From the Editor’s Keyboard

2007 Sierra Leone Elections: Let Democracy Thrive

15 August 2007 at 20:23 | 1055 views


By Abdulai Bayraytay,Vanguard Deputy Editor, on vacation in Pennsylvania, USA.

The just concluded August polls in the West African nation of Sierra Leone deserve some unqualified commendation because of the unprecedented peaceful manner in which they were conducted. This is against the background that the country was just recuperating from an eleven-year debilitating conflict and the attendant proliferation of small arms and light weapons.

In spite of the calmness that punctuated the voting, amidst isolated incidents of violence, the resilience of the electorate is worth recognizing. This however is not a novelty as the people had in the past, through the concerted efforts of progressive civil society groups, succeeded in kicking out the pseudo-revolutionary killing machine of the Revolutionary United front (RUF) under the leadership of the late psychopathic Foday Sankoh, the kleptomaniac National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) under baby Valentine Strasser and his power-thirty surrogates like Maada Bio, Mondeh and the notorious and half-baked Tom N’yuma.

The climax of civil society power was tacitly demonstrated in 1997 following the overwhelming resistance mounted against the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) headed by fugitive Johnny Paul Koroma.

Therefore, as the current political situation unfolds amidst rife speculations that the opposition All People’s Congress (APC) Party is poised to emerge victorious in both the presidential and parliamentary elections, what the ruling government should remind itself about is the fact that the verdict of the people should be sacrosanct as they, the people, are the holders of political sovereignty in a democracy, however fledgling it might be as in the case of Sierra Leone.

As such, while all meaningful and peace-loving Sierra Leoneans should in no uncertain terms condemn any insinuations of the perpetuation of violence during this transition from war to democracy, it is however politically inept on the part of the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) to shut down the APC radio. If this “rumor” is anything to go by, this shows the political immaturity and desperation of the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) to cling on to power by all means possible. It is a fact that the ruling government has unlimited access to the state radio and its unofficial propaganda sister station, the so-called Radio Democracy 98.1 FM. Closing a radio station has a procedure which has to be followed. We hear the APC station has resumed broadcasting and that the SLPP now has its own radio station. That’s good. The more information the people get, the merrier.

But the frenetic disposition shown by the SLPP is understandable: during its rule since 1996, the poverty-ridden masses have only been fed with crass propaganda on its inability to provide basic social services. They said that happened because of their inheritance of a rotten system from the APC and because of the various military interregnums and rebel war. While this excuse could be tenable in any country emerging from war amidst the challenges of peace-building and reconstruction, this construct is potentially undermined with the massive corruption that has eaten deeply into the political fabric of the SLPP government.

Not surprisingly, therefore, the August 11 polls should largely be seen more as a protest vote against a ruling government that is only good at compensating people like the former National Elections Commission boss Dr. James Jonah with a ministerial position for his role in the conspiracy in denying the United National People’s Party (UNPP) of veteran politician Dr. John Karefa-Smart of the presidency in 1996, and the immoral appointment of propagandists at then underground Radio Democracy FM 98.1 while the government was in exile following the AFRC coup that outgoing president Kabbah admitted to have been privy to three days before it was implemented. The smelly corruption in the corridors of power is so overpowering that donors like the British had repeatedly called on the government to tackle it with the seriousness it deserves.

As all eyes are currently on National Election Commission boss Dr. Christiana Thorpe for the credible outcome of the just concluded polls, all stakeholders should be reminded that the people of Sierra Leone have been fooled for some time but they cannot be fooled all the time. So, let democracy reign by giving power to the clear winner since any form of vote rigging and intimidation will only succeed in producing a congenial environment of chaos and instability.

Indeed, Sierra Leone deserves better taking into consideration the turmoil the country had endured from 1991 until 2002 that left a conservative figure of fifty thousand innocent and unsuspecting civilians dead, and thousands of others left limbless, thanks to the combined killing machine of the RUF, sobels and remnants of the SLA.