Should Sierra Leoneans be pawns on the SLPP-APC political chessboard?

Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 13 May 2020:

Politics used to be a battle for the hearts and minds of the public.  It is not surprising then that our main political parties are now locked in this battle, to win our hearts and minds. But at what cost? Unfortunately, this battle is not about which party does the best for the people. It is now about proving which party is more unfit to control our destinies.

It is a really sad state of affairs that our politics has descended into what looks like an orgy of revenge politicking. In normal times, one would expect our political parties to engage in issues that will endear them to the majority.

I don’t subscribe to bribery, but I wont mind if a political party bribes my community with good roads and schools. Sadly, the status quo has been transformed to that of “you do me, Ar do you”; or so it seems.

In order to grasp the full extent of this mindset, try criticising or exposing the short comings of one party; say the SLPP is corrupt, tribalistic, bias or unconstitutional in its behaviour – and you can bet your bottom dollar, that an apologist from the SLPP will give you a catalogue of similar accusations of the APC, as if a justification.

We know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but should our political parties be measuring their success along the yardsticks of negativity? Unfortunately, we have all been involved in such an exercise in the past. But is it time to say enough is enough?

But how did we get to this place? We know that we may have inherited the policy of divide and rule from our colonial masters, the British. It may have worked well for them, because they knew that they were not here to stay. Unlike the French, the British knew that one day, they would park up and leave us to decide our own destiny. Are we?

There is no doubt, that our present-day leaders have adopted some aspects of this divide and rule approach; and sometimes too blatantly for our own good. It is this approach that has left our country divided along pockets of tribal, regional, and political lines; the outcome of which appears to leave our beautiful nation disintegrated and on the brink of self destruction.

This may sound awful or doomsday mongering, but the insidious breakdown of law and order is on our doorstep. No one ever envisaged that  fellow Sierra Leoneans will one day call his brother a terrorist. But equally, no one ever expected a fellow Sierra Leonean will ask his kindred to wreak violence and destruction on his own community.

You see, I am at it again; unconsciously and as if justification for the precedent. This is just an example of how we have become conditioned to justifying one bad deed with another; and that is regrettable.

Maada Bio’s reign has largely been associated with accusations of tribalism and Ernest’s has been synonymous with corruption. Maada’s pledge to fight corruption, among others   became the wedge that further drove both parties apart.

The APC’s stance of non participation in the ensuing Commission of Inquiry (COI) was grounded in accusations of bias, revenge and tribalism. On the other hand, the APC’s non compliance was largely, not only seen as an admission of guilt, but a stance to make the country ungovernable. So, the battle (pardon the pun) lines were drawn, to mark the beginning of the PR war.

As if to cast off the tag of tribalism, nepotism and regional friendliness, Maada went on a charm offensive and initiated the Bintumani 1 & 2 “wan word” meetings. The APC did not show up. Maada invited the party to State House for a conference on “national cohesion”. The APC reluctantly attended and issued a press release 24 hours later and said “Nntheh”.

While the chorus of tribalism grew on the red side, the green faction continued to show up the APC as bent on “making the country ungovernable”. And so, it came to pass, that it took a pandemic to fully reveal the massive fault lines that have been fissuring right across our society.

For Sierra Leoneans to call on fellow Sierra Leoneans to wreak havoc, destruction and death on fellow Sierra Leoneans was abhorrent. But for Sierra Leoneans to designate fellow Sierra Leoneans as “terrorist” was not only a low point in our history, but may be, just maybe, a time for all of us to realise how different we have become. Time for a rain check.

The COVID pandemic should have been a time to bring the best out of us as a nation. The COVID, like the Ebola gave us a single focus and single purpose; albeit briefly, against a common enemy. Instead of fighting a common enemy as one, we unconsciously used it to display how far we have all become enemies to one another.

It is unfortunate that President Bio took the gloves off, declared that all bets are off and adopted a “push do cam pan shove” approach last week. Some will sympathise with him that he had been backed into corner.

But it was ironically unfortunate, that his Resident Minister Abu Abu in the heartland of his opposition, did not read the script and looked like the outsider who wept more than the bereaved.  Bio acted swiftly and suspended him. Even that was not enough for some people who believe that Bio should have gone further and dismissed him.

As if that was not enough, some are now accusing Bio of tribalism; that Abu Abu was sacked because “he is a northerner”. So, you see, Bio can never do right in the eyes of some people. He is not only tribalistic but intra tribal this time; in his own party.

The divisions are so entrenched that even if Bio says water is wet, some people will check to prove it; a sad reflection of how far we have come. We hope that the appointment of Alpha Khan and Julius Spencer will send a different message.

