From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Local News
We want Economic Freedom
Nov 9, 2010, 17:02

Since 1961 when we were granted independence, we are yet to attain the heights of the Asian Tigers and the South American bloc, because we got political independence while they got political and economic independence. Up till now Sierra Leone has to be moving up and down the globe running after the imperialists with cap in hand and tails between their legs begging for crumbs that fell from there table. What a shame!

Political independence without economic independence is meaningless. Democracy, Freedom of speech in my view, is not complete, when the mass of the people live in abject poverty, and elected leaders live and enjoy underserved affluence.

It is true that since winning political independence many African countries have made great efforts to develop their national economies and scored many successes in this respect. However, our own economic lifeline and economic sovereignty is still in the hands of foreign monopoly capital, when DfID says GST should be 15% we accept, no more subsidies on fuel we swallow hook, line and sinker asking no question, no consultations with the people, that¡¯s why they like Ernest Bai Koroma so much. Our situation can aptly be described by the saying: ¡°While the wolf has been driven out through the front door, the tiger has sneaked in at the back.¡±

The imperialists, colonialists and neo-colonialists still retain, in varying forms and to varying extent, various economic privileges, e.g., the right to lease land, guarantees for the security of their investments and tax reduction or exemption for their enterprises (London Mining an example), and the right to survey and extract mineral resources, and, by means of ¡°aid,¡± impose on us many unequal treaties which directly encroach upon our sovereign rights.

Let¡¯s look around the country and see who controls our mining, the monopoly capitalists of the imperialists, are in control, as well as the up and coming agricultural produce for bio fuels. Only African Minerals we can authoritatively say has Sierra Leone favor. Using their monopolistic positions in these fields, the imperialists have not hesitated to apply overt and covert pressure to force us to comply with their will. This includes intervention, control and subversion to achieve their political ends. In these circumstances, how can we keep intact and consolidate our political independence? Who is going to finance the 2012 elections; the imperialists, so do we have a say if they plan another regime change?

China succeeded because they never allowed the imperialists to colonize them or dictate the way they should live their lives. They stood firm, fought imperialism and took advantage of their population to ring the changes. ¡°No country without Democracy will succeed¡± so the imperialists said, but today China proved that theory wrong. All we need is a leadership with vision, innovation, and love for country and not region or tribe, then we can overturn the bad luck and curse placed upon us since independence.

My own meaning of democracy is not elections every five years, but for us to have right to shelter, right to good food and clothing (not cookery and junks), right to free expression and association and right to education. These are what I believe can make a state democratic. The father of democracy (USA) made sure these rights are always fulfilled in its land, but for us we think election is democracy.

Sierra Leone is a very small Country with a reasonable population, blessed with natural resources and arable lands. Despite all that, most of her people live under $1 a day and abject poverty. Sierra Leone has again found iron ore in large quantities. However, with the extent of selfishness and greed amongst our leaders and high level officials, it is still doubtful if the ore wealth can be applied to benefit the mass of the people.

This year, President Koroma granted every Member of Parliament Le43.2 million for constituency facilitation, an increased salary of Le5.4 million monthly. Besides all these, they enjoy everything free under salary and privileges as spelt out by an obnoxious report that was done recently.

Every Sierra Leonean knows the conditions in our major hospitals, schools and universities. These facilities in the country that cater for health and education needs of the people lack modern diagnostic and educational equipments but our leaders do not care. They can afford to fly out to Europe, America, or United Kingdom for medical treatment and also send their children in this country for their education. So why do they have to think about Connaught or FBC ? It is hard to understand how the mind of our leaders functions.

I was reading a piece on line recently but forgot to save the writers name who said and I quote ¡°Sierra Leone is blessed; it has some valuable raw material. It has enterprising and well educated people. It even has reasonable assess to finance from taxation, from donors, from outside investors, from remittances, so in principle, there is nothing to stop us from growing economically¡±. He warned against bad policy decisions, saying, policy decisions are crucial to the country¡¯s long term future.

The writer knows our problems, but cannot say it too loud. He has genuine concerns just as I do, and if our leaders will listen to these concerns and make policy decisions in the interest of the Country and people, we shall be getting close to solving our ailing economic problems.

I have my doubts if the iron ore revenue will make any difference in the lives of our people. If anybody thinks I am joking, let him look at our diamond and gold communities, and tell me if they are any better than any other towns in Sierra Leone without any such precious minerals.

Our economic problems are the direct result of willful misappropriations of funds by political leaders and the result of bad policy decisions. Unfortunately, it appears the two major political parties that have dominated the dysfunctional system over decades have established a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that shall never punish saboteurs. They do whatever they like and get away with everything because they consider themselves superior to the rest of the people in the country.

Between 1996 and 2007, political officials were sentenced by a competent court, imprisoned, but only to be later pardoned by Tejan Kabbah. The SLPP administration could not have the needed political courage to prosecute the misdeeds of the folks of the previous government of the APC and NPRC; because they were themselves seriously pursuing worse things and feared revenge in case power changed hands.

Power really did change hands in 2007, and after three years, we see few political heavy weights being tried and those that have consumed the highest are still out their enjoying life. Who gave Harmony Trading $1 million duty free, why was such huge waiver given, who owns the company? Who authorized the release of Le150 million from the Fisheries account for party convention, why no word from the Indian rice saga? Where is the report or findings from the enquiry of former SLPP ministers? These are questions that are yet to be answered by ACC or the government. We are yet to see, as the clock keeps ticking.

What have we done as a nation since 1961, with all the wealth, besides loans and aid that deserves mention? Politicians can only talk about road construction as if Sierra Leone has everything but roads. Even the constructions of the roads are built so poorly they hardly last a year before developing potholes.

One can say that the political system of Sierra Leone has become dysfunctional and exploitative. Until we as a people make the right selection of leaders who will have the moral and ethical fiber to implement policies, account for common funds, and able to institute the criminal laws and punish economic saboteurs as a deterrent, any hopes for Sierra Leoneans to taste economic freedom may be a wishful thinking.

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.