|IS IT REVENGE, RECONCILIATION OR INJUSTICE ?
WITH HINDSIGHT: THE WAY FORWARD V : THE PANDORA BOX
IS IT JUSTICE, REVENGE OR RECONCILIATION?
?The things that we share and have in common should be much greater than the ones that divide us. It is upon this platform a society can be built with a brand of new love and peace for a better tomorrow. We are expecting miracles, failing to realise that no one can turn back the clock or undo what has been done, the only way now is forward?
As Plato says ?an unexamined life is not worth living?. The survival situation in Sierra Leone continues to be very complex and needs not jargons or elastic English but a simplistic approach, common definitions and solutions watered down to the average man in the villages, cities, streets, schools, colleges, and institutions. Everyday is in despair. There is bad news over the press about corruption with impunity. Locally as well as globally, symptoms of the repercussions of the past, ineptitude of weak governance through bad policies and maladministration is heard in the cries of the average man, woman and child suffering and complaining on the streets, throughout the length and breadth of Sierra Leone. Talking politics and playing ?politricks? with the lives of the people and the integrity of the nation as a whole, continues unabated.
The Governments officials travel all over the globe in official capacity funded at the expenses of the nation?s coffers and getting intoxicated by the trappings of office. They bring back home false information and bad vibes about other Sierra Leonean?s of the Diaspora in exile. Instead of going about national business they engage secretly in probing others activities, obsessed over their affairs and making them their agenda instead of the prosperity and development of the country. There have been many complaints about these clandestine activities and credible information has been passed on to the international community for their perusal and study. Those that have chosen to govern, please, concentrate on the country?s affairs and try to understand and know more why you are failing in your deliberations and others are succeeding even outside their domain. I, as an example, do not spend my time trying to talk of or destroy others but face the challenges and make myself useful and better in my new environment. Out of my own personal persecution and struggle have come great victories and achievements. The magic is simple. One must meditate and pray on things, plan well and be very diligent, honest and hard working. Pursuing others or exercising policies that are not feasible or workable in the present global circumstances is not the answer and will never be the solution for Sierra Leone.
Tony Blair (UK) attends Parliament every Wednesday for a gruelling during Prime Ministers question time reporting on his activities both in and out of the UK.
George Bush (USA) speaks to the people on his weekly address to the nation giving accounts of his actions and policies. This is democracy in its finest form.
The same strategy and principles must be copied in our own Parliament. Setting social, economical and political standards based on principle uniformity of conduct by all. Sierra Leone politicians pretend to practice democracy, muse about it for the international community to hear the tune of it. Use it for personal gain mainly and fail to adhere to its ethics and virtues.
Why are our politicians and leaders afraid to communicate or enter into dialogue on a regular basis with the people? The answer is, they have nothing meaningful to say to the people – period! They continue to be stubborn and recalcitrant refusing to let prudence direct them, temperance chasten them but reflecting upon and just accepting the consequences of their past; which is gnawing at the nation?s body politics today. Until this reality is understood, there can be no political dividend, real peace or salvation for the way forward.
The scenario in Sierra Leone was not properly and fully examined to cater for the conscience of the silent uneducated majority. It was haphazard to suit the satus quo, the social, political and educational elite. This is a dangerous precedent and legacy as the old adage of half education is as dangerous as no education. With all the evils and sufferings in the country, Sierra Leonean?s still have the capacity for good and tolerance, replacing persecution and injustice with perseverance and humility. Give them the truth and nothing but the truth, so help us all Lord! They have the wisdom to accept and act upon these truths.
?Recycling politicians with a monotonous system is equal to a merry joust making our politics look like a fun fair ?Merry-Go-Round?, going around and around and around?.
Sierra Leone?s politics really is a fair ground, going round and round. To be very candid, I do not blame the old guards but I do hold them responsible for taking revenge on other children because of the demise of theirs. Most of the youths and young men failed first their parents then their country. They did not live up to their parent?s expectations and ambitions. Their rich and political parents gave them everything, sent them to universities abroad, and spoilt them with the niceties of life. They were flown every holiday to Freetown from Europe, while they raped the economy and made decisions that negatively affected the lives of the people with impunity.
If you look at the results of this episode, how many today could raise their heads up high to the satisfaction of their parents or to the envy of their friends and country? Today these children, now grown to adulthood are the worst elements in society. All they do is bad mouth others, go around governments because of their family positions or connections injecting venom in others. They witch hunt and have become social misfits and saboteurs.
