October 1, 2022

President Maada Bio

Just 10 months to go, Sierra Leoneans are going to decide either President Julius Maada Bio will go or stay after five years in office. The answer lies in the ballot box and not protests on the streets. In a democracy, a peaceful transition of government is effected through voting.

This time,  it is the voice of God and the people of Sierra Leone that is sure to prevail and no longer the manipulations of the international community. Even if the international community comes in, the intervention is expected to be in the people’s interest.

The commencement of voter registration of all eligible voters marks the beginning of 2023 multi-tier elections, a crucial moment for Sierra Leone.  Everyday takes Sierra Leoneans close to the polls, and tgey have expressed their readiness to register and participate in next year’s elections to effect a change.

Sources in different parts of the country say eligible voters have thronged to get their names on the voters’ list. Kabala in Tonkolili district is depicted as the community where the euphoria for the registration still remains high.

The euphoria is also high in Waterloo too.  In Calaba Town in eastern Freetown, registration centres have opened up except Huntingdon Secondary School Registration Centre where staff are yet to deploy. Hopefully, work will commence there soon, sources say. A lady in her late 40s, Aminata Koroma is poised to locate a registration centre to exercise her franchise next year.

“I really want to register and vote for a better change,” Aminata told this press.  Life is still difficult in Sierra Leone, she says, as business is not doing well for her. “In the past, we used to get good sales, but now, times have changed. To get buyers for goods is not easy,” she emphasised.

For Aminata, life is hard here and the hardship, she said, started with the introduction of the new currency.  In the old and glory days, new money used to bring joy and comfort to the business community, but it is the reverse these days. Blessings of the new Leones was robbed by government officials when Le800bn was said to have got missing from state  coffers as reported by Bank Governor, Professor Kaifalla Kallon.

The missing sum is too huge, and the first to be reported post-war Sierra Leone. Other women have also expressed similar comments saying they will vote for change and “better Sierra Leone.” It is thus a moment of reflection for the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party officials whose second-term ambition is uncontrollable.

Their followers almost always say government in a democracy must last  for 10 years paying little or no attention to the social contract. Under the contract in today’s politics, Bio would go out next year if he fails to deliver on his own side of the agreement.  He would however remain for a fresh mandate of five years if he gives what he promised four years ago. For many Sierra Leoneans, Bio has failed, and must take an exit. The President’s loaded promises, during campaigns, constitute mere deception.

The deception started in 2018 in his inaugural address to the nation. “By voting me in, you have chosen a new direction, a new dawn of leadership has started in Sierra Leone,” Bio assured Sierra Leoneans.  Bio’s statement is composite, and packed with meaning. A new dawn means a new Sierra Leone where one regardless of tribe, region, political affiliation can prosper.

By his leadership, the ‘New Dawn’ has been relegated to the ‘Dark Dawn’ as doom and gloom hangs over Sierra Leone. In his leadership approach, Bio finds it extremely difficult and almost impossible to unite the tribes (the people), a basic function of any political institution.

Despite the extinction of some tribes, Sierra Leone has 17 ethnic groups, a fact still kept alive by history. How a President smoothly  navigates these tribes is the basis for political success. A President should not hail his tribe and region than other tribes and regions in the country. Such move is a recipe for grudges, grievances, petty conflicts and disagreements, and to the highest point violence or insurrection similar to the one Sierra Leone saw in August this year.

The seeds of the August 10 outburst was sown, nursed and fertilised for too long by the Bio regime. Naked  tribalism, regionalism and favouritism is the basis of violence in present-day Sierra Leone. Bio has succeeded in creating a perfect Mende/Southeast hegemony through tribal appointments.

Those appointments have resulted into a state capture. Almost all state institutions are held and controlled by Southeasterners. The Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone is led by Mohamed Kenewui Konneh, a southerner. The police is headed by a man from the east, William Fayia Sellu. National Revenue Authority is controlled by Samuel Jibao.

The Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces led by Lavahun among others. It is the same for all other public institutions. The institutional configuration produces tension among Sierra Leoneans from different backgrounds. Little wonder that Sierra Leone’s peace is now fragile as flare-ups of violence are anticipated.

Anything can happen within a twinkle of an eye as the pillars of tribalism are still being strengthened. In such a political situation, it is difficult for Sierra Leone to prosper. Economic prosperity can happen only in a country of national unity and cohesion. Sierra Leone is today among the least in the list of countries at the bottom rungs of development.

It is today hard  for the man in the street to get what to eat. Wonders abound regarding how a country endowed with the most expensive minerals and arable farm and swamplands cannot feed their citizens. Bio’s promise to fix the economy by blocking leakages remains a mere farce. Corruption pervades and permeates every sector of government beginning from Office of President to the lowest office. Former Chief Minister now Minister of Foreign Affairs, Professor David Francis has dabbled in corruption scams.

Other ministers and senior government officials too have done the same, but have a field day. Corruption has also been discovered in the Office of First Lady lately,  but nothing has been done about it. The hands of the Anti-Corruption Chief, Francis Ben Kaifalla are tied down. He could not get to the bottom while investigating  corruption incidents especially when they occur in higher offices.

The ACC boss could not successfully investigate Offices of the President and the First Lady for fear of dismissal. Corruption, no doubt, persists as the anti-corruption law enforcement machine is weak. The stealing continues even at the eleventh hour. The widespread looting  has made the youth to lose all hope in the future.

God saves Sierra Leone since jobless youth could be easily incited to violence by politicians with the promise of jobs or other gains. A country that fails to cater for its rising number of youth population is never safe from violence.  Suffice it to say, Sierra Leone tinkers on the edge of implosion as the statistics of unemployed youth keep rolling.

Corruption kills more than civil wars in Africa, says Professor Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba. It spreads fast and accumulate in a tide evil which affects government sectors, communities, towns and villages. Despite the pageantry on education, health, agriculture, economy, energy, these are still nothing to write home about as corruption has slowly killed them.

However, to few Sierra Leone, Bio’s glittering weaknesses are not weaknesses. The President, they argue,  has delivered on his promises, and even exceeded. What he is doing now is a bonus, and the ‘bonus statement’ is Bio’s most favourite. The Free Quality Education is constantly referred as one of the greatest success stories for the Bio administration in spite of  challenges freight with the system.

Others also say the President has made success in the energy sector. The city and some towns in the provinces have been lit. On a recent trip to the southern capital of Bo, the Energy Minister,  Kanja Sesay enjoyed warm public reception for bringing light to one of the darkest cities in Sierra Leone. These few and other achievements convinced some Sierra Leoneans that Bio would stay.  But, the majority say the President should go.

In a democracy, the minority have a say while the majority have the way. Only time will tell.