- Dr. Yumkella reacts to skirmish at SLPP HQ
August 25, 2015 By Mohamed Massaquoi, Alusine Sesay & Regina Pratt
Aspirant for the flag-bearer of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, yesterday told Concord Times that he was not bothered by the skirmish at the party’s headquarters during his courtesy call on the party’s leadership, but rather focused on unity, inclusiveness and dialogue in moving the party forward.
- Yumkella, who until recently was a top United Nations diplomat, said he was comfortable with development of his party but rather concerned that youths should make use of the opportunity of maintaining peace and security in order that the party can rally behind a single candidate for the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2018.
“You know the difference between us and the young generation; we fought for democracy, I used to lead demonstrations. What I saw today was young people screaming to intimidate and that is the evidence you saw here. That is the only way you can have dialogue,” said Dr. Yumkella. “This was baptism by fire; they have already told me that this is not about UN but local politics.”
He said the arrest of his supporters at the Lungi international airport was a legal issue and so he wouldn’t comment on that. “But I am convinced that the SLPP will have peace and we will definitely march to State House come 2018,” he said rather confidently.
While addressing supporters at the SLPP Unity Hall on Wallace-Johnson Street, Dr. Yumkella emphasised unity, inclusiveness and dialogue as his watchwords for the party as they approach the forthcoming general elections.
“I am here to unify and rebrand the party, and everybody – including Maada Bio – is important. We need unity and togetherness to win elections,” he noted.
He pointed out that the party cannot win elections with the support from the south-east alone, but needed support in all regions, adding: “We must teach the youth about the values of inclusiveness, governance and respect. Our party was founded on a bedrock of unity and we would win elections only if we are united.”
Asked as to whether he was confident of winning the flag-bearer position of the party, he replied: “I am confident that if we have a clear process based on the rule of law, then I will surely emerge as the flag-bearer for the Sierra Leone People’s Party.”
Rumours had been rife in recent weeks that Dr. Yumkella was not a registered member of the party. But that assertion was put to rest when the SLPP chairman and leader, Chief Somanoh Kapen, noted: “We are today welcoming our brother, friend, son and member of the Sierra Leone People’s Party. I was supported by Maada Bio in the chairmanship election, but I should allow a level playing ground for everybody to participate.”
Chief Kapen emphasised the need for unity in the fractious party, and cautioned that: “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.” He added: “Unity, peace and love should be our utmost. We would blame ourselves if we continue to be disunited.”
Meanwhile, offices around the party’s headquarters, including the Freetown City Council, Bicentenary House and the Government Bookshop had to close operations yesterday after police fired teargas canisters to disperse riotous party youth, who made attempts to scuttle Dr. Yumkella’s visit.
Scores of drunken youth were seen chanting pro-Maada Bio songs and anti-Yumkella chants both inside and outside the party’s Unity House. They laid siege to the main gate and had to be cleared by armed police men.
Dr. Yumkella met with the party’s hierarchy in a closed-door meeting and subsequently addressed party supporters.
Many onlookers expressed dismay over the ugly scenes at the party’s headquarters, noting that it was disgraceful for the youth to put up such a show of infamy, especially for a party wanting to control power after ten years in opposition.