Back to Africa Update

Vol XXV. Issue 2 (Spring 2018)

By Godwin Odeh, Olusola Akintola, Yusuf Bangura & Gloria Emeagwali

Vol. XXV, Issue 2 (Spring 2018): Gambian - Nigerian Relations (Godwin Odeh); Elections in Nigeria(Olusola Akintola) ; Elections in Sierra Leone (Yusuf Bangura) and  Ethiopia ( Gloria Emeagwali)


Table of Contents


Godwin Odeh-     “Notes on Relations between Nigeria and Gambia

                              before the 20th Century”

Olusola Akintola- “Impact of the re-ordered election sequence on

                               Nigerian politics and democracy”

Gloria Emeagwali- “Ethiopia: The Way Forward”

Yusuf Bangura - ‘‘The Humbling of the All People’s Congress:

                               Understanding the March

                              2018 Presidential Run-off Election of Sierra Leone’’




In this issue of “Africa Update”, Godwin Odeh of the University of Sokoto,  reminds us of  a largely neglected topic, namely,  the historic relations between Gambia and  the Nigerian region, before the 20th century. He points out  that commercial exchange and religious interconnections prevailed during this extended period, in the context of various forms of diplomacy.  In his own contribution, Olusola Akintola  chose to focus on the forthcoming 2019  Nigerian elections and the  battle over the election sequence, an issue that exposes some of the fundamental  realities of contemporary Nigeria in the era of civilian leadership.Another election is discussed in this issue of Africa Update, namely the Presidential  run-off election  that took place in Sierra Leone, March 31, 2018. Professor Yusuf Bangura provides an illuminating account of  what really brought about the defeat of the  All People’s Congress (APC). We thank the three contributors  for their scholarly contributions.

With a population of 105 million, Ethiopia is Africa’s second largest country. It shares borders with Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, Somaliland, Eritrea and Djibouti,  and  is a major player in northeast Africa and the Horn of Africa. It is also the largest contributor to the Nile River system through the Blue Nile, a river  that converges with the Rwanda- Burundi – Uganda  derived  White Nile, in the environs of Khartoum. It contributes about  85% of the water resource.  Ethiopia’s construction of the  Millennium Dam, the GERD -  the largest in Africa, and the seventh largest globally-   also makes it a crucial actor,  potential water - provider and energy generator, for eleven Nile nations.

It is therefore with great apprehension that onlookers watched the country as it tethered on the brink of domestic conflict and protests, over the last three years.

The fears are receding -  with the election of a new Prime Minister, as  I  discuss  briefly  in “Ethiopia, the Way Forward.”


Prof. Gloria Emeagwali

Chief Editor, Africa Update

 April 2018



“Notes on Relations between Nigeria and Gambia before the 20th Century”

Godwin Onuh Odeh

Department of History,

Sokoto State University,




A critical survey of most literature on Africa’s international relations reveals gross neglect of Nigeria’s relations with Gambia. This has been as a result of the attention given to Nigeria’s peace keeping operations, particularly in Liberia and Sierra Leone, the Bakassi Peninsula Cameroon, and other security challenges in Africa. The implication of this is the dearth of literature on peaceful relations as we could see in the case of Nigeria and Gambia. The overt neglect of this creates a fundamental lacuna in the diplomatic history of the region which must be necessarily bridged.

 We note that Nigeria and Gambia have occupied significant positions in the geo-politics of the West African sub-region. Both were British colonies at one point, the former being the largest in size and population, while the latter was the smallest. We observe three discernible trends and epochs that tie the history of Nigeria and Gambia together. The epochs include: the pre-colonial era of commerce and jihadist reforms, colonial British rule, post colonial military oligarchy and the ongoing democratic dispensation. Nigeria - Gambia relations have involved diplomatic intercourse, migration, geo-politics, pan-African movements, organized political pressure groups, and technical assistance, among others. Using the concentric circles’ model that was adopted in the mid 1980s to  explain Nigeria's first-line of Afro-centric relations, with special emphasis on the West Africa sub-region, we suggest  that Nigeria 's dynamic foreign policy and linkages with states in the sub-Saharan region such as Gambia, has a long history. More specifically, both regions played crucial role in the trans-Saharan trade, Islamic Jihad reforms in West Africa, and the emergent new diplomacy. Since political independence from the British in the 1960s, successive Nigerian and Gambian leaders have maintained cordial relations.


Nigeria is a federation in the West Africa sub-region. It is a nation state made up of 36 states in addition to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, and has 774 Local Government Area Councils.[1] It occupies an extensive geo-political space of about 923,768.64 square kilometres,  and  is situated east of the Republic of Benin, North of the Republics of Chad and Niger, West of the Republic of Cameroun and South by the Gulf of Guinea, an arm of the Atlantic Ocean.[2] It is a country of over 170 million people, 250 ethnic nationalities and 500 languages. The ethnic and linguistic composition makes it the most populous and culturally diverse country in Africa and in the sub-region.[3] The major ethnic groups in Nigeria are the Hausa/Fulani, the Igbo and the Yoruba. Nigeria was brought into existence in 1914 as a result of the famous amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates by Fredrick Lord Lugard.[4] It got her political independence status in 1960 and became a republic in 1963. Since her political independence in October 1st 1960, Nigeria assumed and has continued to claim and maintain the position of the leadership of African states against the backdrop of its enormous geographical size, large population and material resources. This philosophy has continued to sharpen Nigeria’s foreign policy thrust, fifty six  years after political independence.



Gambia is named after River Gambia. The country is surrounded by River Gambia and the Casamance province of Senegal.[5] It is a nation state made up of six administrative regions, eight local government area councils and forty-three districts. The capital city of Gambia is Banjul. Gambia occupies an approximate land area of 11,000 square kilometers[6] and a population of about 1.9 million people as at 2016[7]. There are eight known ethnic groups in the Gambia namely: the Mandinka (Mandingos), Wolofs, Akus (Creoles), Jola (Kujamat), Fulani (Polfuta), Serahule, Serer and the Tukulor. Of these groups, the most numerous are the Mandinkas, followed by the Fulanis, found in the entire West African sub-region.[8] Gambia was the smallest and the first of  Britain's colony in the West African sub-region that was administered by the Royal African Company, which was granted a Royal Charter in 1678.[9]

Following the dissolution of the Royal African Company in 1821, the British showed reluctance to administer it as a separate entity because of its small size, its  alleged economic non-viability and the ethnic affinity of its inhabitants with the Casamance region of Senegal. The Gambia has severally gone into union with other neighbouring states. For instance, from 1763 to 1783, Gambia was administered together with Senegal, and in 1821, Gambia was merged with Sierra-Leone and demerged in 1843. In 1866, it was remerged with Sierra-Leone and re-demerged finally in 1888. In 1889, the French and the British Governments agreed on the modalities to have the boundaries of the Gambia, Senegal and Casamance demarcated.[10]Gambia’s independence from Britain was delayed to 18th February 1965. Since independence in 1965, Gambia has maintained cordial relations with ECOWAS member states, AU member states and some countries of Asia, Europe and the Americas.




