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SOME INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THE NATIONAL CONVENTION OF THE SIERRA LEONE PEOPLES PARTY (SLPP) HELD IN BO ON 16-17 AUGUST 2013

1.     Introduction :

The National Convention of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party was held in Bo City on Friday 16th through Saturday 17th August 2013, with spill over to Sunday 18thAugust 2013.

The Convention was preceded by a meeting of the National Executive Council (NEC) to consider residual matters that were not addressed at a NEC meeting held in Freetown on 6th – 7th August, 2013.

2.     Prelude to the Convention:

The prelude to the conference was inundated with claims and counter claims about the validity of lower level elections held in several areas including Western Area, Bombali, Port Loko and Kenema Districts. The main issue was the determination of the eligibility of Party officials elected to serve as delegates to the Party Convention in Bo.

This matter was brought before the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) on several occasions. At the end of a prolonged process, the Chairman of the PPRC made a ruling that was accepted by all parties concerned, even though the ruling largely favoured the then outgoing Chairman and Leader and National Officers of the Party.

3.     The Convention:

Prior to the Convention, the then National Officers of the Party put in place modalities for ensuring a peaceful, fully participatory and successful convention. These modalities included getting the national security apparatus (Police and Military) to provide security, appointment of Commissioners for election of National Officers, Preparation of list of accredited delegates in consonance with the Party’s 1995 Constitution as amended, invitation to partners including the International community, PPRC other political parties, Diaspora party members and other friends and well wishers of the party to attend the convention.

The opening day of the convention was a unique and memorable day for all peace-loving Sierra Leoneans and a pride to all Party members. The hall was colourful and jam-packed, while the police and military personnel outside the hall were very strict but professional, ensuring that no intruders got close to the hall. This was an excellent display of maturity and professionalism by all concerned.

In his opening address, the then Chairman and Leader paid glowing tribute to Party members, the security apparatus and all concerned for making the occasion a resounding success. Thus far the process was extremely orderly and without any complaints.

4.     Election Day:

Saturday 17th August was slated as the day for election of National Officers. Although it was a very wet day, party members were in a very happy mood. Candidates contesting for various national officer positions were equally in a buoyant and optimistic mood.

Before looking at the election process, it is important to comment on the Commissioners chosen to manage the process. The Commissioners were highly placed professionals and very senior and trusted members of the Party as follows:

        Dr. Hindowa Momoh – Chief Electoral Commissioner

        Mrs. Elizabeth Alpha-Lavalie-Commissioner (South);

        Dr. Sheku Sesay – Commissioner (North);

        Mrs. Bintu Myers – Commissioner (East); and

        Mr. Victor Thomas – Commissioner (West).

The election process started with nomination of candidates for the various positions. Candidates who had completed their nomination forms were called by the Chief Electoral Commissioner to present their nomination forms together with their nominators. This process was successfully completed without any hitch or complaint by any aspirant, including those who were contesting for the position of Chairman and Leader of the Party.

At the end of the nomination process, the Chief Electoral Commissioner presented three options for the voting process to the delegates, as follows:

        to stop the process, adjourn to the following day Saturday 18th August, and start and finish the process;

        to start the process, continue up to a point and adjourn to the following day; and

        to start the process and finish.

By popular acclamation, the delegates chose the third option. It is also noteworthy that even at this point there were no complaints from any contestant about anything relating to the process.

Before the commencement of voting the Commissioners requested the delegates to propose the order of voting either from the top, i.e. position of Chairman and Leader; or from the bottom. The delegates unanimously agreed that the voting should start at the top.

Some objections were raised about the delegate status of three people who were seated as delegates as follows:

        Mr. Yamba Mansaray;

        Mr. Abu  Abu Abdulai Koroma, and

        Mr. Quinty Charles.

These objections were looked into and the persons named above were asked to leave the hall as they were not considered to be properly seated as delegates. There were no further complaints or objections by any contestant about the eligibility of any other delegates.

The delegates’ list, which had been authenticated and signed by the then Chairman Mr. John Oponjo Benjamin, the then Secretary General Mr. Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie, all the Regional Chairmen, and all District Chairmen, was presented to all concerned, with a total of six hundred and five (605) delegates. At this point, there were no complaints by any of the contestants or delegates on the validity and veracity of the delegates’ list.

Before commencement of voting all the delegates, aspirants and all other people were requested to leave the hall through a single exit door, which they did. The hall, all other rooms and the kitchen were thoroughly searched to ensure that no unauthorized persons were left behind. The delegates were then called in district by district and delegate by delegate with the help of the District Chairmen. Once the Delegates and Aspirants were properly seated, the commissioners invited the two candidates contesting for the position of Chairman and Leader to once again examine and verify the delegates list, which they did. Infact, Ambassador Allie Bangura carefully went though the list page by page at the end of which he and Chief Somano Kapen signed the list of six hundred and five (605) delegates.

The voting proper started with the election of the Chairman and Leader of the Party. The two candidates, Chief Somano Kapen, and Ambassador Allie Bangura, were called to sign the ballot papers, examine and close their boxes. There were no complaints about anything even at this point.

The voting process lasted for over three hours at the end of which the results were announced, with Chief Somano Kapen recording three hundred and ten votes (310), and Ambassador Allie Bangura two hundred and eighty seven (287) votes. Chief Somano Kapen was declared as duly elected Chairman and Leader of the Party. The closeness of the results clearly demonstrates competitiveness, closeness, fairness and openness of the process.

The candidates for the position of Deputy Chairman and Leader were then invited by the Chief Electoral Commissioner to examine their boxes, at which point, Dr. Wusu Sannoh withdrew his candidature and Dr. Prince Harding was declared as duly elected Deputy Chairman and Leader. The pattern of withdrawals, that followed this, was alarming, with only the positions of Chairman Southern Region, and National Financial Secretary subsequently contested for. The total number of votes cast for each of the subsequently contested position was less than six hundred and five (605) but in excess of three hundred and thirty (330) votes. It is important to note that the number of votes cast at this stage does not necessarily accurately reflect either the number of delegates that left the hall or the number of those who stayed in the hall but did not vote.

5.     Conclusion:

In conclusion, my personal opinion is that the election process for all intents and purposes was free, fair, transparent and credible. All the parties concerned were fully on board until the result for the position of Chairman and Leader was announced. The newly elected executive has embarked on a process of reconciliation to bring everyone on board to enable the Party achieve its ultimate goal of being elected as the government of this country.

The Author, Dr. James D Rogers is the newly elected Financial Secretary of the SLPP. He was formerly Governor, Bank of Sierra Leone.