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Cablegate: Post Election Atmospherics in Bo - Some Tensions

VZCZCXRO6162
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHFN #0634 2951643
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 221643Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY FREETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1467
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS FREETOWN 000634

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/W

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL SL
SUBJECT: POST ELECTION ATMOSPHERICS IN BO - SOME TENSIONS
APPARENT

1. (SBU) Summary: An October 16-19 visit to Bo by Embassy
officers provided insight in to the dynamics of local
adjustments to the new political reality. Some conflicts
between APC and SLPP supporters have occurred in Bo, most
recently on October 15 when APC supporters threw stones at
the homes of SLPP supporters. Local council members and the
police downplayed the incidents in discussions with Emboffs,
but conversations highlighted that communication between the
SLPP council members and the police is weak. Local government
officials and police officials all reaffirmed their
commitment to the peaceful political process, but more than
verbal commitment will be needed. The international community
will need to stay engaged. End summary.

2. (SBU) During an October 16-19 visit to Sierra Leone's
second largest city, Bo, emboffs met with members of the city
council, the district council, the paramount chief and a
senior police official. The Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP)
has long dominated the councils and the paramount chief is a
SLPP member. The loss of power by the SLPP in national
elections has meant the local leaders are facing new
challenges. All the officials reiterated their acceptance of
the election results and the desire to work with the
government of the day. One negative development has been
that supporters of the victorious All Peoples Congress (APC)
have been "provoking" SLPP supporters. The day before the
visit by emboffs, APC supporters threw stones at the homes of
SLPP members. In separate meetings, the city council member,
district council member and paramount chief all expressed
concern about the stone throwing and other incidents.
(Comment: the paramount chief campaigned openly for the SLPP
during the elections. End comment.) When asked what action
was being taken by city or district councils to address and
end such incidents, the officials stated that neither the
city council nor the district council had taken or planned
any action. The council members expressed their hope that
such incidents were only a passing phase and would soon fade
away. The Paramount chief, when he learned that poloff would
meet with the police, asked that the emboffs raise the issue
with the police.

3. (SBU) Emboffs later met with the Assistant Inspector
General (AIG) of Police, the most senior police official in
the area. The AIG confirmed that some incidents involving APC
supporters had taken place, but he downplayed their
significance. He reaffirmed the dedication of the police to
be unbiased and mentioned visits by police leaders from
Freetown to reinforce this message. He characterized the APC
partisans involved as young men, and suggested that limited
economic opportunities contribute to the unstable situation.

4. (SBU) Another change in attitude is an increased interest
in tapping the Embassy's Special Self Help fund. The
Paramount chief has been aware of the SSH mechanism for some
time, but no applications have been submitted from his
office. He is now showing increased interest in the program.
The FSN dealing with the SSH opined that now that the chief
finds himself in the opposition, he may be more interested in
SSH funds as there is more uncertainty surrounding funding
from government channels.

5. (SBU) Comment: The request by the Paramount chief that
Emboffs raise the question of local disturbances with the
police makes it appear that local officials have a weak
working relationship with the police. It is interesting that
communication would be channeled through outsiders. This
underlines the ongoing need for the international community
to stay engaged in supporting democracy in Sierra Leone, if
for no other reason than to facilitate communication between
the players on the ground. End comment.

PRATT

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