Yumkellah’s NGC: Windshield Wiper Politicians and Social Media Vigilantes

By Chernoh Alpha M. Bah

In early December 2017, the Sierra Leonean political scientist Zubairu Wai, in an incisive social media comment titled “the dilemma of a ghost,” characterized Kandeh Yumkellah as “a parachute politician who believes he is doing the country a favor by running for president.” Wai notes that Yumkellah’s militant desire for the presidency of Sierra Leone appears to be anchored solely on his belief that being a former UN employee “makes him the only person qualified to be president beyond scrutiny.”  Like many of us, Wai believes that Yumkellah is not the answer to the Sierra Leonean problem. “His connection to the global power elites, and his subscription to the neoliberal ideologies of governance means that he is a far more danger to Sierra Leone than Maada Bio or Samura Kamara,” Wai stated emphatically. For my part, I have resolved to engage the NGC jihadists and social media vigilantes to demonstrate the truth Wai speaks of.

Over the past few days, Sierra Leonean friends from as far away as Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States have been calling me. As supporters of the National Grand Coalition (NGC), they’ve begged that I stop publicly questioning Yumkellah and the GNC’s claim that they represent the “progressive” alternative in the upcoming elections. These individuals are frustrated and embarrassed at the vitriolic social media brigade launched against me by their fellow GNC supporters, especially two odious vigilantes named Ibrahim Suma and “Sweet Mo”. These NGC cyber-vigilantes are fuming over my request that Yumkellah and the NGC demonstrate what concrete policies within the NGC platform could reasonably be described as progressive. I do not believe it is unreasonable to ask that a political party and its candidate offer concrete proof to support serious policy-related claims they have made throughout their campaign. This is a minimal responsibility of any political campaign. Yet, when I questioned NGC’s self-declared title as the “vanguard of change” one week ago, I was met with a barrage of insults and character assassination. These personal insults are only a distraction that deflects from the original conversation I initiated, which questioned the claims of NGC of being somehow progressive and different than the traditional parties in our country, even though the founders of the party are simply ambitious elites who decided to form a new party only after they failed to garner positions within either the APC or the SLPP.

These questions cannot be drowned out by name-calling and insults. All that’s required is a rational response which provides evidence that I am wrong. I do not believe the GNC can offer this response, simply because they do not have progressive policies to offer, nor can they deny that their founders and leaders were part of the dominant parties in the very recent past. Thus, in this essay, I will continue to make my case that the NGC does not represent a true progressive alternative in Sierra Leone politics. I will contextualize the NGC’s project, its genesis, and the underlying opportunistic aspirations of its leaders. My objective is to continue to point out not only the lack of difference between the NGC and APC or SLPP, but to equally show how the NGC’s agenda represents the very definition of political fraud committed by an angry and defeated faction of the Sierra Leonean political class, one that is now acting in alliance with a tiny alienated group of intellectuals, and which aims to dupe the innocent working men and women of Sierra Leone. This group, which claims to be “progressive” and possessing a “newly discovered message of change” is nothing outside of a mix-bag made up of windshield wiper politicians, an assortment of political jihadists, and fundamentalists; individuals who have been rendered outcasts and thrown on the roadside of the predatory politics that has haunted our country for over fifty years now.

In my previous essay, I painstakingly contextualized the genesis of the NGC’s by properly locating it within the theatre of the KKY Movement’s anti-Bio campaign; these are the opportunistic parameters that gave birth to the NGC and continue to condition its existence. Having established the political context in which the NGC’s project emerged, I then asked this so-called “new party of progressives” to show the people of Sierra Leone what distinguishes Kandeh Yumkellah from Mr. Julius Maada Bio and the APC’s presidential candidate. As I previously stated, the NGC has failed to address this question because they have no answer. They have only attempted to assassinate my credibility to avoid the question altogether, claiming that any interrogation of the NGC and its presidential candidate is born out of malice and hatred.  The NGC’s cyber-vigilantes and political jihadists have avoided the questions I raised, instead continuing their pattern of gnashing their teeth any time they are criticized, in hopes that stampeding noise will conceal the real agenda of the NGC from the people. On my part, I have also resolved to engage these political jihadist and social media vigilantes as part of my effort to expose the real reasons behind the NGC’s fundamentalist approach to political power in Sierra Leone. It is no longer lost on the minds of the real progressives and pro-democratic forces in Sierra Leone that the NGC’s are conducting a violent and intolerant bid for power at all costs. In politics, words are cheap. We can only judge politicians by their actions. And the actions of the GNC when faced with criticism are simply emblematic of a dictatorial regime. How can a party which cannot respond to reasonable inquiries and tough criticism be trusted with political power? What does this portend for how they would treat political dissidents or critics of an NGC regime?

The NGC social media vigilante, Ibrahim Suma, has even gone so far as to label me a “covert SLPP media operative.” He claims that my efforts to expose the NGC’s attempt to dupe the people of Sierra Leone means I have a “soft spot for the SLPP.” NGC’s vigilantes and jihadists have also claimed that I am pretending to be a neutral player in the politics of the country. Before going forward, I would like to quickly address these ridiculous claims: I am not a neutral player in the politics of Sierra Leone. I have never made any claims to the contrary. My political opinion and position regarding the current state of affairs are clearly stated. Those who have followed my work over the last twenty years, including the people who now run and support NGC, have no illusions about where I stand in the political divide in the country. Unlike the NGC leadership and intermediate membership that is ashamed to admit its relationship with the SLPP and APC, my own position as a vehement opponent of the two-party monopoly in the country is without question. Those in the NGC are not only aware of my history of opposition to the two dominant political parties in the country from which the NGC is descended, but they are also very much aware of my political philosophy and ideology, a fact which they grudgingly admit with condescension by arguing that the ideology I believe in is moribund, while simultaneously failing to offer anything resembling an ideology of their own; indeed, they continually fail to offer even the most malnourished of belief systems or set of values, other than trumpeting the self-descriptor of being “progressive”. This is the gaping hole haunting the NGC’s claims. How does the nature and character of the NGC and make it different from the APC and SLPP? Can the party not adequately respond to this simple question? If they need an illustration on how one ought to respond to a doubter, maybe they can use this essay as a template: I have challenged the unfair claims of the NGC cyber-vigilantes and mud-slingers concerning my motives by simply offering concrete and historical examples which disprove them. But instead of answering my inquiry, an inquiry which the people must demand of any party which hopes to control their political future, the NGC’s social media vigilantes and political jihadists organized into a cyber brigade which has drenched the social media sphere with distasteful slander for all to see. One of their social media vigilantes even called me a foreigner born in neighboring Guinea. They are unable to answer what makes their presidential candidate, Kandeh Yumkellah presidential material outside of the usual song that he was a former UN employee that is supposedly respected by the international community. How far can this one accolade be stretched? How often can it be parroted?

Some NGC social media vigilantes have tried to justify the incestuous politics of the windshield wiper politicians of the SLPP and APC, who are now daily involved in media declarations as they jump from the SLPP and APC and announce their baptism into the NGC. The most hilarious aspects of these incestuous political declarations are the claims by NGC leaders and members that those defecting automatically become “progressives” simply by joining the NGC! Are these not simply declarations of allegiance to the excrement of the two parties they claim to be abandoning? When I questioned the moral foundation for these pronouncements, NGC jihadists tried to justify this political incest by seeking to draw a parallel between the political coalition we, the African Socialist Movement (ASM), formed with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ahead of the elections of 2012. Ibrahim Suma, in particular, tried unsuccessfully to equate the ASM/NDA relationship in the elections of 2012 to the incestuous politics of the politically blemished SLPP/APC faction now known as the NGC.

Interestingly, the NGC have neither denied the fact that they are a motley group of alienated politicians from the APC and SLPP, nor have they endeavored to present a program that supports their self-declared “progressive” status. They have only responded by arguing that it is impossible to construct a political movement independent of the unwanted and thrown-out fragments of the predatory political class in the country. They have even tried to lump me into the same filthy political basket from which the opportunistic leaders of the NGC’s past and present can be found. This smear campaign represents a lazy effort on the part of the NGC jihadists to respond to the questions I raised. So, let me again demonstrate what the NGC is unable to demonstrate: I will answer these salacious claims by pointing out the differences between the ASM/NDA alliance and this breakaway SLPP/APC faction now calling itself NGC.

