Dr Kandeh Yumkella decides – “I am putting Sierra Leone first”

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 3 July 2017

After months of speculation about whether and how long Dr. Kandeh Yumkella will continue to put up with the harassment and violence that he and some of his supporters have been subjected to by extremists within the opposition SLPP, he has today decided that ‘enough is enough’.

Speaking at a press conference in Freetown today, he told reporters and stakeholders that; “As things are today, democracy has been choked, suffocated, stifled and rendered meaningless in the SLPP and to some extent in our nation. Politics has been reduced to corruption and kleptocracy by oligarchs and has now become a zero sum game: it’s  either all or nothing. Cabals justify that it is the turn of this group or that ethnic agglomeration to eat or have access to the national treasury.”

Because of this, and in order to pursue his vison and values, he said he has decided to suspend his presidential flagbearer aspiration in the SLPP, and will now work towards bringing together a national coalition of progressive politicians in the country, whose aim is to establish a government of national unity for the greater good of the people of Sierra Leone.

This is what he said:

Members of the Fourth Estate, Compatriots, Well-wishers, and Concerned Citizens, in the name of the KKY Movement, we salute you for honouring our invitation to this crucial Press Briefing.

We have not assembled here in any way to justify what is happening in the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) that has made this ‘indaba’ possible, nor are we here to vilify those that  have made it impossible for democracy to flourish and prevail in the SLPP, our Mother Party.

On the contrary, we have extended this invitation to you and, by implication, the whole nation and the world at large, to explain why a new narrative and dispensation have become necessary at this point in time in our nation’s history. 

Current State of the SLPP

Nearly two years ago, precisely on 22 August 2015, I returned home to my land of birth, Sierra Leone, full of excitement and enthusiasm to put the knowledge, skills,  experience, exposure and contacts that I had made and acquired on the world stage at  the service of my country and people.

I made the deliberate choice to operate from the political foundation of the SLPP, the party for which my father, mother, uncles,  and other noble men and women in our country suffered and went to prison over a period of over twenty-five years. 

But our experience in the SLPP has taught us a unique and important lesson: that in a democracy liberty and freedom cannot be taken for granted. They are rights that have  to be fought for if their enforcement is to be meaningful and lasting.

This narrative is rooted throughout history and throughout the democratic world. Ours is therefore not an exception.

What we have done so far in the SLPP is to fight against hegemons for a level playing field as they seek to maintain their grip on party structures at the expense of democratic practice and fair play.

We believe that Democracy has never been about numbers only or political calculus that culminates in kinsmen/women converging to eat and receive the spoils of office.

Democracy, we want to reassure all our compatriots, is about Core Values – juxtaposed with competing interests and complex choices; about rights and obligations; the protection of the weak and putting a cap on the power of those in position of power.

The Political Project of the KKY Movement is therefore to bring back that Democracy that is anchored in fighting for social justice and the protection of the rights of all citizens – regardless of their tribe, the region they come from, and religious or political affiliation.

As things are today, Democracy has been choked, suffocated, stifled and rendered meaningless in the SLPP and to some extent in our nation. Politics has been reduced to corruption and kleptocracy by oligarchs and has now become a zero sum game: it’s  either all or nothing. Cabals justify that it is the turn of this group or that ethnic agglomeration to eat or have access to the national treasury. 

The whole nation is aware that since  I announced my intention to vie for the position of flag bearer of the SLPP, my supporters and I have had to put up with a great deal of harassment and violence.

Throughout the various stages of the contest for flag bearer, there has been a deliberate policy by certain groups in control of the party structures to aggressively exclude any person or group of persons that do not support their candidate.

We have repeatedly had to seek redress in the courts, but the current national executive of the party refuses to respect the constitution and play by the rules. Their habit of violating or giving creative interpretations to court orders is now well known and continues unabated. 

