Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 January 2020:
Former president Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, who is also the leader and chairman of the opposition All People’s Congress party (APC), today delivered one of the best speeches one has perhaps heard him delivered by any standards, as he tried to rally his party faithful, after a High Court injunction won by several of the party membership, prevented the party from holding its three-day convention this weekend.
The purpose of the convention was to discuss and approve a new constitution for the party. But members of a pressure group within the party, known as the National Reformation Movement (NRM), said they are protesting against the leadership’s failure to ensure that delegates attending the convention had been duly elected by their regional, district and local constituencies; and the party’s failure in making sure that every member of the party had seen the draft constitution before the convention.
But this afternoon, after hours of delay, delegates gathered at the Bai Bureh Hall in Port Loko to hear a speech by their chairman and leader – former president Koroma at a press conference. Today’s speech could go down as the deciding factor in keeping the APC party together.
Listening to the speech, one could almost sense his desperate need to galvanise and inspire delegates to stay united as a party, which many believe is at serious risk of disintegrating.
And, from the deafening applause, cheers and chanting of the party’s anthem at various stages – drowning his speech, one can conclude that the former president continues to enjoy the support and confidence of the majority of his party. And it is almost certain he has managed to keep his party together.
This is what he said:
“I want to thank God for this very moment, and for what has happened to the APC. I thank you all – those comrades who are here today, and those not present. I thank you all very much for the commitment and resilience you have all shown to this APC party after the 2018 elections.
“We have shown the whole world that we are a party of peace; we have shown the whole world that we are a democratic party, and one that respects the rule of law. So, I want to tell you all plenty of thanks.
“I always tell my team that as former president, there are certain things I must do, and certain things I cannot do. As former president, it is peace that I want for this country. I know that the only way development can come to this country is when there is peace.
“So as former president, I know that we must all work together as Sierra Leoneans to develop this country. The party and I believe in this, and this is what we have been working towards.
“And the fact that we are here today, is because we believe in peace and development; and may God continue to strengthen our beliefs.
“I am not here to make a long speech because we are all aware of the circumstances that brought us here today. But I cannot come here today, without telling you all thanks and wish you all goodbye (….to which the delegates shouted continuously: “We will endorse you back; we will endorse you back”).
“I thank you all for the efforts you all made in coming here to this conference. I want to tell the constituency chairmen, district chairmen, regional chairmen and the national executives plenty of thanks for their great effort in getting the Party to where it is today.
“We have all worked hard in sustaining the party. We have all gone through difficult moments, challenging moments which had it been other political parties, it would have meant the end of the party.
“So I thank you all for your resilience. This has sent a powerful message, that, no one can destroy this APC party.
“I cannot limit my thank you solely to our national executive and all of us here today, but also to our Diasporans. I thank you our Diasporans. We thank them for taking the time off work to be here. And today they have told us that, should the party hold its convention twenty times, they will be here twenty times in Sierra Leone to attend. So I want to thank our Diasporans.
“We must also thank our legal team. Since the 2018 elections, they have worked very hard. Many have stopped working in their chambers just to focus on working for the party. They have worked on party matters relating to the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Criminal Investigations Department, and the Commission of Inquiry. So we must thank them very much for their commitment to the party.
“We must also thank the party’s national executives very much. It is not easy to be at the helm of affairs at this time.
“Many members of the party have come together – young and old, to show commitment to the party, and for which I want to say thank you. This has given me a lot of joy, hope and assurance that even as I leave the party…..(…To which the delegates continuously chanted in reply: “You must stay; You must stay”.)
“As an opposition party, we have two sets of people that are fighting for the party. The first is our members of parliament. There are many things we have seen and experienced as a party that have never happened to other members of parliament. But we thank God that our parliamentarians are peaceful and showing resilience. We thank them very much.
“We also thank our media groups. We have so many of them, in and out of the country. We thank you all for continuously advocating for the party.
