Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 March 2018:
Taking it at face value, many may argue that tribalism is a harmless fact of life in Sierra Leone, as its society is naturally organised around tribal identity and affiliation. But when tribalism – becomes the token with which a politician advocates for electoral votes or allocation of public resources in favour of his tribe at the detriment of the other, then it becomes a serious problem for society. And that is the issue for debate, raised in the following story.
Sierra Leone’s election is being marred by political violence, driven largely by tribal competition for domination, and promoted by politicians and their supporters.
Yesterday, there was report of one dead in the south of the country, when violence erupted between supporters of the ruling APC and the opposition SLPP. Calls for an end to tribal speeches and utterances are growing.
But where does mobilising of one’s tribe for collective block voting starts and ends, as the line between tribalism and gerrymandering becomes blurred? What is not in question however, is the dangerous link between tribalism, political violence and hatred.
This is a story by John Ngowahun titled – “Dr Richard Konteh Summons a Loko meeting at Boston’s Community Center, Kissy”, that has sparked a debate. Is this electoral tribalism, and is it bad for Sierra Leone’s politics?:
Even at a very short notice, the Loko residents in Freetown, massively responded to a clarion call of Dr Richard Konteh to a very important meeting at Boston’s Community Center, Kissy in the east end of Freetown.
The meeting was geared towards hatching a strategy to winning the pending run-off election scheduled to take place on the 27th of this month.
Addressing the mammoth Loko gathering at Boston’s community center today Friday 16th March, Dr Richard Konteh (Photo) told his people that it’s high time they put aside their differences and look at the bigger picture.
He urged the Loko people living in every nook and cranny of Sierra Leone to vote the APC and Dr Samura Kamara in the run off election scheduled to take place on the 27th of this month.
Dr Richard compared the massive development that took place under the Ernest Bai Koroma’s APC ten years rule and that of the conspicuous underdevelopment that Sierra Leone was subjected to during the eleven years rule of the SLPP.
The SLPP’s ten years rule he reiterated, was characterized by poor road network, widespread blackout among others. He appealed for unity among the Lokos and emphasized that without unity the tribe would not move forward.
Responding to Dr Richard Konteh on behalf of the Loko people, the Loko Tribal Chief, Alhaji Alpha Sesay said that the involvement of Dr Richard in the APC campaign has not just brought extreme happiness to the Loko people but has also reawakened the political spirit of the tribe.
He said the tribe had sometimes left in political wilderness without leadership to provide them with political guidance. “But now that you have come back into the scene, our hope is restored as a tribe,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Richard and entourage moved on to Morgegba in the Western Rural where he pacified the aggrieved community that raised concerns about their lands taken by the Lands Minister Madam Diana Konomanyi.
“You cannot set your house ablaze because of a mosquito,” Richard told the aggrieved community, assuring them that the moment APC regains power after the March 27 run off election, an amicable solution to their lands problem would be sought.
Dr Richard Konteh and entourage have left Freetown for the provinces. Richard Conteh Say Tolongbo. (End).
A few weeks ago, at the at the start of election campaigning, a poster produced by senior ruling APC party stewards – with the slogan: “Krios for APC”, was strongly condemned. Even the country’s Party Political Registration Commission (PPRC), published a statement condemning such behaviour as tribalism, which they rightly said has no place in Sierra Leone’s politics.
But how different is Richard Konteh’s mobilisation of his Loko tribe – calling on them to vote APC, to the ”Krios for APC” saga that was comprehensively and publicly condemned by all?
There are efforts and national campaigns being organised aimed at kicking tribalism out of Sierra Leone’s elections. But will it work, when politicians are blatantly promising tribal favours for votes?