By Karamoh Kabba
I listened to Robin White and Rick Wells since I was a mere youngster via short waves radio, by the only stereo set depending on which hamlet I happened to be? and there was Elizabeth Blunte. Those were the bygone days. Now, I can catch these programs through the Internet radio at any time of the day. Focus on Africa and Network Africa’s unique tunes are only sagacious of those long-gone days when I had to be by the stereo set a certain time. It’s leading to the following assertion; Robin is one of few journalists who have earned the authority to write like that about West Africa if not Africa.
When Robin said, “Kabbah is a genial, well meaning, competent man, and his official photographs do not do justice to his smile,” is journalism in its finest form and it is so true. But let us put the paradox under the microscope; “The ferry that takes you from the airport at Lungi to Freetown is a bit like Sierra Leone – struggling. It is old and decrepit, but it just about goes.” In addition, he went on, “Like all decent leaders, he is accused of not being ruthless enough. Corruption is said to be creeping back into the system and Kabbah stands accused of turning a blind eye.” These same journalists had used similar phrases for late President Joseph Saidu Momoh. And clearly, Robin unbounded his paradox, “But some would prefer a little dictatorship to big corruption — because that was the root cause of the anger that Foday Sankoh and his RUF was so ruthlessly able to exploit.” Read on when he writes, “Sit in a bar, or a newspaper office in central Freetown and stories just walk by. A group of blind, limbless soldiers come up to me with a petition protesting that they have been thrown out of their houses as part of a programme to cut down on military expenditure. One shows me a picture of President Kabbah standing over him when he was hospitalised after his injury. “The president promised me he would look after me until I die,” he claims.
The infamous Alieu Kamara, one-time spokesman for the junta that overthrew Tejan Kabbah in 1997, sips beer with the very journalists he once tormented. I express surprise he is still alive. “So am I,” he laughs.” Who will ever candidly call such character competent? To answer this question, he interjected the delimiting precedent “well-meaning.” President Kabbah is such an astounding personality, but the question is; are we looking for another President Joseph Saidu Momoh of Sierra Leone? No, I will vehemently refute – and surely, most Sierra Leoneans will – because, late President Momoh once told us he failed the people in a State of the Nation address, yet did not resign. Honestly, he was a well-meaning man himself with a great deal of self-discipline who ran the nation like a monarchy.
A well-meaning man who was a titular nominal figure overseeing a looting game that went on for years unabated until it plunged the nation into the heartrending decade we trod in anger and agony. Let me tell you this, the people around well-meaning leaders tend to benefit first, but lo and behold those people are crooked, their crookedness will apparently decapitate that well-meaning-ness right in that circle depriving the ordinary people.
A President need not be ruthless to stop corruption. He needs to be conscious of his duties, he needs to be pragmatic, and he needs to be conscious that final fingers will point at him and only him when things go wrong. It will do President Tejan Kabbah no justice to attack his personal ability, but let me point out some of the regime’s incompetence from different media sources in Sierra Leone: “As if the arrest and detention of their leaders by the so-called Special Court in apparent collaboration with the Government of Sierra Leone was not enough of a mess, the Kabbah administration has once again locked horns with their one time allies of the Civil Defence Forces.
The issue this time has to do with a proposal by government to award Kamajor fighters with medals, certificates and related honors. According to our sources, a large group of Kamajors from all over the country are presently meeting to deliberate over whether to accept the awards from the government.” (Freetown media) It is incommodious good-sense to have a leader under arrest and called the foot-soldiers men of mettle. This is manifest incompetence.
These are the consequences when ones ‘right hand does not know what the left hand is doing’. But as if this is nothing, “New Chief of Defence Staff, Maj Gen Mboma, meeting with the press for the first time, warned his officers that there should be “no more soldiers in politics as long as I am the CDS” and added “politicians should leave the soldiers to do their work.” (Freetown media) Is it the law that “no more soldiers in politics” or “as long as I am the CDS,” meaning that it is up to the next CDS to make his on law. These kinds of egomaniac statements invariably ruin our nation. Whereby everyone thinks he/she is above the law or he/she is the law. At least when the law is enforced in the name of the law, bound not to be broken by any Jack and Jill will make a statement that will prevent upcoming citizens of authority that the law is supreme than any man or woman and not the incumbent authority’s law, which otherwise opens others own lawmaking options.
The law enforcement bestowed upon authorities is what makes them who they are. Otherwise, they are ordinary members of families and circle of friends. Therefore, their semantics must give chance to the law to bestow authority in them instead of their individualism that invariably bestows despotism. But this is an example of how despots are made. Not to deviate from the gross incompetence of Kabbah’s regime, the people of Sierra Leone must recognize the better of two evils first. A bad democracy is preferable to a good autocrat or despot. The fact of the matter is, with democracy, the people are entitled to go back to the ballot box unlike the latter where they are deprived of the right to vote. But to knot it all, the people are sitting by a very good man, a father, husband or least, a man who needs supervision. He is a man who trusts people so much that he has been blinded by it. Kabbah will bring, as Robin rightfully stated, his people abject poverty and frustrations that in the first place triggered the decade-long rebel war. Nevertheless, that is why they have the ballot box to return to when elections come back around. Sierra Leone is tired of chasing leaders out. Democracy is here to stay. Karamoh Kabba