SIERRA LEONE WATCH: A critical look at current political issues: Jan-Apr 2007

By Edie Vandy – [email protected]
• President Kabbah Compensate ‘Cronies’ with National Honors?
• IMF Predicts Election Victory for the SLPP
• Hinga Norman and the Special Court?
• PMDC Losing Steam, in the Wake of Running Mate Appointment
• Kanji Daramy Draws Blood with Maxwell Massaquoi?

President Kabbah Compensate ‘Cronies’ with National Honors
It’s now official: President Kabbah will mark this year’s independence on April 27, 2007 by awarding 151 National Honors to men and women, he considers haven ‘distinguished themselves in meritorious and outstanding service to the nation’.  A 151 accolades; come on. This is an astronomical figure, and smells of a desperation by a man yearning to pay back cronies, for supporting his failed policies throughout his tenure elongation? The President’s time is up, and he is using his last veto power, he knows nobody can contest, to bid a formal farewell, and convey to his trusted lieutenants that they are on their own.
These recipients (not all, but most) knows they are not worthy of such honors, and they are by large no strangers to us. We are familiar with their accomplishment, their failures, and their shortcomings. What we know for sure as sun rise in the morning, is that a good number of them making up the list, do not have the kind of resume’s that warrants such honors, for which they are being glorified.  
Such a misplacement of our awards has not gone unnoticed, which has left many quarters talking, including SLAJ (I mean the majority) who now weighs in on this, and have requested their President Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, not to accept his own award as Grand Officer of the Order of the Rokel, in the field of Education and Journalism. SLAJ is seeing this as an act of appeasement, as there neutrality and independence will be compromised, and they want to stay clear from the President’s grandiose scheme of hoodwinking cronies to playing balls and dancing to his tune.  Maybe SLAJ knows their President more than we do, and even more than the President Kabbah does? Just may be they know that Ibrahim Ben Kargbo does not merit such a meritorious award, and therefore should not own it? Or just may be, SLAJ is making a point here, that the award process in its entirety is flawed? 
The issue that confronts us is not about the President’s authority to recognize achievement and bestow honors on hard working men and women who have made an impact in nation building; what is at stake, borders around the process in its entirety. The President should not be given a blank check to use and misuse national honors to score political grades. Its time for the process to be reviewed and criteria’s developed to ensure that recipients make the performance call for which they are recognized. What we are saying is that, the process should be managed in a fair and transparent manner. 
Sierra Leoneans would want to know what judgment was used to drum up this years’ exhaustive list of candidates. How did the recipients fare against the benchmarks that were used, should be out in the open for all to evaluate. If someone has excelled in the field of education and journalism, let us hear the specifics. President Kabbah (and the authors of the list) should give empirical examples on their decision to have 151 recipients of this year’s national honor.
IMF Predicts Election Victory for the SLPP?
The world is definitely full of surprises, and indeed I was taken aback to read about an IMF prediction of an election victory (in their Outlook 2006/2007 Domestic Politics report) for the ruling SLPP, even where elections have not been held.  What the heck, is going on? Does it mean that the IMF has assumed new responsibilities that we are unaware of? I might be SLPP but that does not cloud my mind of asking questions when rules are broken?
Just when did the world’s financial power house; supposed to be an independent broker, began meddling in internal politics? Nobody is saying that the IMF should not carry out an in-depth country political profiling, as they do need such data to plan and design program strategies; but that’s about it.
Here they got it all wrong by this outburst, considered to be premature. The IMF by weighing in on such a political hot-potato election, is in fact attempting to influence an election outcome, considered to be very close, in favor the ruling party? Voters will surely think that the election is a far gone conclusion, and already won by the SLPP, since the IMF has spoken, for when they speak the world listens.
The IMF should be advised to stay clean from their election prophesies. Let the IMF get to basics and deal with priority financial matters, for the good of the ordinary population.  The key to this election is fair play. Power should be earned and not giving.
Hinga Norman and the Special Court?
One of Sierra Leone’s last remaining heroes – Chief Sam Hinga Norman heeded to God’s call, following his illness incurred some 4 years ago. He died at the Aristide La Dantec Hospital in Dakar, Senegal on 22 February 2007. The family of Chief Sam Hinga Norman asserts that Chief Norman died under sub-standard clinical conditions and medical neglect, whilst the Special court offers a contrary argument that the Chief died of “natural causes” as a result of myocardial infarction (heart attack).
