By Mohamed Sankoh (One Drop) :
The reactions to a press release, issued by the government of Sierra Leone on 3October 2013, have clearly shown that many of our so-called educated citizens are incapable of understanding simple English. They seem to be reading Primary School-like English, yet they pretend as if they are reading metaphysical poetry or Shakespearean English.
This is because there is no portion in that entire press release which makes any threat, either subtly or overtly, on the activities of Civil Society Organizations in Sierra Leone. A simple content analysis of the press release will show that it is only an explanatory piece. It is not even instructive but one which tries to put in plain words that despite the rooftop-shouting and fire-and-brimstone-like ultimatums which have now been the vogue within CSOdom (a One Dropian coinage, please), “no single organization or group of organizations can pretend to be seeking the interest of the people more than the elected government” which has initiated many programmes aimed at upping the welfare of the people and state.
That home truth from the current government, about many CSOs being charlatans or fakers, is what has sparked off the willful misunderstanding from many so-called educated citizens. There is no threatening word or sentence in that entire three-paragraphed 231-worded press release from State House; yet some people are now talking or writing about “dictatorship”, “tyranny” and “intimidation”. It just shows that many of our so-called highly educated colleagues are low on the selection of their choice of words or that their comprehension of the English language is shallow just like those pre-colonial chiefs who did try to communicate with slave traders in the English language!
If one truly wants to find chronic instances of corruption, unaccountability, lack of transparency and inertia; check out many Civil Society Organizations in Sierra Leone. Most of those which are now giving “absurd ultimatums to Government threatening certain actions if they are not satisfied with the implementations of its [Government] programmes”, are nothing but briefcase and one-man-show CSOs. Most of these CSOs’ Executive Directors write projects on behalf of the common people but when they get funding the monies are used for their personal use and in the end write phony reports to their donors on how the monies were spent and what impacts they have had on local communities.
It is no secret that many CSOs get funding by lying about the situation in the country. They know that the more they shout and present bleak pictures of the country there is the likelihood that they will get the desired funding from their overseas partners or donors. Just take a look at the lifestyles of most—if not all—of the Executive Directors of most CSOs in Sierra Leone; one smells exploitation and heartlessness in them! The funding they get does not reflect on the causes they represent but the financial statuses of themselves and spouses.
And because donor funding to non-state actors are now drying up in the areas of war and refugee issues; HIV/AIDS; human rights and democracy; Female Genital Mutilation, and other once-upon-a-time fat oases, the CSOs now want to turn their attention to local funding through “mischievous and moral blackmail” of the current government! And it’s only a government which comprises mentally insane people that will allow such “mischievous and moral blackmail” tactics to take place right under its eyelids.
So, when the government of President Ernest Bai Koroma says in that press release, under review, that it will not tolerate any “mischievous and moral blackmail” from CSOs which are trying to portray themselves as Catholics who are more Catholic than current Pope Francis; it is not intimidating anyone. It is only stating the fact that there are democratic methods of dealing with mischievousness and blackmail in civilized societies. So, if any CSO believes it is working in the interest of the people and that it is clean, then there is no need to be panicky. Isn’t it true that it is only old people who get jittery whenever sepulchers are mentioned in a proverb?
Transparency and accountability should be concepts that must be reciprocal. If CSOs want to be respected and taken seriously, then they should start publishing in the local newspapers their quarterly or annual reports they usually send to their donors so that the supposedly beneficiaries from their programmes will have the chance to verify the claims. But since most—if not all—CSOs in Sierra Leone have been operating in opaque manners; then it becomes morally and ethically wrong for them to hold anyone to account.
And, frighteningly, most so-called Executive Directors of these briefcase or one-room-and-a-parlour CSOs do not even know their roles in society. They have this warped archaic idea that it is only when they bash the Government that they will get recognition and funding. Do some of these CSOs’ Executive Directors know that ultimatums are usually given after all negotiations have collapsed and there is no common ground anymore between or amongst negotiating parties? So, it is not only laughable but childish for CSOs to give ultimatums to the government when they have never engaged the government in any discussion on the issues for which the ultimatums are being given.
Besides, it is an open secret that most CSOs in Sierra Leone are either fronts for or are known to have strong links to the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). Just make a quick scan of the surnames of the most vociferous CSOs’ Executive Directors and the regions they hail from, then you can understand why they have always been trying to bring Sierra Leone to a standstill for the last six years…