The well-publicized town hall meeting President Maada Bio was to have held in London on Saturday was suddenly and unceremoniously cancelled , leaving even supporters of the Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP) stunned.
The SLPP were excited and expectant as Saturday drew near because the town hall meeting would have been used by President Bio to highlight what the government thought was a successful Sierra Leone Investment Conference organized for the country by the United Kingdom Government, which would have helped President Bio regain some lost pride after two days of wild demonstrations held in London against him by Sierra Leoneans living in the UK, who marched through the streets to No. 10 Downing Street, home of the British Prime Minister on Thursday and picketed the hall where the conference was being held on Friday.
Many SLPP supporters were planning to use this diaspora town hall meeting not only to show their solidarity and support for the President Maada Bio government but to prove that the demonstrations did not affect the President.
But unknown to many of them , the two-day demonstrations against him while the conference was going on hurt President Bio extremely because it portrayed another very bad image of his government . This was the second time since he came to power last year that Sierra Leoneans in the UK had turned up to demonstrate against him and it did not send a good picture of President Bio to the UK Government, though it did it best to ensure that the conference ended peacefully.
Bio was afraid of more repercussions as the demonstrators had planned to attend the town hall meeting and not only continue their protests outside but ask the President critical questions about his human rights abuses and trashing of the constitution, rules of Parliament and the Rule of Law in Sierra Leone. To avoid further embarrassment , the already moody and annoyed President Bio asked for the meeting to be cancelled.
Supporters of President Bio on social media tried to give excuses that the meeting was cancelled because Bio had to attend the birthday party for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11 , held at Buckingham Palace on the same day. But this excuse was rejected by well-meaning Sierra Leoneans for two reasons. Firstly, the invitation , according to protocol, must have been sent before President Bio left Sierra Leone since he was attending a conference that the very UK Government had organized for Sierra Leone. It was not an impromptu invitation and thus the Sierra Leone High Commission which was coordinating the town hall meeting would have worked around the President’s itinerary to ensure that the meeting still went on.
Secondly, if the meeting and the Queen’s birthday had clashed, it showed poor planning by the Sierra Leone High Commission , which should have been known even before the date and could have been rectified by having the meeting rescheduled . The town hall meeting was a very important program in the presidential itinerary and invitations were sent to the public as indicated below. Many significant political events had taken place in Sierra Leone during the past month ( Bintumani 3, the unseating of 10 opposition APC Parliamentarians , the Police attack on the APC headquarters and this investment conference in London about which Bio needed to brief Sierra Leoneans and give his government’s own versions }. Since President Bio was not working on a very tight schedule , he could have still extended his stay by one day to have the town meeting held on Sunday, because it was very crucial that he had it.
Sierra Leoneans believe that fear of facing embarrassing questions at the hall and more demonstrations forced President Bio to cancel the town hall meeting.
Meanwhile, Sierra Leoneans in the U.S. and other parts of Europe are planning their own demonstrations against President Bio.