Monday, July 2, 2012

Maada Bio Addresses The People And His Detractors

Julius Maada Bio
On Monday Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio the flagbearer of the opposition Sierra Leone People's party was given a magnificient welcome back to the capital city Freetown after spending some weeks canvassing support for his party and his candidacy in the United Kingdom, Holland, Germany and Belgium, and after receiving a special invitation to speak at the International Economic Forum of Americas conference in Montreal Canada, where he delivered a speech on the global imperative for poverty reduction, job creation and democratic governance in West Africa and the  implications for the geopolitical realities of the world energy situation. 

While Maada Bio was busy talking about job creation and good governance in Canada, the police in his country under the leadership of the interior minister Musa Tarawallie were busy making making the country's youths target practice for the massive arms and ammunition they had bought early this year, while the majority of the people were starving.
Monday Morning Welcome

Julius Maada Bio was among a group of young military officers from the All Peoples Congress-Revolutionary United Front  (APC-RUF) war front who in 1992 freed the country from 23 years of one party rule under the APC government, a government that had presided over the systematic decline of the country and had deliberately disassembled all forms of democratic institutions and criminalized political opposition of any form.

 APC under the crafty Siaka Stevens and the buffoonish Major General Joseph Saidu Momoh took a country with a currency more valuable than the US dollar, a country with a network of rail infrastructure, solid educational institutions, and a country with a solid mining and agricultural base and converted it in 23 years to the poorest nation on the face of the earth, according to UN human development indices of 1992, when Momoh was chased out of power in his underpants to the neighboring republic of Guinea.
Ended One Party Dictatorship

By the time Momoh fled the  country, Sierra Leone was a basket case. There was no money in the banks, the rate of inflation was over 500%, the educational institutions were in shambles, tribalism was on the increase, justice was virtually nonexistent for the poor, the police was an institution plagued by bribery, taxis had stopped carrying single passengers and were now squeezing passengers so tight that when they got down they had to stand a full minute for the blood to flow back into their legs, the Lungi ferries were no longer running on time, the military was demoralized, the Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Board had been closed, the Wellington Industrial estates were in shambles, the military training schools were almost ghettos, there were long fuel lines all over the country, and even the clock at the Eastern police station had stopped working. Such was the sheer incompetence of Joseph Momoh that on the day he left Freetown, even the sewer rats were happy as under his government, people were not throwing food into the gutters anymore, but licking their plates dry.

In 1996 Julius Maada Bio peacefully handed the country that he had taken from a civilian one party dictatorship back to civilian multiparty democracy under the leadership of veteran UN diplomat Ahmed Tejan Kabba. He then left for America where he undertook undergraduate and graduate studies.
Bio Reintroduces Multiparty
to Sierra Leone in1996

Maada Bio in 2011 was given the leadership of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party which is now in opposition. In 2007 the SLPP lost elections to the opposition APC, primarily due to the defection of veteran politician Charles Margai, whose own father Albert Margai had also helped bring the APC to power in the late sixties and put Sierra Leone on the path to economic catastrophe and social strife. Maada Bio was elected as party flagbearer after a hard and bruising contest involving 19 other aspirants. After winning the contest he reached out to all the other contestants. Some accepted his gesture while others hang around for the chance to become running mates. After the running mate was announced to be the highly educated, eloquent and experienced former public official and college professor Dr. Kadi Sesay, the floodgate of defections opened with disappointed and disgruntled candidates and their backers running to the open arms of the ruling APC party.
President Ernest Koroma

SLPP Chairman Benjamin
On Monday Julius Maada Bio was given a hero's welcome in the APC power base of Freetown and waited patiently to address the teeming masses after all the other party top brass had had their say. Maada Bio was reintroduced to the cheering crowd by the SLPP party Chairman John Opponjo Benjamin.

After calling for discipline amongst the highly euphoric crowd he proceeded to address the sea of supporters to the beat of Steady Bongo's "Makondor". He told the people that it was their unity and support that was his inspiration. He said SLPP was a party of peace and it was in demonstration of the peaceful nature of the party that they had handed over power back to APC even though the election results had been contentious.
Maada's Welcome

He said that he went to UK on the invitation of SLPP in the diaspora and had been given the opportunity to give a land mark speech at Chatham House, a beacon of world democracy. The latest pro-democracy leader to address Chatham house was the Burmese pro democracy leader and Nobel laureate Ann San Suu Kyi on June 22, 2012.
Chatham House Speech

Those who wonder why Maada Bio was invited to Chatham House in spite of the venomous propaganda of the APC who have thrown everything but the Kitchen sink at him, fail to realize that though they may not appreciate him, the international community knows the role he played in getting RUF out of the bush to dialogue and start the process of ending the war, his prevention of Valentine Strasser from hanging on to power and his peaceful reintroduction of multiparty democracy party back into the country, a privilege the citizens had lost since 1977.
Crowd of 150?

