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The PPRC Judgment on the crises in the SLPP

HomeAYV NewsThe PPRC Judgment on the crises in the SLPP

The PPRC Judgment on the crises in the SLPP

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Persistent and consistent conflicts by the Parties were attacks on our nascent democracy and the indulgence of bad faith among political party members was an anathema to compromise and
cordiality.

Due to these attendant problems, political Parties became greedy, corrupt, intolerant, inefficient and violent. Consequently unable to carry out the activities, these prevented them to fulfil
the aspirations of the membership and supporters of the parties, and sometimes led to the demise of the parties.

The Commission is of the firm belief this is the situation which has engulfed the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (which I shall hereafter refer to as the Party) and in our view the Convention which included the election of officials which we thought was the appropriate time and opportunity for the membership to recognise these vices, and rededicate themselves to the vision of the Party, as they attempt to identify and grapple with the challenges which have high-
jacked the progress and development of the Party.

We nursed the hope that the challenges and turmoil which now bedeviled the Party will soon be a thing of the past. In this vein we call on the goodwill of influential elders and members of the
Party to organise themselves and take the lead to address these challenges to the extent of, if need be, naming and shaming those officials and members responsible for the dishevelled state of the Party.

2. THE DELAY

This Commission is an important and integral part of our political system. It is charged with the registration, and supervision of Political Parties. From time to time complaints and disputes
came before it. Political Parties asked us to adjudicate or settle dispute among or between their memberships. We endeavour to develop and innovate ways of settling these complaints and disputes.
We approach the complaints and disputes normally from different perspectives, with the intention of coming to an amicable settlement, of the strained relationship created by the
dispute. Sometimes, we decide on the dispute on the spur of the moment. At other times we allow the dust thrown up by the dispute to settle, this sometimes creates the opportunity for the dispute to be settled internally.

The present dispute in our view, potentially falls under the second option and added to this, we deliberately stalled with this report, to give the parties involved in the conflict, we say conflict,
because this is not only an election issue; unsurprisingly it is beyond that, the opportunity to settle their differences through their own internal mechanism, more so when an internal reconciliation committee had been appointed – whatever the shade of the Committee is
of no moment here. I understand the Committee is still working. We can’t wait any longer; we have to come out now with our report.

Let us at this juncture express our sincere thanks for the respect accorded to us by the committee, by paying a courtesy call on the Commission, on their appointment.

3. THE ORIGIN OF THE CONFLICT

It is a generally held view that a Political meeting is an assembly where political manoeuvring fights the truth and often the truth lands on the loosing side, and where victory depends on the machination or intrigue adopted, as the last resort.

Party activities including conventions, conferences, meetings and elections are regulated and guided by Political Parties’ constitutions and guidelines. It is therefore absolutely incumbent on the Political Parties to adhere to the provisions of their constitutions. The Sierra Leone Peoples Party Constitution (which I shall hereafter refer to as the constitution) is no exception.
Political Parties should not be too eager or anxious to interfere with their Constitutions, more so when the interference is seemingly to compensate or accommodate an individual or
personality.

In the Commission’s view, the origin of the present impasse in the Party was due to the deliberate interference with Clause 6 (h) v of the Constitution, by the National Executive Council to inject Rtd. Brigadier Maada Bio the then Flag bearer into the administration of the
Party.

Clause.6 (h) v states:
“In the event that the presidential candidate of the Party looses the Presidential election both Presidential candidates and running mate shall become ex-officio members of the
National Executive Council.” In the clause, the word “shall” is used. This is an auxiliary verb; and when used in drafting, more often than not, it denotes the imperative or mandatory
provision in a Constitution.
In the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary; ‘ex-officio’ simply means “someone who is allowed to be a member of a Body because of his job or position”.

