China’s Colonial Aspirations in Africa

By Patrick Mbullo

It is now obvious that China is the world’s superpower, and the most powerful nation on earth. We do not need a world war III to confirm this. The supremacy battle between the Sino nation and Euro-America is over. The battle has been won courtesy of China’s shrewd economic, technological, and political maneuvers. In fact, with the rise of Xi Jiping at the helm, it is just a matter of time before China takes control of the world. Already, Chinese economic and political influence is real and can be felt all around the globe. It is gradually spreading to all spheres of life. Not even the combined leadership of the United States and Europe can stop China. The former economic and political giants have gracefully fallen, and their ruling elites and business stalwarts, heavily indebted to China, are now massaging the Sino giant’s ego in order to protect their business interests and empires from collapsing. To worsen the matter, the U.S owes China to the tune of billions. American billionaires cannot survive without China, and they know it. If that is not enough, most Western universities are today exclusively funded by the Chinese, without which they would be in their death beds now. The university courses are now tailor made to attract the rich Chinese students. In addition, western consumer shops and industries are surviving on goods cheaply produced by labor offshored from China, and without which the supermarket chains would ghost houses today. All said and done, China has beaten the west in its own capitalist game. The next war frontier is Africa, and the battle will be on who controls the continent’s rich resources. The victor, will control the world for eternity.

So, what is in Africa and why has the continent stubbornly remained relevant? The answer to this question remains obvious. As the world’s resources get depleted, and industrialized nations continue to experience industrial growth and increasing consumer demands, the pressure for raw materials increases. Africa, with its abundant natural resources, remains the panacea to the diminishing resources required by the opulent nations to sustain their industrial growth. Thus, Africa is an important factor in the equation for economic growth.

Even though Europe and the United States have had their share of plundering Africa’s resources, and continue to do so in a breathtaking speed, there is a renewed interest and urgency to this plundering. This urgency, I argue, is because of the eminent threat emanating from China’s rapid growth. Historically, Europe and America remain the biggest beneficiaries of the colonial and imperial rule. Accumulated resources plundered from Africa before, during, and after colonialism are worth billions of dollars. For years, Europe and America engineered violence, ethnic conflict, and regional wars without mercy, purposefully to getting access to Africa’s vast resources. African leaders such as Patrice Lumumba, who were a threat to the business of plunder, were eliminated. Additionally, institutional frameworks and polices such as the IMF, the World Bank, and structural adjustment programs came in handy where war and ethnic conflicts could not yield what was needed. To some extent, mental exploitation of the colonized, alongside other strategies, aided this culture of accumulation.  To this end, the begging question is: will China follow the same path of accumulation and exploitation characterized in the colonial and imperial West?

As China’s presence in Africa grows, her defenders have argued that China-Africa relation is far better than the continent’s relationship with its colonial and post-colonial allies.  For this school of thought, the China-Africa relationship is a win-win arrangement, where African nations enjoy financial and economic support, low interest loans, infrastructure developments such as roads, dams for hydropower, etc.  On the other hand, critics have pointed out the economic imbalance citing massive imports from China and very low exports from virtually all African countries, mainly raw materials. However, I would argue that like the colonial and imperial masters, the infrastructural developments and economic aid from China currently being experienced in many countries across Africa have just one agenda; an agenda aimed at facilitating movement and accessibility of raw materials. An agenda to plunder Africa.

Improvement of infrastructure is one area that China has used as a bargain, and as tool for political-economic goodwill. China’s acceptance in the region is attributed to highway construction projects. China has ensured sound and solid infrastructural developments in virtually all regions of the continent. Where this is yet to be seen, leaders have signed agreements to that effect under the One Belt, One Road initiative and it is only a matter of time for construction to commence.

However, for China to complete its African conquest, it will have to think critically about the socio-cultural aspects of development. As opposed to the economic and political aspects, China is yet to exploit the socio-cultural domain. The role the socio-economic domain can play to aid China’s growth abroad has equally not received much attention. African culture, already corrupted by Euro-American influence, is vital for the sustainability of China’s foreign economic and political agenda. There are several ways in which this can be achieved; areas which African leaders should pay attention to.  These areas include, but are not limited to, communication and language, settlement schemes, health and medical products, as well as religion and inter marriages.

Already, China has set up communication centers and programs in most African cities. Nairobi, for instance, has a robust Chinese broadcasting program that airs special Chinese cultural and political items and which are consequently channeled to national radio stations for public listening and viewing. As more Chinese language and learning centers are being established in most universities around the country, more Chinese cultural materials are being translated into Swahili. In colonial agendas, language is extremely critical. The Western mode of communication now widely entrenched in many African countries was a means of appropriation. Through language, the western colonialists perfected the westernization agenda and to be modern became synonymous with the Euro-American way of life. This was necessary to create markets for the industrial goods from the West, and to thwart any manufacturing ambitions in the colonies.

This is what African governments should watch. Language is going to be more important than infrastructural development if China is to penetrate the African mindset and culture. Already, it has an advantage. Unlike the English who saw “primitive” culture and dialects instead of language, China has recognized the richness of African culture and languages, and it is embarking on the promotional agenda both within and outside its own borders.  Soon the African population will be speaking Chinese and China African languages. Soon, Chinese will be living among Africans and integrating into African cultural practices. In fact, China is already producing relevant Chinese literature into several African languages.

