The ‘Tribal Card’: Not ‘wise’ option for Any Governing Party in Sierra Leone (Part Four)


By Oswald Hanciles

“To dream the impossible dream….To fight the unbeatable foe…To tread where the brave dare not go…To reach the unreachable star….This is my quest….”

Charlie Hughes: ‘Balls-full-ness’ to ‘Balls-less-ness’?

Highly ‘cerebral’ Charlie Hughes, the Chairman of the Monuments and Relics Commission of the Republic of Sierra Leone, writes an incisive  prose that can be lethally pugnacious (against our reviled RUF/AFRC ‘rebels/sobels’); the belligerently-looking visage of Charlie has  underneath it gray matters possessing vastness of thought  which would elicit  in his published works… words that would  sometimes be tinctured with intellectual arrogance that disdain his lesser intellectually endowed compatriots. He is a ‘man of balls’ who dared to do newspaper columns against the nauseous and brutish RUF/AFRC rebels during the Darkest Hours of our ‘rebel war’ years when most of our educated elite were cowering under their beds or fleeing to their ill-gotten posh homes in the US and UK – so, when Charlie Hughes once wrote an article during our perilous ‘rebel war’ years  accusing our educated elite of ‘balls-less-ness’ (pathetic cowardice), he  was apt in his condescension  – generally; not entirely.  Well, we may soon know whether the ‘balls-full-ness’ Charlie Hughes has been emasculated enough to have joined the ranks of the ‘balls-less’ educated elite. Or, not!!  Charlie Hughes promised to come to my office this week with a copy of a document that touch on tribalism which had been earlier sent to me by another co-author of the document, Andrew Lavali. Charlie did not come. He called, saying ‘little men’ inside his computer have chopped the document; and… Let me quote Charlie’s text message verbatim: “Search for ‘Elections and Diversity Management’ on the web and download.”  I tried.  I could not succeed. I will try again.

Over a week now since I asked Charlie Hughes’ co-author of the document, Andrew Lavali, the Programme Advisor of the Access to Security & Justice Programme, to ‘re-send’ the ‘tribal document’ to me. He has not.  About a year ago, he had sent the document to me, and met me in my office to discuss it.  An obvious ‘intellectual Black Belt’, Lavali spoke gravely about the issue of tribalism in Sierra Leone and its horrific potentials.  He said he is Mende, and married to a Temne wife – so, his children now genetically belong to the two ‘politically antagonistic tribal blocks’ in our country.  Little ‘green men’ in my computer have   apparently ‘chopped’ the ‘tribalism document’. I wonder why Lavalie has not resent the document.  He told me that the document would have been formally launched, but, this has not been done because of the “sensitivity” of the document.

‘Sensitive Document’ Penned by ‘Sensitive Dr. Mohamed Gibril Sesay’

I wonder whether the “sensitivity” could have anything to do with the third author of the ‘tribalism document’ – Dr. Mohamed Gibril Sesay.  Dr. Sesay, a Sociology lecturer at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, was, during our rebel war years, a partner with Charlie Hughes in the Forum for Democratic Initiatives (FORDI) in Freetown.  FORDI could have been Sierra Leone’s first ever robust intellectual think tank, securing juicy contracts from the biggest international organizations that deal with Sierra Leone. Today, the self effacing  Mohamed Gibril Sesay (it was only about a month ago that  Politico newspaper ‘leaked the secret’ about Gibril’s  doctorate degree)  – who would attempt to belie his intimidating intellect with flashy garments, and doing  perfect imitation of the ‘Eastend  rahray  man’ talk and jive –  holds the ‘sensitive position’ of  Special Adviser to the President.

On the authors’ tribes?.  With his dark chocolate colour, protruding Arab nose,  Caucasian thin lips, Charlie Hughes ‘claims’ to hail from Moyamba, with maternal links to Bonthe Island.  What I know of Charlie Hughes is that in his habits he is a global-classed Cosmopolitan Man.

Lavalie I know very little about, but, his name does sound ‘Mende’, and he did claim that he is Mende.

Mohamed Gibril Sesay has been stamped with the ‘Temne and Northerner’ badge.  I was recently reliably informed that all “Sesays” are ethnically Madingoes, and NOT Temne.  As for being a Northerner, well…well… Gibril was born and bred in “Fourah Bay” in the Eastend of Freetown – and, every inch of him is a ‘Freetown Man’; his liberal thought patterns  are severely reined by the  Islamic tenets he is versed in; Islam hammered into him from the cradle –  because his  father was the venerated Chief Imam of the ‘Temne Mosque’ in Fourah Bay.

Maybe, the ‘sensitivity’ of the ‘tribalism document’ could be because … parts of it are implicitly critical of the APC government that Gibril is playing a key role in….

Collective Madness of Sierra Leoneans?