The provision of the Constitution is important and its application must be treated with caution. A Presidential candidate only becomes an ex-officio member of the National Executive Council when he looses an election. Before Rtd. Brigadier Maada Bio, the loosing presidential candidate, Mr. Solomon Berewa became an ex-officio member of the National Executive Council with no added responsibility or duty. This was in keeping with the said clause. In the case of Rtd. Brigadier Maada Bio, the current loosing Presidential Candidate did not only assume his position as an ex-officio member of the National Executive Council but was given an added responsibility in the administration with an office at the Party’s headquarter. The reason proffered by some members of the National Executive Council including Mr. Tamba Sam, the National Publicity
Secretary, was to facilitate the election petition which had been filed against the result of the Presidential election.
In our view this was a spurious reason, even unconvincing to the simple minds, to justify the preferment. However, it was gratifying to note that not all the members of the National Executive Council supported this idea or move. It seems to us this was a ploy to keep the
former Flag bearer in the limelight, in order to take attention away from interested potential Flag bearers, as long as possible.

In our judgement this solitary act of indiscretion on the part of the National Executive Council sparked off the division and conflict which have now pervaded the Party. It was a serious and
controversial violation of an important provision of the Party’s Constitution. The Party then drifted into a factional fight and the struggle for supremacy and control of the Party was born.

At the initial stage of the struggle or conflict the key players were the Chairman, John Benjamin on one side and Rtd. Brigadier Maada Bio and Mr. Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie the Secretary
General of the Party on the other. As the conflict continued others joined the fray on one side or the other.

This not only created a preferential and select group of people but also blossomed into an indiscipline and intimidatory select band of members and officials supporting Rtd. Brigadier Maada Bio’s faction of the Party – The Commission received report of assault on other members opposed to the Bio’s faction, some of these assaults were reported to the Police. We are also
aware that the canker worm which is eating the Party is the intransigent behaviour of some members of the Party, they are reluctant to come together to solve the problems of the Party. We
think until those responsible for such intransigent behaviour are willing to let go or to have a change of heart and allow well meaning people or members to take over, the Party will continue to be in disarray and turmoil. By now the Party must have realised the serious mistakes made on both sides, and we are of the firm belief that in such circumstance the first step to any
settlement is for the factions to accept their mistakes and then make the necessary move to reconcile their differences for the good of the Party.  

4) Key officials in the Saga Before going further with the report, I think it is pertinent at this stage to catalogue the roles played by some officials in the conflict namely: The former Chairman and Leader, Mr. John Oponjo Benjamin: the Secretary General of the Party – Mr. Sulaiman Banja Tejan- Sie present Chairman and Leader, Chief Sumano Kapen, 1st Petitioner,
Ambassador Alie Bangura, Former Flag bearer, Rtd. Brigadier, Maada Bio and the Deputy Chairman and Leader of the Party Dr. Prince Harding.

a. Former Chairman, John Opongo Benjamin

 Erstwhile Chairman and Leader of the Party. He was a bit sensitive to criticism, though sometimes unfairly criticised. His frequent squabbles with the Secretary General characterised the weakness in his administration. He felt slighted by the National Executive Council when Rtd. Brigadier Maada Bio was assigned a part in the administration with an office at the Party’s headquarters. Since then, his tenure as Chairman did not yield any significant change. Administrative changes he attempted were met with opposition by the Bio faction of the
Party. His fight with the Bio’s faction continued up to the election and beyond. This contributed to his lack of firm action to instil discipline which is responsible for the present state of the
Party.

b. Secretary General Banja Tejan-Sie He belongs to the Bio faction which means he was always in confrontation with the Chairman on many issues. For instance, the Ex-officio’s situation etc. of Rtd. Brigadier Maada Bio. He was plainly defiant of the Chairman’s instructions and took Party’s decisions independent of the Chairman, his style and the quality of action brought the
Secretariat to a minimal level of operation. It is said; he encouraged indiscipline among the Bio’s faction of the Party.
During the preparatory stage of the election he usurped some of the functions of the Independent Electoral Board.
He needs to rethink his position. He is an astute and capable lawyer; we think he should direct his energy and astuteness to work for the reconciliation of the differences bugging the party; we
advise that he work for the good of the Party as a whole.

