Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 May 2019:
All roads in Freetown lead to the Bintumani peace conference today, Thursday 23rd May, 2019, where politicians, religious leaders, civil society groups, representatives of the international community, and other stakeholders will take part in discussions about Sierra Leone’s chequered peace building efforts that many including president Bio, now describe as ‘broken’.
In the next two days, delegates attending the conference will hope to find solutions that will stitch back together – the diverse strands that make up Sierra Leone’s political and social fabric, into a cohesive and peaceful nation.
But is this possible, without the participation of several opposition political parties, that are themselves parties to Sierra Leone’s age-old political conflict?
Since gaining independence in 1961, Sierra Leone’s main opposition APC party has been the SLPP’s main antagonist. And, after the March 2018 presidential and general elections which saw the removal of the APC party from office, there have been concerted and coordinated attempts by the APC to disrupt and destabilise the smooth running of the SLPP government.
The SLPP is accusing APC of making good on its electoral promise of making Sierra Leone ungovernable if they lose the March 2018 elections.
Executives of the APC say that members of their party are deeply aggrieved and unhappy about the SLPP government’s use of its powers in marginalising and criminalising the APC party.
APC says it will not be at the Bintumani 3 table today to participate in the conference. But this morning one of the key players in the APC party executive committee – Alhaji Alpha Kanu, arrived at the Bintumani Conference to participate (Photo above), breaking rank with his party executives. Alpha Kanu is one of the leading contenders for the APC party leadership.
There are deep divisions within the APC , as power struggle for the leadership of the party gains momentum. Many in the party believe that this could lead to the disintegration of the APC.
But yesterday, the APC party published a detailed explanation as to why it will not attend Bintumani 3. (Photo above: APC National Secretary General – Dr. Alhaji Yansaneh reading the Riot Act to his APC party members not to attend).
Will Alhaji Alpha Kanu be suspended from the APC party for breaking party resolution?
This is what the statement says about Bintumani 3:
PRESS STATEMENT ON THE BINTUMANI Ill ‘NATIONAL PEACE AND COHESION’ CONFERENCE TO BE HELD FROM 23RD TO 25TH MAY 2019
Background to the Bintumanis
The APC would like to bring its position relating to the proposed Bintumani Ill to the people of Sierra Leone and the International Community. According to the SLPP, the Bintumani Ill is intended to serve as a forum for the establishment of a “National Commission for Peace and Cohesion” in Sierra Leone.
Bintumani I & II were convened at a time when Sierra Leone was in a state of war and anarchy. Bintumani I was a meeting between two rebel forces – the Revolutionary United Front and the NPRC. Bintumani II was the initiative of the people of Sierra Leone to determine whether Elections would be held before Peace.
The NPRC Military junta then wanted Peace before Elections. The people of Sierra Leone who were in the majority chose Elections before peace and indeed the elections were held in 1996.
When President Kabbah declared the end of the war in January 2002, the responsibility for the maintenance of law and order and the building of peace and national reconciliation rested squarely with the government after Bintumani II.
To call for a Bintumani Ill is to go back to those years when we had no legitimate Parliament or Pre ident and the country was in war.
The people of Sierra Leone with the help of the International Community won the war against the RUF and the NPRC. The war was not won by anyone one man or woman or by any one party or by one tribe or by any particular group of persons. The People of Sierra Leone won the war.
So the government that succeeded the military under Kabbah created peace and reconciliation. President Koroma continued the reconciliation process leading to 20 years of peace and harmony between the Presidents.
The Kabbah and Koroma endeavours for peace epitomise the victory of reconciliation and atonement over vindictiveness, selfishness, and intransigence which this government is exhibiting in the height of SLPP intimidation and brutal behavior.
The Bio Regime
President Julius Maada Bio inherited from the APC in 2018 a country that is rated the most peaceful in our region and one reckoned to be a nation in Africa where democracy has taken root. This is in addition to our notable progress in ‘Safety & Rule of Law, Participation and Human Rights’. Our army and police officers, who are widely acclaimed for their professionalism, now participate in international peace keeping.
Civil liberties and democratic freedoms enjoyed by Sierra Leoneans under President Koroma’s leadership are unprecedented. Though constitutionally guaranteed, it is a fact that so far, it is only under the APC leadership that Sierra Leoneans of all categories enjoyed the highest levels of freedoms and human rights ever.
Now under President Bio the people produced a Parliament in which the APC had a majority and the SLPP had the Executive (Presidency). President Bio should not hide behind his inability to govern the country by asking a select few to proffer solutions in a Bintumani Ill.
Such a move could easily be interpreted as ceding his responsibility to govern this country to a conference that has no legitimate power or authority. We have a Parliament which represents the people as a result of an election which was given a clean bill of health by both internal and external elections observers.
Since assuming power in 2018, the Bio government has embarked on a systematic abrogation of the Constitution and the harassment and intimidation of APC members and supporters as follows:
- Attempt to use the Judiciary to reduce the APC majority in Parliament first by injuncting 16 APC Members of Parliament and then using brute force to remove the entire 68 duly elected APC MPs and enthrone an SLPP Speaker and Deputy Speaker on the same day amounts to a treasonable act which the President as fountain of Honour and Justice must distance himself from. (Ref. To Section 79 of the Sierra Leone Constitution (Act No. 6 of 1991) and the Standing Orders of Parliament.
- On the Issue of Petitions against APC MPs; Section 78 (1) & (2) of the Constitution, Act No. 6 of 1991provides that the High Court shall determine petition cases within 4 Months after the commencement of proceedings. In the case of our petitioned MPs the proceedings started on 19th April 2018. Up to this day 13 months after the start of proceedings the matters before the High Court have not been determined.
