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COCORIOKO » 2009 » September

Archive for September, 2009

APC North America in Deep Chaos

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Brima M. Turay – Arizona, USA

 

When the APC North America branch stood firmly and fought vigorously alongside the party leadership before and after the 2007 presidential and parliamentary elections, it was with the best of intentions. These intentions were rooted in the common belief that our country needed a new direction.

As a branch, we have always accomplished great things through our willingness and ability to work as a team from the very beginning. People have had to sacrifice time, energy and resources to get the ball rolling toward the direction we have always wanted to go. However, the last few months have not exemplified these unique qualities. Granted that even during our peaceful moments, we did have occasional disagreements within the branch but the truth remains that such disagreements have always been resolved right there and then.

By all indications, the greatest blow to our peace and tranquility as a branch may have been dealt by the honorable ambassador Bockarie Stevens and the party Secretary General, Victor Foh, when they both teamed up in May 2009 to suspend the branch Chairman, Mr. Osman T. Conteh, through very unconstitutional means. What is perhaps the most important point in their actions is that both men claimed to have received the directives from higher authorities in Freetown to carry out the suspension.

To this day, there remain questions about what authority they were referring. Was it the president, Dr. Earnest Bai Koroma; or the Vice President, Alhaji Samuel Sumana? Or was it from the minister of Foreign Affairs since this is a Diaspora issue? In the midst of this confusion and in moments that could have crippled the branch, the honorable Vice president, Alhaji Samuel Sumana, on his visit to the United States in July this year, graciously and judiciously decided to look into the issues and came up with what we all believed was a very reasonable solution and resolution. He appointed an advisory committee to oversee the affairs of the branch until August 20, 2009 when Osman Conteh’s suspension is supposed to be lifted and be allowed to continue with his chairmanship thereafter.

This decision was applauded by all Chapters, especially the ten that were on Chairman Conteh’s side, out of a total of twelve in North America. But even after what seemed like a very thoughtful and thorough decision by the vice President, tensions continued between the ambassador and Chairman Conteh and all those who supported the ambassador’s previous decisions against the Chairman. Now, to add insult to injury, the honorable ambassador has again suspended the entire APC North America branch and left only five Chapters with three officials to serve as a mere skeletal structure for what used to be one of the most vibrant sources of support for the APC party.

This time again, the ambassador is claiming to have received his directives from higher authorities but did not specify whether it was from the president or vice president of our Republic. One of the three officials that the ambassador appointed to oversee the affairs of the branch is the very Secretary General of the branch, comrade Abdul Berro Kamara, commonly known as “Chief”. It is important to note that Abdul Kamara, during the previous fracas in the North America branch, was on the opposing side against the Chairman, even though he was the Secretary General and was supposed to remain neutral.

Of great importance would it also be for our readers and supporters of the APC to know that the same Abdul Berro Kamara has recently been suspended from his position as Secretary of the branch for failing to carry out his duties. In his response to the letter of suspension, he dubbed the APC as a party full of illiterates: “NAR NOW ARE NO WHY DEN SAY, NA SO SO ILLITERATE DEN PLENTY NA APC,” Abdul Berro Kamara stated. These words translate to one of the most unfortunate statements ever made by someone who professes as the scribe of one of the most powerful political organizations in the Diaspora.

Comrade Kamara could give us any interpretation he may want to give for this abrasive statement but what I, and many literate individuals, can deduce from his postulation is the insinuation by this comrade that every mistake someone or a group of people make is equivalent to illiteracy. This, by all accounts, is not only insulting but also goes to tell just how inadequate he may have been when it comes to his deductive reasoning capabilities.

Nonetheless, the ambassador still encourages this academic clown on his side and makes him part of his illegitimate team. Could all of this have been a personal issue turned political? Did the ambassador feel defeated and consequently demoralized by the vice president’s decision in July to reinstate Chairman Conteh? Could the ambassador be waging a war on Chairman Conteh as a way of asserting his authority over the branch’s administration? Could he have missed his primary role as Sierra Leone’s ambassador to the US? Does he really think and believe he has the moral authority to determine who should become chairman in the APC North America branch? Or is this merely punctuated by tribal sentiments? Does he even care about president Koroma and his new APC mantra? Is the ambassador helping or breaking the president? We may not have the answers to all of these questions but one thing remains clear – that the honorable ambassador had the same struggle with the London branch of the APC when he was there as a member. Could this have been a glaring pattern in the political life of the ambassador? What if the SLPP ask the ambassador to serve as one of their advisers in their North America branch – He is Sierra Leone’s ambassador to the US appointed by the APC to do a job for all Sierra Leoneans in that country. Why would president Koroma instruct the ambassador to dismantle the APC North America branch, which by all accounts, is one of the strongest structures of the president’s political architectures?

Does the ambassador truly respect the legacy that president Koroma wants to leave behind? Does he even respect and support the nation-building and inclusive political philosophy that president Koroma embodies? Why would the ambassador want to decide what happen in the APC North America branch if he is not a registered member of the branch? Why would ten out of twelve Chapters of the APC North America branch support the current Chairman? Why has the ambassador refused to acknowledge the fact that he is a paid official of the APC and everyone else is merely volunteering? What happens if all the Chapters that he has deliberately knocked off decide not to morally and financially support the APC? Could he single-handedly propel the kind of support that we all lend to the APC during the 2007 elections?

It is very insulting to the other Chapters if the ambassador is now referring to them as not being part of the North America branch when, as a matter of fact, all those Chapters had contributed time, energy and money to finance the very APC that is paying his salary today. It is also very insulting to all of us for the ambassador to come up with a lame excuse for dissolving the North America branch as a “decision that has no doubt been activated due to internecine rancor within the executive which if not stopped has the propensity to affect the party’s image at large”. Is he also honest to himself to say, “While we regret this action, we believe that it is in the best interest of the party”? Would this look like the kind of decisions that someone should make in “the best interest of the APC party”? What best interest would that be?

The ambassador’s best interest or the true interest of the APC, which would have allowed the ambassador to conduct a thorough investigation into what he calls “internecine rancor within the executive” and find out who the real perpetrators would be? Well, it is now very clear that the real perpetrators are on the side of the ambassador and therefore conducting an investigation would have been counter-productive to what the ambassador’s true intentions were. While the opposition SLPP is busy creating Chapters and expanding its base, our ambassador is busy dissolving our Chapters and he calls it “In the best interest of the APC”. Does he even know how hard it is to create a political Chapter in a country that is as busy as the word busy itself? This is not only ironical; it is also politically and strategically ridiculous.

The ambassador left the Arizona Chapter out; but I want him to ask, if he did not know, so that someone could tell him that the Arizona Chapter, among other things, championed one of the biggest fundraising efforts, collaborating with the Los Angeles Chapter, in Los Angeles during president Koroma’s last visit to the US before the elections in 2007. The honorable ambassador need not grapple with these common sense facts if he truly intends to see the APC succeed in 2012. In as much as I respect ambassador Stevens as a Sierra Leonean and as my country’s ambassador in the US, his actions are not looking very pleasant and certainly not very helpful to the APC party. I would also hope that these actions are not the result of any directives from president Koroma because they are not representative of the president’s attitudinal change philosophy.

