Opinion

A Response to Zubairu Wai

8 November 2005 at 02:52 | 590 views

By James Fallah-Williams

In January 2002, at Warwick University, I sat in my room desperately writing an article to Concord Times, which was published few weeks later. That article highlighted the current Sierra Leonean politics characterised by despicable leadership, depravity, corruption and extreme poverty, and called for change. Zubairu Wai’s article does not only mention this, but even goes further calling for a ‘Third Force’, a mass political movement that is detached from the old baggage of blind credulity associated with APC and SLPP that have woefully failed the country. A political movement that transcends self-interest, tribe, religion and regional allegiances, with the aim of freeing a Captive State.

The explosion of individual profiteering by the so-called political elite does not need not be retold here. The betrayal of the people of Sierra Leone by the current political class is pretty disgraceful. A typical example is the fact that Sierra Leone is the only country in the world where heavily pregnant women, and very ill people are transported in wheelbarrows for tens of miles to the nearest health centre. This does not only exhibit the inherent high degree of indifference by politicians, but also questions their capacity to lead a nation. Corruption and individual greed have become so common that future leaders are now handpicked on the basis of their determination to corrupt. This is one of the reasons Charles Margai left the SLPP bandwagon that will eventually run out of steam or run into the sand.

The people, after all these years of bewildering and humiliating poverty designed to break down their resilience, believed that the SLPP was the only party that could save them. After so many years, this hope has turned into despair, anger and frustration. Corruption has robbed the country naked. Between 2000-2003, Sierra Leone was the largest recipient of aid money in Sub-Saharan Africa. To this day it remains the largest recipient of British Aid money in that region. Sierra Leonean leaders have become expert extortionists, for when they smell European money they run into temporary demagogic hysteria with empty promises. They fool the Europeans whose taxpayers’ money ends up in corruption. Big aid money here is like a fatally wounded elephant in the middle of a game reserve. The lions take their shares first after which come the hyenas, followed by the vultures and others in the pecking order of power and influence. At the bottom are park dogs who scrape insignificant sun -dried meat over which they growl at each other in the struggle for survival.

For successive years, Sierra Leone has languished at the bottom of the human development index, the world poverty list, over which Solomon Berewa told the people to be happy (“for it qualifies you for more Aid”, he said). This is a typical example of a leader who is unashamedly incompetent and contemptible. Unemployment and poverty have gone hand-in-hand in accelerating social exclusion, depravity, and social degradation. School boys and girls have started offering themselves for prostitution on the nations’ streets and beaches. These kids are the sole breadwinners for their already depleted families viciously ravaged by unemployment. Who is going to pay their school fees and provide food?

How can any morally conscious Sierra Leonean defend such a government and its administrative incapacities, how can you defend unpaid salaries to teachers and nurses, how can you defend the worst school results in the country’s history, how can you defend the lack of safe drinking water and electricity in the nation’s capital, can anyone defend child prostitution? Sierra Leone is failing, and it is doing so miserably. The bad handling of the Sierra Leone crisis by its leaders is not due to lack of information, but to selfishness and individual miserliness. Sierra Leonean citizens are held like battery hens, kept in a square-foot cage and fed with a modified junk of tribalism and fear by APC and SLPP. When solipsism overrules rational judgement everything becomes a viscous circle. In that circle the key ingredients are illiteracy, oppression and ignorance. As Wai mentioned, some people prefer “continuity over change”. The politicians are very crafty in throwing up this fear over and over again on the already famishing populace.

This unreasoning trust, or rather nave optimism of the SLPP and APC needs to be demystified if Sierra Leoneans want to create an inclusive, tolerant and viable environment. Sierra Leone has to confront its future now. The time to recycle old politicians has gone. The country no longer need yobs with shrivelled legs in khaki shorts to guard its doors to its peoples’ destiny, otherwise bandits will gatecrash their dreams.

There is a considerable force of moral obligation on the shoulder of young Sierra Leoneans, upcoming intellectuals (‘organic intellectuals’, as Wai put it), the willing and unattached media and national artists, such as musicians (who are currently playing a leading role!). They have to confront this predicament by helping to open the gate for the captives to run to freedom. The emergence of a ‘Third Force’ with the capacity to educate, cross boundaries, overcome ‘taboos’ is needed to free their people from this bondage and captivity. “A force that represents”, with “collective popular-national vision”. The SLPP and the APC have successively failed the nation, its time to jump off the boats!

James Fallah-Williams
Doctorate student in Public Policy
School for Policy Studies
(University of Bristol, UK)
james.fallah@fsmail.net

Photo: James Fallah-Williams

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