Ethnic identity versus national development: the case of Sierra Leone
By Teddy Foday-Musa
August 19, 2022
Hon. Alpha Khan was careful to outline the number of northerners and individuals from other ethnic groups in the Bio administration, indicating that the Bio-led government is an inclusive governance entity. This is contrary to the recent statement on tribal bigotry made by Samura Kamara in Makeni to new voters, identifying Mendes as the sole beneficiary of SLPP government employment. Alpha Khan described 30 names who are not Mendes but hold important positions in the Bio-led government. A popular blogger on social media (WhatsApp) reported that Ahmed Saybom Kanu (pictured), a resident of northern Tonkolili, was not even on Khan’s list. Therefore, he speculated that such a list could be inflated if carefully compiled. Alpha Khan’s list is a great rebuttal to those social media extremists peddling tribal bigotry and hate messages against the Mendes and the Bio administration.
However, it is regrettable that our policy has stagnated at the point of defining individuals and their identities in relation to ethnic groups and regions of origin. One might have expected that political discourse would now focus on national development, linked to the performance of individuals as worthy of holding public office. Sad that we are gradually eliminating professionalism and training as criteria for holding public office, replacing them with tribe and region.
Sierra Leoneans have good reason to leave behind the experience of war and the kind of violence that took place on August 10, 2022. Now is the time to use bright, forward-looking vocabulary to harmony, peace and national cohesion to occupy public space with civility. The pollution of public space with older memories of the country’s brutal wartime past and claims of partisan resentment is totally out of place and has no place in a prosperous post-war country like Sierra Leone.
I want to offer some thoughts on the price paid during the country’s brutal 11-year civil war in various forms. The uniqueness of this wartime experience does not befit our good image as Sierra Leoneans and can distort government investment plans and scare away international investors. To that end, I borrow the words of a noted FBC speaker who noted, “way game done, nar for pull vest. After the elections, let it go”. A word for the wise is enough.