By KABS KANU :
Chief Somana Kapen, the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP ) Chairman, who was “suspended ” by party radicals loyal to former junta leader and 2012 Presidential candidate, Julius Maada Bio, and his supporters clambered up from the canvas yesterday and in turn expelled and suspended members of the party loyal to Bio, in a contentious SLPP National Executive Council ( NEC ) meeting at the Miatta Conference Centre in Freetown .
Yesterday’s dramatic events and action from the legally elected party chairman and his team represent a damaging escalation of the bitter conflict tearing the SLPP apart , and have conveniently created two separate executive committees, with daggers drawn, who are now headed for a big showdown with the suspensions and counter -suspensions and expulsions.
KANDEH YUMKELLA ( IN GREEN HAT ) ARRIVES FOR YESTERDAY’S MEETING . HIS CHANCES OF GETTING THE SLPP SYMBOL ARE SLIM AND MAY END UP FORMING HIS OWN PARTY
Mercifully, the meeting yesterday ended without chaos, amid fears that the Bio faction, commonly known as The PA O Pas ( “Pa o Pa” in Krio means ” Either we get what what we want or nothing “) would disrupt it , after the now-suspended “Chairman ” they “elected” in place of the legitimate one they had suspended, Dr. Prince Harding , sent a letter to the Inspector General of the Sierra Leone Police threatening that the “Party would not be held responsible for any chaos that might erupt as a result of the meeting”.
SUMANO KAPEN : TIME TO ASSERT HIS AUTHORITY AND PROVE WHO IS THE LEGITIMATE CHAIRMAN
One man who was conspicuously absent from yesterday’s meeting was Maada Bio, the enfant terrible of the SLPP , the man on his infamous shoulders rest all the blames for the division in the SLPP. Though he is very popular among the youths of the party and he controls the SLPP votes in the South/East, many party bigwhigs and supporters dislike him for his stubborness and fastidiousness in insisting that he is the only candidate fit to be Presidential flagbearer. He is also accused of being a mobster and using thugs to violently punish his detractors within the party. Many Sierra Leoneans also loath him for his violent record as junta leader. But his supporters are very faithful to him and still believe that he is the only candidate capable of taking the SLPP to State House.
The meeting was fully attended by illustrious members of the SLPP : Significantly, former Vice Presidents during the SLPP, Mr. Solomon Ekuma Berewa and Dr. Joe Demby, alongside Mrs. Isatu Jabbie Kabba, widow of the late President of Sierra Leone, Alhaji, Ahmed Tejan Kabba, Hon. Dr. Bernadett Lahai, Minority Leader in the house of Parliament, Dr. Kanden Kolleh Yumkella, Joe Blell, John O. Benjamin, Andrew Keillie, Munda Rogers, Alpha Timbo and the embattled chairman and leader of the party, Chief Sumanoh Capen among others.
SLPP MEMBERS LISTENING TO YESTERDAY’S SESSION OF THE NEC
The Kapen Group had also said that they received intelligence that the “Pa O Pa” group had “planned to occupy the conference hall in the morning, with an aim to cause confusion in the envisions, for the meeting to be cancelled.” But the Pa O Pa Group are arguing that the meeting lacked legitimacy and should not have been held.
FORMER JUNTA LEADER MADDA BIO ( LEFT ) , THE LEADER OF THE PA O PA GROUP , SEEN HERE WITH THE LATE REBEL LEADER FODAY SANKOH WHO KILLED 500, 000 SIERRA LEONEANS AND LEFT A COLONY OF DISABLED CITIZENS. MAY SIERRA LEONEANS HAVE NOT OVERCOME THEIR ANGER FOR BIO FOR HIS PART IN THE EXECUTION OF 28 SIERRA LEONEANS BY THE JUNTA HE HELPED BRING TO POWER IN 1992
MAADA BIO ( LEFT ) AND DR. PRINCE HARDING , HIS “CHAIRMAN”, WHO RECEIVED THE BOOT
What follows yesterday’s meeting and decisions will define the SLPP and give a hint about the party’s chances in the forthcoming 2018 elections. With Bio looking very likely to kick hard against the expulsion and suspension of his own supporters and the Karpen Group determined to exercise their authority as the only legitimately elected executive, it remains to be seen how the party will hold a credible and acceptable delegates convention to determine its flagbearer for 2018.
Many Sierra Leoneans suspect that either Maada Bio or his bitter rival Kandeh Yumkella or both may end up forming their own political parties if they do not receive the SLPP symbol to be Presidential candidate. There is no sign that both will hang heads together and form a common front, because none of them wants to be running mate. Secondly, there is suspicion in local circles that Kandeh Yumkella may never win enough votes to be presidential flagbearer because left-wing SLPP zealots are gunning for nothing other than a Mende man for the standard bearer position of the party this time.
During yesterday’s meeting, the following decisions were taken :
1.Dr. Prince Harding replaced by Joseph Maada Kpulun
3.Lawrence Lahai Leema replaced by Imran Sillah
4. Am. Alie Badara Kamara(sec. Gen.) replaced by Mohamed M. Massaquoi.
1. HON. Edward Suluku – South
2. Manso Dumbuya , West
4 Alhaji Kanja Sesay
7. Rex Bonapha
8.Alimamy H. Bangura.
However, the PA O PA Group has swiftly reacted to this action by the legitimate SLPP NEC . Immediately after the meeting yesterday, they issued this public statement :
SLPP NATIONAL HEADQUARTERS
FREETOWN, 4th JANUARY, 2017.
The NAtional Secretariat of the SLPP wishes to inform the general membership of the party and the public at large that the decisions/expulsions emanating from the illegal and fake NEC meeting summoned by the suspended Chairman and Leader, former Chief Somanoh Kapen III has no effect and therefore a mere
exercise in futility.
The Secretariat is encouraging everybody to stay calm and focused, while the legitimate National Officers/Executive headed by Dr. Prince Alex Harding remain fully in charge of the operations, assets and fortunes of the party. We further assure you that we shall continue to chat the way forward on abated for the success of the party.
We are weighing all options to come out with a robust response to this nefarious, lawless and dangerous anti-party activities.
ONE COUNTRY! ONE
Ambassador Alie Badara Kamara,
National Secretary General, SLPP