I’m ready to tear my hair out because of it.
Government officials here are too scared to talk to reporters. One ministry will tell you they are not the right people to talk and send you somewhere else, and then those people will tell you they’re not the right people to talk to and send you somewhere else. I have the utmost admiration for my colleagues who have to go through such a cumbersome system.
And I have no choice but accept the fact that that is just the way things work in this country. I didn’t come here to be some self-righteous American preaching democracy and a free press. I didn’t come here to impose my ways on a culture where corruption is the norm rather than the exception. I came here to experience a different culture and to see how the press works in developing nation such as this one.
I sincerely hope that transparency of the government can become a reality for the people of Sierra Leone. The pessimist in me says not to get my hopes up about such a thing happening in the near future. The idealist in me says not to give up hope and to still believe that, someday, Sierra Leone’s people can enjoy the right to hold their government accountable, a right that many Americans and I take for granted.
Someday clearly won’t be happening anytime soon. Until then, public relations officers will still skip around the tough questions that reporters ask of them. Until then, government officials will be too scared to divulge information for fear of retribution. And until then, many local reporters will continue to accept bribes from lawmakers because they need that money.
It’s a sickening dynamic, and I’ve met many people here who are just as sick of it. The difference is they have to live with it, whereas I only have less than a month to cope with the frustration.
But hidden within all the corruption and deceit are pockets of decency that shine out like a pebble-sized diamond in a mud puddle.
I see it when a local woman waves down a taxi for me and generously insists that I take the last available spot, despite having been waiting on the street first.
I see it when my colleagues escort me to the market to haggle down prices so I don’t get overcharged by the vendors.
I see it within everybody here at Awoko, who have been nothing but hospitable to me since I came here.
The people here deserve so much more than what they have. It saddens me that it will be a long time until they can get it. But the idealist in me says to have patience lots of it because that day will eventually come.