At the beginning of the 14th century, most of the area defined today as Senegal and Gambia was part of the Mali Empire. Evidence abounds of varieties of relations between the people of what is now known as Nigeria, and that region, during pre-colonial times. In the area of religion, Islam was an emblem of unity that tied sub-Saharan African kingdoms and states together. In the first instance, the Jihadist reforms of West Africa, including that of Al-hajj Umar, had far reaching effects in the Senegambia region. Both Ahmad Lobbo and Al-hajj Umar looked to Sokoto not only for inspiration and the blessings of Shaykh Usman Danfodiyo, but as well for books on which their administrations were to be based.[11] It is documented that Al-hajj Umar, the founder of the Tukulor Empire was the one met by Clapperton in Sokoto 1826, on his way to Mecca. He stayed for seven months there, and two months in Gwandu. In 1832, on his way back from Mecca, he was generously treated by Muhammad Bello who hosted him for seven years in Sokoto and gave to him one of his daughters, Mariam in marriage. Umar again married a Hausa girl who became the mother of his eldest son, Ahmadu.[12] Al-hajj Umar equally visited Bornu, and met with Muhammad Al-Amin al-Kanamir. Historical  evidence  suggests that Shehu Usmanu Danfodiyo’s ancestors came to stay in Hausa land,  from Futa-Toro,  in present day Senegal, three hundred years earlier, and that, the parameters of the Sokoto Caliphate in the 19th century, covered  present day Northern Nigeria, part of Niger, Burkina Faso, Benin, Chad and the Cameroun Republic.[13] It must be stressed here that Islam which became the religion of the reformers, was propagated in the Sahara and sub-Saharan West Africa by traders.[14] The role of traders in propagating inter-state relations in West Africa with special emphasis on Nigeria and the Gambia cannot be over emphasized.

Secondly, there was the existence of universal African customary law which offered people, particularly traders and diplomats, the necessary protection in the form of unwritten contracts often based on oaths entered into with the local inhabitants. There emerged broadly similar rules of customary law.[15] Nigeria and Senegambia fell within the purview of this law.

Thirdly, trade constitutes a fundamental factor in the formative years of West African relations. The growth of trans-Saharan, Atlantic and Indian Ocean trade in the second millennium contributed enormously to interstate contacts. Two notable African trading groups in the region were the Diakanke and the Hausa of Senegambia and Northern Nigeria respectively.[16] The impact of the Diakankewas felt from upper Niger to the Senegal and Gambia rivers, the Niger valley, Sikasso or Segou, Futa, Djallon, as well as on different caravan routes. Hausa merchants were prominent in the caravan routes from Kano and Katsina to Tripoli and Tunis.  Apart from the Hausa and Diakanke other traders in the Sudan were the Soninke, Mandingo, Bambara, Wolof and the Serer, mostly found in the Senegambia.  Trade routes, uniform currency and regional markets gave West Africa tenuous economic unity, connecting and in short, integrating different geographical zones and ethno-regional groups straddling many state boundaries. A.M. Adejo comments  that "….. a  network of trade routes linked towns and villages, and made possible the operations of the "Mande", Ashanti, Benin, Yoruba and Hausa merchants.[17] Through the network of trade, the Hausas of northern Nigeria and the Diakanke of Gambia and Senegal had contacts with one another.

Finally, but not limited to traditional inter-state relations is diplomacy. It is documented that in the first millennium, African states exchanged diplomats and envoys, formed alliances either for attack or defence and conducted external relations.[18] Regional political relations were developed and maintained by diplomacy. Boahen shares similar views with A.M. Adejo, that pre-colonial diplomatic relations were organized by professional diplomats such as Okyeame of the Akan of Ghana, Agbejigbetor, a kind of spy unit in Dahomey; Sarkin Nupe and Sarkin Turqua among the Hausa; priests among the Igbo,  and palace officials among the Yoruba. In other ancient kingdoms such as Mali and in Songhai, spies, scholars and even traders acted as diplomatic agents of the rulers.[19] The royal scepters of the agents, bearing different symbols, served as passports and visas and guaranteed them unhindered access to external territories. Several methods were used to maintain and severe ties. These include exchange of gifts, sending of regular and irregular messages and uses of accredited agents/diplomats.  Gifts such as captives, clothes, cowries, beads, kola nut and liquor as from the 15th century, were used in conveying messages. Materials such as shells, sponges, soaps, salt, palm fronds, palm kennels, feathers, cowries, guns were used to promote or prevent understanding.[20] These were the crux of what may be called formal or informal inter-state relations in Africa, between Nigeria and Gambia, and West Africa in general, which the European scramble for Africa disarticulated.


