Is it time for a third political party in Sierra Leone?

Abdulai Mansaray

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 7 December 2017

The growing sense of disillusionment across Sierra Leone’s social and political landscape is fast becoming palpable. From official to unofficial, private to public, and all along the diversified strata of our society, there are pockets of dissatisfaction that is slowly simmering under a political façade, suggesting that “ALL IS NOT WELL”. (Photo: UN Chief Ban Ki Moon meeting opposition party leaders in Freetown).

No it is not, and has not been for a long time. When President Ernest Bai Koroma came to power in 2007, it was heralded as the dawn of a great path. Programmes like “Agenda for Change”, which morphed into “Agenda for Prosperity” gave a lot of Sierra Leoneans the hope that had been missing for a long time.

Previous leaders like Pa Sheki and Momoh had come and gone like hot air.  There was little to write home about then. But with President Koroma, there were visible chinks of light that gave some of us the oxygen of hope, that maybe, just maybe – Sierra Leone was on the path to good times to come.

To many Sierra Leoneans, Ernest Koroma was the best thing that happened since Alosak bread.

The euphoria that greeted his ascension to power was justifiably so evident, that he earned the nickname “Messiah”.

With massive road construction projects, efforts to electrify the country and payments of civil servants on time, etc., Sierra Leoneans could be forgiven for hitching a ride on the audacity of hope.

For the first time in many years, the youths of Sierra Leone were fully engaged in the political process. They found their role in the political reconstruction of the country. The importance of the youth was gainfully recognised with the creation of the Youth Commission, among others.

Considering the central role that the youth played in our tragically decade long and senseless war, it was imperative that their concerns were embedded into our forward march to “prosperity”.

Issues like disarming, reintegration into society and many other youth related matters made it imperative to bring them along. The advent of the Okada was a blessed curse.

On the bright side, it conveniently plugged the gap of youth unemployment for the government. With such a convenience, it was not surprising that the government turned a blind eye to the unruly behaviour of this group, which saw them run (pardon the pun) rough shod on our streets and breaking every traffic rule under the sun, at the expense of the lives of commuters.

No one wanted to upset the apple cart. Sadly, a large chunk of our future work force was allowed to disappear into this plug hole. Kids that were supposed to be in school gave up their dreams for a fast buck.

Now we have a sizeable chunk of untrained and educated illiterates roaming our streets with no identifiable future. Phew.

How things have changed today? The Ebola came and went, leaving footprints of destruction and devastation in the lives of our people. The handbrakes were applied to our socio- economic growth.

But before the outbreak of the Ebola crisis, Sierra Leone was ranked as one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.

Our country was in good company with the likes of African Minerals, Octea Mining and a plethora of NGOs – all providing jobs and opportunities for many, if not all Sierra Leoneans.

The feel good factor was evident for all to see. Civil societies had found their voice to act as the barometer of public opinion and thermometer of society. The media regained its role as the arbitrator or referee of government policies; albeit some rogue elements misusing the media for personal agendas.

President Koroma’s approval rating was sky high, tempting some of his disciples to flirt with the idea of a 3rd term with “after U Na U” slogans. Mornehhh….

Judging from public opinion, the mood has gone 360. There has been a turnaround since the last UN General Assembly meeting. Sierra Leoneans had hoped for a bumper Christmas hamper from the summit.

But all we got was a referral to our economic tailors, and advised to do some financial belt tightening, christened as “AUSTERITY”. The ensuing parliamentary budget has been met with vociferous criticism and scrutiny from the opposition party and civil societies alike.

The new budget has seen the rise of fuel cost, which has had a domino effect on the overall cost of living across the country. It will be dishonest to cast all the blame for the rise of fuel cost at the door of State House.

Global markets partly do have their say in this.  But to say that things have been tough would be an understatement. Without sounding like it is a doomsday scenario, our country is really struggling. So how do we “MAKE SIERRA LEONE GREAT AGAIN”?

History shows that Sierra Leone has predominantly been ruled by two main political parties – the All People’s Congress (APC) and the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). The only common denominator between these two is the word people’s.

They both profess to be parties of the people, by the people and for the people. How democratic. But have these parties actually lived up to their billing?  Sierra Leone is supposed to be a two-party state, but is it?

Where is the opposition party that is supposed to temper the excesses of the ruling party?

To all intents and purposes, we have an opposition party that is as voiceless as the people it is supposed to represent.

We have an opposition party that has its head stuck firmly in the sand.

