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Dr. Abass Bundu Speaks about SLPP
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Apr 29, 2009, 17:24
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Your Excellency President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma
National Chairman of the SLPP, Mr. John Oponjo Benjamin
Members of the National Executive Committee
Distinguished Ladies & Gentlemen
All Other Protocols Observed

Violence benefits no Party

Nearly 20 months have passed since the last General Election in 2007. During that time a good number of the members of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) have suffered a litany of woes in the hands of their political adversaries. A month hardly passed without our Party folks being molested in one part of the country or another, without their being compelled to weep or their hearts being filled with sorrow. If the bodies of our men were not shedding blood, the womanhood of our women was being violated or our private properties and the offices of our Party were being scorched or vandalized. The assault upon our Party and members became so frequent as to appear somewhat systemic, and all this in the name of politics!

For those of us who remember the tragedies that flowed from the elections of 1973 and 1977 under the multiparty system, and also from the elections of 1982 and 1986 under the one-party system, periods that the country was ruled by the "Old APC", the latest recurrences scarcely come as a surprise. But how many of us care to remember? For the many, the culture of silence has seemingly so combined with the effluxion of time that those tragedies now sit not only in the recesses of their memory, they are recalled only as anecdotes of historical lapses by the "Old APC".

The last of the tragedies under the "Old APC" occurred during the General Election of 1986, about 23 years ago. It was the last General Election under the one-party system in which all the contestants belonged to the same Party. One may be forgiven for thinking that the common Party affiliation of the contestants would act as a catalyst that would suppress their penchant for violence. It was not to be. The surfeit of election violence that imploded, both before and after the elections, rocked many parts of the country and left many an observer astonished and dumbfounded. If this could happen under the one-party system, is it difficult to imagine what elections would be like under a multiparty system governed and controlled by the APC Government?

So we do have forebodings about what awaits the SLPP in the elections slated for 2012. The post-election violence of 2007 and 2009 makes us want to believe that it is perhaps a foretaste of what we should expect in 2012. And it also tells us that as a nation we have learned little from our inglorious past. Now we are told that things have changed; that the "Old APC" is now a thing of the past; that it has undergone some re-branding; and that it has been replaced by a new entity that goes by the name of "New APC". On the surface, all of this sounds good and comforting. But when it is recalled that it was under the governance watch of the "New APC" that we witnessed the new spate of violence ruthlessly perpetrated by its new black-jacketed official vigilantes, we have good reason to have misgivings. Either the job of re-branding was only half done or the APC spinmasters may only have succeeded in giving new names to old things. If this is the case, then, to all intents and purposes, the "Old APC" still lives on! An example of old wine in new bottles!!

But I must confess to a certain eeriness. Those of us who are familiar with the personalities of the new leadership of the "New APC" cannot but be amazed because in yesteryears we have come to know some of them rather well and would be almost tempted to beat our chests and say they are amongst the most decent, caring and thoughtful men and women of this country who have previously lamented and condemned the threat or use of force in our body politic like the rest of us did. Therefore, tonight, I may be forgiven if I decide to break my silence and ask this question of the new leadership of the "New APC": what has happened to you to want to change this much-admired credential so soon?

Sir, we cannot and should not allow you to deviate so soon from the fundamentals that once united us and to which I know you are still committed. One of these fundamentals is that together, irrespective of Party affiliation, we must all strive to build in Sierra Leone a society that is free, peaceful, prosperous and progressive under God and the Rule of Law.

Political violence is bad politics. It is also a crime. And it represents the unacceptable face of party politics. In the long run it benefits no Party. On the contrary, it endangers the freedom of every Party as well as the security and safety of their members. All political parties therefore owe it to themselves and to their members to banish political violence from our body politic and forever consign it to the attic of political history.

The Joint Communiqu signed by the leadership of the APC and SLPP on April 2, 2009, crafts a new beginning. It gives hope to the SLPP that a new ground is about to be broken so that we can begin to put behind us the ghastly consequences of the violence we have suffered in the brutal hands of overzealous APC agents in 2007 and 2009. Maybe, some day soon, we can all say: never and never again shall violence become an instrument of party politics in Sierra Leone. But for this to happen, the signatories of the Communiqu must keep to their promises. They must investigate and bring those responsible to book. This is what is done in civilized societies and the people of Sierra Leone deserve no less.