  1.  G.O. Odeh, The 2015 Historic Presidential Election in Nigeria: A Contribution to African Revolutionary Framework. Zaria: Ahmadu Bello University Press, 2015, P. 2.
  2.  G.O. Odeh, “Historicizing National Elections and their Implications on National Security and Integration in Contemporary Nigeria State: A Centenary Discourse” in International Journal of Arts and Sciences (IJAS) Vol. 8, NO. 04, 2015. Available at:
  3.  R.K. Udo, “Environment and Peoples of Nigeria: A Geographical Introduction to the History of Nigeria” in Groundwork of Nigeria History. O.Ikimi (ed), Ibadan: Heinemann Educational Books, 1980, P.7.
  4.  S. Momah, Nigeria Beyond Divorce: Amalgamation in Perspective. Ibadan: Safari Books, 2013, Pp. 127-135… G.O. Odeh,TheHistoric Presidential Election in Nigeria… P.2.
  5.  D.O. Chukwu, An Introduction to Nigerian Political History. Enugu: His Glory Publication (Former Rhema Publications), 2000, P.11. J.I. Elaigwu, “The Challenges of Nation Building in the Twenty First Century: The Nigerian Experience” in Uni-Jos Alumni Association Lecture Series, Abuja Chapter.Vol. 1. NO. 2. Mou Law Mefor (ed), Jos: Psy Com Press, 2002, Pp. 39-43. G.O. Odeh, ‘The Sense and Nonsense in the 1914 Amalgamation as National Integration Attempt in Nigeria” in Lapai Journal of Central Nigeria History. A Journal of the Department of History and International Studies, Ibrahim Badamasi, Babangida University, Lapai, Niger State: Vo. 8, No. 1, 2014, Pp. 20-33.
  6.  R.K. Udo, A Comprehensive Geography of West Africa. Ibadan: Heinemann Educational Books; 1978, Pp. 140-142.
  7.  R.K. Udo, A Comprehensive Geography of West Africa.P. 140.
  8. The Gambia Tribes and Ethnic Groups. At:
  9. P.M. Chikendu, Imperialism & Nationalism. Enugu: Academic Publishing, 2004. P. 93.
  10.  F. Adigwe, Essential of Government for West Africa. Ibadan: University Press PLC, 2011, Pp. 317-319. R.K. Udo, A Comprehensive Geography of West Africa.P. 45.
  11.  M. Last. “ Reform in West Africa: The Jihad Movements of the Nineteenth Century” in History of West Africa II. M. Crowther and J.F.A. Ajayi (eds). Pp. 14, 19, 348-349.
  12.  M. Last, “Reform in West Africa”… P. 349.
  13.  M.B. Idris, “Introduction” in From Maratta to Sokoto. Sokoto: Sultanate Council, 2013. P. III[
  14. J.S. Trimingham, A History of Islam in West Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970, Pp. 2-10.
  15.  T. Falola, “Trade as a Factor of Interstate Relations in Pre-Colonial Africa” in African Unity: The Cultural Foundations. Lagos: Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC); 1988, Pp. 100-101.
  16. T. Falola, “Trade as Factor of Interstate Relations in Pre-Colonial Africa”. Pp. 105-107. 
  17.  A.M. Adejo, Reparations: Africa’s New Charge in Changing World. Makurdi: Peach Global Publications, 2004, P. 15.
  18.  T.M. Shaw, “The Actors in African International Politics” in The Politics of Africa: Dependence and Development.P. 363.
  19.  T.M. Shaw, “The Actors in African International Politics”… P. 366. A.M. Adejo, HIS 422: Diplomatic History Lecture Note. Department of History, Benue State University, 2007. See Similar View Shared by A.F. Usman, G.O. Odeh, “When Contact is Not Enough: Issues Arising from a Century of Intergroup Relations in Nigeria” in POLAC International Journal of Humanities and Security Studies. Maiden Edition, A Journal Publication of the Department of History and International Studies, Nigeria Police Academy, Wudil, Kano, Nigeria, 2015, Pp. 84-85.
  20.  A.F. Usman and G.O. Odeh, “when Contact is Not Enough: Issues Arising from A Century of Intergroup Relations in Nigeria”…P. 85.




“Impact of the reordered election sequence on

Nigerian politics and democracy”


Olusola E. Akintola*

Department of Political Science,

University of Abuja, Nigeria





The current debate on the reordered election sequence in Nigeria is the outcome of the amendments of the Electoral Act 2010, amended by the National Assembly, on how elections to different positions will be held in the country. This, in itself, follows  the release of the date for the 2019 general elections.

Noteworthy is the fact that the reordered election sequence is a legal-political issue. It has both legal and political impact on the polity as well as the country’s democracy. The political interest it has generated has relegated the legal aspect of it to the background. The effect of the political brouhaha on governance, and eventually, on Nigerian democracy cannot be overemphasised.

The ruling elite are mostly interested because it has a great implication for the next election. To the Nigerian masses and the electorate, the reordered election sequence is also significant for it will have impact on the choice of their next leaders and their say in the government. It will culminate into public policies and programmes that impact the life of everyone in the state. Consequently, the heat the issue has generated in the polity seems understandable; its impact will spare no one.


The Electoral Act 2010 has undergone many amendments since it was originally passed in 2010. It has undergone two major amendments in 2011 and 2015. For instance, in April 2017, one of the important amendments made was the authorisation of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to use biometric accreditation for the voters.

Early this year, 2018, the National Assembly (the House of Representatives and the Senate) again amended some sections of the Electoral Act. In all, thirty nine sections of the Act were amended. See the full details here:

Election Sequence

Before the amendment, INEC, in its timetable released on January 9, had scheduled the Presidential and National Assembly elections for February 16, 2019, and elections for governorship and the House of Assembly for March 2, 2019 (This Day, 30th January, 2018). However, amending the Electoral Act, the National Assembly changed the sequence of the general elections. The election will be held in the following order, as contained in Section 25: (a) National Assembly election (b) State Houses of Assembly and Governorship elections (c) Presidential election (The Daily Post, 24th January, 2018). On primary election, the National Assembly amends Section 87 and adds the time for primaries of political parties. It will follow the following sequence (i) State House of Assembly (ii) National Assembly (iii) Governorship, and (iv), President (The Daily Post, 24th January, 2018). It is stated that the primaries shall not be held earlier than 120 days and not later than 90 days before the date of elections to the offices.


One may not like the conduct of the eight National Assembly from 2015 to date. Some of the activities of the House of Representatives and the Senate prove that they are self-centred. They sometimes abandon bills that are of utmost national importance and pursue interests that are self-serving. However, changing the order of the forthcoming general election proves that the National Assembly has asserted itself as an arm of government. The legislature has the primary responsibility of making law for the smooth-running of the state. This it has just done. Even though the National Assembly may have ulterior motives for the action, it has demonstrated that it knows what it is constitutionally empowered to do.

This is against the position of Femi Falana, the renowned human rights activist and lawyer, who claims that the National Assembly lacks the power to fix the election date (Sahara Reporters, 24th February, 2018). The National Assembly, with the amendment, has not fixed the date of the election; it simply changed the order in which the election will be held. This, in no way, reduces or tampers with the constitutional power given to the INEC by the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

Mohammed Musa Soba, a member of the House of Representatives from Kaduna State, may have spoken the mind of the National Assembly on the reordered election sequence. He said that they decided to carry out the amendment on the elections sequence in order for candidates to win elections on their own and not on the bandwagon effect of the President, as was mostly the case in 2015. According to him:

The whole essence is to go back to what obtained long ago. The president is the father of the land. Most of the time, people would only come out to vote for president and they won’t come out for subsequent elections…We want everybody to win on merit. All candidates vying for political offices will not (sic) have to rely on themselves, not on the popularity of anybody else to win…In most cases, once you conduct the presidential election first, people won’t come out to vote again, especially when their candidate doesn’t win.” (cited in Daily Trust, 28th January, 2018).

Apart from the National Assembly trying to avoid the bandwagon effect of the Presidential election, it is trying to encourage voter turnout. Even though one may argue that the National Assembly is trying to bring back the election sequence to the 1999 and 2007 format, there are some other reasons.

Given the perceived erosion of the popularity of the President Muhammadu Buhari, the members of the National Assembly do not want this to have negative effects on their reelection. Most of the members of the National Assembly are afraid that if the President is not reelected, most of them may not come back to the hallowed chamber. This will especially be the case if the two elections are held on the same day.

