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Do we need political strongholds?

Do we need political strongholds?

Political stronghold! This is a commonly used phrase in politics especially during elections and Sierra Leone is no exception.

A political stronghold, in the Sierra Leonean context, usually refers to a locality where a candidate or political party, as the case may be, draws the largest political support; where a party or candidate has overwhelming sway over political loyalists.

Some critics have argued that for the sake of effective representation, a political party or candidate need to have a base from where the strength of that party or representative could be tested; a platform the party could always rely on for support during competitive elections.

It is the view of these critics that when a political party or a candidate lacks a strong hold the chances of that individual securing support of the people is slim.

Interestingly, these strongholds are often built around tribal, cultural or regional loyalty and not necessarily along ideological lines. This is so in communities where mass poverty or illiteracy takes precedence.

Therefore, for a political party or candidate to survive, especially for our own brand of electioneering, the need for a political base becomes imperative.

However, not many of us share this view in the light of what politicians make of political strongholds.

We believe that strongholds create in the electorate a mindset which could be dangerous for a healthy democratic practice. Past experiences show that certain political parties or individual politicians have been barred from reaching certain communities or regions simply because certain individuals had entrenched influence in those places.

Such a political base becomes the exclusive preserve of certain individuals, such that any attempt to penetrate those places by rival interest groups is forcefully resisted.

Our 1991 constitution makes provision for freedom of movement and freedom of association. The concept of political strongholds tends to negate these provisions in our constitution. We don’t need ‘no go’ areas in this country.

We are not saying for a moment that political strongholds are undemocratic. We are simply saying that when politicians strive to create strongholds they are equally making way for political violence, especially in a situation where our security apparatus cannot be relied upon when it comes to controlling an unruly crowd of supporters.

The recent stone throwing incident in Bo which left one rioter dead and buildings put on fire is a typical example of a political mindset arising from the ‘stronghold’ culture.

We should be free to go wherever we want to and campaign when the need arises. We don’t need political strongholds simply because we want to win elections. What we need is the ability to mobilize support from within a community and sell our agenda in an organized and peaceful manner. It does not necessarily have to be tribal or regional based.

Sierra Leone is for all Sierra Leoneans no matter where you come from. This is our message as we approach 2012.

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