Friday, November 16, 2012

Sierra Leone: From Hope to Hunger



"De Pa" Momoh II?
Sierra Leone as a country today is at the edge of a precipice. Since the country adopted the presidential system of government under the late President Siaka Probyn Stevens, his party, the All Peoples Congress has shortchanged the country at every given opportunity. For 23 years under the rule of Siaka Stevens and his protege Joseph Saidu Momoh, Sierra Leone was converted from a solid and highly stable economy to an economic basket case. The old APC removed social responsibility, affection and respect for the public good and replaced it with the promotion of individualism. By uttering the single statement that "cows are meant to feed where they are tethered," Siaka Stevens officially sanctioned and blessed the vice of corruption and convinced those entrusted with public resources that it was their personal piggy bank, they could do as they and they were fools not to take for themselves.
"De People"
Those of us who were born in the era of Siaka Steven were able to see the country slide from the path of prosperity to the wide roads of hell in the space of less than a decade. When you tell young people nowadays that Freetown back in the early 70s used to have 24 hours electricity, they meet that statement with disbelief and skepticism. Some of us were lucky to have lived in Freetown during a period in which black outs were very infrequent. We slowly watched the transformation to a time when electricity blackouts became so frequent that when lights came on, the collective shout of " light don cam!" could be heard thundering throughout the city.
"The World's Best"
Many young Sierra Leoneans would be amazed to know that up to 1980, one unit of our local currency, the Leone, was more valuable than the dollar. Siaka Stevens decided in the 70s that multiparty democracy was bad for the country. He outlawed opposition parties and converted the country into a one party dictatorship under his All Peoples Congress with him at the helm. Politicians of every other party was either forced to join the APC or fallow in the political wilderness. In the absence of effective opposition, the rape and plunder of Sierra Leone began in earnest, every man for himself. The Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Board (SLPMB)and the National Diamond Mining Company (NDMC) were converted from institutions that enriched government and public coffers to ones that enriched the private pockets of Siaka Stevens and his colleagues and swelled private Swiss accounts. Today the children of some of these politicians cannot track these accounts and we all continue to live in poverty, while the Swiss continue to enjoy their cheese. The Bauxite Mines at SIEROMCO and the rutile mines at Sierra Rutile became the personal piggy bank of the "Pa" and his "comrades."
"The World's Enjoyers"
In the middle 80s, years of easy hedonistic living caught up with Siaka Stevens "Bandalay" and his ailing Vice President Sorie Ibrahim Koroma "Agba Satani". To prevent a power war between his successors and protect himself from any form of retribution, Siaka Stevens decided to blindside his political colleagues and force them to accept the head of the military, a semi-literate, womanizing and alcoholic political novice called Joseph Saidu Momoh, who had been extremely loyal to him during his tenure, as his successor. This fateful act sealed the destiny of Sierra Leone, as the poor Major General who was way over his head, without a clue in governance resorted to tribalism to entrench his hold on power thereby awakening the ethnic demons of the 60s and late seventies. 
"The World's Worst Under The World's Best"
Under the rule of Joseph Saidu Momoh, with the help of a lot of the old guard of both the APC and the current Sierra Leone Peoples Party, the whole scale plunder of Sierra Leone began in earnest. State coffers were emptied and Finance Minister Hassan Gbessay Kanu printed so much money that they had to print the notes in their thousands to keep up with the resulting runaway inflation. Joseph Saidu Momoh was able to convert Sierra Leone in just seven short years from a troubled economy into the poorest country in the world. Civil servants were no longer getting paid, SLPMB and NDMC collapsed, there were no money in banks and fuel shortages were the order of the day. Student leaders who resisted the APC kleptocracy were expelled from colleges and exiled out of the country.

Momoh drove Sierra Leone into organized chaos. Education was considered a privilege and assistance to colleges dwindled. With lecturers not getting paid or their pay not catching up with inflation, those who could leave left and those who could not hopped onto the political bandwagon. These frustrated educated politicians became smarter at corruption than Momoh and his ilk and the economy then went into a virtual free fall. Sierra Leone became a police state with the notorious Bambay Kamara at the helm, clamping down on freedom of speech and introducing a vague offense known as "careless talk" hiring taxi drivers to be enforcers. 

