On the re-opening of SLPP Office … “We would never encourage violence” John Benjamin...

Sierra Leone News: Beyond The Mayor- Minister Altercation.

If our governance Institutions and their leaders are not performing effectively and efficiently, we can heap the bulk of the blame on their structural make-ups and the gross disregard for systems, procedures, structures and processes. We can also extend this to the statutory provisions that are at the most not in alignment with other bodies that they relate direct with.  The altercation between the Local Government Deputy Minister and the Mayor of Freetown Her Worshipful Yvonne Aki- Sawyer was a practical expose of internal structural inadequacies and lapses of the two Institutions. It looks like no matter the strength of the arguments for and against it will be difficult to reach a conclusive point. The SLPPers will insist that the Mayor’s delay in paying for the trucks smacks of sabotage and that that job could have been left with the Administrative wing of the Freetown City Council. On the other hand the APCers will say that the Minister crossed the line in not being diplomatic in his utterances to the mayor and that he was attempting to bully the Mayor and was intimidating her because she is a woman. One thing that came out clearly was the fact that the position of a mayor is not very clear in the minds of a lot of people when it came to how it relates to the Ministry of Local government. The Deputy Minister confidently continued saying that Her Worship Aki-Sawyerr was “just a mayor.”  A day after the altercation, many other citizens lent their voice on the ongoing debate which almost dwarfed the one on the SLFA ban. One particular video gave an ethnic dimension to the whole saga implying that the Mayor was the Creole Chieftain just as you had the Chiefs upcountry and that if the minister fails to apologize in 24 hours they the women will remove their rappers and show their disdain. Tell me where will all this lead us? Given the twists and turns given to the altercation, it needs the government’s quick intervention to resolve the impasse. Having said that it is good to dig deeper into the root causes of why the Freetown City Council and the Central Government may for some time or even long time remain to be very strange bed fellows. In fact there is hardly any love lost between the APC and the SLPP. One needs to take hindsight to unravel the seeming animosity between the Freetown City council and the central government. By now you know that by some precarious coincidence or natural/divine design our country is literally divided between the APC and the SLPP. The North and the West largely vote for the APC and the South and the East largely vote for the SLPP. We have had up to ten or so parties standing for the general and Presidential elections in this country but it has almost always been these two party’s taking the lead. In 1996 President Kabbah changed the voting dynamics when he got many votes in the Western Area to win the elections. At the time the APC was not even in Third position. You need to know why? From the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report after the 11 years rebel scourge, most of the causes of the war was blamed on the APC’s Dictatorial bad Governance under the One Party dispensation. The APC had ruled Sierra Leone from 1967 and things had gone very tough for the average citizen, climaxed by the hosting of the OAU in 19 80 after which the country went into fast gear to degeneration. This was why the NPRC Coup in 1992 was hailed locally and internationally. People had gone out of ideas as to how the APC could be removed from power and the Khaki Boys provided the right solution. By 2007 the APC had regrouped and faced the 2007 elections which they won through the PMDC’s support. President Koroma did two terms and we already know the highs and lows of his administration. The SLPP capitalized on the ugly side of the Koroma administration which left power leaving the country in an austerity they had declared over a year before. The 2018 elections saw an increase in the SLPP votes in the Western Area. However this has not yet upset the political divide. The SLPP has never won the Freetown Mayoral Position. Even when they presented a formidable candidate like Papa Ray, the majority of Freetown citizens voted for the current mayor. Her popularity was very high.  Now fast forward as Mayor, she is embattled both from within and without. The SLPP Benghazi Boys are accused of attacks on the Mayor and events have shown that the Mayor and her Chief Administrator are at log-a-heads. Perhaps this is why she is doing the administrative job which many think is not her direct role. However looking at the history of the Freetown City Council, the City Mayor in some instances is expected to be in charge of the day-to-day hands on running of the council.  This confusion over roles needs to be cleared especially as Freetown hosts the Central Governments Institutions. On the Central Government side, the Ministry of Local Government oversees the work of Councils and this is the ground that the Deputy Minister Tondoneh stood on that day of their altercation. If you ask me I would have thought that both The Deputy Minister and The Freetown City Mayor should not have been playing the roles they played on that Saturday. The two of them could actually move around together to see how the cleaning went and together support the work. The issue of the nonpayment of trucks clearing the garbage could not have arisen if specific Council staff had been assigned to each truck to verify work done. But you know why that did not happen? I will tell you. There is a huge trust deficit in which everybody thinks the other person is a thief. And you know what, the Freetown City Council has had hard time with the ACC for financial impropriety and even at least one mayor dragged into the ACC net.  It is no secret that the Freetown City Council has been performing dismally before the Current Mayor. The problem is not just inter- party struggle but also for the APC, an internal fight. There seems some kind of cold war between the Council and the Mayor perhaps because of her accountability stance. In the past we saw the APC Government creating bottle necks for the Freetown City Mayors. This came to the head when Mayor Bode Gibson’s efforts were frustrated when he tried to push some programs. You can say, John pamine troway nar john ihm res, but it is a serious situation. What this is showing is that even if the Ruling party also has the Mayor of Freetown things will only work well when with the decentralization in mind, there are clear cut role delimitation between the Central Government and linked up with this should be the review of the local government act. In this Act we are told the Council is the highest political Body in the locality.  So where does this leave the Ministry’s oversight role? For the current impasse there should be a meeting of stakeholders to resolve the issue to forestall its recurrence at subsequent cleaning exercises. It is a human nature for our vices and our degradation are ever arraigned against us, but our virtues are passed unnoticed.

By Beny SAM

Tuesday October 09, 2018.

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