Opinion

Sierra Leone’s 48 years of dependence

17 April 2009 at 06:32 | 764 views

By Emmanuel A.B. Turay,Nairobi, Kenya.

Yes, the government of Sierra Leone is now planning million dollar budgets to celebrate what they describe as forty eight years of independence. But the big question is: What do we celebrate?

All successive governments including the present ruling government officials are full of zeal to mark this day because this is a cheap and easy way of siphoning money without questioning through over budgeted expenditures to caterers, and other service providers.

The independence to me is really meaningful the involvement of government Ministers, their Permanent Secretaries and Directors and now added to the list are the city and town council Chairpersons, Mayors and councillors. Trust me, since the beginning of April, Resident Ministers, PS, Chairpersons and Mayors have given 70% of their time chasing the budget allocated to their respective councils and offices to mark this Independence Day.

I am presently in Kenya, yet I sense and have a mental picture of the present scenario between these officials and their subordinates about this budget allocation. It is either to cut down so as to get what to fill their individual pockets and purses or harass foreign investors including business houses or individuals for contributions geared towards this celebration. WHAT A BIG SHAME.

All this is taking place at the back door and at the end of the day letters will start pouring from either the PS office or councils to, for instance, the Ministry of Education to rally schools for a march past to mark this day. The innocent school children, mostly primary school children and their teachers will stand out in the hot burning sun and sometimes rain to listen to rhetoric, raps and diplomatic lies from the mouths of those "independence" politicians and their allies. Most junior and senior secondary school students dodge this occasion because it makes no sense to them; not even their teachers waste their time to chase the students to this occasion because even the teacher has not eaten overnight.

Also in the fray are our ignorant people in the surrounding villages of major towns and cities who are influenced by their local councillors or politicians in the area to mobilize to mark this celebration. This mobilisation is fast tracked with tokens to these groups to through some locally brewed liquor and drugs to make them senselessly hyper active on hungry stomachs. They only realise themselves after accomplishing the objectives of their leaders and they are abandoned in the field stranded and hungry.

At this time the organisers will be eating and drinking with their counterparts and business partners.
All of this is a mere exploitation of the people’s right to know their rights and privileges on what this occasion should really mean to them and for them.

Let’s now therefore give a moment of reflection to this: are we really independent or dependent?

To me, we are still dependent. It is not because we are no longer ruled or governed by the British so we think we are independent. No to that. From our historical perspective I still see dependency at play. Our political heads are just figure heads manipulated by the colonizers and the West.

I see in Sierra Leone those on whom the people rely for a sense of direction towards independence, development and self reliance dubbed as the elites in our own country use knowledge to their advantage to dominate and exploit millions of labourers, the youths, women and children. The people’s knowledge and skills with regard to health, education, agriculture, appropriate technology, housing, community building, etc. are shown to be superstitious, counter progressive and unscientific.

The politicians and few elites are every day engaged in establishing the hegemony of their own profit making systems of education that is irrelevant to the lives of the people, of medicine that adds to the profit of the multi-national drug companies, of housing that brings western technology, of architecture ill-suited to our warm, crowded cities or rural environments, and of community building that is ill adjusted to the psyche of the Sierra Leone rural people.

We have clear examples of this in our country to mention but a few: the 6-3-3-4 system of education, SABABU, HIPIC, GREEN REVOLUTION, and so on.

The monopoly of knowledge and consequently, of power in the hands of the ruling class, excludes the vast number of people of our country and makes them weaker. It denies them professional knowledge while at the same time depriving them of what they already had. Where is the independence?

Nature has blessed us with all the resources that we need to develop and become even self reliant including land, minerals, marine resources, fertile soil for farming, human resources, etc. We also have water sources in abundance for drinking, irrigation, etc. yet we fail to make use of these resources by using our own development strategies.

With all these resources that we have, yet we are classified by those developed nations or colonizers as the least developed nation in the world. After exploiting our meagre resources they pretend to assist us to develop.
Since independence in 1961, we’ve gone through several development stages or paradigms including modernization, dependency, and multi partyism with guidance from our so called expatriates in the various fields including our own brothers and sisters. The results are yet the opposite but rather it called to mind the ten year civil war that left the struggling nation fighting again to resurrect.

Now even in the face of resurrection the country is now faced with political turmoil among the two main parties. And now we rely on the international community to come in again to help us dialogue to the way forward. Where is our independence?