Instead of providing an alternative choice, instead of giving the ruling party a run for their money, much of its energy and resources are spent on internal squabbles that you see in a kindergarten playground.

In a political party where personal interests supersede national concerns, what hope have we got for a viable opposition? The fact of the matter is this; that in the absence of a viable opposition party that is fit for purpose, our country has been practically reduced to a one-party state, by default.

The opposition is supposed to be our eyes on the government. We expect them to keep their eyes on the stars, and their feet on the ground. But can we depend on their eyes when their imagination is out of focus?

If you are dancing with your rivals, don’t close your eyes, because the eyes are of little use if the mind be blind.

There is a strange wind of change that is blowing across the political landscape in the world today.

We saw it in America, where the election was about “voting for the lesser of two evils”.

Are we facing the same options? Is Sierra Leone afflicted by voter apathy?

In neighbouring little Gambia, the people voted with their feet for change. Britain voted to sever their umbilical cord from the EU. In other countries, the rumblings for a change of management are getting louder.

These decisions may not be the right ones, as every decision differs from the other. But it is unmistakably correct to conclude that the people’s desire for change is becoming so infectious that, people may be ready to leap into the unknown, as we saw in the USA last month.

If Sierra Leoneans are seemingly fed up with the kind of political diet that we are being breast fed on, how can we ‘make Sierra Leone great again?’ There have been some suggestions that as a country, we should consider a THIRD POLITICAL PARTY.

It took our cousins in The Gambia a full blooded Coalition of parties to remove their dictator. By all standards and thankfully so, we don’t have a DICTATOR in our midst.

Nevertheless, some political purveyors believe that if we can harvest the best politicians from both sides of the aisle, concoct a Third Political Party, may be, just maybe, we can get the best of both worlds.

If this notion is anything to go by, are we saying that “we have tried the cowboys, now let’s try the Indians?

It seems that Sierra Leoneans are now caught between our two political parties. Some people feel that we have not been listened to and that our aspirations have not been realised. So is it time to change the drivers and the train altogether?

Some people reading this might understandably see such a proposition or question as a pipe dream. But if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for something. ‘Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.’

This piece is not a prescription for Sierra Leone’s political malaise. However, it may be a plausible menu for some pillow talk.

In spite of our rich mineral resources, against a backdrop of all the broken promises, recycled political manifestos, A HIGH INDEX ON THE CORRUPTION RICTHER SCALE, and our perennial accolade as “ONE OF THE POOREST COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD, is it time to consider A THIRD POLITICAL PARTY? Dream on, I hear you say.

Don’t forget to turn the lights off when you cast your ballot.

 

 

 

 

8 Comments

  1. Sierra Leone will not and never progress at the rate that it should and possibly until a third political party emerges which can and will ensure:-

    1. Compliance with existing laws, rules, and regulations by all starting at the top
    in all sectors;
    2. Total transparent accountability – particularly starting with expenditures
    and misappropriation of funds statutorily allocated to Ministry/Department of
    Defence;
    3. Respect of and for AUDIT FUNCTIONS, administrative and management tools for
    optimisations;
    4. Phase out and stop the current taboo issues such as the exclusions of The Mendes
    and the marginalisation of The Creoles;
    5. Stop all illicit outflow of monies out of Sierra Leone.
    6. Stop the institutionalised breeding of malarial mosquitoes – particularly The
    Anopheles – with the co-operation of Liberia, Guinea and others
    7. Identify and list our strengths and weaknesses and effect exemplary responses
    8. Re-appraise all existing but shelved advisory reports for commensurate response

  2. I’m not so sure if a new political party is the solution to the country’s ongoing problems. I’m not even sure if Sierra Leone will ever be suitable to prosper as she should in her presumable autonomy. She needs help. She will always need help. The global competition in my view transcends as to what she can handle on her own. We should listen to the late Kwame Nkrumah.

  3. Thanks for all your contributions; at least we have started talking. That was the idea; to generate a discourse. However, I don’t recall suggesting or insinuating at any point in this piece “that Sierra leoneans do not speak up; as suggested by Santhkie Sorie.

    Nevertheless, your comments are well appreciated. keep them coming, irrespective of how diverse or “disagreeing” they may sound or look. Some of us just wanna talk; at times. It’s a start. A journey of 1 million miles starts with a step. Keep them coming.

