From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

As One Country One People turns to One Mende! One Temne! SLPP Defending Fresh Tribalism
May 28, 2012, 14:18

There has been some displeasure against the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) over words printed on banners hung in Kenema last week Friday May 25th 2012 to welcome Dr. Kadi Sesay, the party’s running-mate in the presidential elections this year. One such Banner which was hung right at the party’s Hangha Road offices was prepared by the SLPP Women’s Wing for Kenema District and it had not stated the usual party slogan of ONE COUNTRY! ONE PEOPLE! It stated a slogan of ONE MENDE! ONE TEMENE! with an acclamation that because of such combination, they now believed success was possible. There was also an unfortunate spelling mistake whereby Temne was mis-spelt as TEMENE.

When Awareness Times contacted Madam Jita Ngobeh, the SLPP Women’s Leader for Kenema, she confessed that she had not looked at the words on the banner because she had been so busy arranging the welcome event itself. She explains that she delegated the task of preparing banners to a prominent SLPP youth named Rex Bonapha. When we contacted Rex Bonapha, he confirmed that it was him and other SLPP youths who indeed deliberately used those words on the banner but he went on to give an explanation for the words used.


According to Bonapha, “Temnes living in Kenema requested the message since they are proud of their sister being given prominence within SLPP. Infact, they started the slogan of One Mende! One Temne! We just followed suit because as a party, we saw it as an opportunity to break the tribal barrier. You will agree that over the years, lots of animosity between Mendes and Temnes especially here in Kenema where we have a large Temne settlement especially in our mining areas”.


He however had words of assurance for the rest of the other tribes who are non-Mende and non-Temne. Sierra Leone has at least seventeen different tribal groupings and many observers had commented that the open emphasis on the tribes of Dr. Kadi Sesay and Julius Maada Bio were not conducive to unity in the country.


The Banner hanging from SLPP Office Verandah along Hangha Rd

“The Mendes and Temnes are the two largest tribes in Sierra Leone and I guess this tribal message is to say with a Mende and Temne as Prezo and VP, then all will be well and it is a straight road to State House for SLPP. I just wonder what will happen to the rest of us non-Mendes and non-Temnes should such a proposed heavily tribal laden message team take over State House?” a voluble commentator had opined on Facebook.


“Let me assure that it was not for other tribes to feel left out. SLPP is One Country for One People. Our slogan is Unity of all tribes” Bonapha appeals.

The SLPP might have to work really hard to reassure many concerned citizens who are outraged. For example, one Amidu Ayoub Kanu writing on the Internet says he is not happy with the ONE MENDE ONE TEMNE message.

“Why not ONE COUNTRY ONE PEOPLE? What happened to that once famous slogan in the 60’s? May be no longer worth it, as the party is in the control of gangs calling themselves Pa.O.Pa led by the Sobel Maada Bio,” Amidu Kanu writes.

Meanwhile, a debate on the negative use of tribe in politics is raging.

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.