Saturday, August 18, 2007

Proud to be a Sierra Leonean!!!

As we await final results of Saturday’s historic vote, for the first time in a very long time, I am proud to be a Sierra Leonean.  We have proved to the world that we are not a bunch of blood-thirsty backward bunch that rape innocent women and chop off limbs of unsuspecting helpless victims, but we are a modern civilized nation that can conduct transparent, free and fair elections with sophistication and style.  Saturday’s election has set the tone for a new Sierra Leone – A Sierra Leone where the only way to gain power is through the ballot box, not through the barrel of a gun or the head of an axe.  The election is also public notice to all those sycophants who for years thought power belonged to them and that no one else could be in power that they are wrong.  Those days are far gone. 

Even as we contemplate whether there would be a run-off  election between the APC and the SLPP, one thing is clear, for the first time in our history since 1967, no one party or military junta is going to dominate the country in the next five years.  From results coming in, neither the APC, nor the SLPP will have a two-thirds majority in the in-coming parliament.  That calls for consensus building to pass major legislation and other reforms.  What this also means is that whichever party wins the presidency will need the approval of the opposition party to appoint cabinet ministers and other keys positions.  This will go a long way to curb nepotism and tribal tendencies that have plagued our country for yeas. 

Here is a word of caution to all Sierra Leoneans.  Despite the huge promises politicians made during the campaign, the dismal state of the country cannot be turned around in the next few weeks or months.  It will take years to undo the irreparable damage that has been done to the country since independence in 1961. To rebuild the country, whichever party wins the presidency will need to reach out across the board and work with the technocrats and other experienced honest dependable persons to shape the country for future development.

Another giant step that will help our country forward in the coming years is to avoid a witch hunt for past failures.  While I advocate justice and fairness, and recovery of state funds from unscrupulous failed politicians, if the winning party engages in a political witch hunt to humiliate the other side, it will bring chaos and gridlock - something that has thwarted the progress of the Democratic Congress in Washington after they won both houses of Congress from the Republicans in 2006. Yet another understanding party supporters should have is that not all of them will get key posts in the government.  As the country walks the path to democracy, some of us have to think of engagement in the private sector where we can form partnership with the government to provide services to our people.

For now, without getting into the implications of the elections, one thing is sure: Sierra Leoneans have changed.  The days of thuggery and intimidation are gone.  The days of debate and engagement are here.  Whether Ernest Koroma or Solomon Berewa will be our next president, we will hold these men on a much higher standard than we did for all past leaders.  Our future growth and survival as a nation depends on it.