Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 September 2015
Sierra Leone’s main opposition political party – the Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party (SLPP) has in the last few weeks, attracted a lot of unnecessary criticisms and condemnation across the country and abroad, for all the wrong reasons – violence and overt discrimination. (Photo: Some of the riotous behaviour seen at the party offices on the 24th August 2015).
For a party that says its motto and philosophy is – ‘one country one people’, serious questions are now being asked as to whether every single one of the officers elected by the rank and file to lead the party, is true to this philosophy.
Founded in the 1950s and branded as a broad church by its founding fathers, who largely originated from the north of Sierra Leone, it is ironic that accusations of tribalism and discrimination are now being levied by northerners in the party, against some of their southern counterparts they say are provoking and orchestrating violence against them and denying their leadership candidate the right to contest leadership elections.
Today, the National Commission for Democracy in Sierra Leone published a statement condemning all forms of political violence in the country, especially violence that carries tribal undertone. This is what they said:
“Over five decades ago Sierra Leone gained its independence and had since been struggling to consolidate its democratic gains. The country has over the years created the necessary structures and institutions that will promote a democratic good governance environment.
“In this consolidation process, the role of political parties remains very crucial as they represent the means through which the governance process is promoted and enhanced.
“The incident that occurred at the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) headquarters on August 24, 2015 however, undermines what should be the proper role of political parties in democratic consolidation.
“This incident also took place against the backdrop of not only the forthcoming 2018 General Elections but also characterized by intolerance on the part of a section of SLPP Party supporters against another segment within the same Party. This incident could be seen without any doubt as representing an early warning sign that must be nipped in the bud if the country is to enjoy the next elections peacefully.
“Democratic consolidation must be anchored on respect for good governance principles such as, respect for the rule of law, mutual tolerance, participation, transparency and accountability. Political parties must ensure the strict promotion of internal democracy aimed at giving political space to members within their respective parties.
“The fact remains that political parties must be above tribal considerations since they are expected, in our context, to be a collection of individuals from all the 17 tribes of Sierra Leone that must be treated equally, having access to participate in the decision making process of their respective political parties without any discrimination as to region, tribe, sex, etc.
“In fact, Parties can only become powerful when they are able to manage their respective differences with the aim of enhancing unity and cohesion. The contribution of such a scenario to peace and stability of the state of Sierra Leone cannot be overemphasized in this regard, even to its socio-economic and political development.
“As a Moral Guarantor to the Peace of Sierra Leone, the National Commission for Democracy (NCD) therefore, observes with grave concern the recent development at the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) headquarters.
“The Commission is calling on members of SLPP to ensure access to all in the name of democracy and the respect for the rule of law. It should be noted that such a trend and tendency is a manifestation of political intolerance which does not augur well for peace and stability in the state of Sierra Leone.
“It constitutes an anathema to democratic consolidation and to say the least could become a building block for chaos and anarchy not only within parties but the body politic as a whole.
“Good democratic practice clearly dictates that political party leadership cannot be achieved through demagogy and anarcho-syndicalist methods. It could only be achieved through open debate, reconciliation and political consensus.
“Politics is not the threat or the use of force against others within and without the political party environment. It is the process of persuading members of political parties to accept programmes from the various shades of opinion represented.
“The National Commission for Democracy (NCD) is therefore urging all political parties to strictly adhere to democratic good governance principles and other best practices of civilized nations. This is the only option that will promote the socio-economic and political development of the state of Sierra Leone.”
The Sierra Leone Peoples Party has a lot of work to do to begin to address the deep divisions that have opened up, as the battle for the flagbearer race begins.
But more importantly, the party will need to clean up its perceived image of violence and tribalism, if it is to seriously contest the 2018 presidential, general and local elections.
Watch some of the troubling scenes that occurred at the SLPP Office on the 24th August 2015 (Courtesy of the KKY Team):