A few weeks ago, a senior minister in the Bio-led SLPP government – Abu Abu Koroma, made the news, but for all the wrong reasons – he threatened to kill opposition supporters suspected of violent conduct. He also said – he will go after their families too. (Photo above: President Bio who is also the commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces).
His threat which was captured on video (see below), sent shockwaves across Sierra Leone and abroad.
The minister was responding to an outbreak of rioting by young people, following a row between the local chief and a few young people in the northern town of Lunsar, where several properties were destroyed during the rioting.
And after a week of intense public pressure and outcry, president Bio simply suspended the minister, rather than have him arrested and charged with incitement of public hatred and violence.
But yesterday, president Bio also shocked the nation, by announcing that he has once again reinstated the minister.
For many in the country, this decision by the president not only sends the wrong message about his so called “tough on violence” mantra, but reinforces the perception that as a former soldier once accused of the unlawful killing of 29 people accused of treason in 1992 after leading a military coup that toppled the APC government, president Bio has still not shed his violent past.
One comment on social media reads: “President Bio’s reinstatement of Abu Abu Koroma is the true definition of legalisation of thuggery and misuse of power. And this clearly renders President Bio’s so called war on indiscipline useless and laughable, and it may be a disguised machinery to attack the opposition and suppress dissenting voices.
“Although some people predicted that the suspended Resident Minister North would be reinstated, most voices within the SLPP were calling for it, I still refuse to imagine that Maada Bio would reinstall somebody openly threatening to use the army and police to kill innocent citizens.
“Where is the discipline in your government! Where is the discipline, Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio. Henceforth, we urge all youths under Abu Abu’s jurisdiction to be very careful. President Bio has left your lives to the mercy of this man.”
Another message reads: “How to ruin your efforts in rebranding a country: Step 1: call your opponents terrorists. Step 2: Tell your ministers to publicly threaten your citizens with a shoot and kill policy. Make sure your ministers include family members in this policy.
“Step 3: And if there’s a backlash from the public, pretend your ministers delivered the wrong message by “suspending” them. Step 4: Tell your minister in charge of the country’s finance to remind your citizens that they have always been poor, they are still poor and that poverty will never go away.
“Step 5: reinstate your “suspended” ministers that threatened your citizens with a shoot and kill and family massacre policy. Step 6: Just don’t pay your health workers even if it’s in the middle of a pandemic.“
Today, several opposition politicians who were rounded up and arrested by president Bio’s government forces over a year ago, are still languishing in jail, accused of violent conduct or incitement of violence during a clash between the police and opposition supporters, when heavily armed police stormed the opposition APC party office.
Dr Sylvia Olayinka Blyden – a senior opposition APC politician who is also a former minister in the previous APC government, will appear in court today in Freetown, charged with ten counts of seditious libel and incitement of subversion, after simply criticising president Bio’s government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic as well as questioning his government’s human rights record and governance approach.
Dr Sylvia Blyden did not threaten to kill anyone – but president Bio’s minister Abu Abu Koroma who yesterday was rewarded for threatening to killing his fellow citizens – did.
Is this the New Direction promised by president Bio during his 2018 presidential election campaign? The international community must take note.