No one can deny the fact that President Ernest Bai Koroma is a truly democratic leader and he has successfully set up a truly democratic system in Sierra Leone. The facts are all there for all to see. When you consider where Sierra Leone came from–The totalitarian politics of the 1960s to the 1980s and the war that tore through the nation in the 1990s with the gun and matchete ruling the country, we must go down on our knees and thank God for the wonderful transformation that has turned our country from a pariah state to a democratic nation.
Today, Sierra Leone can boast of a truly constitutionally-elected government that came to power through one of the best Presidential and Legislative elections ever held not only in Africa but the whole world. When one considers the two flawed George W. Bush-won so-called elections of 2000 and 2004, both of which were a mockery of the constitutional process , you have to say that Sierra Leone, the Athens of West Africa, has restore her old glory as the wellspring of democracy in the continent. The 2007 elections in Sierra Leone were the envy of the other nations of the world. For this, we have to give credit to the people of Sierra Leone, the Elections Commissioner , Dr. Christiana Thorpe and the outgoing President, Dr.Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, who foiled vain attempts by the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP) who tried to put up a last ditch stand as they also did in 1967 after being clearly defeated by the APC. Kabbah may have made many mistakes in power but he should never be denied the credit for the patriotism he demonstrated after the announcement of the elections when he thwarted all efforts by the SLPP to refuse to accept their resounding defeat.
Since the war ended , Sierra Leoneans have enjoyed impeccable universal sufferage in which is enshrined their rights to vote and stand for elections. An outsider defeated the s0-called big horse in the 2007 Presidential elections.
And while the APC is in power, the opposition has won Legislative and local bye-elections , something unknown in Sierra Leone in decades past. Today, if their candidates campaign well and convince the electorate, they are capable of winning elections.
Since the All People’s Congress (APC ) came to power in 2007, the government has marvellously promoted a culture of multi-party democracy in Sierra Leone. For the first time in the history of our nation , the main opposition and the other minor parties enjoy total freedom to operate through the length and breadth of the country. The SLPP now enjoys a weekly press conference given by the Party’s Chairman, Mr.John Benjamin, who enjoys the liberty to attack and condemn government policies and activities at will. Though many of his attacks are divisive and a product of mere propaganda to discredit President Ernest Koroma and the government , the SLPP is allowed total freedom to continue holding these press conferences. From time to time, the SLPP also ingratiates itself to the climate of freedom prevailing in the country by making press releases that also take the government to task on national matters.
The SLPP is also the first opposition party ever since the 1964-1967 era of the democratic Sir Albert Margai to enjoy the freedom of having so many newspapers operating freely in the country. Despite their caustic attacks on the President, ministers and other government officials, the pro-SLPP newspapers have no problems to operate. Most of them even enjoy lucrative advertisements from government ministries and agencies.
Since President Koroma came to power, no newspaper has been proscribed . No newspaper editor has ever been arrested although there are draconian libel laws which could have ensured this as they do not allow the legal defence of truth by justification. In the true application of Sierra Leone’s libel laws, it is immaterial whether the libel was true or false or whether the person libeled had a good or bad character . All that needs to be proved by prosecutors is that the newspaper or journalist impeached the private character of public officials or their right to a good name. This being the case, most SLPP journalists would have been in legal trouble if the government had allowed the libel laws to be stringently enforced. And even if Sierra Leone’s libel laws had been normal , still certain journalists would have fallen foul of them , because they demonstrate actual malice and knowledge of or reckless disdain for the falsity of their allegations against the President and his officials; however since President Koroma and his team have purposed in their hearts to promote freedom of the press they just ignore the malicious articles written against them by pro-SLPP journalists .This is the first time in the history of the nation that journalists have never been arrested or made to face loss of their goods or have search and seizure actions executed against their premises or offices because of the articles they write against the government . Under President Koroma’s rule, journalists are free to call the Head of State names , lampoon him or ridicule him unjustly in their papers. Never has the President ever complained against the abuses of press freedom in his public statements or speeches. Sierra Leoneans , unlike the past, now have access to alternative sources of information about the operations of government.
During the Koroma era , Sierra Leone is also now blessed with the most vibrant and thriving civil society groups ever . For the first time in the history of the nation, a vocal civil society exists that criticizes the government freely and condemns certain actions taken by the government. This is a marvellous development for a country that once lived under a dictatorship in the 1960s to the 1980s. It is hoped that historians are recording these commendable events and these facts will be amplified in any contemporary history book produced about Sierra Leone’s post-war political renaissance. It is also hoped that stakeholders are taking note and when reporting to their principals in their capitals they will give President Koroma and the government the credit they deserve for nourishing the seeds of democracy in Sierra Leone.
Under President Koroma, Sierra Leoneans have also been enjoying the constitutional protection of the citizens’ rights. Gone are the days when people are arrested, incarcerated or victimized at the whims of powerful individuals or members of the monied class. The rule of law is now fully operative in Sierra Leone and people go about their business without any fear of .being harassed or victimized for political and other reasons. The President, his ministers and other public officials respect the Rule of Law.
There is also freedom of Association and no Sierra Leonean is facing any threat for belonging to any civil group , tribe , religion or party. It looks like the SLPP is still in power as members of the party continue holding top government jobs and businesses without any preconditions about which group or party to belomg to. Some of them even brag openly that they will ever remain SLPP even while enjoying government bounty or priviledges.
The APC Government has proved for sure that what President Koroma told Sierra Leoneans in his campaign speeches between 2005 and 2007 is true : This is a new APC built on the axioms of multi-party pluralism and respect for the fundamental and basic human rights of its citizens.