|AN OPEN LETTER TO THE SIERRA LEONE PEOPLES’ PARTY (SLPP)
PHILADELPHIA – PENNSYLVANIA – U S A
Michael Fayia Kallon
Email – Kallonb@aol.com
March 10, 2015
My Fellow Sierra Leoneans:
The name Sierra Leone People’s Party (SPPP) means a lot to the democratization of a war-torn country like Sierra Leone. In the past, and currently, the SLPP has demonstrated exquisite norms for a democratic party and has sought imaginative ideas to spread peace, love, compassion, and the evolution of the perspectives of a viable democratic society. This process included a plethora of examples of human freedom, enjoyed by all tribes for the first time in Sierra Leone - after a long history of abuse of human rights, abuse of the democratic process, and poor governance by past governments in the country. An archaic and abusive atmosphere led to fragmented ethnic discord, a decadent society, and the bloodiest carnage the world has ever seen in Sierra Leone.
Any democratic process, especially in such a tense and austere atmosphere like in Sierra Leone, where political camps are housed in the minds of ethnic rivalries, disunity, and tribal affiliation - as politicians, have easily carved a society that smells of deceit, nepotism, tribalism, and a nebulous political society, would always hunt a peaceful democratic process.
The SLPP followed an archaic political process in selecting presidential candidates at national conventions, and this method caused the party to lose in presidential and general elections in the country. Why would a historic and renowned party like the SLPP wait until a few months before an election to select the party’s flagbearer?
It is this delay in the campaign process that crowded presidential aspirants, who have expended much effort organizing town hall meetings, and are denied the opportunity to lead any elections in the future, become so angry. This leads to long and arduous court proceedings with opposing political parties gaining lots of ground in the campaign process, and in carving huge profits even in areas considered SLPP strongholds. Such court proceedings launched by disgruntled politicians against the SLPP’ are secretly funded to create disorganization within the SLPP and the perception of incompetence in the eyes of the electorate in the country. This has caused the SLPP to loose elections in the past, because the time to successfully run campaigns is often consumed by preposterous court proceedings.
Furthermore, the presidential aspirants who loose in such selections at national conventions become enemies of the SLPP who consider such a democratic selection process flawed, nepotistic, tribalistic, and undemocratic. Therefore, since they have been political spies, the presidential aspirants would then rejoin other opposition political parties where they become ministers or are appointed to other political positions as payment for denigrating the SLPP – the party they once swore allegiance to.
In the great United States of America for instance, and although a crowded political process may resume for a flagbearer, the Democratic Party has already agreed for Hillary Clinton to lead them in the 2017 presidential and general elections. She is not yet considered the most qualified, or the most likeable, but after a long and arduous political campaign, the Democratic Party will unite behind her or whoever that may be elected to lead them. This would then unite the entire party to stand with the winner. Yet, the democratic process to elect the next President of the United States has begun; meanwhile the SLPP remains asleep.
To make her presence known and to start a unique democratic process, Mrs. Clinton like the late Sir Milton Margai, has already started campaigning all over the country on TV shows and by visiting tribal and ethnic heads, the general electorate, constituencies, academic institutions, and more to inform them that the Democratic Party is ready to win the next elections in the country. The Democratic Party in the United States, unlike the SLPP in Sierra Leone, is not going to wait until a few months before presidential and general elections to start a tedious nomination process for a presidential flagbearer through a national convention.
By now, the SLPP’s hierarchy should have called all presidential aspirants before any national convention and consulted with them about the strengths and weaknesses that would lead to their disqualification or qualification The SLPP should have already selected someone who is admirable, likeable, capable, and a staunch supporter of the SLPP. This person could be going all around the country to boldly preach the usefulness of the party and to preponderate its viable intentions for the country, if they should win the next elections. Waiting until the last minute to start any democratic process would only make the SLPP a weak and ambivalent political organization making empty promises and noises. Such a party has no good intention to rule Sierra Leone.
There should have already been someone going all around the country trying to placate and recruit the electorate that has absconded from the SLPP over the years, but instead, we are seeing an ostentatious display of unending speeches, food, and liquor in air-conditioned rooms in town hall meetings overseas, as if there are more electorates overseas than in Sierra Leone. This has nothing to do with the rest of voting population in the country. Most Sierra Leoneans don’t even know the names of SLPP’s presidential candidates.