However, the attempt to change the order of election does not go down well with the Presidency. Even though the Presidency does not state this categorically, the pro-Buhari senators argued that the reordered election sequence is targeted at President Muhammadu Buhari (Daily Post, 14th February, 2018). The pro-Buhari senators were against the change of the order of election for the same reason the anti-Buhari senators and honorable members of the  House of Representatives were supporting it. However, INEC has stated that it would only comply with the amendment to the Electoral Act 2010 if passed into law six months before the next general election (This Day, 30th January, 2018). This means that the polity may experience days of legal battle very soon. This will be the case, if the President does not assent to the bill and the National Assembly decides to veto the bill. This signals a rough relationship between the executive and the legislature. It will become a struggle for survival. The members of the National Assembly will want the reordered election sequence to stay,  while the executive will want it changed. Each of arm of government will want to exploit the situation to its advantage.

The reordered election sequence means that Nigeria will spend more on the conduct of the 2019 general elections. Instead of having two election dates, elections will be held on three occasions. This does not augur well for an economy that has not totally recovered from recession. Spending more money to conduct elections will not be wise when more Nigerians are live below the poverty line, with unemployment rising from 14.2% in 2016 to 18.8% in 2017 (The Vanguard, 23rd December, 2017).

 The  reordered election sequence may signal good things for the masses and the electorate. It will be an opportunity to vote out of office the non-performing members of the National Assembly. This means that the reordered sequence of election will work against some of them. In addition, it will be an opportunity for the electorate to vote for the presidential candidate of their choice without thinking whether the choice will avail them the federal presence- as it is said in Nigeria’s parlance -  in their state or community.

Electing a candidate based on his/her personality, popularity and credibility is sine qua non for good governance. A candidate so elected will see himself/herself as representing the whole country but not a segment of the country. It will prevent the manifestation of the 97%- against- 3% treatment of President Muhammadu Buhari (Sahara Reporters, 25th July, 2015) that Nigeria is currently experiencing. The level of nepotism the country now experiences under the Buhari-led federal government is unprecedented in Nigeria’s political history (The Vanguard, 9th October, 2017; The Daily Post, 27th January, 2018; The Punch, 23rd July, 2016; The Guardian, 23rd January, 2018; The Cable, 23rd January, 2018) partly due to the President’s ‘reward’ of sections of the country based on the votes they cast for him in the last presidential elections. If the election is reordered, based on the yet-to-be-assented-to amendment of the National Assembly, nepotism in Nigerian democracy will be reduced.



In all, the controversies about the reordered election sequence is to the benefit of the electorate and the masses. It would give the electorate the opportunity to vote for their candidate of choice, based on their (candidates) merit, but not on a bandwagon effect. To the masses, if the right candidates are voted into office, it will eventually guarantee good governance and development.

It is, however, pitiable, if Nigerian political history is anything to go by, that most times, the electorate and the Nigerian masses are divided on primordial sentiments. They are divided on ethnicity and religion. The ruling elites have severally used this method to divide and rule Nigerians. Even though it seems that the electorate is beginning to vote based on the candidate’s personality, there are still many Nigerians that are carried away with primordial sentiments at the polls.

Therefore, this calls for civil/civic education of all Nigerians. They need to be educated on the imperative of unity against their common foes. The enemies of the Nigerian masses are not the ordinary Nigerians who are struggling to fulfil their potential; their enemies are the elites who set them against themselves, using primordial sentiments. While the elites always unite to milk the country dry, Nigerians are divided along ethnic and religious lines. Ethnic and religious differences are not the problems of Nigerians; the problem of Nigerians is the widespread poverty in the land. The elites are using poverty, which they put most Nigerians into, as an instrument of divide and rule. They manipulate poverty, use it with ethnicity and religion for electoral victory. It is all about amassing the national wealth for themselves and their immediate family at the expense of the Nigerian masses.      

*PhD Candidate,

Department of Political Science,

University of Abuja, Abuja, Nigeria



Daily Trust (28th January, 2018). How 35 Reps amended Electoral Act. Retrieved from   ; accessed 26th    February, 2018

PLAC (2018). Factsheet on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2018 as passed by the national assembly.           Retrieved from     THE-ELECTORAL-ACT-AMENDMENT-BILL-2018-AS-PASSED-BY-THE-            NATIONAL-ASSEMBLY.pdf; accessed 26th February, 2018.

Sahara Reporters (25th July, 2015). Buhari’s Statement at the US Institute of Peace that Made Everyone Cringe. Retrieved from     peace-made-everyone-cringe-0; accessed 6th March, 2018.

The Cable (23rd January, 2018). Nepotism, blame game, incompetence’ – the ‘sins’ of Buhari as           listed by Obasanjo. Retrieved from   engineering-ethnic-division-eight-sins-buhari-obasanjo; accessed 7th March, 2018.

The Daily Post (24th January, 2018). 2019: House of Reps change elections’ time table.   ; accessed            26th February, 2018.

The Daily Post (27th January, 2018). How Buhari’s hypocrisy, tribalism, nepotism result to many           agitations – Ekweremadu. Retrieved from            tribalism-nepotism-result-many-agitations-ekweremadu/; accessed 7th March, 2018.

The Guardian (23rd January, 2018). Obasanjo accuses Buhari of nepotism, asks him not to seek            reelection. Retrieved from      nepotism-asks-him-not-to-seek-reelection/; accessed 7th March, 2018.

The Punch (23rd July, 2016). Nepotism in Buhari’s govt, the worst in Nigeria’s history –Junaid   Mohammed. Retrieved from         history-junaid-mohammed/; accessed 7th March, 2018.

The Vanguard (23rd December, 2017). Nigeria’s Unemployment rate rises from 14.2% to 18.8%.         Retrieved from     rises-14-2-18-8/; accessed 26th February, 2018.

The Vanguard (9th October, 2017). Nepotism, Mother of all Corruption retrieved from   ; accessed 7th March,            2018.

ThisDay (30th January, 2018). INEC Gives Electoral Act Conditions. Retrieved from   ; accessed 26th February, 2018




“Ethiopia: The Way Forward”


Gloria Emeagwali




On April 1, 2018, Ethiopia, Africa’s second largest country in population, chose a new

Prime Minister, Dr.  Abiy Ahmed Ali.  Ethiopia could not have chosen a better person to

be the new Prime Minister, following the resignation of Haile Mariam Desalegn

 on February 15, 2018 (Jeffrey, 2018).  There is no guarantee that everything will go

smoothly in the country from this point, but with a doctorate in Conflict Mediation,

experience in peace keeping in Rwanda, and experience within the EPRDF coalition,

 Dr. Abiy Ahmed Ali is a great choice. Dr. Abiy Ahmed Ali speaks Oromo and Amhara

 (and English) and comes from the region  that could have brought about the collapse of

 the regime - if the writing on the wall had  been ignored. He is the Chair of OPDO-one of

the four members of the EPDRF coalition that emerged after the fall of Mengistu- and is

the first Oromo to be in this position. He comes  from the Jimma zone in Oromiya

 regional state that consists of twelve administrative zones and one hundred and eighty

woredas or districts.





