Sixty-Three Years Of Independence: Where Are We As a Nation?

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By Ibrahim Alieu Kanu

In the 20th Century, the Continent of Africa saw a wave of struggles for independence from European-ruled territories (administered from, and by, Britain, France, Portugal et al). Majority of colonized African nations fought bloody wars to gain independence from their colonial masters.

The Algerian War and the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya were notable struggles that saw the massacres of thousands of citizens of those nations. Irrespective of those massacres, both countries are today far better in terms of infrastructures and economic indexes than some nations which had their independence granted to them on silver platters.

Sierra Leone gained her independence on the 27th day of April 1961 after series of engagements between the British authorities and their Sierra Leonean counterparts at the Lancaster House in London, the United Kingdom. It is now 63 years since Sierra Leone became an independent nation, but what do we have to show for it? Sierra Leone as a nation is still grappling with things that other African nations have gone past for over decades. Sierra Leoneans are still struggling with basic amenities such as clean drinking water, affordable food, manageable shelter, uninterrupted electricity, and primary health care.

Before 2007 when former President Ernest Bai Koroma assumed political power, Freetown, the capital city, was rated as the “darkest city in Africa” and the proliferation of Chinese made “Tiger” generators led to them being dubbed as “Kabba Tiger” to taunt former President Ahmed Tejan Kabba who was the then Head of State.
But the electricity situation got better during the era of the immediate past President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma of the All People’s Congress (APC). The capital city which was known to be the “darkest city in Africa” was lit in his first 100 days in office as he promised in his campaigns. At least, (and not even the SLPP sycophants will rob him of this) there was constant free flow of electricity during his eleven years reign.

Unfortunately, Freetown has returned to its pre-Ernest Koroma days as “the darkest city in Africa” under current President Julius Maada Bio. The electricity situation is deteriorating on a daily basis despite the seemingly huge investments in the energy sector. Also, currently, water supply in the capital is as epileptic as the attitude of the ruling SLPP government. The infant mortality rate in Sierra Leone is still one of the highest in the world despite the SLPP government is cooking up favourably figures to make it look as if they are doing something to improve it.

What is more frustrating for many citizens in Sierra Leone is the fall in educational standards through the SLPP’s Free Education programme. This fact is very difficult for highly educated citizens to digest because Sierra Leone was the bastion for higher education during the Colonial era. Citizens from all nations in Africa, south of the Sahara, came to acquire knowledge at Fourah Bay Collage (FBC), which was dubbed: “The Athens of Africa”. It is interesting to note that most of the early professors in Ghana, Nigeria, The Gambia, and beyond attended FBC to get a sip from its educational goblet.

But today, affluent Sierra Leoneans are trying all they can for their children to seek higher education in other African countries, notably Ghana. Where did we go wrong as a nation? Sierra Leone is 63 years old, but majority of her citizens cannot eat a square meal a day. Thousands of them cannot live on a dollar per day and people are still dying of curable ailments because the health system in the country has crashed! Where did we get it wrong as a nation? Is it not high time young people stood up to the challenge and emulate the Senegalese recent experience where a 44-year-old man was elected President in March 2024 with a political party founded in 2014?

Since 2018 to date, our democracy has deteriorated more than any other time in our country’s history. Elections were conducted in 2023 but the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone (ECSL) is yet to publish disaggregated elections results up to this day. We have what appears to be the worst justice system in most parts of the world. Successive administrations appoint judicial officers who they can arm twist to manipulate the Law in their favour. We witnessed how a Vice President was unconstitutionally unseated through judicial manipulations. Sierra Leone is one of the most food insecure nations in Africa. Despite the countless speeches by government officials about agriculture and the “Feed Salone” programme, we are still importing rice and other condiments simply because our leaders prefer getting kickbacks from importers than being serious about local food production. What is showing how hopeless our country has become is the fact that Sierra Leone is still importing toothpicks and cotton buds at a time when even Banana Republics are exporting some products.

At times, as a Sierra Leonean, I bow my head in shame when I think of how developed other African countries are since attaining their independence. Most of these African countries we admire today had their independence at the same time we got ours. Sixty-three years of independence, I am still asking myself where we are as a nation.

Maybe, the Almighty Allah gave us abundant resources but punished us with visionless leaders who believe more in their tribes and regions of birth than their country called Sierra Leone.

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