Building the bridge of national trust

1 August 2009 at 21:29 | 774 views

By Mohamed C. Bah, Ex-President Sierra Leone Community Atlanta, USA.

“For it is mutual trust,even more than mutual interest that holds the human association together.”These are the poetic words of the famous American essayist H.L.Mencken.In a nation dictated by the religion of “everyone for themselves and God for us all,”it is imperative to know that the history of suspicion and the deep seated hatred sometimes we hold against political opponents and even against ordinary citizens must be replaced with a new cultural attitude of mutual trust and love for one another. The cycle of retribution and malicious vengeance by one political party against the other must be broken down with an extended hands of forgiveness and forbearance. These good human personality traits should be the foundation of our political process and the true abiding sense of duty to our people and country. Our civic and social behaviors must also be guided by the sterling principles of collective compassion and mutual respect for everyone. If we seek to build a Sierra Leone where everyone is part of a nation that is prosperous and peaceful, these “rules of engagements” must be the new moral compass that should define our relationships as people of the same heritage.


Indeed,the decades of mistrust in government should help us explore new ways as to why we are not sufficiently harnessing our human potentials and God-given natural wealth in building a 21st century developed society. That, some how, we lost the connection of our common effort to achieve comprehensive human and infrastructural progress like other industrialized nations. Is it the cycle of greed,corruption and the arrogance of power that have become the potent weapons of hindrance to the political and economic viability of our sovereign nation?

Decades after decades, we see slow and little progress from both political parties that have governed the affairs of our nation for the past forty years. Realistically, we are experiencing these short comings,because we are more focus on the battles of personal vendettas and insidious attacks against political opponents rather than fighting the necessary war on social problems like poverty,illiteracy,youth unemployment,poor infrastructures and health care disparity. Elections after elections, we used our citizens as “laser guided missiles” to destroy the prospect of national unity. And we have invariably undermined our ability to work together and even the credibility to govern from the mainstream political ideology. Unfortunately,we frequently see that our national leaders are more loyal to their political bases,regions and tribes than their allegiances to the future of Sierra Leone. We also constantly observed that our political system revolves around personalities rather than strong institutions that keeps the principles and values of democracy thriving. Is this the kind of Sierra Leone we want to build for our children? The late congresswoman from Texas,(USA),Barbara Jordan once said: “if society fails to challenge its wrongs,it will create the impression that those wrongs have the approval of the majority.”


Thus,it is no surprise that, many Sierra Leoneans, are cynical about government’s role and their ability to deliver basic public services, because of the lack of sustainable results, as we recycle one government after the other. It is also true that the effectiveness of a legitimate opposition in our democratic society seems to be entangled on the personality debate of “who is up and who is down.”That is why I believe that we need a strong independent voting block in Sierra Leone today. We need independent driven-minded citizens who are ready and willing to cross party lines if they are unsatisfied with any political party or elected representatives whom they voted for in past elections. A new growing independent voting block, who can influence the outcome of election results, may be helpful in changing the geo-political dynamics just as the Presidential election of 2007 did when Sierra leoneans desired a change of leadership. It is time to hold our leaders accountable and remove them from office when they failed to meet public expectation. If they begins to see voter’s patterns of a strong independent voting records,they will be willing to walk down to the bridge of trust that will ultimately lead them to the direction of national progress


And building a bridge of trust is one significant steps our nation must undertake in this era of global economic challenges. When we trust one another,communication is likely to be open and frequent. There are more opportunities in confronting issues together,conflicts are quickly resolved and better relationships are maintained. Ken Buist, a motivational guru, is right when he defined trust: “ as a currency of almost
every interpersonal relationship.” For instance,the APC Makeni convention on April

16, 2009 in which the opposition party leaders were invited symbolized a hallmark of trust, political tolerance and confidence building measures. The joint communique from the APC and SLPP after the “clock tower fiasco” was also a pattern of impressive leadership from both leaders of the respective political parties. Most Sierra Leoneans, especially many of us in the diaspora were deeply impressed by such show of astute leadership. That is the kind of political integrity many would envisioned to see in this age of the twitter generation.


Nothing,however, is more important to building trust than actions which matches the words. That is why it is essential for government to get the bumbuna project up and running. That is why we need a reduction on youth unemployment,more budget allocation to education,better funding for adult illiteracy, access to better quality health care and good water supply system. That is why we need to continue to encourage foreign investments and develop a modern farming system that provides self-sufficiency and food security to our people. That is why we must invest in technology and create small business opportunities for our citizens. That is why we must reform our port authority sector and lower our tariff system like neighboring Guinea and Liberia. That is why we need good roads to facilitate the flow of commerce and encourage rural investments. That is even why we must have political parties working together in a multifaceted ways to solving our common problems. When these needed priorities are addressed,trust will flow like an ever rising stream into the hearts and minds of millions of Sierra Leoneans.

The game of tit-for-tat where citizens debates from the reservoir of an emotional out burst are less important than meeting the struggles our people face every single day. We must focus on what is happening now and come together to lift our country from the bondage of massive poverty. National development is a shared interest of every

stake holders in Sierra Leone including our humble citizens. Absolutely, it is a prerequisite of good governance. We should never look at our prevailing conditions as a political party problem,since what confronts us are more of national challenges which requires broader solutions from everyone. We should not support political parties just for allegiance sake, rather,we must challenge them to produce good results that advances the way of life of our people.


On the other hand,leaders do not command trust, they build it with time. To be trustworthy, you must first be a person of good character,someone who honestly admits mistakes and make good judgments to protect the well-being of others. In this regard,we need voters to develop their own political thinking based on sound public policies, fiscally responsible agendas and good track records of parties or politicians who runs for elected offices in Sierra Leone.

We should intellectually used these new missing variables to solve our political equation. For too long,we have practiced the politics of “anemic democracy” where we appeal to people’s fears,suspicions and prejudices,where we used divisive tactics to build political capitals and where we throw in the geo-political coronation to win tribal strongholds. That era of post independent politics are gradually fading away into the dark dungeons of history. Today,Sierra Leoneans are being mesmerized into a new kind of democratic understanding,where issues and solutions transcends personalities and regions,where enlightened voters are independently savvy and strategically equipped to defeat the misinformation and the out dated propaganda machines of the past.

Against this growing background, it is relevant to mention that the Presidential and Parliamentary elections in 2007 were defining moments in our nation’s political history. Perhaps,it was the single most significant events that took place since April 27, 1961 and the brutal civil war of the 90’s. That may well be former President Kabba’s greatest gift to the people of Sierra Leone by helping to build one of the most peaceful and credible election in Africa. And “election- 2007” will continue to be the new bridge of hope and trust that will usher our great nation into new frontiers of boundless possibilities. Predictably,Sierra Leone will be the next “Ghana”of sub-Sahara Africa,where the democratic institutions of good governance and accountability will be the new political phenomenon. And the people deserve credit for bringing about the wind of change that is blowing across the land and mountains of a Sierra Leone that we all love.

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