The differences between this group and what we had in the NDA/ASM alliance are stark. Unlike the NGC, the socialists who formed a political coalition with National Democratic Alliance (NDA) before the elections of 2012 are a group of independent political activists who have no history of membership or association with either the SLPP or APC. In 2009, we had attempted to build an independent workers party in Sierra Leone and were denied registration by the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC). Besides, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) that we pitched our political project with had no history of governance in Sierra Leone. Its members and leaders were never part of the SLPP/APC’s history of graft and economic underdevelopment that has plagued the country. If the socialists were eager to be a part of the shared loot of the country, we would have allied with the SLPP or APC, but we refused to do so despite opportunities presented to us.  The NDA provided us with unblemished umbrella under which we launched a resistance against the Ernest Bai Koroma regime and the APC ahead of the elections of 2012. Additionally, the socialists who were part of that alliance with the NDA were not card-carrying members of the NDA. Our shared unity was governed by a collective commitment to a national democratic program designed to challenge the two-party monopoly that the SLPP/APC have exercised in the country. The NDA membership and leadership, apart from then being free from the history of corrupt governance, was at the material time of our relationship largely constitutive of workers and peasants who, like the majority of Sierra Leoneans, are actual victims of the depraved politics of corruption and exploitation that the combined monopoly of the APC/SLPP has inflicted upon the country. Thus, our socialist movement, denied the right to political association by a number of rogue institutional and legal limitations imposed by gangster politicians, carved out a pragmatic political option through its strategic alliance with the NDA as part of a first stage in its ongoing struggle for the revolutionary transformation of Sierra Leone politics.

Again, if we had wanted to share in the predatory loot of the country, we surely had the option of immersing ourselves into the two dominant political parties. Those who followed the political discourse that occurred in the two years leading to the elections of 2012 can still recollect the cutting-edge intervention of the socialists who took upon the umbrella of the NDA so as to advance a struggle for a national democratic revolution in Sierra Leone. The effectiveness of the ASM/NDA alliance was what defined the electoral contest in 2012; a factor which sent such shock waves through Koroma’s gang of political rogues that for the first time in the history of politics in Sierra Leone, a political party was prevented from running a presidential candidate in an election in Sierra Leone, a fact decried by international observers. Koroma’s war against the NDA in 2012 was directed principally against the socialists who were within the ranks of that party and who had successfully defeated the thinking representatives of the middle class in all debates on public policy across the country. The political establishment was not afraid of traditional NDA politicians; their focus was upon the presence of socialist revolutionaries within the ranks of the party. Again, in as much as we worked inside the NDA, we were never card-carrying members of the NDA and we never contested for any executive positions within the party. Based on our agreement, we controlled only the communications operations of the NDA; a strategy that allowed us to utilize the existing political platform of the NDA to initiate a contending dialogue against the bankrupt political elite in the country. We had no illusions, however, that the NDA had its own organizational limitations, as would be obvious for any independent opposition group in an environment where careerists, self-seekers, and opportunists —the likes who comprise leadership of the NGC— largely populate politics.

Our alliance with NDA ended totally and abruptly when the party leaders made a deal with the APC, a duplicitous move that violated a key condition for our unity. We had agreed, as part of this political arrangement, that the NDA must not support the APC and SLPP in the elections of 2012. Unfortunately, and as majority of the masses would remember, after a protracted proxy-war waged and financed by Ernest Koroma against the socialists within the NDA, a cross-section of the NDA leadership endorsed Ernest Koroma for a second term one day before the 2012 elections. Consequently, we pulled out of the NDA. Koroma, of course, had paid a bribe of over two hundred million Leones to the disenfranchised presidential candidate of the NDA to tempt him to throw his support behind the APC on the very eve of election day. Indeed, Koroma later compensated those individuals who infiltrated the party and waged that internal battle against the socialists within the NDA with political appointments. For instance, Mohamed Pateh Bah, the expelled presidential aspirant who was sponsored by the APC in its proxy-war against the NDA, is today Ernest Koroma’s nominee as head of the newly constituted Youth Service Commission (YSC). The current Chief Justice of Sierra Leone, Abdulai Cham was the presiding high court judge that issued the restraining orders to prevent a nomination of an NDA presidential candidate in 2012. President Koroma eventually appointed him as the substantive head of the judiciary. These appointments are connected to the roles of these characters in helping to secure a rigged second term for Ernest Koroma in 2012 and these examples are illustrative of the APC’s response to the socialists’ presence in NDA.

It is important to state that since we terminated our political alliance with the NDA, both the SLPP and APC have approached me, in particular, and on several occasions, in a bid to co-opt me into their ranks. In fact, those who now call themselves NGC repeatedly sought my inclusion and support for their own agenda at the very initial stages when they conceived the embryo that would first become the KKY Movement and would later be hatched into the NGC of today. I have vehemently refused to be a part of these factions and I continue to refuse to be a part of their dubious campaign to exploit the aspirations of the masses and enhance their own agenda. These windshield wiper politicians in the NGC are not new to me or to the hundreds of thousands of Sierra Leoneans whom they now claim to want to liberate. These are individuals who have been part of nearly every government that has presided over the country. This long list of SLPP/APC politicians include the likes of Albert Joe Demby, a former vice president in Kabbah’s SLPP government, Isatu Jabbie Kabbah, former women’s leader of the SLPP, Brima Keita, former western region chairman of the SLPP, Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie, former Secretary General of the SLPP, Dennis Bright, former Youth Minister and SLPP Mediation Committee Chairman who was also a contender for the party’s national chairmanship position, Alieu Bangura, former minister and later Ambassador in the Kabbah government, and  then SLPP 2012 Elections Chairman, Dr. Alusine Fofana, SLPP Deputy Regional Chairman in the north, Hon. Sualiho Koroma, a former SLPP Member of Parliament in Bo, Lawyer Mugbei Musa, a former SLPP legal adviser, and Ambassador Foday Daboh; these are the leading names in the so-called party of “progressives” called the NGC. Other APC ministers and party leaders who are denied nominations have now also joined them. How can this group of former ministers and SLPP/APC politicians claim to be a group of “progressives” with an agenda to free the country from its current predicament when they all bear the greatest responsibility for the public corruption and economic underdevelopment that characterize our post-colonial history?  It is obvious that the animosity of these individuals against their colleagues who still remain in the APC and SLPP is only born out of the conflicting collision of selfish interests. The NGC simply cannot deny that its leaders are a collection of the same individuals of the political class that stands accused of all the political and economic atrocities that scar our national political landscape. Let me put it this way: if these NGC leaders had succeeded in taking over the leadership of the SLPP, the NGC would have never been formed. Can anyone deny this fact? Their agenda is not progressive, it is regressive and reactionary. They simply want to sit atop the pile of loot which has been stolen from the pockets of workers in this country, loot which is stained with blood and sweat. The GNC are simply members of a class of petit bourgeoisie, aligned with powerful foreign interests, who are angry that they have not yet been allowed to steal enough wealth to satisfy their insatiable appetites for wealth and power.

I know this because I know many of these people personally. Many of them have graciously invited me to join the SLPP or APC at one time or another. For the last twenty years, I have had personally to resist the ruling party co-option of Ernest Koroma, along with the invitations of the leaders that now opportunistically call themselves the NGC. So, I ask again: how can these individuals, whose names and identity are all soiled by the political corruption and underdevelopment of our country, attempt to equate themselves with other men and women who have never been a part of the history of corrupt governance, with the real progressives and pro-democratic forces in Sierra Leone who have continuously resisted the allure of stolen wealth. This tiny bunch of politicians split themselves like an amoeba every election cycle in a bid to keep themselves afloat; this is now the hallmark of political activity in Sierra Leone. True pro-democratic forces should be insulted by this segment of career politicians and elites claiming to be involved in revolutionary politics.

