Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 September 2021:
National delegates of Sierra Leone’s embattled main opposition political party – the All Peoples Congress (APC), will meet in the northern city of Makeni tomorrow Friday for a three-day conference to adopt the party’s new constitution, following a marathon of court hearings and a final court order demanding tomorrow’s conference under strict rules.
Today, the party’s National Secretary General, Dr. Osman Foday Yansaneh has invited all delegates qualified to attend tomorrow’s national conference – “to accredit delegates, observers and other invited guests on Thursday 16th September 2021 at the APC Regional Headquarters in Makeni.”
But critics say that this is in violation of the court order which stipulates that the party’s 21-Man Committee known as the ‘Emergency Delegates Conference Technical Committee’ which has been established by a Court Order – “whose sole function shall be to undertake the planning and preparation leading up to the emergency national delegates conference,” should be organizing all activities relating to the conference including accreditation of delegates, without the involvement or interference of the current national executive of the party who are banned from taking part in the conference.
Breach of court order may lead to contempt procedings brought against the party executive.
Two days ago, the 21-Man Committee issued this statement through the party’s secretariat ahead of tomorrow’s delegates conference, reminding the public and its members about how the APC party is where it is today. This is what it says:
“THE STATE OF THE APC EMERGENCY NATIOMAL DELEGATES CONFERENCE, 14TH September 2021
“On behalf of the 21-Man Committee and the All Peoples Congress (APC) Party, let me welcome you to this maiden press briefing of the 21-Man Committee. For the benefit of those who may not know, l will endeavor to inform you that the 21-Man Committee is borne out of the Court Order issued by the Honorable Mr. Justice Adrian Fisher J that states; “There shall be an Emergency Delegates Conference Technical Committee, consisting of 21 members, whose sole function shall be to undertake the planning and preparation leading up to the emergency national delegates conference.”
You will recall that after the Party lost the presidential election in 2018 the call for democratic reforms by the National Reformation Movement (NRM) and other members of the Party ensued over, amongst a host of issues, in retrospect; (1) Elections process of office bearers at constituency, district, regional and the National Delegates Conference (NDC) levels. (2) The Party’s 1995 Constitution was rendered inadequate especially for its selection clause.
A 9-Man Committee was formed, which was mandated to go around the country to investigate the cause of the popular disenchantment amongst a good number of the members of the Party. The 9-Man Committee brought forth three major recommendations; (1) the need to review the 1995 APC Constitution, (2) the need to create a committee that will monitor the process and (3) the need to create a peace and mediation mechanism. As a result of the foregoing recommendations of the 9-Man Committee, the following committees were formed: (1) the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC), (2) the Monitoring Committee and (3) the Peace and Mediation Committee.
Concerns from some members were also raised over the legality of the present National Executive of the Party, whose mandate had expired and duly extended by the National Advisory Committee (NAC). This was because, the constitutional timeline to organize a National Delegates Conference to elect new office bearers in accordance with the provision of the 1995 Constitution of the Party was impeded by a state of emergency and other Executive Orders mainly due to the fight against Covid-19.
Nonetheless, the Party found it difficult in managing the alleged illegality claim and the array of other concerns that emerged within the Party rank and file. Just when the Party organized a National Delegates Conference and assembled in Port Loko for the purpose of adopting the reviewed constitution in January 2020, members of the NRM took the Party to Court and the Court slammed an injunction on the Party restraining it from organizing that National Delegates Conference. Many negotiations between the Party’s leadership and the NRM did take place afterwards mostly led by a peace facilitator and a group of moral guarantors. The negotiations led to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and an out of court settlement.
Mr. Alfred Peter Conteh also took the Chairman, the National Secretary General, the APC Party and the Political Parties Registration Commission to Court.
During the process, the Party asked for a variation of the injunction on 26th February 2021 to allow the Party to conduct a National Delegates Conference. The Party appealed the 26th February variation order because it exempted members of the National Advisory Committee, the National Secretary General and a host of other members of the National Executive from taking part as delegates. On 9th August 2021, the Court over ruled and ordered that “The Party shall hold an Emergency National Delegates Conference for the sole purpose of adopting the amended draft constitution and to deal with any unresolved membership issues.”
The following office holders of the Party are restrained by the Court Order from taking part as delegates in the Court Ordered Emergency National Delegates Conference: (1) All members of the National Advisory Committee; (2) the National Secretary General; (3) the Assistant National Secretary General; (4) the National Organizing Secretary; (5) the Assistant National Organizing Secretary; (6) the National Publicity Secretary; (7) the Assistant National Publicity Secretary; (8) the National Treasurer; (10) the five regional chairmen; (11) the 16 districts chairmen and the 132 constituency chairmen.
The Court ordered that the 21-Man Technical Planning Committee shall be comprised as follows:
(1) that the Party shall nominate nine representatives, plus the Chairman of the 21-Man Committee, who shall not be a member of the current executive; (2) That the plaintiff shall nominate four representatives, one of whom shall be the secretary to the Committee; (3) That the diaspora membership of the Party shall nominate three representatives to the Committee; (4) That the NRM shall nominate two members to the Committee; (5) That the Big Six shall nominate two members to the Committee; (7) That the Secretary General of the Party shall coordinate and implement the decisions of the Emergency Delegates Conference Technical Committee; (8) That the Committee in exercise of its mandate shall consult with the Chairman of the Political Parties Registration Commission.
