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NEWS : Politics  

Sierra Leone Opposition Leader Wows US Lawmakers
By Anthony Samai
Jun 26, 2009, 17:24
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Dr. Patrick Muana, the interviewee, is the pro-temp personal assistant to SLPP Chairman, John Benjamin, and he was interviewed on Thursday, June 25 by phone from Houston, TX. Dr. Muana can be reached at 281-508-1845.

Anthony Samai (AS): It has been a mixed trip for the SLPP chairman. Tell me more.

Dr. Patrick Muana (PM): The chairman, John Oponjo Benjamin, is undeterred by the minor niggles about entry restrictions and his trip is going as planned, and in his usual confident and focused manner, he is exceeding expectations. The trip has been a resounding success, Tony. He has visited SLPP constituents in the ever-expanding chapters of the party in eastern, mid-western, western, and southern USA.

(AS): What are some of the highlights of this trip by Chairman Benjamin?

 (PM): The chairman, John Oponjo Benjamin, has held a series of meetings with influential US lawmakers and he has, at every opportunity, reiterated the core values of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party as the party of fairness, justice, and equal opportunity; as the party that has historically guaranteed civil liberties and opened up democratic spaces; the party of institutional rebuilding and governance reform, gender and youth mainstreaming in policy making, pro-poor and pro-poverty alleviation; as the party that has provided enabling environments through forward-looking legislation etc in opening up the economy and maintaining a robust economy etc.

In each of the engagements, the chairman was enthusiastically received by the US lawmakers and the chairman competently deflected negative portrayals of the SLPP on Capitol Hill.

The chairman emphasized during those meetings, and in various town hall meetings in major US cities, that the SLPP will continue to be a peaceful and loyal opposition party that will critically engage and challenge the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) party in order to enhance development and good governance. The SLPP sees the APC as partners in development and the SLPP will continue to stress to the ruling APC that there is no place for violent adversarial politics. The SLPP brought peace to Sierra Leone and the SLPP will preserve peace for all Sierra Leoneans.

AS: The APC North America executive in the person of their public relations officer, Essa Thaim Kurugba, has been especially very cynical about Chairman Benjamin. Your take?

PM: Essa Thaim Kurugba and kindred APC North America executive members are bad advertisements for literacy in Sierra Leone. But the resentment in their statements are very similar to the tone of statements by Zainab Bangura, the foreign minister, over the VOA. Chairman Benjamin prefers to engage in only productive discussions that promote national development and unity. He is hopeful that the APC leadership here and in Sierra Leone will recalibrate its approach to political opposition.

AS: Do you think Chairman Benjamin has anything against Zainab Bangura?

PM: I do not believe the chairman has anything against Zainab Bangura. He has never said so.

AS: But the Pro-SLPP press seems to detest Zainab Bangura.

PM: Detest is a very strong word. What I know is that the foreign minister has a lot more on her plate with the Yenga situation which, two years on, she and the APC government have yet to present Sierra Leoneans with a blueprint for resolving. Hon. Zainab Bangura may also be wrestling with such personal and professional ethical challenges as arbitrarily granting a scholarship to her less qualified son when there are dozens of more deserving Sierra Leonean graduates languishing in Freetown as poorly paid teachers or importing rice from India through her ministry and having the rice paid for and sold by a private company in which the presidents brother has a strong stake. But not to worry, I am sure Zainab Bangura stood for probity and transparency in her former life and the current APC government has promised Sierra Leoneans zero tolerance and accountability. So we will continue to wait for the Anti-corruption commissioner and President Koroma to enforce the APCs standards for transparency and accountability in governance.

AS: What next for John Benjamin?

PM: I will be disseminating a formal press packet complete with photographs in short order. Chairman Benjamin will be attending the mini-convention of the North America region in Boston, Massachusetts over this weekend, and he will follow that with a series of engagements in Pennsylvania, Washington D. C. and the Tri-State area, and Chicago. The chairman may also meet with another US lawmaker before he departs for Sierra Leone.

AS: We will wait for the press packet then.

PM: Oh, absolutely. I will share that with you and other press houses in short order. Thanks Tony. I have to get off the phone now. Cheers.

 AS: Thank you very much, Dr. Muana.

The Interview was conducted on Thursday, June 25, 2009. The author, Anthony Leslie Samai, is a freelance journalist. He can be contacted at tonysamai@gmail.com


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