National Delegates’ Conventions like anywhere in the World today; be it democratic or communist, are specifically set aside in party national constitutions to choose executive leaders and representatives. It is the most crucial element to party unity and governance. Conventions should be done in a peaceful atmosphere, transparent, free and fair for the overall good of the party. The interest of the party should be above anything else, than the strong desire to seek personal interest. Any Convention lies on the integrity of the delegates and a very credible National Independent Electoral Committee. Some party conventions have fallen far short of the principles of fair play.
In the case of Sierra Leone, like anywhere in the world, National Party Delegates’ Conventions are the foundation stone on which party unity and ideology are built. Most of SLPP conventions have not been up to the task in terms of managing the internal affairs of the party. Ambassador Alie Essa Bangura, a former seasoned diplomat and an insurer who lost to the former Paramount Chief, Bai Shebora Somano Kapen in the August, 2013 party convention held in Bo for the position of National Chairman and Leader of the party has filed a complaint to the Chairman of PPRC, Tholla Thompson. The defeated candidate, Ambassador Alie Essa Bangura and sixteen others filed complaint against the Dr. Hindowa Momoh’s led Electoral Board and the new executive. This petition was filed on the 19th September 2013. The petitioners raised serious allegations of irregularities which they claimed to have been unearthed during the counting of ballots.
Ambassador Alie Bangura after the Bo convention left the scene completely devastated after election results were announced. He deliberately refused to sign the result form; if he had signed the form that would be an endorsement of the electoral process and its several outcomes. Since the closing of the proceedings, the PPRC has never come out with an interim or final report. In 2002, the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) was established by an Act of Parliament to regulate and supervise the conduct of political parties.
In recent times, Ambassador Alie Bandura’s Campaign Team led by Imran Sillah and Kolleh Dumbuya have been making a hell of noise in the media criticizing the planning and conduct of the elections to the inability of the Independent Electoral Board to compile and publish a finalized and approved national delegates list “There were several sessions at which the petitioners made oral and written submissions to support their claims of mass irregularities and fraud in the planning and conduct of national officers elections in Bo”, Bandura’s Campaign Team alleged in a press statement. A twelve man constituted Post Conference Reconciliation set up by the newly elected executive has done little or nothing to calm the nerves of Alie Essa Bangura and his fellow petitioners. A statement from the party Secretariat stated: “the formation of the Post Conference Reconciliation Committee is in fulfillment of the short term vision of the newly elected national officers to expeditiously and comprehensively resolve all existing pre-post conference differences and conflict at all party structures”. Alie Bangura has once again refused to accept the result and does not recognized the reconciliation team put together by the new executive to address post-election grievance.
The SLPP Deputy National Chairman, Dr. Prince Harding came out with an outrageous attack against the PPRC. He said the party will resist any attempt by the PPRC to manage their affairs. He observed that “the PPRC is not a court and the party did not recognize it at all”. This lack of respect for the PPRC has shown the deep frustration of the Deputy Leader. This ugly development in the party came as a result of a poorly managed convention in which party unity was in short supply and corrective measures to the anomalies of past conventions were not put in place. The party is known to have gone through bad experiences in conventions. The Miatta Conference convention held in Freetown by the SLPP to elect a Flagbearer for the 2012 presidential election ended in deep division and bitter acrimony in the SLPP .This has led to massive influx of party members to join the ruling APC party. This had cost the party to lose the election and once again plunged into solitary confinement in the opposition. The SLPP conventional problems are as old as the current one.
It all started in the 1996 elections that brought former President Tejan Kabbah to power. In his own conventions a deep rift occurred in the party with Francis Charles Margai, son of the late Prime Minister Albert Margai. It was a bitter wrangling in the party, which was amicably settled. The seed of discard which was planted at that particular point in time later germinated in the 2005 party National Delegate’s convention held in Makeni. Kabbah’s pronouncement of a successor was a gross mistake. The appointment of Solomon Berewa did not go down well with Charles Margai. Margai broke out from the SLPP to form a new party; The Peoples’ Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC). This breakaway faction led to disunity in the party, and denying the SLPP re-election in the 2007 elections. Berewa lost to the then All Peoples Congress opposition party, led by Ernest Bai Koroma. In May, the ruling APC held its National Party Delegates’ convention in Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone. It passed off peacefully because the issue of a successor was deliberately avoided by President Koroma. It never surfaced in the convention agenda. The President for reason best known to him averted a crisis as a corrective measure to the mistakes made by Kabbah in the 2005 SLPP convention. Koroma had trod on consciously on the path of peace and decided to bury the hatchet of a succession without a slippery of tongue on a likely successor. For the President, it was a close guided secret which he kept closely to his chest.
In another development the crisis in the SLPP has taken a different dimension for the worst over the issue of removing the party’s Minority Leader, Bernadette Lahai. Just recently twenty four SLPP members of Parliament made a solidarity work out of the well of parliament in protest against Bernadette Lahai the moment she stood up to contribute on a financial budget. These culminating factors have the propensity to derail effort to peace and starve the party from returning to power, come 2018. The crisis in the SLPP continues unabated.
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