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How and Why I endorse Julius Maada Bio for President? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw, Senior Lecturer in Media and Politics, Northumbria University, UK   
Monday, 16 October 2017 12:24

I have

I have endorsed Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio for the SLPP presidential ticket in the March 7 2018 elections because I strongly believe in his project and ability to succeed as our next president if given the opportunity.  Perhaps I need to provide  some context as to how, when and why I took this decision.

Maada Bio is the second presidential candidate I have ever endorsed in Sierra Leone. The first was late president TejanKabbah during the campaigns in the 1996 general elections, which he won. I was then publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Expo Times, which won the best-selling newspaper award from the National Vendors Association that year. At the time, my newspaper was the largest circulation and most widely read newspaper in the country and my nearest competitors were For Di People and Concord Times. When the presidential election campaigns became heated and the battle lines were clearly drawn with the three front-runners, TejanKabbah of the SLPP, Karefa-Smart of the UNPP, and Thaimu Bangura of PDP (SORBEH), For Di People declared for and endorsed Karefa-Smart and the UNPP while Concord Times declared for and endorsed Thaimu Bangura and the PDP. Dr Prince Harding and Banda-Thomas then approached me to endorse and help TejanKabbah of the SLPP, who was then the clear frontrunner according to Opinion polls, to win the elections. 

Why TejanKabbah, and not Karefa-Smart and Thaimu Bangura

It was a very difficult decision to make at the time, not least because my newspaper had gained the trust of majority of people as the most fearless independent newspaper in the country. Another challenge was that my editorial team was split along the three main front- runners; most favoured Karefa-Smart while others favoured Thaimu Bangura, and only my deputy editor LansGberie and I clearly favoured  TejanKabbah for the presidency. Probably because of the fact that I was born and raised in Kenema, a very strong hold of the SLPP, I was inclined to support TejanKabbah and his SLPP project. Moreover, I was convinced that he was having the best campaign in terms of his vision for the country, especially in pushing through the on-going 1996 Abidjan Peace Accord, which was initiated by the NPRC junta then led by Maada Bio. I was particularly convinced that TejanKabbah would push through the Abidjan peace process because he was, before running for the presidency, the Chairman of the Advisory Committee of the NPRC, which initiated it in the first place.  As most of those who were following developments in the country would remember, my newspaper was in the forefront of those calling for a peaceful resolution of the Sierra Leone civil war, which was only benefiting the rebels and those selling weapons to them and the government troops. I clearly saw TejanKabbah and the SLPP representing my vision to push for peace and development in the country. Because of all this, I threw my weight and that of my newspaper behind TejanKabbah. However, I made one promise to Dr Prince Harding and Banda Thomas:  that I was going to do my best to use my newspaper to defend the case for Kabbah’s bid for the presidency and mobilise support for him among our readers on one condition that if Kabbah won the election we would celebrate together and give his government six months of breathing space after which we would go back to our editorial independence.  After all, as is the case even in developed democracies, it is normal for a newspaper to take a position during national elections and then revert to its neutral position after the settling of the political dust; and so we were not acting out of tune with our responsibilities as journalists. Therefore, this was how and why I decided to use my newspaper to endorse TejanKabbah and help him and the SLPP in the campaign to win the 1996 elections.  After the elections, I remember that things initially went very well between my newspaper and the government. I was even given a  VIP invitation by Banda Thomas to attend the SLPP victory dinner and dance at Cape Sierra Hotel and Dr Prince Harding following his appointment as Minister of Mines regularly visited me in my office at Short street.

Things Fall Apart!

