columnBy John Momoh
Freetown — Bravo to His Excellency the President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, the APC Government and the entire people of Sierra Leone, this land that we love. And also we doff our hats of gratitude and appreciation to the organizing and planning committee of the 50th Independence Anniversary of Sierra Leone's attainment of independence which marked an end to British colonial rule on the 27th April, 1961. Long live the gallant people of Sierra Leone.
Even the invited foreign heads of state and other dignitaries who graced the occasion with their presence were full of praises for the brilliant, peaceful and smooth celebrations as many consider it as unique and well conceptualized. The fact that all sections of the Sierra Leonean society including some of the poorest of the poor, and the top and middle-class as well as students and pupils from all levels of the country's educational institutions such as primary, secondary and university as well as miners and farmers and interest groups in the country termed the celebrations as exceptionally beyond expectations. This is especially true given that Sierra Leone is just emerging from a devastating 11-year rebel war that destroyed a large portion of the social fabric and economic structures of this country; the celebrations added new impetus to the pride of this country.
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Sierra Leone's independence in pomp and remarkable pageantry befitting the occasion in the midst of poverty, the rising cost of prices of basic commodities and increasing corruption cases therefore means a lot. It means that government is giving continuity to the noble ideals of independence as was visualized by the architect and father of our independence and those who toiled hard to realize the achievement of independence from British colonial rule so that we become masters of our destiny as a nation.
Sir Milton Margai, our first Prime Minister and others who participated in the negotiations for independence at Lancaster House in London did not make a mistake when they told the British that we have consented to be given independence. It was a pledge ascertaining that from thenceforth governance and decision-making concerning the destiny of Sierra Leone were now in the hands of Sierra Leoneans beginning the 27th April 1961 when the horizontal Green, White and Blue was hoisted in the air with the British Union-Jack Flag lowered.
What is equally certain and logical is that it would not tell well to be celebrating 50 years of independence while realistically one is dependent on foreign or external sources for economic assistance. We must be capable of making every effort to stand on our own feet economically without any reliance on donor funds, grants and loans which continue to undermine the integrity of the country. So far Sierra Leone is far removed from boasting of having achieved economic independence as donor funds continue to be a formidable force in salvaging the national economy. The United Nations Bretton Woods financial donor institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and their affiliates especially the African Development Bank, remain this country's principal financial donors.
The argument that is often traded is that despite 50 years of independence, Sierra Leone's real independence appears to be compromised as a result of bad governance and corruption that still undermine the progress and development of this country. As vividly expressed in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Report that was published after the war to serve as a guideline so as not to repeat those negative tendencies that in the first place led to the brutal civil war, the war occured because of several socio-economic and political factors which ought to be changed for a way forward.
It is time to be mindful that opting for a change that may lead celebrating a New Sierra Leone should mean every Sierra Leonean should be in a position to change to positive attitudes that can move this country forward. The fanfare and pageantry of the 50th independence anniversary celebrations are just an outward appearance and a show-off to send signals that this country is now set and ready more than ever before to forge ahead. The real change for the celebration of a New Sierra Leone emanates from within the individual as a way of life.
Certainly it is a blessing that this country is endowed with several precious minerals and the ideal climate to move agricultural production forward. There is a need to develop the agricultural programs to the level of a capacity to be self-sufficient in food production and for the export of agricultural produce such as coffee, cocoa, palm produce etc as before in the pre-independent era. Sierra Leone can only be like a laughing-stock if some of the productive capacities and legacies left by British colonial rule continue to dwindle beyond our control.
This is why it is indeed wonderful to celebrate the 50th independence anniversary befitting its importance as a pervading force in the life of every Sierra Leonean. It is a great event and like other great events such as Easter, Christmas and the birthday of the prophet of Islam (peace be upon him), the celebrations should be auspicious and eventful and a time for reflection. How for example are we to maintain our grips on the gains and positive achievements of independence? For example the Guinean invasion of Yenga is being considered by many as one of the challenges facing our independence since the RUF rebels invaded this country. How should we ensure that Sierra Leonean pride is restored following persistent placing of this country below the ladder on the annual UNDP Human Development Index, how are we to achieve at least some of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which have the objective to reduce the wide poverty gap between rich and poor nations by half by the year 2015?
A point to ponder over is that in his 50th Independence Anniversary message, President Ernest Bai Koroma - who expressed his deep gratitude to the father of our Independence Dr. (Sir) Milton Margai - made allusion to the hope that by 2020 instead of donor receiving nation Sierra Leone will be a donor-given country to other nations in distress!
Certainly the President's vision is not impossible if only every Sierra Leonean should make a renewed commitment to fight corruption and poverty, so that fairness, transparency and good governance should be the hallmark of every Sierra Leonean.