Lawyer Jenkins-Johnston Writes, Berewa, Koroma and Margai from Gravesend, Kent, United Kingdom.
Greetings to you all and I hope you are all in excellent health as you receive this letter. I write to you as a fellow citizen, and as a co-shareholder in the entity known as the “STATE OF SIERRA LEONE”, in the light of recent events in our beloved country, which must be of great concern to all of us shareholders in the said entity.
LAWYER JENKINS-JOHNSTON : PHOTO CREDIT , AWOKO
As I write to you I am several thousands of miles away in the United Kingdom where I sojourn every year at about this time during the long vacation of the High Court, taking a well-deserved rest, and preparing myself for the re-opening of the court later this month, but of course that has not stopped me from thinking about events back home, and their bearing on what the future holds for all of us Sierra Leoneans. I left Freetown at a time when the General Elections had been concluded, and most of the results had been released and traveled straight to the United States of America to honour a family commitment. I must say that I was quite pleased and satisfied with the positive impact that the conduct of the August 11 elections had generated from all Sierra Leoneans I came across in the U.S., and even more so from other non-Sierra Leonean Africans, and from the Americans themselves. Every one was full of praise for our Chief Electoral Commissioner and her team, and there was even talk of inviting her to share her experience and strategy with other countries in other places within and out of Africa. Clearly, Sierra Leone has made an impression on the world! (Hearty congratulations Ms. Christiana Thorpe and your Commissioners! More grease to your elbows!)
However, by the time the final results were published on or about 25th August 2007, and it became clear there would have to be a second round of elections within a two-week period as provided by the Constitution, several people began to express doubts and fears about the prospects of the second round being as peaceful, as free and fair, and as transparent as the first round had been. Many people wanted to know whether there was not some way a second round of voting could be avoided, but fortunately I have a copy of the Constitution of Sierra Leone with me, and painstakingly pointed out to each enquirer that the Constitution clearly provided at Section 42 that if there was no candidate who polled 55% of the valid votes cast at the presidential election, then there must be a second round of voting between the two (2) who polled the highest votes in the first round within a period of 14 days.
Sadly, within a matter of days, we started getting reports by phone, e-mail, internet etc that the spectre of violence had reared it’s ugly head once again in some parts of the country including Kailahun and Freetown, and that the outgoing President had even threatened to declare a State of Emergency if the violence did not stop. This is the main reason for this my letter to you, my dear brothers.
In my respectful submission, each of you and all of you, as the elected Leaders of your respective Political Parties, bears a very heavy responsibility, indeed a sacred duty, to ensure that your party activists and supporters understand that,
“…THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH, YIELDING PLACE TO NEW, AND GOD FULFILS HIMSELF IN MANY WAYS…”
OR to put it another way, the old politics of violence, threats, coercion and intolerance is long dead, and as we all proved on August 11 2007, Elections can and ought to be conducted in peace and tranquility, and with decency and maturity. As I understand it, “DEMOCRACY” is all about letting the people (the ordinary folk, or the common man if you like) have their say as to who is to lead or rule them, freely and without any threats, intimidation, coercion or violence whatsoever, that is the only power (a very potent power) that the ordinary citizens have, and it should not be taken away from them by anyone for any reason whatsoever.
To this end, I hereby charge all three (3) of you, Solomon Berewa, Ernest Koroma, and Charles Margai, (two of whom are LAWYERS OF OVER THREE DECADES STANDING) to ensure that you keep your party activists, supporters and sympathizers IN CHECK; Let them know that this is not a matter of life and death; that this is not a do or die affair; It is an Election, and surely one man must win, just as surely as one man must lose, indeed, that is what elections are all about. I further charge you all to see that the Law and Constitution are followed and upheld by all concerned at all times, whether the election goes the way you would like it or not.
We the people of Sierra Leone, our international friends and partners in development, and lastly history and posterity, will hold you individually and collectively responsible, and indeed will Judge you very harshly, if you fail to ensure that these Elections are concluded as they were begun – in peace and tranquility, with decency and maturity, and with utter and absolute respect for Law and order.
Finally, Gentlemen, let me remind you that whosoever wins this second round of the Presidential Election, has a monumental and most unenviable task ahead of him, and I assure you that this time around, we the people of Sierra Leone will not allow the New President and his Government to deviate or to renege from the promises and commitments each of you have made during the Election Campaign. But even before the Election Campaign, we had a multiplicity of urgent and outstanding matters, which the new government will have to tackle, and I list some of them hereunder as they come to mind.
1. Electricity Supply
Some have described Freetown as the darkest city in the West Coast of Africa, whether this is so or not I cannot say, but for my part I think the issue is much bigger than that, by reason of which I ask this question: CAN we have meaningful economic development without a reliable source of electricity supply? I have no doubt that the answer is NO! NO! NO!, and please do not tell me about standby generators, because we all know the costs involved with those, and in any event this is a utility service which the State ought to provide and for which the citizens will be glad to pay if it is there. The new Government will have to tackle this problem as a matter of extreme urgency if we are to take it seriously. We are tired of hearing about SULZER 4, 5 or whatever, just as we are tired of hearing endlessly about Bumbuna – some fresh thinking and initiatives are needed and fast. If the New Government succeeds in this matter of Electricity Supply nationwide, I do not think it will need to do much campaigning for the next election in 2012.
