As we celebrate yet another independence anniversary in Sierra Leone – April 27th 2017, it brings to mind, the July 12th Ghana - Accra visit by former U.S. President Barack Obama. Talking to a mammoth crowd of Ghanaians in Accra, he condemned African leaders who enrich themselves on the ticket of dictatorship, and urged Africans to demand better governments with stronger institutions. He said: “Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions”.
However, as we celebrate our 56 independence anniversary, we have over the years pampered individual politicians, decorating them with praises, to the point that they have become more powerful than our state institutions. In Sierra Leone today, the role of state institutions has been mortgaged to a single politician, whom praise-singers and vuvuzelas consider the “strong man” of Sierra Leone. This strong man has created his own institution known as the “powers from above”, the only functional institution we have in this country at the moment. And in a democratic dispensation like ours, the running of a state is predicated on functional institutions to enhance Good-governance, and not on “powers from above”, propelled by a single certain individual.
Today, as we celebrate our 56 independence anniversary, it is questionable how our President has been celebrated over the years, and especially by his own political party cronies. In certain quarters, he has been epitomized as the most powerful man with a Demi-god status. Some of his admirers hold the view that he is the only man out of seven million-plus Sierra Leoneans, with the right frame of mind and policies to rule Sierra Leone, and even for life - disregarding democratic principles. The recent declaration made by the APC Youth League in Portloko, endorsing him as their party chairman for life, underscores this point. As we celebrate our 56 independence anniversary, our President, the “strong man”, is in the center of every decision to be made in our country, ranging from fixing up our Ebola-battered economy, to signing a document for an overseas medical trip.
Against this backdrop, most Sierra Leoneans hold the view that such an overloaded gesture granted to our President, provokes two things around the presidency: 1). dictatorship, 2). undermining effective operation of our state institutions. So the question that should take center stage of our independence celebration this year, is: Does Sierra Leone need strong men or strong institutions? – Food for thought!
Again as we celebrate our 56 independence anniversary, our 1991 CONSTITUTION, the legal instrument that puts our country in the bracket of Rule of Law, has been rendered weak, juxtaposed with our political party bye laws/constitution. It is no secret that after the sacking of former vice president – Alhaji Sam Sumana, Sierra Leoneans are still in a confused state of mind, groping in the dark as to whether our 1991 constitution, which confirms a five year legally elected mandate to a seating vice president, could be eroded with the ordinary powers of a political party bye laws/constitution, leading to the eventual sacking of a vice president, popularly elected with the mandate of the people on the legal framework of our constitution. So as we celebrate yet another independence anniversary, the question that lingers on the minds of the people is: Does political party constitution, supersedes our national constitution? – Food for thought!
Last but not the least, as we celebrate yet another independence anniversary, majority of Sierra Leoneans are with the strong view that our HOUSE of PARLIAMENT has moved away from its traditional role of representation, and metamorphosed into a “kangaroo” court. Many Sierra Leoneans frown at our parliamentary tactics of detaining citizens who raise pertinent questions regarding their activities, and summoning them to parliament for questioning. According to them, our parliament is now a weapon in the hands of parliamentarians, ready to lash at their critics.
Therefore, as we celebrate on top of these challenges, what are we celebrating? What can we fix as MamaSalone continues to grow in age? – Food for thought! With
Happy! Happy! 56 Independence Anniversary Celebration!
The author Teddy Foday-Musa, is a Political Commentator and Lecturer Department of Peace and Conflict Studies Fourah Bay College (FBC). He is also a Staff PhD Candidate in the school of Post Graduate Studies – University of Sierra Leone. He can be contacted on: 076-670459