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Sierra Leone Gov’t spokesman confirms open confrontation inside State House

  • Joseph Kamara, Attorney General
  • Mohamed Bangura, Minister of Information

...but denies any fist fight

By Kemo Cham

A government spokesman has confirmed reports of an open confrontation between two cabinet ministers over the race for the party's ticket for the presidential election but maintains it was a verbal altercation and not a fist fight.
Information Minister Mohamed Bangura and Justice Minister Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara early this week engaged in a heated argument inside State House – the office of the president.

However, while confirming the incident, government spokesman Agibu Jalloh said there was no physical confrontation, contrary to some reports which speak of a fist fight and the use of invectives which prompted the intervention of state security.

“It has been interpreted to a magnitude that is far from the truth,” he told Politico over the weekend.

Reports about the encounter between the two senior government officials which first emerged on social media followed reports of an apparent split among a crowded field presidential wanna-bes within the governing All People’s Congress (APC) party ahead of the 2018 general elections.

Kamara, who is also the Attorney General, is one of nearly 10 people to have either openly expressed their intent or are believed to be interested in becoming the APC standard bearer.

Among those who have openly expressed their interest are the Attorney General Governor of the central bank Dr Keifala Marah, ambassador to China Alimamy Petito Koroma, Ambassador to Iran Alimamy Kamara, presidential advisers Alpha Kanu and Dr Sam Sesay, former mining executive John Bornor Sisay. Those believed to be interested in the ticket are Vice President Victor Bockarie Foh and Minister of Mineral resources Minkailu Mansaray and House Majority Leader Ibrahim Bundu.
All but one of the non-cabinet ministers interested in the ticket have resigned their public office jobs as dictated by the constitution – the exemption being the ambassador to Iran. However, there has been a heated debate as to why the ministers have not.  

A Supreme Court interpretation in 2006 of the section dealing with the issue says ministers are not “public officers” hence not obliged to resign by law. Some civil society and accountability campaigners have argued though that they should resign on moral grounds. This was the same argument Mohamed Bangura, who is officially the government spokesman, is reported to have made in a radio interview. The Attorney General reportedly found his comment offensive and reportedly engaged him on it when they met at State House.

“That’s where the argument came out of, but that argument never amounted to raining of invectives or all-out fallout to have attracted the attention of security,” Jalloh said, describing the issue as “trivial”.

“It was just a strong postulation, a strong assertion of positions...”

The incident, however, is sure to fuel speculation of instability within the APC which appears to be going through turbulent times as it tries to put up with the pressure of dealing with who succeeds President Koroma who is barred from rerunning for a third term.

Earlier in the week the APC provoked another controversy when its powerful National Advisory Council (NAC) announced the sacking of two of the presidential aspirants from key executive positions citing conflict of interest.

Alimamy P. Koroma and Ibrahim Bundu were removed from their positions as chairmen of the district executives in Kambia and Port Loko, respectively. In addition, the ambassador to China was stripped of his seat on the NAC. 

“The principle of conflict of interest precludes such chairmen from declaring for the APC flagbearer position and remaining to hold onto the strategic position of district chairmen,” party secretary general, Osman Yansanneh said in a statement.
Bundu, MP, reacted to the party's move with mixed feeling. While he doesn't have problem with the decision, he felt the approach was wrong.

“The only thing I do not appreciate is that we sent a very bad signal” he said in a radio interview. “At least it would have been better if they’d called me privately and asked me to resign. It would have been an in-house arrangement the public would not have had a view of dispute within the party” he said.

Bundu also said he felt unsettled by the party’s reason for forcing them out.

But Yansaneh maintains that the party had warned all presidential aspirants not to declare but rather to concentrate on supporting the president’s “development agenda until the right time for politicking”. 

Copyright (c) Politico 2017