The politicians in Sierra Leone talk like sheep with humility but act like tigers devouring their victims without mercy. This is our politicians. When they campaign and want power they always promise us heaven on earth to get elected but when they succeed then they forget us and forget their constituencies. Today Sierra Leoneans are so poor that they cannot provide food, shelter and clothing for their families. But the politicians in the country do not know what poverty is.
These politicians are forcefully exercising full control of the resources including land, labor, capital and revenue from the minerals. These politicians are worth thousands of dollars with many beautiful houses at the expense of the poor people.
Like the Slave Masters of the slave trade, the politicians, their cronies, the business elite and the well connected determine and control everything in the country. They determine which district would get good roads and agricultural subsidy. Which company to get tax waiver.
They determine which village or town get facilities, they determine which district receives funding for projects; they determine which community receives water infrastructure.
They determine which town or community gets access to hospitals and sanitation facilities. They determine who should get a job and who should be sacked. Have you heard that many workers in government and parastatal workers were sacked or are still losing their jobs since 2007, because they are from the South and East?
Our new slave masters decide who gets a place to sell in the market and streets. Our slave masters decide who should own a business and who should have a share in that business. They decide who should get a contract and whose certificate as contractor should be withdrawn. Contractors do substandard works, collect hundreds of thousands of dollars, give politicians their share and that is all.
Projects costs and costs of major public procurement contracts are inflated three or four times the normal cost by the Slave Masters and the poor people are made to pay for it. This explains why school buildings collapse and children are killed. It also explains why communities are flooded anytime it rains as poor quality drainage networks are built even though the construction cost have been inflated 10 times the actual cost.
One cannot get a certificate to operate a business unless you grease the palm of a politician. You cannot get contract unless you know a politician in the ruling government. You are treated differently if you know the regional minister, the district commissioner.
As far as one knows a cabinet minister he can do whatever he likes and nobody dares question him. It is always the poor and needy who get prosecuted and jailed while the politicians and their cronies who commit atrocious crimes against the state live in their mansions to enjoy their booty and ill gotten wealth.
Big loans are contracted to build projects enjoyed only by the politicians and the poor are made to pay for it. Like the slavery of old, the politicians, their families, the businessmen and the well connected are not hurt by the storm of poverty in the country. Despite receiving billions of dollars in loans and grants from Europe, Japan, US, IMF and World Bank there is nothing to show for it as poverty continues to swallow the people.
The reason is that these loans and grants do not see the light, they are stolen the very day they are released by the donor themselves and the slave masters leaving the poor to pay for it. This explains why we have applied for the HIPC (Highly Indebted Poor Countries) initiative. Our Slave Masters and their associates are holding the people captive with their short sighted, ill-conceived, vote buying, and cosmetic economic policies and programmes, thereby giving the people no chance to develop.
Our politicians have titles like The Savior, Servants of the Poor, Friend of the Poor, Attitudinal change, Positive change and Fine boy, but they are all lies. None of them cares for the poor but their own stomach. Because they care only for their interests, that is why the people have no jobs, no incomes, no savings and have no place to lay their heads. That is why farmers continue to farm using hoes and cutlasses relying on nature to plant their crops; and have no access to improved seeds, irrigation facilities, weather report and credit.
That is why children go to school barefooted, on an empty stomach and attend classes under trees while the politicians’ children receive education in private Schools, Europe and America. That is why people have no access to clean water, food, health care, education and electricity while the slave masters fly out for medical treatment or go to Choithrams hospital, and in their homes they have four to five generators to provide 24 hour electricity.
Because they care only for their interests that is why majority of the people live in slumps, sprawl, and shanty towns and in deplorable conditions all over the country with little or no access to water, electricity, schools, hospitals, roads, toilet and sanitation facilities. That is why teachers, nurses, and other public workers are poorly paid, have few rights and have little or no entitlement when they go on retirement. But when our Slave Masters leave office after looting the treasury, they are given several thousands of dollars and properties as retirement packages.
The Slave Masters have more and are given more. The poor have none and they are denied even the little.
Since diamond was discovered in Sierra Leone, I am sure over one billion dollars has been realized as revenue but the money has been stolen by the politicians, business people and the corrupt civil servants leaving us to fend for ourselves. The evil genius of our leaders and their family were able to bank millions of dollars of these monies in Switzerland, and other countries. The people are poor because the Slave Masters have decided they should remain so, as monies meant for their development have been stolen and are sitting in different banks in and out for the country.
Through their grip on power, the Slave Masters have amassed wealth and enriched themselves at the expense of the poor. And in order to perpetuate their rule and enslavement of the people they turn one tribe and one religion against the other.
“The following human rights problems were reported: harsh prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; an inefficient judiciary susceptible to government influence; widespread government corruption; violence and societal discrimination against women, trafficking in persons, particularly children; and child labour.” Source: US Human Rights Report on Sierra Leone 2008.
Pathetically, Sierra Leoneans demanded independence from colonialism only to be recolonised and enslaved by our own leaders. The people are poor because they have been denied the opportunity to develop. There are no efficient transportation system; no major infrastructural development, no viable manufacturing sector; no major breakthrough in the universities because monies meant for all that have been stolen by the Slave Masters in full agreement with foreign and local banks.
What will you say when people have no access to food, water, electricity, education, health facilities; cannot pay their rents and fees for their kids; have no jobs and no savings; have no access to toilet and sanitation facilities? If these corrupt, power hungry and heartless men and women are not slave masters, vampires, parasites, blood suckers and Dracula’s then who are they?
What is the meaning of independence when we are still slaves to our politicians? Are we heading back to the Siaka Stevens era of One Party or are we now in a police state? Are our mothers and sisters safe at this time in the country when the rapists are scattered all over the country and at the highest office in the country? Will corruption ever be minimized with the ‘fish cake’ salary paid to workers? Only the Almighty God will help me answer these questions as we go to bed hungry and in fear because we don’t know when the armed robbers will attack. May God help this tiny country called Sierra Leone.
By Austin Thomas