During eleven years of the former government of the now-opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) rule, we had very serious abuse of a State of Emergency that late President Tejan Kabbah had declared to help him prosecute the civil war. Under that SLPP government, we had more human rights abuses through abuse of emergency powers than this country had ever experienced in its modern days since even prior to independence.
The Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Report is our most authoritative recount of what went wrong in Sierra Leone and how to make amends for those wrongs so they will not re-occur. The authoritative TRC Report finds SLPP Government abused the State of Emergency clause in the Sierra Leone Constitution to carry out egregious abuse of its citizens’ human rights including killing, cooking and eating its own citizens; prolonged, unlawful detentions of persons even beyond lifting of State of Emergency; execution of political prisoners including at least 23 male soldiers and a female officer, in contravention of international statutes the State had been ratified.
The TRC found out that SLPP either directly committed these egregious human rights abuses or simply turned a blind eye to them when they were done by SLPP protégés like the ethnic Kamajors. Many of those used and abused poor Kamajor youths of the South and the East were brainwashed into seeing fellow citizens originating out of the South-East as enemies to be slaughtered, cooked and eaten up for dinner!
The TRC Report is loaded with serious indictments of the SLPP Government. For example, Paragraph 27 of Volume 2 states:
“The State of Public Emergency declared by the reinstated SLPP government encompassed four years and numerous illegal acts carried out on the premise of pursuing ‘justice’.”
Indeed, 2002 to 2007 saw a whole new dawn in Sierra Leone for which some of us will acknowledge Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah tried very hard to end human rights abuse under his leadership – though not without blotches.
However! The human rights abuses that characterised the entire tenure of SLPP regime are too horrendous to be forgotten and can never be even compared in any shape or form to the rights abuses recorded in past eight years under Ernest Bai Koroma. The following are paragraphs out of Volume 2 of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission Report.
265. The Commission finds the SLPP Government responsible for carrying out the arbitrary arrest and detention of a large number of citizens in violation of their constitutional rights from 1998 onwards. Many of these arrests and detentions, as well as the prosecutions and trials of this period were politically motivated, representing a denial of basic rights. The Commission finds that the Court Martial of 37 soldiers during 1998, resulting in the execution of 24 of them, was conducted in contravention of international human rights standards.
266. The Commission finds... [incarceration] of sixteen persons in “protective custody” detention since June 2000 to be unlawful and a flagrant denial of those persons’ basic human rights.
Arbitrary Detentions and Prosecutions
284. The Commission finds that the rounding up and detention of over 3,000 (three thousand) citizens in the wake of the ECOMOG intervention of February 1998 constituted a mass violation of human rights.
285. The Government of Sierra Leone deployed a “catch-all” strategy to round up all persons associated with the AFRC regime, however loosely, and to imprison them arbitrarily without charge. Many civilians were detained for no other reason than the fact that they retained their jobs as civil servants under the AFRC regime.
286. Mrs. Sylvia Blyden, a civil servant who had served the nation for some thirty years, was detained in February 1998 for nine months without charge. She was held on the strength of untested allegations against her. The Commission finds that the Government’s policy of detention inflicted terrible suffering on the citizens of Sierra Leone and their families and contravened their human rights.
“Safe Custody” Detention
431. No law authorises the continued detention of persons in “safe custody” or “protective custody” detention. The Public Emergency Regulations of 1998, under which the President was authorised to order the detention of persons in protective custody, were lifted in 2002. The continued detention of several persons in “safe custody” detention [was] unlawful and in contravention of the Sierra Leone Constitution. Their detention [was] in clear violation of the rule of law.
***Therefore, in light of the above short extracts from the TRC Report, I submit that for the majority of peace loving Sierra Leoneans, whilst we will prefer the current status quo of peaceful democratic co-existence, if we have to choose between APC years under Stevens and Momoh and the 1991-2002 NPRC/SLPP/RUF years under Strasser, Maada Bio, SLPP and RUF, let it be Stevens and Momoh!
Factually, Siaka Stevens’ Mafanta Prisons at the height of its infamy, never simultaneously held over 3,000 political prisoners in gross violations of every single human right known to mankind. Under the SLPP between 1996 and 2002, hundreds lost their lives in illegal detentions!!! Hundreds were brutally executed, cooked and eaten up for dinner!!!. School children got shot and killed by trigger-happy police officers including the Annie Walsh school daughter of a judicial Magistrate!!! Hundreds got neck-laced with tyres with petrol used to set them alight!! Dozens of brilliant journalists were killed or detained in subhuman conditions!!! It was the worst period of governance in this Nation’s History; worse than Strasser’s NPRC and worse than Maada Bio’s NPRC during which latter period was commenced the process of cut-hand and cut-foot to stop the February 1996 elections.
This piece is a re-editted version of an original piece first published in July 2012.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.