By Talib Jalloh
Like the saying in one of William Shakespeare’s masterpieces, Macbeth, “until Birnam woods come to Dunsinane,” Tower Hill, which hosts the House of Parliament in Freetown, was a ‘sea of green on Thursday, July 13. Parliamentarians, predominately from the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party and their supporters, had thronged Parliament Grounds where the remains of Sir Milton Margai, the country’s first post-colonial Head of State (Prime Minister), were buried for the commencement of the sixth Parliament.
Visibly absent were members of the main opposition, the All People’s Congress (APC), save for one. It brings back memories of the last time they painted Tower Hill red, hoping they had garnered enough majority to elect the Speaker and Deputy in what would have been unprecedented in the country’s political history.
And what happened? Images of our security forces entering the well of Parliament like Mike Tyson or Holyfield on live TV- a day, I am sure, the APC partisans will not forget in a hurry.
While following development at Tower Hill on TV, I recalled a Kenyan colleague and friend gifted me a green leather book mark with the inscription, “Let’s try again tomorrow.” The wording awoke me to what I love most: sharing my views on national issues, something I had shelved for over a decade. The first thought that came to mind was, given the aftermath of the just concluded elections, should the APC join in the governance of Mama Salone or not.
A week or so ago, a decision by the party’s highest decision-making body, the National Advisory Council (NAC), was supported when their elected representatives for Mayor, Chairpersons, Councilors and parliamentarians affixed their signature to a document in support of the party’s decision not to take their seats in the Councils and the Parliament. None but one elected APC member of Parliament showed up.
The reason for their action, they claim, is that fairness and credibility have been short-changed in the June 24 elections. The APC has questioned the election results and sought for transparency to be dispensed. Not claiming victory, the APC believe that Bio’s plate had been served with ‘coco yebeh’ while it was still boiling.
In my mind’s eye, the consequences of the action by the main opposition party would be equal or more devastating, perhaps, than the elections in which transparency and credibility are in question. The voice of everyone who voted the APC would remain unheard as they will be unrepresented.
Sierra Leone moved beyond a one-party state year’s ago, and the lack of an alternative to the government might drift the country back to that path with all its ramifications. The opportunity to influence meaningful change from within will be swept under the carpet. The benefit of a resounding opposition essential for democracy to thrive will dissipate, and the Sierra Leone People’s Party will enjoy unchecked rulership. It will be very detrimental to the country.
Should the APC drop its fight? No. We fully support the call for the election results to be published as demanded. We believe fairness and justice should prevail. Peace without accountability and justice is fragile. And to accept the status quo without digging and revealing the truth of the matter is to accept wrong doing.
Nonetheless, balancing the search for a just political dispensation and the participation in governance should be the icing the unity cake.
Politicians believe that there is weakness in giving up. And I share this view too. This is why they (Politicians) always come again and have another try and yet another try. The APC should not give up on the fight for fair play, justice, and transparency. That fight, should, however, not cloud their responsibility to provide a strong voice to their voters in Parliament and the councils. Sierra Leone should no longer accept “e don be done” as solution to our problems. We should demand accountability.
The UN, AU and ECOWAS should not give a blind eye and wait until the water becomes muddy. They should push for dialogue; one that upholds fairness, transparency and, one that will let the people’s vote be seen as counted.
The buck stops with the president for a sensible way out. Bio needs to soften his stance and mind his utterances. He should create the enabling environment for a path to peace and togetherness which should not exclude accountability. For five years, Bio traveled the world, among other reasons, to clean the image of Salone. It is time for that cleaned image to be dried and iron within the country.
ECSL’s Chief, Mr. Konneh, should be bold and face the international community’s challenge of openness. Let the world know that you were right by making public the RRFs at polling station level. If he had cooked figures, let justice visit him accordingly.
How the APC handles this delicate matter will set them up for a greater leap. We, as a nation, should take that leap together and strengthen our democracy with fair play and justice again and again. Tomorrow can only be better if the unfairness and injustices of today are addressed.
(Author is a former Editor of the Concord Times and now works for the UN refugee agency).