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Sierra Leoneans, let's tolerate each other in peace
By Awareness Times
Nov 23, 2005, 16:51
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The skirmish in Bo, which led to the arrest of Mr. Charles F. Margai, interim leader of the yet-to be registered Peoples Movement for Democratic Change over the weekend, was unfortunate.

There are conflicting reports emanating from the southern district headquarter town regarding the event. One version gives the semblance of disorderly conduct by some over- zealous supporters of the PMDC in which Vice President Solomon Berewas convoy was apparently held hostage for more than an hour.

The VP who was on his way to attend a prize giving ceremony at his alma mater, the Christ the King College, had to abandon the plan after an uncontrolled crowd lining the route reportedly shouted their support for Mr. Margai while at the same time hauling insults on the person of the Vice President. It was after this and a series of security threatening episodes, that Mr. Margai was invited to the Bo police station to make a statement.

But Mr. Margais version is different. Addressing the media on November 21 at his Hannah Benka Coker Street office he laid the blame for the incident and his subsequent arrest squarely at the feet of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, who he alleged was at the centre of the pre-planned action.

He said the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples party executive and some cabinet ministers held two meetings one was at the resident Ministers quarters in Bo and he claims to have been informed about what transpired at both meetings.

We have juxtaposed the two sides of the story and we acknowledge the fact that the duty of making conclusion on which of the story is true or false does not rest with us.

Our information adds that Mr. Margai had been charged and should appear in court in Bo. The judiciary has the legal competence to delve into the matter and ensure justice.

That notwithstanding however, a development such as this has the potential to raise eye brows among all peace loving Sierra Leoneans especially those who are keenly following the nations democratic process.

We believe it is widely understood that democracy is not an event, so even though it starts with free ad fair elections, it does not end there.

One of the basic tenets of that system of government, for which so many are willing to die the world over, is tolerance. Tolerance implies the ability to respect the views, opinions and aspirations of others even when they might be at variance with yours, and if that is the case, then the attitude of resorting to violence in politics should not exist.

Unfortunately, the primary factor for virtually all political and other human conflicts derives from intolerance, the assumption that those whose view points and positions differ from ours are our enemies. This is myopic. Our differences in opinion shall continue to be as diverse as our backgrounds, level of education and other inescapable factors.

Our hard-earned peace shall be truly sustainable only when we learn to peacefully co-exist with those who do not necessarily share our views.

The incident in Bo constitutes a distasteful message. It is a sign of things to come when campaigning for the 2007 general elections shall be officially declared open.

What is prevailing at the moment is the growing tolerance of the SLPP government in which opposition parties are allowed to hold rallies and even canvass to the masses. It is quite commendable for a budding democracy like ours. Every citizen should be allowed to freely express his or her right of political choice.

Caution needs to be taken however, in the exercise of such rights and duties, by commensurating it with its like responsibilities so that the prevailing peace we have collectively attained may remain undisturbed.

Charles Margai simply exercised his democratic right when he broke away from the SLPP and founded the PMDC. Those who support him are exercising their right to associate with any legal organization, association or political party, as long as it is within the ambits of the constitution. But that does not imply behaving insolently and with blatant disregard for authorities like the Vice President of the country.

We are not specifically concerned because it was Mr. Solomon Berewa whose convoy was attacked. We are drawing attention to the office of the number two man in the land.

Respect for authority is preached in the Holy books as well as in all good homes.

We all know what the negative impacts of thuggery and disorderly behaviour can lead to. That is what we want to admonish all and sundry to be conscious about.

So those days should be gone for good and Mr. Margai and all those aspiring for the leadership of this country should be able to educate and discipline their followers sufficiently on this, because 2007 is just around the corner. As far as we are concerned, 2007 is a litmus test to determine whether our peace has indeed hold firmly on the ground.

Moreover, the act of casting unfounded allegations on others for the simple reason of dislodging an opponent can as well be counter productive and detrimental to our peace. If Mr. Margais claim that the incident in question had the blessings of President Kabbah, then the president would be undermining the peace he spent sleepless nights securing for this nation.

Because whether he accepts this or not, Mr. Margai as all other prominent politicians, has sympathizers and well wishers who will not have him unduly harassed or molested.

Charles Margai on the other hand should ensure that he does not blow things out of proportion for political expediency. The majority of this country consists of gullible people-those quick and willing to believe virtually anything when situations become fragile. It is not patriotic to disseminate misleading information. We are therefore warning strongly against this.

Our submission therefore is that all politicians and political parties should endeavour to exercise maximum tolerance in the conduct of their political activities in the interest of national peace and cohesion. Even as they jostle for political power, the interest of the nation and indeed the people they are aspiring to govern must be paramount on their individual agenda.

We only hope that the Bo incident happens to be the last of such unwarranted actions associated with our local politics. We are reminding everyone that come 2007, UNAMSIL would have long gone and our destiny will be left in our own hands. It will be left with us to determine how we handle it. We only hope that we so do judiciously.

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

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