Integration will then lead to in-country settlement. Settlement schemes therefore are avenues for African governments to pay attention to. Instead of buying mining concessions, China is likely to use its capital base to facilitate purchase and accumulation of large tracks of land not only for agricultural use, but to also settle her own people. A settlement base within an African population, either in cities, small towns, or rural centers will expedite cultural integration and adaptability of the Chinese in Africa. In addition, these settlement schemes could easily become satellite industrial technological zones (or colonies) for production of industrial goods and settlement bases exclusively for Chinese nationals to solve the population and pollution problem that China is currently facing.

Another area to consider is the medical and pharmaceutical industry. It is obvious that most Africans are now turning to Chinese herbal medicine and that consumption of herbal medical products from China has increased significantly. Already, China is making its medical products more affordable, especially herbal products, and translating manuals to have both Chinese and local languages that can be read side by side. Africa, the world’s poorest continent has the greatest burden of diseases globally. Its population’s need for cheap medicine is worrisome. Its poor medical infrastructure is also wanting. The Chinese government is taking advantage of this and penetrating the medical supply chain, reproductive health issues and public health. With prevention messages and policies guided by China, the Sino giant will definitely gain a wide mileage of acceptability. China’s investment in health programs therefore is not in vain. China is already establishing biomedical research laboratories in most parts of Africa. This is in direct response to growing western bioterrorist research and investment activities in Africa.

Africans are notoriously religious and anything that touches on religion will receive positive welcome in the African context. Thus, religion remains an important area for China to consider in its Africa agenda. By religion I refer to both secular and non-secular religious movements. There are those who will embrace traditionalism and be comfortable in the ancestral world, while there are those who will embrace spirituality and gravitate toward a conventional concept of God. China has the means to provide for this diversity. I see a future where China will embrace and translate dominant neglected African religious beliefs into Chinese and encourage side-by-side publication and learning.

Lastly, China will soon be the military force on the African soil. The Sierra Leonean journalist, Chernoh Alpha Bah, did observe that China’s expanding international economic interests are likely to generate increasing demands for its military operations. Bah notes that China’s navy operations in Africa is necessary to protect Chinese citizens, investments, and sea lines of communication, as well as the entire Chinese investments and business interests. One strategy which China has adopted is the increase of arms sales and establishment of strategic military training programs in Africa.  This strategy, though aimed at countering the United States and other western military programs on the continent, are another means of destabilizing governments, creating political and ethnic rivalry and to justify illegal occupation. The politics of dictatorship, wanton corruption, and state-managed economic interests are already showing as byproducts of the Chinese influence in Africa. It is not surprising therefore, that China has been accused of involvement in the recent coup in Zimbabwe, and in Kenya’s botched elections, and just concluded elections in Sierra Leone.

I believe that the price for these sociocultural projects is worth paying if China is to complete their takeover of Africa, and ultimately the world. Again, it is not surprising that China has reconsidered its political leadership and economic framework to allow for an autocratic rule and a neoliberal, but state-controlled capitalist economy. These are prerequisite arsenals for an ultimate takeover of the world; a situation that is reminiscent of German-Nazi policies.

 

Patrick Mbullo is a PhD Student at Northwestern University, Department of Anthropology. Contact: pmbullo@gmail.com

 

 

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Press Release: NCRC Election Observations

Native Consortium and Research Centre/Native Think Tank hereby congratulate all Sierra Leoneans for a peaceful conduct of our General elections and thank God for making it possible for us as a nation. As an accredited election observer for the 2018 elections, however, we also want to use this opportunity to highlight some key issues we identified during the whole process, beginning with the registration exercise to the announcement of the first round of elections.

The Native Consortium & Research Centre (NCRC) has been Monitoring the election process from the registration process, through to the voting day on March 7 and all subsequent developments leading to the announcement of the final results on the 13 March, 2018. Before the Registration, the NCRC had been monitoring through our elections machinery in which all data and information on the elections processes was filtered, analysed and verified. We also interfaced with other Civil Society Organisations, International observers, and other National Election Commission (NEC) accredited Monitors that were deployed across the country.

On the whole, we deem the election process as free and fair, notwithstanding a few challenges, which we would like to bring to the attention of NEC and the public with an aim of lending credence to our democratic progress as a nation. In line with this, the NCRC submits the following observations and recommendations:

READ FULL PRESS RELEASE HERE

 

 

 

 

China: the straw that will break Africa’s back

By Patrick Mbullo

 

The fact that the United States current debt stands at approximately $20 trillion is not anything new. Of interest, however, is the $1.2 and $1.1 trillion respectively owed to China and Japan, the economic giants of the east. With burgeoning industries bolstered by growing capital base, China and Japan are on a charm offensive to establish new global alliances at a time when the west – United States of America and Europe – is in economic and political turmoil. Rising cost of living, poor governance, capital and political instability are now increasing issues of concern. Entangled in its own domestic mess, the United States and Europe are rapidly losing their long-standing political and economic glory. The authority of western countries in global affairs is rapidly fading, and their claim to global democracy and dominance is now in question. In fact, we can say with confidence that are the days of using political and economic powers to influence global economies and politics are becoming a thing of the past. It is evident that the world’s capital base has now moved to the east.

However, we cannot easily erase from our memories the years of global territorial expeditions and conquests that gave rise to western powers and their dominance of the global economy and politics. Exploitative in its advancement, Europe rejoiced in its victorious conquest, and went about plundering and raping virgin lands for raw material and free labor. The colonial territories, as these new frontiers came to be known, build from scratch the economic power and infrastructures that Europe and America stand on today. Anti-colonial voices such as that of Walter Rodney, have argued that Europe’s success is the fruit of human injustices inflicted on African people through illegal labor and outright robbery of Africa’s natural resources.