They are malcontents, treacherous, envious and as bad as the worst of the REBELS. This behaviour is even carried out of Sierra Leone in countries where they find themselves throughout the globe spreading their venom like an insidious virus. While the SLPP government was in exile in Conakry, Guinea during the military coup in 1997, there is credible information concerning active participation of non governmental individuals and hangers on for political favours advising, giving names in the preparation of list of prominent Sierra Leoneans deemed to be collaborators and against their interests for execution. This was carried out viciously with out mercy or recourse to ones Human Rights and Crime Against Humanity. Many have forgotten that they will be judged one day.
In the 70s & 80s, serious fraud crimes, ritual murders and armed robberies in Sierra Leone especially in the city of Freetown were performed by parents and sons of ministers, military officers, businessmen and politicians. Notorious members of these groups were the crack squad, the mamy yoko street murder gang, and Henneh Shamel a Lebanese who committed the largest diamond robbery ever in the world. It was a mixed blend of Sierra Leone elite and children of political parentage plus some of Lebanese origins. Customs fraud, over invoicing government on contracts and supplies, diamond smuggling, black marketing, taking drugs and brandishing guns at will – was much, much more than a Wild West culture enacted with impunity.
This culture of avarice destroyed the idealism and hopes of a large number of our young generation so influenced by these despots. Their youth and their future were cynically destroyed in an episode from which many will never recover to be useful to our society. They are left emotional lepers ? cast into the marshlands of oblivion.
It has left many parents disorientated and less compassionate toward others today. There is a massive emotional void, now being filled by the bitter wine of cynicism. The old political guards do not serve the modern purposes and challenges. The ever changing and constantly demanding world is having a very serious effect on their capacity. They are still fighting yesterday?s battles rather than facing today?s and meeting tomorrow?s challenges. The problem of the country is domestic and it is only the people who can put a final end to it. Modernisation is not about ditching the old and traditional values; it is about breathing new life and thinking anew. It is said ?Rather than fear the darkness ? light a candle? If three and a half million Sierra Leonean?s each had a new positive thought ? how bright would be the glow from all those candles? How majestic would become our beautiful country?
The best thing that has ever happened to our country is the setting up of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Special Court. Today, these dynamics influence the present and future of Sierra Leone; the Special Court, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are very vital organs in bringing some degree of semblance and integrity to the bureaucracy and the body of politics. You cannot divorce any one of these factors from each other with regards to the justifications for the forming of each as part of bringing to light the darkest part of our history for the benefit of posterity and the common good.
The foundation of our present woes and predicament as a nation has been written clearly on the wall, if you want to go by materials available in our history. Governor Clarkson said it all in his prayer for Sierra Leone.
The type of politics practiced with regards to the infighting amongst the political heavy weights to the detriment of the nation is not new. For the benefit of hindsight, what we see today is a tragic repetition of our past political history.
Between 1947 and 1967, Sierra Leone went through a very vicious cycle of political antagonism that caused the break away of Sir Albert Margai from the SLPP to form the PNP. He returns after the attainment of independence in 1961 to join in a government of national unity to serve under Sir Milton Margai, his elder brother, as his deputy. Sir Milton and Sir Albert Margai, two brothers who never ever got on well from the beginning because of the vaulting ambition, strong tribal and ethnic influence of the other brother Sir Albert, wanting a strong Mende dominance and bringing his vices into main stream politics.
The country belongs to all – not a few or a cabal social elite club of politicians. You have taken the politics from the people, now you want to take the country from the people. This is treason of the highest order! The result of this is what we have today – chaos and disarray. We must tell the truth honestly, make amends for the past as it should be done without any tribalism, sensationalism or partisan politics. This has to be the key to a solution for a new conscience and a renewed, rejuvenated and reborn Sierra Leone.
?It is man who makes history. History always repeats itself, but we never learn by its experience?. While the international community is assisting the country deal with the present predicaments, it is of vital necessity that the people and the politicians reconcile the past by analysing and dealing with the factors that have brought the nation to such a situation ? supplicant and down on its knees.
Chronology of important dates from the past which today haunts the country crying, is it: JUSTICE, REVENGE OR RECONCILIATION?
The mysterious death of Sir Milton Margai the country?s first Prime Minister resulting from internal struggle about succession (heart attack)! Internal squabbling about succession. Vice Prime Minister Sir Albert Margai his half brother wanting desperately to take over. Preference was Dr Karefa Smart. Bitterness divides them, even today.
