Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 May 2017
Although presidential and general elections are less than ten months away, neither of Sierra Leone’s two main political parties – the APC and SLPP, are anywhere closer to announcing the name of their respective presidential candidate.
Both parties are locked in fierce internal divisions and leadership struggle, causing setback to their political timetable and preparations for next year’s elections. The ruling APC is expected to hold its national convention in a few weeks to elect its 2018 presidential candidate, and members of the party are expected to put party interests above personal ambitions.
Party discipline and order – enforced by the dictatorial leadership style of president Koroma (Photo), have come to define and characterise the ruling APC’s internal politics – everyone does as they are told, follow the rules and accept executive decisions.
But for the opposition SLPP, it is far from certain as to whether their national convention will be held anytime soon. The party is locked in another court battle, contrary to the recommendations made to the officers and rank and file members, by the party’s peace committee early this year. Constitutional order and party discipline are in short supply.
Whilst significant progress has been achieved towards establishing a common bridge among the different factions within the SLPP party – following the Alie Kabba peace initiative, the internal divisions and wounds are far from being healed. Time is running out.
Across many of the constituencies in the country, there are at least two parallel SLPP party executive committees – each supporting and supported by one of the party’s aspiring presidential candidates.
But this destabilising development is more pronounced in the 39 constituencies where controversial elections were held to elect SLPP party branch executive officers. The outcomes of those elections remain in dispute.
Presidential aspirant – Dr Jonathan Tengbe has this week brought a renewed sense of urgency, hope and determination to kick-start the opposition SLPP’s faltering peace process. He is now calling on the party to conduct a re-run of those controversial 39 Constituency elections, as a precursor to rebuilding the party’s foundation in preparation for 2018.
Speaking on eastern community radio, Dr. Tengbe said that in February 2017 – at the SLPP peace conference, all flagbearer aspirants of the party signed a communiqué calling for the re-run of the controversial local elections, as well as to re-instate the party’s national leader and chairman chief Seborah Somanoh Kapen and others, who were unceremoniously removed from office.
Tengbe said that almost all of the resolutions agreed at the peace talks early this year have so far been executed, with the exception of the re-run of those controversial 39 constituency elections.
Presidential aspirant Tengbe is urging the SLPP to adopt a culture of resolving its problems internally, rather than through the Courts. He is calling on party executives and rank and file members to put the party above personal politics.
Dr. Jonathan Bonopha Tengbeh (Photo) further stated that the party’s hierarchy must not wait for the pending appeal court ruling, but must urgently find ways internally to bring all factions together for the common good of the party.
Speaking to the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph – Abdul Rashid Thomas this morning, Dr Tengbe emphasised his commitment to the SLPP peace process and the formulation of a roadmap to achieving this goal, before preparations can start for the national convention and the 2018 general elections..
The editor asked Dr. Tengbe: “You have outlined what could be described as the making of a good roadmap towards lasting peace and the 2018 elections, but what’s the timeline for achieving these highly critical milestones, before general and presidential elections next March?”
Tengbe said: “Realistically we should give ourselves six months to campaign for the general elections, after the election of our presidential candidate. That said, a re-run of the controversial 39 constituency elections should take place early July. It is not advisable to do politics during Ramadan.
“This should then be followed by the election of the National Executive Council Officers in early August; and the Flagbearer election in early September.
“This will give the SLPP exactly six months to campaign across the country. It is important that the UK and Ireland Branch election is conducted in July, so that we can field representative delegates for the national convention. If we miss this window, it is going to be very difficult for the Party.”
Responding to Tengbe’s new push towards lasting peace in the SLPP party, a supporter of presidential aspirant – Alie Kabba said: “Bravo my brother Bonapha. Your position is the same as that which was posited by our brother and your colleague – Alie Kabba, following the peace negotiations.
“Aside the commission of a criminal act against individuals or property, a political organization like the SLPP could rightly go to a court of law for litigation. But the logic is not there in this particular case to take suspicious and malicious procedural misdemeanours to court, no matter how obvious suspicions may abound.
“As the wise members of the party equitably concluded at the end of the well received peace process, with a unanimous recommendation to withdraw all cases before the courts and to conduct an internal re-evaluation and or re-doing of the 39 controversial constituency elections in the interest of party unity…..”
You can listen here to Dr Tengbe (speaking in Krio on Star Radio) outlining his views for lasting peace in the SLPP: