by Mahmud Tim Kargbo
The party is over. A celebration that began with the election in 2018 of a dynamic president who promised change and a new dawn in Sierra Leone politics is now a pipe dream. We stand more than three years later in the ruins of false hopes and broken dreams. A new era was to begin—post tribalism, bipartisanship, regionalism and with the unity to right an economic ship that collided with the great state looting of our national resources that began under rogue former President Koroma.
A nation of people looking for stability and restoration, not the continuation of failed policies and State House orchestrated gridlock. The opportunity and the moment were there to be seized when Koroma peacefully exited the Presidency, but our grip melted as despair replaced optimism. Newly elected President Bio, spend no time in-country to study the socio-economic situation of the country he’s elected to govern and the characters of the people that surround him to deliver his social contract mandate with his people.
This divide that continues to widen every day has been a calculated goal of the Bio led SLPP since the first champagne corks were popped and people raised their expectations that this time, finally, things might be different. But the Bio led SLPP Party, the “Paopa” wing and ultimately the “Paopa government” were not interested in the melody of national cohesion and the greater good of the economy for all nationals. Their agenda was set from day one, and with the bulldozed of the Speaker of Parliament in favour of his SLPP Party, the scores of constitutional violations, the politicisation of independent institutions, the illegal sacking of top civil servants assumed to be members or supporters of the opposition etc, Bio demonstrated that his number one priority was to keep on fanning the flames of discord the damper on this soiree began. Bio showed that the economy, jobs creation, social service protection for all nationals, guaranteed human rights for all nationals and national cohesion were distant to his number one goal of not just trying to further destroy national peace as started by Koroma but to build a wall of regional and tribal difference to anything and everything that is geared towards national cohesion.
So as 2021 unfolded, and around the world as Bio toured out of taxpayers monies, President Bio unveiled his never to be realised mission of “winning international investors” with the very weak democratic institutions under his presidency. The anti-corruption battle which meant to specifically target unexplained wealth, something he believed would bring pragmatic solutions for his uninsured second term and tackle, in part, the rising cost of his poor leadership qualities, he keep on experiencing a barrage of resistance and indigenous behaviour from genuine democrats across the globe. From the increase in human rights violations to the badly behind the scene negotiated contract, forming a paramilitary unit, withdrawing monies from the national purse to pay illegal paramilitary unit, over-bloated wage bill to create jobs for the guys and others are all clear signs with the intent of destroying democratic standards and perfect wrongs Bio once condemned when Koroma was lording over the affairs of the state.
At the same time, we are also seeing the rise of a group of people who, prompted by prejudice and preconceived ideas when in opposition, began a movement on the premise that they wanted the government to lower or eliminate taxes on essential commodities—although their initial methods, which included carrying signs portraying World Bank and IMF as Hitler is now at odds with their actions of being in bed with all World Bank and IMF conditions they’ve once condemned as oppressive and causing untold economic hardship in the lives of the majority. Within three years of the Bio regime, the gains and strides we expected to gain as a nation in national cohesion relations and bread and butter for the suffering majority are now as out-of-focus as the mirrors in a funhouse.
In 2018, March general elections buoyed by an economy that was slow in turning around and a public that was fed a daily dose of falsehoods and innuendo from paopa-wing talk radio shows, Paopa newspapers and Bio created an atmosphere that led Sierra Leoneans to believe positive change with a nationalistic sense of purpose is indeed possible. The “Paopa” winners had talked during their campaign about jobs and fixing the economy by observing fiscal discipline policy with the blocking of leakages, and, with their mask of patriotism and Constitution in hand, had convinced restless and discontented voters of their sincerity. The desperation and exasperation the voters felt toward Bio gave the SLPP “Paopa” party the foothold it needed and in the four corners of Sierra Leone, ordinary people, state legislatures, and civil servants, a wave of new SLPP “Paopa” party-goers arrived to make the change possible for all nationals. Yet jobs and economic development for all nationals to get their “bread and butter” were not Bio’s first order of business. In fact, that issue for the most part has taken a back seat to nepotism and violation of human rights for the suffering majority. The definition of opportunity for all Sierra Leoneans changed and suppression of the young, the poor, and elders irrespective of their income bracket is increasing rapidly. This party has truly become a masquerade party and now they have saved the best for last.
During the campaign and since Bio came to power, these words have been uttered more than any time in our Country’s history: “APC past government was corrupt and oppressive.” After more than three years in governance, voices of reasoning considered this description as nothing, but the standard procedure of diverting the attention of the suffering majority to give way to massive sycophancy and covert corruption activities in governance. This is now being used as leverage by the Bio led government as he extracts taxes from nationals with no increase in social service protection. Now they’re really redefining how the government in this country should work for all citizens. And if they could not get their way, it appears they are willing to paralyse Sierra Leone and impact the fragile Sierra Leone economy because the prevailing environment is not conducive for any genuine investors to invest in the country. They were in favour of us criticising the past government in bed with the World Bank and IMF conditions.
And despite the dire consequences of such conditions to national and economic security and to an enormous percentage if not a majority of this country’s citizens, consequences which almost every single expert warned about, the Bio led government does not believe there is a real cause for concern. In the end, the only thing that really matters for them is their deceitful ideology, steeped in oppressing the suffering majority.
So, yes, the election is over and Bio and his “Paopa” team have taken off their masks, and, whether in the light of day or in the dimly lit rooms where they gather, their appearance is diaphanous and their rhetoric and actions contribute to the sounds of the nihilistic madness that pervade us today.