The recent statement by Retired Brigadier Mr Maada Bio in relation to combatants and plans by the ruling party to create chaos and anarchy in traditional opposition areas has certainly taken the political temperature into the danger zone especially coming so close on the heels of the by-elections’ violence in Freetown and the allegations and trial for attempted ritual murder. The statement by Mr Bio in the absence of supporting evidence can only be described as ill-advised and disappointing for a gentleman who in less than twelve months from now might well be the next President of Sierra Leone. It is quite possible that Mr Bio received intelligence from sources that he trusted but he had a responsibility of checking the facts or veracity of the information before going public with such a definitive and damaging allegation. He has absolutely every right in my view as a Presidential candidate to raise concerns pertaining to the perceived actions or inaction of the government relating to the conduct of the registration process. However in the absence of credible evidence he should have positioned it by saying “Information reaching him / Bio is ABC and then ask NEC and the relevant authorities to investigate and be vigilant”. This approach would have allowed him to raise his concerns in the public domain whilst protecting himself from the current charges of recklessness and being seen as the “Boy who cried Wolf”.
To be quite candid, this incidence raises the question of “Why would a man aiming to be the next President of Sierra Leone make such a definitive and damaging allegation without the relevant supporting evidence knowing full well the potential for unease and insecurity across the nation he seeks to lead”. Could it be that Mr Bio has the tendency of taking decisive decisions and actions based on unsubstantiated evidence or information? There is a view that the execution of the 29 Sierra Leoneans during the reign of the NPRC was hastily done based on suspicion and not tangible evidence. Could it be that Mr Bio has NOT learned from this tragic miscalculation which damaged the NPRC both within SL and also in the International community? Most critics of Mr Bio tend to judge him based on his days in the NPRC. He needs to demonstrate that the Bio of sixteen years ago is different from today’s Maada Bio.
The fact of the matter is that Mr Bio has miscalculated by making an earth shattering allegation without credible evidence to support the allegations. This is frankly not a good reflection on him especially in terms of his judgment. However, if the writings by the pro APC press and statements ascribed to President Koroma are true, then I dare say that President Koroma is also likely to make a bigger miscalculation with possible tragic consequences. The idea of arresting Maada Bio and charging him for Seditious Libel with just nine months to the elections would be President Koroma’s biggest and most damaging blunder of his Presidency. If Maada Bio’s unsubstantiated allegations were considered reckless and a threat to peace and stability, his arrest and trial by the APC government would certainly destroy the peace and stability of the country and usher in a period of violence and instability that would be hard to contain. Imagine the reaction in Bo, Kenema, Pujehun, Kailahun, Bonthe, Moyamba and some parts of Freetown after his arrest, trial and possible conviction. The Government will certainly open itself to the charge of selective justice and persecution of the opposition based on its inactions from findings of previous commission of enquiries into elections violence which were not complimentary to the ruling party. The North will not support this view but the majority of people in the South, East and a good number in the capital will buy this view creating a major headache for the Government and sucking it into a zone where the image of Sierra Leone will get stained and bloodied. All the effort that has gone into promoting SL as a stable country since the war ended in 2002 and an increasingly attractive destination for investment would be compromised.
I would therefore like to appeal to HE Koroma to step back from the brink. He should act Presidential and respectfully dismiss Mr Bio’s allegations as over the top and appeal to him and every Sierra Leonean to exercise restraint in their actions and utterances. He should appeal to all with relevant concerns to raise it with the relevant authorities with supporting evidence and avoid making wild statements which have a tendency of causing instability in the country. The relevant authorities should then investigate these allegations thoroughly. I had previously suggested that there is a need for both President Koroma and Mr Bio to meet at a joint press conference to diffuse the tension and suspicion that exist between the APC and SLPP. I had also suggested a joint visit to Freetown, Makeni and Bo calling for peace, unity and affirming their commitment to a peaceful elections and acceptance of the results come November 2012. I still believe this approach should be adopted for the good of ALL Sierra Leoneans.
To Mr Maada Bio, I would like to appeal to him that he leads a party (SLPP Party) with a great history and a party which played a key role in ending the war, restoring the peace and building the foundations of democracy again in SL. He is duty bound to conduct his campaign in the spirit of his party’s great history and tradition. As the Presidential candidate for the main opposition party and in the interest of strengthening democracy, he has an obligation to present himself as a credible alternative to President Koroma. Given the multitude of complex challenges Sierra Leone faces, we deserve leaders who have the ability of synthesizing information, make decisions based on facts and whose words and actions demonstrate leadership qualities such as Maturity, Good Instincts / Judgment and Integrity.
In conclusion, all of us as citizens of Sierra Leone must play our part in our respective little corners to promote the spirit of peace. The media and civil society also have a part to play in this process as they too must exercise caution and good judgment as we navigate our way towards the elections. The beauty of DEMOCRACY is that the final word on President Koroma and Mr Maada Bio will be said by the PEOPLE come 17th November 2012. The people will decide and we the people demand that we are allowed to go about our lives before, during and after the elections PEACEFULLY.
Signed – BS