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COMMENTS & OPINIONS  

Operation Pay Yourself
By Jacob Saffa (Opposition SLPP Secretary-General)
Oct 12, 2009, 12:07
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Since December 2007, private homes and commercial houses in Freetown, Bo, Kenema, Kono and other big towns have been target of armed robbers, some times dressed in police uniforms. For over six month now, there is hardly a day, when the Press does not report an incident of violence.  


This has created sense of insecurity in the minds of citizens. Instead of putting the issue within proper context, our President decided to evoke Military Aid to Civil Power (MAC-P) for the second time in a month. The use of MACP pre-supposes the inability of the police to handle unrest on internal strife. Additionally, the President simply reminded the Public about basic police responsibilities, such as mounting checkpoints, checking for valid licenses etc.


The implications of insecurity have far reaching implications for investment, job creation and income enhancement. It is imperative that we are not nave and dishonest with the analysis. The danger is that we may be prescribing wrong solutions at high cost.


My take on the insecurity follows: Thuggery and violence is a centrepiece of APC election strategy. Towards the 2007 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections, the APC mobilised thousands of youths not only for vote but for election wriggling and thuggery. Since the APC was in Opposition, the thugs did not expect much from them. Rather, they raised expectations, hope and made bogus promises. Initially, they used congratulatory gifts to support these thugs.

 

Over time, the ministers and APC operatives start to face the realities. The productive sector is performing poorly under this regime and thus cannot create jobs for the army of unemployed. With their increasing domestic demands, such as family vacation trips overseas, lavish birthday parties, construction of private houses, new and better girl friends with all associated costs, and changing lifestyles such as dinning at Barmoi or Plan B or driving latest models of private jeeps. They practically have very little to share with the youths they used as thugs. After two years and the visible lifestyles of these big guys, the youths cannot understand anymore. Some of these including those that attacked the SLPP office eke out their living through resort to armed robbery expecting that when caught, they can use State influence and nolle prosequi the case in court.


As an attempt to provide jobs for them and reserve them for violence in 2012, hundreds are recruited in the Police by orders from State House. Some are being trained in Morocco.  Some of these are alleged, - though without proof no denial was made - to include hard core criminals who were jailed but released by the APC. Most are armed and given accelerated promotion creating de-motivation and low productivity among the Police Force. With salary levels less than Le 300,000 for most and given their lavish lifestyle, they are using the guns to pay themselves. It is basically Operation Pay Yourself. The APC knows very well that their boys are involved in this armed robbery. Because of the desperation to retain power, the APC will prefer to maintain these guys and only be seen to paying lip service through Presidential Pronouncement.   


In summary, the causes of the problem include political interference into the recruitment and promotions in the Police Force, indiscipline, impunity and incompetence in the Police. These are the issues the President should focus on instead of operational directives such as check point and misuse of MAC-P. The President or State House should stay off police recruitment and promotions. The Police should be re-organised with major changes at the top. Capacity should be enhanced and officers motivated and disciplined to serve. Acha should go because he has failed us.   


Finally, let me say with some fear for myself that if government fails to implement robust measures, the next level will be highway robberies and attacks on residences of Opposition members. I strongly fear that some critical Opposition members will soon be attacked in their homes in the name of armed robbery.


© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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