By Jaime Yaya Barry
Dear IG Willam Fayia Sellu,
Today, you take over the nation’s police leadership. There’s no doubt that you are taking up a difficult job in one of the most challenging times in our country’s recent history. Over the years, the Sierra Leone Police force has been on top of discussions on national issues, most of them for the wrong reasons. There have been concerns about the independence of our national police, their professional conduct, their human rights record, integrity, and ability to deal with national security issues without further escalating them. In short, the police have had a terrible reputation from the public, from the people they swore to serve. I know you are no stranger to many of these issues.
I firmly believe that we still have many women and men in our police force who are disciplined, competent, professional, and respect the rule of law. Unfortunately, the rotten eggs, mainly driven by poor leadership, have overshadowed the attitude and tremendous contributions of the good ones.
If there’s one significant area where Sierra Leone truly deserves good leadership, it will be in our police force. This may sound too heavy a burden and probably unfair to you when considering the many leadership gaps in different sectors of the country. While this remains true, the leadership of the national police will go in many ways in shaping the decisions along several of those gaps.
I have seen colleagues who have been very critical of the police and even lost faith in any possible sector reform say and write beautiful things about you. I saw how mentioning your name as Sierra Leone’s new Inspector General of Police brought a renewed hope to them. While many of us remain critical of President Bio’s leadership, we are thrilled that he finally heeded our many calls to remove ex-IG Sovula.
To put it simply, Sovula was bad for our country’s democracy and threatened our national security and peace. I don’t know the numerous private decisions he took, but, like many IGs before him, the reputation of the police force under his watch was nothing to be proud of as a country.
But this is no longer about Sovula and past IGs.
The staff is now in your hands. And thankfully, I heard you served President Kaba and worked closely with him. I don’t have to tell you how much our nation loves and cherishes Pa Kaba. We hope that you saw what a true leader he was and what serving the nation meant to him. And while I know our country is far from having a handsome Inspector General of police, I do not doubt that this may be the beginning of a long list of Inspector Generals of Police that we will be proud of as we are of your former boss, President Kaba.
Please do not mind us calling Sovula the People’s IG. He is nowhere close to being one, and he knows that. Amid all his atrocities on the people, we want to be resilient by remembering the one word he mumbled the most- People – even if he had no respect for it.
As you take over the leadership of the police, I wish you nothing but the very best. I pray the Almighty guides your every decision. I pray God blesses you with wisdom and the leadership skills to deal with our national security issues. I pray you only take “orders from above” if they are in the country’s and people’s interest. I pray that you restore the dignity, integrity, and professionalism of the Sierra Leone Police. May you be the true People’s IG. May you be blessed with compassion. May you lead by example. I pray that you may be blessed with the courage to allow the people of Sierra Leone to enjoy their civil liberties, including the right to protest, the right to free speech, free movement, and among other rights, the right to petition the government and you whenever they feel aggrieved.
Please permit me to end with this note that it was because you answered the call to serve your country some odd years ago that earned you today the nation’s highest seat in the police force. And while you must be respectful and humbled by the decision of His Excellency the President to appoint you as Inspector General of Police, your loyalty MUST always remain to the nation and the people. No one did you a favour to appoint you that you must pay back. You must be proud of where you are today because you first answered the nation’s call to serve.
So, even if you are to serve as IG for just a day or a year, the people of this great nation will remember you for what you did. And may we remember you for the right reasons.
Be assured of our unflinching support and holding you to account where need be.
Thank you for answering the call to serve.
Jaime Yaya Barry