Three candidates for SLFA (Sierra Leone Football Association) election still foresee an outbreak of violence in the north-eastern headquarters of Makeni.
The imminent violence has compelled the candidates to call for a change of venue. Almost all aspirants are pleased with the venue in Freetown.
They hold the view that holding the elections in Freetown means a level playing field for all candidates. They allege that most important personalities including the Mayor, Sunkarie Kamara have taken sides with the incumbent, Isha Johansen.
Madam Johansen has served as SLFA President for years. Her presidency has been fraught with series of allegations. Undermining local leagues, misappropriation of public funds remain the most widespread allegations against President Johansen.
She has also battled with a number of corruption allegations in the court. She was freed, but the scar on her personality remains.
Sierra Leone’s failure to appear at international leagues adds weight to allegations against Johansen especially those revolving around incompetence. Throughout the Presidency of Madam Johansen, Sierra Leone’s national soccer team has appeared neither at the African Nations’ Cup nor at the World Soccer competitions. In spite of the terrible conditions that becloud the country’s football, the incumbent president appears deeply determined for the presidency.
Most aspirants, almost invariably, are ready for a victory. They are ready to end an era of a Johansen presidency.
But, the battle to get Isha out of SLFA presidency would be seriously derailed if the election is held in Makeni. Arguments for the selection of another venue continue to make headlines.
The arguments have a common feature-violence. Suggestions for only 200 officials to be permitted in the hall flow in. The suggestions hold that thugs would be smuggled in if the number of officials is not restricted.
In an interview yesterday, some candidates intimated this press that Freetown was the ideal venue for the election. They hold the view that security is tight there. It is the seat of government, and police presence is visible.
The candidates reminded Sierra Leoneans that wounds inflicted on the people of Makeni almost a year ago are still fresh in their minds. The situation to vent out the long-held grievance is still not found. The election in Makeni would certainly become the platform.
Sometime in July, 2020, Makeni saw bloodbath when six of the town’s youths were gunned down by security operatives during a protest to stop the transfer of a 1.65 KVA generator.
The operatives were police and military personnel hired by EDSA (Electricity Distribution and Supply Agency) for a back-up to get the generator transferred to Lungi town. Government’s move to get the machine out of Makeni may seem positive.
It was a way of stabilizing and rationing electricity in the country. The generator was reportedly not in active use at the time it was transferred. Reports indicate that it was a standby machine that provides electricity in an event there is a power outage.
Government’s action however does not resonate well with the people of Makeni. They see it as a form of political vindictiveness by the Bio administration.
Youths who protested at the unlawful killings were arrested and detained. They are now answering to criminal charges in a magistrate court in Freetown.
Threats of further arrest of important personalities were also issued by police. The highest political authority in the district, Mayor Kamara was not spared.
Makeni youths also did not feel comfortable about the threats issued by the Minister of Information and Communication, Mohammed Rado Swarray.
In a press release, the Minister warned against violent protests in Makeni noting that anyone caught would be prosecuted. Although the Minister’s threats were one of maintaining peace, it was simply and easily misunderstood.
The volatile situation continues. Threats of robust resistance to purported police action made the police to reverse their decision. The killings allegedly perpetrated by police and military officers damaged government’s image in Makeni especially when government failed to investigate.
The killing spree struck Makeni descendants residing in the diaspora. They saw police action in their hometown as one of complete disregard for lives of fellow Sierra Leoneans.
The transferred machine had been replaced with a new one bought by Makeni descendants, but the scar remains in their minds.
No one knows what the youths have in their minds. Threats to security also continued in Makeni after the killings. Several attempted waves of arrest of former President Ernest Bai Koroma worsened relationship between government and people of Makeni.
After two consecutive terms in governance, the former President is being threatened with corruption offences. Sierra Leone’s anti-graft body, Anti-Corruption Commission has insistently invited the former President for interview in respect of corruption while in governance.
Investigation by the three commissions of inquiry also tagged the former President as corrupt. The President’s property is on the verge of confiscation by government. An appeal, through his lawyers, holds back government’s purported asset freeze.
The confiscation however could be ruled out should the former President lose the appeal. Youths in Makeni have always been on the standby should government further embark on moves of brutality in their community.
Investigation by this press shows that they could go into action at any time situation calls for that. SLFA election could be the most appropriate platform for an outbreak of violence.
A youth in Makeni, Idrissa Kamara who spoke to this press says they are disgusted with government. Kamara said he and his colleagues knew about the pending election in Makeni.
Although he could not make it clear that a situation for violence already exists, he could not deny claims that rival groups and camps have already sprung up.
Kamara said they were determined to be at each other’s throat should situation arise.
A key aspirant has also claimed that it is usual for the police to respond to violent eruptions with their usual heavy-handedness. The anticipated heavy response would likely lead to another bloodbath in Makeni.
Government’s image would also be soiled for any killing that would occur in Makeni. An SLFA official has argued that in most of those killings, government is not on the ground, but would carry the responsibility.
The saying:uneasy lies on the head that wears the crown is very much relevant here. It is therefore the hopes and prayers of the candidates for a change of venue for peace to reign.
Voice of the majority is the voice of God. Sound leadership is about managing a situation before it results into a crisis.
Forewarned is forearmed.