On July 27, 2023, the Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone’s executive members (IRCSL) met with representatives from the Security Sector at the Office of National Security (ONS) in Freetown. The purpose of the meeting was to address security concerns before and after the recent elections held across the country.
During the meeting, Archbishop Edward D. Charles, the President of IRCSL, expressed gratitude to the Security Sector for ensuring the peaceful conduct of the multi-tier elections on June 24, 2023. He also requested updates on the violence that occurred during and after the elections, the situation of political detainees and suspects, the incident at the main opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) headquarters that resulted in the loss of lives, and cases of suppression in various regions of the country.
In response, Abdulai Caulker, the National Security Coordinator (NSCoord) at ONS, thanked the IRCSL executive for engaging with the Security Sector to discuss security issues related to the elections. He emphasized the security sector’s commitment to providing a safe environment for the elections, which they successfully accomplished through proper coordination and collaboration among the different security agencies. He reminded everyone of the importance of responsible speech, especially among political leaders, to maintain peace and stability in the country. The NSCoord mentioned that the incident at the APC party office was under investigation, and he reassured that Sierra Leone is a law-abiding nation where individuals accused of criminal offences will face due legal process.
Regarding political detainees, the NSCoord informed the meeting that most detainees were released following engagements with political parties except those suspected of committing criminal acts, who will face legal proceedings. He clarified that reports of people being chased out during the elections were exaggerated and that such incidents were resolved amicably.
The Inspector General of Police (IGP), William F. Sellu, also spoke during the gathering, urging everyone to remember the sacrifice of six officers who lost their lives during an insurrection on August 10, 2022. The IGP assured the public that the incident at the APC office was being investigated, and he denied any claims of housing political prisoners. However, he acknowledged the arrest of individuals involved in criminal activities. The IGP emphasized that the police would not dispense selective justice and had handled cases of political parties violating campaign rules fairly.
Furthermore, Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) P.K Lavahun assured the public that there are no ex-combatants in the present-day military, as all military personnel follow clear guidelines and are advised to refrain from engaging in election-related activities except for voting. He acknowledged the challenge of maintaining political neutrality within the military and affirmed the continuous efforts to ensure professionalism among their officers.
In conclusion, the meeting between the Inter-Religious Council and the Security Sector aimed to address crucial security issues surrounding the recent elections in Sierra Leone, with a commitment to maintaining peace and stability in the country.