Oswald Hanciles – The Guru: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 3 November 2020:
Political Tribalism in Sierra Leone has been like this:. When it is about a year or so to parliamentary and presidential elections, political leaders would organize themselves – or, align themselves – into tribal and regional parties: largely, Temne-speaking peoples of the Northern Province under the banner of the APC, with massive support from Northerners (in 1996, political parties led by Northerners won most of the Northern Province votes; Dr. John Karefa-Smart’s UNPP got 27% of total votes, almost from the North; and Thaimu Bangura of PDP won 17% of the vote, apparently by Northerners); and Mende-speaking peoples of the Southeast fanatically supporting the SLPP.
The leadership of both the SLPP and APC would always convince Mende-speaking or Temne-speaking peoples that they are fighting for them. Apart from brief military rule after Independence in 1961 (NRC – 1967 to 1968; NPRC – 1992 to 1996; AFRC – May, 1997 to February 1998), the SLPP and APC have governed Sierra Leone. (SLPP – 1961 to 1967 and 1996 to 2007; APC – 1968 to 1992; 2007 to April, 2018; and SLPP again, from April, 2018 to present…). What has been the source of wonderment after the rule of these two political parties?
Poverty!! Increasing poverty!! Falling standards in education. Some of the worst health statistics and health facilities in the world are in our country. Brain drain of alarming levels – with over 90 percent of our medical doctors migrating to the West. All of this in a country which has had some of the best jewelry diamonds in the world. The best grade of titanium (rutile) on earth. Quality iron ore. Territorial ocean space with some of the best fisheries and marine resources on earth. Idyllic beaches which are comparable to the top 5% of beaches in the world. In the 20th century, quality human resources which were some of the best in the developing world. How come Sierra Leone has been over the past 50 years or so among the top ten poorest countries in the world? Political Tribalism!
Politics that is democratic is all about political parties that form governments, or, are engaged in constructive opposition, harnessing a country’s human and physical resources to improve on the livelihoods of its peoples. This logic has been turned on its head in Sierra Leone. In our country, people have been fooled to believe that politics is all about Mende-speaking Southeast peoples capturing the presidency to prevent the Temne-speaking peoples gaining the presidency – and the Temne-speaking peoples have also been fooled to believe the same mad logic.
After about fifty years, Sierra Leoneans keep dancing and fighting each other and voting for SLPP to APC to SLPP to APC to SLPP… Yet, poverty has remained constant. That’s why recently super star musician Emerson sang “kononat hade” – that it is not brains Sierra Leoneans have in their heads, but coconut pulp and juice. No human beings with brains can behave like Sierra Leoneans have been behaving. Think on the following hypothetical scenario if you don’t have ‘kokonat hade’.
How can thieves come to your house every month. The thieves steal your television and cooking pots. The thieves steal your children’s school books and the money your husband has saved from riding okada all day; and they don’t spare the money you are saving sitting down all day under the sun and rain at Sani Abacha Street engaged in petty trading. The thieves steal the medicines you bought for your children – and your children die. But, these same thieves come and tell you to vote for them as president; as parliamentarians; as councillors… and you jump on the streets and dance all day for them; and you vote for these same thieves. Surely, even the seriously mad people who are locked up at Kissy mental hospital in Freetown won’t behave this way.
How can any Sierra Leonean call himself or herself as educated and continue singing this same mad songs of Political Tribalism, and inducing Mende-speaking Southeast peoples and Temne-speaking Northern Province peoples to dance the same mad dance? The same antics that led Sierra Leone into the nasty and brutal civil war of the 1990s….
Stop!! The enlightened people must bond together to end this sheer displays of madness that has been passing off as competitive democratic politics. Radio. Television. Video documentaries. Intensity. Relentlessness. We are fooling ourselves that we are fighting corruption if we don’t confront and neutralize this warped thinking of Political Tribalism. All talk of sustainable development is a sham except we stop this madness of Political Tribalism.
In the four-part serial I wrote in 2014 in THE OSWALD HANCILES COLUMN titled “The Tribal Card: Not a Wise Option for Any Governing Party”… I traced the historicity of the Big Lie that ethnic politics would reward political parties in power. The APC party led by H.E. Ernest Bai Koroma held the reins of the presidency then. They didn’t listen to me. The SLPP Leader, Retired Brigadier Maada Bio, is President today. If he fails to listen to me, this record is there.