Sierra Leone People’s Party and the road to peace and unity

Jonathan Tengbe

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 March 2017

After several letters were sent to all presidential aspirants of the SLPP, and also to the various party stakeholders, we were finally able to hold the first conference at the Bank of Sierra Leone complex.

The main aim was for flagbearer aspirants to articulate a unity pathway. Yet the presence of certain stakeholders, though non-directive, was necessary to maintain decorum and provide the needed political backstopping to the process.

The most notable stakeholders were Dr. Bernadette Lahai, Chief Somano Kapen, Mohamed ‘Medkay’ Kamara (then SLPP), and Professor Joe Pemagbi.

The resounding success of the first meeting, led to a sequel conference aimed at collating all peace efforts as an entry point for the creation of a working alliance of Aspirants, on unity consolidation issues and maintaining constitutionality within the Party.

This is what I told the delegates that attended the second peace and unity conference:

I am glad to report that Team Tengbe Campaign (TTC) has been very consistent in its pursuit of peace and unity within the SLPP and has invested valuable time in activities that foster unity and help create the environment necessary for a peaceful conduct of flagbearer elections.

When it became evident that unity is critical to our collective success at recapturing governance, TTC directed efforts and resources at engaging the Party membership on several fronts to ensure a timely resolution of all matters inhibiting peace and unity in our beloved Party.

Accordingly, our Team relentlessly advocated for unity at every auspicious forum, conducted a national tour to investigate the reasons for grievances and disagreements among members, held in-house brainstorming sessions to search for solutions and championed matters such as organizing conferences and meetings relating to the way forward for unity.

Throughout this process, I have consulted with stakeholders and interest groups as well as kept all flagbearer Aspirants updated on our efforts and intentions, with a clear articulation of our proposal of how peace and unity can be achieved in our Party.

I have not done this as an achievement credit for Dr. Tengbe; I simply believe that it is the right thing to do in the interest of transparency, fairness, inclusiveness and the general success of our common efforts.

I have never missed an opportunity to recognize and support other initiatives, however parallel they may appear to mine, because I know that it is our joint efforts (and not a singular might) that will produce the desired results for unity.

Therefore, Team Tengbe Campaign (TTC) became the first, if not the only, peace-seeking group that unequivocally and publicly supported the press release of three key Aspirants (Messrs. Keilli, Timbo and Ndomahina), which echoed their concerns on various issues pertaining to the conduct of the electioneering process and consequently on peace and unity in the Party.

To ensure that we were not merely supporters of other initiatives, our brainstorming sessions produced our own unique approach to resolving issues within the Party, which we shared with all Aspirants in a memo that simultaneously called for a conference of flagbearer Aspirants in September 2015.

What then became known as “the flagbearer approach to unity” is fundamentally rooted in the assertion that almost all grievances and concerns that the Party is currently facing, are somehow flagbearer Aspirants’ related.

Thus, allowing Aspirants to meet and discuss these issues healthily with a view of carving out solutions for a way forward was deemed to logically produce meaningful results.

The resulting conference was convincingly organized by a team of able stakeholders under the chairmanship of Professor Joe Pemagbi and the good support of Mr. Mohamed Kamara (Med Kay) and Mr. Jabbez-Wright, to name but two.

The meeting today is historic, in that it is the first that has taken the peace and unity efforts to the next level, seeking to consolidate all present and previous initiatives into an implementable communiqué for our collective action.

This is significant because it will rid the Party of the inertia of continuing to hold same-level meetings by group after group, all essentially pursuing the same goal.

Today’s conference will also give credence to the growing feeling among Party members that, from now on, the way forward is not more meetings but more action.
Towards these efforts, TTC is happy to contribute the following:

Our first submission is the draft communiqué of the conference of 26th September 2015 held at the Bank of Sierra Leone Complex for inclusion in the collated outcomes.

As evidence of our efforts highlighted above, we submit copies of all correspondences to flagbearer Aspirants, many of which articulated our arguments for the flagbearer approach, the processes and our expected outcomes. These could be resource materials for merging with outcomes of other initiatives to create a working alliance for all Aspirants.

As evidence of our unconditional support for other peace and unity seeking efforts, we submit the Team’s statement in support of the press release by Messrs.’ Keilli, Timbo and Ndomahina on the urgent need to address our problems.

We offer our readiness to be part of a committee that will forward the unified communiqué to the National Executive Committee (NEC) for ratification and implementation.

We are thankful to all those who variously supported our efforts towards the realization of our vision for a unified SLPP. There is a lot to be done but we can take some comfort from the fact that some major strides have been achieved.

The way forward is to send appropriate and powerful messages to the Party membership that peace is imminent and that, as Aspirants, we are inclined to work together in a renewed fashion.

No peace in history was won in a day but through the persistence of all the parties to the effort. It will be tragic if we now abandon the peace ship in midstream…that is our critical challenge.

May God therefore continue to bless our collective efforts for peace. ONE COUNTRY, ONE PEOPLE. (End of statement).

Based on the issues discussed in this and my earlier publication, we saw the emergence of what we called at time “The Alliance of All Aspirants (AAA)” in the SLPP. This group worked jointly together on various fronts, to resolve various strategic problems that otherwise could have been very chaotic to resolve.

More importantly it created a platform for the “Evergreen Peace Movement” to bring together all aspirants including Rtd Brigadier Julius Maada Bio and Ali Kabbah, who had earlier resisted the call to join the AAA, which paved the way for the signing of the 8th February 2017 ground breaking SLPP Peace communique.

As we approach the National Delegates Conference to elect the Presidential candidate for SLPP, it is important for all of us to reflect on the long journey we have all taken towards achieving sustainable Peace and Unity in the Party, and to put aside our egos, come back to the negotiation table with the view to jump over last huddle through a political solution that we can all agree.

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