POST INTER-PARTY DIALOGUE STATEMENT
DR SAMURA MATTHEW WILSON KAMARA
LEADER, ALL PEOPLES CONGRESS PARTY
MONDAY, 30 OCTOBER, 2023
Fellow Sierra Leoneans,
Distinguished members of the International Community,
Friends of Sierra Leone and Esteemed Listeners,
Today, I stand before you to address you on a matter of utmost significance; a matter that deeply concerns the very essence of our cherished nation, Sierra Leone. This matter touches the lives and hearts of every citizen, transcending political affiliations, ethnic and regional boundaries. It revolves around our recently concluded three-day inter-Party dialogue, between the APC and the Bio-led SLPP regime, and the subsequent Agreement or Communiqué, signed by the APC, the SLPP government, and international mediators, representing the African Union, ECOWAS and the Commonwealth,
I have passionately followed your diverse reactions, before, during and after the Dialogue. I would like to state, at the outset, that I am heartened by your critical perspectives and keen interest in such a matter; a matter, which understandably but most unfortunately, also, almost descended into the risk of disturbing the hard-earned unity and peace within our party as well as distracting us from the party’s high sense of a national purpose. I totally understand the emotions, the anxieties and even the disappointment among some of us. I make bold to say that the mixed reactions were not unexpected; the anger was not unexpected; nor was the demand for a stronger action reflecting our core position, out of place.
The leadership of the APC party engaged very actively and comprehensively in the dialogue, without losing focus on any of the Party’s ideals and positions relative to the rigged June 2023 election. I wish to inform our dedicated members, supporters, and the wider public that our mandatory nine delegates to the dialogue, co-led by the party National Chairman, Hon Alhaji Minkailu Mansaray, and myself, and an additional eleven technical advisory committee members, led by my Running Mate, Hon Chernor Ramadan Maju Bah, presented our party’s concerns, apprehensions, and demands, through a strongly articulated position paper, as guided by our National Advisory Committee (NAC).
The Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion (ICPNC) played a crucial role in facilitating this mediation, supported by esteemed international organizations. We believe that the divisive political atmosphere, triggered by Mr Mohamed Konneh’s hasty and premature announcement of election results and subsequent declaration of the incumbent, President Julius Maada Bio and the SLPP party as the winners of the June 24, 2023 presidential, parliamentary and local council elections was most unprecedented in Sierra Leone or indeed anywhere else in the world. This, we believe should have prompted a more assertive response from the international community, in particular, all election observation missions. Had they chosen to arbitrate much earlier, undoubtedly, many of our demands could have been positively addressed, and the ensuing stalemate averted.
Nevertheless, we eventually consented to international mediation, leading to direct discussions with representatives of the SLPP-led government. Let us, as Sierra Leoneans, give this local initiative an opportunity to succeed. The communiqué contains several constructive provisions and benchmarks that, if honestly and patriotically addressed and in good faith, can help restore the will of the people, and uphold true democracy.
Throughout the dialogue, the three esteemed international organizations fostered an atmosphere of respect and urged Sierra Leoneans to take ownership of the process, prioritizing national interests above party-specific gains. While we upheld these principles, the APC party remained steadfast in achieving a solution that safeguards the integrity of our democratic process and secures the trust of our populace.
Considering the nature of the massive election irregularities and our demand for ECSL-certified results to be provided to party agents and observers, as legally mandated, we believe that the cross-party committee, provided for in Resolution 3 of the Agreement, will address such concerns. Both sides have agreed that this committee will review, within six months, the 2023 electoral cycle, taking into account various stages, including voter registration, voter card issuance, ballot paper procurement, election day procedures, vote tallying, tabulation, and results announcement. Furthermore, the committee will also draw from lessons learned in past elections, since the restoration of constitutional order after the civil war, and does not of necessity rule out an early election.
The preamble of the communiqué underscores the sacredness of our country’s laws, with both parties committing to uphold the rule of law. The recommendations of the cross-party committee are actionable and feasible. The committee will have co-leadership representation from the SLPP-led government, the APC, and development partners.
I firmly believe that this committee’s creation will provide a platform for both parties to engage constructively, and allow justice, the rule of law, and peace to prevail in our beloved nation. Our people demand justice and truth, and I call upon all stakeholders, particularly those patriotic Sierra Leoneans who will serve in the parallel committees of monitoring and moral guarantors, to stand resolute in defense of our fledgling democracy and our homeland.
The committee will also look into matters of political violence, excessive use of force by the security forces, extrajudicial killings, and harm to innocent citizens. Most importantly, the committee is tasked with reviewing the June 24, 2023 elections and proffer recommendations to address the concerns raised by the APC, serving as a guide for future elections.
In the face of these developments, we recognize that several party members are unjustly detained, and many have sought refuge in Freetown and other parts of the country, facing challenges associated with relocating to a new environment. Some have even fled the country. We have called for the release of detainees and the cessation of politically motivated court cases. Furthermore, we have understandably encouraged our elected representatives to assume their respective roles at the parliamentary and local council levels. We sincerely appreciate their sacrifice and determination; we congratulate them, and wish them well.
My Fellow Sierra Leoneans, at home and abroad
The elections of 24th June, by which the majority of Sierra Leoneans opted to change the situation was blatantly scuttled. If we have learned anything in that election, it is that we cannot any more take our democracy for granted. Our election management institutions, in particular, the ECSL and the security forces, as well as those acceptable democratic norms, have been under assault, and when we, elected leaders, fail to stand up to protect them, we just see how quickly things can erode.
