|Politics is a five-year sport among Sierra Leoneans. We hardly know our politicians or their designs on power until they have accomplished their schemes while injuring us. Politics according to Harold Lasswell is about “who gets what, when and how” in a society. Our politicians know this game at our peril, owing to the ignorance which abounds us about politics.
In Power and Personality (1948), Laswell examined the imperatives of power. He concluded that unless men who seek and wield power are subjected to the most delicate psychological analysis, democratic society will remain ignorant of what drives men into the public arena; and accordingly we would be ill-equipped to tame, or even notice their chicanery.
Critical analysis of aspirants for Sierra Leonean leadership has long been an acknowledged want at least for those who care for essential leadership in our young republic. Thus, it ought to be our civic duty to avert Laswell’s proposition instead of following politicians in blind fatuity. President Grover Cleveland affirmed the point we are about to embark on in our examination of the fitness of Solomon Berewa for State House. In his first inaugural address, he reminded his compatriots in the United States about the duty which often seems to be an abandoned responsibility amongst us Sierra Leoneans. On March 4, 1885, Cleveland beckoned and his compatriots listened:
“Every citizen owes to the country a vigilant watch and close scrutiny of its public servants and a fair and responsible estimate of their fidelity and usefulness.”
Accordingly, an estimate of our leaders should be undertaken assiduously. It has been for this reason that we have been saying that a portrait of an aspirant cannot be painted on his or her SCHOOLING misrepresented as EDUCATION alone as we often do when we say that such a man is qualified because he has acquired a tertiary degree or he is most qualified because he has a terminal academic degree. In fact, the failure in developing a well-ordered society in Sierra Leone has not been owing to want of educated men and women. It has been largely the factor of their incompetence or a lack of willingness to be prudent in exercising their duties. Novelist Mark Twain once remarked a truism which has never guided us in our estimate of leaders. “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” Thus, the assiduity in our estimation of leadership in Sierra Leone must include a reckoning of their public record of responsibilities as we shall soon delve into that of Solomon Berewa.
Thus, if we sometimes appear cheerless if not churlish in our estimate of certain politicians, it is because we have no faculty for genuflection for leaders who do not inspire us to transforming leadership.
We now turn to a retrospective on Solomon Berewa, the public servant. This aspect of our essay shall be followed by forays into politics as aspirant for the presidency. Then we shall close by looking at his political fortunes for success at the SLPP delegates’ convention. The recent hurly burly by compatriots over the sour and blasphemous assertions by Solomon Berewa at the Southern Convention of the SLPP now give us the muster to hasten to his own animated hope of becoming President of our republic. The bugaboo over Mr. Berewa’s inability to draw apt analogies in politics and his Christian conjectures, belie his worthiness as public servant and fledgling politician. It is our duty to checkmate his impetuosity and arraign him before the nation on the proposition whether he has what it takes to enter State House. We are now prepared to under that task below.
PATRONAGE; BIG-MAN SMALL-BOY COMPLEMENTS
When we see a man of no political experience buffeted all the way to the vice presidency, and he is touted as a leading figure for the presidency, we wonder whether such a man defies articulate description in politics. To avert that prospect, we must find a manner to adequately undertake an estimate of his public life. To appreciate the emergence of Solomon Berewa to the fore of the nation, we shall attempt to present him through the concept of patronage. In client patron relations, the patron provides protection, generosity and the client reciprocates with conspicuous gratitude. In a fine article, Culture and Democracy in Africa Today, Anthropologist Maxwell Owusu, suggests what seems to be the typical African client-patrons relations with unequal status of a high status individual and a low-status individual. The pair may be equally highly educated but the patron enjoys a high status because he provides the jobs. One of the instances in such client-patron relations suggested by Owusu is one in which the relationship is conspicuous-power versus conspicuous obedience and sycophancy. It is this model that motivated Robert Price to find analogues in what he calls the Big-Man Small-Boy Syndrome. Along Owusu’s and Price’s analyses, it is easy to find the Big-Man Small-Boy Syndrome endemic in our politics.
