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Thursday, 9 June 2011

History of APC, SLPP, PMDC Youth Wings

Youth power greatly influenced the outcome of the past presidential and parliamentary elections held in the country during the close of the third quarter of the year 2007. Fifty-nine percent of the total votes cast in the said elections were cast by youths who wanted regime change at all cost.

This writer’s examination of the history of youth participation in politics was inspired by this new youth awareness.


THE SIERRA LEONE PEOPLE'S PARTY (SLPP)

The Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) started its youth wing called the "Action Group" which was formed to ensure that the party did not lose particularly the general elections that were held on 17th March 1967.

Its mission was to enlighten illiterate and semi-illiterate young members of the party about the importance of their involvement in the electoral process at the time if the party was to win the said elections.

Thus Dr. John Kerefa Smart, Salia Jusu Sheriff, Maigore Kallon e.t.c. did not belong to that group, which comprised of mainly less educated youths who were only rank and file followers of party politicians.

It is widely believed that the activities of the SLPP Action Group influenced the formation of the youth wing of the APC party. Also, the SLPP Action Group currently called the National Young Generation, contributed significantly to the success of the SLPP in the 1996 and 2002 elections.

Despite that fact, however, it is pathetic to note that the ‘young generation wing’ was treated as if it is only a mere support group to the party even when they played a significant role in both the elections the party won in 1996 and 2002 respectively.

This attitude to the youthful but vibrant youth wing resulted in the marginalization of the youth wing and its alienation by the SLPP bigger guns.

A school of thought taken cognizance of this prevailing attitude is now of the opinion that it was responsible for the breakup of the party leading to the formation of the Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) as that party was largely supported by such disgruntled youths.

Yet notwithstanding the degraded manner in which the have been treated by successive party leaderships, the youths loyal to the party remain steadfast in promoting party image and interests.

THE ALL PEOPLE'S CONGRESS (APC) 



Like the SLPP Action Group, when the All People's Congress (APC) party Youth League was formed, it was merely to serve as a support group to the party.

However, as time went on, unlike the SLPP young generation, the APC uplifted the status of the youth league, as it was considered a vital organ of the party.

It could be recalled in the days of Siaka P. Steven when the APC assumed power, the youth league was considered not only as part and parcel of the party, but as a force to reckon with.

As a result an office space was created for the APC Youth Leader at State House. They also had a student desk where the Secretary General of the youth league used to coordinate the activities of the youths in the party.

Moreover, promising young members of the party who were attending various institutions of learning ranging from primary to university levels were provided with scholarship opportunities to study within the country and abroad.

The APC by then adopted the socialist type of politics, their constitution was a bit socialist, and that was why the one party system was adopted, which contributed immensely to enhancing the youth and women’s wing of the party.

Potential youths were sent to the Diaspora for further education. Those who graduated as engineers for example, were absorbed into the Civil Service as area and government engineers’ e.t.c, some subsequently become administrative officers and rose to the ranks to become Permanent Secretaries and Provincial Secretaries. A few examples include Hamid Kamara who was later appointed Administrative Officer and those who choose to devote their lives to politics like Honourable SBB Dumbuya, were given ambassadorial posts. Dumbuya, who remained ever grateful to the APC, is now a Parliamentarian. The former mayor of Freetown, Alfred Akibo was among the many groomed through this party cognizance of youth power. Little wonder the party benefited so much from the youthful vote.

In a nutshell, the APC, unlike the SLPP, gives its youths greater cognizance both in their role in the party as well as in governance.

Even when the leadership of the APC was beset by squabbles and conflict the National Youth League continued to enjoy amicable relationship with party elders which buoyed their enthusiasm to contribute more robustly towards the party’s recent victory at both the parliamentary and presidential elections.

It will interest anyone reading this piece to realize that the League contributed greatly to the success of the party as they held a series of regional meetings and sensitization programs for it membership countrywide.

THE PEOPLE'S MOVEMENT FOR DEMOCRATIC CHANGE (PMDC)

The People's Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) has only a slight difference in the setup of its own young generation wing to that of the SLPP, since it was formed by former members of the SLPP.

The young generation of the PMDC was formed immediately after the party was established. The party itself is made up mainly of young people, majority of them breakaway former members of the SLPP.

The breakup was allegedly due to the failure of the SLPP to create the enabling environment for youths to realize their full potentials and contribute meaningfully to the development of society, which stigmatized the party as one for the aged.

To make matters worse, those disgruntled young members of the party were sent aback when the National Party Convention failed to return Mr. Charles Francis Margai as presidential candidate of the party, a position which was given instead to his arch rival, former Vice President Solomon Ekuma Berewa. This naturally added insult to injury.

The PMDC youths believed that the current PMDC Leader was the only candidate among all the contestants in the past Presidential and Parliamentary elections for the Presidential flag who understood their situation and the only person that could have put sanity into the system by given young people a greater say in the affairs of the party, thus the breakaway, which led to the formation of the PMDC.

Meanwhile, the National Young Generation of the PMDC through its established regional bodies makes sure that the party becomes popular within the length and breath of the country.

They played a great role in sensitizing colleagues that they were not only to participate as voters or campaigners, but also to they also to seek the party ticket to contest for Parliamentary seats in the just concluded elections.

They also conducted sensitization and public education programmes for youths by visiting communities in remote areas in the provinces and the Western area.

The Chairman of the National Young Generation of the PMDC and Secretary are representing young people in the Planning Committee of the party which is the highest decision making body in the PMDC, and that shows how sound the relationship is between the young and elderly of the party.

However what irked a lot of youth is that the Movement ended up with the oldest presidential ticket with the combine age of the flag bearer Margai and running mate Tejan Jalloh older than that of any other of the political party that contested the elections.

This probably dampened youth enthusiasm for the movement especially in the western area leading to its not so strong showing as many youths transferred their loyalty and support to the APC with a far more youthful ticket that could better understand their needs, interests and aspirations.
By Abdul Fonti

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