The rebel group within the opposition All People’s Congress —the National Reformation Movement ( NRM )— today blocked the convening of the highly-rated and much-anticipated party convention in Port Loko that would have endorsed the new constitution crafted by the party.
Using a ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP ) lawyer H.M Gevao, the rebel group filed an injunction in the High Court presided over by another SLPP sympathizer, Judge John Kamanda shortly after their complaints about the convention and appeal to have it called off were rejected by the Political Parties Registration Commission ( PPRC ).
Thousands of delegates from all over the world had congregated at Port Loko for the convention, which was supposed to have started today and ended on Sunday. But the NRM speedily went to court after being rejected by the PPRC and the usually tortoise-like Attorney General and Minister of Justice acted speedily this time, as well, to assign the case to Judge Kamanda who granted the NRM the injunction.
The action by the NRM, which purports to be a pressure group but has incurred the suspicions and displeasure of the rank and file of the party due to its intransigence and hard line and the belief among supporters that it is being used covertly by the SLPP to subvert the APC, left APC supporters all over the world fuming today and sending harsh remarks in the social media.
The NRM said they took the action because the APC had failed to hold lower level elections before the convention and had not shown members copies of the new constitution. But talking to COCORIOKO this evening, party officials said the NRM was practising double standards in that they were opposed to the selection clause in the old constitution and any election held now under the old constitution would have adhered to the old method of selection, instead of electing members, which again would have been opposed by the NRM.
This evening, anger was building in the social media over the huge and damaging financial losses the APC will incur following the blocking of the convention. Many people left their jobs in different parts of the world, paid expensive plane fares to get to Sierra Leone and have been running up heavy hotel bills just to attend the convention.
Party members also cited heavy operational and administrative expenses they have incurred to stage the convention.
A member of the APC speaking from Canada on conditions that his identity be not revealed asked the APC to defy the injunction and as a united body hold the convention to approve the new constitution. He warned that if that was not done, they abroad would not be able to fund any other convention. But in a press release today, the APC said it was a law-abiding political party and would abide by the injunction. The convention has been downgraded to a major press conference which will be held in Port Loko tomorrow, Saturday January 11.
Whatever their intentions, this action by the NRM has created bad blood between them and the vanguard and rank-and-file of the APC and with some members even jokingly threatening to lynch them if they ever appeared at the party office, it remains to be seen how they will ever posit as stakeholders within the party in the future as the APC aspires to win back power from the SLPP in 2023.