2011 was a remarkable year, as the 'Political
Hurricane Eviction' hits ruling parties around the
world. Whether in Sao Tome and Principe - August
2011, Cape Verde - August 2011, Zambia - September
2011, Spain - November 2011, and now finally Jamaica
- December 2011, the peoples of these countries have
used their most powerful political instrument to
evict their governments, that are responsible for
inflicting suffering, hardship and unemployment.
But what lessons can be drawn from the recent
election victory by the opposition in Jamaica, for
the forthcoming elections in Sierra Leone?
Jamaica has a reasonably small population of around
2.8 million people. Like Sierra Leone, their
political landscape has been dominated by two major
political parties: the opposition Peoples National
Party (PNP), which has won the recent elections in a
landslide, and the defeated ruling Jamaica Labour
The victorious PNP has been led by iron lady - Portia
Simpson Miller, whilst the ruling JLP was led by
incumbent Prime Minister - Andrew Holness, who
succeeded Bruce Golding after his resignation as
Prime Minister in October 2011. With this
background, I will now focus on the fatal
coincidence and the lessons for the APC.
Firstly, like President Koroma’s APC, the now defeated
ruling JLP took office in September 2007 in a narrow
defeat of the PNP. On assumption of office in 2007
and like President Koroma, Bruce Golding (then Prime
Minister of JLP), criticised the PNP government of
economic stagnation, abuse of security forces,
corruption in public sector, inability to reduce
crime and drug-related network, high levels of
poverty, high unemployment of 9.3% (2007) and high
level public debt.
Coincidentally, in the same September 2007, President
Koroma criticised the SLPP of high youth
unemployment, poor conditions of living, high level
of corruption in public offices, filthiness of the
capital city - Freetown, poor management of our
resources and poor fiscal policies.
As such, whilst the then Prime Minister Bruce Golding
promised the Jamaican peoples, in his inaugural
speech, 'a new approach', President Koroma promised
Sierra Leoneans an 'Agenda for Change'.
So, almost five years on, what are the results?
In Jamaica, PM Bruce Golding JLP’s 'new approach' has
led to worse conditions of living, with irregular
water supplies, more people living in poverty than
2007. There has been an increase in unemployment
rate of more than 12% compared to 9.3% in 2007; and
a record public debt of roughly $18.6 billion or
130% of GDP.
Similarly, in Sierra Leone, President Koroma’s
'Agenda for Change' has led to massive increase in
youth unemployment of around 70%; increase in
violent crimes - especially armed robbery; rampant
business fraud that is ripping apart the country’s
Recent corruption scandals in Sierra Leone, such as
the Timbergate; president Koroma’s diplomats
engaging in sexual scandals; the abuse of power and
violation of the country’s procurement public laws,
which saw the awarding of public contracts to the
President’s families and friends; emerging traffic
queues at petrol filling stations; rising government
debt, which now stands at more than $ 800 million,
when in 2006 SLPP secured foreign debt cancellation
of more than $1.6 Billion.
Sierra Leone is now experiencing the worst food crisis
to hit the country in the last five years - with
prices of basic commodities either doubled or
tripled, as evident in the price of rice which was
Le 60,000 in 2007, but now ranging from Le140,000 –
The lesson we can learn from the Jamaican elections
is that, suffering voters do not give a second
chance to government when electorate are wallowing
in hardship, poverty and joblessness.
Voters are waking up to the fact that they cannot
mortgage another five years of a promised paradise,
when sadly they are sleeping on empty stomach. The
Jamaican voters having punished the JLP for their
lies, deception and ineptitude, so will Sierra
Leoneans punish the APC for their lies and
deception, which have made us poorer and driven up
Another issue from the Jamaican elections which
strikes a coincidence is that of the story of the
new Prime Minister elect - Portia Simpson Miller.
Portia Simpson Miller was a former Prime Minister
who first took up office in March 2006, but ruled
for 18 months when the PNP narrowly lost to JLP in
Although her tenure of office was short lived, that
opportunity gave her the first hand experience of
governance to handle state affairs, as opposed to a
novice in the corridors of the highest office.
So the question is, why have Jamaicans elected a
former Prime Minister?
The obvious answer is that when people find themselves
in a wilderness of hardship - where everything seems
hopeless, they always turn to a political leader who
has got prior experience of state governance.
As such, Portia Simpson Miller can be likened to Maada
Bio, a former head of state with a wealth of
experience and knowledge of state governance, and
whose leadership in office was tested especially
during the toughest times of our transition to
If Bio had the courage and determination to usher
the people their first democratic elections in 1996,
he can also lead them from the APC’s wilderness of
hardship to the land of prosperity.
However, the flip side of previous experience in
governance - either as Prime Minister or Head of
State, is that the ruling party may resort to
negative campaigning to tarnish the image of the
That is why the APC 'hand-to-mouth' soldiers had
been rehearsing their failed negative campaigning
strategy: that Maada Bio has a baggage, such as the
allegation of ‘extra-judicial killing’ of Bambay
kamara and others.
Well, although we have dismantled that baggage since
Bio’s election, but let be generous and assume it is
a baggage. In Jamaica, the defeated ruling JLP had
campaigned on allegation that Portia Simpson Miller
had 'two baggages' whilst she was in office in 2007.
Firstly, the defeated JLP accused her of poor response
to Hurricane Dean in 2007, which accounted for the
loss of lives of Jamaicans and about 3,127 houses
damaged. Secondly, she was also accused of being
evasive of the Trafigura Scandal, regarding the
Trafigura Beheer’s donation of $31 million to her
PNP for alleged oil lifting agreement.
Despite these 'two baggages', which are by far heavier
than the Maada Bio supposed baggage, the Jamaican
voters made a choice not to give credence to
character assassination. Rather, they focused on
what really mattered: unemployment, economic
hardship and poverty.
Hence, the lesson we can learn from the Jamaican
negative campaigning strategy is that whilst no
politician is immune from political scandals, during
hard times voters do not care about ‘baggages’, but
which leader can provide jobs, decent living
conditions and life’s changing opportunities.
Therefore, if the Jamaican voters can evict the
ruling JLP for their incompetence, which has caused
economic hardship and rising unemployment, then
Sierra Leonean voters can also evict the ruling APC
for the economic hardship and joblessness they have
created in the country.
Yusuf Keketoma Sandi BA (Hons), LLB (Hons) London
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