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COCORIOKO » 2007 » May

Archive for May, 2007

A Sign of Democracy at last

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

By Jacob Sax Conteh, Senior Editor of COCORIOKO , Virginia, US

It is a sign many of us have been waiting for our life time.  Barely two weeks after the opposition All People’s Congress (APC) blanketed the streets of Freetown with red in their Peace Parade, the ruling Sierra Leone’s People’s Party had a reciprocal One Million Man Parade that painted the streets in their green color.  In the bad old days when thugs ruled, any march by opposing forces would have led to the infamous ISU or thugs that destroyed the Tablet newspaper office in Rowdon Street to descend on the marchers.  But Sierra Leone is entering an enlightened age.  With cell phones sprouting all over the country, it is no longer possible to keep people in the dark.  I was amazed the other day when I called my sister on her son’s cell phone as they were busy working in the farm right there in the heart of Sierra Leone.


Apart from the few glitches that occurred during voter registration, the campaign is well under way.  The three major party leaders are busy criss-crossing the country looking for votes.  What remain ironic, however, is the fact that neither the ruling SLPP, nor the opposition APC presidential candidates have picked a running mate.  It seems like both parties are waiting for the other to blink first.  Here, I have to caution both parties that their victory will depend heavily on who they pick as vice presidential candidates.  While it makes much sense for a southern candidate to pick a northern running mate, none of the parties should compromise honest, qualified candidates to fulfill the tribal quota.  Here in the United States, Bill Clinton went against conventional wisdom by picking a competent fellow southerner to be his running mate, and they ruled the country the maximum two terms the constitution allows.
As the march to a democratic election moves on, a fact all the candidates should keep in mind is that the upcoming election cannot be business as usual.  The practice of baring other parties from running in certain parts of the country cannot be tolerated.  “Sierra Leone nar we all yone.” The only way to win elections is to appeal to hearts and minds of all Sierra Leoneans.  No body should carve out a territory for themselves.  The age of using tribe to intimidate voters is over.  Today, Mendes, Temnes, Susus, Korankoes, Konos, and the various tribes in Sierra Leone intermarry.  No one should use the divide and rule tactic any more.


Perhaps the most important fact to remember about the 2007 elections is that it is going to be a test for all Sierra Leoneans to see whether we have matured as a nation.  Here is the question every voter should ask themselves:  Are you better off now than you were seven years ago?  If you are better off, do you think there is room for growth in your life?  If you feel that your life is worse than it was seven years ago, the other question to ask is will the ruling party make your life better in the next seven years?  If you feel they can, then you have to vote them in power again.  But if you feel your life has not improved, and that the ruling party cannot improve your life, then you have to find an alternative in the opposition parties. These elections should be based on electing people who will provide the best health care, the best education, improve the economy, be honest and transparent, and above all respect the rule of law.


Finally, Sierra Leone should learn from the recent inept and failed elections in Nigeria where the ruling party reported rigged the elections with impunity.  While Nigeria can get away with such behavior because of their oil, we cannot afford to alienate the international community of nations which we still need to rebuild our tattered economy.  The time to  win the upcoming elections is now.  Each party has to puts its message out now.  On elections day, every candidate should go out, vote, return to their house and await the elections results.  That is the way to true democracy, and that is the way Sierra Leone should go in the 2007 elections.

BIG BLOW TO APC : Kingpin Foday Kalokoh , 2 others killed in tragic accident : Nation and diaspora stunned

Sunday, May 6th, 2007
 COCORIOKO SCOOP
BY JOSEPH KAMANDA : OUR EMBEDDED REPORTER ON THE ERNEST KOROMA CAMPAIGN TEAM :

 The Sierra Leone political world is in a state of shock and grief , as one of the Kingpins of the All People’s Congress (APC ),  Organizing Secretary and Deputy Mayor, Mr. Foday Kalokoh , died this morning , along with three other party stalwarts,  in a tragic road accident at Matenneh Village, 10 miles from Makeni,  on the Makeni-Magburaka  Highway.

The  two back tires of their Mitsubishi blew out and the van veered out of control and somersaulted  three times , killing three of its occupants , while three others survived . Killed along with Mr. Kalokoh were Messrs Sam Fornah, from London, an aspirant for Parliament in the forthcoming elections and Alimamy Sesay, Mr. Kalokoh’s security guard. 
FODAYKALOKOACCIDENT1 (600 x 383)
THE WRECKAGE OF THE SUV THAT CRASHED AND KILLED THE APC KINGPINS
Mr . Kalokoh and others were among APC  stalwarts and supporters who accompanied Party Leader, Ernest Bai Koroma, for the APC Peace March, which was held in Makeni Town yesterday when the party painted another Sierra Leonean city with its colour -RED . According to the Secretary -General of the APC, Mr. Victor Foh, who spoke exclusively with COCORIOKO ,  the march was a roaring success. The APC  were supposed to have had another march in Magburaka today .

