The leader of the main opposition party in parliament, Chernor Maju Bah, has called on the government of Sierra Leone to update the public on the number of people killed during and after the August 10 deadly protest.
Mr Bah, who heads the bench of the All People’s Congress (APC) in Parliament, also called on the government to handover the corps of the dead to their families for dignified burial.
The opposition lawmaker made this call in a press statement issued on Wednesday 17th August, 2022. In the statement, the former deputy Speaker of Parliament called on the government to ensure “that a record of all those incarcerated is provided to the public and their families granted access to them.” He also demanded for their rights to be protected through speedy and fair access to a court of law, noting that they should also be provided with legal representation where they cannot afford one.
The August 10 incident saw protesters take to the street in Freetown and parts of the opposition dominated northern region of the country in what they claim was a demonstration against the government’s failure to deal with rising cost of living. But the government has insisted that it was part of an effort to usurp political power. And it has blamed the APC, which is the largest opposition party in the country, for the violence.
President Bio has promised to ensure the cause of the violence is investigated and all those behind it brought to justice.
The opposition wants this investigation to be inclusive to guaranty its credibility.
“It must be ensured that the composition and conduct of the committee is credible and non-partisan with the sole aim of providing truthful findings and proffer recommendations that will, amongst other things, help to provide redress for the families of victims,” Bah said in his statement. He called on the Inter-Religious Council, Civil Society Organizations, Council of Paramount Chiefs and community leaders to mobilise and take the right steps in engaging all relevant stakeholders, with the aim of helping to promote reconciliation, healing and social cohesion in the country.
Bah, a Vice Presidential aspirant under the APC in the 2018 general elections, singled out the important role CSOs can play in a democratic dispensation especially when the country is approaching elections. He also called on the International Community to continue providing the required political support and to inspire the much needed political will to overcome the challenges the country is facing.
While condemning violence in any form, Bah also noted that there are much more progressive and constructive approaches to communicate concerns including peaceful protests. He stressed that in any democratic dispensation, citizens have the right to use protest to demonstrate their concerns as long as those protests are peaceful and within the remit of the law.
He however lamented that lives were lost in a harrowing way even after the August 10 incident, citing the death of Hassan Dumbuya, aka Evangelist Samson, among those killed. Dumbuya was a well known supporter of the APC, based in the northern city of Makeni, one of the places were protests took place on August 10. He reportedly died from gunshot wound. The police claimed he died in a crossfire during a raid on suspected organizers of the protest.
The APC was also concerned that several citizens, including their party member, Mohamed Kamara (Med Kay), were detained before the August 10 riot and are still in police detention.