SLPP Clones and the 2007 Elections

15 January 2006 at 00:55 | 592 views

Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad cannot help thinking of the forthcoming 2007 elections. For some, the elections will not change anything; the same corrupt politicians will be voted in again.According to this group of Sierra Leoneans,it does not matter which party wins, the politicians are all the same. For others, the elections would provide the opportunity to change things in the country by voting for the few patriotic politicians in the fold.
In this piece, one of our political commentators, Karamoh Kabba, looks at the problems within the ruling SLPP.The picture he paints is not rosy:

By Karamoh Kabba

The ruling party in Sierra Leone (S.L.P.P.) takes after the life of the single-celled protozoa, amoeba, when it began duplicating in the aftermath of its party convention in Makeni, September 3-4, 2005. Charles Margai, who was one of the contenders of the S.L.P.P. presidential candidate race cried foul after Vice President Solomon Berewa’s overwhelming victory at the party convention.

Margai abandoned the S.L.P.P. and went on to form his own movement: Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (P.M.D.C.), which is now undergoing a registration process to become a political party.
Like the protozoa, which replicates by a simple method of asexual reproduction, dividing into two smaller daughter cells by a process called fission, the S.L.P.P. divided into two smaller parties at the height of its growth in Makeni. Unlike the asexual reproduction in the protozoa, the agent for the unwanted binary fission in the S.L.P.P. is uniqu and self-created and we do not know if these daughter parties will ever grow up to become mature parties as in the protozoa. And the slithering cell that emerged in Makeni has surfaced in the S.L.P.P. branch parties in the Diaspora as well. Recent revelations indicate that one of the strongest S.L.P.P. branch parties, the England/Ireland branch, has completed its own binary fission into two daughter S.L.P.P. branch parties called “Friends of Berewa” and “Friends of Margai.”

On January 8, 2006 Tamba JS Lamina, the branch chairman made a speech entitled “An Overview of the Current State of the Branch Party,” that he delivered to the general membership at 22 Ashwin Street, Hackney. E8. In part, Tamba said:

I have stayed away from the two campaign groups formed in London and believed that now that the Convention is over the Berewa campaign group now called “Friends of Berewa” would cease to exist because the leader of the Party automatically becomes our leader and a friend of all of us. This has not happened, ladies and gentlemen. The situation now is that the ‘Friends of Berewa’ have now usurped the role of the Executive and the High Commissioner continues to undermine the Executive in every way possible. Is this the sort of Branch Party that we want to see? One that operates only on the whims and caprices of the High Commissioner? I do not think so. I have received several phone calls from within and without informing me of the nefarious activities of this group. We must not allow people of this nature and calibre to come close to the governing apparatus".

Many fingers are pointing at the decision made by the S.L.P.P. leadership to have had the party convention two years ahead of the upcoming presidential elections. It has opened up a window of opportunity for a formidable presidential aspirant such as Margai to go his separate way along with a chunk of S.L.P.P. supporters. Many more claim that it is a political machination by President Tejan Kabbah to give enough time to his vice president to build his own political fortune. Once more Tamba told his audience:

“Events leading to the convention were shrouded in secrecy and the speed of events had implications for due process prescribed in the National Party Constitution.”

Indeed, Vice President Solomon Berewa had a landslide victory regardless of his unpopular image amongst the masses. There is much suspicion amongst the ordinary citizens that Vice President Berewa’s victory was devious. Such claims cannot be taken at face value simply because of the political culture of praise singing in Sierra Leone amongst many party supporters: It makes sense that Vice President Berewa collected such a large number of party delegates’ votes with his mustered State House support. The type of political machination that probably led to such massive support for Vice President Berewa is now unfolding. Apparently, Tamba’s vehemence is stemming from the failed arm-twisting from State House to force him to support Vice President Berewa prior to the party convention. Tamba refused to succumb, and he complained about that in his recent speech:

“I’m led to believe that the anger towards me is for something else. I was asked to form a campaign group for VP Berewa at our initial meeting with the VP in London but with me being what I am this was considered to put my position in direct conflict and being unfair to the other aspirants.”

In a phone conversation with Tamba on January 9, he explained that the culture of leaders aspiring for the S.L.P.P. branch party chair in England/Ireland is not to serve the people, but to look for political appointments in the government, their foremost agenda. And indeed Tamba’s predecessors have gone on to occupy high offices in Sierra Leone. But he prefers to stick to his principles and values. Thus, his refusal to support Berewa has developed into bitter blood between him and the S.L.P.P. government’s High Commissioner to England.

“I will not trade my values for political position,” he said to me. In the same January 8, 2006 address, he told his audience:

"His Excellency, the High Commissioner had his own agenda. He always wants to control the affairs of this Branch even though he is not a member. We have always respected him as an elder statesman hence our effort to put him at the centre of events. But he has not given the Branch the reciprocal respect that it deserves. Instead he is bent on stewing discord amongst members aimed at getting his own way".

This kind of political brouhaha among the S.L.P.P. supporters in Sierra Leone and England/Ireland is showing up here in the US as well. But unlike the S.L.P.P. branch party in England/Ireland, it is cyber warfare in the US-mostly on discussion fora. But they get so heated sometimes; the only thing that seems to be preventing fistfights is because the actors are armchair warriors.
This brings us to the Bo incidents of November last year: The S.L.P.P. government officials, reacting to the threats of violence against Vice President Berewa, arrested and incarcerated Charles Margai. Again, there was an outcry and claims that the government’s reaction was politically motivated especially the fact that the S.L.P.P. government is dragging its feet to register Margai’s P.M.D.C. as a political party.Indeed the political trends among SLPP supporters in England/Ireland are giving much credence to such claims.

There is much reason for one to believe that the S.L.P.P. is in serious trouble. And the reason has less to do with the party, but much to do with the presidential candidate that has been annointed. There is also strong reason to believe that President Tejan Kabbah may be pondering aloud over his support for Vice President Berewa as a bullet in his own shin.

With the unfolding political gymnastics, 2007 may result in transactional politics since many believe that the 55% votes that are needed to win the presidency are not forthcoming for any of the political parties in the drama of power politics in Sierra Leone. And in that case, the S.L.P.P. will be even deeper in a lake of hot water. This is because while the All Peoples’ Congress (A.P.C.) and the P.M.D.C. are warming up to each other, the S.L.P.P. is busy antagonising potential partners in the forthcoming transactional politics of 2007.

Photo: Karamoh Kabba