Monday, November 21, 2016

Creating an Unlikely Political Hero

Theresa Released on Bail
Sometimes fame is suddenly thrust on people. The decision by Mohamed Bangura, Sierra Leone's Information Minister, to arrest a 20 year old female university student over a social media post and charge her to court has made her an unlikely heroine in the country. Many people see in her treatment the depravity and ineptitude of the Koroma regime and the depths to which it has sunk, even as the country is on the brink of economic collapse.
Student Supporters

Mohamed Bangura, a half literate political opportunist who gave fake academic credentials at his parliamentary confirmation and was only approved because the country's Parliament rubber stamps every decision of the country's president, was rewarded the Information Ministry after he left his government sponsored opposition party, the UDM, and declared his loyalty to the ruling APC party. Of late Mohamed Bangura has been threatening to ban all social media in the country, with the opinion that social media was being used to portray the government in a bad light. Mohamed Bangura a newly christened APC stalwart who has been a member of every major political party in Sierra Leone, has been so vocal in defending the APC party over the past few months that some are have taken to comparing him to the mourner who weeps more than the bereaved.
Free Theresa

This morning, Theresa Komaya, the unjustly arrested female student was taken to court and had no shortage of lawyers to defend her.  The country's bar association seems to be one of the few voices of dissent left in the country. Many law abiding citizens turned up in front of the court to support the student against this gross human right violation. To many in the crowd, Theresa's arrest symbolized the attitude of a government that had come to increasingly believe that its authority supersedes the rights of the people, a view that was publicly expressed by Mohamed Bangura few months ago.

It can be recalled that sometime ago, in threatening to clamp down on social media, Mohamed Bangura had explicitly made the statement that as a government minister, he cared neither about " human right or human left." This arrest and prosecution of the young student can only be seen as a practical demonstration of the disdain the half baked minister and his government have for human rights in the country.

Theresa was released today on a reported 50 million Leones bail and is scheduled to appear in court again as Mohamed Bangura seeks to make her the example of how serious the government is in its desire to trample on the rights of the common Sierra Leonean.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sierra Leone Government Jails Female University Student for ForwardingSocial Media Post

Theresa Mbomaya 
In an act that can be only be described as pure paranoia, the government of Sierra Leone has detained a 20 year old female university student, Theresa Mbomaya, for four days without bail, over a social media post that she forwarded to some friends, calling for peaceful protests against a sudden steep increase in the price of fuel and the generally hopeless economic situation that has gripped the country.

It can be recalled that many citizens groups, alarmed at the sudden downward economic trajectory in the country and the decision of the government to compound this by removing fuel subsidies, have been seeking police permits to peacefully demonstrate against the hardship imposed by the sudden increase in fuel prices in a country in which the average citizen lives on less than two dollars a day. So far the government has refused to issue permits for peaceful protests, with police parading through the city with water canons and armored personnel carriers in a show of force. People have been taking to social media to air their grievances. 
Theresa Mbomaya

Government supporters have been pointing to similar removal of fuel subsidies in other countries.  However, many have failed to note the fact that the majority of civil servants in Sierra Leone earn between 50 and hundred dollars a month and any removal of fuel subsidies will just send them deeper into already intolerable conditions of poverty. Pointing to the removal of fuel subsidies in relatively affluent countries seems insensitive, especially when the average Sierra Leone civil servant does not earn enough to feed and cloth their families, let alone provide them suitable housing.

The fuel price increase is bound to adversely affect students in the country, especially the capital Freetown, as many of them rely on public transportation to go to school. The impact of education should have been a reason to think over the decision more deeply.

The current Minister of Information Mohamed Bangura, a renowned political opportunist who has joined almost every major party in Sierra Leone, has been making loud noises about clamping down on social media and his first example seems to be the frail female student who is reportedly being held in very horrible conditions. His ministry released a public statement on the misuse of social media that was as rich in grammatical abuse as it was poor on substance.

Theresa's father, a secondary school teacher made an impassioned appeal to the government on social media on the day she was arrested, calling for the release of his daughter.  But so far his appeal seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Theresa is scheduled to appear in court on Monday to answer charges of public disorder and incitement. With the notoriety of the courts subservience to the government, only providence knows the girl's fate.

The government of Ernest Bai Koroma was returned to power four years ago on a promise of an Agenda for Prosperity. However, the last four years have seen the most dramatic decline in living standards in the history of Sierra Leone. 

