As tension builds up for Sierra Leone’s general elections, scheduled for 2012, the perennial cycle of political violence involving the two leading political parties have raised serious questions about the country’s capacity to conduct peaceful polls.
In 2008, supporters of the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) and the leading opposition party, the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), traded violent attacks and reprisals following local government elections. These exchanges worsened in March 2009 with five days of fighting between APC and SLPP supporters which left dozens wounded, three women allegedly raped and the SLPP headquarters ransacked. Subsequently, a December 2010 by-election in Kono was preceded by violence, with the ransacking of the Koidu City office of the SLPP and buildings associated with APC officials. This year, in September, the entourage of the SLPP presidential candidate Brig (rtd) Julius Maada Bio, who was on a “Thank You” tour, came under attack in the vicinity of the APC party offices in Bo. While the SLPP presidential candidate sustained injuries from a stone allegedly thrown by an APC supporter, SLPP supporters ran berserk and burnt down the APC office and houses of some members of the party, including that of the Bo District APC Chairman. In another incident, supporters of the APC at Kono were engaged in a head-on collision with the police after hearing of the rumoured announcement the current Minster of Internal Affairs as President Koroma’s running mate in the 2012 elections . As a result, the police fired live bullets which caused serious injuries to a bike rider.