Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 June 2020:
Speculations are growing across the political divide in Sierra Leone, after a leading pro SLPP government newspaper – Global Times, published a story recently stating that the next general and presidential elections will be held in 2024 – not 2023 as expected.
According to the Constitution of Sierra Leone, national, mayoral and local election cycle come round every five years. Elections were last held in Sierra Leone in 2018.
It will be recalled that the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) Candidate, Brig. (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio, and the All Peoples Congress (APC) Candidate, Dr. Samura Matthew Wilson Kamara, emerged first and second respectively, during the first round of the fiercely contested presidential election held on 7 March 2018.
As no candidate obtained the required 55 per cent votes for an outright victory in the first round of the presidential election, a run-off took place on 27 March 2018 between Maada Bio and Samura Kamara.
The result of the run-off was very close. The Sierra Leone People’s Party received 51.8 percent of the votes cast, narrowly defeating Samura Kamara of the governing All People’s Congress Party, who won 48.2 percent, according to the Electoral Commission.
Two years on, there are questions as to whether the next elections will be held in 2023.
According to media speculations in Sierra Leone and report by the pro-SLPP government media, the next Parliamentary and Presidential elections may be held in 2024, which opposition supporters say will tantamount to breach of constitutional provisions.
But SLPP supporters and many in the inner circle of the party, say that because of the current covid-19 pandemic, elections cannot be held in 2023 They argue that the late President Tejan Kabba of the SLPP was elected in 1996 and his first term was to have ended in 2001 for elections to be conduct in the same year. However, that after almost a year in office, in 1997 he was overthrown by the military and fled to Guinea, where he spent a year before his reinstatement by the UN and ECOWAS. Hence, elections were held in 2002 instead of 2001.
Likewise, they say that the former President Ernest Bai Koroma of the APC who was re-elected in 2012, should have held elections in 2017, but that because of the 2014/2015 Ebola pandemic was unable to call those elections in 2017. Elections were instead held a year later – in 2018.
By using the precedent set by both former presidents Kabbah and Koroma respectively, the SLPP are now saying that elections cannot be held in 2023.
They argue that president Bio was elected in March 2018; and in March 2020, the country was hit by the coronavirus pandemic which led to a public health emergency and closure of schools, banning of public gathering, and suspension of all political activities in the country.
But will president Bio honour and respect the election cycle as laid down in the constitution?
Fierce political debates are expected on this thorny issue, once covid has ended and normality returns. Until then, the SLPP government has huge economic challenges it is yet to address, including the very high levels of unemployment across the country, declining foreign investments, and falling export revenue.
Since coming to power in 2018, president Bio’s government has received over $500 million of loans and forerign aid, despite complaining about the lack of revenue to run the country’s affairs.
Recently, his government received IMF and World Bank suport of over $270 million to help respond to the economic impact of the covid pandemic. The people of Sierra Leone will therefore be looking for results, including improvements in their standards of living in 2021 and 2022.
Following a wave of cabinet reshuffle and sackings, there have been changes in ministerial leadership.
These are the people now at the helm of president Bio’s government, helping to steer his government into the ‘promised land’ of the New Direction:
Julius Maada Bio – President, Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh – Vice-President; Professor David J. Francis – Chief Minister; Nabeela F. Tunis – Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Deputy Minister Solomon Jamiru; Jacob Jusu Saffa – Minister of Finance, Deputy Ministers: Dr. Patricia Nyanga Laverley, Shek Ahmed Fantamadi Bangura; Priscilla Schwartz – Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Deputy Minister: Umaru Napoleon Koroma; Dr. David Moinina Sengeh –
Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, Deputy Minister: Vacant.
Dr Alpha T. Wurie – Minister of Health and Sanitation, Deputy Ministers: Dr. Anthony Augustine Sandi, Dr Amara Jambai; David Maurice Panda-Noah – Minister of Internal Affairs, Deputy Minister: Lahai Lawrence Leema; Brig. (Rtd.) Kellie Conteh – Minister of Defence, Deputy Minister: Col. (Rtd.) Muana Brima Massaquoi; Kabineh M. Kallon – Minister of Transport and Aviation, Deputy Minister: Sadiq Silla; Dr. Denis Sandy – Minister of Lands and Housing, Deputy Minister: Rex Bhonapha.
Mohamed Bangura – Minister of Youth Affairs, Deputy Minister Sports: Kai Lawrence Mbayo; Denis K. Vandi – Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Deputy Ministers: Samking Koihinah Braima, Dr Abu Bakarr Karim; Ambassador Foday Yumkella – Minister of Political and Public Affairs, Deputy Minister: Amara Kallon; Prof. Foday Jaward – Minister of the Environment, Deputy Minister: Steven Syril James Jusu.
Dr. Edward Hinga Sandy – Minister of Trade and Industry, Deputy Minister: Rev. Abraham James Sesay-Jones; Alhaji Kanja Sesay – Minister of Energy, Deputy Minister: Dr. Eldred Tunde Taylor; Mohamed Swaray – Minister of Information and Communication, Deputy Minister: Mamadi Gobeh-Kamara; Emma Kowa – Minister of Marine Resources, Deputy Minister: Ibrahim Turay.
Minister of Labour and Social Security (vacant), Deputy Minister: Lansana Mohamed Dumbuya; P.K. Lansana – Minister of Water Resources, Deputy Minister: Namatulai Bah-Chang; Baindu Dassama – Minister of Social Welfare, Deputy Minister: Mohamed Haji-Kella; Manti Tarawally – Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs.
Dr Francis Mustapha Kai-Kai – Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Deputy Minister: Dr. Robert Tamba Michael Chakanda; Prof. Aiah Gbakima – Minister of Technical and Higher Education, Deputy Minister: Dr. Turad Senesie; Peter Bayuku Konteh – Minister of Works and Public Assets, Deputy Minister: Philip Tetema Tondeneh; Foday Rado Yokie – Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources, Deputy Minister: Evelyn Daphne Blackie.
Tamba Lamina – Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Deputy Minister: Melrose Kargbo; Memunatu B. Pratt – Minister of Tourism and Culture, Deputy Minister: William Illawim Kongkatee Robinson; Mohamed K. Alie – Resident Minister, South; Andrew Fatorma – Resident Minister, East; Abu Abu Koroma – Resident Minister, North; Abu Abu Koroma – Resident Minister, North West; Francess Piagie Alghali – Minister of State, Vice President’s Office.