Salone News

Thumbs Up for Sierra Leone’s Democracy Commission

By  | 16 July 2013 at 23:23 | 734 views

Commentary

Sustaining democratic tenets and creating a conducive atmosphere for their
thriving in contemporary Africa, after years of totalitarian rule by previous
governments in the Cold War era, has been a herculean task and is one of the
biggest challenges democratic institutions are currently grappling with.

During the 2012 elections in Sierra Leone, the National Commission for Democracy
(NCD) was seen displaying hundreds of different kinds of posters and brochures
calling for tolerance, peace, respect for human rights and adherence to whatever
was related to democratic tenets. Wherever you go; in offices, hospitals,
schools, business places, you see and read their messages. It tells you that
something had gone wrong yesterday and needs to be corrected today.

The nation
was subjected to horrendous experiences by the cataclysmic scenario that was
ushered by the almost eleven years civil strife which spanned from 1991 to 2001.
It was all a manifestation of the pursuit of establishing the ideal state, which
in contemporary sense means a liberal democracy.

Situated on the West Coast of Africa, the former British Colony never
experienced democracy proper till 1951 when the first “nation wide” elections
were held. They were not nationwide in the literal sense because the election of
candidates was through local government bodies called district councils. Nine
years later, the country won independence from Britain which today is still
being regarded as a very short time to experiment democracy. Some political
analysts usually establish connectivity between the lack of opportunity to
practice democracy under the colonial masters to what prevails today. True or
false the political characterizations in post- independence era gives credence
to this assertion.

But nevertheless institutions and civil societies in current times have been
trying to enlighten the almost sixty-five percent illiterate population on what
democracy is all about. The National Commission for Democracy is taking the lead
in stamping into the minds of the people a rather simple but difficult to
understand concept and also difficult to practice. During the 2012 elections,
there were fears of violence between the two traditional rival parties (Sierra
Leone Peoples Party and All Peoples Congress) that have dominated the political
scene since independence, but the ubiquitous display of messages from the NCD
in every nook and corner of the country aimed at calling for restraint and
tolerance went a long way to stave off any extreme nationwide confrontation.
In addition to the messages through posters and the media, workshops, community
outreach meetings were held prior to the elections and most of them involved
prominent stakeholders in the political dispensation of the country.

At the end
of the day, the average people came to realize that the politics of hate which
had polarised and fragmented the cohesive foundation of the nation-state was
something which was opposed to the concept of democracy and that democracy
called for the opposite which involved swallowing the bitter pill of agreeing to
disagree and yet still live in the same community. This was not what people
hitherto believed. Yesterday, the political scene was characterised by hate for
those who differ from you and attacks on those who confront your political
ideals. It took a long time for the nation to rise up from such level of
perception, and that could be one of the compliments to the NCD.

Today, through NCD, people have come to realize that democracy means looking
beyond your tribe, your region, religion, social and family ties. Unfortunately,
these were the ideas that formed the judgmental foundations of Sierra Leoneans
yesterday.

The NCD itself has been taking this drive through a group of
innovative and pragmatic staff who are led by Dr. Abu Bakar Kargbo (photo) a former university
lecturer. The old ideas of politics have to be wiped off from the people’s
minds and replaced with new ones that are in consonance with democracy. “ The
whole task is like clearing a farm and planting new crops”, says one political
observer.

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