Opinion

Dr. Kelfala Kallon’s unreasonable blame game

14 October 2010 at 06:40 | 1189 views

By Joseph Seidu Sherman, Washington, DC.

Indeed, it is no surprise that Dr. Kelfala Kallon is among the misinformation clique of Sierra Leoneans that are still blind to the realities of the SLPP’s totally dismal failure politically, socially and economically.

If this cabal of SLPP politicians has one priority-above all-it is to misinform and convince ignorant Sierra Leoneans that nothing has been achieved since President Koroma came to power three years ago.

When the SLPP was in power 11 years ago, the political, social, economic environment in Sierra Leone was rested on the politics of ethnicity, corruption and nepotism. The government of The SLPP was using partisan politics and ethnicity as a fundamental organizing concept. In contemporary Sierra Leone, the politics of ethnocentrism as practiced by the SLPP had by then become the defining feature of governance, access to power and resources, development and management of public affairs.

Evidence from the dismal track record of the SLPP government suggests that if something is worth doing , it can be often be done virtuously, honestly, honorably and competently. In contrast, can Dr. Kelfala Kallon name a crisis where the SLPP government demonstrated strong leadership role in the interest of all Sierra Leoneans devoid of party affiliation and nepotism? Never was this illustrated better than the present achievements of President Koroma’s within three years in office

Injustices with impunity, oppressive rule, political and economic ineptitude have been the hallmarks of the past 11 year SLPP rule and no amount of propaganda can hide this stark political reality. At the time of SLPP dismal rule, the opposition groups had no real political strength, majority of the newspapers, radio and television were dominated by the then government in power. All these clearly indicate that claims by people like Dr. Kelfala Kallon are rubbish. He asked: “Are Sierra Leoneans Better off Today than they were Three Years Ago? That’s a ploy to hide the SLPP’s social, political and economic failures of governance, a dangerous illusion and road map to creating misinformation and discrediting President Ernest Koroma’s administration.

Blaming or scape-goating is a favorite pastime of politicians and pundits to impute on one’s political opponents. It is a powerful tool used by political reactionaries and have been used effectively to legitimize anger over declining economic prospects or uncertain social status.

Since President Koroma assumed the leadership of Sierra Leone three years ago, there are high expectations from the opposition to see a dramatic change in the socio-economic downtrend which he inherited from them. However, the opposition fails to realize that the actual economic problems in Sierra Leone should be attributed to the government of former President Kabbah under whose leadership the country was labeled the least developed and poverty-stricken country in the world.

With bad news coming out of Wall Street daily and the U.S. and world economies heading towards recession, should political opponents blame President Koroma for the slow-pace of development in Sierra Leone? The world’s largest economies- the United States and Japan are in simultaneous retreat and Europe’s growth is in trouble. Consequently, when successive economic crises rippled around the world, weakest economies are often the first pushed off the edge of the cliff.

Political opponents in Sierra Leone should be aware that in the United States, while some workers have jobs with no future, others have futures without jobs. This is a global recession and the worst is yet to come and stresses will be felt in most developing countries and emerging markets which are the most fragile, and where frustrated workers and political opponents will be looking for scapegoats. As we can see, the leading scapegoat in Sierra Leone for the economic downtrend is President Koroma.

Furthermore, the state of the economy in Sierra Leone should not be measured by cynics through measurements of perception, or subjective economy, rather it should be measured by actual economy inherited from the former government. In other words, the perception political opponents have of the economy are shaped by statements relating to the media rather than grounded on judgment related to the past.

In addition to the performance of President Koroma in a shattered and battered economy he inherited from the SLPP, the presence of political cynicism can undermine economic performance in the evaluation of confidence because governments perceived impotent have a low probability of being judged according to their performance.

