The grim snapshot of Sierra Leone’s future

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 June 2013

grand corruption in africaThere is an old proverb, which says that: “The death that kills a man, it is said, begins as an appetite.” For beleaguered governments, especially in our part of the world, volatile, divisive political issues and exotic foreign junketing that promises heaven and earth, offer a welcome distraction from the mundane – but necessary grind of domestic economic and social problems.

Little wonder that in the face of our current realities, the recent purge of the military has been deliberately timed to become the flavour of the month.

This can be seen in the puerile frenzy that accompanied the announcement, rather than the much needed attention to social and economic policies.

I’m not interested in the merit or otherwise of the military sections under which the sackings were made. It would have a hard time anyway, convincing those to whom it needs to appeal; talk less of neutrals.

The truth cannot be airbrushed.

As a matter of fact, the lame explanation by the Defence Ministry, all but puts the gloss on the theory making the rounds; that the retirements and dismissal were covers for the more sinister motives behind the action.

Palo Conteh 2But sincerely speaking, should the outrageous act of political spite and selective clear-out, be a paramount policy at this economically precarious time in the country?

(Photo: Defence Minister – Palo Conteh)

While the rest of the world races towards the future, should the poisonous myth of displaying ‘hell’s teeth’ as a mark of power over the vulnerable, be a state policy?

While the people are dying of hunger and foreigners are trampling over their ‘carcasses’, should the attention of our leaders be to get rid of a handful of individuals who have no impact on our national life, with so much fanfare, if there is nothing more to it than meets the eye?

Are we to applaud the magnanimity of the ever-benevolent administration that has graciously decided to pay gratuity to some of the officers?

How can the government win hearts and minds if it undermines public confidence in its fairness?

How does it expect the people to be inclined to believe its words, if its very actions – no matter how meaningful, smell like a busted sewage pipe?

How do we expect to clean up our politics and society, when we compromise the values of our governance and the leaders, and their personal prejudices become conduits and connectors for our fractured society?

new heavy handed policing in saloneHonestly, if our leaders cannot be persuaded of the moral argument for tackling urgently, the numerous problems of our nation today, such as the high cost of living, the increasing rate of corruption, the acute poverty, youth unemployment, the lack of opportunity for young people with little hope of employment and those unable to afford further education, as well as the increasing crime rate, they should at least be persuaded by the economic argument.

If our permanent beggar-status does not make them feel ashamed as leaders, they should at least have pity on those of us who have to call ourselves Sierra Leoneans and who have to try to explain to the rest of the sane world why we are so poor in the midst of plenty.

We endured a long, long war, and I am aware that it takes time for the hurt and the scars to heal. But we cannot endure a more complete peace, if some of those in position of authority now, turn themselves into a virus in our socio-political machine.

rebels enter freetownWhy can’t those who want to drag us decades back, understand that the people see no fundamental difference between their actions and the redemption they are trying to rig up – like a flagpole on a disused town lot?

What is the difference between six and half a dozen?

What happens in the long term when power changes hand, when leadership is paramount and integrity has been relegated to second place?

Because politicians never pay the price for their political arrogance, is it any wonder we see so many problems still manifested in our society today?

Can we take it from signals emanating from our leaders that recent happenings in the country are the shape of things to come?

Is it time for the unfurling of the latent, but chilling atmosphere and rhetoric of extermination?

From indications, the state of play in our domestic politics underpins a fundamental problem which has the potential to lead us to a catastrophe. It might not be today, or tomorrow – but sometime in the future, it will surely come, unless we can rein the beast in our political class again.

Right now it appears some of our leaders, presumably in thrall of the strange bedfellows that they have cuddled, have gone native and fallen victims to the temptations of their offices and the succulent lips of their new found lovers.

Their heady self-importance, which ordinarily will make as little impression as a sandcastle, once the wave has crashed over the beach, is nothing but lighting a conductor for a whole host of other issues.

Sam Sumana and Ernest KoromaI would hate to subscribe to the notion that the political hierarchy has lost its sense of priority (if ever they had one), and cannot realise that the sudden heightening of the political barometer have continued to highlight the flashing points from underneath the rocks.

