Are Sierra Leoneans at ease?

Ibrahim Sourie Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 April 2019:

This week is an historic period for the people of Sierra Leone, as  we marked the 58th Independence Anniversary of the country’s troubled past, last Saturday – 27th April 2019.

At age 58, many countries that are far younger than Sierra Leone, are now able to meet the basic necessities of their citizens, such as clean safe drinking water, access to reliable electricity, free access to basic medical care, adequate housing, good sanitation, and many more.

Sierra Leone at a matured age of 58, is still lacking the ability and the will to cater for those basic needs of its citizens.

Yet, undeterred by constant news of perennial electricity blackout, growing poverty, poor access to drinking water, rising costs of living and high adult mortality, Sierra Leoneans all over the world celebrated their Independence with pomp and pageantry.

But what are we really celebrating? Continuity of dependency on foreign aid, IMF and World Bank support or Independence from colonial rule?

This story is not about the Independence celebration pers se, but the ironies, contradictions and double standards emanating from State House.

Last year, President Julius Maada Bio cancelled the 57th Independence celebration on grounds of economic hardship in the country, and his SLPP government’s inheritance of a broken economy from the Koroma led APC government.

Fair enough, the reasons given were apt and convincing. It was a new government and people thought his new administration is geared towards instilling sound financial discipline into a system that was allegedly fraught with impropriety.

But wait, why was the First Lady – Mrs Fatima Bio allowed to organize an event at the country’s national stadium to celebrate the country’s Independence, despite her husband – the president, having cancelled all celebrations in the country?

Why was the First Lady permitted to form such a parochial and narrowly drawn committee – a presidential women’s wing of loyal ruling party supporters, charged with responsibility for organizing such an important national event? Was there no intention of building national cohesion? (Photo: First Lady – Mrs Bio celebrating Sierra Leone’s 58th Independence Anniversary at the national stadium).

Since when has national celebration, such as the country’s Independence Anniversary become a personal or party political rally?

I listened to the president’s Independence message as he quite rightly quoted the vision of our forefathers who fought for the country’s independence. Sir Milton Margai, a modest leader – the country’s first prime minister, fought for Sierra Leone’s independence on the basis of uniting the people of Sierra Leone, not dividing them.

With such alarming political developments now in the country, including the possible usurping of presidential and ministerial powers, one may be tempted to ask, who is calling the shots at State House?

The ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) has an official women’s wing headed by Madam Fatmata Sawaneh, who was very instrumental during the elections campaign. Forming another political women’s wing known as the Julius Maada Bio Women’s Wing to undertake state functions, is not only divisive but sends a clear message of cracks and disunity within the party – if not within the government.

This leads us back to the central question as to how can the president cancel all national Independence celebrations – with the exception of the event permitted to be organised by the First Lady at the national stadium, but staged a State House dinner party last month to celebrate his government’s one year in office, when the constantly deafening message from State House to the nation is one of austerity and tightening of financial belts and braces?

Critics may want to ask – where is the sound and disciplined financial management policy that the president says is central to his governance of the country’s affairs?

I watched the ceremony last week, marking the opening of the bridge at Juba in Freetown, and the scene clearly shows the constant shifting of power within the administration. Who is now being used as a front for political subterfuge; and who is conspicuously absent from performing state functions. Where are we  going as a nation?

The First Lady may have good ideas for promoting the image of the country, but there are certain things that are best left alone, in order not to destabilise an already fragile political environment and national cohesion in the country.

Forming and naming wings after presidents are normally attributed to dictators and electioneering.  Such hallmarks are the pathways to transforming good intentioned leaders into despots.

Mr. President, Sierra leone is still going through tough times and the people are yearning for change which, as you keep telling us, may not come overnight. But many people have started expressing concerns. Take for example, your numerous overseas trips.

In as much as some of these trips have started yielding dividends, it is worth remembering that we do have ambassadors, ministers and senior diplomats in the country to whom you can delegate to save costs.

As we celebrate our 58th year of Independence, the people of Sierra Leone are looking up to your administration for real change as promised in your election campaign.

But Mr. President, if your administration has started making the same mistakes that you accused the past APC government of committing, do you expect the country to be at ease?

4 Comments

  1. The SLPP has divided the country into two regions. The north-west known to be the stronghold of the APC and the south-east which is definitely the stronghold of the SLPP. Accept it or not, that’s the current situation in Sierra Leone. I will refrain from mentioning the tribal, sectional, regional and nepotistic occurrences, events and decisions of the SLPP currently provoking another ugly situation, which if adhered to by the opposite side, will tend to be the worst case scenario in contrast to the senseless and brutal war the same SLPP orchestrated twenty-eight years ago, which in fact is still fresh in the minds of all Sierra Leoneans who witnessed it.

