Wind of Change: Sierra Leoneans in South-East London Unite Against the Cancer of Tribalism
It is without doubt that tribalism, ethnicity, or regionalism, have been and continue to be key contributory factors to underdevelopment, slow progress or the total absence of progress in many African countries. Rwanda, Burundi and Nigeria have their horrible stories of tribal or regional bigotry to tell.
In Sierra Leone, while tribalism and regionalism may not have had massive negative repercussions in the scale they have had in other countries, it cannot be denied that these evils are quite visible among us. Whether you like it or not, there has always been a crystal clear North-South East, Temne-Mende divide.
The official reasons for the launching of the RUF war may not have had anything to do with this Temne-Mende divide, but as Sierra Leoneans painfully travelled through over a decade of horrific happenings and destruction on a massive and unprecedented scale, the war (to some extent) assumed a tribal flavour. Some readers of this article may not subscribe to this view, but the writers strongly believe so.
With just a few weeks to the 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections, it will be worth asking whether Sierra Leoneans have learnt the right lessons regarding the ills of tribalism and whether we feel we are fully prepared to promote the nation instead of the tribe.
Following the recently concluded exercise in Sierra Leone of the award of party symbols for the upcoming elections, a handful of Sierra Leoneans mainly in South East London have made a commendable move toward the building of a nation of Sierra Leone rather than the promotion of a tribe.
Alfred Brima Katta was until recently, a Mental Health Nurse Practitioner in London. Due to a need to serve his people, he relinquished his London job to vie for the SLPP symbol in a constituency in the Southern Province of Sierra Leone. London friends and acquaintances later received the good news that Katta had clinched the SLPP symbol hands down. Just days after receiving this news, a number of individuals launched an appeal to raise some funds to support Katta’s cause in Sierra Leone. The Katta Group comprised not just of Mendes but individuals from all tribes in Sierra Leone: Susus, Konos, Krios, Mandingos to name a few. Perhaps the most amazing thing is the fact that the Katta Group is actually chaired by one I have always branded a diehard Temne from the Northern city of Makeni in the name of Mr Abdul Sampha Bangura (aka Whyte). Mr Bangura himself had said in one of the Katta Group meetings that, “it is time for us to see people from the point of view of what they stand for and not what their tribe is.” He further said, “Katta is a man of the people and not just a man of the SLPP.” Mr Bangura said he will always support Sierra Leoneans who think and act like people of the nation of Sierra Leonean instead of people of the Temne or Mende tribes.
Following a number of well attended meetings chaired by Mr Bangura, the Katta Group on Saturday, 27th. October, 2012, had a fairly successful Katta fund raising dance at Alim Sesay’s Muana Pub and Restaurant in Peckham. Many thanks to those who actively participated in promoting the activitiy: Mr Abdul Bangura himself, Sahr Sinnah, Mohamed Jah ( Pa Jah ), Joe Tucker, Tom ( Son of Man ) Alim Sesay to name a few.
The question many have asked and continue to ask is: “how did it happen that APC/Northern diehards will champion the cause of an SLPP strong man?” The specific questions of the writers of this article are: “Are we beginning to see things from a broader, national perspective? Are we starting to think and see beyond regional boundaries? Are we beginning to look at people and their philosophies of life instead of their tribe or language?
Katta’s personality may have enlightened many Sierra Leoneans that he was in contact with while he lived in London. He is everyone’s friend irrespective of where you come from or which language you speak.
The South East of London has a few popular “Sierra Leonean” pubs and restaurants and among them are: Stella’s (run by a lady from the South or East of Sierra Leone) Kalizo’s (run by a Northerner) and Muana’s (run by a Northerner). While Katta visited all three pubs, he was most frequent at Kalizo’s with over 70% of the daily customers being APC diehards. No negative comments made about the SLPP turned Katta against his non Mende friends. He remained calm, positive and friendly at all times no matter what. Katta would buy you a drink even if you told him “I hate the SLPP and the Mendes“ and at a more appropriate moment, he would tell whoever it is, that building Sierra Leone is what should matter to us.
To many, Katta is more Sierra Leonean than Mende. Katta promotes what we will call in this article, amitié sans frontières (friendship without frontiers). Katta has indeed brought together individuals who were prejudiced against each other. The Katta Group has now vowed not to stop at this. Their work may appear very little at this stage but it could be the start of something big, great and beneficial to our country. The group will now continue to grow for the purpose of promoting positive mutual relations between the opposing political parties and tribes of Sierra Leone.
The Truth About Tribalism
Tribalism and bigotry are bye products of ignorance. As a nation, we are afflicted by this sickness of tribalism. Little do we remember that once we remain tribalistic, we will always support our own people even if they are oppressing others outside of our tribe.
To fail to acknowledge the achievements of another or promote the ambitions of another because they belong to another tribe or political party is incredibly repulsive. A tribal mentality divides communities and rejects justice and is therefore prone to violence and lack of progress.
When we are tribalistic, we abandon reason and rationality and become blind followers who hear only what we wish to hear and see what we wish to see. Tribalism is one of the ugliest sins we can commit against the nation of Sierra Leone.
Covering up evil deeds or minimizing their gravity in the name of tribal or party allegiance brings no good to our nation. Rather, injustice must be condemned in every circumstance whether the perpetrator is APC or SLPP, Mende or Temne.
It is time for all Sierra Leoneans to work together to remove all obstructions to the smooth flow of the river of love and understanding. Enough is enough.
By Eddie Tedson Sesay and Alhaji Bangura
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