For a country like Sierra Leone which has every reason to be in a hurry to develop, can you blame people for bridging a direct correlation between governance and development? Definitely we cannot afford to dig caves to use as our residence when western nations are building castles in other planets. Not that those communities anywhere and everywhere cannot survive almost independently, but that nature has a way of distributing resources… perhaps to encourage collaboration and foster the golden idea that no man is an island.
Sierra Leone may be proud to have very strong links with its former colonial power Britain, but there are some negative legacies left behind by colonialism that are still deeply embedded in our roots, legacies that perhaps are today more of some humbug than anything else. The fact that today we are yet to contend with two justice systems is enough to point to the challenges to governance.
It is indeed to talk of human rights violations and yet think of governance. Like they say the orange can only bear an orange even with all the abnormalities that have come to characterize this modern world. Can you imagine today’s people jailed for being gay? Can you at the same time understand why human rights activists think it is entirely left with the individual to chose the way he or she lives her life as long as the rights of others are respected. There is so much yet to contend with these days of new ideas and perspectives on so many things. You can actually partly blame it on the fast advancement of the information technological age that is running us almost mad. But let me ask you…can we survive without electronics?
When Africa chose May 25 as African Liberation Day, they had very good reasons giving the suffering both psychological and physical. Our early leaders thought political independence was all what we needed and everything else will fall in place. This view which was popularized by the Great Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah unfortunately has proven most elusive. The relationship between Africa and western Countries is one in which they give us cheese and then rub us of our bread. These are the words of a Ghanaian singer who while lauding the ideas of Nkrumah, lambasts our current leaders whose cap in hand international political strategy looks embarrassing to many as African who is yet to feel liberated.
The drafters of the Millennium Development goals (MDGs) saw reason to include the forging of International Partnerships as a strategy to overcome much of the world’s threatening malaises under which the poor people groan and die like flies.
I recently had an opportunity to visit a very remote chiefdom in the north east of the country. The first noticeable thing as in all cases is the poor roads. This road issue is actually no more news… the only news is that a lot of efforts are being done to improve on the present road networks. Sometimes it even sounds a misnomer to talk of a road network, but never mind give it any name.
When you contend with the roads perhaps the other noticeable feature is the social dynamics that abound that are deeply rooted in the power dynamics that is pungently reflective of the politics of the day… governance becomes so difficult to handle. The fact remains that even if the economy of a state continues to grows, as long as the gap between the Haves and Have Nots keeps widening, one cannot talk about development from a human perspective.
Let us take the very issue of boundary delineation which is older that the country itself. One sore point that straight comes to mind is the word Amalgamation…oh I hate it like an unfilled extra stout can. You need to stay in small communities and see some of the ugly legacies that colonialism has left behind.
Now it was so convenient during the colonial days to amalgamate some chiefdoms for administrative convenience. But definitely one can squarely blame the spate of current chieftaincy impasses on the amalgamation. Well it is sad but a lot of our governance problems are attributed to that loathed word poverty. I think it is not always true. While we try to contend with all the myriad of governance problems we have, it might really be necessary to look into the root causes.
Take a large chiefdom somewhere in Sierra Leone. The once separate chiefdoms were amalgamated in the colonial days for the political expediency of the day. It is interesting that the remote and vast chiefdoms are without good roads.., do you see how development could easily be arrested by communication and other constraints? When a new paramount Chief is to be elected, the contenders are indeed many.
This is so because the Ruling Houses in the pre-colonial era will all field candidates. Not even the obnoxious rotational strategy has been able to lessen the tensions in these communities when it comes to elections. The chiefdoms were amalgamated but their former leaders remained and have over the years jealously guarded their lineage identity. One would have thought that at amalgamation, candidature for the Paramount Chieftaincy should be open and not made rotational.
In fact the very idea of ruling houses is yet to tie up with modern democratic dictates. Of course we can always explain this through culture and tradition. Oh no I think any culture that negates democratic and human rights ideals, needs to be reexamined. You see it is high time we as Sierra Leoneans stopped running away from the realities of our existence. They say the sins of omission are graver than those of commission.
I am sure we should not be surprised that we are experiencing a lot of governance problems on the districts and the chiefdoms. Sure the Chieftaincy system has a lot of positive things, but these seem now overshadowed by power struggles that are most times partisan. Yes this is the main issue of my contention.
I often thought, and perhaps still think that the chieftaincy institution should be non partisan. For me I think it should be a sort of traditional civil Society outfit where the chief considers the people as one and move along with them in their developmental endeavors with no considerations on partisan lines.
I really think part of our greatest problems is rooted in the fact that our politics is largely based on the parties. When a new paramount chief ascends the throne he is related to according to the political temperature in that particular locality.
One salient and burning issue in Paramount Chieftaincy is the question of where should the paramount Chief be based? Long time ago the Paramount Chief used to stay in the Chiefdom Headquarter town. This gave a semblance of neutrality and unity. It gave a sense of belonging to the people who claimed joint ownership of the chieftaincy. Today the situation is different.
Many paramount chiefs prefer to stay in their own town of birth where he could relate better and carry an air of confidence and security. All this has been seen as necessary given the partisan dynmamics that now envelops the institution. The partisan nature of today’s Chieftaincy is making governance difficult since people from other parties in the opposition hardly ever see the chief as theirs. This largely impairs development and fosters divisiveness.
One major step could be the non partisan politicization of the institution is building a base for the paramount chieftaincy. Let the Paramount Chief has a base built by the support of the central government. The Paramount Chief should be seen as for all from whom unity radiates.
The recent spate of impasse between the institution and the district Council remains a strong pointer that our laws need to be revisited. This is why the current moves by Civil society to review the country’s constitution is very proactive given the current lull over the work of the Constitution review Commission created by government. By S. Beny SAM