By Andrew Warshaw
August 3 – After years of bitter feuding and infighting, the war of words between Sierra Leone football chief Isha Johansen and her opponents has been stepped up – if that were possible – just as her highly controversial four-year term of office was due to expire today.
With her federation dogged by political interference and internal splits, Johansen, who has striven to eliminate what she alleges is football corruption and match-fixing in Sierra Leone, has not yet made any official announcement about her future but instead issued a hard-hitting statement lambasting those who had questioned her presidency and who, she claims, had constantly tried to undermine her reputation.
Last month the annual congress of Sierra Leone’s FA paving the way for new elections was suspended by FIFA because of unresolved issues relating to a dispute between the current FA executive led by its campaigning female leader and her opponents.
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”.
Khanou has since been quoted as making a number of disparaging remarks about Johansen who has now reacted by going to the media with a hard-hitting response and a passionate defence of her conduct.
In what smacked of a final stand of emotional defiance against her male-dominated federation, Johansen told reporters how tough it had been working as the only female FA President in the African continent and one of only two in the world saying she had often had to “bravely soldier on despite the often turbulent, even precarious” situation facing her.
“My mission and vision has not altered. “PUT SIERRA LEONE FIRST” is what I said I would do four years ago, and will continue to say.”
In comments directed specifically at the ministry of sports, Johansen blasted Khanou for making “misleading and inciteful statements about the SLFA and pronouncements questioning my ethics, coupled with his Deputy Hon Al-Sankoh’s vitriolic and defamatory statements.”
Further denouncing what she called “a barrage of insults” designed to “smear to my character” Johansen accused Khanou of breaching the FIFA-initiated MoU which was designed to mark, she said, “the first steps towards sustaining peace, sanity and sanitizing the football family.”
“I have, at all times tried to be respectful and understanding (but) have had to endure incidents of humiliation, deception and unethical practices,” she added.
Shortly after Johansen’s statement, however, with no election date for her successor currently fixed, a faction of her opponents called for emergency measures to be put in place.
The so-called Football Stakeholders insisted Johansen must hand over to a committee comprising heads of the four regional representatives in the SLFA executive.
“The Stakeholders agree that the Executive’s mandate expires on 3rd August, 2017 after which she is expected, along with the two Vice Presidents and the two Ex Officio members, to hand over the reigns to the four Regional Executive members, whose mandate continues to be valid,” the statement said.
“The Stakeholders blame the current constitutional crisis wholly on Mrs. Johansen, the Executive and an inefficient Secretariat and advise that under such a complex scenario, emergency measures must be taken.”
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