FREETOWN (Reuters) - Sierra Leone wants the International Criminal Court to prosecute anyone who incites violence linked to next year’s presidential election, as the court is now doing in the wake of Kenya’s bloody 2007 polls, the government said on Monday.
Recent clashes between rival political party supporters in provincial towns in the West African state have ramped up tensions ahead of the poll, meant to be a gauge of recovery a decade after the end of its civil war.
“There will be no hiding place,” President Ernest Bai Koroma said in the local Awoko newspaper. “We will charge you here and the International Criminal Court will also handle anybody and there will be no exceptions.”
Sierra Leone’s Deputy Minister of Information Sheka Tarawalie told Reuters on Monday that Koroma’s comments were “definitely a policy statement.”
The government has not made contact with the ICC but would like the court to remain “on notice” for potential attempts to stir up violence similar to that in Kenya after polls in December 2007, Attorney General Frank Kargbo said.
The ICC is currently prosecuting those it alleges are responsible for the Kenya violence, which killed more than 1,200 people and displaced 350,000.
“You know of course the situation in Kenya. There is a suspicion one or more parties would want to introduce that situation of violence and chaos during and after the election,” Kargbo told Reuters.
On 9 September Julius Maada Bio, the presidential candidate of the main Sierra Leone People’s Party opposition in Sierra Leone, was struck on the head by a stone during a visit to the country’s second city of Bo.
Afterwards his supporters torched several buildings associated with the ruling All People’s Congress Party.
A smaller fracas also took place in the diamond mining town of Koidu in the east of Sierra Leone.
Following the violence the police introduced an indefinite ban on political rallies.
Sierra Leone’s election next year will take place a decade after the end of the country’s bloody 11-year civil war and will be a bellwether of recovery.
Abass Bundu, an advisor to the SLPP presidential candidate Maada Bio, welcomed President Koroma’s announcement.
“We hope the president will match his words with actions should such an eventuality take place,” he said.