In order to restore decency and dignity to a party gone astray, I joined forces with other potential flag bearer candidates who professed to share the same desire for a fair contest on a level playing field. That collective effort in pursuit of constitutionality also did not work, as the current leadership of the party continues to pursue a parochial path of exclusion and intimidation which runs against the core values and key tenets of the party founded by our forefathers.

They are even determined to achieve their coronation agenda even beyond 2023. Our quest is not for self-aggrandizement, but for a better Sierra Leone. And as a result, my supporters and I have decided to return to our ‘Country First’ Agenda. 

Putting Country First 

But let’s go back to why I left my lucrative job to come home. I came home to fight for the common man so they can have better education and health care for their children; so the youth can have decent and productive jobs; and we can eradicate poverty through sound economic management and wealth creation. 

As you know, our country is worse today than when I returned, as it trembles on the brink of dystopia. No amount of propaganda can wipe away the endemic poverty and the suffering of our people.

It is in fact sickening to observe that in this squalor, we see people flashing their ill-gotten wealth with reckless abandon. They have made corruption to appear glamorous to the youth. Here are some facts about the situation  in our country:

60-70% of our people are living in abject poverty;  60% of the youth are unemployed;  teenage pregnancy is unacceptably high; students graduate from University but cannot find jobs three years later;  teachers, University Professors and Civil Servants go without salaries for three months or more.

The quality of education is at its worst in decades with, in some cases, 3 to 7 students using a single examination question paper. 

There are currently more than 10,000 under-paid and uncertified teachers in the country;  more women are still dying when they deliver babies;  it is only in Sierra Leone that one traffic light will cost $250,000 which is enough money to pay all the teachers in the country.

Crime is on the rise and our personal security is at risk; and there are over 20,000 Ex-Servicemen without sustainable means of livelihood.

The list of societal malaise is too long to for me to outline here. We shall surely discuss them as the campaign continues. Suffice it to say at this point that the will and determination to change this state of affairs should motivate each and every one of us to ‘Put our Country First’ (“Put Salone Fos”).

Indeed the motto of the KKY Movement is “Country First” which means we put the interest, welfare and prosperity of our people at the centre of our campaign.

The current socio-political conditions in our country make it imperative that we should take far reaching decisions now for the survival of our country rather than just to be “flag bearer of SLPP”. 

Unfortunately, the current ethos within the SLPP does not give me that environment to deal with the existing and future critical national issues  or pursue my Vision and Message of HOPE, OPPORTUNITY and TRANSFORMATION. 

With this background and after months of reflection and consultation with a vast cross-section of my supporters at home and abroad, I hereby wish to inform the membership of the SLPP and the public at large that I am, with immediate effect, suspending my bid for the flag-bearer of the SLPP, while I strongly and robustly maintain my bid and campaign for the Presidency of the Republic of Sierra Leone, which will now move into higher gear.

We will work with others to create a  Grand Coalition of Progressives in a collective effort to bring hope and transformation to our country. Additional details about the new dispensation and highlights of my energised campaign will be announced in due course.  

I ask my supporters nationwide and in the diaspora to rally around the proposed new mechanism through which we shall vigorously pursue and promote our progressive agenda of Hope, Opportunity and Transformation.

The struggle for the soul of our country – political, social, and economic – has begun and will now be accelerated under the  new structure. 

I want to thank my supporters and members of the KKY Movement at home and abroad for their unreserved and unflinching commitment and support so far. 

God Bless Sierra Leone. Let us put our Country First.

12 Comments

  1. When historians write about this day in Sierra Leone’s politics, they may well see it as our own velvet revolution – the opposite to what occurred on 29th April 29th 1992 when Tom Nyuma [may the Almighty Allah/God grant him eternal peace] and others, fearlessly bundled out the once feared A.P.C who had thrived for decades on a platform of simulated invincibility.

    Dr Yumkella’s speech touches on all the issues which Sierra Leoneans are aware of but do not have the stage or wherewithal to air them. This is why politicians of all shades and appearances have no regard or respect for their intellingence – a subtle but far-reaching insult.