To the United Nations and our new National Executive Committee, I know both the victims of violence and the members of the SLPP countrywide would like me to commend you for a job well done. Your task now is not to relent in your efforts until all the pledges under the Communiqu are fulfilled.

A Time to Celebrate

That much said, let me now turn to the task at hand. Today, we are here not to weep. On the contrary, we are here to celebrate. April 27 is a date of great significance to Sierra Leone as a country and to the SLPP in particular. It marks the date our country attained its independence from British colonial rule. But, much more than that, for us in the SLPP, it marks the day our Great Party was founded. Therefore, whether that date is commemorated by the Government of the day or not, we in the SLPP must accept it as our bounden duty to give it the special recognition it deserves. We must always celebrate this date. And this is a duty not only for the National Executive of the Party but for all the members of our Great party.

So we are here to celebrate. And celebrate we shall. And as we celebrate we remember all our Founding Fathers who met on that glorious day at Bo to constitute themselves into a political party. Conditioned by the vagaries of the time, especially the yoke of domination and deprivation that characterized their lot, there were those who felt their movement was one designed solely for the interests of the Protectorate. Hence the temptation was palpable to name it the "Sierra Leone Protectorate Party". But No! That would have been defeatist. The spirit of oneness and tolerance that had inspired the people of the Colony and the people of the Protectorate to come together would have been dealt a severe blow. Not surprisingly, therefore, they settled for the name: the "Sierra Leone Peoples Party".

From this, it is clear that the first legacy the Founding Fathers bequeathed to us, is that the SLPP is a Party not just for the people of the Protectorate but for all the people of Sierra Leone. This was why they chose as the motto of our Party "One Country One People". With these simple but powerful words, the Founding Fathers of our Party saved our country from splintering into a Colony and a Protectorate. But for their wisdom, Sierra Leone as we know it today would not have existed. Instead, we would have inherited, to borrow the words attributed to the late Herbert Christian Bankole-Bright, "two hills standing opposite each other that can never meet". Imagine what a political legacy this would have been!

But who are these Founding Fathers? What impulse led them into founding a Party? And what political legacies did they leave for us?

The SLPP was an amalgam of three semi-political movements. First, the Peoples Party (this is where the PP in the SLPP come from) led by the famous Creole intellectual, Lamina Sankoh, who, on account of his personal experience of racial prejudice in Britain and his determined expression of solidarity with the people of the Protectorate, had changed his name from Reverend E.N. Jones to Lamina Sankoh.

No less prominent among the Freetown group were personalities like Mr. Gideon Thomas of Regent, Abdul Fata-Rahman, R.G.O. King, J.C.O. Crowther of Waterloo, Mrs. Constance Cummings-John, Mrs. Zainabu Kamara, Haja Kai Dumbuya, and Patience Richards.

The second main group that came into the SLPP was the Sierra Leone Organisation Society (SOS) formed in 1946. This was a group made up largely of Sierra Leoneans who had returned home after graduating from American universities. Their disposition tended towards radicalism and their advocacy was for faster movement towards self-determination for Sierra Leone. Its most prominent members included Dr. John Karefa-Smart, Doyle L. Sumner, Frank Anthony, J. Manley of the Albert Academy, T.M. Williams, Kandeh Bureh, the then Temne Tribal Head in Freetown, and Siaka Stevens. Later they were joined by Albert Margai and William Fitzjohn. They had support among some Paramount Chiefs, one of whom, Paramount Chief Julius Gulama of Kaiyamba Chiefdom, Moyamba District, became their Honorary President.

The third group was the Protectorate Educational and Progressive Union (PEPU). This too was formed in 1946. The prominent members included Dr. Milton Margai, A.J. Momoh, the then Chairman of the Civil Service Union, Paramount Chiefs Julius Gulama of Kaiyamba Chiefdom and Meama Kajue of Mano Dasse, both of Moyamba District, Mr. Benka Coker of Shenge and Freetown, Amadu Wurie of Gbinti, D.L. Sumner, Y.D. Sesay, R.B. Kowa, Amadu Koker and Teacher J.T. Ganda of Serabu, Amadu Wurie of Gbinti, D.L. Sumner, Y.D. Sesay, Amadu Koker and Paul Dunbar of Kono. There were also the young Protectorate intellectuals like S.T. Navo, A.J. Massally and Maigore Kallon.

