Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 December 2021:
Yesterday, Freetown Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr spoke at the Summit for Democracy convened by the President of the United States of America, Joe Biden.
Mayor Aki-Sawyerr was part of a high-level panel, discussing the topic – ‘Bolstering Democratic Resilience: Building Back Better from COVID-19’.
The panel explored the implications of the COVID pandemic for democracy around the world, including restrictions on universal rights and erosion of checks and balances in democratic institutions.
The session was hosted by US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken and moderated by journalist Enrique Acevedo. Other members of the panel included:
- Nana Akufo-Addo – President of Ghana
- Klaus Iohannis – President of Romania
- Silvia Hernández Sánchez – President of the Legislative Assembly, Costa Rica
- Violeta Bermudez – Former Prime Minister, Peru
- Douglas Rutzen – President, International Center for Not-for-Profit Law
Since coming to office, the Biden-Harris Administration has made clear that renewing democracy in the United States and around the world is essential to meeting the unprecedented challenges of our time.
As President Biden stated on the International Day of Democracy, “No democracy is perfect, and no democracy is ever final. Every gain made, every barrier broken, is the result of determined, unceasing work.”
President Biden is hosting the first of two Summits for Democracy which ends today, bringing together leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector to set forth an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal and to tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today through collective action.
“Democracy doesn’t happen by accident. We have to defend it, fight for it, strengthen it, renew it,” President Biden said in February 2021.
You can watch a clip of the panel discussion here:
Usually, home is the place one runs to for refuge when the world outside looks threatening. But in Maada Bio’s case there is no where to take refuge. He is unpopular at home, and the international community is busy bartering him from all directions. Almost simultaneously, the European Union, The World Bank and the United States government delivered kicks in his stomach. We are waiting for him to throw up, it won’t be a pretty sight.
By inviting Mayor Aki-Sawyer to address the Summit for Democracy, in place of Bio, who is supposed to be the head of government, the Americans are telling Bio In not so diplomatic way that when it comes to upholding democratic principles, he is a nonentity not worthy of a glance.
And prickly Yvonne, who is notorious for not missing an opportunity to spill the beans all over the place, told her audience about some of the undemocratic escapades of Bio, such as indefinitely suspending the Auditor-General, who has been at the forefront of fighting official corruption. Can Bio’s Foreign Minister, David Francis, a qualified corruption practitioner, execute any damage control?
World democracy day summits hosted by President Biden, in which Mayor Akin Sawyer was invited to take part in , is a clear illustration , our Mayor is seen by our Western development partners as the true representative of ordinary people’s interests. And when we talk about democracy, in the western sense, it means a government that is in tune to the demands of the vast majority of the people of the country. Transparent and accountable to its people. In the last few decades, confidence in government and elected public officials have taken a nose dive.Voters don’t trust politicians anymore, because they see them as out of touch, and are only in politics for their own selfish interests rather than defend the rights and interests of the people that elected them. And this phenomenon of voter apathy can be found in the United States, especially amongst African Americans communities, and other minorities.
Being suspicious of politicians is not limited to the United States, but right across the world. The recent violence in the Solomon Islands, and demonstration against Covid19 restrictions in Europe and Australia is a case in point. Generally people feel they’ve not been listen to.They have been shutout from the decision making process. What we have in Sierra Leone, despite being a Mayor, not the president of Sierra Leone, Mrs Akin Sawyer is more in tune with the fears and concerns of ordinary people in Freetown, the people she is elected to represent, than the national government. Despite all the harassment by the SLPP Bio led government, and operating on a tight budget, imposed on her by the central government, she’d managed to do what she can for the people of Freetown. And that might explain why she was invited to take part in this Biden world democracy day.
Now which other Mayor was given a special invitation in a zoom conference call, hosted by the American secretary of State? This democracy conference call, in a way is an answer to China growing influence in the world. Especially their huge infrastructure loan backed scheme projects they are providing across Africa and other countries around the world . Africa stands to benifet from both super power rivalry. In the case of America and the West, if they want to slow down China’s encroachment, towards our country and the continent as a whole they need to do more than preaching democracy to us. As one Chinese official put it, “Whilst your American and western partners friends train Africans how to be election observers, we Chinese people in Africa are training you how to build your roads, bridges, hospitals, laying railway lines, and investing in mega projects.” You can hardly argue with that. And in Africa or amongst African leaders that opinion is shared widely by the vast majority of the continents population. So to our American friends, democracy yes, but we want you to encourage more investment to the continent and lower the trade barriers, so African goods can compete in the vast American markets. Also transfers of technology will create a win, win situation for all of us.
I was hoping that Mayor Aki Sawyer should have used this platform to call on the lifetime leader and chairman of her APC party to practice democracy, so she can be given the opportunity to be a candidate for the upcoming 2023 presidential elections. Personally, I believe it was a missed opportunity. “Charity begins at home”.