The main opposition political party in Sierra Leone, the APC is set to meet another great political barrier and set back ahead of the 2022 Local Council and the 2023 parliamentary and Presidential elections due to the UNDEMOCRATIC constitution which was recently adopted as a result of a High Court order.
It must be remembered that the APC is the second oldest political party in Sierra Leone that has produced three heads of state since independence in 1961. Meanwhile, the APC remains one of the political parties with selection clause instead of election since 1995 Constitution. Even though the APC introduced the multiparty democratic Constitution; the 1991 Act No 6 Constitution of Sierra Leone, but yet the intra party politics has always been and remains undemocratic, despotic and intimidatory.
Unlike the Labour and Conservative in the UK, the Democrats and Republicans in the US where party members can challenge illegalities and unconstitutionalities. In the APC and under former President Koroma, the gut to challenge decisions is in just few who themselves are powerless and lack financial muscle to challenge President Koroma who is good at bribing members to sway his way and with a secure tool of divide and rule.
Quiet recently after the defeat of the APC by the SLPP in the 2018 Presidential Polls, reformists within the party challenged the autocratic and deceitful act of it’s leader and Chairman, former President Ernest Bai Koroma to open up the party and ensure democratic reforms. The NRM led that reform and it was later championed by one US based APCian Alfred Peter Conteh who took the party to court for better reforms. The court action by Conteh led to a variation request by the executive to adopt the new democratic constitution of the party. The Hight Court granted that and asked the Party to conduct a delegates elections with the aim of adopting the new constitution and to resolve ANY membership issues. After downplaying the initial court order, the executive led by the benevolent dictator former President Koroma openly told the world that the court didn’t make him chairman of his party APC and they court cannot direct the internal affairs of the party. As a dog will go back to it’s vomit, President Koroma and his stubborn Secretary General reluctantly conducted together with the hand twisted 21 Committee one limb of the court order; that is, ADOPT the Constitution and left out the other clearly stated limb of the court order; to RESOLVE ANY MEMBERSHIP ISSUE. The judge did say *SHALL in the Orders.
Note this; when statues and court orders say SHALL in law, it automatically creates a duty. When statutes or court orders say MAY, it’s gives power or exercise of discretion. So the APC party obeyed partly the court order and ignored the other aspects of it. Thomas Hobbes ones said, partial obedience is no obedience so adopting the Constitution without resolving the membership issues is a deliberate and blatant disobedience of the court order. One observer said; we are waiting to see how selective justice in Sierra Leone works and to see how few people can ignore a whole court order. One law for the less privileged and one law for the powerful.
If former President Koroma illegally and unconstitutionally sacked his VP without going through the Parliament and as stated in the Constitution and the court then agrees with him, if he can expelled his VP from the party without given him the opportunity to appeal his expulsion and the court did nothing, then we want to see how he will disregard a whole court order when he is not in power they remarked.
Even though they shouted above their voices and praised their new constitution as democratic, many observers and critics have concluded that the APC has just changed their undemocratic practice in another undemocratic format with a constitution that is far from the democratic aspirations of all Sierra Leoneans and even the national Constitution.
So from the selection clause to an unreasonable 5 year requirement for presidential candidate solely targeting one politician forgetting the fact that that provision has it downsides Lets take a look at the President of Peru Pedro Castillo, and the Free Peru National Party, the guy five years ago was a poor rural schoolteacher who because of his leadership acumen came to prominence after he led a trade union into action for better services for teachers and workers generally. If Free Peru was like APC, would Pedro lead?
Section 61(b) of the newly adopted Constitution has put a high lid in the requirement for flagbearer in APC. Many observers have argued that, it is not only against the spirit of democracy but also not in conformity with the national Constitution therefore it must be petitioned before the expiration of the 21 days.
