Sierra Leone Telegraph: 4 June 2017
The highest decision-making organ of the ruling APC party of Sierra Leone – the National Advisory Council (NAC), met on Thursday, 1st June, to discuss and agree the rules and guidelines for the election of the party’s senior executive officers, including the Chairman and leader of the party, and the presidential candidate.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the following resolutions were agreed: ‘The endorsement of president Koroma to continue as Chairman and Leader of the party, with the aim of continuing to unite and transition the party; the presidential running mate appointed by the presidential aspirant must be subsequently endorsed by the NAC (chaired by president Koroma).’
‘Those nominated for National Executive Officer role must have served at regional, district or constituency level to be qualified for election at the national convention, and must be paid up and active members of the party in the last seven years.’
‘Those nominated for National Executive Officer role will sign an agreement to support whoever is elected as presidential candidate; they must have institutional knowledge of the party, and must satisfy the relevant sections of the 1991 National Constitution, Electoral and PPRC Legislations.’
‘Those nominated and elected for the presidential candidacy and running mate, must fulfil the requirements of the 1991 National Constitution, the electoral and PPRC Legislations, and must believe in and endorse the legacy of president Koroma, as well as commit to its continuation.’
‘Those nominated and elected for the presidential candidacy and running mate must possess party and national appeal, and institutional knowledge of the party; they must have invested financially and must be paid up and active members of the party; they must be prepared and willing to accept the decision of the NAC (chaired by president Koroma) and support their choice of candidate.’
As the APC party prepares to hold its national convention in September, where it will elect its presidential candidate and national executive officers, a timetable was also agreed at the June 1st NAC meeting:
‘A pre-convention national sensitization campaign will take place in early July, followed by Constituency convention on the 10th to 16th of July; District Convention on the 19th to 21st July; Regional Convention on 24th to 25th of July; Youth League, Women’s Wing and Veterans Convention on the 26th to 27th July; followed by the party’s National Delegates Convention in Makeni on 5th to 6th of September.’
But questions are being raised about the constitutionality of some of the NAC resolutions, which many observers say will be illegal, should the party decides to proceed with them. For example, will the party Constitution be amended before president Koroma is nominated and elected to carry on as the chairman and leader of the party?
Responding to some of these concerns, the Acting National Publicity Secretary of the country’s main opposition – the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) – Lahai Lawrence Leema, says that the ruling APC “might be disqualified from taking part in the 2018 presidential and parliamentary elections, if president Ernest Bai Koroma is elected to continue as chairman and leader of the party at the forthcoming delegates conference. Except the party amends its Constitution where the flag bearer position is separated from that of the chairman and leader.”
This is Lahai Lawrence Leema’s argument:
“Section 35 (2) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No. 6 of 1991 provides that the “internal organization of a political party shall conform to democratic principles, and it’s aims objectives, purposes and programmes shall not contravene, or be inconsistent with, any provisions of this Constitution”.
“While section 46 (1) of the aforesaid Constitution stipulates that no person shall hold office as president for more than two terms of five years each whether the terms are consecutive”. By December 2017, president Koroma would have completed his two terms of five years.
“In effect, section 35 (2) and 46 (1) of the aforesaid Constitution, president Ernest Bai Koroma will no longer be qualified to be elected as president of this country. By implication, president Koroma should not continue as chairman and leader of the APC unless the APC constitution is amended.
“So if the APC resolved to select/elect president Koroma chairman and leader with the view of him continuing to provide political leadership for the party, then the APC shall be disqualified from taking part in the next elections in 2018.
“The APC can only qualify to take part in the next elections with president Koroma as chairman and leader, if the party amends its Constitution to have its flag bearer different from the chairman and leader.
“Important to note here is that, the majority of Sierra Leoneans have spoken clearly during the country’s Constitutional review process, that they don’t want any change to section 35 (2). President Koroma and the APC must ensure a peaceful and a cohesive Sierra Leone at least as the only legacy to his credit.
“Any attempt to circumvent the work of the country’s Constitutional review process thereby undermining the country’s fragile democracy will meet stiff resistance. I hope the APC government and party will take heed to holding this country together and not venture towards any path so as to arrogate to itself undue advantage.”