The recent but uncalled for banning of ‘street jogging’ by the police, in particular, the Inspector General of Police, Francis Allieu Munu, looks like undermining freedom of association as justified in the 1991 constitution.
IG Munu yesterday granted interviews with local media outlets in which he stated that the ban has come as a result of growing spate of lawlessness, thieving and, of course, skirmishes caused by joggers in the past.
He certainly has not proven a case in which any street jogger was found blameworthy of committing any of the allegations as claimed.
It is true the police, over the years, have had moments of time supporting ruling governments as against the electorates and sometimes against opposition political parties.
This, no doubt, has recently caused public annoyance and in effect has seen international as well local organizations positioning Sierra Leone as among one of the countries in the world that is using its police to suppress the defenseless of society.
Munu unlike previous police IGs has had his administration involved in number of woeful police shootings and killings of Sierra Leoneans.
The right to freedom of association (sometimes used interchangeably with the freedom of assembly) is but the individual right or ability of people to come together and collectively express, promote, pursue, and defend their ideas.
Of course, the right to freedom of association is recognized as a human right, a political right and obviously a civil liberty.
It also includes the freedom to assemble in public places and the freedom to join an association.
The banning of street joggers has raised suspicions on the role of the police in the coming elections, which also has seen many say “it is no doubt a strategy by the police to bar politicians from organizing peaceful street joggings as was in the recent past observed.”
The police, we know, are important in a democratic society because they provide for the rule of law, which enhances civic trust and helps maintain social order.
The irony, however, is that the police in Sierra Leone have been a major threat to the country’s democracy, on the one hand, they pretend to enhance democracy by exemplifying one of its central tenets, the rule of law, while also suppressing crime, but on the other hand, they are used by government to exclusively use force on the people they seek to protect, that which has always been serious abused undermining democracy.