Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 April 2018:
A serious row has broken out between the ruling SLPP and the former president of Sierra Leone Ernest Bai Koroma, after the SLPP National Publicity Secretary – Lahai Lawrence Leema, yesterday accused the former president of holding a secret meeting in his home town of Makeni with a group of senior military officers.
Mr Leema did not say what the secret meeting was about, but writing on social media, this is what the SLPP National Publicity Secretary said: “The attention of the SLPP National Publicity Secretary has been drawn to a secret meeting of some senior military officers of the RSLAF with the former president Ernest Bai Koroma in Makeni city.
“If this is anything to go by, then let me remind the RSLAF chain of command that the commander-in -chief of the Republic of Sierra Leone (RSLAF) as stipulated by the 1991 constitution of Sierra Leone is His Excellency Rtd. Brg. Julius Bio, you either respect the people’s mandate or you quit the RSLAF; to venture any unprogressive path in this country now will be counterproductive.
“You don’t serve to (sic) masters. It is against the military law and codes for three officers to have a secret meeting without the approval of the CDS. So whatever you are up to, I advise you drop it with an immediate effect.”
A month ago, at the height of the general and presidential elections campaigning, Mr Leema made similar accusation against the military, when he said that senior army officers were plotting to assassinate the SLPP leader and presidential candidate – Julius Maada Bio.
But yesterday’s allegation by Mr Leema, who himself is a former military officer, “is one step too far,” a senior executive of the SLPP party told the Sierra Leone Telegraph.
“Our party is now in government, but it seems we have forgotten how to switch off the opposition button we have become accustomed to for the past ten years sitting on the opposition benches,” he said.
Last month, the Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio who is in London this week , attending the Commonwealth Heads of State conference, was elected as president of Sierra Leone.
But three weeks on, the economic woes inherited by his government continue, amid worsening intermittent electricity blackouts across the capital Freetown and shortage of cash to run his government.
The Bio government has a huge mountain to climb, if it is to begin to tackle the economic and financial difficulties facing the people of Sierra Leone. Hence spending time behaving like a government in waiting, lashing out at the outgoing Koroma government is unwise and counter-productive.
Responding to the allegation made by the SLPP against the former president and senior army officers, this is a statement issued by the office of the former President Ernest Bai Koroma:
“The attention of the Office of Former President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, has been drawn to a very wild allegation authored and published on social media by the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Lahai Lawrence Leema, claiming that military officers of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces held a secret meeting in Makeni City, Northern Sierra Leone, with the former President after he was no longer President.
“The Office of Former President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma wishes the public to know that such an allegation by Lahai Lawrence Leema against the Former President and in which the Military has been linked, is baseless and dangerous for the peace and security of the State.
“The facts are that since the new SLPP dispensation of H.E. President Bio was ushered in, the former president has not even moved out of Freetown let alone to be present in northern Makeni City to hold secret meetings with soldiers.
“For the avoidance of all doubts, we hereby state that the former President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, has not held any secret meetings with military officers here in Freetown, in Makeni or anywhere else. We therefore condemn in the strongest of terms this errant attempt to bring the name of the former president to disrepute.
“This Office further notes that such unfounded allegations have brought sad memories of how innocent Sierra Leoneans were in the past, implicated on trumped up allegations of Treason resulting in unimaginable, extra-judicial consequences for them and their families.
“Against a backdrop of ongoing harassment of various citizens by armed vigilantes of the ruling SLPP, this Office will like the general public and the international community to note the latest unfortunate and dangerous gimmick by the ruling SLPP.
“During Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma’s tenure as president over a period of ten years, he worked assiduously to ensure Sierra Leone enjoys unprecedented peace and quiet.
“Our collective efforts under his leadership, ensured our country Sierra Leone was ranked as the most peaceful nation in our region and one of the most peaceful in Africa and the World. It is therefore incumbent on us all to maintain our enviable ranking.
“Meanwhile, this Office hereby demands the immediate retraction by the SLPP of such an unfounded allegation by their official National Spokesman.”
Listen to Lahai Lawrence Leema defending his allegation:
Listen to former Defence Minister Palo Conteh condemning the allegation on 98.1 FM:
While senior SLPP executives will be hoping that this new row is nothing but a storm in a teacup, it does not bode well for the Bio government that has promised a different and better way of doing politics in Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone is one of the poorest nations in the world, with most people living on $1 (one dollar) a day; over 70% are unemployed; fewer than 20% having access to reliable supply of electricity; and 60% struggling to access safe and clean drinking water.
With such problems in the country, the SLPP government must now switch off from opposition mode and go to work.
Five years in office is less than sixty months away. Last month the people of Sierra Leone voted for change which brought the SLPP into power. The people have shown they can do it again in 2023, if the SLPP government fails to address the deep seated economic and social problems that are causing early childhood and adult deaths in Sierra Leone.