BY: DAVID YUSUF KABIA
PUBLIC RELATIONS ASSISTANT
The quote, “The test of good citizenship is loyalty to country” by Bainbridge Colby best defines the relationship between the State and its citizens in terms of how the latter helps the former better progress. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines citizenship as “The legal right to belong to a particular country” while loyalty is defined as “The quality of being faithful in your support of somebody or something”. From these two intertwined definitions of both ‘citizenship’ and ‘loyalty’ in Bainbridge Colby’s quote, it shows that without the faithfulness of citizens to a State to which they legally belong (either by birth, decent or other means), that State is bound to collapse. Other views have held that loyalty is also tested by a Government’s fair distribution of resources regardless tribe, cronyism and more. This argument is believed to have been advanced by those who think they are not benefiting from the national coffers because of their difference in political parties, tribe and region to a ruling political class.
It has been alleged by many that disloyalty to country to a greater extent may have contributed to Africa especially Sierra Leone’s corruption level. Bankole Thompson and Gary Potter in their book “Governmental corruption in Africa: Sierra Leone as a case study A criminal justice perspective” highlighted that Corruption especially grand corruption which occurs at the decision making level has over the years indicted public officials both at the political level and those in charge of public service delivery. But what really connects people with corruption? The existence of opportunities for and within the public domain has been cited as one of the connecting dots that merges people with corruption. Contracts for the construction of roads; contracts for medical supplies; auctions and the likes widely considered opportunities which within the public sector continues to create a watertight economic competition. This fight for these limited contracts, without emphasis in a donor-driven country like Sierra Leone explains the reason (s) behind for example, bid rigging contrary to Section 32, Bribery of or by public officer to influence decision of public body contrary to Section 34 and receiving gifts for a corrupt purpose contrary to Section 47 of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008 as amended in 2019. Another connect especially within the educational system is the social pride of gaining the recognition of being educated which demands first, obtaining the requisite passes for University admission and of course graduating with a sparkling Division that attracts better job opportunities. These areas have been noted over the years to create a fertile soil for the growth of corruption.
The resources and beneficiaries
One of the major duties of a State is the provision of resources for the day to day management of a State. These resources which come in various forms like funds for the construction of hospitals; the supply of medicine; the construction of schools and the provision of funds for school materials; the payment of salaries for teachers, doctors and other public servants to name but a few, are the wheels which keep a State running. These resources are usually placed in the hands of either political appointees or public servants within the public service. While the citizens are the beneficiaries of service delivery on the one end and the resources on the other end, corruption usually is the distorting middleman that poses a threat to the delivery of such services.
At the forefront of protecting the aforesaid resources provided by Government and partners for the sole benefit of Sierra Leoneans is the ACC. This duty among other things include monitoring the use of public funds to ensure the beneficiaries are not cheated upon by corrupt public officials who would think syphoning these resources is suit of office. The fight against corruption has never been a goal for only the staff of the Commission nor one in support of a Government’s whims and caprices but a war which if not won poses an existential threat to all Sierra Leoneans. This cannot be far-fetched from the dangers it poses to people by not only depriving them of opportunities meant to help better their lives but as well shortening their life spans by engaging in corrupt activities that causes environmental hazards. To this end, the ACC intervenes by investigating complaints against public officials for various allegations of corruption offences. It is believed that to account for one’s stewardship is part of the social contract between those appointed to serve in public service for and the benefit of citizens and the citizens themselves. This juncture is where the ACC comes in to ensure those who have served or are serving serve within their mandates without posing any threats to the livelihood of the beneficiaries.
Where is our loyalty and why?
The political divide in Sierra Leone remains strongly connected to regions and tribe, political commentators have said. In line with this political seeming ritual, the residence of our loyalty some political commentators have stated rests where we often benefit. Does this explains the stronger attachment some people have to political parties than to country? This political divide was indicated by the Truth and Reconciliation Report (TRC) to have played a massive role for the long decade war through unfair distribution of State resources. Today, in the absence of war, political commentators have gauged the loyalty of most Sierra Leoneans to reside with political parties regardless whether that party rules or is in the opposition. While everyone wishes to be recognized by decision makers of their political parties, the goal is to ensure that that recognition would bring them appointment that pays for their loyalty. This sad reality may serve as an explanation to the many needless public attention raised on normal investigative or prosecutorial matters handled by the ACC and other law enforcement bodies in their bid to protecting public resources which allegation may have hold to have been misappropriated or misused. Interestingly if not funnily, it cannot be properly understood while the ACC fights to protect the resources provided for and on behalf of Sierra Leoneans, the very beneficiaries who should be helping the ACC recover these resources are taking sides with those already alleged or even prosecuted and convicted to have misappropriated what is due them. This shift of our loyalty has been held to be a fanner of the flames of corruption in those who enjoy this strong loyalty because expectedly, they would have to provide their devouts with part of the stolen public wealth or put them in positions where they themselves would rob public resources.
So in addressing corruption, the ACC may be willing to always risk everything to fighting to keep public resources safe but what about the loyalty of those who the ACC is fighting for? Won’t they come back to fighting alongside with corruption against the ACC? Our loyalty as citizens and beneficiaries of public resource has many times been put to the test and it is sad to learn that the same institutions we always cry for to be respected and allowed to do there jobs are the same institutions we fight against in their effort to helping us know who stole from us and how can we either recover what was stolen or set the precedent to ensuring it never happens again.
Therefore, it can be argued that the residence of our loyalty for long has been shifted away from country, a reason which has been advanced by some political writers for the snail pace of our country’s progress in most spheres. Can it be said that the lack of sufficient public education on corruption may have contributed to this malaise in yester years? The answer is surely yes. Is there any hope that this will change? Yes. The current public knowledge on corruption, its effect and causes in Sierra Leone cannot be compared to same held by the public previously. Over the past four years, the Commission has played an active interactive role with the public always educating them on what it does and how, by signing Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with institutions and individuals in order that the work of the Commission is displayed to the public and not held in secrecy. This education has contributed to changing many of the young minds by bringing back their loyalty to country from political parties or individuals within same. This explains the massive inclusion of young people into programmes that now seek to hold public officials accountable. Nevertheless, a lot of loyalty still resides with political parties over country which explains public behaviour of some people over court matters of politicians or even actions taken by the State to benefit the general populace.