By Thomas Dixon
After the hue and cry that the President should talk to the people over the increasing spate of violence in the country, President of Sierra Leone Julius Maada Bio finally came out to talk to the people of Sierra Leone in a national broadcast.
As a people we believe the President should be talking to his people and we want to thank him for finally talking to the people on the increasing spate of violence in the country.
In the speech, the President appeared very tough with some tense rhetoric which to many people was not good to calm down tensions.
The President of Sierra Leone is the symbol of unity. He started off his address on a good footing calling on Sierra Leoneans to celebrate the ties that bring them together as a nation and not the things that divide them.
In such times of perceived political divisiveness, the President must be seen and heard, trumpeting the call for national unity.
The President also spoke about how he did not wait to be called upon in the fight against EBOLA rather as a political leader he stood up and helped the former government to sensitize the people in the fight against EBOLA across the country and that people should not be begged to help in the fight against COVID-19.
He claimed that he has made peace overtures to the opposition by sending his Vice President to former President Koroma to fostering peace and resolving the acrimony on division and that he followed it with personal invitation to the entire leadership of the opposition for which communiques were signed on the need for peaceful co-existence.
It is true that President Bio helped the government in the fight against Ebola and we are expecting all political players to do same in the fight against COVID-19
Again, in the speech of the President, he seemed to be blaming the opposition for each and very form of violence that has happened in Sierra Leone. He cited the statement of the former opposition Presidential Candidate, Samura Kamara after the election that he will create all sorts of problems to make the country ungovernable and some of the inciting press releases of the main opposition APC.
It is true that the opposition Presidential Candidate made that statement on a television broadcast. It is also true that the Press Release after the prison chaos from the APC was also very dangerous but it is also true that it is not the APC alone that is fermenting violence as many SLPP are doing same including some of the messages of the Deputy Internal Affairs Minister.
Besides, I don’t believe the President should be shifting blame rather he should be re-assuring the people of Sierra Leone because at the end of the day the buck stops with him.
The President spoke about the recent statement of Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) that they enjoyed relative freedom and the process which is in place to remove repressive press laws and to enhance media development in the country.
I must say that the President has indeed drafted laws for the removal of Part 5 of 1965 Public Order Act which criminalizes free speech. At cabinet level, the draft law has been discussed and endorsed and it now awaits parliamentary processes.
Indeed, it is also true that no democracy accepts incitement to violence as free speech but it is even truer that all democracy must accept critics and sometimes even skeptics and cynics because they help build the democracy.
Some of the words used in the statement of the President are extremely strong. Perhaps the President needs to come out strongly but not to instill fear in the minds of the people. To categorize some group of people as terrorist just because of political tension makes the President speech very intense. As a leader, the President should be able to use words that will not further divide the country but one that will eventual cement the unity in the country.
The way the President spoke gave the impression that the President was angry and the President must not be perceived as someone that is angry when he is talking to his people.
I will end up by describing the President Speech on Lawlessness as tough but too tense to coil down tension. All we need in a democracy is continuous dialogue or as former President Kabbah will put it, “jaw-jaw is better than war war.”