There are a few major issues that the 42 year old politician - who  rose to the

 rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Army-  must address, in the coming months, in the

 context of the EPRDF(Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front):


  1. Release of all political prisoners and dissidents, a process earlier initiated by Prime Minister Haile Mariam in February, 2018. 
  2. Completion of the GERD (Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam) at Benishangul - Gumuz, in the west, that is over 70% complete- and negotiation with Egyptian President, el-Sisi, from a position of strength, to enhance water accessibility and generate electric power in eleven Nile countries (300 million people) in the region.
  3. Continuation of infrastructure expansion in the context of technology transfer 
  4. Wealth distribution and poverty alleviation across all regions. 
  5. Adjustments to China - Ethiopian relations so that the new industrial economic zones will benefit ordinary people through fair wages and working conditions.
  6. Consolidation of the reforms of 2017  vis a vis the Rastas at Sheshamane, and elsewhere in Ethiopia. Bonacci (2015) has documented the ideological roots and complexities associated with the Rastafari journey to Shashemene , located in the Oromo region. Mohammed Hassen (1994), places the adopted region in its historical context. 
  7. Improved relations with neighbors such as Eritrea, Somaliland, Punt and Somalia, where feasible. Bereketeab (2012) and De Waal(2017) discuss various dimensions of this conflict in their works.
  8. Reduction of Oromo-Somali tension within Ethiopia, by solving the land and water issues that are at the root of the conflict. 
  9. Expansion of youth employment programs.  
  10. Persuasion of the TPLF (Tigrayan People's Liberation Front) to re-distribute some of the sensitive military and political posts equitably.





Bereketeab, R. (2012). The Horn of Africa: Intra-State and Inter-State Conflicts and Security. Pluto Press.

Bonacci, G. (2015). Exodus: Heirs and pioneers, Rastafari Return to Ethiopia.Kingston, Jamaica:  University of the West Indies Press.

De Waal, Alex. (2017). The Real Politics of the Horn of Africa. Polity Press.

Hassen, M.  (1994). The  Oromo of Ethiopia. NJ: Red Sea Press.

Jeffrey, J. (2018, March 9). Political Dominoes Topple in Ethiopia. Retrieved from

Kestler-D’Amours, J. (2018, February 23). Who will be Ethiopia’s New Prime Minister? Aljazeera. Retrieved from 180221135251018.html.

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The Humbling of the All People’s Congress:

Understanding the March 2018 Presidential Run-off Election

of Sierra Leone


Yusuf Bangura*

Nyon, Switzerland



The March 31st Presidential run-off election was an amazingly close race. Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) emerged victorious with 51.8% of the votes, and his rival, Samura Kamara of the All People’s Congress (APC), scored 48.2%. Only 92,235 votes separated them. A switch of 46,118 votes in the other direction would have produced a different result. No other election in Sierra Leone’s history has been this close, except perhaps the 1967 election, which was conducted under a parliamentary system of government.

However, if one compares the vote shares of the two parties between 2012 and 2018 (57.8:37.4; and 51.8:48.2 respectively), this was a massive swing of 10.5 percentage points—close to the other big swing of 12.3 percentage points (70:45.4) against the SLPP in 2007. In most mature democracies, 10.5 percentage point swings would require at least two election cycles to overcome. The result is, therefore, a huge defeat for the APC and a great win for the SLPP.

How did the APC squander its 21 percentage point margin with the SLPP? And why did such a massive swing occur? The second question can be rephrased as ‘Why did the APC lose the 2018 election?’ This piece addresses these two questions.


A four-region swing


A bipolar  ethno-regional  cleavage underpins Sierra Leone’s electoral politics. This bipolarity is based on the numerical dominance of the two largest ethnic groups, the Themneh and Mende, which are roughly equal in size, and constitute slightly more than 60% of the population. The Themne are located in North and have a large presence in the Western Area, and the Mende are largely found in the South and East. The Mende are more hegemonic in the South-East, where they dominate six electoral districts, than the Themneh are in the North, which is more heteregeneous. Because of the North’s ethnic heterogeneity, Northern block voting, not ethnic group voting, historically informs voting behaviour in the region; whereas in the South and East, apart from Kono, Mende ethnic block voting seems to be the rule.


In the 1967 election, the population ratio between the North-Western Area and South-East was almost 50:50. However, by 2007, this ratio had changed to 55:45 in favour of the North-Western Area, and in 2015 to 56.5:43.5. However, the ratio of registered voters has been more lopsided since 2012—it was 59.35:40.65 in 2012 and 60.5:39.5 in 2018. The vote shares of the APC and SLPP in the last three elections reflected this ethno-regional divide. In 2012, for instance, the APC received 80% of its votes from the North and Western Area, and the SLPP 76% of its votes from the South and East.


In an ethnically bifurcated electorate in which voting is largely ethnic, elections are often won by maximising votes in one’s ethno-regional stronghold and making slight inroads in the ethno-regional stronghold of the opposing party. In the case of the APC, for instance, prior to 2018, the strategy was to maximise its votes in the North and Western Area and penetrate Kono, which is the only non-Mende-speaking district in the East. For the SLPP, the strategy has been to maximise its votes in the South-East and make inroads in Kambia and Koinadugu, Northern districts with substantial minority group presence.


Ernest Koroma needed a four-region strategy to avoid a run-off in 2012. He could not have won on the first ballot by relying only on the North, Western Area and Kono. He needed the votes of all four regions to get to the 55% victory score. However, because of the lopsided nature of the electorate in ethno-regional terms in 2012, Koroma could have won a second round ballot (which requires only 50%+1 votes) with only the 51.6% of the votes he received from the North, Western Area and Kono. This is a three-region strategy.


The 2018 results indicate that because of the lopsided distribution of registered voters in favour of the North-Western Area, Bio needed a four-region strategy to win the election in the second round of voting. Relying on the South and East would have given him only 34.85% of the votes; and including the Western Area would have raised his vote share to 46.32%. It is only when his votes in the North are added that he is able to get to the 50%+1 mark. The interesting point about Bio’s Northern votes is that reliance on only his votes in the districts with strong minority presence (Kambia, Koinadugu, Falaba and Karene) would have given him only 2.92 extra percentage points, which would have raised his overall vote share to 49.24%. He needed his votes in the predominantly Themneh-speaking districts of Port Loko, Tonkolili and Bombali (which gave him 2.57 extra percentage points) to get him across the victory line[1].


