Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella, National Grand Coalition (NGC) presidential nominee has named Engineer Andrew Keili as his running mate for the upcoming Sierra Leone elections slated for March 7, 2018 ending weeks of speculation and effectively setting the stage for a heated general election against the ruling All Peoples Congress, the moribund opposition – the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) and other smaller parties.

The announcement, made this Friday morning at the Sierra Lighthouse in Freetown comes two days to the end of year 2017. Political analysts believe that Yumkella’s decision to name someone with Keili’s calibre could help him penetrate voters in Eastern Sierra Leone and help him consolidate his rising popularity among the grassroot population in the country that could catapult him to State House.

The NGC ticket bring together a total of 55 years of combined professional experience; Yumkella, a distinguished development economist and an expert in agricultural economics with over 25 years of international experience and Keili, an accomplished engineering and management executive with over 30 years of experience in managerial positions including private industry, public institutions and parastatals mostly in Sierra Leone.

In addition, the NGC ticket is led by two people from two chieftaincy ruling houses – Yumkella and Keili. Paramount Chief Bai Sebora Yumkella of Samu Chiefdom, Kambia District and Paramount Chief Kandeh Kolleh of Tambaka Chiefdom, Karene District– father and grandfather (maternal side) respectively of Kandeh Yumkella. For Keili, his grandfather (maternal side) was Paramount Chief Bai Coomber of Mandu Chiefdon, Kailahun District. Today, his younger brother, Chief David Mandy Farley-Keili-Coomber is the current paramount chief.

During his familiarization tour around the country, Yumkella, in meetings with chiefs in various locations, expressed very strongly his firm commitment to empower chiefs because of the critical role they play in the socio-economic development of their regions and the country. “I pledge to respect, recognize and empower you to perform your traditional roles. You are closest to the people and understand their needs and sufferings,” he said.

A practicing Muslim, many have noted that Yumkella’s choice of Keili, son of an Anglican Archbishop and himself a practicing Christian and lay preacher cements the bonds of religious tolerance between Christians and Muslims, that Sierra Leone has enjoyed and is known for around the world.

Keili is popular in South-Eastern Sierra Leone, speaks fluent Mende two characteristics that give the Yumkella-Keili ticket a wider appeal in a general election. Fluid in policy, Keili is well respected in Sierra Leone.

On recent familiarization tours, both men demonstrated a keen sense of humour and strong partnership. Though older and senior at Christ the King College (CKC) – the Secondary School they both attended, Keili has shown a deep sense of humility in deferring to Yumkella’s wisdom and guidance. He may have to catch up with Yumkella’s youthful energy and agility as someone jokingly noted recently during their Alma mater’s 2017 annual Thanksgiving parade in Bo, Southern Sierra Leone.