Police Brutality and Propaganda In Sierra Leone

By Prof  Sankara Kamara (Sydney, Australia)…

 On April 27, 2016 the West African state of Sierra Leone celebrated its national day, in life-threatening circumstances.  Recognized as the day on which Sierra Leone officially gained its postcolonial statehood, April 27 was supposed to be greeted with a pensive demeanor, hedged by a show of national pride.  Determined to remain lawless, the government observed our 55th independence anniversary by assaulting the country’s main symbol of democracy, the headquarters of the nation’s constitutionally recognized opposition party.  A horrified nation watched, as armed police officers turned the headquarters of the main opposition party, into a theater of gangsterism. The barbarity reached a sickening intensity when a defenseless woman, probably in her 50s, was pulled out of a building, half-naked, and pitilessly whipped by cruel, police officers. The explanation for these uncivilized acts was couched in an equally dishonest argument, which claimed that the SLPP was trying to celebrate its 65th founding day, without a police permit.  This explanation sounds particularly untruthful in a political system known for using the police as a tool of repression.  Shamelessly partisan, the Sierra Leone Police, for example, used bully-boy tactics to quarantine the opposition during the Ebola nightmare, while supporters of the ruling party were allowed to congregate and hold meetings.

  For the sake of argument, let us accept the probability that the SLPP’s application for a police permit, was only submitted at the eleventh hour.  Still, civilized norms of behaviour, especially in a democratic society, should have prompted the police to either issue a citation, or formally charge the planners of the event with a specific crime.  In simple terms, a professional and nonpartisan  police force would have either deployed more men to supervise the carnival,  or indict the planners of the unpermitted march, in a court of law.   By laying siege to the opposition’s headquarters and assaulting its operatives, the Sierra Leone Police are guilty of attacking our symbol of democracy, a national security threat  in a post-war country still gasping for  democratic stability.   When Ernest Koroma was a presidential candidate, in 2007, he informally acknowledged that his party, the  All- People’s Congress {APC}, needed some self-flagellation, so that the party can free itself from its violent past  and, hopefully, become  a new political vehicle, a “New APC.”    The police brutality  which  continues to intimidate civilians and incapacitate the opposition,  tells us Ernest Koroma was only being deceptive when he promised to reform the APC.   In March 2009, when Ernest Koroma was still a newly elected president of Sierra Leone, supporters of his ruling party– in collaboration with the police–attacked the headquarters of the SLPP,  raped women and, without the slightest hesitation, burnt down the opposition’s offices.  Protected by the state, not even a single APC  hooligan was prosecuted for violently undermining the country’s fragile peace.

                                     More Propaganda, No Rule of Law.  

The dissemination of propagandistic messages has become the clearest feature of Ernest Koroma’s presidency.  Ernest Koroma has become the first, propaganda-backed President of Sierra Leone.   President Koroma has spent more resources on propaganda and less, or nothing,  on basic essentials like education or drinking water.  Ernest Koroma’s numerous criminal activities, all of which are unconstitutional and a  threat to democratic stability, are glibly  defended by a well-paid army of propagandists.  When President Koroma settled a personal grudge by unconstitutionally sacking the country’s vice president, it was widely believed, in Sierra Leone, that the president spent enormous sums of money to bribe and “soften” the judiciary into subservience. Political violence against the opposition will  turn a newborn democracy into a dictatorship.  Had the SLPP treated him with the uncivilized acts of brutality he is now meting out to the opposition, Ernest Koroma  would NOT have become the President of Sierra Leone, by democratic means.  Propaganda may fool an illiterate population, but it can never take the place of responsible governance.   An analysis of Ernest Koroma’s utterances, the decisions he makes, and the crooks  he employs, would reveal that this propaganda-backed president is not a particularly smart man. The praise-singers around him have become so loud that a less intelligent president may not even know that his people are dying of thirst.