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Sierra Leone Ruling Party Official Defends Arms Import

Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma
Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma

APC Secretary General Victor Foe says the weapons are not intended to intimidate the opposition ahead of the November 17th elections

The Secretary-General of the ruling Sierra Leone All People’s Congress (APC) party said the government of President Ernest Bai Koroma is committed to holding free, fair, and non-violent elections in November.

Victor Foe’s comment came after the UN Security Council last week warned the government not to over-react to security threats, after it purchased millions of dollars’ worth of assault weapons.

The opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) said the arms are intended to intimidate its members ahead of the November 17th elections.

Foe said the opposition should look for a better message to counter Koroma’s development record. He said the government is being proactive by preparing for war in time of peace.

“The police force was only 5,000 in number. Now, the police have grown in number to 11,000. That is more than a 100 percent increase. So, they have to be armed; they have to be provided with boots, uniforms and all of that. So, bringing in arms is not necessarily an unusual thing. It is merely the usual thing, to be proactive,” he said.

Foe rejected allegations by the SLPP that the imported arms are part of Koroma’s plan to win a second term by all means necessary.

He said the elections should be a referendum on Koroma’s first term in office and not about arms being brought into the country.

“The opposition ought to do their homework. President Ernest Bai Koroma has done a good four-year, five-year term of office. I believe the elections [in] 2012 should be a referendum on what he has been doing in his first term in office,” Foe said.

Foe said Koroma is not afraid of elections and not interested in intimidating an opposition that Foe described as a fragile group that is losing its membership by the day.

He said current upheavals in the West Africa sub-region give are reasons for Sierra Lone to prepare for war in time of peace.

“Look at what is happening in the sub-region. Look at what has happened in Mali. Look at what is happening all around us. Do [you] want to tell me that President Ernest Bai Koroma’s government must sit idly by and not arm the police, who are in charge of internal security and military, who are charge of external security?” Foe said.

The U.N. Security Council warned the Sierra Leonean government last week against over-reacting to security threats.

Foe said the Security Council is echoing Koroma’s commitment to hold free and fair elections.

“President Ernest Bai is most committed to peaceful, non-violent elections. The Security Council is merely re-echoing what President Ernest Bai Koroma has said by the day, by the hour. So, the Security Council has not said anything strange,” Foe said.