President Bio meets leaders of opposition parties – peace at last?

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.

11 Comments

  1. Sorkor Levi Fofana, I pray to the Almighty Allah/God that you are 200 percent correct. Thank you for reading my comment. I enjoyed reading yours too. We are in the same team fighting a good fight for mother Sierra Leone.

  2. It quite baffling, almost stupefying, to observe how a significant number of us can be easily mesmerised and deceived by gestures designed to neutralise any circumspect tendency.

    The presence at State House of members of the opposition,particularly APC,is being touted by many as the arrival of utopia.This may well be the case,but has any one stopped to think of all the implications beyond the peace it engenders?

    What guarantee,for example, do we have that it is not only the front door that President Bio has opened, but the back door as well,through which APC would come crawling to get the President to choke the life out of ACC and the Commissions of Inquiry,thereby stifling any meaningful development in the country?

    We cannot dismiss the probability that the President,being human,may well soil his hands in due course.But knowing that if APC were to wrest power from him once again in the future he would not be humiliated, because of what he has done for them, could make certain temptations impossible to resist on his part.

    The loser? Mother Sierra Leone once again.

  3. BROTHER Emmanuel Yongai, you are a true Sierra Leonean backing your country not only a party against your beloved country. Up to date APC never believe or admits defeat. I don’t even understand what these people are thinking about. Sierra Leone is for all, not only for them. “These guys are still threatening comes 2023” what do you mean?

    My friends the dark ages time is over, APC fails to realize their deeds. I can’t call it a mistake. No! This APC did everything with their power. KKY gave up his US Citizenship because of APC, destroying the diasporas. But when it comes to donation, there is no segregation.

    SLPP under Bio administration is fighting corruption seriously, and this must continue. APC knew nothing but violence. The whole world is watching.

    One man as a president and chairman for life. We have changed that through ballots, that’s what they call democracy not violence. Thanks to H.E. Rtd. Brig. J.M.B. The president of the republic of Sierra Leone. APC was copying from China, life in power. Again thank you Mr. President.

  4. It is too late into the night and I am tired. I hope to come back to this issue at a later date. But let me just say for now that I am extremely suspicious.

    We all yearn for peace and national cohesion but this should not be at the expense of probity vis-a-vis those who have stolen the soul of the nation.

    I hope the meeting at State House does not start the lighting of the fire which would engulf and melt down both ACC and the Commissions of Inquiry to keep mother Sierra Leone bleeding and crying for many more years to come.

    Is President Bio developing cold feet? I hope he does not start tripping Ben Kaifala through Executive Meddling because he has opened the door to his office to those under intense fire from ACC.

    • Korthor Santhkie Sorie, I am a frequent reader of your comments on this forum. I have always enjoyed your analytical insights of matters of import to Mama Salone. I don’t think president Bio will take a back pedal on the ACC and the Commissions of Inquiry, as you have suspected. Simply put, the operations of these two institutions cannot be controlled by president Bio any longer. They are bigger than the president.

      Sierra Leone’s development partners are heavily investing in the trajectory of developments in Sierra Leone. I hear that Sierra Leone is not even paying the wages of the Commissioners deliberating on COI cases. Reliable sources intimate that it is Britain that is footing the bill. Accordingly, Bio cannot afford to tarnish his image, make a fool of himself or destroy his legacy by jumping into bed with APC crooks and scoundrels.

      Thus, it is my opinion that the consultative meeting at State House was simply a means to lower the political temperature which has been raised by presumably guilty APC kleptocrats. APC pilferers are suffocated by their dastardly deeds while in office. Is politics a blood sport? You bet it is.

  5. President Julius Bio’s initiative of inviting members of the opposition to State House for a consultative meeting underscores not only the president’s ability to lead from the front but also his desire to create cohesion in the Sierra Leone’s political space. Perhaps, what is more admirable about this initiative is its focus on not only the APC but on all political parties in Sierra Leone.

    Many Sierra Leoneans are tired of the political duopoly in their country. While it has worked elsewhere, it has never worked in Sierra Leone since one arm of the duopoly, the APC, has only brought suffering to Sierra Leoneans in its 34 years of misrule. Interestingly, 34 years happens to be the longest time that any political party in West Africa has governed. What are the concrete achievements that the APC can point to in that prolonged period at the helm of state? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

    Probably, the colossal failure of the APC might just be the reason why that party’s partisans rejoice whenever the false equivalency of the APC and the SLPP being the same is drawn and promoted. But the fact is that the APC and the SLPP have never been the same and will never be the same. Unlike the SLPP, when it comes to governance, the APC is bereft of ideas.

