''All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing'' - Edmund Burke


S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol 9 No 1

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report

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Welcome...and if we want to attempt to be mind readers, dare we say you could have visited this page thinking that we want to give you something on the recent election of Rtd Brigadier Julius Maada Bio as Presidential flag-bearer of the main opposition Sierra Leone People's Party, the SLPP?John Akar - the first Sierra Leonean Broadcasting Director - Photo: Sierra Leone web

Sorry...this is not what our lack of amusement is all about.

It is about the management of government which, if treated recklessly again, is bound to take us on the path we all had vowed to avoid at all cost - creating a situation where a large percentage of the governed believe that the government is pursuing a deliberate policy of marginalisation, the outcome of which would be resentment against all the affected see as representing a repressive and uncaring government.

The Sierra Herald believes that had rulers in post-independence Sierra Leone adhered to the principles of good governance, the war, attempted and successful military takeovers would not have become a part of our history.

One Brigadier Julius Maada Bio would not have become a topic on the lips of many, not to talk about nursing political ambitions.

And so that is why we plead with you to help us focus on what's going on in one very key institution in the mother country - the former Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) which has now become the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation, the SLBC.

Let us take the opportunity of reminding you what we wrote some time back regarding our dreams of having a truly independent national broadcaster. Head of the Sierra Leone Nazi Propaganda machinery I B Kargbo - Photo: Sierra Leone Now Blog

There was a time when the UK government and the government of then President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in which the government promised that by 2003, there will be in place a national broadcaster free from government control.

We waited with heightened expectation to see this happen. 2003 came and went. Nothing moved in this direction. Then after some apparent pressure on the Ahmad Tejan Kabbah government, he went to Parliament, made the usual good-feeling sound bytes and promised - wait for it - that by 2005 - those hoping for an unfettered national broadcaster would now breath a sigh of relief.

As everyone knows, this never happened until after the elections of 2007 that saw the then ruling SLPP party taking the opposition benches in an election that has been described as a beacon of hope for democracy not only in Sierra Leone, but in all countries emerging from a conflict situation.

Let us take you back to the hopes of the United Nations on how a truly independent national broadcaster will help consolidate the peace and improve upon governance in Sierra Leone. The world body stated, as it phased out the operations of UN radio in Sierra Leone, the assets would be incorporated in the envisaged Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation, the SLBC.

"The challenge facing UN Radio going forward is to phase itself out and ensure that a new national independent radio service fills the gap, with initial UN and international donor support. This shall be accomplished by contributing to an established public service broadcaster in Sierra Leone, SLBC, that is independent, has a functioning and trained board, trained and professional staff, and is adequately resourced to provide independent news and information, and provide programming which includes the participation of the citizens. Current transition plans which are funded by the United Nations Peace building Fund (PBF), entails two parallel processes in which UN Radio continues to function temporarily under the auspices of UNIPSIL, whilst a new institution is created. Legislation for the new entity, Sierra Leone Broadcast Corporation (SLBC), and was promulgated in January 2010. Once complete, Sierra Leone will join a few other African countries with an independent national public service broadcasting corporation."

It was the government of Ernest Bai Koroma, before he became an exponent of the smoke and mirrors tricks, which again raised the hopes of those wanting to see a truly national broadcaster. First, we saw the provisions of a draft bill which though imperfect gave hope to professionals and lovers of democracy and good governance.

By the time the Bill became an Act, it was quite clear to all who had hoped for a change for the better that the smoke and mirrors President Ernest Bai Koroma was living up to his reputation. What came out as an Act for setting up the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation as an independent and unfettered institution free from government control was anything but that as President Koroma was given all the powers to decide on who should head the new institution as well as key personnel, but even more worrying was that members of the Board sat on that governing body at the pleasure of - yes - President Ernest Bai Koroma.

The first whiff of things to come was in the appointment of the Director General of the new institution. The advertisement was truly impressive worthy of international approval as this was the kind of person that would be needed - a broadcaster of the necessary experience and with managerial skills to make the new organisation what it should be all about.

And the first killer blow to the independence of this body was the appointment of someone who had never darkened the studios of a broadcasting set-up as a professional and manager of such an institution.

And as if to rub it in - this was the advertisement for his deputy, the Deputy Director General of the national broadcaster, another professional who could step in the shoes of the Director General and easily perform that role.

And the second killer blow was the appointment of a retired, yes - a retired school inspector who knows nothing about broadcasting, does not even know how to read digital messages relating to broadcasting and who has no clue about into writing not to talk about report writing for broadcast journalism.

This was how a good original intention was sunk in the sewer of corruption, incompetence and ineptitude laced with liberal portions of nepotism and the lack of sobriety.

And to put the final nail in the coffin of the professional broadcaster and all those who wish for a new beginning, all employees were asked to resign and to reapply for the many posts that were now on offer in the new "independent" Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation with the field open to them as well as to outsiders.

This move in itself, the Sierra Herald had advocated for with a view of getting rid of dead wood who had relied on "length of service" and to allow for the emancipation of true professionals who had for a long time being deprived of any form of professional enhancement because although they could deliver, they just did not have the right political connections.

The Sierra Herald welcomed the new and positive initiative the dreams of professional and advocates of media freedom appeared to be on the road to reality.

The Sierra Herald was disappointed, but really not that surprised given how the two top posts were filled, when recommendations of the Board after interviews conducted by professionals and those who know what kind of personnel that were needed, were ripped apart.

In place of those recommendations were names of people who had no business in broadcasting, who had no clue what an independent broadcasting organisation was all about and who had never been journalists, either in the print or electronic media!!! They were the usual motley lot one finds in a government of the kind now in place - relations, relations of relations, concubines, relations of concubines - the whole sickening lot.

The recent strike action by staff, mainly marginalised/and or dismissed by the government acting on its own volition is a tip of the iceberg of how governance is being turned on its head under Ernest Bai Koroma.

It is this kind of action, the blatant display of nepotism, the blatant display of politicisation and the marginalisation of all things in the national arena that led to a resentment against governments and which led to our troubles.

We would urge all and sundry to impress upon the government in Sierra Leone to act responsibly and in the national interest to stop the slide on the road to perdition.

Sierra Leone belongs to us all.

Allow us to leave you with this quote from the pages of the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) final report

The instruments of proper governance include laws, institutions, due processes and humane practices that lead to such desired ends as security, justice, improved livelihoods and democratic participation. From the observations of the Commission during its hearings it was clear that Sierra Leoneans yearn for a principled system of governance. They want a system that upholds the rule of law over the rule of strong patrons and protects the people from abuse by rulers through a system of checks and balances. They wish to see horizontal and vertical accountability through the effective operation of such institutions as the judiciary, the auditor general’s office, the electoral commission, the media and civil society.

Yearning for the mother country?

The right choice is Kevin McPhilips Travel

©Sierra Herald 2002