Thursday, August 2, 2012

NEC Discriminates Against the Poor in Sierra Leone

Mohamed Bangura "Double the Fees"
The late Reggae legend Bob Marley once sang that the destruction of the poor lies in their poverty. I am guessing Bob must have gotten that line straight out of the  Holy Bible. Well the National Electoral Commission in Sierra Leone, headed by Commissioner Christiana Thorpe has decided that Bob Marley's words should be taken a step further. The NEC has imposed a set of fees that would effectively bar any poor man from even dreaming about running for parliament in the small but troubled West African state, let alone actually doing so. By imposing a a parliamentary candidate fee of approximately $5500.00 in a country where approximately 75% of the people have only seen $5000.00 in bank robbery movies or Nigerian films, the electoral commission has effectively barred all ordinary civil servants, teachers, small scale farmers, and the ordinary man from ever being able to run for parliament without outside help or without digging themselves into massive debt.
Thorpe "Sticking it to the Poor Guy"
The only recourse left to those aspiring to be parliamentarians would be to appeal to their parties to help them with the payment, but given the fact that only the ruling APC and main opposition SLPP can boast of strong sources of finance, parliamentary candidates of broke parties like Mohamed Bangura's UDM would face the prospect of being insulted by their party leader if they even suggested such an idea.
PMDC's Margai will stop laughing
In a classic case of cutting your nose to spite your face, the UDM leader Mohamed Bangura who it is strongly rumored is on government payroll reported urged the electoral commission to double the fees. In the last election in 2007 the ruling party leadership turned to a group of businessmen in Minnesota to bankroll their campaign, leading to some embarrassing revelations of backhand shady deals that still continue to dog the nations Vice President Sam Sumana, who has a talent for jumping from one scandal to the next.
The Diasporan Political Class-Shady Backgrounds
Sierra Leone's political class had always come from among the rank of teachers and civil servants. The magnitude of these fees implies that most probably Sierra Leoneans with shady backgrounds from the diaspora who have access to lines of credit in Western nation will be the ones that will be able to afford seats in parliament. Given the hopeless performance of the present crop of disporans in the ruling APC, all the Segbwema blog can say is "may God have mercy on Sierra Leone"

The only thing that will prevent this war against the poor is that sitting parliamentarians of all parties may decide to come together in their own interest to block the fees from being imposed. If however the ruling APC is conniving to bank roll their own MPs, we could see a reintroduction of one party rule by effectively impoverishing the opposition, preventing them from fielding candidates. 

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