Coming out of the colonial business and the second world war that left it devastated – broke and insecure, men and women of productive age killed and/or wounded, industries and manufacturing halted and agricultural production grounded – Europe was in economic and political disarray, economic crisis and inconceivable loss. Trapped in a rut, the only way to bail itself out was to turn to its benefactor, and partner in crime, the United States of America. The United States had indirectly used the war to advance economically and emerged as a leading global superpower after 1945. In the process, the European Recovery Plan, also known as “The Marshall Plan” was born.

Led by George Marshall under President Harry Truman, approximately 16 European nations would eventually benefit from the Marshall Plan’s economic recovery agenda. The result was unprecedented industrial growth, establishment of a remarkable economic relationship that facilitated investment and industrial growth in Europe, which then laid the foundations for the establishment of a European Union.

As Marshall Plan funding ended in 1951, the western nations (Europe and United Sates) under the leadership of the Bretton Woods Institutions – the World Bank and International Monetary Fund –  turned their attention to the rest of the developing world.  Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean this time around became the targets of a new exploitative economic agenda: the structural adjustment programs of the 1970s and 1980s. The assumption was that if economic aid with austerity measures could bring fundamental changes in Europe, so why not Africa and other developing countries? With this notion, the united west – Europe and the United States – turned their attention to restructuring Africa. Their aim was to take “development” to the “un-developed” and “underdeveloped” or the so-called “Third world” countries. For Africa, it was much more of a new era; one that welcomed cold war politics and flexing of muscles between the pro-communist east (the Soviet Union) and the pro-capitalist west (Europe and United States).

A significant change that occurred during the onset of this conditional economic support was the birth or push for political reforms, and the takeover of African economic and political affairs by the capital rich Europe and United States. Equally important was the push for political allies. Large sums of money were set aside to buy allegiance of African leaders. These so-called “development” and other favors were at the disposal of the governments regardless of whether they were dictatorial regimes who cared less about human rights or not. This is how Daniel Moi of Kenya and Mobotu of Zaire became sanguinary despots. Nothing mattered at this time so long as you supported the capitalist west and could denounce the east and its communist agenda.

Covert CIA operations were not unusual. The CIA allegedly financed coups to overthrow unfriendly governments. The United States further flexed its economic muscles to push for self-benefiting trade policies that would later entrench the already biased core-periphery relations with most African countries. In the end, the young and emerging nations in Africa produced and sold their goods through forced unequal terms only to pay unrealistic debts created by the structural adjustment plans. Europe and America were the ultimate beneficiaries.

 

When capital moves to the east, will democracy follow?

Today, much of this economic power has now moved to the east, increasingly towards China. But how will China use this turn of events? Will there be political coups and toppling of governments similar to the days of Euro-American power? Or will they instead push for democracy, and uphold human rights? The answer to these questions perhaps can be found in China’s global policy initiative to building global development framework, the so-called “One-Road, One-Belt” (OBOR) policy. This Sinocentric economic order largely depends on China’s generous financing and investment into foreign infrastructure projects such as roads, dams for hydro-electric generation, and irrigation projects.

OBOR’s overarching aim is to enhance global connectivity and expand economic growth with a win-win desire for all involved. It claims to uphold the purposes and principles of the UN Charter; specifically, the principles of Peaceful Coexistence which include mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. Whether China is living up to these grandiose claims is yet to be seen.

Today, in many of the countries where OBOR is operationalized, Chinese owned state companies are the main drivers of the initiative, an approach so different from the liberal market approach which it claims to observe.

The most concerning thing about Sino international relations, and now OBOR’s cooperation, is the inadequate consideration of the host countries interest. Arguably, most trade deals involving China, are surrounded with suspicion and secretive financial agreements, thought to be more beneficial to China. Non-interference in host government’s sovereignty, coupled with lack of commitment to human rights issues, have equally generated debates about China’s real interest in its cooperation with other countries. In Africa, for instance, China has surpassed the United States to become Africa’s largest trade partner and continues to expand its economic interest which currently covers virtually all sectors of the economy – telecommunication, electricity generation, construction of roads and railroads, mining, agriculture, and health.

China’s capital invasion has found a fertile land in Africa; a place where corruption is rife and where it is acceptable to sell resources to a convenient bidder and bleed the state to death. A case in point is Kenya, where huge loans secured from China to improve infrastructure, have pushed the country into an economic brink with huge debts, high costs of living, and political turmoil. The government of Kenyatta, has been accused of using large sums of money from China to advance political party interests, and entrench a dictatorial regime. China-Kenya bilateral relations has emboldened a rich and arrogant political class in Kenya, whose actions now amplify abject poverty, and poor governance.

 

China’s political and economic power at work

Even though China’s move continues to be debated around the world with mixed reactions, a lot has been said about the true status of Chinese economic power and international relations. China’s economy, its growth, influence, and the ripples it is already creating around the world are enough to have us worried. Over a short period, the Sino giant has become one of the most advanced technological hubs, with incredible security intelligence, advanced military prowess, and shrewd business negotiations. Within a short period of time, China has asserted itself not only economically, and politically, but also socially and culturally to become the most feared emerging super power. How it chooses to use this power remains sharply debatable.

Nonetheless, if cues from Taiwan and the South Sea territory controversies are anything to go by, then we can predict, with precision China’s global politics as a superpower. It is a fact that China’s economic beneficiaries have been astutely blackmailed, intimidated, and coerced to either drop their undesirable criticism or face economic blackout. A case in point is the economic alienation of the former UK Prime Minister David Cameroon in 2012 after he met with the Dalai Lama. Additionally, in this territorial and geopolitical advancement, China has been sharply criticized for its tendency to bribe ruling governments in Africa in order to get cheap trade deals, some which include concession rights on mineral deposits, and agricultural land as has been witnessed in countries like Guinea and Sierra Leone.

