The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 April 2014
The people of Sierra Leone had a low-keyed celebration of the country’s fifty-third anniversary of independence, as power cuts, lack of petrol at the filling stations, and intermittent supply of drinking water marred the celebrations.
The government, for the last two successive independent anniversaries is said to be running low on cash for non-budgetary government spending, for which the IMF has set clear targets.
But State House observers say that the real reason for the low-key celebration in the capital, was largely due to the foul mood that has engulfed State House, with the huge rise in opposition to the president’s quest for constitutional change, which could see him staying in power for more than the two mandated terms.
Observers say that the ruling APC party is now deeply divided over the issue. In waiting on the wings is the country’s vice president – Sam Sumana (Photo), whom many in the party believe to be the natural heir to the throne.
Also, waiting for the opportunity to lead the party, are Alpha Kanu – the minister of information; Richard konteh – the chief of staff at State House; finance minister Marah, and several others, all lined up for the presidential baton.
But in the meantime, there is a growing and vociferous group of party stalwarts and presidential lackeys that are whipping national support for the ‘Koroma should continue’ campaign. They do not want to see change in the status quo nor their fortunes. (Photo: Richard Konteh).
The power struggle seen last year may have subsided for now, but underneath the surface lies deep and bitter animousity among senior party chiefs and ministers.
It is understood that the president’s desire to continue in office beyond his constitutionally mandated two terms is with the hope that this could steady a sinking ship.
But critics say that this ambition smacks of nothing other than authoritarianism and power grabbing.
After almost thirty years of APC one-party rule which saw the destruction of the economic, social and democratic fabric of the country by presidents Siaka Stevens (Photo) and Joseph Momoh, leading to a ten year brutal civil war, the majority of Sierra Leoneans cannot stomach dictatorial tendencies.
Although factions within the party that are opposed to the third term presidency campaign are making their voices heard, there was immense expectation across the country for president Koroma to use his independence day speech to distance himself from the ‘Third Term Presidency’ campaign. But he failed to do so.
Speaking to the nation, Koroma instead chose to venerate former ‘nation wreckers’ – Stevens and Momoh, who critics say, were responsible for causing the brutal civil war and destroying the country’s economic fabric and post-colonial societal values.
The president (Photo) said that; “53 years ago today, the first steps of the journey of independent Sierra Leone were taken. They were steps taken with great hopes of finally achieving Thomas Peters’ quest for freedom, Bai Bureh’s dreams of independence, Alimamy Suluku’s aspirations for peace, Madam Yoko’s promise of cultural pride and woman’s empowerment, and Wallace Johnson’s stance for the rights of workers and the livelihood of the ordinary man and woman.
“They were steps taken with great pride in the ability of Sierra Leoneans to build upon the achievements of our forbearers in the fields of education, religion, administration, and trade.
“Since those first steps were taken on April 27 1961, we have witnessed the noble efforts of many Sierra Leoneans to fulfil those aspirations.
“We hail the efforts of Sir Milton Margai for asserting our freedom; we remember Sir Albert Margai for the energy he brought to his actions; we applaud Dr. Stevens for his patriotic commitment to unity and infrastructural development; we honour Dr. Joseph Saidu Momoh for his peaceful demeanour.
“We applaud John Akar, Sarif Easmon, and Yulisa Pat Maddy for pioneering the culture of independent Sierra Leone; we acclaim Dr. Davidson Nicol and Dr. Sahr Matturi for promoting educational excellence.
“We salute AJ Momoh and GLV Williams for their commitments to forthright public administration; we commend Lati-Hyde Forster, Nancy Steele, Constance Cummings John, Haja Dankay Kabia and Madam Ella Koblo Gulama for demonstrating that the Sierra Leonean woman has the talents, energy and patriotic zeal to excel at the highest levels.
“And we salute the many other Sierra Leoneans, from all walks of life, from every region of the country, from every political party, from every generation, from every part of the Diaspora, whose actions kept alive our country’s promise of unity, justice and freedom.
“We are aware of the fact that this great promise has often been challenged and betrayed in many a low moment of our country’s history.
“The 1990s were the bleakest moments in the nation’s history. Never in the history of this land were as many people brutalized as at that moment; never in the history of this land did so many witness human rights violations, extra-judicial killings, military dictatorship and destruction of property and livelihood. (Photo: Wanted Junta leader – Johnny Paul Koroma).
“But even in those trying moments, the majority of Sierra Leoneans soldiered on to assert our better values of tolerance, unity, peace and commitment to democratic governance.
“With support from our international friends we took back our country from the violators.
“With faith in ballot boxes we stopped the bullets of war; and inspired by the best actions of our forbearers we are rekindling the promise of positive transformation of our infrastructure, our livelihood, our education, health and many more.
“We still face challenges, but we are putting the worst behind us. Early this year, the United Nations Security Council hailed us as a symbol of laudable transition from dictatorship, war and destruction to peace, democracy and recovery.
“Our economy is now amongst the fastest growing in the world, our citizens now stand taller than ever before in international circles; thousands of jobs are being created; agriculture is being transformed.
“Governance systems are improving than ever before, and we are acting to create a constitution that better reflects our democratic aspirations and international best practices.
“Our turnaround from a failed state to a hailed state is an achievement of all Sierra Leoneans, and it is the obligation of every Sierra Leonean to enlarge these achievements.
“It is our warrant to expand upon the freedom that our forbearers sought; it is imperative that we underpin our political freedom with economic empowerment, with better work ethic, with visible achievements, with increased access of our people to health, education, good roads, and job opportunities.
“Our Agenda for Prosperity is based on these imperatives. We have no option but to continue this journey for a better Sierra Leone; a Sierra Leone that respects its historic aspirations; a Sierra Leone that avoids human rights violations and dictatorship, a Sierra Leone whose youths are as disciplined as they are talented; a Sierra Leone where it is the business of everybody to fight the scourge of corruption; a Sierra Leone that moves on with faith that wisdom inspires, and a zeal that never tires; a Sierra Leone that is expanding the promise of prosperity inherent in the gifts of its people and the endowment of its land.”
This year’s independence anniversary speech by the president will be noted for its silence and failure to clarify once and for all, his position on the campaign to change the constitution that will guarantee his continuation in office.
It will also be noted for his missed opportunity to clarify the reasons why the country’s constitution is being reviewed, and what the government is asking the people to do in support of the review.
Perhaps there is much more to that which was not said, than what the president told the people.