Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 October 2015
Julius Maada Bio – the 2012 presidential candidate for the Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party (SLPP), returned home yesterday, 11th October, after pursuing his doctoral studies at the Bradford University in the UK.
But it is not certain whether he has finally completed and obtained his PhD. Speaking in London before his return to Sierra Leone, the presidential hopeful said: “I look forward to going home, because as a politician I find it always to be most challenging to be away for any period from your country and people that you care most about.”
Last month, in the aftermath of the flooding that destroyed thousands of properties in the country, following heavy rainfall, Julius Maada Bio is believed to have donated a large consignment of foods and non-food items to flood victims in the Bo District and Freetown.
Is Maada Bio now looking for rapprochement with State House?
The former leader of the military junta which toppled the corrupt APC government in 1992, today visited president Koroma at State House, where according to reports he was met with a statement from the ruling APC president Koroma who reminded him that politics “is not a matter of life and death…at the end of the day, the destination is a developed and unified country, and it is the responsibility of all to make Sierra Leone great; not by fighting or being at each other’s throat.”
Today, Maada Bio was accompanied to State House by close political allies in the SLPP – his former 2012 running mate Dr Kadie Sesay, and the deputy chairman of the SLPP – Prince Harding – who has made no secret of his strong opposition to Dr. Yumkella’s membership of the SLPP.
State House Communications Unit reports that during his talks with Maada Bio, the president took the opportunity to call on all politicians in the country to focus on ending the Ebola crisis, rather than politics. This is not the time for politics, he said.
But political observers say that these veiled warnings to the former military leader are being made by the president in response to fears of a return to political violence, following recent allegations that Bio’s supporters are responsible for the riotous behaviour that took place outside the SLPP head office, during the visit of Dr. Kandeh Yumkella.
Political tensions have been rising recently in Sierra Leone, especially after the sacking of the vice president, as well as the arrest and detention of opposition members for holding party meetings and rallies, whilst ruling party supporters were free to meet and demonstrate in favour of the government.
State House report today says that both the president and Bio discussed the current countdown towards Ebola Free Sierra Leone and the need for national cohesion.
President Koroma is said to have called on the former military leader to work with the government to help bring the Ebola crisis to an end by the 7th of November 2015.
The president told Bio that his government has led the fight against the Ebola virus with the support of other organisations. It is well documented that Maada Bio has been highly critical of the president’s handling and mismanagement of the Ebola crisis.
But president Koroma, who is constantly looking for new political allies to strengthen his future ambitions, told Maada Bio that his door is always open, particularly to those that are interested in working with the government and other players to move the country forward. He encouraged the former SLPP presidential candidate to continue to work collaboratively, says the State House report.
Political observers commenting on Maada Bio’s statement today at State House, say that the former military leader has done a complete and hypocritical u-turn, after his recent press statements had strongly condemned the president, whom he now praises for providing effective leadership in the fight against the Ebola virus, and for what he also regards as the government’s proactive stance in helping and catering for the welfare of those affected by the flooding that took place on the 16th September 2015.
Bio also said today at State House that although the country is still at risk of Ebola recurring, substantial progress has been made by the government in breaking the chain of transmission and controlling the spread of the virus. (Photo: Maada Bio meeting Koroma at State House a few years ago).
According to the State House report, Maada Bio spoke to president Koroma about his desire to work with the government in promoting its social mobilization and sensitization drive to end the Ebola crisis.
And to this end, he said he will be travelling around the country, calling on communities to continue to follow the health restrictions so as to bring the crisis to an end.
Today’s meeting at State House raises more questions about the former military leader’s political game plan and modus operandi. Is Bio seeking rapprochement with the ruling APC in advance of the 2018 presidential election, which he is hoping to contest?