However, things started to go bad between my newspaper and the Kabbah government when, after its first six months in power, we conducted a street vox pop about its performance, especially in the area of pushing the peaceful negotiations of the country’s conflict inherited from the NPRC government, in which the overall opinion was below average. The government appeared to be a bit sluggish in pushing the Abidjan Peace Accord and this made the RUF rebels to renew their offensive and cause havoc in many parts of the country. It was like the democracy, which we had hoped would create the atmosphere needed to deliver the peace, was failing us. Within a very short time, since the coming to power of the TejanKabbah government, I suffered persecution twice.  The first involving a court matter with an American businessman who was then supported by some top government ministers, which led to my deputy editor and I spending a week end in Pademba road prisons because Magistrate Noami Tunis who was to sign our bail papers left her office earlier than expected on a Friday. The second involving Inspector General of the police Siaffa sending police to raid my office in search of what they called a computer stolen from Sierra Rutile. Both cases came to nothing; the first, which was a libel, was kicked out of court because there was no case to answer while the second was simply dismissed for lack of evidence. It turned out that the idea was just to harass me to stop exposing the weaknesses of the Kabbah government, especially in pushing the peace process.  I suffered the worst persecution in the hands of the Kabbah government when my two assistant editors GibrilGbanabomeKoroma(now editor and publisher of the Canada-based online newspaper, Patriotic Vanguard) and Charles Roberts and I were arrested and put in Pademba Road prison for almost a month  in 1997. We were charged with seditious libel and spying for the enemy (the first and only time journalists were charged with such treasonable offence) for publishing an opinion article written by the former criticising the arrest of RUF rebel leader FodaySankoh by the then Nigerian military leader Sani Abacha and spelling out how this would undermine the on-going Abidjan Peace Accord. We were refused bail five times during our detention and we were only released on bail after we went on hunger strike for three days and following international pressure.   This was too much and we certainly did not deserve all these treatments from Kabbah’s SLPP government given the role that my newspaper played in their election victory. But the worst was yet to come. Following the AFRC junta coup in May 1997, which forced the Kabbah government into exile in Guinea Conakry, which put on hold our ongoing trial while on bail, I was branded collaborator of the junta, which was not true.   When the AFRC junta was removed by ECOMOG and Kabbah’s government reinstalled in 1998, I was forced into exile because my name was on a death list of so-called junta collaborators circulated by vigilantes and militias of the newly reinstalled Kabbah government. 

How and Why I Embraced the APC?

 I only returned from exile in 2007 following the change of government with APC’s president Koroma coming to power. Because I was clearly bitter with the SLPP government after all the harsh treatment my colleagues and I suffered in their hands I decided to turn my back on them and embrace the new APC government which gave me hope and allowed me to once again return to my country. I even went to the extent of registering with the APC party and became the Bristol branch publicity secretary for about a year.

Enter Maada Bio!

However, the turning point came when three years ago, following a series of meetings, I was approached by Maada Bio to join his PAOPA project core team in preparation for the next general elections.  It was a very difficult situation, after considering all the harassment and persecution I suffered in the hands of the SLPP, which I clearly did not deserve, given all what I did for the party to get to power in 1996.  Yet, I must say, it was really difficult to resist Maada Bio’s very warm, comforting, and reconciliatory words while trying to  kindly and calmly ask me to put the past behind me and work with him to implement our dreams for a more peaceful and better Sierra Leone. Moreover, when I looked at Maada Bio’s track record as the NPRC junta leader who actually initiated the 1996 Abidjan Peace Accord, which my newspaper openly endorsed and defended, albeit at a prize of many rounds of persecution, and the fact that he openly demonstrated his love for a peaceful and developed Sierra Leone by accepting democracy before peace in line with the wishes of the people expressed in the historic Bintumani conference even when he and his NPRC junta clearly favoured the later, I quickly realised that I actually shared his  vision for a peaceful and developed Sierra Leone. I must  say that I was really impressed by Maada Bio’s patriotism and democratic credentials when he accepted the wishes of the people to hand over power after serving just three months as leader of the NPRC junta following the palace coup against Captain Strasser. I also admired his courage and determination by working hard to add value to himself by pursuing further education to the level of Masters in the USA and most recently a PhD programme in the UK. His position is further strengthened by the experience he gained in his first shot at the presidency in the last elections in 2012, where he did very well by polling about 38% of the overall votes, coming against a then still relatively popular incumbent President Koroma. In contrast to what some critics have been saying about Maada Bio’s determination to still run for the SLPP flagbearer for the country’s top job, I believe that is a strength rather than a weakness.  I think that he stands a better chance than all the other candidates do because he already has a political base and all he really needs to do, if given the opportunity, is to build on that to cross the finishing line in the next elections.   All this put together has convinced me that Maada has prepared himself very well and is more than ready to serve our country once again, this time in a much better and stronger position. After accepting to support and work with him three years ago I straight way registered as a member of the SLPP and I have since been working hard with others in the UK and elsewhere to provide support and advice where necessary.  I also like the way he has handled the tensions and egos within the SLPP leading to the recent very successful SLPP party convention in Kenema.  I strongly believe that Maada is capable of replicating this magnanimity if given the opportunity to lead Sierra Leone. I also commend  the newly elected SLPP Chairman, Dr Prince Harding, and the rest of the new SLPP executive for working so hard to reach out to everybody in the party, including those who lost the election and their supporters, since the Kenema convention. What the party needs most at this crucial time is unity and so I would encourage the new NEC to expand their outreach efforts to include even those who have left the party because of differences in opinions and approaches, and those who are still in the party but not completely engaged with the ongoing processes and activities of the party moving forward.  It is normal in politics for people to disagree on issues and approaches but it is always better to find ways and means of resolving these differences from within rather than from without in the interest of the unity of the party which is needed to put up a good show in the next elections. It is in this spirit that I raise my hat to all the other SLPP presidential flagbearers who have decided to weather the storm and stay in the contest, as well as those who have withdrawn from the race for personal reasons but are still strongly in the party. I commend their efforts for putting the unity and overall interest of the SLPP above their personal interests.




