Where Have All The Vociferous Civil Society Activists Gone?


By Mohamed Sankoh (One Drop)

I am surprised that most sit-on-the-fencers are now surprised at the sudden disappearances, from the public sphere, of some of the most vociferous Civil Society activists in the pre-Julius Maada Bio’s Administration Sierra Leone. I’m equally surprised at the surprising rate at which those Civil Society activists, who had vowed to always hold a sitting government to account during the Ernest Bai Koroma-presidency, are now keeping mum at the rapacious manner in which the country’s 1991 Constitution is being bastardized.


Even when the country’s Labour Laws are now being flouted with a sort of Donald Trumpian Escapades (well, this is a One Dropian dropped phraseology), our once-upon-a-time hyper-active Civil Society activists have suddenly forgotten their pledge to fight injustice. The Junta-rized sackings of workers of the former Office of the President, coupled with the un-dialectical sackings of over one hundred workers of the former Office of the Chief of Staff at State House, did not even raise an eyebrow in CSOdom. Not even a finger raised in restrained protest. It was, and still is, as if the country’s Civil Society activists, most of whom are practising lawyers, have never set eyes on the country’s Labour Laws. For starters, all those who were summarily sacked at both the former Office of the President and the former Office of the Chief of Staff had One Year Contract each. And those Contracts state that they could be “… terminated at any time on either side by one month’s notice in writing or payment of a month’s salary in lieu of notice…”

But as of the time of writing this One Dropian dropping the Director General of the Human Resource Management Office (HRMO) was yet to officially notify the sacked of their sackings. No “one month’s notice in writing or payment of a month’s salary in lieu of notice…” was ever given to any of them. They only knew of their sackings via WhatsApp in a scanned letter to the Accountant General’s Office.

If such a decision was taken by uncivilized and uneducated people at the Seat of State I would have understood. But when such a rash decision was taken by so-called highly educated and civilized persons, it just tells you the kind of government Sierra Leone now has. Even the most sheep-headed student of Public Administration knows that one cannot just wake up from nightmarish forty winks and sack workers whose Unit or Institution was created by an Act of Parliament.

But for our SLPP-leaning Civil Society activists, what is good for the cow shouldn’t be suited for the heifer! It is as if they have suddenly lost their vocal cords! But I can understand the tight spot in which most of our Civil Society activists have now found themselves in. They cannot be seen to be playing Fifth Columnists in a system they helped to bring to political power. Or are they now ashamed of themselves, as they might have now realised that the current government of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) is their own Frankenstein monster?

I am, at present, also surprised at the frostiness of our SLPP-leaning Civil Society activists. Why are they now keeping mum on the issue of “Asset Declaration”? Or have they had a change of mind and now want President Julius Maada Bio and his ministers to declare their assets in camera? Are their centres or institutes or campaigns or coalitions “for accountability and rule of law”, “good governance reform”, “human rights and transparency”, and the billion-and-one rights-rights they were advocating for, during the Koroma-presidency, no longer in vogue? Or are they waiting for Ngor Maada and co to improve on their once-upon-a-time mendicancy before asking them to declare their assets?

Even those CSOs which have all along been championing women’s rights issues kept their deafening silences when the Mayor of Freetown, Yvonne Aki-Sawyer, was on Wednesday 23 May 2018 assaulted by alleged supporters of the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party right at the periphery of the SLPP national headquarters in Freetown. For those SLPP-leaning CSOs, the rights and lives of Sierra Leoneans who are APCers no longer matter. I can understand how muted and frightened most of our SLPP-leaning CSOs now are because of the expectancy of political appointments, especially when one of their own is now the Deputy Minister of Information and Communications! Indeed, it is now bad manners for them to speak out against a system they are hoping to be given jobs in? Methinks it makes sense for a hungry boy not to fight with their cook, especially when his parents have just gone on a very long trip abroad!
And what about the 50-50ers who had been breathing heavily down the then APC-led government’s neck, parroting about gender parity? They too seem to have suddenly gone dumb; albeit the Bio-administration has been, and still is, treating the issue of gender equality like a used menstrual pad! Yet, the country’s once-upon-a-time feminists seem to have accepted the Bio-ian cloudy inference, that Sierra Leonean women have no place in his administration, without a fight—not even a squeak from the 50-50 Group in the form of an outright protest in their kitchens!

And again, our former vociferous Civil Society activists, who were Microphone Happy, are now Microphone Shy on the issues of tribalism and regionalism. Every facet of public institutions has now been tribalized and regionalized! At present, if you do not belong to the “right tribe”, you should have at least attended that Bush Grammar School from “Upline” before you might be considered for a job. Or at worst, one has to either speak the “right” language or marry a woman from the “right tribe” before you might be considered as an afterthought for an afterthought job! And in the midst of all these, our former vociferous Civil Society activists have gone hoarse because they have suddenly realised that they too are either from the “right tribe” or “right region” or attended that Bush Grammar School from “Upline”!

But I have wrote it a million-and-one times, and I will write it today for the million-and-two times, that there is nothing wrong with Sierra Leoneans breast-beating themselves politically. What is morally criminal and dishonest is when people are engaged in wholesale partisan activities but present themselves as non-partisan patriots under the cloak of Civil Society advocating for the countless rights-rights claptraps.

And can the real non-partisan Civil Society activists stand up please? One hour…two hours…three hours…and still counting; yet, none has stood up! Ah, I forgot that they might be in the Courts of Law parroting archaic Latin phrases. Or that some are now Aides-de-Camp to some SLPP government ministers, forgetting that they had vowed to hold every Government accountable during the Ernest Bai Koroma presidency!

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