China accused of undermining Sierra Leone democracy

Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

China has come under fire for funding the construction of an office building for Sierra Leone's governing All People's Congress (APC) party.

Last week, President Ernest Bai Koroma presided over the laying of the foundation for the seven storied building, reported to cost $3 million and described by the government as a gift from the Communist Party of China (CPC).

Opposition parties and some activists say the gesture amounts to interference in the internal affairs of the country and were calling on the Chinese to reconsider.

The most vocal opposition leader on the issue is firebrand politician Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray, who has accused APC of seeking to handover the country's mineral wealth to China.

Social media

In an audio comment released via social media, Mr Mansaray, the head of the Alliance Democratic Party, vowed to legally challenge the move.

The proposed building, according to reports, will be named APC/CPC Friendship Building.

President Koroma told the audience at last week's inauguration that it would house the Western Area regional office of the party.

The building, which will be located on a piece of land that's also the subject of a court case over its ownership, lies about 30 minutes drive from the APC headquarters.

More suspicious

The Chinese engineers constructing the building say it should be completed in seven months.

The opposition were all the more suspicious about this timing, coming shortly before next year's elections.

Until now China, which prides its foreign relations on a policy of none interference in the internal affairs of other countries, has tried to maintain that posture in all their dealings in Sierra Leone where it has built infrastructure in the name of the government and people, like the legendary Siaka Stevens Stadium and the famous Youyi Building, which houses about 10 government ministries and departments under one roof.

Unbiased relation

There is also the new mini stadium completed about two years ago in the southern city of Bo, and the most recently completed magnificent Foreign Affairs Building in the centre of Freetown.

Perhaps the best known Chinese Chinese funded project meant to represent Beijing's unbiased relation with Sierra Leone is the famous China House, an entertainment facility built at the back of Youyi Building and managed by a committee comprising membership drawn from all political persuasions.

"China is no longer a development partner of the government and people of Sierra Leone, it is now playing an active part in our national politics by openly supporting one political party to the exclusion of the other eleven registered parties," says an anonymous author in an article on the Friday edition of the opposition leaning Democrat newspaper.

The Democrat supports the main opposition, the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), which has not yet openly commented on the issue.

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