The last thing we want to see in this branch is the negative effects of anyone’s personal vendetta. Granted that Chairman Conteh sometimes comes across as verbose in presenting issues but he is truly a patriot – one that loves the APC and wants to see that the party succeeds. He may have fallen short of the expectations of other people but he has made many sacrifices along the way. He is a mere volunteer – an unpaid servant of the APC party. The least we can all do is to let him finish his term of office in peace. I am therefore calling upon all lovers and supporters of the APC North America branch to stand firm in the face of this uninvited nightmare and wait until we hear from the legitimate Chairman, Osman Conteh who would be airing a press release soon! Until we receive a letter from State House or from one of its officials, we will continue to operate as a branch under the leadership of Chairman Conteh.

Let us remember that the voices of the majority must always be the true voices to which the government must listen because that would be democracy at its best! Posted by The Rokel Report at 3:09 PM 0 comments Newer Posts Older Posts Home Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)

APC – NA Imbroglio: Ambassador Stevens Responds

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

AMBASSADOR BOCKARIE STEVENS
By Anthony Abdul Karim Kamara, Jnr.To many Sierra Leoneans, Bockarie Kortu Stevens has done a remarkable job since assuming the office of Sierra Leone’s ambassador to the USA. Whether it is in working with other well meaning Sierra Leonean organizations to refurbish the once dilapidated embassy to the formation of Sierra Leone Arc of Hope, an organization that is working desperately to raising funds for the construction of the state of the art hospital in Sierra Leone, his supporters will tell you there has never been an ambassador like him here in the USA. Many in the community I spoke to were also quick to point out that because he takes time out of his busy schedule to attend to community events and endeavour to know his compatriots by name, it is clear he seeks the interest of those he is here to represent.Not surprising are his critics, who contend that had he been more focused and not self serving, he could have done more than the little things that he is been hailed for. Being an ambassador is much more than keeping your office clean and knowing your people by name, they commented. It is about helping to improve lives in a country where a vast majority of populace live in abject poverty, they continued. The continued problems at the APC – NA has also not been very kind to him. Many within the party claim he is the source of all the problems.

Even as he attends to Sierra Leone’s affairs with his boss, President Koroma who along with his counterparts from around the world meets in New York for the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly, he eagerly responded to questions I posed to him about claims being circulated by a majority of members in his party.

AK: The North American arm of the APC has been in turmoil for quite a while. The issues within the party which are supposed to be internal have spiralled out of control with so much name calling. Unfortunately, you as ambassador, who also happen to be a member of the party has been labelled as the one who has created all these troubles? What is going on in the party?

Stevens: As a political party as popular as the APC Party, issues of this nature are not uncommon. The only diversion in this case is when people try to use the electronic media to vent out long harboured grievances and castigate people’s character. My interest in the APC is to see the party fulfill its programme for the development of Sierra Leone.

AK: In his last visit, VP Sumana was able to settle the in party fighting which led to the re-instatement of Osman Conteh to his position as Chairman. What led to his suspension in the first place? And why has his executive been dissolved again a week before President Koroma is to visit the US for his second UNGA in New York?

Stevens: It was not the Vice President that restored Osman Conteh. The Vice President together with the Executive of the branch appointed an Advisory Council of four to look into the issue and plot a way forward for the Branch. I reluctantly accepted the chairmanship of that body.

This committee held four meetings and decided to re-instate Ousman in addition to him be issued with a final letter of warning. In accordance with this decision he was re-instated by the committee with me as chairman and issued with a final letter of warning. There are records to prove all of this.

AK: Some have alleged that you have a personal vendetta against the elected Chairman, Osman Conteh and your only concern is to seek your personal interest. There are also charges that instead of representing SL as ambassador to the USA, all your focus is on the APC. Instead of seeking the interest of the party, you are bent on destroying it. What is your response to these charges?

Stevens: I don’t know where a vendetta comes from. I voted in the committee to have him re-instated, I chaired the convention that brought him in as chairman. I don’t need his job. So where does hate come from. It will be ridiculous of me to spend all my time on APC. APC is part time that is done only at weekends.

My job in the USA is that of an Ambassador and not APC chairman. I have held very senior appointments in the APC party long before now in positions that are more important than chairman of a branch. Those who care to keenly observe my performance in the USA will judge me rightly not from those who do it out of malice. Go to the gates of the Sierra Leone mission in Washington and judge for yourself. Go inside the embassy and you be the judge. Meet ordinary Sierra Leoneans in the streets and you be the judge.

AK: Why is it that a neutral body independent of the current executive has not been temporarily formed so that party issues can be settled? The current advisory committee, it has been alleged, are those that are loyal to you. In fact, it is an open secret that they are all involved in causing the problems of the APC-NA. If they are, why should they be afforded an opportunity to run the affairs of the party and the others not allowed to? Why should all other chapters be banned except for five?

Stevens: The advisory body decided on the appointment of the Interim Committee and not Bockari Stevens. It was done unanimously by the four members of the Advisory Committee.

The Advisory Committee as I have already stated was set up by the executive at a meeting presided over by the Vice President in July 2009.

No Chapter has been banned. Chapters are supposed to be set up in accordance with the Byelaws. Each Chapter was given more than two months to consolidate their Byelaw requirement. What the Advisory Committee did was to include the interim committee and all the chapters that had complied with the Byelaws by submitting their membership list to the Secretary General. When the rest do that they should be automatically included in the interim body.

AK: The press released posted on our website informed our readers of “a directive from the National Party Headquarters in Freetown mandated the National Advisory body of the APC NA Branch for an “Immediate dissolution of the North America Executive Branch of the APC and the formation of an Interim Body that will organize a National Conference within a reasonable time frame is approved.” Was this directive from President Koroma, or Victor Foh or party elders?

Stevens: The Secretary General of the Party Mr Victor Foh had ordered the dissolution of the executive and the convening of a National Delegates Conference after conducting investigations resulting from the suspension of Osman Conteh.

AK: What steps are being employed to bring a speedy resolution to this mess? This must not be good news for President Koroma to come to the US and see that after so many months, the underlying issues have not been settled. Is he going to be the only one who can bring this problem to a peaceful resolution?

Stevens: The President as leader of the party of course will not be happy with the media frenzy of some of our party folks. However it is not every issue that arises within the party that should divert his attention from the important task of state. That is why the APC party has structures in place to deal with issues of this nature.

AK: What do you want to say to friends and supporters of the APC who are so angry and disappointed that this is left to happen and has dominated the media headlines? What is your message to the other camp which clearly is not on the same page with you?

Stevens: We are all “APCinnians.” We all belong to mother APC. Let wash our dirty linings at home. We are all humans and there are times that we see things differently but that should not divert us from the bigger picture which is the APC Party.

I urge them to seek redress within the confines of the party structures instead of sing the media to expose themselves. Since these media attacks I have not responded but I agreed to your interview to set the records straight.

My relationship with the APC in North America is a part time one based on mutual respect. The branch is under the tutelage of the party secretariat. I have no special interest in individuals. Whoever provides an effective and sound leadership for the Branch in North America has my total support.

AK: Unfortunately, we will not be able to complete all the questions I have for you due to your busy schedule in New York. Thank you for your time.

Stevens: You are right! Thank you too Abdul for reaching out.

APC-NA Crisis: Chairman Conteh Speaks Out

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Anthony Abdul Karim Kamara, Jnr.

The North American branch of the All People’s Congress (APC), the governing party led by President Ernest Bai Koroma has been in chaos for a couple of months. This seemingly ongoing power struggle between supporters of Chairman Osman Conteh and his elected executive and supporters of the interim executive handpicked by Sierra Leone’s ambassador to the USA, Bockarie Stevens seems to have frustrated many in the party.

