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First Things First

NOVEMBER 18, 2014 By Katie Gberie

Eighteen years (1995) since the Sierra Leone Peoples Party SLPP registered as a political party in modern Sierra Leone, the political paradigms have long since dictated a new hemisphere for grassroots political practice; this sensitivity is precipitated by the war, and the long undemocratic governance system perpetuated by the All Peoples Congress.

Very recently, Kandeh Yumkella, a reputable Sierra Leonean, appeared on the political scene, expressing interest for the membership of the SLPP, challenging the party’s protocols, a political group that is badly in need of peace and unity, yearning for space to heal up wounds emerging from the 1996, 2005, and 2011 intra party divisions, a situation that have cost the country, and the peoples very dearly.

The policy of uniting the country, bringing the people together in a Nation-State, harnessing the best potentials for national development, the enjoyment of human rights, service delivery, a very fundamental case, restoring human dignity and respect, and marshalling equality were not just mere vocabulary of our late President Kabbah, but he overstretched, together with his team, to chart out the road map to modern Sierra Leone.

Unfortunately, intra-party differences reared their ugly head again in the 2007 election, leading to the demise of the party, childishly losing to the opposition APC. It was incredible that SLPP could lose the elections after ending the war, giving back peace to the people, an unforgotten situation that was orchestrated by the demonic rule of the APC. SLPP lost elections after giving a face lift to a country that was referred to as a failed State by all standards. Service delivery in the reconstruction of schools and hospitals was imminent, rebuilding the shattered Forces of the nation, and built institutions for national growth in just ten years in power.

Amidst all, SLPP frantically explored to resettle ex-combatants, brought back home refugees, and helped internally displaced persons returned to their homes again because the most precious element, Peace, had returned.

Yet, the political leaders of the SLPP betrayed the confidence of the people, underestimating the quality of the thinking of the poor and war-ravaged people, clinging to the old-fashioned and unfounded situation that the people should mortgage their rights to them because they are educated, rich, elitist, and full of ego, manipulating the gullibility of poor party members, easily using all their resources to manipulate the political dictates in the SLPP.

The 2012 elections was a turning point in the political practice in the SLPP. The party’s outdated practice has been challenged, and the deadlock will continue to cost the party her ambition of taking democratic control of the State. The cleavage in the party is currently threatening the mere existence of our democracy. A sign post of the SLPP.

What Dr. Kandeh Yumkella has failed to identify is the quest for the party and people to be united, that which is really fundamental to any ambitious and sincere politician. People should not shy from the fact that the party is divided, and that gone are those days when money influenced the decisions of the poor people, but have resolved strongly to build their support with politicians that are sensitive to their aspirations, one who actually feels the brutality and marginalization of the current APC regime, and one ready to respect decisions of the people without undue influence.

Most SLPP party members really believe Dr. Kandeh Yumkella has never participated in modern Sierra Leone politics. And being that partisan politics is totally new to him, and believing that UN is really all together different from national party politics, and taking into consideration the political dynamics in the SLPP since 1996, it would have been prudent for Dr. Kandeh Yumkella to have returned home as a Peace Broker, using his skills to bring together where others have failed. Had Kandeh being a true SLPP party man, he would have empathized with the party and its people. Kandeh has not done first things first, instead he has returned home with a clenched fist, ready to register tomorrow morning, contest in the afternoon and campaign the delegates with money as he is totally less known in the country, and become the leader and flag bearer of the SLPP in the evening. His backers have sagged in the idea that Dr. Kandeh Yumkella is educated with PhD to the bookish, and have worked for the United Nations and have jet in with bags of the US$. Has education and money made Yumkella the fittest man? Has the SLPP no structures? How could Yumkella just walk on the backs of people who have spent all their lives and energy at home resisting intimidation, and have kept the party on a better footing?

Most people believe SLPP does not lack leaders. There are always leaders to follow. Nobody needs to tell the people that the efforts of people like Alpha Timbo have gone unnoticed. Timbo is a lawyer and has been in partisan politics for over fifteen years now. He is a perfect home based candidate for the leadership of the SLPP. The likes of Andrew Keili, Ali Bangura, Kanja Sesay, Dr. Abass Bundu, Dr Alpha Timbo, Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi, Dr. Kadi Sesay, John Benjamin, and Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio are still enjoying the support of their people. The only problem now is for these highly influential and respectable characters to come together in the interest of their deprived countrymen.

SLPP will remain open to all Sierra Leoneans, and all those who want to participate in the political transformation of the country. Ambitious people should believe in the structures of the party for the sake of posterity. The party should be patterned on old political parties like the ANC in South Africa where all efforts are considered based on party loyalty. Where in the ANC of South Africa would Yumkella come today and snatch the party leadership within a twinkle of an eye. A total stranger who is never familiar with the struggles, ranging from the colossal effort of ending the war, building national institutions, reforming the Forces, and making our Civil Service the envy of West Africa.

Sadly for Yumkella, the people who have refused to compromise the reality on the ground have shipped him in, still believing elitism, and want to fight what the majority thinks is the truth, and any attempt at tampering with the peoples wish will keep the SLPP in permanent opposition.

