By Issa Kanu , Sierra Leone,
The Movement to Defuse Ethnic Tension and Prevent Ethnic War in Sierra Leone has been sired from the philosophical writings of newspaper columnist, Oswald Hanciles, and the perceptiveness of activist, Issa Martyn Kanu.
Oswald Hanciles was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone on December 8, 1954 (He is a twin) by a father who was Krio (a descendant slaves freed in the Americas at the end of the Atlantic Slave Trade and settled in Freetown, Sierra Leone in the late 18th century)
and a mother who was a Mende (One of the two largest ethnic groups in Sierra Leone). He is currently the Special Assistant to the President for Media Outreach in Sierra Leone; and author of the biography of the current President, Ernest Bai Koroma, titled “Natural Born Leader”.
In his THE OSWALD HANCILES COLUMN, one of the most prolific newspaper columnists in the history of Sierra Leone, and one of the greatest philosophical Sierra Leonean writers of our time, Oswald Hanciles in 2014 wrote a four-part serial warning against what he theorized as “Political Tribalism” – the deleterious habit of political parties in Sierra Leone whipping up negative tribal emotions during time of parliamentary or presidential elections, and demonizing the other ethnic group/region…as a political strategy to get ethnic groups or a region to blindly support a political party whose leadership is predominately from one ethnic group/region. To earn votes. To win elections. Oswald Hanciles postulates in his writing that political power has been historically gotten through the use of Political Tribalism in Sierra Leone. But, such political power would be relatively transient. In one instance it ended in one party being kicked put of power for over 30 years. In another instance, Political Tribalism by one political party dragged the county towards a nasty and brutal civil war in 1991. The war lasted eleven years.
In the days leading to the runoff in the Presidential Election on March 27, 2018, between the governing APC and the main opposition party, the SLPP (The only two political parties that have ever ruled Sierra Leone since independence from Britain in 1961: the SLPP governed Sierra Leone from 1961 to 1967; and again from 1996 to 2002. The APC ruled Sierra Leone from 1968 to 1992; and from 2007 to the present) the language between the two political parties have been overladen with poisonous Political Tribalism vocabulary. That has sparked the early sparks of a probable ethnic war between the two main tribal/regional blocks in the country: the Mende-speaking people of the Southeast and the Temne-speaking people of the North and West – in ethnic clashes around the country, people have been savagely attacked, properties damaged…For ethnic reasons. Fear is becoming palpable as the country prepares for the runoff election on March 27.
The prescient prose of Oswald Hanciles in which he warns of the dangers of Political Tribalism, objectively and courageously trace the historical sources of Political Tribalism would be used as a raison detre for this Movement . Oswald Hanciles’ writings- also intense on social media – have become more relevant than ever, as Sierra Leone could be tetterimg on the precipice of an ethnic war. Though Oswald Hanciles’ maternal granduncle was the Mende-speaking Sir Albert Margai, the second Prime Minister of Sierra Leone (1964 to 1967), he lampooned Sir. Albert in his articles for being the person who poured petrol on ethnic fires in 1967. While serving today in the current APC government as Special Assistant to the President for Media Outreach when he wrote his serial in 2014, Oswald Hanciles turns the spotlight on the APC’s Political Tribalism history when the first and second presidents of Sierra Leone (both APC), Siaka Stevens and Joseph Momoh held the reins of power. He points an accusing finger in his writing at the current President of Sierra Leone, H.E. Ernest Bai Koroma, who he serves as adviser. Such rare intellectual candour and courage for a Sierra Leonean holding a senior position in government makes Oswald Hanciles’ writings on the subject not only relevant, and current stance credible, but challenges diverse leaders in Sierra Leone to stand up and speak out against Political Tribalism – before our nation is plunged into a Rwanda-1994 type ethnic war.
The purpose of the movement is to raise local and international awareness on the root causes and manifestation of the escalating ethnic tensions, and encourage peaceful confrontation to mitigate ethnic tensions and ethnic fears and suspicions, and to build up ethnic trust. The Movement is thus like a form of Preventative Psychological War to thwart those who want to drag Sierra Leone into a physical ethnic war.
The activist in the Movement is Issa Martyn Kanu, born in Binkolo, Saffroko Limba Chiefdom, in the Bombali District in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone. He is paternally of the Themne ethnic group in Sierra Leone, and maternally a Mandingo who proudly traces his lineage to the ancient Mali empire in the Sahel region of West Africa.
All Sierra Leoneans of any religion, ethnic group, political color, race or class, are encouraged to join this Movement.
The Author, Issa Martyn Kanu, is the Managing Director of the KBS MediaPro Studios at Lungi, soon to be commissioned , Northern Province of Sierra Leone. A Pan Afrikanist. He is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration (MBA Essentials) with the London School of Economics Political Science.