It is obvious that the political burden imposed on the suffering masses of our people by the SLPP and APC is colossal and unquantifiable. But it is also obvious that the objective conditions for change are imminent and evident across the country, as people are tired of the status quo. This reality is born out of the relentless struggles we – the real progressives and pro-democratic forces – have waged individually and collectively against a middle class which eternally chases its selfish interests in the name of championing a people’s agenda. Contrary to the noisy and loud slogans of these vacillating jihadist politicians in the NGC, I want to point out that an independent political movement is possible in Sierra Leone outside of the two parties. The construction of that independent party, one that truly endeavors to overthrow the existing social structures of greed and oppression and the two-party monopoly, will not, should not, and cannot constitute a splinter faction of the same predatory middle class that has ravaged Sierra Leone over the last fifty years. Such a movement will be made up of men and women who have no history of membership or association with the APC and SLPP. The National Grand Coalition (NGC) is not that organization. It must not be mistaken as one that embodies any of the features of a progressive organization. Any organization that sets-out to genuinely liberate a country must first and foremost have as its starting point a program that distinguishes itself from the rest of the political organizations that it seeks to challenge and defeat. It must be a group made-up of men and women with the proven track record of having genuinely labored for and in the interest of the masses. The program of such a political organization must be the result of an engagement with the masses, and not an imposition dictated by a few disgruntled and alienated middle class elites, who carry with them the political sins of the past. The NGC is nowhere closer to being a progressive organization that represents the interests of the poor masses. As Zubairu Wai eloquently said in early December, we will get nothing in a Yumkellah presidency outside of “elite arrogance and neoliberal fundamentalism on steroids.” Indeed, I believe that Yumkellah represents “far more danger to Sierra Leone than Maada Bio or Samura Kamara.” And so, I would still ask the NGC the same question they do not want to hear and cannot answer: what makes Kandeh Yumkellah and his NGC different from the APC and SLPP, an organization that is the recent progeny of the Alhassan and Alusine of Sierra Leone politics?

 

Advertisements

Kandeh Yumkellah and the Political Jihadists of the NGC in Sierra Leone

By Chernoh Alpha M. Bah

 

The people of Sierra Leone are fed-up with the excruciating pain, economic hardship, and political disaster that the government of Ernest Bai Koroma and his kleptomaniac gang of rogue politicians have inflicted on the country. If there is one thing that we are all united in, as pro-democratic forces in the country, it is the removal of the Koroma regime from power. For the past ten years, we have resisted the political corruption, ruling party cooptation, and the rising dictatorship of the All People’s Congress (APC) and its leadership. There is no question that a vote for Samura Kamara, the APC’s appointed candidate, will mean a continuation of the gangster-style politics of the Koroma regime. I start with these comments to reemphasize my decade-old position of ongoing resistance against Koroma’s politics of impunity and the APC’s efforts to overthrow democracy. I want my stance on Koroma to be clear as I continue the discussion which I initiated during the last few days of 2017. In that discussion, I criticized the newly formed National Grand Coalition’s claims that they represent a new and progressive party which can save Sierra Leone from decades of poverty and corruption.

I first commented on the NGC following the appointment of Andrew Keili, a former Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) presidential aspirant, as the NGC’s vice-presidential candidate for the March 2018 elections. Andrew Keili is a two-time contender for the leadership of the SLPP, just like Kandeh Yumkellah, the former UN employee who is now the NGC presidential candidate. Both Keili and Yumkellah, like many in the NGC, are the product of Sierra Leone’s corrupt political system. Indeed, the NGC leadership has held positions in previous and the current regimes, regimes which stand accused of decades of graft and political incest. Yumkellah was a cabinet member of the military regime that ruled Sierra Leone in the 1990s, and it was the military government that backed his appointment to the United Nations Industrial Organization (UNIDO). When Yumkellah failed to become the SLPP candidate for the upcoming elections, he simply formed the NGC along with other SLPP and APC members who were denied power within their own parties.

It is ironic, then, that the NGC is positioning itself as a “new political group” with no ties to the old parties. What’s more, this breakaway faction of political elites has spread their propaganda across our country, claiming they represent a “new progressive agenda for change,” despite offering no concrete examples of the progressive policies they would supposedly pursue. The leaders of the NGC are simply disgruntled and alienated politicians from the same two political parties that have dominated our country’s politics for the past fifty years. The formation of the NGC is not about change; it is about an old faction of this country’s corrupt political elite trying to take power for themselves. These elites formed the NGC simply because they failed to garner a nomination from within the APC or the SLPP. Like the rest of the career politicians in this country, their goal is not to change the structure of Sierra Leone’s politics. They simply want a piece of the pie for themselves.

As I stated in my original comments, the NGC’s composition and character is an embodiment of the two parties that have ravaged our country since independence. The NGC leadership are simply the excrement of the SLPP and APC. I do not make these accusations lightly. I have asked the NGC leadership and membership to show the people of Sierra Leone what actually makes them a “progressive force” and to point out the so-called “progressives” among their ranks. They have failed to do so. I have also reasonably demanded from that the NGC point out what in their platform distinguishes them from the parties they aim to replace. But the NGC can neither demonstrate how they are different nor offer any concrete examples of progressive policies in their agenda. For that reason, NGC members and their supporters have taken offense at my skepticism of the NGC’s composition, character, and political message. They have responded to my critique of the NGC’s character not with evidence which could prove me wrong, but with a campaign of vitriolic exchanges. If they wish to shut me up, they can simply offer up evidence to support the party’s claims. But, as the evidence does not exist, desperate supporters have resorted to an insulting social media brigade against those who would rightly question the claims of a political party made up of seasoned elites in order to obscure the embarrassment of the truth.  

As I have state elsewhere, the NGC’s intolerant attitude to dissent should be a cause for concern to real progressives and pro-democratic forces in Sierra Leone. The intolerant attitude of the NGC’s social media brigade represents a jihadist approach to political power. Only those with something to hide fear scrutiny. This sort of militant response to measured criticism should be arrested and resisted by all the true progressive citizens who are concerned about free speech and the safeguard of diverse political opinions in a country long victimized by desperate politicians, including those in the NGC, who see political power as a means of personal aggrandizement. I have warned, and will continue to warn, that if the NGC becomes the next government of Sierra Leone, the situation in the country will grow even worse than it is now. The NGC’s insulting and arrogant approach to power is indicative of what a Yumkellah presidency would mean for democracy and free speech in Sierra Leone.

Despite the fact that the NGC continues to vehemently avoid the questions I have raised about their campaign and program, I have decided to continue this discussion to further clarify my earlier comments, with the hope of constructing a road-map to what real change might look like. To do this, it is necessary that I unmask the hypocrisy and fraud of the NGC’s noisy message and put the party in the context of the predatory politics from which it was born.  

When NGC supporters are asked why Sierra Leoneans must choose the NGC instead of the SLPP or APC, their first and only response is that their party is led by a former UN employee, Kandeh Yumkellah, who they claim is respected by the international community and who they also say has been preaching a message of “hope” and “change” to Sierra Leoneans. It is obvious that the bulk of the NGC’s support and its source of noisy propaganda have come largely from a scattered and disenfranchised Sierra Leonean diaspora made-up of a few academics and a handful of others who are eager to reintegrate themselves into the ruling elite. Some of the NGC’s academic and intellectual supporters have written open letters declaring their support for the NGC, arguing that Yumkellah represents the only hope for a better Sierra Leone. These academics have even joined the militant NGC brigade, whose political dialogue consists of shutting-up every Sierra Leonean who refuses to chant the NGC’s newly discovered slogan of change. Yet they continue to dodge the question of whether there is anything outside of Yumkellah’s UN credentials as the former head of the UN Global Energy Campaign which distinguishes him from his peers.

On Monday July 3, 2017, Yumkellah called a press conference at the Brookfield’s Hotel in Freetown. At the conference, he announced the suspension of his bid to seek the presidential ticket of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), but said he would continue vigorously pursue his ambition to become president of the country. Yumkellah’s campaign to lead the SLPP had been struggling since its formation two years prior: two of his close-protection guards were arrested on allegations of carrying firearms; his membership status in the SLPP faced questions of irregular registration; and accusations of him being denied entry into the SLPP headquarters had garnered attention. Controversy after controversy hampered his campaign. By July, when it became clear that he would lose the SLPP nomination, Yumkellah simply jumped out of the SLPP race. At the press conference, Yumkellah claimed, “democracy has been choked, suffocated, stifled, and rendered meaningless in the SLPP.” This was the political party he had been fighting to lead for the past two years. This was the very political party for which, he says, his father, a founding member, and other family members were allegedly jailed in the 1960s.

