Canada News

Edmonton: Dr. Abu Conteh is new SLAA president

By  | 30 October 2018 at 00:37 | 3759 views

Sierra Leoneans living in Edmonton belted out both their country’s national anthem and her national pledge, in a show of unity and solidarity at the weekend.

They were cued by the new leader of their community, Dr. Abu Conteh (seen with mike in photo with his opponent Kai Ngegba by his side). It was the first thing he did moments after winning the presidency of the Sierra Leone Association of Alberta on Saturday 27 October 2018.

There were only two candidates in the race; with Dr. Conteh defeating his opponent Kai Ngegba. In acknowledging his new mandate, Dr. Abu Conteh called on SLAA members to work together - not for him - but for the Sierra Leone community as a whole. Reacting to the outcome of the election, he first asked compatriots to join him in singing the anthem; before starting his victory speech. When he was done speaking, he again called on everyone to sing. This time it was the national pledge.

In the build-up to the polls, held at Macauley School in central Edmonton, Dr. Conteh ran an impressive campaign. He diligently reached out to many compatriots who had become less active in community affairs. His campaign team also produced several video clips as it optimized electronic media. The Abu Conteh campaign used Whatsapp intensively; along with key Facebook postings (including the widely followed group Daniel Oldfield’s Corner), There were strategic mass media Touchpoints in Sierra Leone as well. The online publication – published in Winnipeg, Manitoba - also featured a prime video by Dr. Conteh’s campaign.

Some members of the Sierra Leone community in Edmonton

The October 27 election was run by Hamid Munir Kamara as SLAA electoral commissioner; aided by his deputy Momoh Magona-Kallon. The poll was so well planned that people who could not vote in person were allowed, even helped, to cast their ballots in absentia. There was a corps of scrutineers at hand; comprising vigilant representatives of each candidate. Highlights of Saturday’s election were captured on professional video; courtesy of Walters Munde. The videographer hails from Cameroun and is a graduate of Njala University College, University of Sierra Leone (USL). Munde, a college instructor here in Edmonton, is married to a Sierra Leonean.

Edmonton resident Monica Deen-Conteh casting her vote

Saturday’s proceedings began with prayers. Pa Ismail Bah conducted Islamic prayers while women’s leader Martha Yei Caulker-Mbayo led Christian prayers. Martha Mbayo also served as one of the moderators in the debate that preceded the casting of votes that same evening. Other members of the team of moderators were Dr. Alfred Saffa, Patricia Sesay, Martha Sellu, Augustine Marah, Bill Clarke, Adama Bundu, and electoral commissioner Hamid Kamara.


Bill Clarke, husband of outgoing SLAA executive Salimatu Jalikatu Clarke, posed an intriguing question to both candidates. “I would like each of you to name one positive thing you see in the other candidate,” Clarke challenged. To this, Ngegba replied with a rhetorical question: “Who would not like to have a son who is a doctor?” He was referring to Dr. Conteh’s remarkable resume. In his turn, Dr. Conteh praised Ngegba for his enthusiasm. “I worked with Kai Ngegba while he served as SLAA assistant secretary-general. He would listen to me and heed my advice,” he said. Dr. Conteh had spearheaded the drafting of new by-laws for SLAA a few years ago. It was a welcome precedent for the Edmonton-based community.

Former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel observing the election

Other questions were about how each candidate plans to raise funds for the association; the mechanisms each candidate plans to put in place to ensure financial probity and transparency; and the kind of leadership legacy they aspire to leave, if elected. The time limit for candidates to answer these and several other questions was two minutes each. Theodore Teddy Kowai was the time-keeper.

After the counting of all in-person ballots, Dr. Conteh was leading by a comfortable margin. By then the evening was far gone. Then came the absentee ballots to be counted as well. It turns out that the total number of these proxy votes were a significantly smaller proportion. This, when compared with votes already counted, vetted, and tallied in favour of Dr. Conteh, So, Ngegba graciously accepted defeat. The losing candidate, a member of the executive team of current president Kemoh Mansaray, probably did the math. He must have realized that, mathematically, he could not erase the deficit handed him by Dr. Conteh. “To save time, I concede defeat,” Ngegba announced in Krio. The two men soon hugged each other; to loud cheering.

Registration of eligible voters, vetting and tracking of ballot papers, counting, and tallying of valid votes, were all done under the watchful eyes of the respective campaign managers, Mohamed Jalloh (for Dr. Conteh) and Fredo Alie Kamara (for Kai Ngegba). Each had a team of volunteers at various stations in the polling area. The scrutineers included Mrs. Olivia Elliot, Dorcas Kargbo, Ibrahim Barrie, Mohamed Kamara, Musa Kumar, and Kelvin Kamara. Thomas Bumbeh, president of the Liberian community served as the neutral observer all through the election; carefully keeping tabs and giving feedback to current president Kemoh Mansaray. Frankline Agbor, publisher of Edmonton’s Diversity Magazine was another distinguished guest. He watched the election keenly. SLAA member Hawa Dumbuya served as security.

The victorious Dr. Conteh is a well published environmental biologist and lecturer at MacEwan University in Edmonton. He came into this race with a clear, concise platform that outlined several key projects. Top among them is a proposed census of all Sierra Leoneans in Edmonton and area. “We need to know how many of us are living here; in order to cater to the needs of community members effectively,” he told The Patriotic Vanguard. The new SLAA president will run the association for the next two years; once he takes over.

Saturday’s poll was solely for the presidency. Dr. Conteh, as president-elect, gets to appoint members of his executive team. This is a new format which came into effect with the general membership’s amendments to the SLAA by-laws on Saturday 15 September 2018. It is a break from the past when each individual executive was voted into office on the strength of his/her own campaign promises. There has been growing dissatisfaction to the effect that some people would seek office in SLAA; only to leave all the work to the association president and a few committed teammates.

A rare highlight of the evening was the surprising presence of a key political leader in Alberta. Stephen Mandel, former mayor of Edmonton, came and briefly introduced his Alberta Party to SLAA members. This was after the Conteh-versus-Ngegba debate. Mandel spoke, listened to some feedback, and then left just before voting began.