RUFP Chairman: We are prepared to take over governance in 2023

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RUFP officials: Foday Massaquoi and Alice Katimu Pyne spoke to Concord Times in an exclusive interview

By Alfred Koroma

The National Chairman of the Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP),Foday Massaquoi, has told Concord Times that their party is prepared to take over governance in June,2023.

 Massaquoi said they have started working to win 2023 election since 2018 as the only party that made a ‘thank you’ tour across the country and held discussions with the people on issues affecting them.

 “We have explained the issues to the people across the country: when the All People’s Congress (APC) is in power, the people grumble.  When the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) comes, we experience the same cry, grumbling and suffering. This means, APC and SLPP are the same. The difference is the names,” he said, “2023 will be us, the Revolution, to provide the needs of the people.”

“The people have started changing their minds against APC and SLPP. People have realised that since independence these two parties have been managing this nation, and we have not moved the way we expected,” he added.

Political competition in Sierra Leone is tightly dominated by the ruling SLPP and the main opposition APC.  The traditional parties have ruled the country since independence. Voting is strictly done along regional and ethnic lines between the two main parties, making it impossible for any smaller party to emerge winner in a general election.

So it will be rare for RUFP to win 2023 presidential election, but if the Party is elected it will be an unprecedented decision by the people of Sierra Leone.

 Yet, Massaquoi is confident that the people of Sierra Leone are ready to vote in a government that is not SLPP or APC led. 

He said the people have changed their minds because only the two main political parties have led the country since independence and the country has not progressed. It has only moved three steps-forward, eight-steps backward.

“We are prepared to take over governance in 2023,” he stated, “we as Revolutionary want to come in and change the mentality so that we can implement the needs of the people. We are prepared.  “…let there be a multi-party system, let them allow us to manage this nation and let the two main parties also come and wait on the long bench and see what we can do.”

Agriculture as a priority

If elected, RUFP intends to prioritize investment in agriculture. The Party Chairman said they are coming with Agriculture to feed the people. “It is a project we started inside the war,” he said, projecting his Party as the project writers.  “We are the project writers, must of the projects implemented by political parties while in governance were hijacked from our manifesto. Article 31 of the Lome Peace Agreement talks about compulsory education, we wrote it in the Lome Peace Agreement.”

Proportional Representation (PR)                            

The Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone has declared 2023 election will be conducted on PR or the District Block System, although a final decision on this hangs in the expected Supreme Court verdict.

The SLPP led Government’s intention to run the next election on PR system has sharply generated divided opinions among political parties with some smaller parties pointing the system will disadvantage them in the pools. But RUFP wants the election to be conducted on PR system.

For the Party’s Chairman, PR is violent free and beneficial to the nation. He said his Party is in support of the PR because it eliminates Bye-election which he notes has been the source of political violence.

But like other smaller political parties, RUFP also expressed concern about the 11. 5 threshold required for a political party to be represented in the legislative arm of the government.

“PR threshold is high,” the Party Chairman told Concord Times. “The 11.5 percent is disadvantageous to us,” his Secretary General, Alice Katimu Pyne reechoed.

For the stakeholders, the end result of PR threshold will not reflect the true practice of multi-party democracy as it will only allow the two main political parties to take over the legislative house.

“Our democracy should be a multi-party system and not two party systems but that is what we are practicing. They raised the percentage of the PR for their comfort,” Massaquoi said “We have moved from one party rule. Now we are under two party rule. They still did not allow democracy to exist as we expected.”

“We fought for multi-party governance, but democracy cannot be well implemented without transparency and inclusivity. If you are not working with opposition parties, you are not accepting criticism, no freedom of speech – these are the things that brought the war, but we are still practicing them,” he added.

Challenges in struggle to win elections

 RUFP started as the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a rebel group that fought brutal eleven-year war in Sierra Leone from 1991to 2002. After the war, the rebel group later transformed into a political party and has contested all post-war presidential and Parliamentary elections. But because of the role RUFP founders played in the bitter war, the Party has never been voted into governance. Lack of financial support and stigmatization are the party’s biggest challenge.

The name RUF is a cue of war for many middle-aged and older citizens of Sierra Leone.

Even people who want to join our party, people discourage them, saying we are a party that cut amputate and kill people. That’s the stigma still in our back, RUFP’s Secretary General, Pyne laments to Concord Times in an exclusive interview.

In the same interview, the Party’s Chairman, Massaquoi blames their predicament on successive governments for failing to fully honor the Lome Peace Agreement.

“We lack finance because past and present governments have paid deaf hears to the agreement.  It was agreed in the Lome Peace Agreement that Government of the day and RUFP should approach the international community to provide ‘Trust Fund’ for the RUFP as a political party to exist and take part in electoral process,” Massaquoi narrated, noting: We are completely dissatisfied with the outgone governments and the current government because they have abused the agreement.

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