Oped: Political Alliances or Politics of Betrayal in Sierra Leone?
May 3, 2023
Political parties’ alliances and the movements of members from one political party to the other is not a new phenomenon in the politics of Sierra Leone. It has become a distinct feature of our political culture that is characteristic of the politics of the elites over the decades. In the process, the electorate are exposed to the dangers of voting politicians that have little or no regard for this nation and their constituents. This attitude of our politicians has inevitably betrayed the trust of the people as well as forestalling any formidable force to challenge the pre-eminence of the two major political cabals, the Sierra Leone People’s Party and the All People’s Congress.
A close look at such alliances portrays the selfishness of the political elite and a culture of betrayal of the people they claim to serve or represent. There has never been a case in which these alliances project the interest of the electorate and the nation at large.
As the people’s desire for a political change continues to dictate the political landscape, it is always hijacked by politicians who, more often than not, are a breakaway faction of the two political parties that have dominated the politics of this nation since Independence. It is even believed that these splinter political parties have provided the fertile grounds for the abuse of power by the successive leadership of this country even before Independence.
The first of such alliances with a major significance was that between the People’s National Party, itself being a breakaway faction of the SLPP, and the SLPP in 1960. It witnessed a situation in which Albert Margai, for his personal interest, broke ranks with Siaka Stevens to join his brother Sir Milton on the promise of a senior position within the SLPP.
Both Siaka and Albert, then leaders of the PNP, agreed before leaving Freetown for Independence negotiation in London, on a platform of “ Elections before Independence”. On their way to the United Kingdom however Albert skillfully dumped his colleague and joined the SLPP delegation that wanted Independence before elections.
This culture of betrayal set the pattern of political alignments and events in the politics of this country for more than half a century. The first impact of this was the emergence of a new Political party, the All People’s Congress.
In the subsequent contests between these two political parties, SLPP and APC, party alliances and movements of members from one political party to the other have become the order of the day. The attempt to challenge the hegemony of these parties witnessed the birth of the idea of a ‘Third Force’, a political party that will effectively challenge the dominance of the SLPP and APC in state governance. This has, so far, been a farfetched dream and as time progressed this vision is gradually thrown into oblivion.
Political pundits believe that the ideal way in addressing the social and economic development of this nation is by replacing the decades old political cabals, whose elites are largely responsible for the current plight of Sierra Leoneans. Several attempts have been made over the years to challenge these two parties but with very little success.
The emerging third force parties, mostly breakaway factions of either the SLPP or the APC, often lack national dimension and could not therefore challenge either of these two major political blocks. The new or splinter political parties often driven by one man, and as such they collapse following the death of their leader.
Some of these parties and their leaders faced intimidation and, in some cases, dealt with ruthlessly by the government in power like in the case of the United Democratic Party of Mohamed Sorie Fornah, a breakaway faction of the APC.
The search for a third force became increasingly prominent after the civil war with the emergence of the United National Democratic People’s Party of John Karefa Smart, the People’s Democratic Party of Thaimu Bangura and a host of others.
The first major attempt by a third force party, UNDP, to dislodge the dominance of APC and SLPP in the 1996 elections was however thwarted by an alliance between the SLPP and the PDP. The leader of the PDP, Thaimu Bangura, joined the SLPP against the ardent desire for change by Sierra Leoneans because he was promised a senior position in the Ahmed Tejan Kabba’s government.
Thaimu Bangura, like Albert, went solo to forge an alliance with SLPP thereby preventing the victory of the UNDP. It was the closest challenge ever of a third force party against the SLPP and APC in an election in this country.
The 2007 Elections Run-Off also witnessed similar political party alliances, notably, with the People’s Movement for Democratic Change joining hands with the opposition APC. Although the PMDC Leader, Charles F Margai, did not take up appointment in the new government of Ernest Bai Koroma, some cabinet positions were given to members of the party as compensation.
It has often been a case of disappointment for the voters on one hand and a case of bounties and jubilations for the leadership of the supposedly third force parties on the other.
The third force factor even became more prominent in the 2018 elections with the emergence of Coalition for Change, of Samuel Sam Sumana and the National Grand Coalition of Kandeh Yumkella, both breakaway factions from APC and SLPP, respectively. Had these two new political parties joined forces together they could have provided a formidable force to challenge the dominance of the APC and the SLPP in the 2018 elections.
The failure of opposition factions to work as a team to dislodge the two parties’ dominance, can only be ascribed to the selfish desires of the leaders of smaller parties.
I have mentioned these examples of alliances not only as instances of political leaders alignment for the purpose of elections but also as instances in which such alignments, at every point in time, have always provided positive outcomes to either the SLPP or the APC and as well as providing instances in which these splinter or breakaway parties have indirectly facilitated the prolonged preponderance of these two parties in the politics of Sierra Leone.
With continued woes and deprivation, Sierra Leoneans have become increasingly disenchanted with successive government policies, and hence continue to look forward to a redeemer.