By Sia Tiyaama
It is easy tell when some politicians get anxious about their chances of winning elections. In the USA, politicians resort to very nasty attacks on their opponents, sometimes using very derogatory statements against their opponent’s family. That not withstanding, politicians in the USA do not resort to threats of violence against their country if the people do not vote for them.
Recently, Charles Margai, the de facto leader of the newly formed PMDC visited the USA to raise funds and meet with his supporters. Some of us in the Diaspora hoped that the much anticipated Charles Margai eloquence would be substantive and sensible. A lot of people came out of his meetings admiring him for his zeal, and sometimes misplaced and naïve optimism about this chances. However, others came from his meetings disturbed about his lack of grasp of the policies needed to fix the Armageddon he has painted about his homeland. I personally made it a point of duty not to jump to conclusions about his utterances, so I decided to follow newspaper reports about his policy statements or the lack thereof in other states. What I read cleared my doubts about the barren nature of PMDC and Charles Margai.
It is agreed that the energy situation in Sierra Leone leaves much to be desired. As a result, I was therefore not surprised when a participant asked a question focusing on electricity. I later on found out that the questioner was planted by the PMDC people to give Margai what is called in the USA a softball question. When given soft ball questions, the respondent is supposed to whack it out of the field – give a sharp and impressive answer. However, Charles Margai, in my estimation, bungled it so spectacularly that some of us were just dismayed at his emptiness when it comes to policy. The question was very simple. What are you going to do about the electricity situation in the country? Margai’s response was at best childish. He bellowed: “I will complete Bumbuna within months.” My jaw fell. He continued: “we have a lot of rivers in the country.” I was in utter disbelief. Some of us were expecting a better articulation about how he was going to complete that project within months. It also became clear that he has no clue about how such projects work. Had he known that Bumbuna project works in phases, he would have saved face. What further baffled some people is the fact that Margai only needed to go to Salcost’s website to get the needed information. In addition, we were hoping that Margai would tell us the relationship between the many rivers in Sierra Leone and electricity. Was he going to build dams within months and give the whole country electricity? Some of us who truly love our country came out of the meeting despondent.
Another internet news source www.wesalone.com also reported a very disturbing answer given by Charles Margai in Indianapolis, Indiana when he was asked for his qualifications to lead Sierra Leone. Charles Margai responded with a diatribe against the present government. The question was also very elementary: “why do you think you are the most qualified person to lead Sierra Leone?” Margai responded: “the government has no credibility…” While Mr. Margai may believe in that statement, that does not say anything about his qualifications for leadership in Sierra Leone. Such question warrants answers focusing on what experience he can bring to the table, has he implemented any significant government policy in his life time? What specific policies can he offer besides the usual “the people are poor” rhetoric?
In another alleged encounter in Florida, it was stated in a Sierra Leonean listserv that Charles Margai became very defensive when someone challenged his claim about having 90% of youth support in Sierra Leone because of his policies. The question was again very simple. How did you arrive at that figure and what are the policies? Well, let us say Margai went into another tirade of nothing completely failing to address the question.
Threats of Violence
These are few examples of Margai’s barren policy platform. It is becoming clear that Margai has no new policies and that the people of Sierra Leone may be seeing through the façade of nothingness. Let no one fool you, Margai is a smart fellow and he has probably realized that the people of Sierra Leone want to hear what he will do specifically about all of the things he keeps complaining about. As a result, the wily fellow has resorted to threats of violence when he loses the election.
It is slowly becoming the mantra of PMDC to threaten violence against the people of Sierra Leone should they lose the elections. I have been in many gatherings with PMDC supporters who openly brag that if PMDC loses, they will foment widespread violence. Most people dismiss them as rabble rousers. However, a lot of people are beginning to take them very seriously especially with Charles Margai making similar statements during an interview with Cocorioko’s Wilfred Kabs-Kanu. Charles Margai, among other things, said that should he lose the elections, there will be a level of violence (from his supporters) that he would not be able to stop.
Charles Margai has made that utterance at least twice in the media. Some of us take those threats very seriously. Given the fact that the country is still healing the wounds of war, it borders on terrorism for a party leader to make such inflammatory remarks about the security of the country. I hope the government takes Charles Margai to task for threatening the security of the nation in such a callous and unintelligent manner. It is also troubling that the ruling SLPP has not made any statement admonishing Margai’s foolishness. This was the same way APC under Joseph Saidu Momoh dismissed Charles Taylor and others. Now we have another Charles making similar threats about bringing violence to Sierra Leone and the government is loudly silent on the issue.
Giving Reasons to start violence?
Recently there has been what I consider an escalation of strategy on the part of PMDC. Charles Margai may have laid the ground work for violence in Sierra Leone. He may be trying to build upon it. After threatening violence if he loses, he has now shifted to the accusation that the SLPP government will rig the forth coming elections. For a party leader who has promised violence on the country if he loses to make a categorical statement that the government will rig the elections, Sierra Leoneans should see this as a precursor to Margai making good on his promise of violence. The strategy seems simple. Margai has foreseen his imminent defeat so he has declared that the government will rig the elections. So after he loses he will use his accusation as an excuse to start violence. The scariest part of all this is that the APC party has joined in the strategy. While APC has not threatened violence upon the people of Sierra Leone, their support for Charles Margai’s PMDC strategy to discredit the election will amount to aiding and abetting PMDC’s nefarious plans.
SLPP or NEC who is being discredited?
It is very cunning for PMDC and APC to say the SLPP led government will rig the elections. The two parties know perfectly well that the elections will be conducted by the National Electoral Commission (NEC). So the only institution capable of rigging elections is NEC. In that case, PMDC and APC are indirectly saying NEC will rig the elections for SLPP. That is a huge indictment for Christian Thorpe. If APC and PMDC think Christiana Thorpe will rig the elections in favor of SLPP, they should call for her immediate resignation. Failure to call for her resignation or directly accuse her will lead some to believe that this is just a ploy by the two parties to start violence after the elections. Not too long ago, these two parties were full of praises for NEC during the constituency delimitation debate in parliament. Why the sudden change of pronouncements?
Policies not Violence
It will bode well for Sierra Leone if APC and PMDC focus on articulating their policies. What do they have to offer the country? How will their policies be different from the present ones implemented by the SLPP and that have drawn widespread praise and support from the international community and that have led to the cancellation of Sierra Leone’s debt? Are there any innovative plans for poverty reduction? Would they give free health care to all Sierra Leoneans? These are some of the issues Sierra Leoneans need to hear from Charles Margai and not threats of violence and unsubstantiated statements of election rigging. Sierra Leoneans deserve better than the kind of politics of threats and intimidation that Charles Margai is promising.