Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 September 2015
Sierra Leone’s main opposition SLPP party chairman – Chief Kapen, has today broken silence, after months of praying and hoping that the controversy surrounding the party membership of presidential hopeful Kandeh Yumkella, would go away.
Speaking live on local television in Freetown, Chief Kapen said unequivocally that Kandeh Yumkella is a bona fide member of the Sierra Leone People’s Party.
He said that the party is now at a crossroad, and called upon those that are trying to create division within the party by failing to accept all credible evidence, which shows that Kandeh is a member of the SLPP, to stop immediately.
Last week, a group of senior party members formed a self-governed committee, outside of the party constitution and structure, which its members said has carried out an investigation and produced a report on Yumkella’s membership.
According to their report published at a press conference last week, Kandeh Yumkella is not a bona fide member of the SLPP.
But many in the party strongly believe that the aim of this unofficial committee, which is led by the chairman of the SLPP southern district – Mr. Soloku, supported by the party’s deputy chairman Prince Harding, and the former party legal adviser – Eke Halloway, is to keep Yumkella out of the party’s presidential candidacy race.
The committee says that for peace to return to the SLPP, they are “recommending that Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella (Photo) applies for a new registration of membership of the Party. This way this matter will be brought to closure, thereby reducing unnecessary conflict and tension amongst party supporters and helping to promote the ongoing unity, peace and reconciliation initiatives within the Party.”
This is not going to happen, says the KKY campaign team. “Re-registering is not an option for Yumkella”.
A fundamental question that many members of the SLPP party living overseas are asking tonight is; why did the committee fail to recognise Yumkella’s membership of SLPP chapters in the diaspora, which also makes Yumkella a bona fide member of the party?
“Surely, if Kandeh Yumkella’s membership of various overseas chapters is invalid, so is the membership of thousands of SLPP supporters living abroad and paying their hard earned cash to the party office in Freetown every year. Perhaps it is time to seriously rethink my membership of a party that is now questioning diasporan membership,” says one SLPP member in London, talking to the Sierra Leone Telegraph.
But chief Kapen (Photo) today makes it quite clear that the so called committee, has no legal basis in the party, and that those who have formed the committee have done so without his authority and that of the elected National Executive Council.
He said that the report of the committee does not represent the views of the party, and that their so called investigation and recommendations have no legal basis.
This is a transcript of chief Kapen’s TV interview:
Reporter: No sooner a committee last Thursday came out with its recommendations, then came a press statement from the party’s national secretary general disclaiming what the committee had said. Where are you at this moment as a party?
Kapen: Frankly it is sad. And I am siting here as an embattled chairman and leader of the party. I have never had such an experience throughout my public life spanning, from 1967 to now. And let me tell you frankly, the SLPP is at the crossroads.
Unity is not an option, it is a necessity. Whether we want it or not it is a necessity.
The two conflicting press statements, speak for themselves. The one chaired by the southern region chairman – the honourable Soloku Bockarie, did not have my sanction as chairman and leader of the party.
We must respect the norms that are very unique in political organisations – respect for authority. Having said that, the one coming from the secretary general is to the point. He heads the secretariat, and I know as he knows, that nobody informed me or the secretary general about the press conference that has now triggered something that is likely to affect the unity of the party.
So chief were you aware of the committee?
Kapen: In fact even the setting up of the committee, I did not play a role in formation of that committee.
So how did the committee come about?
Kapen: The southern region chairman is saying that they have done all of these things in his capacity as the chairman of the southern region. But the question one should ask: is he doing this in concert with the other members of his executive at the regional level? Because all that I know is that his regional secretary, the regional young generation leader and so many other members of his executive are holding a different position.
So he cannot convince me that he even has the authority on his own without the support of his executive.
Chief you knew that this committee had been set up, why did you not come out and describe it as an illegal committee? Why did you wait for them to come out with their recommendation?
kapen: If somebody holds a meeting or……….The purpose of my coming here is not to fuel the embers of the flame, but rather to preach unity, harmony, affection and respect for authority. That is the essence of my coming here.
So are you taking what the committee came out with, with a pinch of salt?
Of course, if something goes out in a rather unorthodox or macabre manner, of course I take it with a pinch of salt, because it does not reflect the actions that have been taken as if it is a party that is well structured.
Chief it seems as if you are not in control.
Kapen: Not that I am not in control.