In extreme cases, ruling Chinese Communist Party, has been known to deploy subtle psychological and technological warfare to understand and deal with those who go against its wishes. Huawei Telecommunication Company, China’s telecom giant has heightened the information warfare, with its equipment said to be culpable of spying activities. This accusation is what actually led to Huawei’s shutdown in the US. In addition, China’s state media has also directed its focus to cultural expansion of Chinese values. China Radio International (CRI), the only radio station in China running a world service, is making forays into radio frequencies in Africa. In Nairobi, for instance, it is providing 19 hours of programming that comprises of a day in English, Kiswahili, and Chinese. This program mostly covers China’s economic, social and cultural development, China’s friendly exchanges with African countries, and major events around the world.

Critics have argued that the China – Africa bilateral relation is exploitative and similar to the plunder of the imperialist governments of the United States and Europe. To this end, China is likely to emerge as that straw that eventually will break Africa’s back, as economic growth in Africa hits a snag, for while Africa is blinded by the economic goodies from China, the benefits to China are far greater.  It is obvious that China now seeks ways and means to dislodge the United States in most of its strategic positions around the world, especially in control of the world’s economic and political affairs. With  double digit economic growth for more than a decade now, coupled with a closed government system and an aggressive foreign policy, China is obviously the sword that will eventually slay the western dragon in Africa.

 

*Patrick Mbullo is a PhD student in Anthropology at Northwestern University, USA.

Raila Must Pursue Dual and Contending Power in Kenya, Not Secession

By Patrick Mbullo

When Catalonia, in defiance of the Spanish central government and courts, held an independence referendum, many secession movements engaged in similar protracted struggles in Africa expressed optimism and shared in jubilations. To these movements, Catalans were, at last, free from oppression and the high handedness by their central government. What followed was unexpected: the government responded with excessive force, hunting down those who participated in the disputed vote. That brave step taken by Catalonia has, however, remained a significant aspect to the thinking of secession movements across the world. In Africa, this move can only be compared to the 1967 declaration of the Republic of Biafra by the Nigerian military officer, Odumegwu-Ojukwu. Even though the declaration of the Republic of Biafra led to almost three years of civil war and many people lost their lives, to the Igbo (the ethic group in Nigeria leading the secession campaign) the events left an indelible history that they still reminisce. Many still hoped that they had kept fighting for the right to self-determination.

When on January, 30 2018 Kenya’s opposition leader, Raila Odinga was sworn in as the People’s president at a massive rally that drew thousands of his supporters, the pattern of excessive police force witnessed in Catalonia and Biafra equally unfolded in Kenya. The Kenyan government responded with a media blackout and an excessive police brutality unleashed against opposition activists and supporter. Armed police went on the rampage hunting down those who took part in Odinga celebrations. Many Odinga’s supporters and opponents of the current government, including Dr. Miguna Miguna, were arrested and are held in police custody without trial.

But what was the political situation in Kenya prior ahead of Odinga’s oath swearing ceremony? And why would a larger proportion of Kenyan citizens take on the responsibility of inaugurating a “People’s President”?

It should be remembered that Kenyans went to the polls on the early August last year to elect a new president and regional leaders, the majority felt the outcome did not reflect their aspirations. Neither did it reflect a true representation of their votes. The incumbent party candidate Uhuru Kenyatta unilaterally declared himself president despite the unresolved questions that emerged over a protracted electoral dispute. The opposition claimed the elections were rigged and that the electoral officials allegedly colluded with the government to hand the presidency to Uhuru Kenyatta.  The opposition had successfully challenged Kenyatta’s alleged victory in court proceedings. A surprising verdict of the Supreme Court had also invalidated the presidential elections result, and ordered a repeat of the elections within a sixty-day period. To the opposition, this was not enough: they called for an overhaul of the entire electoral system and the removal of its current officials, claiming that the repeat elections would not be different if were organized and supervised by the same electoral staff. A demand for an overhaul of the electoral body did not materialize, forcing the main opposition leader to boycott the repeated elections held in late of October 2017. Even though the repeat elections were more of a sham than the first, Uhuru Kenyatta was declared duly elected and the sworn in as the supposedly legitimate president of the country.

To continue their search for electoral justice, the leading opposition party, National Super Alliance (NASA) has since engaged in different strategies. First, it is on record that the opposition has been pushing for secession and that a bill to be presented to parliament has been drafted to that effect. Secondly, the opposition has formed a National Resistance Movement as an alternative mandate to contest power should other means fail. But what the opposition leaders need to ask themselves is whether secession is the best way to achieve their aspiration, or Raila’s oath taking. First, let us briefly examine the history of secession movements in Africa.

Secession debates across the continent have been alive since the emergence of independent states in late 1950s. Only two countries, South Sudan and Eritrea, may be said to have successfully seceded. Some movements have had protracted military engagements with the government and lost. Nonetheless, over 20 movements are still active in their quest for autonomy. Currently top five countries with political secession movements are Mali, Angola, Ethiopia, Morocco, and Senegal.

A common phenomenon with most secession movements in Africa, however, is that they are mostly identified as ethnic groups, whose members feel disfranchised by the state. The OLFP in Ethiopia, for instance, has been seen as a movement for the Oromo people, an ethnic group that forms nearly forty percent of Ethiopia’s population. In Nigeria, the call for a breakaway state of Biafra in the south-east was led by the Igbo.

