Accessibility links

New Political Party Enters Sierra Leone's Politics


In Sierra Leone, where presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for August 11, a brand new party has entered the political scene long dominated by the People's Party, or SLPP, and the All People's Congress, or APC. Naomi Schwarz visited the Bo region to see the impact of the new party.

SLPP supporters chant for their party at a rally in Bo, Sierra Leone's second largest city and the commercial center of the diamond region. This city is also the heart of SLPP territory, and banners and T-shirts blanketing the city prove it.

Ibrahim Jabati, 23, says he is voting for the SLPP candidate, Solomon Berewa.

"I am going to vote for Solo B., the only way out," he said.

Berewa is the current vice president and the country's de facto leader since 2002, when President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah retired from an active role and appointed Berewa his successor.

Jabati says he is voting for Berewa based on his proven track record.

"Because he done things that I have seen. So I prefer to support him," said Jabait. "Because he has done well for the country."

But many Sierra Leoneans disagree with Jabati.

During a brief interlude of sun in a rainy day, in a small village a few hours away, APC supporters are rallying for their candidate, Ernest Koroma. At the rally, Samuel Kamara says the ruling party has not brought progress to Sierra Leone.

"We decided to have a change," said Kamara. "And this time around we mean positive change."

He says the country has received millions of dollars in aid since the civil war ended in 2002, but people are still living in poverty.

Back in the city of Bo, many residents also say they want change. But they say they do not trust the APC to bring it about.

Mohamed Gibateh, a nurse in Bo hospital, has voted for SLPP in the past. He says he would never vote for APC.

"All what we are seeing today trouble, it was caused by APC," he said. "They brought everything."

The APC ruled Sierra Leone for more than 25 years, after independence. The president during most of those years, Siaka Stevens, banned other political parties. Sierra Leone, rich in diamonds, gold, and other mineral resources, was one of the world's poorest countries.

Since the return of multi-party democracy in 1996, the APC and the SLPP have been the two main contenders. But this year, voters like Gibateh are turning towards a third party.

"Francis Charles Margai is the only man we hope can bring changes in this country," he said.

Charles Margai is the candidate of The People's Movement for Democratic Change. Margai is a well-known politician, but the movement is brand new. He had been a high-level member of SLPP, and left the party when he lost the vote to become its candidate in this year's presidential elections.

Now he and his party are gaining more and more support among people like Gibateh who used to vote for SLPP.

Although the movement's overall popularity is still quite low, compared to the APC and SLPP, analysts say Margai could have a big impact on the outcome of the election and reshuffle the political deck for the two main contenders.

XS
SM
MD
LG