Sheriff Mahmud Ismail
*Kambia- 20th, 2018*
This afternoon, in Constituency 062, at 5pm in the Kambia District, the All Peoples Congress endorsed candidate for Member of Parliament, Abu Bakrr Sankoh, has filed an objection to the nomination of Kande Kolleh Yumkella. Sankoh’s objection is on the grounds that:
“The said Kandeh K. Yumkella with voter identification card (ID card) number 228210, is a dual citizen of the Republic of Sierra Leone and the United States of America in violation of section 76(1a) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone (Act No 6) of 1991 and the Public Elections (Act No 4) of 2012.
The APC candidate, who is hopeful to represent his people of Constituency 062, went on to say that:
“I am of the belief that Kandeh K. Yumkella is still a dual citizen and is in violation of section 76(1a) and therefore not eligible to contest the said election”.
Sankoh insists that Kandeh K. Yumkella is not a Sierra Leonean citizen on the grounds that having acquired American citizenship, he renounced his Sierra Leonean citizenship and has not done anything to resume it (his Sierra Leonean citizenship) in accordance with section (19) B of the Sierra Leone Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2006 rendering him ineligible to contest under section 75 and 76 (1a) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone (Act No 6) of 1991 Constitution.
A legal debate over the issue of dual citizens has been raging recently and it appears to have now resulted in a serious political conundrum. The argument is that section 76 (1a) of the 1991 Constitution provides that for a person to be elected Member of Parliament (s)he should not hold any citizenship of any other country. But over the years, both the ruling All Peoples Congress and the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party had paid little attention to this provision in the Constitution. Not anymore! Owing to reports of possible petitions by smaller parties on the grounds of that constitutional provision, the APC had taken the hard decision of complying with the relevant provisions of the law by not awarding any symbol to any of its members with dual citizenship. The APC’s action has clearly exasperated the argument and poses a serious threat to the survival of NGC’s Kande Yumkella who was obviously flustered by what he termed as the APC’s sudden compliance of section 76 (1a) of the country’s Constitution.
In a hastily convened press conference on 18th January, 2018, Kande Yumkella admitted to have been carrying a United States citizenship but just as he accused the APC of suddenly complying with the law, he ironically said that suddenly he too had to renounce his U.S. citizenship in order to comply with the constitution. When he became a citizen or when exactly did he renounce it, he did not say. Now ABU BAKARR SANKOH OF MANGE BISSAO, SAMU CHIEFDOM, KAMBIA DISTRICT, the APC endorsed candidate has objected to Kande’s Member of Parliament nomination of 20th January, 2018.
“I ABU BAKARR SANKOH OF MANGE BISSAO, SAMU CHIEFDOM, KAMBIA DISTRICT hereby object to the nomination of the Kandeh K. Yumkella with voter identification number card (ID card) 2282101, in accordance with section 63(a) of the Public Elections (Act No 4) 2012”.
How Kande and the NGC would absolve themselves from this quagmire remains unclear. What is certain however is that the APC has put the NGC on the back foot and the APC battery of lawyers representing Abu Bakkr Sankoh are very confident that they have a very good and strong case.
Legal analysts have opined that if the objection of Abu Bakrr is not sustained by the National Elections Commission’s Returning Officer in Kambia District, Sankoh could still appeal to the Electoral Commission at the national level and if the National Electoral Commission fails to return a favourable decision, the APC’s endorsed candidate has an option to go to the High Court.
It has also been stated that Kande Yumkella’s presidential nomination done today can be challenged in the Supreme Court and that an injunction could even be sought to prevent his name being published in the gazette as a candidate.
The Returning Officer in Kambia District, Umar Fomba, in accepting the objection intimated that there is a possibility for more objections and that such objections could be made on to 27th January 2018.
Fomba went to inform the objectioner that he would inform Kande of the objection to his nomination and the both of them should make themselves (the objectioner and Kande) available to the Kambia office on the 29th this month for a hearing on the matter.
Clearly, the cloud surrounding Kande’s citizenship, and by extension his eligibility to run under the dual citizenship law has put him in for a long drawn out legal battle which holds a high potential of undoing his 2018 presidential aspiration.