Sierra Leone Telegraph: 7 March 2017
In exactly twelve months from today, the people of Sierra Leone will go to the polls to elect a new president and members of parliament.
And as the countdown begins, the debate as to who will be elected as presidential candidate for each of the two main parties – APC and SLPP, is now dominating the news.
First though, all of the aspiring candidates of the parties – more than twenty in number, must face elections at their respective party’s national convention in the next few months.
But the road to party convention is fraught with serious internal divisions and acrimony, rather than the expected ideological and personality differences.
As often commented by the Sierra Leone Telegraph, the ruling APC is far better than most – if not all political parties in the country, at masking those divisions and suppressing internal dissent.
But at what cost? Many would argue that the ruling APC’s penchant for communist style command and control from the top of office, is the reason the party has never been able to produce a good leader to run the country.
For the opposition SLPP however, things cannot get any worse than they currently are, after several years of anarchy and sometimes violent internal battles. But several attempts have been made in the last few months to put all of that behind them in an effort to unite the party and present it as a government in waiting. Is it working?
Aspiring presidential candidates of the SLPP and the party’s stakeholders have signed a peace accord and there is an ongoing peace process, which sometimes appears fragile, yet proving to be quite durable.
In the last few days several of the key presidential aspirants of the SLPP have made public statements committing themselves to the signed peace accord. Yesterday, the Retired Brigadier and former head of Sierra Leone’s military government – Julius Maada Bio, who is one of the leading contenders for the SLPP presidential candidacy made this statement, expressing his commitment to the SLPP peace accord:
“The public will recall that in January this year, during my visits to different districts, I called for peace in the SLPP. On January 19, 2017, in a letter to the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) calling for its mediation, I identified two dimensions of the problem in the SLPP.
“These were first the intra-executive impasse and second the controversy surrounding the 39 constituencies.
“Through the efforts of the Ever Green Initiative, a peace meeting was convened that brought all intending aspirants and other stakeholders together. In that meeting, a Joint Communique was signed and later presented to the National Executive Council (NEC) on February 14, 2017.
“The NEC Resolution reversed all suspensions and expulsions since 2013 which led to the reinstatement of the elected National Chairman and Leader, Chief Somano Kapen (Photo).
“The NEC meeting also resolved that a Special Committee re-assesses and re-examines the case of the 39 constituencies in light of the Court Ruling of February 15, 2017.
“The Court ruled in favour of the defendants by refusing to declare null and void the elections in the 39 constituencies which was the relief sought by the plaintiffs.
“The core arguments before the Special Committee crystallised around two (2) irreconcilable views “(i) ignore the ruling and cancel (not redo) all 39 disputed lower level elections and (ii) respect the rule of law and avoid opening a Pandora’s Box of unintended consequences”.
“The Special Committee (with only 1 dissenting view out of 5) finally recommended to NEC that the Party upholds the Court Ruling. It is expected that a NEC meeting scheduled for March 11, 2017 will discuss the recommendations of the Special Committee.
“Whilst awaiting this NEC meeting, the plaintiffs have gone ahead and filed an appeal with a view to overturning the High Court ruling.
“While I recognise it is their right to appeal, I should state that their action constitutes a breach of the NEC Resolution of February 14, 2017 and the Party’s Code of Conduct.
“Also, I personally think this appeal is premature as the recommendation of the Special Committee is a matter for the consideration of NEC.
“As a key stakeholder, I will continue to appeal to fellow intending aspirants and the general membership to exercise utmost restraint.
“I also wish to reaffirm my commitment to the peace process, the rule of law and constitutionality.
“I would therefore urge the peace mediators to continue their efforts towards achieving sustainable peace within the SLPP and hereby assure them of my continuing support. “ (End of Bio’s statement).
But despite these sorts of public statements from most of the SLPP presidential aspirants, there are fears and doubts the SLPP party may not continue to be united after the election of its presidential candidate at the national convention.
And if peace and unity do not hold after the SLPP party’s national convention, then the poor people of Sierra Leone will have to brace themselves for another difficult five years of APC party misrule, poor governance and rampant corruption.