The Director of Institute for Governance Reform (IGR) Andrew Lavalie has observed that the problem of Sierra Leone was not just with the institutions, but also the nature of 'our politics'.
He stated that until and unless citizens understand how politics is being practised and how institutions are captured by political parties in the country, the problems would still remain.
Lavalie was addressing journalists last Friday at the IGR headquarters on Wilkinson Road during the publication of their critical perspective on governance titled "LEADERSHIP IN DIFFICULT TRANSITIONS."
The publication made a comparative look at the unique challenges faced by ex-Presidents Kabba, Koroma and now President Bio during their respective transitions.
He said since 1996, the first 12-24 months of every new administration has been punctuated with heightened tensions and disturbances between opposing political groups, occasionally leading to the loss of lives and property.
"Over the last six months, residents in Freetown have experienced tensions arising from a number of issues including the Commission of Inquiry convened to examine the activities of officials of the previous administration; the perception that the governing party has pushed through decisions in parliament, despite not having a majority, and the petitioning of election results of 16 opposition MP's by rival party candidates among others," he said.
He recalled that those underlying tensions recently culminated in an open confrontation between riot police officers and opposition activists after a court ruling upheld the petitions and disqualified nine opposition All People's Congress Members of Parliament.
He said immediately after the elections, people were dismissed unfairly and that they as an institution were not paying attention to the unfair dismissal, but questioned the intent of the dismissal by government.
"So today if there is another SLPP petition in court, it is likely that they will win it because of the way politics is practised. So, what we are doing is to open up to see how we move beyond temperament, understand that this is our challenge, and let us solve it right. This is the safest we can say; we cannot say you know; go take these people back and send them to parliament. So, we believe that it should be with due process and due process requires the court to empanel judges to hear the case. That's why we say it should be as speedily as possible," Lavalie said.
Lavalie added that what they have decided to do as an institution was to step back, look at the governance issues as what is currently happening in the country was not strange.
"We decided to take steps back from 1996 to date. There has not been ways Sierra Leone has handled pressures effectively. We cannot always sit back and say look at what is happening in America, there has been successes , good examples of leadership under President Koroma , President Maada Bio, and late President Alhaji Ahmed Tejan Kabbah," the IGR lamented.
"We identified three approaches frequently employed by the three leaders from 1996 to 2019, although admittedly the contexts are different. Kabbah was a war-time leader facing pressures from rebel forces, while Koroma and Bio are peace -time presidents, tackling highly competitive party politics. Nevertheless, we have identified three categories of responses that broadly capture their approach to rule and leadership," he said.
"As a country, the challenge we have with governance is not just about governing but how can you even take sit in your chair to govern. In the case of President Kabbah, he was overthrown. There is always this pressure that your legitimacy is very slim. The late president had a bigger legitimacy in the second term of his presidency as he had 70% with President Bio coming to power with a very narrow margin. President Ernest Koroma won the first election with 54%.There is always this pressure on how I can expand my legitimacy. So, the best way is, you know this people in governance do not like me.They were recruited by the past administration. Let me flush them out. That's one common pressure I see them facing and that was the reason why we decided to stock-take looking twenty years back," he said.
The IGR boss underscored the fact that the police and judiciary that were arresting SLPP supporters are the same police that are arresting APC people.
"We suggest the following steps to navigate this terrain and deliver solid results under Bio and future administrations which are to break the chain of placing policies over performance and delivery .Break the chain of politicisation of institutions , break the chain of anger among political parties and public institutions , render fair judgement and strengthen the fight against corruption ," he said.
Research and Policy Director IGR, Fredline McCormack-Hale , said whenever things happened in the country, there was a tendency that people would be thinking that it is only happening now .
"So, we need to go beyond the blaming one party at any time. What is it about the conditions of Sierra Leone that gives rise to the same things emerging over and over again, irrespective of which party is in power, "she said.