Will the Sierra Leone opposition SLPP party survive its latest knockout blow?

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 December 2016

The Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) is in the habit of knocking itself out every now and again – a habit it has come to perfect, since losing the 2007 elections. But will it recover from yesterday’s bout with its own demon?

Yesterday’s resolution passed by a group of its National Executive Council (NEC) members, to suspend a number of their fellow executive officers, including the party chairman and leader – Chief Somano Kapen, has brought the party closer to the edge of disintegration.

Although the party has faced serious instability, chaos – and many would say anarchy, since it lost the 2007 presidential and general elections, there are questions now as to whether the party can seriously recover from what looks like a palace coup – staged yesterday by a group of NEC executives, believed to be supporters and sympathisers of presidential aspirant – Julius Maada Bio.

The suspension of the party leader and chairman – Chief Somano Kapen – in abstentia, also raise doubts about the constitutionality of yesterday’s NEC meeting and the validity of the resolutions passed.

But critics of Chief Somano Kapen (Photo) say that he has become a lame duck chairman, who has lost the confidence of the majority of members of the party and their supporters. They say he is incompetent and deeply partisan.

What is not in doubt however, is the fact that since his election as party chairman and leader in 2013, Kapen has struggled to assert his authority and maintain order and discipline across the party.

He has become a hostage to fortune to those factions of the party, whose single objective is to further the personal and political agendas of some of those seeking presidential office in 2018.

Yet his supporters, of which there are many, say that Kapen’s difficulty in maintaining order, the rule of law and discipline in the party has little to do with incompetence and lack of leadership skills, but more about the determination of a few disruptive elements whose mission is to make the party ungovernable, so as to topple and have him replaced by a chairman who is pliable and sympathetic to their cause – the Maada Bio presidential candidacy.

But after presiding over a series of deep rooted internecine disputes and Supreme Court battles in the past three years, Kapen’s leadership is far from being described as effective.

He has lost control of his executives and the trust of many of the rank and file members who are now tired of the infighting and lack of party discipline.

So why has Kapen been suspended?  

This is how the publicity secretary of the party – Lt. Rtd. Lahai Lawrence Leema, announced yesterday’s resolution to unceremoniously suspend Kapen and others:

“Following the resignation of the elected National Secretary General – Mr. Sulayman Banja Tejansie, the deputy Secretary General Ambassador Alie Badara Kamara, who has been acting in the said capacity since the suspension of Mr. Tejansie, has now been upgraded to the substantive Secretary General, while Lawyer Umaru Napoleon Koroma appointed by the National Executive Council (NEC) as the new SLPP Deputy Secretary General.

“Additionally, the Chairman and Leader of the  SLPP and five others have been suspended for acts contrary to the party’s ideals, philosophy and programs of the party, pending investigation by the disciplinary committee of the SLPP.

“NEC therefore resolved that Dr. Alex Prince Harding – the Deputy National Chairman and Leader of the SLPP be acting as the National Chairman & leader, until the substantive chairman and Leader Chief Kapen faces the disciplinary committee of the SLPP to answer questions for flouting provisions of the SLPP 1995 Constitution as amended, which thereby brought the image of the party into disrepute and public ridicule.”

Whilst Kapen may no doubt be seen as an affable and friendly chap with whom many would have a pleasant and intelligent discourse, it seems his affable personality may have become his greatest weakness.

The SLPP is a highly diverse and complex political party to manage.

And with this diversity and complexity, comes the challenge for any leader to be able to instill discipline, enforce party rules without fear or favour; and more importantly, to set aside minority and personal objectives, in favour of party interests.

Has Kapen shown strong leadership, clear direction, non-partisanship and assertiveness, in the face of the huge challenges and complexity, posed by the vociferous and sometimes violent and disruptive behaviour of those factions, whose respective short term interest is about ensuring that their aspirant for the 2018 presidential election wins the party’s flag-bearer race?

But irrespective of Kapen’s short comings, do the party rules allow for the suspension of the NEC chairman by his fellow NEC officers?

Can they decide to suspend him at an NEC meeting that was believed to have been irregularly convened and not quorate? Was the motion to suspend on the agenda of yesterday’s meeting?

Was the chairman present at the meeting? Was he aware of the motion to suspend prior to the meeting?

If the answer to these questions is no, then yesterday’s NEC decision to suspend Chief Kapen will be seen as a palace coup.

This was yesterday’s NEC agenda

One of the executives at the meeting sent the following running commentary as the NEC meeting was in seating yesterday:  “Chief Kapen, Chairman and Leader of the SLPP has been suspended alongside Victor Sheriff.

