On the re-opening of SLPP Office … “We would never encourage violence” John Benjamin...

Sierra Leone News: Flash Back On the year 2017

If we invert Koekgaad’s proposition, “Life is lived forward, but understood backwards” In our case in Sierra Leone we owe so much to the year 2017 which has just ended. This is obvious because the election we are having in two months this year actually had its agenda set last year 2017. It was in 2017 Civil Society made sure that all the designs of the “Grand Plan” was systematically thwarted and maimed permanently.
A political figure whose prominence had gained ground by January 2017 was Kamaraimba. He started organizing Press Conferences. For quite a while this guy gave the Government and main opposition a run for their money with evidence based allegations that made people feel perhaps Sierra Leone was on the verge of producing a real third force. His ADP contested a few bye elections here and there in both the APC and SLPP strongholds and firmly established himself as a threat. However today many are doubting whether he will not be simply another name-sake who abandoned his party and joined the ruling APC.
This same January last year the SLPP continued their internal tussle which started over 6 to 7 years ago. It came to the height when some senior members left the party. They have however moved on.
By end of January, after some three years the Constitution Review Committee had presented its final report to President Koroma. The Government White Paper on the Recommendations of the Report came out in October 2017.rejected some 75% of the recommendations.
The Month of February ushered in peace overtures for the Sierra Leone People’s Party after meetings at their Unity Party. The aspiring Flag bearers and members Marched to the Freetown Cotton Tree in readiness of their willingness for peace once and for all. Although many people remained skeptical about peace in the SLPP, the occasion was a step in the right direction and it was given the publicity it deserved.
In this same February Civil Society, led by the National Election Watch intensified its campaign for the election date to be announced. Many had fears that elections may not hold within the statutory time. The main reason for people’s apprehension was because of several attempts to prolong the stay in power of the government through the “After U Nar U”, “Third Term” and “More Time’ gimmicks which were all systematically opposed and thwarted. A major issue at the time was why the extension of the election date beyond February 23, 2018 which could have been the real date instead of the announced March 7, 2018. However Civil Society piped down, at least a date was announced. The PPRC remained handicapped since the erstwhile Chair passed away in December 2016. New Chair of the PPRC Justice Patrick Hamilton was approved by Parliament, after a five-month lull without a chair.
Government was also keeping the referendum on the Constitution issue on the table and Civil society and the UN systems felt there should not be any extra activities that should derail the electoral time-table.
Amnesty International released its report pointing out lapses in Sierra Leone’s human rights record. The Ministry of Information and Education dismissed the report as rubbish.
The month of March proved to be another month of action. Parliament passed the Provinces Act (cap 60) of 2017 creating 1 additional region and 2 Districts. This was interpreted by Civil Society as part of the “Grand Plan” to delay the elections and prolong the term of the current government. This happened well after NEC had done the boundary delimitation for constituencies and wards. This meant the exercise was going to be redone. Coupled with this was the Government’s determination to de-amalgamate the amalgamated chiefdoms mainly in the North of the country.
After a very long time, a most celebrated 709 carat Diamond was found by Rev. Aiah Momoh in Kono. It was handed over to government. This diamond generated many controversies bordering on initially the ownership and then the cost and the seeming delay in selling it. It was finally sold in the US for around 6 million US Dollars, a lower price than what was offered at the bidding earlier in Sierra Leone. On March 23, students of Njala University demonstrated outside the residence of President Koroma. They were later dispersed by the police. This strike was also simultaneously put Bo city under siege, disrupting the ongoing registration. The Njala Lecturers resumed work after 95 days of strike action.
On the Human Development Index for 2016, Sierra Leone gained two places from 181 to 179. We still stayed at the bottom rung. Also Sierra Leone was in bottom 5 of the Health Governance Capacity Index. In the area of poverty, it was revealed that 52.9% of the Sierra Leone Population lives under the poverty line according to a UN report.
In April the Sierra Leone Correctional Service revealed that although the Pademba Road center was made for 324 inmates, it was actually holding 1,897. The registration exercise rounded off and it was disclosed that a total of 3,128,967 registered for the March 7, 2018 elections.
In May Sierra Leone was ranked7 in West Africa in Press freedom and 17 in Africa by the Reporters Without Borders on the Press Freedom Index.
The people of Freetown, especially those in the eastern part had a very rude shock when the first ever daylight armed robbery took place in Mercury’s Sub-office in Wellington. In the police raid following many of the robbers lost their lives.
WAEC conducted the National Primary School Examinations. Some centers did not have enough question papers. Three to 5 pupils had to share one question paper in some instances. This received heavy public bashing. In this same May scandal hit FBC and IPAM as a law student who was also a Lecturer at IPAM was caught spying while taking the Constitutional Law Paper.
In June ADP’s Kamaraimba was arrested and taken to Daru to face 2 count charges of being in possession of high voltage stun gun in his car during the Segwema Bye Elections.
Sierra Leone and Ghana were ranked the most peaceful countries in West Africa. 2017 global Peace Index placed Sierra Leone 3rd most peaceful country in Africa.
The Sierra Leone Fire Force told the nation that their outfit had a total of 19 fire engines, 298 Hydrants but only 10 were functional with long distances between them.
On August 14 disaster struck in Sierra Leone. Mudslide and flooding from Mount Sugar loaf. Following hard-hitting diatribe against the moslim cleric Mufti by Pastor Ajasafe, the later was arrested and placed in protective custody as anger at his statements were seen as having the potential to start anti- Christian feelings. Pastor Ajasafe church was also suspended across the country for the safety of the congregation. On his face book page, Mufti had this to say, “If someone says or does something that upsets you, don’t take it to heart. It is hard but it’s for your own peace of mind, just forgive.1”
November was very interesting as the SLPP Publicity secretary who was to be taken to court from the Pademba Road Correctional Center could not go to court because of the non availability of staff and vehicle. Still in November the Social Welfare Minister Sylvia and Deputy Rugiatu were sacked and Madam Isata Kabia was appointed Minister. The ECOWAS court ruled in favor of former Vice president Sam Sumana. Sierra Leone Government asked to pay all the salaries and other emoluments due him.
The year 2017 was rounded off with the Western Rural Village Head Elections. There were logistical inadequacies that caused some polling stations not to hold elections that day.
Generally 2017 set a lot of pace for 2018 especially in the political arena zeroing in on the March 7, 2018 elections.
By Ben Cambayma
Tuesday January 09, 2018.

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