RUF Man with Taiwan links eyes Sierra Leone's presidency Print
Written by Sheka Tarawallie in Manchester and Mohammed Legally-Cole in Banjul   
Monday, 10 July 2006 09:11

A former spokesman of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), Alimamy Bakarr Sankoh (no relation to Foday Sankoh), who said he enjoys the support of Taiwan, has declared his intention to contest the 2007 presidential elections.

Speaking to Expo Times in Banjul, The Gambia, Sankoh, currently leading the Sierra Leone People's Democratic League (PDL), said, “the present government cannot guarantee adequate security to safeguard life and property for the ordinary Sierra Leoneans” and that “the majority of our people outside the corridors of power have been marginalized and neglected.” He cited the occupation of Yenga by Guinean forces and the “failure of the police force to curb the underworld” as failures of the SLPP government.Sankoh said, if elected, he would want to lean more towards bilateral relations with Taiwan.

“PDL will make all efforts to bring back our friend, the Taiwanese government, to our aid. Prior to 1971, Taiwan was helping Sierra Leone to develop its agricultural sector and we were able to feed ourselves and even exported to our neighbouring countries. We are going to encourage them to invest in the agricultural sector and industries which will help in the development of our economy and create youth development schemes and employment programmes,” he projected.

On his role as former RUF spokesman, Sankoh said he “laid the foundation for peace in Sierra Leone” because he took up the job voluntarily “to let Sierra Leoneans, Africa and the world know that there was a man called Foday Sankoh who was the leader of the RUF and what their grievances were.” The former spokesman attributed many “successes” to himself. He said he persuaded Foday Sankoh and the RUF to free western hostages, including VSOs and 16 Roman Catholic nuns captured for 9 months and handed them over to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

 Sankoh said he later resigned his position when he discovered that some members of the RUF did not want peace but to exchange the hostages for weapons. Before his resignation however, he said he blocked attempts by Julius Maada Bio and NPRC II to cancel the 1996 elections in collaboration with the RUF when they sent a delegation to Ghana for that purpose.

 Some political observers have however expressed reservations on Sankoh's intention to contest the presidential elections. Dr. Michael S. Kargbo of the newly formed Institute of Public Policy AnalysisSierra Leone (IPPA-SL), in a telephone interview in London, said in the interest of democracy and the constitution every Sierra Leonean has a right to vie for elections “instead of going to the bush”. He nevertheless doubted whether Sankoh's formation of another party was in the interest of Sierra Leone. “The question is whether it is in the interest of Sierra Leone for the opposition to be fragmented. I would like to see a very strong opposition of fewer parties but effective and organized.”

On Sankoh's intention to build strong ties with Taiwan, Dr Kargbo said in his four years of research in Britain, he had not found any evidence to back the claim that Taiwan had been helpful to Sierra Leone. “The Chinese, yes. Perhaps that's one of the greatest successes of Siaka Stevens by being the first head of state in Africa, perhaps in the world, to recognize China, and Sierra Leone is still benefiting from that.”, he said. Dr Kargbo said in fact Sierra Leone does not need Taiwan or the UK or the US to improve its economy. “We are trying to preach against dependency. How can you base your policies on external support?” he questioned.

 Alimamy Bakarr Sankoh is currently based in Ghana where he is president of a non governmental organization called the Africa United for Taiwan (AUT), but has opened offices for his political party in Sierra Leone, Ghana and Mali.