Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What is Wrong with Zimbabaweans?

Mugabe on the Trail
This is election time in Zimbabwe! This morning on news networks, I saw thousands of Zimbabweans running in the streets of Harare, chanting the name of President Robert Mugabe and singing songs of paise for the 89 year old political demagogue who has ruled the country since I was in Primary school in 1980s. The sight of the teeming massess of people, running behind a man old enough to be a museum artifact, who has taken their country from being a net exporter of food in Africa and one of the bright spots on the dark continent and single handedly transformed it into a financial basket case and a place of shortages, poverty, misery and deprivation, made me wonder whether Zimbabweans were the dumbest Africans in modern day Africa or they were just plain ignorant.
Damning the West

Why would anybody who grew up in Zimbabwe before 1980s want more of the mess the country is currently in. After years of failing to deliver on promises, Mugabe decided to hang on to power by injecting racism in Zimbabwean politics, causing white Zimbabweans who were the backbone of the country's economy to flee the country in droves. He blamed his lack of ability to deliver on his promises on the control of land by white Zimbabweans, whipping up racism and xenophobia, in a bid to hang o to power. After the lands of the white farmers were confiscated, he proceeded to give these lands to ZANU PF officials who could not tell the difference betwen a spade and a shovel and in one fell swoop and a dumb and racist move, he turned one of the best commercial agricultural systems in Africa into an inefficient madhouse. Within one year of Mugabe's insane racist policies, Zimbabwean food production was in the dustbin, with the people in the country who had never known food shortages now having to face the harsh reality of people in other parts of Africa.
Tenacious Morgan Tsvangirai

Under pressure from the international community, Robert Mugabe decided to grudgingly welcome multiparty elections back in the 90s. The life of his plitical opponents has however become living hell as Mugabe who has kept tight control over the country's police and military, has used these agents of security as a noose around the necks of his political opponents. Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC, the country's current Prime Minister and main opposition leader deserves special reward for sheer resilience and tenacity. Tsvangirai has been flogged almost to the point of death, he has been arrested, jailed and had his car rammed by a trailer leading to the untimely death of his wife.
Sleeping At a Conference

Zimbabwe, an extremely fertile Agricultural country full of beautiful diamonds and a well educated people has been reduced to an African disgrace and a blight on the continent, under the insane rule of the octagenerian Mugabe.
Mr and Mrs. Mugabe

Unfortunately, Mugabe's Zimbabwe is a land where the most affluent people who control the diamonds and farmlands are his military and police friends and top members of his ZANU-PF party. Since they have always controlled the media, they have used incessant propaganda and a fear of white domination to misinform the uneducated rural masses and keep them in subjugation and ignorance, hence the reason why the mostly hungry people would be running behind the aging tyrant, calling on him to put the final nail in their coffins. Mugabe even arrests opposition cabinet ministers who criticize him and the power sharing arrangement forced on him by regional mediators has been a wound to his tyranny.
Mugabe supporters-Insane or Ignorant

Africa is in a mess, but no country signifies the mess of our continent more than the ageing and ailing egocentric demagogue known as Robert Mugabe. An infuential writer who is now a member of the Sierra Leone government defended Mugabe by saying that he is being treated badly because of his fight against the white population of his country and he considered Mugabe a hero. Well, give me a break. Mugabe must have been a hero in  70s and 80s, but he is now nothing more than a paper faced despot.

Mandela A True Hero
Mandela was in jail for well over 27 years, was dehumanized and treated worse by the white population of South Africa than Mugabe was ever treated by the Rhodesian regime. When Mandela became President, he could have embarked on a policy of revenge and reverse racism, destroying the economic fabric of his country in the process. However he forgave his oppressors and protected the rights of his jailers. He realized that even though the white population was not indigeneous to Africa, so were the black populations of Europe and America not indigeneous to these place. So he started to build up the economic power of  black population of the country and let the minority white population know that despite the past, he will protect their rights as citizens of South Africa, now there is a hero.He realized that any overt racist or revenge moves would destroy his country, and he put the interst of his country above his own, as he had always done.
Mugabe a true Tyrant

If we can have a black President in the United States of America today, it is time for Mugabe and other Africans to realize that Africa is the home of the whites who have settled there over 170 years and have known no other place. Mandela is a hero, but Mugabe is just a simple tyrant and an aging bully.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Appropriate Social Media Use by Public Functionaries

Facebook
Social media will become the primary communication medium of the future, the main advantage being the ability of the users or consumers of information to interact directly and instantaneously with the providers.

Governments around the world are taking the cue from corporations and nonprofits and moving beyond static web pages to the more interactive domain of social media. Social media enables government officials to interact with citizens,  provide information,  receive immediate feedback and give continuous updates. Social media therefore provides enormous opportunity for governments around the world to engage their citizens and test the short term popularity of programs and policies.
President Joyce Banda

An African leader who has become adept at the use of Social Media to engage the citizens of her country is President Joyce Banda of Malawi, the country's fourth president and first female leader. Mrs Banda  was Vice President in 2012 when she replaced President Bingu wa Mutharika, upon the sudden death of the latter on April 5, 2012, in the face of considerable opposition in the largely patriarchal society. President Banda is breaking new grounds in Malawi and proving to be one of the humblest and most engaging Presidents in Africa, a rare commodity in a continent dominated by undemocratic demagogues and arrogant dictators. She is a pure breath of fresh air and regarded as on of the most transparent leaders anywhere in the world. She is also an avid user of social media.

