Returning home to the comfort of my bedroom; the new digital social media in hand as a much needed solace only brought to life in letters, pictures and videos, the harsh reality of living in “Sa Lone tiday” (Sierra Leone today).
What does one see when one peeps into our current disturbing reality? Primary school children queuing to be dished their school meals on their bare hands as their parents cannot afford to send them to school with bowls or plates and spoons; a young girl murdered and displayed in the Kaningo community I live in the Juba vicinity of Freetown, with missing parts allegedly used for rituals; series of gruesome road accidents that could have been prevented; number of unsolved murders of young women in the seaside vicinities of Freetown; armed robbers and clique gangsters raiding communities across the country, killing and maiming their victims along the way and an unprecedented financial hard times for everyone since the civil war ended.
The lawlessness that has gripped our inner cities today are the results of both the divisive politics that has permeated our society recently, the economics of patronage that has isolated and marginalized a large chunk of the nation thus deepening our poverty and unbridled corruption.
The ruling APC Government believes in the politics of patronage and this takes the form of public service employment and Government contracts for political cronies. These constant benefactions for their cronies has led to a bloated public service that consists mainly of employees whose only essential qualification to office or sole right to a huge contract is membership and barefaced support for the ruling party and its leadership (Lay Bellehism). With this negative recruitment policy in place, new recruits into the essential services especially the law enforcements agencies for the most part lack the qualification, integrity and independence to perform with professionalism, hence the chaos in our streets.
We also have an expectant youth population and deservedly so. They have been deprived for decades; no employment, no hope, neglected and marginalized. As the adage goes the “idle mind is the devil’s workshop”. Apart from when elections are imminent the youth are hardly engaged to map out and implement their medium and long term aspirations and fulfilments. In today’s Sierra Leone there is nothing to tell us that we care about our unemployed youth. No employment bureaus or centres that tells us about new jobs, the number of employed and unemployed, the prospects for the future, available apprenticeship and training and retraining of the unemployed to prepare them for the work place etc.
The right to work is an inalienable right and not a privilege for the few who belong to the ruling Party or have relatives in power. Jobs should be provided for all those who are willing and qualified to work and in that regards our endeavors must be visible and not selective and in secret.
Poverty is becoming endemic and previous efforts to successfully reduce this threat has been constantly undermined recently with corruption, mis-management, patronage and lack of accountability.
Also, hearing one of the Government’s spokesmen in the same FM 98.1 report avow that self-employed laborers at the Queen Elizabeth II Quay or other business places in Freetown, make far more money than office workers beats one’s imagination and demonstrate how out of touch the rulers are with the plight of the ruled, especially the small and medium entrepreneurs and even the vast majority of Government workers to make ends meet in “Tiday Sa Lone” (Today’s Sierra Leone).
Not even in 2002 and 2003 just after the end of our 11 years internecine civil war have we seen so much lawlessness, poverty and the dire economic consequences of corruption and excessive Government spending.
Today, the fight against corruption hardly targets the political and administrative leadership that takes crucial decisions that are responsible for our current demise. Rather the Anti-Corruption Commission targets middle and lower level public officers as scapegoats. Every year the Audit Services publishes its report about the mishandling of our resources and each year they make recommendations that are never heeded and startling revelations that are never investigated. In other words we now live in a society where no one is accountable and where impunity rules.
With this sad state of affairs, our gains in making Sierra Leone business friendly are in futility as no one invests in a country where youth violence, corruption and lawlessness are the orders of the day.
Therefore, as we confront our current harsh realities we must as a nation wake up. Government. Opposition, Civil Society and the Media must all rise up to these challenges.
Government must go back to the drawing board, reset its priorities, develop new strategies and targets for the last 15 months of its tenure. The main opposition party must expedite its internal democracy to elect a new leadership that will make it a responsible and effective opposition and an alternative that this impoverished nation currently desires. Other political parties in the fold must step up to the plate and cease to be surrogates, stooges or puppets of the Government but rather aspire to be the effective third force that our fledgling democracy so desperately needs. Civil Society must be apolitical, financially independent and progressive to be effective in sustaining our young democracy. The media must continue to play its role as the fourth estate that provide the necessary checks and balances on the three powerful arms of Government, ensuring an accountable and transparent country without hindrance.
With every sector performing their tasks above without interference, Sierra Leoneans will decide their future in February 2018 as an informed citizenry. “We the people” will speak whether we are happy to continue with infrastructural development at the expense of the economy, the social services, law and order and a genuine and sustained fight against corruption; or whether we will choose to change for a more transformational leadership and vision that guarantees the majority of Sierra Leoneans a feasible road map out of the current economic malaise and out of poverty.
Let’s start the struggle to make the 2018 polls another milestone in celebrating our 20 year old democratic evolution. Long live the motherland “Mama Sa Leone” (Mother Sierra Leone).