The Sierra Leone Association of Martial Arts (SLAMA) to held a congress Saturday and was divided into six separate associations: Taekwando, Karate, Judo, Kickboxing, Wrestling and Fencing.
The division came on orders by Director of Sports Saidu Mansaray, who a few months ago failed in an attempt to form a separate Fencing Association.
The main controversy with SLAMA’s recent division is the fact that separate associations representing Wrestling and Kickboxing already exist. Thus Mansaray’s order to SLAMA would essentially create duplicate associations with different presidents and members.
Mansaray’s move did not sit well with Senior Director of Sports Victor Hasting-Spaine, who was supposed to be the chairman of the programme. Hasting-Spaine refused to conduct the congress on the grounds that there is no constitution binding theses associations.
The criteria for holding executive positions for president according to article 8(1) of the SLAMA constitution states: “The individual shall have a sound knowelege of at least two of the martial art disciplines; Should have headed or managed a martial arts school for at least five years and must be a black belt holder in any of the martial art disciplines.”
Despite not meeting any of these criteria, former President of the Sierra Leone Athletics Association Andre Hope, a close friend of Mansaray’s, was elected to head the Taekwando Association.
There is speculation that Mansaray wants to support Hope to stand for the presidency of National Olympic Committee (NOC) – only presidents of sports associations can run for NOC president.
The election is supposed to take place after the Olympic Games in China, right around the time that Mansaray’s term as director is supposed to end. Some prominent members of SLAMA believe that Mansaray wants to be the Secretary General of NOC after his term as Director of Sports is up, and that becomes more than possible if Hope is elected NOC president.
Mansaray has been working closely with Mohamed Kabba, who also works as sports council. If Hope becomes NOC president, many believe Kabba would become Administrative Secretary of NOC.
Then there’s the controversial issue of the additional Wrestling and Kickboxing Associations.
Mansaray wrote a letter to the president of the original Wrestling Association on March 6 2006 to officially reactivate the Sierra Leone Wrestling Association.
“We look forward to your first Competition on Wrestling and urge that you also take on board traditional wrestling which is now a part of the African Games events,” the letter read.
In May of the same year, the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) also recognized the Wrestling Association locally and internationally.
Mansaray knew about all these developments, so his decision to go ahead and form another Wrestling Association was unusual – especially considering the fact that the current president of the Sierra Leone Wrestling Association is out of the country.
The president of the current Kickboxing Association also happens to be out of the country.
With so much controversy surrounding the constitutionality of the congress, members of SLAMA are currently looking for a way to reverse Mansaray’s move to divide the association.