Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 March 2018:
On the 3rd of July 2017, after months of speculation about whether and how long Dr. Kandeh Yumkella will continue to put up with the harassment and violence that he and some of his supporters had been subjected to by extremists within the opposition SLPP, he took the bold step of finally waving goodbye to his SLPP party, saying ‘enough is enough’.
And today Yumkella says he will not be supporting either the SLPP or the ruling APC at the election runoff next week. But to understand the genesis of Yumkella’s decision, one may have to revisit his epoch-making speech delivered on 3rd July 2017.
Speaking at a press conference in Freetown on that fateful day, he told reporters and stakeholders that; “As things are today, democracy has been choked, suffocated, stifled and rendered meaningless in the SLPP and to some extent in our nation.
“Politics has been reduced to corruption and kleptocracy by oligarchs and has now become a zero-sum game: it’s either all or nothing. Cabals justify that it is the turn of this group or that ethnic agglomeration to eat or have access to the national treasury.”
As the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph – Abdul Rashid Thomas reported on 7th July 2017 after speaking with Dr Yumkella; that because of the SLPP debacle, and in order to pursue his vision and values, Yumkella had decided to suspend his presidential flagbearer aspiration in the SLPP, to work towards bringing together a national coalition of progressive politicians in the country, whose aim is to establish a government of national unity for the greater good of the people of Sierra Leone. (Photo: Yumkella talking to Abdul Rashid Thomas).
His 7th of July 2017 speech was a defining moment for his political aspiration, and the electoral chances of the opposition SLPP.
Its a speech that will also assist doubters and cynics, in understanding why Yumkella could not today endorse the SLPP for next week’s election runoff, against the ruling APC. This is what he said:
“Members of the Fourth Estate, Compatriots, Well-wishers, and Concerned Citizens, in the name of the KKY Movement, we salute you for honouring our invitation to this crucial Press Briefing.
We have not assembled here in any way to justify what is happening in the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) that has made this ‘indaba’ possible, nor are we here to vilify those that have made it impossible for democracy to flourish and prevail in the SLPP, our Mother Party.
On the contrary, we have extended this invitation to you and, by implication, the whole nation and the world at large, to explain why a new narrative and dispensation have become necessary at this point in time in our nation’s history.
Current State of the SLPP
Nearly two years ago, precisely on 22 August 2015, I returned home to my land of birth, Sierra Leone, full of excitement and enthusiasm to put the knowledge, skills, experience, exposure and contacts that I had made and acquired on the world stage at the service of my country and people.
I made the deliberate choice to operate from the political foundation of the SLPP, the party for which my father, mother, uncles, and other noble men and women in our country suffered and went to prison over a period of over twenty-five years.
But our experience in the SLPP has taught us a unique and important lesson: that in a democracy liberty and freedom cannot be taken for granted. They are rights that must be fought for if their enforcement is to be meaningful and lasting.
This narrative is rooted throughout history and throughout the democratic world. Ours is therefore not an exception.
What we have done so far in the SLPP is to fight against hegemons for a level playing field as they seek to maintain their grip on party structures at the expense of democratic practice and fair play.
We believe that Democracy has never been about numbers only or political calculus that culminates in kinsmen/women converging to eat and receive the spoils of office.
Democracy, we want to reassure all our compatriots, is about Core Values – juxtaposed with competing interests and complex choices; about rights and obligations; the protection of the weak and putting a cap on the power of those in position of power.
The Political Project of the KKY Movement is therefore to bring back that Democracy that is anchored in fighting for social justice and the protection of the rights of all citizens – regardless of their tribe, the region they come from, and religious or political affiliation.
As things are today, Democracy has been choked, suffocated, stifled and rendered meaningless in the SLPP and to some extent in our nation. Politics has been reduced to corruption and kleptocracy by oligarchs and has now become a zero-sum game: it’s either all or nothing. Cabals justify that it is the turn of this group or that ethnic agglomeration to eat or have access to the national treasury.