Joyce Banda holds a BA degree in early childhood education from Columbus University and another Bachelors degree in Gender studies from Atlantic International University. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in leadership from Royal Roads University in Canada and was given a honorary doctorate degree from Jeonju University in South Korea. She was recently ranked as the 71st most powerful woman in the world.  She entered politics in 1999 in the male dominated country as a parliamentarian.
Late President Bingu wa Mutharika

In 2009 President Banda ran as a vice presidential candidate alongside President Mutharika as candidates of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Immediately after winning and becoming vice president, her troubles started. The DPP fired her as party vice president in 2010 on bogus charges of anti-party activities.  In order to undermine her further so that an opportunity could be given to his brother to succeed him as president, President Mutharika gave a lot of the Vice President's duties to his wife Callista Mutharika, who was both First Lady and a member of the cabinet. President Mutharika also attempted to fire Vice President Banda as VP, but the courts refused to allow this as hers was a constitutional position and was voted for directly by the people of Malawi, just like in our own country Sierra Leone. 
Inauguration

In order to humiliate Joyce Banda further, President Banda attempted to seize her government vehicle and also stopped her from registering a new party when she got fed up with the humiliation. The DPP party spokesman even urged the Vice President to resign.

President Mutharika unexpectedly suffered a massive heart attack on April 5 2012 and was flown to South Africa because of blackouts in the Malawi Capital Lilongwe. The president in reality was already dead, but his wife and cabinet ministers, not wanting their avowed political enemy to succeed, announced that Mutharika's condition was critical.  They then posted 15 army officers to surround the Vice President's residence and deployed police throughout the capital. The Vice President announced that she wished the president a speedy recovery.
Ex-First Lady Callista Mutharika

On April 7th, the death of the president was finally announced.  Members of the president's cabinet wanted to prevent Joyce Banda from becoming President, claiming that she was disqualified because of her attempt to form another political party. However, the former Malawian President Bakili Muluzi came out stating that the constitution was very clear that when a President died he was to be succeeded by the Vice President. The Malawi Law Society also confirmed  former President Muluzi's position and the Vice President was sworn in on April 7th as President Joyce Banda. 

After she was sworn in President Joyce Banda called for national unity and appealed for new a relationship with the international community.  Before the death of President Mutharika aid to Malawi had been suspended by the EU, USA, the African Development Bank, and the World Bank because of the erratic policies of Mutharika and his growing democratic intolerance.  He had responded by telling all the donors to "go to hell"

Aid was soon resumed after Mutharika's death as the international community became increasingly impressed with Banda's style of leadership.

President Banda uses social media extensively,  especially Facebook.  She gives updates of her activities,  asks about the safety of her people and even asks about what they had to eat. She regularly inspires them and is a real breath of fresh air. She engages productively with the citizens and uses the medium as an infomal way to reach her people and her many admirers around the world. Her posts are meaningful, insightful, caring and appropriate and represents a great example of how to appropriately use social media as a politician.

The government of SierraLeone is also increasingly using social media to engage with the citizenry. The reviews of the effort has been mixed. Members of the State House Communication Unit are very courteous, respectful and engaging in the use of social Media, most particularly Facebook. John Baimba Sesay, the Press Attache to China uses social media very constructively to report what they are doing in the communist country. However, other members of the government provide excellent examples of how not to use social media.
S.O. Blyden

Sylvia Blyden, the Special Executive Assistant to President Koroma is a great example of a very bad representation of government on Social Media. A former journlist who prides herself in the use of abrasive language, her main use of social media is to insult and disrespect her government colleagues, threaten the country's journalists and create tension between government party supporters and members of the opposition. In a typical exchange in recent weeks, she labeled one of the contry's ministers Sheka Tarawallie a dwarf on Facebook , because of his dimunitive size and the Minister said he wanted to eat SEA food for dinner, a not too subtle use of the position of the caustic Special Assistant. The Special Assistant tells her Facebook audience that she is senior to deputy ministers because the president has told her that she was of a cabinet rank, even though the constitution of Sierra Leone is very clear about positons in government are of Cabinet rank. The president's special assistant has occasionally been so rude to members of some forum groups that they have had to kick her out of the largest Sierra Leone forums on Facebook.

Some other Sierra Leone government officials, use social media to spread information that is poorly researched and lacking in any solid factual basis, subjecting themselves to ridicule and the government by extension. 

What government officials should realize is that social media represents an environment where everybody engages on a more or less equal basis. You may be in State House where the common man may be unable to talk to you, but on Facebook even the small boy in his village with a cellphone can reply to your staement. So if you are not respectful, respect will not be earned or given in return as the forum provides a level playing field for all.

So even though social media is a great way for governments to engage and interact with the general public, it is not an ideal place for those who lack official etiquette or who still possess vestiges of rebel mentality. Governments wating to use social media should be careful what they say, as the medium has a worldwide and democratic audience.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Sierra Leone Political Updates: The Maturation of Bribery and the Politics of Righteousness

Even The Children are Concerned
Sierra Leone could be compared to a crazy drunk walking upstream through a river bed of thick mud. He takes three steps backward for each step forward. For those of us with keen eyes who have observed Sierra Leone over the years, we have seen a once beautiful and simple country, transformed from a beacon of hope in West Africa into a an epitome of all that is wrong with the African continent and the African condition.

