Is this the moment that the Sierra Leone opposition SLPP showed the country it is unfit to govern?

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 September 2017

There was high drama at the opposition SLPP convention last night in Kenema, which many observers say is fast becoming a fiasco. The party’s three days national convention which was expected not only to elect their presidential candidate for national elections taking place on the 7th of March 2018, but to also see the election of a new national executive council to take over the running of the party’s affairs and bring some semblance of sanity to a chaotic and once respected party.

All was not well last night. The dramatic walk-out from the convention hall by Mr. John Oponjo Benjamin  (Photo) – who is one of three key remaining SLPP presidential aspirants – the others being Jonathan Tengbe and Alie Kabba, sent shock-waves.

But also and even more dramatic, was the auspicious walk-out, without any prior notification or apologies – of the party chairman Chief Somano Kapen from the convention yesterday.

This not only brought chaos and confusion, but has led many to question the legality of the convention going ahead and the party’s chances of avoiding another lengthy court battle – just six months before national elections.

According to political observers, Chairman Kapen, whose chairmanship in the last few years has been brought into disrepute and disrespected by some members of the national executive council of the party, last night manifested his disgust at the power-hungry manner with which those supporting Maada Bio are now controlling the party.

When news came from Kenema of Kapen’s walkout, few would believe what was happening to what was once known as Sierra Leone’s grand old party – the first political party to be established in Sierra Leone.

“Chief Somano Kapen (Photo) had earlier arrived at the hall to start the convention. But the convention was being delayed so as to allow Maada Bio – one of the presidential aspirants to arrive. Chairman Chief Somano Kapen was not happy about this. He walked out of the hall in disgust,” says a news reporter at the convention.

To add salt to injury, Maada Bio did not sit among his fellow presidential aspirants. He and his wife are reported to have sat on the high table along with the elected officials of the party, whose term of office had expired over two years and will be standing down this weekend.


Maada Bio’s presence at the high table brought consternation and further added to the chaos and drama witnessed at the Kenema convention yesterday. Is this another coronation of the king by the opposition SLPP, rather than an election of their presidential candidate for the 2018 elections – many are now left wondering.

The party’s quick move to ensure that the convention continues after Chairman Kapen had walked out, was swift. On hand to move the motion and propose that the deputy chairman Prince Harding steps into Kapen’s shoes to become the chairman, was Mr Sidie Tunis.

Mr Sidie Tunis quoted sections of the party’s constitution to justify his motion which was seconded lawyer Brewah.

No one in the hall had the gumption to present a counter motion, despite Sidie Tunis asking for anyone opposing the proposition for Prince Harding – who is a staunch supporter and campaigner for Maada Bio, to come forward. The motion was carried and Prince Harding quite happily assumed the role of chairman of the SLPP – in a manner commonly referred to as ‘Paopa’ – meaning ‘by any means necessary’.

Those opposing the convention proceedings, which they say has now imposed Prince Harding as chairman, are calling yesterday’s shenanigans a house coup, that is aimed at giving Maada Bio an undue and clear advantage.

“I am calling on Sidie Tunis to explain himself for allowing the Chairman of the party to be disrespected and be a party to this, because of his support for Bio. Sidie cited the duties of the deputy chairman, that has nothing to do with what happens when the Chairman refuses to be disrespected and exercises his right to leave the hall, rather than be subjected to ridicule, as the basis to hand over to the deputy chairman in contravention of all protocols. This could now make this convention null and void,” say critics.

The country’s Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) warned before setting off to attend the SLPP convention yesterday as observers: “Pursuant to Sections 6(2) of the Political Parties Act of 2002, the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) will on the 15th and 16th September supervise the conduct of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) National Delegate Conference in Kenema District.

“Furthermore, the Commission hereby encourages the Leadership, members, and supporters of the SLPP to ensure that the Conference is in accordance with Section 35 (2) of the 1991 Constitution which states that; ‘The internal organisation of a political party shall conform to democratic principles, and its aims, objectives, purposes and programmes shall not contravene, or be inconsistent with, any provisions of this Constitution’.

“The Leadership, members and supporters of the party are also advised to conduct their affairs in accordance with the laws of the land throughout the entire process. It is the hope of the Commission that the party will return united and not fragmented after this delegate conference as this is crucial to the survival of the party.”

But clearly after yesterday’s drama at the SLPPP convention, it seems the PPRC’s warning had fallen on conveniently deaf or recalcitrant ears. The plan was to embarrass chairman chief Kapen and to hound him out of office by the Paopas. They succeeded. So, what’s next?

Next week, party members eligible to vote at the convention, will once again gather in Kenema to elect the party’s presidential candidate. Will there be blood on the carpet? Not likely.