Nevertheless, secession movements that have been vibrant have been able to do so because of organized military outfits or vibrant guerilla forces that are equally able to engage with government forces. In addition, others have been able to maintain external collaboration with regional and international support. For instance, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a secessionist group seeking independence for the Oromia region from the government of Ethiopia, has received unwavering support from Eritrea and the Oromos in the diaspora.

Despite their resilience, secession movements have been met by heavy response from the government. For instance, decades of Biafra uprising have been marred and quelled by heavy military intervention, especially after the deadly three-year civil war that followed.

It is not surprising therefore that, secession movements success is minimal. Lack or national support when it is viewed as favoring a particular group and strained financial and human resources make secession harder to achieve. In the event that secession is successful, the biggest challenge is establishment of infrastructure and systems required to make a functional government. Most often, the new states secede with nothing, including financial base. Establishing international trade partners is difficult to build in a dynamic world where people want to deal with the familiar, and not chart new frontiers. The end result is that the citizens of the new state end up heavily taxed, cost of living increased, and political stability become a mirage.

Back to the current situation in Kenya, it is obvious that the opposition leader, Raila Odinga has consolidated a support base across the country. He should therefore distance himself from secessionist demands. Instead, Raila should use the Jan 30 oath as a political strategy to create a dual and contending power within Kenya.  This entails naming a parallel cabinet and creating functional structures that will compete with the current government. Kenya’s constitution, I think, provides him this mandate through the newly formed People’s Assemblies. The last stretch should be to push for devolution of the police force. With the counties paying allegiance to the Peoples President, an independent security apparatus, whose command is at the county level would provide Raila with the much-needed police force, without necessarily creating his own army.

Indeed, as Salim Lone, Raila’s former spokesman observes “the idea behind the swearing in and the People’s Assembly is to provide a range of ideas and initiatives through an alternative leadership to both the Presidency and the National Assembly.” Raila, Mr. Lone notes, “faces his greatest test yet, against a rough regime which has little respect for the law or human life.” His only way out is a dual and contending power within Kenya, and not secession!

 

About the Author

Patrick Mbullo is a PhD Student in the Department of Anthropology at Northwestern University, USA

The APC’s Dance Parade Does Not Indicate an Election Victory

By Chernoh Alpha M. Bah

Much has been said about the All Peoples Congress (APC) dance parade this past Friday. In particular, ruling party propagandists and their supporters have celebrated the dancing crowd, including the violence that accompanied the masquerade. They are claiming that the crowds that trooped into the streets of Freetown on Friday illustrate the possibility of an APC victory in the upcoming March 2018 elections. This conclusion is not only disingenuous and wrong-headed, but it directly speaks to the APC’s plan to rig the elections, a plan they are programmatically operationalizing.  That parade is part of a strategy to psychologically program the minds of the masses for a rigged victory by the APC in March.

The truth that must be underlined is the fact that the Friday’s APC dance parade is not indicative of any possibility of an incumbent victory in the March polls. Neither is it indicative of any so-called popular support that the Ernest Koroma regime supposedly enjoys among the masses. It was a public masquerade organized by an unpopular incumbent regime that is now fighting, strenuously and expensively, against the forces of opposition threatening its existence in political office. It is pointless, therefore, to discuss whether the parading numbers that flooded the central streets of Freetown on Friday afternoon were individuals who may have been imported from the provinces and nearby districts into the city by APC leaders; of course, they were. Already, video and pictorial evidence has been published by the traditional and non-traditional media showing people being bused into the city on Friday and then being left stranded and struggling for space on open trucks and mini-vans to return home after the exhaustive dance masquerade had ended. It is unquestionable that the parading crowds that trooped into the streets on Friday were largely transported over the course of the two days preceding the parade, from mostly Makeni and Portloko, to give the appearance that the APC commands popular support in the capital. The fact is that the APC do no longer command such a support. So, to dwell on the parading crowd and the shocking, but not-so-surprising, bloody violence that formed the center-piece of the APC’s dance parade does not tell us anything about the actual electoral dynamics of the country, other than the fact that the APC is trying its best to pull the wool of electoral authoritarianism over the eyes of the people.

Let it not be lost in the minds of citizens that that APC’s many infractions over the last ten years has placed it out of favor with the majority of citizens. It is no secret that rogue and unpopular ruling parties in Africa, the APC inclusive, always distribute free party uniforms and money to induce crowds to join political rallies. Indeed, this tactic of artificially inflating crowd size to bolster an image of invincibility and power is common amongst authoritarian forces the world over. Most notably, Donald Trump’s repeated doctoring of rally footage to make it appear as though he is supported by the masses has become a recent scandal in the United States media. Trump even allegedly circulated footage of overwhelming crowds at Obama’s inauguration, claiming it was footage of his own inauguration.

But the APC of Sierra Leone not only believes in bribing voters and spreading propaganda, they also believe in bribing opposition political party activists and oppositions leaders with money and jobs to desert the opposition camps during elections. In 2012, for example, the APC bribed the then UDM leader, Mohamed Bangura with more than $300,000 to withdraw his candidacy in the presidential race a week before the elections. Bangura was later appointed as cabinet minister by the APC and was recently reportedly awarded a parliamentary nomination to contest in the upcoming elections in a supposedly safe APC electoral district in the north of the country. The APC also paid a bribe of two hundred million Leones to the disenfranchised NDA presidential candidate, Alhaji Wurie Musidal Jalloh to announce support for the APC a day before the elections. The list of bribed opposition party members in 2012 includes the late Tom Nyuma, Usu Boie Kamara (later made Minister of Trade), and Robin Fallay (now part of the APC’s publicity team). These financially induced methods of eliciting support to swell-up dance parades by incumbent parties should not be indicators of a potential win in an election. There is a significant and obvious difference between opposition crowd parades, like the crowd that trooped behind Mr. Maada Bio two days ago, and the ruling party dance parade of Friday.

