Kabs Kanu: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 February 2022:
The never-ending bitterness and conflict between the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP ) and the opposition All People’s Congress ( APC), presaged by acrimonious personality differences between the present Head of State, Maada Wonie Bio and former President Ernest Bai Koroma and their key allies, followers and betrayers, will not birth a good child in Sierra Leone ( As we say in our local parlance ) .
Tensions and tempers have escalated beyond control and both parties resemble mean, gnarling dogs on opposite sides of the fence, straining at the leash to get at each other and growling at each other. If those leashes are removed and the dogs set free from their shackles, only God knows the disaster that would ensue and how much they will tear each other apart.
This is the state of affairs in Sierra Leone today between the SLPP and the APC that the impotent, hypocritical, secretly complicit international community, moral guarantors of peace and stakeholders are failing to address. They must have surely noticed the encroaching cataclysm in Sierra Leone ( The Lord Forbid ) but as always, as they did in Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone , DR Congo, Somalia, Eritrea, Kosovo, Bosnia etc in the 1990s, they are waiting for blood to start flowing and humanitarian disasters to be created before intervening. They always fail to heed the early warning signs.
Journalists and political activists who give warnings of these kinds are often misunderstood and misread and accused of wishing evil for their country , but this is not the case. I do not want to see any conflagration in Sierra Leone . I love my country beyond words and do not want to see any disaster visited upon it. However, somebody, bearing on the experience he has had in life, must warn when things begin to get out of hand. We just cannot sit down and wish that everything would go away. We must ring the alarm bells when all seems to be getting lost.
The political bitterness in Sierra Leone today between the SLPP and the APC is no different from the dangerously chaotic situation that prevailed in Nigeria in the early 60s, between temperamental politicians like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Samuel Akintola of the West and Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and The Sarduana of Sokoto Sir Ahmadu Bello of the North , Chief Fani Kayode, Anthony Enahoro etc that later led to the disastrous military coup of 1966 and the bloody Nigeria- Biafra war that killed millions of innocent people.
Sierra Leone had always been a disunited country. If you read the history of our country , there had never been a period when its people have been free of crisis.
But some things make the present political schisms and tensions in the country more worrying this time :
- Unlike the last war, the political crisis brewing in Sierra Leone today has a dangerously and venomous tribal and ethnic bent. If there is another war in Sierra Leone ( The Lord forbid ) , it will be disastrously tribal and regional this time , because the country has been dangerously divided along tribal and regional lines since the present government of President Maada Bio came to power in 2018.
- Political and ethnic tolerance have gone through the window . When I worked at the UN as Sierra Leone’s Minister Plenipotentiary and serving on the UN Peacebuilding Commission Special Sierra Leone Configuration, political and ethnic tolerance were key among the desired deliverables that
the Commission worked relentlessly on. By 2012, the then UN Secretary General, Ban Ki – Moon, praised Sierra Leone all over the world as the UN model for post-war reconciliation, political tolerance and peace. However, since President BIO came to power in 2018, all the post-war gains have been undone and replaced by dangerous intolerance and ethnic and political animosities .
Tribalism and ethnicism have always been a factor in African politics but we have been suppressing it until now. Today, our supporters of our political parties run tribal, ethnic and regional bully pulpits , especially on social media.
- The spirit of impunity, another evil that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission adjudged to have caused the last war, and that the UN Peacebuilding Commission fought like a gladiator to defeat and thought it had extinguished, has reared its ugly head again. In Sierra Leone today, people’s fundamental human rights and civil liberties are abused and innocent citizens are maimed and killed by government without any compunction.
What is most surprising is that whenever the errant, hypocritical international community confer an accolade on President BIO for respecting democracy and human rights, he follows it up immediately by committing egregious human rights abuses and violations of the Constitution and the rule of law that stun men and women of conscience, making everybody wonder whether this international community and our President actually have a secret understanding and are working in concert.
- Unchecked, ceaseless, unnecessary and dangerous hedging, harassment, molestation and victimization of innocent citizens and political opponents have become the order of the day in Sierra Leone since the SLPP Government came to power in 2018. The government just would not let its opponents be. Unnecessary and unlawful arrests, detention and imprisonment of political opponents ( Look at Mohamed Kamarainba perishing in jail for a bailable offence and the many people in jail for allegedly insulting President Bio ) have become the vogue.
And the international stakeholders and moral guarantors of peace ,like Britain and the U.S are doing nothing about it. They have men and women on the ground in Sierra Leone but they fail to sanction the President or his government . Rather, assurances are made everyday about fostering economic and diplomatic cooperation with the government. This is a shame.
- Police harassment , brutality and massacre of innocent citizens are going unchecked in Sierra Leone . After the war, thanks to the late President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of the SLPP and former President Ernest Bai Koroma of the APC, the Sierra Leone Police was reformed so immaculately that it earned the tag of a FORCE FOR GOOD .
But since President BIO came to power in 2018, the impressive force for good has metamorphosed dangerously into A SATANIC FORCE FOR EVIL, especially under the tenure of the present Inspector of Police, Ambrose Sovula . One only has to consider the beastly and bloody police massacres at Mile 91, Tombo, Lunsar, Tonko Limba, Makeni and the Pademba Road Prisons to see the deadly, brutal, murderous police force this nation has suddenly found itself up in arms with. The murderous acts of the Sierra Leone Police are capable of driving our nation back to war.
- No sense of patriotism or loyalty to the country as everybody has taken sides along tribal, ethnic, regional and partisan lines . Reasoning patriotic voices no longer exist in Sierra Leone. What we now have are pugilists , inciting and urging on the politicians to fight , like manic, bloodthirsty spectators at a dogfight.
And the social media, good as it is, has not helped our nation at all however, as it has provided platforms for every Dick, Tom and Harry to spin lies, provocation, trolling of victims and opponents and spewing intolerant political and ethnocentric hatred that are further dividing our nation and pushing it to war . Even the tribalized civil society and the media have taken sides with the government and are now part of the problem.
Sierra Leone no longer has patriotic media or civil society that are watchdogs of the nation and providing checks and restraints on politicians and their acolytes. Everybody is now either SLPP or APC. No middle line. No neutralists.
Given this kind of scenario and a government that cares the least about the consequences of its abuses and crimes, things will only worsen in Sierra Leone. Something drastic and dramatic has to be done to cool down the escalating passions and tensions between the SLPP and the APC . The oncoming 2023 presidential, council and parliamentary elections are fraught with dangers.
Again, I must emphasize that I wish no evil for my country. I pray every day for God to be merciful to our nation and build a protective hedge around it. I send humanitarian assistance and contribute to benevolent enterprises , though I do not publicize them. But truth must be said.
The attitude of “Oh, don’t say it ” which bred a telling conspiracy of silence that contributed to the last war should no longer be part of our citizenry. We must speak out and warn our people that watta don begin for passmark pan garrie. It does not in any way mean that this is what one is wishing for his country. But if the animosities between the SLPP and the APC are not curbed, the end result might not be pleasant and palatable.
The political tensions and confusion between the SLPP and the APC are getting out of hand. Some kind of intervention and bringing together of political leaders to the peace table by citizen groups, neutral political leaders ( If there are any left ), religious and civil leaders and the international community are imperative before the elections.
The cliche, “A stitch in time saves nine” must be sounded . We must save our country from another war and the best place to start it is to address the internecine feuds between the SLPP and the APC.