Tragedy however  struck the party and the nation this morning when its members died in this fatal accident at Matenneh Village, 10 miles from Makeni. . The Mitsubishi they were travelling in to Magburaka blew the two back tires and rolled over three times.
FODAYKALOKOHACCIDENT2 (590 x 246)
THE BODY OF FODAY KALOKOH WRAPPED IN A RED SHROUD AT THE SCENE
According to reports, Kalokoh, the fighter he is, did not die without a valiant struggle. When the tires  exploded and the Mitsubishi  van started swerving right and left , he was said to have grabbed the steering too to help the driver get the van back under control, but it was too late .As is customary with SUVs that blow a tire, the van rolled over ( three times in this case )  before finally resting on its back.

FODAYKALOKOHACCIDENT3 (600 x 292)
THE BODIES OF THE OTHER VICTIMS ALSO WRAPPED IN A RED SHROUD
Kalokoh, Fornah and Sesay died on the spot. The three other occupants were critically  injured and  were taken to the Magburaka Hospital where doctors are fighting to save their lives.

A huge motorcade of APC  supporters and officials had driven the bodies to Connaught Hospital in Freetown for postmortem examination. After that, the bodies will be taken to the Columbia Davies Funeral Home to be prepared for burial.

The APC Leader , Mr. Ernest Koroma, has ordered all peace marches  and tours of the provinces  suspended temporarily while the party mourns the deaths of its members.

FODAYKALOKOHACCIDENT4 (600 x 345)
JUST YESTERDAY IN MAKENI :  LEFT IS FODAY KALOKOH AND THIRD FROM LEFT PARTY LEADER ERNEST KOROMA
Mr. Kalokoh was very instrumental in making sure that hordes of people got legally registered during the recent Voters’Registration exercise. A man who could speak different Sierra Leonean languages, Mr.Kalokoh even went to Bonthe and helped to have people registered .

He was one of the brains behind the resurgence of the APC  and the success of the peace talks which united feuding partisans  recently.
FODAYKALOKOHACCIDENT 5 (418 x 600)
FODAY KALOKOH ADDRESSING A RECENT RALLY
Kalokoh’s death is a big blow to the APC  and it will be difficult to effectively fill the void he has left.


 
WARNING TO SOME SIERRA LEONE NEWSPAPERS
This article and the pictures accompanying it are the sole property of COCORIOKO . Use of them without our expressed permission is forbidden.  ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THEY WERE GOT FROM COCORIOKO , IF YOU MUST USE THEM.

SIERRA LEONE AT 46 : A Cultural Assessment by Sekou Dauda Bangura

Saturday, May 5th, 2007
SEKOU DAUDA BANGURA 
April 27 1961 represents a political watershed in the history of Sierra Leone. On that momentous day Sierra Leone regained its independence from Britain. Unlike other countries in Africa whose march to independence was marked by a violent struggle, Sierra Leone attained independence peacefully; independence was virtually handed over to us on a silver platter. It was a moment that was greeted with euphoria – the entire country was agog with festivity to herald the dawn of a new era. At Independence on April 27 1961, Sierra Leoneans had hoped for liberty and prosperity. But they have been terribly disappointed. Forty six years have brought nothing but economic misery; instead of progress, we have seen retrogression. This is more evident today under SLPP rule. The country that was once dubbed “the Athens of Africa”- because of its leading role in promoting western education – is now considered one of the poorest, according to United Nations human development index. As Sierra Leoneans, we are not proud of this status.
 
 
This is why in this year’s anniversary we cannot celebrate with the usual fanfare. What is more important at this time is to reflect on our country’s history, in an effort to chart a new direction that will move us from being the recipient of foreign handouts to a competitor in the global economy. How can we achieve this? The first step is to have elected representatives that will seek the interest of the country; having a government with an agenda that reflects the basic needs of the people. The July 28 presidential and parliamentary elections should thus be seen as an opportunity to put the right people in office; the people who have what it takes to turn Sierra Leone around. Rather than delving into a litany of failures by the SLPP Government of President Alhaji Tejan Kabba and leaders of previous regimes, I want to use this occasion of our country’s independence anniversary to educate Americans about our country, especially African-Americans with Sierra Leonean roots. This is very important at a time when many Sierra Leoneans can be found in the American workplace; when the entire world has become one global village. The more we understand about each other, the better.
 
