|Maada Bio Under Siege|
It is reported that more than twenty well armed members of the country's police force descended on the office and residence of the former military head of state on what the Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Samura Bangura stated was a police mission based on a tip that the opposition leader was planning to perpetrate violence during the upcoming convention of his opposition Sierra Leone People Party (SLPP) that was scheduled to be held in the regional capital city of Bo this coming weekend.
In this morning's raid, the entire residence of Julius Bio and his office were ransacked and every nook and cranny searched by the police who it is reported did not find any cache of ammunition or tools of violence, contrary to the alleged tips that he was stockpiling an arsenal to perpetrate mayhem. The personal belonging of the ex-military leader were haphazardly strewn all over the place.
In a statement issued after the surprise police raid, Julius Maada Bio stated that the raid by the police was a direct attack on democracy in the country and reiterated his condemnation of violence. He stated that contrary to perceptions about him, he had always been someone who valued peace and had always counseled his supporters to resist being drawn into acts of violence.
Many supporters of Julius Maada Bio are seeing these current police raids as intimidation tactics by the government on a man who the Special Executive Assistant to the president had publicly vowed they will humiliate and incarcerate some weeks ago in the capital Freetown. They view the raid as just a pretext by government to use the current internal party discord between members of the SLPP to weaken the opposition and convert the SLPP into just another political Paper Tiger like the Mohamed Bangura led United Democratic Movement (UDM) or the largely irrelevant Peoples Movement for Democratic Movement. (PMDC)
While some people believe that the raid on Julius Bio is an attempt by those in the opposition who have influence with the president to prevent him from leading the party again, many see the targeting of Maada Bio, following several weeks after the public humiliation of Charles Francis Margai another opposition political leader as another ploy by the All Peoples Congress (APC) Party to reverse the democratic gains made in the country after the civil war and a sinister plan to convince the population of the country that only President Ernest Bai Koroma, among the current political leaders, is capable of leading the country, giving the government the impetus needed to manipulate the current constitutional review in the country to extend the term of office of the current president.
Many people are not buying the security of the country excuse for the raid on the residence and office of the opposition leader. One prominent opposition activist questioned why the residences of the Senegalese arms trafficker Ibrahim Balde, who was wanted on charges related to the rebel atrocities in Sierra Leone, was never ransacked for arms and ammunition. The Senegalese mercenary, a major player in the rebel war in the country, with a UN travel ban and a warrant for war crimes, had been living openly in Freetown, right under the nose of the police. With the international clamor to have him prosecuted mounting, the current Sierra Leone government had claimed to have deported him from Sierra Leone to his native Senegal, though the Senegalese government had denied knowledge of his whereabouts. With the timing of the deportation of the Senegalese arms trafficker coming close to the opening of charges against him by some people in Kono, many people are wondering whether the government is just paying lip service to national security in order to clamp down on the members of the opposition they have failed to compromise.
We will keep up monitoring the situation in Freetown as it unfolds and provide timely reports and opinions.