From the Editor’s Keyboard

Beware of the politics of envy and vengeance

17 June 2017 at 22:39 | 1755 views

By Titus Boye-Thompson, Guest Writer, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

It is interesting how people easily forget the past and for political expediency feel confident that their falsities and fake news in the present days will in some way cover up their faults and misdeeds of the past. When opposition politicians start talking of unexplained wealth, what they are propagating is the politics of envy and nothing to do with public accountability. If they were talking about public accountability, then politicians should contact the institutions already set up to deal with issues of public accountability.

The Anti-Corruption Commission is one such institution that was set up by the opposition but in their fear of rancour, they stopped short of giving that Commission the power of prosecution that has no made it a functional institution. The opposition SLPP Party have no gumption to raise the issue of unexplained wealth here when this matter was of such grave concern for the international community when they were in power that all funds for local development were stopped for fear that the funds would be mismanaged in the run up to a general election. That possibility is not the case now because the world’s financial institutions have given nothing but a vote of confidence in this government by supporting it to the fullest extent even as elections are looming.

The withdrawal of support from the donor community was the first sign of regime change that was triggered by them on the SLPP government. The rationale for such drastic measure on Sierra Leone was based on the excesses of that government where politicians were diverting shiploads of rice meant for this nation as a gift to other nations for cash, where they were in retrospect showing off with the wealth they accumulated in the Sababu Project where schools worth billions of Leones were built in bushes across the country with no pupils to attend nor with any proper planning. That government held office with practically no accountability but with an inordinate number of private and personal clashes between President Kabbah with some of his errant Ministers, some of whom, like Prof. Blake had to resign in disgust while others like Pujeh had to be jailed for diamond fraud.

In fact, knowing full well that the SLPP government was corrupt, President Koroma’s first official act was to empanel “Transition Teams” to review then on-going activities of every Ministry. The reports of the Transition teams that went round are available for reference but suffice it to say that the scale of mire was so great that President Koroma ordered that the reports be subdued so as not to cause unnecessary panic. However, the teams reported cases of government vehicles that had gone astray, some vehicles parked at Youyi Buildings had no engines as they had been carted off while some vehicles simply vanished as their users were leaving office. The issue of unexplained wealth is therefore one that no opposition activist should raise now.

An observer who was around at the time the APC entered State House recalled that the state of the place was alarming. The opposition carted away all the furniture even down to the carpet. The offices were so dismal that when the Chinese Ambassador made a visit to congratulate the President, his first remark was to offer Chinese government support to reconstruct and refurbish the offices of the President.

In his own selfless way, it was President Koroma who suggested instead that a more pressing project was the reconstruction of the Regent Grafton Road and if the Chinese would assist in that, it would relieve the burden on a greater number of the country rather than ensconce thePresident in luxury while the people suffer from bad roads and infrastructure. On top of the carnage the then government wrought on State House, they took off with nearly all the vehicles assigned to the Presidency to the extent that vehicles for President Ernest Bai Koroma’s inauguration were secured on loan to his government by the then President of Senegal, Abdoulai Wade.

It is always circumspect when the opposition starts talking about wealth in a country as poor as Sierra Leone, as if those who are employed in high positions should not become wealthy. They condescend to envy and jealousy in such diatribes because it is just too patronizing of others who had not been able to eke out a living in a rough economy. The practical reality in Sierra Leone is that while some do earn their wages in foreign currency, they can live well and manage to build houses from such earnings.

This economy is not that difficult for one not to be able to save enough to build a modest house as long as you are in a relatively senior position. To accuse those who are using their hard earned incomes and some who have to go on austerity in their everyday living to build a safe home for their families of corruption is indeed a very bad way to run an opposition strategy. The issues that they are raising now in relation to unexplained wealth has to do with the opposition tactics to scare people about their intentions of revenge or that they would subject the country to chaos by locking up all those who have worked for this government.

It is also interesting that as the opposition peddle their fake news and scare mongering tactics, they only see the evil hand of the ruling party in every attempt at seeking justice or any recourse to the courts. In a flash, they had accused the APC of being complicit in a case brought to court against the Attorney General and others in relation to the right of those in the Diaspora to be allowed to vote in our general elections as a ploy by the APC to hold on to power beyond March 17, 2018. What they failed to appreciate is the right of every Sierra Leone to challenge the Constitution in court whenever they are opined to consider that the Constitution may be leveraged to give them additional rights or benefits. In this case, those who live beyond the shores of this country wish to vote and change the course of pour politics because they are Sierra Leoneans. They have no consideration for the fact that they pay no taxes in Sierra Leone or that they have no meaningful contributions to our development, yet they wish to exercise a civic right to which they have very scanty chance of securing. The matter has now been thrown out of Court, and rightly so because they have in their haste, failed to file their documents in the proper manner or alternatively approach the Court in a manner befitting. That this matter has no relationship to the President, or any bearing on his ambition to leave office or remain in power, is of no significance to them but that they were minded to castigate the resident unfairly.

A civil war survivor recalled that gunning down for people who have managed to be successful in life simply because they have served in government is a very bad way to run an opposition strategy. It creates nothing but jealousy and envy. He recalled that during the war, it was people who lived in their localities that were pointing out houses of the rich and successful for those houses to be burnt down. This sort of acts was the most despicable as neighbours turned against each other in such trying times for this country. Wishing to remain anonymous, the observer in question mentioned that “it would be a very bad sign if the SLPP in opposition would wish to bring up the possibility that if they assume power, they would start burning down homes of people who have served this government. Another war is the last thing that this country needs,” he concluded.

Finally, it must be borne in mind that any country that does not allow its institutions to maintain control over the affairs of its citizenry would fall into conflict and war, fragile states are in fact measured by weak institutions and dysfunctional structures. Sierra Leone needs to build the resilience necessary to withstand the shocks of external or internal catastrophes as in the case of the Ebola virus. Any state where the opposition can threaten the citizen with violence and conflict would only sink deeper into fragility and threaten its fledgling democracy. In any event, the SLPP cannot be ready for government if they are bent on coming to power by force.

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