January 24, 2017 By Mohamed Massaquoi
Flagbearer aspirant for the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio has referred to a statement attributed to the outgoing Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Post-Conflict Countries, Madam Zainab Hawa Bangura, as complete misrepresentation of what actually transpired during the transition period from the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) to democratic governance and lasting peace in Sierra Leone.
It could be recalled that the U.N. envoy, while responding to various issues during a rare appearance on the ‘Good Morning Salone Programme’ on ‘Radio Democracy’ few weeks ago, dismissed the former military leader’s claim that he fostered peace and democracy in the country.
Zainab Bangura was the head of Campaign for Good Governance, one of the leading civil society voices in the campaign for the restoration of democracy in Sierra Leone, then.
But Mr. Bio, who was addressing pressmen during his latest tour of Kono and Koinudugu districts, said a good number of Sierra Leoneans, including Madam Zainab Hawa Bangura, benefited enormously from the peace and democracy his regime brought to the country, adding that it was as a result of his efforts and commitment that Sierra Leone was able to elect the first democratically elected President after years of one party dictatorship, late Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.
He said Zainab and her colleagues approached him and requested for permission to organise a peaceful demonstration, calling for the restoration of democracy, and that he gave them permission to protest although they [military junta] had all the powers at that time to refuse.
“I will look at the appropriate time to respond to the claims by Zainab. She is just being mischievous with the fact. It was not possible to have achieved democracy without peace. We started the democratic process months before they could request for the said protest. We sent a special delegation to Ghana to understudy the political transition because Ghana was moving from a military administration under the leadership of Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings to a civil administration. Again, a lot of people misunderstood the reason behind the Bintumani II. I went all over the West Africa Sub-region looking for the then Rebel Leader Foday Sankoh. I used my personal diplomatic connections and at the end of the day I was able to locate where he was and also encouraged him for dialogue because our people were suffering,” narrated Mr. Bio.
“Sankoh told me that he was ready to join me in the peace process and to also contest in that elections, but what he told me next was that we should have peace before election. That was the reason I brought the Bintumani II concept. It is unfortunate that [Zainab] Bangura is bent on denying the fact that I am the father of democracy.”
In Kabala, Mr. Bio said he was pleased to have seen a massive turnout by the people to welcome him in that part of the country.
He expressed thanks and appreciation to all SLPP members and supporters for their commitment in supporting the SLPP and his candidacy over the years and called on the people to come out in their numbers to participate in the voter registration process, adding that the country could only develop under his leadership.
He said his popularity cuts across the country as SLPP members, including delegates in Pujehun, Bo, Kailahun, Kono and Koinadugu, have openly endorsed him as their next flagbearer candidate, adding that he respects the constitution of the party, which states that the party should hold national delegates’ conference after every two years.
He said the opposition party needs peace and that he has made himself available to members of the Alliance of SLPP aspirants to sit and discuss in the interest of the party.
SLPP Northern Region Chairman, Dr. Abass Bundu, noted that when Bio decided to visit the region, he advised him to come to Koinadugu district as the people have demonstrated a lot of support for the party and respect for its leadership.
He said Koinadugu is the only district that peacefully conducted their executive elections without any hindrance or interference from the regional executive.
“I want to assure you that Bio has taken over Konadugu and the northern region as a whole,” he assured.