26th IPRA Conference in Sierra Leone Ends on a High Note

The International Peace Research Association (IPRA) successfully held its 26th General Conference on ‘Agenda for Peace and Development: Conflict Prevention, Post-Conflict Transformation, and the Conflict, Disaster Risk and Sustainable Development Debate’ in collaboration with the 10TH Dealing With Disasters Series, Northumbria University (UK)and Sakarya University (Turkey) and  the University of  Sierra Leone at the Bintumani Conference Centre in Freetown, Sierra Leone from November 27 to 1st December 2016.


Business News

Managing Director of Rokel Commercial Bank, speaks to The Worldfolio about the investment opportunities in Sierra Leone

John D. Okrafo-Smart, Managing Director of Rokel Commercial Bank, speaks to The Worldfolio about the investment opportunities in Sierra Leone and gives his insight into the banking landscape.

Excerpts shared by Sheriff Mahmud Ismail

The Government of Sierra Leone is placing great priority in improving the business climate, enhancing infrastructure and support to private sector development. In line with the government focus, the Central Bank is targeting price stability in support of economic recovery, enhancing monetary policy instruments and liquidity management and also limiting intervention in the foreign exchange market, which will be important to preserve foreign exchange reserves.

The above measures will help in the strengthening of the banking system to support financial intermediation. Commercial banks are thus poised to benefit and take advantage of the improved economic and business environment by offering better services to their customers, including loans and overdrafts and forex to import, thereby creating wealth and boosting government revenue.


Media News

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Over the three-month period, a total of 47 violations were recorded as against 14 violations for the last quarter (October-December) of 2016. The violations recorded in the quarter under review range from arrests and detentions to physical attacks, online violations, shutdown of media houses, censorship, seizure and destruction of property and killings. The 47 violations occurred in 10 out of the 16 countries in West Africa.




Dr. Tam Baryoh’s Only Crime!

Boris Johnson as a Journalist worked at The Times and Daily Telegraph newspapers. He edited The Spectator newspaper between 1999 and 2006. He was Member of Parliament for Henley from 2001 to 2008 and was also Mayor of London. He is a member of the Conservative Party and the current UK Foreign Secretary.

Nnamdi Azikiwe was to serve as the first president of independent Nigeria from 1963 to 1966. He opened and edited a number of newspapers in Ghana and Nigeria and later became an active politician. Obafemi Awolowo was a great Nigerian politician. He also was an active journalist and edited The Nigerian Worker, amongst other publications.