- A petition against the election of President Bio which was filed as far back as April 2018, has not been listed or assigned. We in the APC believe in the Rule of Law and not the Rule of Man. Consequently we believe the Judiciary which has also refused to list and bring 32 petition cases brought against the SLPP by the APC must take this opportunity and re-establish its independence by throwing out of court the politically motivated petition cases against the APC which according to law should have been determined in August 2018.
- The Commissions of Inquiry were set up in clear violation of Section 150 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone. We deplore the behavior of both the Chief Justice and the Attorney General demonstrating blind partisan loyalty to the SLPP led government.
The Chief Justice also failed to appropriately respond to the filing by the APC Party on behalf of the Persons of Interest as represented by Dr. Samura Kamara and Mr. Paolo Conteh and even the Bar Association requesting the Supreme Court to interpret relevant provisions of the constitution and to determine whether due process has been followed in the ongoing Commissions of Inquiry; and did not heed to the advice from his Law Officers Department who admonished him to recuse himself from the matter because he cannot be a Judge in his own cause.
- We share our objections to the International Community, Civil Society Organisations, the Media and to all men and women of goodwill President Julius Maada Bio’s quest to fight against sexual offences but we do not share his declaration of a State of Emergency and we frown at the heavy-handedness of the Speaker in carrying the motion to approve the State of Emergency by a (mere collection of voices) contrary to the standard two-third majority vote and the Standing Order of Parliament 44 (4) and Section 29 of the Constitution.
The Chief Justice had intact ordered the judges to act on the President’s proclamation before even the issue was brought before Parliament .
- The APC Party and its members having been brutalized, raped and even killed on various occasions all over the country; the killings in Mile 91,Lumley and Wilberforce in Freetown and more recently in Pujehun and Tonka Limba; the massive sackings of Sierra Leoneans across the board and their replacement by SLPP Party loyalists without recourse to due process including the over 57 Regent Chiefs (Traditional Rulers) in the North of the country cannot constitute a basis for peace talks by the oppressor.
The undue harassment and intimidation meted out to members of the security forces (Police and military) that served under the previous constitutionally elected former President Koroma; the changing of the guards without consent by the former President; and the undue travel ban and non-payments of benefit s to former ministers of the APC Government.
The Green Paper
The Oxford English Dictionary definition of a Green Paper is ” (in the UK) a preliminary report of government proposals published to stimulate discussion.
“A Green Paper is a Government publication that details specific issues, and then points out possible courses of action in terms of policy and legislation. Experts on Green Paper state that “It is commissioned from the relevant department if the Government feels that there is an area where new legislation is required, or existing legislation needs to be re-vamped. Crucially, a Green Paper contains no commitment to action, it is more a tool of stimulating discussion, but it is often the first step towards changing the law.”
After publication, the suggestions contained in the paper will be up for public consultation and debate. The Government will talk to citizens, stakeholder s and people with care needs to find out what they think. These discussions will then feed into the next stage of the process -the production of a White Paper.
Instead of proposing ideas for public discussion, the so-called Green Paper issues indictments against the APC and expects the party to join Government in discussing the particulars of the public indictment.
An argument for a national conference cannot be persuasive when it maligns the APC in villainous terms by a false re-writing of the history of the Republic of Sierra Leone.
It is regrettable after one year of pretending good governance practices, the SLPP administration has betrayed the good causes of democracy & pluralism, the rule of law,human rights and all it takes to optimize peace building in our nation.
It is a fact that the Minister of Political and Public Affairs, Mr. Foday Yumkella visited the former President in the company of one Madam Hawa Samai, a Consultant for the proposed Bintumani Conference and a representative from the UN Resident Coordinator.
When they brought up the issue of a Bintumani 111, the Chairman and Leader told them that it was untimely and he cannot promise attendance as he would have to discuss it with the Part y.
Furthermore, no commitment was made by the former President for the said conference to go ahead since he was not a party to the organization of the said conference.
So the Party wishes to repudiate the assertions made on Radio democracy 98.1 that the chairman and Leader had accepted an invitation and given the green light for the conference to go ahead.
Besides, the APC Party wishes it to be known that the Secretariat has not in any way received any formal invitation on behalf of the Chairman/Leader or the APC Party Secretariat to attend the Conference.
Among its feeble arguments for a national conference, its Green Paper makes a case not for national cohesion but ironically for SLPP reform. An administration which is on an awkward path against national cohesion and ethnic brotherhood cannot be relied upon to preside over a genuine national reconciliation.
The fallacious arguments interposed by its Green Paper with jaundiced justifications are a catalogue of feeble rendition of the peace process in Sierra Leone. The allegations against the APC in this frail justification for a national conference are reasons why the APC will not attend the conference the Green Paper labors so much to state a case fo r.
Genuine steps for national cohesion cannot be reached by the SLPP administration when it violates the principles of the rule of law, democracy and pluralism and ethnic solidarity.
A national conference called by a ruling political party in the midst of attacks and oppression of the Opposition will unlikely yield any peace dividends when undertaken by the oppressor who bad-mouths those he intends to summon to the conference.
The SLPP administration’s call for a conference for national cohesion is thus a fig leaf to cover its misrule of our Republic. This rationale for a national conference smirks of hypocrisy by an administration whose cornerstone is divide-and-rule in the midst of the ‘winner takes all’ SLPP administration.
Signed: Dr Alhaji Osman Foday Yansaneh – APC National Secretary General