Opposition in disarray as government poises for Bintumani III

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Secretary General of the All People’s Congress (APC) party, Osman Foday Yansanneh says the party will put out an official message today to entrench their position of not attending the Bintumani Conference which commences on Thursday May 23rd, this year through Saturday May 25.

It came from a meeting held at the APC party headquarters in Freetown on Tuesday May 21 when the highest decision making body, the National Advisory Council (NAC) unanimously agreed to boycott the Peace and National Cohesion Conference. Reasons advanced for this include not consulting them in preparing the schedules for the conference, not given enough time to prepare and especially the party took a swipe at the fact that 10 of their members were invited but nowhere did it indicate they would make statements in the proposed conference.

According to APC members, Bintumani III is a political gimmick by the ruling SLPP to create the impression that peace and unity has returned to the country when in real fact, the opposition continues to suffer in the hands of the ruling party.

These members and supporters say, there is no way they are going to participate in such conference when the findings and recommendations of the cross-party committee on post-election violence have not been looked into by the government. “Since our party lost the March 2018 presidential run-off elections to the SLPP, our people have been subjected to constant intimidation and human rights abuses,” fumed some irate APC MPs.

They further accused President Bio of being a tyrant and a dictator who they alleged is governing the country by what they described as “divide and rule system,” thereby plunging the country into chaotic state overshadowed by tribalism and regionalism.

In that light, APC party sources have it that they took a foregone conclusion of not taking part as their presence would mean nothing in their own estimations.

The government has reacted to this news and slammed the opposition’s outcome as derogatory to the dreams of establishing a future Peace and National Cohesion Commission as the chronicles of the Bintumani III would be vital in ensuring lasting peace and tranquility in the country.

The conference, according to government, provides the platform for different political players to meet and voice out issues that are seriously affecting the masses in their communities and how to redress them.

It is reported that former President Koroma had given his consent to be a part of the proposed conference when he was informed officially about the conference, only a fortnight ago to change position in line with his party.

Pundits have argued at lengths as to the merits of the issue but the government is going ahead with schedules of the conference –with the adverts of Bintumani flying top. Leader and Presidential flag-bearer of the National Grand Coalition (NGC), Alhaji Kandeh Kolleh Yumkell reportedly critiqued the naming of the Peace and National Cohesion conference Bintumani III, given the concept and centrality of purpose which the conference serves.

Many questioned why a peace and national cohesion conference at this time when the government had commissioned the Commission of Inquiry, and the High Court of Sierra Leone is hearing election petition cases following the outcome of the March 2018 elections and the recent walked-out by APC parliamentarians in the well of parliament speaks to the lack of respect and regard for Bio’s presidency.

The government in responding to this, allayed the fears in minds of some citizens that: the conference not going to water-down the outcomes of the current COI and court matters. Reporting by Abu Bakarr Sulaiman Tarawally, in Freetown


What you need to know about Bintumani III

Bintumani is the name of Sierra Leone’s tallest mountain but it is also the name given to a conference of citizens that has happened twice before. Bintumani I was the first of such events and it was a demand by citizens for the National Provisionary Ruling Council (NPRC) administration to negotiate peace with members of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) because citizens by then had lost faith in the junta’s capacity to end the war.

Bintumani II was held when citizens demanded a multi-party general election, election before peace overextended military rule. Bintumani III is a national dialogue conference on democratic consolidation for peace and national cohesion scheduled for the 23 – 25 May.

Now that we have an idea about the Bintumani III, the major question on many Sierra Leoneans lips is “Is this really necessary”? Is the time right for such conferences? According to Thomas Dixon a writer from the New Age Newspaper, “Sierra Leone has seen legions of conferences from the pre-independence era when Sir Milton formed a bipartisan front to the recent constitutional review committee that was set by the recent past President Koroma, little or nothing has been implemented.” So far there has been a lot of debate and controversy about Bintumani III, majorly due to the fact that many don’t know what it entails or some just don’t think the country is ready yet for another conference due to a number of failed conferences as stated by Dixon. But according to Hon. Habib Bakarr Munda from the Sierra Leone Telegraph the conference is worth a try as the two previous editions have been a success. Citizens according to him after the fifth democratic general elections and peaceful transfer of power from one civilian government to the other, for certain reform measures, in order to strengthen the democratic governance arrangement systems, transparency and accountability, rule of law, property rights, constitutional reform, electoral system, women’s right, youth empowerment, and the decade-old chieftaincy norms that can suit the current demands and trends of the society And to achieve this he says, “I hold a strong view that, Sierra Leoneans should give Bintumani Three conference a chance. This will enable us all as a country and people to evolve through the required stages and processes of democratic and good governance pathways.”

The Bintumani III continues to be surrounded by controversy as Former Vice President Chief Sam Sumana decline an invitation to moderate a session at the Bintumani III conference scheduled for the 23 – 25 May which is less than 4 days to go Chief Sam Sumana.

Former Vice President Chief Samuel Sam-Sumana

The Green paper states that it is important if the Commission is to be accepted as a truly national institution, that its full establishment is preceded by a National Conference on peacebuilding, diversity management and rebuilding of national cohesion, as tentatively proposed by His Excellency President Bio during his first address to Parliament. This National Conference, which must bring together all major stakeholders in the country, should provide a platform for frank and open discussions of political events from the elections of 2007, and should focus on generating dialogue and ideas around making the political, economic and governance systems in Sierra Leone more inclusive, accountable, and fair. The underlying principle of the National Conference, as for the Commission itself, must be the need for inclusive governance, political tolerance and fair play. The Conference should examine steps that can be taken to ensure greater openness of the democratic space, greater tolerance of political diversity and more inclusive governance. The discussions at the Conference will include examining the winner-takes-all system upon which the political system in Sierra Leone is based, and participants will be urged to suggest solutions to many of the problems that this system has created or enhanced, including ethnic-regional politics and electoral violence and rigging.

The National Conference should also discuss the rights of dual citizens and Sierra Leoneans resident abroad to participate in the country’s politics; the role of the Sierra Leone Police Force as a neutral law enforcement agency during elections; the role of the judiciary as an arbiter of electoral and other political dispute; the role of traditional leaders in electoral politics in cross-party dialogue; the role of the Mass Media in advancing civil political discourses free of ‘tribalism’ or regionalism ; the Role of Parliament; and all other factors and measures that would enhance greater democratization, openness, political tolerance, and justice and respect for the human rights of every citizen.

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Abu Bakarr Tarawally is a Journalist based in Freetown. He works for the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation as a radio producer. He has once served as Editor for a few newspapers in Freetown, including Sierra Express Media, The Exclusive Newspaper and his own newspaper, the Daily Express Publications. He is a teacher trainer, and loves writing and reading a lot. Email: abstarawally@gmail.com. Call +232 88601277 or +2327661303.

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