It is time for political opponents and pundits to strip the camouflage of scape-goating or blaming President Koroma for the present downward trend of the economy and development of Sierra Leone. It is time to stop pretending that the poverty and hardship the people of Sierra Leone are going through is the machination and invention of President Koroma. Rather, it is time for meaningful and patriotic Sierra Leoneans to posit a true alternative to the dangerous false populism of pessimistic opponents.

And now...Kelfalla Kallon’s article:

Are Sierra Leoneans Better Off Today than they Were Three Years Ago?

By Kelfala Kallon,USA.

In the 2007 elections, the APC portrayed themselves essentially as socialists—the people who, if elected, will be the champions of the poor. They were going to create jobs for the unemployed. Food was going to be plentiful to the extent that no Sierra Leonean would ever go to bed hungry again. Electricity, pipe-borne water, healthcare, and education were all going to be improved. With true socialist gusto, President Koroma claimed at his inauguration that his presidency marked “a new dawn with unlimited opportunities for lifting our people from the life of poverty, disease, ignorance, disunity to the fulfillment of our manifest destiny enshrined in our 2025 vision of a united people and a peaceful and progressive country.”

According to the new president, all of his plans for Sierra Leone would only come to fruition if corruption was brought under control. He therefore pledged an unwavering support to fight corruption. To emphasize this commitment, he even warned his family members that there will be no sacred cows in his administration when it came to corruption. However, soon into his presidency, his siblings quickly metamorphosed from ordinary average citizens into contract mammies, tax-rebate beneficiaries, and rice-peddling shysters, making it seem as if the president’s warning had been predicated on prior observation of a latent predisposition by his siblings to use political power for unearned, illegitimate economic gains. This quick transformation of the country into what seemed like a Koroma Family Incorporated, gave new meaning to the president’s campaign pledge to run the country “like a [family] business”.

In this Agenda for Change, the president prioritized five key areas: education, agriculture, health, energy and water resources, and infrastructure. He promised that the results of his programs would be forthcoming in 36 months into his presidency. As this self-imposed deadline came close, the president and his surrogates have been telling all who would listen that the past three years have been the best in the history of Sierra Leone. They have pointed to the completion of Bumbuna as evidence that the president has fulfilled his pledge on electricity. Of course, it does not matter to the president’s choir section that the promised uninterrupted electric supply to the Western Area and parts of the Northern Province was soon revealed for what it is—a pipe dream. In their euphoria over this “accomplishment”, they even conveniently forgot that the president inherited a Bumbuna that was 95 percent complete. And they most definitely do not wish to be reminded about the over-priced Income Electrix deal, which, according to even the Anti-Corruption Commission, stank to the high heavens.

Ask any APC faithful about their anti-corruption achievements and he or she will wax silly about the passage of the Anti-Corruption Act, 2008. Even here, the average APC faithful will deftly tiptoe (with the dexterity of a highly accomplished ballerina) around the case of the president’s siblings getting government contracts from State House in spite of the Act’s prohibition of government officials (including El Presidenté himself) participating in government decisions that directly benefits their relatives and friends. And of course, APC partisans have also danced around the Indian Rice Scandal and the odious tax rebate that was issued to a company headed by the president’s brother. They also prefer to conveniently forget the Wanza gun boat deal that even the young NPRC “boys” had rejected because it defrauded our dear republic. And, of course, the overpriced, dilapidated NASSIT ferries are a hush-hush amidst the APC hoopla about President Koroma’s anti-corruption record.

The president and his people are also very quick to point to their continuation of the road-rehabilitation program they inherited from the former SLPP government as a major APC achievement. Again, they conveniently refuse to acknowledge the fact that arranging financing (which the SLPP did prior to the completion of the regime-change agenda in Sierra Leone) is the most important part of any investment project. But what is really amazing about this construction thing is that of all the unfinished projects that the SLPP left behind, the APC chose road-resurfacing as the one they would implement. One wonders whether this is unconnected to the findings of the IMF’s Paolo Mauro that corrupt governments prefer public investments that are productive of bribe incomes (such as construction and road building) to those that are less productive of bribes (such as education, healthcare, and institutional reforms).

