Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 January 2019:
It is the New Year 2019, and under normal circumstances, it should mark the time for new beginnings. Many people make resolutions that are hardly kept. Sierra Leone has a new government and hopes for new beginnings, for our nation appears to be under threat.
Sadly, our country continues to demonstrate its penchant to attract chaos, thanks to the on-going Commission of Enquiry that is underway. But even before the commission has set out its parliamentary mandate, we are now seeing what many people fear is a recipe for chaos.
The commission has been fraught with accusations and counter accusations, conjectures and downright condemnation from certain quarters. No one expected such a high-profile endeavour by the government to go without its distractions and controversies.
The former President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, as head and leader of his APC party and erstwhile government is believed to be included in the commission’s list for investigation.
We are now seeing some people of the red persuasion taking to the streets in protest against the commission, and by default the government. The secretary General of the APC party is on record for saying that his party will not cooperate with the commission of enquiry, until certain conditions are met. By implication, the commission was accused of being a kangaroo court.
Since that declaration, we have seen people assembling at party headquarters and some skirmishes between law enforcement officers and members of the public. Things went up a notch with the invitation and questioning of Mr Palo Conteh, the former Defence Minister.
The most recent gathering was in Makeni, where the CID had announced a visit to the former president, after his trip to the CID was rearranged.
As Sierra Leoneans, we should never allow politicians to trade with our lives. It is deeply unfortunate that politicians see it fit to take advantage of the plebeian mentality that seems to pervade our democracies; especially the African edition.
Looking at our political landscape today, there is that tendency for our politicians to play the ethnic and tribal cards for their own personal gains. What was supposed to be a serious political and national interest issue appears to be descending into a popularity contest, with grave and sobering thought-provoking potential consequences.
Both the SLPP and APC’s so-called supporters and loyalists seem to be demarcating their red lines. Even some so-called local artists and musicians, who can be bought and sold at the drop of a hat, have been involved in their usual claptrap of praise singing songs; all geared to sway public opinion.
But our politicians may be forgetting that the last time our country was looking for public opinion, we conducted a general election and Sierra Leone decided. This Commission of Enquiry is not Big Brother, not Big Sister or a beauty Contest. It is not a staring contest. It is serious business.
Irrespective of your political plumage, the interest of the country should reign first. In carrying out its duties as a responsible government, the SLPP should also ensure that it does so with the sensitivity, maturity and diplomacy that is befitting of any serious-minded government.
This brings to mind the pivotal role of our law enforcement departments. The CID, the Police force and the ACC have the primary responsibility to conduct the commission of enquiry. We do understand the need for transparency and accountability.
However, some of us are struggling to understand why the law enforcement authorities felt the need to release press statements about pending invitations and investigations. No one is preaching that people should be whisked to interrogations or investigations in the dead of night.
No one is asking for people to be summoned to the CID by clandestine means. What some of us are wondering about is, considering the volatile nature on the ground, how helpful is it to give a press release about the invitation of say the former president, a minister or so, to attend the CID?. There are some people who might find this provocative.
A press release was reportedly issued that the former President Ernest Bai Koroma will be attending the CID headquarters in Freetown on the 16th of this month; and that it is in connection with the Commission of Enquiry investigations.
Some people misunderstood this to mean a public holiday. Later, news broke out that CID officers will visit Ernest instead, to carry out their questioning or investigations in Makeni. Now you wonder why the change of mind and the fanfare that awaited them was too inconsequential to miss.
Some may say that meeting the former president instead of the other way round, was an act of preventing an impression of humiliation.
But under normal circumstances, you would expect that an invitation to the law enforcement department was a personal matter; though the case under investigation is of national and international interest.
But some of us are struggling to understand why such invitations should be preceded by a press release. After all, those that are invited at present are in the country and we know their addresses.
The ones being invited at the moment are not on the run and the public is not enlisted to help with their “capture”. Perhaps, there is some wisdom in the publicity, for which some of us may be regrettably naïve. Guilty here.
In most cases that we know, such press releases are made to provide updates on on-going investigations, following an interview.
This is not to say that Ernest is above the law. But equally, the government should guard against giving the impression that this commission is geared towards vengeance, humiliation and bragging rights; accusations which have already been levied. This is not a popularity contest.
