VISION FOR PROGRESS
Sierra Leone has gone through a decade of brutal civil war, which has obviously left its effects on the political, economic and social lives of its people. The causes of this civil conflict could be traced to the breakdown of the infrastructures binding the society.
An analysis is of these infrastructures would give an indication to the government and people of Sierra Leone as to what measures to adopt in transforming this nation from chaos to a striving, stable and economically buoyant society.
To start any developmental program would be absurd without reconciliation. The war has basically divided the society into groups: i.e. victims and perpetrators. Thus, the victims have developed king-size grudges for the perpetrators or vice versa. In reality everybody is a victim one-way or the other; it’s just the harvest of war therefore, the process of reconciliation is going to be slow and challenging to allow for the healing of scars. At this point in our history, one expects people to be boiling with emotion inside, as a result of the war. Tempers can fly high under the slightest provocation.
Thus the government should be very light-handed on the freedom of expression and other human rights. Issues like nepotism, favouritism, tribalism and class differences could easily lead to verbal out burst in the society.
The lack of social amenities and medical facilities and even good school in the rural areas could not attract people to those parts of the country and it would lead to a highly centralized society. It is good to note that the population of Freetown is less than a third of that of the country. There are more people living in the rural areas than in the capital. On the political front, Sierra Leone has joined the race to achieve democracy: Democracy is an ideology through which nations might attain a politically stable society. This system is not just about having free and fair election, rather it’s an attitude or a culture of fairness that pervade all levels of the society. So in order to embrace democracy at this point in our country, we have to consider seriously the concepts of justice and equal rights.
The history of our country is riddled with incidents of injustice meted out to the common man. Down the decades, the society had pathetically lost faith in the judiciary, which could hardly take decision without extra judicial influence. For instance, the government should not delay justice, pervert justice or discriminate on the basis of religion or origin. Thus justice builds the foundation on which Sierra Leone would enjoy peace and stability. The respect of law and order must be as important as their enforcement in the society. Considering the dubious activities of the forces during the civil war, the government must work hard to improve its negative image. Since they are responsible for enforcing law as well as protecting lives and properties and national security. If these issues are not addressed properly in this country, it could gradually lead to political unrest. Thus the government would have fallen short of creating a democratic state. So the government must be to tolerant if it were to achieve democracy, but of course, only when its tolerance does not affect national security.
In the economic sector, Sierra Leone’s current problems and even before the conflict, must be seen in the light of non-Agriculturally productive economy. It has been dependent on the development of the world economy. The objective of the Sierra Leone government is, therefore, to increase production because Agriculture can neither feed the population nor the industries with raw materials. In this situation, if industrialization is our goal, then Agriculture should produce. This would inevitable attract investors to open industries using primary raw materials. The government of Sierra Leone must find a way to kick-start this process of investment; for example, it could set an example by building industries itself and encourage local as well as foreign investors.
But for the Sierra Leone government to attain these goals, it has to fashion an effective and feasible Agricultural and industrial policies that are geared towards development. It must be remembered that the ten years civil war was just the result of political and economic discontent in the country. So to avert such problems in the future, the government must embark on a heavy agricultural campaign in the rural areas. For instance, every district should be provided with at least two tractors within easy access of the local farmers. This would consequently increase their acreage and eventually their productivity in the land. High productivity will not only encourage the farmers to produce more, it would also induce the youths to engage in farming as a worthwhile and lucrative enterprise. It must be borne in mind that about 80% of the combatants in the civil came from the rural areas. Therefore, the existence of a backward, traditional rural area is an obstacle to trade, education, job opportunities, medical facilities and general development.
How can the government achieve all these economic goals in the wake of the current trend of things? Some major tools that would be at the government’s disposal are taxes and revenues. This is an area where the government or any nation should not treat lightly. The government must employ every strategy that would ensure proper collection and accountability of its taxes and revenues. As the saying goes “money matters are not matters of fancy but matters of reality”. Admittedly, it’s going to be a very challenging task as the society is completely immersed in corruption. The government should be indefatigable in monitoring the taxes and revenues in every institution, every department, every sector and sub-sector of the society. If the government or the society cannot fight this virus called corruption, there is no chance of Sierra Leone making progress. The repercussion may be catastrophic and it would affect every thread and fiber of this society.
There are lots of ideas, which are missing in this discussion, which are of vital importance to the progress of our nation. I think the recommendations here can initiate progress, and after these, the other ideas would follow naturally. It takes a little more than dedication to achieve these, it takes patriotism. This could be the dawn of a new beginning.
By ABDUL DEEN TURAY
#24 SUNDAY STREET