Analysis

State Security and the Sierra Leone Police.

12 December 2006 at 00:34 | 654 views

"This unique and precedented role civil society continues to play in the sustenance of Sierra Leone’s fledgling security, which the government seems unable to preserve, gives the former the moral authority to constitute the third force and be the watchdogs for democracy. This is particularly crucial for civil society with parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for July 2007, and the many political parties sprouting with virtually the same agendas punctuated with demagogic and rhetorical promises."

By Abdulai Bayraytay, Vanguard Deputy Editor, Toronto, Canada.

Quite recently, the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) doled out a cheque of ten million leones (about $3,500 United States dollars) to two Sierra Leoneans they referred to as patriots for re-arresting army fugitive, Abdul Sesay, allegedly found with a cache of arms and ammunition with alleged sinister motives.

The dishing out of the reward to two members of the country’s suffering masses received remarkable accolades from the wider spectrum of the populace not because the windfall will at least better the lives of the “lucky two", but surprisingly because the reward was honoured in the first place by a government notorious and infamous for not adhering to promises made to the people.

However, while two of God’s bits of wood and their families, and may be friends, are celebrating their God-given windfall, critics, usually referred to as detractors, dissidents or subversive elements by the government, have come to question the effectiveness and capacity of the security apparatus in the country to maintain not only law and order, but maintaining high security levels that would reassure the safety of the masses. This thinking is adduced against the backdrop that the recent escape from custody of a renegade soldier was the tip of the iceberg, since such nefarious events seemed to have occurred in the immediate past very frequently. This has raised unprecedented concerns about state security being under threat in the country.

The government and its appendages seem to feast on management strategies rather than preventive mechanisms when it comes to the security of the state. This was amply demonstrated in May 1997 when president Kabbah passionately confessed to the nation that he knew about the Johnny Paul Koroma coup three days before it happened, but took no action.

We all know about the unprecedented carnage that left scores of innocent and unsuspecting civilians dead in the hands of the callous Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) during and after that coup.

This was followed by the January 1999 rebel invasion of the capital Freetown after the government again falsely reassured the people that gunfire at the east end of the city was as a result of tire explosions (remember erstwhile Information minister Julius Spencer and the “tire boss” scandal?). The end result was the brutal massacre of thousands of Freetonians conservatively numbered at six thousand, coupled with rapes, arson and general banditry.

With the old cliché that a thousand miles’ journey starts with a leap, the SLP should use its resources including another ten million leones, to better equip its personnel so that prison escapes should be prevented since it is very psychologically costly to the people whose worries are justifiable whenever some renegades go on the loose. On the flip side, would it have been enough for the government to issue a marathon state house press release of condolences to the bereaved families had fugitive Sesay opened fire on his captors and possibly other bystanders?

This is food for thought, however paradoxical it might sound, for a government that has claimed for itself the accolade of ushering peace and security after a brutal civil war from 1991 until 2002! This is where the two patriots deserve nationalistic praises for their bravery in capturing Sesay thereby revigorating the role of civil society as the preservers of the decency of the state and custodians of democracy as also evidenced in the fall of late Revolutionary United Front (RUF) leader, Foday Sankoh, who was confronted at his Hill Station residence which eventually led to his arrest and eventual demise.

This unique and precedented role civil society continues to play in the sustenance of Sierra Leone’s fledgling security, which the government seems unable to preserve, gives the former the moral authority to constitute the third force and be the watchdogs for democracy. This is particularly crucial for civil society with parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for July 2007, and the many political parties sprouting with virtually the same agendas punctuated with demagogic and rhetorical promises.

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