A Travesty of Reality

17 November 2005 at 02:05 | 425 views

James Fallah continues to react to Gbondima Gbondo’s recent article in which he (Gbondo) grappled with an earlier article written by Zubairu Wai, the Toronto political scientist and regular Vanguard contributor. Gbondo is a Freetown journalist.

By James Fallah

The Senegalese poet, Leopold Sedar Senghor, once told his tormentors, “The men (sic) we were have died”.

Ngor Gbondo’s piece does not only lack objectivity but also strenuously used what is known in post-modern politics as spinning, to convince his readers that all is live and kicking in Sierra Leone. The men and women you think we are have indeed died!

There are three things I want to address in Ngor Gbondo’s work (Awareness Times, 7th and 11th November 2005). His description of activists as “armchair critics”, his denial of a dysfunctional state, and his rejection of the existence of corruption in Sierra Leone.

There is a difference between activism for national transition and activism with political ambition. The former is what we who write and speak for the dispossessed are portraying. I first wrote for an international paper (The Recorder, UK) in February 1994 when I was a sixth form student at The Albert Academy, Sierra Leone. To describe critics of poor governance as “armchair” critics is a potent form of political pathogen. The failure of your government to adequately address the Sierra Leone Crisis of pernicious and pervasive poverty, unemployment and destitution is well documented. Colonialism and War could no longer be blamed for such irresponsible stewardship. Some of those who criticise only do so with the aim of freeing Sierra Leone from the hands of marauding Sierra Leoneans. Your article with regards to your government’s achievement is a travesty of reality.

A dysfunctional state is a state where ‘staged democracy’ is practiced. In ‘staged democracies’ there are only two types of politicians: the sleazy and very sleazy. A dysfunctional state is unmitigatedly marred by incompetence, high unemployment, misappropriation of public funds, institutional ineptitude and the general failure of leaders to represent their people. How the SLPP has “revived” Sierra Leone from the ashes of war is hard to assess indeed. What has the Anti-Corruption Commission achieved in terms of bringing the crooked to book? Its findings so far are a load of prevarications haphazardly dressed to hypnotise donors into paying out money. The existence of the National Social Security system you mentioned is pretty risible. National Social Security Systems in welfare terms are aimed at providing unemployment benefits, sickness benefits, and disability allowances. How many disabled Sierra Leoneans receive support? The amputated and visually impaired (including children) are begging on the streets. Lactating mothers, who are single parents, dangle the weakened legs of their babies to attract the attention of generous Sierra Leoneans and foreigners. Occupational benefits are dependent upon employment; therefore entitlement is based on contribution through work. Where are the jobs? Social Security also exists to prevent or alleviate poverty, and as a means of distributing national resources. How has this been achieved? The organisations you listed are, indeed, very good examples of a very bad use of simulacrum that is prevalent in ‘staged democracies’. They are there but they do not function!

Your mockery of Fourabay College is a sign of the government’s systematic neglect of the acquisition of knowledge. The once prestigious institution is gradually dying of neglect. The government has divided and polarised students, and has succeeded in distracting their attention off key educational matters regarding their own education and survival. Their library is devoid of books. The few that are there are extremely debilitated by repetitive flicks and borrowings. Due to low pay, examination malpractice has become a common phenomenon that lecturers who are cash-strapped sell examination questions to students. No proper food and no electricity. In Freetown the minister of Education roams around unbothered. We always blame Colonialism for our mismanagement and self-indirection, our subjection of our own people and our poor intellectual achievements. Were we not in the same category of colonialism as India, Malaysia and Singapore, among others? Why is India producing more than 2 million graduates every year? The Sierra Leone government is even begging from Singapore and Malaysia.

Your government has become increasingly reliant on international humanitarian organisations to provide basic services. The creation of a benchmark for performance by the British government is an indication of your inability to perform simple tasks. What the average Sierra Leonean does not know is that farmlands have been sold to Pakistan, as though there are no farmers in Sierra Leone. In the 1970s Sierra Leone produced enough rice for home consumption and for export to countries such as the Gambia. What the average Sierra Leonean does not know is that the Rutile mining company can only employ few Sierra Leoneans most of whom will be domestic servants, security guards, and labourers. Earning less than one dollar a day! Bearing in mind Sierra Leone is a world top producer of rutile.

Ngor Gbondo’s sarcasm in requesting for the definition of corruption is a provocative gesture aimed at a perishing nation. What he is doing is a combination of complacency and fatalism that unequivocally transgress the boundaries of responsibility and common sense. If you demand to know the meaning of corruption, tell us why the Anti-Corruption Commission was set up in the first place? If international humanitarian organisations are providing basic services, tell us what is happening to state funds? For you cannot say you are paying civil servants’ salaries. How many doctors has Tejan Kabba trained? Libyan doctors have returned home because Kenema Hospital is dilapidated. Is this the country that has been “raised” from the ashes of war, the injection of the poor with decadence?

What we are seeing in the relationship between Kabba and Berewa is a copycat of the ties that existed between Siaka and Momoh. When Siaka realised that he was at the end of his tether, he chose his cuddly fool to diddle the Sierra Leone public. Today, Kabbah has done the same by choosing an equally less capable successor that is visibly desperate. Sierra Leone has become so marooned that its leaders are nothing but miserably organised gangsters pulling a stranded country by a gossamer thread.

In post war Sierra Leone nothing has changed in social, political and economic terms. Daily living is demeaning, favouring only political affiliates. Our leaders have no idea that we live in the twenty first century where transparent administration and accountability, shared responsibility and public consent are obligatory. Bad governance is culturally imbibed, stemming from the conception that leaders are untouchable, unquestionable, and half-gods who should bathe in their status. The police and the army have been trained for autocrats who mock human rights. That an MP could higher yobs (including her own children) to beat a journalist to death is a state Gbondo admires! Law and order are only useful in the hands of those who possess decent political conviction. And this is what we lack in Sierra Leone at the moment. Tejan Kabba is a lame duck that lack the touch of structured leadership. To allow Berewa to succeeded him is catastrophe in the making. Why do you thing young Sierra Leoneans are perishing in the deserts of Morocco and Mauritania? Had they had opportunities at home do you think they would have ventured that perilous road to death?

Ngor Gbondo’s defence is highly unsubstantiated. In its entirety it is a pack of damp squibs. Spinning is not for ninnies. When he realised he has literally spun himself to death in his second article, he turned to blatant personality attacks like a trapped Tasmanian devil! Don’t we deserve decent debates on the future of Sierra Leone?

Those who think the road to 2007 is a one-way street are in for a bumpy ride. The current upsurge in criticising Kabba’s poor leadership is not driven by political desire but by a quest for change. Those who are leading it have information at their fingertips. They refuse to be treated like used kitchen gloves thrown into the pantheon of post-scribed wretches. Let us give Sierra Leone a better future.

Photo: James Fallah

James Fallah is a PHD student in Public Policy at the university of Bristol.