Opinion

SLPP has failed on Security for Sierra Leoneans

19 April 2007 at 18:59 | 519 views

By Teddy Foday-Musa, Holland.

Security is a human right responsibility of any government of the day to its people. Such responsibility must be provided in the interest and safety of the people and the state. Governments that are elected by the people, or that assume power on behalf of the people, should have security on top of their performance scale of preference list. State security should be the cornerstone of government policies. Security is not only a prerequisite for development, but also an element of good governance. Therefore, governments must put in place a mechanism for the quick and rapid reaction to any threat of insecurity.

In Sierra Leone, as in many democracies, the importance of peace and security is manifested in the fact that the Ministry of Defence is thrusted upon the Head of State. This is to ensure swift and effective proactive and reactive reactions to security threats. Thus, the President is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Sierra Leone.

Therefore, President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone and the ruling SLPP are directly responsible for managing any security threat against Sierra Leone. Such responsibility should even be extended to Sierra Leoneans who are also living outside of the country. Tejan Kabbah as Defence Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Sierra Leone works hand in glove with the SLPP in executing defence and security responsibilities in the country. However, it will interest you to know that both Kabbah and the SLPP government have failed Sierra Leoneans many times on security responsibilities.

In 1997, the AFRC military coup by Johnny Paul Koroma brought another phase of the decade-long range of suffering on Sierra Leoneans. Sierra Leoneans went through this horrible period, compromising their daily lives through a UN embargo that was slammed on the AFRC. The AFRC harassment became a determinant factor for the day-to-day survival of the people. Sierra Leoneans went to bed not sure of greeting the morning’s rising sun of the following day. Many became wanderers across the globe, as wandering grasshoppers across an acre of land.

This suffering could have been averted if only Kabbah and his SLPP had taken the pre-coup security threat seriously. Admitting on the BBC that he actually knew about the coup a couple of weeks before it was carried out, serves as a clear pointer to Kabbah’s negligence on state security matters.

Notwithstanding his position as the Defence Minister and CIC in Sierra Leone, Kabbah was the first to desert the very people he took oath to defend. He stayed in neighbouring Guinea through out the crisis while his people and his commanding units were left in disarray. Sierra Leoneans lived in constant fear for eight months. The country was torn apart and transformed into a human slaughterhouse. A clear manifestation that Kabbah and his SLPP failed to protect the people of Sierra Leone.

At the end of the day, Kabbah was reinstated by ECOMOG, which saw the departure of Johnny Paul Koroma and his AFRC boys. However, it was no hidden secret that they(AFRC) only deposited themselves within and around the country. They sent strong messages to Kabbah and his government that all was not over. They threatened to come back to Freetown for another mayhem on the people. Kabbah, who was aware of this security threat, again did nothing about it.

One would have expected Kabbah and his SLPP government to communicate this with seriousness and concern to ECOMOG on the ground. Instead, Kabbah and his SLPP government gave it another cold shoulder treatment. So on the 6th January 1999 (Jay-6), the allied forces of the AFRC/RUF overran Freetown. I can vividly recall one of our local journalists describing the situation as “Rebels descending on Freetown like manna from heaven”.

Notwithstanding that the SLPP government had all the time necessary to protect the people, but chose to downplay the security threat, took offence over the journalist’s report and he was harassed and beaten up. Even when people from the Eastern part of Freetown arrived in the centre of Freetown with news that rebels were in town but the government kept broadcasting otherwise on our national radio (SLBS), downplaying the looming grave situation up to the eleventh hour. Not until hundreds of people were killed, before the SLPP government could accept slowly and unwillingly that Freetown had fallen to rebels.

The Yenga issue in Kailahun was another serious security threat that jeopardised the territorial dignity of the country and the freedom of the people of Kailahun. Again, Kabbah was very slow to act on this as our Defence Minister. Guinean soldiers occupied the town, claiming that it was a part of Guinea in this scenario. During this period, Sierra Leonean citizens in Yenga faced a series of systematic harassment from Guinean soldiers.

