THE AUGUST 10 TRAGEDY ….PEACE, NATIONAL COHESION IN SIERRA LEONE

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BY MARCUS A. BANGURA ([email protected])

Friday, 19th August 2022.

The August 10 peaceful protest and its tragic end had come and gone but left scars of bitter memories of barbaric, brutal, inhuman and savage killings of Sierra Leoneans by Sierra Leoneans, including civilians and security personnel in which nearly 30 people have been killed with the destruction of public and private properties as well as alleged extra-judicial killings during and after the protests as well as the arrests and detention of hundreds of persons in the country.

Given the above, the propagated peaceful protest which started with a Sit-at-home on  8th and 9th August, reached its climax on August 10 but went off the cuff and like a powder keg exploded and degenerated into a titanic tragedy leaving behind a bloodbath perpetrated and unleashed by Sierra Leoneans, mainly armed security personnel and peaceful protesters.  The violence was characterized by barbarism, savagery, hooliganism and insensitivity in broad daylight in gross disregard for law and order, peace and security, and without a spectre of reflection of the carnages of the civil war that left thousands of Sierra Leoneans killed and maimed and properties destroyed.

According to sources, the August 10 peaceful protest which turned violent was propagated by some Sierra Leoneans living abroad under the canopy of  PPP (Peoples Power in Politics) through social media. It was imbibed by frustrated youths who were overwhelmed by the high cost of living and underrated by state authorities, with either side turning blind eyes and deaf ears to the upshot the protest will bring on peace and security to the country, governance and businesses, and above all, on innocent citizens.

Examining the impasse, it goes without saying that the failings of the government to recognize the protest and describing it as faceless;  the intensity of the faceless organizers calling for the protest at all cost and the desperation of the protesters to come out in large numbers and voice their grievances and the reaction of security forces, especially the police, who believed the protest was illegal and must be prevented at all cost and view it as an attempt to attack and overthrow the government beyond the ballot box, were the main drivers that precipitated the clashes between the police and protesters, resulting in the tragedy of August 10.

 In our estimation, Citizen’s Forum for Democratic Accountability (C4D) thinks that the August 10 tragedy and loss of emotions have been driven by deep-rooted bitterness nursed over the years due to wounds inflicted in the past and left uncured to a point of diminishing returns in which armed security personnel and unarmed protesters refused to strike a balance of peace, tolerance and love for one another as Sierra Leoneans but rather relegated themselves to acrimonious hooliganism and barbarism as if they were remotely controlled and regulated as stooges and in turn, gesticulated with aggravation and destruction of lives and properties.

 The situation became so hot-blooded that the spate of violence became unhidden as disturbing footage or images of scenes of unspeakable carnages quickly proliferates the social media with the roof of disorderly behaviour leaking more than ever, in addition to the prior ranting of hate speeches due to the polarization of society stimulated by the spate of unemployment, inflation, high cost of living, poor conditions of service, police brutality, arrests and detentions during protests, the challenges of good governance and the independence of the judiciary and human rights abuses as well as alleged political intrigues, manipulations and marginalization among others.  The polarization of society has given rise to divisions, suspicions and distrusts among university political brotherhoods, civil society organizations, youths, politicians, public and civil servants, teachers and in every facet of the lives of the people in the country, compounded with lack of tolerance, love and respect for divergent views and the criminalization of perceived political affiliations among others.

It is an indisputable fact that the August 10 mishap has inevitably jogs our minds back to the 11 years of ravage and blood-spilling civil war (1991-2002) that left thousands of Sierra Leoneans killed and maimed in cold blood and property destroyed for which the Human Rights Watch asserted that ‘’over 50,000 people were killed and over one million people were displaced and fled the country’’ Despite the devastating effects of the civil war, it seems that Sierra Leoneans are in total oblivion of the past carnages, deep scars, anguishes and savageries left by the civil war by which the country has geometrically retrogressed and shattered.

Its high time, school going pupils in primary and secondary school are taught about the historiography of the civil war and by extension the history of Sierra Leone to enable them to comprehend the full chronicles, events, emotions and dramas of what happened in the past compared to the present for the benefit of the future and tell what works and what does not work.

 In our frustration and sadness, the past and present governments have done nothing to include the historiography of the civil war into the school curriculum and make civic education expedient and compulsory in schools, irrespective of the fact that the school curriculum had been restructured several times. Moreover, it is sad that governments have treated the recommendations of the TRC Report with a pinch of salt, an important subject matter that should be included in the school curriculum.  C4D is of the view that history is like a laboratory in which we experiment with the past in our quest to know why people behave in a particular manner, understanding the political culture, customs and traditions of our people to enable the transformation, detection and prevention of disasters or combats events that will create unrest.  The absence of history and inadequate civic education in school, as a compulsory subject, is a major factor in our problems, and August 10 is no exception.

Whilst C4D subscribes to the government’s move to investigate the impasse and bring the alleged perpetrators to justice, we beseeched the government to equally establish an independent, impartial and inclusive investigative body that should be devoid of security personnel to build public confidence, avert suspicion and distrust since security personnel and protesters perpetrated the killings and destruction of properties.  And, to keep the peace and maintain security, C4D  also calls on the president and state authorities to take advantage of the present situation and heal the wounds of the past by swallowing the bitter pills and imbibing the ideals of peaceful dialogue and alternative dispute resolution as recommended by well-meaning Sierra Leoneans, civil society, the international community, and above all,  the President of ECOWAS  but anything other than that will not only undermine the peace and security but will destroy the good image of Sierra Leone as one of the most peaceful countries in the world.

In conclusion, C4D calls on all Sierra Leoneans to be mindful of lost time because time once lost is never regained unless we transform our crude mentality of hate, intolerance, divisions, regionalism and tribalism into tolerance, respect and love for one another, otherwise, we are doomed for continuous deadlock and adversity. Therefore, let’s consider ourselves as one country, one people with one future, for we will either rise together or fall altogether.

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