He complained that he and his supporters had faced “harassment and violence” in his quest to become the SLPP’s presidential candidate. “There has been a deliberate policy by certain groups in control of the party structures to aggressively exclude any person or group of persons that do not support their candidate,” he told his audience of supporters at the press conference. Yumkellah, did not mention this other candidate by name, but it is obvious that his innuendos were directed at only one politician, Mr. Julius Maada Bio. Bio is a retired army officer and the only person who Yumkellah and his supporters knew was a threat to his claiming leadership over the SLPP. For two years, Yumkellah and the almost ten other aspirants for the presidential ticket of the SLPP had directed their political campaign against Mr. Bio, accusing him of violence and holding the party hostage.  One year ago, they had formed an alliance of aspirants, which excluded Mr. Bio, whose principal goal was aimed at challenging Bio’s grip on the party. That alliance fell apart  a few months later, and Yumkellah, who had put himself forward as its leading architect, knew he would fail to win the SLPP nomination. His jihadist approach to leading the SLPP had been stoutly resisted by the rank-and-file of the party. But Yumkellah would galvanize his defeated and demoralized SLPP faction into a political organization named the National Grand Coalition (NGC).

Since its inception, the NGC has organized a media showcase of alienated and disgruntled politicians from both the APC and SLPP to declare staged support for its program. These media events epitomize the age-old trademark of a bankrupt Sierra Leonean political class always willing to jump ship from the APC to SLPP, so long as they personally benefit. These age-old incestuous political declarations make up the news media’s so-called fast swelling membership of the NGC.

Yumkellah’s entrance into the national politics of Sierra Leone, and the noise that has accompanied his campaign, are unsurprising. He is simply another example of the caustic history of party politics that regionally fragment the country and ethnically balkanize the masses. In a widely-broadcast radio interview, Kandeh Yumkellah initially told the Sierra Leonean radio journalist David Tam-Baryoh that he was not a registered member of any political party and had never voted in an election in Sierra Leone. This was shortly before he officially launched his political campaign for the presidential ticket of the SLPP.  Months before the radio interview, Yumkellah had visited Ernest Bai Koroma, the president of Sierra Leone and leader of the ruling party.  Those close to Koroma rumored that Yumkellah’s intention was to persuade Koroma to make him his successor and welcome him into the APC. The leadership of the ruling APC was, around this time, surreptitiously scheming to extend Koroma’s stay in power. The APC’s national convention held in 2013 had already coronated Koroma as its chairman for a third consecutive term. The leaders of the APC reportedly opposed Yumkellah’s discussion with Koroma. Yumkellah’s efforts were in vain. It was after this failed meeting with Koroma and attempt to lead the APC that Kandeh Yumkellah finally pointed his political ambition towards the SLPP. But the SLPP, like the rest of the opposition, was already bogged down by factional infighting orchestrated by the Koroma regime ahead of the elections of 2012.   

Before this time, an already disgruntled faction within the SLPP – an ostracized group and made up of mostly elite politicians who had been previously denied party positions, parliamentary, and local council symbols to contest in the SLPP’s heartlands of the south and east during the 2012 elections – had organized into a support group to fuel Kandeh Yumkellah’s ambition for the presidency. This group, which included names like Dr. Martin Gbonda, Ambassador Foday Darboe, Brima Keitta, Isatu Jabbie Kabbah, and Victor Sheriff, was already holding meetings across several locations in western Freetown to pull together a support committee for Yumkellah.  The Yumkellah project then became, for this group, their own 2017 Agenda; a plan hatched solely to prevent the SLPP’s 2012 presidential candidate, Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, from contesting the party’s future presidential ticket. These disgruntled politicians, united only by their shared opposition to Mr. Maada Bio, organized themselves into a nucleus from which the Kandeh Kolleh Yumkellah (KKY) Movement would emerge.

Thus, the KKY Movement, from its embryonic stages, was hatched as a political faction born out of the scattered entrails of the SLPP and patched together only by a shared opposition to Mr. Maada Bio. It was their animosity towards Bio that coalesced into a platform from which Kandeh Yumkellah was to launch his presidential project. The KKY Movement, its program, and emblematic features – its color, representation, posters, symbols, and organizational structure – hurriedly cast and set-up from the very beginning, was running counter to the prevailing mood of the general mass of the SLPP and its intermediate leadership.  Yumkellah and his supporters, by identifying and making their ultimate target the overturning of Bio’s presidential ambition, built their campaign on personal attacks against Bio. To achieve their goal, they simply recycled the APC’s anti-Bio propaganda campaign of 2012 into their own propaganda campaign. They then launched Kandeh Yumkellah into the politics of the SLPP by pitching his United Nations status against the military record of Julius Maada Bio. In brandishing Yumkellah as a new political breed, and an unblemished politician representing the only hope for the SLPP, they cast Maada Bio deep into the muddy pit first dugout by the APC during the elections of 2012, with the hope that Yumkellah’s United Nations status would be enough to steal Bio’s support among the rank-and-file of the party. But they faced stiff resistance from the overwhelming mass of SLPP supporters. From accusations of irregular membership to suspicions that he was an agent of the APC, Yumkella was doomed from the start; his campaign lurched from one controversy and court petition to another for nearly two years; these litigations jaded the SLPP and crippled the party from functioning as an effective opposition.    

It is obvious that the KKY Movement and Yumkellah plunged themselves and the SLPP into a counterproductive civil war. They actually became, directly or indirectly, the fratricidal opposition within an already fractured and badly wounded opposition party. The SLPP, already seriously splintered by fiercely competing internal leadership battles that began ten years earlier in 2005 under the divisive politics of Tejan Kabbah, was now thrown, by the Yumkellah factor, into a seemingly irredeemable predicament. As each side took on a frenzied media campaign to justify its commitment to the ongoing hostilities within the party, it became obvious that the leadership contest was now becoming a struggle for the very soul of the party. The ruling APC media and propagandists had a field day utilizing much of the Yumkellah propaganda to further dirty the image of the SLPP. The Yumkellah factor, and the KKY Movement’s strategy, splintered the SLPP. The crumbs from the broken party were then re-constituted into the National Grand Coalition (NGC). The party is the initial composition of the political excrements of the SLPP, and is now also largely populated by the disenfranchised and thrown-out political skeletons of the APC.

How then can a party with such a history, composition, and character be regarded as a new political organization in the country? How can the NGC claim to have a program aimed at destroying the legacy of the two-party monopoly that the SLPP and APC have exercised on the political landscape of Sierra Leone when, in actual fact, its history, composition, and character replicate the two parties — the Alhassan and Alusine of Sierra Leone politics?  It is obvious that the only difference between the NGC and the two old parties lies in its name. Instead of a platform, the party simply points to the UN credentials of Yumkellah. Its political program is merely a collection of hundreds of KKY photographs and videos. This does not constitute a progressive party. It does not even constitute a party. The NGC is merely a group of power hungry individuals who lack any sort of ideology or ambition beyond taking state power for themselves.  The conditions of everyday men, women, and children in Sierra Leone will not improve under the NGC – how could they, when the party cannot even give a concrete example of progressive policy it would implement to bring justice and prosperity to our people?

That does not mean that all is hopeless. We certainly do have an opportunity for change in Sierra Leone. The objective conditions for change are evident and have been born out of the relentless struggle of pro-democratic forces and real progressives who exist truly outside the system of wealthy elites. The change we seek in Sierra Leone will never be spearheaded by a disgruntled faction of the same class of desperate politicians who have plundered out our resources for half a century. The nature and character of the NGC’s leadership and its jihadist approach to power should tells us that its leaders only seek to exploit our desperate desires for change. They promise to help the people, but in reality, they only aim to empower a small segment of an alienated petit bourgeoisie within our society. We must vehemently resist the APC’s effort to rig the next elections and secure a de facto third term for Ernest Bai Koroma. At the same time, we must also resist the NGC’s project to fulfill the political agenda of another middle class faction by opportunistically exploiting the anger of the masses against the establishment. We cannot replicate the error of American workers and suburban residents who fell victim to the Trump campaign’s anti-establishment rhetoric only to realize that their aspirations for change has only benefited the higher echelons of American society against the struggling interests of poor working class citizens. Like the NGC and Yumkellah, Trump exploited the legitimate anger and concern of the poor. With one hand he promised them change, while he picked their pocket with the other. Like the NGC, Trump offered no concrete platform or policies that would offer relief to workers. Yet, because he claimed to be an outsider, the people brought him to power. The result has been a corporate coup by Donald Trump, as he appoints friends, family, and corrupt millionaires to run his cabinets. We cannot trust the words of power-hungry politicians simply because they loudly shout “change” and “progressive” over our heads. We can only trust their actions and their concrete plans to improve the lives of our people.

