Sierra Leone: President Bio's Allegation Dismays APC, Calls for Peace and Justice

While President Julius Maada Bio in a nationwide address accused the main opposition All People's Congress of being behind all the youth violence across the country, the party has in a press statement expressed frowned at such an allegation, stating that the party was wrongly implicated.

"It is with great disappointment that we listened to the speech delivered by his Excellency the President Dr Julius Maada Bio on the 8th day of May 2020, bordering on the current security situation in the country. In that statement, the President referred to our Party leadership and membership as "terrorists" and threatened that his government will "hit hard and it will continue to hit even harder until this fight is won". The APC laments the fact that His Excellency the President could use the national address to denigrate a legitimate political institution which existence is in accordance with the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone and the Political Parties Registration Act of 2002.It is therefore important for the general public to note that the APC is not in any"fight" with the Government. We are dismayed that the Party has been wrongly implicated when the President asserted emphatically that: "Evidence emerging from investigations have named known local leaders and members of the APC as being responsible for inciting, planning, financing, mobilising, and in some cases actively participating in violent terrorist attacks against the people of this country," the release states.

The party noted that they are a law abiding Party, adding that since 4th April, 2018 when President Bio was sworn into office, they have kept within the confines of the law and have resisted all forms of provocation and intimidation.

"APC Party Offices were vandalized country wide, party loyalists brutalised, raped and killed. Many of our members had their houses burnt down and some were forced to seek refuge in strange lands where they continue to languish in misery and squalor."

The party called on the attention of the international community and the nation that the statement of the President of 8th May, 2020 describing the leaders and members of the APC Party as "terrorists" could serve as a precursor to go after peaceful citizens of the country.

"We therefore call for their assistance in reminding His Excellency the President of his commitment to be a president for all Sierra Leoneans and for the sustenance of the security of the state.

The party catalogued some of the attacks on their party offices and members across the country, allegedly perpetuated by members of the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party.

"You may also recall that in response to these unfortunate incidents, the APC Party sent a high powered delegation to meet with President Bio and his team in a bid to seek an amicable settlement in the best interest of peace and stability in Sierra Leone. The APC delegation included the Deputy Chairman and Leader, the National Secretary General, the APC Leader in Parliament and his Deputy, and the 2018 Presidential Candidate.

His Excellency was gracious enough to set up a Cross-party Committee to address the concerns the APC Party brought to the attention of His Excellency in that meeting. At the end of the day, despite all the efforts of traveling all over the country, gathering evidence of violent incidents and the report was presented to His Excellency through the Director of the Office of National Security, nothing was done about it up to date."

They reminded the international community and development partners that even though they had serious reservations about the outcome of the 2018 Presidential and Parliamentary elections results, they did not resort to violence.

"Rather, we went to court to seek redress. Regrettably, our cases are yet to be listed or addressed over two years on. The SLPP government sent in the Police to beat up our members of parliament (MPs) and brutally chase them out of the Well of Parliament to pave the way for the imposition of a minority speaker. Yet, the APC did not resort to violence. Instead, we issued several press releases calling on the Government and the international community to intervene," the party states.

The party further cited the cases where the Judiciary ruled and kicked out ten (10) duly elected APC MPs from Parliament and ordered the swearing in of non-elected SLPP candidates who had lost the elections in outright contravention of the 1991 Constitution and the Sierra Leone Public Elections Act of 2012;

"The SLPP government attacked our Party headquarters, brutalised our members and detained 146 of them in custody. Some of them are still languishing in the courts to this day. Yet, the APC did not resort to violence.You would all recall the blatant display of thuggery and rigging in recent by-elections but most especially in Thonko-Limba and Constituency 110 in the Freetown Peninsular. We all witnessed how the SLPP government used the Sierra Leone Police, State functionaries and thugs including the Minister of Transport and Aviation to violently disrupt the elections and deprive APC of our much deserved victory. At least one life was lost in Thonko-Limba. At that time the international community urged the Government to setup an inquest into the death of the 14-year old school boy. All of these cases have been taken up with the Judiciary for redress but regrettably, no action has been taken. Yet, the APC did not resort to violence.'

They cited the widespread sacking of thousands of Sierra Leoneans, including some with security of tenure as provided for in the 1991 Constitution,simply because they were all perceived as having some links with the APC. They are now jobless and languishing at home.

They noted that they believe in free speech and the defence of fundamental human rights, adding that the track record of the former President Ernest Bai Koroma in this sector is very apparent.

'Regrettably, the APC leaders and members have come under incessant attacks, harassment and intimidation. Many of our members have been arrested and detained on trumped up charges. The APC is seeking redress through the courts, yet, we have not resorted to violence."

The party recognized President Bio's reference to contributions he made in the fight against Ebola when the APC Party was in governance, adding that while the APC appreciates his sacrifice, they shall restrain themselves from delving into the nitty-gritty of President Bio's involvement in the fight, and how it was facilitated by the goodwill of former President Koroma and the Government of Sierra Leone.

"But even in the absence of any goodwill from the Government, the APC has reached out to communities, developed sensitization messages, distributed food and other essential items to the needy and played our part (which we will continue to do) in the fight against Covid-19.The APC further notes, with deep curiosity, His Excellency President Bio's comments on efforts made by the Government, including dispatching a delegation headed by the Honourable Vice President Juldeh Jalloh to Former President Koroma in Makeni and leading to a meeting between President Bio and former President Koroma at State House. The meeting was intended to promote peace and foster national cohesion. Admittedly, these steps were quite laudable. During these engagements, a joint-communique between the SLPP Government and the APC Party was signed which was expected to serve as the basis for continued dialogue between the parties - APC/SLPP."

They expressed frustration that joint-meeting co-chaired by the Vice President and the party's Deputy Leader and Chairman took place over six months ago, adding that the Vice President promised to bring the outcome of that meeting to the attention of His Excellency.

"Unfortunately, however, the government showed little or no commitment to translate the content of the communique into reality. Nothing has happened since then in spite of our continued calls on the Vice President to reconvene the meeting. It is our hope that the Government will focus on pursuing genuine peace and national cohesion through meaningful dialogue.Describing a significant percentage of our citizenry as 'terrorists' is certainly not how to keep Sierra Leone united and peaceful. The APC Party wishes to make it known that we remain committed to peace and stability in Sierra Leone. We however believe that there can never be genuine peace without justice. We therefore call for peace and justice in Sierra Leone. We therefore insist on an independent investigation into the 29th April, 2020 alleged 'prison break' at the Male Correction Centre, Pademba Road, and the unfortunate incidents at Lunsar, Tombo and other areas in a bid to bring to book all those involved in perpetrating violence. We take this opportunity to reiterate and pledge our loyalty and support to the peaceful people of our beloved nation and to pledge again all our endeavours to improving the long-term welfare of all Sierra Leoneans. We also herby register our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives on the 29th April 2020 at the Pademba Road Male Correctional Centre as well as to those who lost their lives in the violent disturbances in Lunsar and Tombo."

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