STAKEHOLDERS’ MEETING IN MILE 91: A CALL FOR PEACE AND UNITY AMID POLITICAL TENSIONS
An uneasy calm prevailed in Mile 91 following a violent confrontation between supporters of the ruling SLPP and the main opposition APC. Claims and counterclaims alleged that the violence emanated from the destruction of candidates’ posters belonging to both parties.
Owing to the incident and deterioration of tensions, the National Security Coordinator, Office of National Security, Mr Abdulai Caulker, on Sunday, May 28, 2023, summoned a stakeholders’ meeting in Mile 91 Town. The purpose of the meeting was to enhance and preach peace between the two parties as well as to state the security sector’s position regarding electoral violence. The DSCoord, Tonkolili, called the meeting to order and ushered in the NSCoord.
The NSCoord commenced by stating that the destruction of campaign materials is a recipe for electoral violence and expressed that the practice has no place in any decent society. Such attitude, the NSCoord averred, undermines peace, security and development and must therefore be discouraged. He opined that all Paramount Chiefs have a critical role in fostering national cohesion, and as custodians of the land, they are beacons of hope and peace for their people and must therefore remain neutral.
The NSCoord further described incidents of poster destruction in Mile 91 and other parts of the country as very unfortunate. He encouraged everyone to remain law abiding and not to take the law into their hands since there are statutory provisions for grievance redress that all well-meaning citizens should utilize. The NSCoord further admonished and emphasized that since the destruction of posters was violence in itself, it should be a thing of the past that must never be repeated.
On whether the engagement was to conduct an investigation into the matter, the NSCoord clarified that the purpose of the meeting was not to investigate the past; rather, it was meant to put mechanisms in place to avert a recurrence of the ugly incident and ensure non-violence in the upcoming June 24 general elections will be a thing of the past.
The NSCoord reminded the gathering that both H.E. President Bio and Dr Samura Kamara have just recently signed the Peace Pledge, committing both leaders and all their supporters to peace before during and after the elections. Consequently, whosoever breaches the law will be treated as a common criminal, as law enforcement will be positioned and justified to arrest, investigate, prosecute, and, if found wanting, put in jail. The NSCoord further appealed to moral guarantors of peace, such as Pastors, Imams, local authorities, etc., to preach peace as the security sector will not allow any individual or group of individuals to wreak mayhem and make Sierra Leone ungovernable.
Regarding the role of the security sector in elections security, the NSCoord related that all security personnel had been trained and admonished to remain apolitical, neutral, professional and law-abiding in the discharge of their duties. He assured all that the security sector will remain professional, serve every Sierra Leonean impartially and that disciplinary actions will be taken against any personnel found to be unprofessional in the line of duty. Observing that no country in the world develops in an atmosphere of insecurity, the NSCoord sternly condemned the violence and expressed that the destruction of political party posters neither makes a candidate unpopular nor a reason for him or her to lose an election.
Both the AIG North-East and CO 4 Infantry Battalion buttressed the message of the NSCoord.
The P.C. of Yoni Chiefdom, Bai Shebora Entelli III, who promised to summon a more inclusive and expanded stakeholders meeting, appealed to his subjects to put the past behind them and work as a family. The former Member of Parliament, who is also the current APC aspirant for M.P., Hon. Aaron Koroma and the SLPP MP aspirant, Ing. Kanu, stated that it was disgraceful for non-members of Tonkolili to broker peace between them as they are family and should be able to resolve their differences when things go wrong. All stakeholders pledged their commitment to upholding the peace before, during and after the upcoming general elections. The meeting, which was described as first of its kind, was appreciated by all and climaxed by friendly handshakes and hugs.
Other attendees were the SLPP and APC supporters and other principal stakeholders of Mile 91.