The SLPP’s four-region strategy trumps the APC’s two-region strategy in this election, and it vividly explains how the APC lost the election. The APC may have been lured into a false sense of security by assuming that the ethnically lopsided nature of the electorate in favour of its regional strongholds gives it the option to ignore the South and East and focus largely on the North and Western Area. How else can one explain the sacking of Sam Sumana, an elected vice president from Kono, and the alienation of the Kono electorate? Or the failure to choose a standard bearer or running mate from the South-East, even though a Southerner, Victor Foh, was vice president?


The choice of Samura Kamara, a Northerner, and Chernor Maju Bah, from the Western Area, as standard bearer and running mate respectively, may have sent a strong message to South-Eastern voters that they did not matter in the calculations of the APC. The focus on the North and Western Area may explain why the APC opportunistically tried to change the constitutional rule that requires 55% of the votes to avoid a run-off, to a simple majority of 50%+1 in the last days of the last parliament without public debate. No party has ever won an election with a two-region strategy. The results do, indeed, indicate that even though both parties still draw most of their votes from their traditional ethno-regional strongholds, the APC has become much more regional than the SLPP. 89.2% of the APC’s votes are from the North and Western Area, whereas the South and East account for 67.3% of the SLPP’s votes.


The SLPP increased its vote share in every district, whereas the APC lost ground in all districts, including in Bombali where it obtained 90.7% of the votes, which is incredibly high, but is lower than the 93.2% it received in 2012. The key to the SLPP’s victory was the maximisation of its votes in the Mende-speaking districts of Kailahun, Kenema, Bo, Pujehun, Bonthe, and to some extent Moyamba, to stratospheric levels; tapping into the anti-APC grievances in Kono, where it raised its vote share from 38% in 2012 to 72.6% in 2018; raising its votes from 25% to 39.5% in the Western Area; and making reasonable inroads in the North, where it increased its vote share from 6% in 2012 to 17.8% in 2018. The SLPP’s votes in the Mende-speaking districts were, indeed, stratospheric—the party obtained 89% of the votes in those districts, with Bonthe, Pujehun and Kailahun each giving the party 90% or more of their votes.


The APC lost much ground in its traditional strongholds. For instance, whereas in 2012, it obtained 88% of the votes in the North, it could only get 82% of the votes in 2018. The slide in the North is related to the challenge faced by the APC from the National Grand Coalition and other small parties, which took 19.5% of the votes in the first round. The APC was only able to claw back 67% of those votes in the run-off, but this was not enough to prevent the SLPP from winning. The SLPP was competitive in Kambia (it received 30% of the votes), Falaba (42.7% of the votes), and Koinadugu (32% of the votes). Kambia had the lowest voter participation rate in the run-off, suggesting a lack of interest after the NGC, the party of a plurality of the voters, failed to make it to the run-off (only 65% voted as opposed to a national average of 81%). The APC’s harassment of the NGC and smaller parties in the region would have made it difficult for the APC to win a higher percentage of these small party voters in the second round. Similarly, even though the APC obtained 72% of the votes in the Western Area in 2012, it received only 60.5% of the votes in 2018. It was heavily trounced in Kono, where its vote share dropped from 58% in 2012 to 27.4% in 2018; and it failed to defend the gains it made in the Mende-speaking districts in 2012: its vote share declined from about 18% in 2012 to only 11% in 2018.


Debates on Sierra Leone’s electoral politics have often focused on the phenomena of ethno-regional strongholds and swing districts to determine the winning chances of parties. The swing districts are assumed to be the Western Area districts and Kono district, with the idea that these districts have changed winning parties a few times in our last five party competitive elections. The notion of swing districts gave rise to the view that no party can win an election without winning the Western Area or Freetown. The historical record thus, indeed, indicate that when the APC won the elections in 1967, 2007 and 2012, it also won the Western Area districts; and when the SLPP won the elections in 1996 and 2002, it was also victorious in the Western Area. The SLPP’s victory in 2018 without winning Freetown or the Western Area indicates that the idea of swing districts is unhelpful in understanding electoral politics in Sierra Leone.


The concept of swing districts or swing states makes sense in US presidential elections where the winner is not elected by the popular vote but by an electoral college of voters representing the 50 states and Washington DC, with delegate vote share per state determined by the number of Senators and House respresentiatives for each state. Under this system, a plurality of the popular votes in a district (apart from Maine and Nebraska) gives all the delegate votes of that district to the winner. It is logical, therefore, for American political scientists and commentators to focus on battle ground or swing states, which often determine the winner. The notion of swing or ‘marginal’ constituencies (in UK parlance) also makes sense in first-past-the-post parliamentary elections where a plurality of votes is needed in each constituency to determine winners. However, where elections for the presidency are based on the popular vote, the appropriate focus should be on the percentage vote shares of parties in each district and vote swings between elections. This approach indicates that analysts should focus less on parties flipping electoral districts and more on parties’s ability to improve vote shares. In other words, a party does not need to win a district in an opponent’s stronghold to win an election. All it needs is to improve its vote share to a level that will get it to 55% or 50%+1 vote shares when the votes in all the 16 electoral districts are added. The APC and SLPP are still dominant in their respective ethno-regional strongholds of North-Western Area and South-East. The only district that flipped in 2018 was Kono (and Kambia in the first round, which gave a plurality of its votes to the NGC). However, changes in vote shares in ethno-regional strongholds are what accounted for the election outcome.


Why the APC lost


Why did the APC lose the election? Some of the reasons are embedded in the first question discussed above on how the party lost ground in all four regions. In this section, I highlight four important reasons. The first is the party’s arrogant sense of invincibility, which is informed by its monopolisisation of power for 24 years (1968-92) and the lopsided ethno-regional distribution of voters. It’s monopolisation of power from 1968-1992 is captured by the party’s infamous mantra of having 99 tactics of winning elections; and the ethnically lopsided electoral distribution of voters led to a false belief that it will never lose elections since voting is largely ethnic. These two factors created a dangerous, anti-democratic mindset of invincibility and fuelled the myth that ‘the APC does not lose elections it organises’. It partly explains why the SLPP’s base opted for a leader with a military record that ended the APC’s rule in 1992. The logic of the SLPP’s choice is that the APC cannot be removed by democratic means alone—an idea that is equally dangerous for democratic politics. Elections cannot perform their basic job of accountability and mandate renewal if they are predictable or based on who has superior methods to fight or rig the outcome.


