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Stopping Samura Kamara - A Misuse of Power by the President

By Abdul Suhood Komeh,
London, UK.

A senior opposition politician, Samura Kamara, was stopped by security forces from entering a village in Sierra Leone. Deterring him from doing what politicians do, campaign.

If a government can misuse security forces for such brazenly rogue behaviour, what can it rely on for its own legitimacy? If campaigning requires permission from the state, how did the state came to be, by itself or agreement and cooperation of the people? You cannot deny the people a right to hear your opponents’ proposals and call yourself an aspiring democracy. That’s not how it works.

Everyday, and for the last four years, the radical reorienting of Sierra Leone to a security state is hastening and apparent. Sometimes for the pettiest of things.

Where else in the world would vital state resources be recklessly expended on arraigning the mentally depressed? If not so serious for the victims, it’s quite comical that it is against the law to abuse a president with the most lofty titles preceding his name. Surely, after 61 years of self-rule, Independence of a monarchy, we should have moved on to something resembling seriousness. What’s the point of replacing a Queen with a King or vice versa?

The president has been campaigning for four years without interruption or challenge. Everywhere in Freetown and elsewhere in the country. There are billboards of Maada Bio and his wife, underscored by objectively mendacious statements. Giving the embarrassing impression that we are all stupid-fools who worship the people we elect. Apparently, even as we are being swallowed up by grotesque poverty and an absence of social services.

That there is no known or sustained political objection to such 1960s nonsense is telling of the quality of political discourse.

How do we even make it culturally and politically acceptable to have giant billboards of the president’s Missus on public squares? Why? You would be hard-pressed to find a place more thoroughly Third World.

Outside of the electioneering period, placing billboards of politicians on public spaces, president or not, is campaigning. Period. Worse, it’s a raw abuse of power.

The president does not own the country. It’s bad enough his preposterous motorcade disrupts ordinary people’s everyday toil. To be force-fed worshipful propaganda for the dominance of one of the architects of their suffering is an egregious act of psychological violation.

Suddenly, a rival wants to campaign, and the unceasing campaigner-President, sends his security forces to intimidate him and his supporters. What hypocrisy.

The things Sierra Leoneans have to put up with just astounds.

Whether it’s beating-up ordinary citizens or demarcating opposition politicians, you look at state security officers carrying out government violence, you can’t help but notice how oblivious they are to their hapless circumstances. Shabbily dressed, often without complete uniform set, and visibly hungry and thirsty - which only reveal their measure in a hopeless hierarchy. Yet merciless brutality against their fellow citizens comes reflexively easy to them. Sometimes for the most minor infractions, to please the very ungrateful masters who have robbed them of theirs and their victims’ humanity.

No, this isn’t a particular defence of Samura Kamara. Far from it. Kamara is as responsible for his victimhood as his tormentors. He was a key part of the last government. They failed to isolate institutions from the executive because they couldn’t foresee a situation where independent organisation could serve their interests. For the failure to reduce the powers of their own president, the regressive tactics their successors are now employing against him and decent people, survived. For that shortsightedness, a figure as professionally successful as he is, is left powerless, having no recourse but to tweet-tag the British High Commissioner and EU for attention. There’s a catchy campaign by a British optician, ‘You should have gone to Specsavers!’, Samura Kamara.

Not a miserly drop of tear here for him but disappointment at the steady erosion of rights in the country. Sierra Leoneans who live abroad enjoy far more rights, equality, access to social institutions and services in adopted countries, than they do in their country of birth - such a terrible shame.

The path forward is unchanged, however. If we can find it within ourselves to give up on tribal pieties, the immediate but meaningless uplift that brings, and make the collective demand for better, the cycle of powerlessness could end. The next generation could have a better chance. Postponing that, the APC’s turn will come, definitely, 200%. And those who are gleeful in Kamara’s humiliation must expect the same unhinged behaviour for their heroes.

For the  serious patch of the country, hope is a useless word but all there is. That one day, women and men with ideological courage would emerge, in some way, to serve our people.