c. Ambassador Alie Bangura 1st Petitioner The ambassador is a man known for his democratic credentials we recall his work in propagating democracy in the days of the military. Being a former chairman of the Electoral Board, he detected some of the shortcomings, irregularities, flaws and imperfections, though belatedly, that shrouded the election. However, it was a mistake in his part to lead the “walk out” from the hall. It was a mistake which marred the election further. The other contestants were unable to contest the election; who knows they might have won. We think he should reconsider his position and reconcile his differences with the other
faction remembering that the Party is bigger than any individual.

d. Chief Sumano Kapen Chairman/Leader of the Party Humility is a virtue. He should now
adopt this posture. We recall the meetings at the Commission’s office pursuant to Dr. Abass Bundu’s petition with respect to the election during the Mini-convention. Chief Sumano’s
allegations against the then Chairman/ Leader, Mr. John Benjamin was that he was a dictator, impatient and intolerant.
We dare say these are the same allegations some members are now leveling on the Chairman and these are serious allegations. We would expect the Chief at this particular point in time to be a unifier. This is not an eye for an eye situation. This is the time to be a leader for the entire membership of the Party. Intimidatory tactics should be a thing of the past.

Also the Commission received information and complaints accusing the Chief of victimization and high handedness in certain cases. We do not believe that this is the time for recrimination, intimidation and vindictiveness by the Chairman in particular and Executive members in
general. Complaints abound of victimization, both at national and district levels of executive committee members ‘unsympathetic’ to the Chairman’s faction.

There is also the case of Dr. Bernadette Lahai Minority Leader in Parliament. Our advise is for the matter to be properly looked into; this is a matter which should be treated with objectivity
on all sides. The Chairman should endeavour to minimize the sources for his grievance he should not let trivialities rule the day.

We understand the matter is now in court, we shall refrain from making any further comments on the issue except to say we note the omission in the Constitution of the provision for the
appointment or selection of the Minority Leader in Parliament by the Party. Fundamentally the hallmark of a good leader is humility in which the hand of friendship and tolerance is extended to friends and foe alike.

e.Brigadier Maada Bio He was the Party’s Flag bearer for the 2012 Presidential elections. He lost to President Koroma. The Commission is of the view that the catalyst for the present impasse is his continued role of ex- officio member of the National Executive Council and being part of the
Administration with an office at the Party’s headquarters. Some of his supporters took advantage of this unique position which led to the dispute and fracas between some of his over zealous
supporters and some vocal members of the Party.

The Commission takes the view that he is better placed to work on his supporters for the achievement of peace in the Party and for the sake of the forbearers of the Party who worked relentlessly to build a vibrant Party before this unfortunate saga.

f. Dr. Prince Harding Former Minister in the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) government,
Former Secretary General of the Party; now Deputy Leader of the Party; what an impressive array of credentials for an aspiring Leader, we think for someone of his stature, irrespective of the gravity of the situation, he should not insult but contribute to the settlement of the dispute with some modicum of moderation. He must not loose his cool or be angry even when under pressure.

We watch his demeanour at the few meetings he attended. He appeared to be always annoyed with the other side. We also form the opinion that he is an impatient personality who jumps to
conclusion without objectively analyzing the fact. For instance, e.g., evidence of jumping to conclusion, was his accusation of bias by the Commission at the initial stage of the commission’s meeting with the Party. Now that he is Deputy Leader of the Party, he should try to lead by example: the rank and file are always watching and they are quick to follow the examples of their leaders and officials of the Party. This type of response by him, will prolong rather than shorten the impasse.

The Commission is of the firm belief that if the above named members of the Party are willing to bury their hatchets; we have every confidence that peace and harmony will prevail in the not too
distant future. Let bygones be bygones.

 5) THE ELECTION PETITION

The Party held its conference on the 16th August 2013, pursuant to Clause 4A.1&
3(g). of the Constitution as amended which states:
“The work of the Party shall be under the direction and control of the Party conference which itself shall be the subject of the Constitution and Rules and Regulations of the Party. The
conference shall meet regularly once in every year at a place approved by preceding conference and also at such other time as may be determined by the National Executive Council. The
Party conference shall elect the national officers of the Party biennially”.

