From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

SLPP May Lose 10,000 Votes in Sierra Leone
By Sayoh Kamara
Jun 5, 2007, 21:08

Reports reaching Awareness Times have indicated that the SLPP June 1 primary election held in Neya Chiefdom was nothing more than a manipulation by the Paramount Chief, Gbondo Madusulai Marrah II in favour of his chosen candidate who indications state, is not a popular candidate to the people. Initial reactions from the people according to reports, is that if the result is not reversed, the SLPP stands to lose the estimated 10,000 voters who had initially vowed to vote for the party in the forthcoming August 11 elections. Neyans have for a longtime now craved for the opportunity to have their own son or daughter represent them in Parliament, something that was had been denied them for the past forty years.

But this hope was dashed by PC Gbondo when during the primary, he and his band of children and a few of his relations as delegates insisted on the choice of one Danda Mohamed Kondeh as against two other sons of the Chiefdom, John F. Saradugu and Lahai Yibba Marrah, both of whom are popular choices of the people.

It all started with the Chief’s manipulation of the Delegates List. Before now, Neya had no functioning SLPP Executive that could have prepared the list on a democratic basis.

However, information is that immediately following the SLPP Policy Meeting which set the criteria for the award of party symbols, PC Gbondo made a self appointment of his son, Kalie Gbondo Marrah as Chairman of the Neya SLPP branch, who in turn, in close concert with his father’s anointed candidate, compiled the names of selected people in the Chiefdom and attributed nomenclatures to them which they themselves do not understand.

Reports further indicate that this list was jointly protested against by candidates, John Saradugu and Yibba Marrah, to the SLPP District Executive.

However, on the day of polling, the delegates’ list presented by the District Chairman, Alhaji Demba Conteh according to one of the contestants, Lahai Yibba Marrah was "completely different from what they had in a way endorsed at the protest hearing in Kabala."

He went on to explain that on finding out that the list had been "concocted" "we protested against the holding of the primary on that day in order for the preparation of a more transparent and accepted delegates’ list," Yibba explained.

But according to him, the SLPP Koinadugu District Chairman, Alhaji Demba Conteh and Paramount Gbondo Marrah both insisted that the election be held and despite their protests, the election went ahead.

"We had to pull out of the contest in further protest because we had clearly seen the interference of the Chief, much against us and against the genuine wishes of the people," Yibba Marrah stated.

When Hon. M.A. Jalloh, SLPP Northern Region Secretary General was asked to comment on the Neya primary, he indicated that he was aware of the earlier protest made by two candidates against the first delegates list but that he was informed by the District Chairman that it had been resolved. On what transpired at the primary in Neya, Hon. Jalloh said, "I am yet to be briefed by the Chairman as to the conduct of the election. I was out in Tonkolili district." All efforts to reach Chairman Demba Conteh on his cell phone number 076-686328 proved futile. However, Following the protest pull out of the two rival candidates, the election was held with two ballot boxes; one carrying the portrait of Danda Mohamed Kondeh and another naked one said to represent the Government. With Chief Gbondo’s imposing presence, the ‘delegates’ voted 62 in favour of the Chief’s candidate and 2 for the Government.

Majority of Neyans have reacted adversely to the results. Many of them contacted by Awareness Times from Koidu Town say "Kondeh is a candidate for Chief Gbondo and his family and not for the people of Neya."

Uncle Father, a prominent Neya indigene told Awareness Times from Koidu Town in Kono District that "what Chief Gbondo and his son have demonstrated is that they own Neya. But we are ready to make it clear to them that they do not own the Chiefdom alone." He expressed grave disappointed and pointed out that if the SLPP as a party does not step in to remedy what he called "this serious blunder" the party would have itself to blame in the final analysis.

The Secretary General of the Neya Descendant Association (NEKA), Alpha Keita described the process as "a farce" and "a blatant disregard by the Chief of simple democratic principles."

The Chairman of NEKA, Karfa Marrah who was present throughout the process made this comment: "As far as we are concerned, we will continue to challenge this undemocratic decision of Chief Gbondo and the candidacy of Kondeh in the interest of the people of Neya.

Calls have come from certain sections within the Chiefdom to even boycott the elections if the result is not reversed to allow for the people to choose their own candidate.

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.