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Change can be effected by what we do and what we omit to do, that should have been done. There are times when the omissions come back to haunt us, just as much as things done. Malcolm X is one of the best known figures to have used the phrase “The chicken coming home to roost.” In this article I am going to combine the action of omission and the phrase. (Photo: author)
Our governments in Sierra Leone, post independence (neo-dependence) have erred, both, by actions taken, and that which they failed to take action on. The lack of an organized civil society is the Achilles heel for advancement in our society. The latest example of omission and the phrase “chickens coming home to roost, is the walkout of the present opposition group in parliament. These people, SLPP opposition, are presently lamenting that the oil exploration bill was ushered in under an emergency clause, when that was not the case. The use of the emergency clause for rushing bills thru parliament is nothing new to our “yeleba” parliaments. I use the phrase “yeleba” because more often than not parliament always comprises 50% +1 members that are members of the president’s party. Sierra Leone politics been what it is, the president will always have his/her way. The absence of a publicly contested primary election means that parliamentarians, for the most part, only have to secure their party’s ticket to be voted in. Getting the party ticket implies that you have to be in the inner circle, be present in Freetown and be in the good books of the party chair/president. An example, the candidate’s constituency is in Kailahun, 12hrs drive away from the capital city of Freetown, but the party tickets choices are made in some smoke filled room in Freetown. It means then that the parliamentarians owe very little to the people in their respective constituencies, who vote solidly along party lines. The parliamentarian owes almost everything to the president/party chair. The president/party chair also owes very little to the people who eventually voted him/her into power, having been given the mandate via less than 150 delegates, who are more interested in future cabinet and agency positions, than some malaria, and diarrhea, infested village, 200 miles away. Chameleon (cross carpet) parliamentarians, looking for positions within the incumbent government, change sides at the drop of a hat and also swell the number of people needed to get the President’s bills pushed through.
The last walkout, about the oil drilling bill, is interesting because when the Freedom Of Information Act was drafted about 9 yrs ago, SLPP was in power. Had the bill been signed it into law, they, SLPP, would have been privy to what is going on. There are other powers, for civil society, that could have been enacted by SLPP, then, that they failed to act on – e.g. Power for civil society to use lawsuits to stop government actions, when they are not in the interest of society. Rather than enact strong protective laws for civil society, the power of nolo prosequi was been used. My feeling is that they, SLPP, thought that they will be in power forever and therefore did not see the need to create checks and balances. Unfortunately democraZy involves a change of power, and the chickens are coming home to roost. I am definitely not losing any sleep over an FOI law, with real bite, to emerge any time in the next two administrations. Until then opposition parliamentarians can only watch from the sidelines and collect their unearned paychecks. Who would not want to be an opposition parliamentarian, when you can drive uninsured, unlicensed and unregistered vehicles without any penalty, and have the Chief of Police come and beg, not apologize, for the actions of his arresting officer, who was following the rule of law, in the wells of, you’ve guessed it, parliament.
By Sewanu Kponou, Atlanta, USA
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