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Understanding Where We Came From And Where We Are Going To – A Synopsis Of Sierra Leone Politics

Politics photo3

By Alfred Kargbo —

 

When Sierra Leone gained independence from Britain in 1961, the next step was how to govern the country following the exit of the colonial administration.  The battle to rule the country by a government formed by Sierra Leoneans started. Sir Milton Margai initially emerged as the first prime minister of Sierra Leone. His younger brother, Sir Albert Margai took over him instead of Dr. John Kerefa Smart whom the greater majority of Sierra Leoneans was expecting to take over after Sir, Milton Margai. This brought about some misunderstanding that led to Dr. Kerefa Smart’s exit from the political arena during that period. The Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) was then the ruling party of the country. Following the defeat of the SLPP by the All Congress Party (APC) of Dr. Siaka Probin Stevens in 1967, a group of Military Officers headed by Juxin Smith overthrew the new APC government of Dr. Siaka P. Steven who fled to the neighboring Guinea for refuge. However, following a counter-coup by one Colonel Bangura, Dr. Siaka Stevens was returned back to Sierra Leone as president of his party, the All Peoples’ Congress.

On his return to Sierra Leone, Dr. Siaka Probyn Stevens started nurturing bad thoughts for the very person that brought him back to his home country. He started meditating that if Colonel Bangura can be so strong to reverse a coup that sent me out of my country, will he not have the power to remove me again when he thinks so?  This evil thought started poisoning the president’s heart to the extent that he secretly planned for the killing of Colonel Bangura. Subsequently, the innocent soldier was alleged for planning a coup against the person he brought back and was thereafter executed by the evil hands of Siaka Stevens. Since then, Dr. Siaka Stevens avowed to stay in power for the rest of his life through perpetrating tyrannical acts against those he suspected as threatened to his government.  He set up a private thug firm under the leadership of notorious armed rubber commonly known as Highway who was charged with the responsibility of secretly killing those that Dr. Siaka Stevens want to eliminate. Under Dr. Siaka Stevens instruction, many useful Sierra Leonean including the then Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone, Mr. Sam Bangura, was secretly murdered by Highway. Sam Bangura’s killing was due to his advice to Dr. Siaka Stevens that hosting the OAU in Sierra Leone at that time (1980) will have serious repercussions to the country’s economy. Instead of Stevens to dialogue with Governor Bangura on this issue, he just instructed Highway to eliminate him. It was also during the reign of Dr. Siaka Stevens that he manipulated the country’s constitution from that of a democratic setting to that of a one party state. Since then, Siaka Stevens called himself “Pass-are-die” (meaning I will not leave power until I am dead).  However, when he became too old to continue with state duties, he decided to single handedly pass the responsibilities of the state to his body guard, another Doctor without a first degree, Dr. Joseph Saidu Momoh. According to the constitution, His Vice President, Mr. Ibrahim Sorie Koroma should have succeeded him but Siaka Stevens used his power to deny S. I. Koroma’s right to succeeding him.

When Dr. Joseph Saidu Momoh assumed power undemocratically in 1996, his first priority was to declare a state of economic emergency that adversely affected the people of Sierra Leone.  It was during this time that the army is given the mandate to enter into citizens’ privacy to search for homes in possession of money in excess of Le500, 000. 00 (Five hundred thousand Leones). This action opened the eyes of the Military who never knew that there is money in the country.  This state of economic emergency declared by Dr. Joseph Saidu Momoh brought untold suffering to the people of Sierra Leone to the extent that many people, including professionals started leaving the shores of Sierra Leone seeking for greener pastures in the US and other European countries. The domestic currency, the Leone, which was valued at Le 1.00 = $1.00 by the late 1970s depreciated at a very astronomical rate, making the Leone a useless currency against the US dollar.  At around 1989, things went so bad that Dr. Saidu Momoh in a national broadcast said that his leadership under the one party APC has failed the country. Since the country was under a one party rule, there was no opposition to challenge him and so he continued to run the affairs of the country as a failed president. However, in 1991, Corporal Foday Shaibana Sankoh, through a BBC interview declare war against what he described as the corrupt APC government of Dr. Joseph Saidu Momoh.  Sankoh’s promise was manifested in March 1991 when the first attack by the RUF rebels was launched in Koindu in the Eastern Part of Sierra Leone. Subsequently, a group of military officers fighting in the Eastern part of Sierra Leone moved to Freetown in the guise of a mutiny that successfully ended the APC one party reign on April 29, 1992.