    Evidently, what Sierra Leoneans have been enjoying in the last eleven months underscores my contention that while one arm of Sierra Leone’s political duopoly has been destructive to the national interest, the other arm, the SLPP, continues to demonstrate that Sierra Leone’s viability as a state capable of making progress domestically and competing internationally can only be assured when the APC is not in power.

    Thus, Sierra Leoneans must realize that the alternative to the SLPP must not necessarily be the unscrupulous and maladroit APC. They can choose any of the many other opposition parties that the president invited to State House.

    Notwithstanding its abysmal failure in governance, the APC has proven to also be a disaster in opposition. Fundamentally, the party still has not come to grips with how democratic processes work. It has also not inculcated the fact that fomenting chaos and violence is inimical to the functioning of the democratic state.

    Tellingly, by inviting all opposition parties to State House, president Bio demonstrated that Sierra Leoneans must not only focus on the APC when debates about the opposition are pursued. Governance is about continuity and it is important that should the SLPP lose power, another political party not named APC and capable of moving Sierra Leone forward steps into the corridors of power. APC should forever be relegated to the dustbin of history.

  6. I/We heard all views and contributions, what H.E. President Rtd. Brig. M.B. is doing right now I think the whole world is watching carefully. My pleading is, the commission of inquiry will proceed non stop, we would like the President to keep his promises, we are holding him through his tongue.

    Making peace with other party leaders, foes, opponents enemies any how you call it, I don’t think that would be a problem at all, but mind you Mr. President please keep your words and promises. Indeed you are moving the country in to a new direction as you promised, free education initiative is moving rapidly don’t lets anyone distracted you on your good job.

    Also the thieves, meaning the people that misused, mismanaged and the steal the country’s fund to benefits only themselves and their family, must be held accountable. APC should be out of office in this country for the next 30 years. Your Excellency, we knew you for your discipline – do your job. Thanks

  7. The only way the present Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) can create an amicable political and economic atmosphere in Sierra Leone is to recognise the existence of the main opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) party and formulate a general agreement pertaining to the progressive governance and development of the country.

    The SLPP’s ‘new direction’ slogan is a manifestation of the fact that the two parties always work in different directions in their development strides. Thus, it is ironic to see the SLPP devise a National Development Plan (NDP) and expect the APC to adopt it.

    Take an example from the United Kingdom (UK), where politics is dominated by two main parties with distinct philosophies – the Labour party leaning towards Socialism and the Conservative party aligning to Capitalism. These two parties slug it out at every opportunity in parliament, but when it comes to issues of national interests, they are always in unison. (Give credit to Theresa May – Conservative – the resilient lady fighter. And don’t forget Jeremy Corbyn – Labour – the guy that can take some knocks and jabs.)

    This makes politics in the UK very transparent and interesting to follow – it is an open contest. But in Sierra Leone, which inherited the same pattern of politics from the UK, there has never been a ‘clean fight’ or any collusion between the two main parties with regards to matters of national interest. Each party, APC or SLPP, always think that by discrediting the other will give them an edge in the political domain.

    Evidently, when the SLPP came to power on April 2018, there was little time wasted in dishonouring the previous APC government by abandoning the prestigious Mamamah International Airport project. The SLPP’s pretext was based on the viability and cost of the project which stands at US$300 million. Nonetheless, they came up with the option of constructing a bridge that would link the old Lungi Airport and the capital, Freetown which is estimated to cost over US$1.2 billion – about 4 times the cost of Mamamah International Airport. This is irrespective of the potential environmental damage to the country’s coastline, and the subsequent cost of repair that such a project would entail.

    Does this conflict of interest seek to adhere to prudent economics, or is it just a mere deviation by these two parties COLLUDING on matters of national interest? Now that the present SLPP government is gearing up to diversify the economy in the revitalization of tourism, including other sectors, would an airport of international standards now be seen as a lost cause that would have complemented these industries?

    Today, the APC has been wrongly dubbed as the party of violence, a legacy that is reminiscent of the Siaka Stevens era. However, history does not support this notion. In fact before the formation of the APC, the seeds of violence in politics, nepotism, tribalism and corruption had already been sown by the SLPP government of late Sir Albert Margai. In an attempt to cling to power after the 1967 general elections, Albert Margai and his cohorts instigated the then strongmen in uniform Brigadier David Lansana and Lieutenant Hinga Norman to seize power from the winner Siaka Stevens.

    “The appointment of Siaka Probyn Stevens as prime minister is unconstitutional and we the members of the armed forces being the custodians of state security are now taking over power … I repeat Martial law!” That was the statement of David Lansana, in the first ever coup de’tat in Sierra Leone. The once peaceful quiet city of Freetown was in turmoil. There was anarchy and chaos everywhere in the country – resulting to looting, destruction of private properties, and loss of lives.

