Guinea and Sierra Leone – where lie the similarities?

Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 8 September 2021:

Since the military uprising, sorry the coup in neighbouring Guinea, Sierra Leoneans have inundated social media with their views, feelings and interpretations of the whole saga, some even with wishful thinking. (Photo above: Former president Koroma and Alpha Conde).

Notwithstanding the geographical proximity between Sierra Leone and Guinea, both countries share inextricable DNA in social, tribal, religious and to a large extent cultural affiliation. It is not surprising therefore, that any time one of them sneezes, the other is expected to catch the cold. It is no wonder that the comparisons have been coming thick and fast. Unsurprisingly this time, much of these have been on the political topographies of both countries, which have captured the attention of the social media brigade.

Alpha Conde stands accused among many others, of tribalism and corruption. During the last presidential election, both Conde and Cellou unfortunately milked their tribal sentiments for all their worth, much to the demise of national cohesion. The tribal dichotomy between the Madingo and Fulani in Guinea goes beyond flesh wound. The evidence of partisan animosity did not go unnoticed, as most of the ballots cast were reportedly along linguistic alliances.  Conde’s removal was largely greeted with jubilation by the Fulani people. The Fulani claim to have been the victims of Conde’s tribal culling. He has been accused of “de-fulanising” all branches of the government and replacing them with his own tribal affiliates. It pains me, though unavoidable, to talk about such divisions, as they only give oxygen to an unfortunate status quo.

History shows us that coup d’états always get instantaneous “acceptance” from the masses. Sometimes, such acceptances can be misread as tacit support. Notwithstanding the plebian nature of such “support”, in most cases, it demonstrates the angst against the ousted regimes but not necessarily in support of the coup makers.

Sometimes, shared hatred can form the basis of friendships, but only before the dust has settled. They tend to serve as release valves from the choke hold of repressive regimes. As they say in politics, elections are won by men and women chiefly because most people vote against somebody rather than for somebody.

With such a dichotomy, some see the coup as a redemption, while others see it as the work of an ingrate. Take your pick. Mamadou Doumbouya may have provided a political aphrodisiac for some; but for how long is another matter. On the other hand, some have just been treated to a theme in the classical Julius Caesar.

Accusations of “fis ree wali” (ungrateful) have been raining down the other side of the aisle. Video clips from the Conde brigade have threatened to ostracise their own son, for what they see as the ultimate betrayal. How this sits with the Cellou brigade is hard to say, for some might just conclude in the end that this is a case of “John troway nut oil pan John en res”- “Neneh gorthor, Baba gorthor”. Whether they see this coup as the same car with the same number plate, but a different driver remains to be seen.

It is such thought processes that have kicked the conspiracy theorists into gear. Some believe that the whole coup was an orchestrated concoction with Conde’s blessings. Some see the apparent blood like relationship between Conde and Mamadou as too close to be true; and question whether Mamadou would do an “et tu brute? Ironically, it is the same premise that that has drawn disappointment and condemnation in part, for Mamadou.

The support for the coup may appear overwhelming but meanwhile, the coup plotters and especially Mamadou Doumbouya may just find themselves in a no-win situation. Is he between a rock and a hard place? Either way, would Mamadou run the risk of being a political orphan? Looks like a lot would depend on the configuration, policies and any other reconciliation efforts that would ensue in the coming days and months.

In spite of his tribal alliance to Conde, there are some who would see his action as “putting the country above tribe”. No matter your political persuasion, “a military coup needs sacrifice and courage that you can’t find in an army without morale (Jalal Talabani)

In a press release by the opposition party, National Alliance for Democratic Alternation (ANAD), Cellou as leader stated that the CNRD “can count on the support of ANAD in the effort to build a peaceful democracy in our country”. The release cites the motives on which its (CNRD) saving action matches ANAD’s aspirations to bring the nation together and rebuild the state. This can be so reassuring to all peace loving and well-meaning citizens of Guinea. Many would hope that Mamadou will not shake hands with ANAD with clenched fists.

What does the coup in Guinea mean for the surrounding kindred, and especially Sierra Leone? One way to gauge the temperature is to look at how a fake news about the death of opposition politician Kamarainba has been making the rounds. It forced the office of Correctional Office to issue a press release countering the reports. He has since been granted bail.

What lessons, if any can Sierra Leone learn from the Guinea debacle?