PEPU flourished and soon established a reputation for itself as a formidable political pressure group. But this was not all. They were also a caring group that committed themselves to helping their less privileged brothers and sisters to pull themselves out of the doldrums of poverty and deprivation to which the policies of the colonial administration had condemned them. In the very year of its formation, PEPU awarded no fewer than 10 scholarships to Protectorate students to pursue courses in teacher training at Fourah Bay College leading to the much-coveted Teachers Certificate.

If, today, we can meet here to celebrate the achievements of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party, we must start by paying homage to these Founding Fathers. And to their coterie how can we fail to mention the eminent M.S. Mustapha and A.G. Randle of Freetown. Nor can we fail to give equal value to the contribution of the Paramount Chiefs. Their retinue is endless but the notable ones include Almamy Sorie Conteh of Tonkolili, Kai Tongi, Momoh Banya and Bockarie Samba of Kailahun, Bai Koblo Pathbana, Bai Shebora Komkanda, Alikali Modu and Kompa Yek of Port Loko District, Mana Luseni and Jaia Kaikai of Pujehun, Alfred Demby and Gigba of Bo District, B.G. Dassama and Kai Samba of Kenema, Fabunde Gberi of Bonthe, and Bai Farama Tass II and Bai Shebora Yumkella of Kambia District, Bai Lansama Marah of Koinadugu, P.C. Dudu Bona and P.C. Kamachendeh of Kono District and P.C. Alimamy Dura of Bombali District. The seed all of these great men sowed collectively has germinated and blossomed throughout the length and breadth of Sierra Leone in ways they themselves could hardly have imagined the seed of unity, freedom and equality of opportunity for all Sierra Leoneans.

One Country One People!

The Fundamentals that Bind Us

So I would like to invite all of us, members of the SLPP present here, to do three important things tonight. First, that we rise and observe a minutes silence in memory of the Founding Fathers of our Great Party. May their Souls rest in perfect peace.

Second, that we remain standing while we reaffirm the vitality of the fundamentals that bounded together the Founding Fathers of our Great Party and rededicate ourselves to the continued observance of these fundamentals which together constitute our common heritage. Please recite after me the following:

1. We believe and shall always manifest our commitment to the doctrine of One Country One People.
2. We believe in Unity, Peace, Prosperity, Happiness, Freedom and Equality of Opportunity for all the citizens of Sierra Leone.
3. We believe in the Supremacy of the Law as an essential ingredient of civilized society.
4. We believe in the Rule of Law and shall always strive to ensure respect for the Rule of Law by all in Sierra Leone.
5. We believe in Fundamental Human Rights for all in Sierra Leone and shall always strive to promote, protect and uphold the rights of all individuals in Sierra Leone.
6. We stand for the breaking down of all Barriers between and amongst all citizens of Sierra Leone and to this end we know no tribe, see no tribe, and hear no tribe in the pursuit of the aims and objectives of our Party.
7. We take great pride in the SLPP being the mother of Democracy in Sierra Leone and will always strive to promote, protect and uphold national institutions that maintain, preserve and strengthen Democracy in Sierra Leone.
8. We take even greater pride in the SLPP being the architect of our independence in 1961 which brought to an end 150 years of British colonial rule and ushered in the State of Sierra Leone as one indissoluble and indivisible unitary State.
9. We eschew and condemn the Threat or Use of Violence as an instrument of political, social or cultural change in our society.
10. Our Party, being the first truly national party in Sierra Leone, is the mother of all political parties in Sierra Leone. We shall therefore always endeavour to set the finest and best example of political leadership for others to follow.
11. We shall always promote, protect and care specially for the Women and shall empower them so that they can work side by side with the Men in Sierra Leone.
12. We shall always promote, protect and love the Sierra Leone Peoples Party.

Third, to show that we mean what we have just said, we shall each hold the hand of our colleague member standing by us while we all savour the lyrics of the well-known song "This Love is Unbreakable".

