Sierra Leone had just started its recovery, if we can call it that, from the ravages of the Ebola crisis. As if on cue, we were launched into another inconvenient situation that bothered on constitutional psychosis. Instead of looking to recover and care for the survivors of the Ebola rampage, some politicians and their wordsmiths did not waste any time to pepper spray us with a further political merry go round. If some people were to have their wishes, they were ready to use all their powers of political alchemy to transform the Ebola misfortune into a perfect excuse to feed their insatiable greed for power. Although there have been rumours about President Ernest Koroma toying with the idea of a 3rd Term in office, the end of the Ebola felt like a twin declaration of the end of one tragedy and the trumpeting of another.
It was therefore no wonder that our political parlance became adulterated with phrases like “more time”,” injury time”, “extra time” and “third term”. Those who were clamouring for such had no regard for the President’s legacy. Their heads were stuck so high up their “you know where”, that they were ready to sacrifice our constitution for 30 pieces of silver. Thankfully, some have seen reason and may have recovered in time from their temporary political dementia, to realise that Sierra Leoneans may be guilty of anything and everything but short term memory. It was primarily the lack of or absence of democracy that got us into a decade of interregnum in the first place. This was a similar situation that some unscrupulous politicians were ready to sleep walk us into by stealth. They tried to come “peaceably and quietly with their agenda” and expected us to be amused by their foolishness; and to be allowed to stay.
Many Sierra Leoneans would be tempted to agree, that our country’s economic malaise is the result of a concomitant effect that has degenerated into a quagmire of pervasive corruption. Corruption and justice, or the lack of it have always been the twin yokes that have paralysed our country for over half a century. With our new found democracy, even if only in name, Sierra Leones showed that we were not ready to relinquish such a luxury, even by African standards. Yes, democracy even if in name, is premium and a luxury by African standards. The rebel war had no good end game to it; but if anything, democracy became a bye product of this sorry saga in our country.
Sierra Leoneans were not ready to see that concept, even if not in practice, flushed away by ego craving politicians. Now that the idea of a 3 term is safely dead and cremated, perhaps Sierra Leoneans will get back to the business of electing a successor to Ernest Koroma. There are several names that have been bandied from the various parties. In the red corner are, Joseph F. Kamara (popularly known as JFK), Moseray Fadika, and John Sesay, to name but a few. In the green corner, there is Ali Kabba, Maada Bio, John Benjamin, Kandeh Yumkella and the 14 others. And as for the SLPP, the less said about them at this time the better. While the party opposite may be busy trying to come up with a potent force, the SLPP are reverting to type, in spite of their clarion call for unity.
The search for such an individual has begun in earnest, although we are yet to have an official declaration. Perhaps Sierra Leones would do well to remember to “Choose a leader who will invest in building bridges, not walls. Books, not weapons. Morality, not corruption. Intellectualism and wisdom, not ignorance. Stability, not fear and terror. Peace, not chaos. Love, not hate. Convergence, not segregation. Tolerance, not discrimination. Fairness, not hypocrisy. Substance, not superficiality. Character, not immaturity. Transparency, not secrecy. Justice, not lawlessness. Environmental improvement and preservation, not destruction. Truth, not lies.”
There is no running away from the fact that “Corruption” has and is one of the canker worms that has been gnawing into the fabric of our society. If we are to embark on our road to recovery, it will be imperative to conclude that the fight against corruption should be one of the main thrusts of any successor to Bai Koroma. This may mean that any such successor would need some serious understanding of the concept of “corruption” in our country. A cursory look at the candidates vying for the highest office might give the game away. There are a lot of people who feel that having been the Commissioner for the Anti-Corruption Commission, Joseph F. Kamara may be the most suited for the job. You be the judge. His supporters argue that as head of the ACC, he made significant inroads into tackling this disease. His detractors maintain that the ACC only went for the small fishes, while the big ones slipped through the nets with just a slap on their wrists. Irrespective of your political persuasion, you may be tempted to conclude that, despite his efforts and seeming failure to hit the “alagbas”, he succeeded in bringing the discussion to the fore of the political discourse. If that assumption is anything to go by, then it stands to reason that someone out there has given some attention to diagnosing our society’s ailment. That could be seen as the first step in a journey of one million miles. Will this be the time to give JFK the opportunity to go the whole 9 yards; considering if he is in the driving seat to effect the drive towards change?
Sierra Leone has been perceived by many as the country that is at breaking point when it comes to justice. This was especially so with the young generation, who have since been suffering from the withdrawals of lawlessness during the rebel war. Justice in Sierra Leone has supposedly been meted out to the lowest bidder. JFK is the newly appointed Attorney general and Minister of Justice. In his short tenure in office, his supporters maintain that they have seen some visible steps taken to ensure that justice is seen to be done.
One of the first things JFK is reported to have done on assuming office was to take a nation-wide tour of the country’s district headquarters. It was a fact finding mission to see at first hand, justice at work. Sources say that he wanted to see how justice worked in these areas, get feedback on the constraints of the department and how these can be improved, with a view to ensuring justice for all. Among some of the reported changes was the introduction of the “legal aid board”. In short, it was to ensure that people had fair and equal access to justice. It meant that irrespective of one’s financial muscle, one had a representation in a court of law. The idea was to provide a level playing field for all; irrespective of one’s social or financial standing.
It is a novelty to know that instead of the people going to courts like the magistrate courts, the courts are now brought to the people. This is more so in rural areas, where magistrate court sittings are conducted in selected rural towns on a weekly basis. I was recently informed that my village Jaiama Sewafe in Kono district, now plays host to 2 weekly Magistrate court sittings. That is a significant improvement. Reports have it that the Justice Department is embarking on a big drive to speed up court hearings for many people who have been languishing in jails and cells without a trial for long periods. This will be seen by many as the biggest overhaul to our justice system, if implemented. There is a high number of people who are kept locked up without any access to a fair hearing, simply because they cannot afford the cost of representation or otherwise. In any society, injustice alone can shake down the pillars of the skies, and restore the reign of chaos. Delay of justice is injustice.
When VP Sam Sumana was relieved of his duties by the APC government, many Sierra Leoneans lost faith, and saw justice as a fading light. Many refer to justice as blind, but recent changes under the current Attorney suggest that it is not deaf. Because, as the moral arc of society, it’s everyman’s business to see justice done. There is no virtue truly great and godlike as justice. It is the spirit and not the form of law that keeps justice alive. As Sierra Leoneans contemplate life after EBK, is it time to start thinking about the kind of leader to aspire us all? Perhaps, as Sierra Leoneans, we should all take part in writing the job description and person specification of our next leader. Tips welcome.
Don’t forget to turn the lights off when you leave the room.