At this point, let us remember that It is not our differences that divide us. It is not our similarities that strengthen us either.  Rather, it is our inability to recognise, accept and celebrate those differences., that weaken, separate, divide and will eventually destroy us………as a nation. Even the most successful and happiest couples never have the same character. They just have the best understanding of their differences.

As Sierra Leoneans, we just need to be honest with ourselves. Can anyone imagine our country being run on the oxygen of revenge politics? Where Can we afford a system where party political interests surpass those of the country and the people? Can we truly afford a political system that is littered with personal vendetta and point scoring? If we sit on our hands and allow one party to revenge against the other, what happens when the baton changes in the political relay?

Politicians come and go, but Mama Salone will always remain. Who will the suffer if we allow such a cycle in this political merry-go-round? Can Sierra Leone afford to tear itself apart along tribal and regional lines, while at the same time friendly enough to send “Sunakathi” for our pastors and Christmas gifts for our Imams?

Can we allow politicians to use us, the average Sierra Leoneans as pawns on the SLPP-APC political chessboard? Is it time for some honest, open and big conversations; and it is time for our politicians to listen in action? If one party cannot hold a candle to the other, and realise that blowing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make yours brighter, is it time to ask for refunds or adult supervision?

If our politicians cannot listen in action, and if we from outside continue to   look from APC to SLPP, and from SLPP to APC, and from APC to SLPP again; only to find it impossible to say which is which, should we be considering a third political party? History will not be kind to us, if we all sit and allow this to happen.

Don’t forget to turn the lights off when you leave the room.

8 Comments

  1. I have observed that the majority of Sierra Leoneans are not educated and their political beliefs circulates only around APC or SLPP. We need a knowledgeable young person, some one who knows the country and the people and the person has to Be very influential, with a very good experience on how to deal with diversity and not be a tribalistic.

    What this person can do to change things is to promote one of the smaller parties or create a new party; find a way for Sierra Leoneans to understand that the APC and SLPP NEVER AND WILL NEVER GOVERN IN THE INTEREST OF THE PEOPLE OF SIERRA LEONE; work on the youths and women first to build a solid foundation; may need one or two parties to contest against the these two major parties; try to merge the other smaller parties. I totally agree with writer

  2. The former President EBK will never be in place to give peace to this young man to govern the country the way it should be. He knows how to smile better but that is not what we the people looking for. Please give peace to this country – we are not ready again for another war. EBK is an ordinary citizen now and you know the power of government especially when you are no longer in office. The late Tejan Kabba rendered you all opportunities to govern and enjoy your administration. Why don’t you allow the same? Let someone come out and speak loudly. May God bless Sierra Leone

  3. It appears some die-hard supporters of the regime are trying very hard to fool themselves (not the majority of Sierra Leoneans) into believing that, this current crop of SLPP PAOPA elites, are not tribalist, by pointing out to a superficial cabinet list, that by all logical reasoning is not even a parameter in judging whether a government is tribalistic or not. Now, it is crystal clear to the world, that political leaders in democratic nations appoint cabinet members who they deem loyal and align with their goals—basically party members.

    Just as the Republican, Conservative parties in the United States and United Kingdom, currently being headed by Donald Trump, and Boris Johnson, respectively, are free to appoint cabinets members of their liking without any fuss about it, so does the APC and SLPP of Sierra Leone. Now what these model democracies will never venture to do is interfere with the civil service—the delivery system of governance. Since this tribalist crop of PAOPA elites assumed the reigns of power, they are hell bent on eradicating any civil servant whom they see as an opposition sympathizer—bringing in purely SLPP loyalist with a simple criteria being a Mende speaker or hail from the South-East.

    Like many Sierra Leoneans who have relatives that hailed from the North-West, I have heard numerous personal stories of young unemployed educated citizens applying for government jobs, only to be disqualify because of not speaking the Mende language or their last names having origins from the North-West. In fact, in the earlier months of the regime, this was done openly, as we all witnessed, the aloud reading of last names of civil servants hailing from the North-West being sacked in droves from the immigration department, marine resources and NATCOM.

  4. Mr. Bilal Coleman, thanks for your brilliant comment, unfortunately the only option that the corrupt APC party have at the moment is to play the “TRIBAL CARD,” which is unfortunate because even our 11 years civil war was never based on tribal, regional or religious divide. The proof is most of our past and current leaders from all the different political parties are inter-married. Late President Momoh a Limba was married to late Hannah Momoh a Mende, late President Kabba a Mandingo was married to late Patricia Kabba, Former President Ernest Koroma a Loko is married to Mrs. Sia Koroma a Kono, Currently, President Bio Mende and Christian is married to our First Iron Lady Fatima Bio a Muslim.