Thank You, Thank You All, and please be seated. For those who did not know, all these constitute the reason why we say the SLPP shall never die.

I sincerely hope we can continue this reaffirmation and rededication at every anniversary and at all levels of the Party organization in the country and in the Diaspora. If financial resources permit, I would even recommend that the National Executive pay special visits to the headquarters of every District and offer traditional sacrifice (sarah) for the repose of the souls of the Founding Fathers and all other departed souls whose contribution to the advancement of the SLPP is locally acknowledged. This way, we could make a fitting tribute to them. The Party may therefore plan to do this during the anniversaries of 2010 and 2011.

Special Tribute to Our First Leader

Can we truly make a celebration of the anniversary of the founding of the SLPP without dedicating a special tribute to our very First Leader of the Party, Sir Milton Augustus Strieby Margai? No we cannot.

We can never ever say or write anything about Sir Milton Margai if it is not in the superlative. He was a most extraordinary and remarkable man. Achieving independence for Sierra Leone as a unitary State, especially at a time that an irredentist tendency pervaded large swathes of the country, cannot but be attributed to Dr. Margais skills as a consummate political strategist. By his negotiating dexterity, it was he who singularly made it possible for the metaphorical "two hills standing opposite each other" to meet under the banner of Sierra Leone.

Dr. Margai had an impressive string of firsts to his name: first Protectorate student to graduate from Fourah Bay College, first Protectorate man to qualify as a medical doctor in Britain, founder of the first Protectorate newspaper (the Sierra Leone Observer), first President of the SLPP, first Leader of the first Unofficial Majority in the Executive Council of Sierra Leone, and first Chief Minister, Prime Minister and Privy Councillor of Sierra Leone.

Notwithstanding, there were a few who took exception to Dr. Margais gradualist approach and saw him as too much of a conservative for their liking. Thank God he was the astute political figure that he was, with his own distinctive personality and style. Remember what happened next door in Guinea when a so-called radical, Ahmed Sheku Toure, rushed his country to independence from France! I agree with Professor Joe Allie when he writes: "The country could not have produced a better leader at independence".

Dr. Margai was born in Gbangbatoke, Moyamba District, on 7 December 1895. His paternal grandfather, Pa Kailigi, was one of three warriors who immigrated into Moyamba District from Kayima, Sandoh Chiefdom in Kono District in the mid-nineteenth century. They went there at the invitation of an embattled chief, the Banta Chief of Largo. It should be noted however that Kono District shares a common border with Koinadugu District and Kayima sits at the foot of the Kuranko Hills in Koinadugu. And in the days of old, in that part of the country, the baton of military chivalry was generally reserved for both the Konos and the Kurankos. This suggests that both the Konos and the Kurankos can lay claim to being the ancestors of Sir Milton Margai.

Kailigi soon distinguished himself as an accomplished warrior and in Mendeland he became popularly known by the name "Margay" meaning "the strong one". Margay was later Anglicised to Margai by the missionaries. Margai married a local woman who bore him a son named Momoh. Momoh Margai was to become the father of Dr. Milton Margai. Momoh went to a mission school at Mano Bagru where he took the names Milton Edgar Strieby after one of the missionaries.

In 1895 Milton Edgar Strieby (MES) married Elizabeth Tucker. Milton Augustus Strieby Margai (MAS) was Elizabeths first and only child for she died at his birth. The infant Milton was placed in the care of his fathers second wife, Marian Pigott, a Creole. This was the woman Milton grew to know as a mother.

What a remarkable pedigree this is! With the gene of a warrior, who could have been a Kuranko man from the North or a Kono man from the East as grandfather, and a quiet, unassuming Sherbro woman from the South as biological mother, and a tolerant and dignified Creole woman from Freetown as surrogate mother, and with Gbangbatoke, Mendeland in the South, as his birthplace, it is scarcely difficult, Ladies and Gentlemen, to unravel why the SLPP under the leadership of Dr. Milton Augustus Strieby Margai adopted as its motto "One Country One People". He was truly an embodiment of the finest qualities any solid leader can possibly have.

May He rest in perfect peace!
May the SLPP Live Forever!!


© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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