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Archive for February, 2000

NUP leader John Benjamin calls for interim government

Monday, February 14th, 2000

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The interim leader of Sierra Leone’s opposition National Unity Party, John Oponjo Benjamin, called Monday for an interim caretaker government to be set up when President Kabbah’s term in office expires in February. “An interim government is the way forward for this country,” Benjamin told the BBC Network Africa programme. “They can start off with looking at the political parties that are presently in Parliament plus the civil societies that have been involved in the process of establishing democracy in our country. They have a lot to contribute in view of the fact that they are in touch with people on the ground.”

Benjamin, who last month acknowledged his role in the 1992 NPRC coup which overthrew the government of then-President Joseph Saidu Momoh, served briefly as the NPRC’s Chief Secretary of State. Then, in 1993, he was appointed Secretary-General of the NPRC government. Benjamin is currently Executive Director of African Information Technology Holdings, an information technology company which operates in Freetown and the Gambia. He is also an announced candidate for president, and in Monday’s interview he criticised the government for having a leadership he said was “far removed from the people,” and accused government leaders of having “virtually given their responsibility over to foreign countries.”

Benjamin suggested he would do things differently. “I have the situation where I don’t surrender my responsibility to foreign countries or foreign organisations who do what I am supposed to do,” he said. “If U.N. have to come they will meet a programme there they will fit in. If Britain has to come they will meet a programme they will fit in. They will not tell me what I have to do in my country.”

Benjamin, who was born 48 years ago in the eastern town of Segbwema, told the BBC his party wanted to “break the people free from the tribal chain that they have been tied down to.” Sierra Leone, he argued, should see itself politically in the context of what is happening in the rest of West Africa. “How many of these old parties do you see still in governance? How many of these old people do you see still in governance?,” he asked. “This is a generation war we have with these people. And if we don’t free our country from tribal sentiments we go nowhere.”

Benjamin was elected interim leader of the NUP party following the resignation of Dr. John Karimu in 1997. “I have no doubt that because of the manner in which I have held the party together that I would be elected to be the substantive NUP leader,” Benjamin told the Sierra Leone Web on Monday. But as to recent media reports suggesting that his party may, in fact, be coming unraveled, with some high-ranking members reportedly planning to switch allegiances to the ruling SLPP, Benjamin declined public comment on specific individuals, but lashed out against those who might be planning to leave the NUP. “A famous world statesman once said, ‘Some people change their party because of their principles; Others change their principles because of their party’,” he said. “I would add to this that, ‘Some people change their party because they have no principles’.”

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