Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden OOR: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 March 2021:
One of the saddest outcomes of the RUF rebel war and ensuing civil strife is the re-writing of this country’s history. The narratives have been so twisted that I sometimes gasp in horror. Many of those who have pushed themselves to the fore as authorities on Sierra Leone, actually have their knowledge commencing circa the turn of this century which is a mere 21 years ago.
In the process of churning out twisted narratives, they have already shortchanged this generation of young women and future generations from being inspired by greatness of Women of this country that dates over a hundred years.
By cutting out the tremendous successes which Women of Sierra Leone have achieved since even before Independence, we are not giving our Girls and Young Ladies, the strength to know they can be greater than they ever imagine. We are denying them the knowledge to know other Women have been great success stories that can inspire them.
Neophytes therefore make it appear as if it is some strange phenomenon to have strong Women on the stage of Sierra Leone life. If these neophytes are not cutting out the strides of strong Women like Constance Cummings-John, Ella Koblo Gulama, Honoria Bailor Caulker and Nancy Steele, they will be pretending as if APC’s President Siaka Stevens never appointed women like Shirley Gbujama to be Stevens’ female Ambassador to the United Nations.
Then we currently have the horrid portrayal of Madam Femi Claudius Cole as being the first woman to found a political party in the history of Sierra Leone. That totally unforgivable mis-representation has somehow found its way to Wikipedia with nobody having the required integrity levels to correct that prior to Claudius Cole, there was Madam Jeredine Williams-Sarho who founded the first political party by a woman. Aunty Jeredine, as we all fondly used to call her back then, went on to not only be the first Woman to found a political party named Coalition for Progress Party (CPP) in 1995 but she contested against Tejan Kabbah and others as the first female presidential candidate in Sierra Leone in February 1996. Making the Wikipedia claim even more unforgivable is the fact that even nearer, in 2002, Madam Zainab Hawa Bangura also emulated Jeredine Williams Sarho.
This brings me to the country’s female Auditor Generals – past and present.
Let me thank Hon. Dr. Kandeh Yumkella and the myriad of others now coming on board to defend and protect the reputation of the country’s female Auditor General Lara Taylor-Pearce. Sadly, they are all only coming on board after the lady had been unfairly buffetted and except for a tiny few people like Dr. Sylvia Blyden, Lawrence Williams, Fritong Newspaper and Awareness Times Newspaper, the woman had been left to fight for herself in the initial stages of what was a clearly state-sanctioned character assassination.
This is exactly what happens to many Women in this country when they get State-sanctioned unfair treatment. Everyone conveniently looks the other way; they will even give excuses that the victim deserves the state-sanctioned illegal treatment because she was too outspoken. This current societal make-up sees Women ganged up on by a chauvinistic cadre which thinks nothing is wrong with throwing the worst form of misogynistic attacks on Women.
Outspoken and competent Women are attacked, oppressed and suppressed for seemingly not knowing their places as women are supposed to be silently “in the kitchen”, “on the farms” or in “that other room” even when they get to wield authority.
However, despite the patriarchal society, Sierra Leonean Women have proved their mettle over and over again as the decades turn in to centuries. When Britain and America were refusing to allow their women to own property or even vote, Sierra Leone already had the likes of Madam Yoko as Queen of a wide swatch of Kpa Mende territory. This is why I found it most unfortunate for a recent columnist to shine light on “Krio Women” being brave as if other ethnicities do not have brave women who can stand up for themselves.
The reason why Krio women seem to be brave is simply because we belong to a minority grouping that is regularly seen as targets to be bullied in various sectors of life. The Krios are always bullied in this country and so we the Krio Women have had to exert extra energy to face off such bullying. That is all. (Photo: Frontpage headline of the SLPP government mouthpiece calling for the sacking of Lara Taylor-Pearce).
We have no special DNA difference from other Women of other ethnic groupings. Krios just have to fight HARDER against innate bullying tendencies from those non-Krios; some of whom so automatically detest Krios that they were gleeful when the rebels came to *”burn all den Krio den board house”* in January 1999.
But I digress. Back to female Auditor Generals.
Let me now gently correct Hon. Kandeh Yumkella over his major error that I believe he made due to his many years of living outside of Sierra Leone. Contrary to Yumkella’s claim, Mrs Lara Taylor-Pearce is certainly NOT the very first female Auditor General of Sierra Leone. We had female Auditor-Generals since the sixties starting with the person of Madam Ade Caulker, a Sherbro woman.
Appointment of Women as Auditors, Deputy Auditor Generals and Auditor Generals continued under H.E. Siaka Stevens, H.E. Joseph Saidu Momoh and H.E. Tejan Kabbah and then by H.E. Ernest Koroma who appointed the current Auditor General, Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce.
Infact, Lara Taylor Pearce actually took over from another female Auditor General, Mrs. Anna Caesar. Mrs. Anna Caesar had been appointed by H.E. President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.
A news report published by Awareness Times Newspaper some ten years ago, quoted Lara Taylor-Pearce after she took over from Mrs. Anna Caesar in March 2011.
