By Andrew Keili
CORRUPTION AND PEACE: A TALE OF TWO CONTRASTING RESULTS
Two recent contrasting results leave one in no doubt as to whether any time we take a step forward as a nation, we don’t instinctively take another backwards. We have recently had two widely contrasting results in global performance indices.
First the good news. The news from the corruption front has been good. Sierra Leone progressed ten places upwards in Transparency International’s corruption perception index with the ranking moving from 129 in 2018 to 119 out of 180 countries. Within the past two years Sierra Leone has increased its score in the control of corruption indicator in the MCC scorecard, moving from 49% in 2017 to 79% in 2019.
All of this indicates that the Anti-Corruption Commission’s fight against corruption is paying dividends. We have recently witnessed the recovery of funds deemed to have been earned corruptly from high profile people and the arrest and charging of people in the current government. The utterances of the ACC have been tough and more recent events with the Chinese rice saga and others indicate that there may not be any sacred cows. There appears to be the political will right at the top to fight corruption. Also encouraging is the fact that the ACC seems to be paying attention to preventive measures. The ACC’s follow up of findings in the Auditor General’s report and the Ministry of Finance’s press releases on following through on the findings are all ostensibly pointers to addressing our gross corruption problems.
Time will ultimately tell whether the rhetoric will be matched with action. Time will also tell whether the ACC will continue pursuing corruption cases involving those closely connected with the current leadership and whether there will be any attempts to cover up for them. It is good to have good news once on a while even where there may be reservations. Congratulations to the ACC and President Bio’s government for being internationally recognized as having made progress on this front. This is a good start that needs to be followed up by government’s resolve to streamline the public service, follow through with procedures and processes and be mindful of results of both performance audits and financial audits.
Then the bad news. Sierra Leone had a massive drop in its ratings on the Global Peace Index. The country came down eighteen places from the previous year. The five worst deteriorations occurred in Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Togo, Sierra Leone and Namibia. Safety and Security was sub-Saharan Africa’s least peaceful domain and recorded the largest deterioration last year. Our score is very disappointing considering the fact that we had previously scored very well and were classed as a peaceful country. Reflecting on events over the past two years, this drop may not come as a surprise.
But how did we get here? Peace is notoriously difficult to define. The simplest way of approaching it is in terms of the harmony achieved by the absence of violence or the fear of violence, which is described as Negative Peace. The GPI measures a country’s level of Negative Peace using several domains of peacefulness. One domain, Ongoing Domestic and International Conflict, investigates the extent to which countries are involved in internal and external conflicts, as well as their role and duration of involvement in conflicts. Another domain evaluates the level of harmony or discord within a nation; several indicators broadly assess what might be described as Societal Safety and Security.
For Sierra Leone, the increasing crime rates, and the unstable political scene which has led to political violence have probably led to the deterioration. Campaign for Good and other civil society organisations, and even the government have pointed out that such a deterioration may scare away investors. True to form, the government and the opposition blame each other. Violence during bye elections, attacks in the vicinity of political party offices, incidences of wanton rape and general societal lawlessness are on the rise. The economic impact of violence on the economy has a factual basis worldwide.
But do we even have the environment that engenders negative peace? In answering this, let us look at positive peace in Sierra Leone. Positive Peace is a strong leading indicator of future peacefulness, with large deteriorations in Positive Peace being statistically linked to later falls in peace. Unless these underlying causes are addressed in a systemic fashion, and the attitudes, institutions and structures that build and sustain peaceful societies are supported, it seems likely that the overall deterioration in peacefulness will resume in the years to come. On average, the level of freedom in life, standard of living and the feeling of being treated with respect are important. There must be a well-functioning government and low levels of corruption. The foundations of wellbeing must be present, there must be progress on gender equality, progress in a range of sustainable development goals and serious attempts at youth development. Social cohesion and capital is another important ingredient for positive peace.
Perhaps we should ask ourselves the following questions-How much progress have we made in addressing the youth unemployment problem? What are we doing about the rampant drug problem? Judging by what is current happening, can we truly say we are making progress with national cohesion? Are the happenings in the judiciary, threats against women, the general parlous state of the economy not all factors that may thwart positive peace?
