Freetown. Ex-junta leader and presidential candidate in the 2012 elections, (Rtd) Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, has stepped down as political leader of the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party (SLPP).
Chief Alhaji Segbora Somanoh Kapen was elected the new SLPP leader
Brigadier Bio’s decision follows the conclusion of the party’s national delegate conference which saw the election of one of his allies as new national chairman and leader.
Credited for returning the country to multiparty democracy after five years of military rule, Bio says he wants to remain “an ordinary dedicated member” of his party, and is stepping down to put an end to “misunderstandings” plaguing the party.
After last year’s election, the party’s leadership voted to allow the former military ruler and his deputy, Dr Kadie Sisay, to remain in their positions and provide political guidance.
That didn’t go down well with a section of the party, particularly former chairman John Oponjo Benjamin.
“I am now taking the back seat to allow the new executives put our party in order and prepare us as the government-in-waiting,” Brigadier Bio announced on a Facebook posting. He also extended an olive branch to his critics.
It is hoped that the election of Chief Kapen as the new SLPP leader will mark the end of a tumultuous road for the opposition which came close to disintegrating in the face of a bitter power struggle between Brigadier Bio and Mr Benjamin, whose preferred candidate was trashed in the contest.
As he announced his resignation, one of Bio’s bodyguards was facing charges of malicious damage in the latest intra-party squabble.
Come 2015 the SLPP will be electing the next leadership and election flagbearer.
Although he has not spoken about it directly, there is little doubt about Brigadier Bio’s interest in making a second stab at the presidency, an ambition that has earned him so much enemies.
“I have been asked too many times after the Presidential election in November what am I going to do now. Well, throughout the process I was branded a violent man who wants power by force but I know I am not the person they are talking or writing about…,” he said.