“Dr Prince Harding is now the Acting National Chairman and Leader of the SLPP. The mandate of NEC has been extended till after Convention that’s to take place on February 24, 25 and 26th 2017, in Kenema.

“All Lower Level Executive Elections have just been ratified by NEC. Dr Abass Bundu is reading the rules and regulations for the position of presidential nominees. Le120,000,000 as candidature fees has just been agreed  by NEC .

“NEC meeting is in progress.  Nominations have just been made. We are going to take a vote on them. We have just filled the vacant position of Secretary General.  Ambassador Allie Badara is now the new SG.

“NEC life span has been extended to February 28, 2016. The Convention date is 24, 25 and 26 February 2016. The Elections for the National Executive and that of the flagbearer shall be done concurrently.

“The 24 25 26 February 2017 agreed date for the next delegate and flag bearer conference. The Venue is Kenema.”

But condemnation of yesterday’s meeting has been swift and passionate. A senior member of the SLPP told the Sierra Leone Telegraph:  “They (NEC) went against all the rules and regulations you could think about in this world to get to where they are.  The NEC meeting was called without Kapen’s consent. This is not legal under the SLPP constitution. That means the Maada Bio group held a meeting that is unconstitutional.”

According to some supporters of Kapen; “The rules and regulations agreed by the country’s Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) as gazetted and later amended, were flouted by the Maada Bio supporters on the NEC – popularly referred to as ‘Paopas’ (by any means necessary).

“Instead of the delegates list authentication to be done concurrently by the Constituency Chairmen, District Chairmen, etc, all was done by the Regional Chairmen. This was completely wrong.

“In principle the Regional Chairmen are responsible for the mess the Party is in at the moment. Even when a court injunction was in place during the past days, they proceeded to hold the district and regional elections at secret locations.

“If SLPP  is behaving in such undemocratic manner, how are we expected to oppose APC if they do likewise. More, importantly SLPP may field a candidate as Flagbearer that was not elected in accordance with the Constitution, hence risking the possibility of nullification at the 2018 general election by APC.”

Other comments from SLPP members

“SLPP has today been finally laid into its grave.  May its soul return to its founders.”

“SLPP is imploding and no one seems to have authority over the Paopas. This is Sad.”

“Instead of a party convention next year, it will be a coronation of Julius Maada Bio.”

“The Paopa faction continues to hold the party to ransom. The rest of the flagbearer candidates and non-Paopa membership have some serious decisions to make.”

“Yesterday’s resolution gives certain faction ascendancy in SLPP affairs. And this group will not put the party’s best interest above all else.”

“The party now stands at cross roads…some hard counter measures need to be decided on by genuine stakeholders and not charlatans and political hacks.”

Speaking to the Sierra Leone Telegraph last night about what the party must do now to save itself, Jonathan Tengbe (Photo) who is one of the contenders for the party’s presidential candidacy, said: “The flagbearer election must be organised by a new national executive. What they have put forward is not in the interest of democracy in Sierra Leone and Unity in the Party.

“Any flagbearer resulting from such arrangement will not be supported by a huge proportion of the SLPP membership and SLPP will risk losing the national elections in 2018.”

“My suggestion is to re-do all  disputed constituency, district and regional elections, following which we should convene another NEC meeting to discuss a date for the National Executive elections and later a flagbearer election.”

Yesterday’s event at the NEC meeting of Sierra Leone’s main opposition SLPP party may seem like the end of what many regard as a grand old party with high ideals. And in the words of a party supporter:  “I think NEC has just managed to tip the party overboard yesterday. We wait and see what unfolds.”

But it is important to put into context, what is happening in the party as symptomatic of the current state of the country’s national politics.

Democracy, and law and order in Sierra Leone are still in a state of flux. These are the building blocks of a stable, progressive and inclusive society.

But, until they are fully adopted and domesticated across all political parties in the country, Sierra Leone will continue to be governed by charlatans.

Most people aspiring for political office regard politics as perhaps their only opportunity to access or gain power to further their personal interests, or to become rich.

Sierra Leone is one of the poorest nations in the world, yet few are entering politics or seeking political leadership out of altruism and the need to serve their fellow humans. Far too many in the opposition SLPP have lost sight of what is really important in politics.

And this is true also of the ruling APC party, whose battle for its heart and soul – especially their party presidential candidacy for the 2018 elections, will soon commence. And when it does – there will be blood on the carpet.

