Retired Lieutenant Lahai Lawrence Leema has said the Sierra Leones Peoples Party is embroiled in an intergenerational conflict, coupled with misunderstanding and misconception among factions within its membership.
He was speaking during an exclusive interview with Concord Times at the party’s headquarters on Wallace-Johnson Street in Freetown. He admitted that the myriad problems within the opposition party was reason they are losing bye-elections across the country, with the recent being in ward 303 in Moyamba district, southern Sierra Leone.
He said the party faces an identity crisis in which some members think it is elitist and does not reach out to the grassroots, which constitutes the large bulk of their membership. He also accused some party elders he did not name of not working in tandem with young people in the party.
The acting publicity secretary said the party was smeared by the ruling All Peoples Congress during the 2007 general elections and the 2012 elections as a Mende party, which according to him helped alienated voters from the party as even the good things they did while in power was not appreciated by the people. He said that although the APC campaigned against tribalism, yet President Ernest Koroma’s government is largely practicing the vice.
“The APC practiced the worst tribalism and used tribalism against the SLPP during the election campaigns,” he said and added that the motto of his party is “One People, One Country” and that they accommodate all tribes in their national, regional, constituency or zonal executives.
On the issue of the party losing bye-elections, including the just-concluded election in Ward 303, Rtd. Lt. Leema said it is in constituency 86, which was won by the APC, adding that the area borders Tombo and Waterloo, which are controlled by the ruling party.
He accused the APC of using threats of withholding development to areas which do not vote for their candidate as blackmail, adding that he was nonetheless impressed with the strong showing of their aspirant in ward 303.
He called on the party’s members and supporters to unite and work towards victory in the next presidential election in 2018.
“Despite all the disagreement, we have to see ourselves as one people, one country,” he said, adding that he was optimistic of victory in 2018.