19 November 2012

Sierra Leone: Dawn of a New Era


In every nook and cranny of the country, Sierra Leoneans have tremendously exhibited an unquenchable zest and enthusiasm in casting their votes. They thronged out en masse. Many kept vigil at polling stations nationwide. Voting went on successfully, making the presence of the paramilitary forces (MAC-P) less effective, contrary to widely-held speculative views of their apparent intimidating presence. This, certainly, is a plus, a victory, in the democratic transition process in Sierra Leone.

Counting of votes by NEC and subsequent announcement (though provisionally) through the 28 partnered radio stations, championed by the Independent Radio Network (IRN), have started trickling in. The pulse and breath of the people are presently at standstill. The people are yearning and excited for the final results to be officially announced by NEC. Sierra Leone is at crossroads. Voting went on pretty successful and credible, though very isolated cases of intimidation and malpractices were reported. Minor malpractices do occur even in the best of systems. Elections are not perfectly conducted in the world, particularly so in Africa.

With over 9,000 polling stations in the country, with only less than 1% isolated cases of hitches, is insignificant a case for reference, as malpractices are not widely carried out proportionate to a scale so alarming to catch domestic and international observers.

The Sierra Leone elections, I must stress, is a beacon of hope for other African countries to emulate. Sierra Leoneans have now set the pace in showcasing to the West African Sub-Region, Africa and the entire world, the basic tenets of democracy, vis-a-vis peaceful casting of votes, amazing voter turnouts and so far, a successful counting of votes. Political party leaders, over the weekend, announced to their respective followers to be calm, patient and wait for the final announcement by NEC.

I have written in previous commentaries that Sierra Leone is at rebirth. Foreign investors are edgy, waiting with bated breath, to invest massively into the country. More so, as I always insist, the new trend in African foreign investment is geared toward nurturing the development of locally-processed industries. For instance, the export of the African Minerals or London Mining iron ore to the world markets in Europe and Asia could be locally processed into iron rods and other semi-processed products before shipment. This will add value to the raw iron ore and other industries could mutually benefit through exchange of talents of personnel and expertise.

This is a dawn of a new era. Democracy is triumphing in Sierra Leone. The country and its people are amazingly showcasing to the world the basic tenets of democracy. The outcome of the final results should be accepted in the interest of the country. I foresee, in the next couple of years, the massive inflow of foreign direct investments for a relatively small country with a small population of about 6 million inhabitants. The people, with a visionary leadership at the top, will be economically-empowered to lessen their vulnerability.

The people will be repositioned economically, as was done in the Asian Tiger Nations of Malaysia and Singapore. I always foresee it to happen in Sierra Leone in the foreseeable future. I urge Sierra Leoneans to continue the peace and the political leaders to accept the outcome of NEC's final results when finally announced. Sierra Leone is just about to take-off, economically. The Asian Tigers Nations of Malaysia and Singapore were at this stage some years ago but have successfully transformed to giant nations, comparing economic might with European nations and even the US. Why not Sierra Leone? Let's stay peaceful and allow development to transform the country. With the global economic crisis, though gradually dissipating, coupled with the current acts of terrorism flourishing in the Sahel region of Africa, particularly Northern Mali and Nigeria, traversing the east coast of Africa to Somalia, the just concluded polls in the country - conducted in a peaceful atmosphere - are a positive sign of prosperity to come, especially in the area of human resource development. Though the road ahead may be rough and bumpy, success is at sight.

Abubakar Hashim is former West African Bureau Chief of African Concord, now a Media Consultant

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