Saidu Bangura, PhD: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 June 2022:
Sierra Leone is at the crossroads of taking the road to progress or forever become a failed state, twenty years after the end of the brutal and senseless war in 2002. The politics that brought the civil war in 1991 – ethno-regional divisiveness, bad governance, mismanagement of public funds, a broken health system, a failing educational system, tribalism, nepotism, ineptitude of state functionaries, police brutality, inflation, collapse of state institutions – are as rife today as in the years prior to the inception of the civil war.
The basic needs of the people: clean water, electricity, food security, good working and living conditions for Sierra Leoneans in different sectors of the state, protection of the citizenry from abuses of political and police authorities, and socioeconomic justice are not part of what successive governments have delivered to Sierra Leoneans; not before, not after the end of the war. They have constantly delivered very distasteful things to Sierra Leoneans and the supporters of these two age-old political parties are busy manipulating information of the situation that the people face daily.
Where was typhoid fever in Sierra Leone thirty years ago? Do you know that the dug wells, now a common reality even in Freetown, that have replaced the pipe-borne clean running water is the cause of typhoid fever that is killing our people? How much does it cost to construct a well? Twenty million Leones – approximately two thousand dollars. How many people can afford it? Is that water safe for human consumption?
I remember growing up in Freetown in the early eighties, we had street taps in most communities. What happened to them? Now, people’s homes have been transformed into hospitals for the administration of medication to typhoid fever patients caused by the consumption of unclean and unsafe water. Welcome to Sierra Leone, designed by SLPP-APC politics!
And electricity, the other Achilles heels! Do I need to say anything on this? It costs Sierra Leoneans between ten to fifteen dollars a night to generate electricity at home. Multiply that by seven days a week, thirty days a month. That is for those who can afford a generator and can afford to fuel it daily. What about the poor Sierra Leoneans who cannot afford it? Deep darkness, in the “realm of the free”, made captive by the politics of SLPP-APC stalwarts!
Beneficiaries of the current system are in complete denial of the present state of our country. The politicians in waiting, those who stand to benefit after the present political establishment may have been removed in 2023 or 2028 through the ballot box are happy that the system continues broken. When they come, they will also do their feasting: na we turn for eat! This is how it has been before the war, and so it is twenty years after the war, and so it shall ever be with the “tit-for-tat” politics of the SLPP and APC since independence. Politics in Sierra Leone is never about service to the people, never about making the country a better place to live in! It is a country where politicians feast on the resources that are supposed to be for us all.
Where do you stand in this constant retrogression of our country with these two political parties and their surrogates? Are you with the suffering people or with the SLPP-APC political dichotomy and its concomitant political and economic collateral damage on us?
Some scholars have said that “in a democracy, the people get the government they deserve”. True as it may sound, and as gullible as the people may seem, how long can Sierra Leoneans continue to deserve these two political parties? Governance is about service delivery to the people. Our successive governments since 2002, the end of the civil war when we thought we may have learned our lessons of governance failure, what could have been our trigger to real tangible development, have never been able to live up to the expectation of not only the people of Sierra Leone, but equally so the international community that has supported us throughout our trying times to date. Our national institutions including Parliament are a complete failure.
Two interesting developments happened recently. First, provisional results of the 2021 mid-term census have made opposition parties, some serious-minded academics and NGOs, and personalities to decry Statistics Sierra Leone’s attempt as an institution that should be seen to be trusted and independent, if Institutional Trust is anything to go by, with its impressive failure in its responsibility in paving the way to ethno-regional polarization of Sierra Leone’s political climate.
Some critical voices have gone as far to say that these provisional results are another failed attempt at discouraging Sierra Leoneans from talking about the real problems that the country faces. Whether this is true or not, one thing remains clear: Statistics Sierra Leone has kowtowed to the “eye-for-an-eye” politics played by the SLPP and APC in Sierra Leone, this time in favour of the whims and caprices of the governing SLPP. Well, some political analysts say, APC did the same thing in 2015. How long can we bear this type of “turn am gee” politics?