A combination of the Ebola crisis, decline in mining activity, rampant public corruption, lavish public expenditure on government functionaries and gross mismanagement of public funds have brought the country to near economic collapse. The government recently introduced some half hearted austerity measures that are seen by many as a public relations stunt rather than an attempt to deal with official mismanagement. The impact of the measures are bound to affect the people more than the president and his allies who get fuel allowances.

Sierra Leone's problem is exacerbated by the fact that under the current government, civil service hiring is done mainly on the basis of political patronage. Many qualified people without political connections are out of work, while political operatives occupy core national positions that require technical expertise they do not posses. The result has been a steep increase in public inefficiency with a simultaneous decline in public sector productivity. The official currency, the Leone,  has depreciated by almost 50% in this year alone. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Endorsing Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton
As we do every four years here on this blog, we endorse a candidate for President. This years, we have decided to endorse Secretary Hillary Clinton for the presidency of United States of America. She has the experience, the strength and the intelligence to lead America into a future that is bound to be complex, challenging and uncertain.

We believe in America as a model of human collaboration; a country in which people from every part of the world have worked together, to create the greatest civilization in the history of the modern era.
Americans; whites, Asians, blacks, Hispanics and native Americans have forged a country that provides hope to many, opportunities to all and provided solace and refuge from those escaping tyranny, persecution and conflict around the world. It has always been the light in a world full of darkness.
Madam President

We therefore believe in Hillary Clinton's image of an America in which we are all stronger, together. An America in which everyone is welcome and everyone belongs.

Eight years ago when President Obama stepped into the White House, we all witnessed a country at the edge of fiscal crisis. A country in which people were losing jobs, their homes, their savings and losing hope. We witnessed a country on the brink of economic disaster. In spite of Republican obstructionist policies, the President, with the help if a resilient American people have slowly turned things around. American cars are now the best in the world, thanks to the President's decision not to let the big three go bankrupt. Today we have 20 million Americans with health insurance, in spite of Republican effort for eight years to ensure the failure of Affordable care. We have had many years of steady job growth.

We believe that President Hillary Clinton will continue to make this country good for all and will continue to build on the efforts of the past eight years. We are also encouraged that Hillary Clinton has decided to work on addressing affordable college education and student debt relief.
Donald Trump would be an unmitigated disaster if we are unfortunate to have him anywhere near the White House. He is vulgar, immoral, petty, rude, divisiveness and impulsive. These are the characteristics you would expect in a juvenile delinquent, not somebody on the brink of assuming the Presidency of the most powerful nation on earth. Donald Trump is unfit to lead.
Donald Trump
"The system is rigged"

Yesterday Trump came to Minnesota, bringing his message of intolerance and bigotry. Minnesota is home to thousands of Hmong, Sierra Leone, Somali, Liberian and other refugees. These refugees have contributed in no small way to the economic vitality of the state. Yet all of Trump's focus was on the act of a few bad refugees. Is there any group of people among whom there are no bad people?
Trump wants to have an America in which the only people who belong are those who look and think like him. This is not the America we have today, but an America that should be left buried in the dark pages of history.
I will build a wall

We therefore endorse Hillary Clinton and are appealing to all progressive Americans to reject cynicism, fear and divisiveness by rejecting Donald Trump.
Nobody is too small to make a difference. Let us all ensure that Hillary Clinton is elected to lead our country in a time of great challenge.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Gambian Opposition UDP Leader Elected Alliance Candidate

Opposition Alliance Candidate
Adama Barrow
After a long convention at the Kairaba Beach Hotel in Banjul, Adama Barrow, the leader of Gambia's largest opposition party the UDP, has been elected as the opposition parties alliance candidate to face incumbent Yahya Jammeh in elections scheduled for the end of the year.

Yahya Jammeh of the APRC party has ruled Gambia both as a military and civilian leader since 1994. He has won every election held in the country since he declared a second republic after a few years of military rule.

Adama Barrow was recently elected to head the UDP after the incarceration of veteran UDP leader Ousainou Darboe.  Mr. Darboe, a lawyer, was jailed earlier this year for leading public protests against the government of Yahya Jammeh.

