Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 February 2016
In the past eight months, I have carefully watched how the important process of uniting Sierra Leone’s main opposition SLPP Party is playing out.
Peace and Unity have become the political catchphrase of the party.
And it seems almost every presidential aspirant of the party, is quickly associating their campaign with this topical and resonating theme.
Not wanting to be outperformed, every aspirant is now on the unity bandwagon; such that, having words like ‘SLPP peacemaker’, ‘ambassador for peace’ or ‘unifier’ imprinted on baseball caps and several other souvenir items, is commonplace.
But who started the peace process en masse, and in earnest? (Photo: Jonathan Tengbe).
Many would argue that sometime around August 2015, it became crystal clear that the general membership of the SLPP was yearning for peace, amidst a lot of mudslinging and premature calls for coalition among aspirants who were seemingly oblivious of what the Party needed to be done at that time.
Concerns about this ‘boiled frog’ attitude of the aspirants and stakeholders alike, were expressed everywhere, and at every opportunity among members of the party.
This is not to suggest that Dr Tengbe is the only flag bearer aspirant who wants peace and unity within the SLPP, nor will it insinuate that he is the only aspirant who has brought about the process to fruition.
But by making that initial call globally, his action does however put him in the meritorious category of ‘pioneer’ of a process which is now variously claimed as an achievement by many aspirants.
It pays to be reminded of the quietude and anticipation in all regions of the SLPP, on that August 11th day, when Dr Tengbe made the global call to action, as he wrote to his colleagues via social media.
“I am addressing you on an issue that is very close to my heart in this campaign”, he wrote. “It concerns the need for all of us to unite as a Party and set the pace for all our supporters to do the same.”
Thus started a process that is now rightfully in its concluding moments, set to usher in an era of peace and unity in a party to which, few ever thought peace would return.
This peace process seems to have also set the necessary ripple effects in the spine of the incumbent APC, which may have been secretly hoping for a perpetuation of disunity within the SLPP.
But don’t get me wrong, the final nail for unity has not been struck. Yet, the successes gained from two hierarchical meetings, the latest involving eleven flag bearer aspirants, are enough to urge the National Executive Council (NEC) of the SLPP to commit to the conference resolutions and wrap up the process of unifying the Party, whilst simultaneously avoiding the usual procrastination that ‘more meetings’ will cause, at a time when ‘more actions’ are precisely what SLPP needs.
It is not just the pioneering nature of Dr Tengbe’s peace and unity process that distinguishes him. Rather, it is the solution-focussed approach that he stubbornly proposed.
Since much of the Party’s problems were flag bearer related, it was his view that the most reflective and sustainable solutions could be obtained from deliberations by all flag bearer aspirants.
Hence, the September call for a conference involving all aspirants. Not rocket science – one would say.
Yet to date, one aspirant is seemingly not fully on board the protocols of the Pemagbi communiqué for peace, which may well have been tabled to the NEC for approval.
Before he made that clarion call, Dr Tengbe has been the de-facto ambassador of peace; so echoed by the then Chairman of SLPP UK&I – Jimmy B Songa, at a prestigious dinner and dance ceremony held in honor of the erudite Engineer and Politician.
Evidently, Mr. Songa made this conclusion based on Dr Tengbe’s efforts in building unity as leader of the Movement for Transformation of the SLPP (MTS).
At that time, Tengbe was preparing to undertake a national exploratory tour that would enable the aspirant to understand the root cause of the Party’s problems, which was insightful.
This motivated Tengbe to articulate solutions beyond the supreme court cases and other internal problems, which ultimately paved the way for the much acclaimed ‘Flag bearer aspirants’ approach to seeking peace and unity within the SLPP.
After the tour, the man now known as ‘the tireless Party stalwart’, called for and organized the first peace conference at the Bank of Sierra Leone Complex on 26th September, 2015, which was attended by aspirants or their representatives, key stakeholders from the Party Executive, the Minority leader of Parliament and the general SLPP membership.
The committee formed after the deliberations was mandated to escalate the resolutions to a next level conference, which took place on 7th November, 2015, chaired by Professor Pemagbi and attended by all, but one flag bearer aspirant.
The resolutions of this second meeting, designed to collate all the initiatives into a single communiqué, is due to be tabled for ratification by the NEC.
The most appropriate way of patronizing the efforts of all peace agents, including peace pioneer Dr Tengbe, is to collectively consolidate the hard won peace, not necessarily by public celebration, but by following the roadmap set out by the communiqué that will be released by the Pemagbi team.
Talking to Mr. Abdul Rashid Thomas – the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph, Dr Tengbe intimated that there are some important peace action points, such as the moderation or cessation of cross aspirants attacks, which would resonate with the Party membership.
“As peace is a process, it gives a breath of fresh air that the aspect of this process dealing with meetings and conferences is now over, as the curtain rises on the action implementation phase,” says Dr. Tengbe.
“The hope for us – the members, is that all aspirants are on board the peace ship, with guaranteed success if all of them subdue their personal ambitions to the objectives of the Party,” a veteran of the party, speaking from Freetown, explained.
On the implementation front, Dr. Tengbe said that he is working ceaselessly to ensure that the ‘All Aspirants Alliance (AAA)’, which is an essential product of the peace efforts, is fully functional and all-inclusive.
For this purpose, he was in Freetown during the early part of January, 2016, to steer the Alliance in the direction of structured leadership, with a view to working together towards a common goal.
Many other aspirants have been active in the country in the last two months, and some have concluded their national tours with no reported incidents, indicative of a clean break from the past.
This is significant, because it does send the signal to the general membership of the SLPP that, peace is finally here and that the party can continue the serious business of campaigning, instead of castigating, and of consolidating the hard earned peace, instead of procrastinating. This must be healthy for democracy in Sierra Leone.
“Well done Dr Tengbe for this brilliant initiative, and well done to all the aspirants who are supporting his efforts to a successful conclusion,” a member of the party enthused.
According to Dr Tengbe, the general membership is anxious to start rebuilding the SLPP in readiness for the important work of regaining governance and nation building.
Will all the aspirants follow Dr. Tengbe’s lead, and give peace a chance for the sake of unity and for the benefit of building on the democratic credentials of the founders of the party?