By Gibril Gbanabome Koroma , Editor : Patriotic Vanguard newspaper
The ruling party in Sierra Leone, the Sierra Leone People’s Party(SLPP) is to hold a national convention in Makeni, the capital of the north of Sierra Leone, later this month to elect a national leader who would lead the party in the 2007 general elections. An array of candidates have announced their interest in this position. Vanguard editor Gibril Gbanabome Koroma looks at the scenario:
Ordinarily the holding of an SLPP national convention would not excite many non-supporters who have developed discenchantment and contempt for that party over the years due mainly to it’s grim record of massive corruption, tribalism or ethnocentrism coupled with abysmal human rights violations. Many Sierra Leoneans I have talked to are intersted in this convention because of the following:
The Tribal Factor
Four of the contestants for the leadership position: Solomon Berewa (the present Vice President), Julius Maada Bio, Charles Margai and J. B. Dauda are all Mendes. The fifth contestant, John Ernest Leigh is half Mende (one of the parents is Krio, the other Mende). This configuration has added fuel to the constant refrain that the SLPP is a Mende party, that is a party only seeking the interests of the peole inhabiting the east and south of the country. This point has been a serious issue for many Sierra Leoneans from the north and west of the country.Indeed since the SLPP came to power in 1996, there has been a dramatic upsurge in the number of Mendes occupying key positions in the country’s governmental machinery. It will therefore be prudent for the SLPP membership to avoid electing a Mende to lead that party if they want other Sierra Leoneans to take them seriously. A Mende as leader of the SLPP after Makeni will just seal it’s image as a Mende party, no matter how well-meaning and nationalistic that person may be.The reason why Tejan Kabbah has been able to ascend to the pinnacle of that party and to be accepted by many Sierra Leoneans pre-1996 is because they did not feel threatened by somebody from a minority tribe like him.
Some of the contestants, like the so-called Vice President and former junta leader Bio had made many enemies among the former armed factions that participated in the civil war. Electing any of them to lead any party, not just the SLPP, is throwing the security of the country to the wolves once more whether they eventually become president of the country or not.As many analysts know, Sierra Leone is far from being a stable country despite statements to the contrary from government officials.True peace is not the absence of guns but the absence of anger and desperation in the hearts and minds of the people. One way to ensure this is to elect leaders who will heal the wounds of war and bring people together. It will be suicidal to elect people whose faces will rekindle the embers of war and ignite another rebellion.Whoever in the SLPP will be voting in Makeni this month should remember that.This is true for all the other parties, not just the SLPP.
A hallmark of the SLPP administration is the tremendous corruption and nepotism indulged in by government officials who openly flaunt their wealth which is radically incommensurate with what they earn in their various jobs. Huge amounts of donor money meant to alleviate the grinding poverty in the country is funnelled into private pockets through tricks like bogus contracts,supplying cheap and defective materials and so on.The blame for all this is laid at door of the leadership of the present SLPP, considered the most corrupt in the country’s history.The Makeni convention therefore is a golden opportunity for the SLPP to redeem or reinvent itself and come up with a leader with a clean record, a person with integrity and respect. Many people in that party dont have that pedigree but a few do.We hope that small number would win at the end of the day. If they dont, we venture to say Makeni would sound the death knell of the SLPP.