Dr Kandeh K Yumkella: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 May 2020:
On this Holy Day of Eid ul Fitr, may the Almighty answer our sacrifices and prayers and grant us the courage and fortitude to rise above our frailties and put Salone Fos. We pray that this auspicious day of Eid ul Fitr will bring peace and goodwill onto all on Earth and protect our families and loved ones.
Allow me to share with you, a short prayer I recited some nights during this holy month of Ramadan. It is a supplication of Prophet Musa (Prophet Moses) Alaihi Salam which says: “Rabbi shrah lii sadri, wa yassir lii amrii wahlul updatam mil-lisaanii yafgahuu qawlii.”
The Sierra Leone National Da’awa Committee has translated this supplication as follows: “O my Lord, open for me my chest (grant me self-confidence, contentment, and boldness). Ease my task for me and loose the knot (the defect from tongue that they understand my speech (20:25,28).
I chose this supplication because I worry that we politicians are not bold enough to speak out for justice and peace. We have chosen a path of silence in the face of the onslaught of fringe and radical groups calling for tit-for-tat, and strong arm tactics to settle complex societal problems rather than statesmanship, reconciliation, and accommodation.
May the Almighty grant us the courage to stand for what is right even when it concerns people or groups who have gravely wronged us in the past.
As Nelson Mandela once said “reconciliation does not mean forgetting or trying to bury the pain of conflict. Reconciliation means working together to correct the legacy of past injustice.”
In “Annus Horibilis”, an article I wrote in January 2020, I called for a course correction by Government and society at large in tackling the dangerously deep divisions in our country.
At that time, I never imagined that two months later, we will face the COVID-19 pandemic less than a decade after the devastating Ebola epidemic. I never expected a treason trial in Sierra Leone, or multiple riots in Falaba, Lunsar or Tombo, or the alleged ‘prison break’ which resulted in the loss of so many lives. Nor did I imagine the phrase “terrorism” will be used to refer to any domestic situation twenty years after the blight of the brutal 11-year civil war.
Most surprising to me, is that I did not expect that people would actually threaten my life because I called for de-escalation of political tensions and rapprochement.
However, we will continue to put Salone Fos with the strong belief and faith that the Almighty Allah giveth life and only he can take it back at his appointed time.
All of these unexpected occurrences took place so fast in the past two weeks exposing the dark underbelly of our body politic, uncovering the simmering embers of frozen conflicts in various parts of the polity that call for urgent attention.
At its Press Briefing last week my Party, the National Grand Coalition (NGC), drew the attention of the Government and the country as a whole to the pervasive lack and gross miscarriage of justice in our society as a major contributing factor to the ongoing political tensions which amply re-echo the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee Report.
I want to use this occasion of Eid Mubarak to make a clarion call on the Leadership of all Political Parties and Civil Society Organizations in the country to join the NGC in a sustained effort to bring about peace and stability in our country by de-escalating the ongoing tensions and promoting rapprochement and Reconciliation in the coming weeks so that We, as a united nation, can work together to defeat COVID-19 and save the lives of people.
I truly believe that We, the people, need to be brave and bold to call for a paradigm shift to a new way of governance in our country, indeed a “Modus Vivendi” if we are to avoid another all-out civil war.
Modus Vivendi, “ is a Latin phrase that means mode of living or way of life. It often is used to mean an arrangement or agreement that allows conflicting parties to co-exist in peace. The phrase is often used to describe informal and temporary arrangements in political affairs….despite political, historical or cultural incompatibilities, an accommodation of their respective differences is established for the sake of contingency.”
We need such a temporary accord in Sierra Leone until we in Parliament take up the completion of the Constitutional Review Committee’s work on the revisions to the 1991 constitution.
On this holy day, I close with a call to our President to temper justice with mercy and take the first step in healing our nation. Madiba Mandela also once said “we must strive to be moved by a generosity of spirit that will enable us to outgrow the hatred and conflicts of the past.”
Thus, on this Holy Day, I want to make an urgent call on H.E. President Maada Bio to be a Political Samaritan by taking the first step in building peace and reconciliation and tempering justice with mercy by urging the Attorney General and Minister of Justice not to oppose bail in the case against Sylvia Olayinka Blyden and her personal assistant, Muckson Sesay, and for the State to urge the court to ensure that the bail terms for the spouse of Mr. Paolo Conteh, Isata Saccoh, are not onerous. We hope that they can be home with their families soon.
