• August 19, 2023

US Ambassador’s Interview Should Condition the APC to Move On

US Ambassador’s Interview Should Condition the APC to Move On
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By Cornelius Oguntola Melvin Deveaux

Discussing the way forward for the APC out of the current morass brings to mind the recent interview with the US Ambassador, David Reimer, on Radio Democracy 98.1 a couple of days ago.

Ambassador David Reimer is not as unfortunate as Ambassador Michael Schulenberg, who in 2012 was declared persona non grata for likely compromising his neutrality in the Sierra Leone political landscape. Those who think the SLPP government should equally reprimand David Reimer, as was the case with Michael Schulenberg, are no better than those who orchestrated the 2012 diplomatic fiasco.

Nonetheless, Ambassador David Reimer made clear four things that sufficiently should inform APC members of the current political realities and direct the way forward.

First is that President Bio is the President of Sierra Leone. The second is that the next elections will take place in 2028. The third is that the APC’s position to boycott governance is not the best option, and the fourth is a review of electoral systems to address the integrity deficiency issues to better the conduct of the next elections.

The de-facto leadership cannot pretend to be oblivious to the realities and similarly aware there are no constitutional authorities to sanction a rerun of the elections outside the confines of a court order, or by any other institution other than the ECSL.

Ridiculously, they continue to fence their hold on positions they very well know lack the hallmarks of democratic decision-making and will not, by any means, change the fact that President Bio is the President of Sierra Leone.

Based on the misleading of the de-facto leadership, some APC members continue to question the legitimacy of the Bio presidency,

Without equivocation, and according to the US Ambassador, President Julius Maada Bio is the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone. His presidency is legitimate by constitutional provisions defining the presidency.

Some APC members either do not know or do not seem to understand that the compromised and complicit inactions of the APC’s de facto leadership have given legitimacy to his presidency.

In fairness, the legitimacy of the President is by the law authorized in constitutional provisions defining the presidency. It is not by congratulatory messages from Western powers or whether the opposition decides to participate or boycott governance.

The de-facto leadership tacitly legitimized the presidency of President Bio when they failed to petition his re-election, regardless of the claims of abundant evidence to corroborate allegations of integrity deficiencies.

There is no legal challenge, as provided for by law, to the presidential election result and that of the MPs and local council authorities.

In the absence of any legal challenge to the outcome, the elections, legally speaking, have a clean bill of health irrespective of the blights and glitches in the processes.

Consequently, President Bio is the legitimate supreme executive authority of the Republic of Sierra Leone.

It is time members of the APC take the hood off their eyes and come to terms with the realities. It is time we move forward. The earlier the party goes to the drawing board, the better for success in the 2028 elections.

Regrettably, the de-facto leadership is playing politics with the emotional and psychological disappointments of aggrieved members in losing the June 24 elections while at the same time aggravating the problems of the party.

Throughout the first term of President Bio, the APC party got entangled in a judicial stalemate. The recalcitrant faction limited efforts to reconcile the party and to open the democratic space. Internal democracy was and is still a facade. Some unprogressive made the party a dysfunctional opposition in various forms of distractions.

Moving forward, I recall the statement of former chairman Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma in which he said we in the APC are responsible for the problems in the party and absolved the ruling SLPP from any blame.

Even as I agree with him on this, let me hasten to say the SLPP has been the greatest beneficiary of the APC problem.

The re-election of President Bio, the SLPP winning majority seats in parliament and local councils, and the continued compromised and complicit postures of the APC de-facto leadership are a load of such benefits.

It is time the party pulls itself together and decides to move forward.

The road is not a straight and smooth path. It is winding with bends and curves that require actions bordering on truth, forthrightness, reconciliation, and unity of purpose.

In moving forward, I urge esteemed comrades to be mindful of the constitutional provisions that make boycotting governance of no essence, as was also advised by the US Ambassador. What is best is that elected representatives should subscribe to the oath of office.

The opportunities participation offers in holding to account the various government institutions are by statutes established.

It is particular to note that, technically and legally, the current parliament is not a one-party parliament in a multi-party democracy, contrary to views peddled by persons intending to continue to mislead supporters.

There are two political parties in parliament though not all MPs of the other party have subscribed to the oath of office. The Speaker’s counsel past Friday is a word for the wise and is sufficient.

Fundamental to moving forward is that we cannot shy away from the legal controversies surrounding the conduct of the court-sanctioned NDC and its effects on the de-facto leadership, mutatis mutandis.

