Sierra Leone election run-off – Yumkella must not remain neutral

Author: John Mannah: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 March 2018:

It is an empirical fact that the progressive movement has always been part of the Sierra Leonean political, governmental and economic systems.  As such, they have always weighed in, spoken up with pragmatism on the ills and challenges that plague the country. They provide practical solutions at strategic and timely moments in the country’s history. And one of those key moments in the country’s history is now.

The forthcoming run-off election is one of those strategic moments for Sierra Leone’s progressives to step-up to the challenge and deliver one more time for the desperate people of Sierra Leone.

Among the prominent progressives who have delivered for Sierra Leone at moments like this is the late president Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, who as president helped turn the fortunes of Sierra Leone, by ending the rebel war and restore constitutional governance to the country.

The late Ahmed Tejan Kabbah drew upon his international goodwill and restored the economy to near full employment. He rebuilt institutions – NASSIT, NRA, PPRC. He brought fiscal sanity to the Sierra Leone Treasury and broke the back of the run-away inflation that plagued the country throughout the 1990s.

Perhaps President Tejan Kabbah’s greatest achievement and contribution to the Sierra Leone experiment, is the de-tribalization of the country’s polity and social system. The late Tejan Kabbah was indeed a modern Sierra Leonean progressive who has left an imprint on the political landscape.

The other Sierra Leonean progressive who has contributed immensely to Sierra Leone’s political and legal system is Lawyer Charles Francis Margai. Lawyer Margai is best known for the formation of the Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) that supported Ernest Bai Koroma in 2007 to win the run-off elections against the SLPP candidate Solomon Ekuma Berewa.

There was a lot of hue and cry over the decision of Charles Margai pitching tent with Ernest Bai Koroma of the APC then. But nonetheless, Charles went ahead and supported Ernest Koroma to win the 2007 elections against the SLPP – his patriarchal political party.

The course of Sierra Leonean progressivism took a paradigm shift, when Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella entered the political fray in 2017, towards the March 2018 elections.

As an empiricist, avid thinker and intellectual, Dr Yumkella decided to turn to what he knows best:  research to observe. He examined the reasons why a country so resource rich can be so poor.

Standing on the shoulders of academic giants who came before him, Dr. Yumkella decided to examine the socio-economic challenges facing Sierra Leone through the theoretical lens of the great thinkers in sociology, philosophy, history and economics. Thinkers like Hobbes, Durkheim, Weber, Marx and American progressives who led the progressive movement that freed the slaves, gave voting rights to women and more.

The issues of abject poverty in the midst of plenty, inequitable distribution of the national wealth, raw injustice and corruption going on in Sierra Leone that shocked the conscience of Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, are the same issues that motivated sociologists like Hobbes who looked at society and did not like what he saw, and therefore started asking questions, what all sociologists call the Hobbesian question of order.

Hobbes wanted to know what holds society together. Why doesn’t society fall apart? Every contemporary sociological question stems from that question which Hobbes asked several centuries ago.

As Hobbes, Durkheim and Webber found out, the social order that holds society together come from respecting the laws, norms and conventions of a country. It starts with respect for the Constitution. More so, those who hold executive office such as the presidency, who have taken an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, have a moral obligation to do so and govern by it.

Karl Marx joined the ranks of Hobbes, Durkheim and Webber to ask the same questions in Industrial Europe, especially England where he lived during the Industrial Revolution. Karl Marx went into the factories in Industrial England and investigated the working conditions of poor people who worked 18-20 hours a day in factories without windows and proper ventilations. He saw the horrible living conditions of children. He went into the neighborhoods, looked at government documents, inquiries, court cases and described what industrial England was like during this period in Kapital Volumes 1, 2, and 3.

These are the same conditions if not worse, that 70 percent of Sierra Leoneans and their children are living in today, under the Koroma government, while many of his tribesmen, family members and friends bask in opulence that has shocked the conscience of Sierra Leoneans and the world.

These are the conditions that precipitated the worsening of the Ebola epidemic that devastated Sierra Leone more than Guinea and Liberia, neighboring countries where the outbreak started.

Therefore, Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella upon seeing these horrible socio-economic conditions in Sierra Leone had no choice but to start asking the same questions.

He wanted to find out what was responsible for the depravity, and abject poverty plaguing the country. Like Marx, he looked at government documents; inquiries, parliamentary proceedings and the arbitrary drive by night nature in which bills were passed and signed into law in Sierra Leone. He looked at cabinet papers like the White Paper produced by the Cabinet that watered down the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee’s to reflect present day realities in Sierra Leone and could not believe what he saw.

He asked questions like why Sierra Leoneans have resorted to looking for food in dumpsters –  rotten chickens in Bumeh. What is responsible for the high mortality rate in Sierra Leone, the high drop-out rate of school going children, the absence of safe drinking water and toilets in schools in the country?

He found out that corruption, injustice and abuse of power by the government was wholly responsible for these horrible conditions Sierra Leoneans are living in today.

Yumkella’s answer to addressing these problems, was the formation of the National Grand Coalition (NGC) to seek the mandate of the people through the ballot box and change the conditions of the Sierra Leonean people.

The NGC may not have garnered the requisite votes to be in the run-off, but the change message that Dr. Yumkella so vehemently fought for, won the hearts of the people, and is presently on the ballot against the APC and its message of continuity.

Dr. Yumkella should therefore continue to lead the progressive movement and work for change by supporting the SLPP to win the run-off next Tuesday, 27 March 2018.

Should Yumkella choose to do nothing and stay neutral against the poor governance record of the APC, the disastrous conditions that have blighted the lives of the people of Sierra Leone will sadly continue.

