What Sierra Leoneans said about the historic Presidential debate



Daniel Salifu Mansaray

Certainly, yesterday’s debate was unprecedented in the history of our nation. We the onlookers might have observed few things that are noteworthy:

The time alloted to aspirants was grossly inadequate to effectively articulate issues. It is something the organisers might want to review for subsequent debate of such a nature.

The blame games presidential candidates resorted to was unwarranted and premature. Candidates should have used their limited time to articulate reasons why electorates should cast their votes for them and/or tell electorates the things they intend doing if elected.
It can be said that it might have served as amusement during the debate.

Governace is a continuous process of making collective decisions. In post-colonial Sierra Leone, one ought not attribute our current state of affairs as a nation to the actions and inactions of just a government but a shared responsibility of successive governments.

Few observations during the event are summed undermentioned:

The moderator remained a gentleman throughout the debate. He displayed class and character as was as consistency and independence. No doubt, he has the requisite and exquisite expertise to coordinate such an event. I hope our media practitioners were viewing.
 Some candidates were merely defensive rather than addressing the real issues.
 Some others merely played around rather than answering questions.
 Others were calm, compuse but barely hit the punch line.
 Others were seem to be articulate, more of orators and made flowery promises.
 Some other were simply amiss.

There is always room for improvements. Apparently, the debate is a milestone in our country’s history. I’m pretty hoping for its sustainability. I simply can’t ascribe victory to any aspirant.

Simpliciter, Sierra Leoneans won!

Umaru Bobor 
 Sierra Leone Presidential Debate: What I Feel

I stayed very late last night, went to bed at 02:30AM, just to watch the Presidential Debate. No regrets at all. It assisted in shaping my intuitive conviction about who is better prepared to lead Sierra Leone in the next five years, particularly between Dr. Samura Kamara and Dr. Kandeh Yumkella. I should express my honest appreciation to the organizers and those who sponsored the debate.

The debate began with a lot of uneasiness among the audience and raised some goosebumps in the aspirants due to the 30 seconds time limit given to aspirants to expound their vision and strategies of governance. The time limit was later increased to allow them to articulate their thoughts in a constructive manner, which probably may have been seen a problem during the first session of the debate. Another problem I had with the debate that truly provoked my subconsciousness was to allow the aspirants to communicate in Krio to an audience of foreign communities in and out of the country, particular those having interest in Sierra Leone’s internal affairs. SHAME!!!

Though not exhaustive but as expected the issues were mostly for the aspirants to divulge their manifesto on the essentials of good governance, in the areas of
(i) Human Development including education, health, social welfare, provision of public and private sector services and gender equality
(ii) Economic Development and Sustainable Livelihood including creating of business avenue, inclusion of nationals in private sector empowerment, infrastructure, and the closing of loopholes through integrity, accountability and transparency.
(iii) Safety and Security including national security, strengthening and respect for the rule of law, judicial reform, Gender-based violence, correction system, and impartiality of the police and military, etc.

Performance on Good Governance: The performance of most of the aspirants to me was a disappointment and, to be honest, some of them were not ripe for the position of President of the Republic of Sierra Leone as I thought they were completely oblivious of the issues of good governance. However, since there had been much hype and much intuitive judgements among the Sierra Leone community about Samura and Yumkella leading to the debate, I was interested in knowing who weighs more on the issues between the two of them. Also, I wanted to know how comfortable they are in articulating their strategies on good governance in the context of the realities in Sierra Leone. My feeling is, Samura was better in understanding that the questions on good governance were not meant to narrow down the scope of the answers but to explain how can the MDG/SDG Concept a question is related to be better implemented in Sierra Leone. I think because of his background and wide experience in governance, particularly that of financial management in public sector, he was able to easily pull it off. On the other hand, Yumkella was caught into restricting himself like his response to the “sad story of gender-based violence from Makeni’.

Comportment: Unlike Yumkella who seemed temperamental, Samura did not change his demeanor. Samura was calm and showed maturity throughout the debate while Yumkella spent much of his time going after the lapses of the present government. I feel Yumkella at some point lost it because he was with the same spirit as in the campaign trail failing to realize he was talking to representatives of the international/diplomatic community who were there to listen to the strategies he will bring to address the problems of Sierra Leone, which almost all diplomatic members seated there knew about.

