RUN FREETOWN RUN, KUS KAS NA TONG

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As I was standing in the Union Trust Bank Western Union branch on Sander Street, we heard commotion coming from outside. I walked outside to the entrance because there wasn’t a window I could peer out of. People were running away from town and in our direction. The police officer stationed at the Western Union asked those running “Bo wetin apin” and each response from the runners outside “Ah know no, ah just see people dem day run”, indicated that very few people actually knew what was going on. Almost immediately shops closed, even people sitting on their verandas started to move in. We went back in to the WU building; they had just received a call from central command telling them to close the doors. About 10 minutes later, I was able to get my money and I walked out. It occurred to me that I should probably head home but I had a camera on me and there wasn’t a chance in hell that I was going to pass up on the opportunity to find out what was really going on. I told myself I was going to walk to the Afrinet Café on Wilberforce Street since I didn’t really have anywhere to go. A begin waka wan wan na Siaka Stevens Street….As soon as I passed the Law Courts I could about three police officers that were standing about diverting traffic. I walked passed them and on to Glouster Street where I made a left. On the junction of LightFoot Boston and Gloucester Street, there was a crowd of people arguing, talking loudly, but most of the people where just standing around. I walked passed them towards Afrinet Café…..it was most certainly closed as I imagined it would be before I embarked on my walk. I stood around for a bit outwardly expressing my disappointment at the closing of the café. Now what??

I wanted badly to take my camera out but I was a tad bit afraid…. Most Sierra Leoneans for the most part enjoy having their picture taken but in these situations with things being tense u never know….also someone could easily slap me and grab it from my hand.
Against my better judgment I took out the camera trying to be as conspicuous as possible….SNAP, SNAP…..

Once I got going I kept going….taking pictures and then a man walked up to me and suggested I make my way down to the SLPP Party office. I told him I was a bit scared but I would go if he went with me. He agreed. We tried to go to the party office but were stopped by some police officers shooing people away…We parted ways and I walked to STOP PRESS….a lady asked me what was happening and I told her I didn’t know. I didn’t want to contribute to the rumors since I wasn’t too sure. When I got to Wallace Johnson Street I began to walk towards the SLPP Party office…there were police officers standing about and a distance off I could see a SLPP supporters in their green crowding in front of the Party office…..They were beckoning the police officers to go where they were but the officers were staying put. A Police Supritendant who seemed the highest ranking on the scene one Mr. Kanu stopped me and asked me “Who are you and where are you going”…. “My name is Vickie….i’m going no where”. “Vickie what?” “Vickie Doherty, mi papa na bin police man a long time ago”…. “Oodat na you papa” “Victor Doherty”…. “ooodat, Romeo….u na CPO Doherty im pekin?…..Yes. He turned to the police officer next to him and said….”Dis na small small pekin, ah bin day wok fo im daddy na Special Branch”…”ow u daddy…ooosai im day now?……na America……you papa still get im beabea…..no im no get am again….My dad use to have a rather thick beard and afro when he was a police officer and most people remember him that.

Anyway back to business. I told him I wanted to take pictures and he said that as long as I stayed where they were I could take pictures…I took some pictures of the police officers who were sitting about relaxing, without weapons and without riot gear….One of the officers joked about having 3 machetes similar to ones some party supporters had earlier

I tried to ask the police officers what had happened but nobody had any information beyond….SLPP and APC supporters are fighting. I noticed a lady walking towards us and she said she had to go to Howe Street to meet with someone. She asked for a police escort and she was off….walking towards the SLPP office. It was Sylvia Blyden….Di BOMBA….She seemed much more confident then me and totally unmoved by what was happening. I was about to leave when another police officer arrived in plain clothes and began shouting at Superintendant Kanu and the other police officers to go where the action was….he was quite angry and in a matter of minutes the officers were up and about walking towards the crowd at Wilberforce street trying to get them to disperse.