It is the opinion of many observers that party elders must make a conscious effort to resolve the current impasse here in the USA. Regardless of what the issues are and the different messages been propagated by supporters on both sides, a vast majority of the populace both at home and abroad believe that the issue in question threatens the peace and stability that the North American branch has enjoyed. There are those who also believe that considerable damage has already been done in terms of fundraising which was very successful this time last year.

In an effort to understand what the issues are and why it has taken such an awful long time for the problems at hand to be resolved, Chairman Osman Conteh sat down for an interview. Even before we began our interview, he quickly pointed out to me that he saw SLPP North America Chairman, Augustine “Boss” Fallay’s interview on the PV website. “I think Fallay does not know what he is talking about. I am ready to respond to his allegations one by one and he should know that despite our issues, we remain to be a very formidable party. I think he should focus on the problems they have in the SLPP” he maintained.

AK: The past few months have been very challenging for you. From your suspension to your re-instatement and the dissolution of your entire executive, the APC-NA is in disarray. What is really going on?

Conteh: First of all, let me thank you for granting me this interview. You see, Mr. Kamara to be a leader is not easy. First, it is important to note that when one is afforded the opportunity to serve, that he/she does so with humility and serve with all sincerity and firmness of purpose. As a leader, it is also important to have the people you serve on your side.
Our branch has issues but we will deal with them accordingly. It is unfortunate that some in the party have decided to put their personal interest over that of the party. In fact, some are waging what I will call a war or personal vendetta against me. In the interest of the party, I have kept quiet and have showed considerable patience.

Despite our troubles, one thing is clear: we will come out stronger than ever and continue to build the formidable team that we have and work on making sure President Koroma’s agenda becomes a success. Make no mistake, it has been tough but the truth is I have tried my best to work in the interest of the party and of our beloved country.

AK: What is the cause of your problems as Chairman of APC- North America?

Conteh: You would recall Mr. Kamara that during President Koroma’s visit last year to the USA when he attended his first United Nations General Assembly, we held a fundraiser with the proceeds to be used for the rehabilitation of the Kissy Mental Home. I think you actually covered that event.

After the fundraising event where we raised more than $10,000, we as an executive voted unanimously and agreed to spend this money on refurbishing the Kissy Mental home in Freetown. It was clearly stated on the flyers and ads that we distributed.

When the proceeds came in, we decided to do exactly what we had envisaged. That was to use the proceeds for Kissy Mental Home. It is important to note that at the time we met and took the decision, Ambassador Stevens was in Freetown.

Prior to his return to the US, the president of the Texas Chapter, Ms. Nanette Thomas, who was opposed to the idea of sending the money to Freetown and had suggested that we send only $5000, had called and informed Ambassador Stevens that we voted to send $10,000 to Freetown. She also informed Mr. Stevens that Mr. Victor Bockarie Foh, our national secretary general, demanded ten million Leones from the North America branch. However, she did not stop there; she also claimed that because of her opposition, I had verbally insulted her. This of course was a big lie.

AK: Why do you think Nanette Thomas called Ambassador Stevens to convey what took place in your meeting?

Conteh: That is a question for her to answer. I definitely don’t know.

AK: Did Ambassador Stevens know what the purpose was for the Fundraising dance held in Maryland?

Conteh: Yes! He was present at the dance. Don’t you recall seeing him there? He saw the flyers and was fully aware of everything.

AK: What was your response to Nanette Thomas after her opposition to sending the entire $10,000 to Freetown?

Conteh: My answer to Nanette was that the money was raised to help refurbish the Kissy Mental Home. If we raised this amount and the decision had been agreed upon by majority of the members, there was no reason for us to change our original aim. I believed the right thing to do then was to send the money to Freetown. I still stand by that decision today. This was how she began the process of conveying information to Ambassador Stevens in Freetown.

AK: So what happened after Ambassador Stevens’ return to the USA?

Conteh: Upon his return and having learnt that the North American executive had voted unanimously to send the $10,000 to Freetown, Ambassador Bockarie summoned me to a meeting at the embassy. As ambassador and a senior member of the party and because I had so much respect for him, I answered his called.

At the embassy, Ambassador Stevens demanded an explanation about the money we sent to Freetown. Knowing that it was a unanimous decision taken by all members of the North American executive team and the fundraiser was held for this purpose, I informed him how the decision to spend the money came about and our desire to support a struggling government meet some of its challenges.

To my deepest surprise, Ambassador Stevens became very angry because as he stated we made a decision in his absence. He also intimated that the money might not be used in Freetown for the purpose it was intended.

My response to his outburst was that as a party, we had an obligation to fulfill our promise so friends and supporters who attended the event know that money raised was used as they were told i.e. the refurbishment of the Kissy Hospital.

It was at this juncture that he warned me to be very careful with him because what I was doing as chairman was not the right thing to do and not in the interest of the party. I should have consulted with him and must always consult with him or else I could lose my position as chairman of the North America branch.

AK: What was your response to Ambassador Stevens at the embassy when he intimated that you could possibly lose your position as chairman?

Conteh: I was shocked! I thought I misunderstood him. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. I thought to myself this guy was sent to the USA to represent Sierra Leone but here he was meddling in the internal politics of a branch and threatening me about the possibility of loosing my job. I held my cool and told him that the decision we took was made by all members. We held a vote and members voted their consciences. He then told me that he had warned me. Out of respect, I did not continue to argue him. Instead, I told him that I have listened to his concerns.

AK: What happened after your meeting at the embassy?

Conteh: Later that week, as chairman, I called an executive meeting and disclosed to the entire team what transpired during my meeting with Ambassador Bockarie including of course, his threat to remove me from my position as Chairman.

AK: What was the response from other members of the executive?

Conteh: What happened was that those in the team who have always been on his side went on to inform him that I used disrespectful language towards him and Victor Foh. As always, some of these members included Nanette Thomas and Col. (Rtd) Idriss Kamara. Even though these were lies, he never called me to ask as he did when he came from Freetown. Instead, he suspended me. This was the starting point of our problems.

AK: Why don’t you tell our readers what actually led to your suspension?

Conteh: First of, I have to say that I never considered myself being suspended. I say so because I considered it illegal because he does not have the mandate to suspend anyone within the party. It is important to note here that he is not even a registered member of the APC-NA but all he seeks is to become a dominant force within the APC-NA. His actions are illegal because we have nothing to the effect that gives him the power to do such a thing. It is neither in our constitution nor in our North American bylaws. That is why he is getting all the opposition that he is getting from many members of the party. He has succeeded in emboldening all of us.

AK: You might call your suspension illegal but the truth is for some time, you were not able to perform any of your duties as chairman? In fact, your vice chairman, Leslie Allen was acting in your capacity. This was true even when VP Sumana visited the USA. What is your response?

Conteh: I consider that period to be one of gridlock. I say so because the person that ambassador wanted to impose on us was not supported by majority of the North American branch. Out of eleven chapters, nine were totally against the whole nonsense.

AK: Just to be clear here, we are talking about Leslie Allen, right. Is he Ambassador’s preferred candidate?

Conteh: Yes, that is correct. He had no support from members of the party and it was evident in the meetings that he tried to call when folks failed to show up. In contrast, when I call for meetings attendance has never been an issue.

AK: Whether your suspension was illegal or not, the truth is Leslie Allen had represented the party on a few occasions when you were prohibited from performing your functions as chairman. In fact, he also represented the party at a function in Ohio and his team was pretty much left to handle the visit of the VP in the Washington DC metro area.

Conteh: Well, the truth is that was part of ambassador Stevens plans to frustrate the members of our party here in the USA. The event in question in Ohio was not that of a success because many party members stayed away.