Sierra Leone is a country with amazing paradoxes. A nation with more per capita natural wealth than most countries in the world, but with the majority of its citizens existing in poverty and squalor. A land full of pristine rivers and fertile agricultural lands where the vast majority of the people can barely afford a single meal a day. A country with the first University in English Speaking Africa with an educational system in rapid decline and most of the graduates ill prepared to cope with the technological advances of the 21st century. A land where every single agenda for development; The green Revolution, The New Order, Political Inclusion, Vision 2010, Agenda For Change, etc, have all just succeeded in making every succeeding decade progressively worse than the preceding decade.
Old Sierra Leone Stamp

It has not been for lack of trying; multiparty democracy, one party dictatorship, military adventurism, IMF intervention, UN and ECOWAS intervention have all failed to lift this country of barely 5 to 6 million people out of the vicious cycle of poverty that it descended into for well over 30 years.

So, what has gone wrong, why has everything failed? Why is even the much touted and brand new Agenda for Prosperity already getting off the rails. The answer is very simple; corruption.

There is no country in the world where there is no corruption.Corruption has been with man since the dawn of time. From the moment humans stepped beyond the bonds of the family and decided to live in communities, the spirit of competition was born. Competition for food, for water, for land, for partners. Sometimes the competition became so fierce that others had to move far away, forming their own distinct cultures, developing their own languages and developing their own codes of conduct and traditions. Those who stayed together became united by developing a singular world view, their culture. They learned to settled conflicts by negotiations and rules rather than by force of arms. They learned to live as one. But even after learning to live as one some decided not to abide by the rules. some found it easier to twist the rules in order to get ahead, thus corruption was born. As corruption spread it divided into its various forms and has been with man to this day.
Transparency is Wrong
Alpha Kanu

Just last week, Transparency International, a transnational nongovernmental organization with the stated purpose of fighting against corruption in development, came out with their annual Global Corruption Barometer, a measure that ranks countries in terms of the practice of bribery, which is one of the main components of corruption in international trade and development.

Sadly my small country of Sierra Leone on the coast of West Africa, just above the Equator was ranked number one in the entire world for incidents of bribery on the Global Corruption Barometer and in a knee jerk reaction, the country's politicians came out swinging.

Some unbelievably saw it as an opposition plot to undermine the ruling All Peoples Congress Party, (APC), others faulted the methodology and others yet saw it as just another facet of neocolonialism. Even the country's anti-corruption commissioner came out against the report, strenuously and shamelessly trying to differentiate between what is known as a "hand-shake" and bribery.

In order to understand the issue at hand, it is first important to know what the fuss is all about. What is Transparency International and what is the Global Corruption Barometer?
Alex Mansaray
The New Breed

Transparency International (TI) was started in 1993 by a retired World Bank official Peter Eigen who had spent many years working for the Bank on development projects in East Africa and had seen how negatively corruption impacted the process of development, particularly in emerging nations. Eigen realized that even with all of its negative impact on development, there was no global convention or body set up to fight corruption and no reliable way to measure corruption on a global scale. He therefore decided to make the fight against official corruption his life's mission and to do so on a global scale.

With a group of nine like minded people, Peter Eigen set up Transparency International in 1993 with a secretariat in the German Capital Berlin. Over the years Transparency International has developed and refined statistical tools to measure the nature and impact of corruption around the world and today they are the leading anti-corruption crusader in the world, not only pointing out corruption in government, but also giving due recognition to societies that are serious about the fight against official corruption and awarding exemplary public servants. 
ACC Boss
Bribery is different from "Hand-Shake"

The term corruption itself is shrouded in controversy. People in societies which are accused of prevalent corruption often try to make a distinction between international and cross cultural perceptions of corruption. To avoid falling into this unnecessary academic trap, Transparency International focuses on official corruption and defines corruption as " the abuse of entrusted power for private gain." TI stresses the fact that corruption " hurts everyone who depends on the integrity of people in a position of authority." The truth of this statement is glaring in African countries like Congo, Central African Republic, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, countries with so much natural and human resources,but with huge populations deeply mired in poverty, because of the preponderance and pervasiveness of corruption.

As mentioned earlier, Transparency International has over the years designed, tested and refined a series of statistical measures of global corruption using conventional methods of statistical inquiry, whose results have been found to be both statistically and practically significant. Some of the measures that have been developed by TI include; the Corruption Perceptions Index, Global Corruption Barometer and the Bribe Payers Index. People with an affinity for statistical research methods can follow the following link to know more about some of these measures http://www.transparency.org/research 
Bill Gates
Sierra Leone Corruption Victim

The measure that has created so much unease in Sierra Leone and  has seen the country's Information Minister Alpha Kanu, Minister Plenipotentiary to the United Nations Kaas Kanu, a host of other politicians, and even the anti-corruption boss come out to openly manifest an appalling lack of knowledge of the tools of statistical inquiry, is TI's Global Corruption Barometer (GCB).

The Global Corruption Barometer is a primary public opinion survey conducted by TI's constituent chapters and statistical experts that involves a random public poll of the views of corruption on the ground in the countries involved. The GCB provides a statistical measure of people's experience of corruption in the previous year on a general and institutional basis. It provides a measure of the extent of bribery in a country and the view of the local population on the fight against corruption. The main weakness of the GCB is its primary focus on bribery. However, it is an internationally acceptable statistical measure of corruption, except in West African country of Sierra Leone.
Man of God Kanu
Where is the Corruption?

