When strife of interests masquerades as a contest of principles

Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 02 February 2019:

The last general election in Sierra Leone was one of the most memorable ones in recent memory. This was largely thanks to a lot of precedents set, following the outcome of the much-debated process. It is no secret that the outcome may have been a surprise for many reasons.

In reality, the results were just a matter of time, as the writing was already on the wall; that the APC will lose the elections. Those with eagle eyes saw it from far. For starters, the APC party won the 2012 by the slightest of margins.

Considering that Ernest and the APC were on a crest of a wave, his popularity was sky high, as he could do no wrong at the time; it was difficult to see why  the projected APC landslide in the 2012 polls did not materialise.

But as we all know, Ernest’s 2nd term in office was not all plain sailing, as it was littered with a lot of scandals, including the Ebola, mudslide and Hajj and bus gates, to name but a few.

The negative publicity was definitely bound to have an impact on the APC’s chances.

Another factor that may have played into the hands of the SLPP was the creation of satellite political parties that had mushroomed as scions of both the SLPP and APC; namely the NGC and C4C respectively.

Interestingly, both parties were led by politicians dyed respectively in APC and SLPP DNAs.

Chief Yumkella and Sam Sumana both broke away from their parties to “form their own”; though enmeshed in different circumstances. One was pushed and the other jumped.

But since the inception of their different parties, it was understandable that both had “protest party” written all over them. Sam Sumana formed the C4C when the APC kicked him out of its circle; giving credence to the notion that “in politics, there are no permanent friends but permanent interests”.

As for Yumkella, the widely held opinion was that he broke away because he could not get the coveted trophy; something Maada Bio had made his life’s purpose since he discarded his army tunics.

Now you know where the “PAOPA” came from. But as we all know, politics does not determine who has the truth, but who has the power.

Fast forward to the election, and our country was “blessed” with a third way.

As precedents go, APC became one of, if not the first political party in opposition with a majority. Sandwiched between our traditional APC and SLPP parties were the NGC and C4C.

To the neutral voter, this could only be good for democracy. The hope was that with the presence of both NGC and C4C, our country will have a constructive and vibrant opposition in parliament. We had all hoped that these new kids on the block will serve as buffers for the excesses that we have traditionally come to see between the APC and SLPP political relay.

It’s unquestionable that the APC engaged in political excesses; which saw our constitution translated, transliterated, and manipulated because of the sycophancy of the modus operandi. If truth be told, much of that free hand was given to the APC by the absence of any meaningful opposition from the SLPP. To all intents and purposes, Sierra Leone was governed by one party politics; thanks to the comatose position of the SLPP at the time.

There is no running away from the fact that our political landscape is facing the threat of a gridlock between the two main political parties. With these two political giants engaged in a staring contest, it begs the question: Where are C4C and NGC? There has been a deafening silence from these two parties.

The hope that these two parties will rise to the occasion seems to have fallen flat on its face; and that can only be disappointing. As our country tithers on the brink of chaos, it is beginning to feel like C4C and NGC are not fit for purpose. Many would have expected them to at least stand up for something. Sadly, they seem to fall for anything.

During the runoff elections, NGC came in for a lot of unfair criticism because it did not throw its weight behind any of the two heavyweights (SLPP & APC).  In principle, while most of us supported the stance of the NGC for its non-aligned position during the run off, reports were doing the rounds that Sam Sumana was toying with the idea of throwing his hat behind the APC.

Nothing came of the rumours in the end for obvious reasons. So where is the third way? What is the third way? Why have NGC and C4C gone so silent in our time of need? The silence from C4C is not surprising, considering that Sam Sumana had recently kissed and made up with his former party and his in-laws. Hey, one does not take a fire fight to his in laws.

During the last campaign season, there were many commentators who believed that C4C and NGC were one season wonders. It was mentioned in some quarters that both parties lack the stamina to last the season; and that if they do survive it, both will fizzle out after the election results.

Some of us did not only contradict such assertions but gave very good reasons why these parties were not just another harmattan fire. But if the current situation should continue with their selective muteness, it will become increasingly likely that NGC and C4C will be conspicuous by their irrelevance to our day to day politics.  But if NGC and C4C think that they are numerically too small to make a difference, they should try sleeping with a mosquito.

But now that the Commission of Inquiry (COI) has landed as a mosquito on our political testicles, we should all find the best way to kill it and resolve our national issues without violence. Some people call it the Law of the land.