Unlike Guinea, Ernest Koroma served his two term limits and handed over according to the constitution. Whether he was pushed or did so reluctantly matters less; for this puts Conde’s recalcitrance into perspective. President Bio has made certain strides on his promises, but like Conde, the jury is still out on his fight against corruption.

The irony is that Bio’s fight against corruption paradoxically engendered one of the most widely spoken accusations of his government. With most APC members, thanks to their previous job descriptions, being central to the microscope of Commission of Inquiry, it didn’t take long for the opposition to cry tribalism.

Like Conde, his government has been tagged with accusations of corruption, nepotism, regionalism etc. While some stalwarts have tried to deflect the accusations that it is logical for any incoming government to choose its own workforce based on shared aspirations, others accuse the government of doing so along tribal and party card carrying blood lines. Others think that Maada is no different from Ernest Koroma, who is also accused of populating his government and civil service with “northerners”. Those who use this excuse as justification for tribalism in our country tend to forget that “an eye for an eye only makes a country go blind”.

Unlike Guinea, our scars are yet to heal from our brutal civil war. No sober minded citizen would wish a return to those dreadful days of barbarism. That is why it was so disheartening to hear some people calling for upheaval and civil war on social media.

Guinea and Sierra Leone may share a lot in common; hardship, high cost of living, high unemployment, corruption, nepotism, tribalism, me- ism, we-ism and all the isms in the world.  But Sierra Leoneans could decide in 2023. Those who advocate a short cut to this process may want to reconsider such wishful thinking.

Guinea and Sierra Leone are brethren, just like the baboon and the gorilla. But the baboon is a baboon and the gorilla is a gorilla. Even at its controversial best, the coup in Guinea has been widely acclaimed for standing up in defence of democratic principles. That does not naturally mean that the majority prefer military rule, but if that is what it takes to protect the constitution, so be it.

Every national constitution primarily gives its people the right to pursue happiness. If the essence of life is the pursuit of happiness, then tampering with the constitution is tantamount to tampering with the happiness, and in effect the essence of life. Confusing?  Try converting one thousand Leones to one Leone.

Don’t forget to get your Marklate.

4 Comments

  1. When Abdulai Mansaray writes , one sees a totally objective and professional referee all over the place; he applies the rules without bias ,even when his team is involved, thereby forcing everyone to respect him. There’s never a hint of where Abdulai belongs in the political terrain of Sierra Leone. But surely, at election time, he goes out to vote for the party or candidate of his choice. That’s his personal prerogative.

    The rest of us cannot resist the temptation of declaring our bias, however much we may try to conceal it. Giving myself as an example, I intensely detest both SLPP and APC because of how they have handicapped the progress of the nation in over sixty years. My leaning is towards NGC, for I believe that a Yomkella Presidency will be a convulsive revolution without any shedding of blood; it will also give SLPP and APC time to finally seat back and view their treachery from the outside.

    I wish the article had dwelled more on the fact that the de facto leader of Guinea (Col Mamady Doumbouya) is a Malinkeh like the man he showed the exit signs – Alpha Condé. This should subject Bio to deep thinking, that in politics you trust no one. As I write ,rumours have it that Maada Bio has hurriedly shuffled his security detail, bringing more of his tribesmen around him. I urge him to read this article, particularly concentrating on Abdulai’s quotes of Julius Caesar and what happened to Caesar at the Capitol. Alpha Condé was lured not to the Guinean Parliament but to some high end hotel. One of the consequences of the Guinean coup is that it will diminish Bio’s escapades in faraway lands on an endless honeymoon with his wife.

    The similarities between Guinea and Sierra Leone are indeed far-reaching. The article points out several of them, but I am glad to see the back of Alpha Condé. During his last campaign for the presidency, he accused Vice President Juldeh Jalloh of supporting his opponent and used it as an excuse to send troops to Yeanga, a territory which the international community recognises as belonging to Sierra Leone . Now he has to register on the dole. Well done Abdulai Mansaray.

  2. I personally saying thank you to Mr. Mansaray for your well prepared organized article, you will always be blessed, and I asked that divine God, to add and increases more on to your knowledge. I am not from your tribe I guess; but proud to know you as my brother Sierra Leonean. It comes to my understanding that, the knowledge, understanding, perhaps the wisdom that you have been gifted from God, when you write, everyone would like to read your article.
    My brother let’s come to the reality; you as the most truth teller in this forum. Our former President H.E. Ernest Bai Koroma was a best friend of the ousted” Guinean President Alpha Conde”. Is it a crime for Ernest Bai Koroma to advice Alpha Conde not to seek third term? the answer is no. But Ernest supported him because he also was asking first of all for more time, he failed and later attempted to seek for third term, but fortunately for him, the wave that he suspected coming from nowhere led him to listen to his some of his advisers.

