Saturday, September 01, 2007

Profile: Solomon Ekuma Berewa

On Freetown's Cotton Tree, Sierra Leone's most important landmark, is a giant picture. Deliberately located and strategically positioned.

It is of "The Youth Dem Papa" or the father of the youth.

He has just celebrated his 69th birthday.

Women walk past a poster of SLPP's Solomon Ekuma Berewa Vice-President Solomon Berewa polled 38% in the first round

Even his fiercest critics do not dispute his workaholic tendencies.

His name is Solomon Ekuma Berewa.

Solo B as he is fondly called, is reputed to be dedicated and dutiful. A no-nonsense disciplinarian and a skilled negotiator.

Belated birthday

For some reason, as attorney general, he was the chief negotiator for the government during the peace talks to end the country's civil war.

If you believe his middle name Ekuma, a Mende word meaning invincible, then he could just be on the way to receiving the best belated birthday gift of his life.

When Mr Berewa was controversially named by outgoing President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah as his running mate for the 2002 elections, few thought he would get the ticket for the ruling Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP).

He was not even a card-carrying party member at the time.

In the last few years, he has worked, or has been worked hard, for it.

Close to call

His boss and outgoing President Kabbah, who many believe orchestrated Mr Berewa's ascendancy, seemingly deliberately referred many matters to him.

Ernest Bai Koroma at a rally With an ebullient character, Koroma stands tall with charisma. The 54-year-old insurance broker says he wants to run the country like a business concern

Some say he was mesmerised by his diligence, while others believe he was being groomed.

Either way, Mr Berewa is his own man.

As one of the country's finest criminal lawyers, he was appointed attorney general in 1996 by President Kabbah after the two worked on the National Policy Advisory Council set up by then NPRC military junta.

Mr Berewa's critics within the party say his ascendancy to the leadership of the party is the biggest factor the elections are so close to call.

They say his lack of charisma makes him a hard sell, politically; something they believe forced Charles Margai to break up with the party to set up one of their biggest challengers at the polls, the People's Movement for Democratic Change.

His supporters say vying for the presidency is not a beauty or charisma contest.

Whatever that means, it is up to the 2.6m electorate to decide.

BBC NEWS | World | Africa | Profile: Solomon Ekuma Berewa