Can a new third force succeed in breaking the two-party dominance of Sierra Leone’s political landscape?

Alpha Amadu Jalloh (The FOX): Sierra Leone Telegraph: 15 March 2024:

In the complex landscape of Sierra Leonean politics, the concept of a third force has often been met with scepticism, if not outright disdain. As the country has navigated its post-independence journey, two political behemoths, the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and the All People’s Congress (APC), have dominated the scene, casting a shadow over any attempts by smaller parties to carve out a meaningful space.

These so-called third forces, characterized by their transient nature and often built around charismatic individuals, have historically struggled to gain traction beyond serving as temporary shelters for disenchanted politicians seeking refuge from established parties. Invariably, they have faltered under the weight of internal discord, personal ambition, and manipulation by the powers that be.

Consider, for instance, the National Unity Movement (NUM), led by the late lawyer Desmond Luke. Despite initial promise, the party dissolved after Luke’s appointment by President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, underscoring its fragile foundation built upon individual allegiance rather than enduring principles.

Similarly, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Sobeh and the party of the late Dr. Karefa Smart (UNPP) Charles Margai (PMDC) Mohamed Bangura (UDM) met their demise with the leaders jumping ship or the passing of their figureheads, highlighting the inherent weakness of movements centred solely around singular personalities.

Even the much-touted National Grand Coalition (NGC), heralded as a potential third force with the charismatic leadership of Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella, ultimately succumbed to the allure of established power. Yumkella’s entanglement with President Julius Maada Bio’s administration left the NGC marginalized and its aspirations for a genuine alternative tarnished.

The fate of these parties raises pertinent questions about the viability and integrity of third forces within Sierra Leonean politics. Are they destined to be mere footnotes in history, exploited and discarded at the whims of larger political entities? Or can they evolve into genuine contenders capable of challenging the entrenched duopoly of the SLPP and the APC?

The emergence of the NGC initially sparked hope for a new political narrative, one that transcended the traditional divides and offered a platform for genuine reform. However, its subsequent co-option into the existing power structures serves as a cautionary tale, reminding us of the pitfalls inherent in the pursuit of political relevance.

As Hillary Clinton once remarked, “It takes a village to bring up a child.” Similarly, the sustainability of any political movement relies on collective stewardship rather than individual ambitions. For the NGC to realize its potential as a viable alternative, its members must exercise discernment and vigilance, guarding against external manipulation and internal discord.

In the current political climate, where opportunism and expedience often overshadow principles, the NGC represents a beacon of hope for those disillusioned with the status quo. However, its survival depends not only on the charisma of its leadership but also on the resilience and integrity of its membership.

The idea of a third force may no longer be taboo in Sierra Leonean politics, but its realization remains elusive. As the NGC navigates the treacherous waters of political manoeuvring, its members must remain steadfast in their commitment to a vision that transcends individual interests, a vision of a truly inclusive and accountable democracy for the people of Sierra Leone.

Can a new third force succeed where others have failed woefully, in dislodging the two traditional rivals that have dominated the country’s political landscape since independence, as the country yearns for change?  


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