The whole nation is aware that since I announced my intention to vie for the position of flag bearer of the SLPP, my supporters and I have had to put up with a great deal of harassment and violence.
Throughout the various stages of the contest for flag bearer, there has been a deliberate policy by certain groups in control of the party structures to aggressively exclude any person or group of persons that do not support their candidate.
We have repeatedly had to seek redress in the courts, but the current national executive of the party refuses to respect the constitution and play by the rules. Their habit of violating or giving creative interpretations to court orders is now well known and continues unabated.
In order to restore decency and dignity to a party gone astray, I joined forces with other potential flag bearer candidates who professed to share the same desire for a fair contest on a level playing field. That collective effort in pursuit of constitutionality also did not work, as the current leadership of the party continues to pursue a parochial path of exclusion and intimidation which runs against the core values and key tenets of the party founded by our forefathers.
They are even determined to achieve their coronation agenda even beyond 2023. Our quest is not for self-aggrandizement, but for a better Sierra Leone. And as a result, my supporters and I have decided to return to our ‘Country First’ Agenda.
Putting Country First
But let’s go back to why I left my lucrative job to come home. I came home to fight for the common man so they can have better education and health care for their children; so the youth can have decent and productive jobs; and we can eradicate poverty through sound economic management and wealth creation.
As you know, our country is worse today than when I returned, as it trembles on the brink of dystopia. No amount of propaganda can wipe away the endemic poverty and the suffering of our people.
It is in fact sickening to observe that in this squalor, we see people flashing their ill-gotten wealth with reckless abandon. They have made corruption to appear glamorous to the youth. Here are some facts about the situation in our country:
60-70% of our people are living in abject poverty; 60% of the youth are unemployed; teenage pregnancy is unacceptably high; students graduate from University but cannot find jobs three years later; teachers, University Professors and Civil Servants go without salaries for three months or more.
The quality of education is at its worst in decades with, in some cases, 3 to 7 students using a single examination question paper.
There are currently more than 10,000 under-paid and uncertified teachers in the country; more women are still dying when they deliver babies; it is only in Sierra Leone that one traffic light will cost $250,000 which is enough money to pay all the teachers in the country.
Crime is on the rise and our personal security is at risk; and there are over 20,000 Ex-Servicemen without sustainable means of livelihood.
The list of societal malaise is too long to for me to outline here. We shall surely discuss them as the campaign continues. Suffice it to say at this point that the will and determination to change this state of affairs should motivate each and every one of us to ‘Put our Country First’ (“Put Salone Fos”).
Indeed, the motto of the KKY Movement is “Country First” which means we put the interest, welfare and prosperity of our people at the centre of our campaign.
The current socio-political conditions in our country make it imperative that we should take far reaching decisions now for the survival of our country rather than just to be “flag bearer of SLPP”.
Unfortunately, the current ethos within the SLPP does not give me that environment to deal with the existing and future critical national issues or pursue my Vision and Message of HOPE, OPPORTUNITY and TRANSFORMATION.
With this background and after months of reflection and consultation with a vast cross-section of my supporters at home and abroad, I hereby wish to inform the membership of the SLPP and the public at large that I am, with immediate effect, suspending my bid for the flag-bearer of the SLPP, while I strongly and robustly maintain my bid and campaign for the Presidency of the Republic of Sierra Leone, which will now move into higher gear.
We will work with others to create a Grand Coalition of Progressives in a collective effort to bring hope and transformation to our country. Additional details about the new dispensation and highlights of my energised campaign will be announced in due course.
I ask my supporters nationwide and, in the diaspora, to rally around the proposed new mechanism through which we shall vigorously pursue and promote our progressive agenda of Hope, Opportunity and Transformation.
The struggle for the soul of our country – political, social, and economic – has begun and will now be accelerated under the new structure.
I want to thank my supporters and members of the KKY Movement at home and abroad for their unreserved and unflinching commitment and support so far.
God Bless Sierra Leone. Let us put our Country First.” (End),