Sierra Leone President Violates Election Laws

The Chairman
Political Parties Registration Commission
Tower Hill
Freetown
Sierra Leone

December 21, 2017
Dear Sir;

PRESIDENT ERNEST KOROMA’S VIOLATION OF PUBLIC ELECTIONS RULES & POLITICAL PARTIES CODE OF CONDUCT

I write in reference to the above subject matter and to particularly draw your attention to the obvious violations by the leadership of the All Peoples Congress (APC) of the provisions of the Public Elections Act of 2012 and the Political Parties Act of 2002 along with their Codes of Conduct as they relate to the organization of free and fair elections.

As you may probably have noted, for several weeks now the APC’s chairman and life-time leader, Ernest Bai Koroma, who is also at present the president of the Republic of Sierra Leone, has been on a national elections campaign tour showcasing his preferred candidate in the upcoming 2018 presidential elections to voters across the country. This elections campaign tour, which commenced in parts of the north, is currently in the southern and eastern provinces of the country. Several meetings have already been held in several towns and villages in the Portloko, Kambia, Bombali, Kailahun, Bo, and Kenema districts. Information from the State House Communication Unit (SHCU) also indicates that more events are scheduled to occur in other parts of the country in the incoming weeks. Details of these ongoing events have been widely reported in the traditional and non-traditional media. As the paraphernalia of these activities show, and as the discussions at these events themselves reveal, these events undoubtedly constitute acts of conventional election campaigning by the APC leader.

By all indications according to the evidence now available to the public, these campaign activities by the APC leader and chairman are in complete violation of both the Public Elections Act of 2012 and the Political Parties Act of 2002 and its Code of Conduct.

The APC leader and chairman has used, and is still using, his position as president of the country to illegally commence election campaigning under the guise of a “Thank You Tour” ahead of the official declaration of campaigns by the National Electoral Commission (NEC). It is now obvious that Mr. Ernest Bai Koroma, the chairman and leader-for-life of the ruling APC, is using his position as president to openly persuade voters to endorse, accept, support, and eventually vote for his chosen candidate, Mr. Samura Kamara in the upcoming 2018 presidential elections. It is beyond reasonable doubt that the ongoing “Presidential Thank You Tour” is nothing but an APC presidential campaign designed solely by Mr. Koroma to unfairly enhance the electoral chances of his appointed candidate in the upcoming elections.

The deliberate and illegal deployment of state and public resources into his party’s electoral campaign constitute a serious infringement on the rules governing free and fair conduct of democratic elections. It should be underscored that this violation of the electoral laws and other provisions governing the conduct of political parties in elections demonstrates, once again, the president’s determination to not only flout the free and fair organization of elections, but to also unfairly tilt the electoral contest in favor of his own appointed candidate, Mr. Samura Kamara. Thus, it must be said that this open disregard for constitutionality and rule of law are a serious cause for concern, especially when the elections management institutions – the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) – have remained silent in the face of these brazen violations by the APC chairman and other ruling party leaders. It is the constitutional responsibility of NEC and PPRC to ensure compliance with the rules governing the conduct of elections and to regulate the activities of political parties in such situations.

The PPRC, in particular, is on record for repeatedly monitoring the activities of opposition politicians and opposition parties and constantly calling them to check when they appear to violate the laws governing their conduct. The PPRC’s numerous interventions in the internal activities of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) ahead of the 2012 elections are clear examples of the Commission’s role in response to its statutory obligations. The PPRC has also repeatedly intervened to enforce the SLPP’s compliance with the national laws and constitution of the country in recent times. It is unfortunate, therefore, that the PPRC has deliberately failed and avoided to comment on or intervene in the leadership struggles of the APC, especially during the party’s unlawful dismissal of Mr. Samuel Sam Sumana in 2015. The Commission also failed to question the APC’s failure to organize internal democratic elections for positions within its national and lower executives, as required both by the Political Parties Act of 2002 and the 1991 Sierra Leone Constitution. The PPRC equally refused to denounce the undemocratic method used by President Ernest Koroma, the APC’s party leader, to super-impose a presidential candidate in a manner that conflicts with the Political Parties Act of 2002 and other provisions of the 1991 National Constitution relating to the democratization of the internal activities of political parties.

It is obvious that this selective application of the law and the obvious failure to enforce statutory obligations by national institutions, like the PPRC and NEC, does not help the democratization process of the country. The free and fair conduct of elections and the progressive development of a democratic political culture presupposes that national institutions must be independent and should be seen to operate fairly and effectively. Sadly, this is yet to be the case in Sierra Leone.

I, therefore, implore the PPRC and NEC to jointly condemn the unlawful political campaigning by the president and to help stop the illegitimate use of public and state resources by incumbent party politicians to create an unfair environment in the upcoming elections. The PPRC and NEC have a statutory obligation to help persuade, if not force, the APC and its leadership to respect the national laws of the country and the rules governing the conduct of democratic elections. The importance of ensuring that the upcoming elections are organized in a free, fair, and transparent environment cannot be overemphasized. To achieve this monumental task, it is paramount that the PPRC and NEC act to enforce the relevant laws and rules relating to the conduct of free and fair elections, regardless of party. It is my expectation that you not only will, but also should be able to discharge your statutory obligations dispassionately as we head into these crucial elections.

I wish you and members of your Commission a merry Christmas and a peaceful 2018.

Regards,

Chernoh Alpha M. Bah
Chairman
African Socialist Movement (ASM)
Evanston, Illinois
USA

Copy:
1. The United States Embassy in Sierra Leone
2. The British High Commission in Sierra Leone
3. The Chinese Embassy in Sierra Leone
4. The Nigerian High Commission in Sierra Leone
5. The Ghanaian High Commission in Sierra Leone
6. The United Nations Development Program Country Director
7. The Guinean Embassy in Sierra Leone
8. The Malian Embassy in Sierra Leone
9. The Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Sierra Leone
10. The Ecowas Special Representative in Sierra Leone
11. The Mano River Union Secretariat
12. The Office of National Security
13. The National Electoral Commission
14. The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone
15. The Office of the Ombudsman
16. The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists
17. The Sierra Leone Bar Association
18. All Political Parties
19. All Civil Society Groups
20. The Interreligious Council of Sierra Leone
21. The Media

Kenya’s Botched Elections: What Role could China have Played?

By Mbullo P. Owuor

Since the Kenyan Supreme Court annulled the general elections of August 8, 2017, the country has been plunged into a political limbo. The court’s verdict not only invalidated the process under which the elections were organized, but it also emphatically stated that the results were unreliable. The court claimed that the electoral process failed to meet required standards of legitimacy.

A lot has ensued since the court handed down its verdict: the opposition’s call for reforms in the electoral body has been met with stiff resistance by the ruling party. The ruling party insisted that reforms were not necessary, and that the electoral body was still capable of re-conducting fresh elections despite the fact that the Supreme Court verdict that invalidated the August elections also meant that the impartiality of the commission’s personnel still remains questionable. Failure to resolve this question has ultimately led the National Super Alliance (NASA), the main opposition led by Raila Odinga, to withdraw from the presidential contest, and call on its supporters to boycott the polls. People are describing the election as a sham, with the incumbent ruling party candidate Uhuru Kenyatta running his own show.

Prior to this, however, the ruling Jubilee Party of Kenya and its leadership had actually thump-chested the possibility of winning a re-run of the elections. Kenyatta, the incumbent candidate, was even quoted to have repeatedly said that he will emerge the winner of any fresh elections regardless of what happens.  One is left to wonder what forms such level of confidence outside of the usual incumbency arrogance. Exploring politics of the Jubilee Party, one feels the presence of a godfather whose hands are bigger and stronger than the electoral process he ought to be subject to. It is this omnipotent hand that fosters and animates the Jubilee Party’s exuberance to thwart and flout the will of Kenya’s democratic spirit.