The high point of the conference was the election of national officers of the Party which took place on the 17th and 18th August 2013. The result of the election was subsequently made known to us by the chairman of the Electoral Board. As a result of the outcome of the elections, Mr. Alie Bangura who described himself as the 1st Petitioner and other aspirants lodged a petition against the result at the office of the Political Party Registration Commission on the 20th August 2013. It is obvious they were dissatisfied with the result. Let us hasten to state here that Sec 6 of Political Party Act 2002 gives us the duty and responsibility to settle intraparty dispute when asked to do so by the membership of Political Parties.
This is the case with this petition. The Commission subsequently started its deliberations, on the 2nd September on to the 9th September 2013.

The first election that of Chairman/ Leader of the Party between Chief Sumano Kapen and Ambassador Alie Bangura was won by Chief Kapen.
Thereafter, the 1st petitioner, some aspirants for the other offices and some delegates walked out, of the hall. The subsequent election went on in their absence and for those who where
contestants and had walked out, their opponents were declared winners by the Chairman of the Electoral Board. These were briefly the circumstances which led to the petition before us.

 

6. CONDUCT OF THE ELECTION

From the various submissions to the Commission, it became clear that there is no improvement in the behavioural pattern of some officials and members of the Party. The election it seems to us was conducted under the shadow of acute divergent views which even permeated
the Independent Electoral Board to the extent that one of its members refused to sign the Electoral Board Report on the Election. However, Mr. Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie the Secretary General, said that in the main, the elections were conducted in accordance with
democratic norms.

We believe that society accommodates and encourages the practice of politics and society has it different shades as to how politics should be practiced.
However, it behoves those engaged in the practice of politics to compromise and or sacrifice their personal stance for the sake of accommodating democratic norms in the interest of the majority. In doing so, we must not allow our ego to overwhelm us. This spirit of compromise
was amply demonstrated by the Petitioners and in particular the 1st petitioner Ambassador Alie Bangura, when they consented to reduce the delegate list from 697 to 605. If this attitude was replicated throughout the election, the Party would not have been before us.

 

(a) THE WALK OUT

It is pertinent to recall what the Commission said when dealing with a similar situation in the Bombali District Executive election during the Mini convention of the Party of that district.
The Commission in its report said.
“That the election held on the 25th May 2013 by Dr. Alusine Fofana is upheld.
Consequently that by Abu Abdulai Koroma is set aside as he has no authority to hold one”. The Commission then went on to say:
“In our view the disgruntled members (emphasis mine) should have reported the appointment to the appropriate authority instead of holding another election. The Commission frowns at
party members taking the law into their own hands”.

 

Similarly, Ambassador Alie Bangura and his fellow supporting delegates were
disgruntled about some aspect of the election and walked out of the hall. We have never heard of Mr. Walkout winning anything! It is the Commission’s view that they should not have walked out of the hall. They should have stayed and taken part in the election and if they loose,
complain to the relevant authority, as they have now done. As the Commission frowns at holding an unauthorized election, the Commission equally frowns at walk out at election. Two wrongs do
not make one right.

(b) THE INDEPENDENT ELECTORAL BOARD

The election was conducted by the Independent Electoral Board. The Board is comprised of five members including the Chairman, Mr. Hindowa Momoh. They were appointed according
to the region they hailed from North, South, East and west Regions. They were appointed on the 3rd August 2013. This was a Board difficult to assess because of it rather casual and dilatory
approach to its work. It struck us as a divisive board. They were at each others throat even before us. We formed the opinion that some of them had compromised their position as members
of an independent body.

