Just to refresh memories, take a quick look at the picture accompanying this post – the man on the left is Ernest Bai Koroma, the former President of Sierra Leone; and the one on the right is Rupiah Banda, the former President of Zambia. The question is – why compare them at this time? The answer is – five compelling things are common to both at this time:
2. Banda held his first political position as a Member of the Zambian Parliament. Koroma held his first political position as a Member of the Sierra Leone Parliament.
3. Banda’s ruling United National Independence Party (UNIP) lost the 2011 presidential elections narrowly to the opposition. Koroma’s All Peoples Congress (APC) party lost the 2018 elections narrowly to the opponent.
4. Banda was the first president in southern Africa to get the Chinese to openly meddle in Zambia’s 2011 presidential elections by letting the Chinese openly construct the ruling party offices, openly provide the ruling party election campaign materials, and openly participate in ruling party-political rallies.
Koroma was the first president in western Africa to get the Chinese to openly meddle in Sierra Leone’s 2018 presidential elections by letting the Chinese openly construct the ruling party offices, openly provide the ruling party election campaign materials, and openly participate in ruling party-political rallies.
5. Prior to losing their respective presidential elections in Zambia in 2011 and Sierra Leone in 2018, the Banda and Koroma regimes made mining and cash crop land deals with Chinese companies that: (i) waived custom duties for the companies, (ii) reduced compensations of land victims below market prices and value, (iii) made no room for local job creation as the companies imported laborers from China, and (iv) provided no safeguards against the environmental and social consequences of land investments.
Now you see..how history is always repeating itself – not exactly of course.
But what is clear is that China has attempted twice to meddle in African politics in a very unusual way – one in the multi-mineral + multi cash crop rich country of Zambia, the other in the multi-mineral + multi cash crop rich country of Sierra Leone.
In both countries, the Chinese came with the infrastructure to batter for raw minerals and cash crops. And in the batter trading process, there were reports in both countries that the Chinese bribed their ways through the presidencies, parliamentarians, and chieftains to get what they wanted. And in both countries, there were reports of landowners clashing with the companies and authorities that brought them.
Editor’s Note: This story is from the Facebook page of Sidie Sheriff, a reputable Social Scientist with a razor sharp mind for analyzing contemporary social and economic issues with stints of historical perspectives on social media.