Johansen to seek second term in Sierra Leone but opposition stacks up against her

Isha Johansen

September 19 – Embattled Sierra Leone football leader Isha Johansen is to bid for re-election despite an increasingly bitter power struggle and a four-year reign blighted by in-fighting.

Africa’s only female FA president, whose mandate officially ended last month, said she had decided to go for a second term “to finish what I started. There is unfinished business.”

Johansen told the BBC: “Considering Ebola took away two years and the remaining two years were marred with controversy, infighting, boycotts and all kinds of weird and wonderful antics by those who oppose my leadership, we have still managed to achieve quite a great deal.”

With her federation dogged by political interference and internal splits, Johansen, who insists she has blazed a trail to striven to eliminate corruption and match-fixing in Sierra Leone, said she had decided to go for a second term despite constant “intimation and harassment.”

Last month the annual congress of Sierra Leone’s FA (SLFA) paving the way for new elections was suspended by FIFA because of unresolved issues relating to a dispute between the current FA executive and increasingly outspoken opponents of Johansen.

FIFA said a Memorandum of Understanding calling for integrity checks and signed by its general secretary Fatma Samoura, Sierra Leone’s minister of sport Ahmed Khanou and Johansen “had not been adhered to and as a result the same problems appear to remain unresolved.”

A FIFA delegation is due in the capital Freetown next week to carry out the promised integrity checks that will pave the way for elections and to address the long-running match-fixing inquiry. Since 2014, eleven officials and four players have been suspended by the SLFA pending investigation. They have all denied wrongdoing.

“Are the intimidation and harassment because of the match-fixing? Maybe it is because certain people believe I instigated it,” said Johansen who will also have to undergo an integrity test along with all other current and potential SLFA officials. “I believe it would probably not have been so aggressive and antagonistic had the impending match-fixing inquiry been dropped.”

Last year, Johansen spent a night in custody when detained by Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) which said it was investigating the use of “donor funds” from FIFA received by the SLFA. She was later released without charge.

“I expect that after this declaration, there are going to be intensified moves to further intimidate me but these things don’t bother me any more,” Johansen told the BBC. “I refuse to be intimidated. If you have nothing to hide, why run?”

Johansen, who is by no means a shoo-in to be re-elected, says the possibility of defeat does not faze her and in her official declaration statement explained further why she had decided to stand again.

“What I have done is to dare to say yes to good governance, yes to transparency, yes to accountability,” the statement said. “But I am also daring to say no.  No to corruption, no to intimidation, no to gender bullying. I will have to make good the foundations we have laid … so that the last four years do not go to waste.”

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