From the Editor’s Keyboard

Sierra Leone politicians and the diplomatic corps

By  | 27 November 2010 at 04:53 | 577 views

One thing I find a bit baffling is the tendency of Sierra Leonean politicians, civil society activists and other movers and shakers in the country to run, tears running down their cheeks, to members of the diplomatic corps in the country the minute they face a problem with the government or with the judiciary and legislature. Or, as most often happens, with the police and the army.

Now, I think this is a peculiarly Sierra Leonean phenomenon because I have lived and spent time in many African countries (not to talk of the West) and I had never seen that kind of strange behaviour. Is it inferiority complex? Is it part of the dependency syndrome? Why can’t we try to solve our problems among ourselves, in the unique African way of our ancestors first?

I am not saying Sierra Leonean politicians and civil society captains should never protest loudly on matters of national importance to the UN and the ambassadors resident in Freetown. Of course they should; what I am saying is that it should be a tool that can only be used as a last resort, when all else have failed, as is done in most African countries. Western politicians and community activists almost never do that.

Here is an example: When Canada held the G20 summit last June in Toronto, the largest city and economic capital of the country, there were many street protests against the summit and the big capitalists from all over the world. A lot of properties were destroyed by the anti-capitalist and anti-establishment protesters and the Toronto police seriously manhandled some people with their batons and a number of them ended in hospital or jail. No Canadian politician or civil society activist called or sent a press release to any foreign diplomat in Ottawa to complain about the police brutality. The police, swept by an avalanche of condemnation from Canadians, later apologized, dropped some charges, released some people and so on. Everything was done within Canada and among Canadians. Sounds easy, right? Right.

What do you think would have happened in Sierra Leone if we have a similar incident? I will tell you: There will be a mountain of press releases addressed to Ban Ki Moon, Barack Obama, the British Prime Minister, the AU, ECOWAS, the EEC, and copies for all the ambassadors in Freetown. There will be hundreds of telephone calls to foreign diplomats asking for their help, to ask them to reprimand the police and tell them to stop the brutality. I saw that during the country’s brutal civil war. In fact former president Kabbah, like an African Pontius Pilate, at one point practically handed over the country to foreigners to do whatever they liked with it. Christ!