    The A.P.C establishment came to a contrary view too late on that fateful day in April 1992 when Tom Nyuma and his gang entered Freetown and the people could not contain their emotions by pouring out on to the streets to welcome them, even before learning that Momoh had fled. Shall we call this the shattering of A.P.C’s manufactured popularity, floating on intimidation?

    I believe the same atmosphere which greeted the overthrow of A.P.C in 1992. currently exist among the majority of the people, effectively giving Dr Yumkella a silent majority through the ballot box rather than through the gun.

    The speech came from the heart and it was lacking in ostentatious boldness: “it is only in Sirra Leone that one traffic light will cost $250,000, which is enough money to pay all the teachers in the country” [Dr Yumkella].

    Where is Bernadette Lahai and her S.L.P.P? In almost ten years, what have S.L.P.P done to counter A.P.C excesses, including the disappearance of Ebola [“kasankay”]funds.

    The A.P.C and S.L.P.P hierarchy will go to bed tonight wondering about the depth of Kandeh Yumkella’s arsenal, much to the elation of ordinary people – the down-trodden.

    Here is another salvo from Kandeh: “it is in fact sickening to observe that in this squalor, we see people flashing their ill-gotten wealth”; may the weapon explode at the feet of A.P.C and S.L.P.P and shove them into oblivion? They are both bad in equal measure. S.L.P.P waltz to the treasury when they are in power. A.P.C break-dance to it. The result? An empty treasury.

    In Kandeh we have a glimmer of hope. He may not turn out to be the panacea, but it is time for us to see the respective backs of S.L.P.P and A.P.C disappearing into the sunset. The ripple effects of the shock will affect generations yet to appear, who would say, in March 2018 our ancestors stood up and effected a revolution which set the country on the right path after decades of neglect.

    Please do not back down Dr Yumkella. Henceforth you will come under intense pressure from unlikely quarters, especially when your forthright message starts to gather momentum.

    For the first time in my life, because of you, I am seriously thinking of joining a political movement. The urge has always been there, but the fear that I would be a misfit in a sea of corruption and unpatriotic behaviour on the part of others has been the stumbling block.

  2. “I should add that I have no hesitation to declare that while I have no intention of leaving the SLPP, I will join Dr Kandeh Yumkella…” Yankuba Kaisamba.

    Yankuba Kai-samba, I hope you follow Kandeh Yumkella to wherever he is headed. In the past you have followed Charles Margai to the PMDC. Why did you come back to the SLPP? Please leave our party and this time let it be for good.

  3. Dr. Kandeh Yumkella you waisted all your resources with those “Bad Hearted” bunch, if there is any English word like that to describe them. I knew it will end up this way.

    It’s not too late. You have made a good decision. SLPP is just like the Republican party in the USA. All they are concerned about is “their party” and nothing more. This is the same situation in 1967 that warranted my Uncle L.A.M Brewah and Ngor Kutubu Kaisamba to abandon the SLPP. Bad Heart (period).

    Pa Kabba (May his soul rest in peace) said the same thing. No party or nation will move forward with such nonsensical character. Leave those stooges alone. Form a new party or merge with the younger candidate Mr. Mansaray. You guys have similar vision for our Sierra Leone. We will support you. Please let us know your next move.

  4. I am spirited by this decision.

    In the face of insults, illegalities , violence and intimidation and the paopa NEC’s refusal to abide by democratic process as demonstrated by their repeated and arrogant assault on the SLPP’S constitution, the paopas have shot the door to all but those that support their leader Julius Bio.

    There was no option left to people who put the interest of the country first, but the feeling that a bunch of people supporting an absolutely economically useless unemployed man they want to impose on all of us, should not be allowed to frustrate and deprive the suffering people of Sierra Leone with a unique opportunity to elect a credible alternative leadership to the corrupt APC administration.