Captain Valentine Strasser, thereafter, emerged as the new Head of State of the NPRC Military government. After taking power from the defunct APC government of Dr. Joseph Saidu Momoh, the leadership of the NPRC promised to speedily return the country to democracy.  This made the NPRC Government of Captain Valentine Strasser to gain support and popularity in the country. However, after tasting power, the Khaki boys (the name given to the NPRC government) started playing games with regards to returning the country to democratic rule.  One of the strategies used was prolonging the pursuit of the rebel war so that they can use it as an excuse to postpone elections. This was further compounded following Brigadier Maada Bio’s overthrown of Valentine Strasser in what they called a Palace Coup.  The Khaki Boys maintained that there should be peace before elections. When it then became very clear to the people of Sierra Leone that the military is using the war as a strategy to postpone the democratic process, the people came out in mass in to demonstrate to the military government that there was need to hold elections.  When the military was emphasizing on peace before elections, the people of Sierra Leone insisted on having elections before peace. Following persistent pressure by the people of Sierra Leone on holding elections before peace, the new NPRC government under the leadership of Brigadier Maada Bio was left with no choice but to succumb to the will of the people. Subsequently, elections were held in 1996 with Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabbah emerging as winner under the umbrella of SLLP party.

The 1996 elections that saw Tejan Kabbah emerging as winner were known to be characterized with various forms of anomalies ranging from ballot stuffing, use of under aged and over voting, especially in the East and Southern part of the country where SLLP had its stronghold. The then Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Dr. James Jonah , was vividly noted to playing a significant role in making sure that Tejan Kabbah wins the elections by  hook or crook.  This was confirmed following his appointment as Minister of Finance in Tejan Kabbah’s SLPP government.  Tejan Kabbah also won his second term in 2002 using the same strategy and coupled with the fact that he was very instrumental in ending the decade long war in Sierra Leone.  As to the question of who to succeed Tejan Kabbah for the 2007 elections against Ernest Bai Koroma of the APC, many believed that the SLPP party convention held in Makeni to elect a candidate was influenced by Tejan Kabbah in favour of Mr. Solomon Berewa, his then Vice president. This allegation amounted to Mr. Charles Margai leaving the SLPP party to form his own party, the PMDC.

Following the election of Mr. Solomon Berewa as the new SLPP flag bearer to contest for the 2007 election against Ernest Bai Koroma of the APC, new dynamics developed within the SLLP’s hierarchy.  The was an alleged division in terms of loyalty between President Kabbah and the newly elected flag bearer , Mr. Solomon Berewa. Whilst it is believed that a greater number of members of the SLPP hierarchy now pay more allegiance to the new Flag bearer, just a few members continue to recognize Tejan Kabbah as the man in power.  Furthermore, Mr. Berewa himself became so confident in winning the 2007 elections that he started forgetting that Tejan Kabbah was still his boss.  Prior the 2007 elections, it was quite vivid that all the affairs of the SLPP government were in the hands of Solomon Berewa. Tejan Kabbah’s voice continue to shrink by the day as Solomon Berewa’s flag bearer ship and potential presidency continue to soar within the SLPP ranks. This development, many people believed, never went down well with Tejan Kabbah.  As a consequence, Tejan Kabbah started devising his own strategies of teaching a lesson to the power thirst Solomon Berewa. Secondly, Tejan Kabbah also started getting worried that in the event that Solomon Berewa wins the 2007 election, he may not be safe under the government of a disloyal Berewa given the corruption related circumstances of his government since he took power 1996. Thus, Kabbah’s best bet is to have an alternate candidate win the 2007 elections that will promise him safety from prosecution when he eventually leaves office. In Kabbah’s judgment, the only candidate that he could strike a deal with is Ernest Koroma, who apart from being his northern brother, he is also eager to get to State house at all cost. Kabbah knew very well that Charles Margai cannot do that since he claimed that Kabbah rigged the party convention flag bearer election in favour of Berewa.  For Earnest Koroma, this is a very big opportunity and was ready to have a deal with Tejan Kabbah in terms of protecting him and his allies.

