Subject: IGNORANCE AS A BANE IN NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT: ON JOHN LEIGH
From: Dr. AL. N-W
Date Posted: 11:16:59 07/20/06 ()
Entered From: ool-4570f446.dyn.optonline.net at 188.8.131.52
“I say to one and all, you can take the savage out of the jungle and baptize him; but it might not be possible to take the savagery out of an apparently superficial Christianized stinking barbarian and flunky worshiper who is hell-bent on tribal hegemony.” John Leigh, former Ambassador of Sierra Leone to the United States of America, July 13, 2006.
As a man who has the utmost respect for John Leigh, I must admit that I am totally disappointment with his many negative and pejorative utterances on this forum. The above quoted words come from no less a man than John Ernest Leigh who has not only been Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to the United States but also a contestant to the leadership of the governing Sierra Leone’s People’s Party. They are a response to a query directed to Leigh by a young forumite using the moniker Albert Moinina. As is characteristic of Mr. Leigh, and as evident in the achives of this forum, monikers engaging him with provincial (kontri) last names are summarily dismissed in a fury of derogatory tribalistic and regionalistic diatribes. In other words, to paraphrase veteran forumite, Mohamed Jalloh, Leigh succumbs to his natural instinct – tribalism, whenever he has to deal with issues raised by the Moininas, the Kamaras, the Banguras, the Sesays and the Contehs of Sierra Leone. Yet this is the same man who has repeatedly denied using ethnic slurs against Limbas on American television when young forumite, Ishmael once accused him of doing so.
Leigh’s quoted words above have their origins in global racist systems which proceeded from centuries of slavery. Slavery as a mode of production predates racism in that through its institutionalized brutality of Blacks by Whites, it conferred a misplaced feeling of biological superiority on Whites. Colonial systems that developed in Africa after slavery was abolished pursued the legacy of slavery – racism, often in its most blatant forms. Consequently, Western colonialists viewed Africans as savages who had a lot to benefit from Christianity.
In Sierra Leone, the entrenchment of the policy of Divide and Rule in the heydays of colonialism created the broad ethnic dichotomy of Creole and Kontri. However, despite the racist policies extended toward all Blacks, since Creoles were descendants of freed slaves, the colonialists viewed them as a westernized people who were less susceptible to the “savage” tendencies of their largely non-Christianized brethren in the protectorate. This colonial mentality was unfortunately carefully but rigorously inculcated into the psyches of Africans. To this day, the utterances and other modes of behavior of many Africans show that they simply cannot free themselves of this mental slavery. Leigh in his frequent outbursts on this forum has shown that despite his impressive academic credentials, he qualifies as one of those Africans who have failed to transcend the racist stereotypes of Western slave and colonial masters.
Leigh was born in Bo Town of a Creole father and a Mende mother but grew up in Freetown with his father. Like any other Sierra Leonean, the environment in which Leigh grew up shaped his cultural views. This does not in any way indict all Creoles for tribalism or vindicate all descendants of the provinces of this social vice. It is a fact that both progressive Creoles and non-Creoles have at various times used our nation’s cultural diversity to support and promote policies that are progressive to nation building.
Given that cultural diversity is a historical and social reality of African states, one cannot expect political, social and economic development in Africa’s emerging states to be divorced from their human and cultural context. Unfortunately, however, some of us Africans have all too often compromised national development through our arrogant refusal to broaden our frontiers of knowledge through cross-cultural understanding. We are the same Africans who especially within national boundaries have impeded development by using the cultural diversities of our respective nations as basis for animosity towards people that we conceive to be different than us. This is precisely the impairment that Leigh continues to succumb to.
Leigh seriously suffers from the sickness of colonial mentality. This ailment, among other things, has often evoked Leigh’s inner penchant for ridiculing Sierra Leone’s relative underdevelopment both in verbal and written pronouncements in whatever capacity he has found himself. A typical example of such pronouncements is the following pejorative onslaught in his continued crude dismissal of the moniker Albert Moinina:
“Mr. Moinina’s stink utterance… conjures up images of his highly primitive village with no paper, no pencil, no eraser, no pen, no books, no desk, no water-well, no electricity, no pipe-born water and worst of all, absolutely not a single latrine.
So, he is used to defecating all over his backyard to feed flies and unthinkingly spread typhoid and other infectious diseases. Hence the stink, the flies on his brother’s food; not to mention the frequent sickness and very short life span of his own very people and with no immediate solution in sight for their painful plight…”
Interestingly, Leigh makes the above remarks without any consideration of the possibility that Albert Moinina could either have been born or raised in Freetown or that it is a Creole forumite using the moniker Albert Moinina, a name with origins in the Southern and Eastern provinces of Sierra Leone. But this is typical Leigh –shoot from the lip and think later. To Leigh, Albert Moinina, by the very nature of the name, hails from a village in the provinces where it is usual for people to behave in a manner that fits his quoted words above.
Perhaps an even more interesting aspect of Leigh’s shallowness and apparent ignorance lies in the fact that in his all too often characteristic rage especially as they relate to the social status of Sierra Leoneans, he ignores the fact that like many in the higher echelons of his party – the SLPP, his newly-found “best friend” Solomon Berewa had a very humble upbringing. Berewa was born and raised in a village called Yengema, which is three miles from Serabu in the Bo district. And to even hit closer to home, chances are that Leigh’s mother who lives in Bo may have relatives living in some of the villages near Bo. But to Leigh who lives in luxury in Boston, Massachussetts, there is nothing wrong with ridiculing the poverty of a segment of Sierra Leone’s population even if such an exercise has the appearance of tribal or regional prejudice.
To conclude, suffice it to say that Sierra Leone does not need the John Leighs of the world. Leigh is a divisive man with serious character flaws. Such a man cannot be an effective leader. And if Leigh believes that I belong to the PMDC (Leigh believes that all his critics are PMDC members), he is dead wrong because I hail from an SLPP family in Freetown. However, my allegiance to the state of Sierra Leone transcends any party loyalty that I may have. I believe that Sierra Leone’s underdevelopment lies in the fact that for the better part of its history, leaders that are totally bankrupt in ideas have suffocated the country’s political space. Leigh has neither ideas nor a vision that can move Sierra Leone forward. The prudent thing for him to do is to gracefully exit Sierra Leone’s political space.
AND JOHN LEIGH RESPONDS
Dear Mr. The Truth:
Whoever you are or may be, I want to let you know that I am very grateful for your coming to my defence in this matter. When I find the time, I will deal with the rubbish attack written by whomsoever is calling himself Dr. Al N-W – whoever that bozo might be.
In the meantime, I’ll like to make a few additions to your excellent defence of my debating position.
The decision to send me to Washington, DC in 1996 was President Kabbah’s alone and his alone.
The vast majority of the SLPP top leadership then – all provincials from Rev Dumber down – wanted me in Freetown as Finance Minister, not because of my financial contributions, but because of my professional background and international business orientation.
No one was more disappointed with my dispatch to Washington than my old friend, now late, of Panguma, Kenema District, Mr. Juma Sei.
As for me, I was not disappointed with President Kabbah’s decision at all because I recognized the absolute right of the President to pick the team he wants to work with and assign their respective positions.
As it were, things turned out ok for all concerned.
If I had been assigned in F’town during the AFRC coup, I might not have had the opportunity to help bring peace to our country and to contribute in effecting a key change in the worlwide practice of diplomatic norms.
Finally, the only personal complaint I have against the Kabbah government is their holding my money, $90,000 since before my recall, with part of that debt going as far back as 1997.
This unfair hold-up has nothing to do with tribalism. Its just regular Afro politrics. -JL