Sierra Leonean politician's home invaded in apparent attack

Former Sierra Leone People's Party chairman John Oponjo Benjamin escaped an armed attack on his home Saturday. According to reports, at least two people were injured at the opposition leader's home in the westend of Freetown.

Archive photo of John Oponjo Benjamin 
Benjamin told Awareness Times Publisher Sylvia Blyden how he was woken up in the early hours of Saturday morning by loud sounds.

He looked out of the window to see about a dozen men armed with cutlasses, machetes, broken bottles with jagged edges, and knives.

One of Benjamin's neighbors attempted to chase the men after they were repelled. He was stabbed in the stomach and on his head. Another resident got a stab wound on his forehead, Blyden said.

Blyden also said the police have taken statements from Benjamin, his family members and neighbors and investigations continue.

A suspect, who is linked to Benjamin's compound in Lumley, is being interrogated. Lumley is known for one of the busiest beaches on the Freetown peninsula.

Benjamin is an economist and politician. Until recently, he was the chairman and leader of the Sierra Leone People's Party or SLPP. Between 2002 to 2007, he served as Sierra Leone's Minister of Finance.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, August 12, 2015, Benjamin said the extension of the public health emergency was unnecessary. Sierra Leone's President Koroma first declared a public health emergency to curb the deadly Ebola outbreak in July 2014.

“One year on, the nation is required to critically examine the State of Emergency and whether its continuance will serve any more useful purpose,” Benjamin said.

“The Ebola scourge ravaged not only Sierra Leone, but ...sister countries of Liberia and Guinea,” he continued. “[In] the other two neighboring countries, having had much limited period of public state of emergency, they have shown a lot more success in the fight against Ebola," Benjamin said.

"So I come back to the question: ‘is the State of Emergency of any further relevance in the people’s valiant fight against Ebola?

"What is not clear is the President’s failure to justify his stance on making Sierra Leone a permanent State of Emergency," Benjamin said Wednesday.

"State of Emergency gives sweeping powers to the president and suspends our constitutionally protected human rights and freedoms and rule of law in a limited form."

Umaru Fofana reported Saturday that Sierra Leone lifted its last major Ebola quarantine on Friday as President Koroma expressed confidence that the country would soon be free of the virus.

"I am sure within August we will start counting the first 21 days of zero (new cases)," President Koroma said, referring to the incubation period of the virus. "I believe we cannot go back, we can only go forward."

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