WHY THE AFRICAN SOCIALIST MOVEMENT IS CONTESTING ELECTIONS IN SIERRA LEONE?
On November 17, 2012 the people of Sierra Leone will go to the pools once again to elect a new president and a total of one hundred and twelve members .of parliament for the next five years. This year’s elections will be the third since the end of the country’s ten-year old civil conflict that ended in 2002.
The last elections were held five years ago in 2007 and were won by the All Peoples Congress (APC) under the leadership of Ernest Bai Koroma, who is currently the president of the country. The All Peoples Congress (APC) and Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) have been the only political groups that have ruled the country for the last fifty years. The SLPP lost power to the APC in 2007 after eleven years in office following elections in 1996 and 2002 respectively. Both elections resulted in the enthronement of Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, a former employee of the United Nations in New York.
This year’s elections have been described as very crucial and key to the country’s future. In 2011, the country celebrated fifty years of an "independence" that has been characterized by mass, endemic poverty, political corruption, institutionalized bribery, neocolonialist exploitation and imperialist oppression.
For the last fifty years, Sierra Leone’s development and growth have been horribly ruined by a neocolonial African political elite who inherited a subservient economy and political system bequeathed by British colonizers in the 1960s.
These politicians split between two political factions – the APC and SLPP – developed strategies and plans that allowed them to continuously monopolize political power for the last fifty years. They have kept the masses in a horrible state of perpetual poverty and hopelessness. Constituting less than two percent of the country’s population, this group of middle class politicians – protected by Britain and its imperialist allies – has sold out the future of the country to a consortium of multinational corporations.
Sierra Leone is rich in all kinds of mineral and energy resources but the resources are exploited by these multinational corporations that include African Minerals, London Mining, African Petroleum, Addax Bioenergy Group, Socfin International and a host of others. International financial institutions and western capitalist corporations who promote economic programs that undermine the welfare of the masses heavily control the economy of Sierra Leone. During the last fifty years, Sierra Leone has been continuously rated as "one of the worst places to be in the world." The United Nations consistently reported that the country is the "least developed" in the world with the highest infant and maternal mortality rates, a life expectancy that is below forty years and an economy that is heavily looted by multinational corporate agencies and international financial institutions.
Regardless of the fact that the country is home to the world’s finest diamonds, Sierra Leone still retains the unenviable reputation of owning the most horrible statistics on health, education, poor human development and the near absence of infrastructural development.
This horrible situation is the direct result of five decades of unchallenged APC and SLPP monopoly of power, organized political dictatorship; social oppression and economic exploitation perpetuated by politically bankrupt elite who see power as the license to selfishly accumulate wealth.
For fifty years since Sierra Leone’s so-called independence, only the middle class elites of the APC and SLPP have controlled and governed the country. They have proficiently developed a vicious system that facilitates their permanent recycling from one position of power to another. Politics and power have served as the basis for their own upliftment as a class. They have collectively utilized the immense resources of the country to change their own material conditions and standard of life and provided almost nothing but misery and poverty for the ordinary masses. The conditions of the workers and peasants remain insufferable and grow worse on a daily basis.
Historically speaking, political parties and the organization of elections in Sierra Leone for the last fifty years have always been based on a notion of exploitation, greed and political banditry orchestrated by the APC and SLPP. Although other minor political groups – mainly breakaway formations from the APC and SLPP – have at one time or another participated in elections, actual electoral contests for the last fifty years have occurred only between the SLPP and APC who have always fragmented the population along ethnic and regional lines in the course of their unhealthy and insincere struggle for power. This culture of crude contest for power and greedy accumulation of wealth has thrived in Sierra Leone for fifty years without an independent challenge against the SLPP and APC’s monopoly of the political landscape.
The reality is that neither the SLPP nor do the APC truly represent the needs and aspirations of the country for genuine change. And neither the leadership of the APC nor those of the SLPP have political programs that seek to liberate the masses from fifty years of neo-colonialist and imperialist exploitation and oppression. These parties themselves lack any program that seriously addresses the basis of the poverty and appalling conditions collectively faced by the people. Regardless of the names they call themselves and the slogans they adopt during election campaigns, the leaders of these parties are themselves members of the same class that has created and propelled the miserable conditions of the people. They represent the same class and the same interest and are capable of the same output.
But 2012 is not going to be the same in Sierra Leone. In this year’s elections, a group of African men and women are determined to challenge the political monopoly of the APC and SLPP. This group of men and women, organized under the umbrella of the African Socialist Movement (ASM), are led by Comrade Chernoh Alpha M. Bah, a former founder and director of the Africanist Movement of West Africa.
Comrade Chernoh Alpha M. Bah, a revolutionary journalist and socialist organizer in West Africa, built the African Socialist Movement (ASM) in November 2009 following the dissolution of the Africanist Movement in October of the same year.
The ASM, an outgrowth of the Africanist Movement formed in 2001, represents a higher form of organization in Sierra Leone with a cadre determined to advance a worker-peasants struggle for African unity and socialism. The African Socialist Movement, established primarily to lead the struggle for socialist democracy and self-determination in Sierra Leone, is continuing the struggle initiated by the Africanist Movement in 2001. The Africanist Movement was formed as a revolutionary mass movement to fight for the liberation and unification of Africa and African people under an all-African socialist state. Key to its understanding is the fact that the struggle against the imperialist and neo-colonialist forces in Sierra Leone falls within the global struggle for African unity and socialism.
