November 24, 2015 By Mohamed Massaquoi
Sources from the United Democratic Movement (UDM) have revealed that plans are underway to select former junta leader, Valentine E. M. Strasser, as Chairman and Leader of the Party.
The position became vacant a fortnight ago when former chairman Mohamed Bangura tendered his letter of resignation to the party’s secretary general and the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), citing as reason an elusive “opportunities of a different nature.”
Bangura formed the UDM in late 2010 after he controversially left the Peoples Movement for Democratic Change, the party that thrust him in the political limelight after he returned from asylum in Canada.
Although the party has since named an interim chairman and leader, some members are of the view that the party needs to elect a fresh face to rebrand ahead of the 2018 presidential elections.
But a party stalwart who declined to be named say the choice of former chairman, Mohamed Bangura, and few other members is Strasser, even though he is not a registered member of the party.
The choice of the former junta strongman, our source says, is because those who back him think the UDM would attract members from among the military and some Krios [Strasser’s ethnic group] in the Western Area.
However, UDM acting chairman, Mohamed Sowa, told our reporter he was unaware of the alleged imminent appointment of Strasser as the new UDM leader.
“This information is not correct. We are planning to go into delegates’ conference by mid next year if we get the money, but I am sure we will raise funds so that we can elect our national and regional executives,” Sowa said.
An executive member of the UDM who preferred not to be identified said their former chairman had been holding meetings with the aim of imposing the former junta leader on party members.
Bangura though was unavailable for comments as we went to press.
Strasser, who became the world’s youngest head of state in 1992 when he and a group of young army officers overthrew the one-party dictatorship of the All Peoples Congress under J.S. Momoh, remains mute as to which political party he supports or will join.
He was ousted in 1996 in a palace coup headed by Julius Maada Bio, his then number two man and flag bearer of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party in the 2012 presidential election.
He has since kept out of the political limelight, living a reclusive life in his village, few kilometers outside Freetown.
However, there has been attempts by politicians to use him to score cheep political gains, both before the 2012 presidential elections and quite recently, when he was seen traveling in the same car with Vice President Victor Bockarie Foh, ostensibly on Ebola social mobilisation in eastern Sierra Leone.