  4. I don’t think there is need for a 3rd party in Sierra Leone. We just need the citizens of the country to stop being Hypocrites, greedy and self centered. If all of us come together and enforce the law of impeachment of corrupt presidents – be it APC or SLPP, I believe the next incoming president will not be corrupt.

    The Presidents of our country are always being praised for their bad doings. That is wrong for any country, and it will be difficult to change the government. New party or not, our people needs to change their attitude of embracing corruption in the country.

  5. The article is a step behind me in its title. For quite some time I have been urging fellow Sierra Leoneans to stir themselves away from the sentimental politics which APC and SLPP have engaged in over the years, spurred on by their conviction that the typical Sierra Leonean voter not only suffers from incurable amnesia but is forever blinded by ethnic and tribal lightening .

    Both parties have no ideology which makes them resemble something that has broken loose from its tether, preferring to just float and watch which way the mood of the electorate is moving, immersed themselves into it, and hope for the best.

    There should be the recognition of course that sticking to an ideology even when prevailing conditions dictate otherwise can be quite dangerous, but it is still almost ideal for one to be identified by something most of the time.

    The saddest part of the political scene is that the two major parties have so clouded it that individuals who try to establish third parties are not only not seen but their voices are made to sound like an echo from the past to which no one should pay attention. If this fails they are gagged with a lucrative appointment. The loser ? The people of Sierra Leone.

    I disagree with the article that the people of Sierra Leone do not speak up. They do. One only has to go where people congregate for whatever reason and one is bound to hear something about the severe disappointment that is going the rounds about where the country stands. And this is not confined to so-called educated people alone,it cuts through all the known social structures in the country , minus Bernadette Lahai and her hopeless gang in parliament.

    Social media stand as a reinforcement of the fact that Sierra Leoneans do speak up. Their frustration with the political atmosphere is punctuated sometimes by the use unbelievable profanity. Some of it is beginning to get through to the powers that be. They now know that people are watching and listening.

    I believe if Charles Margai, Kandeh Yomkellah, Alie Kabbah , and others are to team up to form another party they will force many sleepless night on SLPP and APC who are one and the same and actually beat them in 2018. I am prepared and willing to make a contribution to such an endeavour in whatever way I can , including raising funds. The country is ripe for a breakaway from its past.

  6. As the title of this article suggests, one can clearly deduce there seem to be an emerging and awakening sense of awareness towards such demand. Sierra Leoneans are coming out boldly to question the irregular behaviour of politicians and the shambles in the governance system sustained by governments of the main political parties.

    Since achieving independence as a self-rule nation under the governments of the SLPP and the APC, there has been no remarkable step towards real progress. Instead, the sustainability of the economy has been compromised and the country’s future looks rather gloomy. It is fast treading on the path towards a failed state.

    Until now, Sierra Leoneans haven’t realized that these two parties – the APC and SLPP and their current class of politicians are not up to the task of driving the country to progress and prosperity. We are trailing far behind other countries within the sub-region. The APC and SLPP have over the years established a political power dominium sustained by the same modus operandi – identical governance style.

    The consequences are the hard facts we are facing today. While other countries in the region are emerging from poverty and making great strides towards development, Sierra Leone remains an underdeveloped country in comparative standards with most African nations.

    Most people are now expressing their disconformities against such mediocrity? Is this all what our governors can offer to its people as a self-rule sovereign nation?

    As a matter of fact, there are lots of Sierra Leoneans who are capable of taking the reins of governance and drive this country to meaningful progress, usher in a dignify standard of living for the citizens. There is no doubt about this.

    This is why most people believe it makes sense to advocate for a new vibrant political party with a pragmatic leadership, to challenge the dominium of the traditional parties. A change is in evident, if Sierra Leoneans want to catch up with the wind of change sweeping across the continent to put the country on track for good governance and meaningful progress.

    It is therefore incumbent on those political figures who may aspire for the nation’s leadership to give this recommendation serious thought.

    The SLPP nor the APC are willing to elect a flag-bearer who will be seen as alien to the party’s inner establishment and who is not part of the old elites. The choice is all about keeping the power – not meritocracy.

    Now is the time to move further from analysis and ordinary comments to real action, and to form a movement of progressive and patriotic citizens; to establish a vehicle of communication to sensitize the people, so as to make them shy away deceitful promises, rhetoric and the gimmicks of old political strategies to win the electorate and their votes.

    The people need to be engaged tete-a-tete with patience – relatives, friends and acquaintances getting the right message across, in a simple and logical manner. This will help them cast their vote with consciousness about who and what party is in their interest to vote for.

