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Published On: Wed, Mar 7th, 2018

Sierra Leone: Towards a Chain or Change Election

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WEDNESDAY Column by Israel A. Ebije

ebijeo5@gmail.com | @ebijeisrael.com

Political terrain across African continent has continued to evolve in dimensions as the continent continues to slide desperately into anomie.
The continent is cursed by leaders who are only known for self based, gluttonous agenda, always taking from the people and never adding value for posterity. It took the masses time to wriggle out of the cloud of fear designed by the few rich to contain voices of descent.
The wind of change is blowing across the continent. South Africa is the latest experience where “veteran” politician Jacob Zuma was edged out of seat for Cyril Ramaphosa. Only recently it was Mugabe, Jammeh.Nigerians took it out on former president Jonathan in 2015. And Sierra Leone is up against the protégé of Earnest Bai Koroma, and that is the leadership antics that has kept the great continent of Africa motionless in a world where nations compete for peace, security, greater digits in economic growth and speed in infrastructural developments. With the emergence of former African football legend George Weah, who secured victory against an ‘ordained’ incumbent vice president, there might just be a chance the masses will win against the nouveau rich.
It is on record that at least 82 billion Leones is stolen by government officials through MDA’s every year since the past seven years of president Koromas administration. The breakdown is estimated as follows; in 2009 – 81 billion Leones; 2010 – 81 billion Leones; 2011 – 111 billion Leones; 2012 – 82 billion Leones; 2013 – 10 billion Leones; 2014 – 141 billion Leones; 2015 – 65 billion Leones. Going by the average public fund theft rate excluding special intervention funds like the Ebola outbreak, Sierra Leone may lose 656 billion Leones in the next 8 years to corruption if a protégé of the incumbent is elected. When the hidden motive of handpicking a successor is added to the value of corruption as it stands, it means, more monies will be stolen for the next president and the outgoing. The consequence will definitely be brutal for the economy of Sierra Leone. Already 1.3 trillion at the least may cost taxpayers in a make or mar election of the West African country.
Africa has been savaged, ravaged and the system damaged by a few to suit their prebendal agenda. The continent is worse in its doldrums of uncertainly as youths like Esau, sell their birth right for hand outs from corrupt politicians. The failure of youths to assert themselves properly in taking the reigns of leadership has enthroned mediocrity, bigotry, nepotism, ethnicity, leadership impunity as political bastion to wrest or protect interests by the very few rich. If Koroma had his way, he would have vied for a third term in office. In fact, if all our incumbent leaders can extend their stay in power, they will do so without minding cost implication to lives and properties. Sierra Leone will test its democratic mettle on the outcome of this election. The thin line between peace and war will be tested through the lens of the political actors. The problem with the political train driving the March 7 dramatis personae is that it is pulled by camels instead of its original locomotive engine. The baying, hooting and bleating of supporters on an ordained candidate by a few for a few only expresses how we are bereft of true concept of democracy.
It is no news that 16 candidates, including two women, are vying for the presidency. President Koroma has however handpicked Mr. Samura Kamara, a former foreign and finance minister and ex-governor of the Central Bank Sierra Leone. The handpicking policy of African outgoing leaders indicts them of cover-ups, denies the electorates opportunity of voting the best personality that can deliver on the goods of campaign promises – which often go up in smokes after winners emerge.
The choice of Kamara only satisfies the democratic monarchical interest of the outgoing but the chunk of All People’s Congress (APC) members are disgruntled, maintaining an uneasy silence. Sadly, in most climes of Africa, power is built around a single personality. The president is seen as all powerful, impregnable, even all mighty. The system is subdued to pave way for the leaders to their “godly” omni-powers.
Mr. Kamara’s main challenger is expected to be Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). He ruled the country in 1996 as military leader for three months after overthrown his former boss and friend, Valentine Strasser. He has considerable political presence after polling 37.4 percent of the entire vote cast next to Koroma who had 58.7 percent in 2012. Third on the chain of prominence in the presidential race is Kandey Yumkella. Flying his presidential ambition under the political platform of National Grand Coalition, his crowd of oppressed, hungry and marginalized Sierra Leoneans may affect the entire outcome of the election. The pendulum may swing in either direction for KAmara and Bio, if the projections for Yumkella support base pull their strings to bite off some chunks out of the meat of votes in the forthcoming presidential election. The challenge of the Sierra Leone election is fears of manipulation through “constitutional” means to secure backdoor victory for the preferred candidate of Koroma, using security operatives to ensure compliance.
Concerns over security issue have become palpable since Koroma decided on Kamara who is an unpopular candidate. The silence of the APC does not reflect the anger of the masses at the “wrong” choice. The position of Brigadier Bio (rtd) that he would not “sit down and do nothing” if the 2018 election is stolen is unsettling to say the least. A man still reeking from the foul smell of military rule, feared for his past record and dismissed at certain level for possibility of brutality if elected, certainly is not giving the already tensed political stratosphere the required tranquil energy it should exude. Koroma may be the commander in chief of the armed forces, Bio also has a chunk of loyalists in the armed forces. He proved his mettle of popularity in the military in 1996 with a successful palace coup. With the level of corruption recorded by the Koroma administration, the level of disenchantment among the population, the stage is set for dramatic military, civil revolt if there is perceived or real manipulation of results. Already the social, political and economic cauldron in boiling. The precipice has been reached and it may not matter if there is forward of backward movement from it as the foundation is already whittling.
The APC has been tagged dictatorial, the SLPP in the opposition has always been a lifetime hate partner of the ruling party. The tension now has been a cumulative bad blood overtime, summed under the more recent gaffs of the ruling party. Hate speeches, has increased the heat between leaders and supporters of the divide. Religion, ethnicity has come to play with terrifying implication for the country. As the country hangs on a balance, canting and listing against the waves of bad body languages of a few influential politicians, any wrong move will send everything spiraling with devastating consequence in cost to lives and properties. The country is already raped gazillion times financially and would be thrown into dire economic situation once civil unrest adds to their present predicament.
Sierra Leone Election will definitely add to the change trend blowing through the continent of Africa. How the people will play out their own rendition of the treatment given to sit tight ex leaders of Gambia, Angola and Zimbawe in 2017 is what the continent will wait to savor. Social, economic, political challenges have characterized the way and manner badly governed African countries live. Unemployment has pressured many youths in Africa to take refuge in crime and terrorism. The system is fast making the poor eat everything they see including themselves. The death toll rises astronomically just as the ill-gotten wealth soar for prebendal politicians. The clock is ticking for Sierra Leoneans, it is indeed a make or mar presidential election.

Ebije can be reached via: ebijeo5@gmail.com or @ebijeisrael

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