Why do we need another Bintumani conference in Sierra Leone now?

Puawui – Dr Sama Banya: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 May 2019:

In my last Puawui column under the title “Crooked Thinking”, I stated that I was in agreement with APC’s “one drop” Mohamed Sankoh that we do not need a Bintumani conference now but added quickly that it was for a different reason.

In 1992 a group of gallant young soldiers – none of them hardly more than 30 years of age, delivered this country from the tyrannical and sometimes ruthless shackles and especially corrupt administration of the APC government then headed by retired Major General President Joseph Saidu Momoh, who carried the unflattering nick name of ‘Josephine Tucker’.

Those who were around then would recall that it was a day of deliverance and liberation and extreme jubilation. The incident also brought us hope of an early end to the rebel war, which was then spreading like wildfire across the country.

It was a war that the usual sceptics initially referred to as the periodic internecine and inter family feud of the Kailahun district. Those sceptics may have had a point because Kailahun was a very rich district from its annual harvest of cocoa, coffee and palm kernels.

It was always a field day for many practicing Lawyers of the time because from the first day of harvest, litigations would commence in the Magistrate courts over the ownership of particular areas of the fertile agricultural soil, which litigations often ended inconclusively until the following season.

At the celebration of its one year in power Captain Valentine Strasser who had led the coup and became chairman of the National Revolutionary Council (NRC ), announced amidst thunderous applause that they would hand over power and return the country to civilian rule at the end of 1996.

Truth be said, even before the date, there were rumblings among the general population which suggested that the honeymoon with the military was getting stale.

Then news came of an internal coup and a change in the leadership of the NRC which was now headed by a younger man by the name of Julius Maada Bio.

As often happens in such circumstances, opinion was divided; there were those who wanted an immediate end to military rule and a return to a civilian administration.

Many would have looked back with distrust at the previous 24 years of the APC, especially since we introduced the One-Party dictatorship of President Siaka Stevens and later President Saidu Momoh.

The young man on whose shoulder lay the responsibility for the final decision to set up a national consultative conference in the Bintumani Conference hall, is very much alive today – and is our current head of state, President Julius Maada Bio. He may wish to throw light on what may have motivated him to mute the subject.

Some of us wanted an immediate return to civilian rule, while others thought that we ought first to end the war which was still raging fiercely before return to civilian rule.

There were such questions as boundary delimitation and registration of voters. A general meeting which was chaired by a former Sierra Leone diplomat – Mrs. Shirley Gbujama, was conveyed in Bintumani conference hall where all shades of opinion representing diverse groups debated the matter freely without fear of intimidation or coercion.

The consensus was leaning heavily in favour of “Elections now.” Chairman Bio in his wisdom decided to make sure that a final decision must involve an even wider circle. He then embarked on a tour of the Provincial headquarters to get the views of the rest of the country.

By that time the ban on political activities was already lifted and various political parties were out in the field – even as his consultations were in progress.

In the end, a second and final conference was held in the Bintumani conference hall. Dr. James Jonah who had recently retired as an Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations was at hand to proffer professional advice. When he confirmed that “yes, elections could be held and had been held in Cambodia in the midst of conflict, the matter was finally put to the vote by representative groups.

Those who wanted an immediate return to civilian rule carried the day. That was the essence of Bintumani one and two. There was a war on; a decision had to be taken as to whether elections could be held under conflict conditions and what was to be the pattern of voting.

Coming back to the proposal for a third Bintumani conference, one must ask the very salient question, for what purpose?

Are we operating under the same conditions and is it ideal to have such a conference now? My answer is an emphatic “NO!”

Is the purpose to assure the 16 APC Members of Parliament who are facing election petitions that they need not worry because we have forgiven their intransigence? Is it to assure them that the Commissions of Inquiry are just a Sunday school picnic and that they may retain whatever they had acquired, no matter how?

We had Parliamentary and Presidential elections a year ago which took Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio of the SLPP to State house. His party the SLPP is in governance. The former President Koroma and his henchmen are refusing to accept the changed political situation, let alone recognize Bio as such.

Much to the disappointment of many people and to the disgust of most of us, the former President is behaving as if he has just received a fresh mandate to rule as chairman and leader for life of his APC party and as President of Sierra Leone.

There are signs that he and his group of praise singers and bootlickers are up to some “funny” tricks.

But God/Allah help them if they dare any funny thing.

We have had a sanitary technical audit of the previous government’s tenure in office, with some terrible revelations of impunity.

The ACC is for once getting the sharks rather than ‘minas’ (minnows) into its net.

The Commissions of Inquiry are getting to the stage of investigating acquired wealth.

To intimidate and interrupt all of these, the APC Parliamentarians have cooked a deliberate plan of obstructing the work of Parliament by “inspired” walkouts.

And now, it is being indirectly suggested that we are to cuddle up to each other and say “What nice fellows you Tolongbo people are; so let us work together and empower you to undermine us?”

Whose idea was this Bintumani affair in the first place? In the name of prudence, there should be a rethink – away from such a mad proposal.

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