Second, Parliamentary Act 2022, though described as a leaked document, is geared towards increasing the salaries and benefits of MPs while teachers, nurses and other employees of the state receive pittances as salaries and wages. Parliamentarians, who should be seen to debate issues of national interests and of working hard for the development of the country by asking the Executive the right questions with regards the running of the country, are now seen to put their interests above that of the country by exponentially increasing their salaries and benefits in sharp contrast to the economic situation of the country, and at the detriment of the basic needs and aspirations of the people whom they should be seen to serve.
Ironically, politics is now the most lucrative profession in Sierra Leone. It is no longer a service. It has been made a profession by both SLPP and APC, and their offshoot political parties. Our parliamentarians are so greedy they can hardly table a bill that can change the course our country is taking. The politics of the country is about them, about what they stand to gain while in office. And these same politicians will be voted in again to represent themselves and their needs.
Where do you stand in the politics of Sierra Leone? Are you with the people or with the political parties that have mis-governed us for 61 years?
Sierra Leone should be seen like a sub-city within the global context of countries suffering under their own governments and elected leaders. For Tracy Chapman, as she sings in “Subcity”, while we would not want to admit it, living in a sub-city is hard; people do not receive any relief in sub-cities; people are lucky to be alive in sub-cities; people live at the mercy of other people and handouts in sub-cities; people work every day with no guarantees in cities underground; the system does not work for those who live in sub-cities. This is how it has been for Sierra Leoneans since 1961. Nothing has worked for the benefit of Sierra Leoneans.
(Photo: Author – Dr. Saidu Bangura)
Sierra Leoneans have always lived a sub-city life. It is the politicians, their parties and their cronies that have reaped our country and its resources and we have all been thrown into the underground, the sub-city called Sierra Leone. Nothing works for the benefit of the people.
Most Sierra Leoneans live a sub-city-life in Sierra Leone. They lack everything that most countries provide for the well-being of their citizens: clean-running water, constant electricity supply, food security, a good health system, a good educational system that guarantees gainful employment, economic and political stability, and job opportunities for the youths with prospective careers.
But our youths are unemployed and do not know what tomorrow brings for them if there is a tomorrow at all for them. These two political parties have no plans for these youths, the future of the country. Yet, these same unemployed youths are constantly being used by the SLPP-APC alejus so that that these two parties continue to reign political and economic terror on us. This is Sierra Leone, made by the SLPP-APC politics!
And to conclude, let me borrow the words of Tracy Chapman’s “Subcity”: on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone, please give all the presidents, elected politicians, past and present, our honest regards for disregarding us, for failing us, the people of Sierra Leone; for tormenting us; for dividing us along ethnolinguistic and ethno-regional lines; for making us live under constant handouts when we have all the resources to make us live a good life; for making us live in a sub-city country, Sierra Leone.
The battle to save the soul of Sierra Leone is a must and it starts with removing these two political parties – the SLPP and APC – from our politics.
Let me end this short piece by entertaining you (for lack of a better word) with one of my recent poems, The children of a new dawn, written on April 20, 2022:
The children of a new dawn
The children of dawn lament –
and those born after complain
and those that follow in chains
and those who came later in pain –
for they were quickly ushered
into the abyss of a murky dusk
amidst deep thickets of dark trees
with no hope of the shiny sunrise
rising to remind them of daybreak
of a new dawn to make them glow.
Children born before dawn
witnessed the birth of hope
but their hopes were soon
thrown into the abyss of the
lifelessness of trees without
sunlight and photosynthesis
and all green plants dissipate,
become lifeless in a wet land
where the sun never shines to
lighten the lives of a new dawn.
The parents of the new dawn –
that were given the right to hone
and care for the lives of this family
soon went different ways taking
new paths, brand new directions
and visions different just as before
the birth of the new dawn bringing
us where we are today still hoping,
believing that the children born in
the new dawn of our nation will taste
the products of trees that never grow,
see the light promised by the sunlight
that never shines on the children of the
new dawn – how we are caught in a dawn
that never dawns since the dawn of the day
that never dawns in the nation we dream of!