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.