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Sierra Leone is an example to Africa

Sierra Leone is an example to Africa

Did I hear the words of the Botswana President, Khama Lan Khama condemning the shameful act in Ivory Coast? What a bold a step from an African statesman. Africa is plunging itself into another mess. Where are all the Leaders and what are they saying? This is an affront to democracy. It is a shame living in the west and seeing what is going on in Africa. This amoral milieu has exacerbated the endemic legitimacy crisis that has characterized Africa as a continent where the strongest rules the civilised. The chaos  in Ivory Coast has manifested  its problematic moral order within which politics takes place in most African countries. It is in this regard that I commend the Sierra Leone Peoples Party in Sierra Leone  for  relinquishing power even when some results were disputed. It is commendable and it shows how Sierra Leoneans are civilized, intelligent and democratic. The problem in ivory Coast where the incumbent is refusing to give up power and the shameless constitutional court imposing Gbagbo on the people manifests principally, but not only, two debilitating ways: firstly, the negative perception of politics and politicians including the popular notion that politics is a ‘dirty and nasty game’ and the illegitimate crisis where incumbents don’t want to give up power.  (Photo: Ibrahim Sourie Mansaray)

According to Locke and other political philosophers, a state compels obedience when the citizens perceive it to be representing their interests and pursuing their common good. In other words, it is when people are able to relate to the state as their own that they are most likely to obey it. The question of the individual relating himself to the state is not, therefore, simply one of identity as is assumed by students of national integration. It also involves an acceptance by the individual that the state is capable of pursuing his good. This is where the morality question comes in because morality is a theory of the “right” and the “good”. The people of Ivory Coast deserve more than what an impostor and power greedy miscreant is doing.  The point is that the state and its operators should be credible in the eyes of the people in order to compel obedience. It is anarchy and confusion in Ivory Coast. The falcon cannot hear the falconer and mere anarchy is loose upon the world. Things are falling apart. Chinua Achebe, in neighboring Nigeria  would  be apocalyptic in analyzing what he wrote in his famous novel, ”Things fall Apart”, years ago. Did he predict this morass in Africa?

Democratic stability does not however end with the sustenance of a particular government. It also includes the possibility that the government will not remain in power once it loses the people support and that, in that event, the people have an alternative party to choose from. The people of Ivory Coast have spoken and the African leaders should not sit and consider this brouhaha as an internal problem. It is a shame to  some African leaders to watch Ivory Coast in turmoil.

It is not only wars that the International Criminal Court should be charging people with crimes against humanity. The Head of the Constitutional Court in Ivory Coast, the so-called incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and his top military commanders should be charged to court.

Alassan Ouattarra’s situation is extremely pathetic. He has been disqualified on many fronts from contesting the presidency. He obeyed and listened patiently as his case took many years before the constitutional court. The lame duck court had no alternative but to grant his citizenship.  Whilst waiting for his era, Gbagbo had ruled for  several years and still want to cling onto power. What is wrong with some leaders? Why do some of our leaders think they are annointed Presidents?

It is for this and many reasons, that I owe my love to Sierra Leone. Our politics is coming of age.

The question is, what then is the place of the moral imperative in democratic stability? It is that, in the final analysis, a government can be stable only to the extent that the people believe it has a moral right to be obeyed.

The former President of Senegal, Leopold Senghor, once lamented the lack of altruistic motives for public service: “We lack a moral tension…. a  true  commitment to the service of our country. It is this that I consider the most difficult task among all those I have undertaken (as President). To instill in my people…. that taste for work well done… that sense of public good, without which nothing lasting can be accomplished.”  The people of Ivory Coast have seen the work of  Laurent Gbagbo and wanted a new change. The world especially the African Heads of States should seize this opportunity and call a spade a spade. The rhetoric of oral  condemnation is a false phenomenon. This is the nature of the credibility crisis which has continued to plaque democratic stability in African countries.

The situation in Ivory Coast is complicated in that the military has become part of the political problem. In a sense, it is not surprising.  The military has abandoned its constitutional right and engulfed knee deep in corruption.

Another factor that has complicated the morality question in Ivory Coast and Africa is that these attempts  to intervene in maintaining stability have been highly discontinuous. Most leaders and governments have followed personalized schemes of legitimacy anchored on implicit and explicit schemes of social mobilization.  The ad hoc in which problems of corruption and ethnicity are dealt with has not enabled the development of sustained approaches to the problems in the country. The country is polarised between the two front runners. The journalists compounded the divide lines even before the elections (that is why journalists should be careful in writing about tribal and ethnicity in a fragile country). This is a critical issue that needs to be addressed: how to change, in materialistic terms, the perception of the civic public to a productive one.

It is for this reason that Sierra Leone  serves as a doyen of democracy to Africa and the world at large. The ingredients of western democracy, including two or more political parties, rule of law, independent judiciary, free press, bill of rights, periodic elections have held forth the promise of being successful transplant patients.  The people of Africa are watching and the International Community is watching the stance of the African leaders. Act now and save a dying state.

Ibrahim Sourie Mansaray, Stockton, California, USA

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  • Excellent.

    7th December 2010

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