For this year’s elections, the African Socialist Movement (ASM) mindful of the need to build a stronger challenge against the APC and SLPP’s monopoly of power, resolved to advance a revolutionary national democratic program in its bid to contest the elections. To accomplish this monumental task, the African Socialist Movement (ASM) – representing the most advanced elements of the working class and peasant movement in Sierra Leone – evolved a strategic relationship and alliance with all the progressives and pro-democratic forces in the country. The principal motive for such an arrangement is anchored on the need to build and advance a national movement with a strategy guided by revolutionary leaders in a bid to enhance a national democratic transition involving all workers and peasants. In the view and conclusion of the ASM, the neo-colonialist politicians in Sierra Leone divided along the APC and SLPP cannot be defeated without a popular movement involving the masses organized and led by the most advanced sector of the revolutionary movement. This political coalition – that must be organized and led by the revolutionary elements of the workers and peasants – is of necessity in Sierra Leone where the organizational capacity and strength of the workers and peasants is still in an embryonic stage. And, more especially in a political environment where five decades of social oppression and economic exploitation have heightened the indices of poverty and hopelessness.
Consequently, in March of 2011 the African Socialist Movement (ASM), in order to build the strength and capacity of the anti-neocolonialist struggle, resolved to enter into a coalition arrangement with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) as part of its strategic objective to wage a struggle against the neo-colonialist and imperialist forces currently in power in Sierra Leone.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA), formed in 1995, is so far the only independent political party that emerged in Sierra Leone following the transition from one-party dictatorship to multi-party politics in 1991. The NDA, championing a program for national unity and the reclamation of the resources of Sierra Leone from the control of international corporations, is by far the only progressive or pro-democratic political organization that unites with the aspirations of the revolutionary national democratic program of the African Socialist Movement. Both the ASM and NDA, united around the need for revolutionary transformation, have agreed to advance a national program geared towards the conquest of power from the middle class elites of the APC and SLPP who have controlled the neo-colonialist structure and economy of Sierra Leone for the last fifty years virtually unchallenged.
The African Socialist Movement (ASM) therefore will be contesting the elections of 2012 through a campaign that will be organized under the banner of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Such a campaign will be conducted around a program that calls for the nationalization of strategic sectors of the economy, expansion of the public service, increased minimum wage and better conditions of service, an agrarian program for farmers, youth employment and provision of social services to better the condition of life of the people.
Together with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the socialist movement will be advancing an issue-oriented program into the political terrain of Sierra Leone. This political program is aimed at giving voice to the aspirations and desires of the workers and peasants of Sierra Leone in the struggle for African unity and socialism. The ASM through the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will fuse a revolutionary program that speaks to the reality of the conditions of the most impoverished sector of the African population in Sierra Leone. It is a program that will mobilize the overall ability, strength and capacity of the masses to advance a struggle for popular democracy and self-determination. It is a program that effectively embodies and mirrors the collective spirit and aspiration of the workers and peasants to fight for genuine socialist transformation in Sierra Leone with the understanding that such a struggle represents a major component in the global African effort to overturn the verdict of imperialism.
As an expression of this understanding and in response to the conditions of existence of the masses, the African Socialist Movement (ASM) together with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) puts forward the only legitimate program of the masses that should inform the political debate during the campaign for parliamentary seats and the presidency of Sierra Leone in 2012.
It is a program that recognizes the fact that the economy of Sierra Leone is largely controlled by multinational corporations. That the extractive sector of the economy, which includes the mines, energy and marine resources are largely in the hands of private corporations from Europe and North America. That people’s control of the strategic components of the economy of Sierra Leone particularly the extractive sector is so critical to the budget of the country. Therefore these lucrative and strategic areas of the economy must be in the hands of the people and utilized to transform their conditions of existence.
It is also a program that underlines the fact that more than ninety-eight percent of Sierra Leone’s geographical landscape is not electrified. And that more than ninety percent of the population has no access to safe and clean drinking water. Also, that this appalling situation has immensely undermined economic growth, human and infrastructural development. That there must be an immediate campaign to electrify the whole of Sierra Leone and to guarantee that the people have access to clean and safe-drinking water countrywide. That the conquest of political power from the APC and SLPP will surely make it possible to invest money from the millions of dollars that are produced from the mines of Sierra Leone in building infrastructure for the people. That today, the country’s iron ore, diamonds, gold, bauxite and huge petroleum resources are being looted at the expense of the country. And that the revenue from these areas can be utilized meaningfully to transform the country and its economy.
Additionally, it is a program that highlights the fact that the health issues associated with the lack of clean water are immeasurable and are clearly connected with the high mortality rates affecting workers, peasants and the poor of all ages and genders. That clinics and healthcare must be made available for everyone especially workers and rural and agricultural communities. Alongside this, that increased salaries and better conditions of service must be developed for healthcare workers. That effort must be made to convince healthcare workers who have left Sierra Leone for Europe and North America to return home and contribute to the development of the health sector.
It is equally a program that calls for organized initiatives to solve the housing crisis, the need for economically-viable roads, construction of railways to ease public transportation and movement, advance telecommunications facilities and other meaningful social services to improve the quality of life of the population.
It is definitely a program that ensures the allocation of resources to support domestic production through the development of a strategic economic plan that will help local producers to produce for a domestic market and protection from unfair competition from multinational corporate entities. A program that recognizes the need for living wages for all workers, improved conditions of service, freedom of the press, the right to free speech, and the ability to exercise the right to assembly and political association.
It is surely a program that ultimately recognizes all African people dispersed throughout the world as comprising one African nation with the right of return to their motherland.
These constitute the platform that the African Socialist Movement (ASM) will be advancing under the banner of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the elections of 2012. For more than fifty years, the people of Sierra Leone will now have an opportunity to decide between a decadent past and a promising future under the leadership of workers and peasants in alliance with the most progressive and pro-democratic forces in Sierra Leone.
Forward to victory in 2012! No Compromise! No Surrender!