AK: How did Victor Foh became a party to this issue?

Conteh: After Ambassador Stevens came from Freetown claiming that he was given the mandate to suspend our executive, rumours have it that some in his team paid Victor Foh’s way to the USA so that he could settle our internal problems. In fact, Col. (Rtd) Idriss Kamara name was mentioned as the one who paid his way.

Now, this was the man with whom I have enjoyed very close relations. Whenever he comes to the US, I am always notified. In fact, I always know his schedule and pretty much work with him when it comes to issues of the party here in the US.

What was strange though was that, during his visit when he was supposedly here to address our issue, he did not even call me to alert me of his arrival. Instead, he (Victor Foh), Ambassador Stevens and a few others held a Kangaroo court without my knowledge and released another communiqué that my suspension will not be revoked.

The strange thing though was that Col.(Rtd) Idriss Kamara who was also suspended because of very strong disagreements we had, had his suspension completely revoked. Remember Mr. Kamara this was after an advisory board was set up to look into the issues in our branch and the board found that the issue in question did not rise to the level of suspension. In fact, we were both fined $100. I paid mine and to this day, he has not paid his.

It was ironic that Mr. Foh came to the US, met secretly with a few members, nullified Idriss’ suspension because he paid his way to the US and concluded mine should continue. I guess my only thought was that I did not pay his way to the US. So, this was what happened.

AK: In essence you are saying that Victor Foh and Ambassador Stevens worked in concert to remove you from your position, right?

Conteh: That is exactly what they did and are still doing and both men claim to have received their directives from Freetown even though their so called meeting included Abdul Bero Kamara, Idriss Kamara, Victor Foh, Leslie Allen and Ambassador. How can these guys behave like this call themselves party elders? How could you hold a meeting and not invite me to hear my side? No sensible person will revoke one person’s suspension and leave the other. Does that make sense to you, Mr. Kamara?

AK: I am not been interviewed, Mr. Conteh. You are been interviewed. I am sure you can answer the question.

AK: Where did the issue of 10 million Leones came from?

Conteh: That had to do with the APC Convention in Makeni where on behalf of members here asked Mr. Foh how much money the party needed from our branch to help with convention expenses. Mr. Foh stated that they need ten million
Leones from us. Upon hearing his response, I asked him to send us a communiqué on this issue as soon as he arrived in Freetown. He promised to do so but never did. Numerous attempts to reach him in Freetown were to no avail.

Shortly after the APC convention, Col. (Rtd) Idriss Kamara who had attended the convention came back from Freetown and in one of our executive meetings, scolded me and accused him of planning the incident in which he, Idriss, was booed by attendees. Of course, his accusations led to chaos and he using obscene language.

AK: What did VP Sumana do to try to solve this ongoing issue?

Conteh: First off, VP Sumana showed leadership skills which we all admired. It was clear he understood that what had happened was not right and not in the interest of the party. He talked with me personally before he called the entire membership for a meeting and asked me to take it easy and he will do all he could to resolve this impasse. He is truly a man that I have immense respect for.

As a result, I conveyed to him that any decision that he came up with that was in the interest of the party, I will abide by it. In our meeting, it was agreed that my suspension continue for another 10 days but Ambassador Stevens manipulated it and it lasted for another month before I was finally re-instated. The VP had set up an ad-hoc committee to deal with the issue and get me reinstated but again, I was not called for any meeting. I was marginalized by the same group of people.

AK: What led to the dissolution of your entire executive team after your reinstatement a week or so before President Koroma was scheduled to travel to New York?

Conteh: Ambassador had traveled to Brazil to meet with President Koroma. Upon his return to Washington, I called to speak with him. Having established the fact that he hates me and has a personal vendetta against me, I wondered what he would have told President Koroma.

During my call, I asked him about the president’s itinerary since we all know he was on his way to New York for the UN General Assembly. This way, we could make preparations like we did last year. This was after four previous attempts made by Abdul Bero and I also made a follow up of our request. Since we got no response and after Abdul Bero’s suspension, the acting secretary general also contacted him. I also called him again and got no response.

It was a surprise later to see an email he sent out after a previous meeting stating that President Koroma does not want to see any member of the North America branch and was going to dissolve the entire executive before the president’s arrival in the US, and he did. He claimed to have his directives from authorities in Freetown but did not mention any names.

As a branch, we strongly believe it is not right for the Ambassador to try to break us. He is not a registered member of the branch and he is not paying monthly dues. We have been struggling with this branch for the past 12 years and to imagine that he is trying to frustrate our efforts is very repulsive.

AK: Why was Abdul Bero suspended recently?
Conteh: He was suspended because of insubordination and because he is also to be blamed among others for all the issues that our branch has encountered. Even after so many conversations with him which other members have done, he has no regard for authority. Since he would not listen to anyone from the party but instead relies on Ambassador and for failing to do what his position calls for, it was unanimously agreed that he be suspended.

AK: Are you concerned that as president Koroma comes to New York, his party in the USA is in disarray/

Conteh: It is unfortunate that we are having these issues at the time. The whole problems emanated from Ambassador Stevens. Sadly, he is even using the president’s name to try to cause problems claiming always that the president said this or that or that the leadership of the party said so and so. We know this is not true and we are determined to prove him once and for all. It saddens me that he is not working in the president’s interest but his personal interest.

AK: Have you tried to reach President Koroma?

Conteh: Well, we will be in New York to meet with him and share our concerns with him. We will present our case to him and will report back to our members.

AK: Let me make sure I understand you. You have not made any efforts in the past to reach President Koroma. This will be your first attempt to discussing the issue with him, right?

Conteh: Yes, you are right. This is our first attempt. We have never tried to reach him. We have never filed any formal complaint against Ambassador Stevens. We did so because we thought the ambassador will change and put the interest of the party first.

AK: What message do you have for friends and supporters of the party who are watching and hoping that this nonsense comes to an end so that you guys can get to work for the party rather than your individual egos?

Conteh: We are going through a period of challenges but all will come to pass. However, we have to fight for the truth. Life is full of challenges and politics is the same. We will come out strong and we will get back to work in the interest of the party and our country. We can no longer stand this nonsense and it is about time we deal with it head on. All we are asking is that Ambassador gets to work with the work that he is charged with and that is representing Sierra Leoneans in the USA. We know he is a senior party member but he has a job to do and he should concentrate on doing just that and let us do ours. Our branch has been in existence for a very long time and we’ve never had to deal with such issues. However, since he came all we have had are issues upon issues and that is not good.

AK: What message do you have for the opposition as you go through these tough moments? They must be happy to see you guys fighting amongst yourselves as they plan a comeback strategy.

Conteh: Trust me Mr. Kamara; they have more issues to deal with. They know that they cannot underestimate our resolve. These things are common in any political party but if they think our issue has made us weaker, they are mistaken. We are a formidable branch and we are ready for them at anytime.

AK: Why is it important for you to do this interview after all these months?

Conteh: There is a time for everything. For far too long, I have suppressed myself in the interest of the party but now I can no longer be silent. This needs to stop and these guys need to know that. All Ambassador Stevens does is to humiliate and disrespect me. This time, I will defend myself.

AK: Thanks for your time with Mr. Conteh. Just so you know I will be reaching Ambassador Stevens and others mentioned here to get their side.

Conteh: No problem, Mr. Kamara.

Editor’s note: When contacted for an interview, Leslie Allen kindly declined stressing that he surfaced in this issue only because he is vice chairman of the APC-NA. “My party is bigger than me and I seek the interest of the party,” he continued.