In a gross display of statistical ignorance the government spokesman Alpha Kanu in a press release questioned the  methodology of the GCB in a bid to undermine the findings of TI that Sierra Leone had the highest incident of reported bribery over the past year. What Minister Kanu fails to realize is that the not only is the GCB is based on an accurate representation of the population of interest, but that a well selected sample of slightly above1200 is large enough to make statistically accurate inferences about the population of Sierra Leone. The margin of error between a representative random sample of 1000 and a size of 100000 is so small as to lose any practical significance. But somehow all those who worked on the press release are unaware of this small mathematical fact.
Sierra Leone Ambassador
In Jail

 Even discounting the lack of knowledge of modern methods of statistical inquiry, who in their right mind would argue about corruption and bribery in Sierra Leone. Unless the Minister of information walks about town with his head buried in his pocket, he would know that bribery is not only ingrained in Sierra Leone culture, it is often done publicly and in brazen fashion. Poor students college students applying for government scholarship have to bribe to be on the list while those unable or lacking political contact are forced to go without,  even if they applied with excellent political qualifications. College students who are qualified to get study leave have to grease the palms of education officiald to get a benefit that they have worked for, while some other students get study leave after teaching for just a year. International scholarships meant for exceptionally bright Sierra Leone student are never advertised, yet in the diaspora you meet hundreds of mediocre students who came abroad on scholarships and wonder how the heck they got it in the first place. 
Former ACC Boss
I Give UP

If Minister Kanu denies the existence of bribery to any taxi or Okada driver in Sierra Leone, they would seriously laugh in his face and wonder what part of Sierra Leone he came from or if he went through life living in a cocoon. They would tell him that he does not the heck know what he is talking about. in Sierra Leone the police brazenly solicit bribes from drivers openly in front of passengers, before vehicles are allowed to move and that has been happening since I became aware of myself.

Just last week we heard about the discovery of 12 ghost schools in Kenema, a single district of Sierra Leone. All these schools must have had ghost principals and ghost teachers teaching ghost students. Will the officials of the education ministry really want to tell me that they have been paying workers in 12 schools whose existence they did not know of in a single district? Imagine then what is happening all over the country.

Just some few years back, an Al Jazeera sting operation caught government officials and their henchmen on camera openly soliciting bribes and stating that this is how things are done in Africa, did these people not go through the country's legal system and go scot free whiles thousands of pickpockets languish in the country's jails because nobody knows who they are and they have no contacts in high places?
Sorious Samoura
Unpatriotic Congosa

Corruption is hard to fight in Sierra Leone because today because of partisanship. The ruling party is now resistant to exposing corruption in its ranks because they think admitting its existence will somehow be to the advantage of the opposition who will use it to undermine them. The opposition also does not go after the individual perpetrators of corruption, but use such instances to paint the ruling party with a wide brush. This unfortunate situation has therefore led to supporters of the ruling party adopting a blind and deaf approach to cases of corruption. In many cases it is the party supporters who are quick to come out to deny instances of corruption and paint it as a ploy to undermine their party.

The 1 or 2 million Saga
The other reason why corruption is so hard to fight in Sierra Leone is because of the culture of dependency of the less fortunate on those with official positions. Immediately you become a minister or highly paced civil servant in Sierra Leone, people flock to your house and office like Muslims on a pilgrimage to Mecca, all coming to you with their individual household problems and all expecting you to help them, even where your salary and all your benefits can hardly support your own family. Failure to help your destitute friends and relatives usually results in accusations of selfishness and looking out only for yourself. Yet it is these same relatives who would be the first to act surprised when a public official is caught buried up to his neck in a sea of corruption.
VEM Strasser
Everybody Suffers

The social culture of Sierra Leone also makes it an ideal breeding ground for corruption. Social status in the country is usually determined by how much you have and frequently, people do not really care how you got the money. When we were living in Approved School in the East End of Freetown, there was a fellow who was very popular in the area as he lays had loads of money to dish out to poor folks. When there was a local football match on the approved school field, local people would line up to shake his hands. It was only later that I learnt that he was a local Robin Hood with a gang of boatmen who used to go at night to Refinery and steal fuel with the help of the security at the plant. His antics were no secret and as far as I know he was never caught, but people flocked to and celebrated him like the Nelson Mandela of Portee Junction.

The culture of money changing hands in Sierra Leone is so acceptable that even among the leadership of the country, the act is seen as very acceptable. In the last election in Sierra Leone, the President of the country had no problem publicly doling out loads of cash to his supporters in the street. In Sierra Leone, this is very acceptable behavior. Any politician in America who would go out in the streets publicly handing out money to his supporters would only be looking for political trouble, but such is the nature of Sierra Leone, that this is wholly acceptable behavior at every level of politics in the country. It is almost as if the mantra is "keep the people poor and give them chicken change around election time, in return for their votes." 
The Owl and the Pussy Cat

When corruption becomes so widespread in a society, nothing works as it should. In Sierra Leone even the Hydro Electric Dam that runs on water does not provide electricity. The police provide tyranny instead of protection. The newspapers produce propaganda instead of news. Anything of value sent through the post office never reaches its recipient. You take your car to a mechanic and new parts are exchanged for old parts. You buy land from an individual and you are ready to fight ten other owners for the same piece of land. Corruption has reduced the country into a system of organized chaos. We all know this, everybody knows this, only the politicians.

