Is Sierra Leone a miscarriage of democracy?

Alpha Amadu Jalloh: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 March 2024:

As Sierra Leoneans grapple with the harsh realities of survival, President Julius Maada Bio appears to be on a global tour, proudly proclaiming himself as the champion of democracy. Yet, behind the facade of democracy lies a nation bleeding from the wounds of a brutal war that lasted eleven agonizing years.

We emerged from this dark chapter with a Truth and Reconciliation Report, Sierra Leoneans branding the conflict as senseless. But was it truly senseless, or was it a symptom of deeper systemic failures?

The roots of Sierra Leone’s turmoil can be traced back to the mismanagement of governance under the APC Government led by the late President Dr. Joseph Saidu Momoh, a protege of the infamous President Siaka Stevens. Throughout this period, we touted our governance as democratic, but it was a charade, akin to leading sheep to slaughter.

The intervention of the NPRC, headed by Chairman Valentine E M Strasser, ostensibly aimed to restore democracy but was marred by internal power struggles. President Bio, then a prominent figure within the NPRC, sought to manipulate the political landscape to his advantage. When his aspirations were thwarted by constitutional limitations, he attempted to impose his brother Steven Bio as the flag bearer of the National Unity Party (NUP), only to face rejection.

Amidst this turmoil, the call for the Bintumani II conference echoed, with President Bio advocating for “PEACE BEFORE ELECTIONS (PEBEC).” However, Sierra Leoneans, particularly the resilient women led by figures like Mrs. Zainab Bangura, vehemently opposed this veiled attempt to prolong military rule.

The subsequent interruptions by the military, including the infamous coup led by Johnny Paul Koroma, tested the resolve of the Sierra Leonean people. Their unwavering commitment to democracy, demonstrated through the sacrifices of individuals like Vaffie Kallon, stood as a beacon of hope amid the chaos.

President Tejan Kabba’s tenure, aided by international intervention, marked a pivotal moment in our history. His efforts, alongside figures like the late Dr. James Jonah, aimed to heal the wounds of war and pave the path for reconciliation. The establishment of the Special Court and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) underscored a commitment to confronting the ghosts of our past.

However, the promise of a new dawn has been overshadowed by the resurgence of familiar Specters: bad governance and economic mismanagement. President Bio’s track record, including squandering national resources during his exile and subsequent reliance on UN scholarships, speaks volumes about his leadership acumen, or lack thereof.

Like a recurring nightmare, the echoes of past failures reverberate in the present. President Bio’s tenure epitomizes the miscarriage of democracy, a stark reminder of what could have been. It is a sobering thought that, perhaps, it would have been preferable to abort this illusion of democracy before it spiralled into its current state of disarray.

As Sierra Leoneans, we owe it to ourselves and future generations to heed the lessons of our history. Let us not forget the sacrifices made in the name of democracy, nor the perils of complacency. Only through collective vigilance and unwavering determination can we salvage the promise of a true democracy for Sierra Leone.

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