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COMMENTS & OPINIONS  

President Koroma Calls for Divine Intervention as he runs out of Ideas and Initiatives
By Abdul Rashid Thomas, Leeds, UK
Apr 24, 2009, 17:18
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In the face of the alarming rise in youth unemployment, poverty and economic decline, it is now clear that the government is running out of practical policy initiatives as to how best to bring prosperity to Sierra Leone. The Government is now calling on Divine Intervention!

 

At the APC convention 18 April 2009, the President attempted to exorcise the spirits of their fallen comrades (Siaka Stevens; Joseph Momoh; S. I. Koroma, et al) during his rallying of the troops. And now, he makes a prophetic speech, calling upon the Divine Spirit to lead the people out of poverty. People do not have a problem with praying and fasting in support of their own personal journeys through life; but that surely, is not a part of the social contract the President made with the people when he took the oath of Office.

 

Has the President lost all sense of personal responsibility for the lives and destiny of the people of Sierra Leone? Are we now being informed by the APC government that the people of Sierra Leone are poor because of their sins?

 

For those wanting to excuse the Presidents motive in calling for a period of nationwide fasting, I ask; what happened to the maxim, that God helps those who help themselves? When the business community along with the unemployed youth, called for strong leadership with a clear vision, surely, they did not ask the elected government for Divine Leadership.

 

The people of Sierra Leone receive Divine Leadership every Friday or Sunday at their local Mosque or Church. Why does the President want to disturb that rare and precious balance of secularism that Sierra Leoneans have always enjoyed? And why should State House start quoting texts from the Holy Bible when Sierra Leone is a secular State of co-existing Muslims and Christians?

 

If the President has run out of practical policy ideas as to how best to tackle the economic and social predicaments of the country, then he should simply say so. But to blame the sins and attitudes of the people for the impoverished conditions that have been created by government is unacceptable.

 

When a Leader reneges on his manifesto pledge to alleviate the suffering of the people by blaming their sinfulness for being poor, and asking them to repent, you know the country is in deep trouble.  It should not be surprising therefore if people in Sierra Leone are now beginning to question whether President Tejan Kabbah was that bad after all.

 

Most Sierra Leoneans do not believe in this Attitudinal and Behavioural Change mumbo jumbo. We must all debunk the belief that there is something uniquely and innately wrong about the attitude of Sierra Leoneans. The people of Sierra Leone have survived the onslaught of 48 years of bad leadership, poor governance and corruption, waged against them by successive governments, by hard work and sheer determination. But now they are being told by the very government they elected that their attitude stinks, and that they also need to repent for their sins, in order to receive redemption from poverty.  

 

I am yet to come across any Report on Sierra Leone by an independent international agency that blames the attitude and bad behaviour of Sierra Leoneans for their impoverished condition. But I can make reference to countless reports that cite poor leadership and corruption as the main cause of poverty in Sierra Leone. So, let us stop pulling the people of Sierra Leone down with this Attitudinal and Behavioural Change mambo jumbo.  Dont get me wrong, yes we do have some unruly rascals in Sierra Leone, but which country in the world today hasnt? This is why it is so important for politicians not to recruit and use those rascals to achieve their own political objectives.

 

The Chatham House Report, the International Crisis Group Report, the Africa Confidential Report, and successive IMF Reports, all pointing their fingers at poor leadership and corruption as the root cause of poverty in Sierra Leone. The only report that stains and maligns the character of Sierra Leoneans is the Conservative Neo-liberal APC government Report.

 

There are Sierra Leoneans who walk all the way from Wellington to Murray Town each day of their precious lives, to get to their menial jobs, starting at 4.00 am, and make the same return journey by foot, arriving home at 9.00 pm. This is typical of the attitude of all Sierra Leoneans, if given the opportunity to work.  A market woman spends most hours of the night to prepare her wares and leaves home at the crack of dawn to take her usual spot at the market place. This is also typical of the attitude of all Sierra Leoneans, if given the opportunity to start their own business. I propose therefore, that every one in Sierra Leone be awarded a medal of commendation for their survival skills and tenacity. Very few people in the world can survive the conditions our people are living in.

 

So once again, we call on President Koroma for the sake of God to debunk his attitudinal and behavioural change dogma and focus instead on taking responsibility full on, in tackling the real issues facing the people.

 

Eighteen months since taking up office, that APC cry of catharsis in 2007, which was accepted by over 40 % of the electorate in Sierra Leone, as the gospel truth,   is now being questioned. Charges and claims of corruption and ineptitude are fastly becoming the hallmark of the Koroma led APC government. That self-belief in their own propaganda is beginning to wane, as we witness APC government ministers issuing conflicting press briefings on the state of the nation; the economy, Bumbuna, unemployment, infrastructural development, etc.  

 

President Koromas mantra; I will run Sierra Leone like a business is also now   fading not only from the memory of the electorate, but more poignantly, from the lips of President Koroma himself and his disciples.  What has really gone wrong? Is the business going bankrupt or has the President finally realised that Sierra Leone is not a business, but a community of hard working people of rich and diverse backgrounds, with one common agenda economic prosperity and social advancement for all?

