Rejecting the Politics of Revenge

By Basita Michael

In his first address on the official opening of the fifth parliament of Sierra Leone His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio opined that ‘A presidency that is powerful beyond the limits of democratic governance is dangerous for any democracy. Sierra Leoneans were disappointed by the unlimited and unbridled use of “Executive Power” over the last 10 years. State governance has been treated as if there are no constitutional injunctions or limitations under the 1991 Constitution. The result has been that the Rule of Law has suffered enormous damage in the last 10 years.’

He further pledged that “In the New Direction, Government will commit itself to adhere to the rule of law and institutional reforms to maintain law and order in society. This will mean I will lead by example, demonstrating the necessary discipline to refrain from acting unconstitutionally and scrupulously respecting the rule of law in the best interest of national development and stability.’

Almost one year in office, how well has the Government demonstrated ‘the necessary discipline to refrain from acting unconstitutionally’? Has it scrupulously or otherwise respected the rule of law in the best interest of national development and stability?

Over the past year, many questions may be asked. Where was the necessary discipline to refrain from acting unconstitutionally when the Speaker of Parliament was imposed on the majority party in Parliament? Where was the necessary discipline to scrupulously respect the rule of law when people with security of tenure of office were sacked in blatant disregard of the Constitution and statutes that guarantee them the right to hold office for a specific period of time? What about when the provisions of section 150 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone which states that – Subject to the provisions of this Chapter, the Rules of Court Committee shall, but (sic) Constitutional instrument, make rules regulating the practice and procedure of all Commissions of Inquiry- were not complied with?

Where was the necessary discipline to refrain from violating Section 135 of the Constitution which dictates that the Judicial and legal Service Commission meets and then recommends a name for the appointment of the Chief Justice? What about the declaration imposing life imprisonment without amending the Sexual Offences Act first? Or the approval and continuation of the Proclamation of a State of Public emergency contrary to the express provision of section 29(3) of the Constitution which requires a vote of two third majority of the members of Parliament? More over did any of these words factored in when the new NEC Commissioner South was appointed in breach of section 32(3) of the Constitution without consultation with the leaders of all registered political parties Political Parties?

Revenge Rules

The above questions reveal some significant issues regarding the commitment to respect “the rule of law in the best interest of national development and stability.” The important question worth asking is whether the President is benefiting from the right legal advice? Does he need a special legal adviser at State House? If he does receive advice, what principles and values guide those? These questions should be foremost in the minds of some citizens.

In light of the above questions, one is tempted to assume that revenge rules. Psychologists tell us that the impulse for revenge is a normal human reaction and can activate pleasure that leads to the so-called “sweet taste of revenge” and sometimes it seems like the reasonable thing to do. However the very same psychologists also warn that it is a weakness of character and like many other emotions revenge has a destructive effect and can be the root of much evil and so therefore it must be curbed rather than excused or sanctioned.

Take the example of the Supreme Court case of Samuel Sam Sumana, our former Vice President. Notwithstanding the outcry, criticism and condemnation of the said case as a bad precedent, including by many of those in Government today, they have made a dramatic u-turn and now use the case to justify the actions of the current Government.

What are we to make of this as a nation? The only reasonable conclusion one can make is that the New Direction instead of breaking away from the past has adopted and validated it. The New Direction could have taken steps to review and reverse the Sam Sumana case. Clearly, it has chosen not to do so. Instead, it has retained and repositioned executive authority in radical violation of the New Direction’s campaign promises and earlier stance.

Given the very short period of time within which these violations took place the New Direction seems to have set new standards by raising the bar for violating the Constitution and the rule of law. In the process, the New Direction has not refrained from acting unconstitutionally but has made it its norm.

It is no gainsay that the APC regime was responsible for many violations of the rule of law and set very bad precedents. Nonetheless, if the New Direction continues in the same path as it has done in these past few months to violate the Constitution and show little regard for the rule of law, the future looks bleak. It will render the APC violations a mere footnote in the history of gross violations of constitutional rights in Sierra Leone.

In terms of our fate as a nation, we can see that the national interest has increasingly been shred to pieces as the main political parties are diving deeper into the cycle of revenge. That is how our leaders play with our fate.

Breaking the vicious cycle of revenge?

As we are aware there are many problems in our country that must be addressed but the most urgent of all is breaking the cycle of revenge before it is too late. What can we do to alter the status quo?

If we are keen to break away from the past it is imperative upon us as a nation to sweep away our differences and admit that the future of our country is bleak if we allow the vicious cycle of revenge, retribution and retaliation to continue. Civil Society and citizens must relentlessly and tirelessly call for adherence to the rule of law and the Constitution no matter how hard it gets and no matter who is in power.

The American Civil Rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King noted that ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction….The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.’ (From Strength to Love, 1963).

The President’s pledge to respect the Constitution was most welcomed and it reveals a leader with noble intentions. It is not too late to break from the events in the last year. The New Direction can provide hope and optimism by ending the vicious cycle. It is in the interest of national development, cohesion, peace and stability that we urge government to change its course and keep to the commitment of the President.

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