Opposition rallies are often driven by genuine crowd support and could be evidentiary enough to assess a candidate’s given chances in an electoral contest. The contrast is often the case with rogue incumbents, like the APC of Ernest Koroma, who deliberately employ and deploy the resources and services of the state apparatus to create a political masquerade with the intention of demoralizing opposition voters and forces for change. To understand the futility of such propaganda and psychological tactics, one can simply recall the similar public masquerades organized by the SLPP’s 2007 incumbent candidate, Solomon Ekuma Berewa during the election campaigns of that year.

The first immediate thing that must be taken into consideration is not only the amount of state resources that Ernest Koroma’s government is now willing to deploy in favor of its own presidential candidate, but also the fact that events like the APC’s dance parade on Friday are a clear example of the staged plans that are already set in motion by the APC leadership and its electoral machinery to rig the upcoming elections in March.

The greatest challenge now confronting the opposition in this election — broadly defined — is to stop the APC from having even the slightest opportunity to actualize any of its plans, whether physical or psychological, to rig the upcoming elections. It is obvious that the APC’s candidate, Samura Kamara is still unpopular, and he has not been able to electrify the APC’s support base. There is no way the APC can win the March elections if the entire electoral process — from the organization of polling stations, the casting of votes and counting of votes, to the tallying of results and reporting of vote counts — is effectively and efficiently monitored, in a much more vigilant manner, by the opposition activists who must be sworn to vigilantly and militantly protect the ballot and its content on election day.

The APC can only win the upcoming election if they can illicitly generate more votes than the existing number of registered voters across the country. The electoral numbers in the APC heartlands of the north and western regions of the country are seriously threatened by the activities of newly formed opposition groups. In a previous article, I explained how these newly emerging groups, like the National Grand Coalition (NGC) and Alliance Democratic Party (ADP), pose a serious challenge to an APC victory in the upcoming elections. I also drew a parallel between the dual citizenship debate and the intention of the APC to use it against a potential opposition victory in the March polls. It is within this context of responding and fighting back against that potential electoral defeat by the opposition that the APC Friday dance parade and mobilization should be understood. The grand scheme is a psychologically programed method of showcasing a fictitious popularity. By doing so, the APC lays the foundation for justifying a planned rigged election result in favor of the incumbent party and its candidate.  Therefore, the first step to prevent such a fraudulently programed electoral outcome is for the opposition, largely constituted, to ensure that it is militantly ready and prepared to defend and secure the entire voting process from start to finish. This is also why the recent statement by Mr. Maada Bio, who is still the most serious opposition contender with the largest number of followers, that he won’t accept “any rigged election result” is both understandable and justifiable. Mr. Bio’s position on the elections must be re-echoed, repeatedly and loudly, by all opposition rank and file members to the ears and cameras of both local and international observers currently engaged with the ongoing election process.

I am particularly convinced that the only hindrance to an opposition victory in the upcoming elections is, first and foremost, dependent upon the neutrality and independence of the election management institutions — the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), and the Judiciary. The NEC, in particular, must demonstrate an absolute commitment to being independent and neutral by upholding and conducting the upcoming elections according to the spirit of a free and fair democracy. Most importantly, opposition party activists should be absolutely determined to militantly and vigilantly protect their votes in the upcoming elections.

It must be massively understood that the use of state and public resources by an incumbent party to create an undue advantage in favor of its own candidates in an election is one of the most heinous acts of political corruption. Such a practice runs contrary to the requirements of a free and fair election. Therefore, opposition party activists, and by extension all democratic forces across the country, must use the current new media tools at their disposal to expose each effort by the APC, and their accomplices, when they seek to employ and deploy state resources and services in a manner that is intended to create an undue advantage for their own candidates in the elections. Everyone must be committed to utilizing the new media technology at their disposal to force all those involved in the ongoing electoral process to respect the rule of law and the requirements of free and fair democratic elections. This is the single most important thing the opposition must do if they want to protect and secure the possibility of victory in the upcoming elections.

Again, the opposition will win only if they are completely resolved to policing the electoral process and are absolutely determined to force and enforce compliance with the rules and requirements of a democratic electoral environment on all contenders and managers of the electoral process. You have the right to do so, and it is your responsibility to do so.  The incumbent APC regime must be persuaded, if not compelled or forced, to operate and conduct itself according to the rules of free and fair elections.

 

 

How NGC and Kandeh Yumkellah Plunged Themselves into a Legal Mess

By Chernoh Alpha M. Bah

When NGC officials confirmed Kandeh Yumkellah as their party’s presidential candidate in late 2017, little did they realize that they had plunged their party into a deep kettle of a mess. In the course of the confirmation, NGC officials noted that Yumkellah had renounced his foreign citizenship status in November of 2017. Their aim was to demonstrate that Yumkellah was now eligible for the presidency. Instead, they opened up an even larger can of legal and technical worms about the legality of their party’s presidential candidate.