We find the Big-Man Small-Boy Syndrome an appealing proposition to look at Solomon Berewa as a loyal beneficiary of client-patron relations more than a man who has reached the summit of his ambitions through his own labour. For the facility of the present essay, we ought to assume the President, the man with the plum jobs in government is the BIG MAN and the SMALL BOYS are the Ministers and those occupying various positions supplied at the pleasure of the President. The big man buffets the political lives of the small boys with portfolios and the small boys in turn accumbent – bow in conspicuous obedience and sycophancy. Accordingly, the bigman-smallboy syndrome long ago afflicted one Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and one Solomon Berewa. A puffed-up politician, and a minion of the present tenant of State House, Solomon Berewa came to the prominence of the vice presidency through a succession of offices associated with the patronage of Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, to whom it appears he has been loyal and devoted to. It appears to us that Mr. Berewa, a prominent lawyer is out of his elements as a lawyer when he came to the vice presidency. As a national politician, he has acquired the scarlet letter given political bumblers in statecracft. In his ascent to the pinnacle of power, Mr. Berewa has fallen down on the job many times. Each blunder has been richly rewarded by another plum appointment. We suspect as Lord Macaulay once remarked in reviewing the works of Robert Montgomery that “It is perfectly true that reputations which have been forced into an unnatural bloom fade almost as soon as they have expanded.”
To begin the retrospective on Solomon Berewa the ?small boy,’ let us go back to where the relationship may have begun.
AT THE NPRC ON NATIONAL ADVISORY COUNCIL
Solomon Berewa cut his teeth in politics when he was appointed to the NPRC’s National Advisory Council. This was the soldier’s enterprise to return to civilian rule headed by Tejan Kabbah as chairman, current Internal Affairs Minister was vice chairman and Solomon Berewa served as General Counsel. By NPRC Decree No. 7, 1992, the National Advisory Council was established with the function of “working out modalities for the return to multiparty democracy…” At the end of the Council’s labor for the soldiers pretending a well-ordered society, a Draft Constitution was introduced on 9th September 1994. This ?constitution’ was greeted with disdain for its revolutionary provisions which attempted to remake the republic after the fashion of the parvenu regime of the NPRC. It is needless to say the soldiers abandoned it to the ash bin of history and continued their tightrope walking as the unlikely governors of Sierra Leone.
The National Advisory Council under the aegis of Tejan Kabbah, George Banda Thomas and Solomon Berewa botched their first cause in statecraft. Instead of crafting the constitution in question as a frame of Government and protector of Human Rights as is the fashion of modern constitutionalism, the bevy of platitudinal constitution-makers, gave the soldiers what they had been pretending – The Constitution as a Revolutionary Manifesto, something they and the soldiers lest understood was suitable for a fallen republic. Their preferred frame of government uprooted the old order and remade the elements of the state. The nature of this frame of government as we have come to know it is common in Communist countries. For Kabbah and Berewa, the would be twosome this was only the prelude to bungling statecraft at Abidjan, Lome and in the Agreement for the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
IMPUNITY IN ABIDJAN
At Abidjan, Mr. Berewa agreed to a lopsided accord in which the rebels would go scot-free without any redeeming clause to trigger prosecution against them if they breach the terms of the accord. Thus, we notice in Article 14 of the Abidjan Accord that there is no clawback or trigger mechanism to prosecute the RUF if they persisted in treachery: “To consolidate the peace and promote the cause of national reconciliation, the Government of Sierra Leone shall ensure that no official or judicial action is taken against any member of the RUF/SL in respect of anything done by them in pursuit of their objectives as members of that organization up to the time of the signing of this Agreement..” But this climate of impunity set in that accord was again repeated in the Conakry Accord and the Lome agreement.
CONSTITUTIONAL BUNGLE AT LOME
The Lome Accord negotiated by Attorney General Solomon Berewa blunder in his third incarnation as drafter of peace agreements. Against the RUF lawyer, Omrie Golley in Lome, Berewa blinked and agreed to a Faustian Bargain – He sold the republic to the rebels for peace. For the Kabbah administration’s inability to prosecute the rebel conflict to a just end, Berewa settled for a fig leaf to cover itself. The Lome accord not only gave a blank check to the rebels to draw impunity for their treachery, Berewa agreed to traduce the existing Constitution. The rebels demanded and Berewa bulked by yielding the superintendence of the mineral resources of Sierra Leone. In that regard, Sankoh, leader of the implacable rebels would have the following warrant which usurped the existing constitution of Sierra Leone:
“The Chairmanship of the Board of the Commission for the Management of Strategic Resources, National Reconstruction and Development (CMRRD) as provided for in Article VII of the present Agreement shall be offered to the leader of the RUF/SL, Corporal Foday Sankoh. For this purpose he shall enjoy the status of Vice President and shall therefore be answerable only to the President of Sierra Leone.”