Country-Specifics: On country-specific issues raised by the moderator such as drop in sport, the toll road, Mamamah airport, two SIM, royalties from the mining companies, the national debt, etc, Samura showed honesty by accepting failures of government in some areas but also tried to explain the associated causes while the other aspirants were building houses in the sky.

My Conclusion: It was surprising for some of us to witness extraneous dishonesty, fake promises and politics from those we took to high esteem. I am sure most of the Sierra Leone diaspora must have gone to bed last night extremely disappointed.


A Salone, Usai dem go pull da lie lie sign language interpreter dae? Wit di little knowledge way Ar get in sign language, da man nor make no sense at all mi people dem. People dem jus dae fool we people dem. Da man na big clown mi fambul dem. Di world go dae laugh we so 🤦‍♂️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️


Over Tea Break this morning, one of my colleagues asked me: “So, Bosco, away from academics, who won the Sierra Leone presidential debate?” I was a bit surprised that my western colleague with no political interests and filial connections to Sierra Leone could have time to ask a question that has no bearing on our theological positions. I thanked him for asking, but quickly added that the question was a bit misplaced. I told him that NO ONE WON THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE!

Sensing that he was a bit uneasy with my response, I offered to explain further the reasons for my rather eerie opinion on the debate: (1) Unlike other countries, there are no undecided voters in Sierra Leone. I have not found any of my online and offline friends whose opinion about their candidate has had a significant changed since they watched the debate. If anything, their support for their candidates has increased, with some even justifying the performance of their candidates against the fumbling of opponents. (2) There is a huge difference between winning a presidential debate and getting the business of governance done. In Africa, reasoned arguments, no matter how logical they may be, do not win elections. Public oratory does not put food on the table. As the old adage says, “the test of the pudding is in the eating.” And,
(3) The arpeggio and crescendo of personal attacks on the worthiness or lack thereof of candidates betrayed the parties they went there to represent. This debate was meant to present your case, and not to attack your political opponents.

I concluded by observing that although Sierra Leone has come a long way, the nation still has a long way to go. Our responsibility is to pray for God’s choice for our nation at this time and to support the eventual winner of the March 7 presidential and general elections.