After the announcement of the final result, I sent a WhatsApp message to friends with just five words: ‘the end of an era’. The historian, Ibrahim Abdullah, and my insightful discussion partner on WhatsApp queried my use of the term ‘era’, since the APC’s defeat will not signal a clear break from the past. However, the term very well signifies an important aspect of the evolution of our democratic politics: the slaying of the myth of APC’s invincibility through democratic means, without military intervention or civil war. The APC tried many tricks to discredit the top management of NEC, especially its chairman, N’fa Alie Conteh; sought an injunction on the run-off; and accused the international observers, especially those from the European Union, the Commonwealth headed by Ghana’s ex-president John Mahama, and the British High Commissioner of orchestrating regime change. Bio was forced to play rogue by calling for nation-wide protests if the elections were not held on the day they were scheduled before the injunction was granted, and asserted that he would stop to recognise Koroma’s legitimacy after 27 March. This did not go down well with many people, and references to his impulse for militaristic or insurrectionary interventions re-emerged. Sierra Leone has, however, changed in one significant respect: voters were tired of instability and war. The international observers did a great job of diffusing the tension, the NEC Chief was resolute in defending the independence of his institution, the injunction was lifted, Bio’s threats did not materialise, and the APC, in the words of Chairman Mao, turned out to be a ‘paper tiger’. The humbling of the APC, in my view, is the single most important outcome of the 2018 election. It removes the idea of invincibility and assumed right to govern indefinitely in our politics.


The APC’s arrogant sense of invincibility gave rise to a second problem: the belief that it can govern without much respect for institutions or checks and balances. It’s huge mandate in 2012 (a vote margin of 21 percentage points) and control of more than 60% of parliamentary seats provided it with a buffer to rule without much accountability. The party’s disrespect for institutions includes the illegal sacking of the elected vice president, Sam Sumana; selectively using the dual citizenship law to witch-hunt Kandeh Yumkella of the NGC, while simultaneously having a large number of ministers who are dual citizens; attempting at the 11th hour of the last parliament and in the middle of an election to change, without public debate, a constitutional rule that 55% votes are required to avoid a run-off in a presidential election; and elevating political parties over citizens’ democratic choices in determining when presidents and vice presidents can remain in office. With the Supreme Court’s support, a party leader, who may not even contest elections in his party, is now more powerful than a president elected by millions of voters if they belong to the same party. The party’s leader, Ernest Koroma, became all powerful and basked in the dubious title of Supreme Authority. He singlehandedly selected the party’s standard bearer and running mate—a first in the comity of democratic nations; and accepted the title of Life Chairman and Leader from the youth wing of the party—this was a throwback to the bad governance days of life presidents that ruined African countries in the 1970s.


The sense of invincibility and disrespect for institutions gave rise to a third problem: an inability to rein in the country’s chronic corruption, despite platitudes of running Sierra Leone as a business and having zero tolerance for corruption. For more than 10 years, the government failed to act on the Auditor General’s report, which contains numerous cases of misappropriated funds or expenditures that are not backed by proper documentation; it also failed to hold to account those who the Auditor General identified as responsible for the missing 14 million dollars meant to fight the Ebola virus disease. The scourge of corruption reared its ugly head at State House during preparations for the Hajj pilgrimage in 2017. Officials at State House and other functionaries who pilfered pilgrims’ payments have still not been brought to book by the Anti-Corruption Commission. Sadly, the government granted zero taxation to companies and duty waiver of imported goods, which only enriched mining companies and key government and party functionaries during the mining boom of 2012-13. It has been estimated that the state lost $224 million in 2012 on tax concessions to only five mining companies and a cement company. The flip side of chronic corruption was a public service recruitment practice that was largely informed by party patronage and ethno-regional considerations.


The final grievance against the APC was its inability to transform the economy, improve the quality of education and health services, and lift living standards. Throughout the campaign, the APC touted road construction as its key selling point for mandate renewal. However, road construction, or infrastructure development, needs to be anchored in a jobs-generating growth strategy to improve wellbeing. Even if voters are provided with the best roads in the world, they will react negatively during elections if they do not have jobs, good incomes and social services. The APC failed to understand this logic throughout its 10 years in office. To compound the problem, the economy has been in dire straits since 2015 largely due to the collapse of global iron prices and the Ebola pandemic that halted many activities. Despite a moderate recovery in 2016 and 2017, the economy remains undiversified; about 60% of youths do not have productive jobs, and 80% of them are in poverty despite the creation of multiple state organisations on youth affairs; inflation is about 20%; and there is often a lag in the payment of public sector salaries.


A combination of these grievances metamorphosed into a protest vote to kick the APC out of power. Political scientist Jimmy Kandeh was the first to recognise the results as a protest vote against the APC on his lively Facebook page. And in a WhatsApp exchange with me, he pinned down this protest vote to Kono and the Western Area. The only distinctly vote-catching message of Bio’s campaign was his promise of free education, which surely would have earned him votes. However, accusations of complicity in the extra-judicial killing of citizens and corruption when he was a top member of the National Provisional Ruling Council continued to dog his campaign. And even though his campaign was effective, it is difficult to recognise major policy promises that set it apart from the major parties and are compelling enough to deliver victory. If anything, Kandeh Yumkella and the NGC were the breath of fresh air—they had a more comelling message on the economy, inclusion and governance. However, the ethno-regional barriers proved resilient, and many voters who were tired of the APC calculated that Bio’s SLPP stood a better chance than the other parties of getting rid of the APC. This protest vote was similar to what happened in 2007 when the electorate got tired of Ahmad Tejan-Kabbah’s SLPP and voted for Koroma’s APC, which did not advance anything substantively attractive in the campaign and struggled with it’s terrible history of violence, corruption, economic mismangement and repression when it governed between 1968 and 1992.


Let me return to the four-region swing that I highlighted as responsible for the SLPP’s victory to make the following point: even though the 2018 protest vote was intense in Kono and the Western Area, the defeat of the APC was a nation-wide or four-region protest, including in the Mende-speaking districts that gave 89% of their votes to the SLPP. The APC, to recall, lost votes in all the four regions. The Mende-speaking districts gave 18% of their votes to the APC in 2012. Indeed, 149,021 voters in those districts voted APC in 2012; in 2018, only 11% or 90,346 voters did. What accounted for the 3.5 percentage point swing against the party or loss of almost 60,000 voters? I submit that ethnic factors were intertwined with the national protest wave against the APC to produce the stratospheric numbers for the SLPP in those districts. The vote swing against the APC in the North was 3 percentage points (88% in 2012 to 82% in 2018). There, ethno-regionalism helped to reduce the impact of the protest wave against the APC. The Western Area vote swing against the APC was 5.8 percentage points (72% in 2012 to 60.5% in 2018). The biggest vote swing against the APC was in Kono: a massive 15.3 percentage points. Indeed, if 46,118 of the 91,823 Kono people who voted for the SLPP had switched their votes to the APC, the latter would have won the election. In this sense, the Kono voters can rightly claim that they gave the presidency to Bio and had the last laugh on Koroma and the APC. In other words, the illegal sacking of the vice president, who hails from Kono, cost the APC the election.



