By Mohamed Sankoh (One Drop)
Even before the Special Investigation Committee (SIC), set up on 24 August 2022 by the government of President Julius Maada Bio to look at “the immediate and underlying causes…and consequences of the August [10, 2022] insurrection”, started its work; I knew that the final Report from its investigations would be like reading a book for the hundredth time: you already know how it will start and end!
And that feeling was not also lost on the United States’ Department of State’s 2022 Human Rights Report which notes that a, “Large percentage of [the] committee members [of the SIC] had strong ties to the [ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party-SLPP] government”. It adds further, shockingly, that, “Some committee members had already publicly condemned protesters before being appointed.” It’s like the complainant being the prosecutor and judge, rolled into one, in a matter in which the accused is expected to prove his innocence posthumously!
So, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the final Report of the SIC is opaquely SLPP-centric and cloudily anti-All People’s Congress (APC) in its undertones. The “large percentage of committee members [with] strong ties to the [SLPP] government” delicately tries to squarely lay all the blame on the APC’s doorsteps for all the happenings of August 10. This is being done, subtly, through semantics and word-play.
According to the SIC Report, “While at the national level, there was no evidence that the leadership of the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) supported the insurrection based on their public condemnation of the incidents, at the subnational level it was found that the ringleaders of the insurrection were all active members of the APC.” In simple language: it is like saying that though you are not being accused of stealing meat from the soup pot; the palm-oil on your fingers is pointing that you actually have something to do with the stealing (those who are versed in legalese would call it “circumstantial evidence”!). Not my logic; but the seemingly pro-SLPP Special Investigation Committee’s.
And the wordsmiths, among the “large percentage of committee members [with] strong ties to the [SLPP] government” who authored that opaquely SLPP-centric Report, go into word-ploy thus: “…Senior members of the [APC] party were also seen publicly associating with rioters who were arrested and detained at various police stations, and some even provided free legal services for them giving a semblance of tacit support for the insurrection….” By this same fallacy; it will be illogical to accuse the chairman of the Special Investigation Committee, Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai, of being SLPP simply because he provided legal services to the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL) when the APC took the ECSL to the Supreme Court on the legality of the Proportional Representation system of voting for the June 24 elections.
It is understandably understandable that a man who is accused by his stepmother of peeping at her, in their “washyard”, has no chance of proving his innocence in a court presided over by that very stepmother with his stepbrother being the principal witness. Though I am not a lawyer, or never once put up the pretentiousness of having full knowledge of the practise of the law; but my little knowledge of “Audi Alterem Partem” tells me that the Special Investigation Committee appeared not to have followed the fundamental principle of natural justice during its investigations. The “other side” appeared not to have been heard in the course of the committee’s investigations!
And it seems to me, again, that the Special Investigation Committee (SIC) didn’t try to investigate the “underlying causes…of the August 10 insurrection”. But it appeared to be only concerned about how to find the little bits and pieces that would circumstantially indicate that the APC gave “a semblance of tacit support for the insurrection”. Taking an introspective look at the Report, in its entirety, it appears to me that the SIC tried all it could to go by a scripted script!
And that seemingly scripted script appeared to have been read by the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Lahai Lawrence Leema, long before the Special Investigation Committee started what now seemed to be a charade. Why would Mr Leema waste his precious time when it appeared that he already knew what the outcome of the investigations would be? And from what I know, Mr Leema is not a clown; so why would he allow himself to be summoned to appear before what seemed to be a circus?
But the beauty of Mr Leema’s refusal to appear before the Special Investigation Committee is that it reminds me of the Sierra Leonean proverb which says, “if you have not played with faeces; you will not be smelling your fingers”. The refusal of the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs to appear before a tribunal, set up by his own government to also look into the “response of security forces” to an “insurrection”, might mean that he doesn’t want to make Freudian slips that might implicate the very government that set up the Mickey Mouse-ish investigation!
And that fact is not lost on the Special Investigation Committee (SIC) which uses word-play to bring out the fact that Mr Leema’s refusal to appear before the SIC might also mean that he didn’t want to let some unknown pussy-cats out of the SLPP government’s Ghana-Must-Go bag. And the SIC brings this out in a restrained way to dress up the irony: “Lahai Lawrence Leema did not present himself to the SIC despite repeated attempts made to have him provide answers to the Committee. SIC wanted clarification from him with regards to claims that he made night patrols after the insurrection and during curfew hours in which said patrols, various human rights violations and extra-judicial killings were allegedly committed. SIC concluded that as a Minister of State, his refusal to meet with the Committee was disparaging and manifested unbridled impunity. Consequently, all the allegations against him could not be refuted by him”.
And if Lahai Lawrence Leema could be regarded as a personification of the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) government, then the SIC Report should have been inconclusive at best instead of it trying to circumstantially rope in the APC.
Well, as a postscript to this One Dropian dropping; I want my readers to always remember this phrase from the Special Investigation Committee that the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs’ “…refusal to meet with the Committee was disparaging and manifested unbridled impunity….”
But again, the Bio-led administration seems to love and protect its members who have “manifested unbridled impunity”. The current Minister of Transport and Aviation, Kabineh Kallon, was alleged to have seized and destroyed ballot boxes in Constituency 110 when the elections were not going in favour of his SLPP. And the Resident Minister North, Abu Abu, was also alleged to have threatened a pogrom against the people of Makeni if they stood in the way of President Julius Maada Bio. And like Lahai Lawrence Leema, they are still on their jobs!
Indeed, Sierra Leone is “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”, to quote an October 1939 radio broadcast by Sir Winston Churchill”.