In fact, Mauro suggested the volume of cement imported by a typical developing country as a good proxy for measuring the level of corruption.
Thus, just as the first APC government of Siaka Stevens tore out the railway and replaced it with road construction in order to maximize bribes from the ensuing contracts; it is no surprise that the Koroma-vintage of the APC similarly chose road rehabilitation as the only thing that they inherited from the Kabbah government that is worth their follow through. The unvarnished truth is that when it comes to sniffing corrupt revenue from even socially necessary projects, the APC are better sniffers than any dog. Those who doubt veracity of this conclusion are advised to read Dr. M.S. Fornah’s letter of resignation to educate themselves on that score.

Also, as we review the APC’s three-year tenure, we must remember that they inherited a country that was at peace with itself. This all changed soon after they came to power. For example, APC thugs attacked the SLPP’s headquarters in broad daylight while President Koroma was being sworn into office. Since then, SLPP supporters have been attacked all over the country and not a single attacker has been brought to justice. In some of these attacks, SLPP women were raped by APC thugs, allegedly under the direction and supervision of State House employees. Election violence, which was the electioneering trademark of the Agba Satani vintage of the APC, has also returned to the country with gusto. Finally, inclusion and national cohesion, which were major parts of the SLPP’s agenda for rebuilding our war-battered country, have been replaced by exclusion, xenophobia, and ethnic and regional jingoism—to the extent that membership in the higher echelons of the Koroma government depends solely on the proximity of one’s birthplace to Makeni.

Dr. Kelfala Kallon.

More ominously, the APC, like all governments that lack anything tangible to show for their tenure are reverting into the age-old, Nazi-type policy of blaming successful minority communities for their failures. For example, when in opposition in the 1960s, they attacked the Fullahs, whom they claimed were foreigners. Their surrogates in the AFRC junta again resorted to this vilification of successful minorities in 1997 by claiming that President Kabbah, and by extension all Madingos, were foreigners. They again struck during the 2007 electioneering campaign with a vicious lie that President Kabbah had a retirement mansion in Guinea in order to suggest that even as president, President Kabbah was first and foremost a Guinean. Now, they are turning their xenophobic attacks on our Afro-Lebanese compatriots, as evidenced by the recent chatter in the newspaper owned by the president’s press secretary, in order to deflect the debate away from their uninspiring record by blaming the Afro-Lebanese community for the consequences of three years of APC misrule.

The father of modern economics, Adam Smith, set one standard for evaluating political leaders and their policies when he proclaimed in his Wealth of Nations that “No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.” I am, therefore, amazed that the APC have not provided evidence to the effect that the average Sierra Leonean is less poor and less miserable today than they were three years ago.
Certainly, as evidenced by the exponential increase in the weight and girth of the APC leadership and their relatives, in contrast to the gauntness of their compatriots, Sierra Leoneans who have good APC connections have done incredibly well during the Koroma presidency. The average, politically unconnected Sierra Leoneans has meanwhile had to contend with increased political intolerance, economic stagnation, inflation, increased youth unemployment, a highly regressive tax structure, and a bigoted political leadership that cares for only themselves and their loved ones. In other words, the APC are yet to let the ship that they berthed on our shores on September 17, 2007, appropriately named Hardship, depart.

With such a record as theirs, the APC leadership acted understandably when the president and almost his entire cabinet boycotted the third-anniversary press conference that had been scheduled for highlighting his accomplishments over the past three years. It is also understandable that the president chose to present his report card in New York, far away from the shores of Sierra Leone, to a coterie of well-fed APC partisans at a lavish dinner that was misnamed a Town Hall meeting. This flight from conscience is, in my opinion, the most candid self-evaluation of President Koroma’s record than all the noise we have been hearing from him and his choir section.

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