We want to start by expressing our sincere congratulations and best wishes to members, supporters, and sympathizers on this auspicious occasion of the 35th Anniversary, for their selfless, diverse and contributions to the 35 years of important achievements. This is also an occasion to acknowledge the proud founding fathers of this charismatic movement, the People’s Democratic League (PDL), for the vision and foresight they had to establish the PDL in 1986.
The PDL has a remarkable history of achievements is strategic areas such as peace and democracy respectively. The critical role of the PDL in ensuring the enthronement of democracy and ending the eleven year (11-year) brutal fratricidal war was real and happened, no longer the debate, to the highest of political levels and public consciousness. But anniversaries are a good occasion, not only to take stock and celebrate the past, but also to lay out ambitious hopes for the future. We appreciate that, with such a track record of success, the PDL will face increasing demand and pressure, especially at this critical juncture when Sierra Leoneans are looking unto the Organisation (PDL), for real and genuine change in the country.
Thirty-five years today since we challenged the whole might of a totalitarian state and without resorting to any kind of violence but succeeded in the goal of returning Sierra Leone into a multiparty democracy. The current October 1991 multiparty Constitution of the Republic of Sierra Leone is a testament to this fact. It is one of the important achievements chalked by the PDL, for Sierra Leone and Sierra Leoneans, Africa and the larger world.
The post one party Constitution was welcomed by Sierra Leoneans as a sign of hope for a people that had long suffered grave injustices and indignities in their own land. The world is aware that a large part of the credit for this success belongs to the PDL, whose leadership provided a leading role model by example. It took the PDL courage and determination to lead the forefront of the struggle for the return of democracy and civilised rule in Sierra Leone.
But such hopes unfortunately were shattered by the intervention of the military 1992 and a continued brutal fratricidal war, initiated by the former Revolutionary United Front (RUF), led by the late Corporal Foday Saybanah Sankoh. Our struggle it seemed was over, but rather took another course, this time to pressure for an end to the war and restoration of peace and political stability in the country. The PDL saw the 1992 military intervention as a clarion call for all patriotic Sierra Leoneans to rally peace, and PDL indeed was in the forefront for peaceful resolution of the conflict, ending the tribulations, suffering, misery and frenzy associated with the brutal fratricidal war.
When the PDL was launched in Freetown, 35 years ago, it was a sentence to death for opposing the one party regime. It was a crime for anyone to advocate democracy, let alone airing out different views to the totalitarian state. It was a taboo to speak one’s mind against the brutal poverty Sierra Leoneans were forced to contend with. That was the period Sierra Leone was also called the epicenter of rude dictatorship. It was a big success at that time to be able to break the barricade and emerged to challenge the status quo.
35 years of struggle and still the road is long and rugged. In spite of all the deliberate misrepresentation of our aims and objectives, blackmail, intimidation and occultist attacks, the PDL has been longer in existence now than the era of the Milton Margai’s led anti-colonial campaign itself. We have refused to be cowed like modern slaves in our own land. Thus, no force can eradicate the memories of the historical event of April 7, 1986.
Of late, we are witnessing the recycling and packaging of old politicians into new bottles. We agree with some of these politicians that the country needs a new course if we are to bring an end to the suffering and worsening living conditions of average Sierra Leoneans.
However, we also hold the view that these old politicians in new bottles are not qualified to propose any solution to Sierra Leone’s endemic problems, some of them being the architects of the misfortune of our country. We warn the suffering masses not to fall into the deceptive agendas of these born again politicians. Any change process driven by these old-in-new crops politicians will only produce the same harrowing suffering and infrastructure decay in the country. True to the facts on the ground, these politicians themselves are responsible for the current mess in which Sierra Leone finds herself.
In spite of the great intensity of hostile feelings generated by ill-conceived hatred, malice and grudges towards PDL, there has never been a single case of violence against our oppressors and mischief makers in the country. The PDL has opted to remain peaceful, calm, focus and popular Organisation that denounces the use of proxy institutions and faceless bureaucrats to violate the constitutional human rights and democratic freedoms of Sierra Leoneans.
The PDL is like a rock. It may from time to time be submerged for a while by a tidal wave, but it will remain a rock. No matter where it takes us, we will not surrender our constitutional human rights and democratic freedoms. God Almighty is greater than any force on earth.
Throughout our thorny history, we, at the PDL, never lost hope and have never surrendered nor betrayed the conscience of the Sierra Leonean people. PDL perseveres in its peaceful struggle in a hope that one day will be one day, and sooner or later, our constitutional human rights and democratic freedoms will no longer be under captivity. Democracy is a complete farce in Sierra Leone if the intimidation and hatreds associated in the registration of political parties are not put a stop to. If the government of Sierra Leone makes tangible progress toward this end, we are prepared to reciprocate with concrete steps of our own.
