NGC‘s landslide shows appetite for change to status quo – Op-ed

Alan Luke: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 November 2019:

The huge win by the National Grand Coalition party (NGC) of the Ward 210 Kasirie bye-election last Saturday, is very significant and potentially represents a turning point in Sierra Leone’s politics.

The NGC trumped home with 54% of total votes cast, compared to 29% and 14% for the APC and SLPP respectively.

NGC won the bye-election despite the scale of intimidation, thuggery and violence directed towards the NGC observer team, including the party’s leaders Dr Dennis Bright and Dr Kandeh Yumkella.

The SLPP wanted to make a statement that Kandeh Yumkella’s NGC cannot win elections in his own constituency of Samu Chiefdom.  No doubt, the APC would have also preferred to see NGC lose.  This time around, Kambians stood firm, as they did in June 2017, when an Independent candidate, Ibrahim Kamara won the Ward 139 bye-elections.

The huge win last Saturday was for those who hope to see a better and brighter Sierra Leone, which is freed from the grip of APC and SLPP domination.  We are always told that only these two parties can rule Sierra Leone, as if to say Sierra Leoneans are just innately stupid and cannot make good political choices.

Often, this narrative ignores the use of political violence and thuggery, by the appropriation of the coercive power of the state, by ruling party operatives.  According to eyewitnesses, yesterday, the Sierra Leone Ambassador to Guinea was seen being accompanied by at least four to five armed men, knocking on the doors of homes in the constituency and compelling voters to go out and vote.

The same black government owned vehicles, with their vehicle registration plates covered with black cloth were seen in the Constituency 110 and other elections, as well as the thugs for hire, brought in from neighbouring districts, were seen in Kasirie.

It would be easy to dismiss the win as an NGC stronghold.  What was significant about yesterday’s win, is that it demonstrated that previous bye-elections wins for the SLPP since coming to power, must be questionable and could only have been achieved through widespread fraud, intimidation and violence.

We must expect this trend to continue until the 2023 General Elections, but Kasirie has shown that intimidation and violence can be resisted where local communities are well organised and determined to secure change.

The Ward 210 results also shows that NGC can protect its electorate and its votes, by ensuring that local people who feel abandoned by the Bio government and aggrieved by its failure to deliver on the commitments it promised in 2018, are mobilised in huge numbers to seek the change that an NGC government led by Dr Kandeh Yumkella, can usher.

Saturday’s win is symbolic of the existential threat that both APC and SLPP know they face from an effectively organised and resurgent NGC.  For 58 years, both of these parties have consistently failed the people of Sierra Leone.

Ernest Koroma’s ten years was a missed opportunity to lift thousands of people out of poverty.  In fact he consigned Sierra Leone to the status of the third hungriest country in the world, with 65% of people in multi-dimensional poverty (2017).

The recent debate of the Finance Bill, in particular the proposal to make spending decisions incurred by the President and Vice President during overseas business unchallenged, is the latest violation of due process by the current Bio led government, which will make many Sierra Leoneans sit up and question its motive, whether they are in office to serve their compatriots or to serve their own interests.

Grand schemes are being promised by the Bio government, such as a university in Kono, an international medical centre, Lungi Bridge, a transit system and new peninsular road.  The government has a penchant for computer generated images, but the reality is, nothing is happening to create real jobs and to raise living standards.

Only the new political elite have become better off, while the old ones, who Sierra Leoneans had hoped would have faced prosecution by now, have been offered cut price deals by the Anti-Corruption Commissioner.

No one is paying attention to the Commission of Inquiry, a waste of resources, which could have been diverted to purchase essential medicines or vaccinations for children, mothers and those who are ill. Enough is enough.

As the economy continues to slide with an unending depreciation of the Leone, which the government has shown it is unable to stop, making food prices worse by the minute, hopefully Sierra Leoneans will begin to lift their heads up and look beyond the same stale and self-interested politics of the APC and SLPP and begin to consider the credible alternative that the NGC represents.

For far too long, Sierra Leoneans have lost their dignity and have slavishly sacrificed national interest on the altar of an allegiance to the APC and SLPP and have not got anything to show for it.  Our education, health and sanitation, water and electricity services have eroded in front of our eyes.  Living standards have plummeted and continue to plunge.

Corruption, disease, decay, hopelessness are rife and have been normalised.  A once proud nation has been reduced to a shadow of itself.  NGC must now end this terminal decline and present the credible alternative that Sierra Leoneans, want but have led themselves to believe is unattainable.

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