The campaign trail for the next President of the Sierra Leone Bar Association is heating up. For the first time in recent history, we are seeing candidates discuss issues, lay out their plans. It really is welcome news. But there hangs a dark cloud. A conversation being held amongst lawyers who are the only constituency for this election.

One of the 3 candidates for President, Augustine Sorie-Senge Marrah, seems to have two personalities. In one hand, you have this civil society activist, who is known for critique on twitter; disturbingly also, you have this same Augustine Marrah that has a history of clashes with legal authorities especially when decisions appear not in his favour; whether it is a conviction for contempt or a strained relationship with the police, his candidacy raises some eyebrows. A civil society activist or someone who doesn’t have regard for the profession and professionals he wants to lead? These issue raise serious concerns about his suitability for the presidency, his dedication to maintaining legal standards and unify the deeply polarized membership.

Marrah’s contempt conviction, which stems from his social media critique of a Supreme Court decision, brings into question his ability to consistently maintain professional standards. As someone who doesn’t appear to be measured in his approach when challenging judicial authority, his leadership style must be looked at more closely. The bar, with claims of raising standards, reclaiming and your voice, it would seem like his approach doesn’t resonate with his theme or the theme of his opponents. He appears to be provocative and his approach to the judiciary could potentially undermine the Bar Association’s credibility and respect for legal processes.

Senge Marrah’s confrontations with the police, notably his arrest during the 2018 general elections, suggest a contentious approach that may hinder effective collaboration with law enforcement agencies. Senge Marrah needs to assure his constituents that he will take a departure from his previous ways; which consisted of flagrant disregard for judiciary protocols, disregard for his colleagues and has raised doubts about his ability to work constructively and collaboratively within the legal system.

Additionally, Senge Marrah’s public criticisms of judicial decisions, including those of the Supreme Court, may erode public trust in the legal system’s impartiality. Such actions could potentially damage the Bar Association’s reputation and its role in upholding the rule of law.

Also many observers continue to question his maturity as a video of him walking on the Supreme Court desk left many dumbfounded. Marrah in a recent radio interview stated that he has apologised for this unfitting behaviour but many continue to wonder how sincere this apology is and whether he has the temperament and emotional maturity to lead such a distinguished association. He would be the first bar association president in Africa to be seen walking on a Supreme Court desk in such an infantile manner. Quite an undistinguished feat.

As members think about who to vote for as the next Bar Association president, they must consider whether Marrah’s confrontational history aligns with the legal profession’s values and current state. Can he effectively lead the Bar Association and maintain its integrity? Yes, the bar needs to be reclaimed, but the standards must also be raised so that trust is gained and there is a fair sense of balance, recognizing the diversity of the bar, diversity of opinions, but ensuring a cohesiveness and collaborative spirit despite differences. Can Senge Marah bring this very fragmented Bar Association together?

He has said that there should be no space for lawyers who are also members of political parties from serving the association. This raises questiona to his inclusiveness as a leader and poses serious questions with regard to the guaranteed constitutional right to freedom of association; quite surprising and revealing from someone who claims to be a disciple of constitutionality and human rights to want to trample on the constitutionsl rights of others. These are crucial questions that demand careful consideration from all members, but also clarification from Senge Marah himself. We await his response.

Word to the wise – Not all that glitters is gold. So vote wisely.