The diaspora factor in Sierra Leone
Thank God the Almighty that our nation has completed the Biometric Voter registration peacefully and successfully on Sunday March 25, 2012. The National Electoral Commission (NEC) deserves enormous credit for their impressive job and as a registered voter, I can say with certainty that we are on the road to a democratic free and fair election. As a Presidential aspirant, I am hopeful that in the future more resources will be provided to the NEC in terms of Biometric machines and staff support. I am expecting that the demographic registration data obtained will be comprehensively analyzed and used as a study guide in assessing the percentage of women voters, the level of participation of minority groups, the high and low density voting areas and learning about the voting pattern of Sierra Leoneans in the upcoming election. (Photo: NDA Presidential aspirant, Mohamed C Bah)
But what has increasingly stood very conspicuous in my mind since my media discussions to educating my supporters about the rule of law and good governance is the anti-Diaspora factor in Sierra Leone today. I am seriously troubled by the deep seated animosity that many people hold against Sierra Leoneans who may have lived or are living overseas.
My position on the Diaspora question has been an open and a broad base approach particularly the desperate need to undo or change the wrong perception about Diaspora Sierra Leoneans. That considerable focus must be directed to the vision and ideas of young politicians who are more interested in national development than where they have lived or what colleges they were educated from.
The culture of branding one group against another has been depressingly a political miscalculation by some Sierra Leoneans, who have either been adversely influenced by isolated negative events or are being mesmerized by unworthy politicians who practice the “sour grape” of the divide and conquer philosophy.
I hold a very objective view that some Diaspora Sierra Leoneans have betrayed the trust of the people and have created a poor image of performance since President Koroma’s Diaspora Initiatives. However, I have advocated and continue to express my unshakable confidence that many Diaspora Sierra Leoneans have developed a lifestyle of trust and integrity, accountability and transparency, commitment and responsibility, and patriotically want to serve their country. Thus, we should be pragmatic in understanding that individuals define their own characters and not a group of people.
I have also elevated the conversation that the length of time one lives out of Sierra Leone and the region where they are born does not determine their level of performance, attitude and commitment to nation building. For over 50 years, Sub Saharan Africa have benefited from the human capital and participation of Diasporans from Presidents and Prime Minister to civil servants and teachers. Thus, the Diaspora factor should be embraced as I have cited the economic and political advantages countries like Ghana, Mauritius, Botswana and Nigeria have benefited from their own citizens who have lived overseas.
I believe that our focus must be clearly about defining a better relationship between Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad through active discussions, broader social engagements and inter personal understanding. Diaspora Sierra Leoneans should learn to respect the sacrifices and talents of our brothers and sisters at home, develop a culture of trust and work with them as equal partners of national development.
Our “home-base” Sierra Leoneans should openly remove the threat of the “social and territorial infringement” mindset and avoid the perception of one group being superior to the other. We must harness the spirit of nationalism and advance the historical evidence that we are the same people with a common geography and ancestry. Such attitude of engagement will reduce the false perception that we are enemies living on different continents. We can begin to find a common ground of working together for our shared interest-making Sierra Leone a more just and prosperous nation- for future generation.
The Diaspora factor should be an initiative of progress not a bridge of distrust and misconception. The issue of joblessness, lack of good infrastructure in building a water supply network, expanding electricity coverage to millions of homes in our rural communities, transforming our educational system to be more job-skilled oriented, diversifying our economy from an extracting industry to agricultural, financial and service sectors, reforming our justice and civil service sectors, capacitating our functionless public institutions, modernizing our airport and seaport while easing the transportation burden on our citizens, promoting food security and self-sufficiency, and moving Sierra Leone from aid to trade are the many forwarding thinking agendas both Diaspora and home-base Sierra Leoneans should be collectively involved in doing not the warrantless suspicion and unfounded animosity that continue to divide us.
As I continue to engage the media in Sierra Leone and talking to people across the country, I will advance the common interest of every Sierra Leonean. From the ethnic and regional phobia to the elite and grass-root misconceptions about one another, I have an abiding faith in the tenacity and temperament of the Sierra Leonean people. I am fully aware today that our cynicisms are more grounded in the poverty circumstances and political inadequacies than what makes us different in the way we speak, where we live and what region we belong to. My views are based on the interpretations and aspirations of the people not these coward politicians today, who have destroyed the cohesiveness of our national unity.
And Diaspora Sierra Leoneans are citizens of Sierra Leone too, who must be embraced and welcomed to contribute meaningfully to nation building. After all, if we do not duplicate the intricacies and successes of other economies, how could we be competitive in the global market today? What Sierra Leone needs today is not only Diaspora involvement and support, but a collective national development initiatives of every Sierra Leoneans from Sanda Magbolontor to Sidney, Australia, from Gbonkolenken (Tonkolili District) to New York city, from Wonde- Gboyama (Bo) to Berlin,from Mattru-Jong (Bonthe) to Atlanta, Georgia, from Peje Futta (Pujehun) to London, from Kissi Tongi-Buedu (Kailahun) to Moscow, from Daima- Giema (Kenema) to Amsterdam, from Tankoro- New Sembehun (Kono) to Zurich, from Wara Wara Yagala Gbawuria (Koinadugu) to Paris, and from Rotifunk (Moyamba) to the heart of the capital city of Freetown, Sierra Leone. This is the way forward for a better and prosperous Sierra Leone.
By Mohamed C Bah, NDA Presidential aspirant: Freetown, Sierra Leone
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