© Bosco Bangura │16 February 2018

On the 15th March 2018 preceding the elections on the 7th March 2018 we saw, heard from our political leaders, a potential “president” one of them may become in their articulation and eloquence from their knowledge of country, education background, common sense in dealing with the matters arising from the MODERATOR. It shows there is much to be done in putting the country first than ego, qualifications, degrees about dealing with the precise burning issues and predicament affecting the people and country.
  1. The organisers AYT should have done better in ensuring all modalities and necessities put in place before attempting such a venture to be broadcast through out the world. The network and LINK was poor quality and not stable; accessories such as microphones problems and audio control was bad. this is the 21st century ICT age of technology. Broadcasting should not be a critical problem even for amateurs. You can even
  2. WE MUST DO THE RIGHT THING OR DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CUT CORNERS IN TECHNOLOGY OR CAN ONLY PROVE FUTILE TO CREDIT OR FAILURE. I should believe Sierra Leone has FIBRE OPTIC should be enjoying high speed connectivity……? One can even lease SATELLITE LINK which is appropriate for such local, diaspora and global audience reach.
  3. ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS from MODERATOR did not meet delivery expectations from participants to local and diaspora audiences. My pass mark is 48% percent to all presidential candidate. No outright winner. Sierra Leone maybe heading for a “COALITION GOVERNMENT” FORESEEING. This is not about eloquence, qualifications, expertise, PHD or finding a winner or loser but about demonstrating capacity in knowledge of country, priorities and solutions in the way forward for governance and nation building and RECONCILIATION which was forgotten. None of the political participants were NOT RELAXED telling by their facial expression, body movements in gesticulation.
  4. THIS BRINGS ME TO THE QUESTION: IS SIERRA LEONE READY FOR A CHANGE. CAN ONE OF THE SIX PARTICIPANT BRING THAT CHANGE SO DESIRED BY THE PEOPLE OF SIERRA LEONE…? We now need more to hear from the other remaining “presidential candidates” who are greater in numbers than the selected SIX DEBATERS. They may have responded better to QUESTIONS to be able to decide on who to vote for with our precious voting franchise.
There is great failure of the country’s politicians and elite class to effectively bridge the gap between the rich and poor in ensuring that prosperity and development is equally spread across the country. The politicians, elite class and patronage businesses has solved all of SIERRA LEONE’S problems for themselves, remain here physically but have effectively checked out of the country.
This is also the era of fake neutrality by SOME OF THE PEOPLE, a class of individuals that doesn’t want to get involved in national problems but wants to benefit from its resources. “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” Desmond Tutu…..Reminder of closing line in the Eagles’ song Hotel California: “You can check out anytime, but you can never leave.”
If POLITICIANS AND THE ELITE Class doesn’t rise up to the people’s expectations, get involved sincerely and fix Sierra Leone, “one day the poor would have nothing to eat but the rich.” That’s the trigger for ANARCHY, VIOLENCE, INSTABILITY AND ANOTHER WAR. The main issues we must deal with bluntly, sincerely and forthrightly about our beloved country country to achieve any semblance of sanity, hope and justice for all.
• MYOPIA? (shortsightedness)?
• IGNORANCE? We can learn. Or maybe we suffer from what I call “the arrogance of ignorance”?
• COMPLACENCY? RETICENCE? Time and self discipline. Chronic lack of punctuality. Apparently the more late you are to an event, the more important you are or feel.
• LACK OF RESPECT FOR LAW & ORDER? Maybe; if you observe how we break the basic laws and political manipulations of the constitution, speeding rules, how our motorbikes and government vehicles ride through red lights even in the presence of the police. Bribery and corruption has eaten into every fabric of society. Even religion.
• EDUCATION? Really? Are we educated to solve our problems or simply to earn a living? Why are we staying and sleeping in darkness when we have trained thousands of electrical and mechanical engineers? Why are our roads and bridges bad? Did we go to school just to learn the ‘Whiteman’s language’ and to become like him? It is possible that all the colonial education system did was to show us which side of the ‘Whiteman’ he chose to show to us in the colony as a colonial master – a democrat in his home country, but a raving bully and oppressor in the colony. Having had the opportunity to unravel his mysteries through the same education system, we appear incapable of solving our problems with it.
• LACK OF BASIC RESPECT FOR EACH OTHER? Do doctors explain what is wrong and what they are doing, or do they ‘bite your head’ if you asked questions? Churches make noise. They only stop under the threat of attacks.
• ENTITLEMENT MENTALITY (beggar and patron mentality) & ZERO INTEGRITY? I suggest that these are at the root of the bribery and corruption canker. They steal your money and then give you the crumbs from off their tables. Wake up, people! No one owes you a living!
• MEDIOCRITY? Do we celebrate corruption, impunity, glorify the average, ordinary or pedestrian? Are we so used to mediocrity that we let out a loud cheer when the lights come on after being off for a while……? TIMIDITY, disguised as leave it to God. Between timorous souls and bold spirits, what, which and where are we?
• SUPERSTITION? Let us get this right. God still answers prayer and is still in the miracle business; not the magic business. He says “He who will not work, let him not eat.” He says He will “bless the work of our hands.” He says “I will bless your bread and your water.” He says “everything that he does shall prosper.” Sophocles wrote, “No good e’er comes of leisure purposeless; And heaven ne’er helps the men who will not act.” Calling a prayer meeting over a failing national event or crisis was a joke if there was no serious plan to rescue or remedy the situation from imminent collapse. In fact, the war, ebola and mudslide scenarios that took place in the country with disastrous consequences, we didn’t learn a thing!!
• POLITICS? Are our votes on “auto-pilot” on the basis of tribal affiliations, partisanism, friendship or family connections……?
POLITICIANS AND THE ELITE Class isn’t entirely quiet, apologetic, or remorseful. Instead getting involved, it has become a bunch of visceral critics, spending more time hitting out at those individuals, groups or organisations who dare to care enough to do something OR SAY ABOUT WHAT BOTHERS THEM.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” “The Man In The Arena” CITIZENSHIP IN A REPUBLIC Theodore Roosevelt Speech delivered at the Sorbonne, Paris, France April 23, 1910
“When a country is well governed, poverty and a mean condition are things to be ashamed of. When a country is ill governed, riches and honor are things to be ashamed of.” Analects of Confucius, Book 8, Chapter 13

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