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Why I am proud to be a Sierra Leonean

Why I am proud to be a Sierra Leonean

Just few weeks ago, the Chief of Defence Staff of Sierra Leone, Robert Y. Koroma demonstrated the country’s commitment to providing troops to the ECOWAS Force for Ivory Coast.  It demonstrated the country’s appreciation for the role played by some West African states in bringing peace to Sierra Leone during the rebel war. It was a giant step from this beloved country. It buttressed the saying that “when your neighbor’s house is on fire, you should stand by him and put it out”. This is no hypocrisy of minding your own business as ascribed by a neighboring leader in the sub-region.  I was thrilled with joy and pride when the Sierra Leonean Chief of Defence Staff informed the world through BBC that the country is willing to send troops to the Ivory Coast debacle. What a bold step is the country portraying? Is this not in line with the adage that “One good turn deserves another”.  As the menace in Ivory Coast escalates, the former Nigerian Foreign Minister, Chief Tom Ikimi categorically called for the use of force in Ivory Coast. Tom Ikimi’s call was reminiscent of the political imbroglio in Sierra Leone and Liberia respectively in the 1990s when these two countries were in turmoil. It was the hard stance of Tom Ikimi at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) that brought the world to know the suffering of  these two countries.  The wars in these two countries would have raged on for several years before the international community would have intervened. Sierra Leoneans will never forget the sacrifices made by some countries in salvaging a nation from the claws of death.  (Photo: Ibrahim-Sourie-Mansaray, author)

While Tom Ikimi’s stance on Ivory Coast was commendable, it also exposed the inadequacies of the International Community especially the African Union (AU). The European Union, the United States have categorically denounced the wayward attitude of this  African leader. The AU’s attitude has been discouraging, to say the least. In the Sierra Leone Liberia scenario, the AU secretariat issued bundles of press releases condemning the AFRC coup but failed to proffer any immediate solution. This degree of delay allowed the AFRC and its allies to consolidate their power base. That is the ugly situation re-emerging in Ivory Coast. Gbagbo is importing arms and ammunition and shamelessly withdrawing money from the oil companies and banks. It is no hidden secret that some African leaders who may want to copy and paste this tactics will support Gbagbo.  As Dr. Abass Bundu encapsulated the Gbagbo theories in his article on Ivory Coast, it inferred that Gbagbo had premeditated his failure in the election. It is therefore not surprising that Gbagbo’s snail pacing attitude towards the issue is a ploy to buy time and thwart the efforts of the African people and his own people whom he alleged to love.

The people of Ivory Coast are suffering and the African leaders are looking with hesitation. Some, notably, the Ghanaian leadership has manifested his ambivalent attitude towards the crisis.  The Ghanaian presidency expressed apprehension about Ghana’s participation in sending a contingent to Ivory Coast. Ghana’s role in African peace keeping had been skeptical and controversial.  Today, his stance is supportive of the decisions of ECOWAS and the next day, he is showing restraint.  Ghana, since the days of late Kwame Nkrummah was noted for its liberation struggles and pan-africanism. However, recent events in international politics has blacklisted Ghana as a country with two faced policies. The former leader, Jerry Rawlings of Ghana openly manifested his abhorrence for the former ruler of Sierra Leone, Tejan Kabbah during the crisis in Sierra Leone. As if that was not enough, the Ghanaian ECOWAS envoy to Sierra Leone ,Victor Gbehu, visited the Sierra Leone at the behest of ECOWAS to assess the political situation during the massacre of civilians by the infamous January 6th invasion. Even when bodies were littered in the streets around the main Connaught hospital, Victor Gbehu told the world that everything was calm in the city. Another saga of noteworthy was the death of the late Liberian Leader, Samuel K Doe at the hands of  Prince Johnson’s fighters under the command of the General Quiano, a Ghanaian.

The role of Sierra Leone in the crisis in Ivory Coast has demonstrated to the world that the people of the country acknowledged the efforts of some countries during our turmoil and as a nation; the country is now paying back. The President of Sierra Leone will be meeting the US President, Barack Obama to brief the US about the crisis and its potential repercussions on democracy in the continent. Bravo, to the leadership of Sierra Leone and its people.  As Sierra Leone seemed to be the hub of new pan-africanism in the continent, the question that begs for attention is what is the African Union doing?

What has the African Union achieved since it replaced the Organisation of African Unity? Today, there are numerous problems in the continent. Somalia is a failed state, the war is still ravaging on after 20 years, hundreds of thousands have died, millions are displaced and the Al-Shaaba group is creating hardships for ordinary civilians in the city and country wide.

In Congo, the war is still going. The instability has resulted in millions of Congolese lives and property being destroyed. The cases of rape are the order of the day.

In Zimbabwe, inflation is over 2,200 000%, the economy is broke with 94% of the people unemployed. Whilst the opposition that won the last election are in government with the incumbent party of Mugabe, the Mugabe government has ruled the country like a police state.

In Kenya, hundreds of people were killed during the post election fracas. Is it not the same ”wait and see” approach of the AU?

As the world moves towards democracy and freedom of expression in places like Tunisia, Egypt, Ivory Coast is divided over an intransigent wayward leader, Laurent Gbagbo, who thought the leadership of the country belongs to him. The once prosperous nation has been subjected to killings. Millions of farmers have lost their livelihoods and millions live in fear. The country is divided on ethnic and tribal lines.

It is sad that, most African leaders cannot boast of democracy as most of them came to power through the barrel of the guns. The usual barking and threats of suspension from the AU has not paid dividend. Sanctions affect the ordinary people more than the leaders. It is a shame that the AU had always relied on the west to cleanse their dirty backyard. Is the AU waiting for thousands to be killed before intervening? The newly appointed Ivorian Ambassador to the UN, Youssoufou Bamba informed the UN General assembly that genocide is taking place in Ivory Coast. A member of the AU downplayed the statement as an exaggeration. What a shame to mother Africa?

The peace efforts of the three presidents and the Kenyan prime minister had gone beyond the threshold of sanity. The use of force should be the national anthem of Gbagbo.

This should be the new music of ECOWAS: Expell all Gbagbo’s ambassadors from African countries and committees from international bodies. Second, ECOWAS should now create a buffer zone for all surrendered soldiers and preach the gospel of “all those who bear the greatest responsibility against humanity” will face the International Criminal Court.

ECOWAS has done it in Liberia and Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast should not be the stumbling block.

Thank God Sierra Leone is a beacon in Africa. If the Victor Malu, Shelpidi,late Maxwell Khobe can bring peace to Sierra Leone and Liberia respectively, it is beyond all reasonable doubts that other  professional soldiers from Sierra Leone and other countries will bring peace to Ivory Coast.

By Ibrahim Sourie Mansaray, Stockton,California

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