Why Sierra Leone politics is so toxic?     

Ibrahim S Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 August 2020:

In the last three years, African countries have registered an overall decline in the quality of political participation and the rule of law. The United States, which has traditionally been a major influence in promoting democracy in Africa, has had a seemingly hands-off approach since President Donald Trump came to office in 2017.

The fallacy that United States is the Father of Democracy in the world is dead or dying since Trump came to power. Had Trump been an African President, his country would have been a monarch with his dictatorial tendencies. To the Conservative political pundit, Trump is an epitome of some African leaders whose quest to stay in power is unshakeable.

The notion that America is good at promoting democracy, free and fair elections, political and civil rights seems to be going with the winds. Imagine an American president doubting his own political system or worse off, not even committing to accepting the outcome of the results.

Ironically, not a single African president has lambasted Donald Trump for such undemocratic principles. Had Trump being an African president uttering statements like doubting your own intelligence agency reports, doubting the credibility of mail in ballots voting and even insulting some African leaders as *** hole, the whole western world would have been issuing bundles of press releases denigrating the credentials of such leaders. If it is happening in the West, it is business as usual, but in Africa, it becomes a problem.

If African leaders see Trump, who seems very happy to shake hands with autocrats, it gives them the signal that they can manipulate elections and not face consequences.

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, who plans to run for a sixth term in 2021, has been notably effusive in his praise of the American president, once declaring, “I love Trump,” who he describes as the best president the US has had. Few years ago, Lauren Gbagbo, former president of Ivory Coast was kicked out of power and subsequently shipped to the International Criminal Court, the crime? He wanted to twist the constitution and prolong himself in power. The country was plunged into a civil war and nearly tore the country into pieces.

Today, the incumbent, Alassane Ouattara has just been nominated to run for a Third term, a crime he accused his predecessor of doing.

Guinea, a close door neighbor of Sierra Leone, just nominated an 82-year-old president to run for the next presidential election. What a shame! Imagine, Alpha Conde (Photo) was imprisoned by the late Lansana Conte for preaching democracy. Instead of strengthening democracy by conducting transparent elections, he is appearing to be the Godfather of Guinea politics.

The list is endless in Africa… so where is this democracy that people tend to preach about? Is it that African democracy should have different standards?  This year, some 15 countries are set to hold elections at different levels, but the credibility of these polls is likely to again conjure up questions about whether democracy is working for Africa.

Few weeks ago, a street boy in Lagos blamed bad leadership for Nigeria’s socio-economic problems. He called for a mass burial of the country’s political elite, which in his opinion, would help combat corruption and unlock the country’s potential. His view echoes the inner and hidden sentiments many people living in African are hidden in many African countries   have about their leaders. The reasons for this are easily found.

Most African leaders have done little to improve the welfare of their people, who are very poor, while they, and their cronies, live in opulence.

The menace goes all through the political chain to elected and appointed public officers where party financiers and godfathers dictate who holds what public office without regard for competence and internal democracy. Corruption seems to be prevalent in the continent with little or lack of political will to curb it.

Africa is home to despots and lifetime presidents who either abuse their power or allow abuses to be perpetrated with impunity. The aspect of checks and balances are weak and alternative views are discarded, culminating in low accountability which further deteriorates leadership and reinforces corruption.

In Sierra Leone, on a normal day and time, moving a generator from the east to west is an ordinary government machinery. It raises no eyebrow and being considered as the work of the government in carrying out its responsibilities.

The recent brouhaha surrounding the movement of the generator from Makeni to Lungi that led to the death of civilians has raised the unease between the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party and the main opposition, All Peoples Congress.

At the core of their internal politics, leadership problem is opaque and suspicious. As it stands, even if the ruling party brings two generators to Makeni, there will still be some people who would become suspicious of government’s generosity. On the other side, the core APC members always consider SLPP as a party bent on decimating APC.

The divide is wide and leaders of the two main political parties are not helping either.  The country’s politics needs cleaning and the leaders should think of the masses as the beneficiary of good leadership.

In a recent AYV TV Sunday Talk Show,  local Non-Governmental Organization partners described the rift between the North and South as the key problem affecting the country.  An Executive Director of a local NGO, Institute for Governance Reform, Andrew Lavalie, described the divide as the core problem besetting the political parties.

Disappointingly, this scourge has gripped even university students coming from these regions as each considers the other as antagonist.  One would expect democracy and its associated principles to produce visionary and effective leaders, but this rarely the case in the country.

There may be new faces in government and the leadership of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party, and people expect the status quo to change. The big question is, when? Maybe, very soon.

3 Comments

  1. Hello to all. From my point of view, democracy is causing more ham than good to us in Africa. I stand with China.

  2. Democracy is a vague concept. Granted it has stood the test of time than all the other concepts of government. Sierra Leone has tried parliamentary, single party rule, Military rule, unity government etc. Each has failed us. The United States has never been democratic in the strict sense of the definition of democracy. At every stage of its history, eligible people have been excluded from participating in the governance of their country through several bureaucracies. How many times have we witnessed the executive in the USA bypassing the two houses of legislature to take unilateral and harmful decision on behalf of the country? We have witnessed votes been rigged to get some president elected, the second Bush and Al Gore elections come to mind. Judges who make laws are appointed on political affiliations and ethnicity. Where is the independence of the judiciary?

    The question for Africa, what can we do to tailor the good aspects of democracy to our need. Recent developments indices in Africa have shown that countries that have done better have a long history of a single political party in power as evidence in Tanzania which attained middle level economic status recently. Rwanda which has had the same political party and president since 1994, Uganda that has the same political party and president since 1986 at the helm of things.

    Since 1994, Sierra Leone has had six political systems and heads of state. Every time one attains power, the agenda of the former is undone or ignored. So if our concept of democracy which is for now based purely on periodic participation of the masses in elections is all we care about, then ours is going to continue to be toxic and some of the times bloody.

  3. Dictators come and go but democracy will always endure. Through out history, the rough guide of dictators have always had a ptedictable out come. In vast majority of cases, their reign always, and surely ends violently, or the lucky fallen dictators spend the rest of their lives in prison. Charles Taylor, Manuel Antonio Neorega of Panama and the forner Chilean dictator Agustus Pinochet. Gaddafi, Doe, Hitler, Mosullini, and many more others that came before and after them. And the one thing they all have in common, they will do anything to stay in power. If they will kill a whole population, they will. And the ones they can’t kill, they made sure they create an US VERSUS THEM MENTALLY amongst the general population. DIVIDE AND RULE. YOU ARE EITHER WITH THEM OR AGAINST THEM.

    President Trump and our own very governments of different colours have mastered over the years. They don’t have the interest of the nation at heart. The only thing that keeps them up at night, is how to stay in power indefinitely. You cannot hold people into bondage forever. Nature dictates the human being is born free. And anyone who tries to suppressed that human instincts for freedom, will find themselves in the wrong side of history. Sometimes they are voted out, and sometimes they are booted out. Today’s government is elected on a manifesto.

    But their policies are tailored with one eye on the next election cycle. More like governments are perpetually announcing gimmick projects, not for the good of the nation, but for the good of their party and electablity chances. So the idea of the government of the people by the people for the people is a misplaced idea.

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