“Moving forward, we are a law abiding party. Regarding the legal injunction, we have asked our legal team to work on the next steps and what to do about this injunction. But I want to implore all of us not to lose hope. No one can destroy this party. And this party can never be destroyed. This party will continue to function as a political party.
“We came here to introduce a new constitution because members want change – to which we agreed. Because as a party we want to ensure that every member can participate; and also to give the common man a say in the party.
“But if we are now having barriers, we still have the 1995 constitution to continue to regulate the party’s affairs.
“So in going forward, the party will continue its activities under the 1995 constitution (….this was received by delegates with loud jubilation and chanting of the party’s anthem – and shouting of “APC back to power; APC back to power”).
“In going forward, there are certain things we must do as a party, and we will do them in good time. We need to elect officers of the party; to be addressed in the future.
“We need to continue to unite the party, bring people in who are outside of the party. We will continue this process. Let us continue to unify and strengthen the party.
“We need to ensure that as a party we choose a flagbearer for the 2023 elections. But we need to have a conversation with each other. We must listen to each other. The flagbearer contest must not bring war to the party.
“In this regard, firstly as party officials holding positions in the party: We must not go out in support of any one aspirant for the flagbearership. We must remain neutral. We must not be seen to be supporting any one candidate against the others.
“I want to also address those aspiring for the flagbearership: Do not divide or cause fighting in the party. As aspirants, we must remember that it is God that gives power to whom he chooses. APC is one family. Once we have agreed on who will become the 2023 flagbearer, we will all support that person.
“So I hope we have listened to each other and advised ourselves about the way forward. We must move forward as one family. Let us use our strength and energy to work together.
“As a party, if we cannot work in peace, there will not be peace in the country. And where there is peace in the country, there will be development.
“As someone who has served this country for two consecutive terms, I do not want to see chaos in this country. Government is about continuity.
“The programmes that we put in place and left behind when we were in government, are the same programmes that are being delivered today. And when a new government takes over, they will also continue the current development.
“We are all Sierra Leoneans and we all have equal rights in this country. Let us create a level playing field for everyone.
“So you see, when I said goodbye to you all earlier, I was saying goodbye to this conference. (This was received with a massive applause from the delegates).
“We came here in peace, let us all go home in peace. Let us all take the message to our constituency, to our districts, to our regions that the APC is stronger now after this conference, than ever before; that the APC is still united today than even before.
“We must go and tell the people that the APC party is together and intact. Let no one believe that the party has disintegrated. We are strong, and we will remain strong by God’s grace. May God bless all of us.” (END)
Tonight the National Publicity Secretary (Acting) of the APC party has issued the following vote of thanks for today’s event in Port Loko:
MESSAGE OF SINCERE APPRECIATION
“The All Peoples Congress (APC) wishes to extend sincere appreciation and thanks to all Journalists and Media Practitioners who travelled from all over Sierra Leone to grace our Press Conference held at our Port Loko District Offices (Bai Bureh Hall) today January 11th 2020.
“We also wish to thank representatives from all the various Diplomatic Missions who patiently waited for several hours in order to be present at the event despite the late commencement of the Programme.
“We also wish to thank the Sierra Leone Police and the State Security agencies for the robust and very professional policing of Port Loko and environs for the past two days.
“Finally, on behalf of the National Chairman & Leader and entire Executive of the party, we extend our thanks to the APC Legal Team, the APC Media Team, the APC Task Force marshals and last but not least, all National Delegates of the APC party (including more than 100 APC Members from the Diaspora), for keeping the peace and dispersing quietly after we learnt of the High Court of Sierra Leone placing an injunction that forbade the holding of the slated National Delegates Conference.
“Your comportment, as representatives of the wider mass of the APC party, has permanently defined the APC as the Sierra Leone political party which most strongly believes in Peace, Democracy and Respect for the Rule of Law. Today, you made the APC proud and for that, the APC thanks you.
“Long live the APC! Long live Sierra Leone!”
Sidie Yahya Tunis
National Publicity Secretary (Acting)
Port Loko City,
Saturday January 11th 2020