There is a popular saying I once heard somewhere that goes thus, "You were blind, we made you see." In Sierra Leone the reverse is true. In Sierra Leone we should say   "You saw, yet we made you blind." A politician who was friends with both Tejan Kabba and Ernest Koroma once stated that the difference between the two men was that Kabba was not "righteous." I was befuddled, as both Kabba and Koroma were publicly very religious figures. It was only later that I learnt that righteousness has a completely new meaning in Sierra Leone. A righteous politician was one who always had some cash to hand out to supporters. Tejan Kabba was considered a tight wad who did not spread money around. Years of living and working in the West had made him, "unrighteous." Koroma was a righteous leader.




Thursday, July 4, 2013

Stuck in Time: Sierra Leoneans and Corporal Punishment.

Rattan Canes
Corporal punishment is simply defined as the infliction of physical pain as a retribution for an offense or to instill discipline in the recipient of the punishment. The hope or goal is that this physical infliction of pain will deter wrongdoing, encourage compliance and discourage unacceptable behavior.

During our school days in Sierra Leone, the use of corporal punishment was pervasive at all levels of education, as it was deeply rooted in the cultural mores of Sierra Leone society. All ethnic groups in Sierra Leone use corporal punishment as a way of installing discipline in children.  Children, it is assumed, would otherwise be wayward in the absence of this physical brutality. 
A Better Use for Rattan

The use of corporal punishment was and is still part and parcel of Quranic education in our culture. We were expected to memorize entire Surahs of the Holy Quran, before even being allowed to know the meaning of the passages we were memorizing. Those who were not blessed with the gift of memorization only had themselves to blame, as they were caned until even the dullest amongst us knew that there was much more to Arabic than, Alif, BA, Ta, Tha. There was no need for special education then, as the slower you were to learn, the greater the amount of beating you were bound to have.

Going to Christian schools did not help much to take the cane off our backs, as somewhere in the Book of Proverbs, wise king Solomon had once reportedly said that "If you spare the rod, you spoil the child," and unfortunately that was the only passage in the bible some teachers cared for.

In Sierra Leone, rattan grows as fast as grass and as thick as an overhead electric cable. In those days we would see market women in Krootown Road Market with rattan rods tied in bunches of a dozen on top of their heads shouting "Rattan dae!" We prayed to God that our teachers would not buy the rattan canes while they were still fresh, as the fresher the rattan, the more potent was its sting as it bore into your back, leaving blood filled welts and inflicting considerable pain and misery.
The Prodigal Son Would have been
Flooged in Sierra Leone

In my hometown Segbwema rattan was not used to flog us. We had a type of wild shrub that had a very short stem which suddenly divided into many branches about 4 inches from the base of the stem. I still do not know the English name of the plant, but bore small yellow flowers and no child born those days in Segbwema would forget it, as it was the staple of our primary school teachers. Each single branch of that small plant gave pure, concentrated unadulterated pain and a single whack felt like a hundred bees stinging your back and buttocks all at once.So awful was the pain that it started from the base of your feet and travelled straight up your back, leaving you writhing in agony. That was the favorite tool of the primary school teachers at Methodist and RC schools in Segbwema. A dozen strokes of that modified cane on your buttocks ensured that you would not be able to sit comfortably on the hard wooden school benches for at least one week, unless your skin was as tough as the hide of an elephant.
Secondary school was no better. In Bo School we had a teacher whose name I never really remembered as he never taught me. We simply knew him as (TYT) or "Touch Your Toes." This fellow would have you stand in a circle touching your toes while he used fresh cane to pound away at your buttocks as if there was no tomorrow. Moving out of that circle invalidated the previous strokes, meaning that even if he had given you 7 strokes out of 12, you had to start all over again. Such was the sadistic pleasure with which some teachers employed the rattan.

Growing up in Sierra Leone, we grew to value corporal punishment and were taught to believe that it was an effective and necessary ingredient in the proper upbringing of children in order for them to become responsible and serious adults. Wayward children, we were led to believe or made to assume, were those who did not have sufficient parental discipline, through the judicious and frequent use of the almighty cane

My first rejection of the effectiveness of corporal punishment was my later realization that one of the people who I valued and feared most growing up was my father.  Yet I never saw my father raise a hand to hit a child, let alone use a cane. His stern look of disapproval was all that was necessary for you to behave properly.
Honorable Foday Jibani Manka

Years later,I had an argument about corporal punishment with a former Gambian teacher Mr. Foday Jibani Manka, a friend of mine,  who is now a member of Parliament in his country . The now honorable Manka told me that corporal punishment had nothing to do with the real behavior of people and that there were far more effective ways to raise children than with the brutality of the cane. The Sierra Leonean that I was, I vehemently disagreed, as I had been brought up to believe that sparing the rod would only lead to the destruction of the child, together with the majority of the citizens of my country.

It was only years after more education on the negative effects of corporal punishment that I became convinced that physical beating was good for nobody, neither children nor adult. An essay I wrote against Corporal punishment titled "Forced Confessions" was published in the International Stories Magazine of North Hennepin Community College where I started my American undergraduate education.

Unfortunately over 80 percent of people in Sierra Leone still believe in 2013 that corporal punishment is an essential part of human development. On the Facebook forum "Voices of Sierra Leone", one of the administrators  Zee Tunkara Clarkson posted a picture of a young boy in severe pain being given a sound thrashing, and it was simply amazing to realize that over 80% of the more than 130 responses to the post were in favor of corporal punishment.

Some of the respondents were grateful to their parents and teachers for flogging them when they were young, as they were convinced, that had it not been for this flogging, they would  not have been the good people they turned out to be today. Others blamed the lack of corporal punishment as the main reason why children in Western countries were wild while those back home in Sierra Leone were very disciplined. The fact that it was this same group of over flogged and over disciplined bunch of human beings that had been responsible for cutting off the hands of their fellow citizens during the war in Sierra Leone seems to have suddenly disappeared from the minds of the corporal punishment advocates. It was almost as if the argument was that the greater the beatings you got earlier in life, the more successful you became as a human being. I will have to ask Obama.

