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49 Years of Independence and Freedom – What is there to Celebrate?

Abdul R Thomas
Editor – The Sierra Leone Telegraph

30 April 2010

The people of Sierra Leone have just celebrated the country’s 49th independence anniversary – with street parties, lantern parade and civic functions. But the question of whether Sierra Leoneans should celebrate the country’s independence from colonial rule, is one that has become a hot topic of debate at each anniversary, with emotions running high. Both sides of the debate feel quite passionate about their views and beliefs.

On the one hand, there are those who believe that being independent itself calls for celebrations. They say that the sovereignty of the nation state is far more important than any other developmental successes the country may or may not have enjoyed after 49 years. They also argue that with independence, Sierra Leoneans are able to determine their destiny; make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.

Most of these views, for and against have been published in various local and internet media, including this report from CTN News – Freetown:

“As Sierra Leone observes its forty-ninth independence anniversary on Tuesday 27th April, some Sierra Leoneans are of the opinion that the day was not worth celebrating. They told CTN that Sierra Leoneans should reflect, rather than celebrate the country’s independence anniversary, pointing out that nothing significant was achieved since the country received its independence from Britain in 1961.

They said it was quite unfortunate that despite the country’s natural resources, the nation still depended on donors for its survival. They said the country’s current situation was as a result of corruption, selfishness and ignorance on the part of past leaders. ‘After forty-nine years of independence, Sierra Leoneans still do not have access to portable water and electricity among others’. They acknowledged that the government was trying to develop certain sectors, but noted that a lot should be done for Sierra Leone to gain its past glory.

One of the two surviving delegates to the Lancaster House constitutional talks, Hector Bultman, also revealed his disappointment over the country’s post-independence circumstance. He mentioned selfishness, greed and corruption, as among the factors responsible for the country’s failure.”

The Editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph received a letter from a Sierra Leonean professional Dr. Yvonne Atiba-Davies - Ph.D., living in the diaspora. She expressed the following views on this hotly debated topic:

“Ladies and Gentlemen,

Kindly permit me to put in my two cents worth about this whole independence issue.

I refuse to be dragged into this independence celebration or whatever one chooses to call it. I have been asking myself this question: "What is there to celebrate?" I refuse to participate in any celebration because I do not see the point.

Personally for me, I celebrate when one achieves a milestone. I celebrate when there is success; I celebrate when there is improvement. I will also celebrate when there is enough food for my people to eat. I will celebrate when every woman who wants to be a mother gets to enjoy that kid she is hoping to bring into this world - hoping that the woman gets maternal treatment and the kid gets to live long to see his or her 5th birthday.

I will celebrate when one of my relatives goes to the hospital; gets diagnosed accurately, gets treatment, and then goes home feeling so much better compared to when he or she first went to the doctor. Any relative of my mine, who has gone to a hospital for any reason, goes home one last time in a box. And you want me to celebrate?

I stand to be corrected, what the HELL is there to celebrate about Sierra Leone?

Everyone says that the country is hot beyond redemption - talk about ecology and global warming.

Up till this afternoon, I have been getting a call from Freetown; as soon as I pick up the receiver on my end the call is disconnected. I was told that whoever is trying to reach me is doing what is called ‘flashing’. It is a means for me to know that someone is trying to reach me and as a result of which I should call the person back. I would but the number coming on my caller ID is a local number. It is not showing the cell phone of the person trying to reach me.

Let us forget about that side of my story. Let's move on to something more serious and menacing - this independence business.

The notion of claiming independence and trying to celebrate it when people are suffering and corruption is at its zenith, ladies and gentlemen permit me to say - is an oxymoron. It is a dichotomy beyond redemption. This is an idiosyncrasy at its max. With such going on, this leaves me very discombobulating and I wonder if I am the only one seeing this problem.

Mummy will always say to me: "To thine own self be true." What is the reason for the facade? Why put up with all the shenanigans and trepidations? And pretend we live in a world of plethora despite the cornucopia of what we have?

Someone has to speak the truth. Everyday we are all growing closer to our grave. Many of us have already begun to lose some of our class mates and age group contemporaries. Why dwell on the negative and be afraid to speak the truth and play hypocrite?

Look way we all de struggle na dis world, for go home e turn wahala. Dem dey kont yams by dozen cocoa dey roll. Salone na foo foo tumbu, dem dey kwiss we so, but we dey comot na doh.

Even if you pay me, I will not send such greetings (happy independence) to any one.

Ladies and gentlemen, kindly allow me to ask you this question: We became independent in 1961. Kindly research the history of Sierra Leone - has that country progressed, stayed the same, or has it deteriorated? What is the main industry in Sierra Leone - is it diamond mining or is it prostitution; or professional begging? How do the masses feed themselves in Freetown?

I rest my case and I stand to be corrected.

Leh me yase yeri far, faddah do yah I baig owna - Dah tin way dey do krow krow nor to im dey do sapo.”

This debate is set to continue as the country prepares to celebrate its 50th independence anniversary in 2011. The challenge for President Koroma’s government is to accelerate the pace of development and bring much needed and expected relief from poverty and unemployment.

Sierra Leoneans are keeping an open mind as to the success of the newly launched free health care for children under five, lactating mothers and pregnant women. The government has two years to prove to the people of Sierra Leone that their decision to vote them in 2007 has not been in vain.

2011 may well after all be a cause for celebrations of the country’s 50th if these development expectations are achieved.

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