Neutrality: 2018 General Elections in Sierra Leone

Random Thoughts on the 2018 General Elections in Sierra Leone – making sense of the results of the presidential elections – Part IV – neutrality is tantamount to choosing the side of the oppressor

Dr. Thomas B. R. Yormah

Dr. Thomas B. R. Yormah

I have been a teacher all of my working life. The crux of my job as a teacher is to articulate views, ideas, – knowledge, in general – to people. I believe I have done a good job in that profession giving my professional achievements so far. However, lately, I have found it a great challenge in articulating to my NGC and C4C brothers and sisters the logic of sustaining and concluding the fight for CHANGE in the polity/governance of our country.

Let me try here again:

The 10 years of President Koroma’s APC rule has been characterised by unprecedented levels and varieties of corruption fuelled by unbelievably very high cases of government failure to bring to book APC sacred cows and their accomplices.   They have promoted skewed development intervention that has concentrated infrastructural provision in some regions while woefully neglecting other regions such as Kono, Bonthe, Pujehun, Kenema, and Kailahun districts in the South and East of Sierra Leone.  The lack of development interventions in these areas is polarising this tiny nation – to the point that people in these neglected regions have become desperate in their yearning for change.

Additionally, President Koroma’s APC government has presided over the total and comprehensive destruction of education – the most potent development agent.  He has brazenly politicised and weakened sacred democratic institutions that were established to ensure the wholesomeness of our nation.

President Koroma’s administrative tyranny has led to the plunder of the nation’s wealth and at the same time closed the space for peaceful dissent by getting the police to disallow peaceful protest marches for the last 4-5 years and this has also enabled him to rain on the hapless people the ongoing austerity regime that has brought untold hardship on us.

It will not be necessary to enumerate a comprehensive list of the politically administrative ills of President Koroma in this piece; this has been done adequately elsewhere by many authors, including yours truly.

I am sure readers are familiar with these details.  What I wish to establish is that it is in recognition of these shenanigans that fifteen political parties resolved (meaning “firmly determined”) to do everything possible and legal to unseat the APC government.

The first phase of the battle is over, albeit with some challenges that serve as lessons to learn. The field has now narrowed down to two – one of the parties on the change platform, namely, the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) represented by Brigadier-General (rtd) Julius Maada Bio against the incumbent All Peoples Congress party represented by Dr. Samura Kamara.

The latter has declared his commitment to continue with the failed policies of the outgoing President Koroma.  It means a continuation of economic austerity measures that will bring additional hardship on the people.  Corruption will abound while paying deaf ears to the Auditor-General’s reports.

There will continue an invasion of the economic space by bogus Chinese companies.  It must be said that not all Chinese investments are inimical to the economy but EBK’s APC prefers the shadowy ones) including the loathed Toll Road much of which is yet under construction, the economically unwise Mamama Airport project, the several mining deals with shadowy Chinese companies, etc.

The other contender, Julius Maada Bio, in the final – the runoff – on the other hand, is a relatively untried hand. Apart from a three-month stint as Head of State almost 22 years ago (which means that like any human being he must have mellowed quite a bit by now), no one can say for sure the substance and style of his administration if and when he wins. Most of the criticisms of Maada Bio have had to do with the negative human environment around him – something that can easily be sanitised.

A very significant difference between the two contenders is that if and when Maada Bio wins his administration will be a minority government (without a majority in parliament) that’ll be amenable to using consensus approach as part of his survival arsenal – the resulting inescapable checks and balances will be bound to produce a good government to the benefit of our people.

Dr. Samura Kamara, on the other hand, already has a majority in parliament; giving the subservient role the last parliament played in rubber-stamping all of President Koroma’s administrative whims and caprices and thereby helping to create the tyrant that he now is, such parliamentary majority can easily provide fodder for a seemingly modest Samura Kamara to run a dictatorial government, especially with President Koroma in the shadows.

Amazingly, in spite of all the rationales articulated above our brothers and sisters in the National Grand Coalition (NGC) and Alliance Democratic Party (ADP) are refusing to continue the struggle to bring about the change that they promised the people of Sierra Leone. The change was about delivering the oppressed people of Sierra Leone from the bondage of the bad Ernest Bai Koroma (EBK) style of governance that Dr. Samura has pledged to continue.

If these guys were really sincerely resolved to emancipate the people of Sierra Leone and bring them the needed solace/succour, why can’t they conclude the struggle for CHANGE by telling their members to go for change by voting against the APC candidate and by default for the SLPP candidate? Are these guys really serious about their pro-people CHANGE mantra?

Or was it just lip service they were singing and thereby deceiving the people about their determination/resolve to deliver and emancipate them? If not why are they being academic as to who fronts the fight for change?

Shouldn’t the end justify the means? Are they still sulking about the bad treatment they received in the hands of hawks in the SLPP that caused them to migrate from that party – in which case would they not be considered selfish and inward looking? Like I articulated to members of a WhatsApp forum, NGC and other parties are really not required to form a coalition or association with the SLPP to achieve a change of the APC government.

Let them just vote their honest consciences by voting against the APC. The default immediate beneficiary will be the SLPP but the ultimate beneficiaries will be the people of Sierra Leone. Honestly, the joy of haven accomplished the task of changing a bad government is in itself immeasurable. The credit they’ll claim for taking part in the defeat of good over evil is also immeasurable.

For me, the fact that our NGC brothers actually sat to negotiate with representatives of the monster APC government fronted by President Ernest Bai Koroma (which shows that Dr. Samura Kamara will be a lame duck president to be remotely controlled by his political godfather, EBK) is very revolting! How will they handle the rumours making the rounds that if they’d been offered what they requested in their meetings they would actually have joined forces with President Koroma’s APC?

As for ADP’s Mohammed Kamarainba Mansaray’s narrow-minded claim of tribalism as a way of explaining away his failure to garner decent votes in much of the South and East, the less comment I make, the better. Perhaps I need to remind Mr. Kamarainba Mansaray that throughout the legal challenges he faced – challenges caused by his Northern kith and kin – his faithful human rights lawyer (who sometimes even had to prioritise his high profile political case over those of his other clients from the South and East regions) has been the indefatigable Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai – a Mende man from Kailahun.

Surely a charge of tribalism must be made of a much sterner stuff.

Let me end this piece with this humble reminder of a popular quotation:  “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” – Desmond Tutu.

In the same vein, if the APC elephant has its mighty foot (consisting, amongst other things, of our ill-gotten money, the security forces, etc.) on the tail of the suffering people of Sierra Leone and you say you are neutral, our people will not appreciate your neutrality. Equally important is that should the NGC or ADP ever find themselves in a dire fight where the assistance of any type from any source will be required will they appreciate neutrality from well-meaning compatriots?  I rest my case!

Dr. Thomas B. R. Yormah is Associate Professor of Chemistry at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone.  You can reach him by cell phone at Tel. +232 76 626488 and +232-30 230500 or by email at tyormah@gmail.com also tom_yormah@gmail.com.

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