I ask that humane conditions are also accorded to Mr. Paolo Conteh and all other political detainees and urge that their rights to a fair and just trial guaranteed under the constitution and international human rights documents that Sierra Leone has ratified, are fully respected.
These acts of statesmanship will show magnanimity for the sake of peace, define his legacy as a new direction and, hopefully a modus vivendi. They will also demonstrate that side of him I witnessed a few days ago when the parliamentary leadership intervened on behalf of Honorable Lahai Marah.
Mr. President should also heed the call by civil society groups and myself for an invitation to His Excellency Ernest Bai Koroma to join the COVID-19 fight.
May Allah grant Mr. President, and all other political leaders, the wisdom of Solomon and the courage of David to rise to the occasion and give peace a chance.
Eid Mubarak, Stay safe and stay well.
About the author
Honourable Kandeh Yumkella is Member of Parliament for Constituency 062 – Samu Chiefdom, Kambia District, Sierra Leone.
Chief Kandeh, what has gone wrong with your highly touted ‘DUAL CITIZENSHIP’ EFFORTS? Was this not a bill that every leading political party was scared to death to oppose. Why did you falter in pushing it or make public any efforts to derail it. Politics is for the brave not procrastinators sir.
I thank Hon. Yumkella for his message at this moment after many days of prayer and fasting not only for the individual peace and prosperity but for the peace of the country in particular and the world in general. I am however disappointed that he puts the reasons for the numerous problems facing the country especially in the area of safety squarely on the doorsteps of the President. I cannot understand his play of lip service to all the endeavors of the Bio administration in the area of reconciliation. In the first place, why have the country put “reconciliation” to the forefront of national discourse?
Has the present administration been at war with the former administrations of APC? Why did the country not call for reconciliation when APC administration assumed power in 2007? We all know that the 2007 election was fraught with many problems that could have caused the SLPP take similar actions in making the country ungovernable but the leaders did not choose that path. Is Dr. Yumkella really ignorant of this fact that he has no one to blame for all the upheavals that have caused the loss of lives during the past weeks but the present administration? I wonder what he will gain from this claim.
I will re-echo Dr. Yumkella with the quote from Nelson Mandela “reconciliation does not mean forgetting or trying to bury the pain of conflict”. Was there a conflict between this administration and the APC? Is Dr. Yumkella saying that the election of 2018 was a conflict or an election contest? I will call on him to reconsider his words for many to regain the confidence in his leadership. The results of the 2018 elections (as all other elections in the history of Sierra Leone) were not expected to create the present societal problems from the division of the country principally along tribal lines. Infact, Dr. Yumkella cannot say that this division was caused by the Bio administration except that the he will go along with the leaders of APC that has openly expressed their determination to make the country “UNGORVERNABLE” because they feel that they are the only ones to rule the country.
The Nobel Prize winning Mathematician Albert Einstein once openly proclaimed; “Weak people revenge, Strong people forgive, Intelligent people ignore”. Totally agree! But Einstein did not elaborate any further, neither did he give examples and vivid explanations for such an impeccable but complicated observation. He knew the nature of man, and how vindictive humanity had become, yet offered no solutions on how the attitudes of passive or aggressive revenge can be checked and kept firmly under control, just like a simmering inactive volcano being monitored, although still waiting to explode. A Stargazer now calls on the ethereal vibrations that echo in spiritual dimensions to transport and translate my words, wherever his noble soul and those of the Buddhas are resting in tranquility and in peace.
Now, revenge like the one being displayed by the notorious SLPP is like a raging fire that keeps on burning until it consumes everything in its path. These men do not care if they are considered weak, cowardly or unintelligent by anyone; for them, to bully, kill, and destroy their enemies is a billion times more gratifying than all the praises, accolades, awards, civilized, progressive society can bestow upon them for being outstanding citizens. What Einstein failed to mention is that revenged is nurtured and groomed like a plant. It is watered, sheltered, until the slender tendril becomes a tough, unmovable giant Tree.
Please do not belittle the word Samaritan by associating it with these lawless, callous people – Since when did untamed, hard core tribalists become men of sound judgement and empathy?
