Jail Them All

One or two years ago, the country nearly became an ungovernable Wild West territory when fearless youths operating as cliques in the main cities cut out territories for themselves that they ruled with fear using knives and cutlasses and making brutal attacks on innocent citizens as their instruments of terror.

It took a cacophony of protests from a very alarmed public for the security apparatus and the Minister of Internal Affairs to take a very robust approach to the menace. So potent was the threat to the peace and security of the people that Minister Palo Conteh visited the central prison and instructed the authorities to clean the gallows that have not been used for over thirty years.

With the concerted efforts of the police and vigilantes in the affected communities, the menace from these organized gangs of young hooligans was brought under control. The once fearful neighborhoods where clique activities had put inhabitants under involuntary evening to daybreak curfew, breathed a  sigh of relief as the police relentlessly chased gang members and offered financial reward leading to the arrest and jailing of their “5 Os”.

Fast forward to 2017 and the ushering of another election period, once more, youth hooliganism rears its ugly head. This was evident in the recent clash between APC and SLPP supporters at the former’s headquarters on Old Railway Line, Brookfields, Freetown. It has been lately discovered that these ill-advised youths clad mostly in red or green, mix into the crowd of party supporters as an easy way to cause mayhem.

It is the democratic right for members and supporters of the various political parties to come out in their numbers to showcase their aspirants for various positions. However, here, this has been, more often than not, interrupted by these hooligans, much to the detriment of the unsuspecting public.

We all saw what happened recently when the SLPP Rtd, Brig Julius Maada Bio declared his intention to aspire for the presidential flagbearer position of the party, ahead of the just concluded National Delegate Convention of the same. A senior reporter of this medium, Musa Sesay was returning to the offices on Garrison Street from covering the event at the SLPP headquarters on Wallace Johnson Street when he was attacked along Howe Street by a group of youths clad in green. They tried to snatch his bag from him and when he resisted he was stabbed in the back and on the head. Luckily for him, he was rescued by passersby.

Allegedly also, last Saturday, one Mohamed Kanu an SLPP youth activist was stabbed to death at Ogoo Farm after an argument with allegedly some youth supporters of the APC. What The Exclusive has discovered is that these trouble causing youths have the colors of the two main parties and when any of them come out on their political rallies, they wear the color of the day and mingle with the crowd as if they are genuine members and supporters of that party.

For the safety of everyone, hooliganism perpetrated by these youths has to be stopped. The onus lies on the party leaders and organizers of public events and the police to ensure that political gatherings are trouble free. Political parties must have their own crowd control marshals who should be very proactive in detecting, searching and rooting out suspected ill-motivated people among them and handing them over to the police. The police to complement this trouble prevention strategy must also be out in full strength when political parties rally and have a very no-nonsense stance towards anybody caught engaging in any act of violence or lawlessness.

For us to have peaceful elections, there should be no compromise by the police and the judiciary on the issue of maintaining water-tight security now, during and after the elections. This should be based on the understanding that Sierra Leone is still a fragile democracy and that any breakdown of law and order during this election period will send a very worrying signal to the international community and investors.

After the murder of Mohamed Kanu at Ogoo Farm, many concerned citizens who called into a popular radio program to give their views on the matter strongly advised that all those caught by the police for the act must be jailed and given a speedy trial and if found guilty given the maximum punishment allowed by law for such crime. They added that if such a tough stance is not taken by the authorities against such lawless people, it would embolden others who will not hesitate to take the law into their hands; particularly during the fluid election period that we have entered into.

On the other hand, the public mentioned that they are dismayed by the fact that in spite of the best efforts of the police to catch and put these lawless youths where they belong, they seem to have so-called godfathers who behind the scene telephone the police command to render justice with mercy.

“We are very disheartened when sooner or later we see these same hooligans who have committed heinous crimes and deserve to be behind bars for long years are let off the hook and are seen walking in the same neighborhood where they committed the crime, bragging that as long as their “bras” are alive they will always walk free,” one disappointed citizen told this press.

A senior citizen who said he remembers vividly the horrors of the eleven years rebel war and the devastating socioeconomic effects it had on the wellbeing of the entire nation warns that if this new menace is not put under control, it has the potential to lead to another miserable national disaster.

The War, Ebola and the recent landslide and folding have caused Sierra Leoneans untold suffering and misery. One more misery caused by our tolerance of indiscipline and lawlessness, many have said, will be too much to bear. “We do not want to suffer another calamity due to “bad heart politics,” many have said.

As we go into the elections, political party leaders have a sacrosanct duty to ensure that they do not create enmity in the society. They should not in their quest for power seek to divide and rule the people of this nation by preaching tribalism and hate messages; many people have appealed.

Accordingly, the role of all politicians is to convince people to vote for them and not to incite them into hating and attacking each other. To avoid trouble, political parties should use peaceful methods to sell their agenda to the people and not to engage in inciting war of words with other parties.

A word for the wise must be quite sufficient to get the message across to all politicians and the political parties that Sierra Leoneans are one and want to always live in peace and unity.