Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 September 2019:
A high level meeting was held at State house this morning, Thursday, 12 September 2019, between the leadership of Sierra Leone’s main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party and president Julius Maada Bio.
Both sides have been at loggerheads since general and presidential elections were won by the Bio-led Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) in March 2018, following protests by the APC leadership about a range of issues, including the sacking of public officials believed to be supporters of the APC, the arrest of over 20 members of the APC at the recent by-election campaigning at Hamilton, and the current delay by the Chief Justice in ensuring that election petitions regarding 12 elected APC members of parliament, filed for hearing at the Supreme Court by the APC are heard.
Last night, the APC National Publicity Secretariat published this statement: “The National Advisory Committee (NAC) of the All Peoples Congress (APC) met this evening to discuss a request by State House for a possible meeting to be held tomorrow, 12th September 2019 at State House, between H.E. President Julius Maada Bio and Former President of Sierra Leone, Chairman and Leader of the APC, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma to address Human Rights Issues, Rule of Law, Good Governance, Democracy, National Cohesion and Peace.”
There have been calls for mediation between the two sides, from various quarters in and outside of Sierra Leone, as political stability and national cohesion came under serious strain, after the security detail of the former president was removed without consultation, the arrest of APC supporters at their party’s headquarters in Freetown, followed by an embarrassing scene at the country’s Lungi International Airport where the former president was denied the use of the VIP lounge.
But today, there is hope across the country for common ground and understanding to be struck at the State House meeting, building trust, engendering political harmony and peace.
Senior government ministers – including vice president Jalloh, chief minister Francis – who is a professor in peace studies, were also present at the meeting with the APC party leadership, which was represented by former present Ernest Bai Koroma – who is the leader and Chairman of the party, the deputy chairman – Minkailu Mansaray, Osman Yansaneh – Secretary General, and Ibrahim B. Kargbo – leader of APC in parliament.
Welcoming the APC leadership, president Bio expressed his commitment to peace and national cohesion, adding that irrespective of political differences, political leaders should have a continuous dialogue on issues of peace and national cohesion.
“This is our home and we owe it to the nation irrespective of our different political parties. Let us begin to chat the way forward so that peace and unity can return to the nation,” president Bio said.
According to State House press secretary and presidential spokesman, “president Julius Maada Bio is expected to hold a series of meetings with leaders of other political parties in future, to enhance the role of political parties in the consolidation of peace. This is to continue the national dialogue on strengthening peace and national cohesion post Bintumani 111 conference.”
Many in Sierra Leone say they welcome president Bio’s new form of ‘rapprochement’, which was seen a couple of days ago when he said these words at an event at State House, in reference to the public humiliation of suspected exam criminals by the ACC:
“I must use this opportunity to say I didn’t like what happened yesterday when the teachers (allegedly) were displayed. That was wrong. None of us can say we have not done wrong things in order to correct things. The ACC’s actions were in public and that is why I say it is wrong. Not just because it was in the public but because it is wrong.
“But when I talked about Education I did say that it is a passion for us, and it should be. People have spent their lives just being in the academia to acquire knowledge and teach others. Why are we failing in our duties as parents and teachers to do the right thing?
“So what happened yesterday definitely is wrong but there are times when as human beings your emotions, your passion for something overtakes what is accepted as a general norm, and that is why without even talking to the Commission I will apologize on their behalf.”
Here is a short video clip of the president with former president Koroma and the APC leadership at State House today :