From Jaiama Sewafe in Kono District to Freetown in the Western Area, the Presidential elections have long seemed like a battle of contests in optimism; the candidate with the most upbeat message usually wins. Sierra Leone is going through one of her toughest times with an entire institution being sacked and over hundred workers asked to re-apply for positions that are not sufficient for few workers in the country. The gloom has touched on NATCOM and NASSIT, after the sacking of an entire institution, and the commission of inquiry that is excluding key players like permanent secretaries and other players who were very instrumental in the past government. It seems to get ever worse. Politicians of the SLPP and the APC have argued that the country’s system has failed ordinary people because it has been rigged by a cabal of self-serving elitists. There is a pervading mood of anger and frustration running through many sectors of the country.
Sierra Leone has problems, but this picture is a caricature of a country that, on most fronts, is more prosperous, more peaceful and less violent than ever before. The real threat is from people with knowledge who have done most to stoke national rage, hatred and malice in the system. The dissonance between gloomy rhetoric and recent performance is greatest on the economy. Our unemployment is still at the bottom and the real median wage is yet to rise above sea level. There are genuine problems, particularly high inequality and the plight of low skilled workers left behind by a decrepit system. But these have festered for years, and are nothing new. But can the New Direction inject some New in some Direction?
Demographic insecurity is reinforced by divisive partisan forces. There is a general phenomenon that most of the workers being sacked are members of the former government of the APC. The two parties have concluded that there is little overlap between the groups likely to vote for them, and that success therefore lies in making those on their own side as furious as possible, so that they turn out in higher numbers than the opposition. Sounds like harvesting the emotive side of people. There is an existential threat imbibed by some forces of the populace that if you are sacked by the present government, the chances to gain employment are bleak.
Where have we gone wrong as a nation? Is it the politicians painting a picture of a divided nation or their actions speaking volumes? Is the country really divided or just a hoax by some politicians? The country has started the economic recovery but it is not being felt by the ordinary people; and that is understandable. There is an apparent unease between divisions in the country; with the South looking at the East with a winked eye and north closing their eyes when talking to a friend from the West. There are events unfolding that tend to question the temerity of the President. It is a general belief that he is a good listener, but some events unfolding in the country need an urgent checkmate. How can a 70 year old man sexually assault a 13 year old girl and sentenced to two days in jail? And the judge still occupies his place? The irony is that it took less than twenty four hours when the First Lady launched a massive campaign against sexually assaulting the girl child. The leadership of President Maada should use this crime as a yardstick to send a message to the entire country; that the country follows rules and no one is above the law. Either the infamous judge who presided over this heinous trial gets the sack or the convicted idiot spends his leisure time at the luxurious Pademba prison. But again, many believe that the judge may have followed the guidance on sentencing. If that is the case, there is no better demonstration of the adage that “the law is an ass”. Perhaps this case would serve as a watershed, and may be an opportune time to rejig those sentencing guidelines. That law may be archaic and may have been pertinent to the times of yesteryears; when silence was the currency with which sexual assaults were traded. This is no longer the case, and our girls have found their voices. So “Hands Off Our Girls”.
Is our President, my President and your president really tackling core issues affecting the country? One lesson of Maada’s success to date is that most people see him as an action man, considering his military background. But events like civil servants resorting to their old tricks of reporting to work very late, lawless youths attacking a businessman enterprise on the pretext of land acquisition, non-existent appointment of human rights commissioners and the list goes is alarming and worrisome. This is a defining moment in the country’s history and the President should do the talk with actions and leave a legacy. The national cohesion in the country is fragile and yet to grasp a foothold.
As the commission of inquiry gathers pace to start in January, the world looks with angst, consternation, expectations and apprehension to see the genuine effort of a leader who wants to transform his country.
May God bless Sierra Leone.