By Kabs Kanu
History was made in Sierra Leone yesterday when for the first time in the country’s democratic transformation, presidential candidates of the leading political parties in the country contesting the forthcoming March 7, 2016 elections rumbled in a national presidential debate aired through the nation by AYV and watched by curious Sierra Leoneans at home and the diaspora.
Sierra Leonean-born BBC presenter, Mr. Hassan Arouni, was imported from the UK to moderate the landmark event.
THE STAGE OF THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE
DR. SAMURA KAMARA AT THE PODIUM
Six Presidential Aspirants locked horns in the debate : Dr. Samura M. W. Kamara, representing the ruling All People’s Congress (APC } ; Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio of the main opposition , the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) ; Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella of the breakaway National Grand Coalition ( NGC ) ; Mr. Mohamed Kamaraimba Mansaray of the Alliance Democratic Party (ADP) ; Alhaji, Sudique Sam Sumana of the Coalition For Change (C4C); and Alhaji Musa Tarawally of the CDP
B.B.C news anchor, Hassan Arouni, the moderator, set the tone for the debate when he warned the candidates : “Stop throwing stones at the ruling party as we’ve not seen what you can do. Try to concentrate on what you plan on doing.” However, the warning was not heeded as the presidential candidates went after each other.
The APC candidate , Dr. Samura Kamara, probably taken aback by ceaseless criticisms of government by his colleagues, especially Bio and Yumkella, took a dig at them : “My colleagues here do not drive their vehicles in gutters but on good roads . Yet, they are blind to the truth by saying they do not see the good roads . ” Apart from exposing Bio that $18 million got missing under his care when he was Head of State, Dr. Samura Kamara taunted Yumkella : ”I have personally electrified my home towns, both Kamalo and Maworko with solar ; I was expecting Mr UNIDO Man to do same for his home town as Director of UNIDO , but ALAS he hasn’t done anything like that”. The other candidates sought to unnerve Samura Kamara by amplifying the mistakes of the government, but Dr. Kamara stood firm and repelled them.
LIVE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE IN PARTNERSHIP WITH AYV TV FROM SIERRA LEONE
Posted by KTV Sierra Leone on Thursday, February 15, 2018
Sierra Leoneans were so thrilled by the historic debate that the social media is buzzing with all kinds of comments and analyses. Barry Honnah , a Sierra Leonean intellectual and human resource manager , enthused : “Tonight I saw public opinion in Sierra Leone come of age. My particular thanks goes to Hassan Aruni, Kelvin Lewis, Junior Navo and the rest of the journalist community for their efforts in promoting such a landmark event in our nations political history.”
“The greatest philip for me is the fact that people are really deeply debating the key issues. There is an awakened awareness amongst everyone. Farmers, teachers, nurses; good ordinary citizens, now fully articulate what is required of the next political leadership and dispensation. I suspect the old political gimmicks of few Leone’s and a T-shirt will no longer suffice. Now, politicians will be required to fully communicate their vision and practical solutions to our nations problems if they want our votes. The KKY factor has also certainly shaken things up in this regard with his populist approach to speaking directly to the people.”
“Today, democracy has taken a new and bold stride in our country. It is the least our people deserve after 57 years of development failure. Let us now vote wisely and continue to hold the victors accountable.”
Because of the heavily partisan character of Sierra Leone’s social media political commentators and analysts and the fact that the country’s print and online newspapers and other media lack objectivity and impartiality, it will be difficult to determine who won the debate . Every camp is predicting victory for its presidential candidates and analyses of the candidates’ performance in terms of Honesty with the issues, sympathy , knowledge about the economy and development, knowledge about the operations of Government , maturity, Quality Education , leadership and capability to lead , discipline and Temperament and time Management cannot be trusted because they are biased.
However, the nation triumphed , because it is now certain that Sierra Leone has entered a new dispensation of multi-party democracy and inclusive politics that should make other nations proud of her. A country still recovering from 11 years of the most brutal civil war imaginable can now boast of being one of the torchbearers of democracy in the continent. This is a big victory for Sierra Leone and every citizen should be proud.