What is happening in the far off SLPP opposition strongholds of Sierra Leone, if not nipped in the bud immediately, will easily cause President Koroma to be likened to a man he loves to criticize: Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
Contrary to the pro-APC tabloids which sought to paint a picture different from what was initially published by this newspaper past Monday October 13th 2008, this writer can now authoritatively reveal that indeed Mr. John Oponjo Benjamin was right on target with his claims that SLPP supporters from Gbeika village in Kailahun District had been arbitrarily detained in police cells on flimsy allegations of plotting a coup that was levied against them by ruling party supporters from that area.
This writer just arrived in Sierra Leone from Abuja last evening (14th October) to meet the topical issue of whether or not such arbitrary arrests and detentions actually occurred based on flimsy, malice-ridden allegations by ruling party supporters. From Lungi airport all the way to Freetown, it was hotly debated.
So, in a bid to get to the bottom of the matter, I first called the Assistant Inspector General of Police responsible for the Eastern Region, Al Shek Kamara on his Zain phone line of 076-613893 and he confirmed that Mr. John Benjamin filed a bitter complaint on the issue to him over the telephone last weekend. He also revealed that as a result, he took steps to look into it. According to the AIG, investigations revealed the complainants were just “hoaxing” police and the villagers had been subsequently released with, according to him, “no fuss at all”.
However, when this writer proceeded to call the Speaker of that Chiefdom in Kailahun, Chief Fada on his Zain line, he opined such treatment of poor SLPP supporters was a “serious human rights abuse”. He revealed they were dumped into cells from morning to night without even taking statements from them. He angrily informed that it was late in the night that the Second In Command at the Daru Police Station, Inspector Patrick Songa (Tel: 076-591506) eventually removed the villagers from stinking police cells.
This writer then proceeded to call the Police Local Unit Commander (LUC) for the area in question (Segbwema/Daru), Superintendent Kabba on his Zain line of 076-668490 and he also confirmed that villagers from Gbeika in Kailahun were picked up by his police officers and detained at the Police Station at Daru on allegations levied by APC supporters that the SLPP-supporting villagers were going to overthrow the APC.
“I was in Kenema when they were detained but later we found that it was a complaint without merit based on long time political grudges and so I ordered for the release of the Kailahun villagers from detention,” the LUC said.
It will be recalled that President Koroma in a blatant show of one-sidedness not befitting a democratic ruler, recently listened to just one side of cooked-up tales following which he told a bunch of his APC supporters from Kailahun that he would soon effect changes in the Kailahun police hierarchy.
Shortly after, the then Police Commander for that area was abruptly removed and sent to the remote Bonthe Island. The new Police Commander and his team are the ones who presided over the locking up of the innocent SLPP villagers last weekend.
It is not clear if any charges will be brought against the Kailahun APC supporters of President Ernest Bai Koroma for “hoaxing” the police. In Sierra Leone, it is an offence to file a false complaint as it wastes the time of the police and breeds bad blood in communities.
Meanwhile, this writer can confirm that a top APC delegation from Kailahun led by one Mr. Hindo Gbao, yesterday went into Gbeika village to apologise and make amends with the SLPP supporters who had been wrongfully detained in police cells on flimsy claims of coup plotting. Gbao is reported to have told his APC men in Gbeika that with newspapers like Awareness Times around, anything done anywhere in the country can no longer be kept secret and so he warned them to act very lawfully. Gbao was accompanied to Gbeika village by two police officers assigned to him.
“God Almighty will richly reward you and your newspaper for your service to the people of this country. Without Awareness Times, we would have lost all hope as bonafide citizens,” Chief Fada, the Chiefdom Speaker in Daru told this writer last night.