There is a clear link between politics and journalism though, there seems to be a very thin boundary, or perhaps, “a reflective door in the firewall, such that with time, politicians and journalists cross the line changing roles and moving from side to side,” argues Aminat Afolabi in a piece, titled ‘Politics and Journalism, the Interwoven Relationship between Them.”


View Point

The APC Convention: A political façade, if not a joke!

Thanks to AYV partnered by AFCOM, I was able to followthe live coverage of the APC and SLPP conventions on my mobile phone from my base in the UK.It was good that both conventions took place simultaneously last week end (October 15-16, 2017) because, at the very least, it provided the opportunity to those keenly following the two historic events to compare and contrast them, not least in terms of democratic processes and procedures. Let me start by talking about how I saw the APC convention held in Makeni, then compare,and contrast it with what I saw at the SLPP convention held in Freetown.


News - Press Release

EU Election Exploratory Mission meets Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

(MFAIC Press Office, 18th October, 2017). The European Union Election Exploratory Mission to Sierra Leone led by Head of European Union Delegation to Sierra Leone, H.E. Tom Vens has paid a working visit to the Minister, Dr. Samura M.W. Kamara and Senior Management Staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, at the Ministry’s office in Tower Hill, Freetown.

Ambassador Tom Vens stated that the EU Election Exploratory Mission is in Sierra Leone following an invitation by the Government of Sierra Leone for EU Electoral assistance, and to further discuss the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in facilitating EU Observer Mission for the March 2018 elections in the country. The EU Election Exploratory Missionas part of its mandate is in the country to draft and finalise the MOU with the Government of Sierra Leone through the Foreign Ministry.


Society -Local News

The State of World Population 2017: Unchecked inequality and failure to protect the rights of poorest women could undermine peace and world’s development goals, new UNFPA report warns

• Only about half of the world’s women hold paid jobs

• Globally, women earn 77 per cent of what men get

• Three in five women worldwide lack maternity leave, many pay “motherhood penalty”

Freetown, SIERRA LEONE, 17 October 2017-Unless inequality is urgently tackled and the poorest women empowered to make their own decisions about their lives, countries could face unrest and threats to peace and development, according the The State of World Population 2017, published today by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

The costs of inequalities, including in sexual and reproductive health and rights, could extend to the entire global community’s goals, adds the new UNFPA report, entitled, “Worlds Apart: Reproductive Health and Rights in an Age of Inequality.”



U.S. Ambassador launches National Early Warning Systems Project, funded by USAID

On Wednesday, October 18, U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Maria E. Brewer, announced the official launch of the USAID West Africa-funded “Mitigating Election Violence through National Early Warning Systems” (NEWS) project and the inauguration of the National Elections Response Group in Sierra Leone.

Supported by $500,000 from USAID, NEWS is implemented by the West African Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) in Sierra Leone. The focus is to monitor and identify potential electoral violence triggers and assist government and non-government organizations in Sierra Leone to better mitigate them.
The National Elections Response Group (NERG) is a partnership under the NEWS project, between WANEP, the Inter-Religious Council, the Campaign for Good Governance, government stakeholders, representatives from the National Electoral Commission, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Office of National Security (ONS) and a number of civil society organizations.

The primary objective of the National Elections Response Group (NERG) is to monitor the elections environment, develop, and recommend strategies and actions to relevant stakeholders with authority to implement necessary response actions to prevent escalation of tensions or incidence of violence for a peaceful 2018 election. Members of the NERG will work closely with WANEP, the Integrated Election Security Planning Committee under the ONS, Provincial and District Election Security Committees – PROSEC and DISEC with an extensive network of civil society organizations and with 60 community monitors across the country to identify potential risks of electoral violence.



PRESIDENT KOROMA SAYS… “I am very proud of Ansumana Usman Koroma”

President Dr Ernest BaiKoroma has informed Sierra Leoneans that, “I am very proud that we have people like Ansumana. We need many more Ansumana Usman Koromas that will go out there as Ambassadors of our country, showing and telling a good story about Sierra Leone.”

Whilst speaking at his Presidential office in Freetown, President Koroma affirmed that, “I am very proud of Ansumana and I am encouraging him to do more by helping his people.”

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