Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Country Has No Rose for Thorpe

image Of course, for a woman of her caliber and resolve she expects no bouquet of roses for conducting the much-contested 2007 relatively free of violence general elections and a runoff between two historic bitter rivals; the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) and the All People's Congress (APC). It is not surprising that Christiana Thorpe, the Chief Commissioner for the National Electoral Commission in Sierra Leone, finds herself the subject of much heated post-elections debates amongst winners, losers and umpires.

The outcome of the elections is leaving many high-flying politicians come crashing to the ground and others rising up from over fifteen years of political hibernation. Ms. Thorpe's leadership in partnership with the Executive Representative of the United Nations Secretary General in Sierra Leone, Victor Angelo produced what the world has referred to as the model democratic elections in Africa. This has become unsettling for many SLPP leaders, and indeed, the cause for the ensuing post-elections debates that have become the fodder for scholars and the Fourth Estate in Sierra Leone and abroad.

Digging up political hallmarks of this small West African nation that shares borders with Guinea and Liberia, its Manor River Union member states, would help us to understand the gist of the ensuring post-elections political debates.

Sierra Leoneans negotiated their way out of British colonialism by peacefully dimming the once proverbial sun that never set on the British Empire in Lancaster House and won their Independence in 1961, a process that ushered into power the SLPP as the first political party to govern Sierra Leone. Dimming because, evidence of flag-Independence is still prevalent in Sierra Leone - not only for its close ties to London, but also because Britain saw the need to free the diamond fields of its former colony from the grips of sex-slaver and limbs-hacking rebels.

Interestingly, 2007 was not the first time that the APC has unseated the SLPP through the ballot box. In 1967, the APC, under the leadership of Siaka Stevens, defeated the SLPP. Siaka Stevens would later fall for the infamous one-party system phenomenon that blew over the sub-Saharan region for obvious reasons. Like many other African leaders who must stay in power, Stevens manipulated the people through a rigged referendum to bring about a one-party system.

It was those unchecked powers and nitty-gritty political un-resourcefulness by the old APC guard that became the stage upon which rested the major political blemishes on the previously clean democratic political history of Sierra Leone - oppressive government and the decade-long brutal war.

But it would be an incomplete telling of the history without the statement that Sierra Leone acquired bloodless Independence, subsequent and post-war electoral processes have made that nation a model country in Africa for conducting good elections. While many civil wars in Africa degenerate into ethnic cleansing and sometimes genocide, the same cannot be said of the civil war in Sierra Leone.

Flatly, the recently extolled general elections by the international community in Sierra Leone is a manifestation that could allow the safe room for wriggling into a reasonable position to assert that the people sacrificed their lives in the eleven years bloodletting to deny oppressive regimes a safe haven and to return the good electoral processes to which they were previously accustomed.

But the SLPP still finds it very difficult just to take credit for overseeing an excellent electoral process and move on. Top SLPP leaders did not only boycott the inauguration of the new APC government, former President Tejan Kabbah's sense of humility during the changing of the political guard was met by stunt criticisms of him from top SLPP leaders. Some hold it to be self-evidence that the outgoing leader was a mole in the SLPP who wanted to see the return of power to his northern origin.

Also, many in the SLPP have blamed Kabbah for not doing the despicable thing that many incumbent governments do - to rig the elections. Some people have even levied accusations on him that his choice of Vice President Berewa as the flag bearer of the SLPP, who they say is unpopular, was a ploy for Kabbah to fulfill his hidden agenda. But it is also fair to state that Kabbah and Berewa have successfully exhumed themselves from these grave accusations and sometimes-baseless speculations as model citizens of the world by the peaceful and safe change of the political guard to whom the political bell tolls.

Awareness Times, a popular local tabloid in Sierra Leone, champions what its editor calls "investigative journalism" into the actions of Victor Angelo vis-à-vis his performance as the UN-based umpire of the elections in Sierra Leone. The newspaper and some SLPP supporters posit that the election was a rehearsal of a pre-arranged APC stuff to win.

Quite a few chastened conspiracy theory-based opinion papers from SLPP supporters freely find space on the pages of the Awareness Times newspaper in its exposé bid of what many SLPP supporters have referred to as a ploy by Victor Angelo to rig the elections in favor of the APC. But that was during the run-up to the runoff.

Refusing to let go now, Awareness Times has recently published a paper written by Amara P. Vandy in Bo titled, "SLPP Southern Province blasts: United Nations' Victor Angelo is a Hypocrite." Notably amongst the many invectives on Victor Angelo in the article, Mr. Vandy writes; "The executive of the Southern Province branches of the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) have in recent days, totally boycotted a 'consultative meeting' which the Executive Representative of the United Nations Secretary General in Sierra Leone, Victor Angelo had called with political parties active in the region citing to this reporter that Angelo was nothing but, in their words, a 'damn hypocrite.'" A letter dated November 28, 2007 on Awareness Times website lodges the SLPP leadership complaint with the UN Secretary General, Bank Ki-Moon. In part, the letter reads; "Accordingly, the Sierra Leone People's Party has resolved that until Mr. Victor Angelo is recalled and replaced as your Executive Representative to Sierra Leone, the Party and its members shall withhold their participation and co-operation from all United Nations programmes and activities in Sierra Leone." Upon hearing of Victor Angelo's recent resignation from the UN after thirty-years of service, some SLPP knee-jerk reactionaries responded, allotting bountiful self-credit to themselves that their complaint with Bank Ki-Moon had scored a major goal for them. But Victor Angelo on the other hand swiftly debunked that sentiment at the very last chance he had in his farewell statement. He stated that he had put in his resignation with the UN ever since and that the UN had been slow to find a replacement staff. He maintained that he worked in Sierra Leone fearlessly, denied taking any sides in the elections and asserted that his work was not influenced by intimidators. He spoke of the success he helped to bring to Sierra Leone boastfully that Sierra Leone has moved from a "crisis" state in 2000 up into a "model" state in 2007.Even though the rest of the world sees an example of a good democratic process in Sierra Leone conducted by Christiana Thorpe, her process of invalidating votes has met serious criticism from the SLPP leaders.

Meanwhile, speculative theorists are making efforts to connect Angelo and Thorpe in a conspiracy to have rigged the elections.Amidst the foregoing name-calling and finger pointing, the APC is yet to present Ms.

Thorpe the petals of rose for her so-called conspiracy to rig the elections on its behalf. What is obvious though, is Ernest Bai Kororma's witty and careful cherry picking of political appointees worthy of staying and the appointments of new ones.Despite the crashing of politicians of the old guard, the new APC's rising political stars of President Koroma's "new dawn" in Sierra Leone are hard at work. Firstly, notable amongst positive actions so far, is the promise to light up the world's darkest city in December 20, 2007.

allAfrica.com: Sierra Leone: Country Has No Rose for Thorpe (Page 1 of 1)