The Youths for Sierra Leone Improvement (Y.S.L.I.) forum yesterday, March 12, 2006, in Maryland USA, is a notable accomplishment for democracy for Sierra Leoneans. Represented were the three main political parties’ Chairmen and Secretary Generals: S.L.P.P.’s Mr. Mathew Margaw and Mr. Sheku Momodu, A.P.C.’s Mr. Alimamy Kamara and Mr. Bash Kamara and P.M.D.C.’s Dr. S. I. Kamara and Mr. Sidie Tunis respectively.
In a fashion that is different from the untraditional ways business is usually done in this community, the forum organizers were well prepared: The high table was tagged and labeled by forum participants and parties; the general sitting facility was adequate and well organized and was complemented by adequate audio, sound system and finger food and drinks.
Dr. Michel Sho-Sawyer, Founder, President of the Board, National Chairman and Chairman of the occasion, a youth himself with such feat to his credit at his youthful age, held a private discussion section with the forum participants. He politely admonished them of the importance to keep the debate civil. He explained the rules eloquently and warned them of the negative impact an uncivil behavior would have on their respective political parties.
The hall was parked with supporters of all three political parties. The effect of the political and ideological divide could only be felt not through misbehavior but the pattern of the occasional breaking of stillness by applauses in the hall. One could not help, but compare the manifest modernity to any fully blown democratic process.
The Vice President of the Y.S.L.I. Board, Mr. Selwyn Walker introduced the forum participants and the President, Ms. Kadija Jalloh, whose brief comment was followed by introduction of the Vice President, Zainab Sidique, both of the Maryland chapter. It is worth mentioning that the Y.S.L.I. has established chapters in many countries including Sierra Leone and Senegal in West Africa.
In her thought-provoking speech, Zainab stated, amongst other things such as the neglect of youth population needs by successive governments, “breaking the cycle of poverty” and the need to focus attention on the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic, the Y.S.L.I.’s objectives and goals, and the importance of a well educated and cared for youth population:
“Youth for Sierra Leone Improvement (YSLI) is a non-governmental organization that is devoted to empowering the youths of Sierra Leone through education. YSLI strongly believes that the future of Sierra Leone lies in the hands of its youth. The future of the county will be unpromising, if basic education is not provided to the youth. With the aim of ensuring a prosperous future for Sierra Leone, YSLI has initiated the following three projects: (1) Access to Primary Education forChildren (2) Continuing Education for Adolescents Girls and Women (3)Health Services and Education. The projects are open to the general public and are expected to be fully operational by September 2007.
There will be a special recruitment of underprivileged young girls and women because these groups are not a central focus of the current rebuilding effort, even though they are a substantial part of the population.”
Most of the questions were objective, but while half of them placed the former ruling A.P.C. party on a defensive mode, naturally, was even worst for the ruling S.L.P.P. It caused the A.P.C. and S.L.P.P. constantly locking horns in the debate, of which the P.M.D.C.’s Chairman and youth Secretary General were taking complete advantage. The only seemingly discomforting question for the P.M.D.C. had to do with the interim leader, Charles Margai’s personal attributes to development in Sierra Lone as a private citizen. But Mr. Tunis who is a former student of Bo school with vast knowledge of Mr. Margai’s contribution in Bo and on youth development turned the what was supposed to be discomforting for his Chairman into a piece of cake.
This youth organization should not be taken for granted, I caution. Their preparedness?procedure and process was well thought out and professional. While nothing was going on, Emmerson’s corruption lyrics filled the hall. It was a surreptitious reminder of the widespread corruption in the country. If the parties’ panelists detected the possible underlying meaning of Borbor Belle in the background would have become a little uncomfortable, especially for the A.P.C. and the S.L.P.P. panelists whose parties have been characterized by reports of systemic corruption in the past and recently.
Besides the serious nature of the forum, it was also entertaining in many aspects especially when the panelists’ occasional induced laughter and catcalls because of the lack of knowledge, shrewd stratagem and extreme outburst of emotion:
The youth Secretary General of the P.M.D.C. reproached the S.L.P.P. and the A.P.C.; “you would never find someone of my age in such a responsible position in the S.L.P.P. or the A.P.C.” The A.P.C. Secretary General stood up in a pensive mood, with his eye flipped skyward as if the answer to the question would drop from the skies. Indeed, as if Pa Shaki had sent something from the heavens [heaven and hell], he responded suddenly, akin to the Pa Shaki style, produced a 52-year old man in youthful skin and called him a “?youthman’ Secretary General of the A.P.C.” The whole hall broke into a raucous laughter at that.
Another interesting climax of laugher and catcalls of the evening was: the S.L.P.P. Chairman’s answer to the following question; “Presidential Spokesman, Kanji Daramy told Concord Times the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (S.L.P.P.) is better of than the opposition All Peoples Congress (A.P.C.) in attaining food security in Sierra Leone. What is your party response”: “Our farmers have migrated into the city leaving the provinces without farmers, and since our food comes from the West, the S.L.P.P. leaders have to ensure the western donors do not poison the food and that is why we need to secure the food against 2007.”
The P.M.D.C. Chairman, the whole time engulfed in absolute emotion, shook his head and wagged his fingers vigorously with tightly closed eyes when the S.L.P.P. Chairman was given his closing remarks as if the S.L.P.P. Chairman was a Jehovah Witness preacher and that he the P.M.D.C. Chairman was under spell.
In one of such outburst of emotion, the P.M.D.C. Chairman lashed out at the S.L.P.P. Secretary when he interjected a rebuttal to a question: “The Bo District Branch of the Teachers on Saturday March 4th 2006 endorse Solomon Berewa, the Vice President of Sierra Leone as their preferred choice to win the upcoming 2007 Presidential Elections in Sierra Leone. Is this a great loss to the P.M.D.C. Party?” “How could 2000 teachers assemble when the average of 20 teachers per school divided by 2000 thousand is 100 schools? Do you want to tell me that there are 100 schools in Bo? They probably had about two hundred teachers amongst whom were P.M.D.C. supporters.
Nonetheless, the whole exercise was a feat for the Y.S.L.I., the people of Sierra Leone and the political parties; a manifest democracy so civil that it is worth exporting to Sierra Leone.
The organization has contacted the party leaders in Freetown to repeat a similar exercise there. Dr. Sho-Sawyer disclosed to me that the S.L.P.P. Secretary General traveled to Kono, and he is yet to talk to him.
I say Kudos to these youngsters for setting brighter examples for Sierra Leone.
“Youth for Sierra Leone improvement Y.S.L.I. is a non-profit organization founded by a group of well prepared individuals with the knowledge and passion which drives them to improve the lives of the future generations of Sierra Leoneans. Youth for Sierra Leone improvement provides free education for underprivileged orphans and literacy programs for adult women. Y.S.L.I provides health care/ counseling for HIV/AIDS individuals and extensive training to our associates and volunteers.
We also network with various intergovernmental organizations (IGO’s) and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s). We work collectively in order to create a positive, challenging environment for our students to actualize their fullest potential.”
You can contact the following people to donate to the Y.S.L.I. cause: Ms. Kadija Jalloh (301) 910-9912, Ms. Zainab Sidique (301) 785-4176, Ms. Mabel Claye (240) 374-2597, Ms. Abibatu Dainkeh (301)927-6364 and Ms. Adama Kuyateh (301455-2602.
By Karamoh Kabba Copyright © 2006