By Juliet Rogers,
Freedom and Responsibility are considered in different ways according to the culture and environment. MacMillan Advanced Learners Dictionary, International Students Editions defines freedom as “the right to do what you want, make your own decisions and express your own opinions.” The same source defines responsibility as “a state of being in charge of someone or something and of making sure that what they do, or what happens to them is right or satisfactory; it is also considered a duty that you have to do because it is part of your job or position.”
Every society aspires for development from one stage to another. Following the colonial era was the wave of political independence that moved right across Africa. This freedom from the scourge of colonialism was only possible because some Africans took responsibilities which caused them lots of pains and sufferings.
Nelson Mandela is notable for bringing freedom to his people in South Africa. The policy of Apartheid which became a political tool ruled South Africa by not only segregating the black race, but also the policy of discriminating, and dehumanizing them. It was such that the blacks saw themselves as alien on their own soil, with little or no quality education, health, food, and shelter facilities.
This policy of discrimination almost turned Africans into slaves in what they considered their country. It was at this point that Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela became the freedom fighter for his people. Mandela opened up a wide range of public campaign which resulted into his arrest; he was imprisoned and later on sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiring to overthrow the state, following the Rivonia Trial. He served 27 years in prison, fragmented between Robben Island, Pollsmoor Prison, and Victor Verster Prison. This was to create fear in the hearts and minds of blacks. This terror tactics which witnessed further arrests, including Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, Oliver Reginald Tambo, and others did not dampen the spirit of Nelson Mandela. His resilient spirit gave special inspiration to Sarafina and other black children to embark on nationwide campaign and demonstration out of which many were killed by the apartheid police. Mandela and other patriotic South Africans saw it as their job to gain freedom for the collective good; so even when they suffered, they accepted it as part of their responsibility. The Anti-apartheid activist and former Pan African Congress President, Clarence Makwetu, is quoted saying: “We are fighting for our land and that land is still in the hands of the oppressor. In other words, the struggle can’t stop until we attain our goal.” Also, Oliver Reginald Tambo, former ANC President, made this sober declaration: “The fight for freedom must go on until it is won; until our country is free and happy and peaceful as part of the community of man, we cannot rest.”
Painfully, though, this responsibility became, the African National Congress (ANC) sprang out of this. Subsequently owing to the outcry of blacks and the international community, Mandela was released; South African was granted the status of an independent state. At the end of it all, freedom came both for an individual and a nation. But such freedom came because of the things the patriots of South Africa accepted, the negative punches of racism and the apartheid policies.
Another responsibility that produced good result was undertaken by Jomo Kenyatta and the Mau Mau Rebellion Society. When peaceful negotiations failed, Jomo Kenyatta declared a guerrilla warfare, fully determined to fight the British Colonial Government. He retreated into the jungle and formed the Mau Mau Rebellion Society which he used as an object of terror; to join the Mau Mau Rebellion, one should present the head of a white man. He took all responsibilities of all the violence and loss of lives which will have certainly contributed to Kenya’s political independence.
Similarly, Jerry John Rawlings took the responsibilities of several coups with the sole objective of developing the economy of Ghana. Realising that corruption was the giant contributor to poor economy, JerryJohn Rawlings did not take death out of the punishment. Corruption killed the economy of Ghana in the 70s up to the early 80s to the point where the ordinary Ghanaian could not afford to buy a tube of tooth paste, rather members of a family lined up to buy a lump put on the tooth brush. This is the Ghana that almost every Sierra Leonean wants to visit today because patriots took responsibilities of some secular things that those leaders did; ‘they denied self.’
It is not all responsibilities that can yield freedom for all, but for self. Coming back home to Sierra Leone, Joseph Saidu Momoh, the Major General whom Siaka Probyn Stevens, then leader of the All Peoples Congress (APC) handed over power to took responsibilities of his failure to handle the political leadership adequately; hence, a battered economy whose consequences included corruption, hyperinflation, tribalism, nepotism, thuggery, injustice and finally the civil war.
A form of responsibility that brought freedom to Sierra Leone was the responsibility undertaken by some patriotic Sierra Leoneans and Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah from the mid-1990s’ to 2002. It was a huge and risky one. Even though he, Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, saw a country torn apart, destructively ravaged by war, he opted to become president, and when he did, in the midst of tough challenges, with a coup d’état adding on to those problems, he together with a team of patriotic Sierra Leoneans and other citizens from nations of the Black Continent of Africa liberated Sierra Leone from the hazards of a civil war.
Let us narrow the concept down from state politics to individuals. For any student who wants to become an excellent student, he must take the responsibility of a good study time, avoiding most of the pleasurable playing sessions with peers. In the sedate words of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross: “We need to teach the next generation of children from day one that they are responsible for their lives. Mankind’s greatest gift, also its greatest curse, is that we have free choice. I believe that we are solely responsible for our choices, and we have to accept the consequences of every deed, word, and thought throughout our lifetime.”
In conclusion, the concept of responsibility does not strive well without patience, tolerance, vigilant wisdom, courage, selflessness, passion, and motivation – for any man in the youth to go into a vocation and succeeds, he requires these elements if he is to totally liberate himself. A nation which succeeds in development equally needs these social prerequisites.
The writer Juliet Rogers, Sociètal Engineer, Life & Emotional Intelligence Coach, is from Siera Leone