Better a slave in heaven than a king in hell

Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 September 2019:

Sierra Leone may not be many people’s idea of heaven, but it looks like recent events in the country have drawn attention to such a debate. The situation in our country is an open secret. And if anyone wants to get a feel for it, just imagine the mind-set of those who undertake dangerous and near suicidal missions to get to the other side of the world.

People have been known to venture into Europe via the Mediterranean Seas, often in dingy boats which, if lucky and at best, would land them into the hands of traffickers. We have all heard the gruesome stories from survivors and have seen video clips of the inhumane and debased suffering they get at the hands of those psychopaths.

Yet still, there is an unending queue of especially our youth, who are ready to take the plunge (pardon the pun) into the unknown.

So what drives someone to such suicidal extremes, where certain death is near assured?

If truth be said, this is an open and shut indictment of our African leaders. It goes without saying that their penchant for bad governance, mismanagement and above all – corruption, are a directly concomitant effect that has degenerated into absolute poverty.

Cue Musa Tombo, the Sierra Leonean football striker, who had signed for the Swedish side Trelleborgs FC, sudden and seemingly unexplained return to his homeland. With our penchant for fake news, social media went to town on the reasons behind his return. There was no shortage of reasons, and chief among them was that, Musa returned because he could not cope with the cold in Sweden.

How ridiculous. But Musa had since debunked such rumours and revealed the real reason for his return: PATRIOTISM. According to his video clip released on social media, Musa came back because he wanted to represent his country in a match; to help his country qualify for the World Cup. We know that it is a tall order but sometimes, it is the thought that counts. Bravo to Musa.

In the meantime, many have condemned him for not only throwing away a golden, but a once in a life time opportunity. Without the benefits of the facts, you can understand some people’s reasons for pouring scorn on his rumoured decision to come home.

Thankfully, he has cleared the air, and I can only wish him all the wishes that he wishes for himself. It is true that like many of us, Musa (Photo) comes from a very poor background.

But unlike many of us, he was ready to make the ultimate sacrifice – to represent his country. Others even said that it was because of a bad contract that saw him offered peanuts.

While some believe that the distance from Europe to heaven is just 3 miles, Musa had momentarily chosen to be a king in hell than be a slave in heaven.

Interestingly, the Musa saga may have drawn some focus on another issue from far away America. The irony could not have been stacker.

On the 14 August this year, 15 men and 1 woman arrived at Lungi International Airport. According to reports, they were Sierra Leonean passport holders who were serving prison sentences in the USA. There are many who would struggle to empathise with these deportees.

Many would expect the average hustler to engage in honest labour, than the get rich quick schemes and criminal behaviour they are alleged to have committed. They were deported in chains and with only the clothes on their backs. Sounds familiar? Does history repeat itself here?

Donald Trump deported Sierra Leoneans, among others in chains on the 14 August 2019. On the 20th August 1619, (400 hundred years ago) 20 Africans were forcibly brought in chains to Jamestown-Virginia, marking the beginning of two and a half centuries of slavery in North America. The rest is history.

Sadly, such an epoch defining moment in history passed unnoticed, right under Trump’s nose in the USA. There was nothing to celebrate or lament.

But who would expect Trump to honour such a moment; a man whose career is littered with racists comments about black people?

The irony of Africans being deported in chains could not be more obvious. Donald Trump has never made secret of his view about black people.

His most racist rant was against his fellow American congresswomen to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came”.

Trump’s litany of discrimination against black people is a long list that has been a pattern throughout his career. He questioned Obama’s birth right, he advocated for the death penalty of 5 black teenagers for rape, but who have recently been found not guilty after years in prison. He once called Africa a sh.t hole. The list is endless.

He once said this about one of his black employees, an accountant; “I think the guy is lazy”. “And it’s probably not his fault because laziness is a trait in blacks”. Is it not interesting that Trump and people like him, only described blacks as lazy, when black people stopped working for free?

Four hundred years ago, they were not lazy then. But four hundred years later, they have become lazy. Why? America can no longer get free labour from the black man. (Photo: Author – Abdulai Mansaray).