The government has stated that the COI is about the misappropriation of finances during the last political cycle. The question now is: which should our politicians serve best; country or party? Loyalty is a good quality, but in excess, it fills political graveyards.

The expectation is that we should always give our loyalty to our country, and to our government, when it deserves it. The loyalty to a party should end where loyalty for a country begins.  Political loyalty and public service are strange bedfellows.

As a nation, we are now faced with a choice. What we have now is a test of the loyalty of the law-making power to the executive power.

Many people will say that the Commission of Enquiry has been hijacked as a tussle between the APC and SLPP. So where does that leave the “other” opposition parties? Why are they so silent about the matter? Opposition should be seen as true friendship.

The APC may have plausible concerns about the COI. But is ignoring the invitation to participate in the COI, the best way to convey those concerns? There are people who are already accusing the APC of inciting violence.

This assertion has not been verified, but will the APC take responsibility for any such outcome? By taking such a stance not to participate in the COI, “until certain conditions are met”, does the APC run the risk of being seen as a party that is refusing to accept defeat? We know that anyone can deal with victory, but only the mighty can bear defeat.

Since the inception of the COI, there have been reports of other members of the public who have been invited and interviewed by the Commission. Reports have it that the majority has made out of court settlements.

The ACC handed over Le 5.4 billion to the government (thesierraleonetelegraph.com-30/10/18). This was followed by another headline, “ACC hands over Le 7.5 Billion of Public funds stolen by officials to President Bio” (29/12/18).

The NRA stated that it collected a record Le 400. Billion in taxes last September. These are all good news to the average Sierra Leonean. If others have owned up and repaid or made arrangements to repay, what is so special about those trying to use constitutional gymnastics to gridlock the process? Are they an endangered species that require the protection of UNESCO?

Like I have always maintained in my pieces, we are all for a free, fair, transparent and a just process. We abhor any process that will favour a particular group or creed. If the Bio government cannot oversee a COI that is free from injustice, we may as well pack our bags and go home.

But what strikes most of us is that the inception of the COI was passed with the blessing of the parliament. The APC is the majority party in the parliament. So where was the APC when this bill or whatever you call it was passed? Was the APC party hypnotised at the time this was passed and agreed in parliament?

If the party wanted to argue or contest the COI, is that not the reason why a building was situated at Tower Hill, and called PARLIAMENT? By the way, if Sierra Leone needed any lessons on the constitution of the country, I wonder if the APC will come top as Professor Emeritus.

The COI is a national concern and interest. It goes over and beyond any political party. Neither the APC, nor the SLPP should use, abuse or mis use it as a bludgeon, a shield, or an insurance policy for party political capital.

To all intents and purposes what seems to pass here as politics, is nothing but strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.

We cannot conduct our public affairs for private advantage.

Sierra Leone and Sierra Leoneans cannot, and should not be held hostage or used and abused as bargaining chips in this unfortunate saga that is unfolding.

We need some grown up politics here, and if this cannot be guaranteed, remember that THE WORLD IS WATCHING; FOR THE PURPOSES OF ADULT SUPERVISION. Say hi to NGC and C4C, if you’re lucky to see them. Betrayal is the only truth that sticks.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter (M. L. King).

NGC & C4C don’t forget to turn the lights off, when you leave the room.

13 Comments

  1. Sorry Gentlemen; this is not an issue between SLPP and APC, but APC against Sierra Leone. If APC feels that the government of the day is biased towards then, let them go to court. APC must obey the rules of law they are talking about and these Inquiries are not election campaign rhetoric.

    APC cannot and should not hold Sierra Leone to ransom. PLEASE read the speech of the President during the commissioning of the inquiries and you find all the concerns of the APC have been taken care of.

    NGC welcomes the COI and advocates for a fair and transparent process, what else should we do. WE ARE LAW ABIDING AND ALWAYS PUT SALONE FOS!!

  2. Sierra Leone is becoming a clime our forefathers didn’t sacrifice for. It used to be tolerant in the socioeconomic sectors, but now, it seems that politics is eating into that hallmark.

    Why is it that state properties – Political parties are becoming self-purposive rather than serving the interest of Sierra Leonean? Has anyone been jailed/executed because embezzled monies were used for state, district, Chiefdoms, or community development? Certainly, my memory couldn’t think of one.

    Now COI, and ill-gotten culprits are refusing to show up, giving cacophonous excuses. No! I mean no to their words. Let the laws be themselves so our fallen heroes and heroines souls will not keep in cold faith, in paradise.