By the late early 90s things had gotten so bad that every sector of the country became demoralized. When a retired military corporal Foday Sankoh invaded Sierra Leone with the help of rebels from Liberia, the military was so demoralized that the only thing that prevented the rebels from overrunning the eastern part of the country in less than six months was the strategic location of the Moa Barracks at Daru and the timely intervention of Guinean forces in honor of an existing mutual defense pact with Sierra Leone. Thus started ten years of mayhem, rape, arson and depravity which every Sierra Leonean living today should vividly remember. Had it not been for the heroic efforts of a group of men and officers who kicked Momoh out of power, Sierra Leoneans may have had Foday Sankoh, a highly unstable sadistic human being still terrorizing the country.

After 6 years of the military, the people justifiably clamored for democracy and the military leader at the time, Brigadier Julius Maada Bio decided to honor the wishes of the people. He presided over orderly elections and handed power back to civilian rule under the leadership of veteran UN diplomats Ahmed Tejan Kabbah. Before handing over power, Maada Bio created an avenue for Sankoh and his rebels to start a dialogue with the government that would ultimately result in several peace accords that would end the war. In essence Bio encouraged the rebels to come out of the bush and onto the table.

Ahmed Tejan Kabba, a veteran UN retired diplomat took over the leadership of Sierra Leone and through sheer diplomatic ability was able to end the war and start rebuilding the infrastructure of the country. Tejan Kabba was seen as a credible leader by the international community. He reformed the police and started rebuilding institutions of governance. At the end of his rule, most of the country's debts had been forgiven, the economy was stabilized, the war was ended, NGOs were plentiful and he presided over the conduct of elections that resulted in the loss of power by his own party, due to the poor choice of candidate and the celestial promises Made by the opposition leader Ernest Bai Koroma.

In 2007 Ernest Bai Koroma brought back the APC, the party that had systematically disassembled the economy of the country promising attitudinal change and zero tolerance to corruption. He promised that food was going to be cheap and affordable, jobs were going to be created in their thousands and it was generally going to be a season of plenty. So what is the verdict.
"No Future"
Under  Ernest Bai Koroma, food prices have tripled, poverty has increased, unemployment is at more than 70% and hope is at less than 10%. The educational sector is in shambles, corruption is on the increase, public information has been replaced with propaganda, the truth has been replaced by lies, prostitution has increased by more than 500% and tribalism has been institutionalized. The police force has been compromised, salaries are not keeping up with the pace of inflation, the capital has become a mountain of filth with cholera running rampant in the country. Youths have been demoralized and converted into political thugs, drug and alcohol use among the population has increased and health care is in crisis. The president and his cronies are building mansions whilst the people are gradually being pushed into slums. Salaries are not being paid on time and the banks have again started to run out of money and to cap it all, the fuel lines have returned.

Sierra Leoneans are going to the polls tomorrow and we a have a real chance to get out of this quagmire. However we all need to be extremely vigilant, as all indications are that the Koroma cabal want to continue their privileged existence at the expense of the people. Thugs have started to appear in once peaceful areas of the country and the National Electoral Commission has already started to disqualify strong opposition candidates. For those Sierra Leoneans who have been praying for a better life for the past 40 years, God is once again giving us the opportunity to peacefully rid ourselves of this disastrous path on which we are headed. God works in mysterious ways and sometimes gives people the opportunity to answer their own prayers.

This current APC government is a cancer feeding on the cohesiveness of the country. Sierra Leone has never been as divided as it now is under this regimen. Ernest Koroma has demonstrated time and again that his loyalty is to APC and not to national unity and giving him five more years would be a calamity for the country. Let us rid ourselves of this ridiculous spectacle of arthritic old men posing as if they were athletic super stars. This government is built on a foundation of propaganda and lies and is a serious threat to the fragile peace we have won and maintained. Five more years of this mess, hell would look like a 5 star hotel. In his first term the president was declaring a week of fasting. If he wins, let us prepare for five years of fasting. APC is like poison, it is bad for Sierra leone



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1 comment:

Lukes Younger said...

I am not from Sierra Leone, but my heart bleeds for the people. It is a country so rich in resources and could easily feed itself with the proper management.
It was news to me that there were no power shortages in the 1970s and now there is not even enough fuel.
hoping things will get better.
Long live and bless Sierra Leone