Time for a rethink of these issues by government!
ALL THINGS CONSIDERED
IN THE NAME OF THE “FATHER”
The Western Area Rural District Council Chairman has condemned the naming of a town as “Paopa Town “ in the Grafton community. He states: “We wish to let the public know that the process used is illegal and does not resonate with what is enshrined in the Local government Act of 2004.”
The naming of this town, which has been documented in the press with passionate “paopas” surrounding a “Paopa” inscribed signpost has been roundly condemned by the public as a recipe for inciting violence. It is worth noting however that whereas all fingers point to the Lands Minister as the principal instigator, no official government spokesman has acknowledged that this meets with government approval let alone condemned this.
Many questions come to mind. If this does not meet with official government approval, can government not at least call the perpetrators to book? Are we now in an era in which anyone can claim to do something “in the name of the “Father” and get away with it? Should we surprised that we have come down several pegs in the Global Peace Index?
A NATION OF CHEMISTS
I often marvel about how ingenious our local chemists can be. How did they know that there a chemicals in pampers that can get one “high”? I watched a TV programme the other day by knowledgeable experts from various regulatory agencies who talked about the grave dangers of ingesting chemicals from boiling pampers. Some opined that they may have got the idea from practices documented by others abroad on the internet. But what if our local “servisman” chemists actually discovered this? Who in Sierra Leone did the first boiling of pampers? There have been other sources of materials of drugs that could get one “high” and these are well known. I noted that the regulators were in a quandary on how to regulate some of these issues. They posed an interesting question as to who regulates pampers-Should it now be the Pharmacy Board that deals with drugs? Is it the Anti-Drugs Agency? What about the Ministry of Health-as babies are a health issue? You now see the trouble these chemists cause! That reminds me of a diarrhea epidemic which I witnessed whilst working at Sierra Rutile- again caused by local chemists- this time cake sellers! Some enterprising thief stole flotation oil (containing dangerous chemical) used in the mine’s processing plants and sold it to cake sellers as frying oil. This obviously caused diarrhea in the community with many people making a beeline for the toilets! Don’t ask me-I did not partake of the cake! Who says out local chemists are not enterprising? Move over Dr. Yormah and Dr Nanah Pratt! The era of the pampers chemists is upon us!
It is always difficult to find out whodunit in matters of political violence. One side always blames the other side and the suspects are always usually said to be SLPP or APC with both parties disowning them. This brings me to last weekend’s mayhem in the centre of Freetown around the SLPP Office Area. Several news made the rounds. First it was an intra SLPP fight that manifested itself in the mayhem. Then the APC was accused. Both parties put out press releases blaming the other. The Police spokesman, even after they had locked up fifteen suspects could not be drawn into identifying the party of the perpetrators—“I don’t know parties. I only know that we caught criminals”.
We may never get to the bottom of whodunit but I was amused to listen the version of Sidi Yahya Tunis of the APC when he invoked the “four to one theory”-“ If twenty five people were attacked and wounded as the Police claim there must have been a minimum of one hundred attackers as you normally need four attackers to waylay one person. A hundred people walking from the APC Office on Old Railway line to the SLPP office cannot go undetected. And besides what do we have to gain? It is their (SLPP) people who they have lodged in their party offices”. Well as with Jonah we will never know who attacked. All we know is that there was attacking. One social media commentator tried to explain using, religious analogy why the two press releases coming from SLPP (the official one from the party and the other from the Grassroots organisation) gave two varying versions of events-“This is normal. Even in the Bible Matthew and Luke have different stories about similar events!” I like that!
But I also like the view of one caller over the local radio who mentioned that political violence occurs because some Israelis had put a curse on Sierra Leone as some Israeli businessmen got killed several decades ago after they had been duped by the government. We would therefore have to atone for this and fast and pray. He also cited another factor-“The Sierra Leone flag is upside down and we should correct this. The blue which stands for the sky should be up instead of the green which stands for vegetation. Unless we put the Blue sky in its correct position at the top of our flag we will continue to have problems.” This sounds logical to me! Somebody tell our President!
My head spins. Ar tire sef! Ponder my thoughts.