Friday, March 22, 2013

Sierra Leone Political Update: SLPP's Brand New Frog

MTS Central Corrdinator
Mr. Andrew Keili
Yesterday was a busy day for some members of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) in the Sierra Leone capital, Freetown. Out of the flames of the recent acrimony and systemic crisis that has gripped the party leadership, leaving ordinary members confounded, discombobulated and feeling  like Sahelian grass trampled under the feet of stampeding elephants, a new movement has arisen, the MTS, the Movement for The Transformation of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party, which thankfully the founders had the sense of not labeling (MTSLPP), but Simply MTS, thank God for small mercies.

MTS is a mottled group of members of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party. Many of them are returnees of the Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) who abandoned the SLPP before the 2007 presidential elections in the country, after the loss of Charles Francis Kondo Margai in the SLPP  flagbearer race to former Vice President Solomon Ekuma Dominic Berewa. Charles Margai left with a substantial membership of the party to form the PMDC, a party whose fortunes has withered substantially in the past five years and now has no seat in Sierra Leone's Parliament. In 2012 the SLPP was able to retake most of the seats it lost to the PMDC in the November elections in the country. The other members of the MTS draw mostly from supporters of the movement's Central Coordinator Mr. Andrew Keili, an engineer who was a candidate for the 2011 SLPP flagbearer contest garnering a respectable 9.5% of the votes in a field of 19 presidential aspirants. The rest are folks disgruntled with the current leadership struggle and want to have a voice of their own within the party.
Alpha Timbo in Suit

According to the Central Coordinator and leader of the MTS, Mr. Andrew Keili, the formation of the MTS was necessitated by the current rancor and animosity among the party leaders that has substantially reduced the political standing and prestige of the once great party. According to Mr. Keili, the SLPP that once labeled itself as the party of the rule of law, respect, and  tolerance has degenerated into the exact opposite and is now characterized by chronic election losses and continual infighting. After the loss of two successive elections, party members he said, were demoralized, frustrated and needed a new direction.

Speaking to Radio Democracy 98.1 FM in Freetown, Mr. Keili stated that after the flagbearer race for the 2007 elections, many members defected to form the PMDC and the same thing happened after the 2012 flagbearer contest with people leaving for the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC). He said that the party is finding it difficult these days to even raise funds and a lot of people were approaching him asking, "What is wrong with your party?" It was with this declining fortune in mind and a desire restore the party to its old glory days that a group of like minded people including himself, some people in the country and some Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora decided to form a movement that would restore sanity, respectability and direction to the party. To go back to the core values of "One people one country" and stop the party being labeled as a southeastern party.
Chairman Benjamin Giving his Blessing

Mr. Keili was reminded that the Sierra Leone Peoples Party had existing party leadership structures such as the National Executive Council (NEC), the National Officers, and so on, and was asked why they had not gone through the established party leadership structures to reform the party, but had instead decided to form a new movement.

 Mr. Keili responded that it was the established party structures that were currently under threat. Decisions made by the NEC, he said,  were being challenged by members who felt that these decisions were not right and so the national executive who were the subject of most of the problems could not solve these problems themselves. Also, the party elders, he said, were compromised as the issue of who should be the next party flag-bearer has so polarized the party and divided it into opposing camps that there was no longer a neutral elder. Even the party lawyers, he said, were compromised. Five SLPP lawyers will give five different opinions on a given issue based on their position in the 2017 SLPP flagbearer fight. So Mr. Keili and his group had decided to form a movement that had nothing to do with the flagbearer fight, but was solely focused on restoring the party to its old glory. They aimed to study what was wrong with the party and try to mend it.
MTS Members

In February 2012, Mr. Keili wrote to the Chairman of the party Mr John Oponjo Benjamin asking for formal recognition of the MTS as an SLPP organization with "its major objective the transformation of  SLPP to the party that maintains the core principles on which it was founded whilst preparing to face modern challenges in elections and governance."  Apparently,  the Party Chairman thought the Movement was a good idea and gave them his blessing. So the MTS was launched this Thursday, as the new movement that would cure the sickness and disease that has infected SLPP for the last seven years. Somehow, this group was the party's new messiahs who would lead the SLPP exodus out of the morass of disunity and electoral loss, to unity and electoral glory. The MTS would be SLPP's soldiers of righteousness, with no ambitions themselves, but with the sole focus of grand party restoration. Wow, if only life was that simple, who would ever go to hell?

Unfortunately, the good tune that is being sung by the esteemed Mr. Keili, is not the same tune that is being sung by the rest of his supposedly influential caboodle, and the fat lady of discontent and suspicion, has already started to sing.
Copious note taking

The pictures from the MTS launching ceremony at the Unity Hall of the SLPP headquarters tell a different story, not one of unity. Of the most influential flagbearer contestants from 2011, only the former Sierra Leone Teacher's Union leader and former SLPP Minister of Employment, Labour and Social Security, Alpha Timbo, was at the occasion and he looked as uncomfortable as 4 year old cow facing judgement in a court presided over by a judge and jury of butchers.

Many SLPP members remain suspicious of the true aims of the MTS. In the first place, the leaders of the movement were already selected before the movement was announced to the the SLPP membership and the general public. Among the MTS leaders, there is a glaring absence of members of the current SLPP leadership, both in Sierra Leone and the diaspora. Many question the democratic credentials of a movement who leadership were not democratically elected or if they were, why were they elected before the movement was made public?

Other party members believe that with the defection of the influential businessman Usu Boie Kamara and other 2011 aspirants from the party, the race for 2017 has been thrown wide open and Mr. Keili and some others with future leadership aspiration are using the MTS to develop a solid base within the party. By posing as liberators of the party, the MTS members are skillfully angling to fill the leadership void that exists due to the current political struggles existing between the party Chairman John Benjamin and the 2012 presidential aspirant Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, who remains very popular within many sectors of the party.

The Enthusiastic Crowd
Some other people question why the members of the MTS would not just meet the current party leaders and try to mediate the crisis between them, but have to go to the trouble and expense of forming a parallel structure, complete with leadership positions, to solve a problem that would ultimately be only successfully solved by dialogue. Given the air of suspicion that has surrounded the MTS due to some unfortunate statements by some of its members, why would the current SLPP leadership even listen to them, when they are on the media, indirectly accusing them of incompetence and squabbling.

The Sierra Leone Peoples Party already has a recognized leadership in the United States of America in the form of SLPP-NA. Many are asking whether it was wise to have a North American leadership of the MTS that is composed of members who are not members of the SLPP NA executive.

The MTS is already fundraising and requesting membership fees. Some SLPP members are wondering if the MTS is going to hand these monies to the SLPP executive or whether these monies are going to be used for MTS activities.
Is It really a new Frog?

MTS is making the right noises, but many people are left wondering whether MTS is just the same old SLPP frog, with a different croak, washed and rebranded as a brand new frog. Well as the new frog continues to croak, time will ultimately tell.

1 comment:

Dauda A.Ibrahim said...

A good piece Sheku and glad that you took a critical look at this new green frog.What I would have loved you to put across was a similar sceptism when NEC members started conflicting themselves which fertilised only two eggs at different times-'Pa-o-Pa', and MTS.By apportioning 75% of doubt at MTS,to me,smells of formenting the divide.
Why I cannot easily forget the seed of discord our elders sowed after the succession of Albert Margai through Constitutional manipulation,is the fact that they stayed around to see this seed become a mighty Cotton Tree.And here we are today as great,great..... grandchildren notouring this same Cotton Tree which has and is continuing to shelter the variety of green frogs.My message to you is simple:'Let us agree to disagree but in the end let there be no sacred cows.