By Titus Boye-Thompson, Guest Writer, Freetown, Sierra Leone.
As Sierra Leone moves towards its next elections, sabres are figuratively rattling in anticipation of the imminent battle for the nation’s heart and soul as political parties set their sights on the citadel of power that State House represents.
While most of the country agrees that the incumbent President has indeed done a great job and so are happy to continue with him in office, the greatest noise of dissent seems to come from those Sierra Leoneans abroad who imbibe the idea that they should be given a chance at regime change, no matter what! The question as to who then are these dissidents may rightly be asked.
They can be categorized into several groups including those who are diametrically opposed to the ruling APC Party and its Government and hence tend to deride any efforts that this Government makes to improve and develop this country. These people are politically isolated, are out of touch with the political realities of the country and can be said to be out of sync with the aspirations of the majority of Sierra Leoneans. There are also those who have failed to make their mark in the political environment either under a previous Government or administration or otherwise even within the incumbent political dispensation. These are the sore losers, those who have been denied political power and now seek to despoil the good name of those who now hold and wield it.
There are also those who have failed to make a mark in whatever sphere of life they find themselves but now think that they can use politics as a stepping stone to self aggrandizement in Sierra Leone. They therefore shout out from the rafters to condemn progressive activities on the assumption that they would be regarded as patriots by a new administration and hence be called in to power if such an administration believes that they contributed to regime change in its favour. All in all, a majority of these dissidents are failed citizens, sore losers and foxes who failed to get the grapes. They normally reside away from the harsh outer realities of life in Sierra Leone, their families enjoy the privileges of freedom granted by a host nation of foreign description, engage in economic pursuits that build the prosperity of foreign lands and pay no taxes or homage to Sierra Leone, their mother land. Some are even unproductive in their current environments but yet still have the temerity to cast aspersions on those who work tirelessly to build a nation state in Sierra Leone endeavouring to take the country from a state of war to one of peace and stability.
As they seek to despoil the good name of the country abroad, they do more harm than good by fabricating non events and brinksmanship posturing, using politically managed photo opportunities with foreign dignitaries to flaunt a mistaken notion that they have international support for their cause. While it can be accepted that those denied power by whatever means will always cry foul, this is however a time to seriously consider the implications to our fledgling state as a new democracy, when dissidents attack institutions and the Government with impunity and without regard to the massive strides that are being made to secure a peaceful and investment ready environment that is widely enjoyed by many who live in-country. It is a matter of grave concern when those who are out of power or indeed out of the country wreak havoc to our democracy by labelling the efforts of those who are making the sacrifice to build this nation as meaningless or deride them as corrupt. When dissidents attack our democracy, it may be useful to hold them to account, to assess their contribution to nation building, to quantify their input to the general well being of ordinary Sierra Leoneans and to examine critically, their contribution to the wealth of this nation!
No African state is devoid of socio economic or geo-political problems and Sierra Leone is to be numbered as one such state. It is clear that our political dispensation is largely entwined with our state of economic development and given the state of the country’s infrastructure when this Government came to power, the country widely agrees that President Ernest Bai Koroma, by his sheer vision and drive have moved this country further towards development than the previous Government of Alhaji Ahmed Tejan Kabbah ever attempted to - indeed the accepted dictum is that the former Government was asleep on its wing, to use a soccer metaphor!. No one regrets this regime change that brought Ernest Bai Koroma to head the affairs of this Country and therefore very little support is given to its detractors in Sierra Leone. Indeed, it is widely recognised that the pace of economic and socio-political progress being made in Sierra Leone far outstrips its size and recent history. This country has moved steadily on from a failed, war-torn state in crisis to that of a progressive nation moving steadily on to achieve middle income status within the lifetime of its current generation of young people.
On close analysis, the strides so far made in developing the infrastructure and investment attractiveness of this country has been exacerbated within the last four years coinciding neatly within the timeframe since President Ernest Bai Koroma took over the reins of power. It is to be expected that those who criticize vociferously are members of the opposition party who invariably lost power to him. They have moaned and groaned ever since, at first refusing to accept that the people simply wanted change that they never recognized as imminent with the then incumbent party nor did they agree with the peaceful transition of power under a civilian regime effected through democratic means and process. The country has enjoyed unprecedented international backing and support including recognition for the astute leadership skills of Ernest Bai Koroma as he is repeatedly being asked to lead or otherwise co-opted into many strategic committees and round tables where serious considerations for the development of the African Continent are made.
In case they are not aware or seem to feign indifference, the political battle for Sierra Leone is best fought on the ground. So when those who enjoy the luxury of western living deign to act as armchair politicians, then it becomes very easy to see how far fetched their criticisms are when they rant and rave against this Government. All they have to do is pay a visit, even as seasonal JCs for them to be dazzled by the widening Wilkinson Road, the Lumley turnpike, the Goderich expressway or indeed the Kamayama – Regent extension that will whisk you from Lumley to Grafton via Hill Station once completed.
They ought to come over and be mesmerised by the uninterrupted electricity supply, as people of Freetown are putting on weight due to the wide availability of cold water! Or rather, they should travel up country and enjoy faster journey times to Bo and Kenema, and better still, reach Kailahun in daylight, they should see the plans for the new Kono Road or enjoy the beautification of our District Headquarter Towns like Makeni with its new Clock Tower and much improved streets, well planned drainage guttering and sewage management systems. They should look at all these development and compare them with a place like Gbangbatoke where two Prime Ministers – indeed blood brothers, who successively held the reins of power in this country, were born and raised but the place could not boast of a single tarred road up until now, save for any new plans to improve Niti Port that may result in some by-pass development for that area!
In all of the activities taking place in Sierra Leone especially those leading up to the forthcoming election, there is a clear winner. President Ernest Bai Koroma and his team have worked very hard to accentuate an “Agenda for Change” that sets in motion the building blocks of economic and political development for Sierra Leone. Where there is a challenge is in the area of communicating the development gains that this Government has brought to Sierra Leone. That President Koroma is an effective and charismatic leader is in no doubt but the machinery of state need to raise the tempo slightly so that the agenda for change is seen as a positive and tangible policy that underpins all the work the President has been doing. So when dissidents attack our democracy, they have to contend with the overwhelming evidence of credible change that this Government has brought to Sierra Leone.
They need to show respect for the very strong and effective institutions that this President has fostered and supported, they have to grapple with the supportive role that the cabinet plays and critically analyse the effective assistance proffered by the Vice President. It is significant therefore that whenever dissidents attack our democracy, they should fail and the people of Sierra Leone must reject them as failures!