The COCORIOKO Facebook forum , with 29, 000 participants and the forum belonging to the newspaper’s sister media the SIERRA LEONE DAILY NATION , with 35, 243 participants , are boiling as the 2018 Presidential elections begin to draw near. One of the hottest topics in this and the APC LIVE FOREVER Forum, also controlled by Cocorioko ( 15, 508 participants ) , is the present broil tearing the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP ) apart, with supporters of aspirants Dr. Kandeh Yumkella and former Brig. Maada Bio gunning for each other.
It is an enormous problem, which, if not handled carefully, will destabilize the country during the elections. Opinion-makers within the party have taken sides and having a go at each other in our forums.
We bring you some of the contentious articles that appeared in the three forums last weekend . We want our readers to see the kind of politics being played.
Government Must Not Kowtow to Domestic Terrorism
Rev. Alfred Munda SamForay
Sierra Leone is a fairly small country, both geographically and demographically. As such, what affects one part of the country or any segment of the population ultimately affects all Sierra Leoneans. We all learned this a very hard way during the country’s eleven-year civil (or un-civil) war. What started as a “Mende war” in Kailahun District in the Eastern Region of the country in March 1992 slowly spread across the rest of the country like slow burning fire leaving behind mayhem and unfathomable destruction of property and human life. On January 6, 1999, the South-Eastern Mende war arrived with full force on the streets of the nation’s capital, Freetown, with an estimated six thousand lives lost.
Then about a year and half ago just about the time I left the country for the United States, came the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease, once again starting in the boarder District of Kailahun. And like the war, it marched slowly towards Freetown like a band of mindless barbarians from the middle ages leaving behind heaps of bodies and a host of traumatized citizens, who unlike during the war had nowhere to flee because no country wanted them within their borders.
Fresh out of these two extraordinary traumas in less than twenty-five years of the nation’s fifty-four year history Sierra Leoneans are once again edging towards another potential threat to our nascent and fragile democracy. This time it is threat of domestic terrorism in the form of intimation and threats from the ranks of some of those who aspire to govern the country after the 2017 – 2018 General and Presidential elections. It goes without saying that throughout his nearly eight years in office and unlike any of his predecessors going all the way back to Sir Albert Margai in the ill-fated 1967 elections, President Ernest Bai Koroma has enjoyed an enviable period of calm and stability aside from the Ebola disaster. I may stand to be corrected, but I believe partly as a result of his personal opposition to the death penalty, no person has been executed in Sierra Leone for treason or other offenses against the State during the president’s tenure in office. I also don’t believe that any soldier has died in combat under President Koroma’s tenure as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. But there has to be a limit to everyone’s endurance.
Last week, Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad were highly displeased to learn that government was forced to send police to the party headquarters of the Opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party to quell disturbances over there. It was not the first time police have been forced to enforce order at the home of the oldest continuously running political party in all of West Africa. Last week’s disturbance came about when former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry under the NPRC, former Director General of UNIDO and recently Special Assistant to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella, went to party headquarters reportedly to officially register as an aspirant for Flagbearer in the 2017-2018 elections. Notwithstanding, Yumkella was able to enter the Green House, as the opposition party headquarters is commonly referred to.
It happened again two days ago when Yumkella attempted to travel the Southern Regional Headquarter town of Bo, where he attended the Christ the King College Secondary School as a youth and where his wife, Mrs. Philomena (Nicholas) Yumkella, is a native born graduate of the Queen of the Rosary Secondary School. Dr. Yumkella was reportedly embarking on a familiarization tour of the country after recently retiring from his prestigious job at the UN to return to Sierra Leone for public office. Just before Yumkella and his entourage were to leave Freetown for Bo, came word from Sierra Leone government quarters that government was unable to secure his safety and ultimately dissuaded him travelling to Bo Town – more or less his second home away from his native Kambia District.