There is no doubt that Trump has been making history even before he became the new tenant at the White House. On the eve of the 400th anniversary of slavery, Trump reminded us that Africans went to America in chains, and that he was ready to replicate history; thanks to his immigration policies.

But if we are to be honest with ourselves, we should look no further for the reasons why Africans are treated this way by Trump and others.

This should be seen as a tacit indictment of our African leaders, who have contrived to dictate such predicaments.

As Africans, we still continue to wallow in self-pity about the effects of slavery on the continent. Even after 400 years, we still seek refuge for our failures in century old wrongs.

Slavery has become the refuge for our incompetence. The independence of African states has not been worth the papers on which they were signed.

To all intents and purposes, it is a sad case for an excuse. Africa has had over 400 years to right the wrongs of the old. Our leaders should have used the bricks that people like Trump throws at them to build a firm foundation.

We just need to take a look at the political landscape of the continent, to see the real reasons for the continent’s demise. The continent continues to suffer from anything and everything bad about leadership. Africa has had a lot of initiatives and programmes aimed at development and good governance.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation is an African foundation, established in 2006 with one focus: the critical importance of governance and leadership for Africa.

The foundation is aimed at putting governance at the centre of Africa’s development; because it believes that governance and leadership lie at the heart of any tangible and shared improvement in the quality and of the life of African citizens.

The foundation has initiated among others, leadership fellowship and $5 million prize over 10 years for excellence in African leadership.

To qualify, the criteria for the prize include: must be former Executive head of state or government, left office in the last 3 years, and must be democratically elected.

In addition, they must have served their constitutionally mandated term and demonstrated exceptional leadership. You would be pleased to know that the last person to win the prize was Ellen Sirleaf Johnson of Liberia, in 2017. Only 5 former leaders (plus Mandela-honorary) have won the prize, since its inception. And you wonder why Trump calls Africa a sh.t hole?

Our African leaders have become so infested with greed that they cannot see free money, even if it hits them.

It is indeed ironic that 400 years ago, we were forcefully enslaved. Four hundred years later, slavery is voluntary. Is it better to be a king in hell than a slave in heaven?

Don’t forget to turn the lights off, when you leave the room.


  1. As a proud African from Sierra Leone, I personally believe that nothing and nobody can dampen our spirits. 400 years ago, we were shipped to the new world because of our mental and physical strength from the Almighty, so we used our rice planting skills to feed the citizens of the USA and our strength to build the White House. That is the reason why our son of the soil former President Obama was blessed with the opportunity to occupy the home of the leader of the free world which was built from our sweat and blood.

    Our ancestors displayed their sense of pride by staging the “ Armistad Revolt” and killing the captain of a slave ship just to come back to Africa, and thanks to the late second President of the USA (John Adams), who defended those Sierra Leoneans in the courtrooms and the great Sengbeh Pieh and other freedom fighters were returned back to Sierra Leone.
    Even after slavery, our ancestors (Creoles) chose to be repatriated back to Freetown rather than living in the USA, Britain, Nova Scotia and the Caribbean.

    The most recent example of Musa Tombo to return back home to show patriotism will also send a message to the world that Sierra Leonean will always be proud of our country, and with the help of our current government that has also sent a clear message to the world, by rejecting a huge airport loan from China and suspending all shady investors. The Free and quality education and the fight against corruption will help build the self esteem and confidence of Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad.

    Finally I hope and pray that we will continue to follow the footsteps of our ancestors by RETURNING back home, as the Krio proverb says: FREE POE BETTEH PAS THIGHT GENTRIE.

  2. Good article and a provocative thought and thinking. A reprogramming for some of us, as to how black leadership thinks about his place and the world around him.

    Df Role (in Nigeria Rustic Village) Ichi

  3. I think we Africans must be ashamed of ourselves for the colonial Blame Games. What Mr Trump is doing in America, previous leaders have done worst than we see. I witnessed a woman being deported from United Kingdom in handcuffs and nightgown. Also I 100% look at our leaders in Africa and I honestly detest them for lack of vision and purpose. How can 55 African leaders be invited to China and the Chinese government gave them 60 billion dollars to share among themselves. After that they have sold our continent to the Chinese government. This is what I call willful slavery. Its a shame that we have portrayed ourselves as people who can’t think for ourselves.

