For the majority of Sierra Leoneans in Sierra Leone there dream is to wake up in the morning and see the British flag flying! But then, the cards are clear on the table, the Sierra Leone national flag now protects the territory of Sierra Leone and no more Great Britain.
Yet England has always stepped in to salvage her former colony from political, social or natural disasters.
For our fathers and grandparents who witnessed that great occasion in 1961, it was a thrilling moment, unbelievable and the pioneers almost worshipped until the kettle fell and the water began the spill. Yet there was still hope and in 1967, Sierra Leone witnessed the first democratic elections which was won by the All Peoples Congress, then led by Dr. Siaka Probyn Stevens, a proficient and popular Labour Union man.
Unfortunately, that savoured historical moment has become an enigma, loathed by young people who wished they would have had the opportunity to take the decision in 1961.
The beautiful Sierra Leone which has the oldest university in West Africa and the first western-style university built in West Africa now stands among countries with the highest rate of illiteracy; while Nigeria and Ghana, among others, countries that used to admire our economic potentials, now have to intervene to help us clear our own mess.
According to the UNDP, 70% of youth are unemployed or underemployed, 60% of Sierra Leoneans live below the national poverty line and 41% Adult literacy rate.
Corruption and mismanagement of the country’s natural resources contributed to the Sierra Leone Civil War which started in 1991 to 2002. This proxy war left more than 50,000 people dead, much of the country’s infrastructure destroyed, and over two million people displaced as refugees in neighbouring countries.
“Sierra Leone remains among the world’s poorest countries, ranking 180th out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index in 2011. Decades of economic decline and 11 years of armed conflict had dramatic consequences on the economy. Poverty remains widespread with more than 60% of the population living on less than US$ 1.25 a day and unemployment and illiteracy levels remain high, particularly among youth. However, Sierra Leone has made considerable progress since the end of the civil war in 2002, consolidating peace, democracy and improving development indicators amid rising rates of economic growth,” UNDP.
More recently, the 2014 Ebola outbreak overburdened the weak healthcare infrastructure, leading to more deaths from medical neglect than Ebola itself. It created a humanitarian crisis situation and a negative spiral of weaker economic growth. The country has an extremely low life expectancy at 57.8 years.
For most Sierra Leoneans the politicians are to blame for all the woes in the country. The people believe that lack of stringent measures to address corruption in the country is reason for the national anomaly and that until politicians see themselves as servants to the people and stop regarding themselves as the fortunate few, the country will ever continue to slump into tears.
Before the great onslaught of our people, destruction of our properties and national infrastructure, by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in 1991, the leader of the rebels claimed they were fighting to free the people and to return back their stolen land; but became the ravagers of society, pillaging, raping and committing the worst horrible crimes in humanity.
The nation witnessed a senseless war, battered by angry, frustrated and misled young people who believed politicians are the curse to society.
However, those dark days are supposed to have served as examples for us to be mindful of our roles in society and be servants to our people when given the responsibilities to represent the many unemployed and illiterate Sierra Leoneans in the country.
But are our politicians listening?
For some Sierra Leoneans politicians are becoming a burden in Sierra Leone and they are being regarded as people looking for job opportunities and not for the purpose of pushing to work processes to address the needs of the people.
This sad situation cuts across the board of politics and while the nation prepares for the forthcoming Presidential and Parliamentary elections will Sierra Leoneans have people with integrity who are in politics to reverse the present development index of the country and make the nation a better place?
The British flag is no longer flying over Sierra Leone but England and the United States can help turn the trend around by engaging the politicians and once again bring the dreams of happiness to the people.