President Koroma endorses APC Party Secretariat’s decision, Osman Conteh concedes defeat!

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Anthony Abdul Karim Kamara, Jnr.

In what was considered by many observers and supporters of the APC as a strongly worded message, Ernest Bai Koroma, president of Sierra Leone and leader of the governing All People’s Congress (APC), yesterday approved the dissolution of the North America executive and in no uncertain terms, reaffirmed the decision of the party’s national secretariat in Freetown lead by Secretary General, Victor Bockarie Foh.

Delivering his remarks at the Intercontinental Hotel in New York where he is currently a guest as he attends the 64th Plenary Session of the United Nations General Assembly, his second meeting since he took over the reigns of government in Sierra Leone, President Koroma called for the conduct of new, free and fair elections to be held as soon as possible.
Calling on the interim executive led by Leslie Allen, his blunt message was that measures be put in place to bring a speedy conclusion to the matter. Admonishing all to put the party’s interest first, president Koroma urged the interim leadership to present a representative executive that is truly reflective of the APC North America and one that will work hard to embody the ideals of the party.

On the need for a united APC, H.E. Koroma appealed to all to put away their personal agenda and instead work to see the party succeed. “If your goal is to see the party flourish and you have no hidden agenda, then you must work for unity in the party,” said he. In an effort to bring issues to rest, the president reiterated his call informed for elections to be held as soon as possible and pledged to ask the national secretariat to closely monitor events at the North American branch.

Cognizant of year 2012, Koroma cautioned members of the North American APC to elect an executive that will work in tandem with the aims and objectives of the party and the development agenda that he has set out to accomplish for the people of Sierra Leone. “Failure is not and will not be an option for my party and government,” he underscored. Counting on the support of all party members, friends and supporters to embark on a change of attitudes and being responsible of the manner in which the image of the party is portrayed, he challenged all to “ensure that we do the things that will make us an electable government in 2012.”

In an apparent swipe to all party members who have disrespected the office of Sierra Leone’s ambassador to the United States, especially with the many accusations and innuendos that have been circulated all over the Diaspora and the various local and international media houses about the current ambassador, Bockarie Kortu Stevens, the president was unequivocal: “Ambassadors are my representatives. Any disrespect for them is disrespect for me, too. They are fully mandated to represent me and our country abroad. That is why they have all the honour and privileges bestowed on me. If we are interested in being members of the party, we must respect that.” With a deep sense of disapproval, president Koroma warned all to desist immediately from any acts of insubordination that have no room in a party where he is the leader.

That a ruling has been reached in almost a week since his arrival in New York with a strong condemnation for the conduct of some in the party, behaviour which threatens to bring disrepute to the office of Sierra Leone’s Embassy (if it has not already done so), is not a surprise.

Perhaps, the surprise, if any, as confirmed reports indicate is that Camp Osman Conteh had submitted a formal letter of complaint to the president after Sunday’s town hall meeting in New York detailing Ambassador Stevens’ alleged practices within the APC-NA. This is in addition (as confirmed by Osman Conteh) to a meeting both camps held in New York again on Wednesday with Minister IB Kargbo which included members of Camp Stevens (Ambassador Stevens & Nanette Thomas) where subtle signals were perceived by team Osman Conteh (Osman and Mohamed S. Fornah) that victory in this tumultuous issue was within their reach. President Koroma could not attend because he was busy preparing his UN address which he delivered on Thursday, September 24.

Responding to questions I posed to him via telephone after all indications pointed to a losing battle on his side, deposed Osman Conteh, who was in high spirits humbly acknowledged having lost the battle to Ambassador Stevens. Even as he conceded defeat, he is of the strong belief that his defeat had to do with politics and has been left with no recourse to turn to except to accept President Koroma’s directives. Asked whether he continues to believe in President Koroma as a leader of the APC, his answer was a resounding yes but alluded to quotations attributed to economist, John Kenneth Galbraith that “There are times in politics when you must be on the right side and lose.” He continues to ponder his next options.

As he proceeded to his hotel driving through the streets of New York to retire to bed after a long day of activities with his boss around midnight, I caught up with Ambassador Stevens. Calm, humble but confident, Stevens informed me that he had no comments concerning the APC saga because the leader of his party, President Koroma had drawn the curtain on the issue. Asked about all those articles on various news outlets, his belief was that the writers of those articles did so to influence his boss who as he puts it “understand it and has come out very strongly and is in support of the decisions taken by the secretariat and has reaffirmed his confidence in the decision that I conveyed and he fully supports it and nothing will change. Elections will be held in ninety days and whoever wants to contest, can do so,” he noted.

The new executive that has been mandated to carry out the affairs of the party on an interim basis until elections are held in three months are: Leslie Allen who was vice chairman and now occupies the position of Chairman, Abdul Bero Kamara who retains his position as secretary general, Banister Koroma appointed to the position of Organizing Secretary, Mohamed Koya Bangura appointed as Financial Secretary and Abu B. Bangura, as Treasurer. Foday Mansaray, Dr. Bankole Gibson and Sidique Kamara to the positions of Public Relations officer, Communications Director and Compliance Officer respectively.

*Editor’s Note: Anthony Kamara, Jnr. is PV’s USA Bureau Chief and Acting Deputy Editor. For comments, he can be reached via email at usapvchief@yahoo.com

“We are an open government” – Hon. Alpha Kanu

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Who is Alhaji Alpha Kanu, the minister of Presidential Affairs, popularly known as “Alpha Kahn”? He is a mining engineer by profession, graduating with a Master of Philosophy (M.Phil) in geophysics from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom.

Alpha Khan interviews by anthony

Upon his return home after post-graduate studies, he worked at the National Diamond Mining Company (NDMC) for a short while before proceeding to lecture at the Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, for about seven years prior to his appointment as head of department of commercial enterprises where he spent another four years.

 

Thereafter, he joined the private sector becoming an entrepreneur with the launch of his own mining and geological consultancy. In 1991, he entered the airline business establishing Afrik Airlinks, a regional air transportation that caters to Africa. Until 2002, when he became a Member of Parliament (MP) representing Port Loko District he has not always been a member of the APC. When he was denied the party symbol for the 2007 elections, he joined president Koroma (then opposition leader) as the opposition party spokes person; a job he handled excellently and is widely believed to be responsible for the confidence that president Koroma enjoyed and the positive message communicated to the electorate that led to his victory in 2007.

 

His persuasive skills were at play during the launching of the APC manifesto on July 11, 2007. Today, he serves as presidential spokesperson and minister of presidential affairs. The soft spoken gentleman, who in some quarters is labelled a “smooth talker”, is widely admired for his eloquence, one of the many skills needed to function effectively as the face of the presidency. With an ebullient character, he is easy to talk to and invites all to ask him any question about the present administration which he prides in being “an open government” and was elected to serve the people.

Ladies and gentlemen, here is Hon. Alhaji Alpha Kanu in an exclusive interview with USA Bureau Chief, Anthony Abdul Karim Kamara, Jnr held at the Willard Intercontinental hotel in Washington DC.

PV: Honourable Kanu, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to sit down for this interview.

Kanu: You are very welcome. It is always a pleasure for me to talk to people like you who want to know about our government and the country as a whole. We are an open government and we are accountable to our people.

PV: You are the face of the presidency in that you are the presidential spokesperson as well as the minister of presidential affairs. Why don’t you tell us about the roles you play in president’s Koroma’s administration?