Barrow was the youngest of the four candidates and also the one with the least political experience.  He however largely benefited from the UDP legacy and was a clear winner over veteran Gambian politicians like Hamat Bah and Halifa Sallah.

Under the alliance agreement, the flagbearer candidate will stand as an independent candidate, while all the other Presidential aspirants are expected to  withdraw from the race and give him both their support and the support of their party machinery. The alliance will rule for about three years and then arrange elections in the country after ensuring a level playing field for all political parties.

Some Gambians on social media were disappointed that a more experience and articulate candidate was not elected, as Adama Barrow, a poor public speaker, visibly struggled during the convention to articulate his party position. He kept reading his written speech without looking at the delegates in the hall.

Halifa Sallah and Hamat Bah on the other hand were very articulate and stated their political positions very clearly. However, Mr. Barrow whose party has a lot of support in the rural areas of the country, won by more than 60% of the votes in the first round.

The other political parties have promised to support the alliance candidate. In the past, other attempts to form an alliance have  been unsuccessful.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Gambia's Major Opposition Parties In Convention to Elect Alliance Flagbearer

Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yayah A. J. Jammeh
The major political parties in the small West African state of The Gambia have taken the unprecedented step of holding a convention today at the Kairaba Beach Hotel in Banjul, to determine a single alliance candidate who will  face Gambia's long term leader his Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Aziz Awal Jemus Junkung Jammeh Naasiru Deen Babili Mansa in Presidential Elections slated for December 1st 2016. The Gambia President is renowned for his anti-western stance, his claim to have the cure for HIV AIDS, Asthma and a host of other ailments and his strong opposition to homosexuality.
Hamat Bah

President Yahya Jammeh has ruled the small country of about a million people since July 22nd 1994 when as a young military officer he overthrew the country's long post independent leader Sir Dauda Kairaba Jawara in a bloodless coup. Sir Dauda had been the sole leader of the country since independence from British colonial rule and had presided over a long period of political stability. Gambia is a small country of very friendly people and a major tourist destination in West Africa. It's main sources of revenue are tourism and groundnut production. Remittances from Gambians living abroad also contribute significantly to the country's revenue. Gambia has a large population in America and Europe, many of whom left the country for political and economic reasons.
Halifa Sallah

As a young leader in 1994, the Gambian leader started with one of the most progressive agendas in the West African region. He rebuilt the country's international airport, established the first national university, built hospitals in the rural areas, built junior and secondary schools in many rural areas of the country, and built such monuments as the Arch 22 leading to the capital Banjul. He also made significant improvements to the country's road network. After a brief period of military rule, Jammeh restored the country to multiparty democracy, formed his own political party and has comprehensively won every election ever since.
Adama Barrow

Yahya Jammeh has however been criticized for his strong arm tactics, especially against the country's fractious opposition. Recently the leader of the country's largest opposition party Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, was jailed for about three years, together with some members of the opposition for holding public demonstrations in the capital. Journalists have also complained of political persecution, starting with the assassination of a prominent veteran journalist. Many journalists have faced arrests and detention in The Gambia and many have fled the country, some becomimg political activists in exile.

The Gambia leader, under pressure from the International community, especially the west, for his record on human rights, withdrew a few years ago from the Commonwealth of Nations, labeling the organization a symbol of colonial repression. Just this week, Yahya Jammeh joined the slow trickle of African leaders who have withdrawn from the International Criminal Court (ICC), which they complain is focused only on the prosecution of African political leaders. 
Dr. Lamin Bojang

Roughly a year or two ago, Jammeh survived an attempt by a group of Gambians living overseas to overthrow his government while he was out of the country. The attempt was quickly quashed by security forces loyal to him. Since then he has further tightened his grip on all the security apparatus in the country.

Yahya has faced strong opposition to his rule from within the country since he came to power, but the opposition has been divided, with political parties based largely on regional and ethnic lines. Jammeh has handily won every single election. However for this year's election slated for December 1st, about five of the main political parties have formed an alliance to have a single candidate, with 419 delegates voting to elect one standard flagbearer for the united opposition. The winning candidate will be the first to get the support of 245 of the voting delegates. There could be several rounds of voting until a candidate gets the 245 number. 