Up till now we are battling with the completion of the Bumbuna hydro power sector; we cannot even sustain the domestic ones we have. We rely on the EU, ADB, IDB, WB, etc. to chip in. Where is the independence?

In the agricultural sector, yes, we have fertile soil to plough our staple food, rice, but where are the manpower, innovations to empower people to farm? The technology for farming using tractors donated by Libya has been monopolised by a few elites and those with authority, thus leaving the indigenous farmer to practise subsistence farming that can only feed his family for less than a month.

For other areas including the health sector, the government cannot sustain even those being supported by foreign donor communities. Not to mention the salaries of these medical personnel. This in turn has resulted to the brain drain and we now rely on foreign doctors from Cuba, Nigeria, etc. to use our country and people as a ground for practicals and experiments. What sort of independence is this?

What these elites and politicians I believe would define independence to be is enjoying their freedom in serving their selfish ends without hindrance by any JOHN BULL or WHITE GOVERNOR.

Challenge me and listen to the President’s independent day speech. There is nothing crucial he will tell fellow country men and women but but blame games galore and plans and strategies to boost the business sector.

I believe this year’s celebration will be poorly marked with less participation by citizens based on the the present political rivalry and the poor living conditions of the people. I believe it would be only successful in the ruling party’s strong holds including the capital Freetown and Makeni.

We should at this moment consider our independence as a moment to consider our strengths and weaknesses as a nation through general consensus with citizens at the local level to come out with tangible suggestions on the way forward. This could be achieved through the various council members as facilitators towards these development initiatives.

I am totally against the phenomenon of using the same people every day as stakeholders representing the people in various communities and civil society groups. These people are opportunists and not representing the interests of the people. The local councils should master mind the way forward to move the country from dependence to independence, self reliance and development.

Sierra Leoneans should have the interest of the nation first. We need to learn from our neighbours including Guinea, Ghana, Gambia, etc. If we are not careful Liberia will soon rise up strong leaving us still struggling towards this independence.

Each day we individually strive to rise above poverty. If we pooled our resources, took advantage of each other’s strengths, we would be less vulnerable to the vagaries of poverty (Daily Nation, Wednesday 15th November 2000).

Elections are over for now and we need to concentrate on nation building as one nation and forget about sabotage, party politics, selfishness, corruption, etc. If we are to move the nation forward we have to fix our shoulders on the wheel in order to overcome this dependency syndrome.

It is time to empower fellow citizens to gain strength, confidence and vision to work for positive change in their lives, individually and collectively with others. Decision making in a democracy is a slow process, though when once decisions are arrived at, they are more binding, lasting and unifying. Democracy gives the citizens the opportunity to make a real contribution to the development process. It means citizens have to decide how their money is used to generate wealth for the common good and satisfy the needs of every citizen.

Fellow country men and women, we also have our own responsibility to shift from this dependency to independence through our participation and the use of our skills and ability in practice. We have the power to bring about this change.

To colleagues in the media we are also culpable if we fail to carry out our duties in promoting good governance to enhance democracy in our struggling nation. The citizens expect us to practice what a peace journalist is supposed to do including the following:

Avoid portraying a conflict as consisting of only two parties contesting one goal. The logical outcome is for one to win and the other to lose.

Avoid accepting stark distinctions between self and other. These can be used to build the sense that another party is a threat or “beyond the pale” of civilised behaviour: both key justifications for violence.

Avoid blaming someone for “starting it.”

Avoid focusing exclusively on the suffering, fears and grievances of only one party. This divides the parties into villains and victims and suggests that coercing or punishing the villains represents a solution.

Avoid victimizing language like "destitute", "devastated", "defenceless", "pathetic" and "tragedy" which only tells us what has been done and could be done for a group of people. This disempowers them and limits the options for change.

The above is sourced from "What is peace journalism? by Annabel McGoldrick and Jake Lynch (Activate- Journal of IMPACS, the Institute for Media, Policy and Civil Society Winter 2001. The quarterly journal of IMPACS, the Institute for Media, Policy and Civil Society Winter 2001).

We need to work hard as Sierra Leoneans based on our professional ethics which makes us what we are rather than attacking ourselves (personality) instead of issues of public concern.

Long Live Sierra Leone.

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