SIERRA LEONE PEOPLES’ PARTY- UK/ IRELAND BRANCH
One Country one People! One People one Country!
Rt. Honourable William Hague MP
Secretary of State,
Foreign and Common Wealth Office
King Charles Street
London SW1A 2AH
22nd January 2012
Dear Foreign Secretary,
Re: Political Violence in Sierra Leone
I write to you as the Leader of the United Kingdom and Ireland Branch of the Opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP).
Sir, you will recall that in 2007 Sierra Leone conducted both Presidential and Parliamentary elections. Those elections brought the current All Peoples Congress (APC) government of President Ernest Koroma to power. As the government party then, the SLPP ensured that the elections were conducted in a free, fair, and transparent manner, with all Opposition parties including the APC allowed to carry out their activities without any form of interference or harassment from the State.
It is a matter of regret that this political tolerance has been replaced by increasing violence and intimidation by President Ernest Koroma and his government since they came to power in Sierra Leone. There have been several instances of deliberate and systematic attacks on our supporters across the country.
What is alarming is that the perpetrators of these attacks are state actors, who are either members of the Presidential security, leading supporters of his party, or even members of his cabinet. Perhaps nothing underlines the gravity of the increasing violence on our supporters than the raping of our female supporters when our national head office was attacked just after President Koroma assumed office.
During the war in Sierra Leone rape was widely used as a weapon of war, it is therefore grossly irresponsible on the part of President Ernest Koroma and his government for such a heinous crime to continue to be committed against members of the society who are already traumatized by war.
The latest outrage against our supporters was on 14th January 2012, when one of Constituency Chairmen Mr Aziz Carew was arrested and beaten into a state of coma by the Police following election violence in one of the Local Council Wards in Freetown. Mr Carew was taken to hospital where he was receiving treatment; however, he has been taken out of hospital and is currently being detained at the maximum security prisons at Pademba Road, where he has been denied bail or proper medical treatment. In addition to Mr Carew, several other members of our party were also picked up and are currently being detained on trumped-up charges. We want to state in no uncertain terms that we hold President Koroma personally responsible for whatever happens to Mr Carew and other political detainees
A report commissioned by an independent Body, the All Political Parties Registration Commission (APPRC) again implicated the president’s supporters as the instigators of the violence. I have attached this latest report for your attention.
One of the concerns we have as a party is that the Police force whose training and restructuring was financed by the British government as part of Sierra Leone’s rehabilitation at the end of the war to act as a “force for good”, is increasingly being undermined, as President Koroma has decided to turn the Police as an instrument of repression against the Official Opposition.
As a law abiding political party we have raised our concerns with the President but it is clear he has no interest or desire to rein in his supporters. President Koroma’s reaction to every outrage against our supporters is to set up so-called Commissions of Inquiries, the findings of which he has consistently ignored as those various Reports have consistently called into question the role of his supporters in the violence against our supporters.
Our supporters are becoming impatient with the daily acts of intimidation by the President and his supporters. With our leaders under attack by the President and his supporters, it is becoming increasingly difficult to restrain our supporters. Even our party’s Presidential candidate has not been spared the campaign of harassment and intimidation. Our Presidential candidate, Rtd brigadier Julius Maada Bio survived an assassination attempt last year when he was on a thank you tour following his election during our party conference.
We want to draw your attention, and through you to the international community and Sierra Leone’s development partners over the fact that there is a creeping dictatorship on the rise again in Sierra Leone. We recall the role played by Britain and other members of the international community in helping us to attain peace. Britain has an historic relationship with Sierra Leone; we therefore call on you to use your leverage to bring to the attention of President Koroma and his government and to prevail on him to pull the country away from the disastrous route he is taking.
Let me end by underscoring my party’s appreciation for the continuing bilateral and other forms of assistance by the British government to Sierra Leone.
Please receive assurance of my highest consideration.
Jimmy Batilo Songa
SLPP UK and Ireland Branch
1. Rt. Hon. Andrew Mitchell MP, Secretary of State, International Development.
2. Rt Hon. Douglas Alexander MP, Shadow Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
3. Rt. Hon. Richard Ottaway MP, Chairman, Foreign Affairs Select Committee.
4. Rt. Hon. Bob Ainsworth MP, Deputy Chair, Foreign Affairs Select Committee
5. Rt. Hon. Sir Menzies Campbell QC, Member, Foreign Affairs Select Committee.
6. His Excellency Kamalesh Shama, Secretary-general of the Commonwealth.
7. Baroness Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
8. His Excellency Edward Turay, Sierra Leone’s High Commissioner, UK
9. Amnesty International
15 Park Road, Stratford,