Dr. John Karefa-Smart hailed from Rotifunk in the Bumpe Chiefdom, Moyamba district but never represented Moyamba district in Parliament. He was a Sherbro but spoke Temne very well.
Between 1957 and 1962, Dr. John Karefa-Smart represented Tonkolili Central Constituency in Parliament. And between 1962 and 1967, he represented Tonkolili West in Parliament.
In 1964, Dr. Karefa-Smart defected from the SLPP because he was deprived of the post of Prime Minister after the death of Sir Milton Margai. Milton Margai’s younger half-brother, Albert Margai was sworn-in as Prime Minister. Angered by this apparent slight, Dr. Karefa-Smart joined the APC Party. He did not stay too long in the APC.
He defected from the APC Party in 1970 to form the UDP (United Democratic Party) with some young and fire brand Northern Politicians like Dr. Mohamed Sorie Forna and the Taqi Brothers (Ibrahim and Mohamed).
In 1995, Dr. Karefa-Smart returned to the country but refused to lead the SLPP. He formed a brand new party called the UNPP (United National Peoples Party).
He contested the 1996 Presidential and Parliamentary elections as Leader of the UNPP. His party went into a run-off with the SLPP in the 1996 Presidential elections.
The run-off elections were bitterly contested. The UNPP would have won those run-off elections if the party that came third in the first round of elections (The PDP-Sorbeh) had given them their backing.
The PDP (Sorbeh) led byThaimu Bangura and the APC led by Eddie Turay decided to support the SLPP in the Presidential run-off elections.
The SLPP Presidential candidate, Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was declared winner by the Chairman of the INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission), Dr. James Jonah.
Dr. John Karefa-Smart entered Parliament and became House Minority Leader and Leader of the Opposition in Parliament. That Parliamentary session (1996 to 2002) is one of the best Sierra Leone has ever had.
The PDP Leader, Thaimu Bangura was offered the post of Minister of Finance and Economic Planning. He held that post until the government of President Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was overthrown in May 1997.
Thaimu Bangura went to join President Kabbah in exile in Guinea, Conakry. After the government of Tejan Kabbah was reinstated in March 1998, Thaimu Bangura lost his Finance portfolio. He was appointed Minister of Works and Energy with Haja Afsatu Kabba as his deputy in the SLPP government.
Thaimu Bangura died in office in 1999. After his death due to ill health, the APC was revived and the PDP suffered some major defections. The rest, as they say is history.
In 2005, the outcome of the SLPP convention or National Delegates Conference in Makeni left a bitter taste in the mouths of many SLPP members and supporters.
Many people saw the 2005 SLPP convention as a mere coronation ceremony. President Kabbah had already endorsed his right hand man, Solomon Berewa as his heir apparent.
Berewa was challenged for the flag bearer of the SLPP by Charles Margai, J.B. Dauda and Brig. (Rtd.) Julius Maada Bio. Berewa handsomely defeated his opponents with a convincing margin.
The outcome of the 2005 convention in Makeni led to some major defections from the party. Charles Margai who came second in that flagbearer race, defected from the SLPP to form the PMDC (Peoples Movement for Democratic Change). He took along with him a lot of disgruntled SLPP supporters like Emmanuel Grant. The formation of the PMDC served as a catalyst for the destruction of the SLPP.
In the run-off elections in 2007, Margai joined the APC of Ernest Bai Koroma to defeat the SLPP of Solomon Berewa.
In 2009 in Kenema, Berewa announced publicly that, he was no longer going to run for public office again because of ill health and his advanced age. That was seen as a dignified exit from public life.
It is reported that, after Berewa emerged as flagbearer of the SLPP in Makeni in 2005, he wrote a letter to Charles Margai, requesting him to work with him. His request was turned down.
Brig. (Rtd.) Julius Maada Bio
In 2011, the man who came third in the SLPP flagbearer race in Makeni in 2005, Brig. (Rtd.) Julius Maada Bio was elected party standard bearer.
Even though he lost to Berewa in Makeni in 2005, Bio remained in the Party and campaigned vigorously for Berewa in 2007.
The man who came second in the SLPP flagbearer race in 2011, Alhaji Usman Boie Kamara left the party to join the APC.
It is reported that, Bio begged him to remain in the party and work with him. But, Usu Boie, decided to leave the SLPP even after his uncle, the late President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah personally visited him at his private residence in the west end of Freetown and begged him not to defect from the SLPP.
Usu Boie’s defection from the SLPP was one too many. He left with a huge number of his supporters.
One of his key supporters, Mr. I.J. Kabbah refused to go away with him to the APC.
Dr. Kandeh Yumkella is an important personality in the world. His greatest asset is that, he is quick to impress.
He hails from a well-known family in the Kambia district. His late father was a Paramount Chief and a staunch member of the SLPP.
Dr. Kandeh Yumkella faced a lot of challenges when he claimed membership of the SLPP. His membership was later regularized and his KKY Movement has become an integral part of the SLPP.
The Way Forward
The SLPP should not allow Dr. Kandeh Yumkella or any other member, for that matter, to leave the party. The issue of the thirty nine (39) disputed constituencies must be resolved through a political settlement. This over reliance on court judgment to resolve political issues in the SLPP will destroy the party.
The party needs a common sense solution to resolve issues that need to be resolved ahead of the National Delegates Conference in April this year.
There is no way the SLPP will win the 2018 elections if some of its senior members continue to disagree over issues that they can resolve peacefully.
Dr. Kandeh Yumkella should not leave the SLPP (his father’s party) to form a new party or join an existing party just because his grievances have not been addressed to his expectation.
As a former international diplomat at the UN, he should explore every possible avenue, to ensure that, the SLPP does not split ahead of crucial elections in 2018.
Dr. Kandeh Yumkella will hate to be remembered as the man who destroyed the SLPP just because he fails to become the party’s flag bearer candidate.
This writer still believes that, the issue of the thirty nine constituencies should be reexamined and, where possible, redone in the interest of the party’s stability.
Victor Sheriff and others should also act in good faith, by discontinuing their legal action against the party in the Court of Appeal.
This writer continues to appeal to every genuine member and supporter of the SLPP to work towards a peaceful settlement of the current imbroglio in the Party.
May common sense prevail!
One Country, One People!