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On Peace and Good Governance: The Buck Stops with President Koroma
By Edie Vandy
Mar 31, 2009, 20:04
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The much talked about, much publicized March 13-16, 2009 attack on the premises of the opposition SLPPP party HQs that resulted to the building itself being damaged, vandalized and looted, two vehicles burned, scores of supporters being grievously wounded, and six women gang-raped including a pregnant woman who just delivered a baby boy; has once again shown how polarized we are as a nation. To date, the blame-game as to who did what, or started what, or who threw the first stone is being re-played over and over in the media, amongst the political elites, within the Disporan community, on the internet and on-line forums. Ideological messages are being twittered by spin masters to make the other look bad, or re-brand to being the victim rather than the victor.


The Verdict


But I tell you what, there are certain things in life no amount of PR or spin can alter or take away, and that is called, the truth. The heart of the matter is; APC supporters used extreme and punitive force in going after the opposition in their own premise. There is a trail load of evidence to purport this assertion. As CNN Anchor Campbell Brown would say no bias, no bull, no amount of bias can change the fact, that the aggressor here is the APC, and the victim is the opposition. Media mogul Sylvia Blyden in an OPS piece It was Not a Clash but an Invasion published Mar 18, 2009, blasted the international media including BBC, for recording the event as a clash. This was not a clash, she is quoted to have said, but a criminal invasion of SLPP offices.


Those on the side of APC including the Secretary General Victor Foh are putting up defenses framed around an indictment of the opposition in their destructive criticism to embarrass their administration and render them weak in governance. They say, the new western area chairman-Lansana Fadikas arrogance for cheap notoriety in blocking the street meant for the mayor and entourage to pass through was the tipping point that left them no choice but to retaliate. Assuming for once this is true, does that equate to the use of excessive force? No! In a decent society, there are due processes to follow, a rule by the law where nobody, individuals or a political party can take the law into owns hands.



Meaningful Opposition


These acts of lawlessness obliterates all sense of human dignity, and has left progressive Sierra Leonean united in their opposition to such practices, as memories of the 11 year rebel war keeps flashing in peoples mind. More than half of the women who form the bulk of our population are angry, an anger which cuts across party lines. A very senior woman of the APC speaking on conditions of anonymity to Awareness Times, has said that the Presidents lack of enthusiasm to condemn this atrocity is not grinding well with their rank and file, for a violation on one woman is a human rights abuse to all.


And then there is the issue of SLAJ where the president Umaru Fofana have threatened to withdraw his organization from the Independent Media Commission (IMC) for towing the line of government and surrendering their autonomy in the decision to shut down the two radio stations of both parties, which the organization considers an infringement to press freedom, as the operations of these media houses did not pose any security threat at all, contrary to what has been advanced.  Did I hear somebody whimper the SLAJ President is being partisan? Of course when people stand on the side of truth, they get criticize and painted all sorts of names. Dont tell me the twenty womens movement united together to fight gender imbalance, human rights abuses, domestic violence and rape are siding with the opposition? These women are determined to fight such acts of aggression against women, and will not let it be swept under the carpet.



I beg to differ from the President when he referred to the recent attack on the opposition partys premises as not politically motivated but the acts of criminals. Of course there is a criminal face to the attacks, but these are gangsters working on the orders of some APC henchmen, hence the president is finding it difficult to show leadership and bring to swift justice the perpetrators of the crime and subsequent ones taken place in the past.


People have become so blinded with loyalty in their support of the APC that any criticism (constructive or not) levied against the administration is done so in bad faith. In the face of one of the ugliest human rights violations in modern times against our women and in broad daylight, APC apologists and hard liners have dismissed these claims in its totality calling it a figment of the imagination concocted by the opposition to drum sympathy. And President Koroma in his entire speech to the nation was so pre-occupied to apportion blame on the opposition that he could not even acknowledge the incident let alone proffer an apology.


The PV Senior Correspondent Isatu Gbla, and her doubters only needs to talk to Dr. Nemata Majeks-Walker, founder of the 50-50 Womens Advocacy Group to understand that her tears shed whilst visiting the victims was real. Those in denial mood need to consult with Dr. Olabisi Claudius-Cole, the MD at the Western Clinic who first observed the victims. Folks need to sit down with Madam Frances Fortune, the Canadian Consul to Sierra Leone and head of Talking Drums who have knowledge of gender issues, and who has been providing support for the victims. The Canadian counsel is quoted to have said in Awareness Times the emotional distress of the raped and abused women was "very high" which necessitated their continuous admission at the Dr. Cole Clinic along Edward Street.