    Sir, your piece is worth publishing and should be discussed on TV/Radio. Once again, thank you, God bless you.

  3. Mr. Mansaray,

    It is not my intention to belabor the issue of governance in Sierra Leone. But your suggestion that President Bio, instead of focusing on governance, is allowing the APC to sidetrack him gives the impression that the president who is the arbiter of governance should not pay any attention to a group of men with the intention to undermine the rule of law in Sierra Leone. If the president is to lose sight of such an ugly development would that not be construed as a dereliction of duty?

    Given the prevailing circumstances, I believe that president Bio is doing an excellent job. And it is precisely Bio’s success and its tendency to expose the inadequacy and malfeasance of the APC that has sent the red brigade into panic mode. Thus, instead of complying with the law, the APC has succumbed to its natural instinct – lawlessness. Is it not part of the presidential oath to crack down on lawlessness?

  4. Mr. Mansaray’s analysis is generally very good and to the point. My takeaway from it is that the COI was sheperded through parliament through laid down legislative regulations and processes, and all parliamentarians had the opportunity to freely deliberate on it and vote for or against it.

    And so once it has since been accordingly legislated, all must cooperate with it–with the caveat, however, that the COI remains fair, just, even handed and transparent in all its deliberations, investigations and conclusions. That judges have been drawn from outside of the countries to sit on the COI is indeed an assuring step in this regard.

    All in all, the COI is not a bad idea. For one thing, it should hopefully prove whether the alleged unprecedented looting of the country’s resources by the erstwhile leadership/government has any merit to it. For another, and perhaps more crucial, it should serve notice to those who are currently in the leadership of the country and indeed successive governments, that, going forward, they themselves must watch their steps in how they govern the country, for a government after them could similarly use the pathway of the COI to call them to account if the situation calls for it.

    Clearly, no one should lose sleep over a COI if that person’s hands are clean. I hope the COI will ultimately illuminate what actually may have happened to the management of public resources and flag specific cases that will justify the setting up of the COI in the first place.

  5. Thanks Mr. Sulaiman. My piece was not aimed at promoting a doom’s day merchant. Sorry if that was the impression created. At this point of the SLPP political cycle, many would have hoped that the government should have been busy with the work of governing and developing our country; rather than being side-tracked by its counterpart.

    The hope is that the country’s interest will prevail over party interests. Thanks for your “correction” and let’s keep the discussion flowing; for it is only through dialogue that we can all arrive at the best for Mama Salone.

  6. I think APC is asking COI to include all past secretaries into the inquiry, which the commission does not seem to accept. To them(apc), it is unfair for the commission to only investigate MDAs and leave out secretaries whom so much money has been allocated, to carry out projects that are incomplete during their time in office and up to date.

    This is what I think is why APC is refusing to participate in the COI process, calling it unfair, witch hunt and unconstitutional.

    Especially so, when the Sierra Leone Bar Association came out with a statement requesting that the COI make sure, whosoever was involved in monetary transaction during the past government’s 10 years in governance be brought to book.

    In my view, if the constitution requires that secretaries be included in the investigation, why can’t the Commission do just that? So that no one will complain of foul play, discrepancies, or even hold a grudge at the end of the investigation.

  7. My prayer for Sierra Leone is for peace based on justice, understanding and wisdom leading to development in the interest of one people, one country, same people.

  8. Indeed, and I quote the editor of this article: “The APC is the majority party in the parliament. So where was the APC when this Bill or whatever you call it was passed? Was the APC party hypnotised at the time this was passed and agreed in parliament?”.

    I think all members of parliament should know at least the basic functions of parliament. The APC in particular should know more because they have been a long time around in parliament. If the parliamentarians try to ignore the basic functions of parliament in order to foment problems over the legalities of how parliament works or how laws are made, then I will ask them to read this basic text below:

    Parliament is the arm of government responsible for making laws for the Republic of Sierra Leone. Parliament is the supreme legislative authority in Sierra Leone, as defined by Part V of the 1991 Constitution. Bills become law once they are enacted by Parliament and signed by the President.

    The constitution determines the lawmaking role of parliament, and the standing orders lay out the internal process within parliament. Parliamentarians are responsible for enacting laws to ensure that the country’s democracy operates openly and freely.

    Laws are meant to address the country’s problems and should provide for the best possible quality of life for the people.
    To exercise their legislative powers, Members of Parliament can:

    – introduce legislation (a private member bill) to address specific issues;
    – review, debate, and amend government bills presented by the Executive branch and introduced for debate by the majority caucus.

