By Sorie Fofana
When gang violence intensified in and around Freetown in 2016, the then Minister of Internal Affairs, Alfred Palo Conteh, visited the central prison or correctional centre at Pademba Road and instructed correctional officers to oil the gallows in readiness to execute any gang member sentenced to death by hanging. At the same time, political violence had intensified around the country. Alfred Palo Conteh’s well-publicized visit to the Pademba Road Correctional Centre sent a feeling of extreme nervousness across the country. Gang violence, lawlessness and crime rate subsided especially in the capital city of Freetown.
Throughout Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma’s tenure as President of Sierra Leone (2007 to 2018) nobody heard of or witnessed an attempt to violently overthrow his government. His Vice President, Alhaji Chief Samuel Sam Sumana reported that, President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma once threatened to kill, bury and drink Champagne over the corpse of anyone who attempted to oppose his Presidency. VP Alhaji Chief Sam Sumana’s video message was deliberately widely shared by APC members and supporters to threaten opponents of President Koroma both within and outside the APC party.
When the SLPP came to power in 2018, they allowed human rights campaigners to influence them to repeal capital punishment and replace it with life imprisonment or not less than 30 years prison term for coup plotters who kill and maim innocent people.
Therefore, on 23rd July, 2021 members of the Sierra Leone Parliament unanimously voted for the repeal of the death penalty.
Even in the Almighty United States of America, 27 out of the 50 states that form the Federation still have capital punishment as a legal penalty.
Since President Dr Julius Maada Bio came to power in April 2018, at least, there had been two major attempts to brutally remove him from office.
In August 2022, six Police officers and several unarmed civilians were needlessly killed in an attempt to topple the democratically elected President of Sierra Leone.
In November this year, eighteen service personnel (soldiers) were brutally murdered by a group of renegade soldiers and their civilian supporters in an attempt to violently overthrow the Government of Sierra Leone. They have all been buried, leaving their relatives and friends in a prolonged state of pain and anguish.
Even the most docile President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah refused to repeal the death penalty when his friends in the United Nations were begging him to do so. He described Sierra Leone as an example of a fragile state.
Several people across the country have now called on President Julius Maada Bio to reinstate the death penalty especially for people who attempt to violently overthrow a democratically elected government. That will send a strong message across the country that, violence should not be used to gain political power. Power belongs to the people.
Like President Ahmed Tinubu said in Abuja, Nigeria on Sunday, “Democracy Must Win!”
Bring Back The Death Penalty!