Prior to the elections, Sierra Leone was becoming a shining example for building a post conflict democratic state. We had started showing the world that a strong open government and a free society can thrive when political power is entrusted to the people. The peaceful change of government from SLPP to APC in 2007 and from APC to SLPP in 2018 demonstrated that the will of the people is above any one individual or political party, and when voters are allowed to choose their leaders in a free, fair and transparent vote, power can be transferred and sustained peacefully.
The dissatisfaction stemming from the elections has cast a shadow over our nation. The lack of transparency in those elections has left scars that still need healing. The perception that jobs are reserved for specific tribes, regions or political party activists has sown seeds of discord. The fragile state of our economy keeps our people awake at night, worrying about their tomorrow, the day after, and the future ahead.
Hurtful circumstances like these require calm nerves, clear thinking, and oftentimes, unpopular hard decisions. This is so because an emotional response to wrongdoing, without the benefit of objective reasoning, could be counterproductive.
The APC party’s decision to participate in this landmark inter-party dialogue was therefore informed principally by our firm conviction that in resolving a hurtful political impasse like this, there was a need for the two protagonists to have a conversation in the presence of other players. This was so, so that we could start the process of better understanding each other as politicians and finding common ground on which to correct political wrongs, while restoring confidence and integrity in our electoral system and body politique. This also underscores the fact that the APC is a party that puts people and country first.
President Bio’s recent address to the nation, while endorsing the Dialogue Agreement in its entirety, effectively conveyed a message of intent for restoring national unity, democratic values, inclusive governance, cooperation, and a commitment to resolving political differences for the nation’s benefit. It recognizes the role of external partners, emphasizes the importance of national institutions, and highlights a collective will to move forward. This encourages political cooperation and sets a positive tone for Sierra Leone’s future. The President’s call for collective responsibility and national development aligns with the aspirations of the citizens and is very much appreciated by the APC.
In the spirit of cooperation, the APC commits to working collaboratively with the government to implement the provisions of the communiqué and ensure that the aspirations of Sierra Leoneans are realized. We believe that this dialogue should not be seen as the end, but as the beginning of a new chapter in our nation’s history—one characterized by inclusivity, accountability, transparency and progress.
As we move forward, let us remember that Sierra Leone belongs to all of us, and its development and prosperity are the shared responsibility of every citizen, regardless of political or tribal affiliations. Together, we can build a Sierra Leone where the democratic principles we hold dear translate into tangible improvements in the lives and livelihoods of all Sierra Leoneans.
President Bio, the destiny of our nation lies in our hands. we have a choice to make, and it is a choice that will define our legacy. We can continue down the path of division and intolerance, or we can choose the path of unity, inclusivity and social cohesion to save Sierra Leone.
To achieve unity, we must start by listening to the electorate and meeting their demands. We must adhere to the communiqué agreement in its entirety. We cannot afford further delays, as any delay will be seen as a lack of respect for an agreement we willingly entered into and, more importantly, a lack of respect for the people of Sierra Leone and our international partners.
The All People’s Congress (APC) party understands the importance of peace and unity in Sierra Leone. We, in the APC family, firmly believe that a divided country is a weakened country. We recognize that the communiqué is not a destination but a starting point—a starting point towards restoring the unity, justice, democracy and social cohesion that our nation so desperately needs.
Today, we reaffirm our commitment as a party to this agreement, and we pledge to work with the government to ensure that it becomes more than just words on paper.
Let us remember that the responsibility to unite our country and foster social cohesion is not the sole burden of one political party, but a collective endeavor that requires all of us. Let us work together, hand in hand, to build a Sierra Leone where every citizen enjoys equal rights and opportunities; where our diversity is our strength; and where peace and unity prevail.
Once again, I extend profound sympathy to the families of those who lost their loved ones; those who have suffered the indignity, political intimidation; as well as those who were maimed or who lost their properties, before, during and after the election out of pollical misdirection. Political expediency should be put above your ultimate sacrifices but note above the supreme interest of the nation.
Let me thank the mediators, led by the former Vice President of the Gambia, Her Excellency Madam Fatoumata Jallow-Tambanjang, representing the AU and ECOWAS, retired Judge Msagha from Kenya, who led the Commonwealth team, backup technical experts, the diplomatic community and our development partners, who showed keen interests and supported the dialogue process in diverse ways. Thanks also to the Peace Commission and the SLPP-led Leadership for their role toward a successful inter-party dialogue.
We all deserve tremendous thanks and appreciation for our understanding, even at a time when there is a range of several non-election related sufferings that are hitting us hard in our daily spheres of live. I cannot help but to continue to plead very passionately that we exercise patience and remain resolute as we advance the dialogue process. The dialogue was not meant to be controversial or confrontational. It really should not be. This is something we all should want to sustain as we strive to restore confidence in our interpersonal relations and in our election system.
I hereby wish to reiterate my unyielding commitment to continue to advance and protect your supreme interests, no matter who you are or what tribe, region or political inclinations you belong to. It is only in challenging times like these that our true strength, our sincerity and our togetherness will shine. We can be a voice for the voiceless, advocate for social justice, and champion to overcome the causes that divide us as a people. My resolve is unshakable, and my commitment to our ideals unwavering.
For the cleaning up of our heavily tainted and corrupted election system, and bringing back our development on track, I am leading, and I will continue to lead a good fight for a noble course; to the Glory of God.
Thank you, and may God bless Sierra Leone.