We all failed Sierra Leone and the sad thing is that we continue
to fail and betray our own brothers, sisters, and our selves
Gorglei [ JSK]. May 5, 2005
In Gorglei’s words above, one of Sierra Leone’s finest minds captures the essence of that country’s plight. Potentially one of the world’s richest countries, Sierra Leone is realistically one of the poorest. Endowed with both natural and human resources, it is difficult to understand Sierra Leone’s pathetic condition. Two questions naturally pop up in the mind of the concerned citizen: “but why?” and “how can Sierra Leone climb out of this deep morass?”
One thing that has been constant in Sierra Leone’s post Milton Margai politics, is a yawning poverty of leadership at the helm of state affairs. The country is never short of excellent and well-meaning critics of the system some of whom have offered constructive criticisms. There have always been all types of advisers—political, economic, policy, and the like. Our country has had all ?grades’ of male rulers: old, middle-aged, and young; highly educated, moderately educated, and ill-educated. Yet, the result has always been the same: woeful failure. Whether it is civilian or military, young or old, Sierra Leone’s political leadership has never stumbled upon vision, nor has it inspired hope, or ennobled the human spirit. Yet each has succeeded in breaking previous corruption records. Each has succeeded in strangling Justice and violating Human Rights. Each has succeeded in embracing tribalism as the ?unwritten constitution’ that guides its rule and ensures its continued stay in power. Each has exhibited a frightful directionless-ness, and a disquieting lack of imagination. By now, it should be clear to Sierra Leoneans that the two oldest and most well-known parties, the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and the All People’s Congress (APC), are both incapable of bringing about Social Transformation. Both parties have so heavily invested in tribalism/regionalism and corruption, that change from within is well-nigh impossible. Together, these two parties have been responsible for the deplorable condition in whichSierra Leone finds herself today, either by commission or omission, or both. An alternative political culture is not only necessary, but urgently needed.
The idea of an alternative political culture is not merely about replacing ?personalities,’ but ?orientations,’ ?perceptions,’ syndromes’ and the like.
The Alternative Political Party, therefore, should not be an ?elections only’ party, which folds its gear and disappear after losing the elections, waiting to re-appear the next election. Nor should it be a corroded party that emerges from an opportunistic association of impotent parties comprising recycled rogues, to form a ?big big swehgbeh’ party. Such is not the credible Alternative to SLPP and APC that the country desperately needs.
The Alternative to SLPP and APC is a credible ?home-grown’ and ?grassroots’ political party that cuts across regional and tribal lines. It should be led by Sierra Leoneans of integrity within and without the country, whose images have not been tainted. The leaders of such a party must have demonstrated honesty, integrity, competence, fairness, and respect for Justice and accountability where ever they may have held positions of responsibility.
A meaningful alternative to the current political landscape must pursue the following goals, among other things:
1. To build the institutional infrastructures that allow for democracy, checks and balances, accountability, and a smooth running of the State: a truly independent Judiciary, a free and responsible press, a non-political chieftaincy system, and an educated citizenry. This is probably the most important goal because, no matter how good the intention might be, without these institutional infrastructures, corruption, accountability, and abuse of power will go unchecked.
2. To create a political party that seeks to nurture a novel political culture— a culture that focuses on issues of national development. A political culture that engages and challenges everyone to brace themselves for a new way of doing things.
3. To change the nature of ?political base’ in Sierra Leone. For both SLPP and APC, Region and Tribe represent the political base, as well as the basis for National Policies and a whole host of appointments and other decisions. The people of Sierra Leone, especially the youth should be the ?political base’ of the Alternative. Creating a political base is a gradual process, and that should be one of the primary goals of the Alternative. The youth from all corners of the country must be exposed to a new way of seeing Sierra Leone, and a new way of doing things. Ideas about, and a philosophy of National Development should replace tribe and region as a reason for political association.
3. To build nation-wide communication infrastructures that seek to involve everyone in the political process. For example, use the national lingua franca (Krio) and the regional lingua francas (Mende and Temne) to interact with, educate the masses about the Alternative Party’s agenda, its ideas, vision for the country, and to discuss national issues.
4. To decentralize political power by reducing the power of the executive presidency through power sharing.
- To thoroughly harness the country’s natural resources for the benefit of the country. Build an enviable economy by instituting and promoting productive economic policies.
6. To create the conducive environment for meaningful investment in the country. A twenty-four hour electricity supply is a must.
1. Create a comprehensive document outlining the ideas and plans that will lift the country from coma to life.
2. Start a realistic programme of national awareness building. The youth will be the vehicle of such a programme. Every major town should have a national awareness office from which ideas and information about political issues reach the general populace.
3. Focus on building the new ?base’ by initiating community projects in every part of the country involving everyone, especially the youth—male and female. Inspire communities to take control of their destinies, releasing them from the culture of dependency on the government.
Ambitious as this project may seem, it can be done. Certainly lots and lots of money is required. Sierra Leoneans with integrity are everywhere; however, Sierra Leoneans who are willing to sacrifice, who do not wish to cling on to power forever, but only to sow the seeds of a new political culture, may be rare. But I believe there are some who can do it if the financial support is there. Instead of sponsoring coups in parts of Africa, international organizations and others interested in democracy in Africa should consider sponsoring legal/legitimate projects such as this.
Dr.Sheikh Umarr Kamarah
Department of Languages and Literature
Virginia State University
Petersburg, VA 23806