    This pattern of governance was replicated during the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) junta reign; and to some extent in the first half of late President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah-led SLPP government. A period of tensions, lawlessness and sustained abuse of human rights. The NPRC which took power from the APC government of late President Joseph Saidu Momoh, was unable to defend the country from the ongoing rebel war by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). And undoubtedly, the period of impasse during the civil war between 1991 and 2002 can be seen as a drawback to Sierra Leone’s socio-economic development.

    Also, this period saw acute incidents of violence, mass loss of lives and a demographic entrenchment of the two main parties – with an APC denominated North and an SLPP dominated South, with the accompanying tribal sentiments.

    The present SLPP government with only 49 seats against APC’s 68 seats, finds itself in a very tight corner in parliament, in carrying out the necessary legislation without infringing on APC prerogative. And since they came to power amidst the most controversial circumstances since the country gained independence in 1961, they have seemingly acted like ‘cowboys’ in a classic western movie. This is evident from the recent “unprecedented decision by the Speaker of the House – Dr Abbas Bundu, to grant parliamentary assent to the Present’s proposal to declare a state of public emergency on rape, without seeking a two-thirds majority vote through ballot – as provided for in the country’s constitution”.

    Apparently, it was a well-thought-out plan executed by the Speaker, or in this context, the bad Sheriff in town, in an attempt to outmanoeuvre the main opposition APC party. Furthermore, it looks very deplorable to see President Maada Bio and the Leader of Government Business in the House of Parliament – Sidi Mohamed Tunis MP – displaying the “Parliamentary Certificate of Approval of the proclamation of a State of Emergency on Rape and Sexual Violence, at State House”, as if it was genuinely achieved under normal circumstances.

    In the ongoing Commission of Inquiry that was set up to investigate the alleged plundering of state coffers by the previous President Earnest Bai Koroma-led APC government, irrespective of its outcome, the APC would be labelled with the legacy of the party of corruption. And obviously, if the SLPP does not change its dodgy tactics of rampant degradation of the constitution, it would earn the legacy of the party of rogues.

    The present political set up in the the country is a recipe for disaster. The ‘new direction’ slogan is an agenda designed to discredit and counteract APC development strategies, and the product of these two opposing blueprints will impact negatively to any economy.

    Political and as well as individual attitudes would have to change in order to achieve a way forward – the ultimate right direction.

    If the SLPP can manoeuvre like this openly to the nation, perhaps thinking that the population is not well informed, how would they behave come 2023 elections?

    • Thanks Mr Turay for your analysis. Well understood but my reservation in your comment was about violence. With all your explanation, you failed to realise or accept the fact that the APC party have been more violent considering the legacy of Siaka Steven that was the cause of the civil war. Thanks.

    • Mr. Turay, national dialogue is the answer. In your lengthy comment, no criticism of the APC Party but the others. APC was 38 years in power with no sustainable development legacy we as a nation are enjoying today. We are the fifth least developed country in the world. My advice is for you to put your country first before your party. We in the NGC want this country to succeed and KKY and others are doing their best for our very poor nation.

  8. What a wonderful gesture by the president. I can’t believe what is now happening in our politics. Is this the beginning to end political divisiveness, to come together and heal the wounds of the past?

    Look at those pictures, from the smiling faces to the thumbs up and the hand shake. Even though I am not among that group(by the way I am jealous for not being in that group to make history), you can observe God’s presence in that gathering. I hope all is not just cosmetics.

    May God guide and protect all those great men and women who participated in that meeting. May God make them very rich without corruption. May God help them not to refuse to attend the COI if ever they are invited, May God help them tell their supporters not to refuse to attend the COI if they are invited, May God help them work together in PARLIAMENT for the good of the country, May God help them to be elected again to parliament and May God help them convey the message of NATIONAL COHESION, PEACE LOVE AND UNITY to their SUPPORTERS.

    A few days ago, I mentioned the name of my icon and the greatest politician ever lived – The late Arizona Senator JOHN McCain. What he used to do in politics is what president Bio has just done. JOHN McCain’s LEGACY will never die. Governments and democratic leaders will ever remain to follow his examples. May his soul rest in perfect peace.

    This is a WIN not only for the political parties, but for the people and the country. President Bio has pressed the reset button. Nice and Cool.

    May divisiveness, grudge, violence and revenge be wiped out completely from our hearts and minds. Finally, we will continue to put pressure on our politicians.

    We will not give them any breathing space until they deliver. We will force them to move away from violence and revenge. We will force them to be active and not be mute on the national debate. We will force them to agree and work with the government on issues that are good for the country. We will pray for the president not to take unilateral actions that are not approved by Parliament.

    Finally, may God bless all those great men and women who participated in that meeting. May God bless Sierra Leone and her people to promote NATIONAL COHESION – I pray. AMEN AND AMEN.

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