When two elephants fight, the grass suffers. But, what happens when both elephants are quiet? The grass must speak out.
Therefore, it is with great disappointment and sadness that the demise of the New Direction government would come from within its ranks. This legacy of a house divided forms the impetus or is the engine for the party’s much lasting legacy of corruption, oppression and violence.
In the analysis of the effectiveness of a government’s programmes, a segment of analysts would prefer you do so in a forward going backward manner as the effectiveness would also consider post-incumbency gains attributed to such programmes.
Unfortunately a forward-backward analysis tells you about the author often told in praise-singing, while present day analysis would tell you about the immediate effects on the end-user, projected to be in their best interest. So as PAOPA continues to undo itself, it is showing once again to the people that it is only concerned with party instead of national politics.
Every president has dreams of leaving a legacy. Names like Nelson Mandela (RSA), Barack Obama (USA), Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Liberia), and John Magufuli (Tanzania) would pop up. Our very own president said at the First Extraordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Freetown that, “My tenure will undoubtedly leave a formidable legacy.” So far, after three years of PAOPA rule, the only thing formidable is what the people have to endure on a daily basis to earn a living or provide for the day.
For its first two political strategies upon taking state power, PAOPA went after its perennial arch-nemesis, the APC, and the very people it swore to serve. The SLPP government compiled a transition report stewarded by no less than Chief Minister, Professor David Francis and the congress of SLPP intellectuals that tagged the former government as an organised criminal enterprise assembled to defraud the people. Next, it silenced the voice of the people by an out-manoeuvring of the opposition that resulted to 10 duly elected Members of Parliament. They were disgracefully kicked out of the Well of Parliament, roughshod, by a bunch of law enforcement officers. These actions set the stage for what is now happening.
After pointing the finger at the past government as corrupt, this government approved the setting up of Commissions of Inquiry that delivered a White Paper that recommended sweeping actions against those found wanting. A politically tense situation with the potential threat of civil unrest unfolded when former President Ernest Bai Koroma was invited by the ACC for questioning.
With the public blindsided by this farce of justice, key members of the PAOPA Government were secretly involved in activities that would make pale in comparison all the actions of the previous government. First the people were asked several questions leading to their perception of how corrupt certain branches and agencies of government are, resulting to the people painting the Sierra Leone Police, the House of Parliament and the Office of the President as the most, second and third most corrupt institutions in the country.
Little did the trusting public know that that damning survey would be the tip of the iceberg of what was already unfolding in governance, as in very quick successions, PAOPA started showing how corrupt it is when the Chief Minister was accused of being bribed $1.5 million by SL Mining he allegedly withdrew from Eco Bank. The pause to that revelation came with allegations that the Chief Minister ordered the arrest of Journalist Jalloh, and the expected but alleged connivance from the bank that, said transaction never happened.
Then there was the unnecessary deaths and destruction that happened in the Makeni, Tombo and Lunsar riots for which people are still in pre-trial detention. Then came the Auditor General’s 2019 Report; the Africanist Press investigations and disclosure; MP Tawa Conteh’s allegations against Parliament; the NaCOVERC laptops and power plant; the MBSSE Minister; the Office of the First Lady and the unaccounted millions of dollars donated to the Hands Off Our Girls campaign; the current NSA/MOS, SLFA and MOF debacle over the Sierra Leone v Lesotho match; ACC’s press release on spending in Parliament that in effect vindicated Tawa; the outcry by segments of PAOPA calling for the Auditor General to step down for exposing corruption by this government; the State of Emergency without regulations that saw Paolo, Sylvia and others embarrassed but not silenced; the violent intraparty SLPP fights that resulted to death and destruction of properties and businesses; the proposed Cybercrime Bill that is worse than the repealed Part-Five of the Public Order Act (POA), to name but a few.
To make matters worse, the one thing that was going well for this government that not only raised the hopes of the people – the repeal of the notorious and draconian POA lobbied against for over 50 years by journalists – is now being threatened with the coming of the Cybercrime Bill that portends stifling free speech, free association, and free assembly. This very oppressive law is meant to so muzzle citizens that it would prevent them from exercising said constitutionally guaranteed rights, especially online, while giving sweeping powers to the police.
In the brief but tense political history of Sierra Leone, people have always felt stifled under the SLPP, but much freer under the APC. Going back, it was the SLPP that enacted the POA, and is now threatening us with the Cybercrime Bill, when all we need is effective data protection. The uncertain terms such as “grossly offensive”, “indecent”, and “false” as contained in the offensive and repressive proposed Cybercrime Bill, say the people, all describe this government. By doing worse than what others had done, we the people are grossly offended by such indecent and false actions meant to enrich a few while continuing making poor an astronomically larger figure.
Sadly, posterity would not have anything good to say about this regime. By their very actions they have proven to be corrupt, violent and oppressive. Much more sad is the fact that whatever this party is doing, there is no clear indication that the opposition would do better, as it is our experience that the vitriolic and vindictive nature of the competition between the parties for their chance to exploit us causes them to leave any measure in place left by the previous regime so they would use it/them against their opponents, including us they swear to serve and protect.