 
The United Sates: The United States of America is undoubtedly the capitalistic engine of the world; it is the leader of the free world and the most powerful country in the world. The United States is also viewed as the “policeman of the world” because of its military presence in virtually all strategic areas of the world. There is not a place in the world today where American culture is not experienced either directly or indirectly. From music, television and the latest fashions, America has taken the lead. American ideas of democracy, good governance and economic liberalization have been embraced by many countries in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa. Following the crumbling of the Berlin wall, the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the United States emerged as the sole super power and the most dominant figure in the era of globalization. Because more Americans are involved with companies with a global reach today, it is necessary that they understand about the cultures of other people and appreciate the fact that there are cultural differences.
Sierra Leoneans are among the large number of immigrants arriving in the United States in recent times. Many came as a result of the rebel war that left almost a million of Sierra Leoneans as refugees. More and more Sierra Leoneans can thus be seen in the American workplace today than at any other time in our history. By examining the history of Sierra Leone and some of its cultural features, Americans-especially supervisors and managers-are made to understand that people from another national culture are different. A clear understanding of these cultural differences will in turn help to create an atmosphere of tolerance that is conducive for success in today’s economic environment.Sierra Leone: Sierra Leone is located on the West Coast of Africa, north of the equator. Sandwiched between Guinea, in the north, and Liberia, in the south, Sierra Leone is a small country both in terms of area (about the size of Maine) and population (about the size of Maryland). Yet it is rich in its endowment of agricultural, mineral and marine resources, with a resilient, generous population. It is among the leading countries in the production of diamonds used for gems and also diamonds used in industry. These diamonds are found in gravel deposits along riverbeds and in Swamps in eastern parts of the country. The name Sierra Leone does not readily evoke anything African. It dates back to 1462 when Pedro da Cintra, a Portuguese sailor, captivated by the sight of the rolling mountains sloping into the sea, dubbed the area Sierra Leoa-meaning Lion Mountain. The British later changed the name to Sierra Leone. A former British colonial possession, Sierra Leone became independent on April 27 1961.

 
 
Freetown, its capital was founded in 1787 by British philanthropists as a home for freed slaves. The British brought four quite distinct groups of slaves to Sierra Leone: The Black Poor, former domestic servants who were freed when courts forbade slavery on British soil, came in 1787; The Nova Scotians, former North American slaves who fought on the side of the British during the American war of Independence, came in 1792; The Maroons, escaped slaves who before their capture had led a free life in the mountains of Jamaica, came in 1800. The last and most important group-the Recaptives, were taken off slave ships captured by the British Navy after 1807. The Recaptives came from many parts of Africa such as modern-day Republics of Togo, Benin, Senegal, Gambia, Nigeria and Ghana. These four groups of slaves gradually merged to form the Krio ethnic group. Today, many remnants of these distinct cultures can still be found in Freetown, and they have all in some way influenced Sierra Leonean cuisine and culture, giving it something in common with those in many distant parts of Africa.
 
 
Athens of Africa: The British made Freetown a Crown Colony in 1808, and a steady stream of colonial administrators, teachers and missionaries came throughout the 19th century. Because of the leading role it played in the promotion of western education and the spread of Christianity, the city was dubbed the “Athens of Africa” – a center of learning, just as Athens was to the rest of Europe. Fourah Bay College, founded in 1827, was the first modern university in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Freetown became an educational lighthouse to the rest of West Africa. Ghanians, Nigerians, Gambians and many more came to Sierra Leone to study. Many returned as administrators, teachers and leaders in their countries.
 
 
Sierra Leone has a population of about 5,000,000 people. Most of the men are farmers. But many grow only enough food for their families. Many of the women run profitable businesses selling goods in local markets. Most of Sierra Leone’s people are black Africans who form 12 main ethnic groups. About a third of the people belong to the Mende group. They live in the Southern and South-Eastern parts of the country. About a third of the people belong to the Temne ethnic group and they live in the Northern part of the country. Less than 2 percent of the people are Creoles, who live in or near Freetown. These are the direct descendants of slaves and they speak Krio, a local form of English. English is the official language, but most of the people speak local African languages.
 
 
Sierra Leone has a democratically elected government. The Government is headed by a president who is elected to a five-year term. There is both a ruling party (the Sierra Leone Peoples Party) and an opposition party (the All People’s Congress). The house of representatives is Sierra Leone’s law-making body. There is an Independent Judiciary that interprets the law. Sierra Leone’s 1991 constitution is modeled after that of the United States. In the former Cabinet system, ministers are chosen from among the members in parliament. Under the 1991 constitution, ministers are appointed by the president; they do not have to be members of parliament. The 1991 constitution, like the American constitution, divides government into three watertight compartments (Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary) with emphasis on the Rule of Law, and Fundamental Human Rights.
 
