By Mahmud Tim Kargbo
Since sold out to money. And that, experts agree, is the biggest threat to it today in Sierra Leone.
“This is one of the main reasons leading to disenchanted voters within our party and the rise of National Democratic Alliance in our own very strong holds.
If the corruptive influence of money has left voter in the Northern parts of Sierra Leone disenchanted, it has been even more damaging in the Western Area. Voters here are no longer shocked by revelations of corruption uncovered by the country’s anti-graft agency, the Anti Corruption Commission. Millions of dollars are already been misappropriated by our politicians and public officials who served under the current government and they remain to be recovered as well indicated by the Auditors General Commission Report. Citizens are disgruntled and democracy no longer looks as promising as it did in 1997, when the military handed over to a democratically elected president.
It’s a similar story back in the days of the SLPP regime. SLPP then claimed to have popular support, but regular grumblings against their government suggests otherwise. “The government has stolen our money. It is out of touch with the problems we have. It must begin to listen to the people and stamp out the corruption which has crippled our economy.”
For a long time, oligarchs in the garb of democrats within our current government pretending to serve the interests of the people. But the veil of deception is lifting. People are starting to recognise that the dreams of collective prosperity promised by democracy are being turned into nightmares for the majority, and monumental wealth for the privileged ruling class and their allies.
Saving democracy from itself
There is a common thread: if it does not look like democracy and does not have the outcomes we would expect from democracy, it is not a democracy.
As Thomas Jefferson stated, “we should not trust democracy without extremely powerful systems of accountability”. In our so-called democracy today, that accountability – and the transparency that goes with it – is missing. As this trend continues, democracy will continue to appear strong and ready to meet all challenges, but like SLPP discovered in their days in governance, once an idea loses its essence and greed supersedes in any organisation, it will gradually fade away. What will take its place is a situation we do not want to envisage, let alone live in.
But it’s not too late. Democracy can still become of the people, by the people and for the people once again, in process and in outcomes, in deed and in truth. Just as Rome was not built in a day, so the Roman Empire did not end when Romulus was overthrown by Odoacer. No, the fall of Rome began long before its rulers saw their world order was on its way out.
As a Sierra Leonean colleague of mine we met last in a summit in South Africa, who’s also a member of the African Leadership Network. As far as she is concerned, “in Sierra Leone, it’s getting to a point where people just don’t trust politicians and their ability to change things anymore.” To make sure this lack of trust in politicians does not translate into a complete lack of trust in democracy, we must now begin to focus on distancing situations where young people glue to positions merely to stamp their authority and show their relevance with negative Performance Outcome, and making transparency and accountability fundamental to our acceptance of a government as democratic.
Once we accept what it means to be a truly democratic country, we’ll have started the journey towards separating democracies from their adulterations all around Sierra Leone. Let’s hope we can do so before democracy fades into but a shadow of its former self.