLPP offices, including alleged rape of opposition women by bodyguards of President Koroma; shutting down of radio stations perceived as opposition sympathizers; fatal shooting of workers simple protesting pay conditions under mining companies; and sacking of hundreds of civil servants perceived to be south easterners and SLPP sympathizers. Two separate commissions of inquiry- Shears-Moses and Kevin Lewis commissions looked into some of these alleged violations and published indicting recommendations that fell on deaf ears. No one demonstrated against the APC Government of President Koroma in the diaspora in his first term. In fact, Sierra Leoneans from all parties, and the independent rallied around the president and attended townhall meetings organized for him in the diaspora. My brother, Hon. Sidique Wai did not only help secure permits and security for the first successful diaspora town hall meeting in New York, but he in fact gave the most powerful welcome and introduction speech that President Koroma had received before then.

So, when former government officials like Kabs Kanu who has been directly benefiting from government, decides to mislead others into the the streets of New York to protest against a government that is only four months old, and when the purpose of such demonstration is to oppose the new government’s attempt to hold currupt former officials in their ranks to account, such demonstration actually exposes them more so than anything else. Try making such a case in writing to organs of the U.N, U.S. Government, and other international bilateral institutions like the World Bank and IMF, and see the reception you get. It will certainly not see the same effect that CSL’s "bring back Ebola funds" intervention experienced, being echoed within the walls of the World Bank by even bank staff. And any counter-protests will not only be on point and help rally the troops behind President Julius Maada Bio’s government, but will go a long way in reminding Sierra Leoneans and the international community about the numerous longstanding shortcomings of the former APC Government, and rightfully so up untill four months ago. Like President Koroma in 2007, President Bio must be given the chance to govern. It is simply to early for anti-government demonstrations.

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