By Joseph Milton Lebbie………………
The vicinity of State House last Friday became a scene of chaos when youths demanding more time for President Ernest Bai Koroma clashed with those demonstrating against it, an eyewitness account reveals.
The clash between the opposing groups at the entrance of State House via Pademba Road caused many passers-by around the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) headquarters to run in disarray as stones kept flying all over the place. Police prompt intervention to restore order saved the day.
The ugly episode began when youth brandishing placards with the inscription, MORE TIME FOR PRESIDENT KOROMA processed boisterously to the direction of State House, obviously, to demonstrate their support for President Koroma to continue in office after the expiration of his second and final term of office in 2017/18.
After a short while, another group of demonstrating youth displaying placards with the inscription, ‘NO MORE TIME FOR PRESIDENT KOROMA’, WE WANT PEACE noisily marched through Pademba Road and assembled at the entrance of State House singing anti- more time songs.
Before onlookers knew what was happening, stones and other missiles had started flying mostly from the direction of more time demonstrators.
The anti-more time demonstrators who were outnumbered by the more timers dispersed afterwards. Many onlookers were stunned that the pro-more time demonstrators were allowed in the vicinity of State House under Police escort while the anti-more time demonstrators were prevented from gaining entrance.
But in the Well of Parliament, opposition SLPP MPs brandished placards with “No More Time” inscriptions as President Koroma delivered his speech at the State Opening of Parliament last Friday. The MPs message sent a strong signal of the opposition’s readiness to resist any unconstitutional term extension ploy.
President Koroma himself has so far remained quiet on the controversial issue of more time. But his photograph with a man wearing a More Time T- shirt which appears to have been taken after his speech at the State Opening of Parliament, Friday has fuelled speculations that the campaign has his blessings.
“Friday’s ugly incident is a pointer that the More Time campaign is likely to generate another round of chaos for a country which less than two decades ago was the scene of a bloody civil war”, a social commentator told Global Times.