So what were Kabbah’s strategies to defeating Solomon Berewa during the 2007 elections?  Firstly, Tejan Kabbah appointed Dr. Christiana Thorpe as Chairperson of the Electoral Body knowing very well that she is an enemy of Solomon Berewa but a close friend to Ernest Koroma. Secondly, whilst President Obasanjo of Nigeria led the campaign for former President Yar Adua, Tejan Kabbah refuse to campaign for Solomon Berewa’s candidacy.  Thirdly, taught Christiana Thorpe how to deflate voting from SLPP strong hold where he uses to rig his won elections by voiding votes coming from that side.  Fourthly, Tejan Kabbah waited until the period for election campaigns and invited Ghadafi in order to tell people that the SLPP received one ship load of rice from Ghadafi for the people of Sierra Leone which the sold to form NASSIT. This information brought about mixed reactions against the SLPP party. Fifthly, even when Solomon Berewa and his supporters contested against the outcome of the election Tejan Kabbah hastily handed over power to Earnest Koroma without looking into the complaints made by Berewa.

As for Dr. Christiana Thorpe, she was used by politicians to do what is not even right in the sight of God. In the first place, during the 2007 elections, she voided votes from areas she alleged to have over voting. All over the world, the practice is that if you suspect over voting in an area, you cancel that voting result and arrange for another voting to be done in that area to avoid disenfranchising the people of that area. If you voided elections vote without conducting another election in the area suspected, then you have violated the rights of the people by disenfranchising them.  If you can conduct bye- elections, what stops you from doing another election to ensure that there is no over voting. Instead you will just say” Kailahun Court Barry void!”  and that marks the end of the story. Secondly, during the 2012 elections, the SLPP Presidential candidate, Retired Brigadier Maada Bio and some SLPP supporters brought to your attention cases of election malpractice committed by the APC party supported with various forms of evidences all what you said was for them to go to Police. In 2007 you voided election results based on allegations of malpractices but in 2012 when the same malpractices were brought to your attention, you refer the complainants to the Police. Where is the justice? I can’t really imagine the same person having different verdicts for the same crime only because you wanted to satisfy a certain group of politicians that are bent on doing everything possible to hold on to power. Doesn’t it occur to you that you will face the judgment of God one day?  Are you only interested in amassing worldly wealth by doing what is not good to mankind as well as the God that created you?.  Remember, few days ago you made a proposal to have a fixed date for elections so that incumbent governments will not take undue advantage in terms of shifting elections. To me, it was a very brilliant proposal but imagine what happened next, you have been immediately replaced by one N’fa Alie Conteh who will take over your position for trying to do the right thing.

As for president Dr. Ernest Koroma, be reminded about what made former President Nelson Mandela an award winning president all over the world. To start with, Mandel suffered in jailed for 27 years before he was released in 1990. He contested and won the election in 1994 and became the first black president in South Africa. He was asked to go for the second term and he refused because he thought he should give chance to others that may also do the same thing he was doing as president. This is after spending 27 years in jail he only did four years and got satisfied. Today he won the admiration of the whole world because of his decision to leave power when he could have still been the most favourite candidate. On the contrary, when Ernest Koroma was assisted to win the 2007 elections by Christiana Thorpe and President Tejan Kabbah, the first thing he said was to run his government as a business. At that point, I was quick to reflect that we are heading for problems.  This is because; the IMF once said “Government has no business in doing business”. So if Ernest Koroma promises to run his government as a business, let’s see how he does it.  Firstly, we are all aware of the dubious deals that took place between the African Minerals and the Ernest Koroma’s government. It is a known fact that the then Minister of Mines, Mr. Alpha Kanu was removed from that Ministry following an allegation of a one million dollar deal with African Minerals when they went to South Africa. Secondly, the President is busily engaged in selling our people’s land to foreigners in the name of attracting foreign investment in Agriculture. Today, most of our people in the rural areas that are dependent on making a living through farming activities have been displaced from their forefathers land by foreigners who came in through Ernest Koroma’s clarion call for foreign investment. If you go to many places in the rural areas including Bombali District where ADDAX is displacing thousands and thousands of our poor farmers you will really see the potential threats these people are facing.  Recently we are hearing of Chinese people to displace farmers in the Tonkolili district around Mile 91 and Magburaka axis. We are also seeing what is going on in Pujehun District where thousands and thousands of hectares of land in now under the control of South African Investors. If this trend continues, President Koroma will end up selling all our agriculturally viable land to foreigners in the name of foreign investment.  What is more painful is that nothing significant has been done to better the lives of these displaced farmers. In this trend continues, what I really fear is for Sierra Leone not be another Zimbabwe where Zimbabwean citizens ended up being laborers in white men’s farms.  This was what led to the struggle in Zimbabwe that made Mugabe to fight for his people to reclaim their lands from the foreigners.  I really want to know whether this act of displacing Sierra Leoneans from their forefathers land in the name of foreign investment is really patriotic.  If Sir Milton Margai, Sir Albert Margai , Siaka Stevens,  Joseph Saidu Momoh, Valentine Strasser, Julius Maada Bio, Ahmed Tejan Kabba all never thought of displacing our rural farmers by selling their lands to foreign investors, why should Ernest Koroma boastfully do that with impunity?. Is it because he was a businessman that believes in selling everything that he should sell our country to foreigners? Why the so called foreign investors can’t be directed into Manufacturing and the Service Industry that may have more potential for growing the economy without displacing any Sierra Leonean than selling our forefathers land.