 

Kanu: As the minister of presidential affairs, my role is really to coordinate between the president and the rest of the cabinet; ministries, commissions that are directly under the president and would normally have to interact with him. As the spokesperson for the office of the president, the fact is I only come in when I am needed i.e. speaking for and on behalf the president Otherwise, the office is staffed with competent people who I think are doing a very fine job conveying the president’s day-to-day activities articulately.

PV: What changes do you hope to bring to your office?

 

Kanu: My office? I don’t have an office. My office is the president’s office. This means I can hardly bring changes to his office. Instead, the changes that he has brought to the office or would like to see done are those that I am going to work on. Of course, as you would expect, there is always room to offer suggestions and the president is someone who listens attentively. We are an open government. The Open Government Initiative is one of the changes that has been instituted whereby the government goes out and speak to the people about the country according them the opportunity to ask questions directly. Another one is stimulating the private sector such that we can have the input, financial resources to bring Sierra Leone out of her current economic underdevelopment. This we have done by prioritizing the urgent needs of the country beginning with energy, agriculture and water supply, infrastructure and transportation among others.

 

PV: President Koroma has expressed over and again that he wants to run the country like a business concern. Coincidentally, both of you seem to have had business experience before joining politics. What is this all about?

 

Kanu: For us, our government is indeed like a business. People have to be accountable and they should have timelines to produce positive results. This is why all ministers have signed a contract; a time based contract in which they are reviewed every year. The truth is they have all been doing very well and we are seeing dividends. However, we want to see positive changes all the time; and this is what we are going to do together to bring our country to the next level. This was why president Koroma was elected and he has plans to change Sierra Leone; that is why he continues to call on all to join in the process of developing our homeland. The challenges are many but we have the resolve needed to achieve what we want for this country

 

. PV: What can you tell us about your secondary school days?

 

Kanu: Well, let’s see. I attended Collegiate School which was well known for Latin instruction before leaving for St. Francis Secondary School in Makeni. Actually, your dad taught me at St. Francis. I was a keen student of languages and loved French, Latin and English but by the time I entered St. Francis, Latin was no longer offered as part of the curriculum. So, I had to contend with French. I was a science student but I had immense love for reading. I read widely and in the process picked up a lot of knowledge. I was very lucky to have a very good uncle, Dr. Sheka Kanu who loved education and encouraged us a lot. He was always very strict with us but the truth is he played a major role in my education. He was indeed a role model. May his soul rest in peace.

 

PV: I asked this question because I overheard a group of young men arguing over what high school you attended. At least, they all agreed that you did a very good job in introducing the presidential delegation; one of the duties we have seen you perform almost on a daily basis here in the US during the various town hall meetings. One of them said “like him or not, the guy is eloquent.” I am sure he was expressing one of the many gifts or skills that people admire you for? What do you have to tell young people who listen to you?

 

Kanu: The young people? I don’t know except to say that they should be very hardworking in school and try to the very best they could possibly become. They should seek that which they like and have a passion for. They should remain focus and should have an inquisitive mind.

 

PV: I know you are on your way to the airport this evening. Thank you for your time, sir.

 

Kanu: Thank you too for your time and keep up the good work.

 

Photo: Alpha Kanu (right) and PV USA Bureau Chief Anthony Kamara. This interview was first published on October 14, 2008 on The Patriotic Vanguard’s website. Posted by The Rokel Report at 9:28 PM 0 comments

President Koroma at the 64th UN General Assembly

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

President Koroma at the 64th UN General Assembly

President Ernest Koroma’s speech at the UN

Statement by His Excellecy Dr. Ernest Koroma,

President of the Reupblic of Sierra Leone,

At the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York,

24 September 2009

Mr. President,

Your Majesties, Excellencies,

Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I feel highly honoured to address this distinguished Assembly once again. I would like to start by congratulating you, Mr. President, on your assumption of the Presidency of the Sixty-Fourth Session of the United Nations General Assembly and, to assure you of my delegation’s support and cooperation as you perform the demanding task of presiding over our deliberations this session.

Through you Mr. President, I would also like to convey my sincere gratitude to His Excellency, Monsignor Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann for the efficient and effective manner in which he conducted the previous session. My appreciation also goes to the Secretary-General for his comprehensive account of the work of the organization and his analysis of the challenges facing the global community.

Mr. President,

The theme for this year’s session is apt and timely. It is only through dialogue amongst the different civilizations of the world represented in this deliberative body and the strengthening of the institutions and architecture responsible for promoting this dialogue that we could effectively meet the challenges posed by the current global crises. Dialogue promotes understanding; understanding enhances cooperation; cooperation gives vitality and legitimacy to the institutions and mechanisms that have been structured for meeting our common challenges and goals.

Civilizations began as magnificent blueprints for meeting challenges that were specific to particular regions of the world; but advances in technology and communications have made many problems no longer specific to particular regions. Climate change, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and the swine flu pandemics, the food and fuel crises, including the present global economic meltdown, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and drug trafficking are all beyond the reach of any of the world’s civilizations to tackle without international cooperation. Whilst the major causes of these challenges may arise from particular regions, their impacts are global and affect the lives and fortunes of peoples of all civilizations. Dialogue amongst civilizations would create the synergies required to tackle the causes and impacts of the global crises.

Mr. President,

My government fully subscribes to and supports the promotion of dialogue as well as the facilitation of the relevant mechanisms that helps to ameliorate the impact of the global crisis. Amongst some population groups, the impact of the crisis may be on the size of their bonuses; on others it may be on whether they acquire a second car or not. But for the vast number of people, particularly in Africa, the impact of the crisis creates life-threatening situations. Years of conflict had increased the number of poor and vulnerable people in my country. However, stable economic growth, remittances, and international financial and security support were increasing prospects for ameliorating the situation; but the present global financial crisis has suddenly decreased those prospects, pushing greater numbers of our people to extreme forms of poverty.

We in Sierra Leone are saddled with the effects of trade imbalances in international commerce. Our economy continues to be vigorously challenged by the falling prices of our exports in the international market. This includes diamonds and cash crops. The effect of this intractable problem is that we are not able to garner enough foreign exchange to import the basic commodities we need for sustenance. We are on the threshold of the tenth year of the implementation of the Millennium Declaration, and yet the prospects for achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 remain dismal for Africa.

Mr. President,

Many countries in Africa, including mine, have in the last few years registered important improvements in the essential areas of governance, economic and social indicators. My country, Sierra Leone is putting in place mechanisms to ensure stable democratic regimes. In Sierra Leone, worldwide indicators show that we have made the fastest progress in political stability.

Our economic growth remains strong at 6 to 9%. My government has firmed up the aspirations of our people in an Agenda for Change that sets out four clear priorities: agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and reforms to improve health and education service delivery. We are already delivering results on our priorities. Key roads are under construction, we have completed the hydro-electric project which is supplying clean affordable power to Freetown for the first time, and our reforms have ensured that we are the best performer among neighboring countries according to the Doing Business Index.

Mr. President,

My government will not sustain these results without multi-lateral support. On November 18 and 19 this year, we will be organizing a Consultative Group Meeting on Sierra Leone in London to dialogue with investors, donors and other partners, and mobilize support for our efforts in tackling the many challenges facing our country. We see the Sierra Leone Conference as a problem-solving dialogue; we aspire to a conference that will build an action-oriented multi-lateral framework for meeting the challenges we face. My country believes in multi-lateralism; we believe in dialogue amongst nations as the most effective means for tackling the challenges that we face. We call upon all countries to ensure that the current financial crisis does not prevent the many African nations only recently removed from violent conflict to be denied the security and prospects for prosperity that we have all worked so hard to achieve.

