Pastor caught up in political violence
A United Methodist pastor and his family are among those recovering from shock and home damage after a wave of violent post-election attacks on the community following a clash between the Sierra Leone Peoples Party and the All Peoples Congress.
The Rev. Ndapi Saffa, pastor at Rogers Memorial United Methodist Church in Bo, said a group of weapon-wielding young men descended upon their Fofanah and West streets community March 15, stoning homes and accusing residents of being supporters of the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party.
The attack was reportedly a backlash from an earlier confrontation in town between the two political parties. The parties were scheduled to rally on alternate days with the All Peoples Congress rally set for March 15. However, commercial motorbike riders who support the Sierra Leone Peoples Party came out and there was a confrontation, according to local media reports.
“We were under siege for five hours with the attacking youths pelting our homes with stones and just anything they could lay hands on. We could hear their angry voices accusing us of supporting the (Sierra Leone Peoples Party) as we hid inside our homes,” Saffa told United Methodist News Service. “They said this is a predominantly SLPP community; hence, they were going to destroy every home.”
Gibril Turay, chief superintendent of police at the Bo West Police Station, confirmed that the neighborhood incident occurred and was under investigation. However, he could not confirm the allegations from the community that the attackers were from the All Peoples Congress office.
A presidential runoff election will take place March 27 after neither party’s candidate garnered the required 55 percent to win on the first ballot March 7. Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party received 43.3 percent of the vote, while Samura Wilson Mathew Kamara of the ruling All Peoples Congress garnered 42.7 percent.
Political intolerance, intimidation and violence have increased, especially in the provinces, since the National Electoral Commission announced the presidential results on March 13. Both parties are accusing each other of inciting and supporting the violence.
Abdulai Sheriff, 21, a student at Njala University and Saffa’s next-door neighbor, was stabbed with a dagger during the attack and is hospitalized at Bo Government Hospital. He lives with his grandmother in an adjacent apartment.
Saffa sent Sheriff on an errand after the first wave of attacks.
The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone worked to curb election violence across the country ahead of the March 7 elections. A team of young adults hit the road last month to promote an anti-violence message. The campaign was aimed at young people who often are targeted by politicians to incite violence. Phileas Jusu reports. Read story.
“We thought they had gone, so I went out, leaving my grandma at home. Upon my return, I saw that my home was under attack with Grandma inside,” Sheriff said from his hospital bed, where he is recovering from surgery.
He said he rushed to rescue his grandmother when he came under attack. He was hit with sticks before being stabbed in the stomach.
“I heard him groaning in pain but I had no way to help for fear of my own life,” Saffa said, adding that a police officer eventually carried Sheriff to the hospital.
A member of St. Francis Catholic Church in Central Bo, Sheriff said he believes his attackers came from the All Peoples Congress office, which is nearby.
Saffa said men in military combat uniforms led the attackers.
“The soldiers were unarmed but the youths following them were stoning into homes,” Saffa said. “The soldiers beckoned onto the armed youths who followed them. They were shouting that they would burn all these homes because the residents are SLPP members. They broke all our windowpanes and other doors that are made of glass.
“The soldiers were still with the attacking force as they marauded our homes and subjected us to fear and intimidation.”
Saffa, his wife and two children were under siege until a rescue team of military men from Gondama, a nearby military outpost, arrived to ward off the attackers. Saffa’s home also has been without power since the attack.
Sierra Leone Area Bishop John K. Yambasu condemned hate speech and tribal politics when he preached at Centenary United Methodist Church in Bo on March 18 following the election riots. He denounced political party operatives who were inciting and promoting such violence and said that they would bear the greatest responsibility.
He advised all United Methodists to avoid wearing party colors to church and to avoid provocative political talks.
Jusu is director of communications for The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone. News media contact: Vicki Brown at (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.