    Myself as a progressive SLPP, who has consistently argued that Sierra Leone need an outstanding president that is not from the old discredited politicians with nothing to show for their longevity in public office, I welcome this bold and courageous decision by Kandeh Yumkella as just and logical.

    I believe a grand coalition, properly constituted and managed provides the best chance of removing the APC from power.

    I should add that I have no hesitation to declare that while I have no intention of leaving the SLPP, I will join Dr Kandeh Yumkella and other SLPP progressives to give a quality, matured and responsible leadership to drag our people out of 50 years of corruption, decadence, poverty and misery.

    Hope is comming. Let the paopa SLPP make their case why their leader is the best to solve the multidimensional problems of our nation, and we will now make our own case to the people of Sierra Leone.

    Our campaign will target both the APC and the would be Paopa led SLPP – Julius Bio, because we believe they are the same.

    Both of them have history of violence and they pose a serious threat to democracy, econimic development and peace in our national politics.

    With the comming of Julius Bio’s paopa movement in the SLPP, party members who do not support him, have been beaten up, killed, their parents abused. Party members are afraid to visit the party offices because Bio has planted his thugs, who beat and spit at rival supporters.

    Others have been suspended or expelled without any constitutional or legal validity.

    The paopas have created their own delegates list while at the sametime they have disenfranchised hundreds of delegates whom they deemed not in support of Julius Bio.

    Today’s announcement serves as a notice to Bio and his gangs that the fight back has begun.

  5. This is really good news for the SLPP. I hope Maada Bio also quits the party. Bio and Yumkella have nothing to offer the SLPP.

  6. This should not be a source of joy for any well meaning SLPP supporter. To me, this is proof beyond any reasonable doubt that Yumkella was not sincere when he illegitimately obtained a membership card of our noble party. He knew the APC will not fall for his duplicitous agenda, so he decided to join our party to lunch his political career.

    For someone who has not lifted a finger in the past to build or strengthen the party, what reason does anyone has to favor him over others, who have been toiling and struggling to keep the party afloat?

    For those of you who think he is popular enough to win the presidency, that remains to be seen. But what is clear to me is that, Yumkella, like others before him, such as Margai, Usu Boi and John Leigh, who defected from the party are self- serving —and never cared enough for the party– to stay and fight for the common good of the party.

    Maada Bio is not my preferred choice but if he is to win the nomination, I will support him with all my might. And if he is to lose, then so be it.

    But I am not going to follow anyone, who by his own admission has never belonged to a party or voted for any politician in Sierra Leone. Kandeh Yumkella is very disingenuous and I find it difficult to trust him.

    And for those who think he has made the right choice, support him by all means. I do urge all of us real sons and daughters of the party to continue to support the party.

  7. I am interested in knowing what the new mechanism is through which Yumkella and his colleagues plan to pursue their progressive agenda for Sierra Leone.

    Is there going to be a new political party ? Is there a specific website we should be directed to for more information?

  8. Now the real man is talking!

    My follow Sierra Leoneans let’s give Dr Kandeh a chance to change Sierra Leone, for the future development,for better education, health and jobs.

    Sierra Leone is very small country rich in natural resources. If we all come together and give a helping hand to this civilized and educated man, believe me we will not regret it.

    We need a serious change. We who live overseas, know what we mean by change. Normally I am not into politics, but my feelings are telling me that Dr Yumkella is the man who will bring change and a better Sierra Leone for us and our children.

    A country without good education, health facility and jobs is not a country. Let’s look at Ghana, Nigeria, the Gambia and others. It is a shame that Sierra Leone lacks all these facilities, because of the lack of good governance.

    We need Dr Yumkella and all Sierra Leoneans to stop corruption in this small beautiful country. God bless us all and God bless Sierra Leone.
    Thank you all.
    One Love
    From Germany

    • I am very impressed by his level of understanding, education, exposure and experience. I believe Dr. Kandeh is the right man for Sierra Leone at this moment. I pray that he succeeds.

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