Their continued and infuriating persistent political Medusa, will – like the Greek mythology, bring destruction, while the futile but lethal below-the-belt punches will keep the bout ever alive.

If those who lead the people continue to express to them, harboured grudges in coded words, deeds and actions, then no wonder our nation continues to be teeming with divisions of class, creed and ethnicity.

Right now, in the face of our realities, easing poverty and hardship should be winning the day over personal and political vendetta.

I believe the same bravery and moral vision they are exhibiting now, in cleaning their Aegean stable, would be a better asset for tackling our numerous problems.

Some might say that the government’s action is an essential step to putting the past behind, but why has it also taken this long and why now – when the tapestry of deceit is being unravelled by economic, social and political realities?.

Politics, I keep maintaining, is the nastiest combat sport on earth. But the arguments in favour of the purge and the dangerous pursuit of such a divisive issue are deeply flawed, almost as much as the motives of the instigators.

Remember, they do not have the monopoly of the power of remembrance.

Similarly, some of those who have a limited grasp of the suspected undertone of the issues at stake, may raise their hands in glee to shout: “Justice”.

But would this and other planned assault on perceived opponents and enemies of old, be in the overall interest of our nation, or is it laying the tar that will forever be stripped for years to come?

The underhand pressure of those who have hidden agendas on display by this action is a cynical gamble with our corporate existence. It is definitely not a decision made out of any moral compunction, as the statement itself unwittingly paints.

The determined, but cynical and hollow crusade of fifth columnists being undertaken on behalf of the ‘victims’ of past injustice, will not make their shameless, brazen and hypocritical image free from the poison of innuendo and suspicion.

The status quo is benefiting a handful – not the majority of people.

Without any fear of contradiction, I have no qualms in supporting any work of a government which truthfully and transparently want to shine the light into the pit of evil of anyone (no matter how highly placed), if this is to shame and force open their rattling cupboards of skeletons.

The key words here are equity, transparency and honesty of purpose.

When there has been no serious desire for this reflected in either policy, or political rhetoric by the ideological descendants of those who sent opponents up the chimneys, who then had to pay the ultimate price for their own involvement in the winner-takes-all roulette of the past, it becomes chillingly a DÉ JAVU.

But let me remind you of what I said on the 29th May 2012:

“So, let those behind the clamour for a review of the so-called judicial killings of almost two decades ago, do us all a favour and confess that the pursuit is for the basest of political reasons.

“Let all the rabble rousers and glory seekers who will turn up at the ‘opening of an envelope’ or latch on to anything that will resonate their names prepare our minds for the increase in the rumble.

“Let them tell us that the political point scoring…… that should have been left to rot and fester in the darkest recesses of our sad and twisted past…is being legitimised and promoted as a cause.

“And in the midst of the associated drama, hysteria and political claptrap that has left the nation’s media being used by politicians and vested interests, to conduct by proxy, the arguments and battles that they do not know how to handle, patriots who truly want a new socio-economic and political Sierra Leone should please stop tittering at the back of the class.

“The illusory hallowing of do-gooders and ideologically bankrupt individuals is about to unleash a brand of political germ-warfare which should be, as it once was – the preserve of savages. More pertinently, our serene world that has stood as a beacon of light for the past decade, suddenly seems to matter less.

“The molten fury being spewed out by the combined spin machinery of a desperate clique is fuelled by a burning desire for revenge and desperation, rather than the national interest or the promotion of a new political behaviour and the cleansing of the system.

“In other words, our politicians are all too indebted to the special interests that fund their re-election, while their cohorts in and outside the media continue to fuel the culture of vulgarity.

“I must confess that I am actually surprised that the present administration – after its initial declaration of commitment to change is managing to destroy the credibility of its worthy and avowed claim, in a spasm of puerile extremism and nervousness.

“Some might say that it is an essential step to putting the past behind, but why has it also taken this long?”

It seems, not much has changed in twelve months.

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