In the seeming triumph of peace over bloodshed at Lome, Berewa and his patron stood shoulder to shoulder with the traitors who had menaced their compatriots for over a decade. The accord was sacrificial lamb to propitiate failure in the theatre of conflict and at the negotiating table. In the moment of celebrations at Lome, the appeasement of traitors with carrots was forgotten. In her valuable book, The New Meaning of Treason, Rebecca West closes the work with what seems to have eluded Berewa’s attention at Lome while he was giving away sweets to the rebels to appease them to abandon the contest of arms for peace. There, West warned, “The man tempted to become a traitor will be helped if public opinion keeps before him that treachery is a sordid and undignified crime.”
The rebels’ triumph at the negotiating table signaled to them that treachery pays and it is rewarded by weak drafters of agreements who agree to an unwieldy power sharing model which grafts new provisions to an existing constitution at the detriment of the people. If Abidjan and Lome were dress rehearsals for incompetent statecraft, the framing of the Special Court for Sierra Leone was in the offing.
FRAMING THE SPECIAL COURT
Having bungled at Lome and appeased the rebels, the traitors entered government and soon reneged on all the peace terms resulting in the arrest and detention of Sankoh and his motley crew of murderers. Hemmed in by the brazen post-Lome Accord behaviour of the rebels sharing power with government, but unthoughtful about international criminal tribunals existing at Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, President Kabbah and Berewa requested the Secretary General of the United Nations to establish a special court for Sierra Leone to prosecute violations of war crimes and international humanitarian law. Had Berewa the point man for the Kabbah administration studied the jurisdictional problems the UN Chapter VII Courts in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia were facing, they might have averted the stalemate the Special Court is now bogged down in just and sometimes dilatory motions. The making of the agreement and its ratification have been challenged on constitutional grounds. Why Berewa did not foresee these, sort of problems as Attorney General and the chief negotiator of the agreement is baffling. But that was only one problem in a botched job. The next set of problems that would plague the Special Court later in pre-trial and trial motions included allegations of violations of the Supremacy Doctrine in the Constitution of Sierra Leone, together with the sovereignty rights of the republic. Thus the Special Court today is mired in motion after motion because Mr. Berewa agreed to the following provision in the Statute of the Court:
The Special Court shall have PRIMACY over the national courts of Sierra Leone. At any stage of the procedure, the Special Court may formally request a national court to defer to its competence in accordance with the present Statute and the Rules of Procedure and Evidence.”
But notice what the authority of the Sierra Leone Courts comprises: ” (3) In the exercise of its judicial functions, the Judiciary shall be subject to only this Constitution or any other law, and shall not be subject to the control or direction of any other person or authority.” Mr. Berewa had also forgotten in his statecraft that the 1991 Constitution clearly states the Supremacy Doctrine in section 171 (15): “This Constitution shall be the supreme law of Sierra Leone and any other law found to be inconsistent with any provision of this Constitution shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void and of no effect.”
That Mr. Berewa failed to reconcile these provisions among others with the draft of the Statute of the Court which suggested the supremacy of the Special Court over the courts of the Superior Court of Judicature, is the sore point which has spawn many motions in the Trial and Appeal chambers of the Special Court alongside those filed in the Sierra Leone Supreme Court. In doing so, the objects and reasons for fashioning the Special Court are being impeded or delayed at considerable cost and peril to the sovereignty and thereby undermining of the Constitution of Sierra Leone.