SLPP NEC Resolution passed yesterday, Saturday, 17th December 2016:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 comments

  • Dakowa

    The meeting which was called by the suspended chairman (Chief Kapen) on the 4th of January 2017, was really not a meeting that was legal, because he had been suspended for the following reasons:

    1. For bringing the image of the party into dispute.

    2. It’s very clear that the suspended chairman Chief Kapen was out of office for about or more than three months.

    3. He also abandoned his responsibilities as a chairman. And lastly but not the least, the suspended chairman Chief Kapen was invited by the disciplinary committee to really interface with them, which he also flout. Please reprimand me if you need more reasons.

  • SENESIE JUNIOR

    Please – sympathies Maada Bio in your effort to sabotage the elected leader Chief Kapen as Chairman of the SLPP Party. Please allow Kapen to finish his term he was mandated to serve and let us follow due process in electing the next Chairman, when Kapen’s term expires. Let us give honour to whom honour is due.

    I am in Australia where a senior power broker of the main opposition party who is a Lebanon born Lebanese-Australian, who has spent more than 65 years in Australia of his 73 years of his existence on planet earth was sentenced and jailed for five (5) years due to conflict of interest in his deliberations as an elected member of parliament, against the public interest of the people of Australia.

    That is the tip of the iceberg as there are other case files, loads of criminal cases against him and his family and children. His passport has been impounded and barred from travelling before his indictment and conviction. If all the crimes against him are found convict-able and guilty he will die in prison.

    This is a warning to Julius Maada Bio and his gangs who are hell bent to see Maada Bio stand again as an SLPP Party flag-bearer for 2018, as he was in 2012 when he lost to EB Koroma. Please let me tell you Maada Bio supporters who are disrespecting the SLPP constitution by disregarding the one term presidential flag-bearer ship of the party, in your quest for the highest seat of public office as Head of State of Sierra Leone.

    If you love the SLPP party THEN YOU SHOULD RESPECT WHAT IS STATED IN THE CONSTITUTION AND PLEASE DON’T BEND THE RULE. PLEASE NOTE THAT MAADA BIO WILL NEVER WIN A PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. EVEN IF HE CONTEST 10 TIMES HE WILL LOSE 10 TIMES

    For those who see the executive branch of government as a way to amass personal wealth through looting, commissions, kickbacks dubious contracts at the expense of the populace that you are claiming to serve, your days are numbered AND YOU WILL BE FOUND WANTON

    What caused the ruling military NPRC palace coup in 1996 was the belief that Valentine Strasser was hell bent to eliminate members of the ruling council and rig the presidential elections, so that he (Strasser) will remain president for long as possible. And when Maada Bio replaced Strasser the NPRC 2 looting and expenditure for those 3 months in power was more than Strasser’s 3 years of expenditure in office. And the civil war they promise to abate was not successful.

    What are we now seeing is Maada Bio creating divisions, trying to eliminate candidates whose fathers are the founding fathers of the SLPP AS HE DID WHEN HE WON 2012 PRESIDENTIAL BEARER-SHIP THAT CAUSED PEOPLE LIKE OSMAN BOIE KAMARA,ETC, TO DEFECT FROM THE PARTY.

    NOW HE WANTS DR KANDEH YUMKELLAH AND OTHERS TO BE DISCOURAGED AND DEFECT FROM THE PARTY THAT THEIR FATHERS COME TOGETHER TO FORM AS WE CAN SEE IN GHANA WHEREIN THE PRESIDENT ELECT IS THE SON OF THE FOUNDING FATHER OF THE NPP PARTY. AND HE IS OUR BROTHER-IN-LAW AS ONE OF HIS SISTERS WAS MARRIED TO A SON OF ONE OF OUR FOUNDING FATHERS SHAMSU MUSTHAPHA.

    ON BEHALF OF THE SLPP AND THE PEOPLE OF SIERRA LEONE I HEARTILY CONGRATULATE NANA BUSIA DANQUA THE PRESIDENT ELECT OF GHANA AS YOUR SISTER WAS MARRIED TO ONE OF OUR BROTHERS WHEN SHE WAS A TEACHER AT THE METHODIST GIRLS HIGH SCHOOL IN SIERRA LEONE AND THEY HAVE CHILDREN OF SIERRA LEONEAN AND GHANAIAN PARENTHOOD. SADLY YOUR SISTER LOST HER HUSBAND IN GHANA DURING THE CIVIL IN SIERRA LEONE. ACWAABAA NANA

  • Abdul R. Kabia

    If anyone had doubted the SLPP’s inability to confront the APC and win the next parliamentary and presidential elections in the country, it has now clearly demonstrated with the restlessness within the party, it makes this reality unattainable.

