By Tommy Vonjoe
Join the crusade – together, we can make Sierra Leone regain its lost glory.
There is an old adage that says “only fools go to sleep when their neighbor’s house is on fire”; but I would put it this way – “only fools would set ablaze their father’s house when their own children are inside”. I will try to liken this to the biblical story of Joseph, whose brothers hated him because of his dreams, to the extent of selling him into slavery. Their ploy to dispose of Joseph eventually hurt their old father so much to the point that he was only hanging on to life. Little did the brother’s realize that their plan, borne out of hatred; was just part of God’s grand masterplan.
Now I would try to zoom in on the state of dastardly hatred that Sierra Leoneans are currently treading on, and how it is destroying the very foundation of our own nation and its democratic principles. It is an open truth that over the years, and maybe since our independence, Sierra Leone has been divided on political ideologies; which slowly graduated into tribal divide; and eventually into a North-Western and South-Eastern regional divide. These have further progressed into blackmail, invectives, insult, hate messages, false accusations and violence as the various means to personal and political redress. Some would even enjoy embarrassing and disgracing their brothers and sisters, friends and their leaders in the traditional and social media. We may have good reasons to do all these and even more, but the real question is: “What have we archived by doing these”? I guess nothing to write home about, because these actions would only deepen our wounds and scars as a people and would only divide us further apart. It is on this basis that I am compelled to do this synopsis, which remains my personal reflection as a concerned Sierra Leonean.
If we all just work and not care who gets the applause, then we are already halfway to success. Together, we can do this and we can make Sierra Leone regain its lost glory – the Athens of West Africa.
As a nation, Sierra Leone has not been lucky with disasters, both natural and man-made. From the eleven years of reckless and senseless civil war, to the Ebola scourge, and more recently the flashfloods and mudslide; each of these disasters had injured and demeaned our people, sometimes leaving us in undignified circumstances. One thing that has been obvious in all these is the tenacity and resilience of the citizenry. Each time, we would come out stronger as a people, with a renewed zest and hope of a better tomorrow. About sixteen years after the bloody war ended, we have come a very long way considering the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Special Court, and other independent democratic institutions like HRCSL, NCD, ACC & IMC; and the extensive infrastructural development (especially road networks). Despite these numerous successes, we still have the bigger part of the journey towards national development ahead of us. Most of these supposedly independent institutions have been compromised and influence politically, while most of our infrastructural developments are cosmetic and unsustainable. But that is not to say all hope is lost; rather these should be pointers for the national call to action. If we believe in it and work for it, we can achieve it. If we all just work and not care who gets the applause, then we are already halfway to success. Together, we can do this and we can make Sierra Leone regain its lost glory – the Athens of West Africa.
The revival has already started, considering the recent start of the Free Quality Education program, the rejuvenated Anti-corruption Commission, the initiation of a single treasury account and the re-energized NRA, among others. Exploits are also underway from recent engagements with the Chinese government, Bill Gate, ‘Akon’ and George Soros. In my estimation, this is the appropriate time for national cohesion. As this revival heats up with the governance structures and systems, I can perceive a crusade sweeping through a nation that has hungered for development for too long. And for this crusade to be successful, I implore all facets of the nation to embrace, support and defend our national interests jealously.
Those in governance should understand that elections are over, and that the people of Sierra Leone have entrusted them with their mandate for a five year period. All that the ordinary Sierra Leonean expects from them and looks forward to is the delivery of the campaign manifesto and its imbedded programs in a way that would reflect a positive change in their individual, family and communal lives. Someone in Kulia or Konkowakoro (in Neya Chiefdom, Falaba District) for instance is not interested in the politics or economic policies or fiscal discipline; what they are interested in is seeing that their everyday lives have been transformed by better service delivery, access to social services, etc. From an outsider’s opinion, these are the issues that government should concern themselves with addressing.
The opposition on the other hand, should also accept the reality that they have only lost an election, but Sierra Leone lives on. They should not see themselves at any point in time as enemies of government, in which case they would suggestively become enemies of the nation. Fortunately for the main opposition, they have a majority representation in parliament, signifying that they have an enormous constituency to represent in policy formulation; while critiquing policies, programs and actions of government as fairly and objectively as possible, and in a way that represents national interest and the interest of their constituents. I must commend Hon. Kandeh K. Yumkela of the NGC and Hon. Saa Emmerson Lamina of the C4C, as they have already been pivotal in playing that decisive role of critiquing objectively and supporting development friendly policies and programs. I hope they continue in this direction, while I call on the main opposition to follow suit.
The media has a sacred duty to the nation, to responsibly inform the public with substantiated and balanced facts, which are not capable of igniting violence in any way.
There are as many civil society organizations and coalitions in Sierra Leone today as had never been; each of them apparently taking actions towards the common goal of national development. Whether by advocacy, campaigns, capacity building, or service delivery, every civil society actor is seeking to help achieve the bigger goal of national development. On this note, it is appalling that most civil society organizations have aligned themselves to differing political interests and servitude. The majority of CSOs have lost the respect and trust of the people whose interests they claim to represent. These CSOs have an opportunity to join the crusade towards national development or become obsolete and worthless in the near future. Notwithstanding, CSOs have a duty to the citizenry, and must deliver the promise upon which their very existence is founded.
Also, the media has a sacred duty to the nation, to responsibly inform the public with substantiated and balanced facts, which are not capable of igniting violence in any way. To a large extent, some journalists feed on the gullibility of the readership and the extensive ignorance of the populace to ship out ‘fake news’ in their media outlets. Journalists must be seen as reliable and trustworthy sources of information, as they are duty-bound to validate reports and/or any material they decide to publish. They must ask those in leadership the right questions at all times. Unfortunately, like the civil society, media outlets and individual journalists have subjected themselves to different political interests and servitude. Again, as recommended for the CSOs, media outlets and personnel who had drifted away must ensure to recompense now, by doing justice to the nation and to their readership, while ensuring that they genuinely participate in the national development movement.
As I conclude, I would emphasize the fact that the final responsibility rests with citizenry. We have to assure ourselves to have civil education so that we can demand our civil rights. It is worthy to note however, that in as much as we have civil rights; we have civil duties and responsibilities which we must also perform. We need to take ownership of our country and its national development programs. We should take our elected leaders to task – ask them the critical questions; request for Council development plans from Councilors; demand update meetings from MPs on bills being discussed or laws passed in parliament; follow-up on community leaders and councils with regards the free quality education and the free health care; etc. Nevertheless, we must also oblige to perform our civil duties always – including sending our children to school; not littering the streets; obeying traffic rules always; resisting bribes; and reporting suspected corruption matters to the ACC hotline; among others. If we can challenge ourselves as a people, each individual, group and offshoot participating towards this general call, we would be assured of fixing Sierra Leone, which by the way is the only country we have.
Tommy Vonjoe / Email: firstname.lastname@example.org