Children Need Love
Corporal punishment may in particular instances deter momentary bad behavior, no argument about that, but so does simply firmly telling a child to stop whatever bad behavior they are doing. In the medium and long term, counseling and an attempt to make children see that their behavior is wrong without resorting to brutality is way more sucessful.

Corporal punishment assumes that children are mindless morons without proper mental faculties and that one of the main ways to get them to see reason is through the infliction of physical pain. This concept is wrong on so many levels. 

In the first place when children are two or three years old, they act out, always say no and behave in a stubborn manner, that is exactly the way in which children at that age are supposed to behave! If  a child at that age is compliant, quiet and very well behaved, there is something not right somewhere. The problem usually is not with the children, the problem is with adults who think that children should behave like adults.

 Psychosocial development is a field of human development which studies the relationship between the chronological age of human beings and the behavior expected of human beings at each age range. Children in their early years are curious, adventurous, inquisitive and seemingly stubborn. They like to try things out for themselves and unless they are being a danger to themselves or to others this curiosity should be nurtured and encouraged as it is very essential for their mental development.

 I can remember growing up in Freetown. We had an old radio and a black and white Television. For years growing up we were not allowed to even turn up the volume on the radio let alone touch the Television. As children it was considered rude to ask questions. If a boy went about asking too many questions,  he was described as being too "big man," an accusation that was usually accompanied by a slap around the ears.

 In the Western countries where we have found ourselves, children are encouraged to be inquisitive, to be curious and to question facts. The result is that most of the greatest inventions we see around us today were conceptualized by their inventors when they were still children.
Participant Intel Science Fair

Go to any school science or technology show and it will be mind boggling to see the inventions and creations of children who have been brought up free to use their imagination and exercise their curiosity. At the 2013 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the results of which were announced on May 17, 2013,  a 19 year old kid from Romania got first pace and a prize of $75,000.00 for using artificial intelligence to create a model for a low cost self driving car.

The second prize went to an 18 year old from California who received $50,000.00 for the invention of a small device that fits inside cell phone batteries enabling them to be fully charged between 20-30 seconds. The third prize of $50,00.00 went to a 17 year old by developing a model that simulates thousands of galaxies allowing astrophysicists to understand the workings of the universe better.
Winners Intel Science Fair

But in Sierra Leone creativity and curiosity at that early age will probably result in an accusation of idleness or an assignment to sell ice water on the streets of Freetown. That is why I was so happy to hear the story of the Sierra Leone whiz kid Kelvin Doe (DJ Focus)who has wooed inventors scientists all over the world, and is now more popular in the technology world than all the graduates of the Engineering Faculty at Fourah Bay College for the past twenty years or more. If that boy was born in some of the villages where we came from he would have been deployed long ago on his father's farm hauling bags of coffee to compensate for his idleness, with the occasional thrashing to motivate him to behave better.

It is truly sad to read fully grown and educated Sierra Leoneans in 2013 ascribing their successes in life to the thrashings they received as children. Love, care, attention and devotion works much more in nurturing children than flogging the hides of their back.
This Is Simply Primitivity

Children are violent in Western Societies not primarily as a result of the lack of flogging, but the fact that in these societies many parents are too busy trying to accumulate material acquisitions to pay attention to their children. Much of the waywardness found in Western Societies is not the result of the lack of corporal punishment, but mostly because parents having to pay house mortgages, car notes and credit car bills may have to juggle two or more jobs, leaving children to grow up in gangs or associating with other neglected children and developing their own codes of conduct.

 There are many children in Western societies that are cultured and well behaved, yet people have this tendency to look at the few violent ones and draw general conclusions.

I know and expect that many people from Sierra Leone may disagree with my view, but I also know that there are the few who know that inflicting physical harm is no good way to raise a child. To all my Sierra Leone brothers and sisters still beating their children for each and every offense, don't get stuck in the past, love your children and nurture them to be good citizens, stop treating them as if they are just defenseless punching bags. Get with the program, welcome to modernity.



The African Union Suspends Egypt: Culled from The Voice of America

By Marthe Van Der Wolf-VOA

The African Union announced Friday that Egypt’s membership has been suspended due to the military action in Cairo that deposed President Mohamed Morsi and suspended the nation's constitution.

The secretary of the African Union Peace and Security Council, Admore Kambudzi, says Egypt is barred from participating in any AU activity.
“The overthrow of the democratic elected president does not conform to the relevant provisions of the Egyptian constitution and is therefore false under the definition of an unconstitutional change of government. The council decides to suspend the participation of Egypt in AU activities until the restoration of constitutional order.” Kambudzi said.
The military toppled the Morsi government and declared the constitution suspended on Wednesday, saying the president had failed to meet demands of the Egyptian people. Egypt’s top judge was sworn in as the country'sw temporary leader on Thursday.
Egypt's ambassador to the African Union, Mohamed Edrees, defended the military's actions. He told the AU Peace and Security Council Friday there has not been a military coup.
“The military role in this is to support the people. The military did not instigate a coup or impose its own agenda against the will of the Egyptian people, on the contrary. The military supported the agenda of the people [and] the roadmap which was endorsed by the whole broad spectrum of the Egyptian society.” Edrees said.
The African Union says it is planning to send a high-level delegation to Egypt to consult with the ruling authorities and others.
The African Union currently has three other member states on suspended status, all as a result of what are considered ACTIONS CONTRARY TO THEIR NATIONAL CONSTITUTIONS: Madagascar, Central African Republic and Guinea-Bissau.

