Sierra Leone: IS IT A SUCCESS FOR ALL OR FEW?

sierra_leone[1]After fifteen years of peace-keeping in Sierra Leone, the UN has finally decided to leave the country, its citizens and government in a “successful” state. As a man in his forties, I can only examine the distance from which Sierra Leone has travelled to achieve “success”.

Firstly let me congratulate the people and friends of Sierra Leone on her 53rd years of Independence.
 
The point here is Sierra Leone has witnessed over fifty years of political instabilities and about forty years of economic, social and educational declining. 
 Sierra Leoneans went through the worse civil war ever fought in the history of wars, with no real single purpose, no aim and no objectives. Millions of civilian lost their lives, families and loved ones for no real course. In fact according to analysts, the war was dimmed as a “senseless war”. Well, here are few historical steps backward as to what most have instigated the nonsense war and for the UN to intervene.

In 1964 Sir Milton Margai died, spending less than a full term in office. Power was given to his brother Albert Margai.
The 1967 General elections saw a new age of political chaos with widespread violence because of Albert Margai’s plan to establish a one-party state. As a result the Army took power as ‘National Reformation Council’ aided by Commander David Lansana.
This was followed by another coup in 1968, which saw the instalment of the APC government headed by Siaka Stevens.
In 1970 according to reports, Siaka Stevens consolidates power through violence, corruption and intimidation. In 1977 it was also reported that the General Elections were rigged and marred by violence, which lead to Siaka Stevens declaring a one-party state. That was the beginning of political unrest, partialities and corruption.  I stand corrected on this, but looking back it is seventies, eighties and nineties generations are likely to feel more tormented, oppressed and steamrollering.
Can you imagine the build up to the 1991 Foday Sankoh Revolutionary United Front (RUF) attacks on Sierra Leone border towns from Liberia, which caused massive brutality against civilians and the kidnapping and conscription of children into RUF. President Momoh, who came after Siaka Stevens, reportedly doubled the size of the army, recruiting ‘hooligans, drug addicts and thieves’. From that decision it is reasonable to suggest, the birth of revolutionary fighters. In 1985 the country was at a period were the economy was heading for total collapse (the result of the floatation of the Leone), national pride and confidence at its lowest and threat to national security.

April 1992, a mutiny by unpaid soldiers became a coup. President Momoh fled to neighbouring Guinea, coursing a widespread internal dislocation. National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) assumed power under Captain Valentine Strasser who became the youngest president at age 27. The brutal senseless war continued while RUF attacks targeted civilians. Their hallmark is crude amputations – feet, hands, and other parts of the human body – with special attention to women and children. Reports suggested that an estimated 120,000 refugees fled to Guinea.

May of 1997, Soldiers release 600 prison inmates and seized power, forming the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC), forcing the late President Kabbah to flee. Only for Major Johnny Paul Koroma, a former coup plotter to become chairman and invited the RUF to join them and form a coalition government. AFRC/RUF’s rule was characterized by systematic murder, torture, looting, rape and shutdown of all formal banking and commercial institutions throughout the country. This period also proved the systematic decline of Sierra Leone’s political, social and economic state of affairs.

I think those who had experienced the war will say the 1999 invasion of Freetown highlighted the real scale and effect of the war. According to reports, up to a million killed, over 2000 children missing, loss of homes and properties. The list goes on. After such massive loss of lives, properties, public records and personal memorabilia one would expect that the first thing a government would embark on is nation building.

Building social housing in a country that has been through such traumatic period is key to national stability. In order to rebuild a nation affected by war, governments need the energy, confidence and support of its people. What I didn’t see when I visited the country in 2013 in regards to nation rebuilding, is no real government support and counselling services set up to combat the psychological fears and traumas of the war. The people I came across who were affected are dealing with their traumas and fears the best way they could. I saw lots of private houses been built on disputed lands. I saw sanitation still as poor as they were thirty years ago. This area is a very high priority for the government as well. No new schools have been built except for “backyard kindergarten” schools. The police force is highly in waiting to clean up the Art of corruption. The energy power and water supply systems are also key factor in a developing nation and for a nation to become successful.
My experiences going home have not proven sufficient meaningful manifestation from the governments. Ask the people directly affected by the war whether they’ve received any form of compensation or effective counselling. Also ask if they have been visited by a data collection agencies recording death per household. Are there any reconciliation or regeneration programmes made available for the thousands of displaced citizens?

It’s really painful but, so easy to list the negatives, misfortunes or corruption in Sierra Leone because that for sure is over powering. The war was a real tragedy for all Sierra Leoneans directly or indirectly. However sixteen years on, the question is: Are there any real success for the verse majority of the citizens of the country?

Now, let’s consider the phrase “success story” coined by the UN in support of their reasons for leaving Sierra Leone. Here is what Jens Toyberg-Frandzen who is the head of the United Nations Integrated Peace building Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) said,that I would venture to say it is probably one of the most peaceful countries in West Africa. We’ve had successful elections held here that were peaceful; there’s a human rights commission that is functioning. I think we can say basically that we have succeeded in those tasks that were given to us”. I’m not entirely sure what exact task was given, but I’m sure Jens’ statement brings joy. However, when asked about problems he said, the country has “weak institutions and corruption”. I asked you earlier to consider the phrase “success story”.  Now it appears what Jens Toyberg-Frandzen said about “weak institutions and corruptionare in conflict. This is key to my suggestive analysis that Sierra Leone has witnessed over fifty years of political instabilities and about forty years of economic, social and educational decline. Peacefulness is one of Sierra Leone characteristics, and is uniquely reflecting on its citizens. The issue for me, according to Jens, drawing upon the “human rights commission functioning successfully”; when 52 percent of people are living under poverty line, according to UN report, is worrying. It is also fair to say in Sierra Leone there’s no true justice if you are poor! And this can’t be right. The nature of land grabbing and removal of people from property they’ve occupied for years, is as blatant as moon shines through the darkness. And there is no real attempt to get things moving in the right direction yet. Now with all these social, political and economic unrest, is it right to ask; who benefits from the success? Is it the country, the government of Sierra Leone or the UN?

Talking with my country’s interest at heart, I’ll suggest we go back to basics. Draw upon the wonderful history, culture and traditional richness that once made Sierra Leone stood amongst the world’s best in medicine, commerce and intelligence. Let’s think about our great scholars, chiefs and tribesmen who went through sleepless deliberations, vigorous scrutiny and rejections from the British parliament for the freedom of our beloved Sierra Leone. Let’s appreciate, learn and cherish each other’s tribe, culture and traditional beliefs as a means to enhance national pride and peace. Let’s love and respect education as the foundation for national development. Finally, let us remember McCormack Charles Farrell Easmon. Founder of the Sierra Leone Museum, a medical doctor, the father who revolutionised the minds against racial discrimination in the medical service and in 1958, spearheaded the founding of the Museum and became the first curator. In my mind, he stood as one of the pride of Sierra Leone.

 

Source:  Clarence Davies      Email: Clarence.davies@btinternet.com

 

 

 

 

Comment Policy:
PLEASE READ BEFORE COMMENTING
Trolling or derailing the conversation will not be tolerated. Your comment might take several minutes before appearing on the page.

Share the Knowledge