  7. That was well put. If ever you needed a confession, I am a great admirer of Yahya Jammeh; if for nothing else but from a negritude point of view. Without question, the interest of The Gambia was central to his heart beat. He was bent on ensuring that his dreams for his country was achieved by any means possible.

    I used to teach in the Gambia when he took over in 1994 and I loved it there. His root and branch approach forced me personally to flee. Nevertheless, I cannot pick out a prouder or more well meaning Gambian for Gambia. Unfortunately, the Machiavellian method used to stay in power, in order to achieve his dreams for his country has been seen by many political wordsmiths as “undemocratic”.

    So does that bring into focus, the question of “term time for Presidents” in Africa in focus? Do we need term times for them or do we just need proper accountability, fairness, equality etc. and the rest to be decided by free, fair and peaceful elections?

    I hope The Gambian people don’t regret their choice or decision. Never mind. Hope all goes well for our cousins and hope that the finer parts of Jammeh’s tenure are preserved for the good of the country.

    But you cannot run away from the fact that he was a dictator; irrespective of his achievements. Thanks Bro, for the enlightenment. Stay tuned and keep the fire burning.

  8. How many political parties do we have in Sierra Leone? I think we have more than three political parties including the ” Revolutionary United Front- RUF.” I think we may only forget now about RUF as Comrade Foday Sankoh is no longer around to collect more hands on deck.

    The political wind of change is blowing heavily around and in different parts of the world starting from Sierra Leone’s colonial master, the United Kingdom – David Cameron upon his resignation to Theresa May, Barack Obama at the end of his term of office to Donald Trump, on bis election victory over Hilary Clinton.

    In the West African belt, we have seen the political wind of change in Nigeria getting rid of Goodluck Jonathan to Mohammadu Buhari in 2015. In the same West Africa, we have just felt the weight of the political wind of change in our love-smiling coast of The Gambia from Yahya AJJ Jammeh to Adama Barrow.

    Some commentators are referring to Yahya Jammeh as the dictator of The Gambia. But the main question I would like to ask first from those commentators is the definition of a dictator, especially of Africa? Was Yahya Jammeh actually a dictator or someone that overstayed in power for 22 years?

    I spent 6 years in The Gambia at the Institute of Commercial Management (ICM) as an Education Consultant to the government from 1997-2004 and that exposure gave me the opportunity to understand to a certain extent when a leader loves his country.

    Yahya Jammeh loves the Gambia judiciously to the extent that he always had the wisdom to protect that small country from all facets. When we had Ebola in Sierra Leone, the safest action Yaha Jammeh took to protect The Gambia was when he closed the border to all Ebola affected countries including Sierra Leone.

    But during the outbreak of the civil war in Sierra Leone, he opened his door wide for all Sierra Leoneans to come in for safety. Sierra Leoneans who experienced that kind of humanity will ever remain to say “Yahya Jammeh jarrajef”

    Here again, let us analyse properly the achievements of Yahya Jammeh for the past 22 years he spent in power in The Gambia. He was able to:

    1. Construct the Yundun International Airport of first class standard that can no longer be compared to the Jawara regime airport.

    2. The road network of the infrastructure improved rapidly to a modernised nation

    3. University education was introduced starting with the University foundation at the St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Canada.

    4. There was only one national medium of communication, the Gambia Radio during President Jawara’s time, but Yahya Jammeh introduced television station and established the Gambia Radio and Television Service (GRTS)

    5. Educational institutions such as secondary schools were very limited and just for few in The Gambia, but Yahya Jammeh’s leadership ensured that schools were opened in all townships to facilitate education for all.

    6. Yahya Jammeh also introduced free education for all Gambian girl-child in all educational institutions to ensure that girls are not left behind in national management.

    If Yahya Jammeh had not stayed for 22 years, how would he have been able to make all these achievements for the Gambia as mentioned?

    Why are commentators referring Yahya Jammeh as a dictator? Which political leader is a dictator? Is there any Jammeh-like among our politicians in Sierra Leone?

    What he never tolerated under his leadership is the members of opposition who attempted to derail his development efforts for The Gambia. Yahya Jammeh ensured that all Gambians were proud of their country except those power hungry politicians who want to see him go so that they get the chances of occupying political leadership.

    I hope Mr Adama Barrow is not just of such mentality. The wind of political change is heavily moving in style and is already written on the wall, the change will be affecting Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

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