I walked behind the police and I saw the senior officer who had just arrived talking to the crowd….and Sylvia Blyden was there as well….in a matter of minutes some members in the crowd were clapping….and laughing….They asked people to leave and slowly we dispersed….I saw one of the messengers at my mom’s office and we walked back to Siaka Stevens Street together. We said our goodbyes and I decided to walk back in the direction I had initially come….Stores were closed people were standing about talking about what had happened. As I got to the Cotton Tree, stopping to take a picture of a PMDC sign, I saw about 50 boys running from behind Law Court towards the museum and then on to Siaka Stevens street….they were sining…. “Was ah regista ah go vote fo Ernest”… I heard a passerby say, “Dem day go lay complain na APC party office”

I decided there and then that the APC Party Office would be my next stop. It was quite a ways off on foot but I decided that it was best to walk there so that I could assess the atmosphere on the way….I walked up Sanders street to St. John and then on to the party office I don’t know the name of the street but it leads directly to the party office…

There was a big crowd at the Party office. The boys I had seen running had arrived at the office. APC spokedman Alpha Kanu was talking to them from the Veranda of the APC party office, I couldn’t make out what he was saying cause he was almost done when I got there. He said one thing and the boys began running again in the direction in which they had come. People were standing around.

I took out my camera and started taking pictures. Once again I was approached by some one who began to act as my guide, giving me more confidence to take pictures. Two cars arrived one with the French flag and the other a Liberian flag…they were quickly ushered into the APC Party office. Standing outside I saw a man with dressing on his forehead exit the party office and sit on a chair in front of the building. Then a tall man dressed in something that looked like a cross between a safari suit and an army uniform with black lace up boots walked out of the building. My guide told me “na di leader im body guard dan day, leather boot”…..At last I had laid my eyes on the infamous leather boot….the man previous involved in the TOM NYUMA SAGA….some say ex soldier some say ex rebel….I was going to take a picture of his face then I realized it would be more appropriate to snap his boots. Almost as soon as he exited the building, He went back in, taking the injured man back in with him. I took some more pictures…as I lifted my head I spotted newly elected parliamentarian CoCoCherie standing by the windows on the second floor looking down on the crowd. I walked around took more pictures…..talked to some people…..Some guys started talking about the lack of police presence at the APC party office….they blamed it on the fact the Berewa hadn’t resigned as vice president before setting off on the campaign trail….the accused the police of being biased. One of the guys went on the say that whenever SLPP supporters commit atrocities they are taken to the police station….but they have a code: ARREST & RELEASE. APC had blocked Hannah Benka Coker Street and diverting traffic into Brookfields.

I took some more pictures and I just when I had finally decided to leave, I got a call from my mother….worried as always…. “Vickie where are you?”….”At the APC Party Office”….next I heard my uncle’s voice on the phone….bo go na os bo ah beg….they were worried. I said I’d be heading off soon. I stood around a bit longer and started walking towards Convent to get a taxi. But Before I left I asked one of the guys who had been standing with me….”Why are you voting APC”….he said: “right now ah no get wok….ih don tay way ah no wok en ah kno say na APC nomo go able gi we wok”.

What this man said is basically the most important issue affecting Sierra Leone’s stability as well as the reason why Freetown’s urban population unanimously elected APC parliamentarians…..UNEMPLOYMENT….young urban youth don’t have work. It doesn’t matter how many schools or hospitals you build or how much money we have in foreign currency….nothing beats having a job and earning money….

Elsewhere at Youyi Building a Conference was being held on the role of media in ensuring peaceful elections….political parties were present…as well as the president. During the meeting Berewa said that it was a shame that all this violence was going on and that he was not enemies with Ernest Bai nor anyone else in the APC party. Him and Aplpha Kanu even hugged each other in the meeting to show their solidarity (Ernest Bai Koroma, supposedly couldn’t make the meeting…because of the Kus Kas in town…) President Kabbah suggested that the two party leaders conduct a peace ride from the east to the west of town to show the people that they want peaceful elections. Alpha Kanu called Ernest on the phone and he agreed. The Peace ride is tentatively scheduled for this Wednesday.

As for me here in SwitSalone, the news is that things are tense but it is far from a state of emergency. There are small incidences of violence but the country is not in disarray…people are going about their business and being cautious about the colors they wear. The Eastern part of town is definitely a bit tenser then the West but that is to be expected….it is more densely populated. Paddies is still opening everyday and so is Chez Nous…..you can still buy petrol at the gas station……and kolonkos are still working…everyone is still waiting for the elections to come and go. The rains have eased a little…..and Ramadan is going to start soon. For now Sierra Leone is still peaceful.

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