A Bribe, A Gift, An African Handshake, or A Tip?



By Lauretta Sillah—

Police bribery is rampant in Sierra Leone. Yesterday, my driver was stopped by police for parking in a busy area in Lumley, west end of Freetown. There was nothing to indicate parking restriction as other vehicles were parked, but the police lady only wanted a bribe which I refused to give. She said she was taking us to headquarters. So I got out of my car and took pictures of the whole row of parked vehicles including mine, and returned to sit in my car.

We were there for over 30 minutes, everybody expecting me to bribe. I called my office informing them of my lateness. Five more officers arrived at the scene, now crowded with busybodies. After snapping my evidence, the supervisor police advised her to release us. As we were leaving, all the side-walk busybodies, now crowded, shouted, “the Mammy right – nor gie dem natin” (The lady is right, don’t give them a dime). “Dem don pass mark” (They’ve gone overboard).

I don’t mind tipping or blessing people every now and then, in a poverty-stricken society. Blessing others with a gift is not wrong, but using it to manipulate them for favor is wrong. We must trust the Lord to give us favor when we need it and not resort to methods of manipulation – that is Bribery. I’m always delayed in areas like the airport, security checkpoints, and government offices because I refuse to bribe them. I may be delayed, sometimes denied, but sometimes I do get my services with dignity and respect.

The ethics of whether it is Bribery, Gift, African Handshake, or Tip, depends on your motive, gift value, and the laws of the land. The US law has certain amount limitation to give a US President as a gift. Above that value, the President cannot accept that gift.

The Lord’s favor is more valuable than what we could buy with money. As Christians, let’s keep our hearts and motives pure so that we might bring glory to our God, and not disgrace or reproach. Have a blessed day!

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