There was a total lack of control by the chairman, we found him to be intelligent but with insufficient self confidence to lead. For instance he allowed himself to be manipulated by the Secretary General. He was also not prepared to sacrifice his other avocation for the work
as chairman of the Board.
Granted, however, it is fair to say that due to the workload of the Board and the closeness of the election there was not enough time to apply all the rules and regulations pertaining to the election. For instance they received the delegate list from the Secretary General at
1:00a.m. the morning of the election. The nomination form was issued on Friday and returned the following Saturday the day of the election.
We think the time has come for Party Elections to follow the national pattern in preparation and execution; we suggest that in all elections of Political Parties, be organised under the supervision of the Political Parties Registration Commission until a law is enacted to organise them.

The petitioners narrated a litany of incidents some supported by documentary materials which they claimed were irregularities.
Based on these incidents, the petitioners have asked us to nullify the election on the grounds that – the election was undemocratic, unconstitutional and improper.
Fresh election be held under an independent body.
An interim body be set up to oversee the administration until fresh elections
are conducted.
Those holding offices now be barred from using party funds and assets.

7. FINDINGS

We have carefully considered the submissions by the respective parties including members of the Independent Electoral Board. We have also looked at the documents presented including our
own report of the election.

We also had the opportunity to interview some elders and influential members of the Party on the conduct of the elections and the conference as a whole. The purpose of talking to the Party members outside the Conference and the meetings held at the Commission was born out of desire and intention to consider issues relevant to the present confused and disturbed state of the Party and also to garner invaluable support if need be, for an amicable settlement of
this prolonged impasse that is gradually and systematically taking the Party down the abyss of no return and decay.

These are the following findings of facts:

1.That the origin of the conflict started when Rtd. Brigadier Maada Bio the erstwhile Flag bearer was given additional duty by the National Executive Council contrary to Clause 6(h) v of the Party Constitution.

2. That by this action the administration was unofficially divided between the Chairman/Leader on one side and Brigadier Rtd. Maada Bio and the Secretary General Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie on the other.

3. That the intention of the Bio faction was to gain control of the Party Brigadier Rtd. Maada Bio continued to be part of the administration up to the Convention/ Election and beyond.

4. In some cases the Constitution of the Party and the guidelines were not adhered
to by:
(i)The Secretary General
(ii)The Independent Electoral Board

5. That the Independent Electoral Board had, limited time to prepare and conduct
the election.

6. That during the preparatory process the Secretary General usurped some of the duties of the Independent Electoral Board and manipulated the Board to his own advantage.

7. That the Board itself was divisive, and  weak, which rendered it incompetent,
headed by a chairman who was never in control of the Board.

8. The election from it preparatory stage to the conduct of the election was marred with
irregularities.

9. That the parties (contestants for the chairmanship) acquiesced or consented to
some of the irregularities.

10. That there was no justification for the “walk out” by the 1st petitioner and other delegates either before or after the 1st election.

11. That there were no justifiable reasons for the use of abusive language, high-handness and intimidatory tactics or action by partisan groups before, during and after the election.

12. The cause for the conflict or the impasse went beyond that of securing victory at an election.

13. Some of the irregularities came about because of the lack of adherence to the Party’s Constitution.

We agree that the election was marred with irregularities giving time constraint in the  reparation for the election. However, the Commission is taken aback with the lack of management by the Independent Electoral Board of those irregularities.
We think the Board should have taken steps to minimise the irregularities as was the case of the election for Chairman, but then it will be argued and rightly so, that the Board was not given
the opportunity by the walkout. Taking the cue from the first election that of chairman and leader of the Party, we therefore cannot agree that the election was undemocratic and
unconstitutional as we did not have the opportunity to observe the election for the other offices due to the “walkout” of some of the contestants and delegates.

8. CONCLUSION

The conflict or trying time you are now  going through begs the question of your Party’s motto: One Country One People; in this sense if you do not have unity in your Party how can you unite the country if the opportunity comes the Party’s way. We urge you; please let your appetite to unite the Party outweigh your belligerent and selfish desires.
Please rekindle and use your reason and appetite for joining the Party several years ago to settle your differences.