Conclusion: prospects for democratic politics



The demolition of the myth of APC invincibility bodes well for Sierra Leone’s democratic politics. No democracy is viable if one party believes it has a natural right to rule indefinitely. Since we seem to be stuck with the APC and SLPP, despite a clear alternative in the National Grand Coalition in 2018, the only way voters can ensure some kind change and hold parties to account is if they have a genuine chance of throwing incumbent parties out for poor performance. Party alternation in power may be a blunt instrument of accountability, but it is better than having single party dominance in the governance arena.

Koroma apologised to the nation in 2007 for the APC’s 24 years of reckless rule, and promised to transform the party into what he called ‘A New APC’. One of his greatest failures was his refusal to modernise his party. Modernisation would have required making the party more democratic, merit-driven, inclusive and not beholden to patronage networks. Instead, he encouraged a culture of sycophancy to become deeply entrenched in the party, allowed the party’s non-democratic rule of selection to continue to determine how representatives are chosen, and became more powerful than the party itself. Party members indulged him in his quest for total supremacy because of the misplaced belief that he was an asset in winning and retaining power. They even canvassed the public to give him a third term or an extended stay in office—moves that he refused to stamp out until public opposition forced his hand. A state-supported university was named after him and there was a reported initiative by the Central Bank to have his image on one of the countries’ bank notes, even though such actions are wrong for a sitting president in a democracy. The low point of this abuse of institutions was when he publicly stated that if he had wanted a third term, no one one would have stopped him. Not even the constitution? Rather than a new APC, the party elite’s mind-set of domination remained the same as that of the old APC. The party needs a fundamental reform of its constitution, mind-set and practices if it is to win the confidence of voters in future elections.

The defeat of the APC holds promise for building a culture of autonomy in Sierra Leone’s key election management institutions: NEC, the police and the judiciary. The top leadership of NEC performed well in the second round of voting, and refused to yield to incumbent party intimidation. It still needs to clean house at the field level, where many of its officials collaborated with the two parties to rig the first round of elections. Amazingly, according to NEC’s data, overvoting occurred in each of the 16 electoral districts in the first round, which suggests a widespread attempt to stifle the people’s franchise. For institutions like the police and the judiciary, this second alternation of power between parties by democratic means teaches a crucial lesson: political parties do not have permanent tenure in government—the primary interest of officials of such institutions should be to serve the state and not the party in government.


What are the prospects for democratic politics in the current dispensation? Bio’s SLPP government faces two kinds of constraints that can check the invincibility impulse and disrespect for institutions witnessed under Koroma’s APC. The first is the very small vote margin the party enjoyed in the election. The next election cycle needs only 1.8 p[i]ercentage point swing against the SLPP to send it out of State House. As we have seen, that is only 45,118 votes. Voters’ remorse in the North, Western Area or Kono for any number of reasons could be catastrophic for the party. This suggests that the party is likely to eschew the APC’s arrogance of unchecked power if it seriously wants voters to give it a second term in office. The 2018 election has sent a strong message that no party can use undemocratic methods to prolong its life; the leash the electorate has on the SLPP is very short.


The second constraint is the balance of power in parliament. The results indicate that the SLPP will not have a majority or emerge as the largest party in the legislative body. This is not the first time that a president’s party will not have a majority in parliament. In 1996, Tejan-Kabbah’s SLPP government had only 39.7% of the parliamentary seats—its alliance with the People’s Democratic Party gave it a comfortable majority of 57%. In the new parliament, the APC will have a very small majority of 68 out of the 132 seats[2]. This is the first time in our history that the governing party will not be the largest party in parliament—it will not be able, therefore, to provide the Speaker and Majority Leader and drive the law-making process[3]. The seat distribution indicates that Bio’s government will not enjoy Koroma’s freedom to do as he pleases without parliamentary contestation and bargaining. Key appointments, bills and the budget may have to be negotiated and not imposed or rushed through as in the previous parliament. Smaller parties like the NGC and the Coalition for Change will have the power to punch above their weight.


These two constraints can, however, also produce negative outcomes or fail to discipline the government. Sierra Leone’s history is marked by both hope and disaster—any analysis will need to recognise, therefore, both positive and negative outcomes. The possibility of gridlock of the type that often occurs in the US when Congress is not controlled by the president’s party can be one outcome. This is likely to occur if the APC uses its majority power to block the president’s intiatives because of executive actions the party vehemently opposes. One likely area of contention is the replacement of people in top positions in the public sector that owed their loyalty to the APC. Bio’s government will be under tremendous pressure from its base, especially the Paopa faction, to move swiftly on this issue—and they will point to the far-reaching changes in top level personnel when the APC came to power in 2007. Such struggles, if not properly managed, could provoke the government to govern in a non-accountable and confrontational way in order to demonstrate executive power.


A second problem is limitations on the bargaining process across parties for majority outcomes. In a situation where the governing party does not have a majority, such bargaining has one significant drawback: the lack of autonomy of individual MPs in our parliamentary system. Articles 77 (k) and 77 (l) of the constitution state that an MP can lose his/her seat in parliament if he/she ceases to be a member of the party on whose ticket the election was won; and the Speaker, in consultation with the leader of an MP’s party, can cause the expulsion of that MP if he/she sits and votes with a party other than the one on whose ticket the election was won. This may limit the ability of the president to make deals with individual MPs without the backing of the MPs’ party leaders. If the APC provides the Speaker and Majority Leader, the government will find it difficult to make deals with individual APC MPs without the consent of the APC leadership.


Experiences under Tejan-Kabbah’s SLPP and Koroma’s APC on this issue are not encouraging. In 1996, John Karefa-Smart of the United National People’s Party (UNPP) accused his parliamentary party members of disloyalty and collusion with the SLPP government. He dismissed 80% of them, but the affected MPs joined hands with SLPP MPs to have Karefa-Smart suspended from parliament. This incident strained relations between the UNPP and the SLPP government, making it difficult for Karefa-Smart’s faction of the UNPP to work with Tejan-Kabbah in opposing the military coup of 1997. In the case of Koroma, even though he did not really need the votes of the SLPP in parliament, SLPP partisans accused him of interfering in the protracted struggles among SLPP MPs for control of the party’s parliamentary agenda. The SLPP failed to hold the Koroma government to account in parliament.


Bio’s government and opposition parliamentary parties should study these and other cases around the world and work out schemes that will lead to healthy cooperation for democratic politics and development.




Formerly, Professor, Ahmadu Bello University

Zaria, Nigeria


[1] There is a large Themneh presence in Kambia district, which it shares with the Soso, Madingo and Limba; and some Themneh presence in Karene, where the Limba are the largest group.

[2] The result for one seat in Falaba district is still to be declared by NEC.

[3] It is not clear what the status of the 14 paramount chiefs who were elected by non-popular vote will be in determining the leadership of the House.




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