A List of the Mistakes of Mohamed Morsi -Bloomberg Businessweek

By Sarah A Topol Bloomberg Businessweek July 2 2013

Mohammed Morsi, a member the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, was sworn in as Egypt’s president on June 30, 2012. One year later, an unprecedented number of Egyptians have taken to the streets across the country to demand the resignation of the first democratically elected president Egypt has ever known. Morsi’s presidency has been beset by stumbles, mass protests, and missed opportunities. Here is a list of the top 10 blunders:

1. Running for office in the first place: The Muslim Brotherhood promised not to field a candidate for presidential elections early on after Hosni Mubarak was toppled, but when the time came, Morsi’s name was on the ballot. The Brotherhood’s having gone back on its word so quickly was seen by its opponents as a harbinger of things to come.

2. A complete inability—alternately seen as a lack of desire—to create an inclusive government: Morsi came to office on the narrowest of margins, winning only 51.7 percent of the vote in a second round runoff. After taking office, he was unable, or some say unwilling, to find figures from across the political spectrum to join his cabinet. Instead the Brotherhood played majoritarian politics. After winning both parliamentary and presidential elections, it governed without coalitions, pushing its agenda despite opposition.

3. Morsi and the Military: Egypt’s well-respected military has long held the reigns of power in the country, on stage and behind the scenes. All three previous presidents of the Arab Republic hailed from its ranks. After president Hosni Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 11 2011, the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces took over the country, passing an addendum to the constitutional declaration that granted itself legislative powers, a substantive role in drafting the constitution, and limitations on the powers of the new president. On Aug. 12, 2012, Morsi repealed the SCAF addendum and ordered the retirement of the two most senior members of the SCAF, replacing them with men thought to be more loyal to him. He was obviously wrong. The country’s new constitution failed to curb the powerful generals, and Morsi never took the military out of politics, even if he gave the appearance he had done so.

4. The epic mess of drafting and passing Egypt’s new constitution: The constituent assembly tasked with drafting Egypt’s new constitution under SCAF had been plagued by infighting and legal challenges. On Nov. 22, 2012, Morsi unilaterally issued his own constitutional declaration that made his decrees immune from judicial oversight until the passage of a new constitution, and he dismissed the sitting public prosecutor in hopes of pushing through a new constitution. Egyptians took to the streets to protest Morsi’s moves. Meanwhile, Brotherhood delegates on what remained of the constituent assembly rammed through a hastily drafted version, followed by a national referendum. Critics complained that the new document did little to protect freedom of expression and minority and women’s rights. Morsi’s actions looked like a ploy to keep the opposition out and Islamize Egypt with his backers.

5. Failure to reform the state’s security apparatus: The hated police that brought people to the streets under Mubarak were never purged or reformed. The security services and the Interior Ministry stayed intact, but they either would not or could not enforce public order. Petty crime went up and people waited in vain for the security Morsi promised to bring.

6. The price of bread: When people took to the streets to protest Mubarak they demanded “bread, freedom, and social justice!” The Brotherhood had campaigned heavily on promises to fix the country’s battered economy and a general optimism over this prospect existed, even among detractors. As a banned organization, the Brotherhood had built its popularity by providing social services the government did not. Instead, inflation rose and the price of basic goods—bread, tomatoes, meat, chicken, and cigarettes—increased. The Egyptian economy floundered under Morsi’s watch. The heatedly debated IMF loan never came.

7. The opposition’s ineptitude only furthered the Brotherhood’s mistakes: There was a distinct perception atop the government that the enemies of Brotherhood rule were everywhere. In response, Morsi and the Brotherhood circled wagons. For its part, Egypt’s fractured opposition was never able to create a united front offering viable political alternatives to the Islamists’ rule. Most protesters agreed only on demanding an end to something instead of a charter of programs. So when it came time to deal with the opposition, the Brotherhood stuck to its path, never negotiating—partly because there was no one to negotiate with.

8. Sectarian violence: Under Morsi, the country’s Christian minority has complained of increased sectarian strife which, while not uncommon, certainly had occurred less frequently under Mubarak. Whether this is due to the inaction of the security services or the Brotherhood’s alliances with more vocal fundamentalist groups that think they have free rein on Egypt’s streets, the public blames Morsi.

9. The media: Freedom of expression was tightened under Morsi’s term. The Brotherhood’s errors became a target of the private media. The movement responded with open aggression. Independent media outlets were threatened with closure, journalists were investigated for insulting the president, and some were brought into court while others were threatened and tortured.

10. Electricity and fuel: The final impetus to the Sunday protest. By June 30, chronic gasoline shortages were common all over the country, while electricity cuts and rolling blackouts were the norm. Egypt’s sweltering summer found people in gas station queues and bread lines or at home, without fans or air conditioning, when the power went out. The exasperations of daily life stoked the country’s fury, and people took to the street.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Will the African Union Condemn Egypt?

Embattled Morsi
President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt was neither a despot, a tyrant or tin can dictator as his foes are trying to portray him. He was a democratically elected president of a country who received his mandate to govern at the ballot box with more than 51% of the votes cast in elections that were generally free and fair and conducted under the authority of the very military that has now used the excuse of demonstrations and civil unrest to oust him from power.

