Opinion

The price and implications of our democracy

24 August 2010 at 00:22 | 1099 views

Alimamy Jaiah Kai-Kai, USA.

Well, let’s face it. Before the Sierra Leone Presidential and general
Election in 2007, I recall, Mr. Ernest Bai Koroma, now our president Ernest Koroma promised change, a positive attitudinal change that got the whole country singing the tune. The people fell for it, and voted for it or did they? The questionable result of that election still hovers around our village farm yards, schools, colleges, restaurants, streets, markets etc. For the average Sierra Leonean, this change has never been positively felt. Instead, they have been subjected to gross human rights abuses, including but not limited to rape, unlawful beatings of citizens by the police and some politicians, suppression of the press, unlawful arrests and detention without charge, harassment of political opponents, and the blatant interference by the executive arm of government in the affairs of the judiciary. Unemployed youth who were promised the world before the elections now face the grim realities of unemployment as the APC government fails to provide jobs for them. The scourge of disaffection is limitless.

The hype about change is now all but in name. The APC has tried to re-brand the nation’s image much to our distress. The metaphorical sacred cows (safe from prosecution for corruption) graze with impunity on the few fields of opportunity which may otherwise be greener pastures to other citizens in the country. The APC government looks the other way. If you ever think that this is going to change or get better in the APC era, think again. We have many months of struggle and suffering to come. Instead of paying attention to the must-do things that will bring in positive change, officials and supporters alike look for excuses about what SLPP did or did not do. The many others who are used as thugs just go on the rampage at the slightest opportunity.

I do understand, Mr. President, that change does not come easily. But it is achieved when leaders take bold steps and act quickly, swiftly, honestly and impartially. That also means, Mr. President, that a leadership of frankness and vigor shown by you will get us all onboard in order to face a common enemy. Our country has been furnished with both human and natural resources that could make her self dependent. Any good leadership should favor the interest of all and not allow tribe and special interests to interfere with merit when other citizens can serve diligently. We expect our leaders not to indulge in injurious political activities that would bring lawlessness to the state. Therefore, against this background, we expect our government to act to protect the citizens who serve their country. They include such persons as journalists, policemen, opposition politicians, and the general public. Whether it is government or our fourth estate (The Press), we cannot afford to keep silent over such issues.

The perils of war still lurk in recent memory and the traumatic pain of loss is deeply rooted in our subconscious. New APC does not bring us new memory. It still reminds us of those dark days when some of us lost members of our family to the bloody hands of their leaders. Yet I will not advocate for a quid pro quo. We need to move forward and forge reconciliatory partnership for peace. We do not want to use power to correct the wrongs of others except if we as a nation prefer the risks of war. In the pursuit of lasting peace, wishes can wait for nature to take its course. The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can be done only by projecting the ethics of love to the centre of our lives”. Fellow citizens, I entreat comfort to us all who have lost our loved ones, not revenge; peace not war. We will always remain “one country, one people; one people. one country”.

In this regard, those who advocate for an inquest into the execution of Bambay Kamara and others have no vision. According to President Roosevelt, “when there is no vision the people perish”. Every dark hour of our tumultuous history has been forgotten so soon. As commander in chief, the President is the custodian of the armed forces of the republic of Sierra Leone. When the army deploys, it is with his blessings. In recent times, the army has been used to deliberately attack opposition strongholds in Moyamba in the south of the country under the false pretext that Kamajors were training to attack Freetown. It is my belief that while this attack was planned and carried out, the people posed no threat or hint of war and or armed attack that warranted the deployment of the heavily armed troops in their villages and the wanton violence unleashed upon them. We already know that the APC stands far aloof of humane governance. So, such action by the APC government is no surprise to some of us. Since 2007, such attacks have gone on unabated. The attack on the opposition party headquarters in 2007 and in 2009, and the violence in the bye-elections of Pujehun and Kenema are just the few to mention here. The SLPP holds dear to their principles that all their problems must be solved peacefully. They have manifested that in the aftermath of the elections since they lost to the APC by reorganizing the party under the chairmanship of John Benjamin, during their constitutional negotiations and during their leadership elections. Merely seeking peace must not be interpreted as weakness. The members of the SLPP want to spare the Sierra Leonean people from the perils of war. Notwithstanding, the SLPP can equally fight to defend the safety of its constituents until the people’s rights are secured. Remember, “We the people” have a limit set for our patience.

In what is now been seen as a step back to the days of press censorship, Government is now trying to muzzle critical voices over the recently commissioned independent Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) by actions reminiscent of the old APC days. The opposition Unity Radio and the APC radio (The Red Sun) were shut down by the vice president because, according to him, they posed a threat to national security. A recent attempt by Dr.Sylvia Blyden to educate the general public on matters regarding the constitution and the elections has been stifled into silence by “technical failures.” The president, on his part, cannot keep his head above the fray by staying silent on the issue. The people believe that silencing critical voices is a ruse being used by the APC government as a cloak to cover the imperfections of this government. It is not in the national interest to keep mute over such grave matters as muzzling the voices of citizens who are critical of the government’s deleterious actions in stifling free speech. One way to re-brand the nation’s image is to have an independent media, not a communist type media that only sings the tune of the regime in power. It must be noted that President Ernest Koroma and the APC were once cheerleaders of press freedom when in they were in opposition. Their move now to interfere with the independence of SLBC is a failure on their part. It is both an abridgement of Dr. Blyden’s free speech rights as it a compromising of the independent government broadcasting organ’s role in raising questions and finding answers to problems with our democracy that would once more take us down the treacherous paths of .

Democracy in Sierra Leone has come at a price and “we the people” will not let it go down the drains. Our greatest primary task is to safeguard our democracy. So we cannot allow fear to stand in our way for peace and development. As father of the nation, we expect that, Mr. President, you lead us in facing our problems courageously and not allow some interest groups within your party fight the media and destroy it. By doing so you will destroy the very core value of free speech within free democratic spaces on which our democracy stands. We yearn for lasting peace and reconciliation. We deserve it. “We the People” would be the judge in the months ahead of such matters that regard our destiny as a nation.

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