The most obvious nightmare of the moment is the war in Ukraine and its effects globally. The war in Ukraine presents an existential threat to world economies and the world at large. Africa faces its perennial threat of famine, and it does not take an AK 47 for that to happen. The rippling effects of the war have seen staple consumer goods hit the roof with gravity defying prices, resulting in social, financial and political turmoil across board. Europe is gripped by daily strike actions by organisations and businesses. In the UK, France, to name but a few, strikes from train and airport workers have brought aviation and transport networks to their knees. However, in a little corner of the globe called Sierra Leone, the strike and protest vogue is taking a different life of its own.
Twenty-three countries and their governments have had to adjust, tweak, rejig and toggle their financial and political views and practices, in response to coping with the associated turmoil from the war in Ukraine. Argentina (beef meat), Burkina Faso (millet flour, corn flour, sorghum) Cameroon (Cereals, vegetable oils), Egypt (maize, grits vegetable oil), etc. have since imposed outright bans on food exports. Such dramatic actions are suggestive of self-preservation, and could be palatable for domestic politics. Sadly, they fail to address concerns about food supplies and hunger.
So, which exports did Sierra Leone ban? Zilch. What do we have to offer? What produce do we have on the world market, save our penchant for destroying our environment with timber exports? We might want to put this situation as a backdrop to measure why our country is in such a crisis, as it all started during the 80’s. As a nation, successive governments systematically dismantled, destroyed, and sold off our national assets and heirlooms. We had fisheries, agricultural, mining, tourism, manufacturing and industrial sectors fully functional in this country. We had SLPMB, NDMC, Sierra Fisheries, Forestry, Yazbeck and Kontiki Tours, NATCO, Aureol Tobacco Company, Sierra Leone Brewery, to name but a few, as cash cows and sources of employment for our GDP and citizens respectively. Where are they now?
Is it any surprise that our livelihood, sustenance, and existence as a nation is now dependent on the goodwill of international donors? Why are we surprised that our GDP is primarily dependent on the size of our begging bowl. Are we surprised that our leaders have over the years, clocked vast amounts of air miles, traversing the world with begging bowls? How do we expect to sustain our country, when we cannot even produce our staple food, sufficient to feed ourselves? It is not for lack of land, climate, weather or labour. How do we expect to control the prices of goods that we have no business in producing? It is like, “you nor pull chop money, and you say de plasas nor sweet”. Is it any surprise that are our nation is at its vulnerable best? It is tempting to ignore our perennial national self-harm behaviour called CORRUPTION. Corruption, Corruption, Corruption, was, has been, and continues to be the midwife our country’s demise today.
It would be dishonest, disingenuous and down right deceitful to discount the impact of events around the world. A catalogue of natural, manmade or self-harm behaviours and disasters have connived against our country over the years. Take the rebel war, Ebola, Mudslide, Corona Virus and most recently the war in Ukraine. Like many other countries, the impact of these worldly disasters have been devastating. However, unlike other nations, which have better and reinforced national foundations, our vulnerabilities against such occurrences seem to be ten fold. Therefore, whenever the West sneezes, we catch the cold. Our inability to produce our basic foods makes our nation fragile and very vulnerable to events beyond our control.
As prices continue to take astronomical lives of their own, our ability to monitor and control such prices diminishes with every passing day. Take for example fuel, the lifeblood of every economic activity, and all its inherent impact that emanates from its daily price changes. While other countries are busy shoring up for self-preservation, our best foot forward is engaging in graphic designs of our currency. Our economists have struggled to sell the merits of the redenomination to the public so far. That is for another discussion. I am sure it carries its economic merits in its own right, but only time will tell.
For now, people will spend less time counting their cash at bank tills. Pickpockets will become more efficient and back pockets will return to vogue. Even the gas station attendant would no longer attract unwanted attention. Talking about gas station, why does our government allow the petroleum magnates to hold the nation to ransom? People recognise the government’s efforts to ensure fuel supplies are regular. If that is the case, why is the petroleum cabal allowed to hoard and deliberately engender fuel crises; knowing exactly the rippling effects on the nation? To all intents and purposes, that is terrorism in the strictest sense of the word. Fuel shortage causes terror. That brings us to the rule of law.
The decline in the rule of law is world wide, but according to the World Justice Project release on 14 October 2021, Sierra Leone ranked 108 out of 139 countries on rule of law. The areas of global decline in the rule of law include constraints on government powers, civic space, timeliness of justice, and absence of discrimination. Sierra Leone is 17th out of 33 sub-Saharan Africa region. This means that Sierra Leone’s overall rule of law score decreased 1.5% in 2021, but remained in the same position in global rank. The “Rule of law is the very foundation of communities of justice, opportunity and peace”. It is therefore, our collective duty as citizens to reinforce that foundation as a matter of top priority.
Sadly, our country is saddled with numerous examples, suggestive of the breakdown of the rule of law. No one needs a reminder about our law enforcement services hugging the headlines recently. From opposition party members, journalists, members of the public and right down to our market women, the spate of spats with the law enforcement agencies continue to rise. Allegations of brutality, human rights abuses, intimidation, threats and sometimes loss of lives is on the increase. Irrespective of your social, political, tribal, and regional or gender affiliations, we cannot deny the threat facing our rule of law and in effect our democracy. Our embryonic democracy is at its most threatened phase since the end of our brutal war. The threat is so real, that many cannot help but invoke the memories of the rebel war. Do we want to go back from whence we came from?
So, what is responsible for this dramatic change in our country?
It can only be any of these reasons or more. Our nation has become ultra lawless. Our law enforcement and security forces have become heavy handed. Our law enforcement are determined to muzzle dissent. We are experiencing the vestiges of one party statehood in a multiparty setting. We are determined to make the country ungovernable. We just want to exercise our human rights. Our government is not criticism friendly. If my party is not in power, no other party should, etc. These are some of the sentiments plying the information highway.
So, where do our political leaders fit into this state of affairs?
Do our leaders care about the next generation or the next elections? Is it time for our leaders to realize that while partisanship is understandable, it is equally destructive for our country. Our political leaders have great responsibilities to meet our expectations. But while we expect our leaders to lead, we also have our civic responsibilities as citizens, to support our leaders to rise and meet our expectations. That is why; electing corrupt politicians does not make us victims, but accomplices. And the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves, as underlings. Our political leaders, together with the media should aspire to strengthen social cohesion, through the proper understanding of the dynamics of unity. No matter which party leads our country, no single party can lead our country out of our predicament if we are not united. There is a disconnect between what we think as citizens and what our politicians do, and we need to reconnect both. Our leaders should remember that their roles and jobs are temporary. However, it is their legacy that should live to inspire future generations. But do our leaders care for the next elections or the next generation?
Salone used to be one country, One People. It used to be a Congress for all peoples. Is it today?
ODE TO THE VOTER
There Was a Country, in the Anthills of the Savannah
Where The Voter, full of Hopes and Impediments
Saw The Arrow of God, like a Vengeful Creditor
In the Morning Yet on Creation
Beat The Drum, Home and Exile
About How The leopard Got His Claws.
The Trouble With Nigeria is..
We need A Man of the People
For we’re No Longer at Ease
When Things Fall Apart.
Beware Soul Brother
Don’t forget to turn the lights out when you leave the room