Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 May 2019:
A national two-day peace and reconciliation conference scheduled by Sierra Leone’s president Julius Maada Bio to commence 23rd May, has been voted down by the country’s main opposition APC party, at a meeting of its national executives, parliamentarians, mayors, chiefs, former ministers and other key stakeholders of the party.
The meeting which took place at its head office in Freetown yesterday, was chaired by the party’s deputy chairman – Minkailu Mansaray. The purpose was to decide whether the party should take part in the national peace conference, which president Bio controversially refers to as Bintumani 3.
In what was seen yesterday as a unanimous show of determination by the APC to scupper the president’s proposed conference, delegates attending the meeting (Photo), gave a resounding “No” to the conference which kicks off tomorrow, Wednesday 23rd May.
A few days ago, the former vice president and leader of the minority opposition C4C party – Alhaji Sam-Sumana, turned down the president’s invitation to chair one of the workshops of the conference.
The invitation was sent to the former president 7 days before the start of the conference.
Other opposition party leaders, such as Charles Margai of the PMDC, have also decided to boycott the conference, which they say is unnecessary and a waste of money.
The opposition NGC party led by Dr Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella has this morning issued this notice to its members:
“There is going to be an emmergency press conference today Wednesday 22nd May at exactly 11:am at the NGC Party Head Office, Naimbana Street, Freetown. Purpose of this press conference is to discuss the NGC political party’s position towards Bintumani 3. All are invited to come and ontime. Signed: Act West Region Chairman – Arthur E Pearce “.
Those opposed to the president’s national conference say that what is needed is for the president and his government to address concerns raised by all 17 opposition parties – including the APC, whose leaders met with president Bio at State House a few months ago.
Since that meeting at State House, there has been no follow-up meetings to review progress and discuss the way forward.
Bintumani 3 they argue, is a diversionary tactics by president Bio and his chief minister (who will be chairing the conference), aimed at further marginalisation of opposition parties, creating an overwhelming sense of national instability, which is bad for the economy and foreign investors.
According to political analysts, this widespread rejection of Bintumani 3 by the main opposition political parties and sections of society, is a self-inflicted humiliation for the president and his chief minister – Dr David Francis (Photo), who is a professor in peace studies advising president Bio.
Calls for the president to call off the conference in order to avoid embarrassment, have fallen on deaf ears.
The need for a national peace conference has also been questioned by not only critics of the president, but senior party grandees of the ruling SLPP, such as Dr Sama Banya.
It remains to be seen what happens next. Will the president call off Bintumani 3 at this late hour to save further humilation and waste of public funds?
What is obviously clear now and needed urgently, is for president Bio to sit down again with opposition leaders to revisit the discussions they had with him at State House a few months ago, and address their concerns through dialogue.
President Bio must also now dust off the 1991 Constitution Review Report, which was produced by the late Justice Edmund Cowan and the Constitution Review Committee a few years ago. (Photo: Justice Cowan handing over the Report to president Ernest Bai Koroma in 2015 for implementation).
The recommendations of the report must be put to a national referendum for endorsement, rather than wasting time and money on a national peace conference that will only whip up more anger and resentment across the country.
Sierra Leoneans need a change in the way the country is being governed, so as to consolidate the hard won peace, following ten years of civil war.
This can only happen with the implementation of the recommendations of the 1991 Constitution Review Report.
A national referendum is what is needed now – not another self-styled Bintumani national peace conference.
President Bio must give top priority to Justice Edmund Cowan’s 1991 Constitution Review Report.
This is the opposition APC voicing its objection to Bintumani 3 yesterday: