A very few disgruntled elements of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), some Executives of the Kono descendants Union of USA who also are members of “Friends of Sierra Leone” (FOSL) a United States registered non- profit organization, all led by Mr. Aiah Fanday Vice President of FOSL, received the shock of their lives last Thursday April 23rd, 2015, when all their efforts geared towards presenting a bleak picture of the administration and tarnishing the good image of the President Ernest Bai Koroma led government not only went in vain, but were also perceived as insignificant, twisted to confuse the august body with stories that were very economical with the truth.
The plight of Mr. Aiah Fanday and his insignificant few became compounded, when Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden who was visiting United States of America and attended the event, alongside Information Attaché Embassy of Sierra Leone in Washington DC, Mr. Pasco Gerald Temple, rose up to the challenge, actually debunked the tales told by Mr. Fanday and further set the records straight, thereby making Mr. Fanday and his insignificant few to be restless to extent that they left the forum early, before its logical conclusion.
Organized by the office of Ranking Member Karen Bass, House Africa Committee with Co- hosts Chairman Chris Smith, Ranking member Eliot Engel, a two hours (8;30-10:30) discussion on the topic :”African Elections and Governance in 2015 and beyond” took place at Members room (L1-162) Thomas Jefferson Building, Library of United States Congress, 10 First Street, South East.
The discussion which was centered on Governance, Politics, Democracy, Peace and Conflict was not only interesting, but was very thrilling and educative.
It was moderated by Dr. Monde Muyangwa, Director Africa Program, and Woodrow Wilson Center. Members of the panel include Eric Postel - Assistant to the Administrator for Africa USAID, Dr. Chris Fomunyoh Regional Director for West and Central Africa National Democratic Institute (NDI), Kamissa Camara Senior Program Officer West and Central Africa - National Endowment for Democracy and Omoyele Sowore - Journalist Sahara Reporters as panelists.
The discussion also saw very high profiled personalities from different parts of Africa in attendance, while observers emerged from Europe and USA. Other issues including the role of the media, War and Crime, Developments and the rights of individuals and citizens were also discussed.
During questions and answers period, Mr. Aiah Fanday took an excursion from the topic and “appealed for the intervention of the United States Congress into the politics of Sierra Leone to restore democracy in Sierra Leone, restore the erstwhile vice President, rescue the Sierra Leone Constitution and preserve freedom of the Press.
Responding, the panelists updated Mr. Fanday and his cohorts about the current situation in Sierra Leone and said the government is currently fighting Ebola. Dr.Chris Fomunyoh advised Mr. Fanday to take the matter to the Supreme Court like what happened between former President, General Olusegun Obasanjo and his vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakarr in the Federal Republic of Nigeria whilst other panelists were very categorical in telling Mr. Fanday and others that the subject was not Sierra Leone but other Countries. In addition, attendees were advised to have faith in the systems of their Countries.
In addition, Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden who spoke as a journalist, calmly but eloquently countered the claims of Aiah Fanday and the Kono Union members who had gone under the guise of “Concerned Sierra Leoneans”. She eloquently debunked his claims, as her intervention was interrupted with incessant clapping from an impressed audience of Congressional members and guests.
Giving a historical perspective from the time the Constitution was crafted in 1991, Dr. Blyden said, “one of the ways Democracy is weakened was when the strength of multi-partyism becomes diluted by cross-carpeting and treachery to the course of a political party one belongs to. Unscrupulous politicians can dilute the strength of a Nation’s democracy by accepting offers from rival political parties to betray their parties whilst attempting to still enjoy the elected office they entered under the party they were betraying. To end this and end ability to cross carpet or run against ideals of your party, we designed our Constitution to guard against this”.
“In 1991 when we were crafting our Constitution, in order to avoid weakening of political parties in what was clearly a nascent multi-party democracy, we, the citizens of Sierra Leone ensured we engraved into our constitution an over-riding ability of political parties control over officials they send into elective office” Dr. Blyden patiently explained.
“For lack of time, I will just cite one example of this. In our legislature, the equivalent of this U.S. Congress, any member elected therein who gets expelled from his party for whatever reason, I repeat, for whatever reason, will automatically lose their seat in the legislature,” Dr. Blyden continued.
“This is exactly what happened to the former Vice President. His party found him to be treacherous of the party’s lofty ideals and so they expelled him. And as per our Constitution, it was automatic! He lost his seat as Vice-President. That is what our Constitution says should happen and that is merely what happened. Our President never sacked his Vice-President as some political opportunists in this room earlier tried to mislead this august body,” said Blyden.
She added: “However, the former Vice President disagrees with this interpretation of our Constitution and he has taken the matter to the Supreme Constitutional court for an interpretation. Since he has taken the matter to court, I will only reference what Dr. Fomunyoh of NDI said: ‘we all should respect the courts’. This is what happens here in America. Politicians respect the Supreme Court.”
“Now, about the matter of press freedom, I could spend the whole day enlightening on that but let me just give one example. This same former Vice President got a bunch of highly unprofessional journalists to file reports to the international media that our President had sent trucks of heavily armed soldiers to storm his residence and threaten life of him and his family.
“This was later proven as totally untrue to the extent the Vice President himself disowned his own sympathetic media men as having lied on him. Now, I cannot imagine a false allegation worse than a journalist internationally accusing a sitting President of sending armed men to terrorize his Vice-President and wife and children of his Vice-President. But such a false report was filed all around the world without any effort to cross check. That happened six weeks ago but as I stand here, nobody has harassed those journalists who filed those false reports. They were not even chided by the Government. If that is not press freedom, then you will have to tell me what Press Freedom is! Thank you.”
Reaffirming Dr Blyden’s stance, Mr. Pasco Gerald Temple said, “Sierra Leone is peaceful. Democracy is intact, and there has not been any cause for alarm” adding, “Madam Chair, the issue regarding the erstwhile Vice President is currently a subject of the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone: and as I stand here, freedom of the press has not been tampered with and Sierra Leone is internationally acclaimed for Press freedom.”
In response, the panelists said, “We are aware”.
Sierra Leone’s Acting Trade Minister Madam Mabinty Daramy was also present.
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.