Political Grandstanding, Embittered Politician, or Irresponsible Citizenship? A Reaction to Former Defense Minister’s Inflammatory Comments Threatening Another War in Sierra Leone.
“Mr. Former defense minister, the national security of Sierra Leone and its citizens, is not at stake; it is the national ambitions and aspirations of certain political heads and their factions at stake”. I know you are aware of the suffering caused by the ten-year brutal civil war and its aftermath. I know you are equally aware of the tensions in our society and the trajectory of our democracy. Hence, I am puzzled as to why you had to speak in the manner you did, despite knowing that fragility exists in our national discourse.
Rhetoric is easy, and intentions are hard. We will never know what was in the former defense minister’s mind, nor will we know his true intentions in uttering such divisive and inflammatory comments. Unless, of course, he saves us all the troubles and shares his reasons, but I doubt he will. In retrospect, I asked myself, is he just political grandstanding, venting of an embittered politician or simply irresponsible citizenship from a high-ranking opposition politician? I will leave that for you to decipher.
My query with his comment and with anyone else, in the past, present or future, that is or will implicitly or explicitly threaten our country’s peace and continued democratic process is that they are wrong. They will fail, and to be blunt such statements have no place in the Sierra Leone we want. Simply put, our generation knows better. The people of Sierra Leone want and deserve better, and we are making headways to that effect. Another query is this: why must our leaders preach violence or utter threats in an already divided country? Why would our brothers and sisters give a listening ear or cheer our leaders when they fumble words of fear and division? These questions, frankly, are not only dedicated to the former minister and his political faction but us all as Sierra Leoneans, irrespective of political and tribal affiliations.
My point is this: my fellow Sierra Leoneans; we should not at any point in our nation-building affairs toy with the idea of mayhem, political insurrections, or any form of violence. I do not care about the political affiliations they are attached to, whether APC, SLPP or any other political entity; as a nation, we should have no affinity or a zero-tolerance approach to whatever threatens our peace, national progress, and democracy. Full stop! As a nation, we should never get to a point in our state of affairs where individuals and special interests are favored at the expense of the public or collective interest. Neither should we toy with the possibility that our public needs could be hijacked by individual and their special interests. Respectfully, Mr. former minister and anyone with similar wish or threat, our public and collective interests are in sustainable national development, not war or political insurrection. Our public needs are good healthcare and a thriving education system for our citizenry. Yes, our collective goal is a progressive and inclusive Sierra Leone, devoid of the many “isms” we struggle with today.
Many people believe we are at an inflection point, and I tend to agree with this contention. How can we not be at an inflection point, or better still, at crossroads when we have divisive and inflammatory words from people who are supposed to be our leaders? How can we not be at crossroads when some political factions and our citizenry celebrate division and advocate violence? Bluntly speaking, how can we not have a divided country when a former defense minister is rallying his political base to be ready for war? Strangely enough, this intending war or mayhem, of which only the United Nations can resolve, is not against foreign enemies but fellow citizens. A sad reality! Where is the love for country, where is the love for fellow citizens?
I am not fazed by the many unwanted happenings in my beloved country anymore. But I beg to resist, and I am hopeful to see and live in the Sierra Leone we all want. Was his comment threatening another war just political grandstanding? Was it mere revenge talk from an embittered politician, or was he at the time espousing irresponsible citizenship? Again, I will leave that for you to decide. Can we trace any justification for comments like his in a divided country? Certainly not. Undoubtedly, statements of such nature, kind, brand and sensitivity should not be tolerated nor celebrated in our national discourse. And rightly so, citizens should have a zero-tolerance approach for divisive and inflammatory comments, irrespective of the culprits’ political affiliations and status in society.
As a young and passionate Sierra Leonean, I often feel my beloved country is at an inflection point, filled with everyday uncertainties. But I cannot relent or give up the belief in progress, nor should my generation. Many of us were born just before the start of the war and grow up during the war. We do not and cannot suffer another blemish in our human existence or national discourse. In this day and age, leaders are not leaders because they rally their factions and followers to war or instill unwanted fear of division on their minds. “Leaders are leaders when they steer the ship of progress and development and when they tirelessly instill hope amidst uncertainties.” Equally, leaders should observe the salience of peace and the rule of law, not break them, encourage citizens engagement, not advocate for their disenfranchisement (because that is what happens when there is war). Mr. former defense minister and anyone else, irrespective of political affiliations, thinking that way, we are on the cusp of democratic and socioeconomic progress, so why halt it?
To anyone out there thinking of using words of fear, division and hoping to threaten our long-cherished peace and upward progress in our national discourse—please do not! Frankly, you will not succeed. Our generation now knows better; the people of Sierra Leone know better, and collectively, we deserve better. The onus is on us as citizens of Sierra Leone to take the lead.
From a Responsible [whole] citizen
George Shadrack Kamanda
April 10, 2021
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