Killing our Nascent Democracy - Response to "Letter to Sierra Leoneans from Dr. Cecil Blake"

30 August 2007 at 02:50 | 573 views

By David Keili, Atlanta, USA.

Dr. Blake wants us to throw away the Sierra Leone Constitution and replace it with what? The capricious judgment of "wise" heads like his?

It is hard to understand why even some highly educated men do not seem to grasp that the fundamental underpinning of a civilized society, which we all would want Sierra Leone to be, is one governed by laws which everyone can live by and which cannot be changed arbitrarily.

If Sierra Leoneans should avoid going through elections procedures prescribed in the Constitution because of the possibility of some miscreants causing violence, why begin the election process in the first place? What would Cecil have said if Tejan Kabbah had declared that because of the possibility of violence, the August 11 elections would be postponed till further notice? If we followed his logic and do away with a runoff this time, what is there preventing a future government from making that same argument and foreclosing the people’s right to choose their leaders by rules which they all agreed to in the first place?

Dr. Blake lives in a country enjoying the highest traditions of democracy, where even a dead man’s name (Carnahan of Missouri, 2001) was kept on the ballot only to win the election and have his wife selected to serve. But he would want a living, breathing Solomon Berewa to drop out of a race he has a better than even chance of winning, just so Dr. Blake can declare him "a Statesman"!

The responsible thing for Dr. Blake to have done would have been to send a letter of appeal to his fellow countrymen/women to remain calm and exercise their constitutional right to chose their government in accordance with existing law. To advocate otherwise smirks of the kind of rank opportunism which would be the undoing of Sierra Leone’s nascent democracy.

Most right-thinking people should respect a government led by Ernest Koroma or Solomon Berewa, as long as they enjoy the legitimacy conferred upon them through a constitutional electoral process. The fact that Ernest Koroma got less than 20% of the votes in 6-7 of the 14 electoral Districts during the first round should not make his mandate to govern any less legitimate, if he eventually gets 50% + 1 during the prescribed runoff. Likewise, Solomon Berewa winning the runoff should make his mandate to govern no less legitimate because his party does not enjoy a majority in the Legislature. Why? Because those were the rules of the game before kick-off and, win or loose, Sierra Leoneans can live with a losing team if the refereeing is fair and the rules are not changed in mid-game. What Dr. Blake is suggesting now is the sort of careless handling of rules that made the infamous referee Adejobi run for his life and caused fan riots after football matches .

Finally, to suggest that a President whose party does not enjoy a majority in the legislature would be bad for the country, is to betray a total ignorance of the modern history of working democracies like the United States. Ronald Reagan (a Republican President) governed very effectively and won a second term, in spite of having a Democratic Congress. George Bush Sr. (a Republican) went to war in Kuwait with the approval of a Congress controlled by Democrats. Bill Clinton (a Democrat) got a much needed, but controversial Welfare Reform legislation passed by a Republican Congress and, illustrating the genius of the Separation of Powers enshrined in the US Constitution, was impeached (though not removed) by that same Congress.

Electing an SLPP President to to govern with an APC controlled Parliament would therefore conclusively prove that Sierra Leone’s nascent democracy is maturing well. It significantly reduces the chances of retrogressive hubris and corruption which has led to the country’s underdevelopment and, which comes from a single party enjoying unchecked power.