Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 March 2019:
Political dust is yet to settle in Sierra Leone, after the electoral victory of Julius Maada Bio’s SLPP party which ended the incumbent APC party’s ten year hold on power.
Many political commentators say that the defeated APC is finding it very hard to accept defeat – a defeat of their own making they say, after seriously failing to meet the most basic needs of the people of Sierra Leone.
But with the ruling SLPP winning the general election in March 2018 with no overall majority in Parliament, the government is finding it difficult to gain cross-party consensus from the opposition for its programmes.
Opposition parties are accusing the ruling SLPP of using unconstitutional tactics to push through legislation, government business and programmes. The SLPP says it will not allow the opposition to make the country ungovernable by refusing to work with the government.
Although this political impasse has raised political temperature in the country, it has done little to stop the government from rolling out its New Direction initiatives.
But yesterday, Friday 1st March 2019, president Julius Maada Bio extended an olive branch to all leaders of the opposition parties, by inviting them to State House for a consultative meeting, in support of what State House referred to as the president’s inclusive governance approach to state governance, aimed at strengthening political engagement and collaboration.
All seventeen political parties were represented at State House by their senior leadership: Alliance Democratic Party (ADP); All People’s Congress (APC); Citizens Democratic Party (CDP); National Democratic Alliance (NDA); National Progressive Democrats (NPD); National Unity and Reconciliation Party (NURP); Peace and Liberation Party (PLP); People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC); People’s Democratic Party (PDP); Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP); Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP); United Democratic Movement (UDM); United National People’s Party (UNPP); Unity Party (UP); National Grand Coalition (NGC); Republic National Independent Party (RENIP) and Coalition for Change (C4C).
Addressing the leaders of the opposition parties, President Bio said politics is now over, and that its time for governance. He said he believe that all political parties want the best for Sierra Leone, but that each party has a different route to achieving this.
President Bio said that by meeting opposition leaders, shows that politicians are not enemies but can work together in the best interest of Sierra Leone. “This meeting is to encourage dialogue among political parties for national development and social cohesion in the country,” President Bio said.
The president also updated political parties on the three national issues which have stirred up public debate: the appointment of the Electoral Commissioner for the Southern region, the Commissions of Inquiry and the declaration of state of emergency on rape.
President Bio said that political decisions have been taken on these key issues in the best interest of the country, and that his aim now is to strengthen consultation and dialogue with political parties.
“For instance, the Commission of Inquiry is for all of us as politicians, so that it can serve as a deterrent and draw a line under corruption,” President Bio told opposition leaders.
Explaining the reasons behind his declaration of state of emergency on rape, president Bio explained that when he saw the statistics and listened to the stories of rape survivors, he felt compelled that something needed to be done urgently.
Rather than simply calling for action against rape and sexual violence, he said he wants to mobilise resources to support survivors.
He assured the opposition leaders, including representatives of the APC that the state of emergency was declared to specifically address rape and sexual violence, and not for gaining political advantage.
Minkailu Mansaray and Alhaji Osman Foday Yansaneh of the APC, Dr Dennis Bright of the NGC, Dr Jonathan Sandy of the NURP, Tamba R. Sandi of the C4C, expressed their appreciation for the president’s decision to hold talks with the opposition parties at State House.
They said that dialogue with the president will promote social cohesion and reduce political tension. President Bio assured the political leaders of his intention to continue dialogue and collaboration in the interest of the country.