Sierra Leone’s Democracy
-New Election Pathways
By John L. Momoh
After Sierra Leone’s general and Presidential elections in which 16 presidential candidates vied for the presidency, legislative and local council positions on March 7, 2018, Sierra Leoneans will once again be going to the polls, this time to vote in a run-off presidential election.
According to the Sierra Leone Elections Commission, the presidential run-off elections that will take place across the country will be between the two leading candidates in the March 7 elections: Julius Maada Bio of the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) who got 43% of the votes and his closest rival, Dr. Samura Kamara of the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) who obtained 41%.Whoever wins the polls on March 27 will be the successor to President Ernest Bai Koroma whose two 5-year terms end this year. The Sierra Leone constitution only allows for a maximum two terms. Instead of the Vice President, the ruling APC whose symbol is the red-sun selected Dr. Samura Kamara to lead the party in this crucial elections.
Julius Maada Bio, the standard bearer of the SLPP whose party symbol is the green-palm tree, is a retired Sierra Leone Army Brigadier. He briefly served as Head of State of the military junta that deposed the APC government in 1996 taking the driver’s seat in this elections, did not come as a surprise to many political observers.
During his brief rule his name became a household word for being a man of integrity, a man of the people and peace maker who stands for justice and freedom for all Sierra Leoneans. He risked his life by going to the remote bushes in Kailahun district near the Liberian border to convince rebel leader Foday Sankoh to stop the war that has paralyzed normal life in Sierra Leone.
Julius Maada Bio, a product of the Bo Government Secondary School who got his university education in the USA and Spain, is also given the credit for taking another blame when out of patriotic zeal and for the sake of democracy, impressed on the top brass of the Sierra Leone Army to facilitate the holding of early elections for a return to civilian rule.
This was the election that brought ex-UNDP personnel, Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah to power on the SLPP ticket, with the APC whose deposed leader, President Joseph Momoh was in a self imposed exile in Guinea. The APC party weak and plunged in a struggle for power doing very poorly in that post coup elections.
At the end of President Kabbah’s mandate, his Vice president lawyer Solomon Berewa who hails from the Southern region, was however unable to take advantage of the APC’s struggle for leadership as though sick and weak, the deposed president flew to Freetown from Guinea to appeal to party stalwarts to render the leadership to Ernest Bai Koroma, a graduate of Fourah Bay College and a Northerner.
It is also not by mistake that the SLPP and the APC took the first and second places respectively in this presidential and general elections. They are Sierra Leone’s two oldest and most established political parties. The SLPP, which was founded in the 1950s spearheaded Sierra Leone to independence in 1961 as a protectorate solidarity front encompassing from every part of the country.
But disenchantment and fears over Mende domination, eventually led Mr. Siaka Stevens, a minister in the SLPP government of first Prime Minister Dr. Sir Milton Margai to organize the country’s first non western-area opposition party the APC, although both of them were Christians of the United Methodist denomination.
Mr. Siaka P. Stevens, who won the mayor of Freetown position on the APC ticket used his position as mayor to reinforce and garner for his APC party, the support of many party stalwarts in the Northern, Western and the diamond mining Kono areas against the interests of the SLPP, whose stronghold remained the Southern and Eastern Provinces. To be continued