Constitutional Review… SLPP Vs SLPP

Controversy has reportedly erupted within the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) over its gazetted revised constitution.

A petition filed by the Regional Executive and the general membership of the SLPP North America Branch states that the gazetted revised SLPP Constitution contravenes the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, Act No. 6 of 1991; in particular, Chapter V, Part I (Section 41).

The Branch’s protest letter written to the Commissioner of the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), dated Tuesday 24th March, 2020 highlights the following objections: –

  1. That the gazetted SLPP Constitution has a residency clause that does not only unfairly disadvantage the party’s Diaspora regions but is in conflict with the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.

The branch states that Article 19c (9b) in particular states that “No person shall be nominated as a party candidate for the post of Presidential Nominee unless: he or she is ordinarily resident in Sierra Leone for five years prior to the date of the election.

By requiring that potential presidential candidates must have resided in the country for five consecutive years immediately preceding a presidential election before becoming eligible to become presidential nominee, directly contravenes Act No. 6 of the 1991 Constitution of which Chapter V Part 1 (Sec 41) states that: “No person shall be qualified for election as president unless he –

  1. Is a citizen of Sierra Leone
  2. Is a member of a political party
  3. Has attained the age of forty
  4. Is otherwise qualified to be elected Member of Parliament

SLPP North America Branch submits that the provision above does not mention a five-year residency eligibility criterion. Therefore, a political party having that eligibility criterion for the party’s nomination does not only seek to disenfranchise some of its members, but is in acute contravention of the 1991 Constitution, which is the ground norm of all laws, rules, regulations, ordinances and tribunals in Sierra Leone.

The 1991 Constitution, they say, is the superior law of the land and all individuals and organizations, including political parties, must abide by its fundamental principles. Chapter IV (35)(2) of Act No. 6 states that the internal organization of a political party shall conform to democratic principles, and its aims, objectives, purposes and programmes shall not contravene, or be inconsistent with any provisions of this Constitution.

  • That Chapter V Part II (Sec 75) of the 1991 Constitution addresses the issues of qualifications for Members of Parliament. It states that subject to the provisions of Section 76, any person who –
  • Is a citizen of Sierra Leone otherwise than by naturalization; and
  • has attained the age of twenty-one years; and
  • Is an elector whose name is on a register of electors under the Franchise and Electoral Registration Act, 1961, or under any Act of Parliament amending or replacing that Act;
  • Is able to speak and to read the English Language with a degree of proficiency sufficient to enable him to take an active part in the proceedings of Parliament shall be qualified for election as such Member of Parliament

We submit that the above provision of the 1991 Constitution gives the same rights to all eligible Sierra Leoneans to participate in the country’s elections process fair and square, which the gazetted new SLPP constitution seeks to ignore.

Therefore, any Sierra Leonean seeking election into public office and of any choice through registered political party in Sierra Leone must be allowed to fully participate in the political process regardless of their domicile or how long they have been continually resident in the country, as long as they are members of that political party in Sierra Leone.

Consequent upon the contravening provisions contained in the SLPP constitution raised above, the members of SLPP North America, being the Fifth Region of the party categorically objected to the said gazetted SLPP Constitution and hereby registered its opposition to full acceptance as the party’s new constitution. The letter signed by the Regional Chairman, Mohamed Bah and the Regional Secretary General, Dr. Peter A. N. Karim-Sesay, is copied to the SLPP National Chairman, Dr. Prince Alexander Harding and the National Secretary General, Umaru Napoleon Koroma.