By Prince Kuripati
On Thursday 15 February, citizens of Sierra Leone were treated to a first by the country’s six leading political parties as they participated in a first ever all inclusive Presidential debate. Previously Sierra Leone did conduct Presidential debates but they were shunned by the ruling party.
Sierra Leone’s leading television stations and radios l aired live the debate. The debate was scheduled to end at 11:00pm but spilled over ending at 01:00am the following day (Friday).
The presidential debate was held at a conference centre in the capital, Freetown. Close to 200 people packed the conference centre as they looked forward to hearing the constructive debates from the six presidential candidates.
The debate was moderated by an ace journalist from the BBC. Most of the questions asked by the journalist centred on national cohesion, the economy and human development. The choice of questions were mainly inspired by the dire social and economic situation prevailing in the country exacerbated by the Ebola outbreak whose devastating effects are still being felt to this day.
The first round of the Presidential election in the country is going to be conducted on March 7.
This year’s elections will be the first time that an incumbent in Sierra Leone relinquishes power at the end of his term without trying to extend it unconstitutionally or otherwise. The outgoing President, Ernest Bai Koroma served two terms of 5 years each. His reign was however affected by the deadly Ebola outbreak that reversed the country’s growth rate and left him with an unsurmountable task of trying to build the nation from scratch.
The highlight moment of the debate was when the candidate of the ruling party (APC Party), Samura Kamara distanced himself from Komora’s record on corruption. The President and his inner circle which Kamara is part of have been accused of looting some of the country’s resources. Kamara did try to prove his innocence but that led to many follow-up questions firstly from the moderator and then from the public as the question and answer segment began.
Before Thursday, a number of other parties contested the decision to allow only six parties to the debate. They argued saying exclusion of other political parties was tantamount to discrimination. However, the case was dismissed as Parliament said only a party with at least four members of Parliament was allowed to participate in the debate.
The six candidates who participated in the debate are Samura Kamara from the ruling All People’s Congress (APC), Rtg. Brig Julius Maada Bio from the main opposition party, Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). Rtg. Brig Julius Maada Bio is a former Sierra Leone military Head of State. Mohammed Kamairamba from the Alliance Democratic Party (ADP), a breakaway party from the ruling APC. Samuel Sam Sumana from the Coalition 4 Change (C4C), another breakaway party from the ruling APC. Samuel Sam Sumana is also a former Vice President of Sierra Leone sacked by the incumbent Koroma. Kandeh Yumkella from the National Grand Coalition, a breakaway party from the main opposition party, SLPP. Musa Tarawally from the Citizens Democratic Party (CDP).