When civil right groups collude to undermine the people’s mandate…
John Baimba Sesay
The growth of democracies requires the active participation of key institutions. Having an effective, viable and functional free press and civil society are very vital in this process. Sierra Leone has scored great success in this and much other areas.The country continues to provide an open space, as it should, for the media; creating the platform for discussions and citizen’s participation.
Today, not only do we enjoy a free and pluralistic press, the government has also ensured that civil society/right groups have taken to the platform in engaging policy makers on national issues. While this APC government continues to play it’s part; civil society, which is regarded as the “third sector”, also has enormous responsibilities in carrying out theur mandate. And this is expected to be distinct from aby political agenda. Unfortunately, in view of recent developments, this isn’t the case in present day Sierra Leone. The activities of some groups claiming to be civil society organisations have cast a dark shadow over their neutrality and independence.
SOME CSOs in Sierra Leone have taken the clear and distinct role of serving as surrogates for the country’s leading opposition party; a negative behavior that has undermined the credibility and weakened their voice on issues of national importance. Granted, citizens have the right to associate with any political party of their choice but once you have taken the identity of a civil society activist; it is expected of a right group to stand neutral when it comes to partisan politics. But when you demonstrate allegiance to and associate with a political agenda; whether openly or underground, its contradictory of what is expected of a civil society organisation.
This is why the public this week has been astounded when Abdul Fatorma- Executive Director of the Campaign for Human Rights and Democracy (CHRDI)- was found to be deeply involved in political campaigns for the opposition. Many expressed disgust. Fatorma was shown in opposition regalia with the wife of Julius Bio- the Sierra Leone People’s Party Standard bearer hopeful.
The outburst of condemnation that followed the publication of that evidence of Fatorma’s party politics was unprecedented. However, there are others who also blame the opposition SLPP for using civil society organisations like Fatoma’s and others to stoke anger.
I strongly believe that this is wrong and that as a country, it also would be good for us to ensure that whatever we do, we try to maintain the gains we collectively have achieved over years.
An opposition party should not to be hiding behind surrogates within civil society. Inciting public hate against a government is just not an acceptable way of clinching political power. Power comes through the people. It cannot be sought by unacceptable means. President Ernest Bai Koroma was legitimately elected. He won two elections, one by removing a incumbent party and government. And in close to a decade, his government continues to serve diligently. As in many other nations today, including developed ones, Sierra Leone has got challenges. It would however be wicked to give the impression that much has not happened. Infrastructure has seen a new facelift in the country; there has been an improved level of energy generation and distribution. These are facts!
The ongoing moves to incite public hate against government therefore go beyond concerns by the opposition and their surrogates about the removal of subsidy on fuel. They definitely have a political motif; else they should have viewed the whole issue beyond partisan lenses.
Many economic experts including those in the IMF and the World Bank agree that the Government should not continue to spend tens of billions of Leones on fuel subsidies alone ; monies that could have been channeled to other social needs. If for any reason you disagree with the government and its partners, constructive engagement is vital in democracy.
But when some groups get mixed up in pushing a political agenda by taking up the role of opposition parties, and working in tandem with them, there is every need for them to be viewed as politicians. You can’t seek political power through the backdoor;. not in present day Sierra Leone, not anymore.