Berewa and the 2007 Titanic Battle

14 September 2005 at 10:52 | 689 views

The year 2007 is a bit far away for many people. But not for Sierra Leoneans, as that year offers, once more, a chance for that troubled nation to vote for yet another crop of leaders (new or recycled) to hopefully turn things around, end the general agony and garner some respect for the country.In this brilliant expose, the Vanguard’s Toronto-based analyst Abdulai Bayraytay looks at the political future in Sierra Leone and what a Berewa presidency would look like. Solomon Berewa (some call him Yoda Berewa) is the Vice-President of the country and the newly-elected Leader of the ruling party, the SLPP. Yoda is one of the Star Wars characters. According to the huge online information on him, he said to be ’the ancient and revered Jedi Master who lived his final years hiding on the swamp planet of Dagobah’.

By Abdulai Bayraytay

There is some unprecedented political euphoria gripping Sierra Leone as the mass of the people desperately, if not skeptically, look forward to who will succeed President Kabbah come the popularized 2007 parliamentary and presidential elections. The reason for this is obvious and simple: will the next head of state provide the basic necessities like clean, pipe-borne water, electricity, jobs etc; the yearnings of the lumpen class since independence thirty plus odd years ago.

I ndeed, the recently concluded conventions hosted by the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party (SLPP) and the main opposition in Parliament, the All Peoples’ Congress (APC) held in Makeni and Port Loko in the North of the country respectively seemed to have generated interest not only to the politicians, but to the main stakeholders in a democracy, the political sovereigns in the state. This was in spite of the controversies that surrounded the conventions.

Whilst defeated main contender to incumbent vice-president Solomon Berewa Charles Margai vociferously cried foul about the corrupt and manipulative tampering with the list of delegates prior to the convention, the post-elections period for declared winner of the APC Ernest Koroma is nothing to be proud of either. His colleagues in the opposition have questioned the validity of the results thereby sending the wrong signals that indeed the opposition should first wash its linens internally before dreaming of coveting political power come 2007.

Interestingly, the looming question that has permeated the political scene and the future of the country is what difference will a Berewa presidency make that will be potentially different in all respects from the Kabbah legacy? However hypothetical this question may sound to the political novice, yet it is a pertinent one taking into consideration the many politically grandiose promises Kabbah made to the people but yet to be fulfilled. Agreed, the Lungi bridge could not kick-off because of the war, jobs for the youths could not be created because of the war, the city could not be cleaned because of the war, the Bumbuna Dam could not be completed because of the war, the 1965 Public Order Act could not be repealed, if not modified because of the war, etc etc. However, what seems to defy post-war Sierra Leone is the rampant corruption in almost all spheres of public life. Here, the political class and its comprador cronies are having a field day whilst majority of the unsuspecting hoipoloi continues to live in squalor and nightmarish agony. No wonder this state of despair has been caricatured by artists like Emmerson Bockarie in his famous “Borbor Belleh” album to the pleasure of the suffering masses but to the apprehension and discomfort of the thieves in power.

With Sierra Leone heavily dependent on the international community for its daily survival, what seems to epitomize the frustration of the people is the lack of political will to confront corruption in a bold and decisive way. As such, the herculean task a Berewa presidency will face is to convince the rather weary and skeptical donors especially the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank (in spite of their double standards when it comes to dealing with Highly Indebted Countries like Sierra Leone) that funds for public service will be used in the interest of the people. This undoubtedly will compensate for a president who is a novice in international foreign policies in the new global order albeit a long sojourn in the bowels of the UN.

Without casting doomed aspersions, the signs for a buoyant economy seem to hang on a thin thread. For instance, has the government not recently revoked the persona non grata imposed on some unscrupulous foreign business tycoons who are notorious in smuggling our diamonds? Were not a cross section of these foreigners Lebanese hustlers who were indicted for supplying weapons to the notorious RUF to unleash terror on innocent and unsuspecting civilians? So, does that mean VP Berewa agreed with that infamous decision, or rather may have disagreed with it silently but had to tow the line for the sake of personal political aggrandizement? Of course, this is no novelty in Sierra Leone politics since one can comfortably count the number of political players who have bequeathed their positions because they disagreed with certain political decisions.

So, with the resounding victory Berewa enjoyed at the convention hence hopes of being the next president, will he change the sordid situation overnight? Optimistically, he would if he put on the radical hat just as he did when dealing with the erstwhile, obstinate and rogue Revolutionary United Front Rebels (RUF) in Lome that later culminated to the 1999 Peace Accord that ceased hostilities for lasting peace in the country. (This was in spite of unconfirmed concerns that he was caught on camera dozing during the negotiations with diplomats in Togo). On the other hand, one thing that seems to eclipse his would-be presidency, according to his critics (whom he would stoutly dub cynics and detractors) is how he would canvass the votes of the families and friends of people like Abdul Karim Sesay, Major Kula Samba and others who were brutally killed by the kangaroo military tribunal he created during his tenure as Attorney General and minister of Justice? Of course, many journalists are in exile today because erstwhile Justice minister Berewa was bent on setting examples during the maiden days of the present government to zealously prosecute and jail any critic found “wanting” under the 1965 Public Order Act.

Although some of these concerns are very much preemptive in nature and context, highlighting them is a bold reminder of setting the agenda for what lies ahead just as the countdown to 2007 has begun in earnest. This then is where the litmus test of the National Electoral Commission will come into play since, by all indications, the political future of the country demands a playground devoid of any intimidation of the electorates. Unless this is done, coupled with the unfolding political events in neighbouring Liberia and Guinea, the potential of troublemakers to exploit the frustration of the lumpen youths and other disgruntled politicians and revert the country, if not the sub region into yet another chaos, stands a possibility.

As we begin the count down to 2007, Sierra Leoneans all over the world, it seems to me, are asking for clean drinking water, electricity, a square meal a day, education being a right rather than a reserve for the privileged few, reducing the traffic congestion in the city, create jobs for the youths and remunerate the working class with a worthy salaries; just the basics of life, so that our country could shift from that disgraceful nomenclature of being the poorest of the poor in the world, courtesy of UNDP reports.

Photos: The great Yoda (top) and Berewa (below).