Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 December 2022:
You don’t need to be a genius to feel the economic strangulation our country – Sierra Leone is currently experiencing. If the Leone and the Dollar were running in a marathon race, the dollar would complete its race a week earlier. It is becoming a feature of our daily lives, that since the Leone has learnt to shoot without missing, the dollar has learnt to fly without perching.
The domino effect is that the price of goods has skyrocketed and continues to do so at a rate that defies economics. President Bio’s opposition have not passed on the opportunity to chant about what is seen as one of the most trying times in our history. This has prompted many to conclude, rightly that “Yesterday betteh pass today”, because of the living crisis.
However, it would be deceitful to conclude that Sierra Leone has monopoly over the living crisis. It is everywhere and throughout the four corners of the globe. This is not to justify or defend President Bio’s government or otherwise. “De world don tranga”.
On the political front, there have been a lot of ripples and frictions between Bio’s government and its opposition. President Bio was elected with a system that has served our country well. I am allergic to constitutional matters. Nevertheless, it is six months to the general elections in June 2023.
The Bio government has brought in Proportional Representation (PR) system for the next election. We were told by constitutional wordsmiths that the PR system is constitutionally legal in our country, as it is in our constitution. However, some people find the timing and the period required to debate this option as politically toxic. Many, and especially the opposition party is asking “Why now?”
We saw some of our politicians display their boxing credentials in the well of our parliament last month. As we go to press, the “opposition APC calls for independent audit of the election process and scrapping of the electoral PR system” (Sierraleonetelegraph.com-Dec17/2022).
It is an open secret that thanks to some world events, President Bio’s government has found itself grappling to steer our country’s ship through turbulent waters. Many would also point to the government’s lack of mastery to rise to the financial challenges it is facing.
President Bio has faced a lot of accusations about human rights abuses, corruption, tribalism and many more, especially from the opposition. We have witnessed civil disturbances and loss of lives ranging from the Pademba Road prison saga, Makeni protests, Lunsar yagba, and the violent protests that took place in August. These do not make for a good report card. If the APC was asked to give a reference or a full assessment of President Bio’s government, it goes without saying that the report would make for grim reading.
Next year would be a very busy one for most African countries. A total of over twenty-three African countries, including Sierra Leone would be conducting local, national assembly and parliamentary elections. From America, to Brazil, Peru, etc, “Election denying” of general, presidential or parliamentary elections is becoming fashionable. Election denying has always been a perennial feature in African politics, but since Donald Trump imported it to America, not only is it becoming a dangerous trend, but it is one of the greatest threats to democracy world-wide. In Africa, opposition parties always cried foul about election rigging, ballot stuffing, over voting etc.
However, what is becoming so scary is that Trump took it to another level whereby, politicians and especially opposition parties cry foul even before the first ballot is cast. It is now a question of “If I don’t win, it was rigged”. The former President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro, a Trump disciple once said, “I will not accept an election result that is not my own victory”. The consequences of such political posturing are well documented, as we saw in America on January 6th. Even after the dismal performance of the Republican party in the US midterm elections, Kari Lake a Republican candidate continues to successfully make a nuisance of herself about “a stolen election”.
So, with Africa poised to witness a wave of elections next year, is it any coincidence that the President of America, Joe Biden hosted delegations from all 49 African countries in a 3-day summit?
According to the U.S Department of State, “Africa’s success is the world’s success”, “Africa will shape the future”. These were among others, some of the soundbites bandied around during the summit. Among the numerous key themes, new economic engagement, food security, peace and security, democracy and human rights, global health and many more featured heavily. The summit was concluded with an agenda on the USA-Africa “partnering on Agenda 2063”.
The last decade has seen China making waves of economic and diplomatic ties with the African continent. Unlike the USA and Europe, China’s engagement with Africa has never encroached on the political health of their host country. They don’t ask questions about the democratic credentials of their host governments. Is it any wonder most African governments, especially the despots find it easier to get in bed with China?
The US recognises that it took its eye off the ball when it focused on the Middle East during the Arab Spring. Now it’s back, as the recent summit seems to demonstrate. The USA plans to commit $ 55 billion to Africa over the next three years, with $20 billion for health programmes. The US Deputy Commerce Secretary Don Graves acknowledged that the US has fallen behind as China has surged past American foreign direct investment in Africa but argued that the US remains the “partner of choice” in Africa. Now you know why our leaders were invited to sip champagne and eat burger in Washington.
However, this American gesture is not a novelty to President Bio. For the purpose of discussion, let us imagine that the APC has written a comprehensive report card about President Bio’s time in office. Guess what that report would read like. If you are thinking what I’m thinking, would you expect a glorifying piece?
Would you expect our international donors and “partners” to come to President Bio’s aid after such a report?
If all the allegations of bad governance, corruption, tribalism, nepotism etc are anything to go by, and they are, how come President Bio has been showered with financial, moral, political and all manner of support by the international community?
The international community has always been known to press the pressure points of African governments, when their governance is suspect. They put a premium on democratic principles, peace and security, fiscal prudence and integrity. Western governments have always used sanctions, IMF induced austerity measures, trade restrictions and many more to get African governments to behave the way they way want them to. So, with our imaginary report card from the opposition, how come President Bio is apparently in the good books of the West?
So, what’s your secret Ngor Bio?
According to thesierraleonetelegraph.com (17 December), “International Development Association (IDA) approved an “additional” $ 50 million by the World Bank, under the second phase of the West Africa regional Food Systems Resilience Program (FSRP-2)”. “World Bank approved $ 100 million to improve Sierra Leone government transparency and accountability” (Sierraleonetelegraph.com-December-17). “US Ambassador supports community-based projects across Sierra Leone” (The Sierraleonetelegraph-December 11). “UK government boosts Sierra Leone’s tourism sector” (Thesierraleonetelegraph.com-December 15). These international donations and support have also led to headlines like “Sierra Leone’s small and medium sized enterprises set to improve productivity and competitiveness” ((thesierraleonetelegraph.com-December 15), Sierra Leone’s fashion and textiles sector focuses on global market” (thesierraleonetelegraph.com-December 15). And that is just for this month of December.
So, if President Bio is so bad at what he is doing, why is the international community queuing to shore up his defences?
To all intents and purposes, and if the response and support from the International Community is anything to go by, does this mean that the latter have enough faith in President Bio to give such support and investment to his government?
When you look at the level and number of allegations of corruption and bad governance, won’t you wonder why Bio rides high with the international community? So, where does that sit with allegations from the opposition?
In another article in thesierralonetelegraph.com-December 17, a new World Bank Report said, “Sierra Leone has opportunity to increase economic growth but faces challenges in improving citizen’s welfare”.
On the other side of the fence, there are people who believe that President Bio has done a good job. Many are citing Free Quality Education, agriculture, technology, infrastructure, etc and other areas as projects with long term benefits. Interestingly, his supporters would say that most of his projects are tailored to provide the foundations on which future developments would rest. They argue that his vision is not a quick fix, but rather long-term, with lasting benefits for the nation and not for individuals. You be the judge.
But the opposition would beg to differ, and would point to the living crisis and say, “yesterday betteh pass tiday”.
Unlike western countries, we don’t get to measure approval ratings. In six months’ time, Sierra Leoneans would get the opportunity to express their approval or disapproval of President Bio’s term in office. With all that has gone before us, we pray that our country conducts a “free, fair and peaceful elections”- Insha Allah.
So, Mr President, what is your secret? Wishing you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in advance.
Congratulations to Lionel Messi – The Greatest of All Time (The GOAT)?