Instead of being deceived once again, our youth must be prepared to use the 2023 general elections to not only vote out outlived political outfits, but also to replace them with a political party and candidates that stands for providing appropriate antidotes to heal national wounds and restore the lost dignity of the Sierra Leonean nation. Here fits-in the People’s Democratic League (PDL). Sierra Leone needs a genuine political party with a strategic programme of action, to make post colonial independence meaningful to all Sierra Leoneans. We need to manage our country’s enormous resources and wealth to improve the living conditions of Sierra Leoneans. We call on all Sierra Leoneans desirous of real and genuine change to reject all anti-poor parties and vote in progressive candidates in 2023.
PDL example in Sierra Leone is sufficient to wake the conscience of Africans reminding them about the power of ideas born out of patriotism and commitment of a group of forward-looking Sierra Leoneans, who are ever ready to accept sacrifices and to face risks in that Sierra Leone will again become a pride home for its long suffering people. We are struggling for the common values which others cherish in a genuine democracy.
The PDL has been the only consistently progressive anti-dictatorship Movement in Sierra Leone. Neither of the mainstream political parties can say that. One of the driving forces behind the formation of PDL in 1986 was peace, stability and democratic good governance, which are still elusive in our country. We promote non-violent methods to oppose practices and policies with which we disagree, and will guide our actions toward lasting personal, community and national peace.
Our target is to continue the democratisation process though we face big problems. We need to go forward because the July 1999 Lome Peace Agreements have paved the way for Sierra Leone to select a multiparty democracy system. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) reports reinforced the call for political tolerance and inclusion in the national body polity of Sierra Leone. But it appears that to some wicked bureaucrats, the Lome Peace Agreements and the TRC reports are not good for Sierra Leone. This is unfortunate and unacceptable. To these faceless bureaucrats, political competitiveness must be between the most powerful. This type of competition is not fair and cannot consolidate the democratic process.
In a democratic society, political participation requires quality, principles and policies for solving social problems. Running in politics just to topple one group and replace them with another group should be regarded as a case of the past.
We know Sierra Leoneans have lost faith in the country’s ruling cabal, and are now seeking to dismantle Sierra Leone’s old, outlived, dysfunctional system, through political education and development of policies through debate at the local level.
The People’s Democratic League (PDL) on this historic day of 35th anniversary of existence and struggle for the democratic wellbeing of the Sierra Leonean nation, therefore do hereby declare as follows:
We, the People’s Democratic League is among the oldest political parties in Sierra Leone, and also the oldest in spirit and will be so for a long time to come because of the injustices that still prevail in our country. From this moment we the People’s Democratic League will dedicate ourselves in fighting to build and defend our nation, to promote peace, democracy, human rights, the rule of law, justice, freedom and dignity of all Sierra Leoneans; to develop our land, develop our human and natural resources, eradicate poverty and build our environment. We are aware that we have a long and difficult road ahead but it is our goal to forge ahead with determination in achieving these goals.
We, the People’s Democratic League are not in opposition for the sake of opposition, but in our heart lays the basic and fundamental conviction, that, all Sierra Leoneans must not only be free but must and should live within a society that is peaceful, fair, just and progressive.
We also believe that Sierra Leoneans are fed up with the antics of old political gurus, that have ruled the country since independence, and are now searching for a truly moral political force to save the nation from sliding into abysmal collapse.
Sierra Leoneans have agreed with each other that it is only Sierra Leoneans and not foreigners, who are best qualified to work for the development and prosperity of Sierra Leone. It is this type of spirit of patriotism and national belonging that, we, the People’s Democratic League seek to harness.
Also importantly, we hold that it is the deliberate exclusion of Sierra Leoneans in the democratic process that has created a vacuum that image-tainted politicians are now trying to occupy. For instance, the People’s Democratic League (PDL) sought to transform itself into a full-fledged political Party for Sierra Leone since 2016 and until now its final registration certificate is yet to be released. National institutions that are supposedly created to defend the constitutional human rights and democratic freedoms of Sierra Leoneans have chosen to see no hatred, biasness or brutal injustice meted on PDL’s registration process.
But it is not too late to do the right thing. The 1991 multiparty Constitution, the Lome Peace Agreements, the TRC reports, the 1918 Commonwealth Electoral Act and other Conventions and Protocols of the United Nations, African Union and ECOWAS qualified PDL to be registered as a full-fledged political party.