General Election in which the incumbent the SLPP refusing to accept the decision of the electoral commission, precipitate the first ever coup in West Africa. ADC Lt Hinga Norman holding hostage the queens representative the Governor General at the State House while declaring the opposition leader Siaka Stevens winner of the election. Infighting between coup makers in choosing leadership. Col. A.T. Juxon Smith was finally appointed while he was in the United Kingdom because of his neutrality in the tribal war going on within the military ranks. Setting up of various commissions of enquiry into the rampant and blatant corruption plaguing the country. Returns all money and assets stolen back to the coffers of the country. Instills discipline into the civil service and the bureaucracy. Juxon Smith had to sacrifice the relationship with his family especially his father during his leadership because he wanted to interfere with decisions pertaining to State Affairs. His father was molested at the State House and told not to ever darken his office for as long as he remains Head of State.
The return of Siaka Stevens from exile to form a government of inclusion with the opposition SLPP. With their mandate, blessings and participation taking the country to a one part state of declaration and executive presidency of a republic. 1969-1972
The execution of military officers and parliamentarians Bash Taqi and Forna for being critics of government policies and direction.
No college. No school. Riots by students and activists that brought the government to its knees forcing them to negotiate. (Pious Foray and Hindolo Trye saga).
Hosting of the OAU – Shades of opinion as to the necessity. Salia Jusu Sheriff demoted from finance to health ministry.
Kailahun Dogbowusu ? Political in fighting between Salia Jusu Sheriff and Late Francis Minah. A chieftaincy saga in which the two government heavy weights supporting opposing candidates resulted in the death of a teacher who was tied to a land rover, driven across the village square until he was dead. A riot preceded, SSD militias were sent to the area were every adult was targeted for extinction in which many went into exile to Liberia including Maigore Kallon purported to be the leader of the rebellion.
General Election Conduct ? The Thaimu Bangura Sanda affair Versus the TIMBO`S. Mass killing, burning of houses, looting by thugs and imprisonment of opposition members and collaborators.
The granting of safe haven to Quiwonpa the Liberian dissidents on Sierra Leonean soil, training and support for his group. Launching of an invasion with SSD support into Monrovia to remove Samuel Doe from power. It failed, Quiwonpa was captured and killed together with over 500 SSD recruited personnel that were never reported or accounted for.
The Succession of President Stevens choice of Major General J S Momoh over his vice President S I KOROMA deliberately neutralising the APC power base to protect his retirement, leaving the country divided and weak for any potential insurgency and primed for yet another recipe for future chaos and instability.
The execution of the then Vice President Francis Minah for participating in the KAI KAI coup plot to overthrow President J S Momoh. He declared his innocence to the very hour he was executed. Another recipe for political in fighting and struggle within the inner circle of the executive to influence things to come.
Sierra Leone became ECOMOG base without the consent and referendum of the people. Serious repercussions on the economy. The Rebel incursion into Sierra Leone. Sierra Leoneans rushing to government wharf to buy looted goods from Liberia sold by ECOMOG personnel. Anger in the eyes of distressed refugee owners who could identify their property but helpless to act. Ghana government rejected the return of officers with stolen goods dumping items seized from peace keepers. Rebel incursion into Sierra Leone. JP Koroma and other officers shot, many died and some hospitalised fighting to repel attack.
A military coup de tat. The constitutional process to multi party politics obstructed. Salami Coker, Bambay Kamara and others summarily executed without due process of the law. Ambush and killed of the first leader of the Kamajors Prof. Alpha Lavalie. Ambush and killed a very prominent SL Army officer Capt. Ben Harsh.
Escalation of rebel war coming close to the capital as near as mile 38 to waterloo surroundings.
Removal of Captain Valentine Strasser as Head of State, replaced by his deputy Brig. Julius Maada Bio who initiated communication with rebel leader, the late Foday Sankoh for the first time bringing the rebel movement to the people of Sierra Leone thereby removing the myth about whether there is a Sankoh or not.
Peace before elections or elections before peace controversy. A decision in retrospect that can now be examined whether it was the right one, timely or other wise for every Sierra Leonean. What we built with our intelligence, we destroyed with our passion for power. After the elections the SLPP government was sworn in. ABIDJAN PEACE ACCORD SIGNED.
17. 1997: .
