To Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden OOR, my dearest sister,
From Dr John Idriss Lahai, your beloved brother.
I disagree with your classification of the August 10, 2022 protests as an “act of domestic terr0rism.” That said, this quick note is a corrective to this assertion. There are no homegrown terr0rists in our beloved country, Sierra Leone.
Before presenting my points, let me state the following:
1. For the record: I condemn all acts of “vawulence” and terr0rism (foreign and domestic). I am not a party to such dangerous forms of human interactions.
2. As a researcher, peace/conflict/terr0rism studies, Sierra Leone studies, and youth studies are among my scholarly areas of teaching and research strengths — with reputable scholarly works to show for it.
On the subject matter: We have unruly youths with a temerity to commit “Vawulence” (I used vawulence here to escape the entrapment of Facebook’s Community Standards rules); Our youth are capable of transforming themselves into mini-berserkers whenever they high on, say, kush. However, the spontaneity of their “acts of vawulence” did not fulfil any of the classificatory conditions of domestic terror!sm.
For an incident to qualify as an act of terror (be it domestic or otherwise) it must (I repeat, it must) meet certain criteria. Note: in some cases (which is applicable to the case of Sierra Leone), fulfilling one criterion and failing on the others automatically disqualifies that incident.
1. POLITICAL CONDITION: Was the ideology of the protesters different from that of the government’s? No. Those chanting “President Bio must go” did not want to sway us from our democracy; they were not trying to replace our democracy with another political ideology, say, for example, theocracy (Christian or Islamic theocracy), communism or maxism. So this political condition was not met.
SOCIO-RELIGIOUS CONDITION: Did the protesters target a particular reglious sect (a religious sect that was different from theirs)? No. In fact, the protesters were neither a religious sect nor was religion a factor — people from all religions (including those who believe in African traditional religion, and the kufr or kafri or unbelievers) were amongst the protesters. So the socio-religious condition was not met.
ECONOMIC CONDITION: Did the protesters use f0rce (SALW; small arm$ and light weap0ns force) to destroy the economy of the state and prevent all forms of economic activities across the country? No. In fact, the economy was (and still, is) already in a mess; and hunger (induced by economic hardship and relative deprivation) was the reason for their protests. As a peace studies scholar, I am sure the President (during his time as PhD student in Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Bradford) did come across theories relating to the concept called “relative deprivation.” All peace studies scholars know (must know) about the workings of both horizontal and vertical inequalities and relative deprivation. Anyway, there is no need for me to discuss the economic parameters of vertical and horizontal deprivation and their performative functions in the creation of the necessitating conditions for protests across Africa. That said, the economic condition was not met.
CONFLICT-FELATED DEATHS CONDITION: Was the intention (and motive) of the protesters to k!ll people? No. Was the k!lling of our people planned before hand? No. Was the devilish act of k!lling our people the main reason why the protesters organised their protests? No. Was it not a protest against economic hardship? Yes! If yes, it means their primary or premeditated objective was not to k!ll our people. Against this backdrop, since the deaths were not intended and/planned prior to the protests, the conflict-related threshold was not met.
Remember: in all cases of (domestic and foreign) terr0r!sm, the perpetrator must have, as their primary objective, the intention to k!ll people; Yes! People were killed during these protests. We all condemn (in the strongest of terms) these avoidable deaths (may the souls of the departed Rest In Peace). But the mere presence of deaths (in a protest) does not, in itself, qualify as domestic terr0rism.
Hence, we should guide our beloved President (the only man I have supported since 2005; you know that; you didn’t like me for my unshakable love and support for President Bio, your new found love). That said, as we go about the “everyday” — navigating life’s challenges and doing what we must do for self and country — we should not sway from the truth. What happened on that fateful day (10th August) did not meet the threshold of domestic terror!sm. There are other words (there are plenty of them in the dictionary) to use, but domestic terr0rism is not one of them.
For the record: I condemn all acts of “vawulence” and terr0rism (foreign and domestic). I am not a party to such dangerous forms of human interactions.
Pardon the grammatical errors (if any; I am still recovering from an accident).
With love ❤,
DrJohn Idriss Lahai, your “tranga-yaes” brother.