Meet PMDC’s Charles Margai

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By Yusufu S. Bangura

Sierra Leoneans will go to the polls on June, 24th 2023 to elect new president and new parliament.

June, 24th 2023 poll is key that its conduct will underline the growth of democracy in the West African state of Sierra Leone. History will be made either way, whether the ruling party or the opposition wins the presidency. Veteran lawyer and politician, Charles Farncis Margia, is seen on the ticket running for presidency and below is a brief profile about him.

Early life and Education

Charles Francis Kondo Margai was born on the 19 August 1945 in Bonthe district, southern part of Sierra Leone. He is the son of Sir Albert Margai, second Prime Minister of Sierra Leone.

Margai is the leader of the People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) and was his party’s candidate in the August 2007 presidential election, placing third with 10% of the vote though he received less than 3% of the votes in the 2012 and 2018 Sierra Leone presidential elections.

Charles Margai attended St. Edward’s Primary School in Freetown and then preceded to Christ the King College in Bo. He completed his secondary school education at Blackrock College in Co. Dublin, Ireland. Margai received a Bachelor of Arts in civil law in 1970 from Trinity College Dublin.

Working Experience

Margai began working as a lawyer in 1971 as State Counsel in Freetown.  He later established his private law office in 1973 in Bo and he served as Attorney General and Minister of Justice of Sierra Leone in 2018 under President Bio.

But, shortly after he received his appointment, a memo from him to President Bio was leaked during the first week of June 2018 requesting permission to dismiss the Chief Justice of Sierra Leone, among other APC officials.

On 12 June 2018, a week after the memo was leaked, President Bio dismissed Margai without any official reason and he was immediately replaced by Dr. Patrica Schwartz.

With a tenure of less than two months, Margai is the shortest ever serving Attorney General and Minister Justice in the history of Sierra Leone and on till date he is a senior member at the Bar.

Political Career

Margai was a member of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), which was co-founded in 1951 by his uncle Milton Margai. Both his father and his uncle had been leaders of the SLPP and in 1996 Charles Margai sought the nomination to stand as the party’s candidate in the 1996 presidential elections, but when he failed to secure the nomination he left the SLPP.

In the aftermath of Margai’s failure to become the SLPP presidential candidate, he joined the National Unity Party and ran in the 1996 parliamentary election.

He subsequently returned to the SLPP and in April 1998, Margai became Minister of Internal Affairs and Local Government following the restoration of late President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah.  From November 1999 he was Minister of Safety and Security.

Why Margai left SLPP party?

On the 9 January 2002, Margai confirmed his plans to seek the leadership of the SLPP and its presidential nomination, describing himself as the best person for the position and saying that he had resigned from the cabinet “in the interest of good governance and for the people of this nation.

However, on March 8, the High Court ruled that he was not technically a member of the SLPP, preventing him from seeking the nomination, which was won by Kabbah.

What was Margai next plan?

In early October 2005, he broke with the SLPP to form a new party, the People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC). Margai faced difficulty in getting the PMDC officially registered, but on 19 January 2006 the party was officially registered.

In the August 2007 presidential election, Margai stood as presidential candidate under his party where he took third place with 13.9% of the vote, behind Ernest Bai Koroma of the opposition All People’s Congress (APC) and the SLPP’s Berewa where Ernest and Berewa went for runoff.

At his birthday party on 19 August, he backed the APC’s Koroma for the second round of the election. On 24 August, Margai said his party would campaign together with the APC for the second round, due to his alliance APC won the 2007 election.

What he achieved after the alliance with APC?

As part of the PMDC and APC deal, former President Koroma appointed 8 members of Margai’s senior party officials to ministerial positions. Most  of Margai’s PMDC ministers lost their positions by 2010 and were replaced by APC supporters.

Margai was the PMDC candidate for Sierra Leone’s 2018 Presidential Election. He chose educator Isata Dora Bangura as his running mate, making her Sierra Leone’s second woman vice presidential candidate. During the 2018 election, PMDC won 9,864 votes with 0.4% of the vote with no seat in parliament.

What next for Charles Margai?

With Margai being the 13th Presidential Candidates who have been temporarily cleared to contest the June 24th 2023 Elections, where he selected a male Running Mate, Tony Bob Hindolo Songa will he win the 2023 election?

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