Political infighting started with news making headlines of an imminent coup, big rift between Kabbah, Hinga Norman and Demby. Serious rift between the Kamajors and the Army. Signing of the SOFA agreement between Nigeria and Sierra Leone. The premature retirement of close to 5.000 military personnel while the country was still at war with the rebels despite a peace accord treaty. JP Koroma was put under mess arrest because of a fracas between the army and the kamajors at mile 91 when the kamajors open fire and killed closed to 15 soldiers when they refused to relinquished their position for them to take over. Matter was investigated by a senior Nigerian military officer who even advised that the relationship between the army and government vis a vis the kamajors be seriously sorted out or it will be detrimental. During this process a Sierra Leonean military officer died refusing to falsify evidence in incriminating JP Koroma in Coup Plot. Military officers were charged for treason including Koroma and arraigned before the courts. Hinga Norman posted as ambassador to Nigeria in a cabinet reshuffle but refused to take up the appointment. Insisting and vowing not to leave the country for any other appointment other than his role in governments security apparatus which he not prepared to compromise. All of these occurrences and signals did not augur well for the government which precipitated the coup in May 1997.
The invitation by the military to the rebels to come into town. Rampant looting of properties and loss of lives. Problems between the military and the rebels high command in respect to positions and control. Signing of the Conakry Accord to relinquish power by April 1998.
February Military intervention campaign. Muslim Imam Mustaba, Businessman Sakoma, Politician Musa Kabia, Chief Abu Black and others murdered in cold blood. List for extermination of so called collaborators and family members of junta prepared in Guinea tantamount to genocide and premeditated murder. Restoration of the SLPP.
Attempted coup in Nigeria, Abacha`s Nos.2 man Oladipo Dia arrested including the present President Obasanjo. Nigeria?s mechanised battalion troop?s mutiny in Sierra Leone refusing to continue fighting. They were very loyal to their Commander Oladipo Dia. Nigeria?s navy Vessel returning home stop on the high seas not to enter Nigeria because of suspicion of troop?s involvement in coup plan. Soldiers seized vessel which later landed in the Gambia for further negotiations. December, Britain asking all nationals to leave Sierra Leone. January attack on Freetown.
The January attack on capital Freetown. The notorious Nigerian officer called BLOOD executing Sierra Leonean?s including families like chicken, and then throwing them over the Aberdeen Bridge if you are pointed to be a sympathiser or a collaborator. Hinga Norman posted as ambassador to Nigeria in a cabinet reshuffle but refused to take up the appointment. Insisting and vowing not to leave the country for any other appointment other than his role in governments security apparatus which he was not prepared to compromise.
Rebels abduction of UN troops in parts of Sierra Leone, seizing of their tanks and armoury. Demonstration at the residence of Foday Sankoh, shooting at demonstrators killing some. Sankoh flee into hiding. Captured by Johnny Paul?s men and handed over to the British troops based in Freetown.
General Elections with a proportional system, SLPP return to power.
Hinga Norman arrested by Special Court and others indicted. The death of Mosquito (RUF) in Liberia. The disappearance of JP Koroma. Death of SB Marrah, leader of the house and senior member of the ruling party.
Looking forward to the eventual commencement of the trials for war crimes and crimes against humanity by those that bear the greatest responsibility by the Special court for Sierra Leone.
THE ECONOMY AND POLITICS
The whole basis upon which a civil society exists and functions is trust. No matter who ever you are, just let it be known, it is not your intention to undermine the confession of others.
We are in too much of a quagmire for any serious investor or congloromat to come and make a positive contribution to our economy. Until the bureaucracy realises that investment or business is not a free lunch or gift, then dreaming and fantasising about the overall economic potentials is nothing but an illusion. A constructive, analytical and realistic approach is the imperative. Political stability and sound fiscal discipline is the bedrock of any positive and meaningful investment. During the Commonwealth Conference, recently held in Abuja, African leaders were not spared being reminded about the insidious wave of corruption by the Canadian Prime Minister. Canada plays a very significant role in African politics and economies and the Canadian P.M. reiterated ?CLEAN UP CORRUPTION – INVESTORS NEED POLITICAL STABILITY ? OTHERWISE THEY WILL STAY AWAY?.
The current Sierra Leone problems are the product of a crisis of leadership. There is no doubt that the political leaders, past and present, have contributed massively to the under development of the country. One begins to wonder whether the nation is adequately prepared to depart from bad political leadership to a new definition of good governance and a prosperous society.
