December 4, 2015 By: Winstanley R. Bankole Johnson
Just last week next door neighbouring Guinea, a predominantly Muslim country prioritized national security and without equivocation, discarded one of the greatest weight of political parochialism, to wit: “religion”. The government threatened to close down Islamic Madrasas (Schools) where teachers and students wear full burqas, niqabs or veils, and refused to open new ones requiring the recruitment of Koranic Teachers from abroad. As far as they are concerned, the number of Koranic Teachers already in-country are in fact surplus to requirement.
As we all very well know religion and tribalism have always been the “opium” governments use to mesmerize supposedly highly educated citizens into zombies, to obfuscate their reasoning in order to cause irreparable impairments to previously harmonious and tranquil relationships – mainly for political gains – and by so doing, manipulate their intellects into believing that all their calamities – including deaths by preventable diseases – are of divine influences.
That Guinean decision was informed by overwhelming evidences of global threats to peace and security posed by Islamist extremism and an imperative need to safeguard the lives and properties of their citizens by pro-actively nipping any perceived sub-regional threats in the bud. And in doing so, naïve considerations such as-: “Na we pipuldem” and “Na demdae vote”- were sacrificed on the altar of nationalism. Country first!!
In the weeks preceding that landmark Guinean government decision, Cameroon, Chad,, Senegal and Mali – all the latter four being predominantly Muslim countries – had also touted that same idea, especially in Mali where a recent terrorist attack at their Radisson Blu Hotel left nineteen (19) dead and scores severely injured. So it is now a matter of either we face the menace of terrorism together or we perish together, having regard for our own vulnerabilities. Most regretfully, as a perennially under-capacitated continent that invariably turns to its external allies for support in times of distress and calamities, the appetite of the latter to lend their usual helping hand is receding fast, and the situation we now face is a true practicalization of 1.Kings 12:16 and 2 Chron. 10:16 – “To thine own house oh Israel….Each man unto his own tent”. That means each nation state must now face the realities and begin to take full ownerships for their respective robust counter-terrorism measures – just in case.
To me, and in appreciation of our own vulnerabilities, the best way to counter potential terrorist threats in our country will be to replicate the same evidently rustic but effective strategies government applied in our “war” against the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) to wit-: effective community mobilization and engagements using our traditional Chiefs, elders, educational and religious institutions (Churches and Mosques), Trade Unions and Civil and Secret Societies platforms both to heighten awareness about the dangers of terrorism and to create the necessary structures for meaningful responses country wide. Where it is necessary to establish a National Anti-terrorism Response Center (NARC) within the Office of National Security (ONS), and to have such structures de-centralized as we did with NERC and DERCs (and it’s looking like a suitable option to me) then so be it. The fact is that terrorism can be as deadly as the EVD, and requires to be countered with equal resoluteness.
But one must admit that to restrict terrorist threats to Islamic fundamentalism alone will be a fallacy. Recruits can be drawn for every religion, hence the need for the collective involvement of all and sundry in the interest of our national security. And in assisting the government draw up the appropriate guidelines especially during this Yule tide, I’m sure I will not be asking for too much in making the following suggestions-:
– Clearance of ghettos and clique joints. These are fertile breeding grounds for terrorists or marauding recruits and a rendezvous from where occasional surprise attacks have continued to be launched on pedestrians after 7PM daily across our main city thoroughfares.
– Enforcement of the 10PM regulatory closure hours of liquor bars being illegally converted into night clubs that play deafening music into the wee-wee hours and in the process continuously deprive the sick and aged of peaceful nights’ rests or school children the opportunity of serenity and quietude to study. That is terrorism too!!
– Prohibiting unregistered vehicles from plying the roads and a suspension of Temporary Vehicle Registrations (TVR). Both carry the same potential risks in their uses and abandonment after terror strikes.
– Prior thorough checks being undertaken by the security forces of venues hosting major public events necessitating an assemblage of large crowds (trade fairs, carnivals, congregational prayers and convocations)
– Reduce the frequency of joint public appearances by HE the President and the Vice President – and their retinue of government ministers – to congregate together at the same times and places.
– Police to re-introduce “nightly mobile check points” at randomly selected locations. They should be at liberty to stop and search pedestrians, vehicles and good in transit including “tapalapa loaves” and portable refrigeration equipment (for dangerous implements).
– Embed plain clothes under-cover security agents within service-provider agencies at key institutions – electricians, contractors so as to be ferreting useful information for further analysis by the appropriate MDAs. To ensure its efficacy, the recruitment processes into this category must transcend our usual tribal and regional considerations
– The elders (of Churches and Mosques) to seriously either consider reducing the number of exits per places of worship or to arrange for all such places to be effectively sentinelled – whether or not worship services are in progress.
– Ban the wearing of the burqas here too. Any person or thing that cannot be identified or clearly distinguished at a reasonable glance or distance must logically be of security (or Police) interest. No more; no less. National security first!! Because the truth is that those engaged in the practice are in fact not Sierra Leoneans.
– Ban “All night” praise and worship revival services in all Churches. Desperate circumstances require desperate action plans
– Sierra Leone to take the lead to request the convening of summits of inter and intra-regional Security Chiefs (MRU/ECOWAS) to synergize appropriate responsiveness against terrorism in the same way co-operations was mustered to defeat the EVD.
Remember, it is better to deal with potential risks or threats by acting right now, than to wait until things get worse and by which time it will cost much more in time and money to manage. That is to say-: “A stitch in time…….saves nine!!