Monday May 16, 2005

Just a few years to go to the end of his rule, President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah will find his rightful place in the Hall of Infamy  like most of Sierra Leone’s former leaders except he makes a dramatic recovery to show he is a man of business before the curtains go down on his infamous stewardship.

Kabbah has disappointed  Sierra Leoneans beyond the nightmarish dreams of everybody in this hapless country .Never has there been a leader on whom the nation larvished  so much hope like Kabbah. The people of Sierra Leone were even ready to lay down their lives to defy the RUF/AFRC  junta to ensure that an overthrown Kabbah returned to power. Their reward has been a Presidency that has thrown feces in their faces. The government has woefully failed to reciprocate the sacrifices of the people .

At a time when Sierra Leoneans should be breathing a sigh of relief that the government they preferred over the junta had lived up to their expectations by alleviating some of the socio-political and economic problems, the people are only full of regrets.

Economic and socio conditions have worsened and every imaginable problem is worsening in Sierra Leone. One has to be an ordinary man in the street to comprehend this. Fleeting vacationers and those receiving reasonable respectable salaries in the country are not the best persons to understand the parlous  and harsh economic realities our people have been forced to face under this SLPP Government that cares for nobody. The person  who understands it most is the ordinary man in the street  whose income and wherewithal are so meagre that  , in the face of the escalating cost of living, he cannot provide a single meal for his family.

By our tradition, a man’s best endeavor is to provide daily for his family.But when the breadwinner of a family has been rendered completely useless by social and economic condition, family cohesion itself is weakened and social problems and abberations take over. It is no wonder that  there are so much juvenile and adult delinquency, prostitution and other social evils in the country.

While President Kabbah and his ministers do not carry all the blame for the chaotic economic situation in Sierra Leone, at least they should have been seen to be making some honest efforts to alleviate the problems. But this is just what is lacking in this SLPP government—Honest endeavour and enterprise to improve conditions in the country.

The people cannot accept the over-worn excuse that there is no money in the government kitty when different realities greet their eyes eveyday. They cannot accept the government’s lame excuses when everyday they see or hear about Kabbah’s ministers and government officials putting up mansions all over the country and  and buying palaces abroad. While most of the populace can barely stand on their feet because of hunger , poverty and diseases, how can anyone convince them that  that there is no money in the country when they see mansions sprouting all over the country, constructed by ministers or government officials ? There is only one explanation : Money is abundant in the country but it is being monopolized by those in power. And this is grossly callous and wicked. Kabbah’s ministers are building mansions all over the country and buying palaces abroad like nobody’s business and nobody is stopping them at all.

How can the ordinary man who cannot afford one square meal a day for his family understand the government’s excuses when ministers and government officials  also cruise around the city in expensive limousines that their salaries obviously did not provide ? Sierra Leone has some of the most expensive fleet of vehicles  found anywhere on her streets and these vehicles are driven by Kabbah’s ministers. Where are these government officials getting the money to buy these expensive limousines ?

What is happening in Sierra Leone during the President Kabbah  and SLPP era far worse  than what transpired during the regrettable Siaka Stevens  epoch. The  “yuki-yuki”( Institutionalized corruption ), wilful misuse and waste of government money and natural resources, insensitivity to the suffering of the masses and flaunting of ill-gotten and vulgar riches that were the order of the day during the Stevens era have tripled  during the SLPP rule.

If President Kabbah feels that when he retires he will enter Sierra Leone’s Gallery Of The Greats, he is mistaken. People will forever cry with his name . Whatever illusions we once had that Kabbah was better than Siaka Stevens have evaporated, especially in the light of the continued harassment of journalists who are being punished for questioning the unbriddled corruption around them , and the imprisonment of Paul Kamara, the use of live bullets to disperse students demonstrations, the storming of the university campus by government security forces and looting of the students’ dorms and the human rights abuses reported in newspapers everyday.

Kabbah still has the opportunity to recover, deliver and preserve his legacy from calumny. He has to , first of all, establish accountability in the handling of the country’s money and end the orgy of economic feasts being presently enjoyed by his ministers and public officials. Secondly, the President must fire those officials who are not delivering anything but only live to filch government money and properties by night by day and fish for more dirty lucre by night . Thirdly, the government should try to establish price control and stop the fleecing of the poor people by hawkish business men and traders. Fourthly, it is high time that the government restored the basic amenities of life to the people, like pipe-borne water, electricity , good roads , well-functioning government hospitals and schools and colleges. Sierra Leone is sitting on abundant blessings of natural resources.With diamonds, gold, iron ore, bauxite, and other natural resources in our possession, we are too rich not to be the wealthiest nation in West Africa.

There is no reason for the suffering in Sierra Leone. Absolutely no reason at all. But until corruption is made a crime in Sierra Leone, things will never change.

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