BY TITUS BOYE-THOMPSON –
The growing discord resulting in Sierra Leoneans taking to the streets to demonstrate their anger and vent their fury against a President they feel may have failed them is not something to be disparaged simply out of concern for the President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma. The concerns they seem to raise, although in most cases misguided are loudly implanted in the world stage and there is more of a reason to be guarded in how events of our democracy unfold in the near future. What is certain, and in the minds of the majority of Sierra Leoneans, is that the demonstration of love, respect and admiration that the people of this country have for President Koroma remain largely intact. What those in the Diaspora do not get is that their actions are easily being seen as party political, ideologically driven to dislodge a deep seated respect for the President, to manipulate discussions within the chattering classes and at times to engender a modicum of doubt and circumspect for the commitment of this President to democratic principles.
For now, the few are making noises that go well beyond their reach. The real battleground is inside Sierra Leone where none of those who would organize a rally in New York, or Washington, London or wherever else can win a spoon race in their chiefdoms. The lament therefore is in the weakness of the official opposition that has left a gap for overnight sensations, single issue protagonists and dispirited activists to lambast the highest office in the land for little more that an internet connection provided free at the point of delivery of a broadband connection.
There are certain basic modes of civilized behavior that is clearly being disregarded by the freedoms exercised in Western democracies against a leader who has to be minded by the harsh outer realities of life in one of West Africa’s straggling democracy, characterized by an economy in decline due in part to falling commodity prices compounded by one of the worst public health crises in the world, that has left its people disparaged and destabilized by death and the dehumanization of their loved ones. The burden of leadership at such a time leaves no room for error and a President who is struggling to uphold the tenets of fairness and an open society is being vilified for the least of reasons and in such a disproportionate manner designed to cause him personal embarrassment.
It is evidently clear that most of those who tend to be leading the rancor against President Koroma in London and America are those who feel left out of his administration whether because they see him as the man who deprived them of political power when the erstwhile SLPP government was dispatched through the ballot box and legitimately anchor the wishes and aspirations of the people in and out of Sierra Leone for a regime change or those who broadly speaking feel that they should have been considered for a position of sorts after this government was swept in by popular plebiscite but have so far failed to get the attention that they had expected. There are however more of the former than the latter and it is within this group of vexed politicians we find the opposition sympathizers very active. The vitality of this campaign by a group of so-called “concerned Sierra Leoneans” is also not unconnected with the internal wrangling within the SLPP, the arrival of viable opposition to the “Pa o Pa” brigade and the ascendancy of Kandeh Yumkella as a potential flag bearer for that party. What we are seeing therefore is a back door politicking to destabilize the President’s agenda abroad, to raise concern about his leadership and statesmanship within the international community and to envision a demand for fatigue within the international donor circuit so that an abandonment of support for Sierra Leone would spillover in the local economy through hardships, economic malaise and general disharmony as people lose their jobs and livelihoods. In short, these actions are planned and coordinated to cause chaos in Sierra Leone rather than bring in effective change.
The real focus for any group of concerned Sierra Leoneans, if well placed, should be restrained until the Supreme Court adjudicates on the Constitutional matter before it. It should not be disregarded that when the President made the decision to relieve the Vice President of his position, he would have made several calculations and determined that upon the advice available to him, his actions may even if questionable be subject to the arbitration of the Court. It is therefore a civic duty for all Sierra Leoneans to allow the President that latitude to have the matter extracted and examined by Judges who are of such sound nature and minds to be best placed to disentangle the law in all its manifold intricacies. The simple call to wait until the matter has been decided upon by the Supreme Court is maybe too civilized for some. It may also be a point in fact that those who are raising their voices now would either be disappointed by the Judges decisions or even by the unanimity with which the President together with the APC party would abide by that decision. To attack and falsely malign the President when he is on official mission to make a case for the recovery and rebuilding of Sierra Leone after the devastation of Ebola crisis is a very bad and treasonous act and for which much concern will be raised in certain quarters.
There is a seeming attempt to deceive by distorting the political bent of the demonstrators when they linked their protest with the Ebola funds and its management. It is clear that President Koroma used his own discretion to call for the funds to be audited midway into the crisis. He was not obligated to do that but, in the cause of probity, he used his executive authority to bypass the timeframe for such actions and called for a snap audit. The ramification of this audit is in itself on-going through the judicial process in Sierra Leone. Parliament is at the moment seized of that matter and to all intents and purposes are asking for transparency and securing due responsibility from all those who handled the funds to account for their stewardship. It is clear that once that exercise is completed, a Parliamentary report on the management of the funds will be published and made available. Parliament have the powers to point out individuals and institutions they believe to be culpable in any mismanagement of said funds and in accordance with extant provisions of law, the Anti Corruption Commission is primed to prosecute any allegations of corruption that may emanate from the Parliamentary report. The Police and other law enforcement agencies are also poised to support this exercise. All of this has been triggered by the President’s sole discretion to ensure there is probity in the conduct of the duties arisen out of the Ebola crises. Given these facts, it is unacceptable that political demonstrations should use such robust accountability procedures to blame the President of wrongdoing.
This attempt to divert international focus on the management of the Ebola funds Is misplaced and misguided but they had to have a lever to bring out their openly partisan ideology to a wider public for sympathy and support. After all, it is for the people of Sierra Leone to say to the world that ours is a President lacking in trust and respect of them. That is not the case and in any event, if the President’s decision to interpret his authority in a certain manner would lead to a personal choice between himself and anybody else, there is very little doubt that the people of Sierra Leone will side with Ernest Bai Koroma.