Since I don’t want posterity to indict me of ‘balls-less-ness’, I am writing this tribalism serial; and to give added empirical weight to my arguments, I would press for the aforementioned document. In Monrovia, Liberia, in 1989/1990, I was the Director of the first-time-established Scientology Technology Office there.  In 1990, under the direction of a ‘Bendel Man’ from Edo State, Rockson Enyem, I took courses to become a Scientology ‘Minister’ at the Scientology Dianetics Center on 190/192 Ikorodu Road, Maryland, Lagos, Nigeria. In one of the 800 books published by Scientology founder, U.S. citizen, L. Ron Hubbard,  he postulate  that humanity’s civilization march would sometimes stagnate for thousands of years because the learned elite would fail to confront problems, and be courageous enough to challenged stark Ignorance.  Scientology teaches that failure to confront problems is a symptom that a person suffers from serious ‘aberration’ (which, in its extreme form, is what the public would recognize as ‘madness’ or ‘insanity’ or ‘craziness’). Can we hazard to state that a society that fails to collectively confront its most chronic and festering problem is ‘collectively aberrated’? (Or, ‘collectively mad’?). Hardly any educated Sierra Leonean would argue that we don’t have a serious ‘tribalism problem’ in our country.  As a nation, we have not yet confronted this problem – diagnose it, prescribe a cure for it, and ensure that we take the antidote to the tribalism poison. Could this then mean a form of ‘Collective Sierra Leonean Madness’? Another form of insanity – individual or collective craziness – is that a person would build up a lie about who he is, and tend to believe it…

A mad man living in a rubbish dump would believe that he is a king and the rubbish is gold and diamonds. In this context, Sierra Leoneans have not confronted and ‘cured’ their tribalism disease; and they have, largely, fooled themselves that they have a ‘country’, that they are ‘Sierra Leoneans’.  Sierra Leone, as primary school children ought to know, is a foreign construct – epistemologically, labelled by Portuguese explorers; with its boundaries politically demarcated by the British colonialists. The sixteen tribes that have been compelled to become one country by the British still have to yet understand, and put passion into, the alien concept called ‘Sierra Leone’. What most ‘Sierra Leoneans’ understand, and put fervour to, are their villages of ten square miles, or, better, their chiefdoms of 40 square miles; or, at best, their ‘tribal grouping’ of the same language. It is these groupings that historically have  its Temne-speaking or Mende-speaking conquerors, its conquering heroes; and has its centuries old customs and traditions, dances and songs…. – intricacies of songs and dances during funerals and marriages, coming-of-age rituals…that strike deep chords in the average Sierra Leonean. ‘Sierra Leone’ is alien.  Sierra Leone is distant.  Sierra Leone is too amorphous to be grasped in the minds by most of those who claim to be Sierra Leoneans.

I have often written articles on the ‘civil war mentality’ of Sierra Leoneans (and, for that matter, most African countries).  Democratic elections in the mindsets of most Sierra Leoneans are ‘civil wars’ – a ‘war against the enemy tribe’.  We know this is so!! (Though, the educated Sierra Leonean elite tries to fool the white man in the West who insists on the ‘foolishness of elections’ that we are ‘democratic’). In Sierra Leone, the tribe or ‘Tribal Block’ that wins an election has, in its mind,  really has won a ‘civil war’  (An exception to this was Tejan Kabbah’s 2002 election victory which won significant votes from ‘enemy’ and ‘friend’ tribes alike).  In ancient Rome, or traditional Africa over the  past few hundred years, the tribe who wins a  war takes pride in hoisting the chopped off heads of its enemies, and takes home ‘legitimate war booty’ – slaves, gold, chained sex slaves, etc. The predation on the alien state called Sierra Leone (the grabbing of most of the top positions in government, the flagrant corruption, by a tribal block) by the ‘winning tribe’ would be deplored by outsiders – but, the spirit of it, the acceptability of it, is because it is ‘legitimate war booty’ in the minds of the victorious tribe.

The Tribe that has Won a Tribal War Must Establish Holistic Justice to Survive

It does appear as if ‘God’ has programmed man to be warlike – as one of the survival impulses of man as a species. All great empires have been built on wars, or conquest of ‘other peoples’.  But, those empires that would sustain themselves for centuries – ancient Rome; the modern British Empire, etc – are those that learn to simmer down, absorb the conquered people into their ranks; that would establish systems of Justice and Equity that would evolve into equality. Those  great ‘empires’ that delude themselves into believing that conquered people can be subjugated, or, enslaved, forever…are today extinct. My point, even if a ‘tribal block’ has won a ‘civil war’ in its mind, it survivability mandates the establishment of Holistic Justice….

The seemingly  ‘impossible dream’ of President Ernest Bai Koroma that Sierra Leone would become a ‘Middle Income Country’ in 25 years, a ‘Donor Country’ in 50 years, can only be taken seriously when President Koroma is in the vanguard of fighting the seemingly ‘unbeatable foe’ of tribalism. I now publicly challenge Messrs Charlie Hughes, Mohamed Gibril Sesay, and Andrew Lavaliewith this inspiring   poem/song: “to tread where the brave dare not go”…to “reach the unreachable star”…”no matter how hopeless…now matter how far….” And, “to be willing to die…for a noble quest”.