Taking the Bull by the Horns—Part 4

3 August 2006 at 01:41 | 461 views

"Look at the present crop of politicians in Sierra Leone; it is evident that it is the same crop of people that were in the APC with some new recruits. The present SLPP government is largely the same people that ruined the country."

By Mohamed Boye Jallo Jamboria

Over the last three issues on this topic, there has been an emphasis on the effects of decentralization of governance in Sierra Leone. Some may think this is a wild out- of- the- way utopian idea.

It is on the contrary the key or answer to all the ills of the geographical entity (Sierra Leone) that is still to see the beginnings of a culture of tolerance and accommodation of a diversity of socio- cultures put together at a place and time in which none of the players in governance nor their ancestors took part but which today are expected to work and produce effective and progressive results.

This of course is true not only for Sierra Leone but all Africa, and so far no African state has been able to completely surmount this problem of cultural states within those created by slave masters like King Leopold II of Belgium at the Scramble for Africa conferences.

In Sierra Leone, as in most geographical entities we today call countries in Africa, the colonialists did little or nothing to create and develop institutions that would enhance democracy, as some people seem to mistakenly think. Those who are students of history will conveniently tell you about the systems of colonial rule adopted by these former colonialists such as the divide and rule principle of the British.

What most of these students of history may not conveniently tell you is the main objective and consequence of this: the exploitation of the natural resources,maladministration and overall underdevelopment during the colonial period as well as the present day rule in these geographical entities.

Some Africa observers may wonder why is it always that Africans have to cast blame on the past when most of these geographical entities have had independence for over four decades?

Well, on a very simplistic level the answer is one cannot make use of what does not exist. It is like in mathematics, any percentages of zero are always zero, or zero plus any quantity is always zero.

Africa got independence and operated after independence on this zero option in the sense that the elites had little understanding of the complexities of the problems ahead because they had underwent processes of brainwashing built on the well planned policies to continue to control the resources of Africa through African agents(whose brains have been carefully washed), fooled with the philosophy or belief that learning is better than silver and gold but who soon found silver and gold better.

In the process of this new discovery, the elites became the new colonialists because they could not see that they have a moral duty to their geographical entities as these entities do not exist in their minds.

The reason why these elites soon became neo- colonialists and colonial agents is simple but not too clear in the minds of most Africans especially the elites who should have championed the unification processes that are absent in almost all African geopolitical entities.

It is that the mental enslavement carved out of the wrong views about what western education and the benefits to be derived from it still cannot be understood. For the educated African, education is nothing but all about getting a white collar job and looting public resources to transfer or rather convert the loot at an ethnic, regional or community level.

Why such a myopic outlook, especially from the elites? The answer is simply that the colonial policies of governance, be it divide and rule ,assimilation or whatever have never been critically looked at or revised to meet the demands of post colonial Africa.

The elites who should have done this are as a matter of fact the new promoters of these obsolete policies and they have in some cases transformed these policies into ethnic, regional and community dimensions that are some of the unnoticed underlying factors of the wars most of post colonial Africa has experienced. In the processes of their transforming the colonial policies and not delivering the promises of nationalist cries immediately before independence, the populaces have been left with little option but to lose trust and confidence in the elites.

In their simplistic minds the masses have had no alternative but to see their sons or kinsmen in high positions as channels for the betterment of their individual and collective lot from the ethnic, regional and community point of view. So the tendency for central governments to soon degenerate into ethnic, regional and personal power bases has always been the sine qua non and the principle of operations has been a system built on connections to the ethnic, regional or community above all others.

This as a matter of fact is and shall continue for some time to come because it is not easy to change. The key obstacles to change in this kind of African global attitude is that the colonialists who craved states by simple lines and geographical features never taken steps to bring about any change or metamorphosis of the heterogeneous socio cultural or rather traditional political institutions.

A fact that most of the educated Africans don’t seem to see and accept is that there was no democracy in colonial Africa and post colonial Africa had no chance to democratize as most of it fell into political disarray in the first decade of independence.

Colonial Africans’ geopolitical entities that were later to become "independent" countries were never ruled from a democratic modus operandi by the administrations empowered to do so by the colonial governments whose interests were and still human and material resources that can be extracted from the colonies.

Upon independence, the Africans who took over power, little understanding the magnitude of the tasks they faced. They soon degenerated into clubs and cartels operating on ethnic, regional and community sentimental lines, thereby giving scope to the unconscious development and consolidation of traditional lines of sociopolitical governance. In the process governance deteriorated into rule by a group with the same ethnic, regional and in rare cases peer (school) considerations, eliminating or sidelining all others that do not belong.

In trying to find solutions to this problem, most of post independence Africa adopted a repressive one party policy that could not work .Instead of consolidating national unity, these one party states served as platforms for building up discontent most of which ended in wars.

Some of these wars were as a matter of fact the inverse of the positive face of having one party rule in the sense that, like in the case of Sierra Leone, instead of the members of the other political parties coming together to work in the national interest, THEY WORKED AGAINST IT AND HELPED CREATE MASS DISCONTENT BY TAILORED ECONOMIC MISMANAGEMENT THAT WAS TO RESULT IN WARS.

Look at the present crop of politicians in Sierra Leone; it is evident that it is the same crop of people that were in the APC with some new recruits. The present SLPP government is largely the same people that ruined the country.

Why should it be this way? The answer is, centralized governance cannot work. The foundations for it were never there before independence and have not been sought after independence. Some people go about with the wrong notion that there was democracy before APC. Maybe there was political pluralism but no democracy.

On the issue of democracy, it is about time Africans come to realize that it is not the number of political parties that make democracy but the overall proclivity towards tolerance, change and fairlpay in governance that is democracy. That is all the more reason why civil institutions must be accommodated and assimilated into governance. Also it does not stop at building non functioning civil institutions but in enhancing and allowing these structures to work and cater for the interests of every member of society with little or no hindrance.

The first step to achieve this is decentralizing authority whilst maintaining an effective and efficient central political administrative structure. This may seem unrealistic for a geopolitical unit like Sierra Leone but it is frankly the only way out.

Why and how can this be the best or only way out? Two aspects of the socio economic infrastructure demands and allows for decentralization.

First is the traditional infrastructure of governance that was used by the colonial masters and which is today misused by the politicians. Taking all the chiefdoms and ethno-homogeneity into consideration, Sierra Leone can be easily decentralized into three or four provinces that shall have some level of semi autonomy through provincial assemblies that shall be direct participants in the overall development and welfare of these regions working within a national policy framework.

Secondly and most important of all is that decentralizing shall bring out the full utility of the natural resources in the various regions with their full participation in defining and contracting investment and exploiting these resources. As has been said inter alia, every region has a resource that is of economic viability.

To prove this point, it is necessary to look at the geography of the area called Sierra Leone.

As it was carved out in the conferences for the scramble for Africa, Sierra Leone is part of three north- south running ancient geological bedrocks, very much geologically stable and metamorphosised.

As a result, though the quality and quantity of minerals may vary yet the geological truth is that incidence of minerals run north- south along these rock belts. In fact some of these belts run from as far north as Guinea to as far south as into Liberia. This is the underlying reason for the border disputes between Sierra Leone and Guinea for Yenga in the east and the bauxite zone in the north running into the Kambia district.

This also is a blessing in the sense that Sierra Leone should not have the kind of problems some other African entities are faced with like Nigeria, where the oil is in the south and which has been the source of recent civil strife.

Please keep this geological fact in mind until my next installment. Stay tuned.