This is a very good mediating message from Dr Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella (aka KKY). If Dr Yumkella wants to assume the role of arbitrator in this David and Goliath contest, then all he has to do now is to seek the BRAVE and unflinching support of the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), and other interest groups, and try to gather enough momentum to defuse the dangerous link that is gradually developing between the Judiciary and the Executive arms of government. An independent judiciary is paramount if democracy is to prevail.
Indeed, every thing is quiet in Sierra Leone at this moment in time – the temperature is approaching absolute zero – and the only sign of life one can detect is the whispering of two ladies dragging their ‘goods’ hopelessly towards the market. Nobody talks! Right? As the little introverted and menacing Maada Bio is at the helm heading towards the rocks. So, everyone quiet, get ready for the thrust of the impact. Even the mighty, extroverted and ebullient EBK, the former President, is now gripped in a dilemma of joining, and not joining, this contest; since the risk to peace probably exists in both cases.
What should EBK do in such a scenario? Paolo Conteh and his wife, and other high-profile officials of the main opposition APC party are held in detention, for an unprecedented length of time, without their basic human rights – access to fair justice. Dr Sylvia Oyalinka Blyden, who used to create general awareness to the public, is alo languishing somewhere in detention, for the alleged possession of EBK’s portrait in an illegal raid on her premises by the now notorious and highly politicized Sierra Leone Police. Perhaps, EBK is right to take a cautious view of things. Obviously, he knows he is the prime target, though he should not allow any pretext for Julius Maada Bio to spoil the peace by engaging in a futile regional or tribal contest.
All I say is thanks to you for this wonderful speech. You are the right man to rule this country. Happy Eid ul fitr.
“ I chose this supplication because I worry that we politicians are not bold enough to speak out for justice and peace. We have chosen a path of silence in the face of the onslaught of fringe and radical groups calling for tit-for-tat, and strong arm tactics to settle complex societal problems rather than statesmanship, reconciliation, and accommodation.“
Indeed Dr. KKY, may our supreme creator touches the hearts of our political leaders, particularly our current president, to embrace political dialogue as a necessary tool in maintaining peace and stability in a democratic nation such as ours. The few extremist elements on both sides of the political spectrums must never be allowed to derail our hard earned peace that we have been enjoying for the past 2 decades. The membership of both APC and SLPP are Sierra Leoneans with overwhelming aspirations of seeing our nation develop, with peace and stability existing. Therefore, we must all work together for the common good rather than the few things that divide us.
Name calling and labeling of fellow Sierra Leoneans who are demanding for a fair governance system must never be encouraged. The rule of law and our constitution must be enforced fairly and allow to function across the board. Our law enforcement agencies must be allowed to operate independently, applying the rule of law fairly across the board devoid of any political consideration or interference. The current political victimization must be discouraged and the political prisoners who have been charged with state crimes be given a speedy and fair trial to allow peace to reign. This cycle of political retribution / vengeance, will lead us no where but to a path of self-destruction.
I totally agree with Dr kandeh Yumkella’s opinion piece. You are on the right path of history. I think we need politicians like you – not the chicken heads that are running the APC. Cowards die many times before their deaths. You have the support of the majority of peace loving Sierra Leoneans. No one in their right mind wants to go back to war. I also want to say you hit the nail on the head about some of our politicians fearing to raise their heads above the parapet, and voice their opinion about the grim political realities of today facing our country. Since you quoted religion in your piece, religion only teaches us two things: stay on the straight path by treating your fellow humans with dignity and respect and your reward is a place in the kingdom of heaven, or take the mean-spirited path and be horrible to your fellow humans – and the reward is a place in hell.
Today Sierra Leone is at a cross roads, and is faced with two stark choices – the road to heaven by the president being magnanimous and taking the high road and release Dr Blyden and others; or doubling down on his tit for tat politics. When you hear what is going on in Sierra Leone, you will think this country’s politicians never learnt anything from the civil war. For crying out loud do we need to remind our politicians that we went through a civil war in which thousands of our fellow countrymen and women and children died. And all in the name of what?
In the age of social media, it will be a mistake to start a war. Otherwise our country will be reduced to horror entertainment venue for the outside world. The people who will bear the brunt of it are us Sierra Leoneans. And if you add freelance foreign fighters into the mix, pouring into the country and taking sides, no one wants us to take that route. It is easy to start a war, but you don’t know how it will end. And its even more scary that president Bio who fought against Foday Sankoh’s deranged RUf is today behaving like the North Korean leader. When will this end?