Political Violence for Power-Sharing is an Anathema

21 March 2009 at 06:46 | 764 views

By Mohamed Sesay, Freetown.

Power sharing in African politics has entered the political discourse as a panacea to resolve the continent’s post-elections crisis. The rationale for this, expectedly, is borne out of the desire to forestall any form of violence that portends to undermine the huge investment into the holding of periodic elections in some of Africa’s fledgling democracies.

With some vexing paradox, the West-brokered power-sharing ventures in countries like Somalia, Kenya, and Zimbabwe have only succeeded in exacerbating the political chaos amidst the ensuing political mistrust among the key political protagonists in the state. This is simply because the premise upon which such power-sharing arrangements were brokered becomes faulty as evidenced in the post-elections situations in Kenya and Zimbabwe, to name but a few.

Interestingly, what is slipshod in this power-sharing arrangement is the fact that it also portends to undermine the very fabric of what democracy and the holding of periodic elections is all about: that in first past the post elections, a simple majority is all that is required to form a government. In the name of democracy, in an event where a simple majority could not be attained, it becomes normal for political alliances and coalitions to be formed. In all of these, the rights of the voters are paramount as the major determinants of who should exercise political power over them.

The recent spate of political violence in the West African state of Sierra Leone is no exception to the rest of Africa. What is however tormenting are insinuations by the United States Ambassador to that country, June Carter Perry(photo)that the most recent violence between the ruling All People’s Congress Party (APC) and the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) lacks any political and economic undertone. According to reports in the United States, the Ambassador was quoted Wednesday, March 18th, 2009 saying she emphatically believes the reason behind the violence “is the need for the opposition SLPP to be included in the government”.

While one recognizes that the international community, especially the United States that has been very supportive of the country’s post-war recovery at both the bilateral and multilateral levels cannot afford any relapse to the events of 1991 when the war started in Bomaru to the tortuous road of the signing of the Lome Peace Agreement in July 1999, to the official declaration of the war over in 2002, yet, a hasty conclusion of any inclusion in government of the opposition, as attributed to the US Ambassador, is seemingly premature.

The premature nature of such an insinuation has the ramifications serve as an impetus for the opposition to redouble their efforts to destabilize the will of the people not only within the political sovereignty of Sierra Leone, but also lacks recognizing the negative geo-political effects this might have on other nurtured democracies in neighbouring countries within the Mano River Union (MRU) of Guinea, Liberia and most importantly on the radar, Ivory Coast.

The issue of including the opposition in government did not go through the political embers unchallenged. According to the Nigerian High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, “...there must be some social and economic undertone since most of those involved in the skirmishes are unemployed and marginalized young people most of who are always around that part of town”.

From the foregoing, it therefore behooves all stakeholders in the political stability in Sierra Leone, both at home and in the Diaspora, to look at the recent scourge of political violence in the country beyond the lens of “just skirmishes”. And this is where Africanist scholars already suspicious of Western style multiparty democracy amidst the nauseating ethnic and regional cleavages would indict June Carter Perry, an embodiment of Western democracy, of potentially undermining that very tenor of that concept.

Indeed, while political tolerance is the norm for democracy to thrive, and the holding of periodic multiparty elections the immediate fashionable way for governance as the politics of winner takes all (the Machiavellian version of politics) is no longer trendy, yet any form of blackmail through political violence and intimidation should be seen to be robustly resisted by the wider spectrum of civil society, the ushers and guardians of peace and democracy in Sierra Leone.