    Throughout the APC two terms in government, the SLPP has not been able to convince the electorate as an alternative government. And of course – “this is the last straw that breaks the camel’s back” with their self-inflicted coup. No hope with the SLPP!

    With the APC government’s failure to transform the country to meaningful progress owing to bad governance and under-performance, coupled with massive corruption across board and steadily impoverishing the citizenry in ten years of governance, no hope either with the APC.

    But, does this mean that the country is going to enter a political orphanage or do we have to choose “the bad from the bad one?”

  • Foday Madama

    Noorudin Kaikai
    So you mean the SLPP party chairman has to be a mende?

  • Sulaiman Jonathan Bah

    It is quite unfortunate that politics is drawing along lines of tribal divide in Sierra Leone. When are we going to learn from our past mistakes. Despite the decline in the rate of illiteracy and the consequent increase in the number of PhD, MSc, MA holders in the country.

    People who can even write on this medium are propagating tribalism. I thought such could have come from the illiterates, while people like Noorudin Kaikai will be trying to educate their illiterate folks on nationalism.

    When will Sierra Leone graduate into a developed state. We are talking about peace, yet we breed hate in the form of tribalism. Is tribalism the issue now in SLPP? Where will the other tribes stand in the politics of Sierra Leone?

    I rest my case!

  • Jerry Brown

    That the SLPP is yet again heading for the political wilderness is not in dispute. What is in dispute is for how long this time around, and how many will disembark along the way. Anyone who thinks otherwise is either suffering from substance abuse or living in cloud cuckoo land.

    Lol … the APC will be clapping their hands with glee at this latest drama by the mother of all political parties in mama salone.

  • Sulaiman Jonathan Bah

    Another Palace Coup by Maada again in Sierra Leone, this time within the party he is aspiring to take to 2018 elections. So this is how the Paopa guys will want to rule this country. Just overnight, they can meet and decide the fate of Sierra Leoneans without their consent.

    How can you suspend a seating Chairperson without a motion? How can you hold a committee meeting without the knowledge of the Chairperson of that committee? Is SLPP really serious about the 2018 election? Does this action mean SLPP was in support of the sacking of Samuel Sam Sumana as Vice President of Sierra Leone?

    The suspension of the Leader of the opposition party is not different from the way the constitutionally elected Vice President of the Country was sacked. This could be seen as a warning shot that if anybody chooses Maada as a Running-mate and subsequently Vice President of this country, he will overthrow the president again just as he did during the NPRC regime.

    Also, if he is made to become the president of Sierra Leone he will overrule the nation like Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia. Let us be careful as we go to the polls for the selection of the Flag Bearer.

    No matter how weak a leader may be we must still recognize his/her leadership until he/she is voted out. We have demonstrated this severally with our presidents, why not do it within the party.

    Despite the numerous ridicules our leaders have brought to our beloved nation as a country, we have never suspended or removed our leaders. H.E. Ernest Koroma sacked a constitutionally elected Vice President bringing the country into ridicule.

    SLPP did not meet to remove him from office. Why are you guys fighting to break SLPP? Are you guys sent to destroy this party and later run to the APC? According to history, this was the same way and manner the SLPP was sent into disarray leaving the country in the single hands and total control of the APC.

    Maada Bio alone cannot win the election mind you. So if you think you don’t need the support of any other faction within the party for the up-coming elections, then you guys are making a very big mistake. Stop the mess.

    • Noorudin Kaikai

      Having been hounded and chased out of his chiefdom by his own people, Chief Kapen wormed his way to the leadership position of the SLPP through subterfuge and deceit. Chief Kapen was not qualified for that esteemed position and was the least likely to land a position of such importance.

      But he was aided and abated by no less a person than Maada Bio. It was a mistake and I think the NEC is trying to right that ill-conceived decision.

      I have no time to delve into the many failures of chairman Kapen, but I think this move might be a blessing for the party because Chairman Kapen is irrelevant when it comes to the winning chances of the SLPP in the northern province.

      I wonder why on earth should any political party select someone to lead a party who has no political capital and cannot even guarantee one vote in his own constituency.

      And for those who are diametrically opposed to his suspension, I want you to see the brighter side of this maneuver. If the SLPP is constantly accused of being a ” Mende Man” party, what is wrong with having someone who hails from the heartland of the party.

      If I am to wake up from a dream thinking that there is even a remote possibility that a Mende man can be a chairman of the APC, I will first apologise to myself and then seek help from my psychiatrist. The battle line has been drawn, so you are either in or out.

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