Titus Boye-Thompson

There is something peculiar about politics in Sierra Leone and the way that political engagement coalesce opinions and behaviours during campaign periods. The concept  of momentum is significant to this phenomenon because it underpins a credible basis  for voter mobility with whole communities moved to swing their allegiance on account of the perception of a demonstration of the preponderance of support or a viable inclination towards a potential winner. No one wants to be seen supporting or indeed backing the wrong horse.

It is for this reason that as the campaign season progresses, the electorate are setting down markers to identify the front runner and any other serious contender. All others are increasingly fading off the screen as clear distance is put between the main players and the rest of the field.

The forthcoming November 17, 2012 elections for Sierra Leone has raised some interesting facets of electioneering in this Country and whilst other nations may look to a head on battle in a Presidential Debate between the main rivals for the top job, here in Sierra Leone it is the ability to bring the crowds on to the streets that this campaign is being judged and by all accounts, there is a great gap between the front two and a wider gap between them and the rest of the field.

It has been argued profusely within the context of national elections in Sierra Leone, that voting behaviour is usually conditioned by a socialization and cultural attachment to an institution rather than to an inherent conceptualization of expectations, social or economic aggrandizement or political ideology. It is of such significance that there is a polarization of voting outcomes that follow some defined or otherwise predetermined regional bias and exhibit peculiar characteristics of ethnocentric proportions conjoining voting or political engagement on the basis of such affiliations.

Ernest in Kailahun

The emerging pattern is for party affiliations amongst the South and South Eastern parts of Sierra Leone being more than likely to support the Sierra Leone’s Peoples Party (SLPP) whilst in the North and West of the Country, communities see themselves more in affinity with the All People’s Congress (APC) on the basis that this is a party with which they are more than likely to be confident or comfortable.

This dichotomy is founded on account of the more entrenched attitudes of the opposition SLPP that has nurtured an idea that it is a Party of Southerners accentuated by their identity much more than on the strength of any other consideration.

Thus whilst the Southern and South Easterners would be more than likely to see their Party as a traditional or cultural precept therefore mandatory for them to belong to the SLPP, The Northern and Western communities see the APC as a political habitat pure and simple and have therefore always sought to maintain that their support for that party ought not to be taken for granted. In the event, the challenge  for the APC to maintain its support base in the North and Western areas of the Country has been for that party to continually demonstrate that it is a party of the masses, a grass roots party, open to all and welcoming of all.

While this has been a responsibility, it has enabled the APC party to establish structures that support its diversity of tribal and regional affiliations to the extent that it is much better placed to reach supporters in the South and East of the Country as would its main rival, the SLPP.

On the other hand, because of the close association that the SLPP Party has encouraged between its support base and their tribal and regional identity, the SLPP Party imposes on its members an obligatory duty to protect the party in the same or similar mode as that which their forefathers have created. That the SLPP was created by eminent members of the Mende tribe and to the extent that its first two leaders were blood brothers further accentuated this family and tribal ethos that the SLPP propagates to the exclusion of others and there lies their greatest mistake.  In the main, the exclusion of the smaller or newly emerging parties has been deliberate because they have not had the advantage of time to be able to prove their mettle of being a considerable force within the political landscape.


In the event, the disparity in political strategies as regards the ability of the main parties to attract new voters or otherwise increase their votes have now caused an opening for “Momentum Politics” to take hold. The concept of momentum politics describes a situation in which impressionable voters such as new voters or voters with particular apathy towards the political dispensation may allow themselves to be recruited by the level of support they see one political party receiving as compared to others. Inevitably, the crowd pullers pull more crowd even in areas where their support is already established.

In the evaluation of momentum politics, there is also the possibility that where a political party has identified a stronghold, the momentum of a rival’s crowd pulling ability may cause movement amongst some staunch supporters of the party whose stronghold is being infiltrated. The evidence of this is becoming increasingly clear with the large crowds that the APC has been pulling in places like Bo, Kenema and Kailahun which were previously considered strongholds of the SLPP Party.


That the APC could show such a large pull in those areas may account for any number of reasons. The increasing acceptance that the Presidential incumbent has proved himself as a person committed to the development of this Country may be one such significant factor. Another factor may be the inability of the opposition to articulate a strategy that is credible or sustainable enough to retain their support.

On a perusal of the manifestos of both parties, it has been difficult to see clear blue water dividing them. The SLPP have contemporaneously copied the objectives of the APC’s 2007 manifesto and simply expanded that document to arrive at a revised version with bigger and more ambitious objectives.

Another reason may have been the level of unity exhibited by the APC Party and the loyalty of the Vice President being rewarded by his validation as Running Mate strengthened the APC Party’s internal structures, consolidated the Kono electoral aspirations with the endorsement of their traditional and religious leaders and united the APC supporters firmly behind their party and leader. This has been a Master stroke and a demonstration of fine statesmanship and resolute leadership by the APC Leader and that decision single-handedly avoided any potential conflict or implosion of the APC party as was desired by the SLPP.


Evidence of the momentum of the APC is entrenched in the minds of the ordinary man and woman in the street from Freetown to Bo, Makeni to Kenema and from Bonthe to Moyamba. This is a President who is carrying the APC Party on his shoulder and is committed to carry the whole Country with him. That he has the strength to do this is not in doubt. He is a keen sportsman and therefore is wearing the sporting reference of being a World’s Best very well indeed.

The momentum of that appellation has now far surpassed even his individual achievements in raising agricultural productivity, provided free healthcare, widening opportunities for education and employment for young people and all the various achievements of the Agenda for Change. Never in the history of electioneering in this Country has one man done so much for his party and never has this Country shown one man so much love and admiration. The crowd that comes out all across the Country are coming out to say a personal thank you to him and to show that they respect and value his leadership.

That they would come out in the streets of the opposition’s supposed strongholds are a telling indication that those strongholds are being broken down and for once, this Country may vote a man and his party in on account of their successes and for the expectation that they will do more for them to bring them better roads, attract more investment and provide a higher standard of living all round.

The momentum is with President Ernest Bai Koroma of the All Peoples Congress Party and he is taking full advantage of it. The hard work that that entails is clearly evident. His round the Country trips are so arduous that some supporters cannot keep up with him. That is the nature of the man that makes him the World’s Best, even in campaigning!


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