    Which African country can boldly say that they have been able to develop their country to a First world country. There’s none. Why? Because the leaders lack vision, and are all having poverty mindset. So when they get into office all they think about is themselves – nothing else. We need selfless men and women who want to leave a good legacy behind, men and women that will come to power and empower our people in developing our countries with vision and commitment and dedication. If not, Africa will be a Chinese colony in 15 years to come.

    We have people that are willing to bring change but our leaders prefer foreign companies to come and work than our own citizens. How many Africans own big companies in Middle East, Asia, Europe etc. Not up to Ten. How many of those continent citizens have their savings in any of our countries, none.

    How many African leaders have money in foreign banks? Almost all of them with the exception of Former President Jerry John Rawlings. The rest, all have accounts there. They go there for medical treatment, they send their children to be educated there. With such mentality Africa will not move on. How many European, Asia and American leaders send their children to Africa to study? None.

    We need to wake up. If anyone stands for the truth in our countries, some leaders feel threaten and they eliminate that person. Oh Africa, how long to see you rise from the Ashes? You are sinking deep and deep. How a can police commissioner in an African country be a Chinese? This Speaks Volumes.

  4. May God bless the writer. The big problem that we have in Africa is bad governance and political integrity that we need to consider as a first priority in Africa. If the United states government deport back our brothers and sisters in chains, this will teach you that Africa is still under a slavery rule.

  5. READING and COMPREHENSION LESSONS might be helpful. I will never forget to turn off the light whenever I leave the room. Thanks Mr. Abdulai Mansaray for your observations at all times and GOD BLESS YOU.

  6. Mr. Abdulai Mansaray, interesting analysis. Data published in Wikipedia show that under Bill Clinton about 870,000 people were deported from the United States. Under George W. Bush, the number of deportees was about 2 million and under Barack Obama the number of deportees rose to about 2.9 million. I have not seen the figures under Donald Trump.

    However, there is information that establishes that more citizens of Mexico and other South American countries and European countries have been deported from the United States in the last few years than citizens of African countries. So, what this clearly establishes is that the tendency to look at the United States as the proverbial greener pastures is not unique to Africa. Also, what this means is that bad governance by itself does not explain why people have a penchant for fleeing their countries. There are countries that are reasonably well governed but still have their citizens fleeing to countries like the United States.

    Lastly, deporting immigrants in chains is a standard practice of the US Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE). According to this institution, it prevents deportees, especially those with criminal records, from attempting to flee the custody of immigration officials. Is this inhumane? Of course. But is it applied only to African deportees? Hell No.

    • Thanks for your analysis. Let’s pay attention to the thrust of the article. Good observations though. Apologies if I looked at it from the African point of view. Apologies for giving it a historical flavour. Keep the conversation going.

    • Took the words out of my mouth. One thing I did notice in the article is that the author complains about the slave trade and its history and then goes on to complain about how we Africans use the slave trade as an excuse after 400 years. Is he not contradicting himself?

      One thing that winds me up silly is the excuse about how colonialism is the cause of all the woes that Africa has today, even after such a long time. The fact that both Sierra Leone and Singapore gained independence in the same year speaks volumes. Compare the two nations and judge for yourself. Making excuses does not solve the problem, let’s look at ourselves and fix it rather than laying the blame elsewhere. After all, wouldn’t that be lazy?

  7. Sierra Leoneans DEPORTED with CHAINS on them? Really scary. President Bio must have been very angry I reckon. Why was there no public statement made by the government concerning this issue. This is a disgrace/shame to our NATIONAL pride and and as a civilized NATION. It is unacceptable and should have been condemned OUTRIGHT by the Bio administration a few weeks ago when it happened.

    Does that mean that, more Sierra Leoneans are expected to be deported with CHAINS around them? Should we be humane to one another or not? My question now is, what should the Bio administration do diplomatically to prevent such types of CHAINED DEPORTATION in the future. Has America become a NO GO COUNTRY? SCARY STUFF!

    • Bobo Payne, did you read the whole article or just a paragraph? Thanks though for your contribution. Let’s keep the conversation going.

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