From the Editor’s Keyboard

Ernest Koroma’s “Quiet Politics”

14 December 2006 at 01:53 | 565 views

"Ernest, it seems, wants to distance himself from the politics of former APC warriors like the late Sorie Ibrahim Koroma (alias Agba Satani) and the late Siaka Probyn Stevens (alias Pass ar Die ). He has repeatedly stressed that he is leading a new and reformed APC and many Sierra Leoneans are beginning to believe him."

Commentary

By Gibril Gbanabome Koroma

According to sources in California, Hon. Ernest Koroma, the presidential candidate of Sierra Leone’s leading opposition party, the APC, was recently in that part of the United States in what has been described as a fundraising exercise to financially prepare the party for the forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.

Our sources say Koroma(photo) received a tumultuous welcome at the Masonic Temple in Beverly Hills and Sierra Leoneans gathered there loudly pledged their financial and moral support much to the delight of the unassuming APC leader and his entourage. Koroma, we have been
informed, succinctly laid out his vision and plans for Sierra Leoneans to the apparent satisfaction of his audience.

Some members of other political parties and new members later signed up as APC members, our informants say. They (the new recruits) may have been convinced by Koroma’s apparently sincere message of goodwill and fundamental change encapsulated in his vision of a Sierra Leone where the citizenry will have access to safe and clean drinking water, electricity, affordable and proper medical services and all the other basic things that are common in a modern democratic state.

What is obvious from this Koroma visit is that it is bereft of the high tempo of an earlier visit this year during which he met his compatriots in the New Jersey area. This particular visit may be low key because he did not want to appear to compete too loudly with his friend Charles Margai of the PMDC who was also on tour in the US at the time. The two political leaders appear to be working hard to effect change in Sierra Leone and don’t seem to worry about who among them eventually becomes president as long as Solomon Berewa and his SLPP are kicked out of power, a monumental task although not an impossible one.

Unseating the SLPP seems a monumental task to many Sierra Leoneans because of that party’s "incumbency", which offers it the opportunity to use state resources and even projects funded by the international community as part of its campaign strategy.Many people are upset by the fact that Vice President Berewa is going around the country fearlessly claiming that donor funded bridges, hospitals, court buildings etc are part of the SLPP’s developmental strides; they are also amazed that none of the opposition leaders including Charles Margai and Ernest Koroma are even complaining or educating the people about the true picture or facts.SLPP stalwarts themselves know that if you take away the various forms of donor assistance in the country, they would have little or nothing to show for their ten years in power.They also know that many of the voters, most of them illiterate and ignorant about happenings in the country and elsewhere, are not aware of this.

These stalwarts insist,rightly or wrongly,that their party is responsible for the vast amount of donor money pouring into the country and that they should therefore take the credit for it although no less a person as the top UN man in Sierra Leone, Victor Angelo, has recently expressed concern about this state of affairs.

With regards to the above and other issues, what has been described by some people as Ernest’s "quiet politics" has been viewed with mixed feelings by some APC supporters we have talked to. Some of them want their leader to be feisty and tough and come out with fiery statements from time to time to instill fear in the ruling party and to galvanise Sierra Leone’s restless and angry voters. Others, usually elderly folks, prefer a quiet and cautious approach that would sanitise or get rid of the APC’s image and legacy of violent machismo politics.

Ernest, it seems, wants to distance himself from the politics of former APC warriors like the late Sorie Ibrahim Koroma (alias Agba Satani) and the late Siaka Probyn Stevens (alias Pass ar Die ). He has repeatedly stressed that he is leading a new and reformed APC and many Sierra Leoneans are beginning to believe him.

Many of his younger supporters are nevertheless saying "gentlemanly" politics do not work in Sierra Leone especially in a situation where the ruling party is determined to stay in power by all means at their disposal.Indeed one of the reasons the PMDC as a party is growing phenomenally is because many youths in the country consider PMDC leader Charles Margai a tough and no-nonsense leader. So the pressure on Ernest to be more vocal and feisty(without necessarily preaching violence) will increase as the election date draws nearer.

Also Ernest and the APC still have a lot of work to do to convince voters in the south and east of the country that an APC government will not marginalise and persecute them like the APC of Agba Satani. He has to let voters in those areas of the country know that his APC is a new APC and that the major problem in Sierra Leone is really not tribalism or regionalism per se, but simply bad politicians and bad governance.

So the APC,(like the other political parties including the SLPP)has a lot of voter education to do around the country especially in the south and east.That’s the challenge for Ernest Koroma and his followers and they have to act fast as the date of the elections, July 28, 2007 is not very far away.

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