The issue became a concern not only to Sierra Leoneans, but also to the regional players and the UN. It coincided with Kofi Annah’s visit to Sierra Leone at the time. He expected Kabbah to have shared with him his concerns about the security threat in Yenga. But Kabbah, who was now the patient in this case, failed to report his sickness to Kofi Annah the doctor.

Nonetheless, Kofi Annah knew the gravity of the situation better than Kabbah, the man who was directly affected. He advised that Kabbah and his SLPP government pay some attention to the security issue. Before this time, many Sierra Leonean papers had strongly written about the issue, blaming Kabbah and his government for not making any statement about the security threat in Yenga, which prompted the first rather very angry reaction from Kabbah. He condemned the press for what he called, “Blowing things out of proportion.” Fellow compatriots, this is our Defence Minister, referring to a state security threat as “blowing things out of proportion”.

Reading the article on Kabbah’s reaction to the Yenga issue on the Patriotic Vanguard, I was surprised to learn that he centred all the things he said on holding the press responsible for reporting what was a genuine security threat. Nothing was said about how he was going to address the problem in categorical terms. However, Kabbah did what was expected of him, though by the same late reaction attitude. A lot of things have gone bad already, before he could step in as our Defence Minister. Again, it was another display of irresponsibility on the side of the Defence Minister and his SLPP party.

The upcoming General elections on the 28th July will be, by all standards, the most contested elections. There is a direct confrontation between CONTINUTY and CHANGE. The SLPP government has failed the people, yet it is fighting tooth and nail to deprive them from the CHANGE that they are demanding. Against this backdrop, many unhealthy scenarios have taken place, all sending messages of a security threat. Prominent among these are two that will be projected in this article, which the SLPP has again failed to address, as we get closer to the general elections.

Early this year (2007), it was reported in Sierra Leonean newspapers that a certain SLPP government minister was busy distributing “Green Overall Uniforms” to youths in Pujehun district. The said minister turned out to be Dr. Kaizer Boima, a well-known and respected medical doctor, who has saved numerous lives in our country in the past. Dr.Boima told the press that the uniforms were supplied to their SLPP youth supporters, only as motivation to support the party. However, an unconfirmed report from the public domain said that these youths have been trained as SLPP thugs and would go into action on the day of the elections-July 28th for the SLPP. Even at this moment, the curious public is yet to get a clear statement on the distribution of these green overalls to our vulnerable youths. It rightfully behoves us to document this against the SLPP as another security threat that has been swept under the carpet.

The recent and final one that has left me and most Sierra Leoneans with a troubled mind as we approach the general elections, reveals that a good number of youths are undergoing arms training in Kono district. Who are they and for what are they training? Anwers to these questions are yet unavailable. The SLPP government and our Defence Minister, Tejan Kabbah, have made no statements about it.

I bring you below the full report of this disturbing security threat from one of the local newspapers from Sierra Leone:

" Security: Armed youths train in Eastern Kono district

The New Citizen reports of a strange development in three chiefdoms (Nimikoro, Nimiyama & Sandoh) in the diamondiferous Kono district where the training of armed vigilantes is taking place in the name of providing internal security without reference to the Sierra Leone Police. The training of the armed men in this region has attracted the concern of the Office of National Security (ONS). Concerned citizens are worried over the young men being trained because to carry arms without State approval may spark off a state of instability especially with elections just around the corner.... The New Citizen, Awoko...April 2007"

The government, in its campaign efforts, has projected the SLPP to the international Community on the peace platform; that the SLPP brought peace to Sierra Leone.

Mr JJ Saffa, the party Secretary General, is quoted to have said that, “They have brought peace and that they are busy consolidating that peace.” It is against this backdrop that I ask Mr JJ Saffa, with all due respect, to keep to the following segment of his statement, “Consolidating that Peace” even though the SLPP may not have brought peace, and investigate the much written and talked about clandestine military training underway in Kono district, for a clear explanation to the people of Sierra Leone.

Photo: Teddy Foday-Musa, PMDC-Holland General Secretary.

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