“Lara Taylor-Pearce described Mrs Anna Caesar as a woman of excellence who had contributed a lot to the Audit Service. She stated that she had learnt a lot during Mrs Caesar’s tenure of office as Auditor General. She also expressed satisfaction over the work done by Mrs Caesar adding that staff of ASSL would always remember her for her immense contribution to the ASSL” – as published in Awareness Times Newspaper.
So you see – Mrs. Anna Caesar (Photo), like Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce, served Sierra Leone with impeccable excellence and diligence. Mrs. Anna Caesar retired in March 2011. It was after Mrs. Caeser’s tenure that APC Government’s instituted transparent measures, started.
The steps of the APC commendably ensured ordinary citizens can see and publicly debate Audit Reports. Hence Lara Taylor-Pearce became thrust in to the limelight during such public debates.
She has carried herself well but to describe Lara Taylor-Pearce as the first female Auditor-General is a show of ignorance of our country’s History and the strides of Sierra Leone Women.
Infact, Madam Ade Caulker and Madam Anna Caesar, as Auditors General, were not the only outstanding female Auditors. We also had other female Auditors who served Sierra Leone very well just like Lara Taylor-Pearce is now serving us. For example, we had *Madam Daisy Walters* as an outstandingly successful Deputy Auditor-General.
So, let me end by gently correcting Dr. Kandeh Yumkella and the other historical neophytes that they should take note that Sierra Leone’s history of Great Women did not start in the 21st Century.
Sierra Leone Women and Sierra Leone Girls have great inspiration to draw from – inspiration dating back over a hundred years. So please don’t shortchange us of such an inspirational History of Great female ancestors who served this country so brilliantly well.
Long live our female Auditor General. Long live Sierra Leone Women making their mark. Long live Sierra Leone Women choosing to challenge.
Samuel Marconi Kamara says—“ If a krio from western or north west region has handled position of trust like that, this time around let us have a “contry” to handle that office. At least we can now begin to receive audit reports exposing the “krio” handiwork in public offices.”
With all due respect Mr. Kamara, why are you injecting tribal and regionalism on a subject matter that’s by all indications has nothing to do with such? Exactly what makes you think it’s the role of an auditor general to pick and choose who is corrupt or not? Do you really know the constitutional mandate of an auditor general?
Since assuming office in 2011, the current AG Ms. Pearce has proven to be nonpartisan, opting to perform her job exactly as prescribed by the constitution, rather than political dictates. In light of this, back in 2015, she raised ire by top officials of the EBK regime, as well as parliamentarians, when for the first time in our nation’s history, she decided to make public annual audit reports. So there is absolutely no evidence of her duties being tied to any political inclinations, not to mention tribe.
Finally, remember Samuel, the auditor general’s audits MDAs, not personalities or individuals. Once she finished her functions, the constitution dictates that she present her findings to parliament. Parliament along with ACC has the mandate to call for corruption investigations. So please stop this tribalism posturing!! Sierra Leone will be a much better place if we have less people with your line of reasoning.
It’s excellent to have female Sierra Leoneans who have served in this top position for years. Indeed I acknowledge their work and may wish to have a change of nomenclature this time around. The office of Auditor General should not only be meant for women, but should be regional biased. Off all the audit reports that have been published year in year out only the names of “contry” are mentioned. No “krio” name has ever been mentioned. Think of it wisely.
If I am to vote for Lara Taylor-Pearce’s successor, I wish to see a “contry” woman heading that office. Dr. Sylvia Blyden was openly accused by her deputy Minister for misappropriating and corruption on radio FM 98.1, but in her final audit report, nothing absolutely showed up. Think of it intuitively.
The simple fact of this matter is about accountability and fairness. If a krio from western or north west region has handled position of trust like that, this time around let us have a “contry” to handle that office. At least we can now begin to receive audit reports exposing the “krio” handiwork in public offices.
In my view, women and little children suffered disproportionately during the RUF wars, and after the war. The war didn’t only kill and maimed, but it affected the fabric of our society, that until recently has not been acknowledged. The eleven years war denied a whole generation of our young their education, and to some extent learning about our history. Historically, and culturally, Women have always played an active role in helping shape the political and economic landscape of Sierra Leone. The degradation of women and girls during the war, confirmed and exacerbated some of the underling misogynistic tendencies some of our fellow countrymen carry in their DNA. Their hatred and prejudice towards women have no boundaries.
And sometimes, this can take the form of physical intimidation and abuse. And for those in the receiving end, its mentally draining. Unfortunately, this misogynistic behaviours apply to some of our educated professionals and our uneducated brothers. Their views on women’s place in our societies is seen from the same lens. The constant barrage of attacks on our Auditor General Mrs Lara Taylor-Pearce for simply doing her job, by demanding accountability from government ministries, shows our society is not ready to change for the better but for the worse. I think Bio can put a stop to all this by declaring his confidence in her and praising her and her team for the good work they are doing. Will he? Meanwhile, Corruption glides on with no checks and balances.
No Newspaper outlet in Sierra leone worth its salt is calling on the sacking of the Chief minister, or any member of Bio’s cabinet that are embroiled in corruption accusations. One can’t even compare the good work the Auditor General is doing for our country to these corrupt politicians. And these corrupt individuals and their nefarious activities are doing more harm than good to Sierra Leone. Yet because they are men, they get the red carpet treatment from some of our hypocritical press that never wants to see progress in Sierra Leone.