Why nations fail – Sierra Leone on my mind

Ibrahim Sourie Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 4 June 2018:

Just two weeks ago, I finished reading one of the most fascinating books called “Why Nations Fail”. After reading the book, I appreciate how far Sierra Leone has failed to impress on the world stage, since gaining independence in 1961.

But most interesting are the warning flares the authors put forward about some countries in the world, especially about my beloved Sierra Leone.

Co-authored by the M.I.T economist Daron Acemoglu and the Harvard political scientist James A Robinson, “Why Nations Fail” argues that the key difference between countries is “institutions”.

Nations thrive when they develop “inclusive” political and economic institutions, and they fail when those institutions become “extractive” and concentrate power and opportunity in the hands of only a few.

The authors explained that their core point is that countries thrive when they build political and economic institutions that “unleash”, empower and protect the full potential of each citizen to innovate, invest and develop.

Compare how countries like Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Georgia  have done after the Genocide, fall of communism and the rest.

As I ponder over some of the simmering signs ravaging in my country about weaknesses of institutions, my mind caught interesting news about the Kenyan president introducing a lie detector for all public officials as part of a corruption crackdown.

According to the Kenyan president, the test would determine employee integrity. He said, Kenya had lost $78 million from a government agency.  A lie detector?

I wonder how the lie detector would perform,  if its used in Sierra Leone – especially where ministers, university lecturers, parliamentarians and senior government functionaries, for example – falsify their certificates and diplomas and still occupy senior positions. The lie detector would self-destruct.

Some countries fail spectacularly, with a total collapse of all state institutions, as in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union, Somalia after the fall of Mohamed Siad Barre – where the government fail to exist altogether.

Some of Sierra Leone’s institutions are cosmetic and some of our politicians like it as it is. The Sierra Leone Police, Anti-Corruption Commission and Parliament have failed in certain areas to show their neutrality and objectivity in promoting the interests of country and citizens.

Since independence, both main political parties – the Sierra Leone People’s Party and the All People’s Congress have played huge role in undermining the very institutions they created for their own political reasons.

Siaka Stevens and his All People’s Congress ran the country from 1967 until 1985 as their personal fiefdom. Little changed when Stevens stepped aside, transferring the mantle of leadership to his protégé – Joseph Saidu Momoh, who simply continued the plunder.

The Anti-Corruption Commission in recent times has been a key player in this scuffle. There are many cases including the Hajjgate, Mudslidegate, Ebolagate and many more cases that are still being investigated.

It begs the question why the delay in prosecuting these cases under the Koroma presidency? The suspicion game would gather pace, until these cases are prosecuted under the current SLPP dispensation.

Many would want to ask why the commission did not complete its investigations during the APC era?  Is it only when governments are out of power that institutions become more decisive and effective in prosecuting corruption cases?

To his credit, the Ernest Koroma presidency prosecuted some cases while others are still languishing in filing cupboards. Consider what will happen to SLPP operatives when they go out of power and the ACC starts prosecuting cases of alleged corruption? This is because of weak institutions failing to operate independently.

Watching the South African parliament in session, one begins to wonder when similar scenes will be observed in Sierra Leone. Before the ousting of the former president, Jacob Zuma, the firebrand politician of the Economic Freedom Fighter, Julius Malema question the controversial arms deal the government did with the Gupta family.

Sierra Leone’s parliament under both the APC and SLPP has failed to investigate certain cases that are against the interests of the state. Politicians have presented fake certificates, diplomas, falsified university admissions, and nothing has been done.

As for the police – I rest my case. The recent pronouncement of the president calling for de-politicization of the police force is a testament to the fact that the police force is not a force for good anymore. Political cases are treated with urgency depending on who is in authority.

For my beloved country Sierra Leone to thrive and stand as a nation of emulation, the state institutions must be strengthened and independently allowed to operate. It is better for a country to have strong institutions than strong men.


  1. Why nation fail is an interesting story, especially about our nation Sierra Leone. But we all know the answer. Sierra Leoneans have suffered a lot since our independence. The country was ruled by one party for more than two decades. Then the civil war; and then two military coups. With all these problems, the nation will fail. Thats why we need to respect our democracy to make Sierra Leone a strong nation, not a failed nation: Create jobs, provide good education, good health care, and good social welfare.

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