If this had happened in any Sub-Saharan country, the condemnations would have been pouring in thick and fast from; the United Nations, Western diplomatic missions and the African Union. But because Morsi is the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that is viewed with suspicion by many in the Western controlled international community, his ouster has not raised any ire in the West and the African Union countries are willing to turn a blind eye to a reversal of the democratic gains that have been made in Egypt.

I am neither a fan of Morsi nor of his party. I believe that religious interference in politics usually results in tyranny, especially from groups like the Brotherhood which if allowed to have their way will want to impose medieval rules that will restrict the rights of women and impose their dogma on even those individuals who are of different religious convictions. I believe that the only way religion and politics should mix is if the tenets of whatever religious party is in power is imposed only on members of that particular religion.

The removal of Morsi sets the negative precedent that democracy is good only when the winner of elections are popular with the Western controlled international community. Morsi has allegedly been removed from power for defying the "will of the people," but was it not the same "will of the people" that brought him to power in the first place? 

So which will of the people is important? The more than 13 million or 51% of the electorate who voted for Morsi for president or the less than 3 million opponents who were marching in the streets of Cairo requesting that he should be ousted? What about the will of the counter demonstrators?

The African Union should suspend Egypt just as it has suspended other members who have in the recent past engaged in military coups against democratically elected governments. Even the presence of the roadmap presented by the military leadership does not justify what has happened in Egypt. It is a military coup, pure and simple. Egypt should be suspended until fresh elections are either held or at least Morsi be given the chance to form a government of national unity, none of which is likely to happen.

All the fears of an Islamic takeover by Morsi and his followers were unfounded, there are enough safeguards in the current Egyptian constitution that would have prevented Morsi and his followers from imposing their beliefs on the rest of the country. The country already has constitutional courts and a semiautonomous military leadership just for preventing any over reach by Morsi and all the excuses so far given are weak at best. Morsi's crime is that he had wanted to assert his constitutional authority and the Egyptian military long used to being in charged, has used the excuse of the protests to oust a leader they see as a threat to their long standing privileged status in the country.

The coup in Egypt should be rejected and roundly condemned by the international community. It was an identical problem in Algeria in which elections that were won by the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) and rejected by the powers that be in the 90s led to immense civil unrest and conflict leading to a lot of bloodshed in the country.

Democracy can not only be good when those that you like are in power. What has happened in Egypt shows the hypocrisy of the international community as in democracy, it is only the will of the people that matters. A sad day for Egypt and a sad day for those who believe in the principles of true democracy.

Democracy Reversed in Egypt: Morsi Ousted

President Mohamed Morsi
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, has been ousted from power by the Egyptian military with the support of civil society groups, religious groups and an assortment of pro-revolutionary groups.

Afters days of demonstration by anti-Morsi forces, the Egyptian military had given President Morsi 48 hours to reach an agreement with opposition groups on a way out of the massive protests or risk military intervention. The military suggested some sort of power sharing arrangement with the opposition.

On Tuesday night President Morsi defiantly rejected the military ultimatum, angrily insisting that he was the legitimately elected President of the country and any move to remove him from power would only result in a chaotic situation in the populous African country. As he made his speech, thousands of his opponents milled in Cairo's Tahir Square, demanding his removal from office.
General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

In a very defiant tone on Tuesday Mr. Morsi told the country that, "Legitimacy is the only way to protect our country and prevent bloodshed, to move to a new phase.  Legitimacy is the only thing that guarantees for all of us that there will not be any fighting and conflict, that there will not be bloodshed.” He further went on to add that  “If the price of protecting legitimacy is my blood, I’m willing to pay it. And it would be a cheap price for the sake of protecting this country.”

In a sign that power was slipping out of the hands of Morsi, shortly after his speech his own cabinet reportedly released the following statement to social media. "The cabinet declares its rejection of Dr. Morsi’s speech and his pushing the country toward a civil war. The cabinet announces taking the side of the people.” After this statement by his own cabinet and resignations by many members of his own government, it was clear that the writing was on the wall for President Morsi and it was just a matter of time 
Good Times

However, some senior members of President Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood Party had defiantly stated that they would be willing to lay down their lives to prevent his ouster from office. In Nasr city, a suburb of the Egyptian capital Cairo, thousands of Morsi supporters had also been holding counter demonstrations against his impending removal from power. At Cairo University a call by the Muslim Brotherhood to reject the military ultimum resulted in gun battles between pro and anti-Morso supporters.

In response to Morsi's defiant statement, Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, headed by armed forces chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, issued the following statement on their Facebook page: “We swear to God that we will sacrifice even our blood for Egypt and its people, to defend them against any terrorist, radical or fool.”
Morsi Must Go

After the military ultimatum had passed this evening without any talk between Morsi and opposing forces, the military stepped in to remove Morsi from power stating that he had failed to meet the demands of the people.  The army Chief of Staff General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi flanked by members of the political and religious establishment announced that they were suspending the country's highly Islamic consitution and replacing President Morsi with the Head of the Country's Supreme Constitutional Court Adli al-Mansour as Interim Head of State. Mansour was to be sworn in on Thursday.

Morsi had been democratically elected after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak during the "Arab Spring," but had grown increasingly unpopular due to the poor Egyptian economy and a a growing fear of increased Islamization of government. On his Facebook page this evening, President Morsi has rejected his removal from office. His whereabouts remain a mystery.

Sheku Sheriff
Segbwema Blogger.