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BLACKMAILERS MEET BRITISH MINISTER: Claims arms purchased for election violence

Sierra Leone is a sovereign state with constitutional powers to undertake activities that are developmental. The state of Sierra Leone is built on democratic institutions and Division of Labour where all sectors perform specific functions that are geared towards achieving the same development goal. Protecting the sovereignty of the state against foreign aggression is the responsibility of the military, while providing internal law and order is for the police and other law enforcement agencies. News about the purchase of arms and ammunition by the Government of Sierra Leone was mis-represented by the Opposition Party to a British Minister few weeks back. The mis-representation   has caused mixed reactions among Sierra Leoneans resident in London and other parts of the world.

The different negative songs played by the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) relating to the legitimate purchase of arms and ammunition has conveyed a singular message to the outside world that the Opposition Party is exploring every available avenue, whether in the interest of the country or not to discredit Sierra Leone and the current administration for the principal purpose of reclaiming power in this year’s Presidential and Parliamentary elections, scheduled for 17th November, 2012. Last Tuesday, it is reported that some members of the SLPP United Kingdom Branch, met the Deputy British Prime Minister of the Labour Party, Nick Clegg and levy flimsy allegations against the current government, which has the tendency to scare away potential investors. But what the SLPP failed to realize is the fact that their desperation for power should not drive them to the extent of concocting negative stories about the country or current administration especially now that the Sierra Leone is gradually developing in several aspects. The Opposition Party claimed to the British PM that the government purchased arms totaling about US$4.5million (USA).It claimed that the arsenal weapons include the following: 50 PKM heavy machine guns, 100 light machine guns, 2,500 advanced new stock AK47 assault rifles, 100- 40mm under-barrel grenade launchers for AK47 with a range of 300 metres, and assortments of other weapons including pistols. The report also states that: “there were no threats to the stability of the State, and as such, there is no possible justification for such an arms purchase except the determination of the government to remilitarize the country and turns it into a dictatorship by wiping out legitimate political opposition”.  Observers are therefore wondering why a government so popular as that of President Koroma would resort to violence and bring instability in a country where the government has invested so much to bring about development within four years, something the SLPP failed to do during its eleven years of rule. Of late, members of the SLPP have been alleged to have resorted to violence and kidnapping.  One of the party’s Councilors is currently facing trial on charges of kidnap while few others are also in court for violent acts. Details of the meeting with the UK Minister Nick Gleg is as follows “A high powered delegation of the Executive Committee of the UK and Ireland Branch of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) met with the Deputy Prime Minister, Rt Honourable Nick Clegg MP and other Officials on Tuesday February 28th 2012 to formally appraise him about political developments in Sierra Leone. The SLPP UK delegation which was led by the Chairman, Mr. Jimmy Batilo Songa, thanked the Deputy Prime Minister for taking time out to meet with them. The delegation also underscored the gratitude and appreciation of the SLPP for the continued bilateral assistance that Britain has provided to Sierra Leone. In their briefing, the SLPP delegation informed the British authorities about the threat posed to the hard-won democracy and peace in Sierra Leone by the government of President Ernest Koroma. The delegation presented a dossier of political violence by the Ernest Koroma government against supporters and sympathizers of the SLPP. The UK Branch delegation informed the Deputy prime Minister that President Koroma is preparing the ground to rig the General and Presidential elections slated for November 17, 2012, by embarking on importing voters from across the borders to Sierra Leone. The President and his supporters are using state recourses in their foreign voter buying scam. The delegation argued that Britain had a legitimate interest in knowing this because UK is the largest bilateral donor to Sierra Leone, and it was important for them to know that monies meant for development purposes are being diverted away from needy Sierra Leoneans by a president who has lost an understanding of the distinction between his private and national coffers. Perhaps one of the shocking aspects of the briefing was when the SLPP UK delegation informed the Deputy Prime Minister that President Koroma has embarked on the purchase of weapons from abroad to brutalize opposition supporters in order for him to secure another term of office. The delegation presented documents relating to the arms purchase totaling $4.5million (USA). The arsenal weapons include the following: 50 PKM heavy machine guns, 100 light machine guns, 2,500 advanced new stock AK47 assault rifles, 100 40mm under-barrel grenade launchers for AK47 with a range of 300 metres, and assortments of other weapons including pistols. The delegation informed the British authorities that there were no threats to the stability of the State, and as such, there is no possible justification for such an arms purchase except the determination of the government to remilitarize the country and turns it into a dictatorship by wiping out legitimate political opposition. The SLPP UK delegation also reminded the Deputy British Premier that Sierra Leone was slowly recovering from a decade long war, and that the decision by President Koroma to embark on the purchase of weapons rather than addressing the socio-economic needs of the population is a threat to the sub region. The Chairman of the SLPP UK delegation called on the British government to use its influence especially with China which has become one of the arms suppliers to the Koroma regime to act in line with its responsibility as a member of the permanent five of the UN Security Council to understand that there are thousands of unemployed youths in Sierra Leone, and that any attempt to re-arm such a volatile segment of the population will undo the very commendable work of the UN which did everything to disarm and demobilize those youths. The UK Branch Chairman assured the British deputy premier that the SLPP is a responsible political Opposition, and that they will continue to act as such. He however added that it will be unrealistic for anyone to expect that the SLPP will sit back and watch the APC government annihilate them. Receiving the SLPP delegation, the Deputy Prime Minister promised to contact the relevant authorities within the British government and discuss the concerns raised by the SLPP- Sheku Lexmond Koroma Publicity Secretary SLPP UK Branch Meanwhile, members of the All Peoples Congress (APC) UK/Northern Ireland Branch are due to meet with the British government with the aim of countering such allegations.

 

 

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