The Chief’s death has left the nation divided, and tongues wagging, for the circumstance under which he died is what is at play here, as he was a war crime indictee; his crime been ‘bearing greatest responsibility of the war’? The question is not about his heroism or not, for he was a hero to many Sierra Leoneans.
Hinga Norman provided leadership and direction when the nation was under assault and its people held siege, following a mayhem, and reign of terror imposed by the RUF and the AFRC on their own. Don’t tell me you have forgotten the terrible dark moments that ensued with an RUF/AFRC unholy alliance in 1997-1998. Have you forgotten the rape, the killings, limb hacking, and summary executions that became the hallmark of one of the world’s brutal rebellion in modern times? For nearly eight months, ordinary Sierra Leoneans were held hostage, abandoned and left to perish from the hands of men and women who had no iota of respect for human lives and dignity. The Kabbahs, the Berewa’s, the Minister’s and the aristocrat and well placed in society, ran for cover in some faraway safety nets. Our International allies were nowhere to be seen when needed most. Kudos to the late Nigerian President Abacha, despite his shortcomings, stepped up to the plate, dispatching ECOMOG to take the fight to the RUF/AFRC. We all know that ECOMOG couldn’t have done it without the CDF, backed by the peoples resolved.   
Let’s be clear here: there would have been no Special Court, no Tejan Kabbah, no Solomon Berewa, and no International intervention, had the people not resisted, and fought the RUF/AFRC killing machinery, with all their might. What happened in Sierra Leone was not even about Hinga Norman. It was about the people’s will and determination to resist tyranny, humiliation and terror at all cost. Sierra Leoneans fought to live and survive another day. They fought to protect their democracy. Of course innocent people did die, rape was committed, properties were looted and burnt, and other injustices were done, but these things will always happen as long as there is conflict and wars. Nobody is holding grief for the few rotten eggs within the CDF (and every other stakeholder in the conflict) who participated in these acts? It is the bigger picture that needs to be placed in context, against the backdrop of the conflict. Plainly put, Hinga Norman (and the men and women who sacrificed with sweat and blood) are the true heroes of Sierra Leones war.  
When the dust did settle after the fact, what did we do instead? We turned (cowed by International pressure) to hand over one of our own? America will never hand any of their own illustrious sons and daughters to the ICC for war crimes? Don’t tell me that the Bush Administration will be brought before a war crimes tribunal for the many innocent lives lost in the ongoing conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan? 
Kabbah and Berewa had the moral authority to have excluded the CDF from any prosecution, as it was their inalienable right to have asked the Special court to either do it their way or not. President Eileen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia is under no obligation, and she is not even in a hurry to replicate another special court on her turf. She is not bulging to pressure in seeking justice through a special court, as she has other preoccupation; to better the lives of ordinary Liberians. Can someone really tell me what justice has been accomplished to date, since the setting up of the UN backed Special court in 2002? Nothing absolutely, except hunger for justice, grief and wasted resources that could have been used in other priority areas. Do you know that some US $ 125 million has been spent in the last three years (and is reported in need of more money) in search of justice, that seems so far away? With all that huge chunks on money spent in post recovery Sierra Leone, we are yet to own up as a nation, and implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which arguably was the best conduit for our healing process? 
For fours years, Hinga Norman languished in cell; denied of his right to have access to a decent health care serve, that could have saved his life, but that was not to be as he was ferried to Senegal, where he died afterwards.  During his years of incarceration, Kabbah, Berewa, and his colleagues have being out enjoying the very freedom Hinga Norman and ordinary Sierra Leoneans spilled innocent blood. The least Kabbah and Berewa could have done was to play devil’s advocacy for a speedy trial, assuming they did care for a fallen colleague. Did I hear that the VP was out on the road campaigning on the very day Hinga Norman was being buried?  If that is true, at least, the VP could have lay back, and enjoyed the comfort of his home. 
The question on the lips of many lingers around justice to Chief Hinga Norman? Was the Chief in fact guilty as charged, now that all charges were dropped since his death? Sierra Leoneans deserve to know that even in death, their hero was not a war criminal.

PMDC Losing Steam, in the Wake of Running Mate Appointment
To many, it now appears PMDC is loosing steam in the wake of their flag bearer’s naming of a running mate in  the person of Dr. Ibrahim I. Tejan-Jalloh, in a move described by party faithful as ‘a flagrant violation to the rules of the game’.  Hashim Daboh’s (a key PMDC actor and one who greatly helped shaped the party in North America), resignation on April 4, 2007 was a pointer to the fact that things were falling apart within the Movement? Daboh, who never minces his words, was very harsh in his criticism of the Party leader, referring to his leadership as troubling, whilst quick to point that Margai cannot make a good president, due to his autocratic, and intolerant nature. 