For one, this means that until November 2017, Yumkellah was legally ineligible to be appointed or elected for political office in Sierra Leone due to his “dual citizenship” status. Secondly, even if he were to submit proof of having actually renounced his American citizenship, one could make the argument that he still does not have the “full citizenship status” necessary to contest for the presidency. This legal technicality rests on one simple fact: once you swear allegiance to a foreign country, such as the United States, it means that you have given up the primary privileges, protection, and rights of citizenship of your previous country. Thus, by taking the oath to become a citizen of the United States, Yumkellah technically gave up his Sierra Leone citizenship. This means that Yumkellah has been pursuing his presidential ambition for more than two years contrary to multiple laws of Sierra Leone. In fact, assuming that Yumkellah did indeed renounce his US citizenship two months ago, this also means that he is at present a “stateless person.” It can equally be argued that to be eligible to run for political office in Sierra Leone, Yumkellah would first have to re-regularize his Sierra Leonean citizenship, which he surrendered at the moment he pledged an oath of allegiance to become a US citizen.

So the question now becomes: is Yumkellah eligible to contest for political office by simply renouncing his US citizenship? Or is he required to re-regularize his Sierra Leonean citizenship before contesting for political office? If the second scenario is the case, what are the procedures surrounding the re-acquisition of Sierra Leonean citizenship for those citizens who had hitherto sworn allegiance to another country?

Even if we put these legal technicalities aside, this situation raises other serious questions about the competence and trustworthiness of both Yumkellah and the NGC. Yumkellah has spent the past two years contesting for political power, first within the SLPP and now in the NGC. Are the people of Sierra Leone really to believe that this highly trumpeted former United Nations official and the intellectuals and political elites who support him were not aware of the clear legal impediments to his political activity? If they had simply skimmed over the relevant electoral laws that any political candidate’s campaign should be aware of, they would have noted that Section 14 (1) of the Political Parties Act of 2002 clearly states that, “a political party shall not have as a founding member or a leader of the party or a member of its executive body, whether national or otherwise, a person who is not qualified to be elected as a member of parliament under the constitution.” But the UN intellectual and his supporters failed to note this straightforward law for the more than two years that he has been fighting the SLPP and traversing the country campaigning for the presidency? Are we really to believe that no one in the NGC was aware that by electing Yumkellah as their presidential candidate, they had violated both the provisions of the 1991 Constitution and the Political Parties Act of 2002? Both legal documents not only make it illegal for “dual citizens” to contest for political office, but they prohibit anyone not eligible for election as a member of parliament to hold an executive position in a political party, let alone make financial contributions to any political party. Yumkellah has done both. With all of his United Nations credentials and his supposed international exposure, one would have expected Yumkellah and his NGC colleagues to be aware of these constitutional and legal questions surrounding the pursuit of power.

There are two possible scenarios that have occurred here: One, either these elite politicians who pride themselves on being “progressives” and “the vanguard of the new change” have been knowingly violating Sierra Leone’s electoral laws for two years, or they are simply grossly ignorant of even the most basic of election laws despite their violent and noisy approach to power. In either scenario, it is quite clear that the NGC and Yumkellah are sorry excuses for a so-called political alternative.

A few days ago, when I said that Yumkellah and his NGC are no different from other selfish politicians in this country and that their claims at being progressive are baseless (they literally have no program aimed at uplifting the conditions of the masses), the NGC’s cyber vigilantes and political jihadists unleased an ominous campaign of invectives against me. For more than two weeks now, they have been dodging reasonable questions I posed, while maintaining a vilifying campaign of insults against me. Now with these legal issues coming to light, have we not started to see through the empty masquerade of these NGC politicians? Am I not vindicated in my characterization of the NGC’s campaign?

But do not misunderstand me. All this being said, I want to make it clear that I hate to see Yumkellah disenfranchised from contesting the upcoming elections. The fact that the NGC and Yumkellah are either ignorant or inept (or both) does not change the fact that the APC’s newfound reverence for the constitution is nothing but a hypocritical ploy to rig the upcoming elections in their favor. It’s painfully obvious that the APC’s sudden enforcement of the dual citizenship law is only occurring now because it is politically advantageous for them. The APC will easily lose the election to the SLPP if Yumkellah and the NGC are free to contest. The fact that they are now even talking about the dual citizenship law proves this point. No citizen should be naïve enough to believe that the APC’s sudden decision to oust its own dual-citizens from parliamentary nominations is a genuine constitutional move. This is a move to establish a false moral high ground from which Koroma and his party can disenfranchise other opponents who are likely to pose to threat to APC in their electoral heartlands. Where was Koroma and the APC’s reverence for the constitution when they were fighting to give Koroma an unconstitutional third term? Was the APC concerned about the protection of the constitution when Koroma ousted his vice president?

The actions of both the NGC and the APC are simply cynical ploys wrought by greedy politicians. The controversies surrounding this election simply demonstrate that neither the APC nor the NGC can be trusted with political power. In fact, none of the established political parties and their rotten cadres of career politicians can be trusted; this has always been and continues to be my position. And no matter how much I believe that Yumkellah ought to be allowed to contest, the unending flow of controversies which undermine his campaign’s credibility are very hard to ignore, even if one is willing to excuse them as ignorance. I have personally called out the insulting ignorance of the NGC leadership and the irredeemable arrogance of its intermediate membership. Some NGC vigilantes have gone as far as calling me “insane” and “stupid” simply because I question their self-declared “progressive” status and the validity of their claim of being different from the APC and SLPP.  Their efforts to stampede rational criticism and their fundamentalist approach to power is definitely what has landed them into this legal mess; this could all have been avoided if those calling themselves “progressives” were politically savvy and genuine in their pursuit of power. But the tunnel vision of Yumkellah and his supporters focused only on one thing: making him president by any means necessary – even if it means that the national constitution and its accompanying legislations are to be damned. It is this blind thirst for power that I have deliberately defined as politically jihadist in nature and character.