The NGC should join forces with C4C, progressives in the APC, the PMDC, the RUFP, NURFP, and all forward-thinking Sierra Leoneans who want change in Sierra Leone, to elect the SLPP into power and form a Unity Government that will usher in positive social change in Sierra Leone.

Author: John Mannah: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 March 2018.

9 Comments

  1. The crucial question Mr Yumkella should ask himself is this: do I want to grow my coalition into a serious political party that will seriously bulldoze through the ethno-regional divide between the two main political parties and secure a permanent footing in those regions enough to be a serious contender for first or second place in the polls in the near future?

    If the answer is YES, then he better not be seen as being a bed-fellow of any of the two parties(even though in more mature multi-party democracies strange bed-fellow alliances happen all the time), or his movement will be toast in a few years. And if he doesn’t take sides right now and give hope to his middle- and upper-crust members, who may need jobs to feed their families, he might face a lot of defections in the very near future.

    And this will also doom the coalition.I don’t envy him in his current situation. But if I were in his shoes and the answer to the self-posed question is YES, I would opt for the former scenario, i.e stay put, rather than opt for the latter. The reason being that, as a member of parliament and a well-known figure world-wide, he could and should be able to use his credibility to create some jobs through the establishment of a Not-For-Profit organization registered in the US/UK and SaLone and secure funds from the myriad of foundations all over the world and on the internet, to set up a business or two that will keep his base happy and patient.

    Investment in small-scale industries in the country has been all but absent. After all, isn’t this one of his core planks in his platform?

  2. In modern political trends staying neutral like the situation we currently have cannot be the best option. All political parties came up with manifestos outlining their visions for moving the country forward. During a run off can be the best time to throw these policies in as a bargaining chip for support rather than personal benefits for money or positions in government.

    Such a deal should be made public knowledge with the aim of advancing a political party’s position on critical issues affecting the people. This is a less damaging model than accepting ministerial jobs which suggests that you are now part and parcel of the government in power blurring party political lines.

  3. The APC have brought more suffering than the good it brought. The poor healthcare, low education standards, poor housing and poor living conditions have all outweighed the road development, the provision of electricity and whatever other nice things done over the years.

    Principled-minded Sierra Leoneans have helped turned the tide in yesteryears political deadlock – people like Charles Margai joining forces with Ernest Koroma. It is also true that late Thaimu Bangura of the PDP also joined forces with the late Tejan Kabba of the SLPP to win those elections.

    Dr. Yumkella was with Maada Bio in the SLPP, but we all saw that things did not work out and Dr. Yumkella had to leave and form the NGC. Had it been Yumkella the leader at the SLPP, these elections would have been over with a resounding victory for the SLPP.

    Looking at Maada Bio’s record in the past and his current shenanigans at the party, do you believe he would be a suitable bed-fellow to bring the much needed development that Sierra Leone needs at this critical moment? Let’s forget about party labels- APC or SLPP, let’s look at the individuals on hand.

    It would be prudent if like-minded individuals team up. Dr. Samura Kamara would more likely listen and understand why proposal A should be pursued rather than B. With a varied parliament in the background we should hope for checks and balances.

    If we yearn for the change we so look forward to then let’s see the two economists join forces and see what they could do. This is not about changing from party A to B, it is about fixing the mess over years. Let the party politics take a break and give this country a chance.

  4. Kandeh Yumkella has a potential to influence 15-20% Voters, and he should make full use of the opportunity by campaigning for one of the running Parties.

  5. I would have been very surprised if Yumkella did not stay neutral.

    At a simple analytical level, one should recall that he was in one of the two parties, and then left to form his own. He did not go join the other party. So, there is no basic inspiration for him to care about who wins.

    At a more sophisticated analytical level, when, in second round voting certain parties join one of the two parties in the final, it is because one of the finalists have explicitly agreed to some particular policy modification or support.

    At the policy analytical level, the political parties in Sierra Leone cannot be really be separated. Even at the ground level–namely, corruption and tribalism–it is hard to separate them when you are talking about good governance, both theoretically and empirically. So, if I were in Yumkella’s shoes, I would do the same–be neutral. I will want to be free to support the winner item by item, and give no blanket support.

  6. I should hasten to add that on top of the suffering inflicted on majority of Sierra Leoneans, because of the stringent austerity measures brought on by corruption and reckless spending by this thieving APC government, our President Ernest Bai Koroma appears to be sitting on his hands while the country is simmering with racial tensions sparked by his ruling APC party.

    Unlike President Kabba who conceded defeat to the APC for the sake of peace, even though there was enough evidence to question the outcome. Ernest Bai Koroma on the other hand does not care about preserving peace in our country.

    He is bent on extending his mandate at all cost, irrespective of the fact that the people are dissatisfied with his APC party. He is failing to acknowledge the mistakes of many before him, who erroneously thought that their perceived God-Like authority can triumph over the wishes of their people.

    If the President’s lack of action to quell this heightened tribal bigotry results in mayhem and disenfranchisement, he and his APC operatives will have to answer to the masses. They should not take for granted the patience and commitment to observe the peace as shown by the people thus far.

  7. What a nonsense. How you can compare the situation in England at the end of the 19th century with the situation now in Sierra Leone? Have you ever read Weber or Karl Marx? Marx was a socialist, an anti-capitalist. Sorry, Mr. Yumkella is a typical neo-liberalist against tribalism, but the rich will become richer and the poor poorer

  8. The only way to develop a family, community or country is to always speak the truth and nothing but the truth. The above article has said it all.

    Next to the Almighty God is the voice of the people and 57% of the people desperately want change and the leaders have no choice but to listen to them.

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