In a recent tweet, a leading opposition leader in Sierra Leone has called on the international community to speak out against alleged human rights violations in Sierra Leone which he believes threaten the country’s peace.
Dr Kandeh Yumkella, a former presidential aspirant who is a member of parliament, is particularly worried about a string of arrests of opposition politicians under the administration of President Julius Maada Bio over the last three months.
“In Sierra Leone, our development partners need to make a statement as was done ahead of Zambian elections,” Yumkella, who heads the opposition National Grand Coalition (NGC) in parliament, said via a tweet late Saturday. It’s one of a series of lamentations he made various social media platforms.
“To ignore the continued arbitrary detentions of opposition leaders since November 2021 is giving a green light to authoritarianism,” he noted in the same tweet, to which he tagged the representatives of several western diplomatic missions, including those of the US and UK.
The tweet also included an old clip of a video report in which the United States embassy in Zambia warned against violence prior to that country’s 2021 elections.
Sierra Leone is headed for the polls next year. And President Bio will be seeking re-election for a second and final term, as per the current constitution.
Critics of the administration believe the arrest of opposition figures is part of the plan to stifle any chance of ensuring a free and fair election.
Yumkella’s warning comes after the arrest of the spokesman of the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) earlier in the week. Sidi Yahya Tunis was reportedly detained by the police after a radio interview in which he allegedly incited the public.
Media reports cited the police saying he was invited to answer questions. But he was detained and spent the night in a police cell.
The action of the police sparked widespread condemnation, including from civil society activists and other opposition figures.
Tunis’ arrest followed the detention of at least two other opposition politicians about five months ago.
The police on December 31, reportedly detained a former Minister under the APC, Diana Finda Konomanyi and Femi Claudius Cole, who is the head of the opposition Unity Party and former presidential candidate.
Although Ms Konomanyi was quickly released without charge, Ms Cole, who is also the Chairperson of a coalition opposition political parties, was locked up in a police cell along with several other opposition figures.
President Bio, in office since 2018, came to power on a promise to respect human rights and uproot corruption, issues he accused his predecessor under the 11-year rule of the APC of violating.
The Sierra Leone Police, alongside three other public institutions, were the subject of a damning report by the European Union last October suggesting a “significant decrease in trust” in the execution of their responsibilities.