 
The country has a free market economy. Individuals are free to own and run their own businesses. Even though essential services like electricity are under government control, most of what use to be government-run enterprises are now under the control of private investors. Some are jointly owned by the government and individual investors. Essentially, there is economic liberalization, with less government control.
 
 
Culture: Sierra Leone, like many other African countries, has traditions and customs that are unique to it. Respect for elders and authority is part of our culture. Children are forbidden to use fowl language in the presence of elders. Within the family level, the young ones are expected to greet the older ones. Since most of the people largely depend on farming for their livelihood, the extended family becomes very important – the more children or relatives one has, the more hands to help in the farm work. Great respect is given not only to old age but also to those in authority. Respect is accorded to those in authority regardless of age. It is not uncommon to hear an old man addressing a young man as “Sir.”  This goes to show how much respect is attached to those in authority. Education is regarded as the key to success. Those with a very sound education are held in very high esteem. They are often viewed by the illiterate population, not as Africans, but as “white men.” Not only do they speak a language they cannot comprehend, but they dress in a way that is quite different.
 
 
Being proficient in English and putting on a business suit is synonymous with being a White Man.
While a majority of the people dress in their native African attire, most educated Africans dress like any other European or American. It is important to note that because of their exposure, most educated Sierra Leoneans are generally geocentric – they have a broader understanding about their African culture, European culture and American culture. Western education was introduced by both American and European missionaries. The United Methodist Church and the American Methodist Episcopal are just two American missions that played a pivotal role in the educational development of Sierra Leone.
 
 
Having looked at the history of Sierra Leone, what are the main characteristics of its culture? Or what is the best way to think about Sierra Leone and International Management?  Since we cannot look at the various cultural facets in detail, it is important that we focus on the national culture since this is more important in cross cultural communication.
 
 
Essentially, Sierra Leone is a Collectivist society, characterized by a close-nit family. The people have large extended families that are quite caring and supportive. Here, the emphasis is on “We” and not “I” as is the case in Individualistic societies like the United States and the United Kingdom. Being a Collectivist society, the country has a High Context Culture. The people are usually indirect; more verbally implicit. The people in their conversations or discussions tend to be more subtle. People use metaphors and proverbs when communicating, and they merely suggest or offer alternatives rather than saying it like it is. There is an African saying that “proverbs are the palm wine with which words are eaten.” This goes to show the love of superfluity in conversation; a way of beating about the bush instead of heating the nail on the head. Eye-contact is less, but this is more out of courtesy.
 
 
 
There is in Sierra Leone culture a high power distance. Age and authority are highly regarded. There is a high value on social, occupational or political rankings. The majority of the people have less access to and direct communication with individuals in high positions. Unlike the United States where the use of time is very precise, the use of time in Sierra Leone is less precise. The people take a somewhat less strict view of time, attach less precision to scheduling and place less importance on postponement and delay. It is not uncommon for a minister or a permanent secretary to arrive late at a very important meeting. People conceive of time in a more fluid, elastic or even circular fashion; they are fatalistic.
 
 
It is pertinent to note that with the era of Globalization, these characteristics or features in Sierra Leone Culture are gradually changing, especially when it comes to the use of time. Today, foreign investors abound in the country. Most of them are from Europe and America, where business is conducted on schedule. Americans in particular, are punctual in keeping appointments; they take deadlines very seriously and are very much concerned about delays. In dealing with Sierra Leoneans, Americans may find it unacceptable when there is a delay in implementing a business plan; when appointments to meetings are not adhered to. If Sierra Leoneans are serious about playing a meaningful role in today’s global economic environment, they must be more precise in their use of time.
 
 
With the current fast pace in technological changes, Sierra Leoneans are learning to be more direct and precise in communicating to the rest of the world. The use of the cell phone and the internet has no room for the unnecessary use of words in communication. Today, communication is very brief but to the point. If Sierra Leoneans are to succeed in today’s era of globalization, they must adjust to the rapid changes that are taking place. We must adhere to American standards of transparency and accountability in the way we conduct business. We have to put on the “golden straitjacket” – one-size fits all-prepared for us by America. We have to move fast with the rest of the herd or we risk becoming a road-kill.    

OPERATION FREE-FLOW BECOMES OPERATION FLIP-FLOP

Saturday, May 5th, 2007


Francis Bangura – Concerned Citizen


The vice-president Solomon Berewa once again
demonstrated his desperation to garner votes at all
costs, even if that translates to chaos on the streets
of Freetown. A city that is congested as a result of
the population displacement of the war is
sitting on mounds of filth which is already causing
health problems for ordinary folk.