The killer indictment came when Daboh smudged Margai, referring to him as ‘probably corrupt as the current administration’, and “devilish in actions, that could make the ‘evil’ Berewa/Kabbah gang appears moderate by comparison”. Daboh’s presumption of Margai is that of a man who could be a cause of pain and distress, and probably be a catalyst for instability? Whoa!!! These are not my words, but those of a former ardent supporter of a now dying movement, many hoped will have matched up with the current status quo. 
Being an independent think tank, I do not subscribe to Hashim’s exit strategy. He should have stayed on, and engaged the party in a constructive manner, to effect the changes he anticipated. That would have made him a man; owning up to his principles, but he chose to surrender and AWOL at a time he was needed to surge on. 
Karamoko Kabbah’s damming email (leaked to the press) was a pointer that the PMDC was near torpedo, and its potency as viable opposition greatly diminished. Margai has blown it up; for himself and for those that believed in him. He caught short his last remaining chance of ever becoming President. Many now wonder in fact whether Margai after all knows the game of politics.  
The PMDC was created out of a burning desperation to make a clean break from the old, designed to stomp on consensus building, and inclusion; at least that was what we were told. How comes their leadership boomeranged and flip-flopped on the Party’s core values that made them resonate with the people? The choice of Ibrahim I. Jalloh as running mate was not a strategic and wise decision. Whoever told Margai, that the Fula’s will vote PMDC, because of a Fula running mate? Reports to date are indicative of a very strong Fula opposition and rejection of the PMDC; a situation that could not be reversed not even by the new running mate. 
Margai got it all wrong. Did I hear correctly that the running mate was a one time minister of health in the first Kabbah government? How was his performance? What did he accomplish? Are we really sure on his accomplishment whilst serving in this capacity? Can we say here that the health delivery system was in a better shape than it is now?  By the way, what is this news item linking Margai’s to an outstanding $18,000 ‘dubious vehicle deal’ (source: NEW VISION 4th April 2007 edition)? Dismiss it if you could, but all of these add up and undermines credibility, and reputation.
Now that Margai has messed up, the least PMDC supporters could do is to hang in, with the hope that just maybe they can secure some seats, and become an opposition, or better still make a conscious attempt to re-claim their party. 
Kanji Daramy Draws Blood with Maxwell Massaquoi?
The name Kanji Daramy’s has become synonymous to a red flag. His name underpins negativity. And regrettably, not much has been done by either the press or civil society to make right a politically incorrect judgment. Only a handful of the Press core has called for his removal. Kanji continues to hibernate as Commissioner of the newly created National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), in the wings of political patronage; a position he does not merit by every stretch of the imagination. How many times are we reminded the President given him the sack for incompetence and corruption, only to turn around and placate him with enviable positions, paid for with tax payer’s dollars? Kanji is a spent force. There is nothing he can bring to the table, in remodeling post war Sierra Leone; not with the baggage he possess.
A lot of horrible things have been said about Kanji, the most recent from a Maxwell Massaquoi, who admits working with him in setting the commission. In an open letter to President Kabbah on Apr 11, 2007; Massaquio blasted that Kanji is deficient in knowledge, integrity and professionalism, and empty in the field of telecommunications? Mr. Massaquoi, like many Sierra Leoneans, sees Kanji as morally challenged to effectively serve in his current capacity (and any other position of trust).
Kanji and Massaquoi are now locked up in a battle of words, with accusations and counter accusations based on lies, incompetence, and impersonation. Whilst Massaquoi claims an overly qualified CV to be the Commissions new Director of Consumer and Industry Affairs, based on his accomplishment her and abroad, and the fact he helped set the new commission; Kanji says he is not only a ‘phony’, but a fake. And they both have taken the matter to no other person but President Kabbah. Will the President be a neutral referee in this matter given his soft spot for Kanji?
Kanji can set the records straight by requesting Howard to validate Massaquoi’s result. Do us a favor and prove the world that Maasaquoi is a congenial liar, and far from being a seasoned telecom expert and management consultant with a versed global telecommunications background.
The era of information needs credible people to lead the process. Kanji does not match that description. His past and present record track is a pointer that he must sit out for others who mean well for our great nation, take charge.  We have had enough of President Kabbah’s political sour grapes, and blister appointments since his occupancy at the State House. The nation should wake up from this stupor and advocate for Kanji’s removal.


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