All of the presidential aspirants regarded by many as liberal, democratic progressives – who once put up a strong show of opposition to the former junta leader Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, have either relinquished their interest in the presidential flagbearership or resigned from the party.

There are no voices of dissention against Maada Bio left in the SLPP. They have all been either muffled through intimidation or physically harassed.

Most of the presidential aspirants now remaining know their place – so to speak. They are not happy about what’s going on in the party, but are either afraid to voice dissention for fear of facing the wrath of Maada Bio’s Paopa movement, or lose their chances of being selected for top ministerial position, should Maada Bio be elected as President of Sierra Leone.

But as one of the few remaining opponents of Maada Bio told the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph recently, “I am only staying in the flagbearer race and the party because of my pride. I know I am not going to win. But I will not walk away and will not fight. Whatever will be – will be”.

SLPP Kenema convention may have seen a lot of political drama yesterday, but one of the most ironic highlights of the day came when the ruling APC party’s National Secretary General Osman Foday Yansaneh, who was present at the SLPP convention, poured scorn at the opposition SLPP when he said: “We would not be discouraged, if the next government emerges from this hall”.

watch these video clips of Sidie Tunis tabling his motion to elect Prince Harding as chairman , and Lawyer Brewah seconded the motion:

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    Congratulations – the SLPP convention has gone ahead in Kenema but peacefully without fighting at least.

    Let me express my personal disgust for the big boys such as Chief Somaon Kapen, presidential aspirants such as Mr. John O. Benjamin for walking out of the convention hall for the purpose of not given chairs on the high table.

    I express my disgust because it is a shame these senior prefects are still not yet grown enough to be called the big boys of our school, SLPP.

    They behaved in a very childish manner because the convention was not only for the election of the flagbearer but for different sections of purposes. Even if they were not given seats at the high table, they were not asked to seat on the floor. They should have remained seated in their positions until the convention starts and had dignitaries welcome and introduced without mentioning their presence.

    Was King David present when he was appointed the King of Isreal or he was sent for and prepared to rule? Those with special knowledge of the Bible will explain this to better understanding?

    Why did chief Somano Kapen wait for the arrival of Maada Bio before the start of the convention? Was this a mere defeat that nothing should go on within the SLPP without Julius Maada Bio? Why can’t people of this cohort not come to realise that Maada Bio is the right appointed leader to become president of Sierra Leone this time? It’s a shame that the big old boys are behaving like children without trousers.

    Your brother
    Mohamed Sannoh

  2. Davies Koroma, I don’t think it is the SLPP that is cursed. I think it is the nation of Sierra Leone that is cursed. It is a nation that will continue to be led by authoritarians and thugs that have no respect for democracy and civil society.

    Come March 2018 and we will see another stolen election. But the truth is, the people of Sierra Leone deserve the APC.

  3. It’s unfortunate, the people of Sierra Leone could not rely on SLPP as a trusted opposition. I said in my previous comments that SLPP is cursed. They have to appease the blood of innocent Sierra Leoneans they shed under their regime in the name of power and liberation. If you think I’m telling stories just watch and see.

  4. Lol, One of the few remaining opponents of Maada Bio – “I am only staying in the flag-bearer race and the party because of my pride”. What pride? I think its pride turned on its head. The action of Dr Kandeh Yumkella, Andrew Keilli, John Benjamin and Chief Somano Karpen show the true meaning of pride.

  5. Lol, One of the few remaining opponents of Maada Bio – “I am only staying in the flag-bearer race and the party because of my pride”. What pride? I think its pride turned on its head. The action of Dr Kandeh Yumkella, Andrew Keilli John Benjamin and Chief Somano Karpen show the true meaning of pride.

  6. Why do we always expect the SLPP to behave like a club of altar boys influenced by the teachings of the catholic church in Rome?

    If Somano Kapen walked out of the conference hall, so what? Is that not his right to do so? Kapen’s term of office ended two years ago and has been holding the office of chairman on borrowed time. When top Republican party members in the United States boycotted the last Republican convention in Ohio, did Donald Trump not go ahead and win the presidential elections?

    Also, I don’t know of any other SLPP flag bearer candidate not named Franklin Rogers that has left the party. Andrew Keilli withdrew his candidacy from the flag bearer race but is still with the SLPP.

  7. My opinion is, in politics anything is possible. Even the last presidential elections in the United States of America, the chairwoman Debbie wasserman Schultz of the Democratic National Party stepped aside due to the aftermath of the release of the emails which revealed that she favored Hilary Clinton over Bernie Sanders . She was immediately replaced by Donna Brazile the day before the convention in order to project unity within the party.

    As the saying goes ” Politics is a dirty game “. Let’s wait and see what will happen within the APC in few weeks probably this is just a “Tip of the iceberg”.

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