Mr. President,

I would like to address another issue my delegation takes very seriously, one that is interwoven with the financial crisis, poverty and development – the serious threat Climate Change poses to human development and to African nations. Despite scientific consensus that the Earth is warming at an alarming rate, progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and limiting global warming to below 2°C per year has proven elusive. Today, the poorest nations, who contribute the least to the phenomenon, are the most vulnerable. The recent torrential rainfall in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, left scores of people dead, homeless and seriously injured. Drought, hurricanes, floods, the changing patterns of rainfall, rising sea levels and low crop-yields rank high among the key challenges facing the world’s poor. Unfortunately, those nations with the least resources are the most unprepared for such challenges.

Excellencies and distinguished delegates, it is our obligation to reverse the alarming rate of environmental destruction and depletion of our natural resources. It is in this regard that I wish to reiterate the African common position on climate change, which among other things urges the developed countries to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions by 40%. This is certainly not an ambitious goal. It is the least that we, the most vulnerable, deserve.

We believe that in addition to the necessity of investing in clean development mechanisms, the world’s developed countries must take a leadership role by providing adequate and predictable financial and technical support to less developed countries to foster effective adaptation as well as mitigation measures. We share the Secretary-General’s vision that the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen “represents a unique and powerful opportunity at a critical moment in human history to steer humankind towards a safer, more stable, and more sustainable future.”

Mr. President,

A final threat critical to future stability of nations around the world is the increasing proliferation of small arms and light weapons which, as former Secretary General Kofi Annan recently emphasized, are tantamount to weapons of mass destruction in slow motion, possessing the capability of destabilizing countries and entire regions. Given that many African countries routinely face political instability and violent threats, the need for strengthening national, regional and sub-regional conflict-resolution mechanisms throughout Africa is imperative to address a variety of issues including small arms. Peace and development can be achieved in Africa, in part, by exploration of the evolving peace and security architecture within the African Union, ECOWAS, SADC and the Peace Building Commission.

Mr. President,

Against this background, I wish to reiterate that collaborative efforts among members of the international community are crucial for addressing our global problems and that international support remains critical for the consolidation of hard-won gains by nations emerging from war. It is our hope that the United Nations and our development partners will continue to be our steadfast allies in our ongoing struggle for economic progress and development. In this regard, I urge that we continue to forge enhanced cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union as well as the sub-regional organizations, beyond rhetoric and in concrete ways, in pursuit of these efforts.

Mr. President,

As I intimated this assembly last session, we have come a long way and thanks to multi-lateral and bi-lateral efforts for our survival as a nation. The on-going peacebuilding efforts spearheaded by the UN Peacebuilding Commission continue to strengthen the peace consolidation process in the country. As a payback and in the spirit of reciprocity, I am pleased to announce that Sierra Leone has fully joined the rank of troop contributing countries in UN peacekeeping operations.

Mr. President,

Multilateralism is vital for international cooperation and response to global crises. In the bid to promote effective multilateralism, my government has continued to engage the international community to effect various reform measures aimed at strengthening our intergovernmental organizations including, the Bretton Woods Institutions with a view to making them more inclusive, transparent and democratic in their decision making. An effective and legitimate United Nations cannot be obtained without a truly reformed Security Council. The on-going intergovernmental negotiations on the question of equitable representation on, and increase in the membership of the Security Council and other matters related to Council have progressed through three rounds in informal plenary of the last Session of the General Assembly. We, in Africa have consistently demanded that the historical injustice that is rooted in our under-representation and non-representation in both the non-permanent and permanent categories of the council respectively be addressed without any further delay. It is in this respect that we have continued to negotiate in good faith and mutual trust. I trust that the outcome of these negotiations will lead to a meaningful reform of this principal decision-making organ of the UN in the maintenance of international peace and security. We, in Africa stand ready, willing and prepared, as always, to resume negotiations during this session.

Mr. President,

Let us promote multilateralism and strengthen our collaborative efforts to contain the rising threats to our planet.

I thank you Mr. President.

Ambassador Stevens’ version of APC-NA rumpus

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

bockariestevens4

AMBASSADOR BOCKARIE STEVENS

To many Sierra Leoneans, Bockarie Kortu Stevens has done a remarkable job since assuming the office of Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to the USA. Whether it is in working with other well meaning Sierra Leonean organizations to refurbish the once dilapidated embassy to the formation of Sierra Leone Arc of Hope, an organization that is working desperately to raising funds for the construction of the state of the art hospital in Sierra Leone, his supporters will tell you there has never been an ambassador like him here in the USA. Many in the community I spoke to were also quick to point out that because he takes time out of his busy schedule to attend to community events and endeavour to know his compatriots by name, it is clear he seeks the interest of those he is here to represent. (Photo: Ambassador Bockarie Kortu Stevens)

Not surprising are his critics, who contend that had he been more focused and not self serving, he could have done more than the little things that he is been hailed for. Being an ambassador is much more than keeping your office clean and knowing your people by name, they commented. It is about helping to improve lives in a country where a vast majority of populace live in abject poverty, they continued. The continued problems at the APC – NA has also not been very kind to him. Many within the party claim he is the source of all the problems.

Even as he attends to Sierra Leone’s affairs with his boss, President Koroma who along with his counterparts from around the world meets in New York for the 64thsession of the United Nations General Assembly, he eagerly responded to questions I posed to him about claims being circulated by a majority of members in his party.

AK: The North American arm of the APC has been in turmoil for quite a while. The issues within the party which are supposed to be internal have spiraled out of control with so much name calling. Unfortunately, you as ambassador, who also happen to be a member of the party has been labeled as the one who has created all these troubles? What is going on in the party?

Stevens: As a political party as popular as the APC Party, issues of this nature are not uncommon. The only diversion in this case is when people try to use the electronic media to vent out long harbored grievances and castigate people’s character. My interest in the APC is to see the party fulfill its programme for the development of Sierra Leone.

AK: In his last visit, VP Sumana was able to settle the in party fighting which led to the re-instatement of Osman Conteh to his position as Chairman. What led to his suspension in the first place? And why has his executive been dissolved again a week before President Koroma is to visit the US for his second UNGA in New York?

Stevens: It was not the Vice President that restored Osman Conteh. The Vice President together with the Executive of the branch appointed an Advisory Council of four to look into the issue and plot a way forward for the Branch. I reluctantly accepted the chairmanship of that body.

This committee held four meetings and decided to re-instate Osman in addition to him be issued with a final letter of warning. In accordance with this decision he was re-instated by the committee with me as chairman and issued with a final letter of warning. There are records to prove all of this.

AK: Some have alleged that you have a personal vendetta against the elected Chairman, Osman Conteh and your only concern is to seek your personal interest. There are also charges that instead of representing SL as ambassador to the USA, all your focus is on the APC. Instead of seeking the interest of the party, you are bent on destroying it. What is your response to these charges?

Stevens: I don’t know where a vendetta comes from. I voted in the committee to have him re-instated, I chaired the convention that brought him in as chairman. I don’t need his job. So where does hate come from. It will be ridiculous of me to spend all my time on APC. APC is part time that is done only at weekends.

My job in the USA is that of an Ambassador and not APC chairman. I have held very senior appointments in the APC party long before now in positions that are more important than chairman of a branch. Those who care to keenly observe my performance in the USA will judge me rightly not from those who do it out of malice. Go to the gates of the Sierra Leone mission in Washington and judge for yourself. Go inside the embassy and you be the judge. Meet ordinary Sierra Leoneans in the streets and you be the judge.