  2. Can they please leave Mrs Fatima Bio alone? She is now the First Lady with all the privileges that the previous First Lady had and enjoyed and people need to accept this.

    She has been First Lady for 1 year, so she will put a foot wrong initially but she will learn from her mistakes. Sia Koroma even during the 2nd term of her husband’s tenure was still making mistakes. And when Sia Koroma started her office of the first lady, no one complained. So please leave Mrs Bio alone.

  3. Well…let us call things as they are! Wherever there are dark clouds, it is a sign heavy rainfall is on its way! And where there is smoke, there also you will always find fire. What we are witnessing is only the beginning of just the tiniest expressions of the SLPP showcasing its cruel, callous, behaviors of outright favoritism and deliberate marginalisation of the poor and struggling masses.

    Strange is it not? That you cannot, and are not allowed to celebrate, the independence of your own country, where you were born and raised; but power and position says that others can! Deceivers and fraudsters, they are! And mean-spirited also…so sad to see such gut-wrenching and shocking indifference being perpetrated towards the same people they were elected to serve, provide for and protect.

    This made me shake my head – State House, the house of the people, has now become a “Family House”, soon to be painted in brilliant lucent green. Hate it or love it won’t matter to them; that is the SLPP way! This is just the tip of the iceberg of things to come.

    Folks, I am not surprised at all, not even a tiny bit, that the First Lady was allowed to entertain her friends with badly needed monies coming from almost bare and empty government coffers, while the rest of the nation watched from afar drooling and licking their parched,and hungry lips.

    I guarantee you none of the women selling Okra, onions and pepper in the markets of Freetown were invited to such a lavish and sumptuous gathering – Only a selected few made up of SLPP members, sympathizers and ass-kissers. What a bad precedent they have already set, for future governments to come! APC, the party of the struggling poor masses has never displayed such an unfeeling, uncaring attitude ever before.

    Again, allow me to correct the wrong perception of Bio’s political trumpet blowers, by emphasizing that it is childish, silly and immature for someone or anyone to be so dim-witted, to suggest that just by sincerely criticising the First Lady and other women, who have still not proven their competence and worth to our nation, one is, and should be labelled a Chauvinist. Wrong! Again, let me reiterate, a government of the people that profess to be progressive, transparent, austere and fighting corruption must practice what they have been preaching tirelessly and noisily from the peaks of mountains and roof-tops of Freetown.

    The world is watching! Let us all hope that all the travelling this President has been doing ends up yielding dividends and does not turn out to become a huge ditch or hole that our children and grandchildren will never be able to come out of.

    I fear, economically, the worst may happen to our countr and rightly so, because those men now in power are naive, inexperienced and shockingly incompetent! Deny it if you want, but it is true! I am totally disappointed to see that they are still pointing fingers after being 1 year in office.

    It seems to me,they think they are still in school and there is time to study, get things right and govern. Wrong again! People’s livelihood cannot wait, while they live in ease and great comforts. Results…tangible and credible must be provided now…The masses are waiting. Rising Sun Will Rise Again!

  4. The writer wants to know why the first lady could organise independence celebrations for Sierra Leone. Well, the answer is simple. Mrs. Fatima Bio is the first lady of Sierra Leone. Besides, Mrs. Bio is a citizen of Sierra Leone with the right to organise a public event for her country.

    The writer goes on to wonder if Mrs. Bio was not usurping the powers of the president and his ministers. Well, in the patriarchy called Sierra Leone, it cannot be a surprise to find chauvinistic males making subtle misogynistic statements against strong, powerful and confident women. They feel threatened by the likes of Fatima Bio who has been at the forefront of resurrecting a dying nation.

    Mrs. Bio is not going to take a back seat to jingoists who believe that the place of a woman is in the kitchen. Yet Mrs. Bio is not the only woman on the rise. There is Dr. Patricia Schwartz, the Attorney General with a Ph.D in Law, Dr. Patricia Laverley, the deputy minister of Finance with a Ph.D in Economics and others. These are a few of the powerful women in the SLPP government that have made Sierra Leone’s male chauvinists very uncomfortable.

    But whether they are uncomfortable or not with the powers that the women are currently wielding, they must be rest assured that president Bio is pursuing a sound financial management policy that would soon stabilise the economy.

    Domestic revenue mobilization has improved under Bio and the president and his government are making do with domestic resources without resorting to external or domestic borrowing in the mold of the useless APC leaders

    Nor should the armchair critics be concerned with the president’s “numerous overseas trips.” If Bio had stayed home and not bothered with repairing the battered image of the country overseas, they would still complain. But fact is, they are not the president’s boss to tell him when he should travel or not. Stay in your lanes, big guys.

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