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Sierra Leone: Political Violence or Violent Politicians?

By Umaru Fofana

Ask any Sierra Leonean whether they think there will be renewed civil war  in the country any time soon. Chances are they will tell you “NO”. Their answer is more from the heart than from the head - based more on the fact that they do not wish for it than to say that there is no reason for it. That will be their argument. Otherwise the banditry in our politics today is such that if you read the Truth and Reconciliation Report that followed our rebel war as I have been doing again lately, you would think the causes of that war as documented in the report refer to the things that are still here with us today: ethnic politics, youth unemployment, economic collapse, poverty, corruption, injustice, executive control of parliament and the House lacking in its proper oversight responsibility, etc.

When politics becomes a survival thing which attracts people for what is in it for them rather than for the public good, then governance gets thrown through the window. When those who are supposed to hold the leaders to account are parleying and dining with them again in their own selfish interest, then the masses suffer in squalor and destitution. When the electorate are kept in poverty and illiteracy and ignorance in all their forms to look forward to handouts and alcohol and drugs from politicians around every election cycle, then the cookie always crumbles and the people are left to forever grumble.

Sierra Leone’s politics is broken, and its politicians are almost unsalvageable gourmands who eat with both hands when they have their hands on the resources. So you understand why politics here is a cutthroat enterprise and a cocktail of putrid food. And violence is the ingredient. One of our so-called politicians who crossed the political rug a few years ago - naturally from the opposition to the ruling party - said at the time that politics was about the THREE Rs: Risk, Recognition and Reward. He said, and apparently believed, that God would not reward anyone in the world hereafter for their services in politics. So, he argued, the reward was here on earth. No prize for guessing what that means: pillage from the state and let those you claim to represent rot in penury for all you care. However despicable, this, unfortunately, is by and large the reality in Sierra Leonean politics. It is a very risky enterprise which drives many decent and well-meaning people away from it. So when the brave capture political power, they keep reminding themselves of how they “suffered" for it (RISK), how they should get jobs in return (RECOGNITION), and how they should REWARD themselves. I am sure you get the drift what that means.

So we are left with people to decide for us after they have sorted out themselves and their cronies. That means fighting to keep power - at any cost - or fighting to capture it at all cost. A do-or-die affair. Otherwise why would anyone encourage people to fight and brutally kill someone, or condescend to the abysmal level of accessing human excreta and splattering them on the offices of an opponent. This defies reasoning and decency, and condescends below even the lowest of the low. How much we have sunk as a nation!

The events in Kenema on 28 May this year that led to the stabbing to death of an opposition SLPP member or supporter in the hands of his own party supporter(s) was reprehensible. Listen to what goes on in that party in their “struggle” for leadership. Nothing about alternative views on how to solve the myriads of problems that are besetting the country. No idea in how to win the hearts and minds of the members of the party based on shifting them from the right to the centre or from the centre to the far right - if any such exists in Sierra Leonean politics. It is all about who was where before who, or who has been and worked where, or who is a descendant of who or what. Despicable! Hardly a day goes by without hearing of some commotion of some sort involving party members. It is heartening to know that the police moved in and made some arrests and eventually charged them to court over the recent Kenema incident. Can’t say same for the repeat incidents of attacks in Lunsar on the offices of the Alliance Democratic Party and its leader and entourage.

Charges are yet to be brought against suspects the AFP leader, Mohamed Kamaraimba Mansaray says are ruling APC party members or supporters who weresupposedly  behind the attacks. His vehicle was damaged and attempts made to set it on fire, he says. His driver was attacked and stabbed in the brow, while other supporters of his party were also attacked, he says. Both for the sake of constitutional provisions based on the liberty of a person, and the significance of the matter, the police are yet to charge anyone to court since the first incident happened almost a week ago. It makes one shudder as to how the law is being implemented in Sierra Leone. That takes me to the most recent incidents in Kailahun - the opposition SLPP heartland. That police failed to stop ruling party supporters from marching past the home of a rival candidate to the extent of taunting her and causing hell to break loose is incomprehensible. Instead the convenient thing of blaming both sides is advanced by the police leadership. All these incidents of violence are either over internal party election, or a by-election with hardly any consequence at all. That tells you what 2018 portends.

In the case of the by-elections in Kailahun and Lunsar, by the time the representatives take up their seats in the House it will be one year to the next legislative election. So why bay for each other’s blood! Maybe we should have a cut-off point for the holding of a by-election. It may not necessarily solve the problem of violence at elections but it was stop unnecessary tension and waste of resources for an election that will have someone elected just for campaigning to start in one year for the same seat or position. Within all of this are caught up our young population, those we often refer to as the future generation. They have been repeatedly used and abused misused and dumped by politicians past and present. Politicians who have proved over and again that the way to success is through your political patrons winning an election and circumventing procedures to enrich themselves and drop the crumbs for the youth. To the extent they will ask them to go scoop human faeces and paint the walls of a building and a signboard simply because they house or advertise a rival political party. This is what Sierra Leone is faced with. Tragically, the misunderstanding among and between our politicians is not based on ideology, not based on policies, not based on the welfare of the people. It is all about  The last few weeks have witnessed some very violent scenes in our body politic. Unfortunately this is not the beginning and there does not seem to be any end in sight because the youth who are used in it are a fertile replenishing ground for it as I will explain tomorrow.

(C) Politico 22/06/16