The Story of Julius Maada Bio
The story of Julius Maada Bio can be best described in the words of United States Senator Nancy Kassebaum in her speech on the U.S Senate floor on April 23, 1996, "I want to commend the former military ruler of the country, Julius Maada Bio, for respecting the results of the elections.
Until the last moment, many questioned whether the military would actually hand over power. Of course, many military rulers—including some in West Africa—have ignored elections. But Brigadier Bio demonstrated statesmanlike leadership in guiding his country to democracy, and I believe history will look upon him kindly." That History is now!
Who is Maada Bio
Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio was elected in the early hours of Monday 1st August 2011 (The first day of Ramadan), to be the SLPP’s Presidential Candidate for the forthcoming 2012 Presidential elections slated for the last quarter of 2012. He will be contesting against the incumbent, Ernest Bai Koroma, a former insurance broker and Parliamentarian
Bio is an astonishing character. He is the only core member of the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC), that ruled Sierra Leone from 1992 to 1996, that has somewhat thrived, and remained a towering political figure in Sierra Leone’s political landscape. After he handed over power to former President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in the aftermath of the 1996 Presidential elections, Bio went to the United States of America where he read International Affairs graduating cum laude from the American University, where he also earned a Masters degree in International Development. He returned to Sierra Leone after the war ended and started a pharmaceutical business. Later, Bio started an agro-based business, exporting cocoa and coffee which is ongoing.
He also re-entered politics, joining and contesting (without success) for the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) leadership position in 2005. Bio, now 46, will be facing the current President, Ernest Bai Koroma, in the 2012 polls. Rtd. Brigadier Bio does have a credible prospect of becoming President of Sierra Leone, once again, against the milieu of discontent and hardship currently afflicting this poor West African nation.
Maada Bio is married with four children.
In 1985, at age 21, Bio applied to enter Fourah Bay College which, founded in 1827, is the oldest Western-style University in Africa south of the Sahara, and perhaps the region’s most famous. Shortly after he did so, however, someone mentioned to him that the Army was recruiting new cadets. He was instantly thrilled, as he had always wanted to do public service which is an essential part of his pedigree. The Army in those circumstances therefore offered young Bio the most direct and unambiguous opportunity to achieve his desire for public service and so he applied instantly and was conscripted.
Bio trained at Benguema, and graduated in October 1987 as a Second Lieutenant. He was posted to the Lungi Airport, and was later deployed in the Kambia District as part of the Economic Emergency Unit created by the already faltering Momoh regime to combat the deepening meltdown and massive graft prevalent in state institutions.
The army then was also poorly armed. The soldiers had guns from the Second World War: that quiet often could not fire. The weapons carried by our soldiers then were no match for those that the rebels had. They felt that they were literally set up to be slaughtered. The then APC Government was never interested in the multi party democracy that civil society advocates were demanding; they were trying to sit it out. In the circumstances Bio and his cohorts decided that they had to go. They wanted a clean slate and as such in April 1992 they overthrew the repressive APC one-party government of the Late Joseph Saidu Momoh marking the beginning of the NPRC regime.
Bio was first appointed Minister of Information and Broadcasting. It was during his tenure that he negotiated the restoration of the National Television, an institution that was moribund since the Siaka Stevens era. The NPRC had three goals as a government; they wanted to end the war, revive the economy, and then hand over power to a democratically-elected government. History will judge them on what they did. Although the war derailed most of their plans, yet the NPRC succeeded in restoring electricity, water and improved sanitation to Freetown and its environs, there were no longer long queues for petrol, rice and cash (as was common under Momoh), it was during the tenure of the regime that the relationship with the World Bank and the IMF was restored thereby guaranteeing a funding programme from those institutions, roads were being constructed, substantive peace talks were begun with the RUF, and most importantly, the NPRC under the leadership of Bio handed over power to a democratically-elected President. They succeeded in re-introducing credible political pluralism in the country, and they left power peacefully, setting a high standard that succeeding Government’s must follow.
It was also during the Tenure of Maada Bio as Deputy Head of State and Chairman Sports Council that Sierra Leone excelled in international sports culminating in our country’s victory in winning the Zone 2 tournaments both at home and in Mauritania and qualified for the African Nation’s Cup tournaments in Tunisia “94 and South Africa ’96.
After assuming the mantle of State from Strasser, Bio made a terse appeal broadcast live on national TV and radio in these words: “To you, Corporal Foday Sankoh, the message from my government is that we are prepared to meet with you anywhere, any time and without precondition”.
The peace talks that followed, at least as far as Bio’s involvement went, didn’t at all appear rigged; and Bio certainly kept to the timetable to hand over power. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission report of 2005/06 later acclaimed Bio for his commitment to the peace process. It stated that Bio embraced him in the cause of peace, and showed no bitterness throughout the process.”
Also, United States Republican Senator Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas, on 23rd April 1996 had this to say of the then young Bio “I want to commend the former military ruler of the country, Julius Maada Bio, for respecting the results of the elections. Until the last moment, many questioned whether the military would actually hand over power. Of course, many military rulers including some in West Africa – have ignored elections. Brigadier Bio demonstrated statesmanlike leadership in guiding his country to democracy, and I believe history will look upon him kindly.”
Bio handed over power to the SLPP and its new leader, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in 1996. He left the country after handing over power, and acquired two degrees in the United States.
Knowing what odds he has had to overcome in his life and his penchant to overcome major challenges, underestimating Bio may be misguided as he commenced his march for State House in 2012.