Political demographics revealed that the SLPP did not do well in the 2012 presidential and general elections in districts like Kono, and in a large areas of the northern and southern provinces. Even Bo, Kenema, and Kailahun, which were considered SLPP strongholds in the past, did not easily fall with its political grip. The idea that the SLPP is a Mende political entity that is fallacious and undemocratic polarized the SLPP among ethnic lines. As such, the party needs to identify a candidate who could appeal to all tribes all over the country to win any elections in the country. You can’t just sit down, fold your hands, look up in the sky, and pray that the party will win elections if proper arrangements are not made from the start.
The SLPP shouldn’t be considered the personal property of a particular tribe; the party should study past election results to see where the party usurped a powerful voting percentage and where it struggled to stand on its legs. Leaving any demographics in terms of census and constitutional review in the hands of a sitting president and his political camp, would disrespect and undermine constitutional norms and thus obfuscate a genuine electoral process in the country.
As someone whose forefathers, like the late Hon. Migore C. Kallon, fought to lay the foundation of the SLPP, I sometimes wonder what caused the political decline of a once unique, vibrant, and impeccable political party like the SLPP. Opposing political parties made inroads in places like Kissi Bendu, because the Kissi, like many tribes in most political arenas in Sierra Leone, is scarce or nonexistent.
Today, there is growing economic indiscipline, political intolerance, and undemocratic principles. The cacophony has become a voracious human tendency that has usurped every iota of the political human conscience in all political camps and in constituencies in Sierra Leone. This same path led to the bloodiest carnage seen by mankind, all due to political greed spectated by all Sierra Leoneans.
As a son of Kissi Bendu, the Kissi in this case have voted for all political parties and only regard any political camp that could help develop their area, which has been underdeveloped since independence with all their allegiance to any political group in the country. What ideas could the SLPP embrace to make the party a blossoming organization? It is not by a flamboyant display of liquor and food in town halls oversea, but by visiting those very impoverished areas and chiefdoms in the country, undertaking projects and once again placating their love for the party, instead of engaging demagoguery just to win elections, and forget about the constituencies and chiefdoms that voted for them.
As an indicator of a new political beginning in Sierra Leone, the SLPP should first of visit all the areas visited by the late Sir Milton Margai in his short khaki pants in the 1960s, to show the electorate that he was just like them and that he was ready to improve their lives, gain independence, and make the country viable for human development, peace and unity. Indeed, that was the case in his day; and that was the spirit exhibited by the SLPP in his day. Sir Milton Margai was perspicacious, valorous, and audacious in his travels. He visited all chiefdoms in the twelve districts in Sierra Leone to bring peace and human development. Is this what the SLPP is doing today? In his absence, Sierra Leoneans saw a despicable, ruthless, egomaniacal, and undemocratic process that invited the bloodiest carnage in Sierra Leone. Every tribe was witness to it and every tribe engaged in the butchering of their own poor and hapless citizens. Many victims had nothing to do with the wolfish greed that usurped every ounce of power in the country.
As things stand today in Sierra Leone, poverty is visible in the eyes of our people in chiefdoms and districts that have been marginalized. The country’s wealth is enjoyed by a few sectors and individuals, large areas lie in abject poverty because of corruption, tribalism, sectionalism, misguided political leadership, and defective economic systems that may again lead to civil wars and military vandalism – all eulogizing ethnic cronyism even in the eyes of western nations. It has been alleged that regimes have engaged in the politicization of government ministries, the police, the army, and more.
In Sierra Leone, governmental functions should be the sole responsibility of members of all tribes, chiefdoms, and districts. Heads of Government ministries, ambassadorial positions, nurses, doctors, road transport heads, and other workers should come from all tribes in the country. Political affiliation doesn’t mean selecting a selfish few from a specific sector of a country and sharing the country’s abundant wealth with them, while large sectors live in squalor and abject poverty.
The past civil war that led to the bloodiest carnage corrected such injustice in the country- yet, we are in a similar situation again. A political party is not a club for a few members from a specific sector where a few political elite accumulate wealth. This wealth is accumulated in the face of hunger, diseases, and human tragedy caused by the constant quarantine of the helpless and crowded population, especially in Freetown, who rush outdoors every day to beg for basic necessities and food.
