Taking the Bull By the Horns-Part 3

24 June 2006 at 11:52 | 468 views

In the last two issues on this topic, the emphasis has been on some of the political benefits of decentralization of governance in Sierra Leone. Of course there are and will be problems with the implementation but these are problems that shall be surmounted with time as they will be problems from the basic social infrastructure as it obtains for now. However it is the upper graphical value (positive) benefits of decentralization that shall in the end produce the required results or benefits. These have to be examined, from an unbiased and futuristic point of view.

By Mohamed Boye Jallo Jamboria, Norway.

It is in this vein that I intend to continue this discussion. The existing social infrastructure and how it relates with the individual and collective aspirations and needs of the Sierra Leonean has always been a very big problem but one that has gone unnoticed. It has been the bedrock of every form of bad governance and crisis the country has gone through since its political semi- autonomy that we all misconstrue as independence.

However before deliberating on the issues, I must first of all justify the semi -autonomy point. First, independence in all its ramifications is not the ability of a territory to have a group with one political interest as the drivers of the political and administrative machine without direct foreign influence. Rather it is the ability to total self determination of a territory’s political and socio-economic aspirations and needs without any form of foreign influence be it political, economic, cultural or otherwise. The question is does Sierra Leone enjoy this? If any one can attest to the enjoyment of total freedom by any government in Sierra Leone then I am wrong in saying that Sierra Leone is a politically semi-autonomous state, which I believe is the case with most African states.

At any rate “Rome was not built in a day and utopia exists only in the minds of perpetual dreamers”, so I am not asking for any of the two and that is why I am putting up the argument for a decentralization of the political, economic and social infrastructure of Sierra Leone.

Some may think this is too ambitious. It is not and never will be if and only if we all understand the resource base and the distribution of natural resources in Sierra Leone because after all governance is politics and politics is economics and vice versa. It is all a game of food, shelter, clothing and the satisfaction of the basic needs of every individual and how individuals contribute to the realization of this in any given social setting.

Sierra Leone as we all know has four provinces, 12 districts and about 149 chiefdoms. This is too much for a territory the size of Sierra Leone and may demand very big inputs in terms of capital and administrative resources.

However the problem is not as big as it may seem because these divisions only reflect the traditional socio-political infrastructure that the divide and rule strategy of the British colonialists operated on in the former colony and protectorate. What is and was not traditional is the centralized administrative authority as it is run by the body politic. This is the main source of Sierra Leone’s post semi-autonomy (independence) problems and it has been the source of failure to govern properly by every political leadership except one and that Sir Milton Augustus Margai’s leadership.

Sir Milton is the only leader that saw the social and economic imbalances and instructed all paramount chiefs, especially in the north, to educate their children and this produced some of the few highly educated individuals that unfortunately came back to help destroy the country.

However, it is not only Sierra Leone alone that suffers from this problem. It is the biggest problem post 1958 Africa has had to contend with and it is the reason behind every bad governance, coup d’etat, rebellion and break down of the national infrastructure inherited from the colonial masters.

It is the problem of the forces of homogeneity and diversity in the processes creating states, transforming from a state to a nation within and without the contexts of social diversities. These social diversities, normally in the form of language, ethnic homogeneity and of late regional identities are the very root of all problems in Africa. Of course, they are of different intensity but they do exist and are the emotive causes and points of appeal that unscrupulous politicians and business concerns use to continue to keep Africa in instability because it is in their interest to keep the continenti that primitive state so that they can continue to plunder the riches of the continent.

For those of us who want to build a better Africa and SIERRA LEONE for posterity, as all actions now will be reflected in the future, we must take our cue from this and see how we can ameliorate the problem. That is inas much as we cannot avoid doing business with these unscrupulous political and economic entities let us put in place systems that shall ensure that the greater benefit goes to the greater majority of the people.

Decentralizing can be one way of putting systems in place as it will :(a)empower the people AT GRASSROOTS LEVEL.Decentralising will create a system in which chiefdoms and districts participate more directly in the determination of the contracting ,exploitation and use of the revenues from their resources. Like I said in my previous issues, each chiefdom, district and province has at least one natural resource that is of economic value and consequence and which can be profitably exploited for the development of each district.

So one of the benefits the various geographical delimitations will have from decentralization is that they will have access to directly benefit from the resources and contribute by paying annual subventions to the national coffers by a percentage to be determined. For example, if the iron ore mine at Marampa reopens in the northern province, Port Loko district and Marampa and other adjacent chiefdoms into which mining activities will be extended stand to benefit directly from the revenues and part -say 20% -will be paid to the national coffers. These monies will of course be kept in a safe bank like the Bank of Sierra Leone and will be held by a body of trustees who will ensure that they are properly used for the benefit of the majority of the people entitled. The same will apply to Kono, Mokanji, Sierra Rutile, Kambia, exploitation of fish along the coastal regions etc.

The positive side is when people within these chiefdoms, districts etc have greater participation in the determination of the use of the resources then accountability and transparency increases as there will be vested interests rather thAn when Jack Robins in Freetown who does not know how the people suffered to get the revenue determines how and who should benefit from the use of the resource. In fact no one man will sit and make fake vouchers to fleece the people.

The other good side of decentralizing is that a sense of moral and regional commitment will develop and this will in the long term be reflected on the national gains. For example the people of Kono will become morally and regionally committed to protect their diamonds from smuggling by foreign elements as is the case now because of the fact that the district and the chiefdoms thereof stand to benefit more from the direct revenues accrued from mining activities.

Another benefit is that this situation of provinces, districts and chiefdom assuming greater responsibility makes tax collection more effective as the central government will have an institution to hold accountable for taxes and the institutions will have a more committed work force that seeks the interest of the region, district or chiefdom.

Also decentralizing will shift the burden of employment from the central government and every province, district or chiefdom will employ its own sons and daughters. These sons and daughters will be morally committed to their home district, consequently implying that national, regional and local administrative efficiency will increase across the board in Sierra Leone.

As I stated inter alia, the objective of all forms of politics is economics and decentralization will mean a reduction in the factors that enhance war in the sense that economic development will be decentralized and every chiefdom, district and province will take responsibility of their bead and butter issues and no misplaced preacher(s) of truth and development will ever again develop sympathy from a disgruntled majority and bring war to any part. Instead what will happen is that the traditional methodology of dialogue and negotiation will become the order of the day once more and it will be done with a view to solve problems, not use a problem situation to preach change with hidden agendas of only aiming to get to the top and do what was condemned.

To be continued.