    From the information above, the law to proceed with the commission of inquiry was legal, legitimate and appropriate.
    Many Sierra Leoneans including myself were confused in the beginning after the APC provided the six points why they feel that, they should not support or participate in the commission.

    I supported them in fact that they might have some points. But then, I did not carry out any research on how the debates and the laws are debated in parliament by the MP’s. Now I know the basic principle. So, the APC just have to accept the commission which they participated in making through parliament and move on.

    In my opinion, the two giants in Sierra Leone politics have encountered in another tug of war. This time not a general Election, but with the commission of inquiry.

    Former president Ernest Koroma is still leader of his party for cover. The effect of this tug of war if it continues like this will take a toll on the smaller parties, especially the C4C and the NGC. As the editor rightly said they are now mute.

    BYE-BYE NGC and BYE-BYE C4C come 2023 if you don’t change tactics now. However, I think it’s becoming difficult for you day by day to turn things round. The SLPP and APC political might are digging in your territories by the hour. GOOD LUCK.

    Some of us said from day one after the election of president Bio, that a lot of variables will follow in Sierra Leone politics. There will also be a lot of bombshells down the road. The option for any APC official indicted is to just comply. The officials indicted should also come clean and give evidence on whatever they know.

    A former minister can for example say, yes I misappropriated government funds with the help of the permanent secretary and the vote or budget controller. I don;t like to use the word steal because these people have not yet been found guilty. We should be civil to them even though they are been indicted for corruption.

    Finally, as the editor noted and I quote: “If the Bio government cannot oversee a COI that is free from injustice, we may as well pack our bags and go home.”, President Bio and his government should make sure that the commission is transparent, fair and without bias. GOD BLESS SIERRA LEONE.

    • Thanks Mr matturi for the “Civics” lesson. I couldn’t have put it better. Our parties just need to put our country first. lets keep the dialogue open.

    • All the comments as regards to this article were very impressive. But there is one thing all of us failed or forget to comment on and give sensible suggestions and solutions for.

      Let me quote from Abdul Rashid Thomas’s article of the 29th of January 2018: “Will the former ministers and public officials of the previous Koroma-led APC government defy the Judges of the commission of inquiry should they be called upon to answer to allegations of corruption, impropriety and mismanagement?”

      We all now know that the commission is legitimate. So, let us not discuss about that any more. What will happen if the former officials don’t appear? Will they be arrested and brought to the commission? Will they be arrested and detained? Will they be arrested and sent directly to prison?

      We should also not forget that the commission is not a court of law where a warrant of arrest can be issued if someone fails to appear for a court case. Although we don’t know yet how the commission is going to operate, I doubt if they will have the right to arrest any individual who fails to comply.

      I am making this point because of the APC’s approach to this commission of inquiry. Is it a political strategy by the APC to foment some sort of political deadlock for the commission’s sittings or completion?

      I heard president Bio the other day said that anyone who does not attend will face the full force of the law. My question is what action within the executive power will the president use to force someone to comply to face the commission of inquiry?

      Should the government be ready to declare all the misappropriation of government funds from the APC of former president Stevens to Former president Ernest Koroma the Lost Financial Decades and declare Sierra Leone a State of Economic Emergency as regards to corruption from now on?

      The situation that the president has at hand is to walk a fine line between peace and the law. That can be tricky and difficult.

      Fellow colleagues, this is my concern at the moment. Sierra Leone has interesting and challenging times ahead.
      Should people be worried?

  9. Mr. Mansaray, Sierra Leone is not on the verge of chaos as you suggest in your piece. Sierra Leone is well governed on the principles of democracy and the rule of law. Accordingly, the country will not allow a bunch of lawless miscreants and kleptocrats in red regalia to reverse its trajectory of sustainable peace and development.

    As for NGC and C4C, anybody that sees them as anything other than protest movements, should engage in a thorough rethink.

    • Thanks Mr. Sulaiman. My piece was not aimed at promoting a dooms day merchant. Sorry if that was the impression created. At this point of the SLPP political cycle, many would have hoped that the government should have been busy with the work of governing and developing our country; rather than side tracked by its counterpart. The hope is that the country’s interest will prevail over party interests. Thanks for your “correction” and lets keep the discussion flowing; for it is only through dialogue that we can all arrive at the best for Mama Salone.

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