Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 February 2017
There is a renewed sense of hope across Sierra Leone today, after the leaders and presidential aspirants of the opposition SLPP party met on Wednesday to discuss their differences. They have agreed to bury the hatchet and focus their energies on building a strong opposition to the ruling APC.
The return of peace and stability to the country’s main opposition party is not only good for the party’s chances at the forthcoming presidential and general elections, but for democracy in Sierra Leone.
With a strong and vibrant political opposition in Sierra Leone, the country can look to a brighter future, where development and progress can be achieved through good governance, transparency, accountability, civil liberty and freedom of speech.
For the best part of the past decade, the ruling APC have governed with an open ticket and a free ride as the main opposition SLPP turned on itself, in a bitter struggle for power among the various factions. But all that is about to change.
The internecine war that almost destroyed SLPP, has had tremendous impact on the country’s democracy and development. The APC led government has used its overwhelming majority in parliament to drive through a plethora of destructive and harmful legislation.
The APC party’s abuse of the country’s Constitution as well as their obsession with presidential executive decrees and ‘orders from above’ have cost Sierra Leone dearly, as hundreds of millions of Dollars are misappropriated, poorly spent and unaccounted for. This has rendered APC unfit to govern the country.
The inability of the opposition SLPP to hold the government to account and ensure that the rule of law is maintained has tragically weakened state institutions.
But if Wednesday’s peace rally and speeches by the leaders of the various factions and presidential aspirants of the SLPP are anything to go by, then prospects for Sierra Leone’s democracy is now looking very bright.
The signing of a peace accord by all of the SLPP’s presidential aspirants has brought renewed hope that, at long last, with a strong and united opposition, the people of Sierra Leone can be economically empowered and uplifted from abject poverty.
This is the statement published yesterday by the Kandeh Yumkella’s campaign team with regards the peace deal:
On Wednesday February 8, 2017, our leader Alhaji Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella stood shoulder-to-shoulder with his colleagues at our party headquarters to launch a new peace initiative.
The enthusiasm therefore of so many SLPP supporters during the spontaneous peace march that followed, demonstrated our ability to handle conflict by peaceful means, our hunger for peace and our courage and determination to face the future together as a unified party.
The credit for the success of both events goes to the Ever-Green Group for being open minded and even handed during the behind-the-scenes bilateral consultations and for organising focused deliberations.
Martin Luther King Jr once said that “Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal”.
In that respect, we have just taken the first steps towards our goal, which is a united party that is ready to transform Sierra Leone. The challenge is to be courageous to stay the course.
The devil as they say is in the detail, which includes an amicable settlement of the issues in front of the court, the UK and Ireland branch dispute, the timely completion of lower level elections, and the conduct of a free, fair, transparent and inclusive delegates convention and flag-bearer contest.
We are confident that the joint communique that was signed provides a useful framework for dealing with all these and other outstanding issues.
Speaking to Dr. Yumkella (Photo) today he remarked, “I urge all my supporters to embrace this peace process. I also admonish colleagues on social media to sue for peace and be collegial in their discourse, sparring on ideas rather than invectives”.
At the same time, we must scale up our campaign across the country. Our message of hope, opportunity and transformation must echo in the hills and valleys so as to galvanize more support for the SLPP and its core values.
Dr. Yumkella also stated that “Our efforts to create a grand coalition of progressives will be vigorously pursued to provide the necessary platform to embrace fresh ideas, capture the concerns of our changing demographics, and redress the growing discontent among various interest groups”.
Our grand coalition will be a vanguard for a more unified nation, creating space for like minds to come together to rebuild a broken economy, energize decaying institutions and create a more just and inclusive society.
As Henry Ford once said “Coming together is the beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success”.
We are confident that we will assiduously work together to translate this peace initiative into a grand coalition, behind a leader with broad national appeal, to defeat the APC in 2018. (End of Kandeh Yumkella statement).
What is also vital about Wednesday’s peace deal is the position and perception of one of the leading contenders for the SLPP presidential candidacy and protagonist – Julius Maada Bio.
This is the statement published by Bio’s team yesterday:
On behalf of the Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, we wish to express profound appreciation to the members of the Green Peace Initiative for their memorable peace and reconciliation meeting at the Party’s national headquarters on 8th February 2017 which brought together flagbearer aspirants and stakeholders of the Sierra Leone People’s Party to discuss pertinent issues and agreeing on concrete actions to resolve the current political impasse in the party.
In describing the meeting, Retired Brigadier Bio states: “The ambiance of the meeting which was characterised by frankness, respect, comradeship and sincerity of purpose among flagbearer aspirants and stakeholders has signalled our shared and collective determination to ensure that SLPP becomes united, inclusive and prepared ahead of national elections in February 2018.”
On the innovation of the peace march, Retired Brigadier Bio also expresses his optimism. He said: “The march to Cotton Tree as flagbearer aspirants and the various speeches we made should assure the general public that our commitment for a united SLPP is now unwavering. (Photo: Maada Bio – sitting centre, alongside the architect of Wednesday’s peace deal – Alie Kabba – right).
“We also sent a clear message to voters that SLPP is a family and we can reconcile our differences as brothers in the spirit of ‘ONE COUNTRY, ONE PEOPLE. I commend my colleague Aspirants for demonstrating solidarity to the peace process and reiterate my indefatigable commitment to all efforts in uniting our Party.”
In a statement that was also endorsed by all Flagbearer Aspirants as part of the Joint Communiqué on the conduct of all supporters of the respected Aspirants on print, electronic and social media, Retired Brigadier Bio calls on all his supporters and SLPP members to support the ongoing peace process.
“I call on all my supporters, supporters of colleague Aspirants and members of the party to desist from all forms of personal attacks and any action that could undermine the fledgling peace we are working on currently in the party. I implore all supporters and members to treat one another with dignity and respect expected of our great Party.
“Let us now focus our conversations on extolling the values of our Party, strengthening our bonds and supporting the National Officers and SLPP Members of Parliament to hold the Government accountable on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone. These are parts of the true foundation on which any Aspirant who emerges as the Party’s Flagbearer will build on to return our Party to governance in 2018. We must all now become Good Ambassadors of our great Party.” (End of statement from Bio’s office).
The people of Sierra Leone are now waiting with baited breath for SLPP to transform words of peace into concerted and sustainable action, that will usher in the much needed political opposition and change in direction and leadership the country so desperately needs, if it is to develop and prosper.