We have to deal squarely with these legal controversies. In doing so, we should make a conscientious effort to promote reconciliation and an all-inclusive and level playing field that will guarantee litigants to withdraw all matters from the courts.

At this point, a bigger problem for the party is finding people with the antecedents of impartiality to facilitate that all-inclusiveness and level playing field. Not that all seem to have taken sides, but because those who have stood for the truth have been wrongfully blemished as enemies of the party by the true enemies of the party.

There has to be an interim arrangement to manage the party. Given the legal entanglements and ineptitude, the de-facto leadership cannot serve this purpose. The party similarly does not require the Justice Fisher 21-man committee-styled arrangement.

Though easier said than done, a factionless committee of esteemed comrades should work with the PPRC to reconcile the party, create an all inclusive and level playing field, withdraw matters from the court, and compile a membership register that will serve as voters list to conduct the elections of officers across the board.

As a party, we must not encourage factionalization along the identities of individuals.

Going to the elections of new executives, comrades tainted with corruption-related issues, both plaintiffs and defendants in the ongoing court matters, those identified by the former chairman to be responsible for the problems in the party, including the former chairman himself, should graciously take the back seat. There has to be a deliberate effort on their part to stop manipulating the conscience of the membership. Reciprocally, the membership should also conscientiously resist their various forms of manipulation.

The party needs a new executive, a consortium of corruption-free and progressive citizens. The earlier a well-focused executive is in place, the better it will be for the party. The new executive should be thorough enough to hit the ground running.

The new executive should prioritize the four undermentioned agenda items among the things they intend to do.

First is rebranding the party, deepening reconciliation, and strengthening internal democracy and participation in decision-making. To cultivate a membership that espouses national cohesion, the rule of law, and respect for state institutions and authorities. To facilitate the release of members in unlawful detention and guarantee the safe return of comrades living in exile.

The second is to reposition the party as a progressive opposition with a duty to play the role of an alternative government, of a government-in-waiting that provides alternative policies that are credible and workable, collaborates on national sovereignty, global and regional peace, and leaves no stone unturned in holding the government accountable for its stewardship.

The third most important consideration I wish the new executive to factor into their agenda is the supposed 2025/26 population and housing census. Arguably, both the 2015 and 2021 mid-term censuses are faulty. The state requires accurate population and housing data to provide services. The new executive should support the mobilization of resources for the implementation of the census programs, facilitates its involvement in the arrangements necessary for the collection, revision, and collation of the information required for the census, provide oversight in the appointment of census officer, supervisors, and enumerators, and to support public awareness of the purpose, benefits and the need for the census.

This agenda is crucial to ensure the 2028 elections are constituency-based.

Fourth is the need to pursue progressive electoral reforms.

On this note, I welcome the presidential initiative to review electoral systems and processes. Although it will certainly not change the status quo, it will bring out several facts to better the conduct of future elections.

I hold a different view from the US Ambassador’s call for an outsider to lead this process. These integrity deficiency issues are best known to us. Had the APC petitioned the election outcome, these integrity deficiency issues would have been equally questioned or addressed in the court proceedings.

But the question I may want to ask right-thinking APC members is whether they honestly believe our party, the APC, having been the ruling party for ten of the past fifteen years and having been in the governance architecture since the reintroduction of multi-party politics in 1996, can be absolved of equally sharing the blame for the integrity deficiencies and ineptitudes of the electoral commission, and the lack of public trust in the judiciary and other moral guarantors .

The honest answer is the APC should equally share the blame.

Consequently, the de-facto APC leadership sounds morally debased to request the intervention of non-Sierra Leoneans in settling matters of national interest that require honesty and sincerity.

In conclusion, time is of the essence. Five years is not a long period. So many things to do to get 2028 right. The earlier the party goes to the drawing board, the better. Nonetheless, I will be remiss as a statesman if I fail to use this opportunity to urge the government to be wary of the geopolitical dynamics aiming to fight a proxy war in the West African sub-region.

Sierra Leone first occupied a seat in the United Nations Security Council between 1970-1971 and pragmatically used the position to promote global peace when in 1971, the then permanent representative, Hon Solomon A. J. Pratt, facilitated the People’s Republic of China to take the permanent seat previously occupied by the Republic of China (Taiwan).

We are again a seated member of the UN Security Council, and the government must use the position to ensure peace and tranquility prevails in the West African sub-region.

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