The author of this article witnessed Dr. Culumba Blango’s visit to the SLPP office in Freetown a couple of months ago, with the hope of campaigning for the candidacy of Yumkella. Blango found himself in hot waters because he attacked the personality of Maada Bio in a mist of over 95% of Julius Maada Bio supporters. He was bashed and shamed for talking ill of Maada Bio. Such politics of castigating opponents is wrong. And Yumkella should know that the likes of Culumba Blango will never enjoy the support of SLPP members. Yumkella should know that Culumba Blango was one of the architects for the demise of SLPP. He was at the forefront in the formation of the PMDC out of sheer envy, and lack of party discipline. The people are waiting for the likes of Culumba Blango to return home for Yumkella. The people of SLPP know that Blango is one of the destroyers of the SLPP, and should therefore take the back seat. Others have referred to Blango as a sycophant who is aiming again to divide the SLPP as they did in 2007, upon losing the convention with Yumkella in 2016.

The disunity in the party has seen many dawns, yet the very educated and money gluts are bent on manipulating the party. Why did people fail to listen to late Rev. Paul Dumba after the 1996 party convention, a menace that spanned on to the 2007 elections? Does Kandeh understand why Solomon Berewa lost the 2007 election, and the way party members treated him in his presidential enterprise? Is Kandeh aware about what happened in 2012 when Bio won the party leadership, and the issues that emerged thereafter that left the party disintegrated? Does Kandeh Yumkella know how Maada Bio and the SLPP party were treated by certain group of people in the SLPP party, especially during the petition that was filed against the result of the 2012 elections?

The pain certain party members have perpetuated because of egoism and self centeredness on the party is a sore among party members. People who have perpetuated the division in the party are beating their chest that it will be an easy ride to bring to the party a total stranger like Yumkella to lead.

Most people really think all what Yumkella and his supporters are bent on is making the party more divisive. The fear in most people is that by the time Dr. Yumkella fails, this total stranger in modern Sierra Leone politics, and his supporters will start pointing fingers at tribalism as Osu Boie Kamara did after the party convention in 2011. Serious minded party members are clamoring for unity first, and that the party already has its leaders, and it does not really matter who is flag bearer among the identified leaders who are sensitive to the burning issues in the country.

In modern Sierra Leone politics, the bonds and sentiments exhibited are never the same compared to the politics immediately after colonialism. Modern is the politics because the nation is starting all over again, fighting tribalism, corruption, nepotism, elitism, human rights, service delivery, human resources management and competitiveness, and finally nationalism.

Pundits have advanced the view that Dr. Kandeh Yumkella does not know the real loyal people in the party. This is the case because he himself confirmed that he has never participated in the affairs of the SLPP since the new democratic emergence eighteen years ago. In the minds of party members, Julius Maada Bio was seen seriously campaigning for Hon. Solomon Berewa in the 2007 elections though he had lost in the convention to Berewa. This is the kind of spirit that true members of the SLPP should emulate. In the same vein, Andrew Keili has proven to be honest and sincere by giving his all to the campaign for Julius Maada Bio in 2012 elections even when he lost in the convention to Bio. What else could one look for to prove that indeed Andrew Keili is selfless and a true SLPP.

However, if posterity serves us well, the leadership of Tejan Kabbah, with his experience in the UN, witnessed a situation where the former president continuously told SLPP members that his national loyalty outweighs party loyalty. This sad mistake has left the party broken down, disorganized and totally broke. SLPP ruled for eleven, and as I write the party structures are not functioning because of the UN politics that was shipped in by the late Tejan Kabbah.  Kabbah ignored party norms, and the blame should go to members of the party who still had faith in the bookish spree, by believing that Kabbah’s experience with UN was going to give the party a greater bond.

Sadly, SLPP, one of the oldest political parties in West Africa, is the most disorganized organization in the world. Kabbah scored tremendous goals, but he refused to structure his party, and failed to campaign for Solomon Berewa and his party in 2007, while former President Bill Clinton of the Democrat Party of the United States was seen campaigning for President Obama and his party. This is as a result of strong rooted partisan politics, and this will remain alien to Yumkella and his UN experience. Never again would the modern SLPP allow the likes of Tejan Kabbah and Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella who have no experience in partisan politics to muzzle their way to the leadership of the party. The people want someone that has partisan politics experience. Most leaders of the world’s best democracy – USA – often choose party leaders that have served in the Congress, Senate, or as State Governors. There is no way the SLPP members are gonna believe that Kandeh K. Yumkella is not a vulture politician.

Members of the SLPP appreciate the frantic efforts of Dr. Alpha Wurie, who is putting in all his energy in order to carve out a new SLPP in peace and unity. Very recent of all efforts to hold the party together was that of Dr Peter Tucker. According to sources, Dr Tucker was ignored by certain members of the party who just believe they should lord it over people, and will not compromise at whatever level.

But the modern SLPP and its grassroot supporters are prepared to tell it to the faces of the money gluts that enough is enough for elitism, insensitiveness of party leaders, and their manipulations. Change is difficult to accept, but it is clear that indeed the mast of the SLPP ship has taken a new direction.

It is no secret that Kandeh Yumkella is a likable character and all SLPP members appreciate his membership. All Yumkella needs to do now is to remove the boxing gloves, try to understand the pattern of politics practiced in modern Sierra Leone. With best practice, Yumkella is not expected to bribe delegates he had never met in modern Sierra Leone.  First things first, a united people breeds peace and unity, and then victory.

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