By Tamba Gborie
The Kono Youth Chairmanship elections held on Sunday February 02 – 2014 between Mr. Joseph Mbayoh and Mr. Melvin Konguwa under the supervision of the Youth Minister Mr. Alimamy Kamara undermines democracy and President Koroma’s Agenda for Prosperity. The job of the Youth Minister is to protect and promote the interest of the youths; however in the youth elections in Kono Mr. Alimamy Kamara was part of a plot that denied a segment of youths the rights to vote. The actions of the Minister have unwittingly weakened peace and stability among the youths in the region for an unforeseeable future.
According to a reliable source Minister Alimamy Kamara under the ‘orders from above’ ordered the arrest and detention of innocent youths mostly supporters of Mr. Joseph Mbayoh who from indications was destined to win the elections by a huge majority as against his opponent Mr. Melvin Konguwa who had the support of Mr. Alimany Kamara under the same acronym ‘orders from above’. Many people see the Minister’s behavior as a deliberate attempt to undermine democracy and the President’s agenda for Prosperity on youth empowerment.
Unlike the other Districts, Kono is the last District to organize the youth elections, where Mr. Mbayoh the supposed winner was arrested and forced to make a radio announcement under duress conceding defeat. Mr. Mbayoh’s arrest was triggered by his continuous protest against the scandalous election malpractice perpetuated against him and his supporters by the police and the Youth Minister. Meanwhile his supporters arrested by the police are bundled off to Kenema and imprisoned where their future is uncertain.
This is Mr. Mbayoh’s sad testimony: “It all started when few men came to Koidu town two days before the slated date for the elections. They summoned a youth meeting to sensitize the youths about free and fair elections. The organizers of the meeting took a photo of me and my supporters. They said the pictures were for record keeping purposes. On the day of the election six of my supporters were arrested. I informed the Minister that the police have arrested my supporters to deprive them from voting. The Minister tells me; ‘I have spoken to the police they will release them in time so they can vote’. I was angry because the Minister was not in position to order the release of my supporters. I left the building; I was later arrested by the police on my way home and detained in one of their trucks. When the election results were read the Minister told me; ‘the buck stops with you now, the peace of Kono is in your hands. You have to make a radio announcement that you and your supporters accept the election results’. I had no choice; I made the radio announcement to sustain the peace of Kono and for the police to release me and my supporters. The police released me while my supporters are taken to Kenema and kept in police custody. The Minister told me the actions he took against me and my supporters are ‘orders from above’. We trusted the Minister but he lied to us. If the Minister can lie to me and my supporters who can we trust. I am so disappointed”.
Mr. Mbayoh furthered that; Minister Alimamy Kamara refused the outgoing Youth Chairman, Mr. Tamba Fanday access to the voters list for verification purposes. Henceforth the election malpractices continued unabated. “Everybody expected the Minister to do us justice but he did not. He ignored the basic tenets of free and fair elections”.
Following my conversation with Mr. Mbayoh I phoned Mr. Melvin Konguwa the said winner of the election and the new Chairman for the youths of Kono District to hear his version of event. Mr. Konguwa’s line is been dead since the election results were announced. My understanding is Mr. Konguwa was told not to speak to anyone about the elections. In fairness where honesty exists I see no reason why the winner should be cautioned not to speak about an important event like the youth elections.
Anyway to verify Mr. Mbayoh’s version of the incident; I needed a second opinion from outside the circle. I contacted couple of dignitaries in Kono; they refused to speak to me about the elections for fear of been ostracised by the authorities. Mr. Joseph Momoh Ngevao; the Local Unit Police Commander for Kono District was the only willing personality to speak to me passionately but very professionally about the elections. He confirmed that youth elections did take place but refused to comment any further about the elections. He advised me to contact the Police and Communications Unit Headquarters in Freetown that deals with all international queries on behalf of the Police. I duff my hat to Mr. Ngevao for his candid respond. What Mr. Ngevao show is responsible personality – who is in charge? I contacted the Police Communications Unit in Freetown; and as I write I have not receive a reply from them as of yet. Whatever respond the police email to me it is clear that Minister Alimamy Kamara acted beyond his powers to order the arrest and detention of innocent youths exercising their right to vote.
Once again we see the abuse of the rights of the youths at its best by a Minister under the crevasses of ‘orders from above’ as a license to destabilize the fragile democracy and cow the youths to the whims and excesses of such an ungodly act.
Under the guise of ‘orders from above’ the spate of police brutality, abuse of power by some Ministers and the attack on civil liberty has brought the vaunted Presidential idea of Youth Empowerment into disrepute. In the President’s inauguration speech he told the people of Sierra Leone “Following our re-election, we made a commitment to engage the youth, and we established a Ministry of Youth Affairs to coordinate the activities of the youths. I also followed it up by appointing a Presidential Youth Aide to help facilitate all this”. How does this speech measure up to the current plight of youth’s unemployment, police brutality, abuse of power and above all decline in education for the up and coming generation of youths? President Koroma urged the youths to discipline themselves as no development will take place without discipline; he went on “You have already vowed to make the agenda for prosperity succeed”. The youths may have vowed to make the President’s agenda for Prosperity succeed, would this be possible in the face of vicious attack on vulnerable youths by the police.
In a separate speech the President reassure the youths about the opportunities available to them; “Youths should be given the opportunities to transform themselves”. In today’s government the opportunity for youths to reflect are missing as we have seen in the past and most recently in the Kono youth elections. For the likes of Alimamy Kamara, a failed Minister ‘orders from above’ is a protective mechanism to shed behind and inflict more damage to an already battered youth empowerment policy. On this premise few questions worth asking; why the Minister gets involved in the youth elections? Why were the youths arrested for no tangible reason, if it is not the same ‘fitifata’ and bully boy political tactics from an underachieving Minister? Why were the youths taken to Kenema when they should have been better dealt with in Kono? Should the President sack or reprimand the Minister for such an irresponsible action? We wait and see.
His Excellency the President may mean good for the youths and he expects his Ministers to replicate his thoughts while on official assignment. And from indications some Ministers and Police officers have their own agenda and it is only the use of ‘orders from above’ that they can succeed in achieving their ulterior motives away from the real intentions of the President.