July 8, 2016 By Mohamed Massaquoi
The 2012 Local Council elections strengthened the position of women in Kailahun district. The election brought an unprecedented turnover of 12 elected female councilors in the Kailahun District Council, putting the district above all across the country.
This venture was as a result of the launch of Kailahun District Women’s Manifesto 2012, which aimed to educate political parties and citizens about priority policies, issues and concerns of women in governance of the district.
President of Kailahun Women in Governance Network, Madam Lucie Gondor, said over the past years, a non-governmental organisation based in the district, SEND Foundation, has been providing support for women candidates and that ahead of the 2012 elections, the organisation implored political parties to give symbols to female candidates at both local and national levels.
She said the organisation embarked on series of research to prepare female candidates in their engagement with the community and the media, adding that the current aspirant of the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) for the vacant parliamentary seat in constituency 001 in the district, Madam Navo Kaikai, has always been supportive.
“Kailahun Women in Governance Network is an initiative of the women in Kailahun, an alliance of more than 100 women’s groups representing a membership of over 5,000 women, men and young people.
“This group developed, helped influence political parties, as well as encouraging women to participate in the political process, and Madam Kaikai is coming from that background. For the parliamentary bye-election, we again requested from these political parties to send us female candidates but unfortunately, the bye-election is marred with violence; my appeal to these political parties is for them to allow the election to go on without any hindrance, we are doing all of these in the interest of our people,” said Madam Gondor.
A health expert, Madam Navo has been a key player in the political scene, working extremely hard over the years to support her people through donating to schools and sports clubs, providing free consultancy on health issues and contributing to the economy by establishing successful businesses.
Madam Navo says she hopes to be given the opportunity to continue helping the country by playing a key role in national governance and by extension help improve the lot of her compatriots, especially in her hometown, Kailahun. Her main platform, she says, is to encourage more businesses to open up in the township, to help local economy, revamp the education system to ensure every child has a good chance to prosper in life and improve basic healthcare among the people by educating them on health issues and enhanced sanitation.
Navo had intention to run for the Kailahun District Chairmanship in 2012 but she lost the symbol to her current campaign manager, Chairman Alex Bonapha.
“I am contesting this election based on competence and trust. I am going into this election because I believe the people of Kailahun and constituency 001 have confidence in the SLPP and my candidacy. Our people cannot be intimidated, they know what I have done and what I will do for them as their MP, nobody will change that,” she said in an exclusive interview.
Madam Navo was part of SLPP members who petitioned the outcome of the Bo delegates conference in 2013 that elected the current SLPP executive, headed by Chief Somano Kapen, but she was swift to condemn the idea of taking the matter to court as she insisted that “the SLPP is bigger than all it members.”
Constituency 001 became vacant after the death of former MP, Hon. Patrick Foyah, following a protracted illness. He was elected MP after the death of his wife, Mrs. Mamie Foyah.
Various women’s organisations advocated for a female candidate to represent the constituency after that opportunity was missed when Mrs. Foyah won. The SLPP and the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) paid heed by nominating female candidates for the vacant seat.
Both parties have committed themselves to ensuring that the election is peaceful, although bloody clashes ensured last week in the township, with tear gas feared to separate rival supporters.
Madam Kaikai though remains defiant. “I am not moved by the level of intimidation by the APC using the police against my supporters, but as a woman I feel touched when people are harmed based on political differences. My house came under serious attack, police even fired tear gas into my leaving room. The APC has said they will do whatever they could to take constituency 001 but I am sure my people are ready to come out in their numbers for me, come Saturday[9 July],” she said.
She said SEND Foundation wanted to organise a manifesto night for the aspirants but that could not hold because of the level of tension among supporters, adding that the former had opened dialogue between her and the APC candidate.
“What the APC has been doing in the lead to the election is that they send in different people, especially men, to go and talk for their candidate instead of her going to the studios,” she said.
However, she remains confident that the opposition will retain the seat. “I want to assure every Sierra Leonean and our SLPP supporters that we will wine constituency 001. APC does not respect democracy, that is why they are intimidating our people. I do not have confidence in the police here in Kailahun but I have been assured By the AIG [Assistant Inspector General] East that he will change the security arrangement, which is a guarantee to my wining,” she concluded.
Meanwhile, as we went to press last night, armed soldiers were reported to have been deployed in the township ahead of the bye-election tomorrow.