Let me start off by welcoming you back home from your recent medical trip to India and I trust you are in good health. I am a Sierra Leonean currently working overseas but not a single day goes by without thinking and praying for my dear homeland Sierra Leone. Despite all the negativity about our dear land, I am still proud to call Sierra Leone my home and to tell anyone who cares to listen that our recent past does not and cannot define our future.
The recent clash / attack / invasion / provocation as described in different publications requires me to write and express the following observation as a citizen and someone who firmly believes in democracy, the rule of law and mutual respect. The views and observations expressed in this letter are not designed to cause disrespect to anyone but rather to share with you Mr President the honest concerns of one of your subjects. They say a wise father is one who listens to the voices of his children. Also it is said that all that is required for evil to prevail is for good men and women to stay quiet.
Recent history teaches us that we cannot afford to ever again turn a blind eye to matters of national concern. A lot has been written about the recent violence in Sierra Leone. Some of it true, some are half truths and others are outright lies. Your recent appointee to the position of Energy and Power Minister was said to have made an important statement in his acceptance speech to you in which he referred to “rights and responsibilities”. It is the latter as it directly relates to you in your capacity as Head of State and de facto father of the nation that I wish to comment on.
Let me start off by saying that I strongly believe that the result from the 2007 elections were a true and sincere reflection of the desire of the majority of Sierra Leoneans. That decision was not bourne out of dislike for Solomon Berewa or Charles Margai but out of a genuine belief that you Sir represented the best choice for the continued unity, peace and development of Sierra Leone. Also many felt that based on their performance in office between 2002 2007, the SLPP did not deserve the right to be voted back to power. This is the beauty of democracy and why many around the world have sacrificed their lives in its defense. Both the SLPP and the APC parties hold a special place in the history of Sierra Leone and in diverse ways have contributed to the evolution of our dear nation and will continue to do so in the future. Both political parties and indeed all political parties have earned the right in a democratic society to hold the government to account as they see fit provided they also respect the laws of the land. This was a right that the APC enjoyed whilst in opposition and therefore has the sacred responsibility of ensuring that others benefit from the same.
Mr President, as indicated I want to focus on your specific responsibility as father of the nation and the symbolic importance to be seen by ALL the people to be governing in their collective best interest. You were forthright in your condemnation of political violence in Zimbabwe carried out by President Mugabe’s supporters against fellow Zimbabweans. However in your recent speech to the nation on political violence in your dear Sierra Leone, your speech sadly disappointed many fair minded Sierra Leoneans.
The question is why? Is it because all these people are supporters of the SLPP or hate you as alleged in some quarters? Personally I think not as I am one of those who are sadly disappointed by your speech and I am neither SLPP nor someone who hates you. The sad reality sir is that you did not come across to many as the President of Sierra Leone but rather the leader of the APC who happens to be the Head of State.
Mr President, we cannot undo what has been done. However we must be willing to recognize a mistake and make amends where necessary. You still command a lot of respect and goodwill in Sierra Leone. Many of us want you and your government to succeed because your success means that Sierra Leone succeeds. There are moments that define a leader and set the tone for their presidency. Generally these tend to present themselves in moments of great uncertainty, fear and a pervading sense of vulnerability. 9/11 for example was to define President Bush’s presidency in America.
The current environment in Sierra Leone combined with the economic hardship will prove to be your defining moment. I see either of two things happening, the emergence of the President Koroma the President of ALL Sierra Leone or a President Koroma who is a nice man but who is sadly overwhelmed by the scale of the challenge and unable to control certain sections of his Party. If it’s the latter, this would be a sad and tragic outcome. It would put many of us to shame as we honestly believed in you. There is an element within the APC that needs to be controlled and made to understand that they cannot define the way your administration is perceived both locally and internationally. This section have not only shown themselves in Freetown and Pujehun but also recently in Kono where you were forced to openly condemn their actions. To put it bluntly, this section has the potential of destroying your presidency if not controlled.
I am sure you have a lot of highly regarded advisers whose advise you would seek as you strive to define your presidency. Ultimately Sir, you have to trust your own instincts and stay true to your values and principles. You were the one who was given the mandate by the people and ultimately it is you who will be held accountable by the people. My appeal to you sir is to be guided by the principle of “Doing what is the right and proper thing in the interest of ALL Sierra Leoneans”. The question you should ask yourself is, “If Ernest Bai Koroma was an ordinary citizen with no affiliation to any political party, what would he advise the President to do in the current circumstances” OR “If this incidence had happened to the APC when you were in opposition, what would be your response to the government in your capacity as leader of the APC”.
Would you have been impressed by your speech? Your true and honest answer to these questions should define and dictate your next set of actions to resolving the current challenge.
There are many close to you who would say that doing the right and proper thing would be seen as weakness by your opponents. Those people are wrong Mr President because they are asking you to sow the seeds that would destroy everything you strive to build and undermine the promise you made to ALL Sierra Leoneans when you took the oath of office.
How can a father be considered weak when he does the “RIGHT & PROPER THING” by ALL his children? Would you turn a blind eye if one of your children were to use excessive force against their weaker sibling? I am sure not.
The fact of the matter sir, people will always provoke you and seek to force your hand. Given the fact that you have the full authority of the state at your disposal, it is important that your actions are guided by not only the Law of the land but also the spirit of the Law.
In the interest of peace, unity and prosperity for ALL Sierra Leoneans, you should strive to not only “WIN the Battles you fight but also win the WAR”.
My recommendations therefore are as follows
– Institute an official enquiry headed by a senior and respected Judge to investigate the cause of the violence in Pujehun and Freetown.
– The enquiry should also examine whether certain Police officers were derelict in their duty to maintain peace and public order.
– Investigate the allegations of Rape.
– Set a timeline for a report of the findings
– Publicly commit to taking all the actions advised by the enquiry even if it means bringing charges against members in your party, a government minister or the Mayor of Freetown
– Reign in the pro APC media and encourage them to start promoting the spirit of dialogue, unity, tolerance and forgiveness for the good of Sierra Leone.
– Invite the leadership of the SLPP to State House and do a joint visit to their HQ
– Commit a significant Government contribution to rebuilding the SLPP HQ based on independent assessment of the damage caused.
– Visit the women who are alleged to have been raped and express your sympathy with them and their families
– Extend some assistance to them as well
– Visit the Pujehun region affected by the violence and offer your hand of peace and friendship to them
– It may be worth taking your Resident Minister along to apologise to the people in person.
– Disband the APC Task Force and reassign controversial bodyguards to other duties.
– Finally, LEARN from this experience.
The reason why many of us are concerned is because of the symbolic threat to democracy and tolerance represented by the attack on the HQ of the legitimate opposition in Sierra Leone. Your actions have to clearly demonstrate that you are on the side of Democracy and tolerance.
Best Wishes to you Mr President and may God bless you and may you succeed for the good of all Sierra Leoneans.
(Patriotic Sierra Leonean)