Personally, I still think that we must find ways to negotiate a compromise to ensure that Kandeh Yumkellah, and all those who have registered to contest in this election, are given the right to do so. In a previous essay, I had laid out the implications of disenfranchising Yumkellah and his NGC in this election. My points from that essay still stand: the APC represents a threatened regime which is now employing the tactics of electoral authoritarianism to maintain their grip on power. Let all parties contend for power, but let this take place in a free and fair atmosphere. And let it be clear to the people of Sierra Leone that the NGC leadership and its intermediate membership equally represents members from the same class of crooked and recycled politicians that have dominated every major party in the country over the last fifty years. The true democratic forces of Sierra Leone will have to continue the fight for true emancipation and progress, no matter the outcome of the elections in March.

Electoral Politics of the Dual Citizenship Debate in Freetown

By: Chernoh Alpha M. Bah

Ernest Bai Koroma and his APC are now fully convinced that they will not win the upcoming elections in a free and fair contest. APC presidential candidate Samura Kamara is extremely unpopular and has failed to electrify the APC base. The divisive and anti-democratic actions of the Koroma regime over the past ten years has led to the proliferation of splinter parties supported by urban youth in Freetown and across the North – areas usually known to be APC strongholds.

These opposition parties will obviously split the potential APC vote. On the other hand, in the traditional SLPP strongholds of the Southern and Eastern parts of the country, there is little possibility of a split vote despite financial inducements and political poaching by the incumbent party. Thus, the greatest casualty in this electoral geometric will be the APC, leaving the SLPP to benefit. This is the most likely outcome of the elections whether one is willing to admit it or not. The fact is the SLPP remains the largest opposition party in the country, both in terms of numbers and its present organizational potential.

By default, the rise of these splinter parties – the National Grand Coalition (NGC), the Coalition for Change (C4C), and the Alliance Democratic Party (ADP), amongst others – have only further tipped the scale in favor of the SLPP. The APC has realized, with barely sixty days to polling-day, that it will be hard to reverse this scale of probable defeat unless an electoral miracle occurs. So how does the APC plan on responding to the near surety that they will lose? They are determined to use legal and institutional frameworks to disenfranchise these opposing splinter parties and keep them from splitting the APC vote. This is not new for the APC; they used undemocratic tactics in the 2012 elections to disenfranchise opponents, a fact that was condemned by international electoral observers. For example, the Ernest Bai Koroma regime used the judiciary and the NEC and PPRC election management bodies to disenfranchise the NDA presidential candidate, Alhaji Wurie Musidal Jalloh from contesting the elections. The NDA had posed the most significant threat to an Ernest Koroma second term, owing largely to the role of the socialists within the ASM/NDA coalition. The APC’s broader rigging of the 2012 elections, in my view, started with this disenfranchisement of the NDA presidential candidate. The APC appears poised to employ similar tactics this year. Thus, disenfranchisement is the only reason the Dual Citizenship law, which has been historically ignored and unenforced, is now on the radar of the desperate APC and its supporters.

Indeed, the APC’s game plan is to exploit this legal loophole to disenfranchise rival political candidates simply because they pose a threat to the APC within its electoral heartlands. The ADP and NGC are, arguably, the most obvious targets. It is reported that the APC has evidence it plans to use against candidates from both parties. For the NGC’s Yumkellah, it is reported that a copy of his foreign passport was used to secure bail for two of his security vigilantes at the CID sometime in 2015.  If this is the case and the APC succeeds in disenfranchising these new challengers, the elections will be a direct contest between the SLPP and APC. This supposedly bodes well for the APC, as the electoral register contains more potential APC voters than SLPP voters. Thus, the APC believes it has a greater chance of winning in a one-on-one contest.  In other words, desperation and authoritarian tactics are behind the sudden focus on the question of dual citizenship.

We must not allow the APC to utilize this undemocratic tactic. Indeed, democratic forces in the country must realize that incumbent governments have multiple ways of rigging elections outside of just stealing votes. In his study of the complex methods applied by rogue incumbents to steal elections, Andreas Schedler identified “electoral authoritarianism,” the process by which political regimes conduct regular multiparty elections that are not in conformity with democratic principles but are designed simply to entrench authoritarian rule under the guise of democracy. The state manipulation of the electoral process involves such diverse tactics as the development of discriminatory electoral rules, exclusion of opposition parties and candidates, restrictive access to mass media and campaign finance, coercing or corrupting opposition activists into deserting the opposition camp, or simply redistributing votes and seats through electoral fraud.  It is a combination of these tactics which undermines the truly democratic spirit of elections and renders them authoritarian.

Therefore, we must understand the APC’s attempt to use legal maneuvering to disenfranchise the NGC and ADP as an established tool used by authoritarian regimes parading as democratic. And this is not an isolated occurrence; as the disenfranchisement of the NDA candidate in 2012 attests, the APC has a clear track record of employing the methods of electoral authoritarianism. Consequently, all supporters of democracy within our country, no matter their political allegiance, must unequivocally condemn attempts by the APC to steal the upcoming elections. We must unite to demand with a singular voice that all registered candidates be allowed to run their campaigns to the end. Democratic forces and the people of Sierra Leone have fought too long and experienced too much hardship to allow the APC to undermine the democratic process. Nothing less than our country’s democracy is at stake. The world will be watching in March, and we must demand that the APC regime not interfere with our free and fair elections.