African News

A Response to Dr. Kelfala Kallon

5 May 2014 at 21:48 | 857 views

“Two Stolen Presidential Terms Should be Enough:” A Response to Dr. Kelfala Kallon

By Dr. Peter A. Dumbuya, Freetown, Sierra Leone.


In fairness to Dr. Kelfala Kallon, I must disclose that in July-August 2007, I volunteered in the presidential campaign of then candidate Ernest Bai Koroma who is now President of Sierra Leone. I and my colleagues worked assiduously and diligently, including tallying the results of the presidential and parliamentary elections as they were called in by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and relayed by numerous radio stations throughout the country. We spent election night with the presidential candidate in the All People’s Congress (APC) party head office at Old Railway Line, Brookfields.

Like Dr. Kallon, we heard all sorts of rumors about the outcome of the general elections but quickly discounted them after checking in with the candidate and our representatives in the field. At one point during the night, a convoy of UN vehicles parked in front the party office, remained there for a while, but eventually drove off because nothing untoward was taking place in and around the building. The votes were being counted elsewhere.

The 2007 and 2012 Presidential Elections

In both the 2007 and 2012 general elections, the international community, including the UN, European Union (EU), African Union (AU), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Mano River Union (MRU), the Commonwealth, and the Carter Center hailed the elections as free and fair. Reports from international election monitors from these organizations and others are available for inspection by Dr. Kallon, but he chose to rely on his “usual candor about the APC” to construct a commentary that is based on false statements of fact. In the jurisdiction (Colorado/USA) from which Dr. Kallon penned his commentary (published in Global Times on May 1/the paper’s date was April 31), such reckless disregard for the truth of his statements may amount to libel. (See for example New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964).

Dr. Kallon opened his ad hominem attacks against the President by stating categorically that he “was selected by Christiana Thorpe for his first presidential term in 2007.” Since this is not a statement of mere opinion, which is usually not actionable, one would have expected Dr. Kallon to offer evidence of how the NEC chairperson “selected” the President. Instead, in a classic case of avoidance and non sequitur, he offers unverified testimony from “an APC friend” about the coming disappearance of rice stocks, and how party people stood to “enrich themselves” at the expense of Sierra Leoneans. As reliable as his “APC friend” was on the rice issue, one would have expected him or her also to spill the beans on how and why Dr. Thorpe conducted her “selection” of the President. But, hope against hope, this “friend” did not come through with such tantalizing piece of information! Further, in his “usual candor,” Dr. Kallon found time to blaspheme God with imaginary rice cascading from the heavens, and accused, without more, the President’s family (“Koroma, Incorporated”) of engaging in unsavory dealings while the people of Sierra Leone went hungry.

Next, Dr. Kallon unleashed a diatribe against “APC vuvuzellas,” “sycophants,” and “charlatans” who, he wrote, are playing up a third term for the President. He ignored press releases (including one in the Independent Observer on April 23, 2014) from State House denying these rumors. The “Eleventh Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone,” dated September 12, 2013 (p. 1), referred to a press release (May 9, 2013) to the effect that the President is not seeking a third term. Review of the current 1991 Constitutional was a recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC, 2004: vol. two, p. 140) and not the President’s idea: “The Commission is of the considered view that it is an appropriate time for Sierra Leone to formulate a new Constitution. The Commission accordingly recommends that Parliament seriously consider the creation of a new constitution for Sierra Leone.” Even more insulting, especially for someone with a terminal degree, is Dr. Kallon’s assertion that “regardless of intent and resources available to them, they [APC] lack the capacity to govern Sierra Leone competently and in a democratic manner.” This low, dismissive opinion of the APC and its supporters is based on nothing more than his “belief” and, I guess, his “usual candor.”