We have reason to believe that Yumkella’s recent entry into the presidential race and his extraordinary appeal to millions of his countrymen and women at home and abroad, places a serious challenge to others already contending for the office. As such, some of his rivals are making every effort legal or otherwise to intimidate him and perhaps force him to withdraw from the race. If the Yumkella in Sierra Leone is the same Yumkella I went to college with and whom I have known for over thirty years, retreat is not an option. Least amused and most infuriated by all this is the global network of supporters from Australia to Wisconsin who call themselves the KKY (Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella) Movement – now a fully endowed political action committee with chapters all across the world. Sierra Leoneans may note with extreme caution some of the contestants for flagbearership of the SLPP are legally barred from entering the United States or its territories. Among the reasons are criminal charges involving domestic violence – in particular, violence against women.
There are approximately twenty candidates contending for office of President of the United States in next year’s presidential elections. Although they differ in values and personalities from Socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont to the cantankerous billionaire, Donald Trump, and the ultra-conservative former neuro-surgeon, Benjamin Carson, no stones will fly over anyone’s head as the November 2016 elections approach. And precisely at Noon, January 20, 2017 when his two terms in office come to an end, President Barrack Obama will simply board the presidential helicopter called Marine One and fly into history as Barack Housein Obama, private citizen. There are over 300 million people in the United States from virtually every nation and every culture in the world, and the country is 3,000 miles across from New York to California.
In comparison, Sierra Leone is at best 250 miles coast to coast and 6 million citizens of relatively the same race, color and culture. So why is the government of Sierra Leone unable (or unwilling) to secure the safety of one of its notable citizens vying for the office of president? Why should anyone or any group of individuals hold the country for ransom for their own political ambitions? Why is a country that survived one of the most brutal wars in human history and survived the worst outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease, be intimidated by a handful of hooligans who threaten our hard-won democracy?
I have well stated that President Koroma is a peaceful man and a man of few words – very few words for a politician of his stature. But it would be a very costly mistake for the hired hooligans of any politician in the country to take Koroma’s quietness or peaceful nature for weakness. After all, Jesus is known in the Old Testament as the Prince of Peace, but that did not stop him from overturning the tables of the money changers who had turned King Solomon’s sacred House of Worship into what Jesus called a den of thieves. In any case, government should never kowtow to threats of hooliganism and allow any form of domestic terrorism to prevent any citizen from participating in our democratic system. Six thousand people died in Freetown and thousands more around the country at the hands of what former ambassador, John Ernest Leigh, called “coupligans” – coup makers and hooligans – who tried and succeeded in usurping our electoral process at least for a season. Let every Sierra Leonean at home and abroad, of any ethnic, regional, religious or political affiliation say: Never Again!
And for those of you who are into American politics, it may be of interest to note that for all intent and purposes, President Barack Obama has now dumped his former Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, for his incumbent Vice President, Ngor Joe Biden – or is it Uncle Joe. With that in mind, I will repeat myself once more again for the second time, like my uncle used to say, the United States presidential election in 2016 will be a contest between the two coolest guys in the race – Uncle Joe Biden and Uncle Ben Carson. Carson will prevail!
THE CRYING BABIES ARE AT IT AGAIN – “TRIBAL BIGOTRY”
By: Yusuf Keketoma Sandi
You have to be as powerful as Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio to always make the news headline or that anything you say is scrutinised word after word and sentence after sentence. We accept that with his huge popularity and being a politician vying for the highest office there will always be public scrutiny.
However, public scrutiny is different from smear campaign, raining insults and spreading lies and senseless imaginative stories about a young man. The latest interview by Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio on Kiss 104 FM has been one of his most powerful. He was passionate, confident, reassuring, composed, witty, methodological, factual and showed why he is an excellent political communicator.
But as always our friends in the APC just could not accept Rtd. Brig. Maada Bio is a political class act. And funnily, the crying babies have added another crying contingent; few notorious supporters of the opposition. Desperately for these few notorious supporters of the opposition, they seem to be hotly contesting with our APC friends to be spreading scare stories, cheap propaganda, lies, defamatory stories and cooked-up events on social media about Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio. But like APC, despite their desperation, they are really bad at the job.
So the latest “tribal bigotry” charge is as nonsensical as it is a cheap shot to seek attention by few desperate people. But of all charges to attack Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio as a “tribalist” is as dishonest as is laughable.
Here is a young man whom all of his private security men are northerners and non-mendes. Of the most important thing in life he entrusted his life, wellbeing and protection in the hands of dedicated men who they do not belong to the same tribe nor come from the same region. The most senior advisers of Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio many are non mende people. In the last SLPP convention in Bo, Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio went on-air to endorse the candidacy of a northerner and a temne, Chief Sumano Kapen, as Chairman of the SLPP. In the last elections in 2012 Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio appointed a northerner, a woman and a temne, Dr Kadie Sesay as his running mate.
Therefore to accuse him of being a “tribalist” is just a sign of political desperation to smear a man who has won the hearts and minds of people across the country. But let us put the charge into context. Here is a politician who was speaking to a specific audience in Bo district. Majority of the people living in some villages in Bo do not speak or understand krio.
And look at the shocking facts of the interview. The interview lasted for 24 minutes and 45 seconds (24:45). During the interview he started speaking mende at 4 minutes 51 seconds (4:51) and finished at 5 minutes 28 seconds (5:28). For an interview which lasted for 24 minutes 45 seconds (24:45) Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio only spoke mende for 37 seconds and the rest of the interview 24 minutes 8 seconds was in krio.
There would have been many people in villages who do not speak or understand krio who would have to rely on others to explain the majority of the interview for them, if that has been raised as an issue they would have called those people “tribalists”. Ironically this was an interview which even Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio had to insist to be done in krio for the benefit of a wider audience even at the disadvantage of some of the targeted listeners who do not speak or understand krio. And that shows why he will always be a national leader putting country above other interests.
At age 22 in 1987 as a second lieutenant, his first military posting was at Lungi Garrison, Lungi, Port Loko District. He was later posted to Kambia District as part of the Economic Emergency Unit. In 1988 Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio was re-posted to Lungi. Even at his tender age he spent a fair share serving and protecting the lives of northerners and non-mende speaking people.
Like many Sierra Leoneans I detest the politics of tribe and region. It is crude and outdated politics. To use it as smear campaign tool is low minded. We must all be proud of being Sierra Leoneans but also recognise that we belong to tribes to share specific features with sections of society. We must celebrate our diverse cultures, languages and traditions but we live in a society where a temne man can marry to a mende woman and a mende man can marry a krio woman. Therefore it is distasteful to smear any politician whether APC, SLPP or PMDC on tribal lines. Let us discuss about the policies and initiatives to improve the lives of ordinary people who have been betrayed by a ”Prosperity” only for the few.
It is also worthy to note that very recently madingo singers have released a madingo song for Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio showering praises on him. As we get closer to the elections, there may also be other songs in different languages extolling his virtues as a great politician and a statesman. I guess that does not make him a “tribalist” but it shows a politician who commands huge respect and popularity amongst all the tribes and regions because what every Sierra Leonean has in common is the genuine belief that through the leadership of Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio “Salone for beteh…Paopa”.
MAADA BIO’S TRIBAL POLITICS
By Yankuba Kai-Samba
Bio’s tribal politics is not new. He used this same strategy in the last flagbearer election. Basically,the South east were disgruntled and accused President Kabba, who was a mende -Susu of doing nothing for them but focused more on the north.
Even the educated Mendes believe in this and the south become very resentful. I had the privilege to have met the former head of the Roman catholic church in Sierra Leone in London. He made similar observation that although the war started in the south,it was the north that Kabba directed his projects. Bio tapped in on this southern resentment and positioned himself as the man who would look after the interest of the South. In addition,his campaign reminded the people that he was the one that freed them from the APC when the NPRC overthrew the Momoh ‘s administration.
There is deep seated anger and frustration within the mende community spanning from APC’s historical violence against SLPP. There is significant constituents in the south east who are not interested in any issue other than someone who is brave and fearless to stand up to APC. Those who are gearing for a fight and street battle with the APC believe Bio being a former soldier is the one that would lead them. During the 2010 flagbearer campaign,this was one issue that was in the minds of most delegates I met,including my own brother who was the MP but was deselected in the 2012 election.
It is clear to me as it was then,that Bio is playing a very divisive tribal politics,exploiting the fears of the Mendes through deception and misinformation. My mende people must reject his politics and falsehood. Bio cannot fight the APC,he cannot fight the police forces, he cannot fight the military,he cannot become president even if all south east delegates vote for him. The best way to win a national election is not threatening to fight a government that is in power with fire for fire. It is irresponsible. The party must elect a credible presidential material who can be trusted and compete with the APC in where elections are won Freetown.