    Former Presidential candidate for the APC party Dr. Samura Kamara a Loko is married to Mrs. Elizabeth Massah Kamara a Mende, and even Dr. Kandeh Yumkella of the NGC party a Susu is married to Mrs. Philomena Yumkella a Mende. So if our political leaders want to start a tribal war, they have to start with their families. In this modern age of communication Sierra Leoneans are no longer gullible as in the 60’s.

  5. An APC friend recently recently referred to Alpha Kanu as a sellout for accepting an appointment from president Julius Bio. Here on this forum, left to themselves, APC and SLPP extremists will destroy everything that Mr. Abdul Rashid Thomas has worked hard to put together. Thank God Mr. Thomas has been the cool head ever ready to extinguish the fire of political discord. It appears that Mr. Abdulai Mansaray has now joined Mr. Thomas in making the forum a place where civil exchanges would flourish without the necessity of throwing tribal, regional and partisan political grenades. Correspondingly, in the larger society of Sierra Leone, there is a need for the Alpha Kanus and Julius Spencers who would instantly discard their political party stripes for the greater national good.

    The SLPP-APC brouhaha produces no winners. Interestingly, whenever I reflect on this impasse I am forced to wonder what the situation would have been had president Bio not established the commissions of inquiry to investigate members of the erstwhile APC government. Tellingly, the commissions of inquiry have been the embers glowing APC rudeness, lawlessness and violence. Initially bragging about their reluctance to cooperate and referring to the commissions as Kangaroo courts designed to foster regional hegemony, leaders of the Red Brigade party later reflected on the foolishness inherent in defying the legal authority of institutions that had the full support of the International Community. Fast forward, the results of the commissions are in the hands of the president and their findings will soon be released. Wow!!! All hell has broken loose. Big man nor want disgrace.

    Mammy cussers are now all over social media with many calling the president a tribalist and a regionalist. But the last time that I checked, Dr Juldeh Jalloh (Vice President), Dr. Abbas Bundu (Speaker of the House), Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards (Chief Justice of the Supreme Court), Mrs. Nabila Tunis (Minster of Foreign Affairs), Dr. Memunatu Pratt (Minister of Tourism), Dr. Priscilla Schwartz (Attorney General and Minister of Justice), His excellency Dr. Morie Manye (High Commissioner to the UK), His Excellency Dr. Allie Kabba (Permanent Representative to the United Nations), His Excellency Mohamed Yongawo (Ambassador to Russia) were neither of the president’s tribe nor did they hail from his region. This means that not only is it necessary to establish new definitions for tribalism and regionalism but the APC must renounce rudeness, lawlessness, and violence and give president Bio a chance to develop the country that they had destroyed through bad governance and avarice.

  6. In my personal opinion, I believe that the APC party has succeeded in dragging the SLPP down with them for the past 59 years. Even though the SLPP lost power to the APC for the first time in 1967, when Sierra Leone used to have 24 hours light and running water system in not only Freetown but in all district headquarters; the transportation and communications systems including the Railway and Airline both local and international, even our Education and health systems were the envy in our region. Everything was systematically destroyed under the one party dictatorship of the late President Stevens, late President Momoh through their ideology of GREED AND TERROR for 25 years.

    The SLPP only lost that election based on the fact that the late Prime Minister Albert Margai was dully elected to succeed his deceased brother instead of late Karefa Smart who was a northerner, which the APC party successful campaigned TRIBALISM. After 29 years out of power, the SLPP nominated a NORTHERNER the late President Kabba and within 2 years, the APC party through incitements, organized and orchestrated the first jail break that unleashed terror in our nation, by destroying lives, private properties and government buildings . Thanks to the ECOMOG and the International community, President Kabba was brought back to power and within 8 years reintegrated our citizens from the civil war caused by the APC and rebuilt all government institutions destroyed by the APC/ RUF and AFRC terrorists.

    In 2018 , President Bio inherited an economy under austerity from the APC government and within 2 months all you heard was incitement from the APC that “The gron dry and tribalism,” and worst of all “ making the country ungovernable.” Within 2 years again another jail- break but thanks to the Almighty and our gallant Security, it only stopped at the Pademba Road Prison and finally President Bio is prepared to destroy the APC ideology of GREED AND TERROR by declaring war on corruption, war on illiteracy and war on lawlessness and by the grace of the Almighty “ PAOPA SALONE GO BETTEH.”

  7. Another masterpiece from the one and only Abdulai Mansaray. Mr Mansaray is becoming a terrific storyteller – if only one sticks within the margins of CONSISTENCY. Some stories are not worth telling, especially when the main aim is to maintain a writer’s reputation.

  8. Thanks Mr. Mansary for a well written article touching on sensitive issues that we as Sierra Leoneans must face head-on especially our political leaders. Obviously we cannot continue this self destructive path. The politics of REVENGE will never get us anywhere.

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