As a Sierra Leonean born, nature has implanted in my breast a sacred and indissoluble attachment to the country I derived my birth and infant nurture. For posterity, I reflect upon the political history of present day. Hardly do I see or notice any transformation in the politicians, the bureaucracy nor the political leadership or the way of life of the masses. No adequate water, No adequate electricity, No constant supply of fuel, increase in the cost of living on and on and on. As a result, one is subjected to indefinite scrutiny on whether the political future of the country can be in any way guaranteed given the current system and tensed atmosphere under which it operates.
What serious checks and balances are there on the performance of the government? The question is not unreasonable. The answer, however, is too far fetched to even contemplate. Many of the country?s leaders are directly responsible for the failure of the economic, political and social systems. Karl Marx, the eighteenth century economist, claimed that the structure of the state revolves around economics. This clearly articulates the central or dominant role of economics in pursuance of national goals and aspirations. Therefore, it is imperative that policy makers such as Ministers of State, MPs and senior government officials understand the rudiments of practical economic models, dynamics and theories in formulating policies. A good number of political leaders know very little about this vital area. The consequences of this deficiency cannot be under estimated. Imagine MPs who do not understand the budget process approving the national budgets in utter ignorance of the implications of vital policy decisions. Well, that is exactly what is happening today. It is rather akin to the blind leading the blind down a dark alley. In the kingdom of the blind, the one eyed man will always be king!
Do we have a prudent blueprint for our economy? What type of product or portfolios do we have in place to attract credible and positive investors? Can we convince potential investors we have the right attitudes and mind sets to succeed? Can we prove that we are able to secure their investment in plant, machinery and people? Will they feel safe?
As critically important as it is, many of our politicians and Ministers hardly understand key macroeconomic indicators and how they affect the lives of ordinary citizens. Even when they do, ?politics and politricks? over-shadow the relevance of their economic decisions. For the average Sierra Leonean, it makes a lot of sense to tell them annual figures for Net Job Creation rather than Primary Domestic Balance, for instance. If the labour minister announces that government has created 2000 Jobs, does he have any idea about how many jobs are lost?
Bad economic policies have left the country behind others like Malaysia, Senegal, Gambia, Ghana and Singapore with relatively fewer natural resources. The big question is what measures are we putting in place to breed a new generation of politicians in the country? The answer, shamefully ? is none! Yet another own goal is scored by our less than illustrious leaders. They are convinced that if they stick their heads in the sand ? nobody can see them. It does however, have the supreme benefit and advantage of having the somewhat vulnerable and tender parts of their anatomies available for a smart spot kick. It is the peoples duty to issue that smart kick!!
The educational system deserves a fair share of the blame for the mess of the overall system and the impotence of the political leadership. Our educational system does not offer the student adequate tools to understand and analyse economic systems under practice. Even though there is all calibre of professionals, each category requires a good level of understanding of economics. The reason for this is that all kinds of professionals are needed to compensate for others deficiencies in Parliament and the Ministries to lay the required framework for policy decisions in various sectors of the national economy. Basic economics should be part of the basic curriculum in all senior schools.
Our educational system must begin training students to be well-grounded in economics in order that they can take up positions of leadership in the country more responsibly. The taxpayers? money cannot be wasted any longer to train people who mess up the economy as a result of their deficiency in this field. Secondly, the country needs a literate class of political leaders of a developing nation who can adequately communicate their ?socio-political-economic? ideas to the people through serious dialogue, both verbal and in writing in order that they can be judged appropriately. Besides, it lays the platform for active debates on policy issues which are on a very low-scale, if not non-existent. Great societies flourish on discerning ideas from ordinary citizens and the intelligentsia through open debate. Open debate is complete anathema to the current leadership, why? Other great leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, Patrice Lummumba did just that putting their country before self. Today?s J A Kufuor of Ghana, Thambo Mbeki of South Africa, Wade of Senegal, Yayah Jammeh of Gambia are all doing exactly the same. What debars Sierra Leonean politicians and leadership from embarking on that paradigm? Is it fear, ignorance, stupidity, bigotry, hypocrisy? You choose!
In the New Year of 2004, we must make a resolution to disconnect ourselves from personal issues and sentiments. We must look at the holistic picture of our lives, country, predicaments and future. We must make 2004 the definitive time of change of attitudes and perceptions for our beautiful country and its wonderful people.
?Rumours and Gossips are carried by enemies, spread by ignorant people, accepted by fools?.
?Out of my trials and tribulations I have come out better and not bitter?.
I wish you all a merry Christmas, more than you wish for yourself. May God grant us all the serenity and strength to make amends, reconcile for the common good of us all and mankind in general.
Syl Juxon Smith
TO GOD BE ALL THE GLORY