Declaring the streets of Freetown as open season for trading is a stab on the back of law enforcement. The police have been trying their best to keep the narrow streets of Freetown open to vehicular and worst of all pedestrian movement. The city is so clogged up to the extent that people movement in the central business district is equivalent to navigating your way at the end of a Blackpool vs. East End Lions match at the National stadium. Fertile ground for pick-pockets.
For VP Berewa to declare the streets of Freetown a
free for all trade zone is the last nail in the coffin
of a mostly dark filth-ridden central Freetown. This
decision compounds all the related health hazards
connected with the garbage politics currently playing
out solely for partisan advantage. Causing
insurmountable health and security risks to the
public.


The ensuing chaos is fertile ground for criminal
activity that is disturbing the peace of ordinary
citizens. That the simple action of answering your
mobile phone in the crowded streets of Freetown can
instantly attract criminals is heart-wrenching. How
can those entrusted with our laws willing to sacrifice
their enforcement in such a cavalier fashion in
pursuit of political office. What happened to the
notion “Country First”.


Egg on the face of the police who have been on the
frontline of this “Operation Free Flow”. To add insult
to injury, the flip flopping VP is shifting blame of
the operation to his political rival Charles Margai.
He alleges Charles was the chief architect of Operation
Free Flow while serving as Internal affairs minister a
few years back. May I humbly remind the VP that Leadership is a package that includes taking responsibility for both positive as Well as the not so positive under your watch! A
leader that shifts blame and points fingers at others
is a head – not a leader.


In his desperation to woo hearts and minds, the VP is
trampling some very basic conventions that comes with
the office. Shifting blame for government policy is
not just negating himself as the number two man in
government but wreaks of hypocrisy and an affront to
the number one office he is aspiring for. Next time
something goes wrong there will be a scapegoat or a fall
guy to take the blame.


The sad part of this policy is, the traders that are
at the centre of this charm offensive have already
made up their minds on who to vote for. A chat with
some of them reveals startling suspicion as to the
motives and timing of the VP’s sudden generosity. I’m I
thinking what you are thinking? Say no more! A meeting of minds as to why now is an open secret.
This great city with the password for freedom is
hardly free. Not even Operation Free Flow (now
operation flip flop) can replenish its freedom of
movement from the beehive of organized chaos.


IMF Says “We Did Not Predict Elections Outcome”

Saturday, May 5th, 2007

 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has dissociated itself from statement attributed to the fund by the Economists Intelligence Unit(EIU) that it predicted victory for the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP).

According to Utu Richards who played the role of a spokesman for the International Monetary Fund, said that the fund has never inserted itself into the internal politics of its member states. This statement was buttressed by the Resident Representative for both Sierra Leone and Guinea Alvin Hilaire  in a press release circulated to media houses in the country.

The publication carried in the local newspaper about the SLPP winning the coming election raised a lot of criticism among politicians and members of the public who perceived the International Monetary Fund as taking sides in  the internal politics of the country and also supporting  the ruling party which is outside of its mandate.

With this action of the Fund to dissociate itself from the so-called prediction, it would now put the minds of both the opposition and public at rest.

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                     Office of the Resident Representative

                                                                                    International Monetary Fund

2 May, 2007                                                                Freetown, Sierra Leone

 

The IMF Never Made Any Predictions on Election Outcomes in Sierra Leone

 

The following statement was issued today in Freetown by Alvin Hilaire, IMF Resident Representative in Sierra Leone:

 

“Several recent media reports have incorrectly linked the International Monetary Fund to predictions on the outcome of the upcoming elections in Sierra Leone. One of these reports includes an excerpt of a document that it attributes to the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). The Economist Intelligence Unit is notpart of the International Monetary Fund, and has no affiliation with the International Monetary Fund. It would appear that misinformation about the IMF making predictions about the elections stems from confusion between the IMF and the EIU. I would like to make it clear that the International Monetary Fund has at no time ever made any predictions on the election outcome in Sierra Leone, nor would it do so at any time.

 

The IMF does not insert itself into internal politics in its member countries. The IMF is an international financial organization with 185 member countries and its mission is to foster global monetary cooperation and financial stability. Politics has no place in the IMF’s charter, and on behalf of my organization, I would like to categorically refute these incorrect assertions about political predictions by the Fund in Sierra Leone.”

STANDARD TIMES

 

 

 

Alvin Hilaire

Resident Representative in Republic of Guinea and Republic of Sierra Leone