February 8, 2017 By Patrick Jaiah Kamara
As the build up to the 2018 multitier elections continues in the country, a leading aspirant for the standard bearer position in the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) has threatened ‘massive exodus’ from the feuding party should what he called the habit of unconstitutionality continues.
Dr. Alhaji Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella was speaking yesterday on Radio Democracy, FM98.1 Good Morning Salone programme on the prospect of peace within his party and a possible coalition with other opposition parties to remove the ruling All Peoples Congress Party (APC) from power.
“Because we continue to fight one and other every day, people take others to court because of one reason or the other, our party continues to be in disarray right now. We just hope peace would reign in the party. But if we continue the habit of unconstitutional in the SLPP, the party would see massive exodus”, he said.
The former United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All said rival standard bearer aspirants should be engaged in debating among themselves and campaigning to delegates on who should lead the party in the 2018 elections.
He said the party’s office headquarters in Freetown has been taken over by a faction who prevents other party members from accessing the office, which he said amounts to a real show of discrimination, intimidation and victimisation.
Dr. Yumkella said the current economic malaise in the country has been exploited so disingenuously by the current government, and that there was every need for the SLPP to behave like a serious opposition, adding that no individual has answers to change to a better economic situation.
“For the economy, you saw my critic on the 2017 budget. Government said they introduced austerity measures in order to save and cut down on some wages but the budget has no expenditure reduction. It is more spending. These are the things that worried us as an opposition. These are the problems that the next government would struggle with because we have a bloated budget and institutionalised leakages,” he said
When asked about the peace process in the fractious opposition party, Dr. Yumkella said he was ready to subscribe to all the moves made in the party to restore peace, but insisted that there must be a level playing field for all aspirants
The former UN-Under-Secretary is contesting against Rtd. Bragadier Julius Maada Bio and a host of others to lead the SLPP in the 2018 presidential election. However, all the other aspirants, save Mr. Bio, are part of an Alliance that has been meeting regularly.
Meanwhile, on Monday, 6th February, Dr. Yumkella met with the leader and chairman of the Alliance Democratic Party (ADP), Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray. The two discussed about the country’s economy, forming a coalition and elections date, which has yet to be announced by the National Elections Commission.
“We discussed a lot on how to see that the 2018 elections are transparent, well organised and ensure that peoples’ right to vote are respected and election result would be clean and free from any malpractice,” Dr. Yumkella said after their meeting.
Mr. Mansaray, who is not averse to a coalition with the SLPP to remove the APC from power, said he had already tested his political popularity in two bye-elections, and is currently challenging the result of one of those elections in the High Court of Sierra Leone.
He has threatened to stage a peaceful protest if the National Electoral Commission failed to announce the elections date by 24th February, 2017.
The SLPP party suffered mass defections to the ruling APC prior to the 2012 elections. Among those that defected to the APC was former Director of Mines, Alhaji Usu Boie Kamara, who was later made Minister of Trade. He defected to the APC after losing to Maada Bio in the 2012 delegates’ conference for the position of flagbearer. Also, former Member of Parliament, Robin Fallay, defected to the APC after he felt aggrieved that the party had abandoned him while in custody for alleged election fraud. He was arrested, detained and charged with allegedly orchestrating registration of under-aged children prior to the 2012 elections.
The party has since not recovered and was dealt further blow after the 2013 delegates confab in Bo; first, Alie Bangura took the party to the Supreme Court on allegations of election irregularities after he lost to Chief Sumanoh Kapen – who himself was recently ‘suspended’ as Chairman and Leader. Bangura was subsequently expelled from the party.
Currently, the party is divided into two factions, with one executives led by Chairman Kapen, while another is spearheaded by Kapen’s Deputy Chairman, Dr. Prince Harding. The two factions are currently battling a matter in court relating to alleged fraud at lower level elections in 39 constituencies. Chairman Kapen is also reported to have filed a lawsuit at the Supreme Court against the Political Parties Registration Commission after the latter recognised the chairmanship of Dr. Prince Harding. Dr .Harding and other executive members were expelled by a rival National Executive Council meeting held at Miatta Conference Centre on 4th January, 2017.