The fate of Sierra Leone’s political leaders, both the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and the main opposition All People’s Congress and the other political parties trying to hold on to their third position on the country’s political scale, will be decided on June 24, 2023.

For this reason, His Excellency the President and members of his party, including his overt and covert converts to the SLPP, are busy campaigning across the country through various means, from distributing pads to school children, to handing over checks to communities, to holding Juma prayers in various mosques, to commissioning and launching various projects across the country, and to carrying out other state functions across the country.

In carrying out the above activities, the President and his party leaders would ask the citizens of Sierra Leone to give the ruling party a second term and they would make promises on such occasions.

In addition, SLPP politicians would talk about the main opposition party and outline why the people of Sierra Leone should not vote for the All People Congress Party (APC), and they would even make allegations about corruption, tribalism in the composition of the party, and other things.

In all these campaigns, the President as the flag bearer of the SLPP with an unlimited number of vehicles and countless ministers and supporters all over the country, campaigning calmly and serenely.

This is called the power of incumbency exercised by the president and his ruling party.

I must add that as president of the country, he has the right to enjoy such powers.

However, the exercise of power by the president is complicated by the fact that the opposition leader and his supporters are restricted in their movement and activities throughout the country three months before the national elections.

Sierra Leone’s election laws emphasize the importance of a level playing field for all participating political parties during campaign periods.

In addition to the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL) and the registration of political parties, which provide a level playing field for political actors, the security sector, particularly the Sierra Leone Police (SLP), plays a critical role in implementing the provisions of the Sierra Leone Constitution and the various electoral laws, which means that all participating political parties are treated equally during the electoral process and enjoy the same tolerant atmosphere.

It is against this background that I wish to state that what happened yesterday, 2/4/2023, at Mile 38 is unfortunate and would not have happened if the leadership of the APC and the Sierra Leone Police had made adequate arrangements and provisions for the transportation of the APC flagbearer, Dr. Samura Wilson Kamara from Port Loko to Freetown.

If we rely on the statement of the police that the SLP had entered into a gentleman’s agreement with the APC flagbearer that only ten vehicles would accompany him to Freetown, then the APC flagbearer should take responsibility, especially if it is true that some APC supporters physically confronted the police officers.

Another thing that I noticed, which I think could lead to an escalation of the situation, is the appearance of well-trained men who served as bodyguards for the flag bearer.

The appearance of these men seemed intimidating and could serve as a flashpoint in any tense situation.

Although police spokesmen have neither denied nor confirmed the use of live ammunition, I maintain that the use of excessive force against unarmed or unarmed persons in such a situation can lead to an escalation of violence.

The incident occurred not because the APC flag bearers and their supporters refused to submit to a security check, but because the Sierra Leone Police had decided to block the transport because the number of vehicles belonging to Samura Karama had exceeded the agreed number of ten vehicles.

Since the APC flagbearers’ supporters were not violent, did not cause chaos on the route from Port Loko to Mile 38, and were not armed with weapons, I question whether the blocking of the route was appropriate and just.

Were the occupants of the more than ten vehicles accompanying Dr. Samura Kamara in any way violent, such that it was necessary to barricade the road and limit them to ten vehicles?

Did the more than ten vehicles pose a threat to national security or public safety, etc.?

Was it not disproportionate and unnecessary to shoot out the tires of one of the vehicles simply because the police claimed that the number of marked vehicles exceeded the agreed number of ten vehicles?

Did the police barricade the road because Dr. Samura Kamara broke the gentleman’s agreement between his team and the police?

If a reasonable person weighs the alleged campaign of the Sierra Leone People’s Party flagbearer and the President of Sierra Leone touring the country with yesterday’s incident between the Sierra Leone Police and the APC flagbearer, he will conclude that the Sierra Leone Police is hiding behind the said Gentleman’s Agreement to intimidate and suppress the opposition.

Before I conclude, I would like to applaud the IGP and other stakeholders who ensured that the matter was settled peacefully.

I have known IG Fayia Sellu for many years and have no doubt about his professionalism.

I suggest that next time the leaders of the political parties and the police leadership reach a proper agreement that will define the modalities of the meetings and movements.

In this sense, I say that the president enjoys his authority, while the opposition leaders must accept limitations and restrictions.

I rest my case.