The first meeting of the parties [representatives of the APC, representatives of Alfred Peter Conteh, representatives of the Diaspora, representatives of the NRM and representatives of the Big Six] on the 21-Man Committee was called on the 13th August 2021 at the PPRC office where a draft matrix of the modus operandi was discussed and agreed upon. A 10-Man Standing Committee was formed and mandated to carry out the day-to-day functions of the 21-Man Committee.
So far, in accordance with the Court Order, I am pleased to inform the Party membership and the general public that the 21-Man Committee has planned and prepared and the Secretariat has coordinated and implemented the conduct of 132 elections 5 delegates in each constituency; 17 National Youth League elections to elect one youth delegate in each district and 17 Women’s Congress elections to elect one woman in each district totaling 166 elections.
Overall, the conduct of the elections was open, free and fair. 159 elections in total were completed and certified in the presence of observers and under the supervision of the PPRC with over 95% success rate. This was not, however, without some challenges the electoral teams faced in 7 constituencies: Constituencies 024, 025, 026 and 027 in Kono district; Constituency 061 in Kambia district and Constituencies 079 and 087 in Bo district.
The electoral teams reported that these elections were impeded by threat of violence, violent demonstration against the electoral teams and disruption of the election process. It was reported by the elections authorities in Kambia district that, at least, one member of the 21-Man Committee was assaulted and spat upon. Five people are standing trial in Kono district for attacking and assaulting elections officers.
The 21-Man Committee met on 14th August 2021 at the PPRC conference hall and resolved after consultation with the Commission that there will be no reruns of elections in these constituencies. The Party secretariat, the 21-Man Committee and the PPRC did not anticipate reruns in their planning and there was no time for reruns. Above all, there was a common consensus amongst the Committee members that the Court Order did not include reruns.
I am pleased to inform the Party membership and the general public that the 21-Man Committee and the APC secretariat under the supervision of the PPRC are in compliance with the Court Order so far:
(1) The 21-Man Committee was formed. (2) The national secretariat is providing unfettered access to the resources of the Party to facilitate the smooth running of the Committee. (3) The National Secretary General has published the original draft constitution in two national newspapers with wide coverage within seven days of the Court Order and served a copy to the Court, the PPRC Chairman, the solicitor of Alfred Peter Conteh within 7 days of the Court Order and made the draft constitution available at the headquarters of the Party in Freetown. (4) The National Secretary General has published a list of registered voters. (5) The Party completed the elections of five delegates in each 125 constituencies, elections of twenty delegates for the National Youth League and election of twenty delegates for the Women’s Congress. (6) The delegates list has been compiled, submitted to the Chairman of the PPRC and published.
In conclusion, it shows that the APC Party is truly a democratic institution and all the factions have demonstrated a spirit of good faith, all geared towards the adoption of a constitution that is consistent with the national Constitution and international democratic standards and best practice going forward.
In essence, the APC Party, the Alfred Peter Conteh faction, the NRM faction, the Diaspora faction and the Big Six faction will now allow the Party to achieve its aims and objectives, the intentions of the good faith reasoning behind the request made by the Party leadership when it requested for the variation of the Court Order. We are confident that this process will also enhance our path to overcome our challenges and build a united force to win the presidential election in 2023.
We also wish to remind all our stakeholders and membership at large that the Court Oder calls for a sole agenda, that there will be no flag bearer and other office bearer banners, paraphernalia and support groups activities at the National Delegates Conference on the 17th, 18th and 19th September 2021 and that any breach of the Court Oder will be tantamount to contempt of Court.
At this juncture, I will entreat you to the words of Edmund Burke that “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” and thus; bad things happen when good people do nothing. Edmund Burke’s 1787 parliamentary debate also taught us that The Fourth Estate may not be political but it is formally recognized as a part of a political system that wields significant social influence.
Therefore, we have called on you here today to serve as the conduit of communication for the benefit of our members and the general public to appraise the work of the 21-Man Committee and the Party Secretariat. The Court, under strict timeline, ordered the 21-Man Committee and the Party under the supervision of the PPRC to undertake the planning and preparation and the coordinating and implementing functions, respectively, of the conduct of the Emergency National Delegates Conference on the 17th, 18th and 19th of September 2021. Once more, I am pleased to inform you that we are in full compliance.
Please do us a favor; we encourage you to bring the content of this press briefing to our membership nationwide and the general public at large.” (END).
What is not clear today is whether the thorny issue of the former vice president Sam Sumana’s membership of the party be resolved at the Delegates’ Conference this weekend, following his expulsion from the party and sacking as vice president in 2015 by former president Ernest Bai Koroma.
CORECTION: We incorrectly stated yesterday that the letter below was sent to Sam Sumana two days ago by the party executive to inform him that his membership issue has been resolved subject to endorsement by the national delegates. Please note that the letter was sent to Sam Sumana last year – 2020.
But the question still stands as to whether his membership will be on the APC party’s agenda in Makeni today?