September 1, 2015 By Gabriel Benjamin
With the 2017/18 general elections still some two years away, there are expectations that the elections will witness remarkable improvement as compared with the 2012 elections. The National Electoral Commission (NEC) ought to be looking at the possibility of making this remarkable improvement by fully adopting a biometric voters register and introduction of permanent voter cards (PVC). With the Smart Card Readers (SMC) cross-matching the fingerprints of card holders, arresting cloned PVC, and removing double registrants from the voters’ roll, there will be significant reduction if not complete elimination of ballot box snatching, ballot papers stuffing, and multiple, alongside under-age voting.
While indications appear to be that the elections will hold latest 2018, Sierra Leoneans and the rest of the world look forward to the elections, very optimistic of the opportunity it offers for democratic consolidation in the country, as it will be the fourth successive election since the return to democracy after the eleven years civil war.
Sierra Leone has made remarkable democratic progress since 2002 when the civil war ended. In 2007, the country made a successful civilian to civilian transition of government. The 2007 election saw the All People’s Congress (APC) defeating the then ruling party, the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), but not after a run-off. The APC also won the 2012 election. In effect, the 2017/18 election will be a bold statement that the country’s democracy is consolidating, if not deepening.
However, the possibility of the SLPP winning the presidential election would reinforce the reality that no one party has dominance in the country’s nascent democracy; a situation that may likely put the democratic progress of the country in positive international spotlight.
Events in recent times have shown that the SLPP’s future truly hangs in the balance and the outcome depends entirely on who becomes the presidential flag-bearer of the party in the 2017/18 elections. What appears to matter is whether the SLPP is ready to improve its fortune from previous elections.
Analysts are concerned about the continuous disunity in the SLPP. They say, it’s one burden too many which the party must deal with. “It’s difficult to grasp as to why an opposition party will want to go into an election with the ruling party with a candidate that is unlikely to take them to their Eldorado? This is sickeningly and unthinkable. SLPP should know that electoral victory can never be achieved by assumption, wishful thinking, division, propaganda or by dilly-dally the needed peace-talk among its members, but can only be a reality when a level playing field, unity and tolerance is allowed to thrive amongst its fold,” says Ibrahim Wurie, a political and social commentator.
He added: “The party’s progress should be of uttermost importance against progress made within ethnic nationalities, as this will make the party more attractive to the electorates. It is only under such conditions that Sierra Leoneans will be convinced that the party is fully ready to take over leadership from the ruling APC. Otherwise, it will be to your tents for every one irrespective of what anyone thinks or feels.”
Chief Somana Kapen, SLPP chairman and leader, reinforced Wurie’s position. According to him, “Nobody has won elections on their own legs but on the…legs of the Sierra Leone People’s Party. The spirit of unity must dominate our thinking. Unity, peace and love should be our utmost. We would blame ourselves if we continue to be disunited.”
This simple idea must be understood by all lovers of the SLPP – no matter where he/she is coming from.
A level playing field in the SLPP is the only possible way forward given the current state of the party. But this is not as automatic as we see it. “The party must consider justice, equity and fairness if it does not want its 2017/18 dream to be a mere illusion,” says Melvin Bockarie.
An onlooker at the party’s headquarters, who only identified himself as Kamara, says, “The dark forces that have held SLPP down over the last decade are back and rearing their ugly heads again, double-speaking [unable to give clear answers to simple direct questions] and all for personal and self-serving reasons. SLPP must do away with them if they want peace and electoral victory.”
No one has truly captured why a Dr. Yumkella presidency will not get the nod of ordinary Sierra Leoneans. “It’s the handiwork of un-informed delusionists – an assumption and claims they have not been able to justify,” says Sarah Saffa, a member of the KKY Movement.
Political commentators and activists say they are convinced that Dr. Yumkella will receive a larger than life support not just among the elites, but within the downtrodden.
Victor Lewis, a youth leader, activist and the National Youth Coordinator for the KKY Movement, while answering to questions during the ‘Good Morning Salone’ programme on Radio Democracy last week, says: “When a lot of people continue to talk about the unpopularity of Dr. Yumkella among Sierra Leoneans, I say he needs no publicity.” He further quips: “Which political party in the world will not want the likes of Dr. Yumkella in their fold? This is another unwholesome imagination that SLPP must not encourage… Let us add [to the party] and not subtract [from the party].”
“With a continued personal example, a greater vision for Sierra Leone and all Sierra Leoneans, and an honest hard work towards the key challenges facing the country, ‘A Golden Era’ is about to start and the life of Sierra Leoneans will likely be properly rebased in reality. Dr. Yumkella is educated enough, experienced enough and well meaning enough to deal with the country’s challenges head-on,” says Dr. Columba Blango, head of the KKY Movement UK and Ireland chapter.
Sierra Leoneans are hopeful that the unnecessary distractions, campaign propagandas, misinformation and even assassination of character among the SLPP faithful will now stop and the party united to form a common front to gain electoral victory.