Kabs Kanu: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 7 February 2024:
The ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP) is convinced that the thrust of the international community mediated tripartite dialogue is about the conduct of future elections, while the opposition All People’s Congress (APC ) is still giving its supporters faint hopes that everything, including a re-run of the 2023 elections is possible.
The SLPP Minister of Information and Civic Education, Mr. Chernoh Bah, who chaired yesterday’s press conference of the tripartite committee and the SLPP member of the committee, Dr. Emmanuel Gaima, were unequivocal in their contention that everything being done is for future elections, not the 2023 polls. They even strengthened their views with the assertion that the tripartite committee is not a legislative or investigative committee; rather, according to them, it is a committee set up to only review past elections and make recommendations for future elections.
But with supporters of his party all over the country and the world listening, the APC committee representative, Dr. Kaifala Marah, strongly warned that the final outcome of the review must not be preempted. He assured supporters that the 2023 elections will be fully investigated (even arguing that the words REVIEW and INVESTIGATE are synymous) and that the committee will make the right recommendations. He also suggested or insinuated that even if it can be agreed that the committee is not a legislative body, there are public election laws ratified by Parliament that have the same force of law. He even went on to quote the relevant sections of the law.
Thus, although Dr. Kaifala Marah’s statements seem vague and ambiguous with regards to whether there will be a re-run or not, they have the tendency of encouraging APC supporters to have hope of a possible re-run of the elections.
However, the U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Bryan Hunt, in a post – press conference interview with the media, made it very clear that the $1.5 million his country donated to the committee through USAID has nothing to do with conducting a re-run, whose costs, he estimated, run into upwards of a hundred million dollars. The funding he went on, is to enhance the work of the committee.
In his usual very frank mood, the outspoken ambassador said anyone who suggests that the funding is for conducting a re-run of the 2023 elections is not telling the truth.
It is clear from yesterday’s press conference that the APC has not given up on the 2023 elections; and based on Dr. Kaifala Marah’s statements and his body language and the intensity of the applause that greeted his statements, the APC is determined to make a fight of this issue.
Yesterday, I predicted that this press conference will reveal for once and for all whether there will be a re-run or not, but when the session ended, the issue was still not resolved as expected, because Dr. Kaifala Marah’s statements are subject to many interpretations. It all now depends on whose resolve you want to trust.
My take on the issue, after the press conference yesterday is that we all continue to wait. Time will tell who will be proved right – the SLPP or the APC.
In fact, considering the tension that built up in the conference room, which the Minister of Information worryingly mentioned and pleaded with panelists to defuse in their concluding statements, this is set to become a very contentious and divisive issue in the coming months.