Changing the terms or venue of the invitation may have raised eyebrows and more questions than answers. Some would be asking why the sudden change?
While some will see this as a mark of capitulation, others will consider it an afterthought; but only when the horse has already bolted. It might sound obvious, but should this not have been the first thoughts, instead of reducing this very important matter into a “who blinks first contest”? Or was it a matter of “if the mountain cannot come to Moses, Moses will go to the mountain”?
Irrespective of one’s view, the aim of the Commission is to ensure an enquiry into the financial conduct of the last government. In simple language, the government of the day is saying that, after inheriting “empty coffers”, it is asking members of the previous government to offer free lectures in Accounting, Mathematics and Home Economics.
The government is not asking for an explanation of Pythagoras Theorem or Quantum physics. What it is asking for, are explanations as to how the Koroma government used the basics of Mathematics; addition, multiplication, division and subtraction (+ X / – %) to arrive at such an inheritance. Sadly, some politicians have taken delight in using this to fan the flames of chaos.
If we should take a step back into our recent history, which has been characterised by epoch making disasters like the mudslide, Ebola and the rebel war, it becomes glaringly sad and regrettable that our politicians are willing to capitalise on the apparent gullibility of the public for their own personal gain. They seem to be ready to batter the lives, property, peace, security and livelihood of Sierra Leoneans to keep theirs intact.
(See video below of APC supporters at the former president’s house in Makeni yesterday).
There are those who have called on their supporters to come out on the streets to protest, while their sons and daughters are safely tucked in foreign countries, away from the tear gas and truncheons.
The Gibrill Banguras of this world are conveniently busy driving taxis and washing plates in the diaspora, while calling on the gullible to go and burn the CID building. There is nothing wrong with protests; as long as it is peaceful. But as we know the world we live in today, “protests” and “Peaceful” are increasingly becoming strange bedfellows.
It is so true, that “when plunder becomes a way of life for a group of people in society, over the course of time they create for themselves a system that AUTHORISES it and a moral code that GLORIFIES it”.
Unfortunately, that is when “those who elect corrupt politicians are no longer victims, but accomplices” (George Orwell).
But is that any justification for our politicians, with full knowledge of our social inadequacies, to take advantage of this and batter our lives on the altar of tribalism, party loyalties, and geo-political persuasions?
We know that some of these architects of the brewing situation on the ground have since tried to temper their protestations and have attempted to condemn those who have overtly asked for civil disobedience. But even at that, those handshakes have been done with clenched fists; and you cannot shake hands with clenched fists.
Our politicians should remember that the nation and the world are watching. Social media is actively recording. And posterity is patiently waiting. The APC party should remember that it hopes to rule Sierra Leone again someday.
(See video below of APC supporters chaos at the former president’s home in Makeni yesterday).
Following the rebel war, we had a peaceful transition from SLPP to APC. After 10 years in power, Sierra Leoneans deserve another peaceful transition from APC to SLPP. It is therefore imperative on ALL our politicians to ensure that our hard-earned peace is not jeopardised, at the expense of ego bursting bravado.
The APC party should consider itself as a partner party in the development of our country, and the SLPP should treat it as such. Using violence and especially mob violence is always the last refuge of the incompetent.
Equally, there is an expectation of maturity, in running the affairs of a government. This is not an optometrist contest, to see who blinks first. And this is not about the party that pulls the biggest crowd, who has the best lyrics or chart-topping supporting acts. Hiring musicians to promote or serve as mouth pieces for a political party is the lowest form of political debauchery.
When the political parties of a country resort to hiring local praise singers to promote their political ideologies, policies, messages, etc., you know that the asylum has been taken over by the, you know who.
It is a long way to next Christmas, but meanwhile, both our former Vice Presidents have been treating us to a season of politically serenaded pantomime performances, as they make their individual beelines to cross the Rubicon.
One paid homage and has been described as the Prodigal Son. The other has taken to the airwaves and has been dubbed Squealer (Animal farm). The plot thickens. The hope is that, there will be no blood on the carpet, for the good of our country. None of these political parties is bigger than Sierra Leone.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter (M. L. King).
Don’t forget to turn the lights off, when you leave the room.
Author – Abdulai Mansaray