Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 January 2017
It is now over ten days since Julius Maada Bio – one of the leading presidential aspirants of the opposition SLPP and the party’s 2012 presidential candidate, made an appeal to the other presidential aspirants of the party with whom he is at war, for peace dialogue. But no one has accepted his offer.
It seems the wounds of years of bitter struggle for the leadership of the party and Bio’s unorthodox approach to politics, have caused far greater damage to his relationship with his fellow presidential aspirants than previously thought.
Bio has been blamed for the violence and breakdown in discipline and order that have recently been witnessed in the party.
His supporters have been directly blamed for the disruption of meetings organised at the party head office by party chairman Karpen.
The acrimonious court battles which started five years ago and are still ongoing, seem to have their nexus in the Bio leadership struggle.
Is it possible for those he has previously refused to sit and talk with, to now accept his peace offer?
Those opposing Bio’s second attempt at the party’s presidential candidacy, are convinced that no matter how many times Bio stands for the presidency, he will never succeed in winning more than the 30% the party managed to poll at the 2012 elections.
But Bio and his supporters disagree. They are convinced that this time around – in 2018, he will defeat the incumbent ruling APC, despite losing slightly more votes in 2012 than his party did in 2007.
There are about nine other candidates vying for the SLPP presidential candidacy, most of whom have formed an alliance to counter Bio’s control of large sections of the party.
And it is unlikely that Bio’s call for peace dialogue with the alliance will be heeded.
Two weeks ago he said he is appealing to his “brothers and sisters in the alliance to dialogue and have peace in the party for the sake of the people and country,” and that he was “available any day and any time to dialogue.”
But no one took up his offer.
There is too much water under the bridge and most importantly, several members of the alliance view Bio’s call as self-aggrandisement – a ploy to clean-up his image and present himself to the members of the SLPP as the peace-maker and therefore the preferred candidate for the presidency.
Five days ago, Bio issued further peace overtures. But this time, to the country’s Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), asking them to help broker peace talks between his faction and the alliance.
This is what he wrote to the PPRC:
January 19, 2017
Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC)
Dear Mrs. Moseray,
Call for Peace Meetings in the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP)
I will like to take this opportunity to thank you for your role in supervising the conduct of lower level elections and mediating the many conflicts in the SLPP. As you may know, there are two new dimensions of the problem in the Party.
First, the results from 39 constituencies have been challenged in the High Court on grounds of allegations of irregularities.
Second, there is a fundamental intra-executive impasse between the Chairman and Leader on one side and the other executive members on the other.
As statutory regulator of Political Parties, I will like to call on your office to mediate on the said matters within the Party. I firmly believe that political matters are best settled in house rather than in court.
The issues of expulsions and suspensions as well as related matters can also be subjects of discussion.
Additionally, I propose two separate peace meetings. The first one can be held before the National Party Conference to address concerns of persons who feel aggrieved, including Flag Bearer aspirants, MPs, Ex-MPs, executive members and the other stakeholders.
The second forum should be organised after the Conference. The post-Conference meeting will be meant to address post-election reconciliation.
It will essentially include persons who participated in elections at lower levels and others who may participate in the election of national officers as well those who may have participated in the first meeting.
The second meeting can even be organised at regional levels to allow for greater participation.
Finally, I will encourage the PPRC to coordinate all internal peace initiatives in order to avoid multiplicity of efforts.
Brig. Rtd. Julius Maada Bio
Aspirant for the 2017 SLPP Flagbearer Election
Copy: Commissioners, PPRC
All SLPP NEC members (END of Letter)
But will the PPRC once again get involved in a protracted conflict and deeply divided SLPP, to help find peace?
With just few months remaining before the party hold its national convention to elect its presidential candidate, many in the party would say that its simply too late for Bio to be extending an olive branch now, after he himself had in the past two years or more refused to meet and discuss with members of the alliance.
Perhaps there is a case to be made for the co-existence of the two factions going into the convention with their preferred candidates.
This would mean that the alliance in good time may reach a consensus as to who will stand as their preferred candidate against Maada Bio and the other non-alliance candidates. Because, any attempt at peace talks now is likely to be seen as a forge that could seriously affect the smooth running of the convention.
Equally, there is the risk of those losing the leadership election, walking away from the convention hall disgruntled and vengeful.
Will the losers support and work with the winner to go forth and contest against the ruling APC in 2018?