AK: Why is it that a neutral body independent of the current executive has not been temporarily formed so that party issues can be settled? The current advisory committee, it has been alleged, are those that are loyal to you. In fact, it is an open secret that they are all involved in causing the problems of the APC-NA. If they are, why should they be afforded an opportunity to run the affairs of the party and the others not allowed to? Why should all other chapters be banned except for five?

Stevens:  The advisory body decided on the appointment of the Interim Committee and not Bockari Stevens. It was done unanimously by the four members of the Advisory Committee.
The Advisory Committee as I have already stated was set up by the executive at a meeting presided over by the Vice President in July 2009.

No Chapter has been banned. Chapters are supposed to be set up in accordance with the Bylaws. Each Chapter was given more than two months to consolidate their Bylaw requirement. What the Advisory Committee did was to include the interim committee and all the chapters that had complied with the Bylaws by submitting their membership list to the Secretary General. When the rest do that they should be automatically included in the interim body.

AK: The press release posted on our website informed our readers of “a directive from the National Party Headquarters in Freetown mandated the National Advisory body of the APC NA Branch for an Immediate dissolution of the North America Executive Branch of the APC and the formation of an Interim Body that will organize a National Conference within a reasonable time frame is approved.” Was this directive from President Koroma, or Victor Foh or party elders?

Stevens: The Secretary General of the Party Mr. Victor Foh had ordered the dissolution of the executive and the convening of a National Delegates Conference after conducting investigations resulting from the suspension of Osman Conteh.

AK: What steps are being employed to bring a speedy resolution to this mess? This must not be good news for President Koroma to come to the US and see that after so many months, the underlying issues have not been settled. Is he going to be the only one who can bring this problem to a peaceful resolution?

Stevens: The President as leader of the party of course will not be happy with the media frenzy of some of our party folks. However it is not every issue that arises within the party that should divert his attention from the important task of state. That is why the APC party has structures in place to deal with issues of this nature.

AK: What do you want to say to friends and supporters of the APC who are so angry and disappointed that this is left to happen and has dominated the media headlines? What is your message to the other camp which clearly is not on the same page with you?

Stevens: We are all “APCinnians.” We all belong to mother APC. Let wash our dirty linings at home. We are all humans and there are times that we see things differently but that should not divert us from the bigger picture which is the APC Party.

I urge them to seek redress within the confines of the party structures instead of using the media to expose themselves. Since these media attacks I have not responded but I agreed to your interview to set the records straight.

My relationship with the APC in North America is a part time one based on mutual respect. The branch is under the tutelage of the party secretariat. I have no special interest in individuals. Whoever provides an effective and sound leadership for the Branch in North America has my total support.

AK: Unfortunately, we will not be able to complete all the questions I have for you due to your busy schedule in New York. Thank you for your time.

Stevens: You are right! Thank you too Abdul for reaching out.

Courtesy of Anthony Kamara, Jnr. 

Social Welfare Minister attends Confab on Violence

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009


By Festus Tarawali – Rome, Italy.

Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs Dr. Soccoh Kabia recently joined his colleagues from other countries and women victims of violence and activists during an international conference in Rome to explore factors that cause violence against females and how to combat the practice.

The Sept. 9-10 meeting was called by Italy, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the G8 countries. Discussions were mainly centered on crimes such as rape and domestic violence followed by panels on female genital mutilation, access to education and violence against young girls.

The conference was officially opened by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano with an appeal for non discrimination. He said “Violence against women as well as xenophobia, homophobia and intolerance are caused, to a large extent, by ignorance, the loss of ideals and moral values and from an often unconscious alienation from the principles of on which our Constitution has based our national democratic co-existence.”

The chief organizer of the conference, Italy’s Minister for Equal Opportunities, Mara Carfagna said there are some 140 million women victims of physical and psychological violence in the world today. She noted that most of the violence is carried out within family units and that some 50 thousand women are murdered each year by close relatives.

Italy’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said violence against women is an issue of human rights and that the contribution of the G8 countries, which undertook at L’Aquila (Italy) in July to defend health and food security, should also include a realization that without specific actions to promote human rights and combat violence against women, there is a very real risk that the funding agreed will not achieve its objectives.

He said it is to be hoped that all countries, international organizations and women’s associations can work together so that national laws and specific actions against sexual and gender-based violence can be drawn up. He pointed out that gender equality is one of the Millennium Development Goals and therefore, an international Conference on Violence against Women was only to be welcomed.

In his presentation on the situation in Sierra Leone, Dr Kabia said the country has made significant progress in terms of gender-based violence (GBV) and other forms of discrimination against women and young girls. Addressing this phenomenon was among the recommendations of the post-war Truth and Reconciliation Commission; the minister said.

The TRC commission report stressed the need for the then government and successive governments to do more to address the issue of sexual based violence. In response to that recommendation, the SLPP government at the time initiated steps to fight against this practice. A policy framework in the fight against GBV and the empowerment of women has also been included in the APC government’s Agenda for Change, the minister noted. This move he said is significant in a country where many rape incidents happen each year but only 4 or 5 of them are prosecuted.
To a large extent, the policy paper tries to spell out priority areas and ways to combat the phenomenon through the setting up of family support units, investigating abuse against children, women and other vulnerable groups. Included in this fight also is human trafficking, the minister said.

On a more practical note, Dr. Kabia said his ministry has set up the National Commission on Gender-Based Violence (NaC-GVB) which has many stakeholders. The three areas of interest of this body are: mapping out strategies on how to respond to violence and discrimination against women; providing legal assistance and a survival plan which includes counselling; and prevention through education. Education here is also targeted to young boys and girls so that they can grow up fully aware of these issues; Dr. Kabia continued.This has been made possible by the recent setting up of a Directorate for Gender and GBV committees in all districts in the country.

At the policy level, the Minister said there is now what is known as gender main streaming and a policy for the advancement of women issues, both politically and economically. A National Gender Strategic Plan has been developed for the first time to address issues such as empowerment and capacity-building, gender budgeting and accountability, the minister said.

Within this framework, three acts have been passed, namely: the Registration of Customary Marriages and Divorce, Domestic Violence and Devolution of Estates Act.
There are also plans to address the issues of matrimonial causes and sexual offenses, Dr. Kabia noted.

With regards to Female Genital Mutilation, the minister said more needs to be done in the area of dialogue and education. He pointed to the fact that the Child Rights Acts passed in 2007 clearly calls for the protection of children under age 18 and to ensure that they grow healthy, sound and guaranteed basic education. Therefore, any practice that harms their health or physical wellbeing is implicitly illegal. Dr. Kabia said Sierra Leone has obligations towards the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Treaty) and the UN Resolution 1325 on women in conflict situations, among others.

Apart from the recent creation of safe homes for women victims of domestic violence and stalking, the ministry has also teamed up with the UN children’s fund UNICEF to map out a referral protocol to protect children who experience sexual and gender-based violence and to continue providing free primary education in the northern and eastern provinces, where it was discovered that children in those two provinces lag behind their counterparts in the other regions of the country and the school drop-out rate is also higher.

In thanking Italy for organising such an important conference, Dr. Soccoh Kabia, appealed to the international community to provide the necessary funding to help especially governments in developing countries to strengthen their prevention and support networks.

He said men and women should work together to combat GBV and to further the cause of women adding that ‘bad men and bad systems’ are the problem not all men and not all systems are bad