By:Yusuf Keketoma Sandi……
The former head of state of the Republic of Sierra Leone and 2012 Presidential Candidate of SLPP, Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio has held a familiarisation meeting with members of the Kono District Development Association (KDDA) in London on Saturday 10th May 2014.
In his opening remarks, the Chairman of KDDA (London), Dr Kai Ngegba, welcomed Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio and said he was very impressed to see him associating with members of the Kono Community in London which demonstrates that he can cut across tribes. Dr. Kai Ngegba gave a brief description of the operations of KDDA which is about togetherness, helping one and other and ensuring that they promote the interest of Kono District. The Chairman emphasised that the organisation is not a political association which means their members belong to different political parties. He further mentioned that anytime a very important national politician is in London, their
organisation always tries to engage such a politician to discuss about issues affecting Kono district.
Speaking to members of the KDDA (London), Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio said that he was humbled to be in their presence not only as a fellow Sierra Leonean but also as their in-law because his wife hailed from Kono. He told them that as a Sierra Leonean any organisation that is geared towards development whether for a district or the country, he will always want to associate himself with such an organisation. He said that he has always had the privilege of talking to many people from different ethnic groups and regions about what we can all do to develop the country. He told his audience that as a country we need people who will always put the interest of the country above their personal interests. “The Konos are one of the most educated people in Sierra Leone. Kono has been a bread basket of our country. Therefore, Kono District has both the human capacity and resources not only to contribute to
national development but also to transform the district to meet the aspirations of all kono people. What Kono district needs for a start is to be united and do not allow politics to divide them as a people”he added.
During the question and answer session, Tamba Gbamo, asked the Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio what he has in mind for the Kono people. In response, the Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio underscored that he was not there on a political campaign but that his vision for kono district like every other district is to make sure they have tangible developments including good roads, electricity, good schools and standard hospitals. He also told his audience that Kono district, apart from the mineral resources, also has fertile lands which can be used for large scale agricultural programmes which ordinary Kono people can immensely benefit from. He also said because of the rich history of Kono and its world prominence in terms of its mineral resources, Kono district can also be a good location for tourist
attraction. The Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio also advised the members of KDDA that as descendants of Kono district they should come together so that they can develop a blueprint of their development aspiration for the district which they should use to engage all presidential candidates in future. “For me I have got the benefit of hindsight in leading the country and if I am elected by my party as the Presidential Candidate, I will be more than willing to engage the people of Kono district on what we can do to transform kono” the Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio added.
An emotional Mrs Sia Jaward in her contribution told the Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio that there are no good roads in Kono, no good School, no electricity, no development and all the politicians have failed the people of Kono and abused the district. She said that she has lost faith in politicians.
Also many people during the meeting expressed their disappointment about the poor quality of representation they have received from some senior kono members of the present APC government and their Kono parliamentarians. One angry member of the audience loudly said “As far as I am concern, we have a representation but we are not represented”. Several other members in the audience also expressed their frustrations about the mining activities in Kono especially the Kimberlite mining which many Kono people said that such mining has destroyed their land, their lands being taken away from them without proper compensations and that innocent people have been killed without
On the issues of their poor representation by their fellow Kono people in Government and Parliament and the mining activities, the Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio acknowledged that their concerns are legitimate but that there is not much he can do for now so he advised them to continue to engage the government and their parliamentarians until such time when they will have the democratic rights to choose who will represent their best interest both in Government and Parliament. The elder brother of Vice President, Sam Sumana, T.D Sam Sumana who
was also in attendance at the meeting praised the Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio as a true democrat but asked that if he becomes President whether he will try to extend his term to a third term president.
In response, the Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio said “I will never manipulate our constitution for a third term. It is insulting to all of us as a people and it puts our country in a bad light internationally. Manipulating our constitution is an attempt to break the legal bond with the people. My commitment to my country is very strong and I have shown in the past as Head of State that I would respect the will of the people and guide a peaceful democratic transition”
One Tamba Gborie who was also very impressed with the responses on the range of issues praised the Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio but asked how SLPP engages with minority ethnic groups as the party has been accused of tribalism. In defending the SLPP, Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio said that the SLPP is the most tribal accommodating party in Sierra Leone as reflected in its slogan, one people one country. He said that an evidence of this is the fact that the National Chairman of the party is a Temne whilst other senior executive members belong to other different ethnic groups. He continued that the SLPP has got many distinguished Kono people who had served the party and others who continue to serve the party with admirable commitment. He added that SLPP is like a family so whether you are a member of a minority group or not and whatever region you come from you will always fulfill your
potentials and make your contribution to national development.
According to one Mrs Saffa who spoke about her grievances with the Kimberlite mining and how she was not properly compensated for herland, she told the Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio “I am not SLPP or APC
but for your sake I will go to the SLPP because I am very impressed with your vision for Kono and the genuine manner you have articulated the issues confronting us”
The vote of thanks was given by Madam Sia Komba who thanked the Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio for his attendance and re-echoed a formal invitation by the Chairman of KDDA that they will be very pleased if the Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio will attend another meeting of KDDA.
Also in attendance at the meeting was the Secretary General of KDDA, Aiah Yornie Sodengbe, several other executive members and the wife of Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio, Fatima Maada Bio. During the meeting the wife of the Chairman also made a presentation of gift to Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio which was received by his wife, Fatima Maada Bio.
The familiarisation meeting ended with the usual photo ops with members of KDDA and Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio. It was at this point that one of the members of the KDDA told me “For over two years now, I have been trying to come in contact with Maada Bio. He is really a people’s man the way he is interacting with us. And when you read all
the trash APC newspapers like Awareness Times write about him, you have to ask which parallel universe the editors of those newspapers live”. Well, all I said to the KDDA member who was very excited with his picture of him and Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio on his phone was what I always say that pro-APC newspapers like Awareness Times care
more about their businesses rather than given out credible information. I went on to tell him that if it is the pictures or smear stories of Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio that will help their newspapers to survive in a very competitive market then we will be happy to see them stay in business than going out of circulation.