Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 March 2017
There isn’t an end in sight to the growing social media speculation into what exactly took place at State House in Freetown, Sierra Leone last week, between the country’s Attorney General – Joseph Franklyn Kamara and the Minister of Information – Mohamed Bangura.
There are unofficial reports that both men – key ministers in the Koroma government were involved in a heated verbal altercation in the presence of president Koroma, which degenerated into an ugly fist fight.
Both ministers are believed to have sustained minor cuts as they traded blows. According to government sponsored media, there was a heated argument between the ministers, and reports of a fist fight are said to have been blown out of proportion.
But the Information Minister – Mr. Mohamed Bangura told reporters it was a “Personal emotional discussion.”
The editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph – Abdul Rashid Thomas contacted the ministers to confirm what took place. Will there be blood on the carpet at the party’s forthcoming national convention?
This is what Information minister Bangura was asked: “Mohamed good evening. I am trying to cross check information I received about a fight that took place at State House between you and Joseph Kamara – the Attorney General. Can you comment please?”
The Information Minister’s reply was very short: “Not true brother.”
A similar question was put to the Attorney General – Joseph F Kamara: “Joseph good evening. Abdul Rashid Thomas here. I have received a story about a brawl at State House between yourself and the Information Minister – Mohamed Bangura (Photo). What happened?”
The Attorney General’s reply was equally as short and vague, creating further doubts as to exactly what took place in the office of the president at State House last week.
“There was no ‘brawl’. Stay blessed,” Attorney General Kamara told the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph.
Whether there was a fist fight or not, what is certain is that there was a heated altercation at State House between two of the most senior ministers in the Koroma government.
Exactly a year ago – March 2016, there was mayhem in the ministry of social welfare where the minister and his deputy – Alhaji Moijue Kaikai and Mustapha Bai Attila, ransacked the office as they took to the boxing ring – trading unprintable invective – an ugly show of brawn that became a number one recorded video hit on social media.
This prompted the president to issue this embarrassing statement, sacking both brawling ministers:
“The general public is hereby informed that his Excellency the president Ernest Bai Koroma has decided to relieve Alhaji Moijue Kaikai and Mustapha Bai Attila of their duties as minister and deputy minister respectively, in the ministry of social welfare, gender and children’s affairs.”
It may be unlikely on this occasion that both Attorney General Kamara and Information Minister Bangura traded blows over a long term personal matter, which according to government media sources has been amicably resolved.
What is not in dispute is that the Attorney General – Joseph Kamara (Photo) has made public his intention to run for the presidency in 2018. First though, he would need the endorsement of the majority of the ruling APC party delegates at the forthcoming national convention.
But there are at least six contestants for the APC presidential candidacy, and it is understood that the contestant most favoured by president Koroma is the former chief executive of the country’s rutile mining company (Sierra Rutile Ltd) – Mr John Sisay, who is also a cousin of the president.
Both president Koroma and vice president Victor Foh are at loggerheads, as the party’s national convention draws closer and the strategy of APC party grandees to push Attorney General Kamara under the bus gets underway.
The ruling APC party is now split, and the volcanic cracks are beginning to open. Can president Koroma stop the volcano from erupting, before the national convention?
Vice president Foh (Photo) is a big fan of Attorney General Kamara, whom he regards as the only trusted candidate for the presidency in 2018. Last year, Foh was very much acting as chairman – if not campaign manager of the Attorney General, whom he accompanied on various ‘meet the people’ cross country tours.
It is believed that the fracas between the Information Minister and the Attorney General took place at State House during a closed door meeting of a small number of the ruling party’s senior hierarchy – the national advisory committee.
President Koroma who is chairman and leader of the APC, is very keen to ensure that the national advisory committee goes to the national convention with a unanimous decision, as to who should be elected as the party’s presidential candidate.
Other candidates for the party’s presidential candidacy, such as Alpha Kanu, Kaifala Marah, Alimamy Petito Koroma, John Sesay and Minkailu Mansaray, are understood to have rolled over and feigned death, in line with the president’s wish for his cousin John Sisay to succeed him as president next year, having bought his way to the top of the queue.
There is now only one ruling party presidential campaign bus in town – and it has ‘John Sisay for president’ written all over it. All other candidates – except the Attorney General who is not prepared to play second fiddle, are now waiting to hear whether their name would be called as ‘running mate’ to John Sisay.
John Sisay has been sold to the APC hierarchy as the man wealthy enough to single-handedly bankroll the party’s 2018 elections war chest, which is expected to cost over $10 million.
But money is not all. If the ruling APC is to win the 2018 elections, it will need a presidential candidate with the political experience and charisma to win the hearts and minds of the majority of people in the country.
John Sisay has money. In point of fact he was partly responsible for helping to bail the Koroma government from financial bankruptcy last year. He brags about paying the salaries of teachers in the country, when the government couldn’t afford to meet its financial commitment. He calls himself the Donald Trump of Sierra Leone.
But he is seen by many as short on political experience and public persona. He lacks street cred and the ability to speak the language of public sector governance. Many believe that he is very corrupt, and should have faced the Anti-Corruption Commission long time ago, to account for his part in the unlawful and sinister sale of the country’s public owned rutile mining company – Sierra Rutile Ltd.
Attorney General Kamara is a household name in Sierra Leone, having led the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for several years, though he left the ACC with what critics say is a chequered record, having failed to bring those in high places to justice – including John Sisay and several senior ministers, whilst hacking at the heels of low level corruption.
According to sources at State House, there was an attempt at last week’s APC meeting to get Attorney General Kamara to give up his presidential ambition, in favour of the president’s cousin – multi-millionaire John Sisay.
The Attorney General is said to have angrily refused. In a heated argument during the meeting, he was told to resign his post as Attorney General, if he wants to continue to contest the presidential candidacy election at the ruling party’s convention.
It was during this heated argument that a scuffle is believed to have broken out, and both information minister Bangura and Attorney General Kamara traded what is now reported in social media as upper-cuts and head butts, causing swollen lips.
Whether true or false, no one outside of that meeting at State House would be any wiser, as it is not the APC party hierarchy’s tradition, to publicly discuss or reveal what takes place behind closed doors. The party’s inner sanctum’s penchant for secrecy and the authoritarianism of its leader are seen as the party’s greatest strength over other political parties.
Will there be blood on the carpet at the party’s national convention in a few months? Highly unlikely – not if president Koroma is chairing the candidacy election.
Throughout the late 1990s, and certainly those difficult years leading to the 2002 presidential and general elections in Sierra Leone, the APC party was fiercely at war with itself.
Crippled and torn apart by internal squabbles and a leadership battle, which culminated in a long drawn out court case, Ernest Bai Koroma emerged victorious and led the party to national acceptability and respectability through democratic means, rather than the political violence, brutality and intimidation once favoured by his predecessors.
And after learning a bitter lesson from its rejection by the people of Sierra Leone for almost forty years, the APC party made a spectacular comeback in 2007 – a comeback they are about to lose in 2018, as they once again switch on the notorious self-destruct button.
Will the ruling APC be third time lucky in 2018?