By Sorie Fofana.
A day after attending the SLPP National Delegates’ Conference in Kenema, I left for The Gambia on a private visit. I returned on Monday, after a week in The Gambia.
The biggest news item in The Gambia right now is, the Commission of Inquiry set up by the Barrow administration to investigate some financial transactions that took place during the twenty-three year reign of former President, Yayah Jammeh.
The Commission headed by a respected female Gambian Barrister/Solicitor is also looking into the personal assets of former President Yayah Jammeh.
The Gambian newspaper pages are full of revelations made at the Commission by former Governors of the Central Bank of The Gambia and former Finance Ministers appointed by President Yayah Jammeh during his long reign in The Gambia.
A former Finance Minister told the Commission that even though he advised President Yayah Jammeh not to be a signatory to a government account operated at the Central Bank of The Gambia his advice was shrugged off by President Jammeh.
As the sole signatory to a particular government account at the Central Bank, President Jammeh, in one single day, signed for and withdrew the sum of 5.5m (Five Million Five hundred Thousand Euros) from the Central Bank of The Gambia.
The officials (mostly Military personnel) who were collecting the monies from the Central Bank disclosed that, they had no direct access to the President at the time. All the monies they collected from the Central Bank were handed over to the Chief of Security attached to State House. He was President Jammeh’s right hand man!
The revelations show that, President Jammeh was a very unscrupulous man. He was withdrawing huge sums of money from the Central Bank of The Gambia as if it was his personal money.
This was a man who portrayed himself as an anti-corruption crusader. His own appointed Central Bank Governors and Finance Ministers have exposed him as a very corrupt and spineless man.
I will return to The Gambia issue later in the week.
The SLPP held their National Delegates’ Conference in Kenema on the 15, 16 and 17th of September 2017. The convention was held for the sole purpose of electing new National Officers.
The Chief Somanoh Kapen administration had been in office since 2013. They were elected in Bo, after Mr. John Benjamin completed his second mandate as Chairman/Leader of the SLPP.
Chief Kapen was elected in Bo with the strong backing of Brig. (Rtd.) Julius Maada Bio.
There is no way Chief Kapen would have defeated Ambassador Alie Bangura if Bio had not openly endorsed his (Kapen’s) candidature in Bo in 2013.
Chief Kapen had difficulty in managing the affairs of the party. He had no control over his own Cabinet. Many of them (National Officers) were loyal to Brig. Bio. They saw Chief Kapen as working against the interest of Bio.
Truth to be told, Chief Kapen found it very difficult to be neutral in the race to elect a flag bearer for the party. Once it was discovered that, he was no longer supporting the man who won him the Chairmanship of the party, the knives were pulled out for him.
The Kenema Convention
I was on my way to Kenema on Friday 15th September, 2017 when I saw Chief Kapen being driven back to Freetown in his official vehicle. As far as I knew, Chief Kapen was supposed to be at the Trinity Hall in Kenema on that day, presiding over party meetings.
I called a senior party official who was in Kenema at the time. He said to me that, everybody was waiting for Chief Kapen who had travelled to Bo to collect some documents he had forgotten there.
The official was shocked when I informed him that, I met Chief Kapen close to Mile 91, apparently returning to Freetown.
When I arrived at Trinity Hall in Kenema, I was told that, Chief Kapen failed to get someone to nominate him for reelection that was why he left Kenema unannounced.
How can a man, who had served as party Chairman/Leader for four years not get someone to nominate him for reelection?
Chief Kapen told the “Awoko Newspaper’ yesterday that, he left Kenema because he did not want to preside over “a stage-managed party conference”. I am still wondering whether Chief Kapen was saying the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
The party has elected new National Officers to preside over its activities for the next two years.
The new party Chairman/Leader is Dr. Prince Alex Harding. The man needs no introduction. He has an impressive pedigree in SLPP party politics. But many people see Dr. Harding as a very divisive figure. His immediate task now is to unite the party ahead of crucial elections in March 2018.
Dr. Harding owes his victory to Brig. Bio. After all, Bio won the elections for him. Bio’s last minute intervention saved Dr. Harding from a very humiliating defeat especially after Hon. Emma Kowa was humiliated at the polls by Madam Fatmata Sawanneh.
To speak truthfully, Dr. Harding has a warm personality. He is easily accessible and he knows the dynamics of SLPP politics.
Bio’s open support for Dr. Harding was borne out of the fact that, he did not want to place his political destiny in the hands of a man (Dr. Morie Manyeh) whom he has no control over.
All said and done, Dr. Harding should endeavor to bring the party together and forget about cherry-picking with whom to work with, in the party. After all, he needs every SLPP hand on deck.
Will Dr. Prince Harding deliver State House to SLPP in March 2018? If he wants to do that, he has several tall mountains to climb. I wish my long-time friend, Dr. Prince Harding good luck in his new assignment.
The immediate task ahead of Dr. Harding is to unite the party ahead of crucial elections in March 2018.
One Country, One People!