2. Water Supply
Most of what I have said about electricity Supply applies to the Water supply but in the case of Water Supply I think it is true that no life form can survive without water, even plants and animals, not to talk about human beings who need not just water, but clean, potable and pipe-borne water. Water wells and boreholes are fine, but ought we not to have progressed beyond that point in 2007? And I am not talking just about Freetown but Nationwide. I have often wondered whether we are making enough use of the several waterfalls, streams, rivers and natural Spring water God has given us, not to mention the fact that we are sitting on the Atlantic Ocean with the possible use of desalination to help ease the situation. Do we have a National water Policy? And if not, why not? IF we do, then maybe somebody ought to do something about making it public and implementing it – the sooner the better.
3. Harnessing Our Natural Resources
This is another area where the New Government will really have to wake up and do some quick thinking to find new initiatives, and spare us all the old and unproductive mining and other policies that have produced nothing for the nation, (including that disgraceful 3 percent tax on diamonds). Without a shadow of doubt, Sierra Leone is a Nation blessed with abundant natural resources – that is a fact! So how have they benefited us? Well, don’t ask me; ask Foday Sankoh, Charles Taylor and the Rebels, not forgetting several Government Ministers and Civil Servants over the past 46 years. Just think of the following – our population is just about 5 million people. God has given us Gold, Diamonds, Rutile, Bauxite, Iron Ore and several other lesser-known minerals in this country. God has also given us fish, shrimps, crab, lobster, prawns, and everything else that can be obtained from the Sea and utilized for our benefit. God has given us extremely productive soil, by that I mean you can plant and grow almost anything in almost any part of Sierra Leone with just a little bit of care and supervision. So what use have we made of these resources as a Nation? Think of what used to be Sierra Leone Selection Trust (SLST); Diamond Mining Company of Sierra Leone (DIAMINCO); DICORWAF and DICORSIL (Diamond Corporation west Africa and Diamond Corporation of Sierra Leone); Sierra Leone Development Co Ltd (Delco); Sierra Ore and Metals Company (SIEROMCO); Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Board (SLPMB) and the Sierra Leone Railway, and ask yourselves what happened to all these? It is my opinion that all the companies named above were working in the interest of the Nation and did produce substantial income for the state in the past, but each of these were killed off as our political leaders became greedier and greedier and preferred to leave all our resources in private hands so that they would each benefit even more than they had been doing before. In other words, we the people of Sierra Leone have not been benefiting from our God-given resources because of SELFISHNESS and EXCESSIVE GREED, which overcame and overpowered Patriotism and National Interest. Never again should we allow ourselves “to be sitting on the banks of the Atlantic Ocean, but still wash our faces with spittle!” And by the way, what have the people of Kono in the East, Moyamba in the South, and Port Loko in the North got to show for all the wealth that has been extracted from their respective areas over these past several years through the mining of diamonds, rutile/bauxite, and iron ore respectively? Is it not time to address this issue? Think about it gentlemen!
In my submission, all our natural resources such as gold, diamonds, rutile, bauxite, iron ore and our fisheries must be declared NATIONAL ASSETS by LAW only to be exploited by the State in partnership with known and established Multinationals on a contractual basis; after such contracts have been properly and exhaustively scrutinized by Parliament and Sierra Leoneans with expert knowledge of such matters, never by private hustlers from every conceivable corner of the globe. I recommend the BOTSWANA blueprint (for gold, diamonds, and other minerals) and even for our fisheries, with the possible exception, which can be made for our local artisanal fishermen who will be allowed to do subsistence fishing. But the nightly poaching by boats and trawlers from neighbouring countries and others from afar must be stopped immediately.
I sincerely believe it is time for Sierra Leoneans to start benefiting from our God-given resources, and we will need a very radical change of Policy at Government level for this to happen – and happen it must, otherwise we will perpetuate our wretchedness to our own detriment and those of our children and grand-children who will never forgive us for such an abomination!
Gentlemen, these are just a few of the issues which I believe the New Government will have to treat as priorities or matters of urgency, and I hope I have given you enough food for thought for the time being. Please don’t forget my earlier admonition that you must each ensure that you keep your activists, supporters and sympathizers and members in check, so that the second round of the elections will be conducted in peace and tranquility, with decency and maturity, and as transparently as possible, and for once Sierra Leone will have done something good for others to follow and copy. LONTA!!!
Long live democracy in Sierra Leone! And may God bless the long-suffering people of Sierra Leone! See you all very soon.
Ms. Christiana Thorpe
Chief Electoral Commissioner
C/O Electoral Commission