Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 May 2016
There are disturbing stories emerging from London about plans by a small section of the SLPP UK branch membership, believed to be led by some former officers of the executive committee of the branch to stage a coup against the officially recognised and recently elected executive committee (Photo).
It is understood that the ‘rebel’ faction is planning to organise a ceremony in London today, where a breakaway group of elders of the SLPP UK, will hand over control of the affairs of the branch to the unofficial executive committee, in contravention of the constitution.
According to the SLPP UK & Ireland 2014 Constitution – Appendix 2 D.1; “The Council of Elders shall be the moral guarantors”; and Appendix 2 D. 4 further states that: “At the end of the term of the outgoing executive the Council of elders shall assume responsibility in running the affairs of the Branch/ Region and Chapters until the new executive is sworn in.”
So why all the force?
Speaking to the Sierra Leone Telegraph, a prominent member of the branch said that; “Members of the Maada Bio backed former executive officers, are planning to organize a coup and a handing over ceremony later today. But majority of the Council of Elders who are the custodians and moral guarantors of the UK region, have decided to dissociate themselves from the event.” (Photo: Bio and president Koroma at State House).
This is the statement signed and published yesterday by the majority of members of the council of elders:
“Important announcement relating to a proposed handing over to an ‘‘Executive-Elect’’ on Friday 20th May 2016
The membership and the general public is hereby notified that We, the undermentioned, being the majority of the constitutionally elected Council of Elders (CoE -6/10), unreservedly dissociate and divest ourselves from a proposed handing over to an ‘‘Executive Elect’’ on Friday 20th May 2016.
As the majority of the Custodians charged with oversight and responsibility of the affairs of SLPP UK & I region pro tem, we shall be appraising you with the date and time for a genuine handing over to the Executive election which we presided over on the 23rd April 2016 at The Crawford Tenants & Residents Association Hall, Lowth Road, Off Coldharbour Lane London SE5 9 EW.
We wish to thank you for your understanding, continued cooperation and may God bless the SLPP.
Signed: Mr. Abu Sheriff (Vice Chairman SLPP UK & Ireland Region Council of Elders); Mr. Kai Pokawa (Secretary SLPP UK & Ireland Council of Elders); Mr. David Ben-Hirsch; Madam Hawa Kallon; Madam Nancy Banya; and Madam Kankay Barlay.
Copy: National Chairman and Leader, Acting National Secretary General,
NEC, Chapter and Steering Committee Chairmen, Election Committee 2016.”
Many members of the SLPP UK and Ireland branch are of the opinion that, should today’s planned action by the unofficial – rebel group go ahead in London, and the breakaway members of the council of elders install the non-elected group to office, they will consider this not only unconstitutional, but a coup against the elected and officially recognised executive committee led by Mr. Ansu Sillah (Photo).
So how did the SLPP UK get to this retrograde position, that is now threatening to destroy the party?
Following a London court decision on 5 May, 2016, dismissing an application for injunction to prevent the previous chairman Jimmy Batilo Songa from continuing in office and organise the election of new officers, both sides in the dispute are claiming victory.
That court decision came just weeks after the party’s UK and Ireland branch elected a new group of executive officers, led by chairman Ansu Sillah.
The big political fallout which took place in London last year, between the outgoing chairman Jimmy Batilo Songa and a huge swathe of party members, who are officially recognised as the bona fide party branch, was an ugly scene that brought the party into public disrepute.
The refusal of the former chairman Batilo Songa to leave office and handover responsibilities for organising fresh elections to the party’s group of elders was the basis for the application for court injunction.
After the court hearing the former SLPP UK/I Chairman Jimmy Batilo Songa who is now leading the rebel camp, said in a defiant mood: “I want to thank all committed SLPP members who stood by my executive and the party, because they believed in the UK/I constitution and our democratic credentials.
“I also call on the few members whose case was thrown out to put the interest of the party above petty differences and unite behind the new chairman, Mohamed Yongawo, so that we can collectively focus on returning the SLPP to governance in 2018.”
But this statement by Batilo Songa is seen by many in the party as a red rag to a bull – a recipe for further conflict, chaos and confusion in the SLPP.
And, by refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of the officially recognised UK party branch headed by Mr. Ansu Sillah, it seems the Batilo faction is bracing itself for further legal battles at the expense of party unity.
The continuing fallout from the court decision has widened the gulf between the officially recognised party branch and the Batilo Songa faction, who are claiming legitimacy.
What is certain now is that today’s plan by a few breakaway members of the council of elders to unconstitutionally handover control of the affairs of the branch to an unofficial executive committee, will throw spanners into the works and make reconciliation far more difficult for SLPP – not only in the UK, but also in Sierra Leone.