Bio is not a warrior,he is lying and fooling you. SLPP don’t need a warrior, the party needs a leader with national character who can win elections.
By: Yankuba Kai-Samba
MAABA BIO IN A BIG TRIBAL FIGHT WITH SALONEANS????????????????????????
A REBUTTAL – THE CRYING BABIES ARE AT IT AGAIN-“TRIBAL BIGOTRY”
By Lamin Opie Tarawalli.
Listening to a recent interview by Rtd Julius Maada over KISS 104 FM in Bo in which the Paopa flagbearer made sentimental appeal to the mendes, leaves one wondering about the type of leader JMB can make if made head of state of Sierra Leone. It could be recalled that on Thursday this week, Rtd Julius Maada Bio was interviewed in Krio. At the height of his interview, JMB is said to have changed his medium of communication from Krio to Mende in which he has made a passionate appeal to the Mendes, leaving other members of the audience in doubt & total disappointment. Reaction to this interview has been met with total condemnation from not only other political camps, but his Paopa camp as well. Unfortunately, some of his supporters have accused the Ex soldier of being a celebrated triballists.
Responding to the public reaction, Yusif Keketoma Sandi, a member of the JMB Communication unit, has dismissed the public’s reaction as “nonsensical”. Keketoma claims that majority of the audience especially those in the villages in the Southern province do not speak or understand krio. This he claims justifies why JMB changed his medium of communication into mende in which he made a passionate appeal.
Regrettably, this clearly exposes the level of political ignorance of the small boy Keke in terms of the demographic nature of the Southern region. It is important to note that Bo is a cosmopolitan city. As a second city, Bo district and the entire Southern region has attracted a lot of other tribes who are residents engaged in economic activities. Notwithstanding, it is important for Keke to note that there’s no village in the entire Southern region where majority of residents do not understand krio. You’ll recall that during the war, the rural population in the South-East migrated to urban cities. This had great impact on the lives of the rural population. For JMB to assert that his struggle for the political leadership of SLPP is to protect the interest of the mende people by implication has some discriminatory undertone. This is no surprise why most political pundits have viewed this as a political gaffe.- A political blunder which has embarrassed some of his supporters who are non Mende speakers.
In Keketoma’s ramblings, he further claimed that JMB is “powerful” & has ” huge popularity” & has asserted that his Political God father’s recent interview has been one of his most powerful. This to me is one of the most ridiculous statements i’ve heard in recent times. Unfortunately, Keketoma has failed to note that popularity is a relative term. What can be hugely popular and powerful by his own yardstick might be sub standard by others perspectives.
If indeed JMB is popular and powerful as claimed by Keketoma, then SLPP would have created more impact in the North- Western provinces of Sierra Leone during the last general elections. For SLPP to have lost all Parliamentary seats in the entire Western rural, Western urban, the entire northern province, coupled with six constituencies in Kono including constituency 3 in Koindu in the Kailahun district tells one about the irony of JMB’s so-called huge popularity, which his disciples regrettably want Mende people to believe. It is on record that Under the flag bearership of JMB, SLPP has recorded its worst defeat in the history of the party. Simple logic suggests that if JMB was as powerful as claimed by his disciples, then they shouldn’t be demonstrating politics of intolerance. The attempt to intimidate other players which they sense as a big threat to their political interest is a justification that disclaims their claims. The futile attempts to impose the leadership of JMB on the party through the abortive & infamous “RESOLUTION 3, THE ABORTIVE COUPS ON HON BERNADETTE LAHAI, THE OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY GENERAL & CHAIRMAN of SLPP, The SACKING OF ALIE BANGURA, THE FRUITLESS ATTEMPTS TO CONDUCT LOWER LEVEL ELECTIONS & the BASELESS CLAIM to QUESTION THE LEGAL STATUS OF KKY are all evidences of desperate attempts made by the Paopas to impose Bio on the party.
Its high time Bio and his disciples realised that all their political manipulations will no longer work. The best option for the party is to create a levelled plain field for party stalwarts to contribute to the development of the party. So Keketoma MUST SHUT UP !! “Leh we dae go normor” © Lamin Opie Tarawalli-Philli, USA.