By Jacob Sax Conteh :
There is a new war all Sierra Leoneans who want to see our country progress have to wage. This war is not a war we can wage with AK-47s, RPGs or pistols. It is a war we have to wage on the Internet where a group of disgruntled Sierra Leoneans have decided to wage a war against the good image of our country. This group does not only wage a war against the administration of President Koroma, but against Sierra Leone itself. Here are a few examples of how they are targeting the image of our country.
When the Mabang Bridge collapsed last year, before any verification of what had happened, the naysayers posted several pictures online, reporting that several people had died during the collapse of the bridge. At the end, none of that information is true, but the news had already been circulated around the world.
After the “rape” case against the deputy education minister broke out a few months ago, the naysayers went to work. Hiding behind their computer screens, they wrote several articles blaming the laws of the country and making it appear that rape was tolerated in Sierra Leone. Instead of giving the President credit for relieving the minister of his post and allowing him to be arrested even before the charges were proven, they rail on the web against the President and the country.
Perhaps the most appalling stance the naysayers have taken in recent times is to post the picture of bullet ridden student who the police purportedly shot in cold blood without provocation without providing the background to the story. They fail to report that in Sierra Leone today, students get violent after sports events, and often the police have to risk their own lives to protect the public.
If we fail to wage a war against this yellow journalism which targets the image of our country, we risk losing credibility from the international community. Here in the United States, many people still link Sierra Leone to Blood Diamond movie that depicts Sierra Leone as a blood-filled country where drugged youths run on the rampage killing and maiming people. That image is far from the modern Sierra Leone where peace and tranquility reign, where the youth have ample opportunities ahead of them.
What progressive Sierra Leoneans need to do is to start filling the internet with positive stories of successful Sierra Leoneans. Let us tell people how people like Mr. Kalokoh who left his home in Virginia to establish his business at Lungi Airport and open a club at Lungi has transformed his life and that of the community where he lives. The world needs to know how the town of Pepel which lay dormant for years woke up to life after African Minerals resuscitated the town through its mining operations in Tonkolili, or how the town of Bonthe now has a modern clinic through the hard work of First Lady Sia Koroma and a group of philanthropist Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora.
We have to wage a war against misinformation about Sierra Leone. We have a to wage a war against the notion that Sierra Leone is worst off now than it was during the past two decades when chaos and mismanagement ruled. We have to let the world know that we are now one of the most progressive countries in Africa with a free press, free healthcare for babies, lactating mothers and expectant mothers, an independent media commission, a vigorous anti-corruption commission, and an enlightened electorate. If we fail to wage this war and allow the naysayers to dominate the airwaves and the media, we risk losing millions of dollar and our reputation. We have to stand up and be counted for Sierra Leone.