By Allieu S. Tunkara
Sierra Leone sets to welcome home a contingent of 149 Sierra Leonean Police (SLP) peace keepers on September 7, this year, from the North African country of Somalia.
The peace-keepers left the shores of Sierra Leone on April 2019 for a one-year mandate of peace keeping in a country known for piracy and terrorism from time immemorial.
They would have returned last April had COVID-19 outbreak not prevented them.
Deputy Head of Police Media, Assistant Superintendent of Police, Samuel Saio Conteh hardly confirms the date for the arrival.
“I want to make it official,” he tells Nightwatch.
The number was originally 150, but a casualty, Inspector Bangura of the Operations Support Division reduced the number to 149.
He was lost not in combat operations but to an illness and his remains had been flown home few weeks back.
Bangura no longer belongs to us; he belongs to the ages.
He would surely rest on his side and in peace since he committed his energy to the cause of liberating humanity from the shackles of piracy and terrorism.
The contingent currently in Somalia is known as the Formed Police Unit (FPU), a composition of police personnel from different units in the police force.
The peace keepers whose mandate for peace in Somalia had expired were poised to return home as they wrestled with the blows of nostalgia every passing day.
It is not clear whether they would be paid for months that followed after their one-year mandate.
While in Somalia, the peace keepers had bitter experience especially the threat posed by Al-Shabab terrorists. To many, it was a baptism of fire.
Somalia for years was tagged as a ‘failed state’ owing to the lack of a recognised government to enforce law and order within the state’s territory.
A failed state is one characterised by indiscriminate killings, piracy, terrorism, splinter militia groups with arms and machetes and no one is in control.
Somalia’s descent into a failed state became known to the world’s community of nations when she failed to sign the 1989 Geneva Convention on the Rights of the Child.
As the Contingent prepares to land on the shores of Sierra Leone, another contingent prepares to leave for Somalia to further consolidate the peace and stability in that part of the world.
It is a brilliant idea for Sierra Leone Government to restore peace in a war-torn nation considering the spill-over effect of conflict in a faraway country.
Sierra Leone as a sovereign state is a member of the United Nations, the African Union and the Commonwealth among others.
The afore-mentioned intergovernmental bodies are peace loving organisations. They are determined to ensure that peace prevails in every part of the world.
Sierra Leone’s contribution of troops to Somalia is a direct subscription to the path of global peace.
As the peace keepers are on the verge of returning home, most Sierra Leoneans have raised critical questions.
The questions revolved around the relative low stability in Sierra Leone.
Currently, the fragility report has tagged Sierra Leone as a fragile state, a state where conflict, if not an all-out conflict, is bound to occur if measures are not taken to avert or forestall it.
As early as 2018, a team from the Commission on States’ Fragility was in Sierra Leone led by the former British Prime Minister, David Cameron.
The former Prime Minister’s mission was to assess political realities on the ground, and advance measures to neutralise the country’s political tension.
The team’s visit came immediately after the 2018 elections which saw the rise of President Julius Maada Bio to power.
The seeds of conflict and fragility of the state of Sierra Leone were sown immediately the new government took over the reins of state command.
Thuggery was let loose as disorganised bands of perceived vagabonds, hoodlums and guys on the skid rows took to the streets to recover what they referred to as government property from past government officials.
The hulabaloo that erupted and ensued in the process of recovery of stolen assets wrecked the peace of the state for weeks if not months.
The vigilantes were not properly informed as to who should be targeted or not. Almost every official including those who are not past politicians fell victim to the vigilantes’ brutality. A judge of the high court was not spared.
The spate of the post-electoral violence was just the tip of the iceberg.
The violence at that time set in motion a trail of unprecedented scale of violence ever seen in Sierra Leone.
The violence that erupted in 2018 at Rosengbe village in Tonkolili district, northern Sierra Leone, the assault of opposition parliamentarians at the well of parliament, the April 29 killings at the country’s central correctional centre, the murder of six people in the north-eastern headquarters of Makeni are factors that that have plunged the state to where it is today.
President Maada Bio’s call for a peace conference known as Bintumani-111 to cool troubled waters was less successful.
Key opposition parties including the main opposition, All People’s Congress were never in attendance.
Those who attended were not in support of government’s agenda as most of the attendees showcased where government stumbled from the outset.
Former President of the Sierra Leone Bar Association (SLBA), Basita Michael accused the government of labouring on a repugnantly ironical situation.
The SLBA President wondered how government could preach peace when it was undermining institutions of peace.
The totality of the statements of the speakers meant the Bintumani-111 outcome was nothing to the peace and stability of the state.
The conference suffered one of the greatest backlashes ever seen in any conference.
The government, poised to see peace in the state of Sierra Leone, is relentlessly working on a document to have a Peace Commission.
The commission is expected to strengthen the pillars of peace and weakens the pillars of conflict.
No clarity exists on the models government would employ to preach peace in such a largely divisive nation like Sierra Leone.
It is extremely difficult to unite a nation which politicians have divided during elections by taking the electorate on their emotions and instinctual urges through hate speeches and ethno-regional prejudices.
The divisive situation in Sierra Leone is definitely one that will receive SLP peace keepers from Somalia.
It is dangerous in as much as the country approaches an election that is expected to be the most hotly contested.
In the face of such turbulence and instability, another batch of peace keepers are about to leave Sierra Leone for Somalia.
A great number of Sierra Leoneans are worried about their safety and security in the coming elections.
They have called on government to halt the deployment of troops in another country while the country faces security problems.
The people’s worry is based on what they say Sierra Leone exports what it does not have.
Mr Mohamed Bangura, a community activist and teacher wonders how Sierra Leone exports peace and security to other countries can when it struggles with security problems.
Bangura says government’s action runs contrary to the notion of a famous educationist known as Henry Batharis.
The famous educationist was quoted to have said:
“One cannot give what they do not have.’ The statements within the context of Sierra Leone situation, Bangura says, tacitly means Sierra Leone cannot give security to other countries when it lacks it.
But, indeed Sierra Leone is exporting security to other countries when the country is fraught with security problems.
The situation taking place in Sierra Leone is likened to the one that obtained in Nigeria in late 90’s.
Nigeria, in 1998, was engulfed in one of the biggest ironies which only few people knew about.
Nigeria, at that time, exported what it did not have, but imported what she had.
Nigeria exported democracy to Sierra Leone in 1998 by restoring the democratically elected government of late President Ahmed Tejan Kabba when it did not have democracy.
Nigeria, at that time, had a military government presided over by late President, General Sani Abacha.
In that same year, Nigeria was importing oil from other countries when it had one of the largest oil reserves.
In light of such a terrible situation, Sierra Leoneans call on government to reconsider its decision to deploy troops to other countries and focus on strengthening security in the country.