January 13, 2022
By Alfred Koroma
In his recent cabinet shakeup, President Julius Maada Bio appointed the main opposition politician Alhaji Alpha Khan to serve as Resident Minister for the North-West Region, and recalled his 2018 campaign manager, Dr. Alie Kabba from the Embassy in Egypt without any re-appointment to another office.
The appointment of the APC veteran politician as a minister in the current government may be felt as a betrayal to the APC, but may not come as surprise to many. Alpha Khan has been very close to President Bio’s administration since his party was voted out of office in 2018.
Khan had long shown symptoms of his willingness to work with the current government when he took unilateral position to attend the Bintumani Peace Conference that was widely snubbed by his party. His presence in that conference was totally against the party in which he held senior cabinet positions.
Shockingly, he accepted government offer to serve in the National Covid19 Emergency Response Center (NaCoVERC) some months later.
Alpha Khan was one of the brains that led APC victory in 2007 and 2012 general elections. He served in various cabinet positions in the previous administration. He unsuccessfully opted to become the party flagbearer in the 2018 election.
But his appointment of as minister and the sacking of Alie Kabba could mean a different thing to both SLPP and APC as the country draws near to the next General elections.
Alpha Khan hails from the North West. Although his crossing over to SLPP does not guarantee the party greater support from the northwest, that he has been appointed minister in the current SLPP should be considered a sobering moment for the main opposition party that want to maintain it strong support in the North. Khan going against the APC in the next election will create gaps that might disadvantage the party in it stronghold.
But axing Alie Kabba from the system could also be detrimental too to the ruling party. He is a strategist, influential in his own setting. He came from a region where the SLPP gathered the largest support in the last elections. And the pangs of his role in ensuring that SLPP come back to power still lingers the heart of the opposition.
It’s still unclear where things went wrong between him and the President. But the two men worked very closely to win the 2018 presidential elections. Alie Kabba stepped down for President Bio in the 2017 flagbearer race and surrendered his support for president Bio. He became the party campaign manager and was often seen together campaigning with the president in 2018. It cannot be denied that Dr. Kabba played greater part to take President Bio to State House.
He has been the most unsteady public official in the New Direction administration. President Bio first appointed him Foreign Affairs Minister, but was soon appointed to serve as ambassador to UN. He was again withdrawn from UN and sent to the Sierra Leone Embassy in Egypt where he has been sacked.
Alie Kabba and Alpha Khan are smart figures in the Sierra Leonean politics that every political party would love to have on their side. Both men have played pivotal roles in ensuring victory for the parties they belong to.
In a divided political system like Sierra Leone, the recent cabinet shakeup involving Alpha Khan being appointed Resident Minister to the North-West is a strategic preparation for SLPP to scoop support from the main opposition’s stronghold. But Alie Kabba’s sacking has left political minds rumbling on that may not sink well with his sympathizers.