Last Sunday My Reverend Father did some very good preaching on the Biblical Paul. I was particularly moved by the stark naked realities that the Honorable Man Of God linked up with everyday happenings in our communities. He mentioned ungratefulness, the fact that hard work is not rewarded and most times people allow evil to triumph over good…till the very end when some divine intervention to right the wrong. The other day news on UN radio mentioned the calling off of interviews for would be Law students allegedly due to disagreement over selection procedures. I think it was Ayikwei Amah who in one of his novels said: “The essence of a thing is that thing without which it ceases to be what it is”.
Just the other day it was reported that a contract bid opening program scheduled for Friday at a foremost development outfit in Freetown was aborted the very time it was to start. Reasons we are told are not at all unconnected with project management compliance and accountability issues. The disappointed bidders were left astonished. I understand they will even have to have the fees paid for the process refunded later. You see why as a nation we seem to have too many thorns in our flesh… in fact too much to handle.
I have been reading Paul Collier’s The Bottom Billion by courtesy of the amiable Mr. Patrick Sogie- Thomas of Awoko Press.
After my very articulate Rev Father’s preaching I went home and took up this novel…you need to read it then you will understand that you have no reason to envy politicians for deciding to do the impossible with dear Sierra Leone.
Paul Collier under the sub-title Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can be Done about It. According to this book the countries now at the bottom are distinctive not just in being the poorest but also in having failed to grow.
Have we ever really asked ourselves why we still remain at the bottom even though we keep trying? They say that things have to be worse before they get better. I also have for a long time gladdened my heart that since we as a nation have hit rock- bottom, our only alternative is to bounce back. Now I realize it is not as easy as it sounds. Paul’s book seems to get my views rather naive. Well since this not a book review so good for the Bottom Billion.
When I read Umaru Fofana’s piece on the SLBC I said to my self…Yes that’s the point, state actors take two steps forward, three steps backward and then go to the market place and shout volumes of achievements and then submerge into silent oblivion. When the whole idea of a public broadcaster thing was mooted recently again, it looked like some positive collaboration between the state and the UN. I can remember Sister Claudia touring the country, doing media sensitization. Some of us were happy that the UN seemed taking the lead. Now I have my doubts and indeed Umaru’s piece is very illuminating, if you see what I mean.
The greatest challenge is that minimal standards have to be maintained by all countries irrespective of economic and political situation of any country. The diversity between nations makes nonsense of the often adopted one-size- fits-all explanation for development. Hey stop press; UN Radio has aired news of Botswana refusing to go by the decision of the AU on Al Bashkir’s arrest not to be heeded. It might be good to know our stance as a nation. In a continent where violence seems almost a way of life it could only be foolhardy to encourage impunity as the AU has surprisingly demonstrated. Where was the AU when its countries grew to rely on the West to come and salvage them after their brutal civil conflicts? Is this not a miscalculation of ones limitation in an unequal global power dynamics?
The term Developing Countries is a gross misnomer as a lot of countries parading under the name had long arrested their development. It is in fact wrong for virtually all countries besides the most developed to call themselves developing. The rest are the bottom billion who are wallowing in squalor and think they are living. The only small advantage Africa has as a continent is that the west will never abandon us entirely because we pose a security nightmare. One great challenge of the West especially the United States is how to prevent the Al-Qaida infiltrating the continent. Our economic and political vulnerability if not properly managed will play in the hands of terrorists as Sierra Leone’s poor, marginalized and unemployed youth played in the hands of Foday Sankoh’s RUF.
There is the term Third World which I have hated all my life with passion, just like I hate the term Province. Definitely God did make those demarcations. What is annoying is that one hardly hears about a Second World…it is always First and Third World. But can we blame the West? Many African governments have over the years gained notoriety for unbridled corruption and the violation of human rights. With the recent pronouncement on Al Bashir can we expect a turn around soon? I really urge our government to back out of the AU decision as it will appear an irony for a country that supports both the Special Court and the TRC. What is difficult to understand is how a rich world of one billion people faces a poor world of five billion? The Millennium Development Goals were established by the United Nations, which are designed to track development progress through 2015. By 2015 indeed we would have known that this way of conceptualizing development had become obsolete. While some of the countries among the bottom five billion, are developing, others are falling behind, and often falling apart. The countries at the bottom co-exist with the 21st century but their reality is actually the 14th century Africa.
The prevailing conditions in Africa show extremities. Some leaders of poor African countries are sometimes psychopaths who have shot their way to power. Sometimes crooks who have bought it, and sometimes brave people who, against the odds, are trying to build a better future. Basically all societies used to be poor. Most are now lifting out of it; why are others stuck? One thing though…poverty is not a trap, otherwise we will all still be poor. Why are we still poor? When I was in secondary school some of the countries that are now fairly well off were poor like us. Think of Pakistan, India, and China. Ow den do we?
By S. Beny SAM