A more troubling matter resulting from the complete failure in statecraft is the issue that has been mooted before the Supreme Court on the question whether or not the Special Court was constitutionally established. As Attorney General and the agent of government to whom President Kabbah delegated executive authority to negotiate an agreement with the United Nations, it was Mr. Berewa’s responsibility to obtain the best bargain possible within the meaning of the Constitution. Clearly, Mr. Berewa knows or should have reason to know that the Constitution requires certain amendments or alterations to be accompanied by a referendum such as Section 108 (3) provides:
“A Bill for an Act of Parliament enacting a new Constitution or altering any of the following provisions of this Constitution, that is to say, (a) this section, (b) Chapter III, �) sections 46, 56, 72, 73, 74(2), 74(3), 84(2), 85, 87, 105, 110-119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 128, 129, 131, 132, 133, 135, 136, 137, 140, 151, 156, 167, shall not be submitted to the President for his assent and shall not become law unless the Bill, after it has been passed by Parliament and in the form in which it was so passed, has, in accordance with the provisions of any law in that behalf, been submitted to and been approved at a referendum.”
Why Mr. Berewa failed to advise the President and Parliament that an amendment or other alteration of the Constitution, that especially includes Entrenched Clauses as stated in section 108 (3), would require a Referendum is a thorny issue which is taking up more of the Special Court’s vital prosecution time and putting into question whether Mr. Berewa understood the imperatives of making treaties for international organizations. One may argue that it was Parliament which ought to have sought a referendum to complete the ratification process because lawmaking is her purview. But under the doctrine of collegiality, our legislative body is a colleague of the President in making laws in Sierra Leone. Thus, this assortment of blunders has cast a lengthened shadow on Mr. Berewa’s abilities to conduct statecraft to the greater benefit of the nation.
Having demonstrated the pith of Mr. Berewa’s record as a public minister, we must now turn to his personal ambitions for political power. There is no longer any question that President Kabbah has endorsed his pliable vice president for the presidency. But are Mr. Berewa’s political fortunes are at best now inversely proportional to that support? Or is this a march of folly?
HEIR APPARENT OR MARCH OF FOLLY FOR POWER?
The strange course being undertaken by Berewa to gain the nomination deserves some attention. As if his endorsement by the President were not adequate to propel him into State House, Mr. Berewa has undertaken a design to catalyze it. It very much appears that Vice President Berewa’s heir-apparent status fashioned by Big man President Kabbah for Small boy Berewa has fallen on hard times or has been squandered by the latter’s lust for power. When he pined at the SLPP Southern Convention, that he will “emerge as the next president,” he made an absolute surrender of his personality in politics in that breadth of wind and wave of his speech. Introducing his political personality in a quest for the SLPP nomination, he looked not the figure of a statesman on the hustings for votes, but as if a tiger had broken loose from a menagerie to wander into his wild habitat to prance after prey. His alleged blasphemous howl attracted more attention than whatever whit of substance was in his resolution for office. But lurking behind that yammer is the condition of a desperate politician lusting for power. Barbara W. Tuchman has reminded us in her valuable book of history, The March of Folly, that Tacitus once remarked that the lust for power was chief among the forces affecting political folly and the most fragrant of all the passions. Others have elaborated that because this passion can only be satisfied by power over others, government is its favourite field of exercise. In that case Mr. Berewa has indeed entered upon that a well-cultivated field.
THE ABORTED WORKING GROUP
The avenue Berewa has chosen to reach the summit of his ambitions is peculiar. This path is paved with machinations hitherto the province of the APC politicians in the reign of Siaka Stevens. Unlike most of the other political parties, the SLPP has a modicum of intra-party democracy save the times it breached the rights of Charles Margai to compete with President Kabbah for the 2002 presidential elections. The SLPP has a slate of delegates to be won from the 14 electoral block districts and each aspirant must garner 55% of the total to be nominated candidate for President. Mr. Berewa it has been told wants to circumvent the procedure to win the lion’s share of the delegates through design and intrigue. Stealing a page from the political play book of the APC epoch, Berewa has had his eye on State House with a Machiavellian intrigue. To that end, he propounded a new scheme of electoral politics, which, it must be owned, is not altogether without plausibility for his passion. Mr. Berewa’s appetite for power grounded his own scheme called the WORKING GROUP – a method of delegate selection outside the ambit of the SLPP regulations for the nomination.