Joseph Sannoh, the Director of Heal Sierra Leone and a disgraced former Member of the Board of National Telecommunication Commission has described the APC newly adopted Constitution as undemocratic and unacceptable. Mr Sannoh gave the following reasons why the APC Constitution must be petitioned when gazetted for 21 days. Sannoh has urged well meaning APCians and other concerned members of the public who care and concern about the democratic development of our country to step up and petition this bad and unjust law in Sierra Leone.
Proving Sannoh’s Assertion
When I saw the video of Sannoh and listened to his view on the matter, I didn’t condemn or accept his assertions just like that, instead, I visited several democratic countries and their political parties’ constitutions to ascertain the veracity of the argument of Sannoh and those within APC who believed section 61 (b) was brought in to target one politician instead of thinking about tomorrow and the democratic future of Sierra Leone. You don’t make the law for a particular person they say but for all members and should stand the test of times.
1. Mr Sannoh argued that, the five year period is undemocratic and will affect potential leaders who will emerge at a crucial time to lead and help the masses and the country as it recently happened in Peru.
2. Sannoh believes that when the five year membership is allowed, the five year term limit will successful replace the selection clause and the APC will remain the same undemocratic party and without conformity with the national Constitution. With this 5 year criterion, wicked and heartless leaders like Ernest Bai Koroma will frequently suspend and expel potential opponents and they will come and start again as a new member. This is the trap Sannoh and others have seen and it is clear that it is another clever maneuver to stifle others and the entire electioneering processes of Presidential candidates.
Looking at countries in African with democratic dispensation and constitutions, I cannot say I agree with Saanoh directly but I think the clause is not helpful and badly needs amendment.
I patiently looked at the Constitution of the National Democratic Congress(NDC) and the Constitution of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in Ghana, the Constitution of the Botswana Congress Party, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and several other constitutions of political parties in countries where political power has changed hands from opposition to ruling and from ruling party to opposition three or more times. None of those countries have such requirements. The only country that has such draconic measures is Haiti and Wyclef in 2010 was barred from contesting the presidency because of the five year residency requirement by the National Constitution not a political party. This provision was presumably brought in to disenfranchise one presidential candidate thereby tainting the democratic image of APC and our country.
Other Views That Agreed with Joseph Saanoh and Why the APC New Constitution Must be Petitioned
From the Facebook pages and the WhatsApp groups, many seem to abuse and disgrace Sannoh for his take on the newly adopted APC Constitution probably because he is not an APC member but let’s look at what other prominent political writers have said about such clause in the APC Constitution.
1. Scarrow. In his popular publication on party politics, he said this. The quality of candidates selected determines not only the party’s politics during elections but also influence either the direction of the party or government in terms of policy choices (Scarrow 2006, p 7. Lundell 2004, page 26). Before you argue further, please research and read before you continue to abuse Sannoh. So if we allow such clause, it will not only affect the very APC members in the near future but will allow other dictators to use that Constitution and expel even sitting President and that will impact on every Sierra Leonean like Sannoh. It is Sannoh’s right and every other citizen because when President Koroma abused our Constitution by sacking his VP, it was the business of every Sierra Leonean at home and abroad. Did you remember the protests against him in the US and UK when he sacked out VP?.
2. Bille. A party can hardly be classified democratic if it’s organizational structure lacks mechanisms for civic participation and influence(Bille, 2001, p 364) . Sannoh seems to be right, just look at the way Chief Sam Sumana is treated?. Is that democratic? Is that how the law should work? Is that how party officials should behave? APC must be tamed through the court.
3.Lastly, Candidate selection is an important activity in the life of any political party. It is the primary screening device in the process through which party in public office is reproduced. (Katz 2001, p 227).
This writer believes, the court should help the democratisation processes by standing the way of this newly APC undemocratic constitution not to become law in this country with high democratic benchmarks now.
Sannoh’s view must be looked at with patriotic eye and those in APC who desire for a Democratic party must join Alfred Peter Conteh to clean up the APC