The Court Cases

When Dr. Kallon writes of incompetence, he needs to look closer to home which I suspect means the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP); who else could have lost the presidential elections to the President but Mr. Berewa and Gen. (ret.) Julius Maada Bio, both of the SLPP. In 2007, the SLPP filed its challenge (SLPP v. NEC and Christiana Thorpe) to the election of President Koroma in the High Court, which, under the Electoral Laws Act (Amendment) 2007 (Section 92A (1), hears cases arising from the right of any person to be or remain a Member of Parliament. The High Court dismissed the case because it did not have jurisdiction to hear it; it should have been filed in the Supreme Court. In its report for 2012 (p. 26), the NEC wrote that:

In the aftermath of the 2007 Presidential Election, a court case was filed against the NEC by the SLPP in the High Court requesting that the court ordered NEC to present to the plaintiff all statements of results from the said Presidential Elections. The NEC Legal team responded by challenging the jurisdiction of the court. Their argument was that all matters relating to the Presidential Elections must be determined by the Supreme Court. The High Court ruled in February, 2008 in favor of the NEC. However, the Plaintiff appealed at the Court of Appeal which upheld the ruling of the High Court in January 2009. On the 30th April 2009 the SLPP filed another application seeking an order from the Supreme Court for the enlargement of time within which to appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal. Leave was granted on the 8th April 2011 and the appeal was filed on the 3rd May 2011 but the Plaintiffs did not serve a Notice of Civil Appeal on each of the Respondents. Instead, on the 17th November 2011 they sought another order from the Supreme Court for the enlargement of time within which to serve the said notices on the Respondents. The application was refused and the case dismissed.

Section 55 (1) of the current Public Elections Act 2012, which has survived intact since the 2002 Act (Section 40) states that “A person who is a citizen of Sierra Leone and has lawfully voted may in a presidential election challenge the validity of that election by petition to the Supreme Court within seven days after the declaration of the result of a presidential election under subsection (2) of section 52.” How did the lawyers end up filing the case in the High Court? Was it a case of legal malpractice? The SLPP, it seems from the NEC report, was rooting for failure either because its lawyers were not conversant with the election laws or they did not have a claim upon which the Court could have granted relief. Probably, had Dr. Kallon read the NEC report and other publicly available documents on these elections, he could have had a much better understanding of what happened in 2007 and 2012 instead of relying on himself as authority on the so-called “stolen” elections.

In 2012, the SLPP filed its challenge against the election of the President out of time, meaning it was filed late. In John O. Benjamin, et al. v. Dr. Christiana Thorpe, et al., S.C. No. 4/2012, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition because “It is our view that the several complaints of non compliance with the Election Petition Rules have been justified by affidavit evidence in support of the application to strike out the petition filed. The failure to comply with Section 55 (1) of the Act and the Rules is fatal as previous decisions of the Courts of Sierra Leone on Election Petition Rules clearly indicate.”

Additionally, the President, the winner of the 2012 elections was not made a party to the petition. Instead, in addition to Dr. Thorpe, the petition named the NEC, Victor B. Foh as National Secretary-General of the APC, and the APC itself as respondents. So, twice in a row, the SLPP made fatal errors in pursuing a challenge to the election of the President. And now Dr. Kallon would like you to believe that the NEC chairperson “selected” President Koroma on two occasions; it is ridiculous, to say the least.

What Dr. Kallon failed to mention in his commentary which the Global Times published on Thursday May 1 was that in 2007 Mr. Koroma was competing for the presidency with an incumbent Vice President, Mr. Solomon Berewa, himself a lawyer. Most observers of politics in Africa will tell you that it is well-nigh impossible to defeat an incumbent leader, with all the coercive tools and carrots in his hands, in presidential elections.

Certainly, one is entitled to ask where Mr. Berewa was when President Koroma, who lost badly to President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in 2002 but did not cry foul as Dr. Kallon seemed to have done on behalf of Mr. Berewa, “stole” the elections from him. From the vantage point of an attorney, Dr. Kallon’s commentary is full of false statements, name calling, and self-serving innuendos which when taken together have a tendency to injure the President’s reputation as well as that of his family, Dr. Christiana Thorpe as head of the NEC, and various individuals to whom he imputed the so-called “stolen” elections in 2007 and 2012.

Dr. Kelfala Kallon. He is Professor of Economics at the University of Northern Colorado, United States of America. The author, Dr. Dumbuya is a lawyer and Professor of History at Fort Valley State University, also in the US. He is currently Fulbright Scholar in the Law Department of Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone.