Tuesday, May 6, 2014

All Peoples Congress Deeply Divided by Third Term Debate

Ernest Koroma in 2007
The third term debate for Sierra Leone's increasingly polarizing President Ernest Bai Koroma, ignited by some people close to him and other political opportunists scared of losing their political positions if he leaves office, has not only brought a lot of tension into the fragile West African state, but has also brought bitter divisions between members of the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC), most of who feel the President has played a great role in the country but needs to make way for new leadership and those who feel their political destinies are tied to the boot strings of Ernest Koroma.

Already some prominent members of the APC in the diaspora have broken ranks with Rev. Kabs Kanu, the main American proponent of the limitless term agenda and called the move selfish, parochial and a refusal to learn from the lessons of recent history. Some APC supporters have taken to online news outlets radio waves and Internet forums to appeal to President Koroma to not let the personal ambitions of a few bring conflict into a country that has just emerged from a decade of bitter conflict. Lawyer Alieu Iscandari who famously took the New People online newspaper to court in US and lost, a committed APC supporter also came out rejecting the move on social media.

Writing in a pro-APC government news outlet, US based Dr Francis Dumbuya, a staunch APC loyalist wrote that as much as citizens have the right to free speech, the government is also duty bound to do the right thing. He opines that " to tamper with the constitution in order to favor a third presidential term for the a President is wrong, and the President must resist all calls to do so." Dr. Dumbuya was reacting to the expressed opinion of the President's Special Executive Assistant Sylvia Blyden, one of the people leading the charge for a third term with the provision of "if it is what the people desire." 
Dr. Francis Dumbuya

Dr. Dumbuya states that the same Sylvia who is now calling for free speech for selfish motives is the same Sylvia who just a few months ago was advocating for the use of the country's outdated libel laws to muzzle press freedom in the country. This inconsistency was not only dishonorable, but purely self serving on the part of the political chameleon Blyden.

Vice President Sumana
On Social media the call by APC loyalists for the President to not allow himself to be misled by a handful of political opportunists is on the increase and already there are conspiracy theories as to the true intentions of these so call third term advocates. A poll on the Voices of Sierra Leone forum as to whether the President should have a third term already has about 90% of the respondents saying no,  many of them staunch APC supporters.

One conspiracy theory surrounding the Sierra Leone third term debate is that APC knows that the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party is deeply divided with too many candidates for the leadership of the party and are therefore using the third term debate as a distraction and diversionary tactic, while the President manipulates his party to leave his chosen people at the helm and ensure a third term for his party when he exits in 2018.

Another theory is that the current constitutional review process will be used to reintroduce a parliamentary style of government, bringing back the position of Prime Minster, thereby making the Presidency a largely ceremonial position. As leader of APC the largest party in Parliament, Ernest Koroma will automatically become Prime Minister and not have to run for another Presidential term. He will therefore be in a position to maintain the interest of his friends and cronies without having to once again face the people on a national campaign. Sam Sumana the current Vice President will be quietly marginalized.
New APC
Juju Blyden

Other APC supporters are of the opinion that cross party defectors with no deep loyalty to APC are using the third term debate to destroy the party of their forebears. One prominent party activist opined that it is very sinister that Robin Fallay, Sylvia Blyden, John Leigh and all the individuals now praising Ernest Koroma from the rooftops were just a few years ago some of his staunchest critics.

As an opposition parliamentarian Robin Fallay ridiculed Ernest Koroma as the most ineffectual leader in Africa and Sylvia Blyden painted the caricature of the President as a womanizing buffoon and a weak leader, even referencing the color of his underwear and ridiculing his girlfriends in her Awareness Times tabloid. For these people to now suddenly be the ones advocating for a third term is seen more as a ploy to create divisions within the party than genuine love for a party.

Speaking to the blog on the condition of anonymity, a prominent Sierra Leone based APC supporter stated that many top party supporters were disgruntled by the sort of influence the President is now under, and his failure to come out to forcefully dispel these third term rumors. He said there were many party officials who were considering throwing their hats into the ring, but couldn't do so as they were afraid of recriminations and victimization by the President's cronies, as he seemed unable to say no to them. 
Balogun Koroma

"President Koroma used to have an open door policy for us all," he said, "but he now surrounds himself with yes men, political opportunists and people who are nothing without him" According to the confidential source, President Koroma has grown very suspicious of people around him, as he is now subject to bad counsel everyday.

People like Sylvia Blyden, he said, are making the a President suspicious of even his close friends. Her recent "juju discovered at her house antics" was just an excuse to confirm to a very superstitious President that people are out to get them by mystical means. Even some if the President's own family members are worried by the type of hold these new "APC" folks have on him.
Robin Fallay

As the debate continues, many Sierra Leoneans are adamant that no third term will be allowed. One civil society leader said on radio  that civil society will resist any move to have President Koroma go for a third term and many are already going with the slogan "After Gbagbo Nar U," in response to the t-shirts and banners suddenly springing up everywhere proclaiming after "U nar U."

Many APC members are publicly wondering why President Koroma would want to soil his legacy when many people in the country recognize the many things he has done to continue developmental strides in the country. One APC activist stated that it is better to leave a speech when the people are still clapping, than do so when they are no longer interested in listening to your voice.

Already the third term debate has become a distraction in the country and masking the secondterm efforts of Ernest Bai Koroma. Many fear a return to the bad old days if the President allows himself to succumb to the ambitions of a few unpatriotic allies who only care about their own positions and could care less about national stability and security. 

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