Well, I think the luck that Mr. President has is the fact that a majority of the masses cannot think critically either due to poverty or lack of basic education. Those that attempted to point out the flaws of the government actions that are detrimental to our beloved country were either attacked by the very people that are suffering or some of the paid self-styled Journalists like Sylvia Blyden and her cohorts. In most enlightened countries, the likes of Sylvia cannot be given license to operate a newspaper.  The hard fact is that, Sylvia Blyden was a medical student who couldn’t put into practice what she failed to learn during her period at the medical school, instead she jumped into journalism to make a living by destroying people that matters for her selfish interest. She started her confused career by being a close ally of Sierra Leone’s Rebel Leader Corporal Foday Shaibana Sankoh in the early 1990s. Some people even said that she was the bush wife of Corporal Foday Sankoh. After the down fall of Foday Sankoh, she thought the only way she can make a living is write about people in an attempt pull them down. We are all aware that she was the first to tell Ernest Koroma that he is a dictator by fixing two large horns on Koroma’s head. The strategy works well for her because just a couple of months later, Ernest went at all length to bring her to his camp.  Sylvia Blyden that used to be a strong supporter of SLPP suddenly became a mouthpiece for the APC. What happened? No one can explain how it happened. Today, even when people that are qualified Journalists want to say the truth Sylvia Blyden will be the one that will put up a fight for the government.  Well, for this job of misleading people about the excesses of the Ernest Koroma’s government, Sylvia Blyden was appointed as personal Assistant to His Excellency. Wonders will never end. Today, Sylvia Blyden who supposed to be saving people’s life in the Hospital is now parading as a Journalist and the Personal Assistance to His Excellency. I also wonder why people continue to call a sycophant like Sylvia Blyden Dr. Sylvia Blyden.  Is she really the first Journalist Doctor in Sierra Leone?  If she is a medical Doctor, why did she run away from the medical field? If I give you the correct answer, Sylvia Blyden was not competent enough to be a medical Doctor.  But why did she refuse to go to Fourah Bay College to read some elements of Mass Communication so that she can understand the ethics of good Journalism.  Anyway, she wanted to be very close to the Pain popularizing the after U Na U thinking.  Anyway, I just wonder what the likes of Sylvia Blyden will do if the after U Na U fails to work for the Pa.

I am saying this because; a good number of people that are plagued with gross ignorance are now using the slogan after U Na U! This is one statement that I don’t see any logic in at all.  The constitution of Sierra Leone which is the foundation for the democracy that brought Ernest Koroma to power made it vividly clear that a President has the opportunity to enjoy two terms in office and not three terms at all.  President Koroma will finish his two terms in 2017 and I hope everybody will be able to appreciate his good work. But the saying that is spreading in Sierra Leone that after U Na U does not actually make sense at all. Historically, after Sir Milton Margai na Sir Albert Margai, after Sir Albert Margai na Siaka Stevens, after Siaka Stevens na Joseph Saidu Momoh, after Joseph Saidu Momoh na Valentine Strasser, after Valentine Strasser na Maada Bio, after Maada Bio na Tejan Kabbah, after Tejan Kabbah na Johnny Paul Koroma, after Johnny Paul Koroma na Tejan Kabbah, after Tejan Kabbah na Ernest Koroma, and so after Ernest Koroma na other person for cam.  So this is the sequence of governance in this country. There was no time that we had after U Na U in the history of Sierra Leone.  That saying is really reflecting a thinking that all the blood our people shed to ensure that democracy came back after it was abused by Siaka Stevens is going in vain. For those of us that cannot use the sword to fight, we will embark on using the pen to ensure that our country’s democracy will continue to move forward and not backward. Sierra Leone belongs to us all and not the property of one family or a group of people alone. When you finish your assignment, leave and allow another person to continue where you stop.  I hope a word for the wise is sufficient. Luntha!!!!

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