Benjamin Eya Kaingbanja
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 4 December 2016
History has been made in the Gambia as the opposition leader – Adama Barrow received a phone call from the incumbent President Yayah Jammeh (Photo), accepting defeat. Barrow’s electoral victory has brought an end to Jammeh’s 22-year old dictatorship.
Many did not see this coming, hence the conclusion that the whole election was stage managed to make way for Jammeh’s handpicked successor.
But like him or not, the video transcript of Jammeh’s concession phone call will leave any reasonable person in not only awe, but with a great deal of admiration for such a display of peaceful transfer of power.
The moment is not one that is reminiscent of African dictators in recent times. There is hope for the people of Gambia.
In Sierra Leone last week, while many were not paying attention amid unending chaos, largely self-inflicted by the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) infighting over the outcomes of internal lower level elections, four events of national constitutional significance, took place.
These events are not unconnected with Ernest Koroma’s grand plan to keep his grip on power and create what in theory looks like a family dynasty.
After an unwavering popular opposition to attempts at postponing the elections slated for February, 2018, branded as “More Time”, as well as an outright rejection of a term-limit extension by way of a third-term, Koroma has settled for Plan B.
What is interesting about Plan B is that Koroma does not seem to really care about the likelihood of making his party unpopular and politically weak, if he follows through with his plan.
So what are these events that took place last week?
The first took place at a meeting of the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC). The Chairman, Justice Edmond Cowan (Photo: Left) had refused to chair the meeting in protest against attempts by Koroma’s agents to hold him hostage and force him to include in the CRC constitutional change proposal, unpopular clauses – including the infamous “revolving door” clause.
Branded as an “intervening period”, Koroma wants to insert a clause in the revised Constitution that will allow him to contest for the presidency after a 5-year or one-term intervening period. How the CRC meeting ended is anyone’s guess.
However, it was later widely rumoured that Koroma’s agents may have got away with their plan by finally pressuring Justice Cowan into caving in.
If the clause in question is inserted into the CRC proposal and approved as part of the revised Constitution, Koroma intends to run for president again, five years after the end of his current term.
To ensure he enjoys a smooth ride to the top of the ticket of his party five years later, plans are now underway that will allow Koroma to impose himself to continue as chairman and leader of his party, even after he steps down as president in 2018.
Just watch what is going to happen at the All People’s Congress convention slated for early next year.
To have total control over the intervening period, Koroma plans to keep the presidency in his family by a way of a lame duck president. While this attempt will most likely not go down well with longstanding party stakeholders, plans appear to be in advanced stage.
Also, last week, Koroma reportedly had a meeting with two of his nephews—the former ‘toothless’ Anti-Corruption Commissioner and current attorney general and minister of justice – Joseph Kamara, and one of Sierra Leone’s most notorious corporate gangsters and former chief executive officer of Sierra Rutile Limited – John Sisay.
At the meeting, Koroma had asked the two to hang heads and agree on which of them to succeed him. (Photo: John Sisay handing over a $25 million cheque to president Koroma last week).
The third event that took place is the resignation of John Sisay as chief executive officer of Sierra Rutile. It remains unclear as to whether the two nephews have settled on Sisay. However, the resignation cannot be unconnected with the bigger pan to crown one of the nephews as Koroma’s successor.
After all, there may be a conflict of interest for Sisay to continue in his current role, while pursuing active politics. Another indicator we should be looking out for is the resignation of Joseph Kamara which has already been rumoured.
Kamara on the other hand must, by law resign his post a year in advance of the elections if he should become a candidate for the 2018 elections.
The fourth event is the announcement of the timeline for the conduct of voter registration.
After such a long delay, there can never be a good time to announce the timeline for voter registration other than a week when the opposition appears to be the most distracted and engulfed in chaos.
One does not have to be a rocket scientist to conclude that such timing cannot be a coincidence.
By the time the opposition SLPP is done with their infighting, there will be little time left to organize and monitor voter registration.
And just like the census, they will cry foul when the final voter registration numbers are published.
So, as we marvel the peaceful transfer of power in Gambia today, we must, as Sierra Leoneans demand the same for our country. Like it or not, there are trying times ahead for our country as Koroma grapples to keep grip on power one way or the other.