The Real Culprits


Dont tell me the President Koroma does not know who the real criminals are, hoodwinked on derailing the peace that many have bled and died for? The President only needs to look up the newspaper if he has not been told already, that the NEC Chair is reported to have squarely apportion blame on the Resident Minister South Musa Tarawalie on the cancellation of the local elections to have been held in ward 323 in the Sorogbema chiefdom Pujehun district, and in her words, The ministers presence created some panic in the minds of the electorates. What happened after all is fully documented.


Even as the APC Secretary General Victor Foh, had disown or distanced himself from the Resident Minister South as a man who is in their party to give them a bad rap, the question he has not answered is what is Musa Tarawali still doing in the cabinet? The Presidents obsession to have Musa Tarawali retained at all cost conflicts with his agenda for change, and upholding good political discourse. The recent cabinet reshuffle by the President only re-enforces the notion that the resident minister has the authority and tacit approval if not from the leadership but from a hard core of the APC apparatus whose agenda is to inflict maximum fear and intimidate the opposition. If I may ask, does the President really believe Musa Tarawli is the best of brilliant minds he is got to get things done in the South? I dont think so. If this is not a political calculation, what is it then?


Thats where I disagree with the president. He knows exactly what he is doing, and he must be told that he is running out of time, to seize the moment and start afresh to be the President for all Sierra Leoneans and not only for a group, faction, tribe or a political party. This is cheap politics and the President is putting his own credibility on the line, if not already.


The Bucks Stops with the President


There is a pattern emerging within the APC, on their intent to grab on to power at all cost. The question I keep asking myself and many political minds are asking, why is the APC invoking the politics of fear, intimidation and violence into the political process again? This administration has three more years to get back to work and conduct the peoples business, and seek to win their trust. For come 2012, it will be the voters who will give then another mandate provided they have delivered on their promise and captured their imagination or not. This was how President Obama puts it when asked whether he will stand for re-election after his first term? President Obama was very forthright in his response, you will have to decide for your self if I have done a good job to warrant my re-election or not And he gave some specific indicators that he will want people to judge him by and make up their mind, if he delivered on the fulfillment of; turning the economy around, overhaul of the health care to benefit all, energy and make education accessible.

The Way Forward


The call for attitudinal change as sang by President Koroma should begin from himself. At this moment he is not setting the right tone, or holding himself accountable, and accepting ownership of mistakes done through his policies and actors implementing his programs. President Koroma has to accept the fact that the Bucks stops with him. He has to understand that some problems even not of his making have to be accepted, for us to move forward as a nation. 


President Obama in a town hall meeting in Costa Mesa, California held Wednesday March 18, 2009 said he will take responsibly, and that the bucks stops with him to fix the AIG mess. Sadly our President has never said he will take responsibility for the things happening under his watch. Rather, it has always been about the opposition been responsible for his administration weakness, lapses or non-performance.


President Koroma now has to take off his partisan hat and be serious not in rhetorics but in deeds to bring to justice these perpetrators and criminal elements within his own party. Real change will come when this President tones down on extreme partisanship, primitive loyalty to cronies, and surrogates, and must take the moral high ground in dealing with the issues in a fair and transparent manner.


The Presidents security detail Idrissa Kamara alias Leatherboot is and will continue to be an eye soar, a distraction to his leadership capability. And this is sending the wrong signal on his lack of commitment to preserve the fragile peace and security this nation has earned. Each passing day, the Resident Minister South spends sitting in his office translates to the Presidents insincerity to push for political tolerance, reconciliation and development for the people of Bo, Moyamba, Pujehun and Bonthe.


But like Pope Benedict XVI in his recent visit to Cameroon has urged Christians all over the world to no longer remain silent in the face of corruption and abuse of power wherever they exist, we would be forceful when it comes to these things by speaking out and being truthful in driving home the point.  


To re-echo the admonition from the US Embassy in Sierra Leone, "Mediation, rather than retaliation, is the hallmark of peaceful democracies."


Frankly, history will not be kind to the President, and he will be held accountable, if he allows his politics to stand in the way of peace and tear this nation apart again.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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