The ingredients for future conflagration of Sierra Leone are piling up

Dr. Sama Banya – Puawui

7 August 2012

Over a period of thirty-three years, the ingredients of a future conflagration that engulfed this country were gradually being laid. Very noticeable strides from the previous SLPP government were continuing to the admiration of all.

Then Siaka Stevens assumed the leadership of the country in 1968 and continued first as Prime Minister and then as executive President.

Violence at elections against the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) became the order of the day. And in 1973, the opposition was forced to pull out of the Parliamentary elections.

The University students had had enough, and staged embarrassing demonstrations against Stevens and his APC.

That apparently was not enough and a one party government was introduced five years later in 1978. Some of us applauded and embraced it, because we believed that it would put an end to political violence, ethnic divide and nepotism. We were wrong.

Shortly after, everything began to take a turn for the worse. Development stalled, corruption became rampant and political intolerance and ethnic divide settled in.

At first it was imperceptible, but later it became the order of the day, rather than the exception.

Groups, especially the youth and political opponents were not only marginalized, but were suppressed and in many cases with brute force. Worse, education became a privilege, instead of a right.

Many citizens remained indifferent, while those who were supposed to inform and educate the citizens became praise singers.

It was a period of “I’m alright Jack.” While conditions remained calm on the surface, they were simmering underneath.

A change in the leadership occurred; Siaka Stevens’ personally selected candidate succeeded him as head of state. Ethnicity took centre stage. Those who belonged to the ‘Ekutay’ organization were the only ones who appeared to matter in the eyes of the government hierarchy.

The economy slumped and citizens could not get their own money from the banks.

The basic rights of the people were ignored or trampled upon and an attitude of “Every one for them self, God for us all” developed.

A civil war broke out in the neighbouring Republic of Liberia and most people felt that it was something that was happening on another planet, until it hit us on our spine. Foday Sankoh and his RUF, aided by Liberia’s Charles Taylor began a brutal rebel war. The rest is recent history.

After eleven years of strife, suffering and physical and mental deprivation, mercifully President Tejan-Kabbah’s SLPP government negotiated peace with the rebels and today we are enjoying its benefits.

The SLPP government was replaced by the elected All Peoples Congress Party (APC), under the leadership of Mr. Ernest Bai Koroma in September 2007, a government which, from the outset was ethnically and regionally completely balanced in favour of one region.

The APC government was ushered in by unprecedented and unprovoked violence against the SLPP, now in opposition. There were simultaneous attacks on party offices in different parts of the country.

That continued until another equally vicious attack on the SLPP headquarters in Freetown in 2009. In addition there was violence in every by-election in constituencies and wards previously won by the party.

Peace was brokered by the international community, led by the United Nations. Sadly it has not always held, because of the APC’s insatiable desire to grab it all and a penchant for violence.

Today, we are on the eve of Presidential and Parliamentary elections. The ruling APC party being conscious of a gradual swing towards the opposition SLPP is making desperate efforts to have their leader re-elected, and for them to again have control of Parliament.

Despite its boast of success in infrastructural development, in re-branding the country, in promoting investment, in education and in the popularity of their leader, the ruling APC IN COLLUSION WITH THE NEC, have devised a new strategy to retain power.

As I wrote the other day, in spite of violence, coercion, intimidation, naked bribery, ‘yuku yuki’ with the voter exercise, the APC party are still worried over the prospects of their man not remaining in state house after November.

The latest gimmick is the unreasonably disproportionate and unprecedented hike in nomination fees, the like of which is not found anywhere in the sub-region.

That our economy is in such a state, that most workers cannot live on their legitimate earnings is well known. It is a fact that our public sector workers are the least paid in the sub-region.

Our teaching profession remains the Cinderella of the public service. Corruption is rife at all levels, but worse with APC officials.

Currently, both the Vice President and his boss are embroiled in a financial scandal from which they have not successfully extricated themselves, despite the strenuous efforts of their spin doctors and boot lickers.

Already, of all the ten or more political parties, only the ruling APC and their satellite United Democratic Movement (UDM) led by Mohamed Bangura, are supporting the NEC’s increase in nomination fees.

The reason is not far to seek. The APC has acquired sufficient donations to enable it to pay for all its candidates at every level.

But if they and the National Electoral Commission (NEC) Should succeed with their ploy and indirectly disenfranchise many an aspirant, they would have stifled the political ambitions of large sections of the population.

And that certainly, would be a focus of future dissent. Mark my words.

This would be in addition to the government’s divisive regional and ethnic policies. Let the state hear quite bluntly that all these acts are ingredients for future unrest.

In the meantime, can Christiana Thorpe and her National Electoral Commission, as well as the government itself, not see that the proposed nomination fees are the highest not only in the sub-region, but including the United States and the United Kingdom, for which figures are available?

What kind of strong headedness is this, which does not give a dam about sowing the seeds of future trouble?

I may not be around when it comes, but I sound this note of caution, in the hope that future generations are not subjected to what ours has gone through in recent years.

Quotation for Today: IT IS THE FUNCTION OF A GOVERNMENT TO CALM, RATHER THAN TO EXCITE AGITATION,” which is what this government is prone to doing.


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