It is a multipurpose vehicle to celebrate the PDL’s milestones today. It is both a sermon and a show to keep the faithful close. It also provides a rare window into the state of the organisation. By holding onto PDL’s registration certificate is nothing but tantamount to brazen interference with the constitutional human rights and democratic freedoms of potentially millions of Sierra Leoneans to freely belong to political parties of theirs, to choose their political representatives and vote for them in elections.
Today, our shared heritage comes to the fore, as our hearts swell with pride to commemorate this pivotal milestone in our chequered history. We honor the courage, selflessness, grit, resolve, and passion of our founding cadres that pricked the conscience of our nation and marked our political identity as concerned Sierra Leoneans with unblemished record, who desire a better life for our country. 35 years later, we stand humbled by and grateful to God Almighty for keeping us kicking and stronger by the passing day.
We are reminded today that our struggle is unending until Sierra Leone gets a fresh start. Though the tides of fate have brought us to different shores, our rallying cry resonates with the same dream for our countrymen and women: “A New Sierra Leone to emerge out of the ashes of the old and dysfunctional system”.
Today’s celebration therefore, is not only about the 35 years of existence, but we are celebrating also multiparty constitutionalism, peace and democracy, which we sacrificed so much in order for them to give expression in Sierra Leone. So also to say that at the time of establishment of the PDL, some of our detractors today, either in government or outside, were not born. Those who may have been fortunate to be on earth at the time, some were still under baby napkins or pampers. Our position is very clear. We will never surrender our dignity to evil tastes and designs of the enemies of our people.
Ghana is a 29-year-old democracy, but where is that country today in the international stage? It is the gateway to West Africa, according to former President Bill Clinton of the United States. We have a multiparty Constitution since 1991, but still democracy is a farce. The constitutional human rights and democratic freedoms of Sierra Leoneans have been trampled upon by people appointed to manage the affairs of institutions created to consolidate the gains of multiparty democracy. We are challenging them to create a level playing field in the registration of political parties. We want justice. We want peace. We demand an end to disenfranchisement of Sierra Leoneans. We want to see a Sierra Leone which is a melting pot, a Sierra Leone in which every body contributes to the great destiny that we all want. We want a Sierra Leone in which the sons and daughters, the young and the old, the men and the women work as one person so that together we can cement a kind of unity which generations beyond us will always consider as a reference.
Our message on this day to all stakeholders in Sierra Leone is simple. There should be no politics at this time. The country and humanity are at a very difficult phase at this time. We are appealing to every stakeholder in the country to help our fellow countrymen and women. Distribute masks, transport the sick to the hospital, and give bread to the hungry. There shouldn’t be any politics at this time. Serve the people by taking everyone along. Join the PDL and become a driving force in the enforcement of peace, freedom, justice and solidarity. This is a day to join PDL members, supporters and sympathizers to celebrate hope, and the African struggle for emancipation.
We call on you to exercise the rights and freedom borne from the toil of our ancestors and contribute towards shaping a more proactive and mature discourse, perpetuating positive change to the broader spectrum of society, and emancipating our citizenry from the shackles of poverty, corruption, and greed. Together, let us weave our own voices of compassion and hope into a narrative of resilience and empowerment, and make tangible the legacy we are crafting: “The Sierra Leone we will all be proud to bequeath to coming generations”.
For 35 years now, despite complicated development and challenges of national and international situation, the PDL has always shared good and bad times with the people. We will not cease to respect the will of the people and will continue to stand firmly with the people. Peace and stability have been the foundation indispensable for development. In this spirit, the PDL adheres to steadfast position of maintaining the hard-won peace, political stability, democracy and democratic good governance, at whatever price it may take, to prevent ill-will circles from destroying them.
Sierra Leoneans should learn from the experience of the last forty and more years of sit-tight dictatorship, civil war, political violence, ethnic hatreds and underdevelopment, but these should not be allowed to plague our great nation. We need bold action, new ideas and approaches, and most important of all political will to give Sierra Leone a fresh start.
The challenges ahead of us are daunting undoubtedly. The lack of political will has developed into a full-scale crisis that makes it increasingly difficult for us to reach and maintain development aspirations such as the Millennium Development Goals. What the crisis needs is political will and not a Machiavellian response. After 35 years of struggle of the PDL, we have the technical knowhow to be with the people and work for the wellbeing of the people. We know what needs to be done. We now look to Sierra Leoneans to deliver a response that is commensurate with the brutal poverty that is upon us.
The world is watching us from afar. The future is literally in our hands.
May we all have a meaningful 35th Anniversary!
Long live PDL!!
Alimamy Bakarr Sankoh
Founder, Leader, and National Chairman
The People’s Democratic League