It will remains to be seen whether the alliance members will stick with the agreement once a consensus candidate is chosen, as many such plans have failed in the past to yield dividend.  In the past, people have shown more devotion to their political parties, more which are ethnic based, rather than to a united opposition. Two minor opposition parties decided not to join the alliance. However, all the members of the historic opposition are represented. The four candidates include Hamat Bah of the NRP, Halifa Sallah of PDOIS, Adama Barrow of UDP and Dr. Lamin Bojang of the NCP. The only female candidate Dr. Isatou Touray did not participate in today's alliance vote.

The results will be published as soon as the voting ends.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sierra Leone Peoples Party North America Reelects Dr. Lawrence Sandi as Chairman

SLPPNA Chairman
Dr. Lawrence Sandi
The incumbent Chairman of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party North America (SLPPNA), Dr. Lawrence Sandi fought back a determined challenge from Mrs. Seray Dumbuya, the wife of former SLPP presidential aspirant Mr. Umaru Dumbuya, to recapture the leadership of SLPP's formidable North America region.
Mrs Seray Dumbuya

Mrs. Dumbuya was until the last few weeks a very serious contender for the regional leadership position, causing much discomfort within the Sandi support group, until a recording of her trying to influence the regional secretary generalship position along factional lines was made public.  This caused many independent members to question the veracity of the statements by her field agents that she was not tied to any faction within SLPP.

Mrs. Dumbuya was the former SLPPNA electoral commissioner who skillfully presided over peaceful elections in the party a few years ago that led to the election of Lawrence Sandi as Chairman of the region. Initially during the campaign, Mrs. Dumbuya's surrogates effectively convinced members of the region that she was politically neutral and belonged to no camp. Many people who were simply tired of the campism in the party along flag bearer candidate lines quickly gravitated to her message of inclusiveness.  Mrs. Dumbuya promised to make the region strong and independent of factional interests. Some people also took into consideration the long service of the Dumbuya family to the  Sierra Leone Peoples Party.  Initially some people tried to tie Mrs. Dumbuya to the Maada Bio paOpa support group in USA, but her surrogates were quick to suggest that there was no link to the camp and some of her supporters were known to support other flagbearer aspirants like Allie Kabba and Alpha Timbo
Unopposed Women's Leader
Kadie Ballah Jalloh

Unfortunately, a few days ago, Mrs. Dumbuya had a damaging Donald Trump moment. Somebody apparently close to her campaign forwarded a message in which she was heard proposing a clandestine meeting between two candidates vying for the position of Secretary General to gang up against another who was seeing as belonging to another flagbearer camp. This recording seriously undermined Mrs. Dumbuya's claim of factional neutrality and probably dealt a fatal blow to her campaign. 

Chaplain Rev. Titus Gebeh
In the election held today in the city of brotherly love Philadelphia, Dr. Lawrence Sandi who has been accused of being a KKY supporter, a charge has vociferously denied, won a resounding second term mandate by a convincing 69% to Mrs. Dumbuya's 30%.  Most of the candidates who were seen as belonging to Dr. Sandi's support group also won their contests handily.
Imam Alpha Saidu Bangura
(Me Salone Fambul Dem)

Lawrence Sandi, a young calm and affable intellectual type, has brought some element of stability to a region renowned for political intrigue and infighting. He is seen as a steady hand.

The new SLPPNA executive for the coming two years would be:
Chairman: Dr. Lawrence Sandi
Vice Chairman: Mrs Martha Bah Tsagli
Secretary General: Mr. Emmanuel Allie
Deputy Secretary General: Mr. Algasimu Bah
Women's Leader: Mrs Kadie Ballah Jalloh
Deputy Women's Leader: Mrs. Namisa Kramer
Financial Secretary: Mr.Gbonda Sei
Organizing Secretary: Mr. Ishmael Taylor Kamara
Deputy Organizing Secretary: Mr. Frank Kpewa
Deputy Secretary: Desmond Pessima
Imam: Alpha Saidu Bangura
Internal Auditor: Maada S. Jusu
Whip: Bobor Bayoh
Chaplain: Rev. Titus Gebeh
Sec Gen Women's Wing: Ann-Marie Williams
Young Generation Leader: Mohamed Bah
Young Generation Sec. Gen: Hindolo Barnett
Dep. Fin Sec. Young Gen: Alhaji Koita
Council of Elders
Dr. Josephine Ladipo
Mr. Samuel SAIDU
Mrs. Fatmata Kamara
Dr. Lahai Rogers
Mrs. Rugiatu Saffa