China, ICC, and the Uhuru-Ruto Alliance

Towards the 2013 general elections, Uhuru Kenyatta and Willian Ruto were under trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of human rights violations, specifically for crimes against humanity in relation to their alleged involvement in the planning and execution of the infamous 2008 post-election violence.  For the duo, the ICC indictments became a tool for political mobilization they exploited not only at the local level but also internationally. They rallied several states either to support Kenya’s withdrawal from ICC and/or exert pressure on the international court to refer the cases back to Kenya.  Virtually the entire international community, with the exception of China, supported the indictment of Kenyatta and Ruto.  China, which initially refrained from making known its views on the Kenyatta-Ruto indictment, was nonetheless open about its solidarity with Uhuru Kenyatta even before he launched his bid for the Kenyan presidency in 2013.  In Kenyatta, the Chinese saw, and still see, the definite promise of a continuation of a status quo, the solidification of Sino-Kenyan relations, that was already set in motion under Mwai Kibaki’s administration.

In 2003 when Kibaki came to power, he pursued his “look East policy,” which made Kenya a cozy ally of China.  Kibaki’s engagement has been written about and debated at length on several platforms, and Kenyans’ positions on this question vary, but the overwhelming majority tend to frown upon the relationship. What political implications has this Sino-Kenyan relations, beginning with Kibaki and now continued by Kenyatta, hold for the current political situation in the country? Could this relationship have contributed to some extent to what is being experienced now in Kenya?

To answer these questions, one first needs to analyze the financial support that Kenya has received from China. How has this Chinese aid money been used by the incumbent party, and what are its possible ideological impacts on the Jubilee Party itself? Second, one must ask how does the Kenyan-Sino relationship factor into the wider geopolitical contest between China and the West in East Africa, and what position does Kenya occupy?

China’s Corruption Incentive

Some scholars, like Dambisa Moyo, have considered economic aid to be closely related to poor governance, corruption, and a lack of space for natural innovativeness or growth of local industries.  In poor countries, financial aid often enables corrupt politicians to entrench despotic political dynasties that marginalize and disfranchise the poor. Kenya is not different.

Since the commencement of development improvement projects focusing on infrastructure projects, Kenya’s foreign debt has been on the rise and now stands at about US$64.9 billion, which is over 75% of a debt-to-GDP. Almost 100% of all government revenues go toward debt repayment. Ironically, China is the biggest lender with about US$8 billion.

Not surprisingly, most of the infrastructure projects undertaken in Kenya have been labelled corruption dens with large sums of the money taken as kick-backs by government officials, and other contractors – the business elites – with links to the ruling party. The implication of this arrangement is the high tax levied on consumer products which in turn results to high costs of living for the poor and escalating unemployment. This is why many have recently described the overwhelming support for the opposition in the ongoing elections as a vote for an increase in the cost of living, a desire to end poverty, and a revolt against chronically poor government service delivery. In this way, one can argue that the current political situation is not an ethnic displeasure but a contestation over the state in which Chinese funding has direct influence.  

A Political ideology of dictatorship

On August 21, 2016, for example, Kiraitu Murungi, the Jubilee Party’s Steering Committee Co-chairman announced that the ruling party was now working with the Community Party of China. Kiraitu disclosed that the two parties now share similar ideologies, although he failed to mention what ideologies specifically.

Despite China’s claim that the political party system it has adopted is a multi-party cooperative system – a combination of democratic election and democratic consultation under the leadership of the Communist Party of China – the Chinese Communist Party is viewed by many analysts as opaque, secretive, and authoritarian in its organization and operations. Having ruled the country with an iron fist since 1949, China may be considered a one-party state, although there are smaller parties that operate under the umbrella of the CCP.  The party is known to deal ruthlessly with dissent and tolerates no opposition. Its power, exercised through the politburo, spreads to every political space, village and workplace. The powers of the politburo control the most vital components of the government–the military, armed forces, the parliament, and other administrative arms of the government. There is absolutely no competitive politics or elections. China’s anti-democratic character is also mirrored by its record of human rights abuses. If these are the ideological characteristics that the Jubilee Party of Kenya shares with the Communist Party of China, then it is not surprising the chest thumping over abuse of state power currently being witnessed in Kenya.

Kenya as a space for geopolitical contest

Sino-America rivalry has reached a fever-pitch. China’s consumption of raw materials, including oil, has grown tremendously in recent years. Currently, China is the largest consumer of crude oil from Africa.  When it comes to geopolitical interests, nation states often overlook political systems. For example, America’s military support to some of the world’s most corrupt leaders is an open secret. If China’s onslaught on Africa’s resources is something to worry about, then Kenya’s political position will be of a greater interest to the United States. China, through its soft power approach and heavy investment in infrastructure seems to have succeeded in opening many economic frontiers in Africa. Near Kenya, lies the oil rich Southern Sudan and the “terrorist” infested Somali, resources highly desired by US and China. These two regions are likely to propel Kenya to the center of future geopolitical wars. For America to protect its interest, it must show its support to Kenya. It is no wonder that the diplomatic observer mission in the recently nullified elections were quick to endorse the Uhuru Kenyatta government. America must tread carefully if it wishes to reverse or slow the region’s shift towards Chinese influence.  

It is no doubt that China is playing a serious role in the current electoral crisis. It will be interesting to see how things turn out after the botched repeat of elections. Most important will be the reactions of the two world powers of the US and China and how they choose to negotiate Kenya’s mucky political landscape after these shamed elections.

 

Editor’s note: Mbullo P. Owuor is a Ph.D. student in Anthropology at Northwestern University in Evanston, USA

To what extent can social entrepreneurship be a positive tool for development? by Magatte Camara

 

Link to Essay by Magatte Camara

 

Today, with social and economic inequalities growing worldwide, doing business in a more ‘friendly’ way is on the rise. In other words, it is possible both to make money and contribute to social development. This concept is more commonly known as called social entrepreneurship. This essay will demonstrate that social entrepreneurship can be employed as a positive tool for development. Assessing evidence, it will be shown that the positive impact that social enterprise can have on societies in the developing world is huge. The difference between such initiatives and pure business will also be explored. This is significant because not only do social enterprises create employment (like any form of business), at a time when global youth unemployment is high- but depending on their product or service, their activities can also have significant benefits for communities, marginalized groups, and even the environment (Darko 2015). Social enterprise can also make contributions to the UN Sustainable Development Goals
(SDGs), particularly ‘Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth. In many respects, the social enterprise revolution has been a great success, however, this paper will argue that social enterprise cannot alone achieve everything and there are limitations and challenges.

We Can’t Deny the President LIED on Independence Day By Chernoh Alpha M. Bah

On April 27, the day of the anniversary of what is called Sierra Leone’s “Independence Day”, Ernest Bai Koroma made a series of spurious claims about his leadership achievements. It is not that the content of his speech differed from what he had said on such occasions each year during the last nine years. For those citizens who actually listened to the address, they did not do so expecting to hear anything new. Instead, they continue to listen to Koroma as part of a laughing game. Some words and sentences are permanent features of his scripted speeches at this point. Words such as “thousands of jobs for the youth”, “a peaceful and democratic country”, “an economy with a double digit growth”, and “a country with a resilient people” have become staples of the presidential vocabulary in the last nine years.  People can write the bulk of Koroma’s speeches before he even gives them. For a decade, he has recycled the same tired phrases.

This year’s “independence day” speech was no different. Koroma said it would be his last “independence address” to the country. This was also not news either. Despite his unsuccessful antics and efforts during the last five years to subvert the presidential term limit and prolong his presidency, everyone, except for his noise makers, expects him to vacate the seat of power when his term expires less than a year from now.

There are, however, some strange and absurd claims made by Ernest Koroma in his “independence speech” this year.  Again, it is not that these strange claims were themselves actually unusual or out of character for the administration. The propaganda machine that produced them, however, has become so thin and bare, that their absurdity was obvious. This year, the president went beyond even his usual exaggeration and made too many lies and false claims in his effort to ascribe to himself accolades he does not deserve. The speech left numerous questions in its wake, all of which challenge the truth of what was stated.

While we are all aware that the president’s claims on jobs for the youth, the state of the economy, the health sector, and roads are not new, in this year’s speech, he took his “development propaganda” to a new place in the desert. He claimed to have “established three universities in just nine years”. And while propaganda from this president is expected, while there are many scripted claims from the development hymn sheet his supporters have choired all these nine years, this year’s claim of “newly established universities” went far beyond the margins of even the usual government propaganda that characterizes his leadership.

Where are the three universities that the president claimed to have established in the last nine years? This is the crucial question that formed the centerpiece of the social media discussion which broke into frenzied debate during the speech in order to interrogate the president’s truthfulness. Listeners especially challenged the president’s university claims.

