Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 April 2014
After months of infighting and much acrimony, the UK and Ireland branch of Sierra Leone’s main opposition political party – the SLPP, yesterday elected the executives that will help the national party in Freetown, win the 2018 general elections.
But there were two ‘SLPP UK branch’ elections held in London yesterday, by two separate groups, each claiming legitimacy.
On the one hand are the Maada Bio breakaway members of the SLPP UK&I branch, who met yesterday and elected fifteen executives. But this group is not recognised by the national executives in Freetown; hence their legitimacy has been questioned.
The group most members of the SLPP UK & I believe to be the official and legitimate branch, representing the party and recognised by the national executives in Sierra Leone, also held its election yesterday.
Confused? Well, you are not alone. Supporters and well wishers of the opposition SLPP both at home and in the diaspora are frustrated over the party’s continuing path to self annihilation.
Almost exactly three months ago – on the 23rd January, 2016, a meeting of the members of the SLPP UK branch descended into chaos, when it was sabotaged by a small faction of people who were refusing to hand over power and responsibility to an interim committee – a council of elders, after their term of office had long expired.
Members of the rebellious group, believed to be supporters of Julius Maada Bio (Photo) – the retired brigadier and SLPP presidential candidate for the 2012 presidential election in Sierra Leone, brought that meeting to a standstill on 23rd January 2016.
Their argument was that, as executive officers of the SLPP UK branch elected in 2013, but whose term of office had expired in 2015, they were entitled to stay in power until such time that the national party in Sierra Leone hold its executive and regional elections sometime this year.
And the outgoing Chairman – Jimmy Batilo Songa – a strong supporter of Julius Maada Bio, was insisting on being a member of the electoral committee contrary to the constitution. This did not go down well with most members attending the meeting last January.
According to eyewitness report, the argument that ensued over what was seen by many as the outgoing chairman wanting to maintain control of the affairs of the party, and in particular the conduct of the executive officers election, which took place yesterday, Saturday, 23 April 2016.
But the decision of the outgoing chair – Jimmy Batilo Songa (Photo) to walk out of the meeting in anger last January, did not prevent the handover meeting from continuing. The meeting went ahead and members of the outgoing executives handed over to the Council of Elders in accordance with the constitution.
A statement released by members of the Kandeh Yumkella Movement in London, who are also members of the SLPP UK branch, said this on the 24 January 2016, in response to the chaos that took place last January: “There is the strong feeling that the outgoing Chairman wants to use the opportunity also to delay his illegal stay in power to give him the opportunity to attend the forthcoming SLPP convention in Sierra Leone.
“His walking out of the meeting was deliberate to achieve his hidden objectives. He did not have the support of the Secretary General and some other executive members on this. Already, the Vice Chairman had resigned on the grounds that their executive term has come to an end. The intransigent chairman thought he could manipulate his ways. He was robustly resisted by the general membership.”
Fast forward to yesterday, 23rd April 2016, there was confusion, with two parallel SLPP elections taking place in London – one at Old Kent Road, believed to be the Maada Bio camp led by the former chairman – Jimmy Batilo; and another in Camberwell – the officially recognised members of the SLPP UK branch, with the support and endorsement of the SLPP national chairman in Freetown – Chief Kapen (Photo).
The officially recognised SLPP UK branch is a broad church of political opinions and tribes, which brings together people from across all four regions of Sierra Leone.
And recently, the membership of the officially recognised UK branch has grown quite significantly, with supporters of presidential aspirants of the SLPP that are of northern origin – such as Alpha Timbo, Kandeh Yumkella, and Alpha Wurie, joining the SLPP UK branch in large numbers.
Whilst a court hearing is expected next month to decide which of the two factions is the constitutional, bona fide UK and Ireland branch of the SLPP, the officially recognised group yesterday elected its new executive committee.
This is the full list of those elected:
CHAIRMAN – Ansu Sillah; DEPUTY CHAIRMAN – Hassan Koroma; SECRETARY-GENERAL – Ansu Momoh; ASSISTANT SECRETARY-GENERAL – Valma Penn-Timity; FINANCIAL SECRETARY / TREASURER – Mohamed Baimba Koroma; ASSISTANT FINANCIAL / TREASURER – Frank Johnny; ORGANISING SECRETARY – Mariama Gbao; ASSISTANT ORGANISING SECRETARY – Kate Sillah; INTERNAL AUDITOR 1 – Ansu V. Sonnah; INTERNAL AUDITOR 2 – Mohamed Komba Dauda; PUBLICITY & PROPAGANDA SECRETARY – Stephen Momoh-Gaya; ASSISTANT PUBLICITY & PROPAGANDA SECRETARY – Mohamed Sillah; WOMEN’S LEADER -Cecilia Kefue Banya; DEPUTY WOMEN’S LEADER – Mrs Elizabeth Hawah Mahdi; YOUNG GENERATION LEADER – Ishmael Bash Kamara; and SECRETARY GENERAL YOUNG GENERATION – Bangalie Kargbo.
Delivering his acceptance speech, the newly elected SLPP UK&I chairman – Mr. Ansu Sillah, thank members of the party for placing their confidence in him, saying that a win for the SLPP in Sierra Leone in 2018 is certain, once “we stand together, and hold our hands together.”
Mr. Sillah, speaking in a Camberwell community hall immediately after his landslide win yesterday, assured the cheering crowd that he was going to do what it takes to help bridge the gap that divides the SLPP UK&I branch.
According to eye witness report, last night’s election meeting was very exciting, with inspiring speeches by many members, including Mr Abu Sheriff – the Chairman of the SLPP Bristol chapter, and Vice Chair Council of Elders, SLPP UK&I.
The vote of thanks was given by Mr. Ansu Bakpoto Momoh, the newly elected Secretary General, SLPP UK&I, who expressed great optimism for the future of the SLPP party.