APC …Make Or Break Today

 

The eyes and ears of many Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad will be focused on the outcome of the decision making meeting that the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party will hold this afternoon at the party’s Old Railway Line headquarters at Brookfields, Freetown.

The press release calling today’s meeting signed by Secretary General Amb. Alhaji Dr. Osman Foday Yansaneh invited the party’s highest decision making body, the National Advisory Council (NAC), Regional and District Chairmen and Secretaries to an urgent meeting relating to the national conference referred to as Bintumani III. Also invited are senior stakeholders, including Mayors/Council Chairpersons, current MPs and former Ministers and MPs. Importantly, the press release states that the Party will take a definite position relating to the said Conference, thus all invitees are asked to kindly endeavor to attend and on time.

Critically, why the entire nation will be waiting keenly to hear the outcome of the APC meeting is to know whether or not the party would decide to take part in the said Bintumani III conference or boycott, given the fact that the party has several grievances against the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) that the leadership had said if not addressed will make the party non-cooperative with the President Bio’s government which has summoned the Bintumani III conference.

Two questions weigh heavily on the minds of the people. One; with the nation desirous of having national cohesion but with APC party leaders National Secretary General, Amb. Yansaneh, the National Publicity Secretary, Cornelius Deveaux, the Acting Opposition Leader in Parliament, Hon. Ibrahim Ben Kargbo having openly declared that because of the SLPP government’s refusal to entertain APC’s grievances and to open the way towards dialogue with a view to amicably resolving their grievances, if APC decides that it would not participate in the Bintumani III, what effect would it have on the deliberations and how generic would be its resolutions, given that APC has a very big national constituency witnessed to by the fact that they have 68 seats in Parliament.

The second question is If APC decides that in the interest of national cohesion, it would, if even temporarily, drop its grievances and participates in the Bintumani III proceedings, what signal would it send to the entire nation about progress of the country along the path of democratic representation and expression?

As APC meets to make their position on Bintumani III clear, all eyes will also be on the elderly statesman, former President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, who we are informed by the Deputy Minister of Political and Public Affairs, Amara Kallon that Dr Koroma who is also the Chairman and Leader of APC has been contacted at his retirement lodge in Makeni and that he endorsed Bintumani III, even stating that it should not be postponed and that he would hang heads with the party and get back to the government.

In the same way that Bintumani I and II would not have been fruitful without the Government of Sierra Leone and Foday Sankoh and the RUF not sitting down at the same table to dialogue, so too are many people doubtful that Bintumani III will set a durable stage for further national discussions on peace and cohesion leading to the creation of the Commission if APC decides to boycott.

Already, APC have decided not to take part in the debate on the president’s speech at the State Opening of Parliament because copies of the speech have not been distributed by the Clerk of Parliament to APC MPs. So whichever way we take a look at it, the nation still has a considerable distance to cover on the route to peace and national cohesion if a large part of the national constituency says they are not going to take part in any peace building initiative.

For example, look at the violence that has preceded the aborted headmen elections in Waterloo and Cole Town that should have been conducted past weekend by NEC. Because everything in this country has been politicized, insignificant headmen elections that used to attract very little interest have become politicized and become staging grounds for confrontation between political parties.

No doubt, on the premise that Sierra Leone, as stated by His Excellency President Bio is divided along tribal, regional and political lines, the need for peace and national cohesion cannot be overstated. We all saw the free expression of passionate hate against each other by supporters of APC and SLPP in several theaters of violent confrontation across the country after the results of the March 2018 presidential run-off election that saw the change of power from APC to SLPP announced.

At the national political level, the walkout of APC MPs during the election for the Speaker of Parliament, the tension that pervaded Freetown when CID invited the APC leadership for questioning over what the police considered an incendiary press release, the attack on the APC elected Freetown City Mayor outside her office adjacent the SLPP headquarters, and the very recent walkout of APC MPs as the President was about to address Parliament clearly show that whatever peace exists between APC and SLPP is only superficial and could blow up at any time into open conflict.

At this critical junction on the nation’s continued journey towards democratic consolidation, many people have said that the onus falls on His Excellency President Bio as Father of the Nation to extend the arm of friendship to all the stakeholders that the government has invited to take part in Bintumani III. Some suggest that he should even before summoning Bintumani III have held ‘ground-soaking’ meetings with important national stakeholders on both sides of the aisle in Parliament to get their views on how the country can be placed on a proper footing for the conference.

That notwithstanding, many people have called for everybody, every institution invited to take part in the conference to let bygones be bygones and honor the government’s invitation because we all need peace.

We need peace as a country because without it, our country will not progress fast and far with development, however much we try. We need peace because without it we cannot make serious inroads in the fight against poverty which is the main issue at hand as the majority of Sierra Leoneans desperately look up to the political class to provide the leadership that the country needs to make very god use of its resources for the betterment of one and all.

It is the responsibility of the President to ensure that the country is peaceful and united. As such, it is still not too late for President Bio to appeal to invitees who have decided not to honour the invitation to rethink and understand that Sierra Leone is bigger than all of us. It therefore behooves every citizen to put the country’s interest first by participating in any arrangement geared towards consolidating peace and national cohesion with the understanding that united we stand, divided we fall – as we saw the catastrophic eleven-year-long civil war that left the country in complete shambles – the attendant consequences we are still reeling from in as a nation.