In my own contribution to this discussion, I pointed out that the president’s claim on “newly established universities” is nothing but a complete lie on an Independence Day celebration. The fact is that Ernest Koroma did not build or establish any university in the country during the last nine years of his tenure. Was he actually referring to the University of Makeni (UNIMAK) and Malaysian-owned Limkokwing University campus in Freetown? These two institutions are neither owned by the state of Sierra Leone, nor are they semi-public educational institutions.

Limkokwing in Freetown is an extended campus of the Malaysian-based Limkokwing University. It is purely operating as a private educational institution. Similarly, UNIMAK is a catholic-owned private university. These two universities were not established by the government of Sierra Leone and are not owned and/or administered by government (as opposed to the University of Sierra Leone and Njala University, which actually have the president of Sierra Leone as their Chancellor).

The third institution that comes next in line here is the Makeni Teachers College, which was later named Northern Polytechnic. This is a teacher-training college and has never been a university. Quite recently, Ernest Koroma forcefully re-named this institution The Ernest Bai Koroma University. This was done despite the fact that the institution does not meet any of the required criteria to be named a university. Outside of its HTC Primary and Secondary certification programs, its recent Bachelor’s program in education (B.Ed.) is administered as an ad hoc program under Njala University.  How can a teacher training college, which cannot run an independent Bachelor’s program in education, be called an autonomous university? Is this not completely absurd?

The Sierra Leone Universities Act of 2005, which is the law that governs the establishment and administration of universities in the country, is clear on the question of university establishment and administration. It stipulates in Section 3(2) that “each institution specified in the (Act) in relation to the University of Sierra Leone or, as the case may be, to the Njala University, shall constitute a campus of the respective university, and any other institution stated in that schedule as constituting or incorporated with the institution concerned, shall cease to exist in its former name.” Based on this provision, therefore, the Northern Polytechnic or Makeni Teachers College (now forcefully named The Ernest Bai Koroma University), whose B.Ed. program is currently administered by Njala University, is technically a campus of Njala University in the north of the country. So the effort to re-name it as a separate university when it’s highest degree (the Bachelor in Education) is administered by Njala University runs completely against the provisions of the Universities Act of 2005, which is the law that governs the establishment and administration of universities in the country.

So the question still remains: where are the three universities that Ernest Koroma claimed to have established in the last nine years? If these are the institutions that the president actually referred to in his speech on April 27, then it is obvious that the head of state did, in fact, lie to his audience when we claimed to have established three universities. It is unfortunate that a speech, which is supposed to commemorate an “independence day” event, contained such barefaced lies about national development rehearsed by the “first gentleman” of the nation himself.

Despite these facts, a few noise-making supporters of the president are trying to stampede those critical of the president’s April 27th address to the nation.

Initially, they tried to argue that the president did not actually claim to have “established three new universities” but that he was allegedly making reference to the fact that the said institutions were “established during the nine years of his tenure as president”. They went even further to say that the president’s comments were, in fact, “we had established three universities in nine years” as opposed to “my government has established three universities in nine years.”

If we have to constrict the scope of this discussion to these very distinctions that the president’s noisemakers are now trying to advance, it is also too obvious that their efforts will still fail to set the president free from the entrapment of lying to the public on an Independence Day celebration. They have failed to understand that the problem itself rests on the president’s use of the collective pronoun “WE” when referring to the establishment of the universities in question (UNIMAK and Limkokwing).

It is the use of the collective pronoun “WE” that makes the president a claimant of the accolade for these institutions establishment. The collective pronoun “WE” is different from the pronoun “THEY”. By employing the use of “WE” when referring to UNIMAK and Limkokwing, the president wrongfully ascribed to himself the accolades for the establishment of the said private educational institutions. The collective pronoun “WE” would only have been appropriately employed if the president were a personal shareholder in the said institutions, or if the said institutions were actually owned or directly established by government. None of these situations apply in this case.

Another effort to defend the president’s statement also argued that whether the president is involved or not, the fact that these private institutions were established during his tenure makes him the owner of the credit for their establishment. The individual who advanced this argument said government is “the most powerful institution of the state” and must not be “grudged of the achievements that happen under its tenure.”

This is a sorry defense for the president’s Independence Day lie to the nation. Certainly, there are things that governments are given credit for.  These do not include credit for the private investments of individuals, or for the establishment of private corporations and limited liability companies owned by individuals and/or groups that are not part of the government’s organizational machinery. A private educational institution such as UNIMAK is a private investment in education by a catholic organization. It is not the same as Njala University or the University of Sierra Leone. To equate UNIMAK with University of Sierra Leone is no different than equating SIERRATEL with AFRICELL. There is certainly a difference between these two entities even though they are both involved in telecommunication.

The point is that Private corporations like Bollore Africa Logistics or SOCFIN are not within the same economic tangent as NASSIT or the NRA or SALWACO or EDSA. Private educational institutions, therefore, should not be lumped together with public investment in education. Governments only take credit for educational institutions that are public-owned and administered or funded. They do not take credit for private educational institutions that operate as educational businesses.

The fact is that governments have an obligatory mandate to provide economic and social development for their citizens. It is not a charity but an obligation. The credit for government policies that encourages private sector investments in education, health, mining, agriculture, and other such sectors of the economy are complimentary, but they are not part of the milestone public programs that are used in assessing a government’s scorecard on its social service delivery to the citizens.

The need to address the president’s university claims is crucial, because the president’s record on education is indicative of his failure to deliver fundamental social services to the people. In fact, the crumbling state of the country’s institutions of higher learning and the frightening speed with which educational standards have tumbled in the last nine years stand as one of the president’s greatest failures, especially to the youth of the country. Why have Njala University and the University of Sierra Leone become constant sites for industrial action in the last nine years? What happened to Njala University students who demonstrated recently against the closure of the university for a whole semester? Are all these examples not indicative of Koroma’s failure on education? What does it say about how our president cares for and prioritizes our youth when, despite the clearly dismal state of the nation’s university system, he has the audacity to claim progress is being made?

About a year ago, the London-based Economist Magazine reported that the University of Sierra Leone only has about eight university professors for a student population of eight thousand. Is this not a national disaster? How then can a government talk of establishing three additional universities in a country where the professoriate is almost non-existent?

These are the questions the president’s hero-worshippers and noisemakers must put to him. They must be bold enough to tell him that he lied to the country during his “Independence Day” speech. Anything less is an affront to the thousands of struggling students in this country.

 

 

 

 

 

From the Kangaroo Report to the Illegal Court’s Decision: Omissions, Erasures, and Silences

Capture

 

On 11th May 2015 a memo was delivered at my house inviting me to a meeting: “Invitation to a meeting with an appointment sub-committee to look into the renewal of appointment of Dr. Ibrahim Abdullah”. On receipt of the said memo, I called the registrar to clarify the real purpose of the meeting since my appointment has never been subjected to renewal since I started teaching in 2005. His response was that I am not a tenured faculty and that the committee will have to review my appointment and make recommendations regarding tenure.

The Kangaroo Committee’s report, which I was never given, revealed the real motive informing the alleged renewal of my appointment that the Dean himself considered unprecedented: it was the inauguration of the illegal process that would eventually culminate in my dismissal.

Titled “REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE TO INVESTIGATE THE RENEWAL OF THE APPOINTMENT OF DR IBRAHIM ABDULLAH” it went against all the rules and regulations on natural law and justice; and made mockery of what a real tenure assessment entails. There is nowhere in the world were an alleged tenure review is also an investigation!!!

To begin with, the idea of the Committee was unprecedented: Any action against a tenured faculty starts with a formal letter. This was never done. To subvert the laid down rules and regulations, Mr. Thompson, the Vice Chancellor, and Mr. Dumbuya, the Registrar, illegally claimed ex-cathedra that my appointment was not tenured. If that was indeed the case, why was I not subjected to an annual contract appointment? Why was I accorded all the trappings of a tenured faculty? Why was I promoted to the professorial cadre after an external assessment? In the interest of justice and fair play they should explain this anomaly to the general public.

How can a committee set-up to look into the renewal of my appointment become a committee to “investigate” my renewal? Can a renewal be “investigated”? If so, why so?