How long should we watch while tons of our precious mineral resources are loaded on ships and transported overseas? What benefit should any average Sierra Leonean gain from such massive exportation of our rich, mineral resources – while marginalized areas in the country house our school-going sons and daughters in huts festooned by palm branches they call schools?
Our clinics are so deplorable that one hardly sees medications; if medications exist, they are sold on the black market. Why can’t politicians from all political parties sit at the table of brotherhood to correct the mistakes of the past, and to structure viable societal norms that could push development in the country; where everyone is treated equal, and everyone enjoys the resources the country has to offer.
In Connaught Hospital in the capital city of Freetown, mosquitoes and the fattest rats that mankind has ever seen fight for space with patients. It seems that our leaders have ignored the plight of our sick people, but that have nursed personal aggrandizement with pot-bellies to structure the core foundation of our country; this is very wrong.
It will not be long before elections in Sierra Leone are marred by violence, intimidation, anarchy, and vote rigging. With all our gold, timber, iron ore, diamonds, and lots of other natural resources, politicians plundered our riches and pillaged the countryside, only to leave our people raped, maimed, and murdered. Even with the onset of our democratic process, our people still live at the life’s edge. The average Sierra Leonean continues to experience the unrelenting economic and political mayhem unleashed on them by our politicians.
Today, our country is faced with the deadliest epistemological disaster – the Ebola pandemic. It has taken uncountable lives, including immediate loved ones, citizens and our hardworking, audacious doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers in Sierra Leone. We all know that treatment and prophylaxis were nonexistent before the deadly virus emerged in the marginalized, northeastern sector of the country that has porous borders with Guinea and Liberia. It happened that the Kissi Bendu area, the most impoverished part of the country, was not only ravaged by civil war, but that the Ebola epidemic hit the area so hard that many of our relatives and friends were victims of a terrible and painful demise.
The country was unprepared for such an epidemic disaster and the healthcare workers who the government took to head the Health Ministry were unqualified or misinformed about how to handle the emergency medical services, hazardous materials containment, and emergency management. Africa has the highest percentage of useless and incompetent ministries; and the idea of emergency management which includes organized analysis, planning, decision making, and assignment of available resources to mitigate the Ebola Virus was nonexistent. Any formidable governmental entity headed by sober-minded people should know that emergency management, which include saving lives, preventing injuries, and protecting property and the environment when emergencies occur - was nonexistent in Sierra Leone.
Political parties that win elections in our country should go beyond their imaginary lines to put qualified men and women from all tribes, from all political parties, and from all sectors of the country – in government ministries so that they could further the human and economic development of the country, instead of embracing cronyism that has not push any development, or, helped anyone in Sierra Leone since independence. The idea that “where a cow is tied, it is there it should eat,” should be a proverb of the past.
The inability to respond properly to the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone was due to jurisdictions not having a plan, trained personnel, and the necessary resources even though the country has vast natural resources. The SLPP should develop a plan, trained personnel, and the necessary resources to combat the deadly Ebola virus. You cannot do this in uncountable town hall meetings overseas. You must be on the ground and provide opportunity to mitigate future disasters in Sierra Leone. With its porous borders, the country is not protected against modern terrorism and future pandemics that may make inroads in poor and marginalized sectors of the country. For any nation that is incapable of feeding and improving the lives of her citizens shouldn’t be considered a nation, and the UN should question any financial assistance given to such a nation.
To conclude, the SLPP should return to her traditional core values where the people of Sierra Leone should come first before any tribalism, personal aggrandizement, and the prolonged war to select a presidential flagbearer. Political vendettas that prevented the party from recovering from its wounds, and launching an effective and imaginative electoral process to win any elections. The party should insist that all political aspirants meet with the party hierarchy and investigate their backgrounds using stealth to expose any skeletons in their closets’. I can assure you that many among the SLPP’s crowded political aspirants campaign for the post of a flagbearer have dozens of skeletons in their closets. The party should make sure that a political aspirant has a solid constituency that is ready to support their bid to win in the area before starting any campaigns in the country. A presidential aspirant should be selected many months before the actual campaign begins. If not yet elected as a presidential flagbearer, no one should be allowed to make libelous and highly charged personal invectives against any individual or political party. This could create a tense political atmosphere when actual campaigns begin in the country.
Democracy in Sierra Leone is a long and arduous rods, crooked with contours of honesty, and the abuse of the basic rights of ordinary citizens.
Long live the SLPP, long live our unity in Sierra Leone…