Sierra Leone Telegraph: 31 July 2017
Never in the history of Sierra Leone’s politics has an aspiring candidate for any public office – let alone the presidency, chosen the occasion of the launching of their election campaign to publicly threaten a female journalist with gender based violence.
But today – Monday, 31st July 2017, one of the leading presidential candidates for the ruling APC – John Bonoh Sisay – a man described as the Donald Trump of Sierra Leone – for his unexplained wealth, who recently told the London Independent Newspaper that Sierra Leone politics is boring, has broken that record.
The incident took place at the launching of his manifesto in a hall full of local journalists at the Brookfields Hotel in the capital Freetown, where a female radio reporter asked Sisay to respond to claims that he cannot speak Krio – the most popular language in the country, and that furthermore he is not a grassroot politician.
John Sisay was not amused. His shocking reply to the female journalist was: “If you had stood next to me, I would have given you a slap.” This prompted a roar of laughter across the hall, which was mostly full of male journalists.
And then to the horror of many, Sisay followed that reply with another verbal body blow to the female journalist: “That answers your question,” he said. Violence on women and girls is rife in Sierra Leone.
Watch John Bonoh Sisay threatening to assault female journalist to the amusement of his male dominated audience:
As report of the use of gender based violence language by John Sisay went viral on social media, his media handlers were quick to say that it was said in a jest, and that the lady journalist concerned had laughed at the joke herself.
But what little choice did the embarrassed female journalist have in a room full of men laughing at her expense, because they found the use of gender based violence language amusing?
Female activists who spoke to the Sierra Leone Telegraph this evening, say that they did not find the use of gender based violence language by Sisay amusing.
It is demeaning, degrading and hurtful to women. It reinforces the culture of violence against women and girls that exists in Sierra Leone, they say.
They told the Sierra Leone Telegraph that, presidential aspirants and all those standing for election to public office must know better than to use gender based violence language, whether jokingly or otherwise.
Political observers believe that John Sisay has now shown that he is unfit to serve as president of Sierra Leone.
They say that he has badly damaged his chances of winning the ruling party’s presidential flagbearership, by his use today of unprovoked, threatening behaviour towards a female journalist in Freetown.
Moreover, Sisay is being compared with America’s Donald Trump, whose lack of respect for women has earned him the poor reputation that now follows him everywhere he goes.
The question for Sisay is that, if he had felt so comfortable using gender based violence language to a female journalist, what else would he not do?
Where will he draw the line, if at all? Can he be trusted with high public office, where he will be expected to respect every citizen – irrespective of gender, religion, class, tribe and regional origin?
Many in Sierra Leone say that Sisay is arrogant, cocky and conceited because of his wealth. He is a retired Chief Executive Officer of the country’s Sierra Rutile Mining Company.
He is said to have amassed millions of dollars working in the company, which critics say he now wants to use to buy votes at the next general and presidential elections in less than eight months.
Sisay is on record, boasting about bailing out the Koroma government when government finance was tight three years ago.
He said he helped paid teachers’ salaries. He bankrolled the ruling party in difficult times. Now it’s payback time. He wants to become the president of Sierra Leone.
Interviewed in the London Independent Newspaper last month – for an article: ‘John Sisay: the south Londoner who could become Sierra Leone’s next president’, John Sisay referred to Sierra Leone politics as ‘boring and sedate’.
Today, he has added to the colour and excitement of Sierra Leone politics, but for all the wrong reasons – unbecoming of a politician, let alone a president.
The Newspaper said to Mr Sisay – “If it does not work out at the end of the day (trying to become president of Sierra Leone) Mr Sisay could, perhaps, return to the party fold in Britain, with Labour now doing so unexpectedly well. And Sisay’s reply: “What is happening in the UK is really interesting,” he acknowledges. “But it is almost too exciting, I think I will stick to our more boring, sedate form of politics.”
Sisay sees the presidency as his entitlement. He is a cousin of the president, with whom many believe he has made a deal to succeed the president in 2018. But is he fit to be president?
The APC convention is scheduled to take place on the 5th and 6th of September in Makeni, where the party will elect its presidential candidate.
Gender based violence or the use of threats of gender based violence is against the United Nations Charter. Can Sisay be trusted to uphold the UN charter if he is elected president of Sierra Leone?
Launching his election manifesto today amid accusation of gender violence promotion, this is what Sisay told his audience:
“Today I announce my decision to become the APC Flag-bearer. To run for the President of Sierra Leone position is a serious endeavour. I have taken time to think about the implications of such decision, as I wanted to be sure that it was the right one for the people of Sierra Leone.
“I have talked to and listened to many people, up and down the country. As I have travelled, I have been struck by the opportunity that is in front of us all.
Today, I make a contract with you. This contract commits me to eight pledges:
- Better Education for all with 10,000 high quality teachers through a combination of new teacher recruitment/training
- Better Opportunities for the young with new jobs and programmes to help young people find work and start businesses.
- Better Help in hard times through the National Social Safety Net.
- A Better Economy with a National Prosperity Fund to invest in our future.
- Better Justice for all with a new Human Rights Act.
- Better Health for all with affordable primary & preventive healthcare and a trained health worker in every community.
- A Stronger Salone with big companies paying their way and a better deal for small business.
- Better Politics holding listening events in every district to hear from you directly.
Watch one of Sierra Leone’s political commentators – Alpha Saidu Bangura, discusses John Sisay’s mismanagement and exploitation of Sierra Rutile Ltd:
I know John from London. His jokes were always awful. He used to joke and be the only one laughing. He has very good leadership skills and is a decent bloke.
What are the issues. We live in a country where some journalists don’t cross check their information or give the other side an opportunity before drawing conclusion.
A free press goes with responsibility. We have to be careful with these issues as we are in political times or else we stand to lose patriot.
Sad that this so called Presidential Aspirant for APC has proved himself ignorant that women despite their status or positions are to be respected.
Great men all over the world were born by women.
The respect he gives his mother (if at all) should be given to any woman whether rich or poor or high or low.
Please let us learn to respect women in our societies.
His comments were clearly said in jest. But it was the wrong time and place to say it.
John Sisay does not represent the average Sierra Leonean, but the elite who continue to suck the country dry and keep piling on the national debt that future generations will have to suffer for.
Not much of a future will exist, as long as these people continue to rear their ugly heads.
The country needs to be represented by someone from the grassroot level and who understands both politics and economics.
But above all, needs to be honest and patriotic to try and turn the country around from the disaster it is heading for.
John has the right to aspire as a candidate for presidency. What I am not sure of is how he accumulated his wealth. As a South London boy, as his friends describe him, is this the way a president in the making will treat journalist, and a female journalist for that matter?
If what we have read is true about John and what transpired today, then this is very sad. I find such behaviours as arrogant, pompous, insulting, humiliating and disrespectful. It is unfortunate that poverty has made our people to make wrong choices of leaders.
A leader should be a role model and not someone who degrades the people he wants to govern. My advice to our people is this: please choose your leaders very carefully, otherwise our beloved country will continue to go backwards.
We need people who show respect for people and the rule of law. If he is brave enough, John will be able to tell us the connection between the accumulation of his wealth and the collapse of the mining company that left thousands of people destitute.
I cannot judge him from afar. He is yet another APC ready to ruin the country through the promises he has just made. Can you believe him? I cannot do so.
Political life in Sierra Leone is like putting a mouse to look after the cheese. Can the cheese be safe? I doubt it.
I cannot say much about him until I know who he really is. Thanks very much for the lines written here.