But the Working Group scheme is in trouble according to the Editors of the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), an international quarterly publication which monitors political and economic trends in more than a hundred countries. In the EIU’s latest edition, March 2005, the Editors write:
“In what was a significant decision, the ruling party, the Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party (SLPP), is understood to have refused to acknowledge the Working Group set up by the vice president, Solomon Berewa, which he was using to campaign for the SLPP’s leadership. If he had gained this post, it would have given him a virtually guaranteed chance of winning the SLPP nomination as its candidate for the presidential elections scheduled to be held in 2007.” Quoting the SLPP’s administrative secretary Brima Koroma, the EIU says “the party does not recognise the existence of the Working Group as an affiliate member of the party, which is possible only with approval of the Delegate Congress, the highest decision-making body of the party.” In these circumstances, the Editors paint an ominous future for Mr. Berewa:
“The significance of this statement is that Mr. Berewa’s chances of taking over from Mr. Kabbah as head of the party, and ultimately, if successful, as state president, appear to be diminishing.”
DISAFFECTION IN THE PARTY ELITE
Authorities on the behaviour of leaders of political parties have stated that members of the ruling class invariably stay together in cliques to hold on to power. Maurice Duverger the foremost authority on political parties says that such cliques may take the form of a “CAMARILLA – small group which makes use of close personal solidarity as a means of establishing and retaining its influence.” The Camarilla was well-rooted inside the APC as it consolidated its power in the early 1970s until it sealed it with a corporate imprimatur in the 1978 One-Party Constitution. To appreciate this method of gaining power by group interest, we have to look at the many intrigues broached by members of the ruling elite in the APC. Unaware or discounting such knowledge, people often credit Siaka Stevens with maintaining power for many years without regard to the fact that he often conjoined his lust for power with equally insatiable members of the party. When he for example wanted to establish a one-party state, he found confederates on the Bench and Bar between lawyers and the educated class in and out of the University to accomplish that goal. In his last intrigue in office for example, when he wanted General Momoh to succeed him, he sought a constitutional amendment from the ranks of Parliamentarians. The amendment enacted, jettisoned Sorie Ibrahim Koroma from the line of succession when Stevens retired.
In saying these things, we are not to be understood to say that Mr. Berewa should be adopting the legacy of the APC to gain or maintain power with his SLPP colleagues. We are only showing that his Working Group perhaps would have been foisted on the SLPP if he had conjoined others who are equally ambitious to keep power for themselves. His own APC-like intrigues are done in the likeness of a lone ranger in his lust for power as his arrogance has led him to act alone outside the ruling class, thereby creating disaffection among the ranks in the SLPP against him. On this measure associated with Mr. Berewa’s troubles we return to the EIU. The Editors write,
“For some time there has been an ant-Berewa groundswell of opinion growing within the SLPP, owing to somewhat to his perceived arrogance in thinking that the SLPP and the state presidency [were] his for the taking. There are a number of cabinet members who consider that they themselves have a chance of succeeding Mr. Kabbah, and this has seen jockeying within the party grow.”
More than this, the Editors say that President Kabbah is “thought to have tired of Mr. Berewa’s overbearing personality, as well as the alleged accusations of corruption leveled at Mr. Berewa, which have sullied Mr. Kabbah’s reputation in the eyes of donors.”
Mr. Berewa has forgotten how he climbed in the supreme berth of state – President Kabbah placed him there as his pliant minion. A Small boy as we have observed above must always be subservient to the Big man or the Small boy risks losing the support of the Big man. Demonstrating arrogance of power when the Big man is still in office vitiates the client-patron relations at the peril of the client.
We have admitted that Mr. Berewa, like his competitor Mr. Charles Margai is a fine lawyer. We have observed the public record of Mr. Berewa and we have found little to cheer about. If Mr. Berewa’s experience is based on the statecraft he has superintended for 10 years, we are reluctant to say he is fit to succeed President Kabbah. If Mr. Berewa is depending on the legacy of President Kabbah to sweep him into office because Mr. Kabbah has indicated he is his heir-apparent, the probability of his election to State House pales because of the stout disapproval of their stewardship. We conclude that Mr. Berewa’s passionate claims to power are to be left to preferences of the delegates and the unerring judgment of time in 2007. And as the EIU concludes its own estimate of Mr. Berewa, “without the support of the party members, Mr. Berewa’s chances of attaining his goals appear poor.”
John Lansana Musa
Silver Spring, Maryland