It seems as though the vehicle is going and the driver is sleeping.
kapen: No, no, no, no. It is sad. This is why I said it is sad. We have been having a lot of problems in the SLPP. It is the period starting from 2011 till now, that we can best describe as ‘the locus has eaten. As one locus of destruction desists, another locus more devastating rears its head.
The issue has become very problematic. And that is why I am here to preach unity, peace, harmony, affection and respect for authority.
We are now in a transition period. Our term of office as national officers has naturally come to an end, but for the supreme court matter that would be heard on the 24th of September, otherwise we would have been out.
Chief the answer that people want to know now is that, as the chairman of the party, do you recognise Dr. Kandeh Yumkella’s membership of the party?
kapen: The secretary general was very emphatic. Let us assume for the purpose of argument that the southern region chairman says the man is not registered in his region. But the secretary general has said that he is in possession of documents that this man is registered in other branches.
And our constitution does not impose any clause that says somebody cannot register in a district, in a constituency, or in a branch outside the boundaries of Sierra Leone.
As a diaspora, anybody can register in any of these branches, and he says this man is registered in some of these branches.
According to the committee the name or number on the membership card that Dr. Yumkella bears, has somebody else’s name.
Kapen: Well if you look at it, if you compare the two cards – there lies the tragedy. The one they say is for Senessie, his name is written on the date; and the address and dates are mixed, not even signed.
According to the report submitted to me by the chairman of that committee; look at the receipts they presented as authentic – the date bears the name, the name – the address, and you look down here it is not signed.
So are they accepting a receipt that is fraud, and disqualify the receipt presented by the legal team of Yumkella?
Who presented the receipt to the committee?
Kapen: Well, this is the report of the committee chaired by Soloku Bockarie.
But chief your deputy chairman Prince Harding was at the press conference.
Kapen: That’s why I said it is sad. And this is not the first time. The other time was when a group of national officers convened a press conference and made a pronouncement that myself and the secretary general had been impeached. And it took a long time, before the matter was resolved, finally by the National Political Parties Association, chaired then by the UDM chairman and leader – Mohammed Bangura.
And we thought that the issue of taking sole decisions without the approval of the chairman and leader would have come to an end.
But you are deputised by Prince Harding.
Kapen: If I am deputised, I am only deputised by Prince Harding if I am out of the country, or for any reason, due to ill health or some other peculiar circumstance, that will not permit me to perform my responsibilities.
So do you view Dr. Yumkella as a member of your party?
Kapen: According to what the secretary general who runs the secretariat and it is the secretary general that can confirm that this man is a member of the party. And so be it.
Until somebody comes with evidence that is incontrovertible to his membership, then we have to say that Dr. Kandeh Yumkella is a bona fide member of the SLPP.
So are you going to throw the recommendations of the committee to the dustbin?
Kapen: Throw something that does not have my support to the dustbin; something that I am not aware of? Up to this time that I am talking to you, I have not even seen the press statement that was made public to the fourth estate.
It is a fact and you can confirm it with the very man himself – who is the chairman of the southern region. And I am saying further that you consult with his executive – the regional secretary general of the south is saying one thing, and his chairman is saying another thing.
Melvin Rogers is saying that this man is registered, the southern region chairman is saying he is not registered. And other members of his regional executive are also saying that this man is registered. So who can I believe?
Chief, is peace achievable in the SLPP party?
Kapen: Of course peace is achievable. In a political party we all have to assimilate the spirit of others. It is a component of the diverse interests; a component that is diverse in nature, terms of region, ethnicity, etc.
Is that lacking in the party?
Kapen: You have the wets – you have the dries, but what is important in a political party is to assimilate the spirit of others. We may belong to different camps; all political parties have different camps.
Which camp do you belong to?
Kapen: What I am saying is that all political parties have different camps. In SLPP there are so many camps, revolving on the aspirants for the flagbearership. So if you are in camp A, you must accept the other in camp B, and vice versa, and preserve your individuality and sense of purpose, which is to convince the person in camp A or B to get on your side. And not to create a situation wherein you exclude a particular camp from taking part in the process.
The analogy you are painting is that Yumkella is about to be kicked out of the race.
Kapen: I am not suggesting that. But anybody can come with a national conclusion…that what you have just said.
Will this break of silence by Chief Kapen be regarded as the turning point towards peace and reconciliation in the SLPP party?
This remains to be seen in the coming weeks.