Sierra Leone-Politics-Wedding

The hue and cry sparked off by a wedding kiss!

APA-Freetown (Sierra Leone)

Photos of Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio kissing his wife, Fatima Jabbi, last weekend sparked a hue and cry by Sierra Leoneans active on social media platforms.

The scene of that kiss was the Saint Paul’s Magory Seminary Church in Regent Village, in the outskirts of Freetown.

It was Friday, February 21 and some parts of the capital were at a standstill as a major highway leading to the church was cordoned off by the police. 

The anger and frustration etched on the faces of stranded passengers at Jui Junction was just the beginning of the controversy the wedding generated among Sierra Leoneans.

Friday’s ceremony, which marked the second wedding of the presidential couple, has been described in multiple ways – remarriage, renewal of marriage vows, and even “convalidation”, in the words of State House Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman, Yusuf Keketoma Sandi.

In one of several Facebook posts defending the wedding, Mr Sandi described Convalidation as a ceremony in which a marriage, such as a civil one, is made recognized by the church, basing it on the Catholic Canon Law.

“President Bio as a Catholic Christian is obliged by faith to marry in accordance with his religious doctrine,” added Abdul Karim Fonti Kabia, Communication Strategist at State House, in another social media post.

Whatever it was and whichever way Sierra Leoneans saw it, Friday’s ceremony was simply the Christian wedding of this couple of mixed faith.

Bio first married his Muslim wife, Fatima Jabbi, at a small mosque in London some seven years ago. 

Back then he was an opposition politician. 

Supporters of the president who was elected in 2018 say as a Catholic he had to feel the Christian experience of his wedding.

But this wouldn’t have been an issue if Bio remained the ordinary citizen he was when he tied the knot back in 2013. 

As president, there is the concern about who foot the bill for the glamor-filled
wedding ceremony. 

It's timing made the "remarriage" appear scandalous in the eyes of its critics. 

The wedding took place at a time when the country was going through a major economic crisis.

A few days before the wedding bells rang, Freetown was plunged into a near total blackout, this coming after a long erratic power supply to the city. 

In other parts of the country, including the second city Bo, residents have lacked electricity for weeks on end.

Another major issue around the presidential wedding was that this is not Bio’s first marriage. 

He first tied the knot in the early 1990s to Frances Bio and the word is that they got married in a Catholic Church, a theory the president's supporters have denied.

When the "remarriage" of Bio and Fatima first came to light, his opponents made a huge deal out of it, arguing that he had violated a cardinal law in the Catholic faith. 

According to this law, there is no room for divorce and no faithful can remarry while the other half of the union was still alive.

The day before Friday's event, the Catholic Church of Sierra Leone issued a statement seeking to address all the concerns raised mostly via social media.

“Having done due diligence and cleared all questions in my mind regarding the proposed marriage …, especially the canonical status of the catholic partner, Mr Julius Maada Bio, I hereby state categorically that there is no known impediment to the marriage and therefore maybe celebrated according to the Canonical form of the Catholic church, if the couple so desires,” the statement signed by the head of the Archiocese of Freetown, Archbishop Edward Tamba Charles, reads in part.

But if that was meant to silence the president’s critics, some of whom include his own former supporters, it did very little to achieve that. 

Three days after the wedding, the dust storm raised over the matter still informs the public discourse and it’s in many folds.

Was the president right to embark on a wedding when the country was suffering an economic morass? Who paid for the wedding? Was he right to remarry even when his first marriage wasn’t annulled?

Sierra Leoneans are waiting for answers.


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