 

This therefore brings me on to the SLPP opposition. Should they start to feel less confident and find it rather difficult to chart their own journey across the countrys political landscape, then the party should remind itself as to how and why they lost the 2007 elections, rather than the manner in which the APC party won it. So how prepared are the SLPP for 2012? As the APC government continues to fumble and stumble in achieving its own manifesto pledge, so would the question as to SLPPs readiness for governance becomes louder.

 

The SLPP convention is now in our distant memory, and very soon the APC spiritual revival convention will also become history. That sad episode of violence against the supporters of the SLPP continues to dominate the national political agenda, amidst the EBK and JOB rapprochement - as they hug and make up. This is all very good, as long as we can keep it all in perspective and proportion. 

 

The anticipated draft manifesto from the SLPP will surely go a long way to make a clear break from the past, and present a programme of policies and strategies that are different from those of the APC government. This will help also to avoid any talk of the electorate being caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, as 2012 approaches. The unpreparedness for Governance by the APC is what has led to their blind obsession with the Attitudinal and Behavioural Change mumbo jumbo.

 

I call it mumbo jumbo because it is now evident, that the ideological framework driving President Koromas government policies is based on his much professed Attitudinal and Behavioural Change dogma a Far Right Neo-liberal Republican ideology - imported from the USA in 2007 by the APC intelligentsia; lock, stock, and barrel. 

 

On Monday, 20 April 2009, President Koroma declared Sunday 19th April through to Independence Day on 27th April as national Pride Week. He called upon the people of Sierra Leone to demonstrate their sense of patriotism and nationalism, and to hoist the national flag at every public building. (Cocorioko, 21 April 2009). This, we are told is part of the Presidents attitudinal change campaign. 

 

Although this call may be reminiscent of old APC, Chinas Cultural Revolution and life in the former Soviet Communist Block, make no mistake that the concept of Attitudinal Change is central to the Conservative Neo-liberal ideology, which shifts ownership and responsibility for solving the countrys problems from government to the individual. But how much do we understand of the driving force behind this attitudinal and behavioural change mantra?


The central ideological principle driving this attitudinal and behavioural change concept rests on the belief that citizens are individually and solely responsible for their own choices and consequences. It is also a shared belief amongst the APC intelligentsia and government Ministers, that, it is the behaviour and attitudes of the governed, which determines progress or failure in our society, and not the acts and omissions of the state and its leader.

 

Thus, the role of the APC government in tackling rising unemployment and poverty is therefore becoming insignificant. Responsibility for addressing the social and economic challenges confronting the country, is being systematically and insidiously sub-contracted to the very citizens who themselves are the victims of the failings of successive governments. In plain and simple English, it is called passing the buck.

 

The government now sees its role as that of building a strong state security infra-structure and apparatus, for enforcing law and order, and if necessary, at the expense of civil liberty. The centralization of power in the hands of a few individuals to maintain tight political control is also evident. Political leadership is based on personality and charisma, rather than the ability to strategically manage people and resources, as custodians of the nations wealth and interests. Hence, we see very little accountability, openness, and good governance.

 

This ideological approach is also driving what I have described in previous articles as the unbridled peddling of the free-market principles which enriches the few and not the many. It is also believed that the market is best able to provide for the needs of society without state intervention. Ironically, both Britain and the USA are now recanting from this ideology.

 

The policy of sub-contracting responsibility for uplifting the country from poverty, to the citizens, has given the APC government a rather perverse justification for non-intervention in addressing market failures that are seriously hurting the economy and the weak. Their strange interpretation of Conservative, Neo-liberal thinking is now driving their blind obsession with the concept of individualism and attitudinal / behavioural change. 

 

Even the former British Prime Minister,  Margaret Thatchers interpretation of individualism which brought massive unemployment, social and civil unrest and industrial strikes to Britain in the 1980s, can be said to have some semblance of compassion, compared to what we see in Sierra Leone.

 

I am also certain that Professor Milton Friedman, the laissez-faire economist who wrote Free to Choose and was one of the founding fathers of Thatcherism that championed the moral virtues of the free market, in opposition to all forms of state intervention, would turn in his grave to see his economic theory being interpreted in this manner by the APC government.

 

By blaming the citizens for their own impoverished circumstances, this attitudinal and behavioural change dogma, gives the APC government an excuse for not committing financial resources to address issues such as youth unemployment, labour market skills development, and investments in developing an indigenous private business sector. Incidentally, is that Le 200 Billion borrowed recently going to be spent on tackling any of these problems?

 

Should not the ideology of attitudinal and behavioural change be directed solely at the government itself, rather than the poor citizens of Sierra Leone, whose only crime is to exercise their franchise of choosing those they want to rule over them?

 

Finally, I would like to recall JOBs prophetic advice to EBK, to take lessons from the SLPPs convention. This was indeed admirable. But did I hear EBK advising JOB not to repeat the mistakes of the APC whilst in opposition, especially not being prepared for governance! Many a wise words are said in a jest. The Biblical JOB said; Teach me and I will hold my tongue; and cause me to understand wherein I have erred. (Job Chapter 6, Verse 24).  TAKE NOTE JOB!!


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