Mr. Thompson set-up the Committee and went to testify to the same committee as a witness. Is this in line with the natural justice that he claimed he applied in cases involving the university? He not only went to testify against me, he also lied to the committee: that he invited me to his office and that the committee should consider transferring my line to the political science department. I wrote a letter complaining about what the outgoing head of department did, and requested a meeting with Mr. Thompson. And I do have documentary evidence to back up my claim.
The report of the Kangaroo Committee was never officially given to me. Two copies of the report were leaked to me—from different sources at Tower Hill. I only knew about the report when I met Mr. Thompson on 26th January. He even asked me, feigning, if I have seen the report. Can he set-up a committee—to “investigate renewal”— and withhold the report from me?

My testimony to the committee was selectively used and the documents I submitted/tendered were NOT included in the appendix to the report. The Head of Departments’ handwritten one-page course outline, which is damaging to their case, was discarded. My course outline was also turned down. The claim in the report that I was “responding to the questions bothering (sic) on why the Head of Department decided not to recommend the renewal” of my appointment was concocted by the Committee. The Committee NEVER mentioned anything about what others have said about me. If they had mentioned that my response to their questions would have been completely different. (I turned down an invitation to a conference in China during the month of Ramadan and recommended the Head of Department but the Committee conveniently decided this was not important for the public to know).
Three previous encounters centered on professional misconduct—a veritable background to the surreal drama was deliberately amputated. In 2005/06 academic year I offered to jointly teach a first year class with Mr. Spencer. I did the course outline, bought books, and taught for two weeks. When it was his turn to teach he pitched twenty minutes late. When I enquired what the problem was his response was “ nar d system”. I reported the matter to the then Head of Department, who did nothing, and left him in charge. During the second semester a lecturer supervising a final honors dissertation allowed the student to turn in a final copy with close to 40% plagiarism. As the second reader of the said dissertation I brought the matter to the attention of the Head of Department and the student was asked to do a re-write. The student in question is now a lecturer in the law department. In 2006/07 academic year, the then Head of Department, Mr. Alie was apparently too busy with party politics and was constantly away—not attending lectures and not supervising student dissertation. When the dissertations were submitted to me I discovered that students had plagiarized: wholesale liftings! I told the Head of Department that the dissertations couldn’t pass. He pleaded with me to let them go but I refused and marched him to the then Vice-Chancellor, Mr. Gbakima. We were at Mr. Gbakima’s office when the then Principal of FBC, Mr. Redwood-Sawyer, barged in uninvited. I quietly told him to walk out because he was not invited to the meeting. His response was that I am not to tarnish the “reputation” of FBC and that he would never allow me to head the Department of History. In the end nothing substantial came out of the meeting: the dissertations were resubmitted and I was asked to check all the grades in the department. There was a lecturer who gave his wife an A when she was clearly not an A student. Another lecturer who had graduated the previous year with a bachelors was teaching a final year course in which 60% of the class had A’s. The latter was subsequently prosecuted in court for soliciting funds for grades and dismissed. The Kangaroo Report deliberately silenced this important background information.

The selectivity, omissions, and erasures in the Kangaroo Report were deliberate: the rationale was to present their case by suppressing my voice in the report. I was never given the opportunity to challenge the current Head of history Mr. Spencer’s outrageous claims—I did not even know about them— nor did the committee reveal any of the testimonies by those called in as witnesses. Yet Mr. Alie was privy to my testimony and was allowed to respond to them. Is this in line with the pursuit of justice? The injustice and lack of deference to procedural rules comes out clearly in the presentation and modus operandi of the committee. I was NEVER presented with any claim or accusations and even when I questioned the legality of the committee, they collectively feigned innocence in their attempt to appear impartial.
The outrageous claims presented by Mr. Spencer—refusal to teach; non-attendance at departmental meetings; treatment of students; attitude to messenger/visitors; etc.—were NEVER presented to me. They are baseless allegations solicited by Messrs. Thompson and Dumbuya. There is no documentary evidence or testimonies to back up any of these claims: minutes of departmental meetings; testimony from students; visitors; and messengers. Their sole “veracity” lies with the claimant making the claims. But the context demands that they be rejected. In the copy of the Kangaroo Report leaked to me, Mr. Thompson minuted: “Prof. Abdullah has now been queried. Let’s proceed from here. The relevant section of the Code of Conduct should be cited/referred to. Please direct Dr. Spencer”. And Mr. Dumbuya concurred: “I endorsed this”. Is this not a clear case of conspiracy to achieve their hidden but not so hidden objective?

The duplicitous manner of Messrs. Thompson and Dumbuya need some emphasis. The Kangaroo Report, which informs the illegal verdict of the court presented to the public, was doctored to serve their nefarious inclination. The Kangaroo Report does not reference “rudeness”; this was added to have the desired effect of discrediting me. The bulk of their outrageous claims are from Mr. Spencer’s letter. The said letter informed the committee that “ Abdullah suffers from deep pscho-social problems” and this should be taken into consideration when making a decision. But because this would appear too partial and damaging to their cause, it was omitted from the verdict presented to the illegal university court.

It is perfectly normal to ask the Head to write a letter, assuming this was really a tenure evaluation. But there is no faculty at USL whose current curriculum vita is available anywhere in the university’s creaky bureaucracy. If the Head has no access to my current curriculum vita, on what basis did he pen a letter against my so-called renewal of appointment? How did he evaluate my teaching? My research? And my service? He had virtually nothing to say about these three pillars—teaching, research and service—the raison d’etre of any functional academy. Yet his top of the head letter was accepted as the basis for an informed decision to convert my tenured position to a one-year appointment. To crown it all, there was NO EXTERNAL assessment—a sine qua non in any professional tenure review process.

To invite the Dean—who claimed he did not invite me to discuss the matter because he knew I wont come—as a witness, and the Principal—who did not reply /acknowledge my letter but then went on to urge me to teach a course without the relevant readings—is to stack the deck against me. This is anything but justice.

And the professional issues raised in my letter of November 2013, which mobilized Mr. Thompson’s accomplices on the Hill were shafted and silenced in the surreal drama of arbitrary power and lack of due process that has come to characterize this brazen illegality in our premier institution. How can a head of department solely review a department’s curriculum? Is this professional best practice? The previous Head, Mr. Alie, claimed he did review the syllabus, which one student rightly claimed is “older” than them. Instead of setting up a committee to look at the strength of the department and what it can offer and then review the curriculum and request the hiring of more faculty to press on with a graduate program, the so-called review only included two courses from me. Since the so-called review was undertaken, more than six years ago, and the committee report issued, virtually nothing has been done to right this ancient anomaly.

Mr. Thompson lied in the report that informed the university court’s verdict. His claim that he had to invite me to discuss the issue in the department is just that: a bogus claim. There is no difference between what the report that informed the court’s decision references as constituting the background and what he claimed informed his decision to roll out his plan to get me out. And he deliberately confuses the issues without anchoring his narrative on specific dates. I wrote my letter in November 2013 stating why I couldn’t teach a particular course because the course was “assigned” to me by the out-going head of the department—who had no basis for such an action—on the very day I was to start teaching. During 2014/15 academic year, the new head of the department, Mr. Spencer, “assigned” the same course to me to teach. When I informed him that I could not teach the said course because the country had been shut down due to Ebola and that I had no access to books, he wrote back to say I have “refused” to teach claiming “where there is a will there is a way”. It is this alleged “refusal” to teach without books that became the rallying banner for their cause to dismiss me. The university wants me to teach without books and relevant reading materials. I buy my books for all my courses and stock them in the library.
Mr. Thompson also lied in the three-page court verdict that he only suspended my salary after our meeting of 26th January. I do have documentary evidence to show that my salary was suspended effective 1st January 2016. The memo signed by his faithful subaltern Calvin Macauley reads: “approval has been obtained for Abdullah’s salary to be suspended with effect from 1st January 2016”. The elaborate explanation that Mr. Thompson spun on why he took this decision when the issue was not even broached in my meeting with him clearly reveals a duplicitous character at work: by any means necessary—fair or foul!

In their collective bid to get me out by any means necessary, the duo, Messers Thompson and Dumbuya, skirted the real issues about standards and excellence in academe. Instead they rode on a train of illegality—riding from one illegality to another—The Kangaroo Report deliberately silenced my voice while the summary presented to the University Court’s denied me a fair hearing. The Universities Act 2005 is explicit on such matters: “ No person shall be removed or suspended by the Court, during the period of the contract, in the exercise of powers conferred by these Statutes, unless he has been given a reasonable opportunity to defend himself”(10:3).

Ibrahim Abdullah
26 July 2016