Therefore what is desired at this stage is to identify men and women of goodwill and honour, self-respect and integrity who will not only indulge in frivolous, unwarranted imputation, expression and comment against other members of the Party who do not share their views,
when those members exercised their fundamental rights of engaging in free speech as is enshrined in Sec. 25(1) of our national Constitution which states:-
“except with his own consent no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression and for the purpose of this Section the said freedom include the freedom to hold opinion, etc”
So long as the freedom of speech is exercised in good faith (emphasis mine) there will be no problem or quarrel or discord in the Party and fairness will reign supreme.

Your Party is the oldest Party in our land and it is replete with men and women of wisdom and goodwill now is the time for you to tap their brain and use their experience. To name a few Professor Joe Pemagbi, Dr. Bernadette Lahai, Mrs. Mariatu Mahdi, Mr. Andrew Keilie, Dr. Alpha Wurie, Lawyer Sulaiman Tejan- Jalloh, Lawyer Foday Dabor, Dr. Wusu Sannoh, Lawyer Kanu, Lawyer Alpha Timbo, Major General (Rtd.) Sheku Tarwallie, Hon. Dr. Bubuakei Jabbie,
Mrs. Isata Jabbie-Kabba, Mrs. Lulu Sheriff, Haja Alari Cole, Haja Alakeh Mahdi, Dr. Sama Banya, Mr. Solomon Berewa and , Dr. Joe Demby Former Vice President, Mr. U.N.S. Jah, Madam Harriet Turay and a host of other distinguished men and women. These men and women of goodwill can be in the Reconciliation Committee.

It is the policy of the Commission that when dealing with dispute among the membership of Political parties, usually, the Commission endeavours to strike a balance between legality and political expediency – simply put, what is legal might not necessarily be politically expedient. The Commission intends to adopt that Policy on this occasion. Finally, taking the circumstances of the election and the protracted conflict and its consequences into consideration and working towards the permanent and ultimate goal of reconciliation of the factions, we are therefore reluctant to recommend the nullity of the election, instead we shall use the election as a platform to foster the noble act of reconciliation.

In accordance with our findings we make the following recommendations:

1. That a 11 man committee be established to reconcile the various factions 2.Chief Sumano Kapen, Chairman and Leader of the Party and Ambassador Alie Bangura appoint 5 members each. Members of the ongoing Reconciliation Committee are eligible for appointment or selection to the Committee.

3. That Chief Sumano Kapen and Ambassador Alie Bangura agree on the appointment of the Chairman outside the 10 members appointed by them.

4. Secretary of Committee should be appointed by Chief Sumano Kapen, and Ambassador Alie Bangura outside the membership of the Committee.

5. The Secretary General and Treasurer make all relevant documents available to the Committee.

6. The Committee to start work or deliberations two weeks from the date of the reading of this report or any time agreed by the Committee. In any event, not more than one week after the period recommend by the report.

7.The Committee to submit its report to the  Chairman and Leader1st Petitioner, Alie Bangura and the Political Parties Registration Commission six weeks after the commencement of the sittings of Committee.

8.The PPRC to facilitate a meeting between Chief Sumano Kapen, Chairman/Leader and 1st Petitioner, Ambassador Alie Bangura for the purpose of setting up the Reconciliation Committee

We call on you all to refrain from the politics of division and embrace the politics of compromise and inclusion. At a time like this, it is of primary importance for you to invoke the assistance of God to see you through. In this vein, therefore we shall leave you with the modified version of the PRAYER FOR STRENGTH: “Everyday, we need you Lord but this day especially we need some extra strength to face whatever is to come. This day more than any other day, we need to feel you near us, to fortify our courage and overcome our fears. By ourselves we cannot meet the
challenges of the hour; How much, frail human creatures need a higher power sustaining them in all that life may bring and so dear Lord, hold our trembling hands and be with us Lord as we go through this reconciliation process to know your guidance at work in all, to know your blessed
presence.” We urge you now men and women, young and old, able and disable, rich and poor to countenance the above prayer. After all, if God can reconcile with sinners who are we sinners not to reconcile our differences with one another.

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