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HomeFeaturedThe ‘Tribal Card’: Not ‘wise’ option for any Governing Party in Sierra Leone (Part Three)

The ‘Tribal Card’: Not ‘wise’ option for any Governing Party in Sierra Leone (Part Three)

The ‘Tribal Card’: Not ‘wise’ option for any Governing Party in Sierra Leone (Part Three)

About two weeks ago, I was on the radio programme most widely-listened to by Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad, Dr. David Tam-Baryoh’s ‘MONOLOGUE’: to talk about the  video documentary, ‘SALONE PROSPERITY’,  which I produced last year; and to help radio-debut the youth coalition I am mentoring, evocatively named, ‘Grahp! Woke!! Study!!! Salone Go Befoe!!!!’  I implored all youth in the country to  “take advantage of the opportunities that have been created by President Ernest Bai Koroma’s government”; and not wait for a political party of their choice to, hopefully, come to power first and work ‘miracles’ for them – “For if there is any Messiah in Sierra Leone, there is already one at the apex of our national leadership”, I intoned. That halo of ‘Messiah’ was embedded in one of the songs (“Ernest nar World Best, O….Salone Messiah, O!!….) that millions romped on, and women swooned with,  as President Koroma’s film-star handsome visage would beam at them,  waving a white handkerchief during the heat of the 2012 elections.

“’Messi done change pan we….’” (??!!!!)

Sierra Leone’s mega star musician, Emerson, in his recent hit song, ‘Kokobeh’,   aims to yank the Messiah halo over President Koroma’s wisdom-symbolic white hair head with such lines in a song that is more of a sermon: “’Kontri done broke done O! ….Ar sweh…dis nar revo… Messi done chill….Messi done change pan we…. Messi reach ee Waterloo…lef we pan mohneh….’”.  Emerson’s hyperbole on the ruination of the country under President Koroma who he paradoxically expressed reverence for is laced with the near lethal poison of tribalism: “‘If u nor to Temne u nar go geh job….’”.  In that tribalism lampoon, Emerson echoes the main political opposition, SLPP.  I took  this indictment of tribalism against President Koroma’s government  seriously enough to have done four articles on it in this Column, and I continue my exposition on what I consider a time bomb in our political space which must be defused before it is detonated.  I have looked at the potential of Emerson’s song being a spark for a Rwanda-1994-type genocide in Sierra Leone.  I have examined the inexorable consequences of those governments in our history that have used the ‘Tribal Card’ as their potent political weapon  – disastrous loss of power and/or military coups; or,  a civil war. The ‘tribalism dam’ I open would have its deluge  naturally flowing  into the presidency of H.E. Ernest Bai Koroma –   who the youth have dubbed  “World Best”….; who  Emerson has labelled  “Messi” in his ‘Kokobeh’ song.   Is ‘Messi’s’ government guilty as charged by  Emerson – of tribalism?

Disproportionate Number of Northerners Head MDAs today (?!!)

At the risk of being charged with equivocation here, I would respond to my rhetorical question thus: ‘It does appear as if there are  disproportionate numbers of Northerners or ‘Temnes’  appointed to head Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) by President Koroma’.  The premise of this serial is ‘Tribalism’. Emerson’s poisoned dart is ‘Tribalism’ – principally against the alleged ‘favoured Temne’ tribe.  In Sierra Leone, a nuance of  the African Virulent Virus of ‘Tribalism’ is likely to evoke mirth.

The Temne Tribe or Temne-speaking Peoples?

Should we be talking of a Temne tribe or Temne-speaking peoples?  Turn the spotlight on a few ministers in President Koroma’s government: Hon. Pat Sowe, marine minister, and Hon. Minkailu Bah,  education minister – both men may speak Temne, but, as their names show, they belong to the Fullah tribe. Mineral resources minister, Hon. Minkailu Mansaray may have a ‘Northern Province  name’ (Is “Mansaray” Loko, Temne, Fullah name…? You find Mansarays from Pujehun in the Mende-speaking Southern Province  today), but, he was born and bred in Kanikay, in the Eastend of Freetown.  Do we lump those ministers together in the Temne pot? Come to think of it, is President Koroma himself  a ‘real Temne’?  Outlandish question that….-  given the reality that President Koroma is young enough for us to know about his parents’Temne  lineage.  Think! President Koroma was born and grew up in a relatively westernized home in Makeni, an ‘Orportoe’.  For 40 of his 60 years on earth, President Koroma has lived   mostly in Freetown –  he has become absorbed, like his closest friends, as  part of the westernized Freetown ‘Krio-lized elite’.

