Is Sierra Leone an ethnocentric nation

12 March 2009 at 13:51 | 919 views

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

“High we exalt thee,realm of the free; Great is the love we have for thee”:From these exalting words of our national anthem, being a Sierra Leonean is a precious gift. It is as Dr. Brian Stanley described: “the consciousness of being part of a nation and subscribing to its cherished values,aspiring the best that is in human nature- a generous service and astounding self-sacrifice for your country”.The ideology that each nation constitutes a natural political community whose members should all live together under the authority of "their own" independent,gives us an opportunity to cherish our country and “so may we serve thee ever alone.” Nationalism is a belief that one’s nation and its interests are of primary importance which supersedes everything.

Frankly, as Sierra Leoneans,do we really “raise up our hearts and our voices on high..” where the “hills and the valleys echo our cry,” for the love of our country or do we just see Sierra Leone as a backyard of our childhood memories. Without a sense of belonging to a particular people, we feel rootless, unsure of who we are, and would never be able to give back to our country. Many of us today,increasingly, are not passing the citizenship test when its comes to how we feel about our country;what contributions are we making and how much are we proud of who we are as citizens of a land that “Ever we seek to honor thy name” and a future where “we pray that no harm on thy children may fall.”


Instead of fulfilling the promises of the “knowledge and truth of our forefathers” and “mighty the nation whom they led” we have been pathologically an ethno-centric nation, generally devoid of the spirit of nationalism. For decades,we have being polarized by the disturbing legacy of ethno-centrism. Many of our fellow citizens have not been able, as they perform their public and private duties to “show forth the good that is ever in thee” because we as a nation are not “firmly united and ever we stand” when it comes to putting on our majestic national crown over our tribal hats. A lot of our good citizens have been victimized and discriminated by the balkanization of a tribal system that have denied them the right to serving their people and country.


We have generally witnessed an entrenched lack of nationalistic instinct when it comes to our co-existence as the same people, who share a similar geography,culture, history and common destiny. An ugly chapter of a repetitive pattern of tribal and regional dominance on the machinery of our socio-political landscape have not shown the moral imperative of the “mighty they made thee,so too may we”’s expectation threshold. We have not made any considerable progress, since independence, when it comes to how much we have overcome, the institutionalized problem of the T- word. That what unites us as Sierra Leoneans are far greater than what divides us. That the strength of our diversity have been used in opposite directions to diminish the need to come together and see each other as Sierra Leoneans first. We have failed to look at what makes us the same- one people (Sierra Leoneans) and have exploited our differences in an attempt to create a false sense of personal and political security.


Our decade old conflicts have been traced and rooted to the marginalization of the voice of the majority by the kind of “Hutu-Tutsi” syndrome. Like racism,we have not confronted and dealt with “tribalism” in all aspect of our national lives, nor do we see it as a threat to national unity. If, we are to be a nation, who believed in the credence and symbol of our national principles-”unity, freedom and justice” a call to nationalism must be a new weapon against the biggest obstacles that impedes progress in Sierra Leone -the twin evils of :TRIBALISM and CORRUPTION.

Indeed,we can shoved nationalism aside, play the usual game by recycling one government after another and build a fortress of cronies and tribal giants in our political empire,but we can be rest assured that we cannot solve nothing that way. We can hide by the constitutional pretense that every President have the “prerogative” to choose whomsoever to his cabinet/government structures, but unless we become true to the cradle of our national values, our public hall ways or offices will always be filled with one faces of our fellow citizens. Unavoidably,this will lead to a dangerous path, where the peace and blessing of our nation would not flourish to every corner of our society.

We must re-dedicate our allegiances to nation building not affiliation to groups, regions, tribes or religion. Our attitude to solving our national problems must be broad,pragmatic and inclusive with the constructive participation of every ethnicity, working professionals and the abandoned youths of today. Our overriding loyalty as Dr. King rightly said: “must become ecumenical rather than sectional”. We should no longer allow the demography of our political structure to be dominated by one group or comprises of one tribal echelon of Sierra Leoneans. Rather,we must have the nameless faces of our fellow citizens, who are qualified and competent to represents our nation’s interest without regards to their geographical and ethnic backgrounds.

Too bad to say, that our history is cluttered with the same old self-defeating path of tribal patronage. The consciousness of being part of a nation and subscribing to its cherished values must always be characterized by our passion and love for Sierra Leone. Thus, we must not be guilty of becoming a nation less tolerant to our diversity and more comfortable to the ever rising tide of tribalism and nepotism. Rather, we must “pledge our devotion, our strength and our might” to “thy cause to defend and to stand for thy right.”- Sierra Leone.


Consciously enough,how many of us, today carry our national flag in our place of residence, automobiles or proudly wear our national colors (green,white and blue) during our historic independence day celebrations or national events. Are we proud to tell non-Sierra Leoneans who we are or do some of us hide our national identity for personal reasons?Many of our fellow citizens at home are far less nationalistic because of the failure of government to deliver the essential human services and exalt the importance of citizenship. They have been defeated by the heavy burden of poverty and have been made to believe that their country offers them no hope. How can they love Sierra Leone when,at no-fault of their own, cannot lift themselves out of the economic misery they find themselves. No better and affordable school systems, struggling families trying to eat,few good and accessible hospital to care for them, poor sanitation and water supply system, inadequate housing and rationed electricity.


However,even in the face of despair and the looming economic challenges that confronts our government and people, I still see a promising and more hopeful future for Sierra Leone. When conscious efforts are made to control our socio-political nightmares through bold and courageous leadership,educational advancements and good nationalistic behaviors,we can faithfully serve our country with great loyalty and distinction. And the only way we can work for unity, freedom and justice is to have a shared value where nationalism transcends our common problems,where real hope filled the voided hearts of our struggling citizens, and where true human principles overcomes our deep seated fears for one another. Only then can we replace the poverty that have fostered a culture of blame instead of taking personal responsibility,a culture of hate instead of harmony and the culture of dependency instead of self-sufficiency-these serious problems that have destroyed so many generations for so long. Only then can we become a nation ready to sing loud and clear the national song of the: “Land that we love,our Sierra Leone.”