Yesterday’s Patriots Are Today’s Domestic ‘Terrorists’
By Mohamed Sankoh (One Drop)
One of the things that will haunt President Julius Maada Bio, throughout the last years of his presidency, will be his speech of 8 May 2020 in which he made insinuations that alluded to members of the main opposition, the All People’s Congress (APC), as domestic “terrorists”. Even the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will never use sweeping generalizations to allude to peaceful citizens who oppose his tyrannical grip on power as members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (or PKK for short). At least he always uses his common sense, or diplomatic language if you will, when making public statements!
Or even with an incontestable Dutch courage the current Lebanese Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, will never refer to Hezbollah, the group which originated from southern Lebanon, as a terrorists’ outfit in public. Nor will Vladimir Putin, the President of the Russian Federation, refer to dissenting voices from the main opposition parties in Moscow as being “known agents and associates of” Chechnya separatists. But for the Commander-in-Chief of, and in, Sierra Leone, he seems to be always seeing apparitions where there are only scarecrows!
I’m still wondering what President Bio would have done, or said, if he were President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria who perennially faces a clear and present threat like Boko Haram. My guess is: our retired “Brigadier” would be running to a bunker each time he hears a firecracker; just like how President Donald Trump did when “Black Lives Matter” protesters knocked at the White House gates recently. And from the bunker’s safety, the “Brigadier” would be instructing the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) “to maintain peace and stability” in the same manner his security forces maintained “peace and stability” during the alleged prison break at the Pademba Road Correctional Centre quite recently.
I think before going further, let me quote some sections from President Bio’s speech of 8 May 2020 for their beautiful restrained ironies: “….Like terrorists elsewhere, they even record their acts with telephone cameras, run self-valorising commentaries on their acts of extreme violence and killings, and share those synchronously in [sic] WhatsApp forums….For each of the attacks at Lunsar, Foredugu, Tombo, and the prison breakout at Pademba Road Correctional Centres [sic], known agents and associates of the All People’s Congress party have publicly predicted the precise date, target, and nature of the attacks…. There is an obvious pattern. These attacks are therefore premeditated, orchestrated, and executed with a clear objective—to make the state ungovernable….[these are] extreme acts of terrorist violence against the state…”
Making such insinuations on camera, at a time when the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) government is parroting about national cohesion, is like an executioner pointing an AK-47 at his own head and pulling the trigger as he receives the last command. Although the Ministry of Tourism was so gracious enough, or more rational than the President’s ghost-writers at State House, to have later done a sort of interpolating crisis management to the President’s speech under review; the damage had, and still has, already been done. The political line has now been drawn in Red and Green: those who were yesterday’s patriots appear to be today’s domestic terrorists; and those who seem to be today’s nationalists were yesterday’s sticks-in-the-mud.
I have done an eagle-eye study of all President Bio’s speeches, and what I have found out is that he has now positioned, or trying to position, himself and those surrounding him as the only nationalists in present day Sierra Leone. And when one juxtaposes such posturing with what one female higher-ups once said that “only those who are SLPP are the true Sierra Leoneans” (thank God my late father was Temne-Temne and my mother is Sherbro-Limba, so, I can never be referred to as a half-blooded Sierra Leonean despite not being an SLPPer!); then you realise why certain things are being done the way they are being done in Sierra Leone today. Such bloated image of themselves reminds me of the current French President, Emmanuel Macron, who noted in his speech of 11 November 2018 at the Arc de Triomphe that, “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism by saying: ‘Our interest first. Who cares about the others?’” Sure! It seems that most—if not—all the men (and women) of, or at, State House appear to be holding the belief that their interest is first and the others (not as “The Others” in, and of, the American drama TV series “Lost”) could go and drown themselves in the Moa River!
Such thinking might have prompted the speech of 8 May 2020. The manner in which President Bio is steering the Ship of State has, always, been reminding me also of what President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, over two decades ago, when he was the Mayor of Istanbul. At the time he believed, and it still appears so today, that “Democracy is like a streetcar. You ride it to the stop you want, and then you get off”. To give that quote some local content colourations, I will infer that President Bio appears to have regarded, and still regarding, Democracy like a “Keke” which he could jump into at State Lodge in the morning and flag it down at State House in the afternoon with a swagger!
But come to think of it, it will create the same effect like fetching water from a stream with a sieve if a man who has all along been calling his puppy Bingo, eight months later, starts calling it Rover. The dog will not wag its tail to the last name. It won’t add up, as the nonagenarian Dr Sama “Puawi” Banya used to write in some badly-edited SLPP-leaning local tabloids. Once a military man will always be a military man; even to, or in, his grave. So, when one looks closely at the leadership style of President Bio, one notices that he appears to have used democratic means to advance his pre-April 1992 militarised political view. As the saying goes, “old habits are hard to die.”
Now with Sierra Leone having some sort of Rodrigo Duterte-like happenings frequently, coupled with the speech of 8 May 2020 in the background, the Global Peace Index (GPI) of the Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP) might be right to have inferred that the country is not as peaceful as it once was. In 2017 when the APC of ex-President Koroma was at the rudder; Sierra Leone was ranked as “the most peaceful in West Africa.” But with the coming of President Bio with his “Paopa” SLPP (some moderates in the SLPP are now disassociating themselves from that epithet albeit in muffled tones); Sierra Leone severely cascaded to eighteen places in the GPI Index in 2019. And now, in 2020, the country has slipped four places down, down, and down!
It is on that note that I will end today’s One Dropian dropping with an advice for President Bio: “Do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from your friend’s forehead.” Otherwise, if you do Mr President, it will not be an issue for two friends but a palaver that will involve two families!