By Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden OOR.
Last week’s events and the dishonesty displayed by a female politician now leaves me circumspect and slower to instantly condemn arrest of female politicians. However, I must say the police repeatedly refusing Bail to Female Politicians including the latest being Madam Yabom Thaslim Sesay Koroma, the female elected Chairperson of Tonkolili Local Government Council, scares competent Women & inhibits Girls from venturing into Hot realm of Politics.
This detention, of female politicians, has been repeating itself under this current regime since the Police started detaining late Zulai Cooper and other women in 2018 for “riotous conduct” BUT we must be honest enough to reflect that such also echoes similar arrests and detention under the APC.
Back in April 2016, the then SLPP National Women’s Leader Madam Lulu Sheriff and other SLPP Women were arrested, detained and remanded in Jail for “riotous conduct”. I had just been appointed as Gender Minister. In a remarkable show of SOLIDARITY for my fellow women in politics, I defiantly broke ostensible Cabinet protocol to ensure I not only personally visited Madam Lulu Sheriff and cohorts to check on their welfare right inside the Female Prisons that weekend but as an APC Strong Woman, I proceeded to lobby the APC Leader who was President back then and my immediate boss, to ensure Madam Sheriff & Others got freed and the charges of “riotous conduct” were dropped against her and the other SLPP Political Women so charged. Today Madam Lulu Sheriff is Her Excellency the Sierra Leone Ambassador to The Gambia. Her lawyer back then is today the Honourable Deputy Minister of Justice Umaru Napoleon Koroma Esq.
But my work to free Madam Lulu Sheriff back in the year 2016, was not a one-off event. Not at all. Working to free Women In Distress is part of my strong legacy in this country – my unshakeable legacy of GENUINELY working for the protection and advancement of Women in genuine need; regardless of their Politics. That’s the SYLVIA OLAYINKA BLYDEN legacy.
Infact, exactly one year earlier to me ensuring Madam Lulu Sheriff was freed from Jail, I had done the same again when in April of the year 2015, Police in Kenema, during the then APC-led Government, similarly arrested several SLPP Women in Kenema including the then SLPP Kenema Women’s Leader and charged them to court for “riotous conduct”. Of my own accord and with prompting from NOBODY, I personally traveled from Freetown all the way to Kenema to visit those SLPP Women inside the Kenema Female Prisons and then I personally lobbied the then President & APC Leader to ensure he gave the directives for his Attorney General to withdraw Objection to Bail so that those SLPP Women in Politics could get granted Bail and be set free from Kenema Prisons. At that time, I had resigned from my plush and heavily paid job at State House few months prior but I still used my clout to lobby the then-President to get all those SLPP Women to be freed from Kenema Prisons. I did it all SINGLEHANDEDLY. My shining record speaks for itself.
Men also benefitted. Amongst those who benefitted from my activism on their behalf and whom I had personally visited in Kenema Prisons, is a current Sierra Leone Diplomat in China, Brima Dawson Kuyateh as well as a current Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission, Hassan Samba Yarjah.
Another instance of serving Women to ensure they are freed, was when the then APC Leader signed a Presidential Warrant for the arrest of several Kono Women in the year 2014. I was able to, once again, SINGLEHANDEDLY lobby for their release AFTER ALL ELSE HAD FAILED and get them freed from Female Prisons in Freetown when it was eventually brought to my attention.
This is my legacy a VERY STRONG Legacy of fighting for Women In Politics across party lines and ensuring Women In Politics get freed if they get arrested during the time my own APC party was in governance.
What I am highlighting is that the detention of Women In Politics is not a new phenomenon. Rather, it has just continued with other 🇸🇱WOMEN IN POLITICS being arrested, detained without charge by the Police and/or then charged on crimes like “riotous conduct”. My personal, undisputed record of fighting to free such Women, speaks loudly and strongly and unshakeably so.
My Legacy is a proud Legacy but it now leaves me asking: WHERE is the equivalent of the APC’s SYLVIA OLAYINKA BLYDEN inside the SLPP of today?
Where is that strong SLPP Woman (or Women) inside the SLPP who can be like the APC’s Sylvia Olayinka Blyden and stand up from right inside the SLPP to help explain to the Police and the SLPP Government leadership that detaining Opposition Women Politicians in cells, scares other Women and inhibits Girls from seeing Politics as a safe enough realm to venture into.
For example, a woman who is on her menstrual period and gets placed under detention in a police cell, will find it very, very horrid – add to that some other indignities that only a Woman’s biological parts can be subjected to suffer and you can see what makes it so unsavoury to detain a Woman in a police cell.
Now, I don’t have any true influence inside the SLPP Regime today so let’s find that SLPP Woman (or Women) who can become like Sylvia Olayinka Blyden used to be inside the APC Government. It cannot be the current First Lady for obvious reasons but there must be SLPP Strong Women in existence. Let’s find them. Let’s work with them across political party lines, to help lobby the current powers to see reason why Women In Politics should not be detained so easily by the Police.
If a Woman is to be detained, let it be for very very cogent reasons. Let it not be done with insensitive cheapness. For example, nobody wants to be on their menstruation and then be subjected to detention and horrid molestation as a Woman.
I drop my pen.🖋️