Salone’s ‘Tribalism Comedy’

Can a man migrate from Sierra Leone   to the US at age 18, get thoroughly assimilated into the American culture, and at age 60 that man is slapped with the ‘Sierra Leonean-ness’ he would have thoroughly lost?  SLPP minister in President Tejan Kabbah’s  government for 11 years, Dr. Alpha Wurie, is a Fullah, or a Northerner? Well, he does wear very fashionable Fullah garments.  I went to Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone in the mid-1970s at the same time as ‘Alpha’ (pronounced with an Anglicized accent), and, I know for sure ‘Alpha’ is as westernized or ‘Krio-lized’ as Dustan Abimbola Taylor-Pearce.   If you read the ‘Koroma-ist’ belligerent prose of “Mohamed Sankoh” (a.k.a. One Drop) in his THE NATIONALIST newspaper you would easily conclude that that the man is ‘genetically an APC/Limba man’ – but, on meeting Sankoh, you are likely to be shocked to see that every sentence, every mannerism, every dress of One Drop…is as Krio as  Dr. Davidson Nicol, Jr’s.  The ‘worst’ in our tribalism comedy are the newly returned JCs – from UK and US.

Some of these JCs have returned  home speaking English with unalloyed American or British accents.  Some were born and bred in foreign lands. When in the US or UK, they would be horrified, and, would protest with vehemence, if they are derided as ‘African’ – but, once home, they claim their ‘tribal rights’ to get the plum jobs.  They are part of ‘civilized societies’ in the West – but, in Africa, they are quite willing to dance the ‘Primitive Tribal Dance’.   This is all so funny.  The hilarity should be treated with levity if the result of this silly game by the African elite wouldn’t lead to macabre consequences – in Sierra Leone, and Africa. .

Africa’s Most Virulent Virus: Tribalism

THIS DAY newspaper of 20th October, 2012, writes that ‘the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, has…said  the political class in Nigeria has failed to realize the danger of building their political empire on the basis of ethnicity and tribal associations, adding that they no longer think of competent hands to steer the affairs of the nation, but all they think is which part of the country produce the next president….. …promoting mediocrity….’.

This African writer lends the proper gravity to the tribalism malaise in Africa: “When you combine corruption and tribalism you get a nasty mix.  If the president of an African nation surrounds himself with members of his own tribe, as they often do, and those people also surround themselves with members of the same tribe, as often happens in Africa, the government begins to look like a tribal government rather than a national government.  If those government officials are also corrupt, it often seems to the other tribes that the president’s tribe is taking advantage of them…..the tribes that are not in power often demand their own country and resort to armed rebellion. .”(https://sites.google.com/a/southcolonie.k12.ny.us/littell/unit-7—the-twentieth-century-since-1945/collapse-of-european-imperialism/african-independence/tribalism-corruption-and-civil-war)

Hon Raila A Odinga, Member of Parliament, Langata, Kenya; presidential candidate of the  Orange Democratic Movement, writes that “…..The civil wars in Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, among others, can be attributed to the contest between ethnic groups over the control of the apparatus of state and government for the allocation of the national pie. …..The politicization of ethnicity …. has in turn generated deep-rooted suspicions, mistrust, and at times resulted into widespread violence, insecurity, and even caused genocide.….”

Emerson’s Orwellian Big Lie on ‘Temnes’ (?!!)

One lesson that George Orwell’s “1984” book teaches is: you can tell any Big Lie intensely and persistently enough and it could be believed by even the  strongest-willed persons.  Emerson fingers the “Temne” in our tribalism maelstrom – those getting the “jobs”.  Out of edibles, about 90% of traders in Sierra Leone are Temnes. Temnes mostly  don’t look for jobs – Temnes largely  create their own jobs.  Temnes are spread, indeed, dominant, in every district in Sierra Leone – trading everything from slippers, underwear, mirrors, to fish and palm oil. After ten years in the UK, Cllr. Ibrahim Kamara who just returned home says that “The Temnes thrived through providing service to every tribe in the country; and, some have grown wealthy doing that.  Temnes have no reason to be tribalistic!!”.  Indeed, Temnes should be studied by nearly all non-Temne youth – so that they can learn from Temnes how to be entrepreneurial, to be hardy, to be persevering, to be courageous….. Not vilified!!  Emerson meant a few of the educated Temne elite…..The Temne elite using (or, misusing) the trust of the Temne majority to feather their gilded nests…

I have started the process of working with Cllr Kamara to establish a form of ‘ethnic harmony organization’  – to confront the ghoul of our tribal politics and mitigating it: researching, and confronting, and dousing the flames of tribalism. Charlie Hughes, Chairman of the Monuments and Relic Commission, recently authored a UNIPSIL-sponsored Paper (along with E. Lavalie, and Sesay) on tribalism in our country.  Hughes has promised to meet with me to discuss this Paper.  I am 97% positive that ‘Messiah’  Ernest Bai Koroma (‘Messiah’ can be literal or figurative: in this context, President Koroma can save us from the monster of tribalism; and, put us firmly on the path of sustainable prosperity) would give encouragement to such effort which would  help defuse the tribal time bomb which is the best weapon of the political opposition to the surging development of his administration.  The Tribal Card empowers the mediocre among the elite.  Tribalism saps at efficiency in our public sector.  It is like cancer in the body politic.   In a contest between development  of a governing party and the Tribal Card being utilized by the political opposition…. the political opposition would always emerge the winner.

Oswald Hanciles

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  • In political leadership, there are no Messaihs to bring about overwhelming success in their leadership capacity and struggle for harmony. Not even the late Nelson Mandela was bestowed such a Messiahnic title; let alone Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma of “Blackout Sierra Leone”.

    12th February 2014

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