He told the audience at Chatham House that after 50 years of basically going in the wrong direction, the SLPP under his leadership had decided to embark on a new direction which involved a change of everybody's attitude and he will lead the call by first changing his own attitude and not just saying the phrase because it was easy to do so. He said all the problems of Sierra leone since the 60s was because of the emergence of the APC. He lamented the decline of the country's institutions and the increasing poverty of the past five years and stated that removing APC was not just for the SLPP to take power, but it was a national service to save the nation. When SLPP had given power to the APC in the late 60s there had been a network of rail and roads in the country, but these had declined totally under APC.

He said all the problems of 1991 under Momoh are back in the country. Lawlessness, lack of money in banks, nonpayement of salaries, and long lines for fuel. He said that politicization of civil institutions and rampant tribalism was now the order of the day and he personally had expected so much more from his elder brother President Ernest Koroma. He had thought that in a post conflict situation when you attained power your primary task would have been to fight for national unity, but Koroma had done exactly the opposite. Koroma had proved to be father of his party rather than father of the nation.

Bio stated that he was confident that as long as he had a level playing field, he would easily defeat the APC as the people were behind him. He however said there were some ominous signs that APC wanted to go back to their undemocratic tricks once again. That is why he took the opportunity to tell the international community of the worrying trends in the country. He had expressed the concern that Sierra Leone was being converted into a narcotic center as manifested by the appointed of an ex-minister who was directly implicated in cocaine smuggling as a presidential adviser. He was particularly against narcotics as it was a prime force for the destruction of the human capital of any country. Narcotics destroys both the health and educational potential of youths.

He stated that the loudly touted free health care lacked sustainability as it was 100% funded by NGOs whose withdrawal will lead to a collapse of the scheme, as the government had no direct investment in its provision. He promised to make the strengthening and availability of healthcare one of his major priorities.

Education in addition to health care will be major focus areas of the new direction and funding will mostly be from internal sources, to be achieved by reducing current government waste and inefficiency and redirecting freed resources to these sectors. The international community had pledged support for his plans.

He told the crowd that there had been some APC agents at Chatham house who had gone there to cause some disruption, but they had been unable to do so, as the sheer number, discipline and decency of the SLPP team had made these protesters seem out of place. One of the fellows who had intended to embarrass him at Chatham house converted to the SLPP after he had clarified his questions and even gave the vote of thanks when he went to pray with Sierra Leoneans in UK. The same thing happened in Canada, but the protesters there again left convinced that all the lies spread about him were just falsehoods. He was able to tell AU delegates in Canada about the developments in the country.

On the issue of the defections, especially the issue of Usu Boie Kamara, Bio stated that the decision the chairman made to kick him out of the party was a great one. This he believed would introduce some internal discipline among the party rank and file. He stated that a lot of these defectors had been false SLPP members who had joined the party for their own parochial ambitions but had no loyalty to the party. He attributed the low respect of Sierra Leone politicians to these actions, as these were the same people who during the program 19 days of SLPP had only evil things to say about Ernest Koroma and the APC, but were now singing his praises as sore losers.
Leigh, SLPP Defection Committee

He said that while away he been kept informed of the harassment of some party members by the ruling party, bringing trumped up charges against them. He warned party members against engaging in unlawful acts, but pledged to stand by those that were unjustly targeted and harassed to the last man. He stated that he was also aware of the dangerous increase in tribal sentiments around the country and referred to the occasion where an APC stalwart had denigrated the Mendes as stupid people to loud clapping by APC top brass. Maada stated that the only difference Sierra Leoneans may have arose from access to education, but that basically every Sierra Leonean was equally as smart as any other.

He stated that he had been justified in raising fears about the arms brought into the country, as APC hired guns were now going around the country shooting at protesters. There were rumors that even the fellow that had stoned him in Bo was now a police recruit as compensation for his evil deed. He stated that he had personally written the president for them to come out with a statement decrying violence in the election period, but the president had declined to reply and had called him a junior. He would keep on tormenting the president for peace.

Maada Bio stated that SLPP will not challenge violence with violence, but the party will resist violence in anyway they can as they have no where to go and are no longer willing to leave the country for reasons of intimidation. They will no longer be refugees in Guinea or other countries. He pledged to help MPs get reelected and thanked the people for their support of the party.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mr Sheriff, for a good and informative post devoid of disuniting the party. should borrow a leaf from your style of writing.

SC, banjul