    The APC supporters hailed and praised Alpha Conde for his third term victory, chastising EBK as a fool dum, saying look at the old man in Guinea was able to manipulates and changed the constitution, while you can’t. During the two men friendship” EBK & Alpha Conde”, the (Yenga town or village) was handed over to Sierra Leone because it belongs to us. But ultimately after the 2018 presidential poll was closed and SLPP Bio’s victory surprisingly came, President Alpha Conde retake back Yenga, what does Ernest Koroma do? nothing. So the APCs hypo is now clear to the voters comes 2023. I’m wondering today, someone whom APC supported strongly they even have APC office in the capital city Conakry, now criticizing Conde like if they never support him. I do not know why some Sierra Leoneans are not praying for developments to rain down in Sierra Leone, I don’t care who is in power, why can’t we copy from Rwanda after bitter civil war, in 1994 they lost over a million lives overnight?. I know some us wishing for the same what had happened in Guinea, but folks don’t compare death and sleep.

    Alpha Conde was unconstitutionally elected third term in office, with the help of the same corrupts African leaders. Where were you the UN,AU,ECOWAS when Alpha Conde was igniting instability and building up a civil war in Guinea?. How many heads of states in Africa and around the world traveled all the way to Guinea, to attend his inauguration ceremony? even President Bio was there. I wish he pretended sick to miss the inaugural. Think you that Alpha Conde won that election?

  3. Alpha Conde have created a lot of bad blood during his elven years of unquestionable dictatorship. Here is a man that spent decades opposing a rotten system of government during previous regimes. He spent time in prison for opposing oppression and wanton disregard of human rights, jailing of journalists, human rights activities, and every citizen that dare raise their voice in opposition the governments of the time. Today there are four hundred political prisoners in Guinea that was opposed to his rule. Thanks to the new junta eithy of them were granted their freedom today. Guinea was the last country in West Africa to experience, and experiment with one man one vote. Alpha Conde was the first to be elected to that position in 2010. We might look and share the same ethnic make up, but our Country is way ahead in the curve of democratic dispensations.

    Historically, Sierra Leone was the first country in Africa where the miltray stage a coup and handed power to an elected civilian government, in the forms of Brigedia John Amadu Bangura, to Prime Minister Saika Stevens, after the disputed elections of 1967, between SLPP prime Minister Sir Albert Margai and APC Canidate Siaka P Stevens. That set a precedent. Almost a decade later Major General Obasanjo oversaw the 1979 election in Nigeria, in which he handed over power to the elected civilian leader Alhaji Shehu Sahgari. He was praise for his efforts. But what many people forgot, Obasanjo might have stole the idea from Sierra Leone. Because back then, a cross Africa military governments handing over power to civilian governments was not fashionable . Alpha Conde might have been the first elected civilian leader after the fall of the Berlin wall, that put an end to the rivalry between East /west relations, but at the same time he is no Mandela.

    Mandela spent 27 years in prison for fighting against Apartheid laws that denied the black majority of South Africa the vote. He was the first black president to be elected by the black majority in South Africa in 1994.But despite all his efforts and sacrifices, he only serves his term in office before he handed over power to the next generation of South African leaders Tahbo Imbeki. So one is confronted with the inevitable questions, what processes Alpha Conde, an 80 old man to think he knows what is best for Guinea, where majority of the population is below the age of thirty? What was he hopping to accomplish, that he tried and failed to do, in his eleven years of brutal misrule? More divisions and picking a fight with the Fulani people. The only country one can say with certainty they are in the majority.Yet you still have Fulani presidents in Nigeria, Niger, Senegal, Gambia, and vice President Julldeh Jalloh. Alpha Conde most be unhinged to think he will take on all of those leaders. Thats why he supported Yayah Jammeh. Was Alpha Conde the real deal or an imposter? Given the tragedy that marks his catastrophic rule for his people, and to some extent for the people of Yenga and Falaba in the North, that have to come face to face with his evil rule,. Now for some of us anything sort of making him spend his last days in prison, will be seen as shortchanged in the highest order. This man is incapable of organising a wedding party never mind run a country.

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